Christmas Vacation - The Outtakes and Other (Less Silly) Things

Thanks to my holiday freedom this year and not having to "worry" about how many vacation days I would have to spend on Christmas break (and thanks to Sam's sweet leave balances after 4+ years as a government employee), we chose to spend a longer than usual amount of time at my parents' house in Maryland (somewhat unbeknownst to them - "Surprise!  We're here for an entire week!").

We have made the trip up and back down the lengthy and oh-so-boring Interstate 95 dozens of times in our seven years of marriage and several times during my two years of college prior to that.  It has run the gambit from painfully uneventful to regrettably exciting.

At Christmastime it always seems to carry an extra air of excitement.  Of course.  It's Christmastime.

The events that I am about to describe don't necessarily have anything to do with Maryland, or the trip up here, or even Christmas - but now you know the setting.  And here is a random collection of some of the more hilarious, more random, sometimes sweet things that have happened thus far on the days leading up to and during our week-long adventure.

In the form of a quiz instead of a list - just to shake things up a bit.

Question:  When handed a bookbag and instructed to pack some toys to help entertain her for the 12-hour drive to Grandmom and Grandpop's house, what does Abby pack?

Answer:  4 pairs of socks, a glue stick, half a dozen 1x1 mega blocks pieces, a pencil, and 3 fairies of various sizes.  Just a little more evidence as to the randomness of Abby.  As if you didn't already know.  By the way, Abby has absolutely no need for a glue stick on a 12-hour drive.  Especially without the inclusion of necessary paper.  Dangerous.  At least her feet would be warm.  Really warm.

Question:  "Why can't I bring my globe?" (Of course, posed by Ben.)

Answer:  Because the van is full enough with just clothes and personal items for our family of five on a non-Christmas trip that when you add in the Christmas presents (hidden ever so sophisticatedly in black trash bags), you're lucky you can still get to your seat, let alone sit in it.  It probably goes without saying we don't have room for a globe.  Plus, when you pose the question during the trip, "Where is it 6 o'clock when it's 5 o'clock here?"  I can pick at you by saying, "If you'd have brought your globe, I could tell you.  Geez, Ben.  Why didn't you pack it?"

Question:  Which of my three children chose to stay awake for all but three hours of our overnight drive?

Answer:  The toddler.  It wasn't bad, per se.  She contentedly sat in her seat, occasionally talking to herself, looking out the window, not even begging so much as a toy.  It was, perhaps, one of the cutest, sweetest things I'd seen in a while - but - it would have been better if she'd have just gone to sleep and stayed that way.

Question:  "Why is there snot on your knee, Abby?"

Answer:  "I bless you'd too hard."

Question:  What is Sarah's favorite Christmas song?

Answer:  Angels We Have Heard on High  We know this because during the Christmas Eve service, immediately following the singing of this song, during the period of silence when everyone is taking their seats, Sarah clapped and shouted "Yay!!!" at the top of her lungs.  According to Sam (who had the privilege of wrestling with holding her for the duration), she did this after every song, but after this particular one she kept going with the "yay"-ing.  In summary, she really likes Christmas carols.

Question:  Who always gets neglected on Christmas?

Answer:  Thanks to Ben's homemade gift for Santa - no one.  Ben painstakingly drew and colored a picture for the jolly, old elf so that "everyone in the world would get a present on Christmas - even Santa."

Question:  Saddest but sweetest thing I've ever seen on Christmas Eve?

Answer:  My seven year old sobbing out of fear Santa was going to skip our house because the four year old sister he was sharing a pull-out sofa with wouldn't stop talking and go to sleep.  I have to say, this was tough.  It was horrible because he was upset.  It was ridiculous because Abby wouldn't settle down.  And it was awesome because he still so wholeheartedly believes in Santa.

Question:  "What was your favorite Christmas present?"


"My Rosetta tattoo" ~Abby
"Propel" ~Ben

*chomp, chomp, snort* (aka Christmas Little Debbies) ~Sarah

In summary, these favorite gifts cost no more than $3.50 total.  I love my easy-to-please kids.

Question:  "Are these hineys?" 

Answer:  "No, Abby, those would be hippo heads."  (But seriously, that's hilarious.)  I had no idea that assembling and playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos would end up being so riotously funny, but I quickly realized such - from the bag of hiney-resembling hippo heads to the enthusiasm with which my toddler raced for those marbles (and didn't even try to eat them!) to the luck of the draw when the person on the downhill side of the floor won every.single.time.  

Question:  What happens when Sam very fake-ly yells, "Ahhh!!!  Black ice!!!" and feigns not being able to stop the van?

Answer:  Apparently, my mom believes him, starts pressing the imaginary brake pedal over there in the passenger seat, and is convinced that a female voice actually yelled "Ahhh!!!  Black ice!" from the back of the van.  Luckily there was no black ice.  That Sam is just a trickster.  And apparently, he does a very convincing Jennie impression.

Question:  What does Grandmom do when the stores at which you're shopping for after-Christmas bargains don't have a public restroom?

Answer:  She takes the seven year old outside to relieve himself on the side of the building.  She says it was an emergency.  Merry Christmas to you, DJ Liquidators.  (We're sorry!)  Though, I maintain this was probably not the first time nor will it be the last time someone pees on the old Kmart building.

Next up...Signs from the Season that we're doing an okay job raising these kids of ours...

...if I don't see something shiny that distracts me and takes me off in a completely different direction before then.

Hope you've all been enjoying the family togetherness, rejoicing over Jesus's birthday, and staying safe.  Until next time...


We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Since I was not able to send a Christmas card to all of you precious blog-readers (and real-life friends), I'm going the easy route and posting a cyber-version here for you.

First, the newsletter (if you click it, it'll get larger)-

Next, the picture -

I am sure you have all been as caught up in the Christmas bustle as I have, so I'm certain that you have most likely not noticed my absence from blogdom.  If you have, thanks.  I appreciate that.

If you haven't, I still wish you a Merry Christmas anyway.  (Ha!)

May you all have a blessed day tomorrow and remember the reason for this most wonderful of holidays.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. ~Luke 2:8-12


So I'm a day late with the mom things.  Truly, is anyone surprised?  I cannot get it together these days.  Some day I'll be superwoman again.  It's not looking good for this December though. (www.sadtrombone.com?)

In the midst of my present funk, however, I can rely on my three little munchkins to make me smile.  Even through tears this morning - after a colossal waste of time at the library (which apparently didn't open until 1pm today and didn't feel the need to put up a sign indicating so to their patrons) and Walmart (who wouldn't let me pick up the site-to-store merchandise my husband ordered because he didn't list me as a verified pick-up person, despite the fact that I had the barcode in hand and my name was on the email) - those two little girls got me giggling. 

I am eternally grateful to those three little kidlings...for keeping me smiling.

And now, here are the [day-late] Mom Things:

After manufacturing stress for yourself, your four year old asks you why you're crying, so you take the easy way out and say you got pepper in your eyes.  Apparently, the fact that pepper in your eyes is painful is lost on her, and she replies, "Mommy, it's only pepper."

You reward your four year old's stellar behavior on the morning errands by letting her have two things for dessert - a cookie and a lollipop.  Not surprisingly, she chooses to enjoy both at the very same time.

Your other daughter, however, prefers to indulge on another packet of ketchup for dessert.

You didn't realize until birthing your own monkey-like children that when people use the expression "My kids are climbing the walls" that they could mean that literally.

The only evidence left behind by the kids at your Sunday School Christmas Party (thanks to their cleaning-up moms) was a pair of chalky handprints on the back porch door.  And you don't mind a bit.  Just look how cute:

Since being laid off, you can't think of a single day that didn't start and end in pajama pants (see above photo for confirmation).

You're so happy to see your girls playing so well together that you try not to think about the dangers of the fearless four year old controlling the duo-spinning on the hard kitchen tile.

You don't get many pictures of your school-going seven year old relative to the girls these days, but not surprisingly the ones that you get are of him reading a book.

You hadn't heard from your two oldest in a while so you went to check on them only to find them sneaking in a movie on the TV-on-a-cart that they'd rolled into the four year old's room.  You couldn't really stop them...just because it was so sweet.

Your toddler is not so much interested in wearing the dress-up clothes but she does enjoy taking them out of the trunk (and luckily enjoys putting them back in too).

****Have a Blessed Wednesday Thursday!****


I'm a regular joiner.

Those of you who've been around for a while might remember a list update (way too long ago) in which I mentioned that I may or may not be a part of a committee at Ben's school. Each year at the beginning of the school year, the PTO sends home a survey of sorts that gives parents the opportunity to sign up for various committees as the desire strikes.

Every year, I check "Teacher Appreciation" because if I know nothing else in this life, I know how to appreciate people and things. Teaching ranks right up there as one of life's most appreciable vocations. And I never balk at the opportunity to let teachers, especially the ones educating my own kids, know that I feel that way.

Every year I get emails requesting help for Teacher Appreciation functions, but I've never really known if I was an official member of the committee or if they just send that email out to every parent whose email address is available to the PTO.

I am happy to report that, thanks to an email from the committee chairman, I now have the answer.


So with that, I have officially joined a committee at Ben's school.  (Nice to know all of those crockpots full of chili and countless cookies weren't made in vain!  Kidding, of course.)

#2 ~ Join a committee at Ben's school [though I now realize I could have checked you months ago], consider yourself checked!

Maybe in my unemployment phase, I can check a few more of those jokers off The List.


Because a list, I can probably handle...

I am absolutely terrible at change. It is perhaps my greatest fear in life. I am not just loyal to a fault, I'm comfortable to a fault. Even if things are not as good as they could be, if it's my routine, that's what I do. Because I am the biggest creature of habit in the entire world.

So when things change, I'm a bit like a poor lost child in any gigantic department store of your choice. I wander around aimlessly, often teary-eyed, casually at first and then more and more frantically.  Needless to say, unemployment has rocked my world. (This seems like an appropriate time to mention that the term "funemployment" is not just a non-reality for me, but it's a mystery to me as to how someone could enjoy it.)

I should mention that my time with my girls has been priceless thus far.  They've been a joy and have been a great bright spot for me.  I can't deny that.

But - it's just not what I'm used to.  Not yet, at least.

My husband, who is my best friend as well as a tremendous employee with many, many networking opportunities, landed me a meeting with a VP of a company this afternoon.  After just nine days of unemployment, my husband has come to the rescue.  I don't know what the position is about, what they are expecting, or anything.  I don't know what will come of it, if anything.  But the prospect of having an interview, and so quickly, has brightened my outlook.

Of course, you know how my mind works...and if you don't, let's just say it's a little scary in there.  With each new opportunity comes a fresh series of things for me to worry about.  Like how to actually interview.  What to wear to the interview.  How to do my hair (because, really, I don't do that).  What time to show up.  Dealing with either a job offer or a rejection.  Feeling guilty because Sam has to miss work for me to do these things.  Knowing that my interviewer knows Sam and how awesome he is and expects the same from me.  (Not too many people can live up to those standards - I assure you.  He's awesome!)

See what I mean?  Crazy, I tell you.

So - let's be optimistic and say that they offer me a job.  I can safely assume it will not be like my previous job.  Here are my list of fears about a potential new workplace:

~Not being able to wear jeans every day.
~Having to spend money on a new, more-professional wardrobe.
~Having to physically shop and try on clothes to beef up said wardrobe.

~Not being able to listen to music while I work.
~Not being able to speak candidly about political and religious topics.
~Inflexible hours.
~The potential to have to bring work home.
~A farther commute.
~Starting the job and realizing I'm way under-qualified.
~New coworkers with a whole host of fears related to them alone.

And of course, the advice I would give to myself would, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

And then I have to force myself to hear the words.  And believe them.  And rely on a peace that I cannot provide myself. 

Now here I am begging some more prayers off of you.  Mostly for that peace and a calming of my nerves.  And a little dose of confidence would be nice too...but I don't want to be greedy!  The meeting is a 2pm EST today.  Thanks, guys.  I mean it.



Thank you all for bearing with me during my transition to stay-at-home-momdom. It's rare for me to take a week-long blog break. For the past week I've felt like my entire brain has taken a break. Maybe it has. And not because of the new "gig", mostly just because I'm trying to convince my brain what my heart already knows - that I can do this.  I promise not to disappear from the blog world.  And as I get my groove back and leave the funk buried in the leather shoes in the back of my closet that I should have worn socks with, I'll get back to posting all those "Deep Thoughts By Jennie Sheppard".  You know you miss them.

But I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't get my "Mom Things" on.

It only took three tries to get one, but you finally have a child that can actually leave the room and return with their drink when you instruct them to get their cup.  Perhaps your toddler can teach the older siblings a thing or two.

After instructing your girls to tear up a few stale hot dog buns for the birds, your youngest returns with a face full of bread crumbs.  And she'd just finished lunch.  I guess she likes stale hot dog buns for dessert?

Your four year old randomly pauses and poses in contorted positions and asks the first person to walk by, "Is this awesome?"  And you laugh.  Every single time.

Your kids have an unconscionable number of toys in their bedrooms and in their playroom, but their favorite place to play remains under the kitchen table amid the crumbs left over from the previous meal.

Your animal-loving toddler barks at anything and everything with fur, and you find yourself regularly explaining to her that cats, wolves, and polar bears are not dogs.

At any given time there are a handful of elementary-aged boys tackling each other in your backyard and it doesn't phase you in the slightest.  After all, anything goes when you're playing Cops & Robbers, right?

You wish that actual naptime was even half as fun as pretending to take a nap.

All that time you put into making those tiny envelopes for this year's Advent calendar was justified by how excited your seven year old is each morning to see what activity is in store for the day.

Since being laid off your four year old wakes up every morning and excitedly asks, "Do I get to stay home again today?!"  And you'd have to be dead for that not to pull on your heartstrings.

You can confidently say that someday one of your older children will be able to say, "My little sister ate my homework.  And also, she might be half goat."

Have a fabulous week, "y'all"!  I'll be back again soon...


Mom's the Word

Determined to carry on the annual tradition of looking at Christmas lights, you put on your jammies, load up the kids (including the brand new infant), and ride around town. You see lots of lights, but the Christmas carols playing on the radio do nothing to drown out the irate screaming from the two-month old in the backseat who remains unimpressed by inflatable Santas.

You can always whet your kids' whistle with a nice cold glass of gingerbread man...known to the average person as "ginger ale".

If decorating the Christmas tree were an Olympic event, your kids would take the gold in "Securing the most ornaments on a single branch as close to the tip as possible."

Your seven year old scoffed at the sight of his stocking hanging on the mantel.  "Pssshhh...those things look like socks!"  Your reply - "That's what stockings are, Ben.  Socks." - rendered him completely speechless.  That's what it feels like to blow a little boy's mind.

You often describe your seven year old boy and four year old girl as an old married couple.  They bicker like one.  But they also love each other so much you can literally see it in their eyes.

Your wild-woman of a four year old stayed still long enough at her last haircut to have her hair braided like this:

That, friends, was a Thanksgiving miracle.

After spending six months+ assembling the backyard playground, it becomes worth it in a single-moment when you see your kids' smiles when they finally get to swing.

You can't decide whether to stop her from downloading viruses or encourage her to develop her typing skills, but either way you snapped a picture of your toddler navigating her way around the computer.

While reading Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House), your son asks you which adjective best describes the Titanic sinking - sad, scary, or exciting?  How on earth do you answer that?

Thanks to your toddler's cute little classmates playing up her obsession with her belly button, you now know if you say "Ding dong!" she will press on her belly button with one finger, as if it's a door bell.  Silly babies.

Every exit is an entry somewhere.

So maybe two days before Thanksgiving wasn't the best time to hear the words, "Have a seat" come out of the boss's mouth.  Maybe the news that "beginning in December your hours will be cut to half-time" seemed better than being let go altogether.  Maybe seeing the tears in the boss's eyes when I told him that half-time with two kids in full-time daycare simply isn't an option was a small comfort in an otherwise tumultuous day.

You see, the whole thing has been a long time coming.

Dang economic downturn.

I take some comfort in knowing that I made it all the way to "the end".  Of all of the employees in our tiny company, I was the last to be let go.  And it was visibly painful for my boss to have to say the words.  I know that he didn't want to do it.  I also know he kept me too long because when it comes down to it, he's not a business man.  He's an engineer - with a big heart and not a lot of savvy.  It's okay.  It's one of the many reasons I like him.

This job isn't perfect.  I've been [grossly] underpaid for the duration.  The benefits are pretty much non-existent.  I have virtually no opportunity for advancement.  But there are a few perks.  My boss is a good Christian man, whom I deeply respect.  He values family and has let me bring my kids to work with me on countless occasions when there seemed to be no other option.  He let me move hours around here and there so I can attend my kids' school functions, basketball practices, and doctors appointments.  He let me work through lunch to pay back the time it cost me to pick Ben up from school two days a week.  He lights up when the kids stop by for visits to see me.  He has told me countless times that "when 5 o'clock comes, you go home to those babies."

And he provided the afternoon chocolate too.

There simply isn't enough work to keep me on right now.  I get that.  I've been quietly anticipating it each payday...the conversation that would start out with "Have a seat"...just like I've heard many times before me.  Only, that joker changed things up and did it on a random Tuesday instead.  When I least expected it.

I guess he wasn't expecting it to go the way it did either.

The final decision was that I would work as needed, from home, with the promise to check my email once a day and keep in touch.  He insisted that he can't do it all without me.  (But I really think he can.)  I suppose it's nice to feel needed.  I left work that afternoon to pick Sarah up and told the director that I was going to have to pull the girls from the school.  And that's when it all sank in.

My greatest fears realized:  I am going to be at home with my babies.

This shouldn't terrify me but...it does.

My mom asks me pretty regularly how I fit everything into a day - from work to chores to fun times.  My answer has always been the same, "I don't know any differently."  Since the moment I became a wife to the moment I became a mom to right now, this very moment, I have always had a somewhat chaotic lifestyle.

And now...I am facing the unknown.  A whole different kind of chaos, I'm sure.

I really am going to miss this place.  The truth remains, this is part of a master plan.  I might not get that, but God does.  And there is a plan for me.  I just have to listen - and figure out what it is.

For now, the plan is for me to take a breather for the first time in my adult life.  I am going to enjoy every minute of this holiday season.  We are going to tear up the kitchen making cookies.  We're going to burn some of them because we will be distracted from dancing to Christmas carols.  We're going to play school.  We are going to keep working from the workbook that Abby loves so much and have our own "circle time".   We're going to break the new backyard playground in.  We're going to stamp our Christmas cards together and I'm only going to mind a little bit when my four year old helper puts them on upside down and crooked.  We're going to take walks in the middle of the day around our quiet neighborhood.  We're going to put tinsel and garland on every flat surface in our house.

And no, Julie, I will not prepare myself for the weight gain that supposedly plagues the stay-at-home crowd.  I have heard your challenge.  And I accept.

But I am still going to have my afternoon chocolate.  And my morning coffee.

Because some things, no matter where I spend my 8-5, just don't need to change.

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me, prayed for me, and ridden the ride along with me.
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."  Proverbs 16:9 (New Living Translation)


Bookbag Treasures

One of the many joys of being a mom is that I get to rifle through my kids' things.  That's right.  I just said that.  I'm sure it will result in more juicy findings when they are older than seven, four, and eighteen months old.  For now, though, I'll settle for my funny, gross, sometimes frightening discoveries.

One of the places I get to rifle through is the bookbag that goes to and from school with Ben.

I remember being in elementary school and being obsessive about keeping my desk clean.  I have a suspicion that my son is that boy who sat next to me that drove me absolutely insane.  You know the type.  He's the one  with random scraps of paper overflowing out of his desk in any haphazard manner, with nary a clean piece of paper to be found in the mess, and perhaps even a suspicious odor emanating from the depths of the chaos.  There is more glue on the top of the desk than left in the glue stick itself.  He has a pencil case, but it's full "treasures" he collected.  Meanwhile, a pencil is unlocate-able.

I know this because that is precisely what his bookbag is like.

Maybe it's a boy thing?

At any rate, while cleaning up my kitchen this weekend in prep for making the annual turkey dinner that I don't get to eat (but I still really do enjoy making - for Sam's office), I stumbled upon the bookbag.  So I dove in.  And I found some good treasures in there.

He had a stack of artwork from the previous week.  And wouldn't you know?  I took a picture (or seven) for you to enjoy along with me.

First up is, what appears to be, an adorable little scarecrow.  But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

Thanks to the helpful text bubble coming from the "scarecrow's" mouth, we learn that "I am from Mars.  I come in peace."

And apparently, on Mars, they love red Power Rangers as much as Ben does.  They even wear likenesses of them on their hats when traveling to other worlds.

But, no matter where we come from, it seems we all agree that there's no place like home.  Especially considering that the Martian scarecrow had "Mars Sweet Mars" sewn into his overalls.

Then there's this adorable little gobbler.  It looks just cute enough to eat, don't you think?

I guess Ben thought so too...because it would be weird for the turkey to write the words, "Eat me" on itself.

Among the other treasures in Ben's bookbag were countless scrap pieces of paper he collected to make Christmas presents for all of us (that's sweet - truly), several hoarded pieces of candy he'd gotten for good behavior, and dozens of gigantic acorns.  I almost didn't want to ask about those.  Turns out, he'd just been collecting them little by little from the playground.  Innocent enough.

In the spirit of thankfulness this week and all year long, I just want to let you all know how much I appreciate you reading this little old blog.

And please, please take the time to count a few of your blessings.  Right now.  Yes.  I'm being bossy.


Turning my frown upside-down

It's only natural to be in a rut from time to time. To just feel kind of funky - and not in a hip, groovy kind of way, but more like an "I think my armpits stink" kind of way.   I don't like feeling this way, but sometimes it just happens.  Life can be tiresome.  And sometimes it gets you down.

And then...something happens that snaps you right out of it.

For me, it was the fact that in just a matter of days a friend at church noticed that her nine-year-old son's hand wasn't gripping as tightly as it usually does, took him to the doctor with a suspected nerve injury, got an MRI on his brain, discovered a tumor, and headed off to Memphis so that some of the best doctors in the world could operate on her precious little boy's brain.

I heard the news and I looked at my seven year old Ben.  I tried to imagine for one second what it must be like for her to hear those words about her little boy.  And, quite frankly, I just couldn't stop the tears. 

It was all too sobering to hear the news, because, when I heard it, I was in the middle of pitching a hissy-fit about photo calendars that I was attempting to build online.  In an instant, I was humbled.  How dare I complain about something so insignificant as bad customer service and shoddy technical support?  This woman just found out that her son's fragile brain had a tumor inside of it that was affecting his motor skills.

Her little boy.

I know that life will probably re-consume me at some point and it will take another sobering reminder to snap me back out of it.  Because that is one of my shortcomings.  I am selfish.  We all are.  And, inevitably, I'm going to start thinking about all of my own "problems" and my focus will be on me.

But for now, I'm going to be grateful.

I'm going to quit my grumblings.  After all, it is Thanksgiving in just one week.

Apparently, even in the midst of trying to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, life and the creepy, sneaky world come and steal me away.

Not tonight.

Tonight, I'm going to thank God for my burdens - because given a little perspective, I bet every single one of them is a blessing in disguise.

Thank you, God, for the endless cycles of loading and unloading the dishwasher because it means I had food to eat and dishes to eat it on.

Thank you, God, for the endless piles of laundry because it means my family and I have clothes to wear.  More than enough clothes to wear.

Thank you, God, for shoddy customer service and tech support because it makes me appreciate the good customer service that much more.

Thank you, God, for the days that are monotonous at work because even when the hours are long I still have the job.  And that is so much more than so many have.

Thank you, God, for the seemingly obnoxious opinions of people who think differently than me because I live in a country where the freedom to voice our opinion is a valued, protected, and fought for privilege.

Thank you, God, for the nights when I feel like my patience is completely shot and bedtime can't come fast enough because I learn each time that I am wrong.  There is always just a little bit more inside of me if I dig deeper.

Thank you, God, for the times that my kids face ridicule and I can't protect them from it because it helps their skin grow thicker and it helps them learn how to handle adversity.  And it helps me learn that I can't always protect them, and they're doing just fine on their own.

Thank you, God, for all of those deductions from our paychecks each month because they provide our family with amazing health coverage, hope for the future, and the fulfillment of a civic duty (okay, the last one is a stretch).

Thank you, God, for the dirt and stains on my kids' clothes because it means they spent the day exploring the great outdoors, enjoying food, and just...being kids.

Thank you, God, for the smudges on my mirrors and appliances because it means I have the eyesight to see them and the itty-bitty, greasy-fingered companions to put them there.

Thank you, God, for instability in the job market because it makes me grateful for each day that I continue to be employed.

Thank you, God, for any and all of the disagreements I have had with my husband these past eight years because they are over.  And we're stronger for having gotten through them.

Thank you, God, for the utility bill because it means I have the luxury of using my air conditioning and heat when I need them.

Thank you, God, for the laugh lines that seem to be taking over my face as the years pass because they indicate that I have laughed hard and often.

Thank you, God, for our "broken health care system" because despite what people say about it, it finds tumors and saves lives like precious Mac's every day.  

I could probably go on, but for real, I'm thankful for sleep.  And I need some.

I do have a favor to ask of you out there in blog land.  If you would, please pray for Mac and his sweet family as they go through the next few days.  His surgery is over, but there is no telling what the future holds for them.  I am so humbled by the outpouring of love and prayers they have received in the past 12 hours alone.  If there's one message it's that God is good.  All the time.

Thank you so much for your readership and your prayers.  I am so grateful for each and every one of you.


Mostly Minivan-related Mom Things

Within nanoseconds of being put in her carseat, your wily eighteen month old removes her shoes and socks.  Inevitably, when you get to your destination, you manage to find only one of the socks.  No worries though!  You can either pull a spare pair from the depths of your gigantic purse or manage to find a close-enough match from one of the thousands of other unmatched socks lying about on the floor of your minivan.

When your incredibly blessed-with-toys seven year old approves of the shoebox you packed for Operation Christmas Child with an enthusiastic "That's great!", you know that some 5-9 year old boy somewhere is going to be very, very happy this Christmas.

Your top desk drawer at work contains Thomas the Tank engine DVDs and a post-it note of your middle daughter's baby milestones that have yet to make it into her baby book - three years later.

Whenever you go to the drive-through at the bank in your minivan and the teller asks if you have any kids in there, your knee-jerk reaction is to be offended.  How dare she assume you have a bundle of kids just because you drive a minivan?  Then you realize, she's totally right.  And whether or not you have kids in the back you nod and smile because, hey, free lollipop.  (I know, that's evil.)

Along the same lines, you actually love that when you drive through Dunkin' Donuts and order a coffee and a sprinkled donut that the employees most likely assume the sprinkled donut is for a youngin' in the back of that minivan.  Little do they know......

Your four year old's response to being told to clean up?  "I'm too lazy to do that right now."  At least she's honest?  And apparently smart enough to use the word "lazy" in the correct context?

You thought that building a playground in your backyard would be a good way to have some peace and quiet in your own yard.  Turns out, building a playground in your backyard just means that all those neighborhood boys and girls who used to play out front are now playing out back.

The cupholder in the back seat of your beloved minivan is chock full of plastic bugs.  Your seven year old keeps them in there because "they're good toys to keep in the van because they're small and they won't get lost if they stay together in the cupholder."  Good.  Better there than scattered ALL OVER your house.  Right?

Meanwhile, the passenger side handle of your minivan is chock full of spare hair bows for your little girls.  You can never have too many extra pink bows available.  You know, in case your eighteen month old decides to rip the one you put in her hair out and chews it to shreds before you reach your destination.  (Clearly, she has a whole arsenal of ways to keep herself busy in that back seat.)

Your kids apparently don't realize the actual definition of dessert [something sweet to follow dinner].  Instead, they think it's anything of their choosing following the actual meal.  Some of their choices include a few slices of pepperoni, a cheese single, and Doritos.  Whatever.  You're not going to force them to eat sweets.


Simple Footies

Every year beginning on the first day of fall, when teachers start telling the children stories of cool, crisp air, hay rides, and raking up leaves only to come inside for a cup of cocoa to warm up afterward, Ben starts asking me when it's going to be cold enough to wear footie pajamas.

The problem is - we live in Georgia.  It's actually almost never cold enough to wear footie pajamas.  At least certainly not the first couple of days weeks months of fall.

But then there's that first cold snap of the season.  This year it came as October turned into November, earlier than usual.  Naturally, as I perused the weather forecast and casually mentioned that it was going to be getting "cold" (for Georgia anyway!), Ben perked right up.  "So I get to wear my footies!?"

You see, he loves those things.

Ben isn't a small kid.  So as the years have passed, it has become increasingly more difficult to find footies that fit him.  We've tried to suggest that maybe he's getting to big for footies.  He protests.  Not in a whiny, baby-like way or anything.  He just really and truly loves footie pajamas.  He's all about comfort.  And I guess, for him, they are the ultimate.

To me, they were always kind of like a straight-jacket.  But I guess differing opinions are what make the world go 'round, right?

I've blogged about the footies before.  He insisted on wearing them to Pajama Day in kindergarten last year.  I fretted and worried and agonized over the decision.  I just knew the other kids were going to make fun of him.  I just knew he'd be the only kid wearing them.  Lo and behold I was wrong (as is usually the case when I worry).  No one cared, other people wore them, and life was just as peachy after Pajama Day as it was before.  (And some of us, namely me, came out of it a little wiser.)

Fast forward to first grade.  Last weekend, following on the heels of what will forever be remembered as the "kidney stone week", Ben went on his first camping trip with the RA's at church.  He was going without a parent, under the supervision of other adults, in the company of dozens of other little boys all the same age or older than him.  Naturally, it was during one of the coldest nights we'd had so far this season.  When I mentioned that fact out loud, Ben, once again, lit up.  "Well that's no problem!  I'll just wear my footie pajamas."

I could feel my worries rising up from the depths.  I tried to squelch them with the reminder that last year Pajama Day went off without a hitch, so maybe the camping trip wouldn't be any different.  It didn't work.  My mind raced - But it's a year later!  He's a year older!  Is it going to be okay?  Should I make him wear different ones?  Even though, honestly, they probably are the warmest things he owns.

Determined to let him learn his own lessons, whether the hard way or not, I packed his footies in his duffle bag and kissed him goodbye for 24 hours.

I could hardly wait to hear from him when he got home.  My first question:  "So....Ben....did anyone....like your footies?"

He said, "Someone told me they were baby pajamas, but I just said 'No they aren't.  Anyone can wear them.'"  And that was it.  End of conversation(s).

Why?  Why do I underestimate my children so much?  They are self-confident, logical little people.  If someone ridicules them, they don't buckle and fold.  They offer a well-thought-out rebuttal and go on with their footie-pajama-wearing selves.

That is just one of many, many reasons I love their little one-piece-pj-wearing souls.

In light of my confident little seven year old with the body of at least an eight year old, I hereby deem my Simple Pleasure today "Footie Pajamas".  Because, if I'm being honest, I do love them too.  (On my kids...not on my hot-flashin' self.)

And in honor of Footie Pajama love, I sneaked into each of the kids rooms, turned the light on, and snapped a shot of them sleeping in their footies. 

Oops...woke Sarah up.   You'll just have to take my word that those are footies.

If anyone is interested, Sears carries boys footie pajamas up to size 12 (!).  And it has recently come to my attention that they sell adult-sized ones at Target (at least for ladies).  I guess Ben was right - anyone can wear footies.

Sharing the Simple Pleasure of Footie Pajamas and My Kids that Love Them with Dayle at

Project Simple Pleasures2

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