Thursday, April 29, 2010

Free Association

There's just so many things running around in my head (and my life!) that I can barely string together a coherent sentence. But I shall goes:

This company is absolutely amazing. I had the honor and privilege of meeting and hearing the founder of Freeset speak on Monday night. I want to do the small something that I can do to continue to grow this company. Women in India (and around the world) are sold, tricked, drugged, and sometimes even born into the sex trade. They are modern-day slaves. We have the opportunity to be abolitionists. Seriously. Here in Iowa (or where ever you are). What can you do? Buy a bag. Buy a $10 bag. When so many of us are carrying around purses that cost $300 or more, a $10 bag is a drop in the bucket. I use a Freeset bag as Tate's diaper bag. I have another one that I use to carry books around. I am giving them as gifts. These bags are FREEDOM for these women. If you see me sometime, ask me more about it, e-mail me or Facebook me...I will be thrilled to share more with you about this amazing company. Or check them out yourself: Sometimes feel like you can't make a difference? YOU CAN.

OK, other truly less important things. Max has pajama day at school today. His absolute lack of self-consciousness is so refreshing. I don't know if it is a boy thing or just a Max thing--he is wearing the goofiest (hand-me-down from his cousin Noah) animal PJ's with his crazy frog slippers.

Tate has a cough and slept for a grand total of 40 minutes yesterday. Lord help me, he must sleep longer than that today or I will lose my mind.

Buck didn't wear a suit to work today and I said one of those casual "no clients today?" and he sheepishly said..."yeah, I'm playing golf with Vic this afternoon." HMMM....gonna store that one up for some much-needed mommy time! :) I'm just sayin'. Our deal about him playing golf is that I would MUCH rather him play during the work day when it doesn't take away from family time (because let's face it, it's not like golf is a run out, play for a half hour and run home kind of sport!). But I must say I still have twinges of resentment about it. I'm working on it. :)

Charlie took a face-plant on the grass yesterday while showing me a fancy move on the backyard swingset. He's definitely getting more of those little-boy tendencies as I could tell he was trying so hard to be tough...jumped right up and said "I'm OK, I'm OK" when I know he wanted to cry. I gave him lots of snuggles and he let me. My sweet guy. Such a nurse's son too...when he got nailed in the stomach by a baseball (not to wasn't a hard one!) he said "I think that got my pancreas!" What 5-year-old says that? A kid whose mom is a nurse, that's who!

Zoe is still glasses-free as we are waiting for the new pair to arrive. I must say life is a little easier. :)

We are looking forward to a very fun weekend! My sister is getting married on Saturday, and we are excited to celebrate with to come. Have a good rest of the week...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It Matters

Do you ever question if God is really paying attention to all the minute, somewhat boring details of our lives? I do. I have absolutely no doubt that He is actively working, doing big things in big places. I was the blessed participant in a conference this weekend put on by Christian author Beth Moore. It was a simulcast done nationwide--300,000 women participated across the country. That's huge. God working through that? No doubt. But in my little life, in my tiny little corner of the universe? Is that really worthy of His time and attention? Let me tell you a little about my week last week.

I know my stories about Zoe breaking her glasses--twice in one day no less--and Tate coloring all over the house in less than 5 minutes with an orange Sharpie are funny and maybe even make you feel a little sorry for me. Trust me, I feel a little sorry for myself sometimes! When I really don't have any reason to feel sorry for myself. I am blessed. More than blessed.

A couple of small, but magnificent, things happened this week. Yes, my husband was gone. Yes, it is hard when he's gone. I get to manage the feeding, bathing, scheduling, transportation, etc. etc. for all 4 kids by myself. It's tricky but totally do-able. I really shouldn't complain about it like I do...but complain I do (as you all get to read about!). On Monday I think it was, I get a phone call from a dear dear friend, saying that she wanted to bring us dinner this past week when Buck was gone. As I got the message, my first thought was, "geez, Laura, you must sound really pathetic, that your friends think they need to bring you dinner!" I was quickly reminded, though, how many times I have been in the position of wanting to do something to help someone. And sometimes that something is making a meal. This was my friend's offer of help. Now why in the world would I turn down an offer of a wonderful meal (because this girl can COOK!)...pride? proof of self-reliance? stubbornness? not wanting to be a burden to someone? Those really aren't very good qualities, are they? I fought my instinct to say "no" and said a happy yes. And yes, it was wonderful!!! God provided such a simple but beautiful blessing to me and my family. Thank you, Sarah.

But there's more. Buck and I are pretty disciplined with our budget. We live on a cash budget system (this could probably be another whole post!) but the last couple of months, I have been "pushing it" shall we say and getting pretty close to going over budget toward the end of the month. And it seems like I just do not plan ahead and always run out of gas on the second to last day of the month and I end up putting a fill-up on the credit card, which I hate doing. It's not like we can't afford it, but to me it just shows me, once again, month after month, my shortfall in my ability to plan ahead. I was very much anticipating the same thing happening this month, as of course, I overdid it again at Target this month--the warm days got to me, and I bought the kids a bunch of summer stuff that they probably don't need! I'm weak like that! But on Wednesday, out of the blue, I got a gift card for $25 for a gas station in the mail. I knew where it had come from and it made sense, but the timing of it was amazing. I literally laughed out loud when I got it! Wow, God. Another little nudge to me, to show me that He cares. It's not like we NEED the gas card to survive. But it was a sweet little blessing and gift.

And there's more. I teach Sunday school for Charlie's class each week. It is one of the highlights of my week. But it can be tiring too, and because our Sunday school happens at the same time as our worship service, I don't always get to go to worship and actually haven't been to worship with Buck in months--he goes while I am teaching, and then I sometimes go for the second service while he takes the kids home. It's not perfect but it works. Again, out of the blue, my dear friend Annie (the best children's ministry director EVER!) called me last night and left me a message, saying "hey, take the morning off. Go to worship with Buck. I have it covered. Just enjoy the morning!" I cannot tell you what a challenge that probably created for Annie. Turns out she ended up teaching my class herself, but she was completely blessed by that as well--as the children's ministry director, she doesn't get to do the hands-on teaching all the time that she loves and is so good at. Again, my first instinct was to say "no, no, no...I'm fine, it's not a big deal." Well, it's true, 1 hour a week isn't a big deal, but being able to attend church with my husband and feeling totally re-charged to teach next week is definitely a big deal. Again, humbling, but huge.

And my friend Marcia posted this on Facebook (who knew FB could be a way to minister to people!): Matthew 10:29-31 "Are not 2 sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." It's one of those passages that I've heard a million times, but it just had such perfect meaning to me this week. Of course, we are worth more than sparrows. Let me say it again--we are worth it. We are worth the little blessings and the big blessings. It matters to our Father.

I also looked again at the verse I have at the top of our blog, under our family's picture. "From the fullness of His grace, we have received one blessing after another." John 1:16. His grace is full, all-encompassing and more than we could ever hope for. Yes, I would have been totally fine without the precious gifts of love that I received this week. But because of God's grace, I was blessed to overflowing. And I gratefully accepted. Here's wishing you a blessed week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A little "Lift"

Have you ever noticed that I have a little bookshelf over to the left side of my blog? Well, I do. And believe it or not, I am actually reading all of the books on that shelf. I am always interested in knowing what other people are reading at any given time, so I thought someone else might be interested in knowing what's on my bookshelf. Maybe not. Anyway. Those books are often on that shelf for a looooong time. I usually have 3 or 4 books going at one time. It kind of depends on the day as to what I'm in "the mood" to read that day. So it does take me awhile to get through books sometimes.

The book "Half the Sky" that's over there on the shelf? I think I've been reading it since Christmas. I have to take it in small doses. My friend Abby said it well, in that it is such a "good" book, but like she said that doesn't seem like the right phrase for such a book. But it is an important book, in my opinion, so one I am taking my time with.

"Lift" by Kelly Corrigan, however, is a nice, easy read. I actually had it my car and would read it during preschool pick-up wait times. I make the most of my time, friends! There are days when I get my Bible reading in during preschool pick-up time. And if you have time or the inclination, I would strongly recommend reading Kelly Corrigan's "The Middle Place" rather than "Lift". I got "Lift" because I liked "The Middle Place" which is what publishers want us to do! :) But "Lift" was written as a letter to Corrigan's daughters, and in my humble opinion, probably should have stayed just as that...there wasn't any groundbreaking wisdom or even any spiritual truth that she passed on to them. More just "I love you more than I could ever tell you, so I will write a book about it." I'm honestly not trying to diminish her love for her daughters or her desire to tell them that, I just probably shouldn't have wasted my precious preschool pick-up time reading it! And that's my 2 cents on that one. That shelf has already been filled by a new Karen Kingsbury book called "Shades of Blue." I'll keep you posted. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The post in which I whine about 4-year-olds and glasses...AGAIN

So how in the world could someone THIS cute be responsible for the destruction of 5--yes you read that correctly--5 pairs of perfectly good glasses in just over a year? Look at her. The picture of sweetness and innocence. The glasses she's wearing here? This picture was taken just this morning, people. "Mom, Mom, take my picture. Here, I'll stand here. Oh, I love my PURPLE glasses! Take a picture of me in my purple glasses!" So I did. The purple glasses are our back-up pair. Why is she wearing the back-up pair??? Because of this...

The ultra-super-mega-kryptonite-titanium (seriously they are made of supposedly nearly indestructible titanium) frames looked like this when we went to put them on this morning. I honestly don't even know where the other half of the glasses are. So off to Target Optical we went again to get more of our money's worth out of our warranty. Those people were thinking it was not such a good idea to talk us into that warranty. They are LOSING money on us, BIG TIME. 6th pair. No joke. Our favorite optical tech, Amanda, whom we have the pleasure of knowing on a first-name basis (I know all about her most recent pregnancy, her post-partum despression, her husband's job insecurity, her two older girls and how they all have names that start with "A"...this is how many times we've been in there--do you know that much about YOUR optical tech?) was even surprised that Zoe could break these puppies. So the back-up glasses went on for school today. When I picked Zoe up from school however, there was one sheepish looking little girl, and a somewhat guilty-looking teacher. Uh-oh, I thought. I wondered what Zoe did! Turns out she didn't do anything wrong, per se, but here's the back-up glasses now...

Twice in one day may very well be a record even for us. Impressive. Our next step may be prescription goggles like the guy in the movie "Notting Hill"--remember?
If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times--while I am grateful the girl can see, 4-year-olds should not have glasses. Amen.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to....

Seriously, I wonder how someone this CUTE can be so naughty...

Oh, Tate...why did you have to find that ONE random ORANGE Sharpie

that I begged and pleaded your brothers to put away, high up in the cupboard in the kitchen, where even Zoe couldn't reach it...

but as we all know all too well, Tate has an uncanny radar for markers. Today it was the orange Sharpie. On the green wall in the entry-way. On the printer in the office. On Zoe's pretty reading chair. You might call it lack of parental supervision. I call it encouragement of my child's artistic inclination. Whatever. If I don't laugh about it, I'll cry.

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to. When is my husband coming home??

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Monday, April 19, 2010

A bit about my oldest...

My sweet oldest boy. His spring concert was last Thursday and all the songs were about trains. So he had to wear a train conductor hat and "solid color shirt." Guess what color he picked. :) He also had a special dancing part in one of the songs called "Freight Train Comin" where he danced with his classmate, K. She is one tough chick and apparently she told Max the day before the concert that if he messed up during the dance, she would push him off the stage! He was so nervous the night before. I told him if someone told me they would push me off the stage, I would be nervous too! :) Some help I was, huh? We said lots of prayers, and God heard us, because he did wonderfully and no one pushed anyone off the stage. Max and I went on an ice-cream date after the concert while Buck put the little ones to bed. It was awesome. He is one cool kid to just hang out with. We talked about space, and meteors, and Ronald Reagan of all people. Oh, and of course the Drake Bulldogs.
This picture is from earlier today, when I had the pleasure of accompanying a few first graders to the Rieman Gardens in Ames. A few meaning like 75. God bless their teachers. Seriously. I thought this picture was funny for 2 reasons. First, that kid in the bright blue shirt leaning over--yeah, the same shirt from the train concert--yeah, that's Max. Yeah, he wears the same plain blue t-shirt all the time. Just because it's blue. Also it's funny because the guide at the Gardens told the kids that in order to look in the cases, the kids all needed to keep their hands behind their backs. See who has their hands behind their backs? 2 kids. Max and his buddy Anna (this does not surprise me one bit from either one of them...sweet little rule-followers that they are!)
Not the best photo here, but that light blue little spot in the middle was a butterfly that caught Max's eye. "Hey, Mom, could you take my picture with that beautiful blue butterfly?"
Last one, just because I thought it was pretty. :) I sure am blessed with one awesome oldest kid. And 3 other awesome kids. But today was especially fun, just to focus on him and just to be able to focus on being Max's mom. What an honor to have that job.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

As promised...

I was trying to think when these pictures were taken because you know it is 2010 and all. Geez louise time flies (blah blah blah as my darling 7-year-old would say when I get sentimental). But I love looking at these pictures sometimes. I think back to the time right after Zoe came home and remember what a total BLUR it was. I was literally finishing up grad school (Zoe came to us a little sooner than we anticipated--Praise the Lord--but I wasn't quite done with school yet so there were a few, shall we say, loose ends here and there!). Anyway, this is Easter 2007: Max hadn't quite figured out how to hold a baby yet. :)

Check this out: Remember how I said we looked exhausted? Yep, this is what exhausted looks like. I love this picture. It cracks me up. Serioulsy, what is up with my hair? My sister is behind the camera. I think we invited ourselves over to her house for Easter that year because we were in serious need of getting out of the house or we were going to kill each other. Oh the love...
I hope you all have a very happy, happy weekend. I am hoping to relax before setting off into the the crazy world of single-motherhood-not-by-choice next week! Buck is traveling all week so prayers are most certainly welcomed and appreciated. Much love to you all~

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cute with a Cause

This is totally up my alley. You know when you have something that is big, but not really that big in the grand scheme of things, that is kind of occupying your mind and you need to get outside of yourself, so to speak? (see previous post to know what the heck I'm talking about!). So I am trying to do that. I discovered these gems:
And when I say discovered, I mean I found them in a roundabout sort of way and I may very well be one of the last adoption/blogging people to know about this super-cool company (HELLO, friends...why didn't you tell me about them?). Anyhooo...this company TOMS gives one-for-one. For every one pair of shoes that you purchase, they give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. Right now they are in the middle of a giving program in Rwanda. They focus on developing countries due to some of the diseases and infections that can be prevented just from wearing shoes in those countries! So my only question, friends: which pair should I buy first: the Purple Sumatra Vegan Classics (seen above) or the Purple Tangier Vegan Classics?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not Very Often But...

Stuff like this doesn't happen at our house very often, but when it does it's a whammy and I don't know what to do. We were just getting ready to unload from preschool and do the whole make lunch/go to the park on this gorgeous day/take a quick nap/play outside some more when out of the blue Charlie says "I wish everyone in our family had white skin." WHAMMY! See, I told you.

I know he's 5 and I know he probably doesn't fully grasp the enormity of what he's saying, but I DO think he knows some of it, and I'm not letting him off the hook for it because of his age. Of all of our kids, he and Zoe definitely have the most volatile relationship. They are only 19 months apart, bringing a certain "love-hate" quality to their sibling-ness. So I got upset with him, saying that was not nice, not a kind thing to say. Saying that it makes absolutely no difference what color skin anyone has, they can be in our family. And he comes back saying he was just joking. Which makes me even more mad. Honestly, I'm more sad than mad that this came out of him. I feel like I could cry. Which I might at some point. This is going to blow over, and I know it won't be a big deal. But maybe it is a big deal! Geesh. Gotta go make turkey sandwiches. Thankful for the mundane tasks that distract from the questions that are too big for me to answer on my own.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tate vs. The Driveway

Although he has his hand up in victory, clearly the driveway won that battle. And he is SUCH a boy! The only time he cried was when we picked him up to check him out. He wanted to be put down so he could keep playing. I told Buck, "So this is the one that is going to give me gray hair." Happy first shiner, Tate!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter...and a little advice

He is risen! He is risen indeed!! Our Easter weekend was so fun...pretty quiet, but lovely. Saturday we had a neighborhood Easter egg hunt, and whenever we are with our neighbors I always think, we have the best neighbors. Seriously. I know a lot of other people might think that they have the best neighbors, but I think I do. So there. I think I might not be friends with some of them if I didn't live by them, that our paths may not have crossed if we didn't live close to each other. But anyway...I digress...a fun time was had by all...moms chatting, kids running, dads holding pink Easter baskets. Fun times! It was a little chilly but sunshine can always save the day!

Sunday morning came VERY early at the Olsen house, as Max woke us all up to see if the Easter Bunny brought the much-asked-for "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel". Somehow, the Easter Bunny has gotten in the habit of bringing a DVD for all the kids to share each year. HMMM. Also, due to all the candy at the Easter egg hunt, the wise old Bunny brought coins for the family hunt around the house on Sunday morning! Smart Bunny! Did the Bunny come through? Check it out:

I then a attempted a photo shoot with the kids, for our annual Easter picture. One of my favorite family pictures is about a month after Zoe came home from Ethiopia, and we look exhausted but happy, crazy but happy, all in our Easter outfits. I'll post it if I can find it. But let me tell you this is a feat to get these pics, so enjoy:


Started out pretty well!

Then I think they were watching "Alvin".

Tate was starting to lose it, and I don't know what Zoe was doing, she usually LOVES the camera!

Whoops! IT'S ALL OVER! :)

Oh, and here's my little bit of unsolicited advice. Notice how Zoe is wearing a black dress to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior? Yes, I did have a cute pink and green frilly little thing with adorable pink tights picked out for her to wear. Yes, it would have coordinated beautifully with her brothers. BUT, she's 4. She has opinions. She wanted to wear her Christmas dress. Her black Christmas dress. With her Hello Kitty socks. My advice, friends and mothers? In marriage, motherhood and life in general...pick. your. battles. So she happily wore her Christmas dress. And there you go. Happy Easter! He is risen!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The BEST cookies EVER

My Dad's Monster Cookies
Are your taste buds ready for this? These are quite possibly the best cookies you will ever taste or make. My kids LOVE them. So I make them a lot. And my family thanks me for it. It might look like an odd recipe, but go with it. Dee-lish. Trust me. Here you go:
First, mix:
3 eggs
1 stick softened margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Then add:
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (smooth or chunky...your choice)
2 tsp. baking soda
about 5 cups oatmeal (the quick-cook kind)
6 oz. M & M's
6 oz. butterscotch or chocolate chips (I usually do chocolate chips)
Mix all together, drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. The key is to not overbake them, so they don't get too dry. I check them frequently after 10 minutes. ENJOY!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oh I wish I was...

A film critic! What do you wish you were? I took a couple of film classes during my first undergrad degree, and man oh man what a job that would be! Get paid to go to movies and then write your opinions of them? Yep, that would be a great job. I love all kinds of movies...romantic comedies and war movies are two of my particular favorite genres, while I can pretty much leave any sci-fi. Along with reading, it is a great escape for me. I could talk movies, directors, characters, and actors with the best of them, and I actually care who wins the Oscars because I try to see many of the movies. My friend Heather and I were a bit fanatical about it for awhile...but that's another whole story.

So occasionally I do this funny thing. I go to movies by myself. Sometimes it's a really good "film"-type movie, other times it's know..."Hot Tub Time Machine" kind of movie (you know that title alone has Oscar written all over it!). Mostly I try to go to movies that I think look fun or interesting but I know that Buck will likely fall asleep during them. Yes, that has happened numerous times, and frankly I'm no longer interested in paying $10 for him to snore through a movie! And as many of you know, I am a NIGHT OWL, and when I'm on-call I have a hard time sleeping I hit the late show after the kids (and Buck!) have gone to bed. So if you see some weirdo sitting by herself with some Milk Duds, reading a book through the dumb commericials at a late movie, it may very well be me. I'm a dork, I know. :)

So Friday night, I went alone--well, not alone exactly...I went with a number of high school girls--to see the new Miley Cyrus-based-on-a-Nicholas-Sparks-someone-has-to-die-I-just-know-it movie, called "The Last Song". Come on, people. It's called "The Last Song." Someone has to die, it's Sparks' M.O. And not to spoil anything for anyone who still wants to see this obvious tear-jerker, but yes, it's true, it happens. So the movie was OK. If you could see my hand, it's doing that so-so motion. I won't be seeing it again, I won't get the DVD. I wanted to see it so I saw it, and my husband is ever so grateful that I saw it by myself. :) And for your 6-and 7-year-old Hannah Montana fans out there, don't take them. Please don't take them. There's too much smooching for my taste (even though it's only rated PG), there's a fight scene, some supposedly high-school age kids acting drunk or strung out or something, and to be honest, there's just too much "marriage is disposable" kind of talk. I don't like young kids, even high school-age kids, hearing that message. And along with the whole death thing, you would think there would be some mention of spirituality (which there typically is in Nicholas Sparks novels...did you know he's a devout Catholic?), so my guess is that the God thing gets watered down for Hollywood, which is so disappointing. Bottom line...Hannah Montana this is not! There are some really good themes, though, about forgiveness, and the sibling relationship between Miley's character, Ronnie, and her brother Jonah, is precious. So there you go...I'm living out my fantasy job of "film critic" and you have to live with it! :) I'll post some pictures of the kids and their fun Easter weekend tomorrow since I know that's really what you all are after. Love to you all~