Tuesday, October 30, 2007

check out the link

Even if you've never been to YouTube, all you have to do is click on the link at the right that says "Are you proud?"

Great stuff--and from a 15-year-old! Thanks be to God that there are some teenagers that aren't so absorbed into MTV, Ipods, MySpace and FaceBook that they can see what's really going on in the world.

Thanks to Mimi for the link, and the email entitled "grab a hanky!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Master has been out with His paintbrush

Oh, the lovely colors of fall! Often, we do not get to enjoy these as much in in this part of the country as those from the New England area like to brag; this year has been an exception, to be sure. The girls have a long-standing tradition of going to a charming mountain town each fall with their Dad toting cameras and enough cash to load up on ice cream and beanie babies (they've mostly grown out of the last stage). Last year, Princess #1 was still learning to drive, and got some drive-time experience on the way up. Dad got a "learning how to sit in the backseat and silently white-knuckle the whole ride while Dear Wifey sits in the passenger seat and coaches" lesson. It's a hard lesson for either parent--I remember my step Dad teaching me to drive because my Mom recognized that she might kill me if she had to teach me. I love you, Mom, and to this day, thank you! We probably have a better relationship for your having let someone else teach me to drive... I recognize how tough it is for a parent to let the arrow loose from the bow--oh, how the string quivers after sending such a precious arrow out into the world. Anyway, that was last year (no, don't think for a second that we're "over it"). She's driving on her own now, working and attending the local college... She doesn't write, she doesn't call... sisters (and DH/DW!) are starting to wonder: when's she gonna come home!?! Oh yeah... The colors (isn't that how I started down this train of thought?) in the mountains are a most beautiful yellow of the aspens against the stark contrast of the evergreen trees on the annual sojourn to the mountains. Sadly, the beatles are killing more and more of those dark trees, and the contrast is more yellow against brown these days... very sad, but that is part of the cycle of life, I suppose. So, THIS year was a different story. In a rare sighting, Princess #1 actually asked if we could plan a trip to this secluded mountain town. Now, when it came time to actually go, it was a different story (she's working, or Dad's working, or birthday parties are happening--oh, but the list does go on!), but it certainly got us all thinking again. We have been especially blessed with an extended Indian Summer this year--heck, we're still picking tomatoes, although their ripening has slowed significantly in these past weeks. We have, however, had one of the most colorful falls I can remember. Oranges, reds, yellows--reds over greens, and more. WOW! And just enough rain lately to keep everything from drying out, so the leaves are still actually on the trees and yards are still (mostly) green. The Master has been at work again, and we there's not a day that we don't enjoy it. We have the beautiful mountains out our back door (okay, there are actually neighbors' houses in the way, but we can see them when we drive around), and stunning colors to amuse us. God loves you so much that he sends you flowers every spring, but fall will not be outdone with its stunning array of contrasting colors. I love God!

So, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but (no, not a miniature sleigh--it's not time for that yet!) a weather prediction of temperatures touching 30 degrees. Bummer! I wanted more 'maters! So, I made DH come out in the blustering wind with me to drain water out of the planter boxes and move the still heavily-laden, green-fruited vines into the garage. Whew, biting wind, but a hood makes ALL the difference in the world! He must really love me (yes, he does!) to brave the bluster. Yep, my gardening sickness will be allowed to continue, as the garden has taken over the second stall in the garage. Hey, since Princess #1 wrecked the car, we have the space, so why not? Okay, okay, so there's not much daylight that gets in--only the windows on the garage door, but it's going to give them just a little more time to ripen those tasty toms, and save us some on our grocery bill at the same time. Interestingly, we bought some yellow and red peppers from the grocery the other day, and when I cut them up and sampled them, they had very little flavor compared to those that my taste buds have come to love. Don't even get me started on those pink-fleshed, mushy-mess spheres they pass off for tomatoes in the produce departments of our local grocery--there is simply no comparison to the sun-warmed tomatoes on my plate! Then, did I mention I woke up to a BLIZZARD this morning!?! It was pretty short-lived, but I sure am glad Dear Hubby and I brought stuff in last night. Yep, that snow-covered flowering color-bowl is from just this morning!

Let's see, before I write a book (which I am planning, by the way, but not here...), I should let you all know that Princess #2 has started her first official job at a deli/bakery at the local mall. DH and I went to pick her up last night, and I asked if we could go a few minutes early. We just stood there and watched her helping customers, working (!?!), and smiling. We commented that we may have to come and watch her work more often, just so we can see her smile--she is at "that stage" where the bedroom is the only place she'll be unless we insist she come and join us. We just don't get to see her much; it's not quite time to let that arrow go, but she thinks she's already left. If only she would figure out for which target she is aiming... She'll get there eventually. I keep reminding myself of a statistic I heard on James Dobson's radio program that said something like teenagers have the same brain-wave patterns of a psychopath. A PSYCHOPATH!!! How's THAT for encouraging? Well, he also says, "Just get them through it, and they'll come back to you." We spend all kinds of time in prayer for all our princesses, but for #2, it's that she'll preserve herself long enough to find (and then stay) in God's will for her life.

Speaking of just getting through teenager-hood and praying, I'll ask that you all remember our family in your prayers, because our Princess #3 has just turned 13! Yes, she's already displaying some of the classic teenager syndrome; but to be fair, she has had two shining (uh... ?) teenager examples to follow! Thirteen is a big one; I still remember mine: our family always saved the Japanese Kitchen Steakhouse trips for the "big" birthdays--13, 16, and the like. Well, I think I still had the picture that had been taken at my 13th until just a few years ago! Anyway, #3 had 6 friends over, and her Mom picked them up and took them to get manicures and then dinner at Red Robin. Then back to our house for gifts, cake (which I decorated myself, thank you very much!), a costume party and sleepover.
Go figure, the biggest girl (not big around--she's athletic, very tall and muscular!) had to dress as Wonder Woman, and kept taking "Wonder Leaps" off the couch in the basement. Not a problem if you have concrete-slab basement; however we happen to have elevated subfloors and the house sounds like it's coming down when wonder leaps are performed. Princess #1 took pictures of the girls in their costumes, which I then surprised them all by putting on CD's so they could take them home. Cute pictures... #3 and the friend with whom she is writing a book both dressed as ninjas-in-training (ever seen Naruto? No? Well, consider yourself lucky!), and of course they had to have mock fights where Wonder Woman was lasso-ing, Ninja swords were swinging, drama queens (all seven of them!) were flailing, wailing, and all were generally hamming it up. And CONTACTS!!! Did I mention that DH and I got her contacts?!? She's so excited--but it's going to take some time for her to get used to them. Best birthday in memory, she says. Mission: ACCOMPLISHED.

On that note: sayonara!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Praises to God

YES!!! We get to stay where we are, for now! DH will be working in a great store with some great people, and while it's about 20 miles from where we live, at least it's not 2000 miles! What an answer to prayer, because this area is home to Dear Hubby and me, and the kids wouldn't think of moving away--and darn it, I guess it would be up to them. So, at least we don't have to deal with a big move, but we do still have to move...

Gotta get outta the big mortgage. It's just silly to think that mortgage brokers would do what they do--and regulations are starting to come into place so that they don't do that anymore. I remember when we were looking at financing the castle, and our mortgage guy was insistent that we should get an adjustable rate mortgage, "because you're going to refinance in a couple of years, anyway," he said. Well, we knew better, and we were insistent that we get a fixed-rate first mortgage, and can you believe it? He had to look into a different loan program than what he ever had used in recent history. We wouldn't even have had to use this guy except that with my work history (only being self-employed for a short time), we were looking into otherwise unconventional stuff. We also had to insist that the mortgage payment escrow the taxes and hazard insurance--I mean, this guy was unconventional! Anyway, the payment goes up when your taxes go up (and where we live, they just can't wait to bump our assessed values--even though the market is taking a dive), and we're just not that into having the big mortgage payment and big house. Too much to clean!!

So, where are we going to move? Somewhere close to where we are now. We definitely want the girls to stay in their schools, and if we end up out of the school district, we'll have to take BOTH of them to school every morning instead of just the one right now. Speaking of school, Princess #2 has decided that she wants to go to the HS just by our house, instead of the one over by her Mom's. This has been a matter of contention for Mom & Princess, but she has decided that she really wants to be in a school around her friends. We have discussed it, and Mom agrees with us that she can transfer but only after the semester is over, and only after she can prove to us that she can get her grades up and keep them up. Once she gets back into our local HS, she will be surrounded by the same friends and distractions that she had in middle school when she was getting very poor grades (due to said friends aka distractions, according to every single one of her teachers--and we tend to agree!). Anyway, Princess doesn't think it's fair that she should have to wait until the semester is over, and we have explained over and over to her that 1) she made the decision to go the other school. Yes, we know that it became a matter of being able to see her mother or not, but she still made that decision, and we expect her to respect and honor that. 2) She simply must prove to us that she can get good grades before we can allow her to be back in an environment that has historically fostered such poor academic performance. She insists that she can get good grades there (we don't believe it yet), and that we can't begin to understand how bad it is. Yeah, well, 'tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all... She doesn't know how good she has it (and don't all parents say that?). Unbelievably, she had all A's just a couple weeks ago, and then when we met with her teachers last week, the report we got was just more of the same stuff that we had heard all through Jr. High, and the grades had all slipped but one of them. We keep praying for her to understand that she is going to need to stick it out, and then have the resolve to do it--otherwise, she's not going to be transferring, and that would probably not help the situation either!

We also started the family on a bonafide written spending plan (aka: a budget. Oooh, is that a bad word?). When I was single, I managed just fine--I knew how much I had and where, and I also knew when I didn't have it. Here's the kicker: the cats don't ask for money to go to the football game, or Starbucks, or get hair and nails done for Homecoming. So, it's been a lifestyle adjustment for me--one that has not gone as well as it's "fixin' to". Now we are married, and we have family finances, as well as cats (and dogs!), and of course, three princesses that wreck cars, go to the doctor, play sports, go to the movies, like to buy clothes, and MORE (did I mention Starbucks?)!!! I had already been familiar with Crown Financial Ministries (and I highly recommend EVERYONE check them out--God knew that money would be a tough area for us, and He talks more about it in the Bible than about Heaven and Hell combined), and had heard of the "envelope" system. Well, we started the girls on the envelopes last night. They had just recently had an "incident" with the mall cards that their Mom gives them, and Princess #2 wasn't able to purchase several much-desired items due to technical difficulties with the card. The girls thought that all that cash looked pretty cool--and we admonished them to be sure to budget it that it will last all month, because they're not getting any more until next month--and no "cash advances" either! We explained that it may look like a lot now, but by the end of the month, it's gonna be getting smaller and smaller. I fear that it will all be spent in two days, but they will learn life lessons this way--and better now, when we know that we will still feed them rather than later in life when it becomes an issue of ramen and tuna and Visa bills. Oh, we hope, anyway. We certainly have learned, and it seems that we'll get some "buy-in" for our overall family spending plan if they understand that it's budgeted, and that's it; when it's gone, it's gone!

Anyway, my lunch break is over, so I'm gonna get back to work before the boss comes around and cracks the whip (she's such a meanie!). Praying everybody is having a great week, and we'll try to make more frequent entries!

~Dear Wifey