Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The greatest thing I ever stole

I LOVE Christmas time!  So many people complain about the commercialism.  I have never understood that.  I love the lights, the decorations, the baking, the tree, seeing friends and family and of course, the presents!  I wonder if people complain because they are too stressed trying to make it all perfect?  Our Christmas is never perfect.  Our tree is overloaded with at least 100 ornaments too many.  I rarely put bows on the packages.  If there are too many items on our menu, I take some off or make easier versions.  (It really IS ok to serve store-bought cookies, you know.)  My house is never spotless, no matter how hard I try.  I shop ahead of time so I don't miss out on what I want to buy.  (Christmas comes on Dec. 25 each year, people!  Why are so many always surprised?  LOL!)

But I just don't focus on perfection because that is not what the holiday is about.  What it's about is seen in something I stole a few years back.

I used to attend a women's small group at a church and one year at this time we were sharing traditions with each other.  One of my faves from when my babies were babies is we give them a present on Christmas Eve every year.  It is always new Christmas jammies.  This isn't entirely for the kids, though.  It's so my Christmas Day pictures look that much better!  Who wants to look back in a few years and see syrup stains in the pics of the kids opening gifts?  Plus when they were little and I could dress them, they always matched :)

When it was my friend Jodi's turn, she talked about their tradition with 3 daughters of baking Jesus a birthday cake on Christmas Eve.  They worked on it together and all helped decorate.  Later that night, Santa would receive a piece of the cake instead of cookies by the fireplace.

So I stole that idea and it is now one of our traditions.
Here is last year's cake!

This tradition helps us to keep focused on the real reason for the season:  Christ's birth.  The presents are fun and I love it all from buying to wrapping to giving.  But it's not about that.  The lights outside and on the Christmas trees remind me of the light He brought to the world.  The togetherness and laughter represent the love He wants us to share!  He doesn't want us to be stressed over the perfect cookies or cake.  I mean, does that cake look perfect to you?  If you saw that in the bakery case, you would probably laugh!  But it's perfect to us because of the time spent together creating it.  My hope is to pass along my love of the season with all it's imperfections.  I hope they never stress about it.  I hope they will love each ornament that comes back out of the box, and continue to love counting down the days with advent calendars.  I hope they will always make Jesus a birthday cake, even with their own little ones!  I can't wait!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Memories of Scott

Today, Oct. 21, my brother Scott would have been 48 years old.  He was 5 1/2 years older than me.  He was a typical Big Brother.  Most of my memories of him are of his torture of me.  Of course, now that I am a grown up, I find it all pretty funny!

On his wedding day

Let's start way back in Oak Park, I was about 3.  He punched me in the stomach in the foyer.  I ran to my Mom and told her.  Her response?  "Well, what did you do to him first?"  Thanks, Mom.  (Mom always liked him best.  I can relate to that Smother's Brother's routine.)  For the record: I was 3.  What could I have done to deserve that?  I was an angel.

Mom, Dad and little Scotty, 1965

Then there was the time when my parents left him to babysit me.  (Really?  Thanks, Mom.)  He wanted to watch MASH.  Now, I later learned that this was actually a pretty funny and good show.  But I was about 5, and I thought it was about a monster that would mash you.  I am not making this up.  I told him I didn't want to watch it.  He decided it would be funny to let me believe it WAS about a monster who mashed people.  So he told me details of said monster.  I cried.  He called me a chicken.  I can remember running into the dining room to hide from him behind the table.  He chased after me, holding me down, yelling "Chicken!  The monster is going to mash you!" while he laughed uncontrollably.

There were times too numerous to count when I was in Kindergarten and he was in 6th grade.  He was supposed to walk me to school.  He would get out of eyesight of our house, then take off running ahead of me.  I walked my 5 year old self to school every day.  (Mom, this isn't making you look very good.)

There was that one Christmas, where he told me he found my Christmas presents.  "Wanna know what you're getting" he asked?  "No!  I want to be surprised on Christmas morning!"  "OK, but you're getting a tape recorder."  Sigh.  (Kids...Google tape recorder to see what it is.)  Another Christmas he made me stand guard at the top of the basement stairs while he removed the padlock on the pantry door with a screwdriver so he could see the presents.  Then he made me look at them, too, or else he would tell Mom and Dad it was me.  (Now, if you recall, I was just a little kid.  It never occurred to me that I couldn't even reach the lock, work a screwdriver and that my parents knew who the troublemaker was!)  I believed him and I looked at my brand new baby doll.  I was so upset.  Because now I knew what my present was.  But mostly because it was the ugliest baby doll I had ever seen!  I was so worried about how to react when I opened it on Christmas morning.  

One of the worst (but now funniest) things is next.  He was about 15 which made me about 9 or 10.  He came out of his room when I was in bed, but not asleep yet.  He was wearing just a jock strap!!!  He stood leaning over the banister right outside of my room.  He was yelling "Mom" and then asked her some dumb question.  She couldn't see what he was wearing, just his head leaning over.  I could see his naked butt.  In case you weren't aware, seeing your teenage brothers' naked butt is NOT a good thing for a little kid.  Plus, I didn't know what a jock strap was and I thought he cut the bootie out of his underwear.  It was only years later that I realized what it was!  He proceeded to lean over and ask Mom several more dumb questions.

Fast forward way ahead.  He was a Dad himself now.  He was actually good at it, too!  I was in college, we were both adults now.  We would have real conversations.  I remember him talking about his job working at my Dad's company.  He would tell me funny stories about his babies.  He would ask my advice on what to buy his wife for her birthday.  I will remember FOREVER when he called me at my dorm room just to talk.  It only happened once, but I treasure it in my heart like gold.  

I had only just begun to get to know him as a person instead of a torturous Big Brother.  Then he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in April of 1989.  The average survival rate was 6 years.  When I was home on weekends we would talk.  He actually cried in front of me, sitting in our parents' living room when they were gone. He told me his fears about dying, not seeing his kids grow up.  I never even told my parents this, it seemed too painful for them to know about.  We talked about a then-new treatment called a bone marrow transplant.  Of course I would donate my bone marrow if I was a match.    Unfortunately, I never even had time to get tested.  He passed away just 2 months later.  Well short of the 6 years that we were dreading.  It's funny, in the beginning, 6 years sounded unfathomably short.  When he got really sick, it seemed like an eternity.  I wish I could have had those 6 years.

Happy birthday, Big Brother!!  It's been a long time since I have seen you, but I still think about you all the time!  And at least now, I can laugh.  And you should probably know that Mom has come a long way :)

In Kentucky, with his son Chris

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who I met in Charlevoix

A few weeks ago we got a great Groupon deal for a hotel in Charlevoix.  2 nights at the Weathervane Terrace Inn, a quaint hotel on Lake Michigan.
We planned to go in celebration of our 19th anniversary.  We bought it rather hastily, not really thinking it through.  It had to be used in October, no weekends.  After the purchase, I realized that I am now working many evenings at Target.  Plus we just got back from a week with the family in the Smokies.  What were we thinking?  I didn't know how this could work.

I got my work schedule and had a Monday and Tuesday evening off, so we booked it.  Brad had to work that Monday, though, so we couldn't even get to Charlevoix before 9pm.  And I had to work Wednesday evening so we couldn't stay long on Wednesday.  I was so disappointed that we had even purchased this.  I mean, to drive 4 hours and only really have one day to do anything?  Brad was much more optimistic (as usual.)  He thought it would be great.

I thought back to some great messages at Kensington Community Church.  I wondered, what does God have in store for me?  He generally makes good things happen when I am least expecting it.  What does He want me to see?  Who does He want me to meet?  Must be some reason this is happening when I don't even really want to go now.

We left at 5 on Monday and get this....we TALKED to each other for almost the whole 4 hours!  Not serious "let's talk about us" type stuff.  Just TALK.  I like that guy!  He is so smart, funny and interesting.  We talked the whole time we were together.  We walked along the pier overlooking Lake Michigan and across the street on Round Lake where we peeked into people's giant yachts (which, for the record, Brad was opposed to.  Just in case someone was in there!)  We went into little shops, bought a few souvenirs.  We walked a few blocks away to see the "mushroom houses," which are not where they grow mushrooms.  (But come on, hotel clerk, it was a valid question!  I refuse to feel silly for asking.)  We held hands, discussed our hopes for our future, and dreamed of living in one of these unique homes.

We had a really great morning, lots of walking and talking.  We went back to the hotel to get ready for lunch.  Brad was reading one of those tourist magazines about area dining and noticed some great places about 1/2 hour away in Harbor Springs.  It would be a beautiful drive along Lake Michigan, lots of fall color.  So we left quaint Charlevoix, a bustling town even during a fall weekday, full of great eats.  We drove to Harbor Springs which was...a ghost town.  Hardly any cars.  Most stores were either closed for the season, or closed and for lease.  We looked for these amazing restaurants, finding none.  We found one ratty bar with a rather expensive menu and kept looking.  Nothing to be found.  Back to the ratty bar.  We opted for burgers, but since they were $9.95 each we decided to share.  We could always eat ice cream later to make up for it :)
I said, "It will be one of those giant, greasy bar burgers anyway!  It will be enough."  So the meal came, and the burger, when cut in half, was about the size of a slider.  And the fries were not great.  Worst of all, the atmosphere was awful in that place!  Dark, dingy, dirty.  We ate our $10 burger in about 3 bites and were kicking ourselves for leaving Charlevoix, where we came across a gourmet burger joint that boasted of grass fed, local beef.
Right near the car was one of only a few stores actually open.  It was Spice House which sounded like a good place for someone who loves to cook.  I loved it and almost immediately found the cutest owl salt and pepper shakers.  They were mine, I HAD to have them.  Brad was like "You like owls?"  Really?  He must have forgotten last year when I would stare for hours at a webcam of the owls Molly and McGee and their babies.  When I say hours, I am not exaggerating.  I should say days.  Weeks.  He once came down at 2 am to see if I was coming to bed.  "As soon as McGee comes and brings his family a rabbit, I will be there."  It was an obsession.  So we bought the S&P and a great burger spice mix (too bad that bar didn't have any!) and headed back.  Brad was mad at himself for what we missed out on in Charlevoix.  But the way I see it, I wouldn't have the cutest salt and pepper shakers ever made!

Our afternoon was spent aboard the Keweenaw Star on a 2 hour cruise around Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan.  Amazing.  Just us and about 50 senior citizens!  A tour bus full, with visors on, canes, white hair (oh wait...thatwhite hair was Brad's.)  Then a really good dinner at a cool bar, followed by watching the sun set behind an ugly cement factory on Lake Michigan.  (If you just squinted, it looked like small mountains.)

We stopped in Frankenmuth on our way home, a favorite city of mine.  We had the chicken dinner at Zehnder's, but downstairs in the cheap area!  We went to Bronner's, NOT a favorite place of Brad's.  He suffered through it for my enjoyment.  I could have spent at least an hour more, we didn't even see half of it.  But it satisfied us both that way.

So after reflecting on that question of mine to God: who do you want me to meet?  I found the answer.  It was my very own husband, Brad.  After 19 years of marriage (plus 4 before that of dating), he is still the great guy I fell in love with.  He loves me no matter what.  And that is what God wanted me to know.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fun Money

My wonderful husband Brad does well at work.  But it seems like there is never enough Fun Money.  For vacations, eating out, movies.  Even something like new towels for our bathroom.  I know that may not sound fun to you, but they are 7 years old and I want new ones!  These are the things that are not in the budget.

So I made a big decision, along with Brad, to get a part time job.  Get some Fun Money!

But what can I do?  My degree in sociology isn't all that helpful.  I haven't had a "real job" since I was pregnant with Lainie 14 years ago!  (That was EDS, working from home.  That was a good deal.)  Ideally, I still need to be home during weekdays with my kids.  Homeschooling has never meant being home for us.  There is day camp for Lea, classes, tutoring, music lessons, drama rehearsal and field trips.  Plus school work in there somewhere!  Nope, can't get a day job.  I have never worked retail, but that seemed like the logical choice since I wanted to work evenings and weekends, when Brad is home.

I decided to ask my friend April about Target since she has worked there for years.  I figured with no experience what chance did I have?  She gave me the confidence I needed to go ahead and apply.  I do LOVE LOVE LOVE Target, after all.  And a plus of working there is a discount on things I already buy there!  

So I applied, had an interview today and was offered a position as a cashier!  Which I will of course accept as long as I pass my drug screen and background check.  (For those of you that know me well, you can laugh out loud as I did!!)  I don't see a problem, LOL!

I am mostly excited to start this job.  I feel a bit funny because I (well, my parents) paid a lot of money for that college degree.  Did they foresee me being a Target cashier when they remortgaged the house for me?  Probably not.  But the more I think about it, the better it gets.  I get to be home with my kids, which is the most important thing in my life.  I get to make a little extra money and maybe go to Disney World with it in a few months!  I get to be at Target, which, let's face it, is a cool place to be.  Our German visitors this summer spent 5 hours in there just shopping!  And they didn't even stay as long as they wanted!  I get a discount on what they sell, which is everything.  And I'm sure I will meet some interesting people along the way.  It's just another piece of my life that I didn't expect.  Many of the unexpected things in my life have not been good.  This one can be.  No, this one WILL be!!  Thanks April for the pep talk and the confidence in me!

(Here is a pic of me back then, at Oakland University, working in the OC at the coffee shop!  I look good in red, don't you think?  I wonder if I still have that shirt...)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventures of the Unadventurous

A few years ago, near the beginning of our homeschool journey, a notice went out on a Yahoo group about a homeschool class at someone's house.  She was going to help the kids make art out of garbage!  Ok it was recyclables, not actual trash.  But art was something we were lacking in our homeschool and to have someone help us would be great!  So we signed up.
We went to Ros and Bia's giant house and were pleased to find an arts and crafts room upstairs.  Ros had great ideas on making interesting art projects out of recyclables.  We were told to bring some catalogs that first day.  We were somehow going to make baskets out of these.  The girls ripped out pages of their American Girl doll catalog and rolled them up around a dowel.  And then, it happened. 
Ros handed my children a hot glue gun.
Agreed, Elmer's glue would not have held this.  But they are mere children, Ros!  How could you?  And we only just met.  Here are the thoughts running through my head:
"Ok, stay calm.  I barely know Ros and shouldn't yell at her, in her own house that she has graciously opened."  "Can I shriek with fear?"  "Can I grab the glue gun and with my control-freakishness say that I will glue for them?"  "How much will the trip to the Emergency Room cost?"
While I struggled with the apparent lack in Ros' judgement, Lainie had already glued her papers into rolls.  Oh.  OK.  She wasn't blistered.  She still had her eyes.  (How could a glue gun shoot out your eyes?  I don't know, but it could.)  Granted, Lea needed some help because of her fine motor challenges.  But she did WAY more than I would have let her try!  And she, too, was fine.  They were more than fine.  They were in fact quite proud of themselves!  They continued rolling the pages and gluing, and then glued them together to make awesome baskets.  We went home with a sense of accomplishment!  Well, they did.  I went home thinking I was a freak. 

So the next week, you would think I would be more calm.  You would think I would have remembered that it's ok for the kids to try something dangerous, since there are adults there teach them how to do it safely.  I thought I was fine.  
Then Ros handed them hammers, giant nails and awls.
What?  This was supposed to be make-a-person-out-of-plastic-bottles day!  Where was the glue gun?  I was ready for the glue gun.  Ros explained that the bottles would be held together with string, so we had to punch holes in the them.  
"Ok I can handle this."  "No I can't."  "They will make holes in their skin."  "They will lose an eye for sure with this one."  "How will I explain this in the ER?  Yes doctor, I gave my babies sharp objects to poke things with."
By the time I was done with this silent rant, they had both poked some holes in their bottles.  And they were fine.  They STILL had their eyes!  They weren't even bleeding.

We left that day with the cutest plastic people I ever did see!  And I came away from these few weeks with something arguably even better: a trust in my children and their ability to try things.  Their excitement to try something new.  The fact that they don't have to grow up to be the unadventurous, scared Control Freak that I am!  It's ok to let them try something that seems dangerous.  Isn't it in fact better to let them try it with me present?  And most importantly, I learned that our homeschooling journey is just that...OUR journey.  It isn't about what I want for them, what I think they should do.  It's about taking an interest they have and running with it.
The whole Glue Gun Incident sparked months and months of glue gunning at our house.  My girls made houses out of shoeboxes for people they made.  They made Barbie furniture.  They made rooms for American Girl dolls; how ironic, since it all started with that catalog.  It was still a bit scary for me, but the hours and hours of fun they had made it all worth it.  I am still unadventurous myself, but I try hard to let their adventurous spirits shine through.

Monday, August 29, 2011


This is my very first blog post ever.  Is it bad that it is about my favorite vehicle instead of my husband or kids?  I wonder what that says about me?

Ginormica was our '97 Suburban.  We bought her from a friends' father in May 2010 and drove her for a little over a year.  She was sold about a week ago.

I grew up in a Suburban.  (Not like IN a Suburban, as if we didn't have a house.)  My Dad always drove one to tow our trailers for camping.  My older brother always got the middle seat because he was older.  I got the "way back" seat.  I loved that space, it was a perfect fit for me!  He thought he was cooler in the bigger middle seat.  But I always knew the truth.  The coolest kids sit in the Way Back.

I learned to drive in a Surburban.  On a road in the Upper Peninsula, literally in the middle of nowhere.  I got pretty used to driving this monster vehicle.  Even now, small cars seem so....small.  I love how I feel in a Suburban - up so high, big and powerful. 

Ginormica represents more than my wonderful childhood memories of camping trips.  More than stuffing 8 teenagers in for a night out in high school.  She represents the beginning of an amazing era in our family's life: no car payments!!

We have always had car payments.  I had one even before we were married.  I was brought up to think that having a NEW car was the only way to go.  Don't get me wrong...I loved each new car we had.  I would still love a new car with 100 miles on it, a nice new car smell and everything in working order.  But Dave Ramsey taught us differently and we made a commitment to only pay cash for things and not borrow money. 

So we saved up a few thousand and BOOM there she was!  It was love at first sight.  My Dad, whom I brought along because of his knowledge of Suburbans - he could tell me if anything was wrong...said when he saw her, "If you don't buy it, I will!"  So much for the unbiased opinion. We did have to put some money into her, to make her more wonderful.  But it was still about $35,000 cheaper than a new one!!  Buying Ginormica made me so happy, which surprised me.  I had become a New Car Princess, and Ginormica was far from new.  She was, in fact, older than Lainie!  She had rattles.  When the air conditioner was on, ice cold water would drip on the front passenger's feet.  One of the rear cargo doors would only open if you pushed it in while pulling on the handle.  It wasn't designed for water bottles and they would go flying out of the cup holders at every turn.  But I didn't even mind.  She was MINE, 100% mine.  No matter what happened with our finances, we would still have Ginormica.  She represented our financial freedom.

But the smarter we got with money, the more we realized Ginormica was not economical to drive.  With high gas prices these days, it just didn't make sense to keep her.  We don't tow anything or haul anything.  Being a homeschooler, our daily activities span several cities and our friends live all over Oakland County, which means lots of driving.  I had to face the fact that Ginormica was a gas sucker.  She also had 176,000 miles on her.  She had to go.  But I took her in to fix a fan and the technician told me about his Suburban with 270,000 miles, still going strong.  Hmmm, maybe we CAN keep her!  No, no Lori keep your head on straight.  Gas mileage, remember?  So we put her Craigslist one Friday morning.  I came home from coffee with a friend on Saturday and there was a lady there, cash in hand, ready to take my Ginormica.  "I'm not ready!"  I yelled.  No, seriously, that is not an exaggeration.  I thought we would have several days at least.  I had to get the last of my stuff out and off she went.  I almost cried.  Again, not an exaggeration!  I know it sounds lame.  She was not a classic car destined for the Dream Cruise after all.  But she was my freedom!  My first vehicle I have truly LOVED.  She went to a good a lady who has adopted kids with special needs and is in need of a bigger vehicle so she can adopt one more. 

We bought an '03 Town and Country minivan.  It IS really wet feet for the passenger.  Lots more storage for CD's and such.  Doors all open and close with ease, even automatically!  I do love it.  But it will never touch the bond I had with GINORMICA.