Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mommy's Little Helpers

One benefit to cleaning the garage was that I came across a little shop kiosk for the kids that hadn't been put together. The benefit of cleaning the playroom was that there was actually a place to put it. The only problem? It needed to be assembled.

Sunday evening after the playroom was clean I unpacked the pieces and soon discovered I was missing some key parts-- part "U" which had a screw at the bottom of a post with a screw head at the top. I suspected Ryan had taken them because he was fascinated with the parts and pieces but we couldn't find them anywhere. I even went to Lowe's to see if they sold the part but they were no where to be found. Too bad, because I was actually motivated to put it together.

Monday morning I had to go to Ross' school to pick up his cell phone from the office for the THIRD time this year. I told him that if it gets taken away again he can kiss it goodbye because I won't be picking it up again. Hello!!! If you have to keep it in your pocket at least put it on silent so when your friends from Tennessee feel them must text you during the day at least you won't get in trouble. So I loaded up the babies in the van to head to Ross' school. Ryan wanted to take a purse that he had found when we were cleaning.

The purse drives Ross crazy. "He's a boy, Mom! Not a girl!"

"He's not hurting anything. Its OK" I reply. I sincerely doubt Ryan will be carrying a purse to high school. Besides Ross wanted his nails painted when he was 3 and he doesn't paint them now, that I know of anyway.

In any case, as the little ones were being loaded into the van Ryan's purse fell to the floor of the van spilling its contents. I hate it when that happens! But in this instance it was a good thing because this is what I found:

Yes, that would be the missing part "U." Now we were in business!

I got Ross' phone, went home and headed straight upstairs to start work. Of course, the little ones were with me.

Ryan is totally fascinated with anything that is put together or taken apart so I had his total attention. Emma just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

They both wanted my screw driver so, somewhat against my better judgement, I gave them both one but was very watchful. Ryan went straight to work sticking the screw driver in a hole. Emma is saying "What's that boy doing?"

Monkey see, monkey do. Emma decided to help. I hire them out. Cheap.

They soon lost interest and wanted to just climb on parts and pieces. It was an easy item to assemble so about 30 minutes later it was finished.

Just in time to play for a few minutes before lunch time and nap time. Yes, Emma lost her pants in the process. That 30 minutes included a nasty diaper change.

This morning I needed to plant some mums into the pots the front porch. Ryan was in the middle of it all wanting to see what was going on. When I finished I let him play with the left over dirt and shovel.

I told him to move the dirt from one pot to another. Fifi's checking it out.

Emma couldn't let Ryan have all the fun and wanted to share. This kept them occupied for a good 10 minutes. That's a longer attention span then my older children have.

I decided that since they seemed to have the job/chore thing under their belts it was time for even bigger things. Like driving.

Ryan is taking a break from mowing the lawn to teach Emma how to drive.

The roads will never be safe again!

Do you think its a sign...

Do you think its a sign that maybe you go to Starbucks too much when:

1) The drive thru employee notices that you colored your hair and tells you how much he likes it?

2) We discuss what we did over the weekend which included him telling me he got a tattoo?

3)Me asking him where he got it because I was thinking about getting one? (?!?!?!?!)

4) Holding up the cars behind me while we discuss what he got and how big it was?

Just wondering...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is a Little Organization Too Much To Ask?

My house is out of control. I've written about it many times and while sometimes you just have to let it go, other times you have to rent a large dumpster.

I live in a house of 7 people and only one cares about how this house looks. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who that one is. I do have one thing on my side: I'm the boss so if I say clean, they have to clean. In theory anyway.

On Friday I told Ross that he, Trace and I were going to clean out the garage on Saturday. We have a 3 car garage and only one car can fit in it. I thought I was being really nice about it. I was up by 8:30 but I let them sleep in and we started after lunch. See, I was nice.

Saturday afternoon, shortly after noon the boys emerged from the basement looking for food, just like bears who have awoken from a long winter's hibernation.

"Oh good, you're up. Time to work!" I announced cheerfully. Anything bad sounds better when its said cheerfully.

Trace was confused and then irritated. No one had informed him that we were working.

"Well now you know! We're starting in 15 minutes!" Cheerful, cheerful.

I was met with grumbling but in 15 minutes I had 2 boys standing in the garage with me.

Standing in front of this mess they asked what were they supposed to clean? All righty then. I guess we have a long afternoon ahead of us. I ended up having to specifically say things like "Take this box marked 'garage tools', unpack it and put the tools with the other tools."

Every 5 minutes or so Trace would ask "Are we done yet?" when the garage still looked like it does above. Finally I looked at Trace and cheerfully said "Plan on being here at least an hour so you might as well stop asking."

I know my son. His plan was to wear me down until I finally released him. Not happening today mister. I was a woman on a mission.

There were a couple of pieces of furniture in the garage that I decided to move into the house. This caused a dilemma for the boys. There were spiders in the garage and spider webs on the furniture. Somehow both of my boys are terrified of spiders. This necessitated the vacuum cleaner being called into action. That vacuum has seen a lot of bugs lately.

The vacuuming of this table is obviously a 2 person job. Doesn't if just remind you of a scene from Top Gun? Trace is Maverick with the vacuum hose and Ross is Goose. No? Maybe the heat was getting to me. But hey, they were going to have to touch the table to bring it into the house so they had to make extra sure there wasn't a spider under there waiting to pounce on them as they carried it up the stairs.

I found a box of photos and took it in the house and discovered this when I came back out:

Junk? What stuff all over the driveway? Let's play a game of football. Back to work boys!

The thing I love about my boys is that separately they are funny but together they are hilarious. Even though we worked hard (when I pulled out the whip) we had a fun afternoon.

Ross practicing his "Blue Steel" move and look from Zoolander. No wonder he was voted Best Looking by the yearbook staff at his new school.

Have you noticed these boys don't have shirts on? You just never know when a cute girl might drive by. On a cul-de-sac. Full of young children. You just never know.

About 3 hours later we finished and we can now fit TWO cars in the garage and you can even walk into the third bay.

Looking good! But now I was inspired. I decided to tackle the inside on Sunday. The boys were off the hook and this time the girls were called into action.

It didn't matter how cheerfully I said "Today we're going to go through all the toys in the living room and playroom and sort them and put them away." It just didn't seem to be received well. Good thing I'm immune to whining.

We started downstairs and took a whole laundry basket upstairs to the playroom. The rest of the toys downstairs were put in a basket by the fireplace. But the downstairs was the easy part.

The upstairs was a mess although it didn't look this bad when we started. We were going through everything. It didn't help matters that Ryan and Emma were "helping."

I decided to take a break and crack my whip from a chair. I was pointing to which basket Jenna needed to put a toy in. Yes, that's a Vente Iced Non-Fat, No Whip Mocha from Starbucks. And no I didn't go get it. Ross was enabling me brought it to me.

The table in the garage that the boys had vacuumed has baskets underneath so we used it to help organize toys.

The play room last night after the children went to bed. How lovely. Just don't look at the rest of my house!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Pilot is Done!

A few nights ago I got to see the shortened pilot for The Power of KC.

Wait a second, let me brush the Cheeto crumbs off of my fingers...

It was very impressive. This will be a local show but its so professional and high tech it looks like something you would see on national TV. I was only one segment of the show so I got to see Jennifer and Phil do their thing, looking all cute and funny. And then it was time for their Power Makeover.

Where is that package of Oreos? They were just here right beside me...

They knocked on my door and there I am in all my non-makeup glory with Emma on my hip and a pony tail on the back of my head. They actually didn't show a whole lot of it. They did show my kids so you will all get to see them. But they sped up the rest-- we're walking to the limo in fast forward. At the spa the show me in a robe and meeting the woman who did my facial and then me getting facial but not me getting into the pool with the waterfall-- THANK GOD!!! Then me trying on clothes at Bella B's and then my reveal.

Before the segment and before the reveal they were talking about this inspirational woman blah, blah, blah and Ross, who watched part of it with me, looked at me and asked "Who are they talking about?"

I, of course, smacked him.

So then the big reveal.... are you ready??? Here I am--

Yep, that's me. I'm fat. I also seem to be having a complexion problem-- maybe its the lighting...

I waddled walked out in all my fat roll glory. I could hardly pay attention to the interview because all I could see was fat. Even my face looked fat and puffy. In my defense, if you remember, I was having an issue with my eye. It was all swollen and red. But still, really!

I think I've let myself go. All I need is a big fluffy bathrobe, some curlers and pair fo fuzzy house shoes.

This is a real photo from the shoot. This is the most flattering photo I could find. I actually look kinda good here. Trust me, I look much worse on the pilot. And don't blame it on film, they shot it in HD which apparently doesn't add 10 pounds so I can't hide behind that excuse.

To the right, behind me, you see Jennifer and Phil filming their segments. To the right, back corner, you see Julia getting some makeup. Their original plan was to include the kids but they ran short on time.

They did mention my blog in the segment (although they got the addy wrong but they say they will fix it) when I sat in a chair next to them and chatted and I did appear to have somewhat of a personality. Overall, it was OK. It was great for them but OK for me. They are still pitching it to the a local station but things are going well and it looks like its a go. That means the show will air in January. However, the pilot should be up on Prizm Productions website by this Wednesday so if you had a desire to encourage your diet watch it I'll let you know when the link is up.

Now my plan is to go on a diet and start an exercise plan. Just let me finish this chocolate cake first.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Chat with Kay Bratt

Today we’re chatting with Kay Bratt, author of Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. Her book is about her experience during the 4 years that she volunteered in a Chinese orphanage.

Kay, thanks for chatting with us.

Denise, Thank you for having me. I am honored that readers are interested in my story and experiences working in China

One thing about your move to China that you seemed to look forward to was working in an orphanage. Your family moved to China in March of 2003 and you first worked in the Shengxi orphanage at the beginning of July. How would you compare the conditions at the orphanage to what you expected to find?

Upon my first day in the orphanage, I was expecting to face hardship. What I was surprised by was the immobility and lack of animation from the children. I had never seen that before in a child and it really struck a chord of shock through me.

About a month after your first started working in the orphanage you discovered a baby who had died. Your reaction to her death was vastly different compared to the workers reaction. Why do the workers seem so callous?

I'll be the first to admit that when the incident with the deceased child happened, I thought the ayis cruel and heartless. Over time though, I realized that in order for them to survive in such an environment, they had to go into a mode of self-preservation about deaths and illness. In my opinion, it is difficult for the human spirit to survive such constant tragedies unless it builds up walls to block out the sadness. I began doing this myself after a year or so, though I am not proud of it. I still fought sadness and despair at some of the situations, but compared to "new" volunteers coming in, I could tell that I was building up strength and barriers to protect myself.

You became attached to a baby you nicknamed Squirt. In November of 2003 Squirt died. How did you deal with your grief and make yourself capable of going back to the orphanage only a few days later?

Squirt. I can still picture his tiny little fingers and his long eyelashes. I was being filmed last week and when I began to tell about him, I broke down crying and the videographer had to cut/splice that part. For such a strong person like me, it seems strange that I would still feel such emotion when I think/talk about him. When Squirt died, I was devastated. I was sure that he and I were winning this silent battle against the opinion of the ayis that my nurturing him was useless. He seemed stronger every day and then one day he was just gone--with no warning. I didn't handle his death well, I ranted and raved at a God that I served loyally but I felt had let me down. Even though the first few days I didn't want to step foot back in the orphanage, the part of me that was driven to make a difference came flooding back one morning and I was ready to jump back in. I have always been a fighter against the hardships of life, and that personality trait is what kept me going.

When I was adopting from Vietnam last year I was given the referral of a baby who died before I could travel to get her. She had been quite sick but the orphanage refused to admit she died, instead saying she was reclaimed by her birthmother. I knew this was unlikely because the child was gravely ill and near death. You describe how the Chinese orphanage workers rarely acknowledge when a child actually died. This really struck a chord with me and my own experience. Why do you think they do this?

I am sorry to hear that you experienced such a sad journey with your child dying before you could get to her. I know that these children become yours even before they are placed in your arms and can only imagine the pain of losing them before you have the chance to give them the gift of a family.

I don't know that I have an answer that is accurate, I can only guess based on my experiences in China. I feel it has a lot to do with losing face. The Chinese directors do not want to admit a child in their care died. On a blog recently, I saw pictures of a funeral that happened at an orphanage in another country. The children were carrying the miniature casket and a line of them were following with sad faces. It struck me that in the 4+ years I was at the orphanage and was told of countless deaths, I never saw them observe a death in any way. It seemed to be swept under the rug and most times, only the ayis would whisper to us that the child had died, but the official report is "she/he was no longer there". As if we believed that the child would be transferred--knowing this just didn't happen. One child I know of who died, (the room supervisor told me this) but the director said no such child had ever been there. Sometimes we could tell by the way the ayis acted that something bad had happened, and after a time if I got this feeling after asking about a child, I stopped the questioning. I would rather believe there was a small chance that the child hadn't died-- and did not pursue an answer that I didn't want to hear.

In February of 2004 several babies had cleft lip and palate surgeries paid for by donations that your volunteer group had collected. How difficult was it to get the orphanage to agree to the surgeries?

At first, it wasn't difficult to get the director's approval for the surgeries. The hard part was getting the children nourished enough and at the proper weight level for the doctor to approve the hardship of an operation. In the baby room, the cleft lip children were the ones most often neglected by the ayis because their feedings took so much time that the short-handed staff didn't have. And it was a reverse culture shock to them that we "foreigners" gravitated towards the handicapped children first before the strongest. It took some time for the ayis to realize that we were stubbornly going to nurture those children no matter how much we were discouraged against it. Later, as new directors came on board, it was harder to get approvals for surgeries of any kind. The directors wanted us to donate the funds we had raised to the orphanage to do with it what they wanted to, but I was firm with exactly how we would help the children. I insisted on seeing hospital bills and buying items directly. I never handed over cash to the directors to spend as needed--this was one reason why our group was so successful in gaining supporters. We knew where every penny was spent and could prove it.

With these surgeries your volunteer efforts seemed to evolve into a new ministry, if you will. Was this actually planned or did it just naturally occur? You saw a need and tried to address it?

You are exactly right. It was a need that was put right in my face and I really didn't know it would become as big as it did--meaning I never imagined that we would be as successful in involving so many supporters that we actually had more money than we had operations needed. The biggest part of our funds came from expatriates living in that Chinese city and they wanted their donations to stay in that specific orphanage, so to this day they are still funding surgeries there with the funds that were built while I was in China. As I said, it got harder to get approval for specific children to have operations, and many times I got the feeling that the directors thought if they continued to play hardball with us, we'd give up and just hand over the donations. That was never an option and to my knowledge, still isn't. We not only funded surgeries, though, we also were able to improve daily conditions by purchasing items like diapers, shampoo, soaps, shoes, clothes, snacks, etc.. One day the director sent a request to me via our translator that they'd like to have a new van to transport the children back and forth to the hospital. Some volunteers laughed and said we'd never pull that one off-- but two months later, I got to be a part of the unveiling of the brand new van donated by the local hotel. I had sent it out as an email that went to my bible study group, then one of the ladies sent the request on, and it finally landed in the lap of the general manager of the hotel. After some meetings back and forth, he approved it! They got their van, even though they really didn't think that we would come through for them--

I guess they learned that Kay Bratt gets things accomplished!

Most of the time, I love working against the considered impossible--I'll admit, China was definitely my biggest challenge yet.

While you were visiting one of the orphanage children in the hospital you had your first encounter with Xiao Gou. Several months later you discovered she had been sent to the orphanage where you volunteered and you developed a special attachment to Xiao Gou. Why do you think you were attached to her more than the other children?

With Xiao Gou, I believe the reason that I felt such a need to help her was because she was a child that had known the love of her family before being abandoned. She still remembered her mother-- and her puppy. She knew what it was like to run free outside or to have a Happy Meal from McDonalds, simple things to most children but usually unknown gifts to the orphans we dealt with on a regular basis. To live that life and then have it abruptly snatched away seemed so much crueler than being left as a baby. Not only that, but she is such an amazing little spirit. She is funny, smart and SASSY! Her personality just reeled me in and kept me captivated. She didn't easily give her love so when it was given to me, it was that more of a gift to be treasured.

How do you address those who feel that you abandoned Xiao Gou?

When I read comments from people that they feel I have abandoned Xiao Gou, it makes me sad and makes me angry. They do not know that I still fight for her and still grieve for her. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her, and many nights I dream about her. Could I have done more while I was there? I don't know what else I could have done at the time. I had tried every avenue, including bribery, that I knew of. Now that I am on this side of the ocean and have a new perspective, I am still working towards freeing her from the life of the orphanage. In the past few weeks, we have uncovered amazing news but I am keeping it under wraps until more progress is made. Ultimately, I know and she will know, all that I did to try to help her and that is all that matters. People who have never experienced the Real China will never understand the complexities of their laws, and will unknowingly make unintelligent assumptions about subjects they don't have all the details of. It is just human nature. I'll admit that the subject of Xiao Gou is still a very sensitive one to me, a subject that I am protective of.

Anonymous asks:
Hi Kay, I read your book with great interest and I have followed the story of Xiao Gou. In the book you speak in a negative way about her parents abandoning her and yet I have followed your blog and see that you now are trying to locate her parents and seem to have a different view about this situation.

It is a very complicated situation. We must find her parents before she will ever be allowed to be a part of a family. They are still her legal guardians and I have not always understood that. With the help and tutoring of some colleagues, I understand more on this end that wasn't able to be translated to me on the China end. I would like to say, though, that my first wish has always been to reunite her with her mother and father. I tried to do this in the very beginning. I even offered funds to pay the hospital bills if the parents would come forward. I only pushed for adoption after a long time had gone by with no success in reuniting her with them.

For what it’s worth, I have never understood what more those people thought you could do. From what I read, you had tried MANY avenues, and it sounds as though there were even more that you didn't write about.

Thank you, Denise. You are right, I didn't write about every avenue we took. There were many meetings, phone calls and letters that were on behalf of Xiao Gou that would have seemed redundant to write about.

Tommi-Lynn asks:
Do you harbor any resentment to the Chinese people or to the orphanage system after witnessing what you did?

Okay, we are being honest here. The answer is not so easy. I really do not harbor resentment towards the welfare system and especially not towards the Chinese people. I do harbor resentment towards the Chinese government that places such rules and hardships on its people and welfare system, to force them into acting in ways that perhaps they wouldn't given other circumstances.

I think it would be difficult to see such hardship and suffering and not harbor some resentment toward someone.

Overall, Denise. The longer I was there, the more compassion I felt for the ayis and also the parents of abandoned children. They live a life that is much harder than most Americans can fathom.

I know that you have encountered much criticism about writing this book. Although you changed the name of the city that the orphanage is in, some people are concerned that the volunteer group you left behind will pay a price because of this book. How do you answer these concerns?

Before I made the decision to publish my book, I sought the advice of several people that had experience with China, controversy and the welfare systems. One of my main concerns was the directors of my orphanage finding out I wrote about them. But with encouragement, I came to believe that if my directors found out and closed the doors to volunteers, the good that came out of the book would outweigh the negative. It was a hard choice to make, and I hope that something like that doesn't happen, but my story is opening the eyes of people all over the world to the plight of institutional life for children. I feel like this book was needed and I would do it again.

Do you have any regrets about your time in China? Would you do anything differently?

The only regrets I have about my time in China is that given the chance to do it all over again, I would have looked for more help in the administrative and negotiating duties sooner. Many of the volunteers that were there and are still there had no idea of all of the meetings and drama that were happening behind the scenes. My time in China took its toll on me emotionally and physically, and I could have lasted longer if I had tried harder to find someone with whom to share the burden of leadership sooner. That being said, my volunteer group was made up of some really wonderful women from all over the world--many of them sacrificed a part of their hearts for their work there as well. It was such a gift to me to meet them and have them share this amazing journey together. I wish I could name them all here but we know I can't do that!

I have a million more questions but I only ask you one more: What’s next for Kay Bratt?

Hmm...next for Kay Bratt... I am involved in so many things right now that it is hard to say what is next. I work full-time in the Human Resources field for a non-profit. I am working on getting Silent Tears out to the world, moving beyond the United States. I want to find more ways to promote foster care support for children in Chinese orphanages. And I wrote a book for my daughter--she wants me to hurry up and get it polished so I can eventually get it published. (It is a humorous chapter book called "I Don't Want to Move to China" written from the pov of a child that has to leave her home to move to China...and all of the adventures she finds herself in and how she deals with it.) One day I know I will return to China, but it will probably be after my little one graduate’s high school. I don't feel that my work there is complete; the children never leave my thoughts for long. Sometimes I wish I could move on and I have tried, but my passion continues to be the children. That tells me that God isn't through with me yet. My husband always has his ears open for the next assignment and I know one day he'll call me and say those familiar words, "Guess where they want us to go, honey?!" And we'll pack up and head out to the next adventure...

Kay, thank you SO much for chatting with me! And thank you all the work that you did and continue to do to improve the lives of the children in the orphanage. I'm sure that many people would have just given up or when they came home said "well, my job is done" but you keep fighting for the children. You had the courage to do what many of us say we want to do but never get around to doing. Thanks for being such a wonderful example to us all!

Thank you for having me. I have had so many personal emails as well as responses to my own blog from people that want to do more for China but just need to know how to do it--I was just lucky enough to have been given the chance that most people aren't given. I really am just the average Mom with a stubborn streak--which came in handy when dealing with the famous red tape of the Chinese welfare systems. I want to give a big internet [hug] to all of those that have supported my book and encouraged me during the tense moments; each and every kind word was a salve to my soul. And Denise, you are the true inspiration to us all. I have read through your posts to see who I was talking to and you are an amazing lady. You have weathered so much in your life, yet you continue on and your mostly humorous take on daily life is entertaining to us all. Keep blogging, you are a natural!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


On numerous occasions I have mentioned that I might be a wee bit addicted to Starbucks.

Like most addictions it was a gradual process. I first started off with Quick Trip cappuccinos. I usually got a mocha, occasionally a french vanilla. I started drinking them when I worked in a hospital lab in Tulsa when I had to go in EARLY... we're talking 5:00 am some mornings. I needed the caffeine boost, that and the cheap sausage biscuit. But I never inhaled! I just slowly sipped.

I'm trying to remember my first trip to Starbucks... its funny, you think you would remember the first time you met someonething that meant so much to you. I do remember the intimidation-- Carmel Machiatto or Mocha Latte? Half Caf, DeCaf, Extra Shot? Soy Milk, Whole Milk, NonFat? It was almost too much so I stuck to what I knew-- Mocha.

And so began the love affair destined to be written of in blogs, well mine anyway.

Moving to Little Rock probably triggered my move to big time caffeinated drinks. Quick Trips didn't exist in Little Rock and other gas station cappuccino dispensers just didn't cut it. I mean really, nothing says "Mocha Latte" like a Shell gas station.

I do know that Starbucks became a regular part of my routine when I started working as a kitchen designer. Often I was so busy that I didn't have time for lunch so I stopped every morning for my Grande Mocha and blueberry muffin or scone. The people there knew me and would sometimes have my drink started before I walked in the door. It was my own personal Cheers, only I don't ever remember them all yelling "Denise!" as I walked in the door and I KNOW I would remember that. But after I adopted Jenna I decided to leave the outside working world and Starbucks became a rare and beautiful thing.

Over the years since, I have found ways to feed my addiction find money for drinks and Starbucks has become a bad habit that I have had a hard time kicking. Only I think I found a way...

I rarely go inside a Starbucks. HELLO!!! That's why they made drive thrus! Many milestones have occurred while waiting in line in a Starbucks drive thru. Important talks with my children, finding my first gray hair, singing High School Musical duets. Good times. Good times. But staying in that lane is driving my addiction. No pun intended. Wait, its a good one -- OK pun intended.

This past Saturday Julia took a sewing class at Joann Fabrics which started at 9:30. I had been good and hadn't been to Starbucks in 2 days. I had even drove past a Starbucks and didn't stop. (This from the woman who thinks it would be rude to pass Starbucks and not stop by and say hello.) So to reward myself for my self control AND the fact that I had everyone out of the house by 9:10 I thought I deserved a Starbucks. I dropped Julia off at her class and proceeded to the nearest Starbucks. Unfortunately, it didn't have a drive thru.

I drove into the parking lot and realized this might be a major undertaking. I had Jenna, Ryan and Emma with me. First I had to get them all out of the car, across the parking lot and into Starbucks. Easy Cheesy, you say? Emma still doesn't walk and isn't the most petite of babies these days. Ryan usually wants to be carried in places he's not sure about and Jenna, well, I was hoping that she would be a helper.

Thankfully I got them all unloaded and carrying a child in each arm and one hanging on my purse we dodged the incoming traffic. I'm the first to admit I want my Starbucks but slow down people! They're not going to run out! Trust me if they did, you'd hear about it on the news and when was the last time you read that headline?

We got inside, Ryan let me put him down and we faced our first obstacle: A Line. I was expecting it. It was Saturday morning a little before 10:00. The world was up, semi-awake and needing their drug of choice coffee. Of course the cooler of drinks was just all too much for little hands and both Ryan and Jenna had to have a juice bottle. Emma could care less about the drinks. She just wanted down on the floor so she could practice standing and then literally throwing herself onto her belly on the floor looking very much like a beached whale, her new favorite trick. No way, sister! It may be Starbucks, The Awesomest Place On Earth (as told to me last week by the employee at the drive thru) but the floor is still dirty. So I held a squirming butterball as I finally made my way to the counter.

Drinks were ordered, Ryan's juice was scanned after much protest (he thought it was being taken away) and donuts were requested. I had just realized these poor children hadn't eaten breakfast yet. Of course, Emma is grabbing at everything in site as I'm trying to order. I'm having to angle my body in an odd and unusual position to actually be close enough for the employee to hear my order over the dim roar of the people around us but keep Emma far enough away that she isn't crawling over the register trying to play with the stacks of cups. The order is complete, paid for and then we wait.

I had ordered a drink for Ross, who was still at home. most likely still asleep. Sweet Ross has been known on many occasion to stop at Starbucks and bring me a drink, paid for with his own money. If nothing else, this would entice him out of bed. But it dawned on me that getting the children, 4 drinks and a bag of pastries across the parking lot and into the car might be difficult.

I had Jenna and Ryan wait at a table while the other drinks were made. Emma was freaking out because they both had straws for their drinks and she didn't. Off to get her a straw. Straw falls on ground. Crying ensues. Get another straw. Where are those drinks? Ryan wants his donut-- not yet! Finally the drinks are done.

Ryan held his drink and Jenna's hand. Jenna held Ryan's hand and her drink. I held Emma on my left side along with my purse. The pastry bag was on my right arm. My keys were in my right hand as well as a hot drink and the other hot drink was in my left hand. Got it?

(Note the amazingly lifelike artist rendition}

We made it to the curb and faced the incoming traffic. I looked at Ryan and Jenna and said "We can do this!" and we made our way across the parking lot without any accidents or damage.

I haven't been to Starbucks since.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Ant Bully

Don't you just love how they make movies about insects and personify them so that if you were to even to think about squashing them your child looks at you like you are Cruella De Ville?

Oh! There's a spider! Where's my shoe? Nope it might be one of Charlotte's babies from Charlotte's Web.

Watch out for that bee! Be careful it might be Barry from the Bee Movie.

Look at the ants taking over our house! Where's the bug spray? Mom! It might be Z or Princess Bala from Antz of Lucas' friends from the Ant Bully.

I'm so glad my girls were at school on Friday.

With all the rain we've had this summer and the fact that I find it impossible to keep the kitchen floor swept and mopped all the time, we've had incidents with ants. When this happens I clean the attraction and then I pull out the vacuum cleaner and suck them up because technically I didn't kill the little buggers. If a few legs and body parts get sucked off in the vortex-- hey, I can't help that. But I didn't kill them myself.

Friday morning I noticed some ants by the trash can. I followed their trail and saw that they were coming in through the sliding glass door. (Their usual entrance and exit) Where's the vacuum cleaner?

The vacuum cleaner was found and the hose extender put on and I started sucking up ants at the door. I must have spent 5 minutes and they just kept coming out, 2-5 at a time. I have to admit, there is some perverse pleasure in sucking up ants. I think a psychologist could have a field day with that one but, alas, psychotherapy must wait for another day.

Ryan must be just like me though. Once he realized what I was doing he was pointing out the ants to be sucked up.

Finally I realized that I could be there all day and this was not productive use of my time -- especially with all the unread email calling my name! So I turned off the vacuum cleaner and went to find the Ant Party invitation AKA dried up strawberry. I found it under the trash can.

Yeah, I think it had been there more than 12 hours, but in my defense it was UNDER the trash can. Don't be so quick to judge! Ye without food under thou trash container can be the first to throw rotten fruit.

The offending fruit was cleaned up and I went back to the sliding door. And this was what I found:

Ewww! The title of my blog might be There's Always Room For One More but that doesn't apply to 252 ants! I was more than a bit grossed out. What to do? More vacuuming.

By this time Ryan was completely entranced. Sweet little Ryan who hasn't been brainwashed by Hollywood movies yet was completely into taking 'em out!

New play time activity, sucking up ants. He had a fantastic time with this. Emma, in the bottom left corner, wasn't sure what was going on. But analytical Ryan couldn't be content with just sucking up the ants.

Where did they go? Yes the vacuum is still on!

He followed the hose and realized that they went into the canister.

I think he would have been happy sucking up ants all day (that's my boy!) but I was beginning to worry that the vacuum cleaner would over heat. I pulled out the Windex and squirted the door and floor and soon there were no more ants.

Let's just hope Analytical Ryan doesn't figure out what drew the ants in the first place or he might be extending the invitations himself.

Memories Revisited

I was checking my email yesterday afternoon and was confronted with a headline:

The crash of a Learjet that killed 4, and injured 2- drummer Travis Barker and DJ Adam Goldstein, both seriously burned in the crash.

This news shook up my world a bit.

I don't know much about these men. I guess I had heard of them but hadn't thought much about them. So why would this news be so noteworthy?

Two years, seven months and 23 days ago my husband sustained 3rd degree burns on 60% of his body as the result of a plane crash.

God was very alive and present the day of his crash, the following five weeks he was in the hospital, the night before his death and the day he died and the days, weeks, months and years that have followed. And through it all God told me and others, through scripture, that He would be glorified through it all.

I have felt God prompting me to write a book about this experience but writing a book is a very daunting task. I have started and stopped few times but it never felt right. But now, I feel an insistent prodding. Now is the time.

As I have made this decision within the last week God keeps sending me confirmations. The first has to do with a bible study I have started. It's a Beth Moore study and nobody can kick you in the pants like Beth Moore. The bible I had used during Darrell's hospital stay and the year after his death is literally falling to pieces, so I bought a new one. However, I couldn't find it anywhere when the study started and I had to pull out the old one. The scriptures I underlined during that time bring the pain back as if is was yesterday. I have realized this will be a very painful process, even more so than I had expected. How niave of me to think otherwise.

And then yesterday, the news of this latest plane crash has caused so many memories to come rushing back. Yesterday I kept thinking of the day of the crash, the unbelievable phone call, the total isolation I felt, completely alone those first few hours as I waited for ANY word of what were were facing. I began to relive those first few days we entered The Valley of Sorrow. Its all confirmation to me that God has a plan for me and He's waiting for me to fulfill it.

I guess I better get busy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Late Breaking News: The Hostage Crisis is Over

After 8 LOOOOONGGGG weeks, that included hours and hours of negotiation (last estimate around 5 1/2 hours), the hostage crisis is finally over. The hostage takers have received their ransom and the weary hostages have been freed.

It only took 3 more phone calls after the new dishwasher was delivered on Monday. I finally called corporate on Thursday and asked to speak to someone about a compliant. They abruptly transferred me to someone else. Complaint Connie answered and I began to tell her my tale of woe. I was polite (as I have been through out this entire mess) but I was giving some detail. Sorry but "Yeah, like, someone came to fix my dishwasher 8 weeks ago and, like, its totally still not fixed" doesn't even begin to cover what I have been through with these people. But at the same time I wasn't overly verbose.

"The first guy came out on August 2nd. I remember it well because I was wearing my really cute khaki capri's with that cute little black shirt and it was a really good hair day..."

I think I hit a pretty good middle ground, just enough detail to get my point across. But apparently it was all just a little too overwhelming for Complaint Connie because she interrupted me and to ask:

"Maam, what's this about?"

Are you freaking kidding me???????????????

As I said, I have been very polite through out this entire ordeal but this woman sent me over the edge.

"What's this about? What's this about? I'm trying to tell you what this is about until you interrupted me. If you will let me finish I will tell you what this is about. Are you not even listening to me?"

"Maam, do you need your dishwasher repaired."


Me in a not so nice tone: "Again, if you will let me finish telling you what the problem is you will find out what this is about."

And I finished the story, amazingly enough without further interruption.

"So you need your dishwasher installed?"

"I either need my dishwasher installed or you need to send someone to haul this thing away and give me a refund."

Compliant Connie wanted to talk to the store manager.


A couple of minutes later she has the store's operations manager on the phone for a conference call.

The store manager suggests they install the dishwasher. I say this is fine. She then asks me if I paid for an installation. I told her that I paid for the installation with the first dishwasher. This seems to appease her. She set it up for Monday.

"That's fine" I said "But I am telling you right now, the installer better have everything he needs because if he shows up and leaves without installing this dishwasher then he better haul it out with him and you will give me a refund."

"Did you buy an installation kit?"

"I did with the first one but not this one. When they hauled the old one away they only left a hose and an electric cord. I know it needs an elbow. So I'm telling you that he better have everything or he WILL take it with him."

Its hard to decide what was the worst part of this call. Was it the complete rudeness of Complaint Connie or the way they both of treated me like I was some unreasonable witch for having the audacity to think I should have a working dishwasher after 8 weeks and $191 later.

To my surprise the installer called last night asking if he could install it today. I told him he could but he better make sure he had all the parts.

Today, a little after noon, there was knock on the door and when I opened it I found to my utter surprise-- Mike the Plumber/Contractor.

I almost shut the door in his face. Talk about Deja vu.

But hostage weary me let him in and he quickly set about connecting my dishwasher. I guess he hadn't been to any wineries or even breweries because there was no mention of alcohol eagerly waiting for him in his truck this time. I also noticed that he had an entirely different elbow connector than I had bought at Home Depot. Soon he was done and on his way.

This was my kitchen counter this afternoon after lunch:

And this was my counter about an hour later.

And this is what I have waited 8 weeks for. A working dishwasher. Lets see how long it lasts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Announcing a Book Chat with Kay Bratt

I have the most exciting news!!! Kay Bratt, the author of Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage, will be dropping by my blog for a book chat. We'll talk about her, her book and whatever else comes to mind.

For those of you not familiar with Kay Bratt or her book, this will be a great opportunity to get to know her. Kay lived in China for 4 years when her husband's job transferred them there. She spent her time first working in a local orphanage and then spear heading the volunteer program there. Her book is a glimpse into the day to day workings of the orphanage and the changes that were implemented while she was there. While this book is not representative of every orphanage in China, I'm sure it represents a large number of them, particularly the non-International Adoption orphanages.

I would also venture to say that you could apply the same standards to many Vietnamese orphanages. The baby adopted by my friend Brooke, from my Vietnam Adoption series, was very healthy and in great developmental state at her adoption. It was made very clear by the nannies that Brooke's baby was considered very pretty and was a favorite of her nanny. My baby, adopted from the same orphanage, was not as fortunate. At 3 1/2 months she was very malnourished and couldn't even hold up her head.

Although the topic of the book is not something that most parents would not like to think about with their adopted children, I am the first to admit that I breaks my heart to think my adopted children might have been mistreated before the joined our family.However, I think that it something we MUST be aware of. My newly adopted 2 year old exhibits behaviors that I view in a different light since reading Silent Tears. I think it has helped our attachment process since I have come to realize that Ryan might not have been treated well.

I also think this book is not just limited to the circle of adoptive families. It's always good to be aware of the condition and plight of children whether they be in Africa, China, Vietnam or our own backyard.

Our chat, will post next Thursday, September 25 around noon CDT. If there are any questions that you would like for me to ask Kay on your behalf then please ask them in the comment section. While I probably won't be able to ask all of the questions, I will try to ask as many as I can. Our actual interview will occur early next week. I will need your questions by 5:00 pm CDT on Monday so that I have time to prepare them for the interview.

I am excited to get to know Kay and I'm sure many of you are too! Be sure to check back next Thursday for our chat!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Babies Plot Against You

Our mornings are usually pretty laid back. I get up about 6:45 to make breakfast for Ross and Julia. They both head off to school about 7:30. I then have a half an hour to get myself ready and then get Jenna up at 8:00. Ryan and Emma usually get up between 8:00 and 8:30. And then we take Jenna to school a little after 9:00.

But yesterday morning was different. It was "Field Trip Tuesday," the day that my sister-in-law, Janne', and I get out together. Field Trip Tuesday's are exciting stuff. Our first trip was Janne's first trip to Costco and I was there to show her around. Subsequent Tuesday's have included more trips to Costco, a music store and my brother's middle school, where he is the principal. Exciting stuff. Even more so when you include the four children we take with us-- my Ryan and Emma and Janne's daughter Caitlin, 3, and her nephew Trevor, 2. But it always starts with a trip to Starbucks and it includes adult conversation. Did someone say Starbucks? Count me in!

Our usual trips start around 10:00 but this morning we were taking a birthday treat to Janne's sister, Geri, during her planning period at the high school where she teaches. This meant that I had to have the babies and myself up, dressed and ready to go by the time I leave to take Jenna to school at 9:05 9:13. Not normally a problem but since we were going to the high school I decided I needed to wear my Ed Hardy shirt.

My Ed Hardy shirt is the shirt that I got from my makeover. Its not something I would normally pick for myself but now that I have it I like it. (I guess that's kind of the point of a makeover, huh?) I had never heard of Ed Hardy before but Ross knew all about him. Apparently Ed's pretty cool. I saw the price tag and decided Ed's also quite proud. With all of this in mind I realize the "specialness" of Ed and the shirt has become an entity of itself. I thought about wearing Ed this past Saturday but I just didn't measure up enough to wear him. I was not worthy. I was determined to be worthy on Tuesday. But this meant that I couldn't do my usual put on a little makeup and run a brush through my hair. A flat iron was in order, as well as hair products. Oh, and a little more eye makeup.

This still wouldn't be a problem if things went well. {Que laughter} I think we've figured out by now that things just don't go well in this house.

The first shift of kids was up, fed and out the door. I had made pancakes for breakfast and made enough so that the little ones had enough to eat and I didn't have to cook again. This gave me more time to make myself Ed worthy.

Jenna got up at 8:00 and was in the process of getting dressed when both Ryan and Emma woke up. By this time I had my makeup done and my hair dry. My flat iron was heating up. While I waited I decided to start changing bottoms and dressing some babies. I stripped Emma down and went to grab a diaper from the side of my bed and there were none there. I had used the last one in the middle of the night. So I took a chance and left her bare bottomed on my bed. When I returned I found a very large wet spot on my bed. Heavy sigh. Wet wipes were used, her bottom was covered and she was quickly placed on the floor so I could strip the bed and start the washing machine.

8:15 status: Jenna is dressed, Ryan is in pajamas and Emma is in only a diaper. Flat iron is ready.

I started to work on my hair while the little ones played around me. Emma crawled from the bedroom into my bathroom where I keep a small tub of toys for her to play with. I looked over at her and saw her diaper was falling off. And it was packing heat. I then looked behind me to see a trail of spots on the carpet.

I promise that I won't gross you out, although I am very, very ashamed to say for one brief millisecond I thought to myself "where's my camera?" No, I'll spare you details but let's just say I don't think I'll be feeding her corn for awhile. Enough said! More wipes were used, a new diaper was snugly put into place and then massive amounts of wet wipes, Lysol and Febreeze were called into active duty.

8:30 status: Jenna is dressed, Ryan is still in pajamas and Emma is only in a diaper, her second in only a matter of minutes that I considered duct taping on. My flat iron is ready and about 1/3 of my hair is straightened while the rest is in a pony tail holder on top of my head. Bam Bam would have found me very appealing.

I quickly finished straightening my hair, put on Ed, dressed the babies and took them downstairs for breakfast. Thank goodness the pancakes were made! I gave a pancake to Emma, and then put peanut butter and syrup on Ryan and Jenna's and then set off upstairs to find socks and shoes. The kids finished up eating while I made sure Jenna had her school items. By now it was about 9:00 and we needed to head out the door but no one was wearing footwear. So I left Emma in her high chair and started putting socks and shoes on Ryan. When I got to Emma I discover that she had grabbed Ryan's paper plate of the counter and was covered in syrup.

I ran upstairs to find new outfit. Washed her hands and face, threw all 3 kids in the car and pulled out of the garage so we could get Jenna to school and to Janne's house on time. By the time we got there I was a tad bit stressed out.

Emma may have won a few rounds in the battle but I still made it to Starbucks.
Dishwasher update: Two calls to Best Buy, 2 calls to 2 different TV stations "Call to Action" and no change
After my post on Sunday when no one mentioned my "Paint skills" I was feeling a bit sophomoric. But then I read this post on Because I Said So. I think I'm in good company.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best Buy Dishwasher Hostage Crisis Goes to the Next Level

As I look at the Hostage Crisis counter and see that we have been held captive for 44 days and 23 hours I think "Can you be serious???"

By last Thursday I had had enough!!!! I called the Best Buy store where I bought the dishwasher and asked to speak to a manager about an issue with my dishwasher. So I very calmly and politely tell my short version and end with "I either want my dishwasher fixed by tomorrow or I want a refund."

To which the manager replied "How about I give you a new one."

Why did I think it would be that easy?

After dinner I slipped away (my errand last Thursday night when I saw my laundry room exposed to the world) and went to Best Buy to arrange for my new dishwasher. But here's the catch: the original dishwasher I bought was a floor model and was sold at a reduced price so I either had to accept a lower quality dishwasher or I had to pay more.

For all I knew the part for the original dishwasher was still being manufactured in China so I had no idea when, or if, it would get fixed. (If I had only known I was going to need that part I could have picked it up this past July while I was there.) I know, I know, it seems totally insane to pay more to a business to replace a dishwasher that they failed to repair due to their own incompetence but I had been driven to the point of insanity. I have heard that hostages start to feel an affinity to their captors, maybe that was it. I fell for the "we're going to replace it because its been too long but you have to pay more because your model is no longer available." I was fooled by the bait and switch.

I just wanted a dishwasher to wash my dishes. Is that so much to ask for?

I know, I know, I should have demanded my refund and run out the door straight to Lowe's but like a fool I stayed there. I reasoned that finally someone was trying to make this right and all I wanted was a dishwasher to work and this was probably the fastest way to make that happen.

Hello!!!! We're dealing with a business that won't even call you 7 weeks after supposedly ordering a part!!!

So I paid my $191.59 ransom upcharge and went home happy that I was finally getting a brand new dishwasher on Monday.

What an idiot.

My new dishwasher was delivered this morning and the delivery guys brought in a cardboard box and turned to leave. WHOA! Guess what? Installation wasn't included. I asked if they could at least unpack it, which they did. They hauled the old one away and a few minutes later they knocked on the door handing me a metal hose and an hard wire electric cord saying I would need them to install the new one.

Unbelieveably I'm still Little Miss PollyAnna. My brand new shiny dishwasher is only feet from its destined spot. So I had to install my new dishwasher myself? I couldn't do any worse than Mike the Plumber/Contractor. And if worse came to worse, I could call my brother Kevin to come and help me.

The day wore on and I hadn't installed the dishwasher yet. In the meantime, REAL, not paper, dishes are piling up all over the counter because the new dishwasher will be working any minute! Finally while I started to cook dinner I decided that I'm standing right there so I might as well figure out what I need to do. I looked at the instruction manual and realized that I'm missing a part. While the delivery guys gave me the hose they neglected to remove the brass elbow attached to it. This required a trip to Home Depot.

Of course, the elbow bracket wasn't sold seperately so I had to purchase a new universal kit for $19.99 + tax. So now my new replacement dishwasher has cost me over $2oo. But I don't care -- I just want my dishwasher!!!

I get home and start to screw the elbow in and it barely goes in so I broke down and called Kevin. I had no idea what I was doing wrong. Thirty minutes and 2 phone calls later Kevin and I figure out that I wasn't doing anything wrong. Its the dishwasher or the kit. I need a new one or the other.

After 45 days, 4 hours in phone calls, 2 visits to the store that have lasted about an hour and a half, one trip to Home Depot and $211 later I STILL do not have a working dishwasher. (Do you think I emphasized the "still" enough?

Oh, and the kicker? Guess who called me last Friday? The repair people called to tell me that my part was in.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Seventh Food Group

{Denise is still exploring computer skills and in tonight's post she plays with "Paint" -- only she had just a wee bit too much fun...}

Back when I was a kid we had four food groups and that was enough for us. Kids these days just aren't satisfied with four so now apparently they have to have six. Where did they dig up 2 new groups? Upon further inspection on my part, I realized that the new food groups were actually part of the original four. Maybe the explosion has to do with the supposed "dumbing down" of America, who knows. All I know is that after this morning I propose we add a seventh food group.

Yesterday I made my weekly Costco trip. With a family this size Costco has quickly replaced Target as my "go to" store. In fact, I am an Executive Member -- don't I feel important? (I think that executive merely means "big spender" but I like the sound of "executive" better.) Ross happened to go with me and in a moment of total weakness I bought a MEGA size box of Rice Crispy treats. This was rare, I can only think of one other time I have bought Rice Crispy treats. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a rice cereal and marshmallow gooey confection, it's just that they're so simple to make it seems almost sinful to buy them. But buy them I did and it turns out that Ryan LOVES them.

This morning the kids got up and before I could get breakfast made Ryan had found the mega size box in the pantry and brought me an individually wrapped package to open. As I held the package in my hand Jenna saw it and got excited "I want a Rice Crispy Treat!"

I put the package back in the pantry and told them Rice Crispy treats weren't for breakfast and that their real breakfast would soon be ready.

My three youngest dug into their breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese, strawberries, toaster waffles with Cool Whip and calcium fortified orange juice (not one of these three will drink milk) and Jenna pipes up. "But Rice Crispys are breakfast cereal!" She's a persistent child.

I am the first to admit that if I have a chocolate cake on the counter I have been known to eat some for breakfast. Please, tell me what the difference is between a piece of chocolate cake and a donut? But giving my children Rice Crispys coated in marshmallows just seemed wrong.

But then I remembered Lucky Charms, and Count Chocula, and all of those other marshmallow breakfast cereals (that I never buy for my children) and I thought what's the difference?

So this is one of those days when Mommy changes her mind in favor of the children and I brought a bit of happiness into their bleak little lives. (tongue firmly planted in cheek on that one) I LOVE Ryan's eyes in this picture. You can tell how happy and surprised he is to have a Rice Crispy treat in his hand.

Obviously the giddiness was contagious. I just couldn't bring myself to give her one but she was happy anyway. Here she's clapping for her siblings.

What a good mother I am. I provided my children with food from 5 of the 7 food groups. What, there's only 6? No, I created another:

If breakfast cereal companies can put marshmallows into breakfast cereal than surely it must be a food group. So there you have it, the marshmallow food group at the tip top of the food pyramid. (and now you see that I can't spell because "marshmallow" is misspelled which I just found out doing spell check and there is no way to fix it without starting over again!-- that I know of...) I even found a diagram with a picture of me on it which I just couldn't help adding hair and facial features. And then of course the text that even now, hours later, makes me giggle.

I think I need to get a life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Airing My Dirty Laundry

Last night I actually escaped from my house without ANY children. This was a miracle among miracles, I can assure you! But I did leave a couple of almost teary eyed children behind. Not quite upset, just a little whinny. I told my older boys, Trace and Ross, not to cry I would be home soon and they could handle the younger children for about an hour.

It was amazing what I could notice around me without the sounds of Shrek (our current feature film in the van) coming from the back. As I pulled away from my house I looked over at my neighbor's house. It was somewhat dark outside and I could see through the windows of the 2 story entry way of their house.

"How lovely," I thought. "They have a nice display of family photos at the top of their stairs." I drove off and ran my errand and then came home.

As I pulled up to my house there were many lights on in my house and I got a really good glimpse inside. Whoa baby! I'm currently having engraved letters of apology printed up for my neighbors.

I did try to take some photos last night but they didn't turn out very well so I had to take them today. But trust me-- it was bad.

This is the front of my beautiful house. Notice the LARGE window over my front door. Also notice the bay window behind the trees to the left.

And THIS is what you see through that window, I KID YOU NOT! Yes, I keep this door open most of the time.

This is looking through my front door and up-- notice the door and the small wall section upstairs. This is the direct view that you see looking through that window at night with the lights on, which they are most nights.

One thing in my favor last night was that I had actually folded most of the laundry!!! Instead of my usual 4 or so loads outside my laundry room door in plain sight to all passersby I only had these 2 baskets. So while they didn't have that lovely view last night, they do get to see it most other nights.

My laundry room door is currently shut. But the baskets are still there.

Rome wasn't built in a day you know!

But that wasn't the only sight I saw. This also greeted me:

Of course, this is from inside the house but it looks just as bad outside. This is my dining room bay window which is on the left side of the front door and everyone driving by can see in through the messed up blinds. Not so bad, you say?

Here's a closer look. The slats of these blinds are not connected in any way to the blinds. They merely fit between strings. Ryan and Emma like to look out these windows, as does the dog. You do the math.

What's with the door there? It's my kitchen cabinet door that broke off about a month ago (don't ask) waiting to be fixed. Its on my list of things to do. Far down the list.

Here's another photo of the front of my house without leaves on the trees and bushes. Did you notice the window over the garage? That would be my bathroom window. Its a nice concept, a large window in the bathroom over the large tub. But I have to literally climb in the tub to open and close the blinds. Consequently, they are usually shut. However, occasionally I do open them.

But there's a chance we have made up for it all with another view through our windows.

When I first moved here I got invited to a women's night out in my cul-de-sac,. They were all going to see the new Sex In The City movie. These women are so fun to be with so it took me about 5 minutes to start being the real me with them. If you have seen the movie then I KNOW you remember the scene where Samantha's sexy new neighbor takes a shower in full view of her window. I'm not sure what possessed me, I mean I had JUST met these women, but I leaned over (I was at the end of the row) and said "I know I'm your new neighbor but I hope you don't expect anything like that in my windows."

Then about a month ago Ross had a grueling workout at football and was incredibly sore. I suggested that he take a bath in my jetted tub. He wasn't up there long before he came back down wrapped in a towel. I suddenly remembered that the bathroom blinds were open.

"Did you shut the blinds?" I asked.

"Were they open? I didn't even pay attention."

Maybe I made up for the messy laundry room after all. I gotta go cancel that engraving order!

And the winner is...

This is so exciting!!! I get to announce the winners of the drawing! First let me tell you how we did this:

The girls were as excited about this as I was so I promised to wait until they came home from school to help. We went through the comments and I named each person who showed an interest and Julia wrote the name on a slip of paper. Then Jenna and I folded them up and put them in Emma's purse. ;>) There were 18 total names.

Julia drew the first name, Jenna the second, Julia the third, Jenna fourth and Ryan last.

And the winners are (in order of being drawn):

1) Trish

2) Kristin

3) Tiffany

4) Joanna

5) Courtney

Congratulations! I've sent emails to everyone except Joanna. If you're a winner just let me know if you want a bear or a bunny and what color you want. I'll work on them this weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

There's Always Room for One More Espresso

My Starbucks addiction is common knowledge, and we all know that admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery. Not that I want to recover, mind you, but my Starbucks gift card does. So with that in mind...

Welcome to the There's Always Room for One More Espresso Coffee House! Your Barista today is Denise!

Sit back and relax while I make you a Mocha latte. You want something else? Too bad, that's all I make...

(Notice the super cool espresso/coffee machine behind me. I got that at Lowe's, of all places, last spring. Also notice the Starbucks mug. That was a belated birthday gift from Ross so when I make my home made Mocha's I feel like I'm drinking Starbucks.)

Still waiting? Yes, it takes awhile. First I have to fill the water reservoir. Then I have to put the espresso grounds holder in and then when the machine has heated up then I have to run it and run hot water through it to heat it up. When that's done I'm ready to get started.

Notice the expertise used to pat the espresso coffee into its special holder. Also notice the high quality plastic spoon. Yep, still no dishwasher.

Here your expert barista is putting the ground holder into place on the machine. I'm sure there is a special name for this piece of machinery, and I'm pretty sure its named in the instruction manual, but since I only glanced at the directions I can't really tell you what it is. But honestly, do I really need to know its given name when I know that the coffee goes in it and the water flows through it? I know all I need to know.

Would you look at that rich, amber colored espresso. Yum, Yum.

(Oops, sorry. Just got done reading 5 Green and Speckled Frogs, you know -- Five green and speckled frogs, sitting on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs, yum, yum.

It occurs to me that I've really been spilling my reading material lately, Junie B. Jones, 5 Green and Speckled Frogs, maybe I need to branch out a little.)

Now your friendly barista pours the espresso into the mug. Notice how she has some spillage of espresso there. What a great action shot.

The secret ingredient to our magical Mocha? Starbucks Mocha Powder. Again with the plastic spoon! You think I could have pulled out the good stuff for photos here.

Also notice that I look a bit crazed here. I'm making mochas with a plastic spoon. Cut me some slack.

So your barista adds her magic Mocha powder and in the meantime, she has switched the machine to the steam mode. You know how Starbucks has those really cool stainless steel pitchers that they use to heat their milk?

Notice my super cool Chili's plastic drinking cup! They use a thermometer to check the temperature of the milk; I use my finger. But I'll make sure its clean when I check yours!

Ah, notice the technique as the barista pours the frothy milk into the mug! But the true test is the taste.

Sweet success!

But what kind of coffee place would we be if we didn't offer a quiet reading nook, particularly by a fireplace?

We have that too! Well, the nook with the fireplace anyway.

Not very relaxing. I guess you can't have it all.

So about 10 minutes later I have my Mocha. But you know what?

I still like my Starbucks.