I am a Black Friday Convert

I hate shopping.  Really, truly hate shopping.  It ranks just below going to the dentist or the gynecologist.  I just don’t find it to be enjoyable.  Unless, of course, I have money to spend (which is rare) which makes it just slightly more fun.

I’m the kind of person who usually knows what she wants, runs in the store, picks it up and I’m out again.  I am not good at finding deals because I don’t have the patience to sift through racks of clothes.  I admire people who can do that.

So I never thought I would venture out on Black Friday.  You know, because it involves shopping – and shopping in the dark, no less.  Thursday afternoon I laughed at all the Facebook status updates as people exitedly proclaimed they were getting up at 2:30 am to go shopping.  Ugh.  Sounded miserable.  I sat in my little comfy office chair and scoffed at their foolishness.

Then I talked to a friend who brainwashed convinced me that there were really good deals to be had and that it was fun to get up early and save money.  And, against my better judgement, curiosity got the best of me and I began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should give it a try.

“You should make a list,” she suggested.  “Write down the things you want so you’ll be organized and can really hit the best stores.”

That was a brilliant idea.  Except that a list requires organization.  And organized I am not.  I tried to make a list – I really did.  I got on the Black Friday deals website – but the sight of all those stores completely overwhelmed me and I began to panic and gave up on the list making.  I was just going to wing it.

So I decided, despite my lack of a list, to  go for it.  But I was not going to get up in the middle of the night.  No sir.  Because I am smarter than that.

I set the alarm for 5:00 on Friday morning.  As I did so, I once again questioned my sanity.  Was I really going to get out of bed at the crack of dawn to shop? 

But, having made up my mind to try it, I shut down the little Jiminey Cricket in my head and pushed set.  And true to my word, the next morning I rolled out of bed around 5:15.  Five minutes later, I turned my frigid car on and tried to warm up.  Then I looked at the clock.

It said 4:22.  It said 4:22 IN THE A.M.  What?!

Then it hit me.  The kids were messing around the day before with the alarm clock.  They must have set the clock an hour ahead.  So there I sat – one of those looney people who gets up in the middle of the night to go shopping.  I briefly considered going back to bed, but decided since I was up I’d better make the most of it.

And you know what?  I had a blast!

I did score major deals and got the kids some great gifts that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.  And the other people that were shopping with me weren’t a bunch of crazy robots – they were just enjoying the experience.  We laughed and talked as we waited in line.  There was a fun energy in the air.  We were all hopped up on adrenaline.  We compared items, talked about our families, laughed at how crazy it was to be standing in line at 4:45 in the morning.  It was fun!

At one point, as I stood in the longest shopping line I’ve ever stood in with my cart full of crazy cheap items, I got a little light headed.  It was a combination of the money savings, the adrenaline rush and extreme fatigue.  It was awesome.  Better than any drug. 

At 8:15, Lee called as I stood in my fifth line of the morning and told me he needed to leave for work in a half an hour.  So I raced home, picked up the kids and headed back to the mall. 

Because I wasn’t done.  Me – the girl who hates shopping.  I wanted more.  And I got more!

But only a little more because I forgot a stroller and I can only wrangle three kids for so long before the experience becomes miserable for all involved.

And then we went to see Santa.  Because, you see, I bought the presents the kids have been asking for and, knowing my kids, it would not be entirely unlikely for them to change their minds before Christmas and say they wanted something else.

So I made them give their wish lists to Santa so that when they change their minds later I can say, “Oooohhh…Sorry – you already told Santa what you want.  Can’t change it now.”

So at 11:00, I came home for good.  My shopping is all but completed and I saved close to 300 dollars in the process.  Just typing that makes me get all giddy and shaky.

I, my friends, am an official Black Friday convert.

Re-post: The Pilgrims Have Landed: A Brief History

I originally posted this on November 21st of last year, but it bears another posting mainly because I don’t feel like coming up with anything original today and because sometimes you just need to laugh at yourself…

When I was fifteen years old, I went on my first mission trip to the former Soviet Union. We spent two weeks in Belarus and Moscow. Part of our program was to go to different schools and show pictures of our every day lives and explain what life was like for us as American teenagers.

One of my pictures was of my family celebrating Thanksgiving. The first time it was my turn to speak, I was very, very nervous. I wanted to make sure I spoke slowly enough for the students to understand me and I was afraid of leaving out important details. I should have been more worried about giving false information…

When I got to the Thanksgiving picture I was on a bit of a roll but was still dealing with my nerves. As I spoke about Thanksgiving, suddenly our leaders and interpreters in the back of the room started laughing. As I went on, I noticed them laughing more and more visibly. After the program was over, I came over to them, wondering what on earth I’d said that was so hysterical. Apparently, my explanation of Thanksgiving was this:

“This is a picture of my family celebrating Thanksgiving. In America, we celebrate Thanksgiving to remember…the…pilgrims landing, um, on earth. So we get together and have a big meal together…”

Seriously? The pilgrims landing on earth? That was my first legitimate and real blonde moment. I’ve only had a handful of those in my lifetime, most between the ages of 15 and 20. Needless to say, I have never lived that down. People still bring it up – namely my parents.

So here I am, much older and wiser. And to comemorate my wisdom and the Thanksgiving holiday, here is a brief history of Thanksgiving:

*In 1621, the colonists of Plymouth and the Wapanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest. Gathering together for a large feast, everyone pitched in to prepare the meal. Historians can’t say for sure what foods were actually consumed during the feast, but they know that venison and wild fowl were on the list due to journal records. *

Gathering to give thanks for the harvest was actually a longstanding tradition with the colonists, and there are several recorded events that took place before the 1621 meeting. Nevertheless, the feast of 1621 has long been acknowledged as the first official Thanksgiving and it is this meeting that we celebrate yearly. We celebrate to thank our Maker for the blessings He has bestowed upon us, for the way that He has provided, for the bounty that we are all blessed to share.

And we thank Him that the pilgrims landed on earth…

Geez.

*For more information go to this website.

Today…

I am thankful for a husband who let me go out last night with some girlfriends, then let me sleep in this morning because he knows I don’t feel good.

I am thankful for girlfriends who will go with me to see Little House on the Prairie: The Musical and who will wait outside the stage door in the cold in the hopes that we might get to meet Melissa Gilbert only to be disappointed when we find out she had a reception to attend so she wouldn’t be greeting fans.  *sad face*

I am thankful for a blond haired little boy who crawled up in bed with me this morning and gave me a slobbery kiss on the cheek to wake me up.  Then we snuggled and he told knock knock jokes as only a near two year old can.  Best. wake up call. EVER.

I am thankful for a little girl who is running around the house in a bright blue dance leotard.

I am thankful for the speech patterns of a three year old.  Tia came home from school yesterday and told me this: “Hey mom.  Hayden bwought a thnack to thchool today.  He bwought ’nuffins (muffins).  Well, but dey wasn’t weally ’nuffin.  They was somfin.  They was somfin talled ’nuffins.”  Oh my gosh – cute.

I am thankful for a bigger little blonde haired boy who has found a passion for reading and who is getting better at it every day.  And I’m thankful that he’s trying to write his own stories now.  The other day he drew a picture of a house and wrote underneath: I like my haws. My mom and dad like it to. My haws is prite. I have 5 pepl in my famle. They ar lee, kele, sloan, tia, landin.

I am thankful for five days in which we have nothing to do.  We haven’t had that amount of free time in a long, long time.

I am thankful for the family and friends that we are going to spend the day with tomorrow.

I am thankful that even though we’re all feeling a little under the weather and are all fighting colds, this is the first sickness that’s invaded our home so far this winter.

I am thankful for the many, many things that I’ve been blessed with.  God is so good.

What are you thankful for?

Taking Care of Business

- First of all, I am going to announce the winner of the Testament Focused drawing.  I now know why I don’t like doing giveaways.  I wish every one of you could win and I hate that I only get to pick one winner – or that Random.org only got to pick one winner for me.  If I could afford it, I would buy and ship a book out to every one of you.

But I can’t afford it, so you’ll have to buy your own!  Ha!

Anyway, drumroll please…

The lucky winner of the Testament Focused drawing is…

Number 9 – Nicole from Here’s the Diehl!

Congratulations, Nicole.  I’ll get that book to you as soon as it comes in and I’ve had a chance to look through it myself :)

To the rest of you – thanks for playing and I am really sorry you didn’t win.  But you can still get a copy for yourself and don’t forget that 100% of the first 25 copies sold goes to Soaring Wings Ranch

- It was another busy weekend for the Stuart family.  Daddy was out of town, which always lends itself to insanity.  We watched the movie Up on Friday night.  I laughed to not cry through the first half hour of the movie, then genuinely laughed the second half.  It’s a very sweet film.

- While Lee was gone, I noticed it was rather frigid in our house and realized the furnace was blowing cold air.  so, with Lee talking me through it over the phone, I managed to relight the pilot light on the furnace thereby restoring warmth and order to my home.

Because I am She-ra.

- Saturday we got to stay home in the morning and I got some laundry done while the kids attempted to drive me insane  played quietly around the house.  Then we headed out the door to visit with a sweet friend who’s in town for a little while before going home to greet her husband who is fighting for our freedoms in Afghanistan!

We love you Jeremy!

- Sunday I woke up to discover that my voodoo face cream apparently works by burning the skin off my face.  I guess I got it too close to my eyes because both eyes were swollen shut and the skin was rather enflamed.  An ice pack and a lot of lotion later, I headed out the door where I spent the next 11 hours at church leading worship, making Christmas crafts with Sloan, singing Christmas carols for the craft workshop and previewing scene one from our upcoming Christmas musical!

Whew – I’m still exhausted.

- When I returned home, I wrote this article for the St. Louis Blogger’s Guild in which I took a rather unpopular opinion on an incident that took place here in St. Louis.  You’ll have to read the article to know what I’m talking about, but I still firmly belive that while Kurt Greenbaum may be known as a bit of a jerk around town, the person posting the comment had no business doing so from school grounds and I therefore think he is suffering a dreadful consequence for his foolishness.

Not many people agree with me.  There is widespread belief that Kurt Greenbaum violated an unspoken code of conduct on the web and he is being slaughtered for it.  Perhaps that is the case, but the fact remains that this school employee still made a foolish choice.

It’s a tough situation.

If you haven’t read the article you have no idea what I’m talking about.

- Now I’m home, still nursing swollen eyes and trying to gear myself up to put away the mountains of laundry I washed this weekend.  I also may pull out a few Christmas decorations, much to my husband’s chagrin.  He has this crazy idea that we shouldn’t start celebrating Christmas until after Thanksgiving!

I know, right?!

Is this Russia?

Tonight was the semi-annual Russian-American School concert and it was nothing short of adorable (albeit a little drawn out…).

And because this is a mommy blog and I’m a proud cheesy mom, I am going to document tonight’s happenings with great zeal.  Because that’s what I do!  I don’t scrapbook people – this is all I’ve got.

There was singing, dancing, acting and so much adorability (totally a word) I left with a sugar high.  Just take a look:

IMG_0005IMG_0018

IMG_0006

Isn’t she yummy?  She did so well.  She said her poem loud and clear and wasn’t nervous at all.  It was an on night for sweet Katya (or Katinka as the Russians call her).

IMG_0008IMG_0004

IMG_0014

My performance shy first born chose to play it cool.  But when he recited the poem I told you about a few weeks ago, he incited quite a bit of praise from the very proud and impressed crowd.  And so as not to embarrass the poor child, I did not let out the “Whoop!” that so desperately yearned to escape.  I simply gave him a tender golf clap and blinked hard against tears of pride.

I. am. a. dork.

IMG_0017

And because I know you’re dying to watch, here is a short clip of them reciting their poems. Seriously, it’s 38 seconds long. Happy viewing and Happy Friday!

Mature Woman My *BLEEP*

I went to the dermatologist the other because I’m having this little problem with my skin.  The problem?

My skin is breaking out worse than a prepubescent teen!  That younger looking skin we’re all looking for?  Yeah, I have it…but not in a good way.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never had breakouts like this before – ever.  And I have bad skin.  I’m chalking it up to severe hormonal imbalances.  Here is my completely unsubstantiated, non-scientific reasoning:

In the last ten years, I have either been on birth control pills or I have been pregnant.  In the nearly two years since I’ve had Landon, my body has had to figure out how to regulate itself.  And it’s failing miserably.

Actually, I hate being on birth control.  It makes me into a crazy lady.  I took the Pill for only 18 months after Lee and I got married, then stopped because I felt like a nut on it.  And eight months later, I had a baby in my belly.

After Sloan was born I didn’t take the pill again and 19 months after he came, I was pregnant again.  I got pregnant for a third time only 13 months after Tia was born.

And here I am, two years out of having my third child and my face is all wacked out, my stomach is acting weird and a whole host of other hormonal related issues are taking place. 

Awesome.

So I went to the dermatologist and I asked him for voodoo medicine that would make me all better.  Do you know what he told me?  Do you KNOW what he told me?!

“It’s your age,” he said, his eyes inches from my face.  “Generally the more mature woman has issues with breakouts along her jawline.”

I’m sorry…did you just say the more mature woman?!  The more maTURE WOMAN?

I am far too young to be described as the “more mature woman!”  No sir.  The more mature woman is in her sixties.  And that’s what I told him.  And he laughed, then shrugged and said maybe.

And then he saw that I wasn’t laughing – I was serious.  And he laughed again, but it was a more nervous laugh.  Then he said, “You know…it’s just a common problem I see for women in their thirties.”

Hmph…more mature woman.  Clearly he doesn’t know that I’m only 29 plus a couple of years.  Poor man.

Then he gave me my voodoo cream and out I went, my near two year old on my hip, to buy a miniskirt and a crop top, which the more mature woman would not wear but a young woman would!

Okay, I didn’t buy a miniskirt or a crop top, because I’m a wise YOUNG woman.  I merely took myself home and slathered on the aformentioned cream and waited for it to work it’s magic, while repeating to myself over and over:

You’re young, you’re young, you’re young, you’re young…

More mature woman my *BLEEP*

Incidentally, I really like my dermatologist.  He’s a very nice man.  Clearly a little misinformed, but nice nonetheless. 

Testament Focused: A Giveaway

*Update-Okay folks, you have to comment to win.  Even if you’re not sure you want this, surely you know someone who would like to have it.  Click on the link below to preview the book, then please leave a comment.  Giveaways are more fun when you have several commentors to choose from!

This post is a sticky post.  It will remain at the top of the page until the contest ends.  To read updated posts simply scroll down.

I’ve been blogging for almost two years now and I’ve never before done a giveaway.  I’ve thought about it, but just haven’t really gotten around to doing it.

But today changes as I am hosting my first giveaway.  And what will I be giving away you ask?

Testament Focused

A copy of my sister-in-law Becke’s new book, Testament Focused!  That’s right – I’ve ordered a copy of the hardbound edition of the book and I plan on giving it away to one lucky reader.  But first, a little about the book.

Testament Focused is beautiful.  It’s 72 pages of spectacular images, each with a corresponding Bible verse. Becke’ has combined her love for photography, God’s creation and God’s Word into a coffee table style book.  This would make a great gift for Christmas or would be the perfect book to have sitting on your coffee table. And you could possibly have one for FREE! That’s a value of over 50 dollars. Seriously, you guys are going to love it!

So, to enter simply leave me a comment telling me what a fantastic idea this is telling me how much you would love to own this book and you will be entered to win! 

Want to earn extra entries?  Great!  I’ll tell you how: Leave a status update on Facebook announcing the contest, then come back and leave me a second comment telling me you did that and you will be entered again.  If you tweet about it, I’ll count that as a third entry.  And if you announce it on your blog, leave a comment with the link and I will consider that an entry as well.  Oh so many ways to win!!

So leave a comment, then get to tweeting/facebooking/blogging for more entries.  I will use Random.org to pick a winner on Monday, November 23.

I blame it all on them

When I was a kid, I ruled at MEMORY.  Seriously, I was untouchable.  You picked up the shoe?  Oh I’ll remember where it is.  Ten minutes could pass and I’d still remember where that shoe sat, patiently waiting for me to find it’s match.  Oh yes, my friends – I was hardcore.

I remember vividly sitting on the floor in my bedroom, my Walkman firmly placed over my ears, Leslie Gore’s greatest hits blaring (I was only allowed to listen to Christian songs or Oldies so I tended to rock out to Leslie Gore with all the fervor that my scrawny little body allowed).  I was usually bundled up against the frigid Wisconsin chill that seemed to permeate the air 10 out of 12 months every year.

I was usually seated on the floor next to my black and white bed with the hot pink and torquoise accent pillows.  They matched, of course, the black, white, turqouise and hot pink wallpaper border  in the cream colored room.  Ah, the eighties were grand weren’t they?

I would spread those memory cards out and play against myself, all the while belting out “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” at the top of my lungs.  Sometimes my parents or my brother would join me, perhaps in an effort to get me to stop singing…

Huh…

Whatever the case, I welcomed their company because it gave me a chance to show them who was MEMORY boss.  Oh yes – I was an unstopable force.

Fast forward 25 years to today as I sat with my kids and played MEMORY.  We also were fighting off a November chill, though it was decidedly less dramatic than the Wisconsin chill in my past.  Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits blared through the MP3 player (my musical standards are significantly lower than my parents were.  Although I guess for my kids, Michal Jackson falls under the umbrella of Oldies.  That’s depressing…)

And I got my butt kicked today.  By Tia, then by Sloan.

Even though I cheated and peeked at some of the cards as we were setting the game up, I still lost by a rather significant margin.

I blame it on the kids.  My mind was like a vault before I had kids.  I nearly had a photographic memory, which came in handy in college.  I never needed a calendar or a day planner because I could remember dates and events without a reminder.  Studying?  I was a master crammer.  I could visualize words on a page and regurgitate them on a test (as long, of course, as that test was in written form.  If numbers or equations were involved I was totally screwed.)

These days I’m happy if I remember to take off my slippers and put on real shoes before I leave the house.

I think pregnancy kills brain cells.  Then there’s the pushing, in which whole sections of the brain simply die.  And the parts of the brain that were still firing on full capacity?  Those areas are severely handicapped by the lack of sleep.  Thus leaving you with only half a brain that’s only half functioning.  So clearly us moms are at a severe disadvantage!

 And then there are the hours and hours of kids songs, cartoons, Veggie Tales, Elmo and a whole variety of images and sounds the seems to stimulate our children yet drive us deeper into a semi-comatose state where we can no longer remember if today is Tuesday or Wednesday and what time does the bus come and when is that pizza party that I volunteered to help with?

Yeah, I blame it on them.  That’s why my memory is completely shot.  But I won’t tell them that.  Oh no.  I’ll let them think that they won simply because mommy was being nice.  There’s no need for them to think any different.

Right?

Life is Beautiful

It was a blissfully slow weekend.  It was the first weekend in a long time where we’ve had absolutely nothing to do, and with beautiful weather, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We built projects on the driveway:

IMG_7581IMG_7582

IMG_7580IMG_7585

We kicked balls and enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning:

IMG_7584

We played dress up and had an epic battle between the princess and spiderman:

IMG_7586IMG_7590IMG_7589

I’ve been asking Lee to hang some pictures for me for about a month now and he finally got around to doing it.  I would have hung them myself but I lack the patience that he has, therefore I tend to pass over little annoyances like tape measures and the like.  Which means any picture I hang is usually quite crooked.  So I patiently waited on my husband to hang them and they turned out quite nice:

IMG_7597

Now we are headed into a whirlwind month between now and December 10, which is opening night of the Christmas musical!  Have you bought tickets yet?  Well what are you waiting for?!  Go here and get your tickets today!  (I totally feel like Billy Mays…)

How was your weekend?

What I’m Listening To…

I’m sorry it’s been a boring week around here.  Between the rehearsals for the Christmas musical, regular choir rehearsals, russian school and all the crazy in between I’ve pretty much been knocked flat this week.

This song has been ministering to me big time lately.  Have I ever mentioned my deep love for the group Selah?  I’m only mildly obsessed with their music and have been since college.  And Amy, the lead vocalist?  Oh her voice – it’s spectaclular.  I could listen to her sing all day.  And Todd – the lead male?  Yeah, amazing.  And he actually sounds like a man when he sings, unlike so many male artists these days.  Big bonus!

Anyway, if any of you are struggling with a situation that feels hopeless, listen to this song.  The words are so powerful.  There really is nothing that God can’t redeem.  Though we may feel unfulfilled or unrestored, God has all the power to Redeem even the bleakest of moments.

I am so grateful for that hope. 

Sit back and listen to this song once or twince (or five hundred times like I have).  Then go out and buy Selah’s new album You Deliver Me.  Because they are all the awesome!

Now I am off to make a frozen pizza for my kids for the fourth time this week.

Wait, did I just say that out loud?

Ahem…