Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sugar-FREE advent calendar giveaway

Growing up, our family counted down to Christmas using a special advent…piece…my mom had cross-stitched just for us. There were 24 plastic rings sewn onto this piece to hold tiny candy canes. Each day, one of the four kids would rotate getting to take and eat a candy cane off the calendar.

As we got older (and wiser?) we demanded better candy than tiny, boring old candy canes. I’ll never forget my mom Scotch-taping holiday colored Hershey’s kisses to each ring by the little Hershey’s kiss flag in each candy. Or the fact that our dog, Cinders, ate all the candies–wrappers and all–while we were at church one Sunday.

Last year my brother, Greg, brought home a Starbucks advent calendar complete with tiny numbered red drawers and stocked with milk and dark chocolates. We all enjoyed eating our way to Christmas, but it was so short-lived and meaningless to me. I had the creative urge to tap the potential this $14.95 little calendar was tempting me with. (They’re $15.95 this year–yikes!)

So, this year, when I pulled out the advent box, my kids started the chorus of, “ooooh, caaaandy!”

But I quickly squelched that dream. I told them that instead of candy this year, we were going to pull out little pieces of paper that would tell the Christmas story day-by-day throughout the month of December. They weren’t as excited about that idea, but they were intrigued. I’ll take intrigued and run with it.

I have visions of a hand-made storybook with kiddie-drawn pictures illustrating each day’s snippet of the new-to-them odyssey. Of my kids really getting Christmas. Of them being able to recite the story from Luke 2 by memory just a few short years from now. Of them looking forward to reading the familiar story every year and if filling them to the brim with excitement and giving them goosebumps every time they read it. Of Jesus is the Reason for the Season being more than a clever rhyme.

I’m offering a FREE advent calendar complete with kid’s version of the Christmas story to one lucky LAB reader. If you are interested in winning this prize, you’ve got to hurry as Dec 1 is just around the corner! Leave me an insightful comment and I’ll pick the one that strikes a chord with me most as the winner on Friday December 30. I’ll either deliver or mail the calendar to the winner!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Joey Lawrence "whoa!"

So, I was checking the LABlog stats today and was like "how come like a zillion people are reading this one article? Hmm....wonder where all these referrals are coming from?"

The nice thing about Wordpress is that it will answer those questions by letting you know who is referring readers to your posts.

I clicked and almost wet my panties. LAB is linked to a Wall Street Journal article today!

I can't take credit--it's linked to an article Diane wrote. She deserves all the credit. Nice job, Diane! Congrats on being published on LAB, and linked to the WSJ online!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I’m not usually a coupon-user or gimmick-getter, but this week I was. My neighbor gives us her Sunday paper each week after reading all the sections she’s interested in. I clip coupons, read the comics, study the grocery store ads, then recycle. I don’t use the coupons unless it’s for an item I was already planning to get and it offers me additional savings, but this week I was glad I had clipped and saved all those annoying little bits of paper.

This week at D&W and Spartan Stores, if you purchased 10 General Mills products in one purchase, you would get 2 free tickets to go so Bee Movie. That’s an OK deal–but that’s a lot of [expensive] products. Thankfully, select General Mills cereals and fruit snacks were on sale this week–10 for $20. Still a little pricey, but with additional coupons and my re-used brown bags, I ended up walking out of the store with 9 boxes of cereal, 1 box of fruit snacks, and 2 free tickets (up to $24) to see Bee Movie for $16!

********************CONTEST ALERT!*******************
Now I just have to hive off a friend to go with me to see Bee Movie. If you’re buzzed to see a honey of a film with me for FREE, leave me a comment on this post and pick a number between 1 and 100. I’ll have my antennae up to see who is closest to my number and will get to bee my Bee Movie friend! Contest ends November 20. (Please, no stinging remarks about my waspish use of puns)

Meijer was also running a special–if you bought a Rival roaster oven for $30, you also got a free chef’s knife and free turkey. I got the roaster oven, but they were sold out of the chef’s knives. I did get the 17 pound turkey, though. Using a $20 Meijer gift card from an ICR taste-test, I left Meijer with a new $45 roaster oven [wish I could brag about the $10 knife too, but oh well] and $25 turkey for just $10 out of my pocket!

Combination and planning. Find a deal, a sale, plus all the coupons you can muster, return soda cans and bottles, re-use brown grocery bags, and you’ll walk away from a store with more stuff and more money!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The first flap

Ohhhhh...I've got the first chap-flap of the season.

You know, when your lips get chapped and you get that really big, hard chunk of lip skin that your front teeth are instinctively trying to grasp onto and rip off and leave a large, painful gaping hole of raw flesh exposed. That sticks up and gets caught every time you close your mouth our rub your lips together. That practically snags your tongue while you're talking.

It's taking all my willpower not to rip it off, but I know how painful it will be as soon as I do it. I keep putting on chap stick to help soften it, but I know it's there and every now and then I find my teeth creeping out to grasp the little flap.

"No, no don't do it", I scream inside my head. Think of the burning you will feel while trying to eat salt & vinegar potato chips around that gargantuan lip hole. Hot chocolate a little too hot straight onto raw, opened flesh-wound. Worse yet the dry, achey-cakey of trying to cover the hole with lipstick. Oh...resist! Resist!

Besides, we all know the little flap never tastes as satisfying and good as we think it will--even if it's Cherry flavor.

Monday, November 12, 2007

a meditation on medication

This article at Postpartum Progress and recent human interactions in my life spawned this journal entry below.

I have a friend who has recently contacted me about the possibility of having PPD. The crazy thing is, she hasn’t even had her baby yet? Isn’t that crazy? You can’t suffer from PPD if you haven’t had a baby yet, right?


Anyone can suffer a perinatal (that means during pregnancy or after birth) mood disorder. I did during my third pregnancy. And I think my friend is too.

It’s hard to give advice on what to do. I listen to myself talking to her and bet my words are just bouncing right out of her overly-stimulated, feeling-all-clogged-up ears, or that she sees my lips moving but her haze-riddled mood-muddled eyes just can’t make out the words. She knows she’s not her, her brain is telling her that, but it’s also sedating her to the point where there’s nothing more she can really do about it.

I’ve been there too. That’s how I know. I remember. And quiver. Like when you remember having a terrible flu with violent vomiting. It makes you quiver, shiver, and wish you never have to go through it again. And that no one else will have to either.

I have urged her on several occasions to talk to her doctor immediately. She’s complacent and waiting until her next appointment.

I say “you don’t have to suffer, you don’t have to struggle”, yet she chooses to grit her teeth and claw her way through another disheartening day. We can only make choices for ourselves although if I had my way I’d drive her straight to her doctor and walk her into the office proclaiming the dire straits of her daily life and demanding some darn-good care.

But I can’t do that. You’d never let me. I might even spend a night in the slammer if I try a stunk like that. But know I’m on you like a HAWK, my friend. I’m not letting you get away with suffering when there are so many options, so many therapies, so much support and reasons not to suffer. That is one good thing about living here and now. You have options. There is help availble. You don’t have to suffer. Amen and than you Jesus!

I found grace in a lot of areas–praying friends, family, support groups, psychiatry, books, an understanding spouse, but most of all in a little blue pill called Zoloft. I hate that I have to have medication to keep me ‘balanced’ and normal, but that is the reality of my life right now. I’m not strong enough to do all the other things in my life to achieve the balance I really long for. Someday, when the choices I make are all my own, when I’m not ruled, run, and ravished by raising kids I’ll be able to be more proactive about being healthy. Drinking oceans of water, walking and exercising, preparing healthy energizing foods for every meal, eating every meal, getting copious amounts of sleep, initiating life-giving social interactions, reading soul-stuffing books, and maybe even writing one too!

But until then, I take my little (now it’s yellow because I’ve switched to generic because of the cost factor) yellow pill every morning and send up a prayer for a good day while the little yellow pill slides down my throat with a gulp of tepid water.

Killin' me softly

This is what's got me in the crapper today:
~Elli peeing (not just a little sprinkle-tinkle. Like adult-sized bladder emptying here folks) on my parent's brand new $1k pillow-topper mattress
~Addi pooping on the cushion of the window-seat at my parent's brand new home
~Rubbing in the "miracle cream" that doesn't seem to be doing jack
~listening to the breaks squeal and squeak each time I slow to a stop and agonizing over how the heck to make time to go get them fixed and then pay for them
~needing new windshield wipers
~watching Encore stagger around with an arched back, lame back end, and shake his painful ear

This is the good stuff that's not really lifting my spirits although it should be:
~Dan's day off
~iminent trip to the library
~full tank of gas
~parents in town
~LAB meeting tonight
~warmer day
~I have a van
~my family is safe and healthy
~we have food to eat and water to drink
~our internet is working right now
~Elli didn't need a shot today
~I am

Saturday, November 10, 2007

rilly random

Saturday night sees me in the parking lot of D&W using internet. What is up with my neighbors going away for the weekend and turning off their wireless? Is that why it's not working? I don't get it.


I left the house with bloodcurdling screams propelling me to the quiet of my Odyssey. Oh Elli, how can I help you?

Made a snack for tonight's CD-less release party. I made 100 pigs in a blanket, which cost us a total of $5.50. I love deals! The live music at the party was fantastic--so fun. I couldn't believe I attended a church that would throw a CD release party--how cool are we? I just told my parents there was an after-church pot-luck--they just don't get our generation.

Our kids are growing--as in out of their shoes. Elli got a pair of fuzzy pink boots for her birthday, Liam needed new sneaks, and needs new winter boots. He's 4 and wears size 12--the next size is boys/mens sizes. Gulp. Little dude isn't so little anymore.

Had the best time every with my friend Roxy at the zoo. It was moviesque to watch our kids play, talk, and interact with each other. Say goodbye as if they had always been and would always be best buds. Picking up where we left off and talking a million miles a minute the entire time and turning a 12 minute zoo into a 2 hour epic story-telling session of each others' lives to date. Rox, you are just the best!

Sparkly jeans are out for the season. Had to wear them tonight and masquerade as a rock-star. Someone asked me if Dan was singing tonight, and I said "no". I was really sad at that realization. I hope work/life slows down a bit so he can sing again--I didn't realize how much I miss seeing him on stage and singing along with him as he leads worship. He really knows how to worship God--something I hope to one day attain to.'s getting really cold in here. I can't spare gas to run the car/heater while I type, so I guess I'll end here. Goodnight cosmic void.

Friday, November 09, 2007


A melange of emotions showered me like the falling leaves. I can't decide whether I felt washed clean, or covered to drowning.

It was one of those "this was supposed to be 'the day'", but you both knew the anticipated arrival was not coming. Remembering an event that will never happen again in your lifetime--but only ever again in others'.

Reading words the writer and reader knew weren't true, yet both keeping up the facade and pretending each thought the other was telling the truth. Wanting closure and peace. Finality.

Being happy and celebratory while being "hit" every now and then with the remembrance of a memory that never even happened.

Being told "the numbers are really small and the chances are really against you, but sometimes it does happen".

Sitting around a table with people who were integral in an almost magical and surreal time in your life, then almost as instantly out of your life again--but back to remember and keep the relationship and the memories thriving.

Plans stopping and changing on a dime.

Running your fingers over raised print that probably only means something to you and one other person in the world, and relishing the feeling of the font.

Thankful for preservation, yet angry at injustice. Guilty for stupidity and outraged at unfairness. Sad and mourning, yet relieved and safe. Wondering what the lesson is and why the need for it.

Encouraged from every direction, and getting nervous that a shoe is about to drop because things are "too good".

There are more leaves deciding what color they will end up before making the leap from tree to terra. Maybe I should wait a little longer and see how they land before sifting through my emotional potpourri again.


Yesterday something pretty small (but pretty big to me) happened over at LAB. I had 101 views. I've been wanting to break 100. I get taunted all the time by daily stats of 91 or 93 or 97 views, but never was able to hurl over the 100 mark.

It's no big deal to anyone else but me. It was a little piece of affirmation on a day when I needed to know that not everything is screwed up. And that something I enjoy doing is being enjoyed by others as well.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Just another manic Monday

[I wrote this a few days ago. I'm so glad I captured this moment because where I was on Tuesday as opposed to where I am now, I'm so thankful that things have gone onward and upward from Tuesday's little episode captured below]

Driving two-thirds of my kids to preschool today, I was internally telling myself over and over again, it’s OK. You can do this.

I was envisioning myself telling the kids’ teachers–I’m having a bit of a psychotic break today. I wasn’t sure it was safe for me to be driving. I was aware. I was overly aware. I was dangerously stuck in hyper-awareness gear and it wasn’t a good thing.

My mind was racing with thoughts in all directions all at the same time. All I could think was manic. panic. manic. this is mania. i’m having a manic episode. I can’t slow down, yet I can’t go fast enough. I have so many things to do, I have to get so many things done. I need to go, go, go, do, do, do. I can’t slow down–there’s no time to breathe.

I thought–I can’t wait to write a post–get this all out. See if I can sort things out. Sit in one spot to write an entire post. I need to write. I need to sit. It’ll slow me down.

At group, we talk about doing one thing each day. Not a million grandiose things. One thing. Like getting the baby dressed. Like brushing our teeth. Like reading one page of a book or magazine. I need to focus on one thing, but I can’t seem to zone in on just one thing when there are so many things all vying for my attention.

I remember Diane telling people that during some of her worst times, family or friends would sit across the table from her and help her take just one bite of food. I wish I had someone directing me. Sitting me down. Helping me sort my muddled mind. Slowing me down. Helping me breathe, drink water, eat a meal from start to finish, a real meal–not just the crusts and leftovers off of my kids’ plates.

I have one hour before preschool pickup. Now that I have sat down and written, I’m feeling a little bit more centered. The laundry is in the dryer. I need to make a grocery list, clean up the basement, unpack from the weekend, make up our bed, clean up toys, rake leaves, edit this post, tag and link it, find a strawberry cake recipe, bank deposit, grocery shop, figure out dinner, and solve all the problems of the entire world–all within this one hour.

I know I’m causing a lot of my own stress, but I haven’t figured out how to take the money off my own back–I only know how to keep putting it back up on there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ima Dorik

Since I had showered, brushed my hair, and (gasp) put makeup on today, I asked Dan to take a picture of me by the princess cake I frosted for Elli's birthday tomorrow.

Then we got a little silly and carried away.

A cake fit for a (very fiscally-minded) princess

My daughter’s 3rd birthday is today. She saw a princess cake in Miejer about 6 months ago and declared that she wanted/demanded that cake for her birthday.

Being a good mommy actress, I flipped through the pages of the cake-book until I found her princess cake–really I just wanted to see how much it would cost. I’m not positive this is correct, but the number $29.99 sticks in my mind. Maybe it was $36.99?

I remember helping my mom make cakes like this for me when I was a little girl, so I figured I’d save us $30 and make the cake myself.

While in Toys “R” Us registering for our kids’ Christmas list a few weeks ago, I looked to see how much a Barbie doll costs these days. First of all, you can’t really find just a plain Barbie doll–they all have a theme, are dressed “as someone”, and/or come with an extra outfit/accessories (aka “unnecessary stuff”). The cheapest Barbie-looking Barbie I could find was $12.99!

Since $12.99 is more than 1/3 of the $29.99 cake, I decided to get creative. I asked my mom if she’d be willing to dig through a tub of old toys from when I was a kid and see if any of my old Barbie dolls were usable. She found one that I hadn’t given a haircut or wasn’t covered in crayon shavings and brought it out at her last visit.

We’re making a whole foods strawberry cake from scratch–I had to put out $3.99 for organic strawberries. I’ll make buttercream frosting–thankfully Spartan butter is only $1.77 this week and my mom bought a 5 lb bag of 10x sugar last time she was here. I have all the other ingredients on hand and will do my best with what I have in the way of food colorings, piping bags and tips, and lacy/pearly/shiny/princessy accessories.

Although I’m sure the $29.99 cake would be picture perfect, our $6 version will be made with cup fulls of laughs (I hope not too many tears?), a sprinkling of fond memories, and lots and lots of love. You can buy the cake, but you can’t buy the love at Meijer. (Unless your mom is the Meijer birthday cake-baker/decorator.)

The Gift Shop Guild

A long time ago, I was asked to speak to the Spectrum Health Gift Shop Guild. Tomorrow is my "big day".

Apparently I'll get to eat lunch with the ladies from the guild, then I have twenty minutes to share with them about PPD. Twenty minutes is hardly enough to introduce myself!

Chris, the facilitator from the Spectrum Health "This isn't what I was expecting" postpartum emotional adjustment group, will introduce me then read an excerpt from Brooke Shields' book, Down Came the Rain.

I asked her to read the part where Brooke envisions herself throwing her baby against a wall, the baby hitting the wall, sliding down, and becoming a blob on the floor. I think it's probably the most poignant and startling section of her book that resonated with me, at least.

I'm not sure what I'll say. I hope I don't get up in front of these ladies and blubber. I hope I don't bore them into an alzheimatic disorientation. I hope I speak coherently, concisely, frankly. I hope I say things that will speak to them, give them insight into the world of today for a woman trying to overcome a temporary and mysterious mental illness, and spur their guild to allocate funds to enhance the care for new families dealing with postpartum mood disorder complications.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

...the little one stops to climb a tree...

She's almost 3. We're already plotting the birthday cake. A strawberry cake "skirt" with a Barbie stuck down the middle of the cake. We're still waffling between blue or pink icing for her gown...I'm almost positive she'll pick pink--then change her mind and cry that she wanted blue as soon as I'm done frosting it with pink. That'll be par for the course.

Ellison Jennaye. Dan picked the "Ellison", and her middle name was going to be "Mabel" but because she was our "last baby", I wanted to give her a semblance of my name, so changed it to Jennaye whilst the Dr. was sewing me up.

I've had the hardest time bonding with Elli. Lots of reasons--most of them just for me to ponder and guard. And she's going through the most traumatic season of her young emotional life thus far. And I'm afraid we're really struggling and oftentimes failing at loving and parenting her in the way she needs us because we just can't understand what it is that she needs and I don't think she's capable of telling us what she needs yet, either. Hopefully, we'll just continue loving and being patient while we learn each others' ups and downs.

I pray that three will see dry all the way through the night. An easy transition to (paci)fier-less. More singing and dancing and less screaming, tantrums, shouting, and irrational and unnecessary drama. Confidence in herself. Standing up straight and facing fears. Learning more and more songs and lessons about Jesus, and feeling his comforting presence in her life even if she doesn't fully comprehend and understand who and why He is here. Being a peacemaker. Being happy. Being obedient right away. Being stubborn and strong-willed, but in a good way. Independence tempered with lots of snuggling, hugs, and "mom, I want you". No rash on her face, a few more pounds, inches, and a thick head of hair. But most of all health, stability, and the knowledge that no matter what, she is loved.

One thing at a time

Driving two-thirds of my kids to preschool today, I was internally telling myself. "it's OK. You can do this.".

I was imagining telling the kids' teachers--"I'm having a bit of a psychotic break today."

My mind was racing with thoughts in all directions all at the same time. All I could think was "manic. this is mania. i'm having a manic episode. I can't slow down, yet I can't go fast enough. I have so many things to do, I have to get so many things done. I need to go, go, go, do, do, do. I can't slow down--there's no time to breathe."

I thought--I can't wait to write a post--get this all out. See if I can sort things out. Sit in one spot to write an entire post.

At group, we talk about doing one thing each day. Not a million grandiose things. One thing. Like getting the baby dressed. Like brushing our teeth. Like reading one page of a book or magazine. I need to focus on one thing, but I can't seem to zone in on just one thing when there are so many all vying for my attention.

I remember Dian explaining that family or friends would sit across the table from her and help her take just one bite of food. I wish I had someone directing me. Sitting me down. Helping me sort my muddled mind. Slowing me down. Helping me breathe, drink water, eat a meal from start to finish, a real meal--not just the crusts and leftovers off of my kids' plates.

I have one hour. Now that I sat down and wrote, I'm feeling a little bit more centered. There's laundry in the dryer. I need to make a grocery list, clean up the basement, unpack from the weekend, make up our bed, clean up toys, rake leaves, edit this post, tag and link it, bank deposit, grocery shop, figure out dinner, fix the tarp on the grill that keeps banging the side of the house every time the wind blows, and solve all the problems of the entire world--all within this one hour before I go pick the kids up from preschool.

I know I'm causing my own stress, but I haven't figured out how to take the monkey off my own back--I only know how to keep putting it there.

30 ROCKs my world

30 has been an odd year for me. For some reason I've done things I've never done before or things that have never happened to me have happened all in this one year.

First time stung by a bee
First time using an airplane restroom
First time to Africa
First time wiring money
First time teaching a Sunday school class
First time felling a tree using ropes and an ax
First time I've written something every day (so far at
First time I've called a Senator's office--and I called 2!
First time to apply for a job I didn't get
First time to make a princess birthday cake all by myself
First time taking a child to the ER
First time to run a generator (haven't done it yet--but it's scheduled for next week)

I still have never used an ipod yet, though.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Rustling leaves

This might be one of your last chances to listen to the leaves rustling in the wind. The corduroy cold it starting to settle in and there’s talk of snow whispering in my ears.

Enjoy the last few vestiges of fall while you can. Breathe deeply of the cool, refreshing air. Gulp in lungfulls of its freshness, for the time to go inside and hunker down deep for winter is coming soon. (thanks to Dan for this great fall photo)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Mean mommy

I'm so bummed! Dan didn't upload the photo I wanted to use in this post.

Anyway--he captured a great shot of me with my hands held out cupped and one of the kids dropping in all the "banned" candies from their piles. Banned list includes:
~ Gum
~ Hard Candy
~ Caramel squares
~ Atomic Fireballs
~ Anything larger than "snack size"
~ Laffy Taffy
~ Airheads
~ Bit O Honey
~ Mary Jane
~ Gummy fangs
~ Satanic tattoos (I KNOW--aren't I so totally closed-mided?)
~ Any lollies larger than a Dum-Dum

Some went to church with Dan, some went in the trash, and some went up in the "adult stash" of candy. Hey--you gotta do what you gotta do.

I just love that my kids have not asked for a single piece of candy. Halloween is so done and past for them. They are great kids. What Elli? Yes, you can have another Organic baby carrot. Hang on, Liam, I'm getting you another stalk of celery. Addi, it's OK, mommy can get more pesticide-free broccoli. What full-size pack of Kit-Kats? I'll take care of you later...