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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chase is Growing Up Fast, but He’s Still Only Three

As I noted in my last entry, Chase scaled new heights at Wonder Lab recently. He made it to the top of the Grapevine Climber all by himself. He’s growing up so fast. I can hardly believe it. Every now and then, though, I’m reminded that my boy is still only three. Here’s a rather memorable example…

We traveled to Elizabethtown, Kentucky for Thanksgiving this year. Kristin is from Elizabethtown, and she still has family there. A post-meal gathering around the fireplace is a tradition at her Mom’s house.

This year, because I’ve started the process of making the high-def TV plunge, I looked through the Black Friday flyers in search of an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse as we sat around the fire. I found a few intriguing possibilities and, so, planned to set out early in the morning in search of a deal. It was Chase’s turn for some one-on-one time with me, so he went along.

We went to Sears first, followed by Best Buy and, finally, HH Gregg. While at HH Gregg, we looked at what seemed like 1,000 plasma, LCD and DLP high-def televisions; talked to a sales rep and grabbed some info to review. On the way to the exit, I remembered that I needed some rechargeable batteries for our digital camera.

I asked the manager where I could find the batteries, and he pointed me in the right direction. As I was reviewing my options, I glanced back to make sure Chase was still there. He was there all right. To my surprise (that’s at least somewhat understated), there he was, in the middle of the store, with his pants – including his underwear – around his ankles.

Without thinking, I dropped the batteries, picked him up and pulled up his drawers in one motion and made a beeline to the door. As we jogged to the van, without looking back I might add, I asked him, “Why did you pull down your pants?!?!” To which, he replied in no uncertain terms, “My underwear didn’t feel good.”

Brian Signature copy

All the Arnold's

It's a bit of trick to get a picture of the five of us.  Besides the fact that some of us don't enjoy the output, there are also those (and I won't mention any names) who have a hard time standing still....all at the same time...and let go of their cookie...and stop staring at the person behind the camera long enough to smile....and....well, you get the idea.

A friend snapped this at Jingle Jam a couple of weeks ago at church.  Jingle Jam is our church's version of a children's Christmas pageant, only TONS more fun! If you didn't know there was a godzilla angel in the story, check out our family minister's version of the Christmas story here.  

Enjoy this pic...who knows how long it will be before there's another one!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Born December 29, 1913

1913!  Nineteen hundred and thirteen!  Every time I give Grandaddy's birth date at the pharmacy or doctor's office, it still sort of surprises me.  Lord have mercy, will I live to be 95?!

He, like my husband, would rather skip right over birthdays and really any holiday, but I have a hard time letting them pass without a little hoopla.  

He received several calls from his youngest fans (great-grandkids AJ and Marie) and his old friends as far away as Oklahoma and lots of cousins in Arkansas.  We fixed one of his favorites, chicken and dumplings, for dinner and had a deep dish apple pie for his birthday dessert.

One of the gifts of having him here is to remind me not to get so worked up about little things, even if they seem big to me today. Do you think he remembers what troubles he was having when he was 36? Almost sixty years ago, for heaven's sake?!

After he moved home with us when Grandmother died, I remember him asking why on earth he was still living.  I told him I didn't know the answer, but seems like I read somewhere that as long as you're drawing breath, God still has a purpose for your life. To know our purpose in life -- a never-ending quest, I suppose. 

Every time he says he has a question for me, I just take a deep breath and hope I have a clue. He's asked me why Jesus sent the disciples first to the Jewish people and told them not to go to the Samaritans.  He's asked me if being baptized is a must to get into heaven. And, last week, he asked me if I thought Jesus Christ had a sense of humor.  My answer was that if He put the two of us together, He must!

He's had lots of spiritual questions, particularly in the last six months, and he even checked out a large print Bible from the library not long ago.  He complained that the print was still too small and had trouble "understandin' that King James fella."  So, we got him a giant print NIV Bible to celebrate his 95 precious years.

Maybe if I keep my nose in that Book, I can help answer some of my grandaughter's questions, instead of the other way around.

What are you worked up about today?  Is it worth it?  Do you know your purpose in life?  God's purpose for you?  What questions do you have about God and the Bible?  Ask me...I can try to answer.  Ask God and He'll let you know for sure!  

Whether you're 5 or 95, God loves you!  We love you, too, Grandaddy.  Happy Birthday!

Honest, I tried to get a serious picture.  But the ONE picture where they had permission to be silly turned out the best!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We Wish You a Greasy Christmas

I was just making some peanut butter balls with the kids today. I suggested they might become Sammie's Christmas specialty when I saw she had quite a gift for the chocolate candy coating.  She agreed, "I think we should make these EVERY year."  Christmas traditions at six.  I love it!

I'd never made them before today.  Christmas holds so many special memories for me, but home made goodies isn't one of them.  My sweet Aunt Betty used to come with lots of home made treats for us and we couldn't wait for her to get there!

Many of my fondest memories growing up have my dad in the foreground. For a lot of years, he was the Sheriff in our hometown and the office was open Christmas Eve.  He gave everyone else the day off so they could be with their families and he worked until it was time to close.  

In the meantime, Mom and I were busy "assembling" goodies.  If there was baking, mixing or candy coatings, I don't remember.  I remember fancy cheese and wine baskets for some friends. And, very practical, yet still yummy things for other friends.

For several years in a row, Daddy wanted me to meet him downtown at closing time.  He'd lock up and we take a walk around the courthouse square.  He'd tell stories (yes, the ones I'd already heard several times) and stop and look at a doorway as if he could see an old friend standing there.  He'd remind me what each building used to be and what memories they held for him.  

After that, we'd go by the house and pick up all the things Mom and I had been preparing.  We were the delivery team.  It was so fun. From the grand houses of doctors to old friends in the projects, we delivered Christmas cheer.  

One time, Mom did go with us. (Honor, do you remember this? -- catty corner from the funeral home?) This time it wasn't just a gift basket, but several gift packages, beautifully wrapped, plus a basket of goodies.  This time, Daddy didn't send me to the door.  He said, "Come on.  I want you to see this." This time we parked.  This time we all got out and went to the front door. I'd never noticed this run-down house before and didn't know the middle-aged man who answered the door in his t-shirt, or the elderly lady standing behind his shoulder.

Daddy said, in his best, merry, Santa voice, "Ho, ho, ho!  Merry Christmas!"  Gosh he had such a way about him that made people feel special.  Anyway, this lady, with slightly gray (and a little greasy) hair invited us in.  You could kind of smell what you were getting into even on the front porch.  Daddy introduced us to her and to her grown and I'm pretty sure mentally handicapped son, who also had greasy hair.  There I was, a 14-year old girl, in my plaid skirt from Talbot's, feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

Mom and Daddy handed them their gifts which they wanted to open immediately.  The man opened a package of brand new boxer shorts and t-shirts.  I was mor-ti-fied.  He grinned from ear to ear and tried to say something.  I couldn't understand him, but Daddy put his arm on his shoulder and just said, "Merry Christmas" again. 

The lady opened her big box and I saw a winter coat.  I don't know how to describe it.  It wasn't ugly really, just not so pretty to me.  Not in style.  Again, I was embarrassed. 

She reacted as if she'd opened a full-length mink coat. She came over and hugged my dad and just cried and cried about how thankful she was and how she didn't know how she was going to get through the winter without a coat.  I didn't think she was going to let go.  Daddy was teary, too and so was Mom.  

We didn't stay long and nobody said anything when we got in the car.  I guess that's why he wanted us to see it.  Some things can't be explained.  Like overwhelming gratitude for an out-dated coat and underwear.

What are you grateful for this Christmas?  


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Men Say the Darndest Things

So, we've been having this conversation about maybe getting a flat screen TV. something...I don't know all the technical jargon.  What I know is that my man wants one.  

He really likes to think through things and talk about all the pros and cons, so we can make a wise choice.  It doesn't matter to me what kind, when or how much.  I'd be happy with the one we have until it explodes and I'd be happy with a new one.  (Not that I'm naturally a content or agreeable person, I just don't happen to care about TV stuff.)  But, I was game for the analysis.

One of my points was, I don't know that it makes sense to get such a fancy TV for me to watch my two TV shows a week.  (Grey's Anatomy and Dancing With the Stars, if you must know.)

So, Brian, in all seriousness, asked me, "Well, what shows do you watch during the day?"

LOOOOOOOONG pause......

Does anyone else think that is HILARIOUS!?!?!  Because, surely, he was joking.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

What Do You Call a Baby Card Shark?

This past summer one of the fun memories was watching Grandaddy's renewed love of solitaire as he played on the deck. He's quite terrible at it, actually. In his defense, I think it's because he keeps trying to play when he knows the kids have some of his cards.

Sammie wanted to do what he was doing, so he tried to teach her.  It was a little complicated to pick up, so she taught him to play Go Fish instead, which he called "Goldfish" until I wrote it on a piece of paper for him.  (Then the little pond in the middle started to make sense.) 

When we went to Arkansas this Fall, one of the things he insisted on bringing back was a red lapboard he'd made for Grandmother, so she didn't have to leave the couch to play. I can't even picture her without this red board on her lap.  
It's not red anymore, because when he brought it home he tried to trim it (with a hacksaw) to fit his chair.  Between the Elmer's, Gorilla glue and clamps, he still couldn't keep the red felt on it, so that part's been crumpled up beside his chair for a couple of weeks now.

He's started to teach Chase and Ava the face cards.  It's funny to hear this kind of conversation from the other room:

Granddady:  You comin' up, baby?
Ava:  Yes.  (With a little lisp.)
Grandaddy:  Well, then, come on.  (Which sounds a little more like "own" than "on.")
Ava:  Play cards? (Said as she's nodding her head up and down and sounding a little more like "ca-oods.")
Grandaddy:  You wanna play cards?  Well, ok, we'll play cards.  What's this one? (He always starts with a queen.)
Grandaddy:  Right!

And off they go, practicing the face cards.  Her favorite is always the queen, but she's picking up on the others. Chase loves to play, too and will bring all kinds of weird cards....Noah's ark match game or his deck of amphibious animals.  Still, he plays for as long as they want to and always hates when they move on to the next thing.

So what do you think is sweeter, the gold tooth, the big belly or how content they both seem with a handful of cards?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Great Red Hair Mystery

This little red-head was seen only days ago with these beautiful locks.
Exhibit A

On Monday, many suspicious hair clumps on Ava's clothing left a trail leading to these suspicious hair samples found on the bathroom sink.
Exhibit B

Due to budget cuts in the crime lab, the following photographs from the crummy camera fail to show the giant hunk of hair missing in the detail warranted to demonstrate the immense frustration of said victim's mother!
Still, see Exhibits C & D

If you have any information leading to the capture of the culprit, or even an educated guess you'd like to throw out, please leave a comment below. 


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Father-Daughter Date

Samantha (A.K.A., Sam, Sammie, Gracie, et al) and I go on father-daughter dates occasionally. It’s customary for me to ask her what she wants to do beforehand. She suggested Wonder Lab for our last date – a pretty cool local, hands-on science museum. 

I had the whole should-we-pay-the-day-rate-or-get-a-membership debate with Kristin on the phone right after Sam and I arrived. In a moment chock full of pressure, between Kristin’s, “You decide” and Sammie’s, “Come on, Dad”, I decided to get an annual membership. So far, based on my initial experience with Sammie and a second visit with Chase a few weeks later, I feel good about the investment.

I think the highlight of the kids’ visit was the Grapevine Climber. They both went all the way to the top on their own!  Click this link to see it and other cool exhibits.

I promise I'll get better at remembering to take photos of our adventures.

Brian Signature copy

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Party Time

We had a Christmas Party!  I'm sorry I couldn't invite everyone.  I'm not like my buddy who doesn't want to leave anyone out.  I think she invited over 70 people and told them to tell everyone who wanted to come, to come!  Of course, my own little invitation plan backfired just a bit.

A Christmas party is not something we do every year.  In fact, we hosted one for our neighborhood the first year we lived here and only a handful of families showed up.  So, we thought we'd expand the guest list a little.  Turns out we had 80 people in our humble abode and over 30 of those were kids!

We enjoyed having everyone and wishing a "Merry Christmas" face to face.

Friends brought yummy treats like homemade Christmas cookies, the famous and always-devoured artichoke dip and even an adventurous and  strangely-devoured cheese fudge.

But to me, one of the best parts of hosting a party is serving my favorite foods.  Here was the menu:

Peppermint Punch
Marinated Shrimp
Olive Tapenade with Fresh Baguettes
Homemade Peanut Brittle
Fresh Fruit 
English Wassail
Candied Fruit Slices

Read on for some of the recipes.

Olive Tapenade: pulse to desired consistency 4 cups, drained, pitted Kalamata olives with 3 garlic cloves and 5 sundried tomatoes in olive oil

Peanut Brittle: (Yes, in the microwave!)
• 1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Grease a baking sheet, and set aside.
2. In a glass bowl or large glass measuring cup, combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
3. Cook in microwave for 6 to 7 minutes on High. Mixture should be bubbly and peanuts browned.
4. Stir in butter and vanilla; cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.
5. Quickly stir in baking soda, just until mixture is foamy.
6. Pour immediately onto greased baking sheet.
7. Let cool 15 minutes, or until set.
8. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Marinated Shrimp: Combine the following ingredients and pour over 4 pounds cooked, peeled shrimp.  Marinate overnight. 
1 cup oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle capers
1 bottle chili sauce
1 T garlic salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp blk pepper
1 sliced red onion

Peppermint Punch
1/2 gal peppermint ice cream
2 qts eggnog
2 qts hilled ginger ale
1. Place ice cream in a punch bowl, and allow to soften slightly
2. Blend in eggnog and ginger ale; stir until frothy
3. Serve at once, or keep chilled until ready to serve

How's that for merry eating! 

Ava's little belly was so stuffed by the end of the night.  We couldn't watch her every second, but I'm pretty sure she ate the entire bowl of candied fruit slices all by herself!  Every time I looked up, she was reaching up over the table to grab one. (I was just glad she never accidently reached into the meatball dish.)

Let me know if you try any of the recipes or if you were here and especially liked one of them.  

What are you having at your Christmas party?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yes, Jesus Loves Them

Every Fall, our church organizes a service event called "Carefest."  Many churches have something similar.  It's where lots of people sign up and sort of swarm on the town -- helping schools, parks, missions, and other not-for-profits accomplish projects that they never could on their own.

Brian started taking Samantha when she was just 3.  This year, they ended up at the Hannah House together.  Hannah House is a comprehensive residential program for pregnant women and teenagers.  There was work to do inside and out.

Our friend Mark found us at church a couple of Sundays ago and told this story:

Somehow I ended up outside with a handful of little people. (They do tend to flock to him.) The kids, including Sam, were spreading out mulch and working in the flower beds. At one point, one of the little girls asked, "Why are we doing all this anyway?"

There was no one around to impress or to prompt a good response.

Sammie replied, "We are showing people that Jesus loves them."

Amen and Amen.