"Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong." -- Anna Warner

This kind of crazy happens even WITHOUT sugar!
Whew! The Christmas season is crazy! The kids were total nut jobs by the time we got home from Dallas, but they had a great time. We learned a valuable lesson during the drive back to Austin. Do not load your children up with sugar in the middle of a road trip.

Seems obvious doesn't it?

Doug gave the kids an Icee to share, and before they even finished the thing, it sounded like we had a couple of baboons in the back seat! Things were getting so out-of-hand that we had to take the last bit of it away from them. They were so jacked up that they didn't even care.

My favorite moment was when I had to utter the words: "Lila, PUT your skirt back on!"

We ended up taking possession of her skirt as well. She put it back on when told to, but it was off again a few minutes later and Eli kept stealing it from her. That was also around the time that we told them they could only speak in a whisper (because they kept getting so loud).

In the last ten minutes of the drive, we finally told them to stop making noise altogether. That didn't work. We were originally planning to have dinner out once we got home, but there was no way we could take those people out in public!

We picked up Cordy from the vet (had her boarded there while we were gone), picked up dinner from Bombay Bistro, and went home. I think Doug developed several more grey hairs, but we all survived the trip with no yelling or violence.



I allow my children to dress themselves. Sometimes that results in shorts
with long black socks and black shoes... when it's 40 degrees outside.

Yay! Trains!

"When will we start moving?"

The refreshment station in our lounge car.


Even cuter!

Deep thoughts.

Where did he find alcohol?!? All I could find was weak coffee...

Lila likes to pretend that she believes in Santa Claus.

"Holy crap, why am I sitting in this freak's lap?!?"

The conductor was handing out tattoos!

Keep looking until you see it...
We got photo bombed by a baby in glasses!

A little too much sugar.

Mrs. Claus, handing out cookies.

This is the closest thing to a normal photo that I could get from these two.

Goodbye, pretty train!



Pray to God, but continue to row toward shore. -- Russian Proverb

This seems particularly relevant right now. I know people who are having trouble doing either of those things at the moment. It can be difficult to pray when something so incomprehensible has happened in your life.

This week, I have found that I don't really need to say anything while praying. Sometimes it's enough to just be still and silent before God and rest in the knowledge that He understands my pain and holds me in his Arms.

"In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings." (Romans 8:26)

It can also be hard to keep moving forward with life. Ordinary things seem not to matter as much and can almost feel like treachery against the one you've lost. One life has been ended, but the rest must continue.

It begins with baby steps.

(As one of my baby steps, I plan to post photos tomorrow from our North Pole Flyer train ride. Some of them are exceptionally cute!)

My Uncle Jim has come down from Minnesota and is going through the unimaginably difficult task of sorting through my Aunt Linda's things. He's already grieving for the awful things that happened to his sister, less than a week ago.

As he goes through the house, he's finding evidence that the violence started some time ago. There are holes in walls that are covered with pictures. Perhaps most heartbreaking of all was the book that he found on Linda's nightstand.

It is called The Gift of Fear: and Other Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence by Gavin De Becker.

The tagline on the front of the book: "This book can save your life."


Family Tragedy

I have mentioned on Facebook that my Aunt Linda was murdered on Monday. I have only shared the barest details as I've tried to process and grieve, but I'm finally ready to share some of the more difficult details of what has happened to my family.

I don't do it to entertain curiosities, but to let people know what I am going through. As much as I hate the fact that the news is reporting every awful detail of this situation, I am going to link to an article that gives pretty accurate information (some articles are quoting neighbors, who seem to be total morons).

Honestly, I just don't want to have to type this out myself.




Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.
-- Job 23:10

I don't know what my daughter is doing in this photo, but
I laugh out loud every time I see it!
Lila had her first ballet class today. Well, her first class this time. She took creative movement and ballet classes at Ballet Austin when she was 5 - 6 years old. And she took a dance class at school last year. But she recently gave up her outside-of-school gymnastics class and switched back to ballet.

She's been so excited! She's the only kid I know who spent the whole weekend saying, "I wish it were Monday!"

She said it wasn't quite what she expected, because there was more focus on practicing the positions and movements than on what she would call dancing. We reminded her that learning the basics comes before the fun dance routines.

I think she's going to get a massive kick out of the end-of-year recital. I remember the dance recital I was in as a kid. It's so fun to learn the routine and wear the special costumes. And she loves to be on stage! She might get nervous, but she'll also LOVE it.

My favorite part of this whole set-up is the location of the dance school. It's (literally) next door to the swim school where Eli takes lessons! And starting on January 27th, they'll be taking classes at about the same time. Lila from 4:30 to 5:15 and Eli from 5:00 to 5:30.

That means I only have to drive them to lessons once!

My least favorite part of the set-up, incidentally, is the parent seating at the dance school. You can watch your child's class on a video screen, but you have to sit on benches that were designed and built by Satan.



Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. -- Proverbs 14:1

I'm sorry I've been so inconsistent with updating my blog lately. This is a crazy time of year! There have been train rides, concerts, illnesses - you name it! And things have achieved a new level of crazy with today's trip to the vet.

As I was getting ready for church this morning, I heard Cordy making some very unhealthy-sounding retching noises. I checked on her and then came back upstairs. She followed me up and lay down on my bed, breathing fast and growling at people. Definitely not normal.

I took her to the emergency hospital and they determined that she had fluid around her lungs and some other anomaly that they weren't sure about. They used a needle to remove some of the fluid and looked at it under the microscope.

I was expecting to get a call telling me she either did or did not have an infection. Instead, I got a call telling me that she most likely has lymphosarcoma. We'll take her to the regular vet tomorrow, for blood work and a second opinion, but this doctor said she was pretty confident in the diagnosis.

That means we are likely facing another heartbreaking pet decision. We're trying not to let this quench our Christmas Spirit, but it's a bit hard to be jolly when you're told that your pet of 11 years most likely has cancer.



"Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years." -- Charles Spurgeon

You know why I like Jesus? Because I never feel awkward around Him.

I am an awkward and, at times, off-putting person. I say and do strange things and I am terrible at starting a conversation. When I see someone I know, and it's not a planned meeting, I panic. Seriously. I know I need to talk to them - and I want to - but I don't know what to say!

When I try to develop a friendship with a new person, I feel like it tends to come off as kind of creepy. I just don't know what I'm doing. I try very hard sometimes, and then I get so discouraged because of the awkwardness.

I wish Someone would make a CHECKLIST for me, starting with first encounter and working slowly (and appropriately) up to a lasting friendship. This mythical Someone should also give me some index cards with appropriate greetings, questions, and conversation-starters.

I've gotten pretty good at being entirely myself around others. (Not including group/party situations, during which I still tend to try and make myself invisible.) The problem is that I'm just as awkward when being myself as I was when I was trying too hard to make people like me.

I feel as though my love for others and desire for meaningful relationship has grown over time. God can change hearts! But I still lack skills. Skills which seem to come quite naturally to most people. It's a frustrating place to be.

I look to the Bible and prayer, in search of help. And I want, above all things, to be like Jesus. I see Him changing my life every day. But still I struggle. A vital piece of this puzzle seems to be missing! It's hard not to become very negative toward myself.

I've got no answer to this problem, nor a tidy wrap-up to my post. It's just something that's been going through my head and heart today.



"After all is said and done, more is said than done." -- Aesop

Well, I was gonna update my blog on Friday night... but I went to bed at 8:30.

I was gonna update my blog last night... but after I put the kids to bed, I just didn't want to!

Things that I did do:

For dinner last night, I made a (vegan) Greens Quiche. It was edible. That's about all I can say for it. I try a lot of new recipes, and most of them turn out to be good, if not great. This one, not so much. It had texture issues.

I was determined not to waste the leftovers, however. SO for dinner tonight, I threw the rest in a pan, along with some leftover black beans, sautéed vegetables, and the over-salted Garlic and Herb Tomatoes that were the original side dish.

I threw in a little salsa, for good measure, heated the whole mess up, and then served it with corn tortillas and called it Tacos. Surprisingly, not as bad as you might think. It was actually an improvement over the first night!

[Side note: A sneezing guinea pig is surprisingly distracting.]

After tonight's dinner, Lila and I baked (gluten-free, dairy-free) Cherry Orange Scones. Baking always makes me nervous because I'm just not that good at it. If these scones are any indication, then I must be getting better.

They are SO GOOD! I want it to be tomorrow morning, so that I can have a scone and coffee for breakfast.

Once our baking was done, all four of us sat down and watched Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The real one. Not that travesty of a movie that I have not bothered to watch because I know that it would cower in a corner, whimpering in shame for how bad it is.

All-in-all, a lovely end to the weekend. And Monday morning promises scones and coffee!



"...'tis better to be alone than in bad company." -- George Washington

I'm in a quiet house this evening. Doug is running sound at church on Sunday, so he is at band practice. The kids and I watched Robin Hood and now they've gone peacefully off to bed. Eli wanted me to sing Jingle Bells at bedtime, so I sang it as soothingly as possible.

I'm not sure he was entirely satisfied with my rendition, but he didn't complain. This time.

While I have not had the Grumpy McWhiny Syndrome this week, I have had a bit of trouble getting back into the swing of things. The laundry is piled up higher than it's been in months and my motivation to take care of basic daily routines has been nearly non-existent.

BUT, I forced myself back onto the horse today. I made phone calls that I did not want to make. I prepared for tomorrow's home school day. I made it through all daily tasks. And I'm chipping away at the laundry. I know it will be back under control in a few days.

Watching a movie with the kids this evening was a bit of a gift to myself. In Doug's absence, I wanted an easy time. I didn't have a great deal of mental space left over for answering questions or refereeing fist fights. There will be plenty of that again tomorrow.

Lila's class (along with the rest of second grade) went on a cool field trip today. The kids have been earning and saving extra money for a couple of weeks and they brought it all in to school on Monday. The total for the grade - roughly 30 to 40 kids - was something over $500.

Today, they took the money to HEB and bought food with it. From there, they took the food to the Capital Area Food Bank and donated it, along with the rest of the money. Then they got to tour the food bank and hear all about what they do there.

They finished up with a picnic in the park. Sounds PEACEFUL, doesn't it?

Eli's day, it would seem, was far less pleasing. The day started with an Honor Assembly and all he could tell me about that was how he couldn't remember anything they said because there was too much talking. He also felt that the whole class was too rowdy today because they kept bumping into him.




But I’ve left the past in God’s keeping, - the future His mercy shall clear,
And what looks dark in the distance may brighten as I draw near.
-- Mary G. Brainard

I just finished hanging real Fraser Fir garland on the stair rail and I have two words for you:

1. Needles - I'm going to be vacuuming a lot, aren't I?

2. Sap - You remember that scene in Christmas Vacation, where everything is sticking to Clark's hands because they're covered in tree sap? Well, I'm there.

Doug and the kids moved our tree into the corner and put the lights on. Once I finished with the garland, Doug ran lights up along the rail too. It all looks very pretty and festive. We're taking the decorating in baby steps.

That's due in large part to necessity and in small part to strategy. I find that I feel a lot less Grinch-y about decorating when it's NOT a big ordeal. A little here and a little there. The un-decorating will happen the same way.

I love the Christmas season! Music and movies and trying to find just the right gift for each person. Pouring out adoration to God for his Most Perfect Gift. And somehow, it all makes me think of snow, even though I live in central Texas.

My Grinch-y-ness is directed at the decorations - a multitude of pointless little knick-knacks - and the excess that most of the U.S. wallows around in. Give me one tree (with lights and a few shiny balls), one nativity scene (not involving cartoon characters), and a set of Advent candles, and I'm a happy girl.

I still haven't forgiven my husband for buying that obnoxious inflatable Peanuts abomination for the front yard.



A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. -- Proverbs 15:1

I sent some grumpy people off to school and work this morning. Monday morning, after Thanksgiving break, did not agree with my husband and daughter! The way Lila was carrying on about how heavy her backpack was, you'd have thought I hid a body in there.

Eli and I were in good spirits, however, and I did not allow them to kill my Happy Monday Buzz. (Don't tell anyone, but I happen to love Mondays!) I was even a Good Little Girl and put in my 3 miles on the elliptical at the gym.

This evening we did what we tried unsuccessfully to do last night. We got our first real Christmas tree! My advice: Never go looking for a Christmas tree at 7:30 p.m. on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. All you'll find are 10-foot-tall, $200 trees.

My allergies have improved so much over the past couple of years (Ask me how, but you won't like the answer.) that we decided to give this a try. We brought an entire tree INTO our house. It will either be great or I'll spend the next four weeks with a headache!

It smells very festive, but that could get old pretty quickly. I'm so sensitive to smells... Eh, whatever. We've got a pretty Christmas tree! What I'm most curious about is just how much naughtiness this is going to cause among the cats.

Charlie (Ceiling Cat rest his soul) was the real Christmas Tree Bandit, but I don't exactly trust these other two trouble-makers. As I type this, Cordelia is walking around the downstairs, talking to us about it. Something in the Matrix has changed and kitties don't like change.

They do like to attack things, however. For now, we'll put only a few non-breakable ornaments on the tree and nothing near the bottom. Doug said we should buy some catnip and place it around the bottom of the tree, to distract the cats. I'm pretty sure he did not think that one all the way through.

We get the cats HIGH and then leave them alone with the Christmas tree? Is this really what we want?

I don't think so.