Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's A Gift Worth?

The morning of Black Friday my husband had the news on and of course they interviewed a man who was out shopping about how the economy is affecting his buying. He explained that he was shopping pretty much like he did last year, however he thought more people were shopping for just what they needed, "like TVs and clothes." I looked at my husband and said "Need? since when is a TV a need?"

Then later in the day we heard of the many stores where there was bodily harm and even death. One of the harmed was a pregnant woman and the death was an employee that was opening the doors of a Wal-Mart. [Newsday | New York Daily News]  My first thought was why would a pregnant woman continue to stay in a situation where there were hundreds and even thousands of people who were jostling and pushing for a chance to get ahead? Did she actually think that when the doors opened the crowds would get polite and walk calmly and politely into the store?

The employee was trampled to death and the shoppers continued to force their way over his dying body—even with emergency medical personnel working on him. When they tried to close the doors of the store due to this tragedy the shoppers refused to leave. They yelled that they had invested too much time waiting to be sent home without their purchases.

My heart and prayers go out to the family of the man who lost his life. I imagine they will never look at Thanksgiving or Christmas in the same way.

David and me at the park
I know that retailers and the media use Black Friday as an indicator of how holiday spending will go. But, with their limited time and limited available items at the great prices the stores are in part responsible for the situations. They must start taking measures to insure crowd control. Two years ago we went to a local store and the crowds were kept in a line. When the opening time came, the security would only allow a certain amount of people in at a time. At no time was there an unsafe or out-of-control feeling. Shoppers must also start using common sense that when a situation begins to look unsafe, it's not worth the risk.

So, for many, I guess the answer is nothing is worth more then a good buy. I was glad that we spent Black Friday not in a store, but in bed followed by a family trip to the park. We returned home to hot turkey sandwiches and a movie while cuddling in the livingroom.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Keeping Busy

David is off from school for five days so my concern was to keep him busy during this time. David tends to make poor choices when he is left to his own devices.

David's latch-hook craft
So I came up with crafts that I purchased months ago on major sales and stashed away until this weekend. One of the items I had purchased was a hooked rug that you make into a stuffed dog. I remember making hooked rug pillows when I was his age and knew how easy they can be to learn—also not a lot of clean up.

I pulled it out this morning only to find that the kit didn't include the tool. So off to the store we went and found that everyone else in town was out shopping.

Turkey pasta
This has proved to be a great activity for him, it requires lots of body control and focus since this kit doesn't have the pattern imprinted on the canvas. David must count and keep track of the pattern. This also will require lots of time that he can spend on it over the next few days.

I also purchased a little unpainted wooden train that he has begun to paint. This will satisfy his desire for instant gratification. He is actually taking a little more time and effort than I expected.

Several weeks ago I found turkey shaped pasta. This evening I made dinner and we all loved the early start on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Entering His Gates

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
—Psalm 100:4

This is a verse that has been entering my mind in the last few weeks and this past Sunday was read aloud in our church.

The first time this verse came to my mind was the day after Halloween when I saw no decorations for Thanksgiving. After searching through four stores I found that, other than paper plates and cups, there were no decorations available for sale. But the employees were very busy putting out Christmas decorations.

Has Thanksgiving just become the big foodfest that kicks off Christmas? Unfortunely, for our nation I believe it has. But I believe that this year more then ever we need to return to the thankfulness that the pilgrims had when our country was in its infancy.

As we are all tightening our belts, we need to pull together. There are those around us who are in real need and we may be able to supply some of that need with a joyful heart. If the Native Americans had not shared with the pilgrims they would not have survived. If the same situation was today I wonder what the result would have been.

David, carving the Thanksgiving turkey
As we all go around the next few days preparing our homes and kitchens are we preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I found that last night as I got into my bed I was truly more thankful for the clean sheets and warm blankets on my bed. Yes, I wash the sheets weekly, but have never thought about how fortunate I am for them. Yes, I would have a list of things I am thankful for, but had not thought so much of the little things in life that I take for granted. I am looking at my blessings more as we go through these hard economic times.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost in Childhood

"If you stand still outside you can hear it... Winter's footsteps, the sound of falling leaves"

Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

Last year David raked all the leaves together, not because we asked, but because he wanted to lose himself in them. I love to see the falling leaves and the scurring animals preparing for winter are all around us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bridal Blessings

Cupcake Station
Last night I attended a bridal shower for one of the young ladies at church. The shower was planned by Abigail, Stacy and Leslie. Instead of a traditional cake or cupcakes they went with a "cupcake station." This was so well done and creative and allowed the guests their choice of what they wanted on their cupcake. There were unfrosted vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, which you could then put vanilla or chocolate frosting on. Then they had raspberry sauce, chocolate sprinkles, or M&Ms that could be added as a topping. It was fun watching everyone make their cupcake a little different.

Since this was an evening shower the room's lights were turned down and candles lit the event. Lots of pink and black balloons scattered the floor, pink and black plates and napkins and pink punch kept the theme colors of the evening. Abigail's computer played music while we enjoyed the food brought by the ladies of the church.

Even Joe, Abigail's husband, had a hand in the evening's event. Joe had interviewed the groom with questions about their first dates, likes and dislikes of the bride, and where they see themselves in five years. One of the young ladies in the church asked the bride the same questions and following the bride's answers the video of the groom's answers played. This created quite a few laughs as the answers sometimes were exact and others were totally different.

Instead of the traditional devotion, verses were read followed by prayers for the couple. Abigail also brought out our responsiblilty to the couple in holding them accountable and also teaching the bride how to be a godly wife.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lunch Date

This morning David asked if I would meet him at school to have lunch with him. I told him I would try to make it—this is run-errands-and-shopping day. David knows this means I will make every effort to be there and it's not just a "if I feel like it then I will" attitude. I sent him in with his lunch just in case something weird and unexpected came up.

Rich and I were both able to meet him and bring him a warm McDonald's lunch, with a McFlurry. I have always found it very interesting that often parents assume that their middle school age children wouldn't want to be seen with their parents. But, many of David's classmates all through middle school have expressed the desire that their parents would bring them lunch. I think it gives them a feeling of being cherished and loved.

I know we received many envious looks from his classmates today and some comments from his friends asked what did we bring them. I also heard one stuents say she wished her parents would bring her lunch.

I always make sure I spiff up for our lunches. I want to make sure he continues to want us to join him. It also lets him know that we wouldn't want to embarrass him and that taking the extra effort in looking good for him is important to us.

Since elementary school I have made it a practice of trying to have lunch with him occasionally. I have found this gives me great contact with school staff and his fellow students. Today we were able to clarify a situation about tardies with one of his teachers and David that kept it from being a meeting. This lets the teachers know we are keeping track of what is going on and both David and the teacher were able to hear the other person's side and express their own view of the problem.

We also found out that school pictures were to be sent home today. David hadn't received his so I checked with his teacher. She hadn't received it and no one had any idea where it was. After checking the master list we found that even though our check was cashed, no pictures were ordered. After calling the company I found that no order was placed. But after explaining that I did fill out the form correctly (I used to work for this company and know the form well.) Then the customer service person said it was because the paperwork was messed up at the school. I know the school just gives the students a card and the order is given to the photographer. So when it comes down to it the error was due to the photography company. Now it will take until Nov. 28th (6 weeks after the portrait was taken) before we will get the portraits. Oh, that will also be after portrait make-up day. So the school is going to have his picture re-taken on make-up day just in case the original photographer is as bad at taking pictures as they were with the paperwork. If I had not been at the school we wouldn't even have known until next week.

Going in to David's school when he was in second grade also allowed school staff to feel comfortable in expressing their own concern to me about his teacher. I had several staff members who told me that they felt the teacher was being unfair to all his students and took outside pressures out on his students. This just confirmed what I had long suspected and I was then able to continue to pressure the school into getting a new teacher for him.

When David was in elementary school I was helping another mom navigate through the IEP and special education process. When I asked her middle school-aged daughter if she would like her mother to have lunch with her she jumped at the chance for her mom to join her. Unfortunely that stay-at-home mom never did go in to have lunch with her daughter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prayers For Players

(left to right) Luke, Caleb, David
This past weekend my mother- and father-in-law visited our nephew Caleb at Bryan College. While there, they went to watch his rugby game along with a friend of his. Following the game Caleb and his friend returned to the college with my in-laws. The rugby van that Caleb was to be riding in collided, headlong, with a speeding vehicle, both cars were destroyed, but the guys lived. The players were air-vaced to the hospital.

While as a family we are rejoicing that Caleb was not in the van we are still praying for the injured in both vehicles.

Please pray for the passengers and their family members in both vehicles and also the student body at Bryan.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mom's Advice

While planning Abigail's baby shower I wanted to follow the Biblical mandate that older women are to teach the younger women. I decided to ask each mother who attended the shower to think over the next week about the one piece of advice they wished that someone had told them. I wanted to give them enough time to think about the advice they would be giving this first-time mother and not something off the top of their heads.

I have received a few and am working (okay, bugging) the rest of the ladies to fill out the "I wish someone had told me..." form I had made to build this unique booklet. But the forms that have been filled out are wonderful so I thought I would share some of their advice.

From the mother of one child—
I wish that someone had told me "never doubt that you are able to parent this child that God gave you. Take the advice that works for you. If you try something and it doesn't work throw it out and move on. It might have worked for another mom and child, but that doesn't mean it will work for you."

From the mother of two adult children—
I wish that someone had told me (and I'm sure they did!) However, it just took a few years and experience to realize the truth that God is in control all the time even in the "not so good days." He allows problems—trials of all types, like fevers, ear aches and crying babies that makes us more grateful for the "better times" and more empathetic to others with problems."

From the mother of two toddlers—
I wish that someone had told me "what a huge responsibility parenting is. How hard it is to discipline those cute faces. How much of a blessing and how funny kids are. That taking care of me and my marriage makes me such a better mom."

From the mother of two school age children—
I wish that someone had told me "to put my baby on a schedule (a flexible one; not extremely rigid). Babies love routines and they sleep through the night a lot faster on a schedule! Also, enjoy every moment and don't worry about every little thing- it goes by too fast."

From the mother of two school-aged children—
I wish that someone had told me "to take time to love your child now. They will never be this little again. Take lots of pictures monthly to look at the changes that are going on daily in their lives. Put a calender where you change your baby to write down all the milestones for that day and when you want to transfer the information to your baby book you can do it on your schedule."

I think this baby advice book actually took seed in my brain many years ago at the grocery store. While I was behind a young mother in line at the check-out the cashier told her that the cereal she was purchasing on WIC (federal funding for women, infants and children that are in need) was not covered. The young mother explained that she needed it since the doctor had told her that her baby was ready for cereal. The problem was that the doctor assumed that she would understand that it was baby cereal and not Life cereal, Frosted Flakes or Special K. The cashier just told her no it wasn't covered and removed it from the order. David was just five at that time and I felt my heart go out to this mother that had no older mom to help her through the path of parenthood. I had the cashier hold my order aside and took the mother to the baby aisle and explained what she needed and the need to either purchase larger hole nipples or use the old nipples and cut a small cross slit in the top.

I can't wait to gather up some more advice and bind the booklet for the birth of Abigail's little one. I thought these were great pieces of advice and felt they should be shared.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election hopes

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Bedford Boys

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana

As we face the election of a new president tomorrow it is very fitting that we take a look at the past. This past weekend we went to the National D-Day Memorial and found a memorial to the men and women of not only our nation, but of many nations that we fought with against evil. The people who fought this war and the people who supported them paid a very heavy price for freedom, perhaps higher that what our soldiers have paid in our war against terrorism.

"The Final Tribute"
The decisive battle that would end Hitler's dream of Nazi domination came at a great cost. The war turned on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The military operation was named Overlord and would entail more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 service men. The men would have to disembark from plywood boats holding 30–50 soldiers and then cross beaches with no cover for 200 yards before receiving any protection, while carrying up to eighty pounds of equipment. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. But, the cost could have been so much greater.

First, if nothing had been done due to fear of the cost (both financially or in terms of human cost), and second, if our military leaders had not planned properly or not worked together.

Fallen Bedford soldier
with his Bible
The Nazis had prepared for an invasion on these very beaches by building metal structures (called hedgehogs)that at high tide would be unseen and would rip through the hull of the allied ships preventing them from reaching the beach. However, the allies had seen these booby traps from the air and instead landed at low tide in order to avoid the traps.

The memorial is so well thought out and so visually impactful that it sent chills up my spine. The bronze statues have a symbolic purpose. One was of a Bedford soldier who had died on the beach with his Bible by his side. The Bible had slipped out of his pack and was found on the beach some time later.

"Sacrifice" falling from the wall
"Scaling the Wall" is so lifelike that you feel that by touching the soldiers they will come to life. You can look right into the eyes of one of the soldiers as he scales the top of the wall (symbolizing Valor). One soldier on the wall has made the ultimate sacrifice (symbolizing Sacrifice, as he falls from the wall), and there are two others who are helping each other to make it over the wall (symbolizing Fidelity). There is a garden that pays tribute to the generals who worked together and planned this monumental military maneuver.

We took advantange of the memorial's cart tours in order to get a grasp on the events that occured that day long ago. I think our guide, Michael, thought the goal was to get us through as quickly as possible. We passed one other tour and a few times we thought we were going to tip over when taking a sharp corner. But we were able to learn and David's interest was maintained.

Even though the memorial is called the National D-Day memorial it receives no federal funding. Ok, I know that sounds amazing since everything and everyone else gets funded my our tax dollars. The memorial is built and maintained by admission prices, tours, the gift shop and private donations. I was pleasantly surprised that the admission price was just $5.00 per person, most private museums are much more pricey.

Bedford, Virginia, seems like a very unlikely place to build a National Memorial. It is not located on any major highway in the area, so it is not likely to get the normal vacation stop-off. But there is a very good reason that Bedford was chosen as the location for the memorial. You see, at the end of the day on June 6, 1944, nineteen of the soldiers from Bedford were dead and two more would die later in the Normandy campaign. Since the population of Bedford was just 3,200 they received proportionally more losses then any other community in our nation.

A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.
—George Santayana

This memorial is a reminder that even today we must fight evil that threatens the world. We have neighbors and loved ones who are in harms way as we enjoy the freedoms that are maintained at a high cost.