Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nice Weekend

It’s been a nice weekend so far.  Very quiet.  VERY quiet.  In fact, the other day, I got kind of curious when was the last time anyone called me on the phone, so today I went into the caller ID, and it turns out that the last time I got a phone call from anyone other than Landry was on February 11th.  That’s more than 2 weeks.  WOW! 

Anyway, this week I got a Cricut machine.  They were on sale at Joann’s, marked down from $200 to $85, so I decided to get one.  Ever since I did our adoption profile, I’ve been thinking I need to get into scrapbooking, and so this is an exciting way for me to get into it.  I got a scrapbook as well, on sale for only $6, and some paper and stickers and stuff, so I’m going to start out making a scrapbook about our journey to adopt Leah, from when we started our homestudy all the way through to the finalization.  I’m excited to see what the Cricut can do, and also to see if I am any good at scrapbooking!

Today, our friend Anne and her son Nicolas watched Leah for us.  For the past several weeks, Leah has staunchly refused to sleep past 5:00am.  I feel like we have a newborn again, honestly, I’m so tired I hardly know my own name.  Well, Anne caught wind of this and told me to bring her over so I could sleep.  This morning, Michael managed to get Leah to sleep for almost 3 hours, so I got a three hour nap this morning, and then Anne had her from 1-5:30, and I slept about 3 1/2 hours this afternoon.  I feel absolutely drunk on sleep, but to be honest, I think I will probably go to bed at a normal time tonight and not have any trouble getting to sleep whatsoever.  That and a nice hot shower, and I should start to feel human again. :-)

This evening we had dinner with the Heplers at Red Lobster.  The lobster tail was pretty good, although I think they do have a tendency to overcook their lobster there.  I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of cleaning a whole entire lobster, so I just got the tail.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get one steamed at Wegman’s and eat a real one.  We’ll have to see.  Tomorrow we are looking forward to watching the USA v. Canada men’s hockey game, and then the Olympics will be over for another couple of years.  I didn’t get to watch very much of it, or really any of it, but I understand the athletics were particularly good this year.  I tried to look some of it up On Demand, but it was mostly mash up videos and not really anything I especially wanted to see.  So I’m hoping the hockey game tomorrow will be good.  Then I have choir practice tomorrow night.  I am hopeful that the extra music has come in so I will have my own music and will be able to mark it up as I need to!  The lady I sat with last week was very generous to share with me, though, and made roughly similar notations to how I would have done it, so no complaints :-)

This week is a busy one.  I have book club Monday and my in-laws are popping in for a quick overnight on their way home from Florida. I think it’ll be nice for Michael to have some time with his parents and his daughter, and I’ll get a night out guilt free, since I know that even if she melts down for Daddy, she’s unlikely to melt down for her grandpa, whom she clearly adores.  Wednesday night, the Harlem Globetrotters are in North Stafford, and I may go to that with the Heplers.  Have to see about getting tickets.  Then Thursday night I’ll be going to dinner with my friend Debbie.  This weekend is the first of 3 kids’ sales in Fredericksburg as well, so I will probably go and hopefully get Leah some 9 month clothes.  Yes, she is still little enough that she is JUST getting into her 9 month clothes now.  And her 6 month clothes fit just fine, I’m just feeling ornery about the fact that she is still in them. 

We had talked Myrtle Beach with Mike and Lesley and may still go, but since poor Lesley has limited vacation time and they are planning to go to Newfoundland this summer, it may not happen.  We’ve decided that since the rental in MB is fairly expensive for the time we want to go, we should be able to take an actual trip somewhere for the same amount and are looking into Puerto Rico, where Michael’s friend’s family has a beach house.  I’m also kind of hot on California, so we have some possibilities we are looking at.  And who knows, we might just say, “The heck with it!  We’re going back to MB!”  We’ll see.  But one thing we know for sure:  we’re going SOMEWHERE! :-)

So that’s all the news that’s fit to print from here.  I’m heading to bed with a book shortly!  Good night all :-)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jane Austen Addict

I am not an Austen-ite.  I have read more books about her books than I have actually read her books.  I was Miss Bingley in a school production of Pride and Prejudice, my one line being “And my friend, Mr. Darcy” when I introduced the hero to the Bennetts, and other than that, I really have no idea what happens in P&P, never even having seen Colin Firth in Darcy’s role that appears to have made every other female squeal.  I did love, love, love Emma Thompson’s adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which I count as one of my favorite movies ever, and I even read the book!  Thus endeth my Austen education.

However, during my recent-ish ill-fated trip to Borders (and no, to date I haven’t heard from them), I found a  hardcover copy of Laurie Viera Rigler’s Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict from the bargain bin for $3.  The plot sounded intriguing, so I added it to my purchase to pad my total.

Jane Mansfield wakes up after a fall from a horse in Regency England to find herself trapped in the body of Courtney Stone, a struggling single girl in modern day LA.  Not only is Jane shocked by the modern world, but she finds herself at the tail end of a broken engagement, with very little money, and working a dead end job for an abusive boss.  She needs to make sense of all of the things around her and try to get Courtney’s life together so she can live a life that makes sense to her and fulfills the duty she feels to the girl who she presumes is living her life back in England.

**SPOILER ALERT:  The rest of my review contains minor spoilers that may or may not ruin the book for you if you plan to read it**

This was a very engaging book.  You find yourself rooting for Jane in the midst of her confusion.  There were some things that I kind of didn’t much care for—she is able to make use of muscle memory to drive a car and operate a computer, she has a friend who keeps showing up right at the right moments like a fairy godmother, and a local bar has a mysterious time traveling room that she can go to for information from a gypsy woman (although to be fair, she only went twice).  Also, a few of Courtney’s memories of previous events flash into her head.

All in all, however, the book was a fun read.  It’s nothing that’s going to tax your brain, but it’s good, clean chick lit fun that gives you some escape from reality for a bit.  Jane is a likeable character.  Her friends Anna and Paula are not real well developed and consequently, I got quite a negative vibe from Paula in particular and wished she would just disappear.  The part in which Jane deals with her boss was, to me, laugh out loud funny.

I had a tough time rating this book on GoodReads, but ultimately, I gave it 4 stars instead of 3 mainly because it was good enough that I really, really wanted to read about Courtney’s experience in England.  Happy day!  Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was actually written first and details Courtney’s experience when she wakes up in England after hitting her head in a swimming pool.  Happier day!  Someone on PBS had a copy!  It’s on its way to me now.

This book counts towards the TwentyTen Reading Challenge under the “Who Are You Again?” category and the the BBC reading challenge (bringing my total for that challenge to three I think).  I have a copy of this book if anyone wants to borrow it. 

Happy page turning!

Something Silly for Friday

This is my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies growing up. I sing this song to Leah all the time. I guess because it is widescreen, you will have to click on it and watch it on the YouTube site to get the full image.

Feels Like Coming Home

Oh, I have so much blogging to catch up on!  I have 3 countries to write up for 80 Plates, I have a book review, and a I have an adoption bitch to post.  But Michael and I had such a nice night last night, I wanted to blog about it before anything else :-) 

Last night was T-Night.  Yup, it’s Tax Time.  We never get too worried, since we always get a good chunk of change back, courtesy of giving an interest free loan to Uncle Sam each and every year by not claiming all our deductions.  We met with our friend Cindy at H&R Block—seriously, if you need a tax preparer and are in the DC area, she is THE BEST there is, I can give you her info if you want to set up an appointment!  She went through our return with her usual thoroughness and got us the max cash back, which was pretty cool.  We are going to have some money to get some much needed crap done around here.  Maybe we’ll have a bonfire out back with the splinters from our POS doors that are going bye-bye!

Afterwards, we wanted to take full advantage of the fact that the amazing Colleen was babysitting—seriously if you are in the Fredericksburg area and need a babysitter, she is THE BEST there is, I can give you her info :-)  We decided to go out to dinner and I had looked up Joe’s Pizza and Pasta before leaving home because I had a funny feeling we would wind up there.  Indeed we did—Jane took us there like a shot!  Joe’s used to have several different locations and are now down to only 2, one in Arlington and one in Vienna.  We went to the Arlington place.

When we lived in Centreville, we would go to the Fairfax restaurant ALL THE TIME.  It was conveniently located right across the street from our doctor’s office and right nearby to where my sister was living at the time.  We had Michael’s birthday parties there, we had dinner with friends there a lot, always stopped in after doctor’s appointments or when we went to Wolf Trap for Christmas.  The managers knew us by name, and when we moved, they would always ask us how Fredericksburg was when we’d go in, and they would tell all the other customers that we drove all the way from Fredericksburg just to dine there.  The wait staff was exceptional—I remember one girl from Kosovo, and two of the other servers.  Because we tipped well, I suspect they fought over who got to serve us.

Well one night we stopped by after Wolf Trap and discovered a sign on the door informing patrons they had lost their lease.  DEVASTATION!!!!! 

So going to Joe’s last night, we were hopeful that the Arlington location would capture the charm of our original favorite place.  And we had nothing to worry about!  We were greeted warmly, the food was as great as ever, and we just both felt like we’d come home to a place we’d forgotten how much we’d missed it there.

What’s more, we found out that the former manager in Fairfax still occasionally stops by in Arlington—he has retired—and they said they’d let him know we were there and had asked after him.

Money, pizza, and friendliness.  What more can you ask for in one night?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anyone Up For a Road Trip?

I would really like to go to the Green Valley Book Fair. Is anyone else interested? For more information, visit their website at They are only open certain days, and looks like they are opening up in March. I have a lot going on in March, but I could definitely make the trip, especially if someone wants to share the driving! Let me know!

Another Date to Save

I can't believe we are already thinking about this, but Leah's first birthday party will be on Saturday, April 10, 2009 sometime in the afternoon. Hope to see lots of sunny faces there to celebrate our little angel's special day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Oasis…

Since dropping out of the on-line networking scene, I managed to read two books in one week’s time, something I haven’t done in quite a while.  The first book was The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I will review after my book club discusses it, and this morning I finished Your Oasis on Flame Lake by Lorna Landvik.

Lorna Landvik is one of my favorite chick lit writers.  This is the fifth book of hers I’ve read, the others being Oh My Stars, The View from Mount Joy, Welcome to the Great Mysterious,and Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

All of her books are set somewhere in Minnesota and center around a family or families dealing with its/their issues.  Your Oasis is no different, this one focusing on two women who have been friends since high school, BiDi and Devera.  Each woman is unhappy in some way, shape or form with her current life, and wants a change.  Dev’s husband decides to launch a nightclub (called Your Oasis on Flame Lake) in their basement, and thus ensues a life of change for both women.

Or as the jacket notes read, “But then an unexpected crisis throws both families into chaos, forcing them all to take stock of their lives—and learn the power of forgiveness.”

The book was captivating, I really couldn’t put it down, but as far as I am concerned, it is far from Landvik’s best work.  First of all, I counted at least 5 possible crises, and a sixth and seventh were in the offing.  Every time you’d think things were settling down, something else crazy happened.  And all of the crises were wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end, and everyone seemed happier for having had them. 

Kind of nitpickier, however, was the character of Sergio, BiDi’s husband.  I got the impression he was Italian-American, since the story involving his father had to do with Dear Old Dad being fresh off the boat from Europe to come to the States to sing opera.  However, it appears Sergio himself was not born in the US, as his language is a tad bit stilted.  Then I got the impression after a time that he was Spanish, but just as I got that impression, he called his child a ‘bambino’, sending me back to believing he was Italian.  And then they called their son Carlos, which swayed me back to the Spaniard side of the fence.

Additionally, BiDi’s name kind of pissed me off too.  It’s pronounced like the letters, B. D., but in my head, I pronounced it that way, as “biddy” and as “beady”…  I wish she had just abbreviated to B.D., as the name came from BiDi’s initials (her name is Beverly Diane, but everyone calls her BiDi).

My favorite Landvik book remains a tie between Mt. Joy and Angry Housewives, and this came nowhere near either of those for me, but I did find it immensely enjoyable and a great, quick read.  Three stars on GoodReads, and it fulfills a selection for the What's In a Name? challenge, namely reading a title with a body of water in it.  I have one other Landvik title on my shelves at present, but may wait a while to get the taste of this one out of my mind before diving into Patty Jane’s House of Curl.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Save the Date!

Tonight was my first choir practice, and I knew I made the right decision when I walked in, rehearsed, and found out we’ll be singing a Celine Dion song during the concert :-)

Anyway, for anyone who is feeling flush with cash and would like to attend our “Hooray for Hollywood!” concert on Sunday, April 25 at 6pm at Mary Washington, tickets are $85 and benefit the Stafford Regional Choral Society’s Scholarship Fund.  For that amount of money, you get what sounds like a fabulous four course meal.  Mike would like to attend, but cannot if no one else is able to go.  However, this should not influence your decision making in any way.  The choir will perform twice more this year.

To order tickets, you can go to and follow the link at the bottom of the page for ordering tickets.  The dinner is a mixed grill plate with steak and chicken, and there is a vegetarian option available.  If you decide to go, please let me know and list “Mike Kosior” as your table captain (I THINK that’s what they said).  Only 10 people per table, and only 120 people total will be able to attend the concert, so buy early, buy often :-)


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Busy Times!

One of the only ways I know what day of the week it is any more now that I don’t have everyone grumbling about Mondays on Facebook to me is that my friends are not busy on certain days of the week.  Today must be Saturday, because we had company!  Emily came down from Annandale to do another 80 Plates, this time tackling 3 countries (El Salvador, Mexico, and Chile) and Melissa joined us as well.  I will work on the blogging portion of it diligently, but as Melissa was the official photographer and Emily was the under-photographer and I was spending my time with a crabby baby, I don’t know what the heck is on the camera and what the heck actually much happened cooking wise.  I helped where I could. 

Emily is kind of a kindred spirit as far as WW goes.  I recently read an article with Carnie Wilson who said of the weight gain she went through that she often suffers a case of the “f*** its'” and I have a serious case of the f***-its myself.  I have no desire to do it right now.  Of course, I have no desire to go back to weighing what I did, but it seems like I get started and then things happen (in this case, a blizzard and a trip to Greensboro) and I get off course and that’s that.  It’s disappointing, to be sure, but each time it happens it makes it that much harder to get back on track.  Michael and I have discussed it and are hoping to get there, but I just want to throw up my hands and say, well, you know…

At this point, I would say giving up the gaming is harder than giving up the Facebook.  I had to call our bank today after going through our accounts and finding a weird charge, and while I was on hold, I nearly started a round of FreeCell.  My book reading is going very well indeed, and I’m very happy with the amount I’ve gotten done.  However, it’s very difficult to read and be on the phone at the same time.  What I’ve realized is that not only am I not posting my own updates and photos, but I have no idea what anyone else is up to either.  Email and blogging seem to be nearly obsolete at this point, everyone just posting updates to Facebook and presuming that’ll take care of it.  So if I’ve missed anything special, let me say, “Congratulations!”  “Way to go!”  “Sorry to hear it :-(“ or “I’m here if you need me!” and hit my like button…  I don’t think when I go back to Facebook it’ll be in the same form as before, certainly I don’t think I’ll spend as much time on it as I did.  Michael doesn’t think so, but I do.  I did log onto MySpace tonight, but that is a joke.  No one is on there any more.

Last night some friends from home came over to say hello.  The same family as was here in November around Thanksgiving, Linette, Tom, Hayden, and Hayley.  We had a wonderful visit, far too short, and Michael and I treated them to dinner at the Chinese buffet.  Hopefully we will be able to get together again soon!  The kids just adore Leah and while I’m not sure she knows what to make of them, she seems to enjoy their company and all the goofy things they do to entertain her.  Linette and Tom are both doing wonderfully and it’s just so nice to catch up and enjoy ourselves.

Thursday we went out with a playgroup to the Playroom here in Fredericksburg.  Leah had a grand time playing in the pretend house area with a bunch of different kids, but she has been sick ever since with a runny nose and a cough.  We had been thinking about trying out a new pediatrician, and the timing seems right, so we have an appointment with a pediatrician here in town on Monday.  It is someone a friend of ours (and fellow adoptive mom) uses, so I feel confident it is a good referral.  Hopefully I like the doctor and Leah does too!

Tomorrow is  my first time going to choir practice up in Stafford.  We are also hoping to see Anne (aforementioned adoptive mom friend) and her son Nicolas for a little visit tomorrow afternoon.  I need to fit in grocery shopping as well.  We are getting our taxes done on Thursday, so God willing, we get a fat wad of cash back from the IRS and it comes soon so we can replenish our savings account and get some new doors on the house!  I guess the landscaping will have to wait till (if) we thaw out.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print from The Cookie Jar (the new name for our house, thanks to my buddy Landry).  See you all soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giving Up the Computer For Lent!?

Ok, well as you can see, I have not entirely given it up.  I think at this point in our lives, it would be impossible.  There are things I have to do on line, most pressing of all is logging onto our bank accounts to pay our bills.  I also am still swapping books and will be sending out invitations to my book club.  I am still participating in book challenges, and fully intend to blog about the books I read for the challenges. 

But in other areas, the computer had completely taken over my home life and was starting to detract from family time.  I am obsessed with Facebook; I think I could literally post new status updates every 5 minutes.  And I am hooked on gaming.  Not shooting trolls or riding unicorns or anything, but more like playing Restaurant Empire, Civilization, and other such games.  I can play for hours and it’s been a challenge not to when I have a baby here—I was playing games with her on my lap, and you know she didn’t give a damn about them.

So I decided to take a step back.  I haven’t been on Facebook or played a game in 2 days, with the sole exception of Words With Friends on my iPod.  I will continue to play through those games as people want to play against me.  Otherwise, I’ve been unplugged for two days.

It’s been harder and easier than expected.  I’ve plowed through over 200 pages of a book that it took me 2 weeks to read the first 25 pages of.  I love the book, but just decided I’d rather be on line than read.  The house is even cleaner than it has been—I’ve had lots of time to evaluate the “stuff” and have done a lot of 27 fling boogies.  I’ve gone from cluttered to downright sparse.  Seriously, there is not one thing atop my fridge and the only thing atop our freezer is a box with Leah’s bibs, which is probably going to disappear—the bibs could fit in a bag somewhere in a cupboard and the box could be used for toys up in her room.  The yard sale is going to have a TON of stuff in it.  I have a mountain of items already.

Microblogging a la Facebook is something I kind of miss, so I might tuck a journal in my pocket and when I think of something I’d have written as a status, I could jot it in the notebook.  It’ll be a more lasting record and at the same time let me get that stuff out of my head.

I’ve also been catching up on sleep!!  I took 2 naps!!!  I felt like a million dollars both times.  With Leah’s new “wake up at 5AM no matter what time you bastards put me to bed” routine, getting in a nap has been essential for me to keep patient and be a good mom and still get things done.  Hopefully she will snap out of whatever little phase this is that is causing us both to go crazy and she’ll start sleeping again.  The “through the night” training is going well—she really doesn’t wake up mid-sleep any more.  Now I just have to get her to sleep past 5:30AM.

So you’ll see me around here when/if I have something blog-worthy to post—I should have a book review soon, if not tonight then definitely tomorrow.  Feel free to email me, or you can even PM me on Facebook if you need to—those are generally delivered directly to my email.  Otherwise, I’m enjoying my semi-unplugged time!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Weekend Away From It All…

This weekend was one we’d been planning for quite some time, a trip to Greensboro NC.  We had heard that our favorite author, Philip Gulley, was coming to speak at three different Friends meetings (as in the Quakers) in Greensboro and checking the map, we found it was a scant 4 1/2 hour drive away from us.  We were so excited and immediately decided we were going to make it, no matter what!

As the time drew near, we made more plans and posted to Facebook what we were planning, and Russell and Amy decided to join us.  We were SUPER excited, since we hadn’t seen them since last June for the Janet Evanovich road trip.  They wound up being the only ones who were going to be able to make it, but we didn’t mind one bit.  Russell found a hotel and we booked reservations and were ready to roll!

And then Snowmaggedon hit.  It was looking a bit dicey as to whether we’d get out of town.  But here’s the thing:  Philip Gulley has never come to the East Coast since we’ve read his books that we’ve known about and been able to go.  And I frankly would have crawled to Greensboro on my hands and knees, dragging Leah behind me in her stroller like a sled dog if I had to.  And fortunately, later in the week, the weather tamed for us and we not only decided to go on Saturday, but Michael and I elected to go a day earlier and leave on Friday.

P1040056 So I called the hotel and added an extra night to our reservation, we packed up, and we headed for Greensboro.  It was extra exciting because we got to add another state to Leah’s growing roster of places she’s been.  If I’m not mistaken, on the East Coast she is only missing Maine, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.  Not bad for not even being a year old.  When we crossed the border, she woke up from a lengthy nap, so we pulled into a rest area so I could change and feed her.  I snapped a picture of the sign you see here to commemorate the event, but there was no way for me to get her in it without putting her down, and I didn’t much want to do that.  We did go into the visitor’s center and they gave us a travel guide to Greensboro, which we read and found some neat stuff to see.

Michael and I were VERY impressed with Leah overall, I have to say.  She did not squeal at all the entire trip.  It is such a difference from the baby who would scream from the time we put her in the car to the time we took her out, whether that was 2 minutes or 10 hours.  She really is growing up and learning patience!  Way to go, Leah!

Anyway, we found the hotel and unloaded some of our car and let Leah crawl around a bit and work out the kinks.  The hotel room was a standard 2 double bed bit, but we were excited to see an adjoining door and hoped Russell and Amy would be able to get into the room on the other side so that we could hang out in their room Saturday night.  We gave them an update and they gave us one as well regarding the oncoming storm that gripped the south Friday evening.  They were a bit worried about whether they’d get out or not, but we all decided to just hope for the best and pray they’d get here!

Meanwhile, we were hungry and time was growing late so Little Baby would need to go to bed.  We decided to try out the Carolina Diner, which was right down the street from the hotel.  We hit the jackpot.  Not only was the food delicious, but Leah turned out to be a real crowd pleaser.  She had half the restaurant waving to her, she was waving back to them, everyone was coming up to our table and telling us how beautiful she was and how funny and sweet and cute she was, and long story short, we got 10% off our bill PLUS we got free dessert!!!!!  If she ever learns to harness her power for good, she will enact some serious change in the world.

After dinner, we debated attending Phil’s speech that night, but we were a little road weary and we wanted to put the baby to bed, so we went back to the hotel.  We put on the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremonies, but I was a little underwhelmed and fell asleep for a while.  I managed to catch the US team march in and then fell asleep before they lit the torch.  For some reason, I woke up at 4:45 and caught a replay of the torch lighting, and then I couldn’t go back to sleep.  I turned on my cell and got a message from R&A that they were going to wait a bit to see how the weather developed. 

P1040057 By 7AM, my two darlings were up and ready to roll (and very unhappy to discover it had snowed overnight!), so we decided to have breakfast at a local chain called Biscuitville, which seemed right up Michael’s alley.  He had tried a biscuit at the diner the night before and had an indecent reaction to it, so we had high hopes for Biscuitville, but overall, I’d have to say the biscuits there were just OK. 

After breakfast, we decided to do a little shopping—I had only packed one shirt for myself, since I was so excited to get out of the house, so we hit Walmart and I picked up a shirt, some treats for Leah, and a few Valentines for my Sugar Bear.  Then we decided to take Leah over to the Children’s Museum in Greensboro, since it is apparently appropriate for even infants.  (How did I ever live without my GPS, by the way?  That thing took us EVERYWHERE!)  Well, by the time we got there, both Leah and Michael were snoring.  When I pulled over, Michael woke up and we took a vote that we might as well take her back to the hotel because the more well rested she was, the better she would probably do during the speech.  So we drove all the way back to the hotel, I get her into the room, kick my shoes off, I’m kind of tired, and just as I am dozing off, she wakes up.  Figures, don’t it?  We get a text from R&A that they are on the road (we were relieved and happy they were at least going to try and make it!) so we decided to go over to Barnes and Noble to see if we could get the books for that night’s event.

In hindsight, this was one of the smartest things we decided to do.  I got the books, no problem at all, and then we went to Starbucks and I was able to connect to the wifi using my iPod.  Then we had liquid refreshments and a scone and as Leah was getting restless, I decided to take her down to the children’s area to zip around.  There wasn’t much doing in the hotel room, so I thought it might be a fun way for her to burn off some energy.  Well let me tell you!  BINGO!!!!  She crawled around until after 12 noon.  What a blast she was having!  She watched other kids run around, she followed after other kids, she found shelves of stuffed animals to knock around (which I picked up, thank you), we looked at books, she crawled everywhere, she played with trains.  It was a red-letter experience in every way possible.

P1040061 We left around 12:15 and got a call from R&A that we should go ahead and have lunch without them and we would all just meet up for supper.  Michael put in a request for Zaxby’s, a chicken chain that we had been to on our visit to Savannah.  While sadly, our luck with freebies was out, Leah was the hit of the place once again. Apparently even the way she eats celery is adorable.  And you know she just ate it up—she couldn’t even be bothered to face our table, she was looking all over, waving at everyone, going absolutely crazy.  And everyone was going crazy over her in return!

We went back to the hotel to wait for R&A’s arrival, and Leah fell asleep on the way over there, so I quietly put her in bed, and then I collapsed in bed for a while myself.  Sometime around 2:30, the Savannah contingent arrived, but I missed it because I was snoring.  Around about 2:45, the vibrating of my phone woke me up and when I saw “knock knock” in the text, I sprang to my feet and opened the door, and there was Amy!!!  WOO HOO!!!  They made it!!!!!

Russell was negotiating with the front desk to get them the adjoining room, and he was successful!!!  Even better!!!!!  They came in and Leah woke up and immediately we all started catching up and admiring Leah of course and before I knew it, two and a half hours had passed.  We had all agreed to go to Steak N Shake for dinner, and so we all got ready for the evening’s festivities and headed out.  Three of the four of us got milkshakes, and we all had burgers.  They gave us a free kid’s meal with purchase, so I got Leah some applesauce and mac n cheese, neither of which she especially cared for—Leah liked throwing the noodles on the floor more than eating them.  It was about time we found something she didn’t like, right?  I had a guacamole burger, my new SnS favorite, and it was so good.  It was probably the most crowded SnS I’d ever been too, but they dished food up fast and we all had a good meal, so who can complain?

Then it was time to head to the church!!!!  We were headed for New Garden Friends Meeting, and found it with only a little trouble—I am not great at reading signs in the dark and wasn’t too sure if Russell and Amy were behind us a good part of the time, so I was pretty cautious and stuff throughout the drive.  Not to worry though, we made it all in one piece and got to the church with about 15-20 minutes to spare.  We followed the crowd in and the sanctuary was on our left.  I peeked in and there was Phil, standing there talking with some Friends, just like anything.  I got all excited and hissed in Michael’s ear, “I SEE HIM!” It was like seeing a rock star or something, I mean, we were just so excited about this whole event.

We tried to figure out how long we’ve been reading Phil’s books and we finally decided on 6 years.  Home to Harmony is one of my two favorite books of all time and all of Phil’s books have inspired me with laughter, tears, thought, and joy.  To see the person who had the power and creativity and thought to bring that entire world into life for you, it is awe-inspiring to say the least.

So, we walked into the meeting room and as we made our way to find a seat, Phil came towards us!  Now I was really getting excited.  He looked at us, and I said, “Good evening!” and put on a bright smile, which he answered back and then patted Michael’s shoulder and said, “Good evening, friend!” and kept going.  Michael said, “Was that him!?” and I said, “yes it was!” and we both had to keep from jumping up and down :)

Soon a nice man named Bob sat to Michael’s right and we got to telling him about how we drove down from Fredericksburg VA and he asked where we were staying and we said in a hotel and he offered us that next time we come, he and his wife run a sort of underground B&B and we’d be welcome to stay with them.  I’d be lying if I said this sort of generous spirit was a fluke—every single Quaker we met greeted us with such warmth and generosity.  And we were total strangers there and admitted to not being Quakers and they did not care.  I was so inspired by them, I cannot begin to explain how profoundly our experience amongst the Friends affected me.

P1040069 Eventually, the presentation got underway and Phil was introduced and talked about his new book, If the Church Were Christian.  There are 10 different chapters in the book and he discussed the first two, entitled If the Church Were Christian, Jesus would be a model of living rather than an object of worship and If the Church were Christian, affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.  Unfortunately by now, Leah had had quite enough, and I missed out on some of the presentation, but I caught most of it, and I cannot wait to dive into this book.  I honestly felt as though he had written this book for me and was addressing directly thoughts that I’ve had and never shared with anyone.

And I know I was not alone in so feeling.

Eventually Amy came out and relieved me for a while, but I could hear Leah screaming from way down the hall, so during the Q&A session, I went and got Leah back from her and kept her quiet until the talk was over.  I knew she was just worn out from her busy day and she had only taken a 45 minute nap and refused any further rest, so she couldn’t help it one bit.  Amy and I went back in the hall to retrieve the men and I gave Russell my camera so he could catch a family shot of us with Phil.  We followed Phil and his crowd of admirers down the aisle and just as it was our turn, a woman came to him and said he had to come into the hallway to start signing books!  But he gave us his time very generously (I think Leah put the eye on him!) and so we asked him if we could take a picture and he was happy to do it.

P1040072 Then we followed him out and he signed our beloved and much read copy of Home to Harmony and the two copies of the new book I had picked up earlier in the day.  Bob had told everyone before the speech that we had driven down from Washington DC, so Phil thanked us for making the trip and we said that we would see him again tomorrow, because you can bet your butt I was not going to miss an opportunity to witness Phil as a pastor.  Russell got his book signed and then we were done for the evening.

When we left, I was all aglow, it was such a great experience already.  I asked Russell what he thought and all he could do was nod his head.  Words, honestly, were meaningless in the face of such an important message (or at least to me, they were not necessary!).

We stopped off at Sheetz on the way back to stock up on refreshments and by the time we were back at the hotel, Leah was out cold.  She didn’t budge when I pulled her out of the car seat, much less when I put her in her crib.  We went over to Russell and Amy’s room to talk about the events of the evening and it was just so affirming to talk religion and other sensitive topics with people who had no room for judgment of me, me of them, all of us asked questions, listened to each other’s stories and feelings, it was quite wonderful.  Unfortunately, having been up since 4:45, I was totally spent, and so I crapped out at 11:20 and went to bed.  I could have sat up all night, but driving’s demon head was leering at me for Sunday…

This morning we got up early (again I couldn’t sleep past 4:45) and when R&A were ready, we went out to IHOP for breakfast.  After lots of pancakes, coffee, eggs, hash browns, and more were consumed, we went back and checked out of the hotel and hauled ourselves down to First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, where Phil would be delivering the 11:00 message.  I had never been to a Quaker meeting before and was determined to make the most of it.  I read in the bulletin that there was childcare available, so with my heart in my throat, I decided to put Leah in the nursery so I could enjoy the service and listen to Phil’s message uninterrupted.  Holy cow were the girls in the nursery nice!!! I was introduced to them and their children and they took Leah and told me not to worry about a thing!  I don’t think she even noticed as I walked away, and I didn’t hear any screaming when I went back to the meeting hall, so I took it as a good sign indeed.

The meeting started and it was a lot of singing and a lot of time for quiet contemplation.  They had a segment where the children’s class filed in and talked about what they were doing for church school.  Then I got really nervous, because they brought in all the young children, and there was Leah right in front of us!  But she could not have cared less about where we were, she was fascinated by all the other children and the banks they had made to collect money for Haiti.  Then the minister handed around quarters for the children’s banks and even gave Leah a quarter, and you can imagine what she did with it:  yup!  right in her mouth!  Fortunately they got her to put in a bank.  Then the kids left and went back to the nursery or Sunday school, and the service continued.  When it was time for Phil’s message, I was totally enchanted.  He speaks very much like he writes, with much humor and grace.  The topic was “A Quaker Future” and honestly, I cried—the message really had a universal appeal, which was great since I know nothing about being a Quaker.

It was all over too soon.  The service ended, there was a talk back session afterwards, but we decided not to stay for that as we really were anxious to get on the road.  I went and retrieved Leah from the nursery, where I was informed she was the happiest baby in the world!!!!  She didn’t especially want to leave with me, she seemed to be having a heck of a good time.  But eventually I pried her away from the loving arms of the nursery worker, Leigh Ann, and went back to the chaos of the meeting room.  People were leaving, people were moving forward, and my party of three was waiting for me to come back so we could head out. We were swarmed by people who remembered us from the night before, asking if we had really driven down from Washington DC just to come to the meeting and meet Phil, people who wanted to admire Leah (who ate it up, may I say, the kid is an absolute rock star, I am not exaggerating in the least!), people who just wanted to welcome us.  It was the most welcome I had ever felt in a church, certainly in my adult life anyway.  There was no awkwardness, no sense of not literally being among friends.  I was ready to sell the house and move to Greensboro, honestly.

Finally the legions of fans cleared a bit and I put Leah on the pew to put her coat on when I felt an arm around my shoulder and heard, “Thank you again for making that drive all the way down here just to see me.”  I looked up and it was Phil, giving me a hug.  I about wet my pants.  I think I said something about how much we enjoyed it, how moved I had been, and I picked Leah up and he asked if he could hold her.  Well of course!!!!  I handed her right over, and I think it was an instant love for both of them :-)  I wish I had had my camera handy, it is an image burned into my brain, Phil smiling brightly at Leah, Leah kind of looking at him like, “Yes, that’s right, adore me!”  It was such a special moment as a reader and a mom, the two great passions in my life intersecting like that.

He handed her back to me and we said goodbye and then he went over to Michael and thanked him also for coming and either shook his hand or grabbed his shoulder, I’m not sure which.  And then he had to turn his attention to his talk-back and I had to turn mine to remembering how to breathe.

So that’s how we left Greensboro.  (Michael and I would both like to go back and explore the actual town—we enjoyed our time there a lot!)  We soon parted ways  with Russell and Amy and headed home.  Leah was completely knocked out, so we didn’t stop for the first 4 hours of the trip because she was asleep.  We did finally stop when she woke up and wanted some food, so spent our Valentine’s Day dinner eating at a McDonald’s somewhere between Richmond and Petersburg.  Leah wasn’t too happy to be put back in the car afterwards, but she made it home with only a few little squeals.

And I will now unpack and head off to bed.  It was an amazing, amazing weekend of friendship and love and I am so glad Russell and Amy made it and we didn’t miss each other due to snow.  I don’t know how to express how happy it made me to get a little hug from such a great and genuine man I have long admired, to hear what he had to say and to relate to it so deeply and personally.

It was such a wonderful Valentine’s weekend and memories I’ll carry with me for a lifetime.  Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Friday, February 12, 2010

BBC Read: Places I Never Meant to Be

While I was in Atlanta, I was browsing Lesley’s bookshelves and came upon the book Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, edited by Judy Blume, who is one of the most censored writers of our time.  I was intrigued, so I made note of it and ordered the book from Paperback Swap when I got home.

The book has an introduction by Blume and then contains original fiction by 12 authors of books for young adults, all of whom have faced some sort of censorship in their careers as writers.  Each other then writes about their experience as a censored writer and includes that at the end of their story.  Their experiences range from the pressure to self-censor after being censored at large, the pressure to write books from a certain perspective due to their ethnic background, pressure from family, pressure from the public, and pressure from schools. 

As I continue to try and slog my way through writing my own book, 4 years in the making now, I can only too easily identify with the feeling that something should or should not be written to pass some kind of nebulous test by some stranger out there who could be offended.  It’s great to read of “real writers” experiences with the same.

The fiction portion of the book contains fascinating short stories, one of which actually caused me nightmares last night—I think I’m getting more susceptible as time goes on to graphic depictions of things.

This book counts towards the Bibliophilic Book Challenge and is my second book for this challenge.  I gave it 4 stars on

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Endings and New Beginnings

Well, it is over, my mom has gone home, the family drama played itself out pretty much the way I expected it to... So now I can get on with the rest of my life, knowing I did my best and handled myself with a fair amount of class, considering. I used to have a sign hanging up in my foyer that read, "Every ending is a new beginning". (it's no longer there because I am decluttering the hell out of my house!) Hopefully that is true in my case...

To that end, I've decided to finally join a local chorus here in Stafford County. I sang with a chorus up in Acton, MA when we lived there and greatly enjoyed the weekly opportunity to get together with a bunch of like-minded adults who just like to sing and put on a show. I'm not a soloist, I have no aspirations of being so, but to sing in a group is a lot of fun. I emailed the choirmaster during the storm, and was invited to attend, as they had only had 1 rehearsal so far due to the snow. Consequently, we will have to boogie out of Greensboro a little sooner than anticipated on Sunday so I can get home in time to find the school and join, but other than that, I'm good to go!

I also plowed through about half of Eudora Welty to prepare for the Fredericksburg Library book club, but it was, of course, cancelled due to the snow. I'm debating continuing on with Eudora or not, I really cannot understand the book at all, it's quite choppy. Meanwhile I need to get going on my Lit Chicks book for the month, Kathryn Stockett's The Help.

I am also pretty well sure I'm going to join Mocha Moms. I've heard from the president a couple times and they seem like a great group of women. Their mom's night out event was canceled due to snow (anyone sensing a theme?) on Saturday, but hopefully I will get a chance to meet up with them soon.

But really, at present, I'm just so tired out from shoveling, crying, raging, and entertaining an ever-more-active 10 month old with nowhere to go that I think I'm going to take a little snooze.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Snow Days, Snow Days…

…good old blowy snow days…

We have been more or less stuck in the house since the big blizzard hit on Friday.  We got approximately 18 inches here at the Cookie Jar, so we’ve come up with many creative ways to spend our time:

  • Playing Skip Bo with and without the proper instructions to tell us how to actually play the game.  Michael contributed by breaking the hell out of the automatic card shuffler I had that turned out to be a piece of crap.
  • Doing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  This required us to move 2 different card tables into position so we had room to spread out all the pieces.
  • Watching a movie (“The Hangover”)
  • Getting pissed off at friends for not playing Words With Friends fast enough!  :-)  You know who you are!
  • Baking (I made triple chocolate chunk brownies and a homemade coffee cake)
  • Cooking (we had pot roast, beer battered shrimp [first time I’d ever attempted making it!], ham and cheese paninis [recipe courtesy of Cooking Light], pizza)
  • Rearranging furniture (our hutch is now in the dining room where it belongs, the microwave cart has moved over next to the freezer, which is more in the kitchen where it belongs)
  • Giving the rabbit a bath (you’ve never had fun until you’ve bathed a combative rabbit and then blow dried his fur so he didn’t catch cold)
  • Shoveling (let my mom do most of it while I took a lot of naps)
  • Napping
  • Entertaining Leah (she mostly entertained us, she’s been a little speedball this weekend!!!!  Man does she like to talk now!)
  • Catching up on Hoarders
  • Reading (Eudora Welty SUCKS)
  • Cleaning (and foisting unwanted goodies off on my mom who wants them!)

I guess that about covers it.  We did get out today and went over to Bottom Dollar to buy 100 pounds of rock salt, since our driveway is a sheet of ice.  Then we all went out to lunch where we toasted our good fortune of getting out of the house.  Mom left this afternoon to go up to Alexandria where she will stay a day or two, and we’re getting ready for storm #2 tomorrow.  We will go out tonight with the Heplers for dinner (since we didn’t manage to get together for the SuperBowl) and then we’ll see what’s what!  I don’t even know what day it is any more.  I was chatting with Amy this morning and made a comment about her daring to work on a Tuesday and she said, “Uh, it’s Monday”…  Well, see what happens?

This weekend is the great Philip Gulley road trip.  We are leaving right after weigh in on Saturday morning and hope to hit Greensboro between noon and one.  Plan is to hook up with the Talmadge Glecks and go to the new civil rights museum.  We are all staying in the same hotel, and it should be nice and cozy as the dickens.  Philip Gulley’s new book is entitled “If the Church Was Christian” so I expect we’re in for a doozy of a talk!  Sunday morning we’ll attend his Greensboro events before heading home in time for supper Sunday night. 

I was excited before, just thinking about the trip, but now that I know Russell and Amy will be meeting us, I’m even more excited.  I was wondering when I’d see them again and now I know! :-)

Keep warm, dry, and happy, everyone!

Monday, February 01, 2010

My Strengths

So last week, I was urged to take the VIA Strengths Test at It is a pretty long test, 240 questions, so I waited till Leah and Michael were both in bed and I could concentrate on it without being interrupted. I tried to be especially honest with this test, but I had some difficulty, and I will explain why after I give the results.

So, in order, here are my top strengths and what they say about me:

1. (Top Strength) Modesty and humility: You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty.

2. (Second Strength) Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty: You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group.

3. Curiosity and interest in the world: You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery.

4. Gratitude: You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

5. Leadership: You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.

There are 24 strengths total, but those are my top 5. I think they are pretty representative of me, looking back over past accomplishments and present state of mind and accomplishments, I'd say this is pretty accurate.

The difficulty I had came in questions that said things like, "Your friends see you as..." or "Your co-workers see you as..." type things. Because I do tend to downplay my accomplishments (see top strength!), it's hard for me to say how others see me, as I don't see myself as anything special. Still, the results are pretty accurate, so I guess I won't sweat it too hard.

Now I need to come up with what to do with my results. This test was suggested to me as a planning tool for what I'm going to do as I'm looking ahead to the next few years of my life. There's a book entitled Authentic Happiness that is not available at my local library, and is not on PBS at the moment either. I've put it on my wish list and we'll see what happens when I get it! :-) Have you taken the test? What are your strengths?