Friday, October 31, 2008

The Power of Words

Note:  Originally posted on Blog Around the World, a wonderful blogging community whose time came and went, but the relationships live on.  This is posted here for posterity.

What an honor for me to be invited as guest blogger at Blog Around the World today!  This is such an amazing bunch of travelers, isn't it?  It occurs to me that the one thing that brought us all into the blogosphere in the first place is that we all believe in the power of words...and more specifically, the written word.

One time I was listening to a nationally broadcast radio call-in program for teenagers. I usually liked what the host had to say to the kids who called in, but on this particular night, I took issue with one of his responses. So much so, that I wrote him a letter. A few weeks later a colleague of mine said, "Way to go, Tracy!  I heard (the host) read your letter on his show last night!" Well I was sure glad she heard him, because I had missed it, and he never wrote me back. But from then on, he changed the kind of response he gave to kids in similar situations. The power of words.

So imagine my pleasure when my own kids started discovering the power of the written word for themselves. One day a couple of summers ago, my daughter invited a friend over to run through the sprinkler. My son caught wind of it before said friend arrived, and realized such a plan would invade his backyard baseball diamond during batting practice. He solved that problem by placing signs on both sides of the house.
A few months ago I sent my kids to their rooms to "cool off" when they had a problem they couldn't seem to solve for themselves.  My daughter slipped this under her brother's door to settle it once and for all.   Happy that she was beginning to "use her words", I encouraged her with this letter of empathy. It seems that my little letter was just what she needed, because only a few weeks later in a similar situation, Bethany expressed herself much more clearly. (Note all the parts of a friendly letter, properly placed and punctuated!)
Now we're getting somewhere.  Next thing you know, she'll be penning a sequel to War and Peace.  Move over Tolstoy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A trick that IS a treat (a.k.a. How to Get Rid of the Hiccups)

In acknowledgement of a day that can't easily be ignored, but that isn't a favorite of mine, I give you a trick that will come in handy someday.

Last week I noticed that Givinya had an antidote for a sneeze on her blog, and Lizzy wanted to know if she also had a cure for the hiccups.  Well, I've got just the trick for that one.  I promise, it works for me every time. 

When I was a teacher, it seems that about once a year I would get the hiccups in the middle of a lesson. So I would stop what I was doing and tell the kids to wait a minute while I got myself a drink of water.  They would watch in amazement as I showed them how to drink the water upside down!  I could always tell that their respect for me went up several notches on those days.  

So, without further ado, here are my capable assistants, Cincinnati Bengals #85 CHAD JOHNSON (hear announcer's booming voice) and "not at all scary" Feather Witch Bethany (I know, she's a witch...not my idea!) to demonstrate this handy magic trick.
Watch carefully...

1.  Get a glass of water, about 2/3 full (not too big, not too small).

2.  Put your mouth on the side of the glass that is AWAY from you. (Uh oh, Chad.  Better take your helmet off first! That's better.)

3.  Bend over forward and drink the water. All of it. Do NOT stop in the middle! (It may take a couple of tries to get proficient at sort of holding your breath so water doesn't go up your nose, but you can do it!)

Voila!  Your hiccups have now disappeared!  You're welcome.

By the way, Debbie chose little old me to be the guest blogger at Blog Around the World  for Friday. I know, I can't believe it either!  But you can go on over yourself and find my reflections on The Power of Words.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game Day Fare

A Sunday afternoon in October seems like the perfect time for a recipe. Well, not just any recipe. A couple of years ago we were watching the Vikings play the Green Bay Packers. It was getting towards suppertime.

Me:  Guess what I'm in the mood for.
Lee:  Creme Brulee! (in his very best French accent as if to convince me he knew what it was)
Me:  No, but close!
Lee:  Beer cheese soup?
Me:  Yes!!

I'm not kidding. That's exactly what I was thinking. We hadn't had it in like a year, so I couldn't imagine how he got that out of "close to creme brulee", other than we were watching the cheeseheads.  

Anyway, it really is the perfect Game Day food.  So without further ado...

Beer Cheese Soup

1 stick of butter
1 cup flour
4 cans chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 jar (15 oz.) Cheese Whiz
6 oz. beer
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup freeze-dried chives

Melt butter in pot.  Add flour and cook on low heat for five minutes, stirring constantly.  

Add chicken broth gradually, while stirring to prevent lumps.  Stir in whipping cream.

Add Cheese Whiz and stir until melted and smooth. (Requires a little patience!)

Add beer, Worcestershire sauce and chives, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring constantly. (Trust me when I say that if it starts boiling, it will foam up and over quicker than you can come up with a catchy colloquialism. Mark my words. Clean up while it cooks if you must, but do NOT turn your back on it. Just sayin'.)

Garnish with popcorn and serve!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trick, or treat?

Halloween is coming. Some people are decorating. Some are making costumes. Some are buying candy. Some are eating candy. Some are deciding where to go to avoid the whole scene. Good luck with that, I say.

I have to admit that there is a part of me that would like to avoid Halloween. I'm not a fan of the dark side of the day. Not into gross or scary. Not really even into costumes. Yeah, I know. My sister made adorable new costumes for her kids every year. Not me. But kids LOVE Halloween, and mine are no exception.

When our kids were little, I was pondering what Halloween should look like for our family. Something interesting occurred to me.  This is the one day of the year where bunches of happy kids come to you for whatever you have to offer.  I asked myself, "Well, what is it that we have to offer?"

Free candy is good. But when the candy is gone, there is something even sweeter that is free every day of the year: the gift of life in Christ. And it's ours to pass on.

So now I love to get the kids ready, take the pictures, send them out with Dad, and stay home to give out our trick-or-treats.  Along with our treats, we always include a little something that lets the kids know about the great love that God offers freely to each of us. Now THAT'S an offer that's too good to refuse.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Apple Orchard

The favorite thing at the apple orchard

was not the apples,

not the corn maze,

not even the pumpkins... was the haystack.

Hands down.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tis' the season?

A lot of people in our neighborhood go all out decorating for Halloween.  We went for a walk today, and there were skeletons, giant spider webs with big, hairy spiders, the occasional grave stone and miscellaneous other items of fright and fun.  Us?  Not so much.

When we got home, I put out our pumpkins and a couple of other things.  As I did I remembered a few years ago when we were coming home from somewhere on an October night, and decided to drive around the neighborhood to see the spectacle. Bethany looked at a few houses and declared, "MOM! DAD! We need to go home and get Joseph and Mary down and put them in our yard!"

The girl has her priorities right.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A walk down memory lane

The kids are out of school this week because of conferences and teacher conventions. I love that we have a whole week in the most beautiful part of fall so we can enjoy it together. Today we took a little road trip to visit my alma mater. I haven't been there in 20+ years, and I've been itching to to see how it's changed. 

Thankfully, this year my nephew Kyle gave us a reason to finally make the trip, by starting school as a freshman at Gustavus. Yea Kyle! 

The college is up on a hill, overlooking this beautiful valley. 

There are quite a few big, shiny new buildings on campus, but my favorite upgrade was outdoors in the arboretum.  Beautiful gardens, water features, an interpretive center.  I wish I could go for a walk there everyday.  There was even a display of scarecrows.

It was fun to see Christ Chapel again. It is so beautiful. It reminded me of how foundational my college years were to my faith.

What a blessing to get to share this visit with my family and be reminded of how the dreams of a young college student have all come true.  God is so faithful!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: No school...Pancake Day!

Note:  Visit Little Momma and Company here for instructions!  I used my baster in the absence of a squirt bottle.  Use a squirt bottle.  ;-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

SITS: So many blogs, so little time

It's time for the big day over at The Secret is in the Sauce!  It's the first ever SITS blogathon! Heather and Tiffany are great at celebrations, and they are promising prizes festivities all day long, so you should head right on over there.  No, not yet, AFTER you read my post here.  

I stumbled on SITS when they were just starting to get people to sign up for an opportunity to be their featured blogger of the day (which anyone can do, and they add new people all the time).  They were talking about being "saucy", and it took me awhile to sign up, because I wasn't sure I could deliver the goods.  But I discovered that while they are all about some fun, the real point of the deal is to build community and a provide a way for bloggers to encourage and support each other, whatever their style.  (Within reason...which I really appreciate!)  

Let me introduce you to a few of the many bloggers I've found inspiring, either on their SITS day or on mine.  Go check them out to see what I mean!

Melissa at Stretch Marks had me at hello. Oh my gosh. No one can make me laugh and cry in the same sentence like this girl. Hilarious! And deep. What a package! My favorite is her Foxhole series. Go to the Grand Finale, but follow the links to read parts 1, 2 and 3 first. Kleenex required. Goosebumps guaranteed.

Emily at Little Momma and Company has SO many cute ideas of things (especially foods) to make with kids. The recipe I need to remember to try THIS WEEK is her mini-caramel apples. There are just SO many things right about this blog!

Katy Lin at The Great Adventure started a Friday tradition called My Husband Rocks! It encourages other wives to pause weekly to think about what they appreciate about the man they married, and then to write about it in his honor. Imagine how the world would be different if every wife made a point of publicly appreciating her husband every week!

Veggie Mom over at Eat Your Veggies is way too much fun. She is my next-state neighbor, and we have a good time bantering back and forth over the outcomes of the football games. I would not have believed I would actually frequent a blog that has the sale of a product at the heart of it, but she kept coming by and making me laugh.  Uncle Lynn, Aunt Julie and the others seem practically like family now.  Kind of. I happened to stop by there on my lucky day, and won me some Pop'rs--yum yum!

Michelle at Outnumbered is a young mom whose blog is a fabulous reality check for all of us. She cracks me up. I got hooked when I read about the loaner she got when her Tahoe was in the shop. It was a Ford Fusion, which, according to Michelle, was "like [] this big".  Yes, she is always that descriptive!

Stefanie at Because I Pause first got my attention when a featured blogger had a virtual picnic and asked all of us what we'd bring.  Stefanie mentioned a food item, and also "a big basket that everyone can put their phones, iPods and other handhelds in until it's time to leave!" She knows her audience, and how to make sure she's living real life to the fullest.

There are so many more, some of whom I've mentioned before...but you would probably have more fun going over to SITS yourself and checking out the bloggers you find who look interesting to you.  Just do it.  You might win a prize make a new friend!  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Girl

Whew, fall comes at you fast! Here's what ours has included this year:

1. Ben's football (about 4x/week)
2. Back to school
3. Bethany's ear infection
4. Ben's birthday
5. Ben's birthday party
6. Ben's baptism

You get the picture. So what has Bethany been doing?

Choosing her own outfits.

Fixing her own hair.

Calling a friend.

Doing her own thing.

Dressing like her mom.

Gotta love her!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Things that make fall delicious

This...(yeah, I know, go ahead and grab some. I'll wait.)

...and THIS!

Before Lee and I were willing to admit that we had started dating, we hosted a party together for our church singles' group. He asked me to have it at my house, and he organized the whole thing. (This is how I knew we were made for each other. He did all the phone calls!) Anyway, I put this out as one of the snacks, and at one point I noticed him sitting there carefully separating the peanuts from the candy corn. Total crackup! I told him to just TRY putting them together in his mouth, and he's been hooked forever. If you've never tried this, it tastes like Salted Nut Rolls. You should seriously go get some RIGHT NOW! It is not fall around our house without some peanuts and candy corn.

AND one more delicious thing about fall:  a contest. Over at SITS. For Photoshop Elements!!!! They are even accommodating the Mac users, bless them!  Thank you Tiffany and Heather!! Oh, thinking about winning it serously makes my mouth water. Excuse me while I go get a napkin!!

I'm drooling!