Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Inward - Pressing Onward to a New Year

On any given day without any real effort at all, you can find out what's going on with any church, ministry, movement, evangelical leader or denomination. All the good, bad and ugly is online for anyone to read, comment on, or write about. In Christian circles, this kind of news spreads fast. Twitter, facebook, blogs & email make it nearly impossible to miss the latest news about this megachurch ministry begging for more money, or that pastor caught doing something he shouldn't have been doing, or just about anything else you can think of. It seems the focus and the interest in what's going on in the lives of other people (whether good or bad) is rather high.

What about your own church though? Do you know as much about the inner workings of your own church, as you do about the big name ministries? I'm hoping most reading this would be able to say yes, but maybe not.

What about your own relationship with your Savior? Do you invest as much time into your own spiritual health as you might reading about what's going on with this ministry or that movement? Again, I would hope that most Christians reading this would be able to say yes, but again, maybe not. Lest anyone suspect me of finger pointing here, please be assured these questions apply to me as much as they apply to anyone else. I'm not at all proud to admit how easy it is to be distracted and discuss other people, over and above looking inward and asking yourself the same hard questions you might feel like putting to others. I think it's fairly common to set a standard for others and expect them to meet it (and often rip them up when they don't), in favor of putting ourselves on that same standard level.

Several years ago I read something by Don Whitney that addressed looking inward and asking yourself some really good questions. He wrote:

"Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going. The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings." (source)

When I first read his list of questions, I was so convicted, challenged and encouraged. I blogged it at the time, and gave some of my own answers to those questions. It was interesting to take a look at that post from over 4 years ago and see how I answered then, and how my answers may be different (or the same) today. When I first posted that, I did so as a blog meme, and since then I've seen that meme as a repost on several blogs. It's always encouraging to see that because it says to me that my fellow believers are concerned with their own spiritual health, the way we all should be.

I would greatly encourage you to go and prayerfully consider Don Whitney's questions, and as we begin a new year, may the Lord richly bless you with a newfound joy in your salvation, and a rekindled awe of His mercy and grace in your life.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Here a Gizmo There a Gizmo

I've been meaning to blog a few things over the last week but it's just been so hectic around my house I don't seem to have the quiet time to think and write. So instead of that, I'll just toss out some Carla Style Miscellaneous stuff:

Ten years ago for Christmas Kev bought me a really nice computer chair. Compared to what I had at the time, it was top of the line. For the past 10 years I've sat in that chair to chat, blog, design, email, do the banking, and every other thing most folks do in a computer chair. It certainly served me well, but about a month ago it started to really let me know it was time to replace it. I was sitting here when all of a sudden the little handle that raises or lowers the seat gave out and down I went. It was actually kind of funny, but the more it happened the more annoying it became. Kev put a clamp on it to stop it from doing that, but then the seat itself began to sort of come loose from the bolts and wobble here and there making me wonder if the next time I leaned back too far if it was going to literally dump me into the floor. Its kind of striking how it was in perfect working condition until almost 10 years to the day it was first assembled, and then once it started to fall apart, it did so quite rapidly.

Imagine my surprise then, Christmas morning when I opened a great big box from Jessica and Joost (I knew what it was, it was the only thing I wanted that would require a box that big) that had the words "bonded leather managers chair" on the side of it. Kev and Joost worked to put it together for me after all the gifts were opened and breakfast was consumed. It's the most awesome computer chair I have ever sat in. With a real high back and padded leather arms, its like the Rolls Royce of computer chairs, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to sit in such comfort.

Since Christmas when all the kids (big and small) opened their gifts, it really hit me what an electronic age we live in. From Nintendo DS to mp3 players digital photo frames and xbox games, it seems thats where everything is headed. While they're all fun and I certainly enjoy the electronics I have as well, there's a nagging voice in the back of my mind that says something along the lines of "but what when the power goes out?" I have no real reason to think society is going to be plunged into some kind of long term electronic outage like in a thriller/sci-fi type of movie, but I do wonder if we're not relying on electronics far too much. I have a dear friend who had a computer crash recently and lost her entire address book. Now of course we all know keeping back ups and copies and all that is important, but back ups can fail as well. I have never used an electronic address book, but instead keep all my important addresses in an old fashioned paper address book that requires little more than a pen or pencil to edit.

Even while I say that, I plan on finally taking the plunge and getting a cell phone in the next couple of weeks. It's important to me to be able to be reached by those who might need to reach me, and with living where dial up is our only online option and having 5 people share that line (I have my own dedicated line) it's nearly impossible for anyone to ever get through. A pay as you go cell phone is the perfect solution to this. However, just doing the research before buying one makes me realize just how quickly technology has zipped right past me and left me in the dust. In the mid 90's I was the only one in my family to own a computer, and friends and family would come to me with questions about how these things work and I knew all the answers. Now, I have to ask my own kids how so many things work, since the technology so readily available far surpasses anything I can even understand. Funny how that all worked out.

And to think, even with that nagging voice in the back of my head saying to be cautious of over-dependency on technology for practical and entertainment purposes, I think I really need Guitar Hero for xbox. My daughter and soon to be son in law brought theirs out for us to play with Christmas day, and I discovered I REALLY LOVE THAT GAME. I can imagine it would easily become addictive as one tries to become better and better at it to eventually move to expert level. I played for a couple of hours and barely got the hang of beginner!

In any event, it was a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas, even with all the gadgets and gizmos and whatnot.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Silly People Doing Silly Things

We had a full house, and a real good time with our gag gif exchange and Christmas day celebration. Here's a slideshow of a few shots from a very Rolfe Christmas:

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday one of my daughters called me a tradition nazi. I must confess, the accusation is as true as the day is long. I love family traditions and as long as I have breath in my body, we will carry on our family traditions, even if means my kids will call me names. They love our traditions as much as I do, they just like to tease me. I have no idea where they received the smart alec gene. It's a genuine mystery.

In any case, after a long day of baking and cooking today with Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs for me via the cd player in the kitchen (our big Christmas dinner is tomorrow!), we all grabbed our coats and boots, and went into town to look at Christmas lights, grab a hot chocolate and ooooh and ahhh at the pretty displays. I don't have a very good camera for night photography, but here is some of what we saw this evening:

(Ontario law - you cannot view Christmas lights without a Timmies hot chocolate!)

For our family, the crazy, noisy, happy, festive wonderful joy of Christmas begins tomorrow as I get up and begin preparing the annual Christmas eve feast. All my kids and their significant others, my adorable grand daughters, my mother in law and sister in law will all be here by the time the turkey comes out of the roaster. Dinner will be consumed, it will be nearly impossible to keep sneaky fingers off the dessert table, and then the family gag gift exchange will begin. When that's over the oldest three girls will go home (most to return Christmas morning for breakfast), and we'll watch A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim. The little ones will go to bed (with visions of mom's fudge, dancing in their heads) and the gifts will be placed under the tree and all the stockings filled. The adults will be exhausted but with an anxious and wonderful anticipation of seeing the kids faces Christmas morning. Its the same routine every year and I never tire of it. Kev and I exchanged emails yesterday while he was at work, giggling and anticipating the craziness of it all, just as if we were kids ourselves.

I still have 2 bacon quiches to get in the oven, and then I will relax a little before it all begins tomorrow morning.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, and most blessed and joyous New Year!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Bronx Declaration, you say?

Now here is a declaration any right thinking Christian can feel good about signing, without any compromise at all.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twitter Mom: It Could Be Me

You may or may not have heard or read about this, but just last week the big splashy headlines screamed out another controversy by saying things like "Twitter Mom Tweets While Son Drowns in Family Pool". Of course, that's not what actually happened, and not in the way that it happened, but headlines are supposed to shock you enough that you read the story and ones like this seem to really do the trick, don't they? Of course the story I refer to is that of Shellie Ross, known on twitter as Military Mom. You can read about her tragic story at any online news outlet.

When I read the story, my heart just broke for this mom and this family. When I read the details of what happened and how it happened, it hit so close to home I felt rather uncomfortable. When I read (at one source) the comments being posted I felt absolutely enraged at the collective ignorance and judgemental attitudes. The more I thought about it, the more defensive I felt and wanted to take a moment to stand up for all twitter/blogger moms out there. There are A LOT of us, and what happened to Shellie Ross could have very (VERY) easily happened to any one of us.

Now, I don't know this family and I wasn't there, so I can't honestly speak to any of that. What I can do however is give a little picture of the reality of being a mom who is also online. I've been a mom for 27 years and been online for 16 of those years, so I think I have a little experience with juggling the two. Or, maybe it's blending, or balancing - not sure.

I will set aside the whole idea that mothers should never be online in the first place while their kids are young, because quite frankly I don't think it's realistic at all. The internet and all its ease of communication is today's version of the telephone, times 100. Yes there are definitely far more distractions than a simple telephone, but it IS the way the vast majority of the population communicates these days and to expect a mom to avoid it is simply unrealistic. So, that subject can just be left over there on the shelf.

In this particular case, a lot of the criticism was leveled at the mom for tweeting while the tragedy was occuring and thereby neglecting her son and leaving him unsupervised. Further, after she realized what had happened she tweeted again (asking for prayer) and that also upset a lot of people.

From what I've been able to gather, the way it really went down was a situation far more common in just about every home. The mother, reasonably assuming her son was safe, tweeted about the fog rolling in and needing to get some work done outside before it got too thick. What she did not know was that at just about the same time she posted that, the accident was occuring. I can only imagine her horror at realizing what was happening and then her painful desperation moments later when she tweeted again from the hospital asking her followers to pray.

Being a mom for as long as I have been, I know first hand just how easy it is for your kids to get hurt when you genuinely think they're safe. You could be doing the dishes, sorting the laundry, making dinner, blogging, tweeting, chatting online, taking a shower or any number of things at home and before you know it your child is in grave danger. I will never forget the morning I stepped out of the shower to the sound of screams coming from my oldest daughter's bedroom. Not quite two years old at the time, when I turned the corner and found her laying on her floor my blood ran cold. I didn't piece it all together until later in the ER while she was getting her arm in a soft cast, but while I was in the shower she decided to jump from her bedroom chair onto her bed. She missed the bed and hit the bedrail with her arm and fractured it. Another time, I was puttering around the house one late summer day, when I was about to lay down for a little rest in the afternoon. The younger kids were all together outside playing and my teenager was to keep an eye on them while I had a rest. Just as I was about to sit down, my 4 yr old son let out a blood curdling scream from the yard. He made it into the kitchen the same time I did from the other part of the house. Between trying to calm him down, getting a bucket full of ice and calling 911 and keeping calm myself, I learned that he'd gone out to the barn where the workers had lit a fire, and he'd stepped (barefoot) in a smoldering pile of trash, and burnt his foot.

These are just two examples I can share of situations where moms are home, assume the kids are safe, and within mere moments the kids are in a tragic situation that you never even imagined could have happened. While I wasn't on twitter at the time tweeting about some unimportant thing, I certainly could have been and would have had no idea what was about to take place. I recall last winter how many times I tweeted about going back out to shovel MORE snow. I could have easily tweeted that any number of times and 5 seconds later discovered one of my kids had been hurt. Stay at home moms do not follow their kids around the house and the yard watching them 24 hours a day. Sometimes we reasonably assume they're fine, and safe, playing in their rooms, with an older sibling, playing on the swing or in the kitchen up to the table coloring. Even with that, it only takes seconds for a child to get hurt, and I think every logical thinking adult knows that. No, moms and moms online do not watch their kids 24 hours a day, and it's not even realistic to assume we do. No parent does that, even if they're not online. Of course we make every effort to supervise them, check on them and stay aware of what they're doing, but even with that accidents happen.

Sometimes... we even go to the bathroom by ourselves.

For anyone to automatically assume you're an irresponsible, neglectful parent because you're online and your kids get hurt, is rather ridiculous. Granted, there are irresponsible parents out there but the truth of the matter is, kids get hurt all the time, even when the parent is standing RIGHT there, for crying out loud. I can't imagine a parent out there that couldn't relate to that. While some parents (and stay at home moms especially) might spend a little too much time online (or with any other hobby or interest - lets be honest folks, who cannot relate to that one?), that also does not automatically mean you're this horrible person who neglects their children.

The other part of the criticism that really upset me, was the verbal bombing of this poor woman because she tweeted again and asked for prayer. Several commenters on one site were saying the same thing, along the lines of "how can she be on twitter when her son just drowned!?" Good grief, I ask you, isn't that the ULTIMATE use of realtime, mass communication like twitter? How many reading this saw the urgent prayer requests for Matt Chandler when he recently learned he had a brain tumor, and how many of you retweeted that news, immediately? I mean sure we can all tweet about sports, tv shows, snowstorms or whatever, but when it comes right down to it, one of the best uses for such social networking sites like twitter is to post such prayer needs and be assured that your followers WILL pray. Now you or I might not immediately turn to twitter and post a prayer request after such a tragic situation, but it makes perfect sense to me that a lot of people would, and a lot of people do. I commented a few days ago that twitter (and sites like it) are this generations version of the telephone. Where 10 or 20 years ago someone might call a friend or their pastor or a prayer chain and put in an urgent prayer need, today a lot of people post it right to twitter or FB or other places where they know their friends, family, church family and online aquaintances will take that prayer need seriously and spread the news of your need. It's most certainly a lot easier than making 10 or 20 phone calls and repeating the upsetting news over and over.

It was really frustrating to see the mixed reaction to this news story. Folks jumped to all kinds of conclusions and even retweeted the controversial headlines, but as I read more about it I just kept thinking "wow, this SO could have been me". It could have been just about any mom at home, online, with young kids. Instead of demonizing the poor woman for being on twitter, I think the best reaction is to pray for her family's comfort as they deal with the loss of their precious little boy.

I can only hope that might be the reaction of folks if it were me, instead of her.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, December 18, 2009

Haloscan Out - Echo In

This morning I switched from haloscan commenting to echo commenting. I don't have time right now to fine tune it the way I want it, so I hope it's not too buggy for those who like to leave comments.

Let me know what you think? I'll try to make it nice and shiney later on today.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Cookie Rules

My mother in law Norma makes the best, most incredible shortbread cookies every Christmas. I'm not sure how many dozens she makes, but I know they disappear so quickly that it never seems like she made enough! No surprise then that the following list of Christmas cookie rules came from her in an email yesterday. Enjoy!

Christmas Cookie Rules

• If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

• If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

• If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calorie free, (rule #1) yours is also. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

• Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

• Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

• Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

• Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

• As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage...

• Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

• Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tired of Internet Exploder?

Internet Exploder t-shirts

Just for fun, Internet Exploder t-shirts & gifts.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It Was a Good Day

I meant to write about this yesterday, but before I knew it the day was gone and that was that. Even though we officially celebrated my birthday last Saturday when everyone was off work, my real 45th birthday was yesterday.

Kev came home from the night shift and brought me a Happy Birthday muffin (fruit explosion no less, and yes, it was insanely yummy) and an extra large cafe mocha. He put a candle in the muffin, lit it, and him and the kids sang happy birthday to me at 7:45 in the morning.

It was a pretty great way to start the day. I put my birthday roast in the oven a little later, then I sat and listened to Kasey Kasem's original top 40 countdown from the 1970s on my local classic rock station. I listen to it every Saturday, and this week the countdown was from December 16, 1972. The saturday that show aired the first time, I had just turned 8 years old a few days prior, and quite likely listened to it that very day. Kev and I have a lot of discussions it would seem, about the kind of staying power and influence music of the early 70s seems to have. For me, it was the background music of my childhood and will forever be the music of "the innocent years". If I had to pick one song to sum it all up it would likely be impossible. Seals and Crofts Summer Breeze and Drift Away by Dobie Gray are definitely the top two in that area. However, Chicago and James Taylor make it really hard to settle on a #1 song. There is just something about that music...

In any event, while I sat and listened to the countdown I chatted with some of the most awesome people in the world in #pros, and alternately designed this new line of business card templates, checked on the kids playing outside, did some laundry, mopped a few floors, and just thoroughly enjoyed the day. Later, we smashed the smithereens out of a couple of candy canes and sprinkled them on top of chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce, for my birthday dessert.

I have to admit, it feels weird in some way turning 45. I can't really put my finger on the why, but it just does. It might have something to do with the idea that when I was younger, 45 seemed REALLY old. Now that I'm here, I wonder where all that time went and how in the world I became 45. In any case, it was a really good day as days go, and as 45th birthdays go, I don't think I could have planned a better one if I tried.

It's been a tremendously blessed 45 years. I do hope I get another 45, just as blessed.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fellowship Matters (or... does it?)

This is a subject that seems to come up quite frequently in conversations online and off. I'm not sure what the proper term for it might be called, but I've heard it called seperation, secondary seperation, guilt by association, and all sorts of other things. Essentially what it boils down to is one really important question:

Does it matter who you associate with?

Every time this subject comes up, someone will inevitably respond with "Jesus hung out with prostitues!" to sort of defend the idea that it doesn't matter who you associate with because, well... Jesus hung out with prostitutes. Every time I hear that I think to myself "no, He did not "hang out" with prostitutes, He ministered to them and there is a difference". In my mind, "hanging out" with someone is going where they go, doing what they do, relating to them because you speak the same language they do and have the same interests that they have. That is not what Jesus did when He was seen with what most would call the lower rung of society. He ministered words of hope to them because that's what they needed most. That's a lot different than "hanging out" with them.

So then, does it matter who we associate with? I believe that it does. I believe we're not supposed to be giving anyone else cause to speculate about our walk with the Lord (intentionally or unintentionally) and I believe who we chose to associate with also by default will be the kind of people that influence us. If we're associating with people who do not influence us in good ways, it most certainly matters. I've thought a lot about this subject over the last year or two as I've even been put under a spotlight due to some of my own associations.

With that said, I wonder how my readers might respond to this very real scenario that comes up all the time.

Let's say you were invited to speak at a Christian function (ladies, for you it's a women's retreat for women only). Let's say at this function that the other speakers are people of seriously questionable doctrine and theology. All of the speakers are well-known in the Christian community, and all of them have less than stellar reputations within this community (due to their questionable doctrine, practices or associations with other folks just like them).

Do you:

A.) accept the invitation regardless of who else is speaking and hope that what you have to offer ministers grace and truth to the hearer (including any of the other speakers that may be there listening to your message)


B.) immediately decline the invitation because you do not wish to be associated in any way with this group of people and by extension, cause undo questioning and controversy

Maybe there is a C as well, but I really couldn't think of one. So I'm curious, what would you do, and why?

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sassy Mouth? Grandma Used Soap to Clean Those Up

A few days ago I read the account of a *university prof who dared critique an up and coming celebrity pastor (celebrity pastors is another topic alltogether). What happened to this prof as a result of his open critique is absoutely unthinkable, and yet it happened. You can read it for yourself here, if you choose. It's very long, so grab a coffee first.

This same man was the guest on a podcast yesterday and I downloaded and listened to part I. Huge files, so part II will have to come later. After the interview with the prof, the host of the podcast played a message by this celeb pastor, and cut into the message to offer commentary.

After listening to this I have something to say:

Whatever school of thought it is out there producing these smart mouth, irreverant pastors, needs to be immediately condemned as unfit for public use, and then be demolished and turned into a lovely park with flowers and a nice duck pond.

I am so sick and tired of hearing these mouthy pastors. They inspire exactly ZERO reverance for holy things, and they're not nearly as funny as they think they are. What's more, shame on their knuckleheaded followers who encourage them rather than lovingly call them on it and encourage them to a higher standard. These mouthy pastors would change their tune right quick if their audiences would stop bursting out in laughter at their juvenile antics. Good grief men, GROW UP. Junior high was over a long time ago, for most of you. (I honestly don't mean that in a snarky, malicious way. I just don't know how else to say what needs to be said.)

*You may wonder why I didn't name names here. It's intentional. Regular readers here know that I have no issue with naming names, however I have read the account of the prof and what happened to him and his family when he dared offer open criticism, and I don't want the same thing happening to my family when some twisted nutjob with a fascination for the violent and obscene does a google search for key names, looking for a target. It may be enough that I linked to the article above, but this is something that the church really NEEDS to see, and understand.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Traditionally Traditional?

Even though Thanksgiving is over and probably long forgotten already by most folks, I'm still in thanksgiving mode. It's an added bonus of focusing on things to be thankful for during the month of November.

Growing up and into adulthood I've met plenty of people who like me, have a birthday in December. More often than not, those people have a sad story to tell about the way their families celebrated, or didn't celebrate their December birthdays. The most common tale I've heard is that their birthdays weren't really celebrated at all because it was during the mad rush of the Christmas shopping/baking/wrapping/decorating season. For a child, that would be pretty upsetting, especially when your friends and siblings have traditional birthday parties or celebrations.

All the while I was growing up, my December birthday was celebrated by my family in exactly the same way my brother and sister's birthdays were. Grandma and Grandpa's house for dinner (grandma always made my favorite: roast beef with potatos, carrots, gravy, coleslaw and biscuits), cake and ice cream (chocolate cake, peppermint stick ice cream) and presents. The one bonus I received that no one else did, was that after we'd leave grandma's house we'd drive down Candy Cane Lane and see all the decorated homes. It was always a fun and memorable birthday when I was growing up, even if my birthday is in the middle of the mad rush of Christmas traditions.

Right into adulthood, that tradition has continued on with Kev and my 7 wonderful kids. We do the same thing every year on my birthday: go to Benjamin's Tree Farm in St. Jacobs and pick out our Christmas tree, spend some time in the barn/gift shop sipping hot cider and munching shortbread cookies, then have my birthday celebration. Usually we do that at home but this year we did it a week early, at Caryn's house. She made an amazing black forest cake for me, and we all hung out and had fun. We also combined soon to be son in law #3's birthday with mine, since they're only a week apart. Huge thanks to our DJ Eric, while Caryn and I did the really bad karaoke version of Total Eclipse of the Heart! (Eric and Rachel's duet of A-HA's Take On Me was exceptionally memorable, I must say).

So I'm thankful. Thankful that I come from a long line of tradition keepers, and thankful that the sentiment of keeping family traditions has rubbed off with all my kids. Those are the things that make wonderful family memories that last long after all the presents and cake are gone.

Now, if I can find a karaoke version of The Star Spangled Banner, I just might do a video of me wearing my groovy new American Flag t-qualizer flashwear t-shirt that Eric picked out for me.

Or... maybe not. ;-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Family Fun

One of the things I love about Christmastime so much, are the time honored family traditions. We have a lot of them, some that I even brought with me into adulthood from my childhood. It's pretty cool when I think about the fact that some of those traditions have been taking place in my life for almost 45 years now. One of the newer ones that we've adopted though, is the family gag gift exchange. For several years we would attend an early Christmas dinner at the home of some extended family members and they always had the gag gift exchange after dinner, and it was an absolute riot (in the funny way). Last year, we decided to adopt it as our own.

The way our gift exchange works is fairly simple and probably quite common:

Everyone coming for Christmas Eve dinner brings 2 wrapped gifts for the exchange (spending cap is $20 for both gifts combined, but you can even keep it under $10 and still make it work really well). One gift should be practical and useful (even a box of crayons or a toothbrush or picture frame would do just fine) and the other should be as random and goofy and impractical as possible. I'm pretty good at random/goofy/impractical, so here is a short suggestion list for gag gifts:

• a rubber chicken (this may double as a practical gift (for someone's dog), if you get the kind that has the squeaker in the pet food section of the store)
• an amature framed painting of Napoleon Bonaparte. (trust me, every thrift store has one, I think it's a federal law that one be required in store for a business license for the thrift shop)
• a small jar of prune juice (again, may double as a practical gift for... well, you get the idea)
• the ugliest shower (or swim) cap you can find. Large plastic flowers attached to the swim cap are a premium and will earn you points for certain.
• mustouche wax (especially touching and meaningful when a woman selects this gift)

So you get the idea. Some really goofy and very inexpensive things to really liven up the party.

Each guest places their wrapped gifts under the tree and draws a number. When it's time to start the opening of gifts, the person with #1 goes first. The person with #2 can either take #1's gift (and #1 has to pick a new gift from under the tree) or pick a gift under the tree. This continues with each person who's drawn a number. You really want to have a high number in the exchange so you can steal someone's gift that has already been opened! A rule we have is that the person selecting the gift to be opened must open the first one they touch. They cannot pick up a gift and shake it, or see how heavy it is or anything like that and then put it back and select another one. If they pick it up, that's the one they get to open. :-)

When each person is done opening gifts, the host or hostess determines the number of gifts left over (not everyone will bring 2, but most will) and choose the fortunate recipients for the BONUS gift! Often, the host or hostess already knows what is in the packages under the tree and (if nice) will give the goofy ones to the ones who received something useful, and the useful ones to the folks that received a genuine gag gift.

All gifts are eligible for donation back into the gift exchange for next year (regifting is most definitely encouraged), and each person attending is free to trade their awesome Napoleon painting for a box of crayons if they chose.

So that's how the gag gift exchange works. It's ridiculously funny, and the more people present the funnier it becomes. If you're doing a gift exchange, do have your camera ready for some really great Christmas memories. Nothing says "I love you" more than your son or daughter cherishing their hand made dill pickle candle, sitting in front of the Christmas tree.

Does your family have a gag gift exchange? What was the WEIRDEST thing you've ever received at one of these, or the weirdest thing you've ever given at one?

I'd love to hear from you!

(and Caryn, if you donate prune juice and I get it, I'm breaking your candy canes. Just a warning. Love always, Mom.)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, November 30, 2009

Free Shipping!

FREE shipping!Cyber Monday Special!


Today ONLY at Reflections Zazzle
Use Code: FREESHIP2DAY at checkout

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankful Saturday

In keeping with the theme of the month of thankfulness, I have another random list of things to be thankful for today:

• I am most definitely thankful for Old Man Winter taking his sweet time in arriving in southern Ontario. While we have had some rather cool days and few flurries here and there, overall it's been a very mild late fall. Right this minute, the kids and their friends are all running around outside and playing on the trampoline (which was already put away this time last year, or it would have been covered in a foot of snow), in nothing but fall jackets. I know this wont last too much longer so I'll just be very thankful for the mild weather while it's here.

• I know I've said this before but I'm going to repeat myself by saying I'm so very thankful that I have the freedom and the opportunity to work from home, doing what I love to do. Not everyone can say that, and I know I'm blessed to be in this situation.

• I am certainly thankful for my washer and dryer. While I sat in the living room earlier folding the week's worth of laundry that piled up on the guest bed in the laundry room, instead of looking at it and thinking "gack, I hate folding laundry" (which I do, by the way), I looked at it and thought "how blessed am I that I have machines that did the hard part of all of this?"

• This may sound silly, but I am thankful for slippers. More specifically, I am thankful for the kind that have really thick soles and actually keep my feet warm. Once my feet get cold it's all over for me, so keeping them from getting too cold is a priority. I have awesome slippers that do just that, and I sure am thankful for it.

• I'm thankful for Kevin's sense of humor. He doesn't ever take himself too seriously and when he does things like walk through the back door with a bouncy gait and impersonating Juan Epstein (Sweathog, Welcome Back Kotter, remember him?) and saying "hey hey Mistah Kott-tehhh" (yes, he does stuff like that all the time), he knows it will make me laugh no matter what kind of day I've had. Often, Kev and I will have a discussion about something ridiculously trivial and yet somehow we turn into George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld and start debating the finer, complex points of whatever dumb thing it is we're discussing. I'm not really sure why this happens, but it's rather funny and I'm thankful for it. People should laugh a lot more, life is too short to go through it looking like a scowling Richard Nixon.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, November 27, 2009

Have a Nice Day!

Having a bad day? Feeling blue? Things not working out the way you'd hoped today? Allow me to help:

The only real question is now... is, how many times did you hit replay?

(Thankful to my daughter Jessica for linking me to this today!)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Homeschool to Public School: Update

It's been almost 3 months since the kids have been in public school, so I thought I'd post a little update with how that's going.

Overall, it's been a very positive thing for all of them. I had a meeting recently with several of the school staff and one of them commented that making the decision to enroll them must have been a very hard one. In some ways it sure was, and in other ways it was rather easy. It's a complex thing making choices about your kids education, for sure. Transitioning from being homeschooled their whole lives to suddenly being on a public school timetable and routine has actually been easier however for them, than it has for me. I'm still getting used to this whole "up at 6, breakfast at 7:30, make lunches, send them off to catch the bus at 8" thing. When I did that from 1988 through 1998 when the older girls were all in public school, it was just a normal routine. After having homeschooled since late 1999 until now, it's a little hard to get back into that schedule.

For them however, public school is proving to be all we expected it to be. They're each having the opportunity to learn French, and doing well at it. They're all very much enjoying the exposure to team sports, team projects and the awesome educational technology the school has access to. On the academic level they're being exposed to so much more than they ever could be at home, at their learning level, and I'm very glad for that. They've all joined the book club and we've noticed they're each reading quite a bit more now than they ever did when they were homeschooled. In some ways this is ironic since they have less time to read for leisure now than they ever did before, but I'm just happy that all my kids love to read.

There are a few downsides though and we knew it would be like this. One downside is that the little country school they're at doesn't have the resources or programs needed for developmentally disabled students. Jordan has this disability so after some amount of looking around and tough decisions, Jordan will be changing schools after the Christmas break. I've toured the new school, met all the staff and some of the other kids in the specialized program and think it will be an awesome opportunity for Jordan. She also loves the new school and is looking forward to being part of a smaller classroom setting, and more of an individualized learning program. With the new program she'll be in, it's very much like homeschooling, oddly enough. Smaller student/teacher ratio (the cap is 10 students per teacher), individualized curriculum with a dual focus of academics plus hands-on/applied learning. The bonus is that the school has access to much more resources than I ever did so for her it will be like the best of both worlds.

Another downside, and it's a big one, is the ungodly setting. Of course we knew it would be like this, but the things the kids come home telling us is rather disheartening. Kids at school that use profane and obscene language every day, kids who are prone to violent behavior, and kids who are already "dating". Keep in mind our kids are in grades 4, 5 and 7 and these are the things they're exposed to every day, at their ages. It's a little hard to get my head around kids this age engaging in this kind of behavior but this is the world we live in. It has most certainly given us ample opportunities to discuss, reinforce and encourage in them the Christian morals we are bringing them up with. For them it's been a definite culture shock, since the kind of language and behavior they see in other kids is the kind of language and behavior we wont even let them see in movies, if it's in there. Thankfully, the teachers and staff at the school do take this kind of conduct seriously and take appropriate action when warranted. As we all know, the way kids speak and act is a direct result of what they learn at home, and these kids acting in inappropriate ways are just products of their home environment. If they hear swearing at home all the time, that's the way they'll speak as well. If their parents are letting them "date" at age 10, if their parents are letting them watch raunchy tv shows and movies, this is how they'll turn out. "Garbage in - garbage out" may be a cliche', but it's often most clearly evidenced in the way kids act. In many ways it's not really the fault of the kids at this age, but the parents. Kids just emulate what they've been exposed to. We pray every day that OUR kids will not be adversly influenced by this, but instead will be a positive influence on the kids they've befriended.

So while there are negatives to be sure, there are also definite positives. Academically, socially and spiritually as well, they're being stretched and challenged and growing. There are some struggles here and there and there are also some pretty awesome successes as well. So at the 3 month mark, I still think it was the best decision for them, to transition from homeschool to public school.

We'll see if I still feel the same way at the Spring break point, come next March.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Reflections Goodies on SALE!

Normally I reserve "store stuff" posts for my Reflections Apparel blog, but this is such a great sale I didn't want my readers here to miss it:

Kick off your Christmas shopping with these amazing deals:

At Reflections Zazzle - ONE DAY ONLY!

Awesome Custom Binders$8.00 OFF all binders (see all binders here) Customize it to make it the perfectly personalized gift item!
$4.00 OFF all t-shirts (see all t-shirts here) Pick your size, your color, your style, and save huge!
$3.00 OFF all mugs (see all mugs here) THE perfect gift for the coffee lover on your list
55% OFF all cards (see all cards here) Blank inside to add your own personal greeting

BONUS: FREE SHIPPING on orders of $35 or more!

Use the promo code ZAZZLEFRIDAY to save huge! But hurry, sale ends Friday November 27, 2009 at 11:59pm Pacific time.

At Reflections Cafepress:

FREE SHIPPING on orders of $75 or more! Promotion starts on November 27, 2009, at 12:00 a.m. (PST) and ends on Friday, November 27, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (PST).Use the promo code TGIF75 at checkout

At Mom's Kitchen:

Knock 25% off your order of any of the awesome glass recipe cutting boards or totes! Spend $25, and save 25% - easy! Use promo code SAVE25 at checkout. Sale ends Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 11:59pm MST.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

The other day, Kev went to Tim Horton's for our usual round of coffee treats. When he got to the drive thru window to pay, the cashier told him the lady in front of him had already paid for his order. Now I ask you, just HOW cool is that!?

As soon as he told me this when he got home, I decided right then and there that the next time I go through the drive through for coffees, I'm paying for the order of the people behind me, and doing a pay-it-forward sort of thing.

I'd like to encourage YOU to do the same, if at all possible. It doesn't have to be a drive thru thing, you could do it at the store for the person in front of you with a small amount of groceries (or a whole basketful if you can swing that!), or the person at the post office buying a book of stamps, or the person at the gas bar just in front of you paying for his or her gas. Those are just off the top of my head, so if you have other ideas on how to pay-it-forward this Christmas season, please do leave a comment and share! Also, if you've had this happen to you or if you've done it yourself, I'd love to hear from you. I realize this isn't an original idea, but it's the first time someone did this for us and I just find it so cool I want to shine some light on it, and maybe motivate others to do the same!

Please do spread the word, I'd love to see tons of comments on this from folks who paid it forward, or were the recipients of such kindness. It's not every day the kindness of a stranger brings a smile to someone's face, so we were sure thankful for that. Let's all be a kind stranger this Christmas season, and who knows... maybe it'll become an awesome trend!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Tribe

my tribe

When you have seven kids (3 grown, 1 with a husband and 2 with fiance's), work schedules, school schedules, weather and all sorts of other things tend to get in the way of family holidays and seeing all your kids in one place at one time.

Even though we're in Canada, we're a mixed American-Canadian family and we still celebrate American Thanksgiving. It's also Kevin and Nick (daughter #2's fiance) birthdays, so we have 3 reasons to celebrate, if we can pull off a Saturday that no one has to work an everything else falls into place for our entire tribe to gather. Today was our Thanksgiving dinner and it was so good to see all my kids, grandkids, inlaws, outlaws and others, at the table at the same time.

I'm very thankful for that. :-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thankfulness: Being a Stay at Home Mom, and LIKING It!

Happy Retro Lady - bakes cookies all day and greets children and hubby with a smile

I am incredibly blessed, and I know it.

While back in the 1950's it was commonplace for the wife to be at home during the day while the husband worked, the 1950's gave way to all sorts of revolutions, movements, social paradigm shifts and all sorts of other cultural upheavals. Some would say these things were for the best, while others would say they only contributed to the breakdown of families, and society in general. Either way you look at it, our culture is certainly very different than the way it was in Anytown, USA in the 1950's. Gone is the era of June Cleaver, for good.

Not unlike many my age, I grew up in a one parent home. Mom worked because she had kids to feed and a mortgage to pay, and that's just the way it was. It was partly because mom had to work that I think I never really wanted to. I didn't want to grow up and get up at 5:30 am and be away from home all day, then come home and make dinner, do laundry, clean the house and tuck my kids into bed. Nope, I wanted to be home making my house a home, and bake cookies and greet the kids at the door when they came home from school. I know, it all sounds horrible, doesn't it? I think every time a conservative, family woman says that, a liberal career woman somewhere breaks a heel on her office shoe. That's just a rumor, I can't prove that it's true.

In any event, I am incredibly blessed to be able to live the life that I always wanted to. No, I don't dress like June Cleaver (my t-shirts are cooler than her dresses anyway), and no, there aren't always cookies and milk at the end of the day (sometimes it's rice cakes or brownies), but I am at home where I want to be while hubby works all day and it works out quite well for everyone. Of course it does mean that we don't have all the latest tech-toys that a two-income family has, but we're all okay with that too. Kevin's job is as secure as any job could be and it affords us the opportunity of me being a stay at home mom.

Today (and every day), I am most certainly thankful for that.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankfulness: Yummy Food Stuffs

Today I am very thankful to four awesome people who shared recipes with me. I know that might not sound like much to be thankful for, but when you're a mom with "what to make" burnout (and we all get it from time to time, don't we?), they all came at the perfect time.

So today my hat is off to Mom, Rosemarie, James and Eddie. Now I can make yummy new stuff that my family will enjoy!

Oh... and one more thing:

While grocery shopping today, the store had Christmas music playing. Not just any old Christmas music, but Bing Crosby Christmas music! I don't know what it is about that magical, marvellous sound that always makes me feel like I'm 8 years old and all is right with the world, but I sure love it. I'm definitely thankful for that today :-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thankfulness: My Children

It's sort of funny the things you notice when your circumstances change, that you never noticed before.

For example, I've noticed that when all the kids are home on the weekends, how hectic it is in my house. When we were homeschooling all of them, I never really noticed that. But now during the day it's just Ruth and I most days, and it's very quiet. We have our school time and then she finds something to entertain herself with, and it's just a very quiet home. It's been a really long time since it was quiet in my home during the day and I while I dearly love the quiet, it's a little unsettling sometimes. I think I'm just so used to the hectic, quiet seems unnatural now. It's a sneak peak I think of what it might be like many years from now if I am still here Lord willing, when all my kids are grown and on their own.

For me, this is a very odd sort of transition time. With my oldest three already being grown and on their own, two of them having children already and the other planning for children very soon (you heard me Caryn and Eric, babies!!! lol), the youngest four still at home and two of them entering into the teen years very soon. With three of them in public school this year and one still at home, I'm wearing so many hats at once it's rather odd when I really think about it. I am mom, grandma, mother in law, teacher, taxi driver, and more. I can't recall a time in my nearly 27 years of being a mom that this role had as many diverse aspects than it does right now. While I talk to my oldest three on messenger almost every day, sometimes I sure wish I could just shrink them all down to little girls again and have them all at home.

Grandma and HaileyEven though it's an odd transition time, it's a very, very good time. Today after church daughter #3 and soon to be son in law brought my pleasantly plump, adorably cute grand daughter out and had dinner with us. A good example of how odd it feels to wear different hats all at once, was while I was sitting on the floor playing with Hailey and Ruth. I wonder if it sounds weird for Ruth to hear others call me grandma, while she calls me mom? It does for me sometimes, as I still don't feel old enough to qualify for grandma status. For some goofy reason, I think I'm supposed to look like Mrs. Doubtfire before I can rightfully claim that title.

In any event, I'm so very thankful for all my kids. Caryn, Eric, Jennifer, Nick, Jocelyn, Jessica, Joost, Hailey, Jordan, Rachel, Samuel and Ruth. Yep, all 12 of them :-) In their own ways, they're all crazy, silly, brilliant, beautiful, faulty, funny, loud, introspective, idealistic, artistic, stubborn, independant, determined and very much loved. Likewise, I am most certainly the furthest thing from the perfect mom or grandma, but I am honored to be called that by them.

We are family and that means the world to me.

By the way, we've officially now run out of seating in the living room. If anyone knows of a local source for a used couch in good condition, I'm in the market. Thanks. :-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, November 12, 2009


In keeping with the thankful theme all month long, I'd like to take this opportunity to express how thankful I am for Dr. James R. White, Rich Pierce, and Alpha and Omega Ministries. In all honesty, I could go on and on (and on) about how these brothers have blessed my life and my Christian walk for the last 11 years. It was 1998 when I first discovered this ministry and it completely blew my shakey, mixed up theology out of the water, and set me straight.

To this very day, I listen to the Dividing Line every Tuesday and Thursday (and have withdrawls when it's not on) and almost without fail, there is a topic, a doctrine or a question that comes up that edifies or encourages me. While I have not read all of Dr. White's books, I have read many of them and they are rich with solid Biblical teaching in a language that even the babe in Christ would not have difficulty understanding. Drawn by the Father and The God Who Justifies are my top two favorites. I cannot recommend this ministry highly enough. These brothers truly take it to heart to give an answer with gentleness and reverence.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

UPDATED: Christian Worldviews? YOU'RE FIRED!


I first read about this a week or so ago and I just can't get it out of my head. There are just too many complicated, unanswered questions and concerns that arise from such a scenario.

From what the media reports, here is the scenario:

A young Christian man at work is approached by a homosexual female co-worker. Knowing how the young man feels about homosexuality due to his Christian worldview, the female co-worker mentions four seperate times about her wedding to her homosexual partner. After the fourth mention the young man calmly responds with his opinion on homosexuality. Not long after, the young man is fired and receives a letter from his former employer stating in part "While you are entitled to your own beliefs, imposing them upon others in the workplace is not acceptable and in this case, by telling a colleague that she is deviant and immoral, constitutes discrimination and harassment". The young man denies ever using those words to the co-worker, but instead says that what he told her was "Regarding your homosexuality, I think that's bad stuff." The young man says he feels he was intentionally goaded into commenting about the homosexual marriage.

Peter VadalaIn case you haven't heard about this case, I am referring to the case of Peter Vadala being fired from the Brookstone store at Logan airport in Boston, Mass. The news article is here.

WND also has an article here, with a bit more detail.

The first question that comes up for me is this:

If, according to the employer's policy, imposing your own personal beliefs on others in the workplace is unacceptable, was the homosexual co-worker also fired for her conduct? If not, why not? It certainly seems to me that this is exactly what was done on her part, and yet it was the straight, Christian man who gets fired.

This brings me to my next question:

Let's pretend the young man in the story was a Muslim. In our culture of political correctness gone insane and acceptance of marginalizing those with a Christian worldview, do you think the young Muslim man would have been fired? I think we all know the answer to that question, if we stop for a minute and think about it.

Which brings me to my next question and one that is more important than anything else:

If this were you, how would you respond? Let's say you're approached by a co-worker or a fellow student in school, and they go on and on about their homosexual relationship. Do you tell them the truth in love, or do you remain silent for fear of repercussions from your workplace or school? I think this is very important question, since this is the world we all now live in.

I find it rather interesting that at least in this case, a Christian was expected to tolerate offensive subject matter, and when he didn't he was fired for it. I wonder if we'll ever see lawsuits brought against employers for subjecting Christian people to offensive subject matter in the workplace? Somehow, I seriously doubt it. It would certainly seem in our day, that the days of free speech are in serious jeopardy... that is, if you're a Christian with a Christian worldview. For at least this young man, being a Christian in the USA cost him his job. I honestly never thought I'd live to see the day, but it's here.

So what would YOU have done if you were this young man?


A friend pointed me to a short post and long discussion thread here this morning, on this very case. Some very good points have been made and I would encourage anyone to go and read it.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ohhhh Canada

A friend sent me this in email (thanks Mr. P!) and it was too funny to keep to myself. Enjoy this complimentary culture lesson:

Now that Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, these are some questions people from all over the world are asking. Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke; but the questions were really asked!

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? ( England )
A. We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? ( USA )
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto - can I follow the Railroad tracks? ( Sweden )
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada ? ( Sweden )
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: Are there any ATM's (cash machines) in Canada ? Can you send me a list of them in Toronto , Vancouver , Edmonton andHalifax ? ( England )
A: No, but you'd better bring a few extra furs for trading purposes.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? ( USA )
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada ? ( England )
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )
A: Aus-t ri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary , straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada ? ( Germany )
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? ( Italy )
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada , but I forget its name. It's a kind of big horse with horns. ( USA )
A: It's called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe


terrorist disguised in cuteIt happens every year. Some years are worse than others, and for whatever reason only really smart people understand, this year seems to be shaping up to be one of "those" years we're all going to remember. For a really long time.

Yes, our house is swarming with LADY BUGS. I don't know how they get in, I don't know why they come in, I only know they do, they are, and they're seriously annoying. Now, don't get me wrong, I think they're as cute as the next person, and I'm not "anti-ladybug" or anything like that, but they truly are are annoying. Here are two examples of how annoying they are:

• Last night before bed I was standing in the bathroom washing my face. I noticed a few of them on the mirror and just ignored them. Well, not to be ignored, one flew off the mirror and landed on my face just under my left nostril. Yes, he (or she?) proceeded to begin the climb toward the nostril. Of course I did what any rational person would do and I began to slap myself silly to get the nostril invading beast off my face. It worked, and he flew away. The minor bruising shouldn't be too noticable.

• This morning as I was minding my own business eating my blueberry frosted mini-wheats, I looked down at my bowl to get another bite and lo and behold, what do I see? Yes indeed, a ladybug surfing on a mini-wheat in my bowl! I'm just glad I looked at my bowl first, or breakfast today would have been a completely different experience.

These things are in just about every room, and nothing we've tried keeps them out. We just have to put up with them until the cold weather arrives and they do whatever ladybugs do when it gets cold. I'm not sure if they take a nap, die or fly off to someone else's house where it's warmer, but it's one of the only reasons to look forward to colder, winter weather.

So today, as much as I detest the cold, I am thankful for it. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thankful for Growing in Grace

On any given day, at pretty much any time of the day, I can come online and see a wide variety of things posted by folks, that I disagree with or that might get on my nerves, or that are outright offensive or just plain wrong on multiple levels. There was a time when I would feel the need to sound off (sometimes in great detail) on things like that. I'm not even sure really, why I felt compelled to do that as often as I did. Some reasons I suppose were and are valid, others may likely just be a lot of sounding off for the sake of sounding off.

Today I am thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and mind that enables me to just let these things ride without my added two cents. Of course that doesn't apply to all topics across the boards, but it sure does apply to a lot more today, than it ever did before.

It's a rather liberating feeling, and I'm liking it a lot.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thought Bubble Head

Carla, the thought bubble headThis is a post in which I reveal a little bit about myself that my readers may not know.

I am a monumental klutz. Terminally clumsy, my nickname for years among those who know me well, is Grace. Because... I'm so not graceful, at all.

Today is a good example of this. I informed the kids it was time to get dressed for church, and we all headed down the game room stairs. I stopped and picked up my bowls from chips and dip last night, and as I headed down the stairs with at least 400 billion thoughts in my head... down I went. I have no idea how it happened, because I wasn't actually paying attention to walking down the stairs. Nope, I had all kinds of things on my mind, and before I knew it was going down. I reached out to grab hold of something (there is nothing, no handrail on those stairs) and smashed the glass bowl into the wall, which in turn sliced the palm of my hand open. Not a really big slice, but a slice nevertheless. Somehow my left leg decided it was time to quick working and it crumpled, twisted and folded under me as I went down the stairs.

The bad news was, we missed church again today and I'm in a lot of pain. The good news is, nothing is broken, just jolted, twisted and bruised.

I got to thinking about my clumsiness, and have concluded that it's because I have too many thoughts running around in my head all at once. I've always been this way, and for as long as I can remember when I have accidents it's because I was thinking about something else, rather than paying attention to what I was doing. Now you'd think by nearly 45 years old I would have conquered this wee beastie, but no. In fact, if there were a special camera lense that could capture the thought bubbles above everyone's heads (pfft, of course they're real!) mine would quite likely be bigger than most and contain thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with what I'm currently doing. Always thinking, always planning, always running over ideas. I don't know if it's because I'm artistic-minded, and all of us artistic minded folks are the same way (I know at least one of my brilliantly artistic minded daughters is clumsy like me), or if there is some other explanation for it. I just know, its the way it is.

After my nasty spill down the stairs, Kev and all the kids came running and before I knew it I was at the kitchen table with an ice pack on my ankle and an advil and glass of water in front of me. Rachel brought me what I needed to clean up my hand, as I sat there and tried to figure out what in the world just happened. One of the first new thoughts to enter my already-too-large-thought bubble: "you don't bounce very well at 44 years old". No, at this age it's more of a splat & crunch kind of thing. I do not recommend it.

So today gave me LOTS to be thankful for. I know it could have been much worse, but it wasn't. I know I could have been here alone, but I wasn't. The advil kicked in quite well and I was at least able to make it upstairs and go back to bed for 3 hours.

Yes, even a thought bubble head like me has lots to be thankful for today.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's the Little Things

I'm not exactly sure what all the factors are that create the monumental difference between big city attitude and small town attitude, but there is a remarkable difference indeed.

The closest little town to my house is a five minute drive up the highway. One of 13 communities that make up the township I live in and I'd guess the population is around 500 people. It's a very small village but they have just about anything you'd need. Gas stations, a grocery store, doctors, dentists, hardware stores, coffee shops, cafes, post office even a bridal shop and a physical therapist office. It's where I go if I just need a few things.

Today I needed a couple of boxes of replacement lights for our Christmas lights, and I knew the hardware store was open until 4:30, so that's where I went. As I remarked to Kev later, you know you're in a small town when you walk into a busy hardware store full of complete strangers on a Saturday afternoon, but the atmosphere and the attitude is so welcoming you feel like you just walked into Grandma's house on a family holiday.

The thing about living in a small community like this is that no matter where you go, folks smile and nod and say hello. If you ask for help in a store, they genuinely care about helping you find what you need. If they don't have what you need, they'll offer to order it and give you a call when it comes in - or send you across the street to the other store that might carry it.

Living in this community reminds me so much of the town I grew up in, and the friendly community it was 30 years ago. Today (and every day) I am deeply thankful for small town attitude. Too bad we can't bottle that and sprinkle it over larger towns and big cities.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Shovels!

Yesterday we had our first snow. It was the big, fat snowglobe kind, where the flakes are so big, they look fake. It snowed hard, several times throughout the day, then it rained some, then we even had some hail. So much hail in fact, at one point the trampoline was entirely covered in a layer of it.

I am tremendously thankful however, that the ground is still too warm for the snow to stick, and for me to have to go out and shovel. Oh yes, NOT shovelling is something to be incredibly thankful for.

There will be plenty of that to come in the next 5 months.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In The News: Pure Garbage

Some days, I just hate reading the news. While you don't want to stick your head in the sand and be ignorant of what is going on in your local community and the world around you, you also don't want to be assulted with headline after headline that is nothing but gloom, doom, depravity and death. It's the proverbial rock and hard place, I guess.

This morning I was directed to an article at I generally don't read over there only because it's not a dial up friendly site, but today I went ahead and let the article load as I was told "you NEED to read this". So I'm going to pass the link on to my readers with a big, fat disclaimer: you really don't NEED to read this, but you probably should.

This article reports on a possible MPAA "advisory" label being slapped on a movie called Antichrist, which is currently unrated. You can read the article yourself to see what this movie is all about, but one reviewer made it pretty clear what he thought of it when he said "I thought I had my head down a lavatory, frankly". The movie's writer and director Lars von Trier has been quoted as saying he's quite "fond" of his little film, and doesn't believe he owes anyone an explanation for it. According to the article, the movie is so perverse, so graphic, so violent and so gruesome, that were it submitted for a rating in the first place (by the MPAA) it would have certainly received an NC-17 rating.

For those of you who aren't aware, according to the MPAA an NC-17 rating means "An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted." In other words, its the strongest rating a film can have. That used to be called X rated. The MPAA changed the X rating in September of 1990 to NC-17 because "The X rating over the years appeared to have taken on a surly meaning in the minds of many people, something that was never intended when the system was created. Therefore, the board chose to reaffirm the original intent of the design that was installed on November 1, 1968, in which the adults only category explicitly describes a movie that most parents would want to have barred to viewing by their children." (source)

Gee Wally, maybe an X rated film had taken on a surly meaning because anyone and everyone with a brain and half a moral fiber knew that an X rated movie had pornographic, brutally violent and/or graphic content in it? Oh I know, dumb down the ratings, dumb down the public and we'll all be tricked in to thinking NC-17 isn't as bad as it could be because it's not X rated! Yay, brilliant strategy.

It's absolute garbage like this that makes me genuinely concerned for where our culture is headed. It just makes me wonder how long it will be before there is nothing off limits, nothing taboo, and we're all raising our families in cities exactly like Soddom and Gommorah. Some might suggest we're already there, but I suspect it has to get much worse to reach that level, and that's the part that really creeps me out. What's even worse than the fact that there is a supplier for such filth, is that there is a demand for it.

With that said, I am indeed thankful today after reading this article, that there are still lots of folks in our society that are ready, willing and able to stand up and say NO, this is wrong, this crosses the line, and this should not be tolerated, ever. In our day, standing up for morality is never a popular position since it appears that the immoral, the depraved and the licentious are now in the majority in our culture.

While I had no intention of originally including this, here is a perfect example of what I refer to when I mention that some might say we're already living in Soddom and Gommorah, when you read the news these days. Yes, this is a real news item from the London Free Press, London Ontario. I suspect most parents probably have no idea this play even exists, let alone is a "hot ticket" at Centennial Hall.

Welcome to the gutter.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Product Review: WOWZERS!

Okay... calling all homemakers, pet owners, carpet owners and people that live in houses. Pay attention because I've got some GREAT news.

You know all those products that say they remove pet stains and odors, and all kinds of other wild claims about how the product will remove such stains as urine, blood, vomit, feces, hairballs, bad attitudes,  mud, dirt and grass, coffee, tea, red wine, cola, fruit juice, etc. - then after paying entirely way too much money for them you get them home just to find out they do NOT work as advertised?
Yep, we all hate that. You feel like you've been scammed and wasted your money on yet another high-priced bottle of junk that doesn't work. But I have some amazingly cool news - there really IS a product available that works exactly as it claims. No, it's not a flamethrower.

While in the grocery store the other day (for you folks in Canada, I found this at Zehrs) I walked past a display in the eco-friendly aisle and saw this product. Having never seen it before I figured "why not?" and decided to give it a try. We live in a house that the previous owner had a dog. That dog liked to use the living room and dining room to do his business in, and from the day we moved in nearly 8 years ago, it's been a losing battle to keep our dogs and cats from following suit.
I rent an industrial carpet cleaner several times a year to do the big jobs, but I'm constantly trying new products for spot clean ups and they NEVER work.

Well, I brought this stuff home and followed the directions: spray and walk away. Yes, that's what it actually says. So I sprayed the toughest, ugliest, darkest stains, and walked away. It says on the bottle that stains and odors will gradually disappear over a 48 hour period but just out of curiosity I went back into the living room a few hours later and immediately noticed the smell was already gone. Then I went to look at the stain and to my huge surprise, I couldn't find it! Nor could I find the other one I sprayed, or the other one, or the OTHER one. Yep, true story, they were already completely gone after just a few hours!

Since then I've walked through the house and zonked every single stain on the carpets I could find (we have 7 kids, 2 grand kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, in-laws, outlaws and guests, we acquire plenty of carpet gremlins) and so far, this product has removed all but one stain. The one it didn't remove has been there for years, but all the others are GONE.

In summary, this product seriously rocks. I paid 6.99 for it at the grocery store and that's a pretty amazing price for a product like this. So, if you're like me and have tried everything and nothing works, and really LOVE the idea of a non-toxic, biodegradable, hypo-allergenic cleaner that is safe to use around pets and kids, and need something that really works, this is the product for you. In case you're wondering, no, I was not paid for this review. It's just such an awesome thing to find something that works like the marketing ads claim, I had to pass it on.