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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 2013

Our church does a lovely sunrise service but it takes almost super human strength to get 3 kids up an hour early, fed and out the door.  This year the service is at the FAU stadium that seats 30,000 people and it took us one hour to get there with all the traffic.  Fortunately they delayed service for about an hour for all the people stuck on the road.  These are our fun photos of the day:

Baby, tired of being held, had NO desire to sit nicely for a photo.  She was down and ready to explore. This is her throwing herself backwards to get into a good crawling position.

After the stadium service, there were a bunch of bounce houses for the kids.

Baby has left the blanket to explore!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When mom is sick there will be crayons on the floor!

This happens while I drink coffee, too tired to stop them.

One hour later after baby wakes up I find the energy to clean the floor for her.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Random Tuesday ~ I'm back and I rant about how Glee jumped the shark

To date I've written 89 Random Tuesday posts - this will be the 90th.  Clearly I have some history with this meme but sadly I've fallen off the bandwagon since my last post was November 27th.

In case your wondering what happened, the answer is simple.  I got busy with travel and when one stops blogging for any period of time, even 3 weeks or so it just becomes a life of it's own and soon you forget how to write a simple sentence and the idea of writing anything is daunting to the point that you just have to jump back in with both feet and proof read later after you've unleashed all those pent up words!

Random thought 1:
Is Christian Easter okay with giving children chocolate bunnies and eggs?  Because we don't have a firm stand on the issue and mine are terribly excited at the thought of Easter and it's ALL because of the candy.  So to counter we've decided to do things a little differently this year.  Every night this week will be an Easter story so we can build the background in their little minds.  Then by Sunday, we make it a big celebration because Jesus is risen.  And with that celebration comes cake, candy and balloons.  Our pastor always starts the service with "Happy Empty Tomb Day" so I tag him with making it a celebration.

Random thought 2:
Glee - I used to love this show when it first came out.  The singing and dancing took me straight back to my high school days when we called it "show choir".  Then it got  really sexual so I took a break.  I have better things to do then watch a bunch of teenagers become highly sexualized in a way that goes totally against what I think teens should be doing - which is focusing on their studies and trying to get into a GOOD college!  Yeah call me a prude, I don't care, the most successful people I know today took high school seriously and focused on their friendships (of which I still consider two my life long besties).  ANYWAY, I ran out of shows to watch and recently settled down to watch the Valentine episode which is about the wedding of the popular teacher and at one point during the reception, 4 couples wandered off to hotel rooms.  They made sure only the post high school crowd hooked up because one teen couple just sat on a bed and changed their minds.  Thanks Glee, for letting high schoolers know that sex is best saved for college.  Later in the episode Glee got confused and forgot that last season they made two cast members graduate high school which would put their age at 17 or 18 and both were drinking wine at the wedding reception which since it's of their former teacher you'd think the bartender would have been double warned to card the kids!  Really Glee?  You also support underage drinking???  Glee, I am officially done with you.

Random thought 3:
And now for good clean fun.  Has anyone seen the show "The Neighbors"?  It is so funny!  It's about aliens that move into a suburb and a family from Jersey moves into their community.  I love comedy shows about aliens, heck I love just about everything about aliens (except the scary stuff) so if you loved stuff like Alf and Third Rock from the Sun then you should definitely check this out, it's on HULU!  Hey I wonder if Alf will ever make a come back?  Seems like a nice nostalgic thing to do!  Who's with me for the Alf love?  If I made him into a plush toy would you buy him?


Monday, March 25, 2013

Great Aunt Millie ~ 1915 - 2013

In 2009 my Great Aunt Millie asked my mom to take her to the family reunion.  She is of my father's side, so even though he had passed away in 2004, and my mom hadn't been to a Bowers reunion in quite some time, she kindly said yes.  Upon learning of this I immediately booked a flight home with my nine month old Charlotte so I could help mom escort Aunt Millie from the nursing home to the reunion.  At this point she was 94, quite frail and we were sure this would be her last reunion.

Prior to leaving the nursing home Aunt Millie asked me to fix her hair.  I'm so glad I took this photo because I would have forgotten this request.  Sometimes it does not occur to me that all women want to look pretty, no matter their age or lifestyle.  I remember my mom fussing about her weight before she got remarried in 2010 and it made me pause and smile because she wanted to look nice for her new husband.  I think of my mom as "mom", if her weight goes up or down 10 or 15lbs I probably would not notice because a mom is so much more then her figure.  Likewise my Great Aunt has always been like a grandmother to me, it would never have occurred to me that she wanted to look pretty in front of her family.

I brushed her soft gray hair and asked her what clip she would like and she picked a pretty yellow butterfly and let me take her picture again.

She won the award for oldest person at the reunion and was given a crown, but honestly I don't think she was that impressed.  She said the crown hurt her head.

There is much I took for granted over the past 37 years and I wish I had asked her more questions about her life but from what I know it was a sad one so I never wanted to bring up bad memories by asking questions.  Having been born in 1915 she was 14 when the Great Depression started and if memory serves me correct she was married the same year.  Her father had died in 1922 and her mother struggled to put food on the table for four children.  It was easier to marry off the only girl and put the boys to work.  My grandfather only had a 3rd grade education so I'm guessing the timing of his father's death and great depression had something to do with that.

My grandfather always looked out for his sister and they were very close.  I'm not sure if it was he and the brothers who put in the effort or if it was the iron will of Aunt Millie to keep the family together because she could be fiercely protective.  My grandfather's 2nd wife passed away shortly after I was born so for as long as I can remember my grandfather dated many women, or at least it seemed that way.  Aunt Millie hated all of them, she was relentless in her distrust.  My grandfather didn't care, he made sure Aunt Millie was well provided for and looked after her but when it came to dating he just ignored her disapproval and tried to bring everyone together.  He was such a jolly guy.  Aunt Millie could be bitter at times but she'd had a hard life.  Her husband was not a good man.

When I think back on my life, she was there for every major event.  Always in the background, always present and quiet.  She attended all my childhood school events and my high school graduation.  Children and teenagers take these moments for granted and just assume the person is there because they are supposed to be, that's their job, right?  Oh my, I look back with so much gratitude that she was always present for holidays and personal events.  I wish I could read into the details of her life, learn more of what it was like to go through a century of wars and technology changes - 98 years!  What a long lifetime!  This reflection has largely fueled a renewed urgency to record more of my personal history in this blog because who knows what future generations might start wondering about their heritage and looking about for a written record. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Condo Tales ~ The neighbor kids love to spend all day on my porch!

You've heard the saying "if you feed ducks they will come back"?   Well apparently the same principle applies with neighbor children when you offer sidewalk chalk and art supplies!

It's getting hot outside - today mid-80's and when neighbor children are given free reign to play outside all day, a shelter is needed.  That shelter has become our porch.  With a table and 3 chairs a gaggle of children can gather with Jenga (today's choice), art supplies or whatever.  

Why my porch you ask?

I guess we've let them play there enough with our own darlings and when a home is friendly to children they will return.  We've hosted many an art hour on the porch with play-doh, crayons and construction paper.  

By 3pm today we had five or six outside our living room window laughing and playing games.  Charlotte likes to watch cartoons are this time so she got annoyed with all the noise and yelled at them through the window to quiet down.  They ignored her and it peeved her greatly.

They knocked every hour to see if mine were ready to come out to play.  I finally stopped answering the door!

It took us until 6pm to finally venture outside and by this time only two were left, a manageable number.  We took a walk around the pond with both neighbors along for the ride, one borrowing a bike.  The older one (my favorite) helped with Sam on his push scooter while I pushed Violette in her stroller.  It was a very long walk because Sam is quite slow on his little red car (hint to husband, Craig's List for a three year old vehicle please).  

We returned to the porch where the girls broke out the art supplies and one neighbor girl ran inside our house for more construction paper repeatedly.  Sure why not!  It allows me time to spend with Violette on the grass without having to jump up and cater to everyone.

We stayed out for one hour until I realized the time change had made it almost 7 and extremely late for dinner!  Back inside, goodbye neighbor girls.  They stayed for awhile to finish coloring, the oldest knocked two more times to give us artwork she had done for the kids.  

It's very flattering to have the most popular spot on the block but I'm glad I only have to deal with this on the weekends!  

Six Word Saturday

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The honest truth about taking care of a used vehicle

I have to be honest, after a big promotion early in my career I was so ready to get a brand new car.  I could not be talked out of it because I didn't have much debt at the time (no house payment, no children) and no long term vision.

In 2004 I proudly bought a brand new Pontiac Grand Am.  It was fire engine red and the dealer gave me an affordable monthly payment inclusive of 3 year warranty - that stretched over 6 years, which was rather silly in hindsight.  However I was tremendously blessed in that my job decided my raise for that year would be to pick up my new car payment so don't feel too badly for the additional interest spent!

My car was paid off in 2010 and unlike my co-workers who got the same deal, I had not leased so I was the proud owner of a paid off car which was 6 years old but only had 60K miles.  My dad taught me to drive a car into it's golden years so I had no intentions of starting over with a car payment!  The following is a detailed summary of how I survived without an extended warranty - which you know the dealer always tries to terrify you into getting and they give you the scary brochure that talks about the transmission falling out and what not!

Post Warranty Years:

2008 - the starter broke and car had to be towed to a garage.  Apologies, I do not have a record of this fee but presumably it was around $200.

2009 - I spent $1,800 to have a bunch of issues fixed
  • The car allows the radio to continue playing even once the door is opened and it has a switch in the door that turns off the radio after a minute.  Well the switch broke leaving the radio running which would have drained the battery so this had to be fixed which was expensive because they had to take apart the door.
  • New battery at Sears with great warranty and 60K tune up
  • Replace motor to operate driver's side rear window
  • Locked keys in trunk and had to have trunk lock removed and replaced
  • Replace 2 front tires
  • Replace front brakes
  • Replace motor to operate driver's side window
2010 - routine oil changes only

2011 - spent $800 on the following issues:
  •  The motor that operates the windshield wipers broke and had to be replaced, it was expensive, almost $400 at Goodyear.  I'm quite sure we were overcharged by going to a corporation rather than a garage but we were fed up with our previous mechanics prices and looking for a better option.
Break in story to mention our 2nd big blessing.  In 2010 we bought a used van and asked the dealership where they got their car maintenance done before re-sale and they recommended our current beloved mechanic where we found a dramatic slash in prices from what we had been paying.
  • Driver's side window broke AGAIN!  I'm convinced our previous mechanic was a fraud because the new mechanic charged us HALF the price of our previous guy for the same part/labor!
  • Replaced two tires (bought used from the mechanic)
  • Driver's mirror had fallen off, was re-glued
2012 - routine oil changes only

2013 - spent $500 - $70 towing reimbursed by State Farm so total was $430.  Had the following fixed:
  • Passenger rear window pinned.  Refused to replace the motor for another window!
  • The sensor on the lock cylinder broke thus keeping the car from turning on.  Had to be towed.
  • 3rd blessing - we actually SAVED $30 by paying in cash!  A new policy.
  • 4th blessing - had one tire replaced because as I was driving off, it went flat and the mechanic felt so bad about giving us a car that was not fully fixed that he replaced it for FREE!  
Total spent since car has been out of warranty: $3,230 and things like tires would not be covered under an extended warranty.

If you spread $3,230 over 64 months, I've spent $605.63 per year on vehicle maintenance which boils down to $50.46 per month.

The car is now 9 years old with 76,000 miles.  I'm blessed in that I only need to drive it 5 miles to work and home so that's how I've kept the mileage low.  I'm also super blessed in that the used car market has recently risen in value. We checked last year and the value was $4,000 and it's now up to $6,300 which is awesome because we are working on selling the car very soon.

Car Lessons Learned

  1. Buy used!  Even a three year old car can offer a tremendous slash in sell price.
  2. If you must take a loan, then try for the shortest monthly terms you can afford because once it's paid off you can save up for future maintenance.  
  3. Ask your used car dealer for advise in an affordable mechanic.  They are in the business of making money so you can be sure they've vetted out the local mechanics!
  4. Ask your mechanic if they offer a discount to pay in cash.  Credit card companies charge a percentage fee of all transactions so on something like $500 the fee for us was $30!  If you have the cash this savings far exceeds any percentage you would earn on a credit card!!
  5. Pray over your car!  Seriously!!  It is a HUGE leap of faith to take a used car into it's golden years!  Pray over every job that needs fixed and often times you will be amazed at how God shows up!!
Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

PS - if you live in Fort Lauderdale, message me and I'll be happy to give you our awesome mechanics name and phone number!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lie

There was a crash and a howl as a two year old sorrowfully replaced all his bricks into his shopping cart.  It was clear someone had tipped it.  Potentially the four year old who had dashed behind the babies crib with a guilty look on her face.  I patiently asked the victim who had tipped his cart and through his limited English he only managed to wave his little hands angrily and indicate the wrong that had befallen him.  From behind the crib four year old announces that Violette, our 11 month old tipped the cart.  I look into the victims eyes and say "did Charlotte tip your cart".  Yes she did.

Caught in a lie.  I would have only considered a minor punishment for tipping a cart of blocks but a lie is a very bad thing.

I brought the oldest to her dad and explained the story.  She had an immediate panic attack about her potential punishment.  We explain to her just how bad it is to lie and just as I thought to myself, maybe we should have her pray to God and have her confess her sin my husband tells her to do the exact same thing.  Love it when we have this parental thing in total sync.

She returned to her bedroom and prayed a very clear and honest prayer about how she tipped the cart and made her brother cry and how very very sorry she was for doing that.  Then she did something unexpected.  She burst into tears of absolute sorrow.  It was a depth of sadness I haven't heard from her before and I could only attribute it to one thing.  Sin hurts.  It's a simple as that.  I explained that she was clean inside because she had asked for forgiveness.  Sometimes these moments are so awkward because they are unexpected and I don't know what is the right thing to say.  She finally relaxed and got down.  I probably puzzled over this far longer then she did. 

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Condo Life ~ Days when it feels like the walls are closing in

2pm nap time

Baby has decided to try and keep herself up and both the cat and dog are in cahoots with her.

I have 3 options -
  • My bedroom, which is extremely bright with two windows so she will never nap in there
  • The main living area where cat and dog have decided it's time to get my attention so they whine and meow thus making baby even more excited to avoid sleep.
  • The kids bedroom where baby is now too noisy and might wake the others.
So you see, the walls are closing in.  There is no quiet space where I can completely avoid all other living creatures.

Thus condo life, with it's limited living space.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Casting Crowns Concert - with 3 kids!

Are those knit hats -  in South Florida???  They sure are, compliments of Mema (beloved grandmother) and the reason is the 50 degree weather!  Seriously, it was kinda nippy and we knew it going outside but still didn't pack enough blankets and stuff so I bought a really awesome black Casting Crowns sweatshirt and donated my sweater to keeping baby nice and warm.

See that stroller, that is where we should have packed more blankets and a thermos of something hot!  At least the Calvary Chapel Grill was present with some of the best burgers and hotdogs I've ever had! 

Isn't that the most amazing sunset ever?

Okay now their cold but they had dad to keep them warm.  Would you believe that about this point baby fell asleep just as the concert started?  She must have finally gotten nice and toasty warm.

We only lasted about one hour into the concert because once it got dark, it got really cold and it was the kids bedtime.  I'm so glad we went because Casting Crowns is one my favorite groups and they were really awesome!