Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I don't know how to do any fancy banners or anything flashy yet, but from our family to yours, Merry Christmas. May the blessing of Christ touch our hearts all year long!

This is our Christmas Eve picture when we got home from church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

January Specials

Have I mentioned that I love to take pictures of children and families and seniors? Did I mention that my business partner and I have been blessed to open a studio in Baltimore? Did I mention that we are giving away FREE 16x20s in January? Click here to go over to our website and check it out...

Here are the wonderful Smeltzer grandchildren - all 6 of them- aren't they sweet? I did the Foster 8 last year and will try again this winter. And, because I teased him earlier this year on this very same blog, here is a great picture of my brother in law and his handsome sons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cassilla's Country Crafts

My good friend Jennifer (Makayla's mom) has opened a new business with her sister, Debbie. The two of these ladies are amazing crafters and Deb's husband seems to be able to do just about anything with some wood and nails (and probably some wood glue but I won't get into that). The business is out of Jennifer's house and they have a great showroom (seen in the photos above). Here is the info:

Casillas Country Craft
212 N. Cherry St.
Lancaster, OH
Saturday + Sunday 12 - 5
Thursday 5 - 8
Stop in and check them out! Tell them Janis sent you!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nutcracker Production

Two of my little dancers performed in a local production of the Nutcracker. Muffin and Doodle did great and it was so fun to watch. On Friday, we brought two of Grace's friends with us to watch it and they were so well behaved. I have to admit that I was a little jealous though. When Muffin first came onto the stage I watched her eyes scanning the audience. When she finally got glimpse of the person she was looking for her eyes lit up and her smile widened. Only, that person wasn't me! It was her friend Caitlin and I felt that I had somehow been replaced.

Here is Muffin in one of her outfits - I think it is the Sugarplum fairy outfit.

This is Doodle in her mouse costume. She had the biggest smile of her life when she came out on stage. She was also the child "directing" everyone about when they needed to move and to where. She was adorable!

Here is Muffin in her snow fairy costume. She had one other for her gymnastics dance but I took that with another camera. The funny thing was that both girls said that they didn't want to do it again next year but they would like to watch! I was really surprised because they looked like they were having a lot of fun and both of them have friends that dance with them. Well, we'll see what they say in a week or two!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Just a quick note about a couple cute things Doodle (4.5 years) said today.

1) We were getting ready to leave for AWANA (Bible club at church) and we sent the big girls upstairs to get dressed. Doodle comes down and sits at the table. Me, "Are you wearing two pair of pants?" Doodle, "Yes because this top pair are capri-ses" That must be the plural of capri pants! Sure enough, she had on a pair of jeans under her pink capris!

2) Later in the evening, I told Doodle she needed to get her jammies on and she was unhappy saying that she just wanted to wear the outfit she had worn all evening. I told her she needed to change and she begrudgingly obeyed. As she walked by Andy he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she didn't want to change her shirt because, "Well, I just wanted to wear it for the rest of my life."

3) Mator has a new habit of sneaking out of bed right after we put her in it. Tonight I found her cuddled up next to Doodle pretending to be asleep. Doodle said, "I'm just going to pray for her." "OK," I say. "Dear Heavenly Father, I just want to pray that Mator will stay in her bed. Please peace her during nappytime. And I just want to say again, please let Mator stay in her bed. Amen."

I think I'll keep these girls!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 in Review

Sorry for the delay in posts, we've had some technical difficulties that I'm still working with but missed writing so here we go again! Here is a little Q&A that was sent my way- A Review of 2008"

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

I went to Las Vegas with Andy, my business partner (Carolyn) and her husband (Paul) in March for a photography convention. It was a great week but I don't see myself going back there again.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
No, don't make them. So at least I didn't break them!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yeh, I was standing next to this lady in line at Lowes and Whoops! This is a funny question but I guess the real answer is no- no one in my immediate family had any babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
We had a really bad year for this and attended 5 funerals and about four other calling hours.

5. What countries did you visit?
We're getting ready to visit Italy, France, Canada, the UK, Norway and several others- of course they are all at EPCOT at Disney World-will that count?

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A cleaner house

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
I'm not good with dates. I had a minor in history but exact dates elude me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Opening our studio in Baltimore.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Man did I gain some weight!!!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Torn meniscus. Click here for the story

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Well, I guess it depends on who you ask: I bought some Utz Pub mix at Sam's and it was the best gift I ever got Andy. Doodle and Mator got some light up princess shoes that they were pretty excited about. I bought Muffin a Tom Sawyer comic book that she really like. I'm kind of partial to our new video camera.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Mator - She is getting really good at pooping in the potty which is always followed by a rousing rendition of this song:
Mator went poopy in the potty, Mator went poopy in the potty,
Mator went poopy in the potty, And now she gets a ho-bag!
Click here for that story.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Probably my own. I can be so selfish and impatient sometimes.

14. Where did most of your money go?
I think that if I analayzed our every expense, a good bit went towards fruit snacks and yogurt tubes.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I got really excited when I saw the way God moved so many things to allow us to go to Las Vegas. Not enough room here for the whole story but suffice it to say, He moved proverbial mountains!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2008?
This is a tough one. This is a song I LOVED this year. Click here to hear it. It's called "Mighty to Save."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier/sadder,thinner/heavier,richer/poorer?
happier, richer, probably a little heavier even though I lost 10 pounds last spring-no fair!!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Playing with the kids, teaching them stuff.
Talking to Andy.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
driving around, cleaning (I guess that wouldn't make my house any cleaner next year would it?), eating junk food

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Chrstmas Eve Day and night-Andy's family.
Christmas Day- My family.
In both cases celebrating the birth of our Savior with the people we love the most

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
Carolyn and my mom. I talk to both of them at least once a day.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
I only watch two-Survivor and Amazing Race but I have found that I really like the reruns of the Office so maybe we'll watch it.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Uh, no. I'm pretty sure I haven't HATED anyone since the 7th grade.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
There's book I love and must have read it 150 times this year. It starts out like this, "In the Great Green room, there is a telephone. And a red balloon, and a picture of..."

Also, although it wasn't the first time I read it, a great book I read was, "Sheppherding a Childs' Heart" by Tedd Tripp

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'm pretty sure this isn't what the questioner had in mind but... Mator has one of those books that have 4 buttons on the side and it plays the songs that you read in the book. I have
"discovered" that with my foot in the middle of the night while Mator is sleeping on several occasions. I have also "discovered" it in bed with her when she was supposed to be going to sleep. Finally, on more than one occasion, I have "discovered" that someone in my house likes to play with the volume dial on my alarm clock radio. Unfortunately, I usually don't "discover" that until it goes off at 6:00 in the morning.

28. What did you want and get?
a point and shoot camera

29. What did you want and not get?
A whole lot of sleep

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Let's see, have we gone to the movies this year? I did take Muffin to see the American Girl movie and it was very good.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
OK, not fair. My birthday was in February and I was 34. That's a long time ago! I'm guessing that since it was a Wednesday: I took Doodle to preschool, picked her up, took Mator and Doodle to Pop & Sue's, taught art to three classes of first graders at FCA, picked up the kids, ate dinner, went to church and taught AWANAs to 1st and 2nd graders, came home and fell in bed. This year Wednesdays are a little slower, thankfully!

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
I would descibe it as "What Not to Wear"'s nightmare! Jeans and t-shirts are the most common, occasionally a pair of khakis sneaks in.

34. What kept you sane?
Well, that is debatable. I think I would say caffeine and a sense of purpose.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I think the whole Sarah Palin thing was interesting. I wasn't a huge fan of McCain or Palin but I think she did add some interesting discussion to the election.

37. Who did you miss?
I haven't seen my friend Libby in a long time-Does she even read this?

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Here are a few:
* Don't leave Mator alone for more than 3.5 minutes.
* Your children's potty habits are not that intersting of a dinner topic (but since this is MY blog, it will probably continue to dominate the discussion here).
* Just because something costs lot of money does not mean it is worth a lot of money.
* Andy REALLY likes that Utz pub mix from Sam's club.
* A torn meniscus will not heal on its own- side note: I may be too old for bounce houses.
* If the world and the media (or my flesh) are telling me something is great, there is a good chance that it violates some scriptural command. Examples might include: divorce, no interest mortgages, fame and Big Macs.

There we go, 2008 wrapped up in a nice little bundle- now, I really must get started on those Christmas cards...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Visit to SCI (prison)

[Note: The words that are underlined are links to other web sites with more information about those words]

When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:38-40

On Saturday afternoon, for the fourth consecutive year, the Wings ministry had a presence at the Southeastern Correctional Facility just outside of Lancaster. This was my third time in attendance. The concept is simple: Allow inmates a time to interact with their families in a relaxed, fun setting and allow volunteers the opportunity to share the love of Christ with all of them.

The founder of Wings, Ann Edenfield-Sweet knows what it is like to be the family of a prisoner. To raise her children without a father and what's more, to be ostracized by everyone (including her church) for the crimes of her husband. She wrote a book about this experience and then turned it into a way of serving God and helping others with the Wings ministry. In our case, she organizes the volunteers and works with the warden of the prison to provide a three hour long party. It goes something like this:

12-12:30 - Introduction and ice breaker games

12:30-1 - Crafts & cookie decorating for kids and parents. Visiting time for everyone else

1-1:45 - pizza, cookies and punch for everyone. Guests are grouped in circles of ten and Wings volunteers spread out and minister, eat and visit with their group.

1:45- Group Game (decorate a human angel in the group with the supplies provided-see one example below)2-3 - Activity that involves the angels and focuses on the Christmas story. Scripture is read and a short sermon if given. Closing prayer and a few minutes of visitation remain.

In short, this is one of the most rewarding 6 hours of ministry I do every year. I say six hours because if you have ever been to a prison, you will understand the bookeeping and security involved in getting someone into the prison (not a lot unlike the airport!!) Where else are there so many hurting people who need (and some even want) to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I am amazed by the boldness given to me by God during this time. I have been invited to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ with hurting people who are thankful for my presence. Can you ask for a better deal?

My heart is so full after this day and this year was the most amazing yet. I had the opportunity to bring my photography equipment into the prison and set up a studio to take pictures of inmates with their families. I will give each inmate two copies of their portrait to send to whomever they choose thanks to the generosity of some donors who will help cover the cost of the printing.

When Carolyn and I started our business three years ago, an earnest prayer was that God would allow us to use this equipment and our talents to bless others. We have actively sought ways to do this and appreciate every opportunity to serve the Lord when He has given us so much. This is yet another example of His provision. What really melts my heart?

How about this FOUR DAY OLD BABY who got to meet his dad for the first time:

This little guy was all smiles as he played with his dad in a way not usually possible during regular visitation. He also brought his 6 week old brother who met his dad too.
This one really touched my heart. This nine year old girl posed for a picture and then walked over to me and asked if she could see it. After I showed it to her she looked up at me, her eyes gleaming, and said, "I love my Dad."

I am humbled again by the blessing of my husband who knows that his girls love and need him. I pray that these guys see it too.

The last half hour of the program is difficult for me to witness and I was thankful to be able to have the distraction of tearing down my equipment. It's a quiet time after the crescendo of excitement that came directly before. It is the transition from being a regular family spending a fun afternoon together to the realization that some people are leaving their loved ones behind - in some cases forever. When Andy and I went to different colleges, our weekends were marked by this same spirit. Friday night I'd be bursting with excitement to see him. Saturday we'd have so much fun together. Sunday it was like a cloud had parked over us, knowing that our time together was almost over. Multiply that by 10 and this is the sadness that I witness those last few minutes.

It's all worth it. It's the reality of the situation and it's an important part in the process of consequences to realize that the inmate did something that separates them from their family. Of course, my hope is that they realize that the greatest tragedy is the sin that separates them from their heavenly father. Those that can understand that may be ready to hear how Jesus Christ came to make reconciliation possible. The hope of spending eternity with Him is the greatest gift I can give.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On my way to prison

I'm on my way to prison today - South Eastern Correctional Facility to be exact. Stay tuned to hear more...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ode to My Meniscus

Ode to My Meniscus - 2008

One summer day

A mom did try

To race her darling daughter.

Through a bounce house

She did fly

And really should have caught her.

But alas,

Her knee did “pop”

And the pain spread to her head.

Mommy lost

Then did shop

For a doctor whose bill she would dread.

Doc said, “Look!

What have we here?

I think your meniscus is torn.”


Confirmed that fear

And now for her cartilage we mourn.

So surgery

Will now be planned

To remove the painful piece.

Now we do pray

The doctor’s hand

Is steady and his heart full of peace.

And so we part

I hardly knew you

Oh cartilage in my knee.

The day you’re gone

The pain will be too

And no more bounce houses for me!

- Janis Smeltzer, 2008

This poem was inspired by my friend Vanessa (who has written beautiful and moving tributes to both her stolen snowmobile and her stolen bike. Check out her blog here.) and written almost entirely while waiting for the doctor and scheduling nurse at the appointment today!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Simple Question...

Yesterday I had the incredible delight to spend almost the entire day with old friends. My college roomates came to see me and brought their children, two of whom I had never met! Meredith has two little ones under 17 months old - they are just beautiful and so sweet! Doodle adored baby James and held him as much as she could. Jenny brought her youngest, Corey, but the oldest had a birthday party at home. Corey was so much fun and it turns out that he and Mator have a lot of craziness in common.

While the kids were playing, they came across the marbles and as soon as I realized it, I asked Muffin to collect them all since Mere's two little ones are way too small. Meredith asked the question, "At what age can kids safely play with marbles?" To me, this is a much more generic question than it sounds like at first. Really, I think she was asking, "When can a child be trusted to make a good decision?"

My answer was simple, but I've been thinking about it since I said it. From the moment a child is born, every action they take is self serving. This works well for them as an infant-I am hungry so I will cry and someone will feed me. I am lonely so I will cry and someone will come to me. I want to know what that person's hair feels like so I will grab it. It is our job as parents to gradually train a child that it is best to put your impulsive desires to the side in order to make a good decision. We do this by demonstrating consequences and following through with our discipline. Everyone agrees that a child must learn to see a flame and think, "I wonder what that feels like but I know that I can't just touch fire."

So at some point, a child will begin to make 50-75% of their decisions based on what is the right thing to do, not just what their flesh tells them they want to do. My 2 1/2 year old Mator is there. She's OK to play with marbles not because there is no chance that she will put one in her mouth but because that chance is small and the reward for starting to make good decisions is that you get more opportunities in life.

My Pastor had a great message called "The Progressive Calling of God" this morning and it took me right back to this thought from yesterday. I realized that in a spiritual sense, there is a direct parallel between parents who are training and observing their child to see when he or she is ready to play with marbles and our heavenly Father who is teaching and guiding us to see when we are ready for "all the marbles".

As a new Christian, we have so much to learn but more important than how much Biblical knowledge you possess is what you do with that knowledge. In other words, my 2 1/2 year old knows that she is not supposed to put marbles in her mouth. But sooner or later, the thought will cross her mind, "What do those taste like? What would they feel like on my tongue?" I think it is pretty good for her to choose wisdom (I'm not supposed to put that in my mouth) over impulse (but I really WANT to!) 50-75 % of the time. But I won't be satisfied if she is eight and has the same percentage of good decisions. What about when she is 17 and out with her friends? I expect her to grow and mature and gradually increase those percentages.

How about as an adult? Pastor wrote, "Those truly called of God do not move at their own impulse. They move at the leading of the Holy Spirit." I feel quite certain that our Holy God expects a lot more than 50-75% of our life to be led my Him yet how many of our decisions are made by the flesh instead of the spirit? And the consequence? Our lives are shadows of what God desires for us.

As a parent, I gradually increase the level of responsibility my child is allowed in direct proportion to their demonstrated ability to make good decisions. Will God do any less? I pray that my life will be led by reverance for the God who created me and everything around me and that I might see the day where 100% of my decisions are made with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine if all of God's children were at that percentage?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Muffin is 8 - well, almost

Last night we had round 1 of Muffin's Birthday parties. This one was with our family. We had 22 people over for dinner that included some of Muffin's favorites: sloppy Joes, pineapple, green beans, oranges, cheese curls, crescent rolls, cake and ice cream.

We are blessed to live within 20 minutes of everyone in our immediate family. My two brothers, Andy's brother, and both sets of parents live nearby and are a regular, integral part of our lives. And we wouldn't have it any other way. There were 11 kids here last night between the ages of 2 and 14 and I did not have to intervene in one single incident between them. To my children, their cousins are their best friends, their aunts and uncles are people whom they know and know well and their grandparents are a part of almost every day in one way or another. I guess we do have a "it takes a village" kind of lifestyle in that sense and I couldn't be happier about it!

I was probably a little too proud of Muffin as she opened her gifts and was so gracious and sincere in her excitement over each gift. Especially the darling cards her little cousins made by hand-she appreciated them and fussed over them so that they knew how thankful she was. And I was thankful that she was thankful!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Muffin's Birthday Begins

Andy was blessed to have a number of great coaches as he was growing up. But one in particular has had a longstanding effect on him. A baseball coach named Vickie McCrary is still a friend of our family after all these years (and a move to Florida). She is a teacher too and an inspiration to all that know her. She and her husband never fail to remember our children's birthdays and we are so thankful for their love. Muffin's birthday is next week (the 28th) but in our house birthdays kind of get stretched out between our "family party" (which is about 23 or 24 of our immediate family coming over for dinner and dessert tomorrow) and a "friend party" which is not until December 7. Plus, on her actual birthday we celebrate as a family. This year it is even stretched a little farther since Vickie and Bill's gift arrived today. Since they always mail their gifts and never get to see the excitement of the day, here's a little video of Muffin getting her gift.

Thanks again! By the way, do we need a new video camera or what? Hint, Hint Santa!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

How I Met Your Father

I love to read these accounts on everyone else's blog-even if I don't know them so here's my entry in "How I met your father."

The year was 1991 and we were both juniors in high school. Even though we attended different high schools, we both came to my church's youth group. I remember when one of my best friends introduced my to Andy in the kitchen of our hosts. I actually had the conscious thought, "Hmmm. Has his class ring on-that's useful information." So I secretly pined away at my school throughout the spring and summer and we ran into each other frequently as our social circles crossed.

The most awkward of those moments was when he was on a double date (with someone else) to the 4th of July celebration in Columbus and amid the 1,000,000 revelers, we ran into each other on a public bus. Later that summer, we went to see Tecumseh as a group of friends. It was August 12. The tickets cost $10. We sat in row FF. I know this because I actually saved this ticket stub.
Anyway, there were four of us that went and on the way home, as we piled into the car I managed to maneuver myself into the backseat with Andy. I was in heaven even if he was oblivious. I mean, our armhairs practically touched! I finally told our mutual friend Smitty about my longstanding crush on his friend and within a couple weeks, we had our first date. A few weeks after that, we went to this homecoming dance at Lancaster High School. Love the hair?
That spring (1992) we went to proms at Fairfield Union and Lancaster. I'm not sure which one this was.The next fall we went to different colleges- he to Wittenberg and I to Ohio University. We were 2 1/2 hours apart and estimate that over the next four years we put nearly 16,000 miles on our cars. Nearly six years after our first date, we were married in June of 1997. Now, around Andy's February birthday, we will celebrate our half-life together. That is, since we were 17 1/2 when we started dating, and we will be 35 on our next birthdays, we will have spent half of our life together. I'll have to take a whole other post to tell what a wonderful blessing it has been to have been married to this man but suffice it to say, I know the Lord's hand was in all of this and I am so thankful!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remember when?

I remember the first few days after Muffin, my oldest daughter, was born-nearly eight years ago. I remember we had to sleep with our pinky in her mouth at the hospital because that was the only way she would sleep. The first two nights we were home we put her in a bassinet in our bedroom to sleep and she did OK. I, on the other hand, sat up straight in bed, pulse pounding, adrenaline pumping every time she so much as sighed. After two nights of this, I reluctantly agreed with Andy that she should move down the hall to her bedroom for my sake.

The first night she slept in her room (at a mere four days old) was really the first time she was out of sight of both Andy and I. As I lay in my own bed, Muffin sleeping soundly in hers down the hall, I cried. I imagined her growing up so quickly so that before I knew it, she was walking, then in school, then moving out! I told myself how irrational those tears were but the caring was so intense that I wasn't prepared for it.

Flash forward almost eight years and add two more children. How is it even possible that the same mother who wept over her child advancing to a stage where she could sleep in her own room could not know until morning that her two year old had had a bloody nose? This is how Mator looked when I got her out of bed yesterday morning. At first I thought, "Has she snuck some kind of chocolate into her bed?" Then I used my superior deduction skills and followed the dark trail into her nose and realized it was dried blood! Apparently it had bled and run down her face, avoiding her mouth where her binky was carefully perched. Poor little neglected girl! I really do love her just as much as that baby whose every sigh broke my slumber!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mom Generations Giveaway

Here is a neat giveaway contest-you know I love free stuff!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A-Ha Children's Museum in Lancaster

Lots of pictures today because I wanted to show off Lancaster's newest treasure for kids - A-Ha Children's museum! My mom got Mator a family membership for her birthday this summer and my girls LOVE this place! Except Mator calls it "HA-HA" as in, "I LOVE Ha-Ha!!" The formula for this place is simple. Lots of simple, clever playthings, throw in the possibility of unstructured art projects and moms don't have to clean up (although I always try to clean up every area that we mess up, I feel no obligation like I do at my own house!). Who wouldn't love this place? Here is the veterinary area with Doodle and Muffin totally engaged.I love this stage area. So does Mator. The mikes and the lights are all operated by kids and she always takes the stage to sing her rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". In a very loud voice.
This is the grocery store area. Doodle did some face painting at the backstage center which you will see in a later pic.
Muffin made this girl faced pizza. So cute!
This is a neat piece that is a Laser Harp. The notes are controlled by blocking the laser with your hand. Hard to explain but great fun for kiddos! And OK, I love it too!
Doodle loves to paint her face with the face painting crayons.
So does Mator!
The water table is awesome! Every single time Mator tries to drink from this shower head. She knows she's not allowed. She looks at me and slowly puts her mouth towards it until I can't take it any longer and say desperately, "NO!". Then she just smiles and looks at me as if to say, "I love it when you do that!"
These two go straight to the art table even though we have the same art supplies at home. Somehow it is more fun with a larger piece of paper, child sized tables and mommy not standing over them going, "Are you using complementary colors? Wow, look at the contrast there! Make sure you don't use too much glue!"
This is a play area for little babies that Mator is about to outgrow (shhhhh, don't tell her!) In the background check out the honeycomb climbing structure. Very cool.

So that's our local children's museum. If you live nearby or are back visiting home, stop in. The cost is $5 per person and memberships are affordable. And no, this is not a paid advertisement. Just a happy customer!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Are the Chances?

When I went to bed last night I thought, "Instead of getting up early like I always do (in order to be showered and ready for the day when I wake the kids) I'm going to wait to take my shower so that Doodle can "fix" my hair in braids and pony tails and ribbons that will have to be cut out like she has been begging to do for the last 3 days." The plan was that after this fun time, I would lock the two of them in Mator's room and take a shower. Yes, I did say lock them in the room but I'll get to that later. What are the chances that after three days of begging to do my hair that Doodle would emit an expressionless, "No." when I excitedly offered her the opportunity after breakfast?

Mator decided she was going to wear Ariel panties this morning and doggone it, I couldn't change her mind. We have been working on the potty and apparently she is a superstar for both sets of grandparents. So I thought, this is good practice. What are the chances that the panties will be soaked within 20 minutes? What are the chances that the replacement pull up will be "UH hum" full in another 20 minutes but darling daughter will remove the offending article herself and not tell her mommy?

Later on, of course, I did have to take that shower so I put Mator in her room with all the binkies she could handle, her books and her Little People (and a diaper!) and told her I'd be back in ten minutes. I locked her in her room (a few months ago I turned the door knob around so that it locks from the outside for just this kind of emergency. And hopefully this doesn't freak anybody out, especially you guys that only have one kid. She really is perfectly safe in there). So a few minutes into my shower Doodle and Mator both wander into the bathroom (because as every mom knows, small children think it is their duty to "protect" their mothers everytime they are in the bathroom from any and all kinds of evil. And the way to do that is to stand right beside them asking deep questions about life like, "Why can't I have a piece of gum right now?" and fighting with siblings while just out of reach) So anyway, my response to hearing these two sets of feet was,
"Doodle, did you let Mator out of her room?"
"Did you open the door?"
"How did she get out? I locked her in there for a reason!"
"She came out the tunnel in the closet into my room and got out"
What are the chances that the "tunnel" (really a hole built into the wall between the kids' closets that is big enough for them to crawl through) that I intentionally put in when we built this house to add to the fun of it would be used as an escape route for my two year old?

The fun just continued.
I am subbing every Tuesday and Weds. from 2-3 at Muffin's school for the month of November. My babysitter that is family fell through so I had to have another sitter at the last minute. What are the chances that all of my dirty laundry is sorted into piles on the floor and the whole house needs to be swept because the one day of my life that I decide that popcorn is good enough for lunch is the day that a non family member comes at the last minute to babysit?

So I began furiously sweeping the house when I was interrupted. Have any other moms had this happen when you are trying to get something done...You see a darling child doing something that you wouldn't normally allow. But you are almost finished so you figure, it can wait a minute. I mean, what are the chances that the peanut butter that the darling child is supposed to be eating but that got spread on the neighboring chair will be a problem in the next 2 minutes?

I did stop sweeping long enough to help said child get her hands cleaned up before departing from the lunch table. Then it was back to sweeping like crazy. Except what are the chances that the peanut butter that you thought you wiped off the chair was actually on your hand, but you don't realize it until it is spread all over the flexible tubing of the vacuum? Can you imagine all of those creases in the tube are covered in peanut butter? I can.

What are the chances? Apparently the chances are pretty good. And I'm pretty tired!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Providence Photography Opens Doors

This has been brewing for some time but I am so excited to finally announce that my business partner and I have been blessed to acquire a studio space for our business - Providence Photography! We have been shooting in homes, churches, parks and schools for three years but this month we got the keys to our own place in Baltimore. We are located at 1407 West Market Street and even though we are still painting and moving in, we are also setting up appointments.

Here is our web site that is also new: Providence Photography
Here are some pictures of the space that I took when I was doing some painting and cleaning this weekend. Can you guess what it used to be before it was ours? Most of the clues have been removed but there is one thing left that might give it away...If you are nearby and interested in a coupon, email me or leave a comment and I'll get you my "friends and family" special! I guess these will be our "before" pics-can't wait to post the "after" when everything is in place. Carolyn and I are so thankful for all of the support and encouragement that has been offered to us over the years from our husbands, families and friends. We are most thankful to the Lord for seeing this all through in His time!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Camp - In (or Campin' if you're from SE Ohio or Alaska)

What a weekend! I think I could have 3 or 4 different posts it was so full! Friday night we went to the Decorative Arts Center for their First Friday Event. It had a Chinese theme and the big girls are so into that. They always do a nice job of having a project that kids and adults can do, free food and activities in the display. One of the highlights was a storyteller and for reasons I couldn't quite figure out, she had brought some live bunnies. They were the most relaxed rabbits I'd ever seen. She held one on her lap on its back and stroked its tummy until it fell asleep! The kids really enjoyed that. And the project was a small chinese lantern that they painted. Even Mator made one. They gave out little glow sticks that fit inside. More on that later. When we got back, we "camped in" the living room. Here we are reading stories by the firelight in front of the tent.

I had set up the tent in the great room in the afternoon so that when we came back we just roasted marshmallows (over the gas stove) and got ready for bed. The big girls have been begging for a campout all summer. Andy usually takes them once a year. As you will see, I am not much of a camper these days. I really need my white noise (note the radio that played ocean waves all night-hey, you can camp by the ocean!), and a soft bed. So I hauled the cushions off the couch, and two sleeping bags for a mattress for me into the tent. Notice how my bed in the middle is about 10 inches higher than the girls? This also serves the purpose of keeping them from laying on ME in the middle of the night!Then we hung our newly created lanterns from the ceiling of the tent and put the glow sticks in. So neat!

Emma scared the begeesies out of me when she woke up in the middle of the night screaming! My first instict was to put my hand over her mouth so she didn't wake up everyone else-nice huh? I guess she was having a dream because she just laid back down and went back to sleep. It took me a little longer. And, despite me hanging dark blankets over the windows in the living room, everyone was wide awake by 6:30 AM. AHHH, the joys of camping!

Friday, November 7, 2008

What is the deal with Facebook?

OK. I'm really trying. I am. But I don't get the draw to Facebook. Yes, I have made contact with a couple people I haven't heard from since high school (that's about 16 years ago for those of you keeping track) and that was really neat. I like that part. But I don't get the "addiction" that everyone talks about. How they have to check it all the time and can't go a day (or hour) without it. I find that I have a hard time ever checking it.

I get a new email everyday saying so-and-so recommended this friend or to join this group or that. I haven't joined anything yet because it seems like you have to give access to your account or something to do that and I haven't had time to research what that means or the repurcussions of such an action. So, I'm missing something here. If you are a big Facebook user, please tell me why you love it so much! I hate to think that I am missing the point but alas, I am!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pics from the trip

Andy and I left Lancaster to escape the political madness of Ohio in the days leading up to the Presidential election and where did we end up? Another swing state! Oh well! We did have a wonderful time and I was able to get a basic bones web site up at (Go check it out-let me know what doesn't work or is frustrating).

Here are some pictures of the trip. When we went to church on Sunday, it was in a beautiful neighborhood full of houses like this one. I saw one in the paper from this street that was for sale - 1.2 million dollars!Here's the CNN truck outside the church intereviewing parishioners of First Baptist.
This is the front of First Baptist, Richmond. The sanctuary was gorgeous!
This is the place we ate breakfast after church (Perly's) it was so good that I went back there Monday and Tuesday while Andy was at the conference!

Did I mention that I had to order room service one night? This is my $21 hamburger and fries (very good stuff) and it even came with a flower in a vase!
This is our room at the Jefferson Hotel. It was huge and I spent most of my time at the desk over on the right working on the website.

SHHHHH-don't mention this to the kids, there was a pool and I had it to myself whenever I wanted!
This is an area where Andy's group had a reception at the hotel. I wasn't invited but I did do some people watching (some people call it stalking but I prefer people watching)
This is the lobby with (who else?) Thomas Jefferson in statue form.
Thanks to my parents, Andy's parents and my brother Jason's family for watching the kids! We got back late Tuesday night and hit the ground running. I know this internet equivalent of a slide show of our trip is probably boring you to pieces, I'll try hard to write something more interesting this weekend!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Richmond, VA

Andy and I arrived in beautiful Richmond, VA last night at the very fine Jefferson Hotel. We arrived after dark and I must admit that the reputation of the city made me a bit nervous. Formerly the murder capital of the US (at least per capita) I know they are working on that these days. Once checked in, we checked with the concierge about dinner places and walked a couple blocks to Terrants. We had an awesome dinner-Andy got beef tenderloin and I had some crab cakes before heading back to the hotel.
The hotel is pretty amazing. Because Andy is here for an economics teachers conference, we were able to get a very special rate. The back of the door rate is $405 which I know is never accurate but still, i don't think I've ever stayed anywhere that the first number was a three, let alone a four! The foyer and entrance are incredibly ornate and beautiful. I think we were both a little let down with the room though. It was pretty small and dark although the little bottles of soap and lotion were sweet. Smelled so good! We had reserved a room with two doubles since originally we were thinking about taking the kids with us. The King rooms were all booked last night but they were able to move us into one this morning.
Thanks to daylight savings, we were up early and decided to go to early church. Andy had researched and we chose to go to First Baptist, Richmond. The Pastor had an interesting blog and seemed to be a good teacher so we went there today. It is a congregation that is over 200 years old with a huge facility in a beautiful part of town. We parked our car on the street and walked past the CNN truck interviewing parishioners on the street. WHAT? All due to the election. The service was traditional and formal which reminded both Andy and I of our childhood churches and seemed appropriate for this historic region.
When we got back to the hotel, our things had been moved to our new room, a King which was a great deal larger and nicer than the other room. They had even moved all of our things over which was a great deal except that we quickly realized that some Uhhhh, personal items had been left behind in our other room. So I had to find housekeeping and be let back in to rescue them. I'll leave it to your imagination what those things were but suffice it to say, it was awkward.
Now Andy is getting ready to head out to his reception and opening meeting for the Powell Center for Economic Literacy. My goal over these next few days is to set up a website for our photography business, or at least get a good start. You'll read about it here when it's ready!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat on a budget

If you know me well, you know that I am...thrifty. I haven't always been this way. Way back in high school and college when my mom used to hand me her credit card and have me do the grocery shopping I wasn't doing much comparison shopping or coupon clipping. In fact, one of our first disagreements as newlyweds between my beloved and me was whether or not the generic brand of a product was as good as a name brand. I insisted that "Tylenol" had a brand investment in pain reliever that Kroger did not and therefore had more to lose if they had a faulty product. We had many heated debates and the winner was whomever happened to do the grocery shopping!

Then I had children and wanted to be a stay at home mom so the bargain hunting began in earnest. There are very few name brands that I will buy these days without a coupon or a sale (two that come to mind, Prego spaghetti sauce and Cottonelle toilet paper-both are really important to me!)

All that being said, I wanted to show you some pictures from trick or treat Thursday night. I wanted to say that while I am thrilled that not a penny was spent on costumes, all three of my children got to go as their first choice!!

Here is Doodle before we left. Even though her character (Pippi Longstocking) is a little rough around the edges due to her unusual upbringing, I'm pretty sure she didn't chew tobacco. No, that is simply chicken from her dinner that it took her 45 mintues to chew and swallow (we were actually at the second house collecting candy when she swallowed it). She was not happy when I took this shot but it does show off her freckles.
This is Mator at the 2nd house. Can you just see it in her eyes as she begins to comprehend the situation..."Wait just a second here. I put on a costume and walk around and people just GIVE ME CANDY! Does anyone else know about this? Why haven't you told me it was this easy to get candy before!" She's a bunny and you can actually see her ears in the next picture of Muffin...
This is kind of hilarious. Can you guess what Muffin is? An ice skater. Going to practice!!! Except instead of carrying ice skates like I suggested, she decided to roller blade the entire night. Guess how many times she's roller bladed before tonight...twice! Also, when she mentioned this idea I said it was fine since we were taking the stroller and I figured I'd just throw her shoes into the bottom for when she'd had enough. But she left the shoes at home so she was committed to doing it for the entire 90 minutes. And you know what, she did OK. She got significantly better and all of her complaining was good natured and self-effacing.
Here's all the loot. This should definitely last until Easter. :-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You've Gotta Laugh Sometimes!

Copied From Crabby Fat Guy's Site. Since I don't know where he got it, I can't give props but it gave me a giggle today.