Monday, June 30, 2008

June

You can tell it's been a bad month in the stock market when you log into Vanguard and discover that the last time you logged in was May 31....

I used to log into our accounts obsessively, when the market was doing well. Now that we're officially in a bear market (see last Thursday and Friday's drops), I haven't been logging in as much. I update our net worth summary at the end of every month, so we can see where we're going and where we've been, financially speaking, and make sure we're making progress toward our goals. I was dreading doing this month, though. I can't believe the market is off 20% from 2006.

Part of me wants to run and hide in a corner and wait another month before updating our spreadsheet, and part of me wants to find all the cash I can and pour it into the stock market now while prices are down!! And still another part of me wishes I had no idea what the stock market is...ignorance would be bliss. :)

Still, I do trust that God is in control, and that the market always (eventually) goes back up again.

Climbing


Anne is our little climber. She will climb on anything--I do not enjoy taking her to the playground because she takes years off my life, watching her act like a monkey!

Of course, Brad has to get in on the action. This is exactly why I go to BJs--to get big boxes for the kids to climb on!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trains, what else?


We recently had lunch with Brad's special friend, Miss Kay. She gave him a new train and we had to come home and make a really big track worthy of the new train.


Poor Anne--she is being instructed not to touch the train tracks and must content herself with a hard hat.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pullen Park, Part III

Daddy and Brad give each other air high-fives.

And our sweet Anne wants to do everything her big brother does!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pullen Park, Part II

But never fear, Brad has found something else to do.

You can see he's wearing sandals and not orthotics for the first time since he was 14 months old. That's a big change for us. We discovered his feet were molding the orthotics rather than the other way around when he told us they were hurting his feet. Since we're going to the spina bifida clinic next month, we decided to buy a cheap pair of sandals and forgo the orthotics for a few weeks. He loves them, but he's not used to feeling sand in his feet, and it drives him crazy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pullen Park, Part I

Per Daddy's request, we visited Pullen Park on Father's Day. This is the park that has the train, and the boat rides, and the carousel, and lots of play spaces. I was taken to this park as a little girl, whenever we came to Raleigh to visit my grandparents. My father was taken to this park when he was a little boy, and now my children come here. I'm not sure that much has changed in 40 years!

But uh-oh. Brad senses there is something amiss.

That's right. The train has been temporarily shut down. I swear he spent a good 10 minutes gazing forlornly at the train. I read later on in the week in the News & Observer that there was a problem with the track and a specialist had to be called in from another part of the state to fix it. Hopefully it will be up and running soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Graduation


My cousin, Katie, graduated from high school this month. We went to her party and Anne and Brad got to see their favorite babysitter, cousin Julie (for some reason, Brad will not call her just Julie--it's always "Cousin Julie").

Solution

Our electric bill arrived on Monday, and I knew that it would be higher since I was running the A/C more now that I'm home with the kids during the day, but I didn't expect it to be 50% higher! If you know me, you know that I function best in the cold, and heat does not agree with me.

After a few days of tinkering, I finally discovered the following truths:

If you come inside from 90+ degree heat, your 77 degree first floor will feel cool. If you go from your 77 degree first floor to your 73 degree second floor, that will feel even cooler...just don't go back downstairs!

Seriously, though, it's all about getting gradually accustomed. I used to keep the A/C to 69 degrees, if you can believe that (hey, I said I liked it cool!), so 73 and especially 77 is amazing for me. I hope to get it up to 74 and 78 by the end of the month. I'm looking forward to seeing my reward on the next electric bill.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More CVS


Guess how much I paid for all of this? Does it help to know that all of the above retails for $51.55? That's:

2 boxes of bandaids
4 soyjoy bars
3 toothbrushes
2 tubes of toothpaste
1 bottle of listerine
2 packs of AA batteries (8 per pack)
2 packs of C batteries (4 per pack)
1 pack of AAA batteries (4 per pack)

For....are you ready?.....$7.83. That's right. $7.83.

I also received over $30 in ECB that I will use on my next visit--hopefully I'll spend even less! I'm telling you, if you're paying for toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner...you are paying too much!

How do I do this? Read my last post on this subject, and then check out couponmom.com and CVS to get started!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Kid in a Candy Store

I miss the Washington Post. There, I said it. The only thing I miss about Washington is the Sunday WP. We had it delivered, and every Sunday after church I would devour it while Doug watched Fox News and Meet the Press (yes, we're very boring). The writing was excellent, the stories were interesting, and it was always informative.

Then we moved to NC. I emailed the Post to give them my new address, and received a reply confirming my cancellation--they don't deliver outside of the DC area! I was NOT happy, but decided to give the News & Observer a try. Um...it's not as bad as the Post Standard (the paper I grew up with in Syracuse, NY), but it's pretty close. The writing is almost painful to read, the stories are poorly delivered, and every time I find myself reading anything remotely interesting and/or well-written, I know that if I look at the byline it will be something from the Times or the Journal or the AP. I have been complaining long and loud to my poor husband about the sad state of the local paper!

So I finally found this deal for Sunday delivery of the New York Times (can you believe the WP does not deliver outside of Washington?!?!) for half off the regular price for 12 weeks (after 12 weeks we'll just have to go to the grocery store and buy it, 'cause home delivery is expensive!).

Oh. My. Goodness. Sunday after church we ate lunch, the kids were put down for naps, and I settled in my armchair with the paper. As I perused the sections, headlines from each caught my eye-- "The New Trophy Home," "For a Good Retirement...", "Decline in Buying Power of Food Stamps..." Not to mention the NYT Magazine and the lovely columns therein (my favorite is The Ethicist). I just sat there going from one section to the other--as soon as I would decide that yes, I would definitely start with the Business section, I'd read another intriguing headline and be tempted to start with the Style section. I felt like a kid in a candy store--each headline, each story, each section was better than the last and I could not determine where to start!

I finally decided to start with the Magazine and slowly savor the paper over the course of the week. After six months of nothing but the N&O, I feel refreshed and invigorated to be reading something worth reading on Sunday afternoons! I'll still buy the N&O, but only for the coupons. I'll tell you--it's definitely the simple things in life.

Kids and Church

Doug took Brad to church last night while Anne and I stayed home. They arrived at the same time our pastor, Andy Davis did, and when Brad saw him in the parking lot he ran into his arms, shouting "Dr. Davis! Dr. Davis!" Andy picked him up and carried him into church!!

Doug and Brad went to sit in the sanctuary, and after awhile Andy joined them. When Brad saw him come in, he said, "You preach!" Andy laughed and said, yes, I do.

Brad came home and told me all about this, including the pen that Dr. Davis had given him (he's carrying it around even now). I told Brad he could use the pen to draw a picture of Dr. Davis preaching when he sits in the big service with us and worships. Brad thought about that and said, "Yes. But if I get squirrely, I can go to the nursery." ?! I looked at Doug, and he looked at me, and we both said, "Did you teach him that word?" I have no idea where he learned the word "squirrely" and he's obviously using it in context! I just about died laughing--he was so serious when he was telling me that! This kid cracks me up.

I'm so thankful he's so willing to give hugs to people, and that he bonds so easily with great men in our church, like Dr. Davis and Dr. Hatcher (who took him and Doug fishing on Friday, by the way--Brad caught six fish (!) and threw them all back). And I'm thankful for these men, who don't mind spending time with a three year old! I can think of at least one previous pastor I've had who would never pick up a child and carry him into church--he would have been too busy and important for that--but Dr. Davis truly has that pastor's heart. We are really blessed to be part of our church.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Swim Lessons, Part IV

Finally, they all swim back to the other side of the pool.

Next up is two weeks of swim lessons Mon, Tues, Wed, and Thurs (eight lessons total) of just kids, no moms. I thought it would be a good idea to start with the parent/child Mon/Wed classes and then jump into the total immersion thing. I'm hoping they start teaching them without the floaty things on their backs. But all in all, I'm pretty pleased--Brad had a great time.

Here he is, in the sprayground after a hard morning's work.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Swim Lessons, Part III

Next, they all get noodles and swim to the far side of the pool (though Brad doesn't really need one).

This caught me by surprise--it was the first time they had done this, and Brad was the first volunteer (which is why I didn't have time to zoom in). Most of the kids (a couple balked) got up on the diving platform and jumped into the water.

Brad thought it was great fun.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Swim Lessons, Part II

The next part of swim lessons is throwing a duck in the water...

...and then jumping in to go swim to it and "rescue" it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Swim Lessons, Part I

This is how swim lessons start (this was the last day of Parent/Child lessons, though no parents had actually been in the water for two weeks)--each kid jumps in to the water to Jessica, the teacher. Brad and Brody are always the first ones in.

He likes to get his head completely under water.

Good job, Brad!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Swimming


I couldn't get a picture of her without the toothbrush. What can I say? She's very into oral hygiene.

There are LOTS more swimming pics to come. I took both of them into the pool (usually it's just Brad and I at swim lessons), and it was Anne's first time on the sprayground. She was a little hesitant at first, but it wasn't long before she was having a blast. I actually forgot the camera during this trip, and I was kicking myself because while they were on the sprayground, Anne was a little scared to go under an arch of water, so Brad took her hand (without my prompting!) and they walked under it together. It was the sweetest thing. He's really growing into his role as big brother.

Speaking of swimming, both kids are doing really well in the water. I strap a small flotation device to Brad, and he doesn't need any more help from me--he will jump in the water and swim to me and swim back to the wall and go underwater--he just loves it. And Anne, too! She does NOT want to be held and is always trying to swim on her own. She will also jump in the pool to me and doesn't mind going under water. Her favorite thing to do is to arch backward while I'm holding her and put her head in the water as if she's doing a back float.

This all occurs in the main pool--the Y actually has a toddler pool that is two feet deep, but I don't like to go in it, because it's incredibly hot--it feels like a sauna--and it's really not safe. It gives an illusion of safety, because both kids can walk in it, but both of them (even Brad) lose their footing and go underwater. I have to constantly keep fishing them out of the water, especially Anne. At least in the main pool I know I have to hold Anne and I don't have that false sense of security. So every time we go I tell Brad that we can only go in the big pool, which is better anyway, because he gets to jump, and that's what he really likes.

This is definitely going to be a fun summer--I'm so glad we joined the Y!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pigtails!


Doesn't she look adorable?! Okay, maybe a tad devilish. But really, too cute! Don't worry, I didn't let her go to church like this--I was just experimenting. She arrived at Sunday School with a sedate little bow in her hair. But it won't be long before I can do all sorts of fun things with her hair--I can't wait!

The suitcase is Doug's--he went to the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis this week. During one of Brad's "train trips" in the kitchen, he told me he was going to the "Southern Convention with Daddy."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Asheville

One of the (many) perks of Doug's job is the use of a cabin owned by his employer in Asheville, NC, which is in the mountains. It was really nice. They just finished renovating, and we had a great time. The views alone are worth the trip. This is the view from the kitchen window.

This is the view from the top of a mountain that we drove up.

Daddy and the kids marveling at God's work. Brad just touched our hearts--we were all standing there, looking at the mountains, and Brad said, "Can I pray?" Of course you can! So we prayed at the top of the mountain.


These were really high mountains. On the way down the mountain, as we were heading home, we saw numerous signs and places for trucks to drive off the road in an emergency--it was really steep!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I can take a hint

Daddy and Brad went to Campbell University this morning to ride a helicopter!

Mommy and Anne stayed home together and spent the morning in the playroom, just hanging out. Anne likes to play by herself a little bit and then come and sit on my lap for a few minutes and then go play some more. Then we tidied up the house a bit and came downstairs to have an early lunch, around 11:15am.

I sat Anne in her high chair and she attacked her potato salad. I turned on my computer to check my email. A few minutes later I glanced over at Anne and she was no longer attacking her lunch, but putting small pieces languidly into her mouth with droopy eyes. A few minutes after that she started yawning. The next time I looked over she was asleep.

I can't recall a child of mine ever falling asleep in a highchair, and especially not when they were eating! It's 11:32 now, and Anne is sound asleep upstairs in her crib.

Mowing the lawn


Don't ask me how or why, but somehow Brad has gotten it into his head that he needs to wear mittens outside (he calls them gloves) to help Daddy mow the lawn. Never mind that we've been breaking records for highs here (it was 100 degrees yesterday). The suspenders--well, he found those in his closet and wanted to wear them. Why not?

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Godly Woman

The kids and I went over to the Hodges' home today for a play date--our first time together. Things were going well until Brad started throwing fits, and I could not get him to obey me. We ended up leaving early, and leaving Zinnada with a mess to clean up.

I called her from the car on the way home to apologize again for my son's behavior, and do you know what? She knew exactly what I was thinking--that I was embarrassed that he acted that way in front of other people, and that I was worried she would think I was a terrible mother.

Before I could even say anything, she told me that she was not judging me and that sometimes children are like that. She told me that as soon as I left she started praying for me....Zinnada, you really blessed me today with that phone call. It is such a blessing to have a sister in Christ that understands the struggles of raising children for the glory of God, and sympathizes instead of judges, that offers prayers and kind words. Zinnada did not minimize Brad's behavior by saying, "it's okay,"--I could see even before we left that she was troubled by it--which I also appreciated. It's not okay, and I needed those prayers!

Our pastor preached a sermon this past Sunday from Isaiah, and in the sermon he rebuked all of us for engaging in a culture of schadenfreude. I was really convicted by that, but Zinnada is not like that at all. During our phone call I was reminded of Pastor Davis' sermon and how Zinnada was just the opposite--she was building me up and praying for me even before I called!

Zinnada, you are a godly woman and a wonderful sister in Christ--thank you so much for letting us visit today!

Bored?

I can't wait until they get old enough to say, "Mom, I'm bored." Then I can say, as generations of mothers have said before me, "Never fear, my darling child. I have so many options for you. You could dust, or vacuum, or wash these dishes, or fold this laundry, or..."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trains

This is the new favorite game, and it's my favorite game now, too. Previously, Brad would take all of the chairs and stools in the kitchen and line them up to make a big train. Then he would pile a whole bunch of whatever he could find (books, magazines, coasters, whatever) on the chairs for "freight," and "drive" the train. Messy to clean up--the new game is nicer.

This new game of trains involves getting into one of two cabinets that the kids can fit into and taking a trip, which involves lots of "whoo-hoos" and "all aboards."

There goes Brad. Have a nice trip!

He told me he was going to the "Baptist Convention in 'Diapolis' with Daddy." Doug was at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis, IN this week.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Breakfast at Lunch

Yes, that's a 4 lb. tub of feta cheese...okay, I may need to start limiting my trips to BJ's...anyway. Doug is not an eggs person, so weusually have them for either lunch or dinner, when he's not home. I make them with feta cheese and top them with fresh tomatoes. I have never seen the kids gobble up anything so quickly. This is their favorite meal.


Anne will not eat anything these days unless you provide her with a fork. She doesn't usually manage to stab anything, so this is a milestone for her. Both kids cleaned their plates and had seconds--I've never made anything so popular!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don't bother him--he's very busy

By the way, you can see in the background a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine. Our friend Miss Kay sent an e-card to Brad, and we printed it out, and now he carries it everywhere with him. I have never seen a little boy so excited!

Just some pics

We usually have an after-nap snack, and I made (the mistake) of making popcorn one day. It was fun until a certain little girl dumped the bowl upside down.

We took a trip to the mountains this past weekend. Here Brad is, "shaving" like Daddy, on the couch of the cabin we stayed in.
Getting ready for swim lessons.


Getting ready to...repair something?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hilarious

Okay, go read this list.

Back?

I just about died laughing. Doug recently bought an MP3 player for the sole purpose of downloading sermons. He has purchased way too many copies of the same books to hand out to people. We are an ESV household. We have three times as many Bibles as people in our home. We both sing different words to hymns. Just yesterday Brad handed me our copy of "Morning and Evening" and asked what "Mr. Spurgeon" had to say. (!)

And we all know that Doug is totally going to be reading The Bondage of the Will to Brad before kindergarten.

As I was typing this to post it, Doug said, "But that's not me--don't post that!" So I read him the list, one by one, and after about the eighth item he stopped saying, "Yes, but..." and went back to reading Piper.

Ummm....okay. The man with a son who can answer the first 10 questions to the Westminster Shorter Catechism thinks this doesn't apply. Sure. You just keep telling yourself that, honey. :)

Medical Updates

This will probably be a long post, so bear with me.

Brad:
Good news all around, praise God! The fluid in his spine has decreased since his last MRI, which is a very good thing. And it looks as though his spinal cord ends where it should, which is a VERY good thing--no risk of paralysis. The renal ultrasound was normal. His next appointment is with the spina bifida clinic at the end of July, where he'll meet with the urologist, neurosurgeon, and orthopedist.

Me:
I had an appointment with a new neurologist today. He was wonderful. First of all, he says that my MRI scan does not look pathological (I almost laughed when he said this--I usually hear "pathological" in use with "liar" and thought it was good that I had a well-behaved brain....I know I'm odd...anyway). He said that when people are diagnosed with MS they usually come in complaining of blurred vision and nerve problems. He is not ruling MS out, but he wants to test for a bunch of different things first.

First of all, I may have to fire my primary care physician (Dr. H). The neurologist (Dr. B) said that my thyroid levels in January were elevated. I asked him what the number was and he told me. It was high. Dr. H had told me in January that they were fine. But the number in January was higher than the number last August, when I was first diagnosed. That should have been a BIG clue to Dr. H--if my thyroid was higher in January my medications should have been adjusted. They weren't.

Dr. B took blood and is testing my TSH levels, B12 levels, Vitamin D levels, for Lyme disease, and some other stuff. I have to assume my TSH levels will come back elevated, and that my meds will be adjusted. It should take care of some of the problems.

However, some of the stuff, like the memory/processing issues, suggest to Dr. B that I could be chronically sleep-deprived. He wants a copy of the sleep study report (I have an appointment on Wed. to discuss with the ENT, but Dr. B. says that ENTs don't look for the same things he would look for).

Ideally, the sleep study and TSH levels would combine to indicate something that is not MS, something easily treatable. However, if they don't then we're back to the MS and looking at a spinal tap. Either way, I already have a follow up appointment and I'm confident that we'll have a diagnosis soon. I really like Dr. B--he's older, maybe in his late 50's, and he was like a big teddy bear, yet confidence-inspiring. He seems very thorough.

Garden


The kids are eating yogurt, another purchase leftover from the surgery. On the left is the compost pile, which is actually looking really good. And the garden on the right. So far we have roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, basil, yellow squash, and zucchini. It's too late in the season to plant anything else right now, but in August I can plant a bunch of other stuff, including carrots and spinach. Yum. I cannot wait to see how this turns out, and I'm really having fun teaching the kids about growing things!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gardening

Who says kids aren't useful? Here Brad is, going to fetch a rake so we can stir the compost pile.

Uh, oh! Where'd he go, Anne?

Anne will go find him.

Let's do the garden, Mommy!