Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Magic Room

I recently read The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow, for BlogHer Book Club.

I wanted to like this book. The premise sounded great. Subtitled "A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters," The Magic Room centers around Becker's Bridal, a successful bridal shop in the small town of Fowler, Michigan. Zaslow shares stories of brides who come to Becker's for their dresses. (Part of the experience is trying on favorite gowns in the store's mirrored "Magic Room.") He also focuses on the Becker family who has owned and operated the shop for generations.

Parts of the book really captured my attention. I was interested in the family dynamics of the Beckers in particular, and how they've been affected by the often all-consuming family business.

In general, though, I felt the author tried to do too much with the book. He'd obviously done his research; he shared plenty of statistics about marriage. But in a book that purports to be "About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters," the statistics somehow seemed to get in the way. Each story, about each family, was interesting...yet there were too many. I found myself getting mixed up as Zaslow jumped from one story to another.

If Zaslow had simply made this a story about the Becker family--perhaps with short anecdotes about their clients and occasional statistics about marriage--then The Magic Room might have been more magical...or at least more focused.

To read more about The Magic Room, check out the book's BlogHer Book Club page here.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary digital copy of the book, and a small stipend for participating in this program and providing my honest opinions.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Crafty Gift

During the fall, our women at church did a Secret Sister gift exchange. We were matched up anonymously, and brought small gifts to church for each other twice a month. At the beginning of December, we had a party to wrap up the program, and to reveal the matches. We called the program "LIFE Givers," with LIFE standing for "Love Is For Everyone."

I was bringing gifts to a friend whose last name is Mullens. I found a blank tin wall hanger-thingy (already painted red with a white border), picked up some green paint and a silver metallic pen, and also purchased a neat little Christmas tree rhinestone sticker. Here's the finished product!


And a close-up of the cool Christmas tree:


My friend opened it and said, "I love it!" Whew! It's always great when a handmade gift is well-received!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pregnancy update!

Well, folks, tomorrow is a big milestone...12 weeks pregnant! Woo hoo!

Thankfully, my first trimester of pregnancy doesn't tend to be miserable. But it's also certainly not when I'm feeling my best. I get queasy, tired, and sometimes pretty cranky. Thankfully, over the last few weeks, those symptoms have been gradually dissipating. I'm feeling much more like myself again these days! And "myself" is a pretty good person to feel like!

I have been released from the fertility center, and we are now going to the birthing center where Zoodle was born. Ann and I had our first prenatal appointment there yesterday, and it was wonderful. The midwife we met with was awesome! She wants to give Ann and me the type of pregnancy and birth we both want--in which everyone treats Ann as the mother. We will meet with the other midwives throughout the pregnancy, and I expect them to all be totally supportive!

I have gained a few pounds...and boy does the belly pop out faster with baby #3! I'm enjoying my little bump and looking forward to its continued growth!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Elf Elephant

Friday night The Engineer and I will be headed to his company's annual holiday party. We're each supposed to bring a white elephant gift. Like so many other white elephant gift exchanges, there are "good gifts" and "funny gifts." I hope that the hat I made fits both categories!

This is a fun "elf hat." It can be worn slouched in the back (for your inner fashionista)...

Photobucket Photobucket

...or flopped to the side (for your inner ELF!)


Hopefully it'll be a hit!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A unique way to countdown to Christmas

I'll be honest--We are a Christian family, but boy do I have a hard time keeping my focus on Christ during Christmas. Yesterday in the car, Zoodle was asking me where Santa lives. I'm not anti-Santa, but it would be kinda cool if he was as interested in Jesus' birth as he is in Santa's house!

One of my blogging friends, Lara, posted a link on Facebook today that looked intriguing. It was for an e-book called Truth is in Tinsel by Amanda White. After checking it out, I purchased my own copy for $4.99.

The book is broken up into 24 days, and we'll start it today. Each day includes a short Scripture reading, points to discuss, and a simple craft. Each craft is an ornament for the tree. (Today's craft looks really fun--a candle made with tissue paper and construction paper.) There's even a "picture and word clue" for the kids to listen to during each daily Bible reading, and when they hear it, we'll take a strip of paper with that word on it (included in the book) and add it to a paper chain.

It's a PDF download, so you don't need a Kindle or other e-book reader to read the book. (And while it's in color, I just now printed it on my black-and-white printer and I'm pretty sure that'll work fine.) It's $4.99, and I think it'll be a really good way for me to help my kids think about the birth of Jesus, and what He means in our lives. They get plenty of Santa information from other sources. This year I'd like them to learn more about Jesus at home!

Click here to check out Truth in the Tinsel. You can even download one day for free.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this blog post, and I purchased my own copy of the e-book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The power of poop.

One of the things that perpetually amazes new parents is just how much their lives can be affected by their children's pee and poop. As adults, we take these biological processes for granted. If we're lucky, we don't have to think too much about it all. But you get a group of moms with young kids together often enough, and eventually they'll be sharing information about their children's "habits." You know, frequency. Color. Consistency (both the "regularity" and the "what texture" types of consistency). It's quite lovely.

So in the interest of honoring such an age-old tradition (heh), I'll share with you what's going on with Zoodle.

A few months back, I blogged about a very expensive trip Zoodle took to the ER, in which we found out he was constipated. It was a pricey way to get inside information on my kid's bowels. The diagnosis surprised me, because he was pooping pretty regularly. But he'd gotten "backed up" and we were instructed to give him Miralax. (We got a generic version.) I used it for about a week, and he seemed to get "cleaned out."

Fast forward to this week. Zoodle has been needing to pee frequently, but is often unable to. I was afraid he had a urinary tract infection, so I took him to the pediatrician today.

His urine was clear, but she said he's probably still constipated, even though, as before, he's been going fairly regularly. However, he's been putting it off until it's really urgent. She explained that the poop can get stuck up in the small intestine in little clumps. Softer stools can still come out, but the child can still be backed up. The intestine can even swell, pushing on the bladder, making him feel like he needs to pee, even when he doesn't.

Wow. So the pee problem was related to the poop problem. The doctor suggested that we give him Miralax daily for six months. The bottle says to only use it for seven days, which is why I stopped giving it to him when he seemed to be better last time. But she explained that the warning is there to make sure that people don't cover up a bigger problem by taking a laxative each day. Zoodle has already had the constipation diagnosis (confirmed by x-ray), so it's fine for him to take the medication for a longer time, to make sure he gets cleaned out and the intestines recover.

The moral of the story? Kids can be constipated even when they're pooping regularly. Even when their poop is soft. And the urgent need to pee isn't always a bladder issue.

I know this post should have a big, red, blinking "TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!" warning on it. But I'm hoping it'll help some other parents. Because I know if you have little kids, you're aware of the power of poop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Q & A...Carrying a friend's child

If you missed my post on Saturday, you'll want to read it before you read this one! Here it is: A Big Announcement.

I really appreciate those of you who submitted questions! I have answers for you! (I did reword some of the questions.)


Q. Will it be hard to carry a baby for nine months and then give it away?
A. This is the most common concern I hear! What's most important to realize is that from Day One, I've known this is not my child. That creates an entirely different mindset. (Honestly, at this point it's much harder for Ann than for me. She would really love to be carrying her own child!)

Think of it this way. If my own infant lived with me for nine months and then was taken away, it would be devastating. But let's say a friend (who works full-time) and her newborn come live with me for nine months. I take on a majority of the childcare for those nine months until my friend moves away, as planned. I would miss that baby! But I wouldn't want to keep it. It was never mine.

So I don't anticipate wanting to keep the baby--it's my best friend's baby, biologically and legally! I do anticipate I will miss the baby, after having it growing inside me for so long. Add in postpartum hormones, and I expect it to be an emotional time. But I don't think it will be devastating--just challenging! Mixed in with those challenges will be the joy of seeing that child often, and getting to know it--not as mother, but as auntie!

In order to be approved as a gestational carrier, I had to meet with psychologists and do psychological testing. (The Engineer, Ann, her husband, and I all met with the psychologist together too.) It feels good to know that, while there are inherent challenges in this type of situation, I've been "approved" as the type of person who handles those challenges well!

It also helps tremendously that Ann and I are considering this a "shared pregnancy." We see each other often. She comes to appointments with me. We've found other ways for her to feel connected to the baby and the pregnancy. There are frequent reminders that I am not this baby's mother! I'm just providing it with a place to stay for 9 months. (And the name "Beth" means "House" in Hebrew, so...maybe this is a role I was always meant to play!)

Q. Have you spoken to other gestational carriers about their experiences, unique things to expect as a carrier, emotional ups and downs, etc.?
A. I haven't. There are online message boards for carriers, but I think this is such an individual experience--what I struggle with will be different than what others struggle with. I didn't want to create problems in my head--I really want to stay positive! However, at the psychologist's office, we had an opportunity to discuss potential issues that many carriers and parents encounter. The psychologist who met with all four of us specializes in these situations, so she had great advice.

Q. How do your husband and kids feel about it?
A. The Engineer thinks it's great! When I first brought it up, he was open to the idea but needed time to adjust to it. Eventually he got used to the idea and saw it as a positive, a cool gift I could give to our friends. When the psychologist asked him if he would have trouble giving me emotional support through a pregnancy when it wasn't his child, his response was, "No, she's still my wife!" I loved that--and he has really been a great support to me!

The kids understand it and are excited about the process of pregnancy. They like to see pictures and diagrams of embryos online. They are young enough that they probably don't realize how unique this situation is, and they just "roll with it"! Sunday, Zoodle was talking to some friends of ours, and said, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy. But it's not our baby; it's Coqui and Peanut's [Ann's other kids'] baby. Their mommy couldn't have a baby because she doesn't have a uterus because her uterus got sick." (He's 3 1/2 years old!)

Q. Are you planning a natural birth again? Is there anything unique with how doctors/nurses/midwives will handle your situation?
A. I absolutely want to do another natural childbirth (maybe another waterbirth) at the same birthing center where Zoodle was born. We haven't met with the midwives yet, but I expect them to be very supportive.

Q. Is it/will it be weird having to explain to acquaintances and people you see around town? Do you expect criticism from people who just do not understand, and what will you say to them?
A. It can be a "different" thing to explain, but people love us and have been so supportive! And a large number of my friends are also Ann's friends, so they were already used to the idea since she's been through this process before. As for strangers who make comments when my belly is bigger, I'll just have to figure out what I want to say and when. When someone says to my kids, "Wow, you're going to have a brother or sister!" do I just smile, or briefly explain? (The kids may take care of it for me!) I'll figure it out as I go.

As for criticism, I think the best thing to do is just to briefly educate people on the facts (e.g., this baby belongs to its parents biologically and legally), and stay positive. This process is an awesome thing to be involved in, and I want people to know that--it's not just a blessing for Ann's family; it's a blessing for me too.

Q. Are there legally binding forms you sign going into this that automatically name Ann and her husband as the biological parents when the baby is born?
A. Yes; we have a long contract that covers everything from Ann and her husband's legal parentage of the baby, to my responsibility to follow doctors'/midwives' orders, to the fact that I have no right to name the baby. (I thought that clause was pretty funny!) We worked with lawyers who specialize in these situations. The baby will legally belong to Ann and her husband at birth!

Q. Will you provide breastmilk for the baby?
A. At this point I am not planning to. It's important to me that I be able to emotionally transition from the role of the baby's "temporary home" to the role of the baby's "auntie." Providing pumped milk would, to me, feel like a "mother" task, and it's very important to me that my mind and body remember that Ann is 100% this baby's mother! I'll be adjusting to the baby's absence, and I think that purposefully continuing to lactate would make that adjustment more difficult for me.


I think this is such a cool process, but it's definitely not one that many people are familiar with. I want the people around us to understand it, and I hope the Q&A helped with that!

When I talk to a woman about this situation, she automatically wonders how she'd handle being a carrier. What a lot of women don't think about is what it's like to be a mother who needs to partner with another woman to bear her child. This is really a unique experience for Ann, complete with its own challenges and joys.

Ann has offered to do her own Q&A! If you have questions for her, please post them here as a comment, or email me at I really appreciate her openness! The more we can share, the more people can get used to--and celebrate--the creative ways that God grows families!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A BIG announcement (and a blonde joke)

Remember back in the '90s when blonde jokes were all the rage? I felt totally justified telling them, because at the time, my hair was dirty blonde. (It got darker as I got older...uh, I mean wiser.) Plus, I knew I had plenty of my own ditzy moments, so I could relate to the jokes! Anyway, there was one joke that I thought was so funny. (And if you have blonde hair, don't take this personally, okay?)

Q: What's the first thing a blonde asks the doctor when he tells her she's pregnant?
A: "Is it mine?"

Well, here's my big announcement...

I'm pregnant.

And it's not mine.

I know, I know...I've got a lot of explainin' to do!

So, remember my beautiful best friend Ann? The one who has filled such an important spot in my life? Well, Ann is a cancer survivor.


When she found out she had cancer over four years ago, Ann and her husband had a son, "Coqui," who is just a little younger than Chickie. They definitely wanted more children.

Unfortunately, the surgery that removed Ann's cancer (completely--yay!) also left her unable to be pregnant. But her doctor gave her hope--if they could find someone who wanted to be a gestational carrier for them (a more accurate term than "surrogate" for a woman who carries someone else's biological child), then they could have more children--children that were biologically theirs.

Ann and her husband let people know what they were looking for, and her husband's cousin quickly volunteered to be their carrier. In a lab, embryos were created with Ann's eggs and her husband's sperm, and one of them was transferred to their carrier. She became pregnant, and now Ann and her husband have a vivacious little two-year-old daughter, "Peanut."

But there was one embryo left, which was carefully frozen and stored for almost three years. Recently, this tiny little embryo was thawed and placed in my womb. We waited the requisite time for a blood test...and it came back positive! It's official.... I'm pregnant with Ann and her husband's third child! It's pretty ideal--The Engineer and I feel that our family is beautifully complete, and Ann and her husband feel that with one more, their family will be just right. They had an embryo that needed a place to grow; I have a uterus and enjoy pregnancy and childbirth. A great fit, right?

I'll be eight weeks pregnant tomorrow (Sunday, 11/20). We had the pleasure of seeing the perfect little baby on a sonogram this week, with its heart beating at a perfect pace. What a miracle! It will be so beautiful to see Ann and her husband meet their little one in person around July 1 of next year! And I know that child will be so special to me--I'm looking forward to being an honorary auntie!

So, I know this is a lot to take in. Most of us haven't ever known anyone who has been a gestational carrier. I know you probably have some questions, so I invite you to ask them here. You can ask anything--and I'll answer it, as long as I feel comfortable disclosing the information!

This is such a wonderful, beautiful, exciting, and unique experience. It's something I started considering when Ann and her husband were first looking for a carrier, over three years ago! I knew it would be so rewarding and I am deeply blessed and happy that it has worked out. What a huge privilege, to provide a temporary home to a baby who will then have the blessing of joining its wonderful family--a family who is so special to me. Wow--it's pretty awesome!

Ann and I see God's fingerprints all over this. He gave life to those little embryos and is protecting them...two-year-old Peanut, and her tiny sister or brother who's growing perfectly and getting bigger by the day. He gives me the desire to do this, and the excitement for it! He instills faith in Ann and her husband, so they can entrust me with their child for nine months. And we look forward to seeing His amazing creative miracle when this child is born! God is the One behind this--we want Him to have the glory!

Thanks for sharing in our excitement!

(Oh, and I hope to be blogging more often now. My mind has been so distracted by this exciting process and by early pregnancy that I haven't been on Twitter, Facebook, or my blog as often! Now that I am sharing this with my online community, I hope to be talking to you all more frequently!)

Bring on those questions...! (Don't be afraid to ask them!)

You can read Ann's announcement post here.

Edited to add: You can read my first Q& A post here--the answers to your questions may be there, but if not, ask away!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Isn't my kid so cute and amazing?!

I just thought I'd go ahead and give the post that title--because let's be honest, that's what mommy brag posts should be titled, right? (The alternate title could be "Please don't be TOO annoyed as I post photos that I find incredibly cute because I'm incredibly biased.)

But, hey, I do think Chickie is cute and amazing, and my biased heart loves this little book she made, on her own, at home the other day.

Title Page
I like, by Chickie

Page 1
I like eating

Page 2
I like looking

Page 3
I like playing

The phonetic spelling, the sappy-sweet smiley faces, the tails on her D'Nealian letters.... Only one thing I can say about that...

I like Chickie!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I like YELLOW

Chickie's kindergarten class uses a color system for discipline.

GREEN: Well-behaved. (Everyone starts on green.)
YELLOW: Warning.
ORANGE: Sit out from 10 minutes of a "special" (like P.E. or music.)
BLUE: Sit out from a special, and teacher calls parents.
WHITE: Referral to assistant principal.

When students misbehave to the point that they need to progress on the discipline scale, they have to move their own "clips" (clothespins) to the next spot on a color-coded bar in the classroom.

Chickie usually stays on green. When she does, she gets a reward--she can ride her scooter to school the next day (instead of walking.) About once a week, however, she gets in the car at the end of the day and says,

"Mommy, I had to move to yellow."

We talk about what happened. It's small stuff, such as playing at a time when she's supposed to be learning. She hasn't had to move beyond yellow, and so far, just the disappointment of moving her clip has been enough consequence for her. I don't give her more consequences at home. I'm thrilled that she's so open with me about school, even when she misbehaves.

And you know what? I'm kind of glad she's not on green every single day.

You see, I was a very compliant, very "good" kid. But I know what I had to go through internally to be that "good." I was a perfectionist. I feared failure. When I very, very occasionally misbehaved enough that my name was written on the board (the 1980s version of "moving to yellow"), I was so nervous the rest of the day--so worried I'd get a checkmark by my name and get a real consequence, like detention.

My good behavior was somewhat motivated by the desire to do the right thing, and that's great. But my good behavior was also motivated by fear. Doing something wrong made me feel so guilty and so anxious. I didn't want to go through that. I also feared doing something to displease the teacher.

Yes, I want my children to make good choices. But I also want them to be kids. I want them to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes, and then to go out and make a few more. When they learn to behave better, I want it to be because they've realized life really works better when you do the right thing--not because they're afraid of doing something wrong.

I'm glad Chickie's clip usually stays on green. And don't tell her this...but I'm also glad she occasionally has to move it to yellow--and that she still realizes how wonderful she is, at any color.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Foxy lady!

I recently got a special order for a crocheted fox scarf. This definitely turned into one of the most fun pieces I've designed! Here it is, the Foxy Lady Scarf:



Photobucket Photobucket

This little toggle clasp slips between crochet stitches to attach the head to the body or tail of the fox (as it's being worn in the first photo.)


Christmas will be here before we know it. It's a great time to get in your orders for hats, scarves, handbags, or other items! Click on the "Crochet Examples" tag at the bottom of this post to see more, and email me at with your ideas. I love doing custom designs!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kissin' Kindergarteners

A few months back, Chickie and her friend Coqui kissed each other at church--a couple of times. Big ol' smooches on the lips. We adults couldn't help but laugh, but we also made it clear to them that kissing is really for when they get older--at this age, hugs are more appropriate! They took our words to heart, and now they give each other frequent, enthusiastic hugs.

Today on the way home, Chickie told me about one of the boys in her class who had hugged her and kissed her, when she didn't want him to. I asked her how it made her feel. "Icky" was the word she used to describe it, and that was a red flag to me. This was no consensual kissing--or hugging!

"What did you do about it?" I asked her. She responded that she told her teacher. Yay!! She did exactly what I want her to do in these situations--told her teacher immediately, and told me too. Her teacher used their discipline system to give the boy a consequence.

Now, I know that exploring appropriate forms of affection is totally normal at age five. But I also think it's never too early for my daughter to learn that she should have boundaries, and that she has permission to enforce them.

So I told her she can push a boy away if he's trying to hug or kiss her and she doesn't want it. "I can push him?" she asked, surprised. I made it clear that if she can get away without pushing him (just walking away as he approaches), she should. But if anyone (except a younger kid who doesn't know better) tries to touch her in a way that makes her feel icky and she can't just walk away, she can push.

I then emailed her teacher to update her on the conversation I'd had with Chickie. I feel that it's important for her teacher to know that it was a big enough deal for my girl to talk to me about it, and I also wanted her to know that I'd given my daughter permission to push, within certain guidelines!

I've got to be partners with her teacher if I want this year to be a good one. So far, it has been--this is the only real concern I've had to bring up with her teacher. She responded quickly to my email. She told me that they suggest the child say "Stop" and then tell the teacher. They can't advocate pushing, but if someone is holding onto them and they can't get away, of course they can do what they must to get out of the situation. Sounds like a good plan to me, and one that I'll be reinforcing in later conversations with Chickie.

What about you? Do you remember dealing with these issues when you were a kid? Or have you dealt with them with your own children?

Monday, October 17, 2011


I've got big stuff on my mind right now and I've been wanting to find joy in the exact circumstance I'm in, every day.

As I was walking home the other day after dropping off Chickie at school, I was worrying about this big stuff that's on my mind. I was fighting in myself to trust God instead of indulging in worries.

Then I started really paying attention to Zoodle, who was riding in the stroller. He was playing a silly game on my phone in which he says something into the phone, and a cat repeats what he said in an altered voice. He was giggling in delight as he made funny noises and heard them repeated. So I took the phone and started saying my own little messages.

We both laughed, and I realized--finding joy doesn't just apply to the big stuff in my life, the stuff that consumes my attention. Lots of times that big stuff doesn't really need that much attention.

Finding joy also means looking away from that big stuff, and enjoying the small stuff. (Funny thing is, the small stuff tends to put the big stuff in perspective.)

Next time my mind is warring between worry and joy as I look at all of life's unknowns, I hope I can turn my attention to a giggling kid or a great song or a sweet moment with my husband--all the simple things God gives me to experience joyfully...every day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For Dennis


Back in 2003, I became involved in a community theatre. I met Dennis, who is the mustachioed gentleman in the middle of this photo. (It's a cast photo from the play we did together.)

We started as fellow actors. I met his wife Teri, and before they moved out of state, they became my real estate clients. But underneath it all, always, we were friends. Even with only occasional contact, we cared about each other. Last year they moved back to town, and once again they were my clients. It was wonderful to get to know them all over again.

Yesterday Dennis passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. I want to share some of my memories of him.
  • Dennis and Teri gave me the chance to help them sell a really awesome home, when I was still new to real estate. What's better, they trusted me through the process. That trust was a gift to me. What a great way to encourage me to be a great agent, and to build my confidence.
  • After they moved, Dennis and Teri drove back to town to watch me in a play. That meant so much to me!
  • A number of months later, I drove to their new home to watch Dennis play Daddy Warbucks in Annie. What a great role for him! He already had the acting and singing skills; he just had to shave his head, and he was a wonderful Daddy Warbucks. I bet those kids loved acting with him! And he and Teri were such sweet hosts. I'm so glad I took that trip.
  • He used to share openly about his experience coming home from Vietnam...about the warm welcome he didn't receive. So sometimes on Veteran's Day I'd send him an email, thanking him for serving. He responded with such warmth. I know I'll be thinking about him on November 11.
  • It was so great to reconnect with Dennis and Teri when they moved back to town last year. I had the pleasure of representing them as they built a house. I remember sitting in the car with Dennis. I think Teri was out walking a piece of land they were considering building on. "The most important thing," he told me, "is that Teri is happy. I know that this cancer may be what takes my life. I want to make sure she's in a place where she feels comfortable." No wonder she loved him so much!
  • When Teri called me earlier today to let me know about Dennis' passing, she told me, "I wanted to make sure I called you in person, because you've always been so special to us." It meant so much--so much--to hear that. They've been so special to me too. It's possible to feel close to someone even if you only see them or talk to them occasionally. That's how the relationship between me and Dennis/Teri has been. We respect each other. We love each other.
I'm going to miss my friend Dennis.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Volume control

We sat around the dinner table the other day with some friends. With four adults and four kids, there was a lot going on, and Zoodle definitely hasn't fully grasped the quiet, "inside voice" concept yet. His voice rose above the rest.

"Zoodle!" The Engineer said, exasperated. "Why are you talking so loud? You need to learn some volume control!"

We went on with dinner, and a minute or two later, Zoodle's voice piped up,

"What's vawyoom contwoah?"

We all laughed, and Daddy and I explained the "volume control" concept to him. But that wasn't enough. He followed up our explanations with questions about what "vawyoom" means, and what "contwoah" means.

And when we were done, he proved to us that he does indeed have volume control. The control just happens to be stuck on "LOUD."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Handbag #3!

I finished my third crocheted handbag! This one is a (very belated) birthday gift for my best friend Ann.


She wanted a flower in the front...


And, once again, I put plenty of pockets inside! (Love the green fabric she chose!)

Photobucket Photobucket

Hope you enjoy your new purse, Ann!


And, as the weather gets cooler...I'm taking hat orders! Feel free to email me at

Friday, September 30, 2011

The new Kindles

I have loved my Kindle. (Ahem...both of them.) I reviewed it here.

And I'm not usually the type who "needs" to upgrade when I buy something and the "new and improved" version comes out.

But still my geeky heart...then I heard about the Kindle Fire. And the Kindle Touch.

And I'm going to have a hard time not asking Santa for a new Kindle.

Here's a quick run-down on the various Kindles now available, and the ones that will soon be available.

Amazon just repriced some of the current Kindles. The one I have (now called the Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi) is now $99 (was $114) if you order the version with Special Offers.


I have absolutely loved the Special Offers on my Kindle. (Check out my review for more info on the Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers.) Don't tell Amazon, but I'd pay extra for the Special Offers. Lately the offers haven't been as good as they first were, but they still save me occasional money since I'm a frequent Amazon shopper. (For instance, I recently got some sunscreen for a great price with an offer for $10 off $25 of suncare.)

The Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi Without Special Offers is still $139. That's the same price as the Kindle Keyboard 3G With Special Offers. If you want 3G without Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers, you'll be coughing up $189.

I suppose I should add that the Kindle DX (3G-only, larger screen) is still available. And it's still really expensive...$379.

For those who are budget-conscious (and who isn't?!), there's a new player in the Kindle game. It's more minimalist, and has a name that reflects that minimalism. It's just the plain Kindle (With Special Offers or Without Special Offers.)

This Kindle doesn't have a keyboard. You can use the simple controls to select letters on an onscreen keyboard if you want to shop for books on the actual device, or take notes. But this review comment describes that process as "cumbersome." Still, at the awesome price of $79 with Special Offers or $109 without, this is a good option if all you want to do is read on the Kindle and don't care much about note-taking or actually shopping on the device. (I will say that while I really don't enjoy the process of typing on the keyboard on my Kindle, I'm glad I have it.)

In my original review, I said I'd like a touchscreen on the Kindle.'s coming! At a great price!

The Kindle Touch (Wi-Fi or 3G/Wi-Fi) comes out on November 21 and can currently be pre-ordered. The Wi-Fi version is only going to be $99 with Special Offers, or $139 without...the same price as the current Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi! The 3G version will be $149/$189.

Some people won't want a touchscreen. Personally I think I'd much prefer it. While the page-turning buttons on my Kindle are great, I don't really like the other buttons on it (below the screen.)

A touchscreen wouldn't be enough for me to cough up more money though, when my current Kindle works just fine. If Amazon wants me to get another Kindle, they'll have to do better than that.

Oh, what's that? They have done better? Well, hello there, Kindle Fire.

It's a 7-inch Android tablet (and of course an e-reader too!) This excellent blog post from Gotta Be Mobile compares the Kindle Fire to the Nook Color (from Barnes & Noble.) It points out that, while people will compare the Fire to the iPad, it really is more comparable to the Nook Color in size and function.

I love that the Fire (which will be released November 15 and is available for pre-order) will have Android 2.3 as its operating system. (I love my Android phone!) I love that it has a fast, dual-core processor. I love that it's from Amazon, and Amazon Prime Members can stream Amazon Prime videos for free. And I love that it's only $199. (The Nook Color is currently $249.)

I've thought about getting a tablet, but iPads have been out of my comfort zone, price-wise. And there haven't been any other tablets that have really tempted me. But this one just may be the one that coaxes me into the tablet world. It's one of the smaller tablets, but it's certainly way bigger than my phone!

The Kindle Fire wouldn't totally replace my Android phone. I imagine I'd end up using my phone mostly for (gasp!) phone calls (and texts), and I'd use my phone apps when I don't want to carry around a tablet or when cell service is available but Wi-Fi isn't. The Amazon Fire is currently Wi-Fi only. Edited to add: Call Me Cate has pointed out in the Comments that the app store for the Fire will be locked down to only include apps that work well on it. So it remains to be seen how many of my phone apps will be available for the Fire.

So, there you have it, fellow geeks. Kindle's been doing a wonderful job at the forefront of the e-reader business, and it looks like they may hit a slam dunk as they enter the tablet business. (Wired says they "may be the best and kill the rest.")

I'd better start writing letters to Santa now.

Disclosure: I wasn't compensated in any way for this post, and won't be compensated if you buy these products.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chills & sweats

This morning I experienced chills and sweats. No, I'm not sick. I was volunteering at a 5K race. Ann came along, and we had to be there at 5:45 a.m.

The chills came into play because we've finally gotten to the point that our evenings and early mornings here are (sometimes) cool. This morning it was in the high 50s, and for an Arizona girl, that's cold, especially since I was wearing sandals and the grass was dewy!

Once the sun came up, I quickly went from four layers on top (sports bra, tank top, light jacket, and race shirt) to two layers (sports bra, race shirt.) And by the time we were finishing up at 10:30 or so, it was downright warm outside, warm enough that when I got home I really needed a shower.

Volunteering at a race was a great experience. It gave me so much more appreciation for what goes into the races I've run (all of which were staffed by volunteers!) This was a smaller race, so we got to do lots of different jobs.

We assembled big flags. We helped set up the registration tent. I climbed scaffolding to put banners on the start/finish chute. (That part was fun!) We stood on the race course to direct runners. And we helped tear down afterward.

We didn't get paid, but we did get swag bags (with some nifty free stuff), food samples, bagels and coffee for breakfast, and raffle tickets. (Ann won a book!) We also got tech tees that are really nice considering it was a 5K event. And more than that, I realized how important race volunteers are, and I know I want to volunteer at future races. It seems that if I'm going to be part of the running community, it's a good idea to help that community "run" smoothly!

Today I volunteered because my troublesome leg isn't yet ready to run a 5K again; in the future, I'll volunteer because I know it's not only a good thing to do--it's also kind of fun.

Even with the chills and the sweats.

Ann and me at the finish line. Hey, we may not have run the race, but honestly, we worked harder than a lot of the runners!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Phone Photos

A few recent photos from my phone, and my comments about them...

We live near an area where there was recently a huge wildfire. It was bizarre to see this line on the horizon between smoke and blue sky. I think it was the next day that the wind died down and the smoke really settled in, and the whole city was hazy (and smelly) for a couple of days. One (smaller) fire was near us. Friends in a neighborhood 3/4 of a mile from us were evacuated. Yesterday I finally unpacked my evacuation suitcase that I'd packed just in case. Thankfully we didn't have to use it, and most of the fires are out now.

This ad popped up on my Kindle. A show all about revenge is not my cup of tea. It kind of makes me mad, to be honest. Seems like it just caters to baser instincts we should all be wanting to overcome instead of nurture.

I found my first gray hair. So far the only one....

The hubs and I went out for my birthday. And discovered that in a dim restaurant, the flash on my phone is really bright. (And by the way, I was wearing clothes. My dress was sleeveless, and in all the pics I took of myself, my dress was out of the shot. I look a lot more...adventurous...than I really am.)

My new running shoes! No, seriously--these are Bedrock Sandals, and they're one of the many varieties of running sandals now on the market. Right now I'm still primarily walking, but with the short bursts of running I have been doing, these feel great!

We found a dead tarantula when I was walking home with Zoodle recently, after dropping off Chickie at school. Chickie is my little biologist and has a fascination with tarantulas. I used two leaves to pick it up and put it in the cargo area under the stroller. Then at home I used tweezers to pick it up and put it in a Ziploc, where Chickie could (and did) study it to her heart's content after school.

I got Zoodle to ride his tricycle on the way to and from school this morning. I realized that he's not quite as skilled at pedaling and steering as I'd thought! But by the time we were getting close to home again, he'd really improved his skills. (I do however, think we'll do more at-home practice before we try any more of those long treks to school on the trike!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A story of friendship

A little over two years ago, I headed to church one evening for a women's Bible study. I don't remember what topics we were discussing that night, but something prompted me to open up to the women around me.

"I have a hard time being vulnerable enough to make the types of close friendships that I really want," I admitted, crying. "I want to start being vulnerable."

Opening oneself up to friendship can be hard. There's a lot of risk involved! I had a lot of friends, but I didn't have a best friend, and I wanted one. Yes, my husband is my best friend, but I'm talking about the type of friendship that a woman can offer! I wanted someone I'd automatically turn to when I needed a girlfriend to talk to--and I didn't have that in my life.

Afterward, a couple of the women came and talked to me. We said we wanted to be closer. One of those women was Ann.

Ann and I had been friends for a couple of years already. In fact, I'd felt that she was offering me deeper friendship. But I wasn't sure--we were so different! You've read about the ways that we treat books differently. It wasn't just that, though. Ann is German, and she tells it like it is. One day I told her, "You wear your heart on your sleeve!" and then had to explain the expression to her. She agreed that it fits her perfectly! You know where you stand with Ann, good or bad! I, on the other hand, can be overly concerned with how my actions affect others--so much that I try to avoid conflicts, even necessary ones.

But that night, something opened up in me, and something opened up in Ann too. Since then, we've built a friendship that has blessed my life more than I ever expected. I learn from Ann's honesty. I think she learns from my sensitivity too! We discuss parenting, and faith, and so many other things...and while we don't always agree, we sharpen each other like iron.

Recently Ann returned from a trip to the East coast. She'd visited New York City, and came back with an "I (heart) NY" shirt for me. "I figured you hadn't gotten one of these when you were in New York a couple of years ago," she told me with a laugh.

Well, I had gotten one, but I didn't want to make her feel bad, so I just laughed too, and thanked her.

Later, I realized, Ann would have just 'fessed up and told me the truth...and she'd want me to tell her too! So I sent her an email confessing that, thanks to her, I now have two "I (heart) NY" shirts. She thought the whole thing was funny, and so did I. More importantly, it was such a relief knowing that I could be honest with her, even with something so silly.

That's the type of friendship that I needed--an honest friendship with someone who stretches me in good ways. Having gone without it for so long, I have enormous appreciation for it now.

Recently we made it official and started using the "best friends" term. It's been an important way for us to to tell each other how special our friendship is. Does it mean neither of us will ever have another friend who's just as close? Of course not! I think one of the great things about our relationship is that we're each learning more about how to be a good friend. I hope that what we're discovering will help us develop other beautiful relationships as time passes, even as we continue to grow our own friendship.

And it all started with vulnerability. It started with me being willing to admit a weakness that was robbing me of what I needed. It started with Ann being willing to respond, offering her friendship--and accepting mine.

It was a risk. But most worthwhile things are. And I'm glad it's a risk we both took.


I love you, Ann! Thank you for being such a wonderfully devoted best friend!

Edited to add: Turns out Ann had a post saved in her Drafts folder that went right along with this one. She posted it today. It made me a good way! Here is her post: Click here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New friends

Know what I love about kindergarten? It's giving Chickie and Zoodle opportunities to make new friends.

Chickie has 19 other kids in her class, and I love to hear her talk about them. Thursday and Friday we walked to school with one of her friends (and her mom), and Saturday we went to their house for a playdate.


Two little girls dressed as princesses doing a magic show for us? The illusions may not be impressive, but the pure adorableness makes up for it.

Zoodle has made a new friend too. We've been going to school about 25 minutes before it lets out. We get a nice spot near the front of the car pick-up line, and Zoodle gets to play on the playground with his new friend C while we wait for the bell to ring.


Even I've made new friends--the moms of my kids' new buddies! I don't remember much about 1982 (the year I started kindergarten), but I'm thoroughly enjoying my daughter's experience!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First-time mom

For the last couple of years, I'd started feeling more and more like this parenting thing was going pretty well. Don't get me wrong; I know I'm not a perfect parent. But once I'd successfully gotten through so many major milestones with one child (sleeping in her own bed, potty training, weaning, etc.), and then started meeting those milestones with the second kid (often more gracefully on my part!), I began to feel like I knew what I was doing.

Until kindergarten started.

It's amazing; suddenly I once again feel like a first-time mom, navigating a whole new world! Some examples...
  • As I walked Chickie to school the first day, I came to a sudden realization--I didn't know proper crossing guard protocol. For instance, I didn't realize that when there's a median in the middle of the street, kids are supposed to wait there until the crossing guard goes ahead of them to the "second half" of the crosswalk. As I wondered how I'd reached my mid-30s without knowing how to follow a crossing guard, I realized that as a kid, I never lived close enough to walk to school. I'm proud to say that this old dog can learn new tricks; I'm now successfully following crossing guards with almost as much confidence as the grade-schoolers around me!
  • If you have kids, remember that tiredness that comes when they're babies, and you feel like you never get a full night's rest? For the first few weeks of school, I again felt that exhaustion. I've realized I've been spoiled! On mornings that I didn't need to get up early, I used to often let the kids watch some TV in the living room while I dozed in the adjacent bedroom. When I have to leave before 7:15 to walk my daughter to school, I don't have the luxury of sleeping in! I fully admit that I am extra-whiny when I don't get my sleep. Thankfully last weekend I took good naps on Saturday and Sunday, and this week I'm feeling more like my old self!
  • Then there are all the new procedures I am having to to check in at the office to visit Chickie for lunch or to pick her up early; how daily folders and Wednesday folders work; how the car pick-up line* works; how the discipline system works; and how to effectively communicate with the teacher (hooray for email!) wonder I was so tired the first few weeks!
Things are getting easier, and I think Chickie is adjusting to the new schedule too (though my sweet girl is not a "morning person" and doesn't love getting up before 6:30!) I'm looking forward to next year, when I'll be one of the seasoned grade-school-mom veterans.

*And am I the only one who hears "car pick-up line" and thinks it should have something to do with a Ford winking at a Chevrolet and asking if he can look under her hood? That's just me? Well, okay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: Faithful Place.

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen. I read a book for BlogHer Book Club, and really didn't care for it.

That being said, it has really good reviews on Amazon, so it might be one you'd enjoy. Click here to read my review of Faithful Place, a dark mystery novel by Tana French.

And I'd be happy to send my copy to someone who thinks they'd enjoy it. Comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (I'm putting this same offer on my other blog, and I'll edit the post once I've promised the book to someone.) The book has been promised to someone!

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the book and received a small stipend for honestly reviewing it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A labor of love

In honor of Labor Day, I'm thrilled to give you photos of a labor of love my mom and Mamma (grandmother) accomplished for me. My mom brought this on her recent visit, and I LOVE it!


Isn't it a gorgeous quilt?! I asked for "jewel tones," and I love the colors they used!


My Mamma did most of the piecing (sewing the pieces together), and my mom machine-quilted it. They are both experienced quilt-makers who do intricate, beautiful work.


I love the black background, and I even love the back of the quilt--because that's where the hidden gem of this jewel-toned quilt is discovered!


My mom used different colors of thread to quilt it--and I love the effect!


It's a great size for curling up on the couch on a cool winter evening (or on a warm summer evening when the kids and I have gotten chilled drinking smoothies!)


I'm so fortunate to be in a family with such talented and generous matriarchs!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I'm late on announcing the winner of the crochet giveaway! Thanks to all who were brave enough to guess how many stitches are in my mom's purse.

The purse has 4217 stitches.

I was so surprised when the winning guess came in, because it's very close! The winner is Ann, who guessed 4280 stitches. Wow, only 63 stitches away from the real total...that's only 1.5% difference! Great estimating...from someone who doesn't crochet!

It just so happens that I'll be seeing Ann tomorrow, so we'll be discussing what prize she chooses. Congrats, Ann!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First funeral

One of my friends lost her grandmother this week. Thursday I got a text from my friend, asking if I could sing at the funeral on Friday.

My friend felt bad asking me for the favor, but it made me feel so good to be asked! I sing, but I don't do a lot of solos, and it meant a lot that she'd trust me.

The songs went great, but that's not really what this post is about. This post is about my kids, attending their first funeral.

My original plan was for The Engineer to take half the day off so he could watch the kids during the afternoon service. But then I found out that there would be a room for kids at the funeral home, complete with childcare. I had to take Chickie out of school 30 minutes early, which was a lot better than The Engineer taking four hours off work! So I packed up Zoodle, picked up Chickie, and headed to the funeral home.

The kids had come with us to a memorial service a few months ago (again, staying in a separate room during the service.) But there wasn't a casket at that service. At this one, there was, and when we arrived, it was open.

Kids, of course, don't have the same attitude toward death that adults have. In fact, I don't think my kids have thought a lot about death in the past. When one of their friends (the deceased's six-year-old great-granddaughter) asked Chickie and Zoodle if they wanted to see her grandma, they eagerly agreed.

As my friend's husband (who was accompanying me on guitar) and I practiced our songs, Chickie and Zoodle repeatedly followed their friend to the casket to peek in. I later heard that their friend even touched her grandmother to show my kids that she wasn't alive.

Sound weird? Yeah, it does. But I think it was such a healthy, concrete "introduction to death" for my kids. They didn't know the woman who had died, so they weren't dealing with any negative emotions. They were just interested. Afterward, they had questions about what it means to die. We were able to talk about the body and the spirit, and how the woman's body had stopped working, but her spirit had stayed alive and is living with Jesus.

My kids have now looked at someone who is dead. That's a bridge they crossed earlier than I expected they would. And maybe since it happened so early, in a completely un-traumatic (and dare I say, even positive) way, just maybe it will help them not to fear death. I hope so. It was also good for me, talking so candidly with them about a subject that can be hard to contemplate.

Even funerals can be learning experiences for kids--and for moms too!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Discount Birthday

I'm 34 today. I really like birthdays. As I've gotten older, I think I've started expecting less on birthdays, and that makes it more fun. Instead of being on edge, wondering if my husband (or others) will fulfill whatever expectations I have, I can really enjoy whatever comes my way. It's nice to be celebrated, whether in big ways or in little.

I didn't really have a list of "wants" this year--instead, I'm looking forward to spending some time with my husband. Tomorrow night we'll head to Maggiano's. We love good Italian food! I purchased a Maggiano's BuyWithMe voucher recently. In my opinion, a dinner out is even more fun when it's discounted! We recently babysat for some friends' kids, and we'll be "cashing in" when they take care of our kids tomorrow.

In mid-April I got a very cute dress at the Ann Taylor 40% off sale. I posted this photo on Facebook, saying that I needed to plan a date night so that I could wear the dress.


It's taken over four months, but I'm finally going to get to wear the dress! It'll be great to have some much-needed alone time out with my man.

And tonight, I'll get some dessert:

I got a Groupon for Marble Slab Creamery several weeks ago, and have been saving it for my birthday. I'm getting a great discount on a cake I plan to thoroughly enjoy. I might even share!

All in all, as I eat my discounted food, wear my discounted dress, and appreciate free babysitting, I think it'll be a birthday full of rich blessing!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New friends

On the second day of school, I was asking Chickie about the new friends she was making. She was telling me the names that she remembered (an impressive number of names!) A couple of her comments made me laugh.

"Mom, why do you keep asking me if they're nice? They're all nice!" (Yay!!!)

"One of them is named Joey. But he's not a baby kangaroo." (Glad she clarified.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crochet Giveaway!

It's time for a C. Beth Crochet giveaway! And this one will appeal to those of you who have a competitive streak.... Details are at the end of this post!

I just completed my second crocheted purse. This was for my mom. She helped pick the yarn/fabric combo, and I love it. In fact, while I am very fond of my own crocheted purse, I think the colors on this one are really more appealing.


The finished product is really cute.


Cute little rosette...


And plenty of pockets!



These purses are big projects. I could go on all day about how long one of them takes. But I think the best way to express it is to tell you how many crochet stitches were required for this bag.

Only I'm not going to tell you. That's where the contest comes in!

Guess the number of crochet stitches in this purse. If you guess closest, you'll win the prize of your choice, either...

...a cute flower headband. (You'll get to choose from various colors.) OR...

Photobucket Photobucket
...a little case suitable for a phone, pens/markers, or other small items. (You'll get to choose from various colors.) OR...

...$15 plus free shipping toward a hat or other crocheted project of your choice!

Okay, here are the details:

How to win:
  • Guess how many crochet stitches are in the purse I made for my mom. I am ONLY counting stitches on the front, back, sides, bottom, and straps. I didn't count stitches required to join all the pieces; the flower; or the little tabs that snap on the top and sides. For those of you who crochet, you may want to know that most of the stitches are HDC stitches.
  • Leave your guess here as a comment. Please also let me know if someone referred you to the contest (and their name!)
  • You may enter ONE additional time by going to the C. Beth Crochet Facebook Page. Again, guess the number of stitches. (You'll want to choose a different number than you use here!) Leave your guess as a comment by clicking here. You will need to "Like" the page before you can comment there.
The benefits of SHARING:
  • Share this contest on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, billboards, public access television, by leaving annoying flyers on people's windshields...whatever!
  • When you share, be sure to tell people that in their entry they need to tell me that you sent them! You might want to copy and paste this text for Facebook: "C. Beth Crochet is doing a giveaway! Tell her I sent you--we could both win!" Or, for Twitter, "Crochet givewaway from @CBethTweet! Tell her I sent you--we could both win!", Please don't comment here telling me where you shared. Just make sure anyone you refer includes your name in their entry.
  • If your friend gives you credit in their winning entry (here or on the Facebook page), you win too! You'll both get to choose a prize!
Final details:
  • The contest will run through 11:59 p.m. Central time on 8/31/11. On 9/1/11 (my birthday!) I'll name the winner. Whoever guesses closest will win. In case of a tie, I will use as a tiebreaker. Winner will be announced here and on Facebook on or around 9/1/11. Please be sure that I have a way to contact you! If I don't hear back from the winner by the end of the day on 9/4/11, a new winner will be chosen.
  • Shipping to the U.S. or Canada is included. If you live in another country, you are welcome to enter. However, you'll need to pay to ship your prize.
Have fun!