Happy Hanukkah!

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without playing a round or two of my kids new favorite game: Dreidel. (Don't laugh, there is actually a Major League Dreidel. This is a very competitive game!)

Seriously, it's fun. Of course, I end up having to spin for three of the kids but they don't care so long as they get their M&Ms.....

Why Dreidel you ask? Well, Madeline learned all about Judaism in school last week and one of the parents gave out Dreidels. How cool is that? So, what else are you to do with a Dreidel but PLAY!

The yarmulke just seemed appropriate somehow.

Look at that concentration: he's going for the win here.

Doh! That symbol means nun: you win nothing, you lose nothing. Kinda like playing Dreidel, with M&Ms. 

Whether you are Jewish, simply share a religion that started as such, or none of the above, 
Happy Hanukkah!


This Year's Tree

It was part of my family's tradition to get a real Christmas Tree every December (living beachside in FL, it was the only time we really got to miss the forest because of the tree, or is it, smell the tree from the forest....) And so, every year Kurt and I and the kids get a real tree. And although, here in the upper mid-west, there are tree farms all over the place where you can cut down your own, this year we decided just to go to one of the many local tree lots, like sane people do, and pick out a pre-cut beauty, saving us time, gas money, muscle soreness, bickering.....you get my drift.

So, we packed up the kids last weekend and headed to the Boy Scout Troop lot down the street. It was the coldest day so far of this season (of course) and the wind chill was just a wee bit BRUTAL. That said, we decided it was best if Solomon stayed in the truck. Madeline volunteered to keep him company (smart kid) and the rest of us braved the cold to look at the trees. Lily and Liam ran through the trees screaming out that they had found the one with every tree they saw.... most of which looked very similar to the tree we had the year Kurt tried to drive it into the garage. And worse than the trees they were picking were the prices. Really....you can't charge the same price (almost $100) for a 6 ft tree that has huge "holes" in it, as you do the 7 ft trees that are only a little lopsided.  They were overpriced to say the least and after a short while, Kurt made his way back into the truck to wait for us to get the hint that we were not buying the tree there. After avoiding eye contact with the few disappointed scouts that had been standing around and shoving the kids back in the car, we were on our way to the local plant nursery, Bachmans.

Bachmans is not the cheapest place on the planet to say the least. But they don't disappoint (unless you count that butternut squash surprise last summer as a disappointment, which I certainly don't!) We were in their greenhouse where they had rows of highly priced beautiful trees. Hot apple cider. No wind chill. It was perfect. And after just a few minutes, we found this enormous, 9+ foot tree that everyone agreed we had to have. (Sorry 3rd world countries, no flock of chickens and a milking cow from us this year!)

Now, we haven't had a tree this big since the year it fell over the night before my Christmas Party and our wonderful neighbor had to come rescue me by helping Kurt get it back up and tied to the walls.

 (Do you see a trend here?) 

We have always said we would consider it again if we ever got a bigger stand (the one we have *claims* it can hold a tree up to 10 feet but we believe it's max is really closer to 7, and it's a little shady even at that) but those things are obnoxiously pricey. So up until this year we have done the sane, more frugal thing, and bought a normal sized tree; one that doesn't require a ladder to decorate nor invisible hanging wire.

At any rate, in no time at all, we were sporting a tree on the top of our truck that was too big to be netted and inside our truck, a brand new gazillion pound stand, clearly capable of squashing a persons intestines as well as breaking the bank while holding a gigantic Christmas Tree.

So, next came the lights. You may remember from last year that we had to buy all new lights after failing to check them all before putting them up. 900 LEDs later and we were set. Unlike last year, we tried all the strands to make sure they worked this time (they did) and started putting them on the tree. When the last strand was up, here is what the tree looked like:

Apparently this tree is like twice as big as last years.....

So, out I went to purchase more lights. And I wasn't the only one. In over 6 local stores, there was only one box left (two if you count the display strand I purchased, much to the clerks chagrin.) So off I went, 30 minutes away, to buy 10 more boxes of lights in a different town. And in case you are wondering, the store brand LEDs and Philips brand ARE NOT THE SAME COLOR WHITE.

After mixing and matching the two brands, we decided it was in our best interest to take off the original lights and go with the more natural looking ones.

We'll get this down eventually. I just know it.

Our final destination, phew....

And so stood our tree for a week while the kids waited patiently for me to get the decorations from the garage. I got them out yesterday and told the kids to go ahead and get started while I put Solomonster down for bedtime. When I got back ten minutes later, there were no kids in sight. Instead, here is what I found:

An incredibly decorated tree (for 4 rugrats) and an enormous mess. 
The Culprits

In case I don't get back on the blog during this beautiful, exciting, joyous, crazy week.....

Merry Christmas To You All!

And to all, a good light....hee hee hee.


The Importance of Competence

I will not claim to be the most competent person that has ever existed....a far cry from it in oh so many ways. However, if there is one place where I struggle to extend grace and forgiveness, it is when dealing with people who don't take their jobs serious enough to do it well, or at least half-competently so that it doesn't infringe on others. I realize sometimes people are just not that bright and perhaps mediocre performance IS their best, and in those cases, where I have not been graceful, patient or forgiving in my encounters, I am truly sorry. However.....

Rewind back to last week: I made an appointment for a follow-up ultrasound to make sure the fatty tumor I've been sporting up top is as benign as they say it is. I am pretty confident it is nothing to fret over but figured I ought to at least follow-up to be sure. So, last week I made the appointment for this Wednesday, the only day I have with enough free time for such an appointment. To avoid any mishaps in date-setting (like I have recently experienced), I asked TWICE during the conversation for the date and time so that I could add it to both my calendars. I then sent an email to Kurt to check his availability to babysit and when he said he was already booked, I immediately found a friend to take Solomonkey for me. As luck would have it, the friend who was going to watch him became suddenly unavailable when her family came down with the stomach bug. I scrambled to find another willing friend and then sat back, breathing easy.....

....Until later last night when I got a call from the hospital pre-registration. Apparently, even though I did not have to pre-register for the initial appointment, they wanted to do so for this one. I willingly obliged, thinking it would cut some time from the actual appointment and speed up the check-in process. (Oh, what rose colored glasses!)

My conversation went something like this:

Registrar: "What is your last name?"
Me: "Wolf."
Registrar: "Spelled like it sounds?"
Me: "Yes, like the animal."


Registrar: "First name?"
Me: "Karen, with a K."
Registrar: "What's your birthdate?"
Me: "Five...Thirty-One...Seventy-seven."
Registrar: "Um, have you been here before?"
Me: "Well, this is a follow-up appointment. Oh, and I delivered two babies there."

She begins naming off street addresses that are not mine.

Me: "Wow, you have that many Karen Wolfs in there?"
Registrar: "Hmmmm, that's Wolf,  W-O-L-F-E, right?"
Me: "No, there is no 'E' on the end." (No biggie, I think. In the almost 12 years I have lived with this name, only a handful of registrars get it right....apparently the spelling of the animal was never a priority in school.....at least she didn't spell it W-U-F-F like has happened on more than one occasion.)

She offers up more addresses I do not recognize.

Registrar: "What's your birthdate again?"
Me: "5-31-77."
Registrar: "And you don't live at (insert random address)?"
Me: "Nope."
Registrar: "Ok, so Wolf, no 'e', and 5-41-77."
Me (now banging the phone against my head and about to call over my 5-year old to ask her how many days are in the LONGEST month of the year because I am pretty sure, unless they recently changed things, there are no months with FORTY-ONE DAYS!): "No, it's May, Thirty-First."
Registrar: "Oh, Wolf, no e, May, First." 

I cover the mouthpiece (just in case) and let out the loudest silent scream possible.....my new mantra: We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

Me: "No. It. Is. The. THIRTY-FIRST." (We all make mistakes.....)


Registrar: "Oh, here it is. You have an appointment on Thursday, right?"
Me (now holding back belligerence through gritted teeth and squinted eyes): "No, it should be tomorrow." I double check my wall calendar and pull up my Google calendar to be sure.
Registrar: "You live at (insert correct address), correct?"
Me (now practicing my yoga breathing: Inhale): "Yes." (Exhaaaaaaaaale)
Registrar: "I show you have an appointment Thursday, not tomorrow. Let me verify your social...."

At which point I went and bought a therapist because I didn't think a glass of wine was going to cut it!

But then, all those little frustrations in life are totally worth it, when I am given sweet pictures like Lily's latest self-portrait:

Which is amazingly accurate for a five year old (and perhaps those working in the scheduling department at the hospital system....)

Have a great day!


Sunday's Reminder: Where is grace?

Today's post was written a week or so ago after one of life's tougher days. And as I look around the current state of our home (in disarray from a fun-filled weekend of flurried activity that took place after a week stuck inside with an uninvited guest....darn stomach bug...) and I see the fruit flies we are apparently breeding in our fresh evergreen centerpiece (really bugs?) I realize this story is not too far from our present. 


Today has been an overwhelming sort of day. We awoke to a freezing house (our brand new, less than 4 month-old furnace had apparently called it quits) and, moving slowly in that frozen state, we were late getting out the door for the bus stop. When I got home, I stuck Solomon in the highchair to eat a belated breakfast while waiting for the furnace repair man when all of a sudden, I remembered I had a conference at Liam's school starting IN 5 MINUTES. I hurried the three of us out the door, to the school, over the new layer of ice in the parking lot, arrived at the classroom 10 minutes late, got through the conference and rushed back to our frozen home in hopes I hadn't missed the repair guy. Still slightly bundled as we sat in front of the only electric room heater we own, a feeling of defeat overcame me as I looked around: the house was a wreck from yesterday's room rearranging and there were two humungous boxes from the table/chair sets we bought with no place to go but in the way. Even the cat was miserable....he joined us in front of the heater and just sat there, staring.

Granted, Solomon might have been happier had he not had Liam's finger in his eyeball....

The repairman arrived and discovered our circuit board was fried due to water damage coming from an unknown source which they later identified as from the water softener, (a problem not covered under warranty, of course). After half a day replacing parts and rewiring our humidifier, our house finally warmed up. After he left, I still had to get to the grocery store, another conference, my mom's group at church (which, I decided was first on the chopping block and skipped!) and had yet to discover the nice ball of poop sitting in the middle of our floor....I'd like to blame it on the cat but I am fairly certain it was a child.....I'm just not sure how it got there....I'm not sure I want to know either! 

I found a moment to run on my treadmill at some point in the chaos and I ran across this passage out of Jeremiah in a book I am reading: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

After the run, I went back to reread the passage in my Bible since it is a personal favorite (and comforting one at that): "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."

And I thought, did I bother calling on God today? Was He listening? If I had been seeking Him, where would I have found Him? 

And I realized that yes, we were running late in the morning but that the bus had been held up by another child and waited a little longer than usual, allowing time for my kids to get on. I then was late to the conference but it was filled with good news about Liam's progress in school and how well he is doing despite his developmental delays. The furnace problem, though an annoyance to be sure, was a good reminder of those less fortunate who are always out in the cold because they have no place to call home. And at the end of the work, the repairman gave us a pass and covered it anyway even though he didn't have to. Although I was late (again) getting to my kids at the bus stop in the afternoon, it was only because I had another glowing conference about Liam and his progress and than ran into a beloved teacher who wanted to share joyful news about her own son in Europe (while filling our tummies with M&M's in the meanwhile). And when I finally got to the bus stop, another parent had patiently waited with my kids so that the bus would leave them for me: a true act of kindness.  

While I still don't know where the turd came from, (some things are better left a mystery) I realize there was so much goodness in the craziness. I am reminded just how easy it is to focus on the negatives while failing to see where our lives are drenched in grace. (Seriously, when was the last time you got the front parking spot at the grocery store during lunchtime!?! I so needed that.) 

Anyway, I pray that you find warmth and strength for your soul this week in the love that is God; that the spirit beckons you, leading you to seek out those places where your life touches grace and brings hope to your future and boundless joy to your days.

Don't forget to seek Him out, don't forget to call.....He is listening!

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord.... Jeremiah 29:11-14