Monday, June 29, 2015

Ode to Aldi

Oh Aldi.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

You save me thousands of dollars every year.  (I could stop right here and this would be a sufficient poem, having summed up the most important point of all).

You never leave me gasping at the register, shocked at the subtotal (like I do, perhaps, at Target sometimes. . .though I do love you, Target, truly I do).

You ask me for a quarter for your carts, ensuring that no cars are dented by runaway carts, and that prices stay low by not hiring a cart-boy (or girl).

You give me the quarter back at the end of my visit, a pleasant little gesture.

You save me ridiculous amounts of money.  Did I say that already?

You carry very few name brands, and are therefore able to provide deep discounts on the Aldi product line.  Your suppliers, however, are often the very same as the national brands (I had a friend who spotted the Dean's milk truck delivering to your store).

Your checkout process is lightning fast, due to the fact that each product has multiple UPCs printed.

You don't provide bags, we bring our own, therefore cutting down costs and encouraging recycling.

You don't accept credit cards, thereby pay no retailer card fees, thereby saving me more money.

You carry a huge selection of gluten-free and organic products!  Everyone can be happy at Aldi!

Your average store has only 6-8 employees, and you pay them much higher than people in comparable positions in other stores.  Good for you!

You are cousins with the revered Trader Joe's.  Everyone should realize you are just awesome by association!

Your low costs give my family more disposable income, to spend on the important things, like say, the electric bill, or a special broom to sweep up all the dog hair.

Your employees are friendly!  This seems to be a rare commodity these days.

Oh how I love thee, Aldi, you with all your money-saving ways! Thank you for being my weekly destination!

And I close with this wee verse to all of mankind:

Roses are red, 
Violets are blue, 
Aldi saves our budget,
Let it save yours too!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Six Quick Takes

  • Yesterday was my "monkey in the middle" son's 11th birthday.  Every year on his birthday, I reminisce about his birth.  It was rocky, it was scary, it was emotional.  And it was wonderful.  As we gazed down upon his little body, hooked up to more pieces of equipment than I could keep track of, we were overwhelmed with love.  I look back on those early pictures and compare him to the healthy, athletic, strapping boy he is now, and I can hardly reconcile the two images.  God has blessed him abundantly, and He blessed us immeasurably by giving us this child!
  • On the same subject, this certain 11-year-old is at camp this week.  It was very strange yesterday to think about his birth without him present.  He didn't mind at all being at camp on his birthday (possibly because campers get to "kiss the moose" if they happen to be there on their birthday), so I knew it couldn't bother me either.  And I've been fine. . .but I am ready to see my boy today, and to be celebrate eleven years of him!
  • In an effort to eat less, be healthier, and have less of, well, me, I discovered this new way of making a cake.  I think the end result is not much different from a traditional boxed cake - and with way fewer calories!  You simply add a can of diet coke to a cake mix, and voila!  You can have your cake and eat it too! (I couldn't help myself!)  Here's a pic of my girl helping me make it (it took about five seconds - she was disappointed there weren't several ingredients and  measuring cups):

  • Summer is in full swing over here.  Tennis lessons for the boys, cheer camp, baseball (including All Stars for one of the boys), camping, camp, a summer theater production. . .I gotta say, it feels almost as busy as during the school year!  It's all good stuff though, and I'm trying to soak it in and encourage the kids to do the same.  Before we know it, we'll be shopping for school supplies and having our Mommy's nights.
  • Shadow (or The Shads, as he is affectionately called around these parts) loves tennis balls.  I mean, he really, really is into tennis balls.  Today I took him with me to tennis lessons so he could walk with me while my son had his lesson, and every time we walked by the fenced-in courts, he lunged for each ball the zinged by.  Every time, he pulled hard against the harness, attempting to chase the ball (through the fence, remember).  He also is very fond of whichever tennis ball is under the couch.  It matters not if there are three tennis balls near him on the family room floor, it is only the one that has rolled under the couch that will bring him untold bliss.  And so he will bark and whine and whimper at us until we reach under (or move) the couch and retrieve it for him.  
  • One last thing, which perhaps I will write more on at a later date.  Are you shopping at Aldi?  If not, you must.  I feel I would be remiss if I did not tell you how much more money you would have if you simply shop at Aldi.  Try it once (take a quarter for your cart deposit!), and you won't be sorry!  That is all.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

We Are Family!

This weekend, I made a whirlwind trip to my hometown.  I was in town for just over 24 hours, and spent six + hours getting there to spend those 24 hours.  I took all five kids, one of whom vomited overnight during our stay.  It was a crazy trip, but it was worth it.

Why was it worth it, you say?  Because on Saturday afternoon, my kids and I (my husband had to stay home to work) spent seven hours with about 50 members of my family.  We attended our annual family reunion of my mom's side of the family.

This reunion has been a yearly event for as long as I can remember.  I recall being a young girl at my great aunt and uncle's lake house every year for the reunion.  All of my cousins and I swam, we rode in the boat, we ate all day.  We played the player piano with all of our might, pumping our legs up and down whilst wearing our swimsuits and listening to the adults standing behind us singing.  We curled up in our mother's or grandma's laps and rested the requisite half hour after eating before we were allowed to swim.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we got to spend the night in the upstairs of the lake house - a room with beds in every nook and cranny to accommodate our ever-growing family.  We sat on the upstairs deck and talked to our cousins, and played cards and ball all day.  We listened to the stories of our great aunts and uncles and ate the special dishes which seemingly were only prepared for this event.

It was a wonderful day each year.  Going to the lake -so full of promise and fun and excitement.

Fast forward 30 or more years.  We no longer meet at the lake, but the reunion is still going strong.  Many faces have been added over the years and many beloved members of our family have gone home to heaven.  It's not the same to me now, as an adult.  I have to prepare food to share (though my mom covered that for me this year!), I have to drive a few hours since I married and moved away, I have to watch my children and keep them out of trouble. . .you get the idea.  As an adult, the family reunion is no longer a day full of carefree play.

But it is still a very special day to me.  I am not able to make it every year, but when I can, I relish those around me.  I don't see them often, but it doesn't change the fact that they are my people.  We all share a common family tree, memories of our childhoods together and many of us share our faith.  Going to the family reunion shows my children, and reminds me, that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  Our extended family is our story, is part of who we are.  I spent the day catching up with my cousins and watching our children play together.   I had a heartfelt conversation with one of my great aunts about old family stories, and laughed with my second cousins.  We sat and sang with a cousin playing his guitar.

We missed the family members who were unable to make it this year, and caught up on their news from their immediate family who were present.  We looked at pictures and talked genealogy and marveled about how big everyone's kids were getting.

It was good stuff.

We get so busy these days, and we disconnect.  It was so nice to come together with all these people, many of whom have known me since I was born, and reminisce.  We can let down with family.  We can be our true selves and feel confident that we will be accepted.  I thank God that he has placed me in this family.  I thank him for my parents and sister, who provided me with a loving, solid, Christ-centered childhood, and I thank him for my grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles who rounded out our immediate family in that special way that only family can.

And finally, I am grateful to God that he has blessed me with my own wonderful (not-so-little) family.  My children, my husband - these are my people.

You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you,
 as you are to them.

Desmond Tutu

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Well, hello there!

I don't really watch much actual TV anymore, for lots of reasons.  The older kids stay up later these days, and I can't settle in to watch anything until at least 9:30 or 10.  And then it seems I am always busy working on laundry or school or paying bills or doing dishes. . .the list never ends.  Sitting on the couch by 9 sharp to watch a specific show seems to be a thing of the past.

I don't really mind, though.  We don't have cable, but we have Netflix!  Netflix is a beautiful thing - I can watch a show of my choosing, whenever I want, pause it if I need to leave the room (probs to put the kibosh on a fight or put a child back to bed - again), and then pop it back on when I return.  All for $7.99/month!  It's a win-win, in my book!

On this lovely thing called Netflix, I have watched a few TV series over the last couple of years, mostly while I'm folding laundry (you'd be amazed at how much TV time that affords me, what with seven very-clothed people in my house!).  I've always been a big fan of Law and Order:SVU, so if I can't find something to catch my eye, that is my default.  Not long ago, a friend told me about Blue Bloods, which is a similar show to Law and Order.  I watched an episode and was hooked.

So now, when an errant child (or wandering teenager) makes his way into the family room past 9:30 pm or so, I have to grab the Apple remote and push pause, lest a murder scene causes trauma.  The other day, I paused the show just when Tom Selleck was on the screen, causing his face to stare down at us from the wall.

"What show is this?" asked my 13-year-old son.  I told him the title and he went about his way.  A day or two later, he entered the room and I paused the show once again, with Tom Selleck large and in charge on our TV.

"Are you watching The Crime-Filled Adventures of Mr. Mustachio?" he asked. And it has stuck.  When the kids go to bed, mom folds laundry and watches Mr. Mustachio solve murder mysteries.  It's a good gig.

All this talk of Tom Selleck made me resurrect an old story my kids hadn't heard. . .about the day when I met Tom Selleck.

I was in third grade and my family and I were in Memphis for a volleyball tournament for my uncle.  Tom (as I like to call him) was also there, playing in the same tournament.  We had heard he was staying in our hotel, causing lots of excitement and furtive glances every time we exited our rooms (this was during the height of Magnum, PI, you know).  On this particularly fateful day, my sister and I were heading down to the hotel pool with our grandma.  My sister and I were in our swimsuits; I'm not sure if my grandma was wearing hers.  We were about to enter the elevator, when ----- Tom Selleck himself exited directly in front of us.  He patted my sister's head**, and said hello to my grandma.  To this day, I can hear my grandma's voice as she said, "Well, hello there!"

That was it.  It was over before it started, but we met Tom Selleck.  And for years, we have told this story.  So my son, who couldn't possibly care less about my story, or whoever the heck Mr. Mustachio really is, had to listen to my passionate storytelling about our fifteen seconds of starstruck fame.  And how my beloved grandma, who is resting in heaven with her Savior, couldn't contain her awe.

I'm sure our encounter made an equally lasting impression on Mr. Mustachio.

**Tom Selleck patted my sister's head as we changed places on the elevator.  But for years afterward, I told her that it was my head his famous hand had touched.  I'm not sure if she believed me or not, but I enjoyed tormenting her with my (entirely untrue) version of the story.  I suppose I should call this moment to mind when my children take pleasure out of torturing their siblings.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket!

Depending on how you see it, I either had super bad luck yesterday, or I was super lucky.  I'm gonna go with the latter.

At lunchtime, I was sitting at the island, cutting an apple with a steak knife.  My husband and most of the kids were in the family room/kitchen.  I was talking to them as I got up to put the knife in the dishwasher.  I stepped down and just as I did, I noticed Shadow**  almost directly under my feet.  In an effort to not smash him to smithereens, I tripped, lunged and fell hard on my hip, still holding the very sharp knife.  Amazingly, I was not hurt at all, and did not stab myself or anyone else.  

Later on, during a driving rain storm, I had to take several kids to and fro to various activities (and pick up stranded children from the baseball games that weren't).  I had left the burb in the driveway, not knowing the deluge that was headed our way.  I decided to pull it into the garage to load in the couple kids I had at home.  I stood in the garage for a moment, psyching myself up for the dash I had to make (which included navigating an enormous puddle and a basketball hoop).  When I was ready to go for it, I pushed off quickly. . .and my flip flop slid on the wet garage floor.  My momentum thrusted me forward into the rain and headlong toward the basketball hoop.  With much arm flailing and screeching, I righted myself before I crashed into the hoop.  Then I splashed into the puddle and flung myself into the burb.  It was quite harrowing.

So - I guess I was super lucky.  But I am mostly glad that no one happened to be recording my less-than-graceful movements!

**Shadow.  His tagline should be:  "Shadow!  He's everywhere you want to be!" He is almost literally under my feet 24/7.  Every time I move, he moves with me, and usually directly in my path.  It's a miracle I haven't stepped on him yet.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Summer!

Today marks the first day of summer for my three boys, and the fourth day for my girls (and me, although I am still working on things for my classroom).  It was so good not to set the alarm for 5:45 am!  We all slept in a bit and enjoyed the day around the house today.

That later bedtime must have messed with my son's nocturnal clock, however, because he could not fall asleep.  As in, at midnight, I finally caved in and slept with him for a few hours.  I drifted off pretty quickly, because, well,  midnight, but after a few hours of tugging the child-sized-Snuggie I was using as a blanket, I had had enough.  I crept out carefully and climbed into my own bed.  And it was glorious.  The cool, crisp, grown-up sheets felt amazing to my tired limbs.  Thankfully, said child slept the rest of the night without incident.  This isn't the first time this boy has had trouble falling asleep.  I'm seriously hoping it's the last!

We got Shadow groomed today for the first time.  He smells ever so much better, and I'm desperately hoping the shedding decreases some.  He looks like a different dog now that his hair is shorter.  In fact, he really looks like a newborn black lamb his legs are so skinny and long. I would post a pic, but he is as black as night and crazy hard to capture in a picture.  You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Speaking of the dog, he has developed a nightly routine.  Every night when we go upstairs, he jumps onto the bed (where he isn't allowed to sleep) and settles in on my side of it.  When I am ready to get into bed, I shove Shadow a bit and tell him to get down and go night-night.  Every night, he gets up a little and shuffles over a foot or two and settles in to my husband's side.  And then finally succumbs to the floor (to his nice bed I purchased for him) when my husband comes to bed.  This is our nightly routine.  At about 5:30 am, he starts whining next to my side of the bed. . .and I pat the side of the bed and let him settle in at our feet.  We are the people who said the dog would never sleep in/on our queen-sized bed.

So, summer is here.  Lazier days, no homework, family time and a little more rest.  It's good stuff.  And as I type this, I am listening to all of my children play with the Wii Fit.  Giggling, whooping in laughter and having a great time together. And I am reminded of a card my husband recently received.  It said:

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."

Indeed.  Listening to them play together tonight seems like a little thing.  But in reality, this is the stuff of life.