Jan 31, 2009


This month Matt and I committed to reading a chapter of Acts a day. I don't think I have ever read a chapter of the bible a day before. Not that it is such a huge accomplishment, but the bible studies I tend to do have you flipping around the bible reading a few verses here and there.
I have learned a quite a few things during this time of studying Acts. The thing that stands out the most is that the book reads like any other good story. Some nights as we reached the end of the chapter we were so into the story we wanted to continue reading. I also started feeling for the characters and hoping the best for them, even when I knew the outcome. As Paul is dragged into custody, my heart breaks a little and I want so badly for the hero of the story to rush in and save him. I've never given a book of the bible enough time before to really touch me like a good story does.
The next thing I learned was how important it is to know your faith and to be able to support it with scripture. Time and again Paul stood before crowds of people and without a moment of hesitation recited the doctrine that he believes. Not only did he know what he believed and was prepared to share it in a clear and concise manner, but he could also back it up with scripture. His words and his beliefs gain power when he recites the words of the prophets and of Jesus.
Finally, as Matt and I finish the last few chapters of Acts I am touched by a few lines in a speech that Paul gives to King Agrippa.
Then King Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"
Paul replied, "Short time or long - I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains." Acts 26:28-29
I am not standing in a court giving my testimony or sharing my faith, but I am interacting with people every day. I encounter people who may respond to the story of my faith in Christ. I may only have a few minutes or a few years but short time or long I pray that those who know me will see my faith in Christ and will become even more than I will ever be.

Jan 30, 2009

Eating Late

If I ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream with caramel topping at midnight, is that still eating after 8pm or can it count as starting the day off with some good old fashioned dairy?
I'm not sure which it is, but it was good!

Jan 28, 2009

Gift of Life

Early this morning in California someone died. I'm sure a number of people died this morning in California, but one particular person died and gave Theresa a new chance at life.
Grayson's girlfriend, Theresa, is 20 years old and has been living with pacemaker for a number of years. In the last few months it became clear that the pacemaker was no longer an option and she was placed on the transplant list. She has been in ICU for the past week or so waiting for a heart, and today she received it.
Matt's brother texted this morning to let us know the good news and what time the surgery was scheduled to begin. We have been praying ever since that the surgery would go smoothly and that Theresa would quickly be on the road to recovery.
It is a crazy mix of emotions. There is joy over the gift of a new heart, but it is shadowed by the reality that someone had to die in order to give Theresa the heart. I feel sad for the family that is suffering the loss of a parent, sibling, or child and I am grateful for their willingness to be a part of the donor program.
We are continuing to keep Theresa, Grayson and Theresa's family in our prayers as they go through this very difficult time.

Jan 25, 2009

SBMFC seeking GHWC

Single Black Male Fixed Cat seeking Good Home with Warm Couch.
Baghdad was born in Hawaii in October of 1999. Then called Bagheera (after the black panther in Jungle Book) he was a wild cat who enjoyed randomly attacking people as they walked by, climbing the furniture and trying to escape every time the door opened.
His first flight was to California where he was in a juvenile detention center at my parents house for 6 months. We told him it was because we were moving, but he really needed some solitary confinement to assist in some behavior modifications. His time in California proved to calm him a little but unfortunately due to the stress of the situation he became an emotional eater. In a short time became obese and his weight along with his age took the pep out of his step.
He later flew to Alabama and lived there for a year, followed by an 8 hour drive to Tennesee where he lost his mind. He got a little crazy, started destroying carpet and new furniture and frequently ran away.We declawed him and thankfully his destructive days were over and after a few long nights of sleeping in the field, he stopped running away.
His last big trip was a 12 hour drive to Virginia. He meowed the entire way. Really he NEVER stopped. By the time we got to our new house, his meow was raspy and his sanity completely gone. He became a very calm, cuddly cat after that. He went through a defiant spell with the litter box once. He decided he didn't want to go out into the garage to use the litter box, so he peed in our bathtub. I nearly killed him, but Matt wouldn't let me. So, I gave in and moved the litter box into our bathroom and he hasn't had any issues since.
These days Baghdad spends most of his time sleeping on the couch downstairs. When he isn't there, he is sleeping on Matt's side of the bed or in a sunny spot somewhere in the house. He occasionally wants outside to explore our patio, but always comes back when he gets hungry, thirsty, or cold. He likes to snuggle but only on his terms. He will come to you if he wants love, but it is imperative that you stop petting him after 30 seconds or you will regret it. He can't handle too much stimulation. He tends to bite if you linger too long with the petting. He deposits fur balls around the house, especially when someone spooks him and is known to hack up a hair ball every once in a while. Other than that, he is pretty decent to have around. Although he is morbidly obese and old, just the other day I found him playing with a wooden bead like he did when he was a kitten.
Eli and Matt love Baghdad a lot. He is definitely their cat. Gabe and I are usually the ones torturing the cat with loud noises, shaking plastic bags near him to freak him out, or just wishing him ill will. So, when we found out we were moving to Germany Matt and Eli assumed Baghdad would be joining us, naturally I quickly let them know they are wrong.
Every move causes him so much trauma, and I don't want to make an international move, with so many unknowns on the other side, with a cat. To top all that off, we are looking at a cost of $550 -$800 to get him over there! Once there, we will most likely have to board him until we find a house, and then have to factor having a cat into our homesearch. So, I used my UN veto power and declared the cat is not moving with us.
What to do with a cat that is, like it or not, part of our family? My mom graciously offered to take him when we move, but that means that he will still have to fly to California and I'm pretty sure mom and dad are just being nice with their offer. Matt wants to find a home for the cat here. Eli wants the cat to come with us. Gabe would like the cat to disappear mysteriously in the night. And I just want him to find a warm couch to sleep on where he would be generally undisturbed but occasionally loved on for the rest of his days.

Jan 23, 2009

Facebook - bad.

I tried to resist the Facebook movement, but in a moment of curiosity I accidentally opened myself up to the Facebook community. I had an account under my super secret alias "Riss Hernandez" and was friends with 2 people. But that all changed when I used my real name and became friends with Matt. One friend request and then poof, an explosion of friends. Next thing I know people from all over are asking me to be their friend.
"How did they find me?" I asked Matt.
Matt quickly explained "that is why it is called a NETWORK" you are friends with me, our mutual friends become your friends and so on and so on.
I get it now. But I don't really get that it is very impersonal. If I haven't kept up with these friends, their facebook page doesn't really tell me anything about them, at least not like a blog.
So, I accept friend requests and go on my merry way - until today.
For the first time I searched for a friend. This openned up a new window to a world I had not yet seen. I found a friend from high school and then saw that she was friends with all these people that I went to church with and haven't heard from in years and then I was searching and peeking in on all these people. Next thing I know, an hour passed. I hadn't made dinner yet, laundry is in the washer, dryer and on the chair, and I have a newsletter to write. Instead of taking care of any of those things, I was sitting here looking at itsy bitsy pictures of people that I once knew very well.
One time I had a dib addiction. Mika introduced dibs to me and although I shunned them at first, later I couldn't stop eating them. I just had to have more and more. I knew I had become a dibaholic when one night my dinner consisted of a container of dibs and a coke. That was the last time I had dibs. Nearly 3 years ago. Not a single dib since. Some have tried to force them in my mouth (literally shove them in my mouth) but I stood my ground and resisted.
Now I am concerned that this Facebook thing could be my next addiction. Do I dabble in the destructive behavior of wasting time, or cut it off now before I have to call up my 12 Steps? I just don't know.

Jan 18, 2009

Then and Now

January 18th 1997

January 1st 2009 (the most recent picture I have)

Here is some more "then and now" for your reading pleasure:

Then: Matt and I lived in a 1 bedroom 700sqft apartment in Lacey, Washington
Now: Our master suite is probably about 700 sqft located about 30 miles outside of Washington, DC.

Then: We had a 1990 two door Nissan Sentra that had a quirky little seatbelt alert. It would randomly go off whenever it wanted and wouldn't stop until it felt like it. Shortly after we got married we bought a shiny new blue Mazda Protege.
Now: We have that not so shiny Mazda Protege with broken a/c, it has been in 3 accidents, has over 150,000 miles on it and has worn the plates of 5 different states. We also have the "mom" van, silver with 2 car seats, a few cheerios on the floor, and children's finger prints on the inside glass.

Then: Matt was a PV2 infantryman. He road marched 7-15 miles a week. He did field problem's regularly.
I worked at Alaska Airlines as a customer service representative for the mileage plan.
Now: Matt is now a Warrant Officer, flies UH60 Blackhawks, never road marches, and hasn't been to the field since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. I . . . do what all stay at home moms do.

Then: We spent our weekends going anywhere Alaska Airlines flew. Anchorage, Sitka, San Diego, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Puerta Vallarta . . .
Now: We go to the playground, sleep late on Saturdays, and get donuts.

Then: We had dial-up, pay by the minute AOL service.
Now: Thank you God for Comcast high speed.

Then: Matt and I were ridiculously goofy. We would pile pillows on the floor in the living room and watch TV into the wee hours of the night. Any situation was an adventure. We found humor in everything. We were best friends and loved each other deaply.
Now: Nothing has changed except we know eachother more and love eachother more, we are still pretty immature and goofy and just recently piled all the pillows and blankets in front of the TV to watch a movie until wee hours of the morning.

Then: Our house was filled with hand me down furniture and a few photographs.
Now: Our house is filled with laughter, memories, school projects, lots of toys to trip over, dreams, hopes, love and joy.

Then: We thought we were rich.
Now: We know we are rich, in all the things that matter most.

Thank you God for the Blessings of the past 12 years and for all the things you have in store for us in the many more to come.

Jan 16, 2009

It is cold.

Tonight Matt and I went to dinner at the National Harbor. On any other day we would have bundled up a little and walked around the harbor. Today, however, is the coldest day of the year and it is not possible bundle enough to keep warm.
How cold? It is currently 14 degrees Fahrenheit but with the wind whipping around at 13mph, the windchill factor or "feels like" temperature is -1 degree. That, my friends, is cold.
We parked in the parking garage two blocks from the restaurant. When the elevator doors opened into the vestibule and we were already shivering, we knew the walk was going to be painful. We opened the door and headed out. I was bundled up and running as fast as my high heels could carry me. Matt was trying to look cool but without a hat or scarf, his head and ears were near frostbitten, and any cool factor he was trying to exude was squashed by the redness in his face.
We ran down the first block. Matt wanted to stop and ask for directions, but I wanted to run into the closest hotel and "regroup". I cannot think of any other time in my life that I needed to rest after one block. It was just so cold I didn't want to stop outside long enough to figure out where we were and where we needed to go. I was running aimlessly.
We got directions from a lady in a very cool looking jewelry store, and head down the second block. At the end there is a flight of stairs to take down to the waterfront. The harbor is frozen and probably looked so pretty with the lights bouncing off of the sheets of ice, but I didn't linger long enough to take a mental picture. At the bottom of the stairs the wind hits us like those heaters when you walk into Costco on a cold day except instead of being a blast of toasty warm air, it was just the opposite.
So, now all we have to do is cross the street. Thoughts of taking a cab from the restaurant back to the car raced through my head. I have a quick flashback of walking around Anchorage on our first anniversary - I had a poor shoe choice that night too. And finally as the merry-go-round door is within reach, I have a strange taste in my mouth as if I just ate a ton of ice cubes.
We had a nice dinner, finished it off with some coffee and prepared for the return. Matt offered to go get the car and pick me up, but I'm always up for an adventure and declined the act of chivalry. Racing back to the car went well. We had our route plan, disregarded cars trying to pass in front of us, and managed to blow into the parking garage a mere 30 seconds after leaving the restaurant.
I don't care who you are -1 degrees is cold!

Jan 13, 2009

What do you call them?

We call them "comfy pants".
They could also be called "lounge wear", "sweats", or "sportswear". You know what I am talking about - elastic wasted pants with plenty of room in the legs and made of soft fabric suitable for curling up on the couch to watch a good movie. The things to change into when you get home from church, work, or when you don't have any place you have to go.
Madison called them "Saturday Pants"
The Matti call them "Fancy Pants"
Matt's mom calls them "receiving wear"
What do you call them?

This is just wrong

Today in my junk mail I received an advertisement for ColorTyme. I was waiting in the pick-up line at Eli's school and had some time on my hands, so I looked through it. What I found was shocking and downright wrong.
A 32" LG LCD TV for $23.99 a week. In fine print below the blaring $23.99, you can read that the total of all payments is $2183.09. Now, I don't know too much about LCD TV's but I do know that we just picked up a 52" for just over half that. The Wii is only $23.99 a week for a grand total of $1247.48 - which I know you can get at Walmart for about a thousand bucks less. And I cannot leave out the Sony Blu Ray Disc player that is $26.99 a week or $1403.48. Matt has been doing research on Blu Ray players and a Sony is probably going for $400.
The highlight of the ad is the blurb at the bottom of the page that says "Avoid credit card debt with our flexible payment options". Seriously? I can't believe creditors and stores can get away with this horrible scheme. Sadly, I can't believe people actually buy into it.

Jan 11, 2009

Is it just me?

Is it just me or are those "security" words really hard to read? In order to place an order, create a new account, post a comment, or whatever these days I have to complete a very complicated task. Correctly decipher 8-20 very swirly, italicized, letters encoded in a grid, that make no sense at all, and type the secret code in the little box below. I can't tell you how many times I fail at this seemingly simple task.
Some sites offer an option for the visually impaired. Now, if you think understanding the lady at the Burger King drive-thru is complicated, don't bother with this option on Ticketmaster. There is a crazy amount of background noise, and then a spooky voice practically whispers numbers intermittently. Your task is to copy down the numbers and then type them in the box provided. Seriously?
I realize that this little security feature is to protect my identity, I'm not complaining, I'm just saying sometimes it is a little tricky. I think the security feature is to make sure that I am not a computer, but it reality I think it protects not so bright people from entering the dangerous world of internet transactions - I may just be one of those people that shouldn't have the power of the internet at my fingertips.

Jan 9, 2009

New Photos

New pictures are posted on my shutterfly site. Follow the Our Latest Photos link and type in the password ourphotos. Enjoy.

Jan 8, 2009

Free Entertainment

Today tragedy struck. Eli was trying to turn the light on in his room and turned on the fan instead. You may be thinking "that doesn't sound tragic", but you would be wrong. Eli knows he isn't supposed to touch the fan/light. So, his initial horror was that he was going to get in trouble for turning the fan on. That fear was quickly replaced by terror when the ceiling fan started making this obnoxious screeching noise. Just a few hours earlier he told me he would sit in a dark scary house for $50, and now he was inconsolable in his own room because the ceiling fan was making a crazy noise.
I was downstairs putting away Christmas lights when this all transpired. I was right in the middle of a 300 light strand and had no intention of starting over just to turn off the fan. So, I sat downstairs and was working on finishing the lights.
While I was down there I listened to the most amusing conversations between Eli and Gabriel. First, Eli was blubbering and crazy. I couldn't make out half the things he was saying but it was clear that he was scared, mad, and frustrated by this fan situation. Oh I wish I would have recorded his drama.
As if that wasn't entertaining enough, Gabriel tried to save the day which added some humor to the whole thing. In an attempt to calm his brother down Gabriel had a solution to this little fan situation. The conversation went like this:
G: Eli, I know what you can do. You can use your MAGIC to stop the fan!! Use your magic wand Eli!
E: I don't have magic. It isn't real. Only dad has magic. I've just been tricking you. I don't have a real magic wand.
There was some discernible mumbling for a few minutes and then Gabe had another suggestion:
G: Oh Eli, lets draw a picture of the fan and then it will stop.
E: How is drawing a picture of the fan going to stop it? That doesn't make any sense at all.
Eli continued ranting about how the fan was on and how it would never, ever, ever stop making the noise. By the time I made it upstairs Eli was still fussing, but much more quietly, and both boys were playing with their cars in the playroom. I turned off the fan and went back down stairs. Drama over. I'll have to wait until tomorrow for another good laugh.

Jan 7, 2009

The Blue Bag

June 2005 - my parents went on an Alaskan cruise with their good friends. They bought more souvenirs than would fit in their suitcases, so my mom picked up a cool little bag at the gift shop on the ship. The bag is a lightweight blue bag that can be zipped in a few positions to determine the size of the bag. It was a perfect little carry-on bag to bring her goodies home.
January 2006 - I the boys and I went home to California for Christmas and to attend Matt's cousin Gabriel's wedding. After being gone for 3 1/2 weeks, we acquired too many things to fit into our bags. Enter, the blue bag. Mom brought it out and let me use it to get some of our stuff home.
October 2006 - Mom and dad came out to Virginia to visit for a few weeks. I can't remember what they bought but they ended up needing an extra bag and so I gave them back their blue bag.
If this is where the bag stopped travelling there would be no story to tell.
January 2007- Matt, the boys and I headed to California to visit family for a few weeks and go on a cruise with our friends Mika and Tom. We picked up a few things in Mexico and needed an extra bag to bring things home. I clearly remember loading our dirty clothes in the blue bag and checking it on the plane.
May 2007 - Mika and Madison came to visit for a month, with Tom joining them for the last two weeks of their stay. Mika accumulated some extra stuff and needed to ship some things home. But, in an effort to save her some money, I suggested she just use the blue bag to get the extra stuff home. She checked the bag and went home to Washington.
November 2007 - Matt, the boys, and I were in Lacey, Washington visiting the Mlacks. My mom and dad were in Bellingham, Washington visiting family. One night mom called and asked if Mika still had that blue bag. As it turns out mom did some shopping and needed an extra suitcase. Mika pulled the suitcase out of her closet and when I headed up to Bellingham to visit family I handed the bag over to my mom.
August 2008 - The boys and I spent the summer on the West Coast visiting family. While there, my sister threw a surprise early birthday party for the boys. The toys wouldn't fit in the luggage we brought so, I found the blue bag in the closet, loaded it with light things and headed back to Virginia.
January 2009 - Mika was packing up from her month-long visit here and between shopping trips and Christmas gifts the bags she came with wouldn't fit all of their stuff. I searched through my closet and pulled out that blue bag one more time. At one point there was a hard plastic bottom to the bag to make it a little more sturdy, but that is now gone. So, I handed it over to Mika and she loaded it up with the stuff that wouldn't fit in the other bags. Just to give her some added comfort about the bag and its contents making it to Washington safely, we strapped one of those luggage belts around the bag. And off it went.
The blue bag only travels one-way and yet it has flown over 22,000 miles in 3 1/2 years. Not bad.
I wonder if that blue bag could survive an International trip? Maybe we should get a new blue bag.

Jan 5, 2009

Empty House

This morning I took Mika, Tom, and Madison to the airport. After stopping at a few stores, grabbing lunch with Gabe, and picking Eli up from school I returned to a very quiet house.
Matt was out running errands and the boys were upstairs, excited to be playing cars in the playroom. (The cars and the playroom were a little difficult to get to for the last month since we converted the playroom into a miniature guest house for the Mlacks). Eli walked into the playroom and yelled down to me "it is empty in here". He was right. Not only was the playroom empty, but the whole house seemed empty and quiet.
As if the house wasn't already empty enough, after dinner I figured it was about time to take the ornaments off of the tree before they fall off. I stopped watering the tree on Christmas so the branches are sagging quite a bit. As I started taking down all the Christmas decorations I felt very lonely. The house was still really quiet. All the garland, lights, and decorations that once added warmth and color to the house were gone and the space was now empty.
If the Mlacks were still here for the un-decorating, Mika would either help me take everything down, sit on the couch and chat with me while I packaged stuff up, or do the dinner dishes while I worked on the tree. Realistically, she would do all three. Madison would be upstairs with the boys, playing well for most of the time until Gabe started beating her up. Then there would be crying, denying and tattling. Tom and Matt would either be watching something on TV, playing with their phones, or most likely both at the same time. I should have taken all the decorations down before they left - then again it still would have felt empty.
The silence was torture so I broke with my normal holiday tradition of turning off the Christmas music on New Year's Eve and I listened to my favorite albums. The music put me in a better mood and since I had the volume so loud that I couldn't have heard anyone if they were there, the quietness was gone.
A number of people were shocked to hear that Mika and Madison had been here for over a month. The comments usually ended with something like "I could never have someone stay with me that long". My thoughts were "I can't imagine them leaving a day earlier!" One day last week Matt came downstairs and looked at me and said "for a moment there, I thought this was our real life - that we all actually lived here together."
It is easy to have someone stay with you when you truly enjoy their presence as much as my family enjoys having the Mlacks with us. I hope that everyone I love is blessed with friendships like the one we have with Tom and Mika.

Jan 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Tonight at dinner we talked about our favorite memories from 2008, what we are looking forward to in 2009, and our New Year's resolutions. Here are our resolutions:
Eli - to stop picking his nose.
Gabriel - to stop sucking his thumb
Riss - to learn survival German, be a positive influence on those who surround me, and to enjoy all the little moments with my boys more.
Matt - to lose 20 lbs, to be less selfish, and to keep in touch with people via texting and email.