Oct 30, 2009

Identifyable Scent

Yesterday I was walking through the perfume section at the PX and caught a whiff of some perfume that sent me back to Junior high. Surely, it was some cheap perfume that either someone I knew from that time wore. This happens to me frequently. I think Matt used to wear Drakaar when we were dating, so now every time I smell it I'm 16 again listening to Seal's latest release while driving around Sacramento with Matt.
The power of smell is really amazing to me. I love the smell of someone burning a fire in their fireplace on a fall day, or coffee brewing in the morning. Those are my comfort smells. Smell just has that power to transport you to a different time and place.
Our pastor is teaching on Exodus right now and a few weeks ago he was covering Exodus 30:22-37. In these verses God gives Moses a very specific recipe for an incense that was to be considered Holy. It would be placed in the temple, at the altar, on people who were anointed as ministers. It could not be used for anything else. If this recipe was replicated or used on anything other than what God specifically instructed, the punishment was death.
As I read the recipe and the verses that followed I didn't grasp the significance of this, until Pastor Chris broke it down. God wanted this scent to be His and His alone. So whenever you would smell that incense you would know you were in the presence of God or the person you were with was anointed by Him.
Now we don't have incense to remind us that we are in the presence of God, but we do have the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. We have the feeling of being at God's feet in prayer, at His altar for worship, or in His arms - in his embrace. It is a specific recipe that is not duplicated. Nothing man has made can replicate it. It is THE identifiable scent of our Lord.

Oct 26, 2009

Big Trouble

I got an email from my Grandma today. My Grams emails be about once a week, so receiving her email wasn't unusual. After I read her email I knew I was in big trouble. She noted that I haven't updated my blog in quite some time - so she wanted to make sure I was OK. You know you are in trouble for not updating a blog when Grandma emails to question it! I'm OK, still here, just a little busy.
Busy doing what you might ask? Extreme Makeover Bathroom Edition! A few weeks ago my neighbor, I'll call her Angela - because that is her name, told me that she thought there was a bathroom hidden in our basement. This is extremely exciting news. We have a 2 - almost 3 bedroom apartment with ONE, UNO, EINES, bathroom. In a few weeks my sister and family will be coming to visit. I'll do the math for you. Still one toilet, now 8 people will be sharing it. Angela was also very interested in adding another facility to our building because she will have 6 guests staying with her in December.
Rumor has it that our storage rooms down in the basement were formerly maids quarters. Surely, the maids had to shower and were probably not welcome to do so in the apartments, so they had to have a bathroom. Behind a locked door stood a toilet, two sinks, and a shower. Now we just needed to get in there so we could use them.
There wasn't a dramatic break in or anything like that, Angela just went to the housing office and asked for the key. What we found once we opened the door was dramatic. Nastiness. No other way to describe it.
So, I borrowed a shopvac and pressure washer from the Self-Help store (like Lowes but everything is free) and we started to make plans.
First step: masks, gloves and coveralls. This place is foul and there is a lot of organic bird residue (crap) everywhere.
I donned my protective gear, went in with a shopvac and broom and cleared out the first 20 layers of grime. Next step was the pressure washer. We blasted that place for hours - ceiling, walls, floor, toilet, shower, sinks - everything. That took out a few more layers of dirt. And finally, we brought in the bleach. Bleach and water baby. We washed everything we could reach with a toxic bleach solution.
At the end of the day Angela's husband came home, nearly passed out at the bleach fumes, and then started working too. He put a new toilet seat on, new shower head, and mounted a towel bar.
It is still a funky basement toilet that reminds me a lot of camping (ew don't step on the floor barefoot). It is dusty smelling but the actual sinks, toilet, and shower are pretty darn clean.
For your viewing pleasure I have pictures!

Bathroom Makeover

Click here to view these pictures larger

Oct 16, 2009

Deep Thoughts By Gabe

I signed the boys up for AWANA yesterday! Awana stands for "Approved workmen are not ashamed" referencing 2 Timothy 2:15. The mission of Awana is to help parents raise children to know, love and serve Christ. Each meeting has a mix of games, songs, a lesson, and time designated for kids to recite memory verses. As the kids work through their books and scriptures they earn Awana dollars and badges. My goal for signing the boys up was to surround them with other children who are learning about Christ and give them an opportunity to learn scriptures and biblical lessons in a fun way. They seemed to enjoy their first meeting yesterday, and are both very excited about learning their first verse John 3:16.
I know, you are thinking "they don't already know John 3:16?" No. They don't. They have spent a lot of time in childcare in church but very little time actually learning about God there, and sadly although we work on devotions and such at home, hiding God's word in their heart hasn't been a focus until now. So, my dear Gabe had some interesting thoughts on John 3:16 as we were talking about it.
Me: For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
We then had a little conversation about what all that means and Gabe came up with this conclusion:
Gabe: I think God just didn't really like his son.

Clearly, we have some things to work on here.

Oct 14, 2009

Be Sweet

A few weeks ago when I was dropping Eli off at school I heard my friend saying goodbye to her son. After the basic "I love you" and "Have a good day" she said "Be sweet". Her comment stood out to me because I don't think I have ever heard or said those words before. I figured it must just be a Southern thing - she is from Georgia. However, in the past few weeks I have really battled with Eli's sassy mouth and I have been reminded of her words on numerous occasions. The way Eli has been speaking to me, his brother, and friends on the playground is so frustrating. As I try to deal with his words and sassy tone, I am also forced to look at my own. Although I think he was born with a little "know-it-all-sass", he must have learned these patterns of speech from someone . . . probably me.
The desire of my heart is to "be sweet", not the artificial sweetener sweet, but the real good old fashioned pure cane sugar sweet. I can't stand Equal, Sweet-n-low and Splenda. They leave this nasty too sweet taste in my mouth, but a little bit of sugar is simple and divine.
I'm praying that God will take away my natural sassy, vinegar-like speech and replace it with the sweetness of sugar. My desire is for my speech to be fragrant to the Lord and to my family. Proverbs 12:18 says "Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing".

Oct 12, 2009

What to do?

I finished my German homework and even put an hour or so into reviewing verbs, vocab and grammar. The kids are in bed, the laundry and dishes are done, and I've checked my email and facebook accounts. What to do now?
I have a stack of receipts on the make-shift desk that need to be entered into Quicken, I have a few chapters of my bible study book to read, I could snuggle into bed and read my leisure book, or I can raid the fridge and eat the raw chocolate chip cookie dough.
Clearly, I have some tough choices here. The books and bills are too serious for this late hour so I decided to blog.
Earlier this evening I asked Eli to get a book and read it to Gabe. 1. Eli is a fabulous reader but can always use more practice. 2. Gabe had a short school week last week so I needed to finish off our "Seasons" section. This killed two birds with one stone. While I was taking care of some stuff in the other room I heard Eli reading to Gabe. Eli wasn't just reading to Gabe, he was teaching him. He would read a sentence or paragraph and then stop and chat about it with Gabe. "Every year the Jews would celebrate the harvest .... Gabe do you know another word for harvest? Do you know what harvest means? It is when . . " He is such a great little teacher. Maybe I should hire him to sub for me when I'm not feeling up to it!
I'm so glad the boys have each other. They are such good buddies.
So, I stacked the receipts nicely and double checked my account to make sure it wasn't empty, put my bible study book on the nightstand for tomorrow night, ate some graham crackers instead of the cookie dough and now I'm off to bed.

Oct 11, 2009

Lessons Learned

Today after church the boys and I headed to Ludwigsburg to check out Ludwig's castle and gardens. They were having a little Pumpkin Festival there this weekend, so we went.
Halfway to Ludwigsburg the boys asked where we were going and what we were doing. When I announced it was a Pumpkin Festival I got groans, grumbling, and flat out whining from the back seat. According to Gabriel "Germany has too many festibals - like every weekend". Yes, Gabriel there is a fest somewhere, for something, just about every weekend. In the future, I'll just leave out the word "festival" and all will be fine.
We made it to the Palace gardens and enchanted forest. There was a lot of pumpkin sculptures, food, and decor all over. There was a cool playground and mechanical reenactments of all the classic fairy tales. These little shows were in German, go figure, so we didn't hang out long. When we finished with the gardens we headed over to the Palace. The boys really wanted to go in but I was low on cash and still had to pay for parking. I asked how much it would cost to get in, I had enough cash to cover both and so we went for it. Another lesson, ensure I have euros a plenty before leaving town. Once I arrived in Ludwigsburg there wasn't a Gelatomat (ATM) in sight. If I had got more cash out before I left Mannheim, I wouldn't have been stressed over the cash situation.
We bought tickets to the tour, in German because we missed the English tour, and headed into the beautiful palace. We were lucky enough to be in a very small group tour, with a tour guide who was willing to translate the high points for us into English. A gentleman in the group was also so kind, and he helped describe stuff to the boys too. The boys had a great time and were so good. This brings me to my third lesson of the day: ask how LONG a tour is before I find myself locked in an ancient palace with no where to go but along with the tour for TWO hours. It was the best spent $13.50 euro ever, but a really long tour.
We finished the tour at 6:30pm and headed back to the car. Once there I took my parking ticket to the machine to pay, and the machine wouldn't read it. I tried two different machines and it kept being denied. How can they deny it? I came, I parked, I would now like to pay so I can leave! By God's grace - truly - I happened to catch a worker turning OFF the lights to his little shack. I asked him "sprechen Sie Deutsch?" He said "nein" which I now know is most likely a bold faced lie. They sprechen they just don't like to admit it. So, ignoring his answer that he doesn't speak English, I told him, in English, that my card wouldn't work. He followed me to the machine, tried it himself, realized something was wrong and said to me "Where is your car?" IN ENGLISH. He motioned to go get it, I did, and he let me out of the garage for free. Sweet deal.
Now comes the fun. The GPS doesn't get reception in the parking garage so it isn't until you leave the garage that it starts to calculate the route home. It still didn't know what it wanted to do by the time I hit the first light so I turned right. Which was wrong. After 15 minutes of sitting in traffic and hearing "please make a u-turn now", I finally convinced it that I was not making a u-turn (due to the rather large barrier prohibiting me from doing so) and it better just recalculate my route, now.
It was taking me on all kinds of bizarre routes, left, right, left, right. I was so confused. I did drive into this city and not in any way the same that it was trying to take me out. I double checked that it was taking me "home" and just proceeded. It wasn't until I had been in traffic, through the city and now on a dark country road that I realized I screwed up. I changed the settings to "walk" as the mode of transport when we arrived in the town, but I never changed it back. The GPS had calculated a route to take me from Ludwigsburg to Mannheim via my own two feet. It wasn't taking me to the nearest autobahn because you can't walk on the autobahn. By the time I figured this out I was already out in the country in what would have been a great Volksmarch if I were actually walking and it were daylight, and not raining. Final, and most important lesson learned today: if I change the settings on the old GPS, I must change them back before attempting to proceed.
We had a great day. The weather was beautiful, the tour was really great, and even the drive home was interesting. I drove through a number of really adorable towns that I might want to go back to in the future.

Oct 7, 2009

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

If You Give a Pig a Pancake is the title of a popular children's book that chronicles an adventurous morning with a pig. The pig gets a pancake, he needs syrup, syrup reminds him of the farm where all his buddies live, he misses the buddies, wants to write buddies a letter, letter reminds him of a story he once heard... and on and on.
Tonight I had a pig and a pancake moment.
While crushing corn flakes for a hashbrown casserole I am making for breakfast tomorrow I was reminded of the time my mom made some chicken dish that called for corn flakes but my mom used Total instead. Then I thought that my mom might have a different version of the story, which reminded me of the time my mom was climbing a ladder and one by one the rungs broke and my sister and I laughed our heads off and LOVE to retell that story. Mom falling reminded me of the time Mika tripped going UP the stairs at Potomac Mills and when I looked over to see what happened I realized she managed to save her newly purchased grande coffee from dumping all over the ground. What I didn't notice was that it splashed a little on her face and she walked around the mall all night with coffee splatter on her face. That reminded me of Mike making me coffee every morning when I stay with him and my cousin Rhonda. Staying with Mike and Rhonda reminded me of the awesome house party we had at Rhonda and Mike's house the summer of 2008. Tom, Mika, Tom, Katina, the girls, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, me, and the boys all convened at Rhonda and Mike's house and had the most fabulous time ever. That great weekend reminded me of the time we utilized every possible sleeping surface in our house when my parents, Tom, Katina and the girls came to stay with us for Christmas. That Christmas reminded me of last Christmas when Mika stayed with me for almost 6 weeks. Mika staying with us last Christmas reminded me of the many guests that came to stay with us while we lived in DC. Which reminded me of the guestbook that my friend Rachael bought me to properly document all our guests. That got me thinking about Rachael who I miss so dearly. I thought about the time that we had living in the same neighborhood in VA. Thinking about Virginia reminded me of the fabulous life we had there and how much I miss seeing our friends and sharing our life with them. The friends, the adventures, our life was so wonderful there and it was so hard to leave. Then I thought about how hard leaving was. Which took me back to that day when I left Virginia only to arrive in Oakland 8 hours later with Tom and Mika waiting to pick us up at the airport. We stayed with Tom's parents in Antioch and had the most relaxing weekend I can remember. We played in the pool, went to a Giants game, and ate delicious food that Ken and Cyndi slaved over every day. I'll never forget our super brunch when we drank mimosas and ate every possible breakfast/brunch food known to man.... including hashbrown casserole which of coarse reminded me that I better finish making mine.

Oct 5, 2009

More than Expected.

I did way more than I expected to do today. I ran 6 miles, took everything out of the fridge an wiped it all down, mopped the floor, cleaned out the trash can, did laundry, made three meals, chatted on the phone with a good friend, paid bills, played Mario Cart with Eli, and watched last nights episode of THE amazing race.
I set out to run my 4 mile loop this morning after dropping Eli off at school. A friend of mine asked if she could join me. Wow. Finally, a running buddy? I planned to select a good album, plug in my headphone, start my nike+ and roll, but this was going to be even better! I started the nike+ so that I could keep an eye on our pace and track our distance and we were off. 3 miles into the very enjoyable run I looked down to see how we were doing and . . . the ipod was gone. MY ipod touch that I love so much and treat as if it were a fragile newborn baby. Gone. The ipod that has never seen the light of day without being cradled it its pink leather case, or snuggled into the armband. MIA. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps. I recalled that I made 3 turns that could have jostled the ipod out of the stroller and one time, I hit a trash can. We ran all the way back, keeping our eyes open for any sign of my precious ipod touch encased it its black armband and paid close attention in the areas where I hit the can and made the turns. We got nothing. *For the record, I never lost a newborn, a 5 year old, yes, newborn no. So the analogy still works. * Our quick 4 mile run turned into a zippy 6 mile run. We were high-tailing it back hoping to find the ipod. Poor running buddy felt so bad for me. She knew that if she were not with me I would have been wearing the ipod. I put it in the stroller, I claim full responsibility, and don't expect that anyone who found it will return it. I would be ecstatic if they did, but not hopeful in that area. Who loses and ipod while using it? Just me.
After I picked Eli up from school we had snacks and then I went into the kitchen to get Gabe a cup of water. I see the water jug in the fridge, and about a quart of orange juice all over the place too. WHO DUMPED THE OJ AND DIDN'T TELL ME? Eli confesses that he spilled it but was afraid he would get in trouble if he told me, so he left it. I then had to take out every shelf, container, and drawer to get the sticky OJ out of the fridge. It is pretty darn clean now.
As I was tossing out some old food and paper towels I realized the trash was full. I pulled out the trash bag only to find that it leaked into the can. Yeah. So, now there is trash juice all over the floor and in the can. I clean out the can, mop the floor, and start dinner.
Whew. So much for an easy Monday.