Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Old School Avery

Shaun dug up this classic photo of Avery, I think he was five (maybe six). I think Dirt was watery-eyed when he saw it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Canobie Lake Park...In 4 Pictures

Its not easy to capture a days worth of fun in four pictures, but here goes:


Will and Maya ...big swingin' fun!


Grandma, Amelle, & Joelle are in the thrill seat on the Skater ride.


Mina monkeying around.


Avery takes a moment prior to the Rocket Launcher blast.

Also, because I'm an overachiever, I managed to include a shot of each of 6 children and 1 grandmother in the four pics (in case you weren't counting). Good times! Early bedtime for parents, grandma, and kids tonight!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Breakfast with Maya

This morning Maya and I shared a semi-quiet breakfast: Cinnamon Toast Crunch - yum! I thought that she looked kinda cute - I'm not sure if it was the the bib with no shirt look, her bed-head, or the way she methodically put each square of cereal on the spoon, or a combination of all those things, but it moved me to snap some pics. I particuarly like the shot in the lower left corner where she tries to eat with a spoon while drinking through the straw of her cereal bowl (future multi-tasker)


(notice I'm back to Picassa)
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fun with Photoshop...

..well not really.

Yesterday I sent Dirt a mother's day wish list: Photoshop Elements (the program Audra recommended for me to mess with my photos). Then the reminder: we already have full Photoshop (loaded on the kids' computer).

Apparently I had blacked out this memory because it involves my failure.

Several years ago I remember confidently embarking on a journey to try to self-learn Photoshop so that I could mess with my photographs way back when. After about 3 minutes (I mean 30) I realized that I didn't even know where to begin, closed the program and never tried it again (I'm very persistent).

Tonight, I re-opened the program and began playing around. I still don't know what the heck I'm doing or why so many people use this program because it's so difficult! (Don't worry, I won't be asking for help, Lord knows that information sharing is banned on this blog). But anyway, here are my masterpieces (I will expect to see them hanging on your 'frigerators).

Yes, I know you THINK you've seen this picture before, but alas, notice the fancy watercoloring effect? The talent doesn't end, I actually painted this on canvas by hand. Okay, I didn't, but that wasn't really even a lie because no one believed me (except for maybe my mother because she thinks I can do anything).



Editor's note (yeah, it's still me): the 2nd photograph didn't upload, so you only get to see one of my masterpieces. I blame this on Dirt loading Opera on the kids computer and Blogger prefers regular old Explorer.

Group Hug

Ironically, this was yesterday's story of the day. Finally something we can all agree on (I hope!)


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Being Green

Happy Earth Day everyone! I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the cause of environmentalism lately. This is probably because I work in Portland, where paper straws and cloth shopping bags prevail. Where is not only hip to “be green” it’s a prerequisite for living. Portland (actually Maine in general) is filled with “Environmentalists”, who, as the name implies are “nuts about the earth” (interpret that however you’d like).

I’ve observed that there are two major types of environmentalists: type I - who like to “be green” because it’s perceived as cool (like listening to jazz, or sending IMs from the line at Starbucks), and type II - who are willing to forego modern convenience and live sacrificially for the cause of the environment (like Audra, for who’s sake I cover the plastic and cardboard that I throw away in the trash can under my desk with crumpled papers). I have to confess that whenever I throw away a plastic bottle in downtown Portland I actually feel like I’m giving back to the community; it’s like putting a nickel into the hands of a homeless person.

I would like to care more about the environment, really I would. As a Christian I do enjoy the environment and I love that God created this amazingly beautiful and spectacular ball of dirt for our pleasure (not my husband, a different dirt ball). I also feel that I should be a good steward over what God has entrusted me with (kids, finances, earth).

Here’s my problem: I haven’t bought into the philosophy that my throwing away a plastic bottle is going to devastate the environment. I have asked people to explain this to me, but I have not gotten a sufficient answer. I need someone to make a case for recycling/energy conservation/etc to me so I can buy into the cause. Oh, and I should mention the case need not mention “millions of years from now” because I go numb when people start talking about the earth in terms of “millions of years”. (refrain, refrain, refraining – yay, I did it).

I received a brochure today informing me that a plastic grocery bag takes more than 1000 years to break down in a landfill. How do they know that? Plus, I’m hoping Jesus comes before then, and he has a whole renovation planned for the earth anyway.

The formal challenge: if you can convince me that environmental causes are important and I can buy into your logic, I will change my uncaring ways, I will purchase and use polypropylene grocery totes, a SIGG water container, and all the other environmental paraphernalia that I need to support the cause, AND just to up the anti, I will purchase and wear a cheezy environmental t-shirt (preferably one that's made out of organic hemp or recycled newspapers) to publicly declare that I am committed to the cause of “being green”.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Charmed

Last week I told someone that Dirt was "charmed". He isn't, but seriously though, it's almost like he is. ...and for this, I despise him. But for everything else, I love him. Sound complex? It is. You know how "they say" you should keep your enemies close? ...well I took that literally and married mine.

Last Monday I had a smug look on my face when I told Audra that Dirt was at his all time heavy weight. She couldn't help but let the smile sneak out. But then I warned her not to get too happy because by this time next week, he'll have lost those 7 pounds and be right back down to his regular weight.

12 pounds. That's how much that sucker lost in 1 week. Twelve ridiculous pounds. No exercise involved here, just living and eating how normal people eat (fruits & veggies every day, then for dinner maybe some steak (from the meathouse, and not palm-sized, either) and a spinach salad (with dressing). Oh, and also a steak burrito one night and a brownie on another night.

Blasted!

Then to top it off, he says, "Oh, well the scale must've been wrong the first time I weighed myself". (The scale wasn't wrong! It's never wrong - trust me). But this is why I hate him. First, he loses 12 pounds then he has the nerve to not tell me (I had to ask) and then he doesn't even take credit for it (or at least give credit to the Lord) - he totally downplays it, like he does with every other thing in his life. Downplayer!

I guess that makes me a "Downplayer hater"?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Would you rather...

...have the power of
invisibility
or the power to
fly?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Loose Ends

I'm probably a bit remiss on my updates. Sorry about that. I'll try to catch you up on a few things now.
  • I told you all that I joined WW last Fall. The status: I lost 10 pounds by Thanksgiving and gained it back by March.
  • I told you that I submitted my first children's novel to a publisher in December. The status: I checked the mailbox every single day (even the days immediately after mailing it, as if I would get a response before the publisher even got my query and sample chapters). Approximately 6 weeks later (on schedule) I received my SASE back (I held my breath and opened it while I was still in the driveway). The verdict: A stinkin' form letter, "please send us a formal proposal for your book idea". Oiy. This is a lot of work. Work that I am unfamiliar with doing. I still plan to do this, I just haven't prioritized it. I toy with the idea of just self-publishing the darn thing, so that I can give one copy to the sole intended audience: Avery (while he's still in the target age to read it). That just feels like failure (which I'm not keen on). But truthfully, the book needs an editor, which a real publisher would provide. Don't worry, I don't intend to quit my day job. I'll keep you posted. *
  • I told you that I wanted to take a watercolor painting class over the winter. The status: I didn't. I am (newly) enrolled in yoga, which I can't figure out. I am also trying to learn more about photography (Audra has asked me to help her shoot a wedding in June). Yikes. That's all the extra-curricular activity I can manage.
  • I told you that I got promoted late last summer. The status: The same. Work is nuts. However, I am trying to keep things in perspective. I've started WFH once per week which has helped with the W/L balance. I am going to apply at a local community college to teach a course in the fall. *
  • I don't think I told you, but some of you have found out that last Spring I decided to stop eating meat. I just hit my 1 year anniversary. I don't think I'm going back.

I think those are the outstanding items. Let me know if there is anything I've missed. Hmmm...This post was all about me, wasn't it? Oh, the asterisks, those represent "life goals". Does anyone else have those, or am I just weird? These are the things that are on the list to do before you die (if at all possible)? If you have any, please share them via comments - I would like to hear about yours!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

He's still "Got it"

Yesterday when Shaun brought my mom by he informed me that he'd be working in Portland today....and would you believe that his company is located in the exact same building as my company?! Nuts, right?

So of course we planned to catch up for lunch or whatever.

As we were making plans my mother interjects, "You'll have to show him around your office....all the women will say 'ohh..your brother is soooo handsome" - at which point Shaun and I busted into hysterics. As Shaun joked about his receeding hairline I quipped, "Or they might say, 'Oh, your brother is a middle-aged white man". I mean really - I love him to pieces, but let's face it, the guy is pushing 40. Yes, the swooning effect used to happen when we were in our twenties, in fact, I do recall a certain young woman who happened to be a co-worker of mine saying, "You've got to set me up with him" (and well-la...15 years later...).

I digress.

So today, while I was in the kitchen chatting with a co-worker, who walks in, but Audra....with Shaun in tow. We visited for a few minutes, took him on a mini-tour, and then parted ways.

About an hour later, I ran into the co-worker I had been speaking with and wouldn't you know it, "Your brother is a handsome guy" (she actually said it twice, but the second one could've been an effort to revive me from the soundless look of bewilderment)

AHHHHHHHH!!!! LOL! He's still got it after all! Nice! 39 1/2 Shauno - apparenly you wear it well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From the Peanut Gallery

One of my favorite things about driving the kids to school is listening to the conversations that emanate from the 3rd row of the mini-van. Yesterday on the way to school Avery noticed a street sign with the name of their school on it and an arrow pointing in the direction of the school.

Avery: "Hey look, there's a sign with our school's name on it"

Amelle: "Yeah!"

Avery: "I thought is was suppose to be a private school?"

Amelle: "It is!"

Avery: "Not with signs like that it's not."


Sunday, April 13, 2008

4 Parks 3 Days ....we're beat



Highlights by day posted below. Click here for album.

Day 1: "You're Not Going To School Today"

"...because we're going to Disney World"
Needless to say, the kids were quite surprised when we shared the news with them. They were all ready for school, dressed and packed up when we handed them an envelope with the news written on it. They were sooooo excited!
Amaya and Avery watch as we touch down in Florida. Local time 4:00pm.
We stayed at the Nickelodeon Hotel, which was like an amusement park in itself.
The kids couldn't WAIT to check out the pool and waterslides.

Kid eye candy everywhere: Dora, Spongebob, Backyardigans... Too bad Audra didn't show me how to use my camera, then I could've had Dora AND Amaya in focus... :-)

Day 2: We must be Crazy

Thursday morning we woke up and immediately amended our plan to go to SeaWorld and ventured off to Universal. At the gate they were offering a ticket upgrate for Islands of Adventure and the regular Universal, we we went for it. 2 theme parks in 1 day. Oiy!

It worked out well, Dirt and I had never been to the regular Universal, so that was something new for us. Funny, cause we were looking for the "Back to the Future Ride" - I think that must have been the big ride back when we were growing up. Needless to say, Universal has moved on (though perhaps we haven't).


Avery measures up to see if he can get on "The Hulk" rollercoaster. It seems like just yesterday that we were stuffing napkins in his shoe to get him on "The Spiderman" ride. As you can see, he was tall enough at the gate, but when he got measured at the ride, he was turned away. Trying to manage our son's disappointment, we reverted back to the old napkins in the shoe trick and he was able to get on when he tried again. Although Jerms and I felt bad about teaching our son how to "work the system", we take great consolation in this photo (taken with no napkin lifts) AND the fact that after 3 days of non-stop amusement parks, "The Hulk" was his favorite memory.


Here is Maya's favorite ride.


Amelle has her first riding adventure on the Jurassic Park ride. As you head over the last peak a camera snaps a picture of all the riders; Amelle had a look a sheer terror that could never be duplicated. We had no choice but to plunk down $20 for the picture.


Worth the price of admission.
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Day 3: The Magic Kingdom

If the American dollar wasn't worth poop right now, we may've had the place to ourselves. HOWEVER, the UK was "in the house" - big time! The crowds were outrageous. All those years of going to Disney right before Christmas has me spoiled, I declare: "Never again will I go to Disney during a peak time!"


Here are the happy campers at the gate. The kids were a little peeved because we walked to the entrance instead of taking the tram. Maya takes a good look at Mickey to make sure he's inanimate. The girls are not so fond of the animate characters.


The one ride that Maya insisted upon, "I want to ride on the elephants!"



The kids: Avery, Amaya, Amelle, and Pablo. (Pablo played an integral part in our vacation - he kept Maya content - she literally held him for 3 days straight and even nursed him by pinching some skin on her chest together).


Here's the source of the comment, "When can we leave?" I think we might have the only kids on earth who can't wait to leave Disney World. They pulled this number a few years ago because they wanted to go to grandma's house. This year it was to go back to the hotel and swim in the pool. Dirt and I are convinced that our kids cannot be impressed. Oiy! Where did we go wrong?!!?

Day 4: SeaWorld

Amaya wasn't big enough to ride anything at SeaWorld, though her dad did dangle her over the dolphin tank so that she could pet one.




Voted "least fun ride" of the trip:


Awesome. Spectacular. ..and yes, we got SOAKED!



My favorite part of the trip: Feeding and petting the Dolphins!


After SeaWorld we headed back the airport and hopped on the 9:20 flight home. At first we wondered if a four day trip would be too short - by day three we were counting the hours to come home! Dirt and I wonder how people could survive a week!
As a side note, the temperature in Florida (88) was literally double the temperature in Maine (44).
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Observations from the Field

  • When was the last time you got "budged"? Budged is the elementary school term for cutting in line by force. This morning I budged Audra in the Dunkin Donuts line. The kids have brought this term back into my vocabulary. I love it!

  • I'm almost finished reading Obama's autobiography. I know it is taking FOREVER. I didn't enjoy the first part (Chicago grassroots politics & J Wright sermons), but I love the second part of the book (trip to Kenya). It has almost reignited my desire to adopt an African child (which I have been fending off for several months now).

  • Jerms is hate-able because he is so damn unpretentious. Audra and I just figured him out. (she's having lunch in my office as I type).

  • Shaun is a camera-hater and does not deserve his Nikon, nor his fancy lens. He is obviously afraid to go head to head in a board game battle and does not want us to have our cameras on hand to prove his gaming inadequacy. Hater! First Walmart, now cameras!

  • I don't separate my laundry, I just wait until things get ruined and try to fix them. Audra thinks that this makes me "complex". I think it makes me "lazy".

Dirt cannot understand why any man would want a girl friend. I guess I have scarred him.

  • For the record, there is no such thing as designated gifts for MONTH anniversaries.
  • I believe that blogger will come up to speed with the other blogging sites. Yes Haters! I'm not switching! (even though I can't fix these damn bulletpoints - its called LOYALTY people!)

  • Oh...the shots are from my office - I just took them (see Audra eating at my desk?) and they suck. Audra is refusing to teach me how to work my camera until I read the manual.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2008

4-AUDRA

Jermaine dedicated his "Carbon Footprint" to Audra. For those who don't know, he is her sworn arch enemy.The battlefield was bloody last night, but Dirt & I took home the spoils (bragging rights) after a Trivial Pursuit battle. Audra and Matt left vowing to claim victory in our next board game melee: The Newlywed Game (odd selection for a 12 year couple and a 3 month couple to play - we couldn't figure out who would have the advantage? ...incidentally the box also says it's for "mature adults", which none of us are.) We are also calling on the Caseys to join in the battle - the question at bay is - are they strong enough to be defeated against the reigning board game champions?


Shaun Gets Job as Walmart Greeter


We're so proud...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Stripers Gone Wild!

Someone's getting very excited about fishing season!

Yes, it really is fish, it's not just a covert cover for one of those spring break DVDs:


Packages big and small have been coming to the house lately:



Whenever I'm wondering where Dirt is...all I need to do is open the garage door:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Momma's Coming Home!

In honor of my mother's annual pilgrimage from Florida to York, ME -which she will be embarking on in a few short weeks (courtesy of Skybus), I am including a list of unusual laws that she will no longer have to abide by:

Florida Laws (not an exhaustive list):
  • Women may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer, as can the salon owner. (I thought the hair dryer was a spa treatment?)

  • A special law prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sunday (..just in case they happen to land on a......)

  • If an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fee has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle. (Elephant, Beamer - what's the difference, really?)

  • It is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a swimsuit. (As it should be, for both her and Gordo)

  • Men may not be seen publicly in any kind of strapless gown. (They must've changed this law after Fantasy Fest in Key West - where I have seen many men in gowns - strapless and otherwise)

  • Having sexual relations with a porcupine is illegal. (not sure why - having sex with a porcupine should be the punishment)

  • When having sex, only the missionary position is legal. (Yikes! This is a family blog!)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Many Faces of Beckett

Shaun - if Wally World got you fired up, this should push you over ...look who got the first smile of your young son on camera (the middle picture is the money shot).

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Yahoo! (shrunk down in Picassa so you can do nothing with it)

Wally World Redeemed...Thank God!

As most of you know I stay oblivious to news of any kind, but last week some media snuck through when Dirt informed me that Walmart was collecting money from a former (disabled) employee who was injured and received a settlement from a lawsuit related to her injury.

I generally try to see things from "the other perspective", so before rushing to conclusions about how evil Walmart is (I don't believe they're evil, I believe they are successful), I told Dirt that it was probably just part of their plan policy. I was thinking that it was written into their Short Term Disability policy - which is quite common. Many plans have clauses saying that if the employee gets a big payout, they should repay the (insurance) company for the disability payments they received. I don't love that clause, but insurance companies are slick. Personally, I say the company paid for the employee to have that insurance, the employee should be able to keep the darn disabilty payments. Of course there are implications to this perspective: the cost of the insurance would go up and then the employees would complain at open enrollment time about the rising cost of benefits - you can't have it both ways. So in order to keep costs down, companies accept plan policies with funky clauses that will only impact about 1% of the employee population.

Even though I kept my cool on the outside, I was a little nervous on the inside about this recent Walmart media-flare up. Plan documents or not, this case seemed extreme - the article said that Walmart was suing this disabled woman for all of her money! I have been on the other side of the Walmart hate wagon for years. (I don't TRY to go with the unpopular opinion, it just happens that way... a lot). My brother and my mother-in-law are ardent Walmart-haters. My MIL literally refuses to step foot inside the bargain wonderland.

Walmart is a store. A very successful store. Sam Walton's story is your classic rags to riches story - it's the American dream. He was an Eagle Scout, he served our country, and he opened a bunch of stores, hired seniors and handicapped people to greet customers, AND passed on discounts to millions of people each year. During my graduate program I studied their business model and found it to be concrete (with high employee satisfaction levels)...of course this was based on the information in my text book (not on the headlines or Michael Moore's slant). I don't know - Americans love to hate - if its not one thing it's another. It's so "in" and so "cool" to take a stand against things, and big companies are a great target.

For those who don't know, Walmart isn't a social services organization, they're a business. The only thing they owe their employees is a paycheck that is in accordance with FLSA. Everything else is gravy - if you don't like it, don't work there. If you don't like their products or customer service, then don't shop there. Find something more meaningful to hate, like Affirmative Action (lol).

Anyway, I digress.

Dirt sent me this link today; apparently Walmart decided that they were wrong, apologized, and decided not to collect this poor woman's lawsuit settlement (which is more than we can say for her lawyers, who took their cut out of it). As it turns out, it was part of their health insurance plan policy. I am relieved by this news for many reasons, some which include my brother and my MIL, but mostly because I don't want to see Michael Moore make another documentary about the evils or Walmart, or anything else really.