Friday, October 22, 2010

Immeasurably More....and me some Toby Mac

A couple months ago I began looking towards October...3 bdays, the beginnings of the holiday season and lots of changes around the Ramsdell home that would require planning, planning, planning on my part. Tuesday is Billy's 41st bday (holy cow) and I had heard Toby Mac was coming to Colorado Springs.

THE PLAN: First, I contacted all our friends to see who wanted to go with us. Sadly, no luck there. We have busy friends. Next, convince Billy that Toby tickets would make a really great bday gift. Always up for a concert, it was strange when Billy said he'd skip it (code for no way should we pay $50 a ticket). Sigh. After trying to get Victoria (turning 10) to have a "joint party with daddy at the concert" -- MY excuse for paying $50 per ticket -- no such chance -- I let it go. I happen to believe that much of life is learning to let things go, but that's another blog.

Life as usual happens. Leading our large family is like navigating the Titanic at times...big ships don't change course on a moments notice easily. However, God works "suddenly" at times -- and we are definately open to His blessings. And when He does, He often blesses our family beyond what I would have "planned" out.

Last night about 5 (concert doors open at 6), my 15 year old calls and says to her dad, "I have FREE Toby Mac tickets!" She had been offered a FREE ticket herself and went back to ask if she could have (2) more for her parents. "Happy Birthday Daddy!" God didn't give me FREE Toby tickets. Even better, He gave them to my daughter to bless her dad on his bday.

SIDE NOTE: Only some of you will understand the significance of Shanna Touchton's child giving Toby Mac tickets to Billy Ramsdell. Of course, she's his child too, but after 16+ years of marriage I still OCCASSIONALLY have the thought, "Oh my gosh, I married Billy Ramsdell!" I use to think he was Toby Mac (again, only some will appreciate).

On the way into the concert I say to one of Elizabeth's friends, "Elizabeth's daddy used to be a rapper." Elizabeth points at me and says in an exaggerated voice to her friends, "SEE! I don't make this stuff up!" :)

BACK ON TOPIC: After much re-arranging (Ben will skip football, Shanna will get her hair colored on another night, Kids will eat dinner with MawMaw, Hosanna will bum a ride home, etc), I pile 5 teenagers in my car and head out.

Lizzie's friend Issac demonstrates his execptional directional skills by finding us a FREE place to park. Free tickets, free parking -- check! And in we go.

We've brought with us a young friend whose only recently accepted the Lord. Watching the concert through her eyes is fun...and I was able to do this because my teen daughter invited her parents to sit with her and her friends in GREAT seats that we weren't assigned too. Great seats, check! Nice.

During the show, my own daughter has a renewed passion to use her own musical gifts and talents for the Lord. She says, "I think dad's really been praying for me in this area." I smile. She has no idea. I simply say, "Yes, he has."

I realize as the concert progresses (Toby Mac, Max Lucado, Michael W Smith, Rachael Lampa, Third Day)that this has all been orchestrated far better than I'd hoped or imagined. The price was right. We carried others with us who were blessed and encouraged in their young walks with Christ. My own daughter was stirred in regards to her calling and ministry, and her parents were deeply encouraged. Apparently, it HADN'T been about me hanging out with friends or lovin me some Toby Mac. It didn't really appear to be all about Billy's 41st bday. I speculated that MAYBE it was just about that moment where we simply allow God to love on us. For Him to be a generous father, to get a chance to whisper, "I'm proud of you."

We sang, danced, banged our heads, worshiped, cried, received encouragment, skipped the Tshirt to get pics with the drummer and piled back into the van. On the ride home, I listened to teenagers open a Bible and discuss what they felt God was saying. Life has come full circle in some regards and it's a good life. It's seldom been an "easy" life for me and Billy, but certianly blessed. It was an amazing night.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

That's what I get for eating at McDonald's

Well...we don't go there very often...because...well...WE HATE THE FOOD! However, tonight I as a single mom with 2 hungry sons and no dinner plan following football practice.

We decided to go in.

As I stood in the LONG line (no joke! Really? Other people actually LIKE eating there?)a young man who had been waiting for his food approached the tray on the counter. As he stood there eating the fries -- appearing to be waiting for something else -- the man behind him says, "Excuse me sir, that's my tray." Yes, he'd been eating off the wrong tray.

I stood there in line laughing at this -- when all of a sudden I turn around and my own 3 year old (granted, he has limited vision) was pulled up to someone else's table eating THEIR fries! Embarssed, I was tempted to leave him there, but sent Ben after him as a compromise. Guess that's what I get for eating at McDonald's.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lazy Summer: Day 1

It’s been the perfect 24 hours. I really don’t say that that often and it’s usually a surprise to me when it happens.

Last year, on the last day of school, I hijacked my kids with a sudden water balloon fight. Unannounced to them, I had filled 200 water balloons that am and we attacked them shortly after arriving home. It was a great way to begin the summer.

I wanted to do something similar this year, but I ended up doing some makeup piano lessons in the afternoon right when school got out. Instead of bemoaning my poor scheduling choices, I decided that the best strategy was to just work with it. I made little bags for Ben and Victoria to celebrate amongst themselves while I taught. They were filled with bubbles, silly string, pop rocks and snappers -- all found at the Dollar Tree. My son, especially, had fun setting “booby traps” for any guest approaching the front door with the snappers.

Shortly thereafter, we took a trip to Chucke Cheese. We hadn’t been here for at least 2 years if not more. There was no one else there and it was fun to have the run of the place. The food wasn’t great, but we played ski ball, basketball and video games to our hearts content.

We left there around 9pm and decided to go the 10pm dollar movie (hey, why not, it’s summer). We got home at a delightful 1am.

Today, we slept in (which means 8am) and I was tempted to begin my day doing chores. By 8:15 I had already seen the wisdom lacking in this decision so I climbed back into bed intent on reading at least 1 chapter of The Way of the Wild At Heart by John Eldridge. It was glorious.

After lunch, I took the kids by the Glen Eagle Pool (“just to look”), and ended up getting a membership (totally looking forward to that). We went to Focus on the Family to purchase new Bible study material for everyone to work on this summer and ended up at the Library. We had planned to sign up for the summer reading program there, but low and behold -- it doesn’t even begin for 4 more days! Wow! We then made our way over the Sonic for “Happy Hour”. The slushies are good.

This afternoon the kids had some friends over as well as some family for a cookout. At 9pm, we were STILL on the tramp, riding the long boards and laughing over glasses of kool aide.

With such a large family, there are RARELY moments when we are all happy at the SAME time. When it comes to most days of summer, if I can get 3 out of 5 kids to be happy with an activity, I figure that’s roughly 60% of the people…and that ain’t bad! Today was no exception to that rule. Still…the perfect start to what I hope is a great summer!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Our Journey with Eli at 9 months home

We have now been home with Eli 9 months…and quickly approaching a year. The time has passed quickly as I knew it would. Shortly after coming home, as I walked around the neighborhood just starting to get to know this sweet, quiet, painfully shy little boy…I sensed that the Holy Spirit was telling me that Eli’s “transition” -- his “adjustment” would be slow, take a long time yet be uneventful. That is exactly how the last 9 months have panned out. He has made slow, very steady progress in all areas. He has had no notable attachment problems or sleep issues. Just slow and steady progress.

He is talking a lot at home, still not so much out in public and definitely not to strangers. He uses new phrases and words weekly. The past couple of days he’s been “concerned” about a blown light bulb in my bathroom. “The light is broken” he’d tell me several times a day. “Yes, Eli”, I’d say back, “And daddy will fix that when he gets back from his work trip.” Tonight he noticed the motion detector light go off outside. He quietly walked over and flipped the switch until the light came back on. He then ran into the kitchen and yelled, “Mommy! I fixed it! I fixed the light!”. Billy says boys just innately wanna fix things. He has picked up on all our little phrases and inside family jokes well…and uses them at appropriate times -- totally delighted to be “fitting in” around here!

He’s animated at home and LOVES when we are all together. He’s quite funny actually. Last night he sat through a 1 ½ hour long symphony concert. Nearing the end, during a very quiet transition he says in a LOUD EXASPERATED voice, “OH. MY. GOSH.“ throwing his head back as if he couldn’t stand one more song! When Billy laughed and leaned close to him to say, “Shhhhhhhhh” -- Eli leaned back and said, “Y O U SHHHHHHHH!”

He enjoys going places and doing things…especially as a family. He told his grandmother recently that he was “hiking with his family.” He does not, however, enjoy people outside our family talking to him still…he makes NO eye contact with strangers and turns his head when they attempt to communicate with him. I’ve grown tired of trying to “explain” his behavior…so I just don’t. J

I’ve only now begun to “leave” him places on a rare occasion…preparing both him and myself for Fall Preschool. This past week, I took him to the YMCA where I dropped him in his “class” for an hour. Upon picking him up, I asked, “Eli, did you do good?” He said, “No.” I said, “What did you do?” He said, “Cry.” He’ll get the hang of it -- so people tell me.

He still out eats his 10 year old brother…but hasn’t gained a pound. Seriously. He was 29.7 when we got here…and 30.1 pounds today! Instead he has grown 3+ inches in the last 9 months! He’s certainly doing better in the “potty training” arena -- although we still have a ways to go. He seems a little more relaxed and settled lately and therefore certainly open to discovering and enjoying all kinds of new things!

When we were in China, we were baffled that he didn’t seem interested in all the “new” things around. Surely, he’d never seen such before. Now we know that he didn’t have any sight there…so no…he hadn’t seen those things before. 9 months later…his “settled”ness and new found communication skills and ability to use his glasses have meant he is opening up to all kinds of things and interested in so much. It really is fun.

Having been institutionalized for soooooo long meant that little Eli truly came to us at the age of 2 ½ with NO family skills. He couldn’t communicate, eat with a fork, go to the potty, put on his shoes, smile, play, etc., etc, etc. At present, he has 9 months of “Family Skills” under his belt. And as we all know, “9 months” is a much more delightful stage than “newborn”…if you understand what I mean! He still seems so little and young to us.

I told a friend the other day that I see how “one year home” will be good -- but that “three years home” will be even better. She reminded me not to wish the time away…which is not how I really meant it anyhow. I do look forward to the day where Eli has been in my home for longer than he’s been in that orphanage…to a day when he’s had a mommy longer than a nanny. Whereas I am one to enjoy the here and now (when the here and now is enjoyable), I look forward to a day when we have even more memories of Eli being with us.

On another note, all the rest of us are doing well too. It’s been a roller coaster for me with happy moments, fears that we were under too much stress or that we’d never find a new normal, crazed moments where I just knew I have more kids than any one else on the planet and there is no way I can take care of them all, and deeply satisfied moments too. God has been faithful to our family and we are truly all learning and growing. Just like those that have BTDT have told me…we all DO INDEED seem to be finding a new normal. A blessed, satisfied new normal.

Eli's Most Recent Eye Exam....(warning: LONG)

Well, it’s been 9 months since we’ve brought Eli home. His recent eye surgery was telling. When we left to get Eli we expected him to have Cataracts in both eyes and childhood Glaucoma. In reality, Eli had HAD cataracts as an infant…most likely either from birth or from an infection shortly after birth. Chinese doctors had performed a surgery before his first birthday to remove the cloudy lens from each eye. This sounds severe, but our doctor assured me that this is the same surgery we would have performed on an infant with cataracts here in America. Apparently, by mistake, the lens was not completely removed in one eye. Therefore, when the cataract began to develop again in that eye, he underwent a second surgery to remove the piece of damaged lens. As you may be wondering, no, you can not see without your lens. What SHOULD have happened, was that Eli SHOULD have been put into glasses right away to correct his FOCUS. Eli went 2 years in the orphanage with no glasses. As a result his eyes became more and more OUT of FOCUS. Our American Doctor is sure that in China, he could see little more than light/dark. In the meantime, Eli was also developing higher and higher eye pressure in his right eye. Just like high blood pressure damages a heart…high eye pressure damages the optic nerve. Eli’s right eye pressure measured double what it should have been. During the surgery to correct that, the American Doctor discovered that Eli had a birth defect in his eye that could be corrected. However, “birth defect” meant that Eli had most likely had the high eye pressure since…well…BIRTH. He was now three years old.

His recent eye exam performed under anesthesia showed approx 99.9% damage to his right optic nerve. The .1% vision that was left was being impeded by the scarring from the previous surgeries. The scar could be removed, but the risk to his eye would out weigh the .1% vision he might recover. The Doctor recommends leaving it alone.

Upon leaving that visit, I pondered all I had just heard. Not best case scenario…but not worst case either. Oddly, I felt better reminding my self that Eli’s vision problems (which could have totally been taken care of in infancy) were not my fault. I wasn’t the one who had neglected him. I reminded myself that the amount of money I have or don’t have rather combined with the high cost of medical care…and the fact that I have more children than I know what to do with…these things are not the cause of Eli’s vision loss. I replayed the words of the Doctor -- that in fact -- Eli hadn’t “lost” any vision. From birth, Eli had simply never developed vision and for him there was no big difference here. He was simply seeing how he’d always saw.

In the meantime, the Doctor said, we’d work on strengthening the vision and focus of his left eye (he’ll still hopefully be a good candidate for an artificial lens put in in the future)…and work on saving the right eyeball. The Doctor mentioned that prosthetic eyes are very real looking and that no one would know that Eli’s eye wasn’t real unless they were very, very close to him. I of course attempt not to shudder when the Doctor talks of fake eyeballs, but in this case, Eli would probably appear more “normal” with a prosthetic eye. On the other hand, saving the eyeball means that future advanced procedures that may “re-grow” his optic nerve would be a possibility. The Doctor is not optimistic that his eye can be saved. It’s already very red and some what painful to Eli. That along with the very low pressure is an indication that the eye is getting ready to die for lack of better words.

We pray over him of course, and like good Charismatic Christians claim everything we know to claim over him. But the reality is that when my young son walks up to me and says, “Mommy, Eli eye hurt” - I feel the need to act and do something. If we do end up needing to remove Eli’s eye, I’m not disappointed. For all practical purposes, we are married too this once “Waiting Child”. When adopting him we were presented with the “risks” -- the best case AND worst cast scenarios. We still gladly, purposefully, joyfully, educated and with eyes wide open took on the task of making him a member of our family. There are 7 people who live in my household and I can’t fully or even mostly say where life will take any of us, after all. Only God knows where Eli is headed and to have both eyes completely restored -- isn’t the big miracle here anyway. The BIG miracle…what I have real, burning faith to believe God for is this…that Eli has a bright future now. He won’t be a beggar on the streets of China, who lost vision in both eyes without anyone to advocate for his health -- living in disrespect, cold at night and wondering where his next meal may come from. On the contrary, he’ll grow surrounded by a family…he’ll go to college…he’ll remember dozens of Christmas mornings and bday parties…he’ll watch family movies and fight with his big brother…he’ll have his favorite stories read to him over and over and get an IPOD all his own…he’ll have multiple pairs of shoes and good food that he can have at any moment. He’ll be able to find himself in HUNDREDS of Ramsdell Family Photos. He’ll be reminded over and over by his parents why God created him, who God created him do be and the purpose for which he lives…he’ll have parents who draw these things out of him and call him to be a disciple of Jesus…he’ll have the opportunity to become new…to have old things pass away…THAT is the BIG LIFE TRANSFORMING MIRACLE. Regardless of which way we go, in our home God is still God…and we’ve learned to say in all sorts of circumstances that He is good…as will Eli.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lizzie's lastest blog...

My Lizzie wrote a blog recently that I thought was's the link! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trip to Breckenridge

This past weekend we headed to Breckenridge, Colorado for some much needed rest after what's been a very stressful month (or two...or three...I've lost count). My wonderful husband made arrangements for our trip to be moved up a couple of weeks and it turned out so great! Here's a view of Peak 7.

Here's a view of the same peak from the balcony of our hotel....

On the way there, we stopped to see the Buffalo...we eat these here in Colorado. They make for tasty burgers.

We drove through a tunnel that I imagine was in the movie 'I Robot'.

We ate a cupcake from $3 I've spent in a L O N G time.

B got to level 100 on the 1981 version of Galaga...I had a little trouble and ran out of men on level 5...if B could only do THIS for a living....

We got a free crepe....amazing....

We relaxed by the fire....

Watched people snowboard and ski...

We shopped and didn't ride this...

Here's B as he is in his mind...

Here's me pretty much doing this stuff everyday....

Bottom line...all parents deserve 24 hours with no one knocking on the door, asking what's for dinner, and hogging up all the hot least once a year! :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eli being Jon Egan

"You hold it all together. You hold it all forever. You hold it all, you started it all, you are my all in all."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Like Father...Like Daughter

My daughter has a guy friend...she blogged about it...and I thought the blog was good...

Here's the link

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Garden of the Gods

Love hiking here in Colorado. Love going to Garden of the God's on a sunny, warm day and climbing. Here's a few pics of our recent trip!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A birthday redo

This past weekend was my birthday redo! Well actually, Billy had given me a "night away" as my gift. So, here's what we did....

We started with a cheap the Walmart -- bc for some reason we always end up at the Walmart. We ordered a Veggie Sub with hot peppers and a side of Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly's. No, I'm not pregnant...and I didn't eat them together. It was just symbolic that I'd get to pick what I WANTED for a change. After all, I wasn't having to share with anyone!

We checked into an out of the way hotel room in Denver. The people were sweet and pleasant. The lady origionally sent us up to the wrong room -- but she gave us $25 of FREE breakfast gc's for our "trouble".

Next morning we ended up here....

We decided to tour the Coors Beer factory. Some may think that is in bad taste, but it was free and interesting. This is Billy on the self directed tour listening to his electronic tour guide.

Here's me sitting on an ice cube!

In the "sample" room, I got a ROOT BEER bc it tastes better than COORS!

Finally, Billy saw this car outside...and well...he just thought it deserved a picture!

We so appreciated this night away. Two nights would have been spectacular...and for all those parents who manage to get an entire week away...hats off to you! We are looking forward to that one day too!

It's cold here!!!

Here are some pics of us and some good friends, The Rodger's Family, out on a frozen lake!

Can I please have a quarter?

Victoria is a member of the Little Mozart's, the beginning beginners of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. Each year, parents of this assosication agree to contribute $100 via the sale of raffle tickets. No, I didn't wanna buy $100 worth of raffle tickets myself. So...we shamelessly signed up with other like-minded families to sell our tickets in front of King Soopers. Today, we did our second (and last) 3 hour shift. Here's a pic of Victoria playing the Cello for some interested little visitors.

As we were out there for a purpose, I duitifully set about asking each and EVERY person who left the busy store, "Would you like to support the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony and buy a raffle ticket?" MOST of the time, I wasn't able to finish my sentence before the patron responded, "No. Not today." I truthfully understood and would politely say back, "Thank you. Have a nice weekend." I imagined in some small way to be blessing the people of my city.

I often leave Walmart or the grocery store and I too walk quickly past the people sitting and fundraising at tables outside the door. I usually DON'T have cash in my wallet. But after the past 2 weekends of taking my turn on behalf of a very worthy organization, the CSYSA, I have a few insights.

Alot of times, the people running these make shift "stands" are just passionate parents trying to do something good for their kids. Maybe they can't actually afford the fees expected of them. Maybe they are of the small presentage of people who are willing to give their time and contribute to the worthwhile organizations of our city. Here's a biggie you should know the next time you see them, actually making EYE CONTACT with them when you're coming out the door -- does not obligate you to donate any money. Actually walking past them, versus turning your buggie in an ackward direction coming out the door, still doesn't obligate you to give money. They DO understand when you don't have cash or when you're in a hurry. They also understand LOTS of people can't afford to part with their cash...especially these days no matter how little.

However, if they hold the slightest amount of interest to you, take a moment and ask what they are doing there. This too doesn't obligate you to might find joy in putting that $1 or loose change in their bucket. You might even win a raffle!

Today, Victoria and I raised MORE than our required amount -- all while she got in some good "performance" time. Last week she was chosen to be interviewed and photographed by the newspaper. We were able to contribute the "excess" we raised to another family who hadn't quite meet their quota. It was fun to have finished our task sucessfully and we are thankful to have blessed and been blessed by so many generous people in our community!

Wanna See?

My mom is a great gift giver. She has to date bought me the perfect pair of pants, cute shoes and more than one ring (all three of which I'm a very hard fit for). Getting a package in the mail from her is always fun. This year when she called and asked what I wanted for my birthday, I duitifully answered, "Money. I need to get the tags on the van renewed." Boring. I know. But I live a VERY grown-up life and it just goes with the terriority some years.

A few weeks later, I got a sweet card and a $200 check in the mail. However, like I said, my mother isn't your average gift giver. She also sent a BIG box via UPS. Wanna see what else she got me for my birthday?

This vase is similar to one she has that I just love. It was hand made by a family friend from a block of wood from a Camphor tree. It's beautiful and I love it's uniqueness.

This necklace is a gift she had previous bought me, however, it had broken. So at Thanksgiving she confiscated it, took it back to the botique and had them replace it. Just bc she's my mom, she threw in a new pair of earrrings to match! So pretty.

Finally, she got me a Christmas Ornament (I dream of a tree COVERED with Hallmark Ornaments). It says, "Like mother, like daughter". :)

Well, there ya have it. Might sound like I'm bragging, but my mom deserves it. ;)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

If you don't like Controversy, turn back now! ;)

I know the current "Health Care Debate" in our country is controversial. After all, I DO pay WAY TO MUCH for my families Health Care. However, my friend David posted this on a FB Note and I liked it. Since this is MY blog -- I'm gonna repost it here!


I was reading this article in the BBC on the health care debate. Very revealing in it's condescension and complete misunderstanding of the United States' deeply rooted aversion to governmental authority. In it the author poses the question: 'Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford?'

I just started laughing hysterically because the immediate answer that came to my mind was in the form of the lyrics to a Jonathan Coulton song:

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don’t like it
What’s with all the screaming?
Isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

Understand- it isn't just that we resent being told by someone in Washington what is in our best interests, it is that we have deeply ingrained in our culture (and enshrined in our Constitution) a philosophical belief that government simply should not be given any more power than is necessary for the safeguarding of our liberties. That way lies serfdom. The ancients knew it. Our Founders knew it. History has proven it - and deep down in our gut the American populace knows it even if some of us cannot express it so eloquently as Madison, de Toqueville, or Friedman.

Yes, Virginia, they would be inept tyrants if you let them

Monday, January 18, 2010

Proof that I really do have a Toddler again!!!

36 year old Birthdays on the cheap....

This is me pretending like it's really ELIZABETH'S bday when they were singing the Happy Birthday song. :)

Yesterday was my 36th birthday. It started well. On Saturday evening we got the chance to go out to dinner at a favorite resturant with some good friends. We both had coupons and the balance for me and B's split burger and all-you-can-eat fries was $0.00. I actually made B purchase another drink -- so we could tip the waitress. Total = $7.76

On Sunday (my acutal bday), my teenage girls brought me breakfast-in-bed. It was sweet, complete with english muffin, scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and fruit. Not to mention, yogurt and milk (skim for me, whole for B). They claimed that they left behind a "clean kitchen". As it turned out, this was "mostly true". As a mother of 5 children, my request for my bday was a "clean house and total family harmony for a day" -- and all mothers realize -- this is a big, if not near impossible, request. I can dream however. The morning buzzed along. My oldest daughter took responsibility for helping her 2 youngest siblings pick out church clothes and dress. Benjamin tucked in his shirt and brushed his hair for the occasion. Before we walked out the door to church, he even vaccumned the kitchen floor without being asked (all this being proof that they do have the ability to do this daily if they so wanted).

Church was good as usual...oldest daughter serving the nursery, 13 year old daughter participating in worship at the altar, 10 year old son sitting by his father underlining things in his Bible (this bc he got in trouble the week before in Children's Church, but hey, it was going well THIS week), 9 year old singing her lungs out and enjoying the worship set, Eli on our laps also seemingly enjoying just being there, Godly husband and in-laws.....and I enjoyed a brief moment where all seemed right in my world.

Then enter: The Crown. The Thorn and The Crown are two HUGE Easter productions put on by our church. Really, the magnitude of these productions can't be over stated. 1,000 plus volunteers. Weeks of rehearsals. Tons of prayer. Live animals. Crazy schedules. Anyhow...I could live without the extra stress and busyness of having a crazier than usual schedule, but keeping my kids away from this is nearly impossible. They LOVE it and this will be our 5th year participating (and yes, every year I say "I won't do THAT again" -- and there I am the next year right back on the participants list!). The "kick off" meeting was scheduled at 1pm -- and whereas it wasn't set in stone, in the back of our minds, we knew that the possiblilty of a surprise, and extend "audition" was there. Surprise! The kids auditioned for everything from main characters to angels and demons (Elizabeth is ALWAYS a demon and Hosanna is ALWAYS an angel -- but they are all open to other parts). We were 5pm. Yes, that's right -- on my bday -- we were at church from 10:30am - 5pm.

Once we were done, we were all pretty much exhausted. Long gone were my hopes of grilling steaks for lunch (we ate bags of popcorn at the church), a bday hike through Garden of the God's and catching a dollar movie. I sucked in my disapointment and tried to remember the joy I experienced during those hours where little Eli ran all over the church's Theatre acting like he owned the place.

After much deliberation, we decided to scratch any plans we might have had -- and go out to dinner. It was fun -- we don't go out as a family much anymore -- and I was happy for a nice ending to what became a very LONG day.
Cost of spontaneous family dinner out = $43.00.

At dinner, Billy gave me my gift. Knowing I've been wanting a weekend away, he used our Frequent Flyer miles to get us a nice hotel room in Denver and a few resturant gift cards. I loved it. Cost = $0.00.

After dinner, we took my bday cake ("Banana Split Cake" -- my Granga's receipe which, incase you doubted I'm from the South, contains 3 sticks of butter) over to my in-laws where I took 2 Advil and watched Extreme Home Makeover. Cost = $0.00

Finally, we came home and watched a movie. FAME was checked out, so I had to settle on Terminator Salvation. Beings that Terminator is a hard movie to follow (in my opinion), I feel asleep before it ended. Cost $1.

So -- there ya have it. A 36 year old bday party on the cheap (all in all, gift included we spent $51). My special day included 5 kids, breakfast in bed, a little less house work, one husband who tried real hard, a church I love, about 150 virtual Happy Bdays, real life flexibility, 6 and 1/2 hour stint up at Thron/Crown rehearsals, a change of plans, an unexpected dinner at a resturant, an evening with friends, one with family and get the point.

My life is filled with all kinds of things...I've experienced some tradegy, loss and dissapointment. I reguarly experience a messy house, sassy kids, financial ups and downs (I prefer the "up" times), and job changes. I've gone through years of finishing college (no small task) and years of dieting and working out -- and still have 40 lbs to go before I'm satisified. I sometimes fight with my great husband, kids and friends. We've moved, we've loved and laughed. We work very, very hard MOST of the time. Then we play and vacation with all our hearts as well. I've now known Billy for as many years as I didn't know him. All and all it's a life that I love and am willing to work of -- even when it's really, really hard -- and even when special days don't go just as plan.