Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Biggest Night of the Year

While I will personally be spending New Year's Eve in a drug-induced coma after traveling with my family for 2 weeks, I wanted to offer a bit of New Year's Eve advice for those of you with young children. I recently discovered a writer's website called Helium, and a debate topic offered was "Should Young Children Stay up for the New Year's Countdown?" Now, foolishly, I voted for the Yes side right away because, of course, children should be allowed to do whatever they flippin' want to from December 25 until January 1! But then I came up with a more compelling argument for the NO side, and I wasn't allowed to write from that perspective since I had already voted Yes. Apparently, they don't allow mind changes. But seriously, Helium is an awesome site with tons of opportunities to write, to earn money, and to get yourself noticed by publishers. Now, forget I said that because I don't want any competition.

Here is my opinion about whether children should be allowed to stay up for the New Year's Celebration.

Should Young Children Stay up for the New Year's Countdown?

The obvious answer to this question is that parents must decide what is best for their own children. That is not even remotely debatable since no parent wants another person – whether expert or well-meaning mother-in-law – to tell them how to raise their children!

Ultimately, however, my stance on this topic is that, unless you are a fan of screaming-toddler-induced torture, you will want to put your young ones to sleep at a reasonable hour, which is around 3 PM for my young ones. Sometimes it's 6 PM and a glass of wine. Very rarely it's 9 PM and a 5th of vodka.

Young children simply cannot appreciate the New Year's celebration. They will have very little concept of what the celebration means in the first place. The only reason to let them stay up is so that aunts and uncles and other inebriated guests can coo about how cute they are and then let them suck on empty beer bottles, in which case, your precious little angel will most likely not remain conscious until midnight anyway. You'll find your sweet baby passed out in a nice pile of laundry somewhere.

But even if your munchkin does survive until midnight, there will certainly be tears and tantrums along the way since it is simply too late for a young child to be awake. And your child might do some crying too. And no matter how late your little child goes to bed on New Year's Eve (well, I guess it's actually New Year's Day at that point) don't fool yourself into thinking she'll just sleep in the next morning– if she wakes up at 6 AM every other day of the week, she will most definitely be awake at 6 AM on New Year's Day, if not before. She will have no mercy on you, the exhausted, partied-too-much-the-night-before-and-would-die-for-a-gallon-of-coffee parents. This is just a cruel truth about raising children.

Yet another argument for not letting your young child stay up for the ringing in of the New Year: it is a well-known fact that people usually experience more fatigue after completing the second sleep cycle after a late night. (If this is not a well-known fact, then you may call it a little-known fact.) This means that if you ignore my advice and you do let your child stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve and your child seems to do well (or even so-so) on New Year's Day, do not be lulled into a false sense of accomplishment such as, “Ahh, we made it through New Year's Eve and we're not much worse for the wear.” Be on guard: you will indeed have a toddler tyrant on January 2.

Finally, since young children have not yet been gifted with the power of reason, you will not be able to use the Santa Claus trick on them: “If you do a good job on New Year's Eve, Santa will be extra good to you next year.” Since they have just made a fresh killing on a hoard of toys from Santa, this reasoning might possibly work with older children, but not on the younger na├»ve ones. In any case, you and I both know very well that young children haven't got a clue what it means to be good and that they will still get gobs and gobs of toys next year, no matter what we say.

So, you see, there really is no viable reason to let young children stay up for the big New Year's moment.

Unless you enjoy being punished by a 3-year-old.

Vote in my poll in the right-hand column, and have a Wonderful New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On the Road Again

I've taken the liberty of paraphrasing Willie Nelson's classic to describe our journeys from Florida to Michigan and back.

On the road again
Can't believe we're on the road again
I think I must have been smoking somethin' with my friends

Can't believe we're on the road again

On the road again
Trying to stay sane on the road again

Wishing my doctor would have prescribed some Valium
Oh, it really sucks to be on the road again

On the road again -
Like a a bunch of psychos we go down the highway
The kids won't make amends
Insisting that the world keep turning their way
And their way
is giving me a migraine
Can't believe we're on the road again

The life I love is blogging with my friends
And I can't wait to get off the road again.

On the road again
Like deranged madmen, we go down the highway
I wish we'd worn Depends

So the rest stops would quickly fade away
Oh, I can't believe we're on the road again.
Oh, I can't believe we're on the road again.

Michigan, here we come.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SnoreFest 2009

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! This will be the biggest snoring competition in the history of the world, or at least Florida! Six members of one family will come down with a cold which will result in snoring the likes of which has never been heard in all of history!

In one corner, we have the older sisters, who are breathing heavily and deeply, with no real log-sawing taking place just yet. However, their younger brother seems to have this corner covered with his large gasping breaths and zzzzipping exhales.

In the other corner is Dad, who is operating in the decibel range of a chainsaw, while little sister is growling like a mother bear, a surprising feat for someone of her petite size. And finally, there's Mom, who has chosen not to compete in this snoring competition and would simply like to get some sleep.

Will Mom triumph in her quest for sleep, or will the snorers remain victorious yet again?

Tune in tomorrow for the final results of this epic battle.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Relaxing in Florida. . . FINALLY!

If you follow my blog or you are a friend on Facebook, you probably know that it took us
f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get to Florida, due to snowstorms in the mountains, multiple potty stops, and a van malfunction which resulted in my husband driving 5 MPH below the speed limit at all times (or maybe that's just a husband malfunction. . . .love you, honey!)

We first stayed in a darling condo in New Smyrna Beach. (However, I am not able to upload photos to Blogger right now, so I will have to try to do it when I get home.) It was very beachy in theme and in reality as the condo sat on a gorgeous stretch of beach right on the Atlantic. There was also a pool and a hot tub. There was no end of activity - the children always wanted to be playing in some form of water. We went to Sea World for a day (an item I checked off my bucket list). We went shopping in the cutesy shopping area of New Smyrna Beach. We celebrated Christmas with steak on the charcoal grill instead of the traditional ham dinner.

It was fun, but also exhausting. After driving a gazillion hours, there was no rest for the weary since we had to buy groceries, unpack, cook, clean, take out trash and do laundry, just like at home. And guess who did most of the work? Perhaps you read my Open Letter a few months back? It is an absolute truth that a woman's work is never done. I whined casually mentioned to my husband more than once that I found this fact frustrating. I kept telling myself that I should be more grateful for this wonderful trip. I AM thankful for this trip, but why does everyone else get to relax while I still work???

Today, however, we are being spoiled and I am humbled by my mother-in-law's hospitality. She will hardly let me lift a finger to help her - which was a welcome blessing as we arrived in our depleted state yesterday afternoon. Nana had made a gigantic day-after-Christmas dinner, complete with savory hors d'oeuvres, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, yams, and too many desserts to mention. (She did let me stir the gravy.) I had tons of laundry to do, and my wonderful mother-in-law did it all for me! After our delicious dinner and the opening of many gifts, our whole family hit the hay at 7 PM - and the kids didn't even put up a fight!

Now, the real relaxing begins.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Restroom Horror

Traveling 1200 miles, you pretty much play Restroom Roulette, and we fared quite well up until now. Somewhere in Hickville, Florida, we struck out. We pulled up to a Mobil gas station, thinking since it was a national chain, we should be able to get decent service. The hubby got out and started pumping gas while the kiddos and I got out to use the restroom (for hopefully the very last time until we reach our destination). On the outside of the crooked door was a hand-painted sign saying, "No public restroom. Paying customers only." Apparently, if you're a paying customer, you become instant family and you're no longer considered the general public. We proceeded inside, hoping that they would clearly see that Pa was outside pumping gas so that we would be qualified to use the facilities. We stepped inside and were greeted by grunts from the gas station personnel, who were dressed in coordinating motorcycle gang outfits.

We looked around and found the door marked "Ladies" (wonder if they've ever seen a real lady in these parts. . . .). All 5 of us crammed inside the tiny bathroom (no way was I going to let Evan into the "gentlemen" bathroom by himself.) Once inside, I was greeted by vibrant colors that looked like someone had barfed a bottle of Pepto Bismol all over the walls. And the smell? It probably would have smelled better if someone had barfed. I told everyone to control their gag reflexes and use the bathroom as quickly as possible. I let all the kids go first and when it was finally my turn, I was greeted by the lovely sight of a vending machine, the contents of which I had hoped and prayed my children would never ask me about. Blessed be God, they hadn't taken notice of it because of the rust & dust covering the machine.

Whew, all finished, we headed toward the door when a rough looking fellow walked in from the repair shop with a rather large pitbull-looking dog who was not on a leash or restrained in any fashion. I tried to step between the dog and my children just as Evan caught sight of the mongrel, who was bigger than he is. He stepped up his pace and hurried out the door. The dog followed and I rushed everyone into the van, which was now waiting just outside the door, with my husband at the wheel.

He told me of his own adventure, during which Cooter had approached him and told him, "You got steam comin' from under yer hood. Why dontcha pop it and I'll take a look?" "No, thanks," my husband replied as he spied the repair shop sign which read, "Cash Only." You have to wonder about cash only establishments in the middle of nowhere, run by Hell's Angels, targeting out-of-state cars.

Thankfully, we made it out of there with empty bladders and a full tank of gas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Longest Trip of My Life

Even longer than the 20-hour flight to Philippines with only a quick fuel stop in Honolulu. I can't believe how flippin' long it is taking to drive to Florida. And I'm not stupid - I was prepared for a LONGGGG drive because we do LLOONNGG drives to Northern Michigan all the time. But this time it is exceedingly long because of some insidious travel time warp that we have entered. Every mile seems to be taking twice as long. Sure, we've had our potty stops and fast food stops and even our overnight stay 250 miles before our scheduled hotel stop (because of the snowstorm that seemed to be the worst along our exact route). Oh, yeah, and don't forget the malicious meltdowns that have occurred. I do believe at least one of our children will be returning to her psychiatrist when we return to Michigan.

The bright side (literally) is that we have finally exited the mountains and the snow, and we see sunshine, and the mercury is rising! We're still 500 miles from our destination, but it will be a sunny, snowless 500 miles!!! (I hope.)

I think I may see a shrink when we get home, too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Trip Begins

6:51 AM

And we've been on the road for close to an hour. We're doing it - we're really doing it! We're going to Florida! But, of course, we're not even close. From our home in Michigan to our Florida destination, it's a good 20+ hour drive. We're stopping in North Carolina for the night, which seems so far away from now. About 30 minutes into the trip, our 5-year-old asked, "Are we there yet?" Oh, my heavens, he has no idea what lay in front of him.

I was awake at 3:30, probably because I was excited, nervous, anxious. . . whatever. Got up and showered around 4. Monkeyed around on my computer until 5. Then we crammed our family and belongings into every available space in our Chrysler Town and Country. It's amazing how much you can cram into a mini-van.

I only panicked once. I say that as if I panic about road trips often. I never panic about road trips - I panic about everyday life. The only other time I felt fear like that was when I hopped a plane and flew literally half-way around the world to the Philippines, and it suddenly dawned on me that I had just committed one year of my life to serving in a third world country.

Strange that I would have the same reaction to driving to Florida with me family, to see more family, and we're returning in 2 short weeks. Nonetheless, as we were pulling out of our neighborhood, I had this sick feeling of "Oh, my gosh, what are we doing???" But the panic faded once I had the coffee IV hooked up.

When I had first looked out the window this morning, I was greeted by a fresh snowfall. . .and it was still falling. It was a lovely snowfall - the kind that lights up the entire sky. I could hear it softly landing on the ground as I went out to put out the trash and the last piece of Christmas mail. Beautiful. Except for the fact that we have to drive in it. And the radar is showing snow from here to our layover in North Carolina. But I didn't tell my husband that. I'll just sit next to him and look pretty and tell him how well he's doing and hand him the occasional sugar-laced vat of Mountain Dew to keep him alert.

Since I am writing this at 6, 7 and 8 AM, I am not working too hard on this post. I just felt like writing. I hope you are all having a great day!

Friday, December 18, 2009


There are 2 kinds of pride that I wish to discuss in this post.

One is the kind of pride that I feel when my children excel in something, like this morning when my children won several awards at school. My two oldest children had participated in an essay contest on the topic "Why Kids Need Great Schools". Hope won an award for good sentence structure and Joy - the one who hated writing when I was homeschooling her - won first place in the entire competition! They were awarded with certificates and McDonald's gift cards. And, Hope also won an award for exemplifying the school's monthly moral focus of "self-control."

This is in addition to the other awards they, along with the other children, have won this year for the moral focus themes of wisdom and respect (I think - see, I can't even remember because they're winning so darn much!) And I have to brag that their teachers had nothing but good things to say about all of them at parent-teacher conferences a few weeks back. And they have good friendships and kids who want to hang out with them at recess "just because they're nice." And children keep calling our house to speak to them and invite them over, etc.

Yes, indeed, I am a proud mama!

Here's the other kind of pride: the kind that says, "I can do it all. I can provide everything my children need. I can homeschool them even if my health and mental sanity are falling apart!" Read back in my blog a few months and you will see that I had a tough time letting go of homeschooling. I really wanted to be good at it and I wanted to be the one to teach my children everything. But God is so good that He gave me the grace to let go of my children so that other people could educate them better than I was capable of doing.

And God gave me the grace to do as much with them as I did when they were homeschooled. He brought them much farther than I thought possible.

I'm so thankful that the Lord doesn't let us decide what's best for ourselves! I'm very grateful for the awesome school my children atttend and for the new lessons they're learning in school and in life. I'm thankful that I have the time to rest and to address my health issues. I'm thankful that now I can just be Mom.

I'm quite certain that, when I'm ready, God will have a new way for me to serve Him (in addition to the daunting task of being a parent). Once the word was out that I was done homeschooling, I got about 5 requests to serve in different capacities - in the campus outreach, serving as a spiritual advisor for college women, serving in the high school youth group. . . . to all of which my husband gave a resounding "no"! That is, until my health issues are under control. Then I will be ready for what God wants to do in my life!

Posting While Sleeping

Wow, I'm amazed! I actually wrote something intelligible in my previous post, even though I was sleeping. Well, I was actually under the influence. . . . of a sleeping pill. You know anxiety must be getting pretty bad when you take a sleeping pill and you still can't sleep. I take Ambien, which is fairly gentle, and my doctor did say I could take a second dose if I didn't fall asleep right away. So, the last post was written while I was waiting for the second dose to kick in. Apparently, the first dose had some effect on me because, when I woke up this morning, I had some very vague recollection of writing something on my blog in the night. Oh, my heavens! I hoped I hadn't written anything scandalous.

There are some seasons of my life when I need sleep aids more than others. When life is intense and stressful, I really need something to relax and to shut my mind down. Ambien is doing the trick, I guess, because I actually feel rested today.

Still, I think I might ask for some Xanax for Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Well, it wasn't pretty

If you had read my earlier post, you know I'm feeling "stressed" (major understatement) about getting last-minute things done. At one point, I thought it might be reasonable for the kids to help with the mundane chores of the house for a bit so I could continue to focus on the Florida flurry. They weren't having any of it. I asked them to clean the living room and they walked in and announced, "It IS clean." So I slipped into spazz-Mom mode and I quickly walked around the living room and grabbed whatever I could get my hands on and proclaimed that it was all going to the trash. Panic ensued. Screaming of a kind that I have never heard coming out of a live human being before (except my daughter). I knew my husband would soon put an end to my spazz out, so I just stopped. Then my daughter said, "Well I was in the mood to clean before you did that." My husband came on the scene and he said, "You just need to go to bed.". . . to me. I agreed to this because it was my idea 10 minutes earlier. But I kept fighting like a 10-year-old all the way to my bedroom: "Well, I'm the only one who ever does anything around here and no one else even cares that we live in a pig-sty, and there's no gratitude for all the preparations I'm making, waah, waah, wahh." All the way up to my room. I would have slammed the door, but I was too tired.

Sheesh, I just acted like a kid. You think they'll buy it tomorrow when I tell them I was modeling the wrong kind of behavior?

I hope so.

In Transition

Yes, that's what it feels like. It feels like that part of labor when you think, "There's no way I can do this - it's too hard!"

Luckily, I'm not actually in labor, but I still have that sense of overwhelmed-ness. That's because I'm trying to pack for 6 people to vacation in a different climate for 2 weeks. And I'm trying to prepare for the actual trip, which will take something like 83 million hours. I'm trying to pull every trick out of my hat so the children will not kill each other and so that Al and I will hopefully emerge with only a few flesh wounds. (Thank goodness we have a DVD player for the car, but even videos get boring after about 82.5 million hours on the road.)

But not only am I pulling shorts and sandals out of storage and trying to remember what fit whom as of 4 or 5 months ago, I'm also preparing all the Christmas merriment that has to happen on this side of the trip. Like the ton of sweets that I made for the children's teachers. And the gifts for godparents. And sending out Christmas cards. And oh, yeah, there's a cookie exchange for the girls on Friday night. . . .a mere 8 hours before we pack ourselves into the car for the trek to Florida (and guess who's making the cookies?)

Don't get me wrong - I really do enjoy the Christmas merrymaking - I just wish it could be spread out over a few months instead of crammed into 7 short days.

Yes, it is kind of like labor, because as much as I plan ahead, I'm never as prepared as I think I am for what lies ahead. It's always a ton of exhausting work to get ready for a trip. And no one can really help me. The kids help a little. The hubby helps a little. But the bulk of the work is mine.

Ok, so it's not that hard. And you're probably thinking, "Sheesh, Jen, quit complaining! You get to spend 2 weeks in sunny Florida instead of cold, snowy Michigan." Yeah, you're right. I'm just so ready for the labor to be done!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fashion Fuddy Duddy

How do you teach your children the fine art of matching their clothes when they are getting themselves dressed? Not just matching colors, but matching fabrics, textures, styles, and SEASONS, for heaven's sake! I haven't yet figured out how to do it without offending my children. The child development experts would probably advise that I let my children wear whatever they want - within reason - and develop their own style. The problem is that many of the young'uns in these parts choose clothing that doesn't fit the "within reason" guideline.

Scenario #1: The strong-willed, spoiled 5-year-old boy was wearing a long-sleeved casual striped shirt with casual, lightweight pants that have elastic around the ankles. He chose ankle socks, which were fine, since he had that sporty look going. And then he chose black. dress. shoes. I stood there and pondered whether this was a fight I wanted to engage, because my little man is tough when he wants something done his way, which is pretty much 105% percent of the time. So I appealed to my husband to try to talk some sense into him. The hubby said, "Oh, he's fine. Don't worry about it." This, from the man who also wears white athletic socks with black dress shoes. Why did I even bother?

And here's the thing: I know that probably just about everyone who has children, has ever had children, has ever known children, or has ever come into the general vicinity of children, will know that when children start dressing themselves and choosing their own clothing, it's never pretty.

But I couldn't let it go. My son looked like a dork. The entire time we were out, I was trying to read people's faces. What were they thinking about me, the mom who let her kid go out looking like a buffoon? That I'm so self-absorbed that I didn't even notice what he was wearing? That I'm a total slacker mom who would let her kid wear a Spongebob Squarepants costume, complete with talking Patrick sidekick doll, to a wedding, if the mood struck him? Or were they just feeling sorry for us because we're obviously so poor that we can only afford one pair of shoes for our son?

Scenario #2: There was a certain daughter who wanted to wear a casual, fall-print corduroy skirt with a white satin blouse and casual white socks (with a colored stripe around the top) with her dress shoes. . . .all in the same outfit.

Scenario #3: Another daughter who wanted to wear (and did wear) a pair of shoes - that was at least 4 sizes too big for her, although she contended that they were just her size - into several shopping venues, much to her mother's embarrassment.

Scenario #4: You won't believe this one. One kid wanted to wear her Easter dress for Christmas! Oh, the horror!

Am I an overly controlling mother whose children will end up in therapy because I pushed them too hard to conform to my own freakish standards? Or will they end up in therapy anyway because their friends ridiculed them for their bizarre apparel choices?

Or am I just overreacting?

Parenting is hard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Having a Scrooge Moment

I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of year: snow, shimmering lights, crackling fires, festive foods, pretty gifts. I enjoy Christmas music as well, and it doesn't really bother me if it starts in November. . . .September is pushing it, though. But one thing annoys me. Sorry if I sound like a scrooge, but I'm really not impressed by the vast variety of renditions of all the traditional Christmas songs. I mean, how many ways can we possibly perform "Silent Night"? Every possible singer in singerdom has a Christmas album, and every single one has to do every single song. OK, so I'm exaggerating. . . . just a little.

I can be walking through the mall and hear 72 versions of "Jingle Bells" including pop, hip-hop, rap, acid rock, blues, celtic, jazz, soul, funk, punk, bluegrass, latin, mambo, merengue, classical, polka, salsa, and reggae. And those are just the music styles, not to mention the singing styles. Gee, let's try this song with the emphasis on "Jingle"; next we'll try it with the emphasis on "bells." Oh, and don't forget, we have to construct 87 different harmonies and inflections for this line right here.

Sorry I'm such a downer about this, but it seems slightly arrogant for every musician known to man to try to improve on the classics. I'd like to see some new material out there. Maybe I'll come up with some interesting song lyrics if any of you would like to put them to music.

I have a poll in my right-hand column if you'd like to vote - do you prefer the traditional renditions of old favorites, or do you enjoy the modernized versions?

Yes, I'm Still Here

My goal is to post on my blog every day. Please believe me. It's just that. . . .well, I don't know. I have tons of ideas and many happenings about which to write. It just takes a lot of brain power to make that happen in a coherent way. So, I end up not posting at all.

This is how winter is for me. I love the changing of the seasons. I love the beauty of the fall and the thrill of the first snow. And from what I hear, the first snow was a lot more thrilling for some than for others - most people got blizzards. We got a pathetic dusting of snow and a Winter Weather Advisory, which basically means, "Don't forget how to drive in the snow, you moron."
But I still enjoy winter for the snow and Christmas and the festivity of it all. What really stinks is that I'm usually depressed for much of it.

How can that be? Well, I "enjoy" winter. But I haven't much energy. Because I am a delicate flower that needs sunlight and warmth to survive. But the sunlight has gone away and may not return until sometime next July. So, despite my love for the season, my body rebels by going into hibernation mode and all I want to do is sleep all the time. And my brain shuts down, too. I mean, who needs higher brain functions when they're hibernating, right? And so it goes: my desires and my actual level of functioning are in conflict with one another.

So, please understand that it's nothing personal. I'm just hibernating.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lavish Love

Ok, so I might not be all sarcastic & goofy today. That's because I'm in love. Well, I am in love with a sarcastic & goofy man, but I won't aim any sarcasm at him. He doesn't deserve it. My kids, on the other hand. . . .Ok, well maybe I'll be sarcastic about my kids and my hubby some other day, but not today.

Monday was our 13th anniversary. It's a good thing I don't have triskaidekaphobia (that is, fear of the number 13). Otherwise, I might have done something drastic, like erasing the date from our calendar because the number 13 is bad luck, and then today would be December 3, in which case, I would be one day closer to Christmas-induced insanity. As it is, it's still only December 2, because I am not a triskaidekaphobiac. And I have just laid around in the post-Thanksgiving stupor for 5 days or so, which means I really do have to get cracking on Christmas preparations.

But I digress. Thirteen years of marriage. Wedded bliss. Matrimonial harmony. Seriously. I have never regretted being married to my husband. Some people struggle with marriage, but I just don't. I love Al and I always will. Period. If you are interested in our "Love Story", click this link: HERE. And I know you are very interested in our love story!

To make a long story short, Al was a great friend for 6 years. No feelings on my side of things, though. He was just a really good friend. But Al finally won me over. Not sure how, but I think it had something to do with his lavish love. He loves me and I have never doubted it. Al's love is and always has been acted out in service. In college, he was always the guy first to arrive and last to leave at our campus ministry meetings and parties - because he helped do the set up and clean up. He was always the one who would help stranded girls with their dying cars and he was the computer-glitch-fixing guru. He even drove me the 350 miles from East Lansing, Michigan to Random Lake, Wisconsin (a teeny burb north of Milwaukee, I think - I wasn't really paying attention) so that I could surprise my mom, who was visiting my aunt in Random Lake, for a birthday or something. That's just the kind of guy Al was / is. Although, I think he might have some vested interest in the Random Lake trip, in retrospect (man, was I thick-headed!)

Al is a servant. And when he finally won me over with his friendship, his service to me (and my car), and his love for me, I realized that God was using him in my life. I experienced the love of God through Al. I was a naive, selfish, broken young woman, and Al showed me Christ-like, selfless love. He loved me for me. And throughout the 13 years of our marriage, he has put up with a lot of emotional junk that I've had to sort through. I mean, the average person might have just enough emotional garbage to fill a 2-gallon trash can. Al received a temperamental, manic-depressive, borderline suicidal landfill the size of Lake Michigan. Well, OK, maybe that's a little bit exaggerated, but he has definitely had infinitely more patience for me than the average man would have had.

And not only has Al gifted me with supreme patience (another definition for patience is long-suffering. . . .definitely a very suitable word for what he has had to deal with), but he is very affectionate, which I need. He is funny, which I thoroughly enjoy. He is my best friend.

AND he gives me great gifts. I mean, not to sound materialistic, but Al is really good at giving me awesome presents - for anniversaries, Christmases, birthdays, even random days in between. Remember a few months ago when he came home with a kick-ass vacuum cleaner the very day I found out that I had severe allergies to dust and mold. No, he didn't wait until he had thoroughly researched every possible vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter - he went directly to Sears and bought me the best one with 2 HEPA filters. Yeah, so a vacuum cleaner is not very romantic, but it was definitely love in action to me.

Over the years, Al has bought me: a freezer, central air conditioning, all my favorite Sims, Sims 2, and Sims 3 video games and expansion packs, a new van, and countless other "little" surprises.

On our anniversary, he came home with this: a totally kick-butt laptop! with capability to play all my Sims games (which require lots of memory & amazing video capability), wireless, of course, and even a built-in webcam. Hmm, not sure if I'll start v-logging, though, so don't hold your breath. Oh, AND the newest expansion pack for Sims 3. Yeah, and we weren't even going to buy each other presents for the next 19 years because we're dirt poor, sort of. But Al always has a plan. And this was his plan, to floor me with a rockin' computer. Yes, I love my laptop, I love my blog time, I love my connection to the outside world! There is no way I can tell you how much I experienced Al's love by his gifting me this laptop. I mean, read this post, and you'll see how much I loved my old laptop.

Anyway, before you all get jealous of my electronically gifted husband, I will tell you the major thing that hit me when Al came home with this outstanding present. When he walked in, testosterone racing over the pure, unadulterated power of this magnificent machine, all I had to give him in return was a cookie. Granted, it was a large, heart-shaped cookie that I had baked all by myself, using his favorite recipe. But still, it was a cookie. Oh yeah, and a card that I had printed from the computer and it wasn't even glued together or anything so it was just like 2 sheets of paper folded together, kind of like a little kid would make for her daddy. I felt a little sheepish. But that's when it hit me. I had once again experienced God's love through Al.

God's love is so lavish that he wants us to have the best of everything. He wants us to be filled with pure joy at all He has given us. He loved us so much that He even took on the form of a man and allowed Himself to be crucified for our sins. And He did it freely, willingly, lovingly. And every day, He has great and amazing gifts for us. And all I have to give Him is a homemade chocolate chip cookie. And that's OK. He loves the cookie, and He still loves me.

And so does Al.