Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dress Rehearsal

Right now we are working on our dress rehearsal for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I am thankful that this is almost over with. My life is stressed as enough as it is, but this is something big for PJ and I want him to remember this as a good time in his life. Life has been hectic lately, but I understand why, and I try to go with the flow of things. I get home after the rehearsals and just crash. Last night I told PJ to get his clothes, change and we were leaving. He thought he would argue with me, but to be honest with you, the director could have looked at me and told me no and it wouldn't have been the best of ideas to do. I personally didn't care at 9:45. I was tired and worn out and just wanted to collapse. We are working on our last few dress rehearsals, they go until 10. Tonight is the last night and I am very happy about that. At least tomorrow night I will be home with the boys and with Chuck, I may actually have a moment to rest. We didn't get complimentary tickets, why? well, I don't know. But I do know that I can't afford to go to all of his performances unless something happened and made it available for me to attend. And something did happen, I was asked to usher. This makes it possible for me to be a all performances and I am happy that I will be able to go. There is always something different at each live show. I am so excited about that. PJ plays a little boy named David. He is so cute, and I don't say that because he is my son, I say that because others have come up to me and told me this. So, just because he is mine doesn't mean that I am bias in any way! In the play, David doesn't want to be a shephard. His mother tells him that she just doesn't want to be a shepherd. The other night, PJ came out in the Batman robe, and he was so excited. He couldn't help but show me that he was Batman! The main part of the play is about this family, and rough crowd they are, the Herdman family. Basically, they are a poor family, never attended church and didn't know anything about the Christmas story. Tough family too, but it all comes together in the end. Tonight is our last rehearsal and then Thursday is the big performance. This is a school day performance and there will be two tomorrow. Without the director, but I think that it will work out,everyone knows what they are doing and they are doing a great job.
I will have more to post when I get to go to the real thing Friday. I am so proud of PJ, he has been a trooper throug all of this and I know he is tired, but he has been to every rehearsal, and he is having a good time. I will keep you updated on all of this and how it goes.
I was sitting in the back of the theater, so you will have to turn up your volume on the videos. This is the first time for me to upload and to take videos with my camera. I will have more to post, please be patient with me.

Every year on Black Friday, we don't go shopping, unless needed, we stay in bed, have a good breakfast, get the decorations out, and put up the tree. It has been like this for years, and it will stay this way until the boys move out. I don't care how old they are, this is part of our fun time during the holidays together. I love that they are at an age they just love to do these things and to help out too.

So, out comes the tree, and I search up and down for all the lights. Well, I knew that I had some one a roll. And I knew that there were some more in the house, ok, but where. Oh no, I had to go out to Ace and get another 250 lights.

We get home and Eric picks up where he left off and he gets that much done. I had started pulling out the ornaments and the boxes that belong to each one of the boys. Well, they were mixed up, Eric had most of PJ's and PJ had most of Eric's. I think somewhere in the mix of last year, when I was taking down what I had put up, I just dropped in the boxes and thought I would figure it out later. Well, it is later, and someone figured it out just fine!

I sat back and watched them hang ornaments. They know not to touch the others ornaments or there will be trouble. I enjoyed watching them do this, I guess because I didn't have to this year was a part of it, and it may be because as mom, I watch they way that they interact with each other. They just had too much fun.

Eric looked back and admired his hard work and continued to decorate different things. And begged me to wrap gifts too. He got the skirt out, and he had me wrap the sewing machine that I bought earlier that day for me, and maybe wrap a thing or 2 of their stuff too. So, I did just that. He put the skirt under the tree, watched the cat walk around a few times. I wrapped more than I wanted to, but why not. It is fun for me to watch them try and figure out what they have.

Sometime during the night I was looking at the tree, thinking it was crooked. It was, and it was driving me up a wall. I couldn't stand it, it was one of those things that you just have to correct, and well I did. And it landed on top of me. Chuck was home and he came running. The only thing I remember is "Oh Chuck that wasn't supposed to happen!" Apparently the legs are not even and there needs to be a notebook under one of them. The cat tore it up last year and I forgot that I needed to make the proper adjustments.

We get the tree up and damaged looking, it was pitiful. I couldn't fix it that night, it was too late. I just left it like it was and prayed that there was nothing too badly damaged.

I went to each of the boys and told them to leave the tree alone, I would fix it in the morning, not to worry about it. So, that is what I did. I got up the next morning only to go shopping and then to start from scratch. It was not what I wanted to do on my Saturday, knowing of all that I needed to get done. But I promised them and I was going to put it back up again.

Yes, I took it all the way down. And started all over again. This time I used all the lights and I made sure that there was a notebook under the one leg that refused to lay flat. And made sure that it was going to stay up this time. I should have left it alone, but I can't. I guess I am OCD that way.

After the ordeal of the tree on Saturday, I had time to get done what I wanted to get done. And one was to get the boys to put together the gingerbread Christmas tree. Now, we usually make a house, but this year I found the box for a tree, and I was so excited that I had to buy both. I don't know why, but I did. I guess it is because I never had a great Christmas as a child, so I try my best for the boys to have the best that can be provided to them.

I read the package for the icing, mixed, it seemed a little thick, so I had to add more water. Yep, that didn't work out well. The kit came with bags and tips for the icing, but when my watered down icing got in the bag, it just sorta dripped out of the tips, I knew it was not gonna be right. But for some reason, the boys didn't care.

They each operated a different color. Put the ornaments on the tree. Popped bubbles, squeezed bags and had fun with it. They didn't care that I messed up, and that just means so much to me. I just watched them have fun, fuss at each other and do what they needed to do to put this together. At least now I know that when we make the house, not to use so much water.

The kit came with a star and gifts. They decided to share them, so PJ had the honor of putting the star on the tree. I guess when Eric gets older, he will be in charge of the angel on our tree.

It is funny how we become like children at Christmas time. We don't care what others think about us. We just have fun. And that is how I am. I love Christmas, not because of any gift that I will be getting, but because it gives me the chance to be a kid all over again.

Our Thanksgiving Memories

Our Thanksgiving was not what we had planned to do. But when does anything go the way that we want it to go? Chuck hadn't been feeling well this past week and I thought that maybe he was done with the crud that he had. I was wrong. He came home from work on Wednesday night feeling more run down, and looking rather sick. I tried to get him to go to the Dr.'s on Tuesday, but he is stubborn and was feeling better. He got up on Thursday feeling worse than what he had all week. Not good.

Well, he decided that it wouldn't be good for him to go, and I thought that the boys and I could go, but he made a good point. It was cold, rainy,and windy.And this was being held in an open pavillon, and we didn't need to take a chance of all of us being sick. Ok, good point, but this is Thanksgiving and we didn't have time to thaw a turkey,what were we to do.

I wasn't too happy about all of this. I really wasn't. I wanted to go help others and show the boys how thankful they should be. But, because of whatever Chuck has,we stayed home.

I was not taking this well, I pretty much pouted the morning away. We had no turkey, no pies, no cakes, no rolls. Of course, we had the potatoes, green beans and the dressing that my neighbor gave to us. So,we did have some things. And I am so used to the fact that we always have everyone over and a huge meal. But, there was none of that. No family here, no laughter throughout the house, no parades, no wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. I shouldn't complain, I really shouldn't. It was what Johanna had told me that made me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, I do. I can go to the store and buy food for a meal, I have a car to get me to the store, I have a roof over my head, a warm house, and everything that I ever need in life. And here I am complaining about not having turkey. I guess it is time to get out of my funk.

We head on out to Walmart. And all of the turkeys were frozen, then we looked in the turkey section, nothing but necks. Ick! We headed to Bi-Lo. Everything was frozen, nothing in their turkey section either. We got a chicken, and some things to make it taste really good, rolls, and yams. I had made pumpkin bread earlier that day, so we had dessert all ready.

I started to feel a bit better.Still not too happy about the entire thing,but Chuck can't help being sick, and it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the family together.So,it was to be that we stayed home. It seemed fun for the boys, I didn't cook, Chuck did all that. I pretty much did nothing. It was just another day for me. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to write home about. Ok, we had dinner together as a family, we had a quiet meal at home. So, I shouldn't complain about anything.

It just wasn't the same without my dad here,without Chuck's family around the table. But,we did have a hot meal with leftovers, there are so many out there that can't say that.

Shame on me for being so selfish!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Our Halloween Mischief

Oh what fun it is to … whoops wrong time of year! Ok, so I am ahead of myself here. But we did get to go trick or treating! And we had a blast.

I got home at 5:15, hoping that maybe the boys would be ready or have something done. Nope, nothing done, not ready, nada. It was a mess. I picked up dinner and got home to a table with clutter, an unswept floor, a sink full of dishes and no homework done. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy.

As I was fooling with PJ's costume, Eric did some of what was supposed to be done earlier that day. I fooled with this stupid costume for a long time, I would have been better off making something myself.

We wanted to head down a street in the historic district. The entire street decorates and participates in Halloween. It is really nice because we don't have to go from door to door, everyone basically gets in a line and you just follow the line of traffic. But by the time that Eric got done, and I got done with PJ, it was gonna be crowded and a madhouse. So, we decided to hit the major Trunk or Treat instead. For those of you who don't know what a Trunk or Treat is, it is the alternative that churches put on.

The people volunteer and decorate their trunks with a fun theme.

Some are better than others, some are just slapped together, and some have a ton of detail involved.

I would have to say there was about 45 cars involved this year, 2 inflatables, and a dance stage for the church dance team. It was nice. This is the 2nd year that this church has put it on, and it is so worth it. The boys love it
adults have fun,

and there aren't any freaks around.

We were in line for the cotton candy, and well, the guy sorta blew the machine up. It was funny, since I knew him, and I knew the day that he was already having. Since that was not working, we just decided that we would head down Centenary and enjoy the rest of the evening.

It was almost dark when we got there. The crowd had died down some since the Block Party was going on. It wasn't too bad. We got in with the flow of traffic and starting going from house to house. It is nicely decorated and the people are outside handing out the candy to the kids. Now that is nice, limited stairs, no waiting for the door to open, a neat flow of traffic. That is until the people that are way too old to be out, come out and be rude and obnoxious.

Oh these houses were amazing! Just amazing. They put lights up, decorate like it is Christmas,
put all of the neat decorations in the yards.

Most of these people have been doing this for years, so they have it down pat.

There were caskets, and

pumpkin people,

grave yards and

old horror flicks playing on a sheet,

cobwebbed doors and a

band playing on the porch.

And of course it isn't a mystery if Scooby Doo isn't involved!

It is a great time for all to have.

There was one unfortunate incident though. Someone got hurt, how, well, I don't know yet. But the ambulance had to come down the street and work on someone and then take them away. I am hoping there would be something in the paper about that today.

While we were out, I had gotten a few messages from Chuck to bring PJ by for some candy. At the time, they weren't busy, it would have been fine if I got there when he sent me the first message. I had told PJ to take his candy and dump it in the bag that we had for overflow. He went inside, looked at his daddy, "Daddy, my bucket is empty, I didn't get any candy." Chuck looked at him, "ok buddy, you get all that you want!" Oh goodness, PJ dived right in and took what he wanted.

Thankfully, we finally got home. And my was I tired, but it was fun to go out, see all of the interesting creativity that people have. The time was good for all of us, the boys were good and tired when we got home, but you know, we have to go through and see what was collected. It is neat that people take pictures,
and then give you a treasure map to the store to get your picture, that the Chik-fil-a decorations came with candy and an ice cream certificate. That you get the little M & M people too. It was fun, we all had a good time, I think next year I may dress up too, just for more ridicule and condemnation.

So, to all of you that were sitting at home busy condemning people for going out and participating in the evils of Halloween. We had a blast, what did you do?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Haunted Time

I love doing all kinds of crafts. It is good for me to do, keeps the brain working. You know that Alzheimer's is the devils playground. So, I think that I will try to avoid that as much as I can.

This weekend we headed to AC Moore, a craft store in Chattanooga that is going out of business. Since I already had to be there, I figured a stop there won't hurt anything. Yeah right!

I am trying to get the boys more involved in some crafts. I like them to work with their hands in things other than video games. It is good for Eric, it helps his motor skills, and hand eye coordination too. Plus, for him it makes the creative juices moving. And also, it helps with his lack of wanting to clean. If he makes a mess while making something, then he has to clean it up.

For PJ it is just for him to make something. He has wonderful motor skills and his coordination is just fine, so it is more of the fact that he is doing something. And if Eric is doing something, PJ wants to do it too. Fine with me, it just gives me a chance to help them, but it also gives them a chance to be creative.

At AC Moore, I found all kinds of stuff that, well, I just don't need. But I did need it in a way. And the stuff I bought will be fun for us to do. I am looking forward to another year of gingerbread houses and gingerbread Christmas tree. I can't wait.

I found a foam Haunted Halloween Castle. I thought that would be fun to do and have on the table in the kitchen. Yep, something that requires the glue gun, oh, I am in my element!

So the boys take it out of the box and we start having problems, once I sat and looked at it, I figured out an easier way. And it went better after that. We did originally try with Elmer's glue. The only thing Elmer's is good for is construction paper, not heavy foam at the top of a tower. The top kept sliding down. It really was a mess! But once we remembered the hot glue gun, we were moving along much better.

I think I served to take pictures. But I did have to sort all the stuff that came with it. "Ok, PJ you get 2 bats, 2 ghosts, 1 tree, 1 web, 1 pumpkin, and the "Velcome" sign. Eric you get the same thing, but you get the extra bat." That way all is fair.

PJ got started first, and he is so picky. He followed the picture on the box, with the exception of the pumpkin. He wanted it just right. And he worked that glue gun like a professional! He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He would sit there, look, examine, and then glue. I got a kick out of him.

I have to separate them when they work like this, it is a mess, and it is just too much trouble to keep everything straight, who has what. So, PJ gets done, and Eric takes over. Working the glue gun is a little tricky for him, but he gets the hang of it quickly. He decides that he wants to do his own stuff on there. And that just sets PJ off, he wants it perfect, Eric is more of a free spirit, where ever it lands is fine with him. He is the more creative one too.

In the end, we got done, had fun, had a mess, and ended up with a foam tower for the kitchen. PJ loves to decorate, he is happy decorating. He had to get signs for around the house for Halloween and pumpkins for the outside. It is fine; I would rather have them doing this, and staying out of trouble or even sitting playing video games.

PJ's audition

Back about 2 months ago I spotted a flyer for auditions for the Christmas play here in town. It was being put on by the local playhouse and I thought that this would be good for PJ to try out for. I asked him about it, and he thought that this would be ok to try to do.

Well, this was originally supposed to take place on Sept. 24, the day of the Fall Mall. He and I were planning to do the Fall Mall and then head over there and get that done too. I pack up everything, go home, unload the car, have him eat something, and then leave. Well, we got there, and the auditions had been moved to Oct 20. Great, he had his hopes up and his nerves under control and now this. He seemed ok with all of it, understanding too.

The original production was only going to be children and teens, 16 and under. Turns out the playhouse changed their minds and decided to open it up for all of the family to try out. But the school system that sends out the announcements like this dropped the ball, and they failed to tell us about the change of dates.

For weeks PJ was just wishy washy about it. He would go back and forth, wanting to do this, not wanting to do this. Now, I am not one of those parents that demand that my kids do something, even if they don't want to. I have seen too much of that in my life, and stuff like that nearly ruined my life. So, I don't push them to do things that they have no desire to do. The only thing that I ask is that if I pay for it, you need to finish it. If you start something, you are committed to it, and you need to finish it. I ask that they think about this stuff before getting involved in anything. That isn't asking for too much, I just want to instill values like this in them and their lives.

This past Saturday was the day for the auditions. PJ wanted to go; he talked about it for several days. He told me that he wasn't nervous, that he was looking forward to this. And also, "If I don't make it, well, I will keep trying until I do." That is a wonderful way to look at things. Sometimes, I have to stop what I am doing and take a lesson from my kids. They don't give up when things get too hard.

I was up early on Saturday; I seem to get more done when I do. And as I am getting ready, here comes PJ around the corner. Ready and raring to go, he wanted to get his day going too. We head out to go shopping and then to get his haircut, he looks so cute. And then home to get something to eat only to go out again for the auditions.

We got there first, and he was the first one to have his paperwork filled out. He was excited and ready to go. Of course, the little 4 year old girl jumping all over him, pestering him didn't help much, but when I got him to concentrate on it, he was calm, no nerves, no problems, just ready to get this going.

I didn't know what to expect when we got in there. I have never been in there, I was thinking it was a rather large playhouse, but it is not. It only holds about 75 people; it is your typical small town production theatre. Nothing really special, but just enough for the amount of people that they get to come out and see something at a reasonable price. It does get costly to pay the price of theatre and this little playhouse just brings a little bit of art to lives that are so very busy with technology. This is a place that you can't get lost in the crowd, but enjoy the play and the moment to escape.

Inside was so cute, I was so impressed with the little space that they utilized so well. A small space, chairs against both wall, a small space behind a curtain, and a small stage, but they use the floor area too. It works very well for what they want to do.

The director worked only with 4 people at a time. Very nice, not a large crowd to decide from, but from just a select few. He knew what he was doing, and I was really impressed on how the younger kids listened to him, and how they followed his orders on how to play the roles the right way. The girls did a great job. I loved watching them, listening to them, and hearing the way that they played the role, albeit short. But it was neat, I never was in any plays, I wasn't talented like that, and for my, well, why bother, no one would have been there for me.

PJ had his turn, finally. And I was just so excited for him and for me too. But he got his character that he was going to do, and I went over to him while he was looking over the part. It was just a few lines, but the director only wanted to see how well he would act a line. It was so cute; he had to be a little boy that had his lunch stolen from him by the meanest little boy. I had to laugh, because the little boy opposite of PJ just was not the acting type, but he did try. And for that, he needs to be commended.

The director had the boys try that again, this time with a little more direction, the first time he wanted to see what they had, this time he wanted to see if they could take direction. And they both followed him nicely. And then he switched roles, he had PJ play the little mean boy. That is not PJ, but he did what he had to do. And when he sat back down, he immediately asked how he did. Ok, I am partial, I really am, and I should be. But he really did a very good job at it, first time, he was just fine.

He was asked to read another line. This time with more people involved. It was a part that consisted of 4 other people, so this was a bit more difficult to do. He only had one line, and he didn't know how to say Gladys, ha, it was too cute! And then the other group did the same part, once again, they were all very good, and I was really impressed with the girls mostly. Some of them played the role of the drama queen rather easily.

The director then told us that he was letting us go home, he had said that this does not mean that they are cut, but that he was just clearing out the room for more people to come in. That is understandable. And he also made the decision that he would call later on that day to let us know if they made it or not, and that he would like us back on Sunday afternoon.

The boys and I headed out to Chattanooga for a while, did some shopping and bought things that we didn't need, but oh well. We waited by the phone, all day Saturday into the night we waited. Ok, so we didn't hear anything. We figured that maybe, just maybe they would call Sunday, because they wanted to do more auditions.

We waited patiently on Sunday, and nothing. PJ kept busy with odds and ends. We didn't go to church, the boys played video games, helped me in the kitchen, played outside and just had fun being brothers. It was a nice afternoon, we all had fun, and we forgot all about not getting the all important phone call.

PJ went to bed and read for a little while and finally fell asleep. He told me that he was disappointed at all, and that he wouldn't mind trying again. I told him that was the right way to think and that I was proud of him for trying. And I am it takes a lot to get up there and to try something new.

I was getting ready to watch the game, and I got online one last time before I shut it all down for the night. I popped up on the email to see if there was anything interesting, and there was an email announcing all the people that made it in the play. And there was PJ's name closer to the bottom. He doesn't have a major role; I didn't expect him to get anything like that. But this is a start, and even if it is one or two lines, it is a start. He will also be singing in the ensemble.

I was so excited that I woke up Eric to let him know, but I had to wait until this morning to let PJ know. I told him and he was very happy that he made it. He wanted to know his role, and he wanted to see the email. I explained to him with getting this role, it means dedication, listening, and that we will have to rearrange his schedule until it is over with. I told him that all everything needs to be done before rehearsal, the extra school work that he has will be taken care of on the weekends. That way it is out of the way.

This should be very interesting. Rehearsals start on the 29th. He is ready for this. For him, this is a big step in his young life. I am so happy for him. It is a start; he has his foot in the door. And if he likes this, then I will pursue him to try for more.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Salvation Army is calling.....

I spoke with the Salvation Army today. I was rather impressed with them and the conversation that we had. I have to say that I throughly enjoyed speaking with them today.

I called and the gentleman that I spoke with was very pleasant and very patient with me and some of my questions. I told him that we are all interested in volunteering for Thanksgiving and I would like more information on what we needed to do.

Turns out that the Salvation Army, along with several churches, and the Mayor are joining forces and having a rather larger event than usual this year. They will be serving dinner to over 1000 people this year at the Chattanooga Community Center. Unity in the Community. They won't only be serving the homeless, but they will also be serving the needy.

He and I spoke for a considerable amount of time. He told me that they need people to not only serve, but to fill cups with ice, to clear tables, and even to hold babies while parents get to eat. That there are some parents out there that don't get a meal without the child stuck to their hip.

I asked him about the boys, and I told him that they were 12 and 8. Not a problem, bring them. There will be security there, so that wouldn't be a problem. I felt better about that. We would work in shifts and whatever we can do to help would be greatly appreciated.

He told me that these people don't want your handouts, they don't want your money, more than anything they just want your compassion. They just want for one day for someone to help them. Not to where they are helping others. I told him that ever since we had Eric that we wanted to do something like this for Thanksgiving. And that the boys are old enough to help out.

I had told him that I don't have much to give. But we want to give up our Thanksgiving to help others. That is all these people want. They are tired of being looked at, for being condemned, for being homeless. Some can't help it, we all know that there are some out there that are homeless because of drugs and gambling. But there are some that their luck was bad, and the world just basically turned against them.

So, I will talk to Chuck about this. I feel that this is the way to go this year. It is something that we need to do. We have been so blessed over the years to be able to have the Thanksgivings that we have had, to have the family around us, to have all the food on the table, the warmth of a house, the laughter that fills the rooms, and the love that comes into our home. So it is our turn to give back to the community. Cleveland doesn't have this for us to do. So, we have to go to Chattanooga. A larger community with more need. They are working on something in Cleveland in the near future, but for now they are hitting the area with the most need.

This Thanksgiving will be a little different for us. But I think it will be the most rewarding, the most eye opening, and the most blessed Thanksgiving that we have had in our lifetime.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our Thanksgiving Tradition

I guess I would have to say that for the better part of the last 13 years, Chuck and I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Now, 13 years ago, I was 6 months pregnant with Eric, so I didn't do a lot of the cooking. I did what I could do in the little bitty kitchen we had at the time. For the most part Chuck did everything.

Over the years we have either cooked at our place or taken the food to my in-laws because our place was either too far away or way to small to accomodate 15 or more people.

There was one year, PJ's first Thanksgiving, I remember this so clearly. We had a very small 2 bedroom apt, we really didn't have the room for the 4 of us. So, we decided that we would do all the cooking at my in-laws. My dad was here for that Thanksgiving, so we just could not handle all the people in our home.

Chuck takes off with all the goods and I have the boys, my dad and some of the odds and ends that Chuck didn't need. So, I get there shortly behind Chuck and I go and help him in the kitchen.

Since then, we have bought our own home and have continued to cook for the family and friends. It has always been one of the best days for me. I guess because I am in my element. It has always pleased me to cook, feed and assist in the cleaning of Thanksgiving. I just love it. And as the years have gone on, I have gotten Eric more involved in the preparation of dinner and desserts. It is great that he and I can work together in the kitchen. Now, he isn't in there with me on the day, but the days leading up to it, he is making pumpkin pies, cornbread for the dressing, and even that morning he has been known to make the cranberry relish. I just love it!

When Eric came around in 1995, we had said that when he was old enough that we were going to start working in a soup kitchen or shelter for Thanksgiving. Then PJ came along and that set us back a few years.

This year I told Chuck that I wanted Thanksgiving just the 4 of us. Not that I am tired of cooking and cleaning for the entire family. But my dad and his wife will be in Baton Rouge this year, and Chuck's sister and her family are going up to visit her husband's grandmother, this very well may be her last Thanksgiving. So that leaves Chuck's parents and us. Not that I mind cooking for 6 people, but I just would like a peaceful, uneventful Thanksgiving.

Last night we were talking. Chuck told me that since I had mentioned about having just the 4 of us for Thanksgiving that maybe we can find a shelter to work at for the day and then hit Cracker Barrel for dinner that night.

He said that the boys are old enough now, and that this would be good for all of us to get a wake up call. It would be good for the boys to learn how to volunteer and help others. I feel this would be a good experience for all of us.

So, this morning, I am on the phone calling around looking for some place here in town to go to. There is nothing in Cleveland on Thanksgiving Day that serves a meal. Last year, our church, with lots of help, rented out a dining hall and had free dinner for families in need. This was on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and the boys and I helped out. This was a little different, they weren't homeless people.They had homes, but a meal like a Thanksgiving dinner just wasn't gonna happen for them. I remember Eric leaving the house Monday morning, "tomorrow's the day, tomorrow's the day!" I didn't know what he was talking about, "Tomorrow is the day that we help feed the people that won't get Thanksgiving. Isn't it nice that we are helping the ones that need it more than we do?!" Wow, what do you say when your 11 year old looks at you like that?

We had linen table clothes, china, and real silverware. They treated them like we would like to have a dinner for ourselves. The table had candles and centerpieces. I saw all kinds of people come in. And it broke my heart that there were so many in need. I remember one family in particular. They barely had clothes on their back. She grabbed my hand, and with tears in her eyes, she told me thank you. She pointed to her children that weren't getting Christmas this year, but she was so grateful that she had a hot meal that day, and that her kids were fed. It turns out, that they did have Christmas. The Dr. that put this one had kids fill out a wish list and then he would have people in the community pitch in and help all the kids to have a Christmas.

Yes, this year the boys and I will go do that again. I hope not to see the same people, but most likely will. But it is such a good experience for them to help others. Instead of me helping them with things, they get to help people that need it more than they do.

But we are also going to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen or the Salvation Army to help the truly needy. The homeless or the ones that just can't put food on their table no matter what day it is.

It was rewarding for the boys last year to help in the situation that they helped in. Eric helps feed the needy at church on Sundays and he loves it. It blesses me to see him so blessed. But for us as a family to do this, to help out, to realize that we are so very blessed in our lives, well, it will probably be one of the best Thanksgiving day ever.

Traditions are nice. And for the years that we did have the family over, it was great. But now, as a family of 4, we need to start a new tradition.

Will I miss cooking everything that takes me 3 days to make? I sure will. Will I miss the smell of turkey in the kitchen, the laughter in the living room, the kids in the yard? Yes, I will. But there are others that need to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner too. There won't be china with silverware and crystal on the tables.There won't be linen tableclothes and padded chairs. There won't be music or football playing in the background. But there will be a lot of smiles, thank yous and tears.

I am so ready for a wonderful holiday season. And I am so thankful that I have a family that is more than willing to do what it takes to make a day great.

Gooble, gooble... let's eat turkey

Oh how I love turkey. Any kind of turkey too. I love turkey burgers, turkey tenderloins and any kind of turkey (not sausage though).

Anyway, I love my slow cooker. It is a great thing for me with the family. I can put dinner on in the morning and have it ready when I get home. The boys just love pinto beans. They love coming home and having pinto beans and cornbread. Eric calls it the poor man's meal. I love the stuff. It makes me warm inside, and no, it is not the gas that makes me warm.

I was looking for a recipe online for turkey breast made in the crockpot. And then I realized that I have a book for slow cooker and I needed to go through it. Low-and-behold, but what do I find. Maple and Apricot Sauced Turkey Breast. Oh my, I think I am in heaven! I haven't tried it, but since Chuck's birthday is next week, I think I will do this for him.

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped apricots
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup real maple syrup ( I use Cracker Barrel for everything at home)
1/2 cup apple juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 to 7 lb frozen bone-in turkey breast, thawed
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
4 med green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)

Melt butter in 10 inch nonstick skillet over med heat. Cook apricots and cranberries in butter for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in maple syrup, 1/4 cup apple juice and soy sauce. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced slightly. Cool 5 to 10 minutes. Mixture will thicken slightly.
Remove skin from turkey breast. Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper. Place in 6 qt slow cooker. Spoon maple syrup mixture over turkey breast.
Cover and cook on low heat setting 5 to 6 hours or until juice of turkey is no longer pink when center is cut.
Remove turkey from cooker; cover to keep warm. Mix remaining apple sauce, cornstarch, water and onions; stir into mixture of cooker. Cover and cook on high heat setting for 10 - 15 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Serve sauce with turkey.

I will have to take out the onions, because Chuck just can't eat them. But this is something that I think would make a good meal for all of us.

Let me know what you think of this one!

The first nice Saturday in a long time

This past Saturday I had to getEric from my mother-in-law. He spent some time on his fall break over there, but I have a tendency to miss him when he is gone. I don't know, maybe because he can be such a big help.

PJ and I went shopping and then we got home, unloaded and took off to Birchwood to get Eric. We get there, I had to get something to eat, come out, move cars and there they are. So, I load up my sons and take off, heading to a pumpkin patch somewhere in Decatur that I don't know where I am going.

I was driving up Hwy 58, and hit our turn and start looking for this little road in the middle of no where, now I don't have Tom Tom or any kind of directional help, only Google Map. I drive down this little road, and drive and drive, and then finally realize that there are house numbers and I need to start looking at them. I went too far, and turned around. I find the place that it is supposed to be the pumpkin patch and organic produce, but there was nothing there. It is next weekend that they are having their fall festival.

One the way, we spotted Watts Bar power plant. Now, I spotted a photo opp, I am learning to take pictures of what is around me. They all aren't very good, but I am trying.

If only the trees were changing. Oh how I wish we had some kind of fall, some kind of color other than green or dying brown.

Ok, so I didn't find what I was looking for, but it was a nice day for a drive. Before the change in weather, it was a chore to go outside and do anything, even go for a nice drive.

We head on home and I decided that since we were close to Athens that we would go to the pumpkin farm out there. I get to somewhere that I have some kind of coverage and call for directions. Little did I know that it was all the way out in the mountain area. I was just about to give up, and there was my turn. Whoo Hoo! We are going out there today to get pumpkins.

We get there and I talk to the owner, due to the drought, they didn't have any pumpkins. They had several shipped in, same with apples, and they were costly! But the boys and I looked around and found some things to eat. The owner was making fried pies, so of course, you know I had to buy at least one. Walked away with 4! Eric and PJ found some very nice pumpkins. They were a little high, but since I drove all the way out there, I should be nice and buy them a nice pumpkin. Now we get to carve them tomorrow!!!!

On the way out, I observed several beautiful pictures that just beckoned me to take their picture. I just had to, I don't know why. But I have loved taking the pictures of the area that is slowly dying out.

I thought that since we were out, we would take 411 home, a nice drive, country area. Pleasant surroundings. I remember the old Midway Drive In in Etowah, so, I pull over and take a picture of it. It wasn't that long ago that this still held the movies, but times change, people change and all these old places are left empty, looking for someone to take over and restore them.

I knew it was getting late and the boys were getting hungry, but I had to make one last stop before going home. The Amish community in Delano. We have been there one time before and it was pretty cool that the boys get to go out there. There is a sign before you enter the building, "Please respect us, please dress properly. No tank tops, no low cut tops." I appreciate that. They reserve the right to serve you if you aren't dressed properly.

Of course, I had to buy something. So, some Yukon Golds and a purple pepper. Did I need the pepper? Nope, but it was cool and I wanted it! I love going there. The old cash register, the old scale, the way that they make their breads and sticky rolls (that I turned down).

Ok, I really need to head home. PJ is hungry and Eric seemed a little tired. We go, but we run into a little old man outside and we get to talking and he showed the boys the horse and buggy. Oh it was so cute. They got up in the buggy and I had to take a picture, they looked so photogenic! They also petted the horse, which surprised me. They never pet anything!

Finally, finally, we head home. And once again, I looked all around me and I saw some things that I would have never thought about taking pictures of. I had Eric watching behind me to make sure no cars were coming. I was taking chances, but I had to get these shots.

This old train bridge is still a working bridge. Now if the leaves were changing, it would be gorgeous. But they aren't, and we are missing out on so many beautiful colors. Since we are in historic drought situation here, the leaves just fall off, we have missed out on so much this year. It took until now to get a nice Saturday to do something that we don't do much.

I found myself driving down the road with the camera in hand. I am so glad that I brought it with me. The next time that I come this way, all of this may be gone. And I just don't want the memories to escape me without getting the camera out and taking the picture and putting it in my memory bank.

I am so glad that the boys and I headed out today. 100 miles, 4 hours, sunroof open, 2 double cheeseburgers later, we made memories, had fun, laughed, took chances, and would do it again anytime.

I am so thankful for the first beautiful, comfortable day. It made our day so much nicer. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we can do some more things like this together before it gets too cold.