Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008


When I know of a really good product or service, I feel compelled to share it with others. Fear not - - I am not getting paid by this company or receiving anything to endorse them - - I just found a way to perhaps save you some money. If you are like me, saving money is a very good thing.

I realized about a week ago that I had only 50 checks left before running out. I called the company I normally order checks from and found that the cost to order four more boxes of duplicate checks (the kind with the carbon paper behind each one) was going to be about $80. EIGHTY BUCKS! For checks!! They said they recently increased their prices, blah, blah, blah. I told the lady on the phone that I had no intention of paying $80 for checks and that I would find them somewhere else. She told me that no matter where I looked, they were all going to be about that price. Turns out she was right.
I even called my bank thinking that perhaps they could offer me a better price - - the guy I spoke with said that most people order from those check companies now because of the high prices of checks through the bank. Four boxes of duplicate checks from them were going to be about $100, and that was for the basic, no design blue checks. What to do? What to do? I knew I had to have them, so I felt over a barrel.

I decided to do a little google searching to see if I could find any company offering better check prices. I happened to stumble upon Vista Print. ( I knew they were a reputable company because I had my Christmas cards printed with them last year and thought they did a very good job. I decided to see what check prices were with them. I ended up getting four boxes of duplicate checks for $24. I even dug up a coupon code online and got free shipping. They said it would take three weeks because I used the free code, but they arrived in less than a week. They actually came in the mail yesterday and they are perfect. I will say that the only downside is that they didn’t have a bunch of different designs to choose from, but WHO CARES? I got my checks considerably cheaper, so I am ecstatic. So for those of you who need to order checks and don’t want to spend a fortune, you are now IN THE KNOW.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The concept of death can be very difficult for young children to deal with. My grandmother died a few weeks ago, and every since, we have had an almost daily barrage of questions from Aleita concerning Grandma Dot's passing. It is understandable and expected that a four-year old would naturally have a lot of questions concerning death. I think that as adults, we sometimes forget how foreign and abstract the concept of death seems to children. At their age, they can’t imagine that they aren’t going to live forever.

We went through this process with Maggie a few years ago when Chris's grandmother died. Maggie was about the age that Aleita is now at the time. For weeks afterward, we dealt with frequent inquiries about what had happened to Grandma Lillian. Of course Aleita was only about a year and a half old at the time, so she has no memory of the event. Maggie did really well in dealing with Grandma Dot’s passing - - she is old enough to at least understand the concept of getting old and dying. Aleita on the other hand….maybe not so much.

I decided not to have the children attend my grandmother’s visitation at the funeral home because I felt the evening would be too long for them. I also wanted to be able to greet family and friends who came to pay their respects appropriately and not be completely distracted by two bored, restless kids running around and getting loud. Chris and I instead opted to just have them go with us to the funeral the following day. We had done our best to prepare the kids for what was going to happen. Maggie did fairly well - - I think it was a little surreal for her to see Grandma Dot lying there in the casket, but she seemed to take the whole thing in stride.

Aleita on the other hand, was completed flabbergasted to see Grandma Dot lying there in the front of the room for everyone to see. As soon as we got close enough to the casket that she could see her, she looked at me in complete shock and declared, “SHE’S STILL HERE!” We are church-goin’ folk, so Aleita has been schooled about the idea of dying and going to heaven since she was born. When we talked to her about Grandma Dot dying, we told her that she was in heaven. Aleita took one look at her lying there in the casket and decided that we were big liars. We took a few minutes to clarify that Grandma’s soul was indeed in heaven, but that her body stays here on earth.

As we drove to the cemetery from the funeral home, we tried our best to explain what was going to happen next. I apparently used a bad choice of words because I told her that we were going to put Grandma’s body underneath the ground. She said, “but I’m wearing a dress!” It took only a few more questions from her for me to realize that she thought that upon arrival at the cemetery, all the funeral-goers were going to hop out of their cars with shovels and set to work in putting Grandma six feet under. I quickly elucidated that there would be other people who would do the actual digging and be putting the casket in the ground - - we would just say some prayers and tell her goodbye one last time. I think she was slightly disappointed to learn that she wouldn’t actually have more involvement in a process that involved the digging of dirt.

So of course since Grandma's passing, we have had lots of questions concerning death and dying. At first, Aleita's primary concern seemed to be focused on whether or not she would be checking out anytime soon. We assured her that Grandma Dot was old and nothing would be happening to her until she was very, very old. It’s been a little difficult for her to accept that everyone dies eventually - - that it is a natural part of life. She is discontented enough right now with the whole idea of death that she has vowed to live forever. I told her that I hope that works out for her.

Aleita’s daycare teacher told us that last week, Aleita was sitting at her table working on her art project when one of the other kids started talking about going to his grandma’s house after school. She said Aleita looked up briefly from her coloring and declared, “My grandma died and her soul went to heaven, but her body is still here on earth. Somebody buried her under the ground.” Her teacher said that without another word or any fanfare, she went right back to her coloring. She said that the other kid who had been talking about going to grandma’s house just walked away, looking a little confused. Perhaps Aleita will enlighten him one of these days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


When I picked Maggie up from the after-school program yesterday, I asked her how her day was. She hesitated before answering and then replied, “not so good.” I sighed, wondering what trouble she had managed to find during her second grade day.

“What happened?” I queried. She told me that during art class, they had been working on a painting project and that she and her friend Emily were seated at the same table. She said that when the teacher was turned around helping someone else, Emily reached over to her and painted on her shirt. After a deep breath on my part, she quickly mentioned that Emily painted on her paint shirt that she was wearing to protect her clothing.

I said, “and then what happened?” to which she replied that she didn’t like Emily painting on her shirt, so she responded in kind by painting on her face. Unfortunately for Maggie, the art teacher had turned around at that point and witnessed her during her exceptional lapse of judgment. Maggie ended up having to serve a time out for her untimely face painting episode.

She wasn’t so much mad about having to serve the time out for the face painting as she was that the other girl, Emily, didn’t get in trouble at all. According to Maggie, Emily lied and said that face painting attack was completely unwarranted.

Hoping that she had at least gleaned something from the incident, I asked her, “Maggie – what did you learn from this? What do you need to do next time?” She thought for a moment and then replied, “I know I should have just told the teacher….but if I do paint someone else’s face, I should make sure she isn’t looking first.” Ah yes, experience truly IS the best teacher.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Sometimes, as I sure every parent does, I question my ability to rear my children in the best possible way. Am I making the best choices for my kids? Am I too strict? Too lenient? Am I providing them with enough love and guidance to help them one day become productive and happy and well-adjusted adults? No matter how I feel about my parenting skills, there is nothing like a little weekend away with the kids to make me feel a whole lot more secure in my abilities.

When we were on our excursion to St. Louis, we visited The City Museum and the Science Center. We saw small children wandering around with no apparent parental figure in sight. We witnessed unruly kids of all ages being allowed to run wild while oblivious parents looked on - - - running crazy, climbing on exhibits not intended to be climbed on, screaming at the top of their lungs, and in general, just acting the fool.

I have noticed that parents of these type of children have either one of three reactions. Let's say that their child is climbing on a statue that's meant to be looked at - - perhaps it is even behind a roped off area - - When you look at their unruly banshee child and then look at them:


1) They don't notice because they are sitting on a bench 100 ft. away talking on their cell phone and not even looking at their kid.

- OR -

2) They refuse to make eye contact and say in a tiny whiny voice to the child, “C’mon sweetie…climb down off the nice statue now. C’mon baby….please? Look – mommy has a cookie for you! Come get the cookie!” The child will scream as the parent pulls him down off the statue, grab the cookie from the parent, then resume his post right back where he was as soon as the parent lets go of him.

- OR -

3) They stare you down and give you that look that says, "what are you lookin' at, bitch?" then after some time, say to the kid, "Let's go." The child then runs to the next exhibit where the kid climbs up on the next thing he isn't supposed to be climbing on or pushes some other smaller child out of the way to get what he wants.

When we went and ate lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory, I witnessed a scene that made me feel like parent of the year. Sitting directly across from us was a family of four. Three of the family members sat in the booths at the table, eating their lunch. The fourth member, a boy of probably 6 or 7 years, sat on the floor UNDER the table. The mother would occasionally make a whiny plea for him to come join them at the table, but he crawled around on the floor, occasionally stopping to chew on a piece of bread. She did finally get him out from under the table, but he refused to sit with them. He stood a few feet away, leaning against the wall instead. After a few minutes of that, he was back under the table.

Yes, I will admit that there are times as a parent when I have a little bit of work to do. . . but I can at least say that when I am out in public with my kids, you won't have to give me the ol' stink eye about their behavior. Feeling down on yourself as a parent? Go visit the mall or a McDonald's with a playland. Sometimes all it takes to make you feel better about your own parenting abilities is to simply witness others doing a markedly worse job than you.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Maggie had the day off school today, so on Thursday afternoon, we headed down to St. Louis with the kids to spend a few days. Today, we spent the better part of the day at the City Museum. The girls had such a good time, and Chris and I really enjoyed ourselves as well. I had been before, but this was the first trip for the kids. It is a little pricey, at $48 for a family of four, but worth it. We literally spent almost the entire day there. We got there about 9:30am this morning, left there for lunch for about an hour and a half around noon, then came back and spent a few more hours there. If we would have let them, the kids would probably still be there playing (unbelievably, they are actually open until 1AM on Fridays and Saturdays.) The museum is an old shoe warehouse and factory that was converted in the late 90s to the most unbelievable indoor playground for kids. It is not exactly educational, but whoever said that every outing has to be?

The City Museum is heavy on activities for kids to use their large motor skills - - it is very difficult to describe in a manner that will do it justice. The museum has both indoor and outdoor facilities. There is a great deal of climbing and exploring involved. There are ropes to swing on and countless tunnels and mazes that are made to resemble caves and forests and the jurassic era - - everything is done so well though - - it isn't chintzy or cheaply made - - it is artistically designed and created so that it is as beautiful as it is functional. There are also slides everywhere. There is one slide near the main entrance that goes from the third floor down to the main floor. There is a two-story slide that is a conveyer roller like you would find on an assembly line. The most impressive one though, is the seven-story - - - yes, seven-story slide that tornadoes from the top of the building down. Of course, you must walk up seven flights of stairs to get to it, but the kids loved every minute of it. (plus, it helped walk off some of the calories from our lunch at The Old Spaghetti Factory.)

Taken directly from the City Museum's website: Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum is an eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor and serial entrepreneur, the museum opened for visitors in 1997 to the riotous approval of young and old alike.

Of course, I forgot my camera back at the hotel, so enjoy these lovely stock photos I dug up on Google images instead:

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I was looking at my Family Fun magazine this morning while I was eating breakfast. In this month’s issue is a special section called “Toys of the Year” awards - -which basically is showing you some hot toys to purchase for the upcoming Christmas season.

One of the toys featured is called the “Fabulous Fairyland Playset – The Fairy Garden.” In the write up, the reviewer highlights one of its features by saying, “Our testers found that putting together the myriad of pieces of was much fun as playing with the three fairies.” Sorry, but any toy that is described as having a “myriad of pieces” is probably not something that is going to be welcomed into the Hale household with open arms. I find that things that have a “myriad of pieces” end up being scattered from one end of my house to the other, and then parts are subsequently lost, rendering the toy useless. I have tried to keep the toys orgazined - - I have bought brightly colored toy storage and rubbermaid bins galore, as well as worked with the girls repeatedly in an effort to keep the toys in a somewhat semi-organized fashion. Alas, my best efforts to keep Barbies in one container, Little People in a separate container, Legos in another container, etc. are usually thwarted by two little girls who find that pieces and parts from all their toys can be mixed and matched for some new use with whatever they are playing with at the moment. Who am I to stifle their creativity?

And yet - The Fairy Garden will not be under the Christmas tree from Santa this Christmas.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Aleita and Maggie couldn’t be more different when it comes to running errands. Aleita is always quick to ask if she can accompany whoever is going into the store. Maggie, on the other hand, almost always automatically asks if she can stay in the car. If she is told that everyone will be going in the store, she usually rolls her eyes and sighs as though she were just told she had to have a root canal, rather than that we need to run into Kroger’s for ten minutes to get milk and bread.

No, Maggie is none-too-sad about staying behind on most errands that we run. She is happy to sit in the car while go in to pick up the mail at the post office or drop off books at the library. Maggie would rather remain in the car if she happens to be with us when we pick up Aleita at school. Maggie’s ultimate hell is Wal-Mart. It is her least favorite place on earth. I can’t say that I disagree with her – but it is a necessary evil. I simply can’t afford to buy laundry soap, paper towels, lotion and the like at the grocery store. She never hesitates to express her dissatisfaction at being made to accompany us to Wal-Mart. If I pull a list out of my purse with more than 20 items, she throws her head back in defeat and continually asks, “how much longer?” the entire time we are there.

Aleita, conversely, wants to be right where we are all the time. I think she is afraid she may miss something. When I get out of the car at the post office to get the mail on the way home, she always asks if she can go in, even though everyday I tell her “no.” (It takes longer to get her in and out of her seat that it does to actually go in and get the mail.) Errands with Aleita take quite a bit longer because she wants to converse with almost everyone she meets, whether she knows them or not.

One of the places Aleita especially likes to go is the bank because she has figured out that the bank gives out candy. We have told her repeatedly not to ASK for it, but to say ‘thank you’ if it is given. Most of the time, she can hardly contain herself. This past Friday, we went through the drive up at the bank in our little town of Blue Mound and before we got to the window, she said, “I want candy, but I’m not going to ask for it.”

Chris said to her, “We are on our way to eat lunch, so even if you get candy, you aren’t going to get to eat it right now.’ She bounced and squirmed in her seat while she waited for the transaction to be complete. The banks in Decatur sometimes give candy and sometimes do not, but the Blue Mound Bank almost always does - - plus the teller waiting on us that day was my cousin, Teresa. The anticipation of what kind of candy she would get was almost too much for her.

As Teresa slid the money back out the drive-through window and told us to have a good day, it became clear to Aleita that there was no candy as part of this transaction. As Chris pulled away from the bank, his window wasn’t half rolled up yet and Aleita yelled, “THAT’S OK THAT YOU FORGOT TO GIVE ME CANDY!!”

Well, at least she didn’t ask for it, right?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I promise I will get back to writing this week. Last week, my grandma passed away, so I haven't really had the time or the desire to sit down and write. I am hoping that this week proves to be more normal (whatever that is!) and restful. It was good to see my family last week, but I am welcoming being back in my routine this week.

I am posting some pictures of the kids I took this afternoon. We visited Grandma and Papa at the farm and they had a chance to ride in the combine and in the grain trucks.

Monday, October 13, 2008


We visited the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur yesterday with the kids. Thought I would share some of the pictures.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This morning at breakfast, Aleita was having a hard time getting it in gear. Even though she was the first one to get her breakfast, Maggie and I were finishing up and she still wasn't half way through her oatmeal. As I put the dishes in the dishwasher and washed my hands, she asked, "Are you going upstairs?"

"Yes," I answered, "I have to get ready to go."

"Someone needs to stay down here with me," she pouted.

I assured her that I was certain she would be fine sitting at the table by herself while she finished her oatmeal. I started to walk out of the room and she lamented, "there will be no one here to keep me company except for my coughs!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Maggie came in the door from school yesterday wearing a long face. I sighed, wondering what “great news” she had to share with me. During the past few weeks, Maggie has not only had a difficult time remembering to turn in her homework, but also has been rushing through her work at school and skipping directions in the process, resulting in less than stellar grades being brought home. She has lost privileges, including T. V. and her Barbies, but we have yet to see any marked, lasting improvement. From the look on her face, I figured the week was off to another similar start.

“Did you remember to bring home your spelling words?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“What grade did you get on today’s science test? (for which we have been studying for two weeks) I asked.

“A” she answered.

“Did you bring home papers with bad grades on them?” I questioned.

“Nope” she answered, still wearing her down-in-the-dumps expression.

“Then why do you look so sad?” I asked.

She reluctantly reached into her bag and pulled out an envelope. She said, “I have a note for you. I got sent to the principal’s office today. But before you read it, can I tell you what happened?”

I sat down at the kitchen table and closed my eyes for a second, resting my forehead on my hand. Taking a deep breath, I told her to go ahead and explain.

It seems that as she was riding on the bus on the way to school, a boy from her class named Connor started grabbing kids’ papers and throwing them out the open bus window. She told me that he is always calling everybody names and doing mean stuff to people. She said one of her friends started crying because he threw her homework out the window, so Maggie told him to stop, but he didn’t listen. He then proceeded to call her “Miss Afro-puffs” and threw another paper out the window. Apparently at this point, the bus driver told her to sit down, but she had had enough. She got out of her seat and went across the aisle to his, grabbed HIS papers and threw some out of the bus window.

I then took a look at the form she had brought home from school. It pretty much reiterated everything she had told me, but also enlightened me to the fact that if she gets in trouble again on the bus, she will have a 1-day bus suspension. I told her to go up to her room for a little bit and that I would talk to Daddy about it and decide what was to be done. Chris was just getting home, and I explained the situation to him. After I was done, we both looked at each other and started laughing. It shouldn’t have been funny, except it was.

Isn’t this very thing what I try to teach my students in Sunday School each week? I tell them that when someone is being picked on, they have three choices: 1) join in 2) do nothing 3) stand up for someone else. How was I supposed to punish Maggie for doing exactly what I have been promoting?

In the end, we talked to Maggie and explained that we were not upset with her, but that there were better ways to get her point across than to do what she did. She promised to think before she acted next time - - I could tell that just being sent to the principal’s office was enough to shake her up that she didn’t want to visit there again. Her “big” punishment was no dessert that night.

Hey – I bet it’s more than Connor got.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Last night, our church had a wiener roast at the home of one of our members. We hadn’t been there 10 minutes when I heard Aleita screaming and crying. There are times when your child screams and cries and you know it is just because their sibling is teasing them or because they just got in trouble for doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. The screaming and crying coming from my child was neither of those. Her shrill shrieks were different somehow - - more guttural and urgent. It is one of those things that you can’t explain to someone who is not a parent - - but to those of us who have kids, we know the difference immediately. Her screams immediately alerted me that something was very wrong with her.

Aleita and the other kids had been playing out in the side yard, a little ways away from where most of the adults were gathered. Some of the kids were kicking a ball back and forth. Some were tossing a football around. Some were taking turns on the tire swings. Aleita and Maggie and a few others had been playing up in the treehouse. However, as Aleita went to come down the ladder, she lost her footing and fell about 12 feet from the top of the treehouse. As came hobbling up the driveway, along with Maggie helping her along, Chris and I rushed out to meet them. Her body was racked with heaving sobs and her face a mess of tears and snot. Chris picked her up and carried her back to the picnic tables where we could sit down and assess the damage.

I was completely assuming we were going to have to leave the wiener roast and take her to the E.R. to set a broken bone - - most likely a wrist where she had caught herself as she landed. However, after calming her down a bit and running her through a gamut of tests, such as having her wiggle fingers and bend her wrists and elbows and knees, we discovered that the damage actually was all surface level. After falling 12 feet from a treehouse, her collateral damage consisted of two scraped fingers, a tiny scrape on her wrist, and a few grazed places on her torso. I was catching my breath and saying a silent prayer to God that she was ok, and Aleita was more concerned as to whether or not she could have a band-aid for her owies. Her comment about the whole ordeal was, “I didn’t like that very much.” After washing her hands and applying a few bandages, she quickly returned to running and playing with the other kids (though we did request she stay OUT of the treehouse for the remainder of the evening.How is it that kids are so incredibly resilient? If it were me, I think I would still be lying underneath the treehouse, flat on my back, waiting for someone to come along and scrape me up. Aleita was simply thrilled to be going to school with Batman band-aids on her fingers, armed with a cool story to tell about falling out of a treehouse.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Oh the difference three months can make! I am posting two pictures below - - - the first was take the day after we got Dandy in early July. The second picture was taken this morning. They get along really well, and Dandy is a pretty well-behaved little puppy (most of the time anyway!) He seems to be learning some really good habits from his "big brother."

Dandy & Dempsey, July 2008

Dempsey & Dandy, October 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008


I am living proof that the mass media provides considerable influence over the way we live our lives. In this instance, I am talking about the fact that I have become a germaphobe.

In public restrooms, I craftily work to figure out how to open the door without actually having to touch the handle after I have washed my hands. I can’t actually bring myself to open the door with paper towel in hand, lest I look like a total and complete germaphobe-freak-weirdo to everyone as I leave the restroom. I like the doors that push out so that you can just bump your hip into them without actually having to lay your hands on the door to make it open. For those doors that push in, it is always a good thing when someone comes in the restroom and pushes open the door just as you are getting ready to leave, thus ensuring no hand contact will have to occur with your clean hands and the dirty restroom door. It also skeeves me out when people use the restroom and then don’t wash their hands. I have been known to give people the ol’ stink eye as they exit the toilet stall, then proceed to head right out of the restroom without a thought to washing their hands. BLAH! I can’t imagine going out and picking up my cheeseburger and fries after just having been in a public restroom without washing my hands.

I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in my car. Anytime I have been shopping at Wal-Mart or Kroger or Cub’s or any other public establishment (especially when I have been pushing a shopping cart), I immediately come out to the car and use the hand sanitizer. My kids even know that as soon as we get back to the car, I am going to give them each a squirt of sanitizer - - I always try to get Aleita first - - she is the thumb sucker, and as soon as she gets into her booster seat in the car and gets comfortable, the thumb goes in the mouth. I just try to prevent a few thousand germs from doing the same.

I have heard experts say that because of all the anti-bacterial products and hand sanitizers we have now, we are actually doing ourselves a disservice because our bodies never get the chance to develop an immunity to certain germs and bacteria, so when we are exposed, we get very sick instead of our bodies being able to fight it. Even with this knowledge, I still continue with my germaphobe ways.

Any fellow germaphobes out there? Raise your hands! (Just please make sure they’re clean first!)