Friday, December 31, 2010

Nothing Can Age a Girl Like a Mother/Son Outing

Among the many thoughtful gifts my husband gave me this Christmas were special outings for me with each of my children. My time with Abby later in January will include seeing Annie at the Media Theater, dining at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and a manicure and pedicure at a local salon.

My outing with Ian was last evening and our time together included game time and dinner at Dave & Buster's, tickets to the Blue Man Group, and post show dessert. More than 18 hours later, my brain is still tingling. Talk about your sensory overload. I'm not sure the combination of Dave & Buster's with the Blue Man Group is medically approved for anyone over the age of 30, maybe 35, tops. Individually they might be okay, but put them together and you have a brain hemorrhage or epileptic seizure waiting to happen.

Let's talk about the scam that is Dave & Buster's. First, they get you for $11.00 to park. Are you kidding me? Is it because everything inside is free or such a great value that you feel justified in charging me just to enter the establishment? Strike 1. Then you enter Hell's Dominion, a.k.a. the Million Dollar Midway. The Million Dollar Midway is filled with video games and games of chance, and many, many people who are willing to spend lots of money to win tickets for items which you could purchase for half as much in a store. And interestingly, most of the folks hanging out there look like they would do better to invest their cash in dental work or properly fitting jeans. Wow, that was a super snobby comment, but it's kinda funny so I'm going to leave it in and resolve to be nicer in the new year. The noise level in the Midway is deafening and the flashing lights induce migraines. Strike 2. When Ian and I decided to take a break from the grueling game playing fun and have dinner, we waited for about 15 minutes before I finally summoned a waiter. I don't like to be kept waiting when I'm hungry. Strike 3. Finally, to the teenage girls who seemed to be competing for shortest skirt bragging rights, does your mother know you're out looking like that? For shame. I thought the hussies in Vegas were bad, but at least they appeared to be of age.

Needless to say, Mom is not in a hurry to accompany Ian back to Dave & Buster's even though there's money remaining on the gift card and we never cashed in his tickets for an awesome prize. I think a Dad and Ian day is in order...

As for the Blue Man Group, well, simply put, they rock. Funny, interactive, talented. It felt like being at the coolest party ever. I must say I was surprised at the number of older adults in the audience. I'm pretty sure my parents would have considered it stupid or at least disturbingly loud. Ian, on the other hand, proclaimed it the "best concert" he's ever seen (I think it was his actually first concert...if you can even call it a concert).

Ian and I wrapped up our mother/son evening with dessert at Applebee's after we learned Così (for which we had yet another gift card) no longer offers any real desserts. We splurged on a giant chocolate chip cookie, covered with vanilla ice cream, oreo crumbles, and whipped cream. It was heavenly. I only wish the city of Philadelphia didn't require calorie and fat content on its menus. Nothing can ruin a perfectly good dessert like a calorie count.

All in all it was an overly stimulating, engaging, and memorable evening with my son whom I adore. Here's hoping he'll be up for more mother/son outings as he enters the cruel teenage years in 2011.

And speaking of 2011, Happy New Year to you and yours! Don't bother making any resolutions because you know you won't keep them anyway. You know me, just being honest!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

It's been a while since I last wrote, but life's been really good. It's Christmastime, after all! The holiday celebration began with my starring role in the Christmas Eve children's service at church. I played the evergreen tree. I think I looked more like Elphaba from Wicked than a tree, but the audience, oops, I mean the congregation seemed to enjoy my performance. Of course you know I hate all the extra attention (wink, wink).

We shared Christmas Eve dinner with Rob's family, and you'll be relieved to know that after much deliberation, I decided to make a clam and shrimp linguini dish instead of the chocolate chip pancakes I was considering. It turned out reasonably well and as far as I know no one got sick.

Christmas morning the kids let me sleep till 8:00 a.m. so I wasn't overly grumpy. The gift-giving portion of our day was a success, even though I had more gifts for Abby than for Ian (how did that happen?) and Rob had way more goodies for me than I had for him. We never seem to get that balance right.

My parents spent the afternoon with us and naturally my dad couldn't just sit and relax. He had to install the new fireplace screen he and my mom gave us for Christmas. Every visit with my dad involves some sort of home improvement. It's a burden I'm happy to bear!

The couple of days after Christmas were equally wonderful. We spent Sunday evening snowed in, reading, playing board games, and generally chilling out. A rare occurrence indeed! And Monday was chock full of friends. Abby and I took in Tangled (two thumbs up!) with Freakin' Angel Kathy and her niece, and for dinner we enjoyed the company of the Mendells and Corsons. We started planning a spring break vacation and then we played Texas Hold 'Em. Not to brag, but I won! I just wish we'd been playing for money. Anyway, it was one of those lovely days with friends that makes your heart feel full and happy.

Diary, I know I've done a lot of bitching, whining, complaining, and kvetching over the past year, but if I stop and think about it, these blessed moments far outnumber the lousy times. They're not nearly as fun to write about, but I should focus on them more nonetheless.

Till next time...!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips

In all the years 359 days since I've been blogging, I've never stolen someone's writing and passed it off as my own. I've stolen borrowed plenty of pictures illegally, but never words. Today, I'm making an exception. I have no idea who wrote this, but the style and humor is much like my own, and frankly I've got other stuff to do to get ready for Christmas. So, without further ado, leave you with these...


1.  Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think
. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on
. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by: 
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!'" 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  

                                                          Love, A Freakin' Angel

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Entertainment Year-in-Review: Television

My coworker Becky just treated me to the delightful Glee version of Baby It's Cold Outside which reminded me that I have an Entertainment Year-in-Review post due today. So, let's talk television, and begin with a brief moment in history.

In 1961, then FCC chairman Newton Minow delivered what became known as the Wasteland Speech. Here's a portion of it:
"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland."
Ah, Minow must be aghast at the current condition of our multitude of viewing channels (none of which ever "signs off," of course). The vast wasteland has become vaster and more full of garbage.

Lest I appear to be a cultural snob, I have nothing against television and have enjoyed my fair share of it over the years. Unfortunately, however, there is less and less to enjoy. The witty sitcoms and engrossing dramas of ten or fifteen years ago have been replaced by a plethora of reality shows which give every knucklehead their five minutes of fame. The best shows are on stations most of us have to pay extra to receive (on top of already staggering basic cable bills). But alas, I digress. This wasn't supposed to be a critical essay on the state of television in 2010. This is supposed to be my incredibly biased, completely one-sided, and extemely limited review of what's been worth watching this year:
  1. Glee. Big surprise here, I'm a full-fledged Gleek. Singing, dancing, teenage angst, witty banter, sarcastic exchanges, and often surprisingly poignant lessons...what's not to love? 
  2. Phillies games. I know many people consider watching baseball on television about as exciting as watching paint dry. I happen to enjoy it. Especially when they're winning. 
  3. Two and a Half Men. As much as I've enjoyed this sitcom over the past few years, it's really pushing the boundaries of good taste. Still, it's generally laugh out loud, "Honey, did you hear that??" funny.
  4. Antiques Roadshow. It makes me want to start shopping garage sales in the hopes of finding a lost treasure. Hey, it could happen. Have you seen their currently airing "best of" episode? It's ridiculous the stuff people end up with.
  5. Project Runway. Cattiness and Heidi Klum and her super short skirts aside, I do have to admit an affinity for this show. It's also fun to watch with Abby which isn't the case for the other shows on my list.
Honorable mention goes to...

Phineas & Ferb. I don't watch as many kids shows as I used to, but when I'm trapped with no other option (say in a hotel room with my children), this is my go to program. I also think Spencer, played by Jerry Trainor on iCarly, is a terrific comedian who deserves an adult program on which to demonstrate his talents.

And finally, I have a confession to make. America's Next Top Model is one of my guilty pleasures, like movie theater popcorn but without the calories or butter stains on my clothes. Unlike a man who will claim he looks at Playboy for the articles, I can admit that I watch ANTM for the pictures. I will fast forward through the models' generally vapid conversations and get to the part where they throw on the makeup, do their hair, put on the clothes and take the pictures. I never cease to be amazed at how women who probably wouldn't turn heads on the street can come out looking like that. Amazing.

Well, that's all for today, folks. Thus far not one of you has left a comment on either of my Entertainment Year-in-Review posts, so perhaps I can guilt you into sharing with us your favorite television programs of 2010?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Year in Review: Books!

It's time for Part 2 of my Entertainment Year-in-Review. Before I start my review of Best Books, however, I should note that this weekend Rob and I took in one of the "still to see" films from my Best & Worst Movies of 2010 list. We saw The Fighter, the boxing movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. I'm pleased to report that it's deserving of all the critical acclaim coming its way, primarily due to a stunning performance by Bale and Melissa Leo who plays mom and agent to the boxing brothers. It definitely deserves a place in my top 10 movies of the year.

Now, on to books, my not-so-guilty pleasure. Because I rarely rush out to read the newest releases, please note that most of these, while read in 2010, were published before this year:

  1. The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (1976) - This was a neighborhood book club read. I believe I recommended it, and was one of the few who actually enjoyed it. I gave it five stars on Goodreads, because I don't know the last time I read a book that moved me like this one. Pat Conroy does an amazing job of developing the most complex characters I've ever had the joy of meeting. The Great Santini should be on every book club's reading list because the opportunity for discussion is endless. 
  2. The Stieg Larsson series (2010) This is a love it or hate it series. I know a few women who couldn't get through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I must admit it nearly stalled about half way into it. Thankfully I stuck with it and fell for Lisbeth Salander, one of the most unique literary characters we've met in a long time. The series actually improved with each of the subsequent books, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, which was actually my favorite.
  3. On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006) - Zadie Smith is an amazingly gifted author who I can't wait to read more of. Issues of race, class, education, relationships, religion, language, art, and beauty emanated effortlessly from its pages. Not a book to read quickly but one to savor sentence by sentence.  
  4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave (2009) One of the most moving books I've read in a while. Little Bee is a superbly drawn character with a compelling and irresistible voice. 
  5. In the Woods by Tana French (2008) - I was never a mystery reader, but this year I found a couple in this "thriller/mystery" genre that I really enjoyed (including the Larsson series). In the Woods was one of them. This police procedural/ psychological thriller was completely absorbing with lots of character development and a really engaging narrator.   
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2009) - This letter-based fictional book is every bit as charming and delightful as everyone says. A fun, quick read from which I fully expect a movie will be made.
  7. One Day by David Nicholls (2010) - This one was critically praised in a number of magazines and journals I read so I recommended it for my neighborhood book club. I don't know that any of us would list it as a favorite, but it was definitely a unique read with each chapter covering the same day in subsequent years in the lives of two intertwined characters. I enjoyed the book's creative storytelling and language, and found it to be honest and frequently heartbreaking.
  8. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (2009) - One of the few non-fiction books I read this year, The Lost City of Z is about the disappearance of British explorer Percy Fawcett in the Amazon jungle and the author's attempts to discover what happened to him. It's a fascinating story that reads like fiction with death, deceit, intrigue, action, and plenty of adventure.
  9. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible by A. J. Jacobs (2007) - Entertaining and educational! I learned a good deal about the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and Jewish custom, and had several good laughs at the same time.
  10. I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (2010) - Another book club selection, I'm currently about a quarter of the way through this thriller that Stephen King included in his top ten of 2010. Not being a Stephen King fan that endorsement did nothing for me, however I get the sense that Lippman's book is going to pick up speed and become one of those that's hard to put down.
I read two books this year that left me cold including The Monster of Florence (2008) and Pillars of the Earth. The Monster of Florence is the true story of the hunt for a serial killer in Florence, Italy from the perspective of two journalists. It was ultimately unsatisfying because the book ended with no closure in the case. As for Pillars of the Earth, I realize I am in the minority in not loving, or at least liking this book. I know many of my friends think it among the best books ever written, but having suffered through all gazillion pages of this Ken Follett novel, I just didn't see the appeal.

Finally, loyal Freakin' Angel readers and Facebook friends know that 2010 was the year that Abby and I took on all seven books in the Harry Potter series, reading them aloud nightly. It was truly one of the highlights of my year, both for the time Abby and I spent together, and for the sheer delight that is the J. K. Rowling's masterpiece.

Time to share! What have you read this year that I need to add to my list?

Coming Wednesday, Part 3 of the Entertainment Year-in-Review, covering television, music, and social media... Stay tuned!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Year in Review: Movies!

I'm sure I've confessed before to being a huge movie fan. Despite being incredibly cheap thrifty with my spending in other categories, I will fork over increasingly big bucks to go to the theater. I figure I've earned the indulgence since going to the movies may be the only time I really relax and focus on just one thing. Even when watching movies at home I tend to multitask and as a result I rarely enjoy the movie half as much as I would if I'd seen it in the theater.

Yesterday I received my Best & Worst of 2010 Entertainment Weekly issue and I decided I should do my own Year-in-Review. I thought I'd start with movies, and next week feature books, television, and possibly music.

To start this project I turned to a website that listed all movies released this year. I must say I was rather shocked at how many movies I have seen in the past eleven months. I didn't write them all down, but I'd guess it was somewhere between 25-35. That's a lot of cash and a lot of sitting.

Without further ado, here is my Movies Year-in-Review (keep in mind this reflects only the movies I've actually seen):

Best 2010 Movies:
  1. The Town - They don't make 'em like this anymore. Action, drama, heart. Outstanding writing, memorable acting. Ben Affleck definitely got his groove back with this one.
  2. The Social Network - The more hype a book or movie gets, the less likely I am to think "it's all that." This was one of the few that lived up to the buzz. Jessie Eisenberg was more than convincing in the role of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
  3. The Kids Are All Right - Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, and one of my favorite actors, Mark Ruffalo...unless you're against gay marriage, what's not to like?
  4. How to Train Your Dragon - In a year of great "kids movies," this was my favorite. I actually blogged about it back in April.
  5. Megamind - Perhaps because I went into it with no expectations, I loved this one. I consider it an unlikely story of redemption with a whole lot of humor.
  6. Red - For action, laughs, and an all-star cast, check out this fun flick about three former black ops agents with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. You get the sense they had a blast (literally) making it.
  7. Toy Story 3 - I would move it up on the list, but some characters were kind of creepy, like that doll head and pink bear. And it also makes me feel guilty for tossing my kids' toys, and I don't need that extra guilt.
  8. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part I - I know I'm going to catch grief for not ranking this one higher, but no matter how good the Harry Potter movies are they just can't hold a candle to the books which are my all-time favorite reads.
  9. Remember Me - Okay, the critics really disagree with me on this one which one EW writer listed among the five worst of the year. I'm not even an over-the-top Twilight/Robert Pattison fan, but I thought this melancholy movie was pretty good. But then again, maybe I just needed a good cry.
  10. The Other Guys tied with Grown Ups and Dinner for Schmucks - Each of these movies works depending on the viewer's state of mind. I saw them at the right time, in the right mood, and found them each laugh-worthy. If I watched them again, it's possible I would think they're completely stupid. The Other Guys has Mark Wahlberg. That automatically makes it among the best movies of the year.
NOTE: although it actually released in November 2009, I must add to my list The Secret in Their Eyes. Rob and I saw this subtitled Argentinian picture at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. It was a riveting, suspenseful film that reminded us a bit of The Usual Suspects. It won the 20009 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. On a side note, I highly recommend becoming a member of the BMFI if you're a fan of independent and foreign films. Members only pay $5.00 a ticket and they have lots of cool programming and classes, not to mention their annual Sound of Music sing-along (Dec. 22)!

Worst 2010 Movies:
  1. When in Rome - Started to watch this with my mom and sister. It takes a lot for me walk away from a chick flick, but I could tell this one was going nowhere. My sister stuck it out and confirmed that in fact, it never did get any better. What a waste of Josh Duhamel's hotness.
  2. Death at a Funeral - Speaking of a waste, how do you put Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence together and get something so unfunny?
  3. Ramona & Beezus - In a year of great kid flicks, this clunker really stood out. I just couldn't buy Beezus as a 9-year-old. If she was nine, my Abby must be 25 in terms of maturity.
  4. Morning Glory - A good cast was wasted on a story line that tried to do too much and was never believable.
  5. The Back-up Plan - I'm a sucker for chick flicks, but I just never felt the slightest chemistry between J-Lo and the no-name guy who played her romantic interest.
  6. Greenberg - I hate to typecast him, but Ben Stiller should only play funny. This was not funny and thus it was not good.
  7. Iron Man 2 - Just watched this last night. Tried to keep up with witty banter that moved too quickly for my increasingly slow brain. Went to bed in the last five minutes of it, that's how engaging it was(n't).
  8. Shutter Island - The critics liked this. I didn't. But to be fair, I generally don't like these kind of mind-game creepy movies. And it even had my "favoritist" guy...Mark Ruffalo. Mark, stick with rom-coms like 13 Going on 30 and Just Like Heaven.
  9. The Bounty Hunter - Yea, yea, whatever. Forgettable.
  10. The Switch - I guess if I had Jennifer Aniston's great hair and legs, I wouldn't bother trying to do anything with depth or range either. Looking good is its own reward.
Finally, the year still holds potential for these movies which either I haven't yet seen or haven't released:
  • The Fighter
  • Company Men
  • I Love You Phillip Morris
  • The King's Speech (Colin Firth is the man!)
  • Tangled
  • How Do You Know
  • Gulliver's Travels

Alright, you're turn. What have you seen this year that you recommend or want to warn us to stay away from?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wrap 'em in Bubblewrap and Lock the Doors

As a rule, I am not an overly protective mother. Honestly, I'm not. Even when the kids were mere babes I didn't feel the need to shelter them from every little thing. Hey, if you put a fork in the electrical socket, you'll learn not to do that again. Eat yellow snow and get a belly ache? Bet you'll avoid colored snow in the future. Run with scissors and stab yourself in the leg? You'll think twice about running...or using scissors.

Lately, however, there's a small, almost maternal part of me that wonders if I could get away with locking both my children in their rooms until they turn 25. Not because they've misbehaved (in the last 15 minutes), but because I could protect them that way.

Yesterday my friend Emily told me of a recent tragedy in a nearby community in which a 14-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 11-year-old sister with a loaded gun. Emily and her husband sat their two boys down to have a conversation about guns and what to do if a friend decides to show you one when you're visiting their house. Having grown up with a gun-owning father, I definitely believe "guns don't kill people; people kill people," but that doesn't provide the slightest reassurance when you're counting on the "good" judgment of many 12 and 13-year-old boys.

Guns aren't the only thing I think about when I'm dropping Ian off at a new friend's house these days. I also find myself wondering whether:
  • Illegal or prescription drugs, alcohol, or pornography are easily accessible 
  • The kids play super-violent or sexual video games
  • Older siblings in the house have a criminal record
  • Anyone here plays the choking game
  • Someone has a video camera with which they can record inappropriate behavior and post it on Facebook and MySpace
  • Girls might be there
It was so much easier when my biggest fear was that kids might eat too much junk food during a play date. Heck, even the possibility of them falling off a trampoline pales in comparison to the dangers that face our children during these tween and teen years. And I'm well aware that the scary stuff will become even scarier as they get older and acquire driver's licenses and girlfriends.

No, I can't lock my kids in their rooms till they're 25. I can't even surround them in protective bubble wrap. All I can do is trust that I've raised them right, that they'll make good decisions, and that they will continue to look to mom and dad for guidance.

Having read this post, Ian assures me I have nothing to worry about with him. And for now, that, and a good deal of prayer, may have to be enough. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Once Upon a Time, I was in Control

I seem to have lost all control in my household. This would be barely somewhat tolerable if it was my husband who had assumed the throne, but alas it's the classic case of the inmates running the asylum.

It used to be that my children's lack of respect for me primarily manifested itself in their inability to follow instruction. Or to follow instructions without them being repeated a minimum of six times at increasing decibels. Now, however, we've moved beyond simple disobedience to what I might call "parenting the parent." I actually blogged about one aspect of this a while back when I wrote of Ian's tendency to comment on my consumption of wine and Abby's "get out the vote for democracy" push.

The newest manifestation of my children's power grab peaked on Saturday night when, right before we left for a party, Abby informed me in all seriousness,
You would be a lot prettier if you smiled more. 
Ouch. I can actually recall my dad once saying that to me when I still lived at home. Though not nice to hear, moms and dads can say those kinds of things to their kids and get away with it. It's a little harder to swallow coming from the opposite direction.

Over the past few months, said nine-year-old has also found mom worth criticizing in a variety of other areas. She has asked,
Why are you angry all the time?
And noted that,
You're always yelling at me.

And determined,
You don't like me anymore.
It's exhausting. I feel like such a bad parent. Or a bad child. I'm not sure which. I am pretty certain I'm being manipulated and manhandled. And right before Christmas, too. I'll be lucky to get any presents this year.

The most disturbing part of this new relationship trend is that my children are only twelve and nine. We haven't even hit the teen years yet. God, give me strength. This is going to get ugly...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sounds of the Season

You don't need ALL the Christmas cookies for the party, do you?

I just thought of something else I want for Christmas.

Mom, I can't find my white shirt or bow tie. I need it now. My concert dress rehearsal is today.

Please close the front door so we're not paying to heat the outside of the house.

Turn off that stupid Dominic the Donkey song.

Darn. Noah can't come over tonight. It's Hanukkah. (Repeat eight times)

Mom, what do you want for Christmas? It's not fair that you get me all kinds of stuff and I don't get you anything.  (Seriously!)

A box came from with my name on it. Can I open it?

The Fraternal Order of Police is on the phone. They want some money. The deacon's fund at church is low. They want some money. That non-profit sent Christmas-y return address labels. They want some money. 

Are the Jones's on our Christmas card list? We just got one from them.

Maddie peed downstairs again.

I know we don't want to spend $6,000 right now, but the high efficiency furnace tax rebate ends Dec. 31.

Honey, let's not exchange gifts this year. Instead we'll give each other a high efficiency heater.

Mom, my nose is stuffy and my lips are chapped. Do I have to go to school?

Who ate all the cookies??!!  

I know where you're hiding the presents this year.

I hope lots of Freakin' Angels readers donate a kitchen item per my last blog post.

Before he became a werewolf
I don't know why the Phils let Jayson Werth go (though the Nationals definitely overpaid); go talk to my husband.  

What sounds of the season are you hearing these days?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Looking for a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling this Christmas?

Had my very own Christmas miracle this past weekend. Remember how I revealed my inner Grinch last week, specifically referencing the yearly Christmas tree debacle? Well on Saturday the Christmas tree curse officially lifted. Rob, Abby, and I hit the usual Boy Scout Christmas tree lot and found a beauty, complete with nature's decorations -- pine cones, straw, and leaves. We took it home, set in the tree stand, and voila! It fit perfectly, requiring no sawing or shaving or cursing. And it actually stood straight from the get-go! And it wasn't too tall! I get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I look at it.

You know what else gives me a fuzzy feeling this time of year? Doing something nice for others. Quit laughing, I'm serious. Want to feel fuzzy with me? Please join me in helping two families from my area who are spending this Christmas season in a domestic abuse shelter. After 30 days in the shelter they will move to an apartment with little more than the clothes on their backs. I'm asking all Freakin' Angels readers to provide kitchen supplies for these two families to take to their new apartments. Here's how you can help:
  • Purchase a kitchen item (plates, glasses, silverware, dish towels, bowls, pots, pans, etc.) and either:
    • Send it to me if you're out of town
    • Drop it off at my home if you're local
    • Let me know when and where to pick it up (we can do lunch!)
    • Drop it off at my parents' house in Palmer Twp if you're a Lehigh Valley friend
  • Send me a donation for a gift and I'll shop on your behalf
Thankfully most of us will never know what it's like to be without a safe and happy place to call home. Let's see if together we can make this Christmas just a wee bit brighter for two families in need.

Details: (I'm trying to be as private as possible with my contact info since this is out in cyberspace.)
  1. Sending a gift? Please plan to have it in my hands by 12/19/10. If you want me to shop for you, please send any monetary contribution by 12/17/10 (checks payable to Kim Shimer).
  2. My address for mailing: Kim Shimer, Judson Press, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482. If you need a street address, please contact me.
  3. Interested in dropping something off at my parent's house?  Email me to make arrangements.
  4. To contact me to arrange a pick up or drop off, please send an email.
  5. Other questions? Send me an email or call me if you have my number.
Thank you all  in advance for your contributions. You really are angels!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Princess Fiona isn't the Only Fiery Redhead I Know

Despite all my whining and perpetually bad mood, my life is ridiculously blessed. I have faced very little adversity and my real challenges have been few. If I were to face a potentially life-changing situation, I can only hope I would handle it with the grace and positive spirit that I've seen in my friend Theresa. Until just yesterday, Theresa was in the difficult position of waiting. Waiting to hear whether she had a malignant breast tumor. This is not the kind of joyous waiting you think of at this time of year.

Theresa's amazingly upbeat and positive spirit in the face of adversity is completely typical of her. She's the kind of woman who handles everything with aplomb. As the mother of four boys under the age of 12, she should be a complete and total lunatic, but she's not. In fact she's probably more squared away than most of us. This crazy woman actually went back to school this year to start a nursing degree and is thoroughly enjoying kicking the butts of her younger classmates.

While I could go on ad nauseum about Theresa's fine qualities, I thought I'd let her fellow Freakin' Angels say a word or two about this fiery redhead:

Freakin' Angel Andria sends Theresa her love and says:
Theresa has the same 24 hours in a day that the rest of us have, and yet she packs in more than I can imagine doing in a week: maintaining her home, knitting at every opportunity, reading books at a crazy pace, attending and studying for classes, carting around four children, feeding a family of six, providing service as a deacon, providing all kinds of service outside of her work as a deacon, spending time with her friends--and maintaining grace and humor through all of the responsibilities and effort. If Theresa can maintain her grace and humor while raising four boys as successfully as she does, then I have the hope and inspiration I need to face raising my two kids!
Freakin' Angel Jen had this to say:
Theresa has an incredibly generous spirit! While my daughter was in the hospital last week, my two sons stayed over at her house one night. She had 6 boys in the house and was HAPPY to help! Not only does she give, she does so with such a cheerful spirit. She has a strong sense of character and humor! She is a treasure!!!!

Previously profiled Freakin' Angel Karen wrote:
Theresa is a gift! She can do anything and everything and make it look so "matter of fact." She is always aware of others' needs and just comes to your rescue as if it is the easiest thing to do. Theresa is a fine Christian, friend, mother and wife. She leads by example with no pretension, motives or need for praise. Theresa takes life in stride and is a personal example to me to "live in the moment" and to "not sweat the small stuff." Her faith in the Lord and her service to others is such a great example.
Our girl Cathie, who has faced more than her own fair share of challenges in the past couple years, had this to say about Theresa:
Theresa.....a friend who has stepped in when I've needed help in my own life.  She always seems to be so positive and energetic about everything.  Life seems to swirl around her, how could it not when being a mom to four boys, yet she just always seems to be able to move forward and get so much done....way more than humanly possible.  She has watched my girls on numerous occasions and always has them doing more than I could ever do with them...picking veggies in her garden, baking with them, craft projects, etc.  And all the while, knitting numerous items at the same time.  Love spending time with that girl.  She is solid in her faith, I've never seen her waver with her belief in her Heavenly Father. 
And finally, Kim G., being the writer she is, offered this lengthy deserving tribute to our girl Theresa:
Hmmm...what makes Theresa special? Let me think, what does she do that's so special? The thing about Theresa is what DOESN'T she do? She cooks healthy (and probably organic knowing her) dinners, raises 4 amazing boys while running a home based business, takes college-level Chemistry classes, serves as a deacon at church, teaches Sunday school, gives a new mom a personal breastfeeding consultation, brings a pitcher of a delicious cocktail to girls' night out...all while knitting a sweater. (Not one of those is an exageration and there's probably a ton more I don't know about!) What I like so much about Theresa is that I don't think it ever even crosses her brain that she might not be able to do something. Unlike myself who can doubt at every turn, I don't think Theresa ever does and yet she is still humble, approachable, sincere and fun. I have learned things from her, prayed with her, yelled at our kids together (and watched two of them be googly-eyed at each other) and laughed with her. She is a true friend and blessing and the quintessential Freakin' Angel.

Theresa, your friends are all thrilled that God heard our prayers and that you received an encouraging report. No matter what comes next, the Freakin' Angels will always be with you to both encourage you and to be encouraged by you. You're one in a million!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pull up a King Size Bed...It's Family Time!

Something must be wrong with me. I've been in a really good mood for more than 24 hours now. I had a really productive work day. I've been enjoying my children (!). I've even done some Christmas shopping and listened to holiday music on the radio. Heck, I actually watched a sappy Hallmark movie on television. I don't know what it is, but I'll run with it. If you want to enjoy my company while I'm in this pleasant state, you should probably visit within the next couple days, just to be on the safe side. No saying how long it will last. But my jolly good mood isn't what I planned to write about today. Today's topic is the family bed.

This is not a picture of my family. This is for demonstration purposes only.
The family bed is an important spot, and not just cause that's where the babies are made. The family bed also happens to be a prime location for family bonding. I know this from childhood experience, and I'm pleased to say that history is repeating itself.

When I was kid, mom and dad's king size bed was the place to be. On the weekends, when my parents stayed in bed longer than usual, my sister and I would jump in with them. We'd talk, laugh, watch television, or just snuggle. And though you might assume that one would outgrow hanging out in bed with mom and dad, we never did. Home from college, those pillow talks meant more than ever. And just last week when my sister visited from Colorado with her son William, my mom reported that the family bed had been extended to another generation.

Without prompting or encouragement on my part, my children have also discovered the family bed. While I'm sure that the television is part of the appeal and I recognize that pre-bedtime visits are often merely a stalling technique, I also know that much of our laughter, conversation, and "I love you's" seem to happen in mom and dad's bed. I pray that the teenage years won't dampen the kids' enthusiasm for pulling up a pillow to giggle and chat.

Is the family bed a Shimer thing or do you have one too? Is there another special spot that seems to bring mom, dad, and kids together for that all-important bonding time? Share with us!