Saturday, June 19, 2010

Date Night

So VNB's been working long, crazy hours for what seems like forever.  It doesn't help that in between weeks of long, crazy hours, he's had opportunities to go backpacking with friends, either leaving me and the kids at home, or leaving us back at the campground with other friends and kids.  But his location changed computer systems a few weeks ago and he needed to prep for that, then deal with the aftermath.  And about the time that was wrapping up, things started ramping up for their bi-annual inventory which is next weekend.

He's been great about being sure to be home if I needed to go someplace and has always made it home in time to say goodnight to the kids (even if sometimes that involved bringing a laptop home too) and I love and respect that he works so hard to support our family and wants to make sure that the job is done and done correctly...but it's been lonely around here sometimes.

So we did something a little unusual last night - we skipped out on small group (we usually host it!) and went to a friend's birthday dinner at a ritzy restaurant in Baltimore.

Now, I'm not a big clotheshorse and tend to the "practical" side when it comes to clothing purchases, so I pretty much have "home" clothes, "work" clothes, and "church" dresses.  I've got a couple of dresses that (mostly due to two kids and their aftermath on my hips) are a _little_ too short for church now, but really nothing that screams "Friday night out at trendy restaurant in Baltimore."  And I'd worn one of my two "not-quite-for-church" dresses on our last night out without the kids (with his aunt and uncle) a few months back, so I opted for just a work shirt, some jeans, fancy sandals (in my mind anyway), and makeup.

VNB was a little disappointed that I didn't wear a dress when I picked him up from work to go to the restaurant, but he still thought I looked nice.  I was more concerned about being over-dressed than under-dressed, personally, so we went on to the restaurant.  We were the first of our group to get there and it was clear that I would not have been over-dressed in one of my "not-quite-for-church" dresses.

I didn't really care one way or the other, but VNB was worried that I'd feel under-dressed and we had time, so he sent me shopping.  The hostess knew of a place a couple of blocks away that sold clothes, so I started walking on my shopping adventure, passing another couple bound for the party on the way.  The wife came shopping with me while the husband went on to the restaurant to keep VNB company.

I had a suspicion from a) the name of the store and b) the fact that it was right on the harbor in Baltimore that it would be pricier than my normal shopping venues, but it completely blew my mind when we went in and the cheapest thing we could find (on the CLEARANCE rack) was like $60.  And U-G-L-Y!  So my friend and I decided that I'd try on a few of the uber-expensive things, and text VNB a pic (and price tag!).

I was assured by everyone present that the $138 "dress" I tried on looked great on me (I was _NOT_ wearing the proper undergarments for that dress and after two babies...well....I need some support).  But VNB said it was worth the price tag (!!!!!! this from the man who wants us to cut back on our fast food intake so that we can save every penny for a new house).  The sales girl thought the store next door might have supportive undergarments, so we went there prior to purchasing anything.

I was thinking "Urban Outfitters" when she said "Urban Chic" is right next door.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I found a dress in there that was shaped so that I didn't need to purchased new undergarments and in a color that I liked.  Then I looked at the price tag.


I'm not kidding.

So we looked at a couple of other dresses and shirts there.  $250.  $275.  Occasionally we'd find something for _ONLY_ $220.

And it's not like these were woven with gold fibers or were jewel-encrusted or anything.  They were just cotton fabric.  And not even especially high-quality!  And this is normal spending for some people!  Crazy.

But then I saw what I thought was a shirt.  It was "only" $70 (had to have been the cheapest non-accessory in the entire store - which had a baby line too, btw!), so I went to try it on.  Turns out it was a slinky dress that allowed me to continue wearing my undergarments and fit me like a glove.  So I bought it, without even taking it off.  The cashier stuffed my clothes into the world's tiniest bag, and then we were off to CVS.

My initial plan was to spend a few minutes in their bathroom shaving (after purchasing the necessary items), but we gave up on that idea in favor of pantyhose (control top for the slinky dress!!), and then gave up on that idea in favor of fancy ($8) flip-flops.

We then made our way back to the restaurant (everyone was there by then) and were immediately escorted to our table (which was only just then available) and proceeded to have an awesome time with friends.  And even got home in time to get the babysitter home before her driving curfew!

And it was great to get to spend time with my husband who wanted to spoil me a little.  We both needed the break, and we needed the time together.

But it was quite the adventure!  And now I have a new dress!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Out of the Spin Cycle

So really, this hasn't become an "all review all the time" kind of blog, I've just had a couple of reviews that were due at certain times (like this one) and haven't posted much in between.  I'm getting back to where I think I'll start posting again soon, really.

But back to the book.  This is this year's MOPS devotional book (which is included as part of the mentor mom membership!) - Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load by Jen Hatmaker.  It's a 175-pg devotional book (40 devotions total) that again was given to me (for free!) by Revell (the publisher) so that I'd review it here sometime this week.  Its sticker price is $11.99, but Amazon has it for $8.63 (again, affiliate links).

This is not a "let me expound on this Scripture passage" type of devotional.  It's a "let me tell you a funny/poignant story (usually about my kids) and relate it somehow to God/the Bible" kind of devotional.  The stories, thankfully, are never trite although it touches on familiar themes like worry and not being/doing enough.  It's written from the perspective of a married woman, so there are many "married" examples that may not be specifically applicable to single moms, but I think there are plenty of useful "generic mom" devotions for everyone.

At the end of each devotion there are a couple of questions relating to the text, followed by a task (or two) to help you "Step Out of the Spin Cycle."  As moms, we wear many hats and are pulled in many, many directions.  The spin cycle is a very apt analogy, both in terms of the "over and over and over again" of dishes and laundry and always-dirty kids, but also in terms of life seeming to be completely out of our control.  I really like the practical (and usually quick) ideas for how to step away at least from that mentality, even if life stays busy.

Each devotional is just a few pages long, so I was usually able to read them in the few moments I had between waking up myself and letting the kids get up.  Occasionally I was even able to concentrate on one or two when AJ was awake and snuggling in bed with me.  They're not too long that they take lots of time that you already don't have, but they're long enough that the actually _say_ something every single time.  There was not a single devotional that I walked away from without having something to think about.  They're also short enough that they could be used at a MOPS or MOPS steering team meeting.  And since they're each stand-alone devotionals (instead of building off of each other), you could find one that applies to the topic at hand and just read that one.

Were there any devotionals that blew my mind and changed my life?  Eh...not really.  But they were all good, practical, and timely.  Definitely a book I'd recommend!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hello! And a Little Tidbit...

So, a crazy thing has been happening lately.  People have been reading my blog.  I don't get it.  I've hardly posted in like two months and yet random people that I don't know keep following my blog.  It's not even halfway through the year and I've already surpassed my page-load stats from last year.  Granted, I think I forgot to add in the counter code back in for a little while last year after Blogger changed some things up, but still.  I'm not really sure why you're here, but you're welcome to stay!  Maybe one of these days I'll get on the ball and actually post regularly!

In the mean time, here's a little tidbit I've been thinking a lot about lately - the church's definition of "success." Churches have limited resources, so they have to use some metric to determine which ministries get money and  how much.  Frequently that metric is "we've always done it, so we have to keep doing it."  While that's not necessarily the best of metrics, it's also far from the worst.  I'm not talking about that one right now.  Next to that one though, the metric tends to be "results."  But how does a church gauge results?  Well, we're told not to judge, so it's not like we can look at the people involved in the ministry and decide whether or not spiritual growth has occurred.  So what do we do instead?  Well, we look at the numbers.  How many people are coming?  How many people have had a need met by the ministry?

And we want to see results right away.  Because it's God's money and we don't want to waste it.

So what would you call someone who plugged away at their ministry for three years.  Heart and soul poured into it.  Every moment of every day he was either meeting needs, teaching, or preparing to do one or the other.  And at the end of those three years, even with miraculous things happening, there were only 120 people who were "regular attenders."  Oh, there were other hangers-on, but really only 120 were into it.  The modern church, I think, would call that man a failure.

I'd call Him Jesus.

Maybe we should rethink our metrics and our definitions of success.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review - Momology: A Mom's Guide to Shaping Great Kids

So this year MOPS sent me their "theme" book again to review (for free!!  LOVE IT!).  And like last year, it was well worth the read.  This year's theme is "Momology: The Art and Science of Mothering," so it makes very good sense for the theme book to be called "Momology: A Mom's Guide to Shaping Great Kids."  It was written by Shelly Radic, the Chief of Staff for MOPS, International with a foreword by Naomi Cramer Overton, the president of MOPS.  It's published by Revell (the actual ones responsible for sending me my free copy), is just over 200 pgs long, and normally retails for $13.99 (Amazon has it for $10.07).  It is available here.  (This is an affiliate link, so I get like $0.02 if you buy the book through that link.)

So now for the review.  I'll start with what I didn't like about it (not a whole lot and mostly picky, stupid things), then move on to what I _did_ like.

Didn't like:
- In an effort to make it look like the insets were actually sticky notes, the book is printed with two colors - black and sticky-note yellow.  It's not a big deal for the notes themselves, but for some (stupid) reason, it bothers me in the header.  Like I said, stupid.
- There are statistics quoted in various insets that I frankly just don't believe.  Now, I'm pretty sure these were unscientific polls taken from a subset of the population (probably mostly made up of MOPS moms who are proactive enough to fill out a survey), but to say that 71.4% of people "know the God-given purpose for their life?"  (That's on pg 196.)  Isn't that supposed to be the biggest problem that most people have?  In the introduction it says that the stats were from surveys taken of 1800 moms, but I just don't believe that one in particular.  Maybe that's just me though!
- Last year, MOPS, International was rolling out a new steering team position - Service/Outreach.  That was right up my alley, so not only did I take on that role, but I also REALLY appreciated that one of the main aspects of the theme last year centered on serving others.  This year, serving others accounts for like half a paragraph, buried in the middle of a chapter/section on something else.  It seems to me like serving others should be a large part of the "recipe" that makes up being a mom, but I recognize that not everyone is the same in that regard.

- This too, is relatively stupid, but I LOVE well-edited books.  There's nothing more annoying to me than an inset placed such that there's no natural pause in the text for the reader to read the inset.  There are a _LOT_ of insets in this book (just flipping through, it's probably something close to 50% of the pages).  I think I remember ONE time that I had to flip back to read the inset.  That's some DARN good editing/formatting.
- I also appreciated the "scientific" chapter/section notation (i.e., 3.2.1 Neighbors, etc.).
- I like that they're trying very hard to make this an interactive experience, opening up moms to more opportunities for community.  Often throughout the text or in a "Practicum," examples will be given for some strategies to use in a given situation and the reader is encouraged to go to to add their own strategies or discuss dilemmas they are having.
- While I wasn't quoted this year, I enjoy the "Voices" sections where they quote actual moms as they discuss the topic at hand.
- I also enjoyed the "Field Study" and "Practicum" sections of the text.  The Field Studies are insets where one mom tells her story (that relates to the subject at hand) and the Practicums are either specific tasks the reader can do to put that subject matter into practice or they are questions for discussion/thought.
- One other structural aspect of the book was how short each section was.  It was handy for frequent interruptions.  The sections flowed well enough into each other that it was never a problem to continue on to the next section if I was able, but it was also always very easy to quickly finish the section I was on and put the book down to tend to whatever emergency was at hand!
- Now, as for the subject matter, while it seemed at times to stay on the surface of some of the topics, I think it went through a good range of topics that are issues with almost all moms.  Occasionally there was something that would be unique to a married mom, but I think that's to be expected.    Topics range from body issues to discipline to dealing with family to figuring out your purpose in life, and are centered around four ideas:

  • "Knowing who we are: building a healthy, resilient mom CORE
  • Knowing what we're capable of: developing FINESSE in the ways we daily interact with our kids
  • Knowing who we can count on: interacting within a CIRCLE of relationships that support us and our kids
  • Knowing who God is: engaging with him in his GRANDSCAPE"
(quoted from the Introduction on pg 12)

All in all I enjoyed this book and definitely look forward to another great year in MOPS!