Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's Their Doody

Last month at our school's carnival we won a puppy. This was quite a surprise, since we never win anything at the carnival. I don't, at least -- occasionally the kids do. Every year I toss in my tickets for jewelry, or overnight hotel stays, or restaurant gift certificates and ... nothin'.

This year, though, we won and won big. Since there were a few animals up for prize drawing -- a puppy, a hamster, and a frog -- the Carnival Chairs decided they would protect themselves a little bit by making sure that the winning ticket for an animal had an adult's name on it. Well-played on the part of the chairs, in my opinion. Nothing worse than having little Johnny win a pet that Mommy didn't agree to.

So we bought our tickets and I took 10 of them, wrote my name on them and tossed them in for the dog. At 33 cents each that is $3.33 more than our first dog, Daisy, cost us. Anyway I put them in there thinking, "At least I can tell the kids I tried," and then I moved on to a cute looking duffel bag I thought I had a better chance of winning.

You can imagine my surprise when my friend came out to tell me my ticket had been drawn. "Are you sure you want the dog?" she asked. It helps having friends on the Prize Drawing Committee. Friends don't let friends win dogs they may not really want.
But I told her yes, we did want this little LabraGoldenDoodle. It's quite a mouthful so let me break it down for any cat lovers who are reading this: the mom is a black Lab, and the dad is a Golden Doodle. A Golden Doodle is half Golden Retreiver and half Poodle. I don't know why they don't call it a Golden Poodle because that makes a little more sense but to quote some 'tweens I know, "Whatev."

I kind of felt like I was on a game show after that ("But Wait! There's more!") because we didn't just get the puppy, we got chew toys, treats, a gift certificate to PetSmart and ... drumroll ... a month's subscription to a service called "Doody Calls."

Doody Calls is a backyard pooper scooper service.

Let's let that marinate for a second.

Now, our backyard isn't all that big so I feel kind of funny calling these people and having them take 3 minutes out of their busy lives to walk around our yard and scoop the poop. On the other hand, we do have two dogs now, and it is kind of hot out there ... I just wonder if they will scoop the poop out of the garage while they are at it, because our sweet Angel Belle goes in there sometimes.

I'll have to find out. When I call them, I'll definitely have to wear the Doody Calls T-shirts they provided in our gift basket.

And I'll need to be using one of these for my coffee:

Because nothing says "Good Morning!" like a mug like that. Cheers!

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Little Sign of Mine

This morning I received two urgent calls from a friend, one on my home phone and one on my cell phone, to tell me that our elementary school parking lot was being torn up and I better get up there quick to claim a little piece of property that has been near and dear to my heart this year.

I didn't receive either of her messages so Susie came and tracked me down at our neighborhood pool. I am extremely grateful because my little sign and I have been through a lot together this spring:

You see, I "won" a parking place at our school at an event we had last Fall. My husband likes to say I bought it, I like to say I won it. It really doesn't matter, because now its former home on this lightpost

is now gone. Patrick, the nice fellow in the photo, was kind enough to take the sign off for me when none of the 3 screwdrivers I brought with me were right for the job. We are having a new school built and for the most part it is really exciting, except for the fact that I seemed to have lost a parking space for the time being.

The reserved parking spot has been cause for unanticipated angst on my part. When I won it, I foresaw glorious days of me sailing into the lot at 1:59 p.m. for a 2 p.m. event and having a guaranteed space. I would arrive, cool and together, while others were glistening with sweat from hiking in from the back part of the lot, or further down the street.

What I did not foresee was all the people who would park there anyway, "just for a minute." So then I started arriving at 1:30 p.m. for the 2 p.m. event, just to make sure I got my own space. Not only was I early for everything under the sun, I was also irritated at this unexpected turn of events.

To be clear, I hold no grudges -- I totally get it. Crowded lot + empty space = no brainer. People honestly think that if you are not parked there at that moment, that there is no possible way you will arrive while they are in the spot. They mean no harm.

But what I learned about myself is that it's not worth it. Having a spot with my name on it is not worth me getting bugged about. Frankly, I'd rather be the one who has to park half a mile away and is still smiling than the one who is getting in a wad about a sign.

So you won't catch me "winning" this particular item again. But that is okay, because at our last school event our family won something we will have a lot longer than a parking space:

And Angel Belle can join the rest of us in our new Elliott Family Parking space -- on the driveway -- any time she wants!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Love Pre-K!

Time seems to be speeding up around here and I'm not sure I like it. I'm way behind on writing about all the funny things that have been happening lately, but it is May and this month is nearly as busy as December.

I love May. It's so close to summer! And sleeping in. And swimming, and ... relaxing. I don't know if this summer will be as relaxing as I had originally thought but more on that later.

I am a little sad about this particular May, because it marks our fourth and final year in Pre-K as a family. That is really saying something, considering I have only three children. That's what happens when you have a boy with a summer birthday. I like to refer to it as a "victory lap."

All of my children did a year of Pre-K with the same fabulous teacher at the church where I grew up. The creativity and growth they experienced there is unparalleled in my mind. This last year we did an all day Pre-K at our elementary school. William has had a wonderful year with a wonderful teacher, and was more "ready" to learn this year than he was last time around.

This year the children get home readers sent home with them so they can practice their reading. It's an important skill, you know, and home readers are pretty big doin's for Pre-K. As if that was not fun enough, William's teacher sends home this pointer:

Because if you are going to read you may as well do it in style:

I'll be sad when we don't have the pointer finger to help us read anymore.

But I have a feeling we have plenty of adventures waiting for us!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trash Talk

Since today is Earth Day and all I thought it would be a good time to tell you about our family and recycling. A while back my neighborhood stopped paying the private recycling service that was coming through our area picking up those little blue bins. I think we are getting the City to provide us with that service sometime soon. But it doesn't really bother me that much that we don't use the blue bins anymore because I was skeptical of how well that was working anyway.

Ever since we have started doing our own recycling, our family of five probably only throws out about two to three bags of trash a week. I'm not exaggerating. That's the truth and you can come look in my giant trash bin if you don't believe me.

Instead, outside we have in place five plastic containers labeled: Cardboard, Paper, Plastic 1&2, Plastic - Other, and the last one isn't labeled as it doesn't have a lid. It's our old blue bin and we use it for glass and aluminum.

We're pretty much recycling Ninjas.

Once a week or thereabouts we -- and by "we" I mean Mike -- take the bins to the local recycling center about two miles from our home. Since they are presorted he just dumps them into the proper bins and then we start all over again.

We feel pretty good about the difference we are making, and I have wondered what kinds of things our trash is turning into. But I know that whatever it is, it pales in comparison to what God can recycle from the trash of my heart.

It would be great if we could sort out the trash of our internal lives into bins like we do our external trash. I have a feeling it would only take a day for me to fill my bins up before I needed to empty them again.

Amazingly, He wants my trash. Yours too. He wants to take the ugly parts of our hearts and re-create them into something beautiful.

What can He make from the selfishness I give to Him? What about my impatience? My envy? Beauty from ashes.

God made the Earth and everything in it. That includes you and me. So don't worry about how gross and ugly your trash is -- go ahead and hand it over. He's seen worse. And I'm betting you'll be blown away by the beauty of His creation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have We Met?

I have a familiar face. Countless times I have had people approach me and start talking to me as if we were old friends, only I have had no clue who they were.

That is not to say I haven't had my share of embarrassing moments when I HAVE actually known the person. It's really nothing personal, it's just that I am not all that great at remembering people's names. If you will give me a little grace on that, I will give you grace on something you're not so great at, too.

Just the other day at Subway a woman I don't think I have ever seen before was very friendly to me, "Oh hey! How are you?" And I wondered if she really thought she knew me, or if she was thinking of my doppelganger:

This is Cynthia Stevenson. She has been in a bunch of TV shows and movies through the years, most notably (in my opinion, probably not hers) as the Mom in the "Air Bud" movies. I mean, c'mon, all my kids are still young and that has got to be the target audience for those movies. So you can see how it would happen: Someone's kid has an Air Bud movie on, the mom walks through the room and watches for a few minutes then sees me out and about and thinks she recognizes me. I, on the other hand, remain clueless.

(As a side note, I think Cynthia Stevenson seems really nice and I am pretty sure we would be friends if she lived in my neighborhood.)

And then there is the other matter of my name, which is the same (although spelled differently) of a famous Christian missionary and author, Elisabeth Elliot. She has lived an extraordinary life, lost her first husband to cannibals while on the mission field and has written several books.

Keep in mind that for both of us, Elliott -- or Elliot -- is our married name. But I have had all kinds of questions through the years, like "Did your mom know your name would be Elizabeth Elliott when she named you?" (Um, noooo ... ) Or some people who have confused the common tradition of passing down the male name in a family, and instead thought perhaps it was more usual to pass down the mother's name.

Like when I was in a Christian bookstore a few years ago and pulled out my credit card to pay, the salesclerk looked at my name and smiled sweetly at me. "Honey, I think I know your mom ..."

Sometimes You Just Need To Hear It

Last night we were listening to the messages on the answering machine and Mike could not stop laughing.

You see, April has been an exceptionally busy month for me. It is a month of 'endings,' and what I mean by that is there are several things I have been invested in for a few years that all happen to be ending this month. But as you know it's not like you ever just walk away -- there is a lot to do before you can officially 'end.' This is why I have not blogged since March 31 -- too much going on, and not enough time or energy to blog about it.

But back to the story. I am a list maker by nature but occasionally not everything makes the list before I leave the house, especially when I am trying to remember all that needs to fall into place before these things can be completed. So I call and leave myself reminder messages on the machine.

Mike was laughing because after each reminder ("drop books off," "email so-and-so") I ended the message with "Have a great day!" Actually that wasn't all I said but I don't know if I am ready to share the rest of it. Anyway he thought it was hilarious.

As it turns out, men don't leave themselves cheery messages like this. When they leave themselves messages, if they say anything else -- and that is a big IF -- it's something like "be productive" or "get it done today." Too much of a command in my book.

Women like to be encouraged, even if they are the ones encouraging themselves! We tell our kids to have a great day when they leave the house -- sometimes they say it too but more often it's a quick kiss and bye and off to the bus. Our spouses will tell us, but occasionally our day doesn't go as planned and we need a reminder to keep a positive attitude. So even if you won't admit it, I know I am not alone in my message-leaving.

There are just 10 short days left in the month and I have lots to do before it's over. The end of the school year is a busy time for everyone, and it is approaching quickly. So let's encourage one another to finish strong, to keep your chin up when things aren't going as smoothly as you would have liked. Sometimes you just need to hear it:

"Have a great day! You're fabulous!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Orange You Glad It's April Fool's Day?

I get a giant kick out of April Fool's Day. Thank goodness my kids do, too - by now they are used to me emptying out their Cheetos bags and filling them instead with mini-carrots (just re-seal the bag with double stick tape). Or making them a peanut-butter sandwich (spread the bread with butter, sprinkle peanuts on top and finish with another slice of bread).

But one of the best April Fool's jokes I have played happened nine years ago today. It's not often that things align quite this way, but when they do, you have to take advantage of it.

Nine years ago today I was pregnant with our second child. Hugely pregnant. Can't pick anything up off the floor pregnant. So pregnant that just possibly, your husband may want to sleep in another room.

When I woke up that Sunday morning a little bit early to get ready for church, it occurred to me that I had a once in a lifetime chance to be in fake labor. It took me just a few minutes to decide if I was going to go through with it, so I got all dressed and ready to go. My hospital bag was already packed. And I went in to wake up Mike.

I told him that I thought it was time to go to the hospital. Of course, like any almost-father would be he was very excited! He jumped up, showered and busied himself with the things he needed to do to get ready. I got our little two-year-old girl dressed and ready to go. There was lots of excitement around our house!

But after awhile I got a little nervous, and I wasn't quite sure how to "end" the prank. I really didn't want him to be upset with me -- letting an April Fool's joke linger is a sure bet that it will backfire. So when Mike was in the kitchen eating breakfast, I gave Sarah Kate a note to take to Daddy, "April Fool's." He was very surprised, but he laughed and handled it so well.

We even made it to church on time, although he did change into my least favorite pair of pants -- a bright orange number that mostly made appearances on the golf course. Knowing I would be by his side for the next 3 hours, I guess the joke was on me, after all!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Amazing Break, How Sweet It Was

I am really sad that Spring Break is coming to an end. We had such a great week, even though we never really left the city. The kids made a list of things they wanted to do, and we did our best to hit them all:

Kemah Boardwalk, check. New library, check. Doctor visit for a little one with strep -- not on the list, but check. Blue Bell, Space Center Houston, Rodeo Carnival, Children's Museum. Check, check, check, check. Beach visit for one of the kids with a dear friend, and all of us catching up with two families we love going through life with though we don't see them nearly often enough.

Baylor even made it to the Sweet Sixteen, so by all accounts our break was a huge success. Save one thing.

When we visited the Rodeo Carnival we had a specific goal in mind, and that was for Willie to do some Mutton Bustin'. You have to know him to appreciate the enthusiasm for which one would approach such a task ... When he knew the next day was Rodeo day, he dressed the part: Slept in his jeans and western shirt and was decked from head to toe in a leather vest, chaps and boots when he got up. Except when we arrived at the Carnival, all the bustin' spots for the day had been filled. For hours. He rallied, of course, but it was a constant theme: "Can we come back? When are we coming back? Am I going to get to ride a sheep?"

So, I ask you: What would you do?

I'll tell you what I did. I got up on Saturday morning and went down to the Rodeo, alone, to hopefully sign him up to be a Mutton Buster. I thought I would get a time slot later in the day, if possible ... no sense in bringing him along if he was to be denied again. So I arrived early at the Carnival and it was just me and the sheep. Seriously. I left my camera at home because I was charging the battery in hopes that I would need it to video him later on, but as it turned out I needed it a little earlier than I had planned.

While I was sitting there, with the sheep, two of the Mutton Committeemen arrived and we started to talk. We were visiting and watching the sheep, especially one that seemed to be a little restless.

As it turned out, OF COURSE she was restless. She was in LABOR. So, on Saturday morning while the Ferris wheels were still and the only sounds around were the clean-up crew brushing their brooms on the cement, we watched a sheep give birth to a lamb. Make that two lambs. Twin boys.

And it was amazing.

It was even more amazing than this:

Although I have to admit, I thought William's ride was pretty amazing, too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missed It By That Much

We are having a stay-cation this Spring Break, and we are having a grand time. Last week the kids and I sorted through all the options we have within a 90-mile radius of our home, and we came up with quite an impressive itinerary, if I do say so myself.

However, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Due to circumstances out of our control, we had to shift a couple of things around and put our Thursday trip to Blue Bell in place of our Tuesday trip back to the rodeo. This little change in plans occured around 11 in the morning ... a little later than the quirky "let's get up and go" part of me likes.

(If we are planning a day trip I like to go ahead and get out the door fairly early. None of this lolly-gagging around all morning business. However, lately I think God has been trying to teach me to be more flexible, and I don't mean by using my "Ten-Minute Pilates" DVD.)

But it was raining, and chilly, and Blue Bell runs tours through 3:30 p.m. during Spring Break so when we left at noon I was pretty sure we were in the money. Who else is going to be driving out to Brenham?

Ummmm, as it turns out, Everyone was driving out to Brenham. So when we arrived we saw familes huddled under umbrellas, the line snaking around the building halfway to the parking lot. I've been to Blue Bell lots of times and I have never seen anything like it.

I tend to be optimistic so I knew we were going to get in. I mean, we were this close to the tent that pretty much secured our tour:

I was still optimistic when the Blue Bell employee came around with her clipboard, counting families. And as she came closer to our little threesome I knew we would juuuuussssttt make it for the last tour, even though it was still two hours away. I even felt bad for the people behind us.

Except we didn't make it. We were one family away from securing the golden ticket. She finished up her tour calculations, looked right at us and said, "Sorry folks, park's closed. Cow out front shoulda told ya."
Okay so she didn't really say that. But we could hardly believe it! And, not a family who easily concedes defeat, we continued to stand in line for another ten minutes just in case someone else decided they didn't want to wait two more hours for a tour.

But no one did. Another Blue Bell employee told us we could go stand underneath a different tent to watch a video of the ice cream tour. Really? I mean, the tour is interesting and all, but if you've seen it once ... I put it in the same category as eating all your vegetables at dinnertime -- otherwise you can't have dessert! So we skipped that part and still had a great time. We managed to squeeze into the store with all the other dripping wet would-be visitors and buy a couple of T-shirts, as well as three scoops of ice cream. It's a good thing, too, because:

Rest assured, when we visit Space Center Houston later in the week, we'll be the first in line!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Order Up!

One thing we were really excited about doing at the rodeo last Sunday was eating. But we weren't going to waste our calories on just anything. It had to be something ... fried.

I really didn't know you could fry just about anything. From what I understand you can even fry Coke, and meatballs. We didn't see those booths at the carnival so we stopped here:

They were frying up everything on that "menu." But fried cookie dough? Something about that seems ... wrong. We let the girls choose their poison. They both chose this ... see if you can guess what it is:

What's that? Fried Twinkie you say? Noooo ... it's FRIED M&Ms. This may or may not come as a surprise, but it was truly disgusting. I decided that a better choice may have been the roasted corn booth next door. However, I really didn't think I could walk around the carnival eating a giant ear of corn on a stick, no matter how good it looked.

There must be some unwritten law that says to truly be carnival food, the food has to be on a stick. You have to be able to walk around, eating things you would normally never eat, all while talking to friends, waiting in ride lines and trying not to drip food on your sweater. This is what America is all about.

I think we can trace carnival food back to the Pilgrims:

Turkey legs. The original food on a stick.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Rodeo Time!

Well, folks, it's rodeo time here in Houston, Texas and that is something I look forward to each year. For as much as I enjoy the rodeo, I don't spend that much time out there -- to be quite honest we really only go out about twice every year. That could be why I like it so much.

Caroline and I were invited to see the Jonas Brothers this last Sunday. I am not sure who was more excited:

I heart the Jonas Brothers. Have you seen their show on Disney Channel? We record it on the DVR and I think it is hysterical.

But it wasn't all about the Jonas Brothers on Sunday. We also did a little bit of the carnival. Since it was a church day and the show started early, we only got to ride a couple of rides but we hit the highlights (for us -- we are not all that much of risk takers): the ski lift ride that takes you from one side of the carnival to the other, and the giant Ferris wheel.

I am not a fan of heights, and I don't mind admitting to the occasional sweaty palm on the Ferris wheel. We usually ride the small one, the one where you dangle up at the top in the wind for what seems like eternity waiting for riders to get on and off. There are signs on the ride that tell you not to move around too much, and if you are sitting with our 5-year-old I'm just going to say good luck with that. I won't sit with him.

But this year for the first time we rode the GIANT Ferris wheel. And it was a piece of cake -- what with the little carts you get to sit in it wasn't anything like the smaller one. Even our friend who was with us who feels the same way about these sorts of things rode it.

The Ferris wheel was a lot higher than the lift ride, but when you're in the cart you can't see things like this:

Or this:

It's a rough job, but someone has to guard all the stuffed animals.

But in the end, maybe it was all about the Jonas Brothers.

And it looks like they may have enjoyed the rodeo, too.

Coming Friday: Order Up! Or, What Not To Eat at the Rodeo

Monday, March 8, 2010

I've Got Some 'Splaining to Do

Did you know that just anyone can start a blog? And I don't mean that in a self-deprecating kind of way, I mean that truly, ANYONE with opposable thumbs can have a blog. The setting up of the blog is not really the issue, although I am pretty technologically illiterate so I do have a learning curve ahead of me there. No, the real issue of this blog free-for-all comes down to what to name the blog.

I have spent more time than I care to tell you trying to come up with a name for this piece of Internet real estate. At first I tried to think of a name that would describe me, and I came up with Real Simple. But then I remembered that was the name of a magazine and no one would ever make it to my site because they would be distracted by clever ideas for reducing clutter on the actual Real Simple site.

So then I came up with Walk With Me, after something an old boss used to say to me when I worked in the Senate. It wasn't perfect but it was worth checking in to. As it turns out that name/web address is already taken BY SOMEONE WHO HASN'T POSTED ANYTHING SINCE 200o!

I was counting on my husband to come up with a cute name, because in the history of our marriage he has had more success with that kind of thing than me. For instance, years ago when I was working on a local fundraising event for a Senate candidate our "celebrity guest" was Sonny Bono. So Mike came up with a little slogan, "Come Cher Your Money With Sonny." We didn't use it, but still. The candidate got a kick out of it.

And then, when I started my failed hairbow business his was the mind that brought Houston "You Bow Girl." Fabulous name, terrible business plan. I take full responsibility for the latter.

So you can see where I may have been counting on him for something catchy.

But not this time. No, this time, as a last ditch effort I took one of those horrible Facebook quizzes that I normally block. But somehow it slipped through the cracks and I saw that a friend had taken the quiz, "What is Your Hippie Name?" So I took it.

And I got: Happy Journey.

Happy Journey. It's far from perfect and it does sound a little fortune cookie-ish, but I could work with it. And it fit the most important criteria: I could actually get a web address for it!

Well, kind of. I really wanted, but if you go there you will find an Indian travel service. Not Indians that live in teepees, Indians that live in India. I'm telling you, this blog naming business is harder than it looks.

So my new blog address is At least I think it is, but whenever I type that address in I can't get there. I guess anyone can start a blog, but it takes someone especially clever to find it again!

Happy Journey.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ready, Set, JUMP!

Have you ever really, really wanted to do something but you were afraid to try? And I don't mean like jumping out of an airplane or anything like that. I mean, you had a dream you wanted to follow but doing so was ... scary.

Well, my dream has always to be a writer. I have vacillated among several different types of writing -- from children's books, to historical fiction (or hysterical fiction, even better!) to Christian devotions, to silly little snippets of life. And I still haven't decided which one suits me best.

But I have decided to TRY. Because for a very long time I have been paralyzed by fear ... of rejection, of someone not thinking I'm funny, of putting myself out there in the written word.

No more. I mean really, what am I waiting for? So, to get the ball rolling, I have decided to start a blog. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, "What is the big deal? Everyone has a blog." And you are pretty much right -- I just read somewhere that there are 1 million blog posts every day. That is a whole lotta blogs!

However ... I don't have one. I can also assure you that, to me, it is a very big deal. It kinda feels like jumping out of an airplane.

I am going to do a three-month trial period to see how it goes. That way if it's not working for me, or no one is reading it then I can pull the plug and no hard feelings. The blog and I will go our separate ways. For now, I'll post the link on my Facebook page and if you want to click on it you can. Or not. If you are so inclined, I believe you are even able to subscribe so that if there is anything new it will come right to your inbox. Or not.

My subject matter will be life, kids, God and even sometimes dinner -- because dinner appears to be a popular topic and my Facebook friends all know by now I am certainly no Iron Chef. My goal in all of this is to make someone smile with each posting, or give someone a new outlook on a situation. When I was in high school I was pretty shy (I still am) but then I realized that 95% of the time there was someone out there who was more shy than me. So I made it a goal each day to make someone smile -- and in a high school full of sullen teenagers it was not difficult to find a target to practice on. Usually it worked.

So I am hoping it will usually work here, too. And if you want to come along for the ride, I'd love to have you.