Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The school year begins in Oz

Just a short post. At least one person requested that I update this blog. I just can't seem to find the time to do it anymore!

The kids started school today. Last night when I was thinking about them and praying for them and what I wished for each of my children this year, I realized that they are just like the characters in The Wizard of Oz.

Christian needs to find a heart. I know that sounds harsh and he does have one. He is actually pretty sensitive. But he needs to find a little compassion, patience and positivity!

He is a senior this year and, as drum major for the marching band, I hope that he learns to lead with enthusiasm and friendliness! Today was his last first day of school. Sniff.

Kate has a brain, but needs to use it. I'm not talking academically here. She needs to keep her wits about her and remember things like her band hat and her homework amidst the ever-more-important social vortex she is swept up in.

Elliot needs to find his courage. He is very mighty, but forgets that he is also very brave.

And then there's Claire. I really think that with all of her gifts and abilities, she will be just fine as long as she has some shiny shoes!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You guys really need a hobby

Geeze guys! It's nice to feel loved and missed, but quite frankly 87 (and counting) comments is a bit creepy!!! I'm so glad you've been able to use my blog to further your own best interests, whatever the heck that may be.

I am still working at Bravo and after six months have yet to see any of you there during the day to visit me. Oh sure. You're all flattery and concern when you're posting anonymous (Brett) comments, but where's the real love? Where's the real outreach? It's all just a bit cold and detached.

Well, let's see...there was Fall. Yeah, that was pretty. And then we had the holidays. They were nice. The children did some interesting things. My hair is pretty long now. The laundry still doesn't get done with any regularity and I still make the same five or six things for dinner. Apparently I can still knit although I don't do it often. There are some books beside my bed too. I think I read one of them.

But seriously, everything is rolling along and we are all adjusting to me working. I am now understanding things at work that were totally bafffling to me at first and I think I've proven myself a reliable and capable employee. I've made some friends there too and promised Katie that I'd mention her in my blog. ("Part A!) She's a really nice girl, literally half my age (!), and she makes work so much more fun. We're Bravo BFFs!

The family is well. We're in the midst of Scouting events like the Pinewood Derby and Girl Scout Cookie Sales. Christian had his wisdom teeth taken out a few weeks ago and had a really good recovery. The High School musical is going to be Grease and Christian will play the part of Eugene as well as participate in the ensemble numbers. He's really looking forward to the show. Kate turned 14 yesterday and is steeped in the Middle School social life, skating and going to dances. She hearts the Pittsburgh Penguins (read "hockey playing guys") and has followed the Pens pretty closely.

Keith is happy with the growth at the church both literally and figuratively. The construction on our Education building is really coming along and we have had several baptisms and have others ahead. We've incorporated Power Point and other digital images into our worship services and it seems to be getting a good response. He's still a very traditional guy, but is exploring new ways to share the good news.

And Green Bay is doing great!!! Yay Brett Favre!! He's the man. Sunday night is the big game and I had my nails done today in green just for the occasion. Don't know how they'll feel about that at work, but oh well.

As you may have heard, the Povertyneck Hillbillies have broken up. I don't really want to say too much about it here because I don't really know any of the details and I have deliberately avoided reading or watching any news about it because it makes me very sad. I don't know everything that happened, but I know that Chris Higbee, our old friend from Dawson and Kate's violin teacher was pretty wrecked by it all and I feel very badly about it. I don't know everyone in the band that well, but I know how much PNH meant to Chris and his family and I know this is a really hard time for him. Sniff.

Well, I guess that's it. I've no more words of wisdom for you than I ever did. Glad to see you're keeping busy out there, away from your computers and my blog, making disciples and transforming the world. Keep up the good work! I'll check in again in a couple of months!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Buon Giorno!

Hi everyone! It's been so long since I've actually posted here. Things have been crazy, but it's all getting ironed out and seems like all is well!

The kids are back in school and for the most part it's been a smooth transition. Elliot seemed to have some trouble last week. Lots of tears in the morning. He was SOOO excited to be starting first grade. Apparently it didn't really hit home that he would be gone all day until Day Two. I know he said he missed me, but more than anything, I think he just wanted to be playing with his stuff. I tried to tell him it wasn't really ALL day, just til the afternoon. I don't think he bought it. Each day got a little better and this morning he mentioned not wanting to go, but there were no tears. It's an adjustment for all of us. I finally told him that even if he stayed home, Mommy had to go to work. He thought about that for a while. I swear you can almost see the gears turning in that kid's head!

Claire and Kate have slipped back into their routine without incident. For the most part the friends are the same and the workload is similar. I don't expect any real problems with either of them. Christian is really ready for Kennywood to close if you can believe it! He has had his share of Kiddieland for one summer! He is only working on the weekends now and some of those are spoken for with band commitments. I'm not entirely sure what his plans are for Fall employment, but I'm a little tired of nagging so he's on his own. No money, no driving. Simple. He has a very heavy workload with almost all AP, college prep, classes. I know he CAN do it, but he's not the most self-motivated kid I know. For example, guess when he finished his summer reading and writing assignments? Yep. The Saturday before school started. I seem to remember Keith doing the very same kind of thing at Edinboro. "Sorry. I can't go out tonight. I have to write 35 journal entried by 7 AM." Genius by birth, slacker by choice. Christian does get it all done, though-I've got to give him credit. It's much like his driving...he doesn't do things (i.e. brake) as soon as I'd like, but he manages to avoid catastrophe.

Work has been interesting. Last week I started training with the servers at Bravo! Italian Restaurant even though I'll be hostessing. My manager wanted me to learn the menu since I'll be doing the To Go orders on my shift. The down side to this is that Bravo! has a huge menu and each item has a thousand ingredients. The up side is that I got to taste everything they make! Their food is amazing. For as much as I like their pasta and more traditional Italian dishes, their meat and seafood is unbelievable. Everything from the grill is great. I tasted every single dish and I can honestly say that it all tasted different (you know how sometimes everything tastes the same?) and I liked 95% of it. The 5% that I wasn't crazy about I would still eat any day of the week given the opportunity. And the desserts...don't even get me started. One word. Cannoli.

I am probably older than most of the people working there, but I don't think they necessarily would guess me to be as old as I am. There is a lot of turnover in the restaurant business so unfortunately most of the host staff is only slightly more experienced than I am. As a result, we have new people training new people and it's a bit messy. There is no one way to run the seating board either, so that's problematic. I like to do things in an orderly fashion, so it's killing me to just fly by the seat of my pants, but I have adopted a "keep your mouth shut" policy at work (except for the cannoli, of course). I don't intend to be a doormat, but there are enough people there that complain and gripe all day long and I don't need to be one of them. I've been a bit sheltered for the last 15 years (those of you in a clergy family are probably saying, yeah right!!). People are so angry and mean and impatient and miserable! My word. I can't imagine getting so upset because you were seated at a table near a plant or under a light or because you didn't have enough ice cubes. Good service is very very important, but to get angry about such things?! Personally angered? Geeze.

But, for every person that is negative there are many that are helpful, pleasant and appreciative. This week I've been helped so much by employees and guests alike. I am constantly asking for help with things at work. Apparantly it doesn't make any sense to look for Chicken Alfredo when the guest orders Chicken Alfredo. It's much simpler to order Chicken Woozie. Of course. Silly me. Gotcha. And don't even get me started on the salads! Do we really need to have six different kinds of lettuce and greens in a thousand different combinations!??? Some of them are free with a meal, some are discounted, some have a surcharge. Uggh. But anyhow, someone is always willing to answer my dumb question and set me straight. Did you know that you can actually order something at Bravo! that isn't even on the menu? Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. Please!

I like work. I like seeing the people and I like making their experience an enjoyable one. A lot of the service tips they pounded into our heads make perfect sense to me. Maybe it's a Mom thing...anticipating someone's needs or going the extra mile. That's what makes it such a nice experience. I keep busy and always find something to do like bussing tables or resetting other tables. There's always something that needs done and why shouldn't someone do it. I can always go right back to "my job". (And I hate that, too....it's not "my" job.) People really appreciate what you can do to help them out and the servers get really really busy. They are actually in the spotlight, so I don't mind getting drinks or dropping off dessert menus. And afterall, don't they have to tip out to me??! I took a drink order from an elderly couple expecting an order for water or soda, maybe coffee. Is that ageist? Sorry. Anyhow...they ordered these rockin' bar drinks that I had no idea how to even ring in. I was just honest with them and they got a real kick out of it! Maybe I made their day a little funnier. I usually just admit what I don't know (a lot!) up front instead of pretending to know it all.

Well, those are my thoughts for this week except for two things.

One, I must have the most wonderful husband in the world! He had dinner ready every night that I was in training, filled out FOUR SETS of school emergency cards and papers and even picked up groceries and school supplies. He has just been fantastic. If I had to come home and make dinner those first few nights I would have passed out. It's very weird to not share lunch together after 10 or so years of eating lunch together. I know he'll manage, but he's adjusting, too.

And two, God bless anyone out there, including my sister, who actually makes a living doing this! It is hard, hard work. It is physically challenging (the dinner size lasagna with its oblong dish and charger weighs almost 20 pounds!) and mentally stressful. The floors are slippery, the doors swing both ways (can you imagine?!...don't ask) and those knives are sharp. So, next time you go out for a nice meal, be good to your server, compliment the chef and be patient with the hostess!

Monday, August 06, 2007

What am I?

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I took this personality test after viewing Keith's on his blog. I don't really like taking these tests because the answers are so decidedly black and white. Many of the questions I could have answered either way, but had to choose one. Often it's also easy to see what to answer to conform to your existing opinion of yourself! I tried to just answer as honestly as possible and you see the results. I don't find much use for these tools which seem to only encourage pigeon-holing people, but I guess they are helpful for understanding how we relate to people and I know they are often used for conflict management and such. I found it very interesting that the description under my name says "supporter, protector". That's pretty cool! As a mom, and as a wife, I've always felt that my role is to support and protect! That's actually exactly how I would have worded it. I've always considered myself the glue that holds everything together. That's not to say that I feel in any way that my wants and needs aren't important or thought of. It's just that my function in the family dynamic is, hmmm, to make it all work. I've also often felt a bit like a mama bear protecting her cubs. I am pretty easy going and I don't feel that I offend easily, but don't mess with my children!

It's also interesting to take a look again at
Keith's results. In nearly every instance we are exact opposites! This doesn't concern me in the least. I think it's just further proof that even though we were bumbling idiots in the early days of our life together, God must have known what he was doing. Look how well we compliment each other. Yes sir! We're the complete package...a little heavy on the "feeling" side (whatever that means), but I'd say that's accurate.

This test reminds me of the job applications I was filling out this past week. After 16 years of being a stay-at-home mom, I am venturing out into the work force this fall when Elliot, the baby (sniff), goes to school full time. It's time. I'm excited on the one hand, but I also mourn the days of being tied to the house with children completely dependent on me. That's nuts because it was so draining and so difficult sometimes to be constantly needed, but meeting those basic, physical needs was so much more straightforward that meeting the needs of older children. "I want juice!" I can do that. "I have a boo boo!" I can fix that. "I have to start thinking about applying to college and how I'm going to pay for it and what I want to do with the rest of my life and I don't know what I'm doing". Uh. You're on your own with that one. See, I can't do those things for them. I can help and guide and support (good thing I passed that part of the personality test), but I can't just take care of it. Oh great. Things are going to be any easier, are they?

Well, before I find myself completely over my head in deep thought (check out the WPAUMC Blogroll for deep, uh, thought) I'll sum up. If I wasn't absolutely certain with every fiber of my being that what I've been doing for the last sixteen years isn't of cosmic importance, filling out those job applications would be totally demoralizing! I never finished college, I haven't had a job worth mentioning in a decade and a half, I have no professional references, and I don't have any awards or degrees on my wall. My favorite application was for
Steve and Barry's. Steve and Barry's is a clothing store that sells, primarily, graphic t-shirts, college apparel, jeans and casual clothes. What's really cool, is that most of the things are under $15...sometimes only $6.98. Anyhow, after filling out the factual part of the application I had to take a true and false personality survey consisting of nearly 300 questions. (Well, honestly, I swear it was the same 5 questions reworded about a hundred times...I know that math doesn't work out.) I could barely keep from laughing! "True or False: I often feel that everyone is out to get me." "True or False: Sometimes I really feel like punching someone." "True or False: It's OK to take something small from work every once in a while." Good grief! It would have been fun to really mess with them and fill it out like a complete psychopath, but as I mentioned I don't have many employment options out there. Anyhow, it was funny.

The exciting news is this...I was offerred a job that I didn't even apply for! My sister was wrapping up her last week working as a bartender at the
Bravo Restaurant at the Waterfront in Pittsburgh. The kids and I went down one night to visit and she got the kids some milkshakes and smoothies from the bar. Yes, I sat at a bar with my children. Got a problem with that??! Anyhow, in the course of the evening I met some of her coworkers and one of her managers. The next day she called and said that he wanted to offer me a position being a hostess from 10-3, weekdays...exactly the shifts I want. I was ridiculously delighted that after filling out applications and lying about my desire to punch people, someone thought I was actually capable of working for them! It was so nice to be approached instead of having to ask, ask, ask. Things are nearly finalized, but I have to go down this evening to meet with the manager again. This is exactly what I was looking for...I can work with people, Bravo is a really beautiful restaurant, The Waterfront is a lively place, the hours are perfect and he knows that I am only available for those school-time hours. On the one hand I am scared to death (when am I going to do all the other stuff I like and need to do like cleaning (need), laundry (need), knitting (like), volunteering at the school (like), sitting on my butt (need)?? Well, it's time to start a new chapter, I guess.

OK. Well, my baby just got up...yes, it's almost 11:30 in the morning! We had a very, very long weekend; a picnic at Deer Lake Park all day Saturday a long day at Camp Allegheny on Sunday when we switched the girls at camp. Kate was at Drama Camp last week and we got to see the kids do their worship performance of Godspell at the Shanksville UMC at 10:45 AM. She really had a great time! Claire couldn't check in to her camp until 3:30 PM, so we had a very long day. And it rained. I hate getting wet in the rain when my objective is to keep stuff dry. Playing in the rain is one thing. Driving, walking, and carrying sleeping bags in the rain is another. But everyone is settled. Claire forgot some little things she was excited about taking to camp like some stationery she drew herself and her High School Musical book, so I dropped them in the automatic postal box last night. Pretty cool to be able to print out postage any time you want. Hope she wasn't too upset.

Now, back to my baby. It's dark and rainy so I think I'll get him something to eat, make him cozy and enjoy taking care of him for a little while longer. That is, after all, what I seem to do best!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Ha! Thought that would catch your attention!

Looks like my love affair with yarn was meant to be. And I actually did have a face; a really cute face. You just can't see it in this old picture.

Looking at this really makes me miss my Grandma. Ironically, I never, ever saw Grandma do anything with yarn. She was a sewing wizard, but it was my other grandmother, my Grammy, that knit and crocheted. This is her in a picture with my mom.

I think she's actually crocheting, but I'll let it slide. I've wished many times that I had started knitting while she was still alive. We could have enjoyed each other's company while we knit away. Her advice when trying to learn something new and crafty was always, "Just follow the directions and do exactly what it says. Don't try to figure out how it's going to come out in the end." Sounds an awful lot like "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding", doesn't it?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Inspired by John

This morning I sat down to check what's going on in the blogging world and I was so inspired by John's blog, that I decided to update my own.

I think we've actually been doing more running around this summer than we ever do during the school year. For the most part it's been fun stuff, but many, many miles have been put on my poor old van. Most of this update will be in picture form, I guess. When did I actually post last? Oh dear. July 2nd. Well, here goes.

Our vacation to Kill Devil Hills, NC was wonderful! For months I worried and planned and fretted over whether the whole thing would actually happen (this is what I do) and it all went amazingly well! The only snag in the whole thing happened on the night we left. It was 9:00 PM and the kids and the luggage were all packed into the van. We slammed shut the trunk (hatch? whatever it's called on a van) and it didn't shut. We rearranged the STUFF and it still wouldn't shut. It was somehow stuck in the locked position and the little thingy that needed to move aside to catch on the other little thingy that keeps it shut wouldn't budge. Our guess is that while it was open, one of the kids hit the automatic locks and when we slammed it shut we jammed the mechanism. (Blame it on the kids.) Anyhow, after an hour of pulling and prying and pacing and crying (that would be me) we got the hatch shut with the help of our dear neighbor, Mr. Smith. A quick peck on the cheek and we were off.

The drive through the night went very well, though the time through Virginia seemed endless. Keith and I took turns and the kids slept for almost the whole trip. We arrived in North Carolina around 7:00 AM. By 8:00 or 8:30 we were in the Outer Banks. This may be the first picture from vacation...Me and Claire at Stack 'em High Pancake House.

We actually ran into my dear friend, Kathy while we were driving around waiting to check in! They live in Punxsutawney, PA. She had our condo the week before us and she referred us to the owner in the first place. We spent about 20 minutes together at the beach before they headed North. Check out the slide show for other great beach pictures!

We went to Jockey's Ridge in the middle of the week and walked on the giant sand dunes there. Now that's a workout! We didn't try hang gliding, but took our kites and let the kids run up and down the dunes. It's a very cool place!

(No McIlwains were harmed in the filming of this video)

So, yes, vacation was wonderful! The kids enjoyed the water itself a lot more than I expected and played in the ocean quite a bit. Keith and I were able to relax. We saw some historical sites including Roanoke Island and the Wright Brothers Memorial. I have tons of pictures, but particularly liked this one of Claire at the Flight Memorial...

When we returned to PA we began some new adventures as well...

I spent a day at Kennywood with my friend Angela and her family. Angela's dad turned 70 on June 29 and the whole Battaglia family was gathered to celebrate. I've known Angela since we were 12 and she holds a very dear place in my heart. Her dad doesn't look a day over 50! He's in remarkable shape and is still just a jovial and, frankly, clueless as he was when we were in high school. No wonder he looks so good! Keith came out later in the day and we celebrated our anniversary at Kennywood Park. Our anniversary is July 6 and Angela's and Stephen's is July 4. It was a fun day. Here's a picture of me and Angela.

We celebrated the Fourth of July and watched fireworks at Kennywood...

Kate went to Strings Camp at Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony. Uber cool! I was so proud of her and even enjoyed the mornings that I had to drive her into Pittsburgh at 7 AM. I am not, repeat, NOT, a morning person, but it was very invigorating to be out and about so early. The city was like Richard Scarry's Busy Town. On Thursday she even treated me to Starbucks. Here is a picture from her concert at Heinz Hall on Thursday afternoon. Kate is the pretty one.

And now the kids are beginning their annual camp experience. Elliot just returned from Jumonville where he spent part of the week with John and Michelle Shaver at Mini Camp. He did very well, had a couple of bouts of homesickness, but had a great time. We found this picture of him walking to the cross. He's on the far right.

I took Claire shopping for camp...

So. That covers most of it. Now all of you loyal readers that have let me know about my lazy blogging skills can get off my back!! I guess I should be glad that someone out there is paying attention.

Oh! For those of you expecting knitting content...

I got this yarn at the ocean. It's 100% bamboo. Cool. Now that I know where the knitting store is I'll be sure to stop at the beginning of vacation next year!

Oh! How could I forget! I finished the seventh Harry Potter book last night! I'm so sad that it's all over...no new books. It was a wonderful ride! I started reading the first book to Claire and Elliot and was just gleeful re-reading Chapter One, "The Boy Who Lived". I commend these books to you. I know there is controversy and concern about them, particularly in Christian circles, but perhaps it would be a good idea to read at least the first one and see what it's all about! I saw the new Harry Potter movie a couple of weeks ago and now I'm just waiting for it all to wrap up. Don't believe any of the rumors! Read Book Seven for yourself!

Monday, July 02, 2007

When the heck did July get here?

There is really no content to this post! Just wanted to acknowledge that I haven't posted since the middle of May! All is well! We just got back from vacation, and despite the one picture that my husband posted (poor Elliot) we had a lovely time. I even found a knitting store toward the end of the week (which, financially, was SO much better than finding it at the beginning of the week!). When I get the pics organized on the computer, I'll update y'all. God is good!!