Married to the Empire

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kitty-cat Taste Test

Calvin was diagnosed with kidney disease 2 weeks ago. We have to give him a prescription renal diet now. The vet gave us Hill's brand, but Doogie had issues with Hill's Science Diet years ago. He seemed to be doing all right on the Hill's renal formula, but then he started throwing up.

Doogie has always been able to stomach Eukanuba, which is made by Iams, so I ordered a bag of Iams renal formula. It arrived yesterday, and I mixed a little in with the Hill's. When I let the boys sniff at the new food, neither one acted very interested. However, Calvin has acted unhappy with the Hill's food, so I had to figure out which brand to keep them on.

I decided to pull out all my scientific skills, which are mostly nonexistent, and create a Kitty-cat Taste Test. Hill's brand is in the bowl on the left; Iams brand is on the right:

At the end of the day, we have a winner:

Hill's has won. This is actually the easier option for me because I can pick it up from the vet. I had to special order the Iams and pay through the nose on shipping. At least we now have this figured out. In the meantime, I've spent over $60 in less than a month on cat food. Ouch!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Signing with Karen Traviss

For those of you who read here for the Star Wars stuff, you've probably been wondering why there's been so little of it. The stormtroopers haven't done much in a while, or more specifically, my stormtrooper hasn't. Last night, however, he and Todd attended Karen Traviss's book signing at a Borders in Dallas. Karen Traviss has written several novels, and she's currently on tour with her new book The Clone Wars.

I confess that I'd never heard of her. I don't read the Star Wars books with the exception of Timothy Zahn's trilogy. But that was because we'd gone out to dinner with him after his book signing, and I thought it would be polite to read his books. Regardless, I enjoyed listening to Ms. Traviss talk about her books and answer questions.

Something she said intrigued me and left me mulling for several minutes. Someone asked her what books she likes to read. She said she doesn't like to read. She laughed and mentioned how shocked people always are to hear that because the common assumption is that all writers are readers. She went on to talk about the way she writes, which is to let the characters form on their own, then follow their lead. She commented that the characters often surprise her and don't do what she'd like for them to do, but they always act within character.

That discussion led to one about point of view. She asked if there were any teachers in the crowd. Another woman and I both raised our hands, although we both admitted that we no longer teach. I'm a former English teacher, and the other woman is a former reading teacher. Ms. Traviss asked us if students are taught about point of view, and we both said yes. She said that she is often surprised at how many kids/teens/young adults she meets who have no concept of point of view. She said that they can't understand that the characters' thoughts are their own, not hers. They absolutely can't seem to get their minds around that.

I thought about that for a while, and at the end, I spoke with her about it. I told her that I think some people can't understand that because they're not good writers. Writing is so difficult for many students, and they painfully plan out everything in a mechanical way. Because writing is hard for them, they can't grasp the idea of characters leaping out of someone's mind and taking form. She seemed to think that was a good explanation. We can teach kids about literature and writing, but that doesn't mean that they will all truly understand it and become good at it.

I always enjoy something that makes me think.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Good Thing About All the House Repairs

One nice thing to come of all the house repairs we've had to do (new roof from hail damage, leaks under the house, etc.) is that we've earned tons of reward points on our credit card. We've been paying with the card, then transferring the insurance money over from our savings account to pay it all off.

My 10-year-old DustBuster is on its last legs. It can barely wheeze long enough to pick anything up, so I cashed in a few of our rewards for these:

I have a date with Bed Bath & Beyond planned, along with the 20%-off coupon that came in the newspaper. Free stuff is nice. What would be nicer? Not having to repair stuff in the first place!

Monday, July 28, 2008

For My Fellow Baylor Alumni

I know a few of you read here. Do any of you receive Oklahoma Baptist University's magazines in the mail? For some odd reason, these keep showing up in my mailbox:

As long as they don't start calling me to beg for money, I guess it's okay. But I find it very odd!

Steven's 35th Birthday

We had friends over on Saturday night to celebrate Steven's birthday. We ate dinner together, then headed over to the park near our house to play disc golf, which is Steven's latest passion. If you're not familiar with this game, it's similar to golf, except you're throwing fancy frisbees at baskets. I am not the sporty type, but even I enjoy this game. It helps that I'm throwing things away from me, rather than trying to catch something coming at me.

We split into 2 groups of 5 to make playing easier. I only managed a few shots with the camera. When you're actually playing a game, it's hard to remember to take photos!

John throwing a disc:

Marylou playing (with Sandy and Glenn watching):

Steven and me:

Because Michelle and I always take a picture together:

Group shot:

It became way too dark to continue playing, so we headed back to our house for birthday cake. Steven always requests strawberry cake, which always means a pink cake. We had to man it up somehow, so we found this Darth Vader candle at Party City:

Steven with his cake. Please note his new Army of Darkness t-shirt:

Steven is a little grouchy about being older, but at least he had a very nice birthday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Look What I Got!

Yes, I'm aware that title is grammatically atrocious. But look!

One of the girls I sent a note to earlier this week brought to youth group this morning this plate of peanut-butter cookies for me. She said I made her week. Really, she just made mine!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anniversary Gift Displayed

Steven gave me a signed, first edition of Chaim Potok's The Chosen for our 10th anniversary last week. I finally got around to displaying it.

It's right there with all my scholarly works, meaning all the books I had to buy and use to get my degree in English. (You'll notice the lovely, bright orange "Used Saves" sticker on one of the spines.) The Chosen has taken its place among the great literary works, another first-edition Potok, my Ray Bradbury collection, and peeking out from behind it, you'll see the not-so-scholarly Twilight series. I wouldn't want it all to be serious, you know!

And fittingly, my little bluebird of happiness resides on the shelf with my most favorite of books.

Latest Craft Project

I needed a book for taking notes during my bible study times. I came up with this:

I plan to make another book for prayer requests.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Family That Stamps Together...

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had few people I needed to send cards to, and the personal touch was paramount. A death in our extended family required a sympathy card:

A young lady in our youth group is having a tough time right now, and I thought she could use some extra encouragement, so I made this for her:

When another kid quoted Philippians 4:13 the other night at church, she whispered to me that that verse is her verse. Wouldn't you know, I just happen to have a rubber stamp with that verse, so I stamped and embossed it on the inside of her card:

Yet another card for a youth-group kid who deserves to hear how much I appreciate her:

Steven even got in on the stamping. He had a kid he needed to send a stormtrooper activity booklet to, so he used a stormtrooper stamp with his autograph (his TK number in the ranks of the 501st Legion):

None of it feels like much, but sometimes it's good to remember that just a few words of encouragement, and maybe a small handmade touch can do a lot for a person. I have to remind myself that often the recipients don't care about the cost of something, but the meaning behind it is what counts. As for the stormtrooper booklet, it's a small birthday gift for a kid who wanted stormtroopers at his party. (For the record, the stormtroopers do not do birthday parties.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

More about Youth Camp

We've been home for over a week now, and try as I might, I was unable to recover the photos from camp that I'd accidentally deleted from my camera. I'm having to make do with the few (somewhat lousy) pictures I do have.

The students had Track Times every afternoon. Tracks were classes they chose to take, such as art, drama, spiritual gifts, missions, various sports, etc. They attended 2 tracks each day. I do have a few pictures of the results of some of our students' track times. This is a drama presentation on the last night of camp. Two of the girls on stage are from our church:

They did a moving reading of various scriptures woven together. If I remember correctly, much of it was from Isaiah.

Several of our girls were in the art track. This painting is a collaborative effort of a few of our girls:

This next one was done by our church's artistic child. She's extremely talented, and we have the painting she did last year hanging in our youth room. We didn't get this year's painting, as there was a bidding war over it. At the end of camp, all the paintings are auctioned off, and the proceeds all go to missions. This painting earned $110 for missions!

If you're wondering why the paintings all seem to have an African theme, it's because the camp theme was Kilimanjaro: Kingdom Secrets. All the groups were named after countries in Africa.

Speaking of the theme, the Kingdom Secrets part of it is from the parables of Jesus. I posted the various verses they were studying while we were away. They were woefully incomplete. The kids wound up reading 2-3 parables each day and studying them in depth. In fact, the theme came directly from Matthew 13:11:
He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."

Most of our youth group were already saved, so this year's camp was more of a challenge to them to deepen in their faith. Last year our group bonded; this year, they're realizing they need to really live out their faith. One of the parables we studied really hit home with everyone in this sense. Matthew 13:44:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold everything he had and bought that field. (emphasis mine)

Following Jesus is about giving up the old to take up the new. It's a challenge for the kids and the adults to throw off the things of the world to follow after Christ. This year, though, we all decided that it's a challenge we want to take on.

Just to photographically prove that we were there, I give you a terrible picture of me with my husband right before the worship service on our last night of camp. Notice the gigantic name tags/schedules they gave us to wear. Those things were like our own personal albatrosses, but we had to wear them. Oh, and just so you know, my hair looked awful because I'd been rained on:

And because all of my photos of the beauty of camp were wiped out, I give you a photo taken from the van on the way home:

It's not exactly a picture of beauty, but at least you can see that we were in the mountains. That's one of our vans in front of us.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy 10th Anniversary to My Sweet Stormtrooper

As I'm sure you can deduce from the title, today is our 10th wedding anniversary. How I'm old enough to have been married 10 whole years is beyond me! And boy, how the years have just flown by!

This was us 10 years ago. Please excuse the poor quality of the photo. It's in an album, and I didn't want to go to the hassle of removing it from its protective page.

I woke up this morning when Steven kissed me goodbye. He uncharacteristically just stood there, like he was waiting, so I rolled over and found that he'd placed a vase with pink roses on my nightstand. (Pink roses are my favorite flower, and they are what I carried on our wedding day.) I had to move them to the mantel to prevent a certain little kitty (*cough*Doogie*cough*) who is obsessed with water from knocking them over. On the mantel I found a bud vase with a single pink rose.

While Steven was waiting for me to discover the roses by the bed, he was whistling for our boys to come to him. He picked them up, one under each arm, placed them on the bed, and had them tell me, "Happy Anniversary, Mommy!" (Yeah, we're dorks who make our cats "talk.") They were each wearing a pink ribbon around their necks, which is a Big Deal. It's a joke in our house that I'm supposed to greet Steven at the door each night all dressed up, perfectly coiffed, and with happy kitties wearing ribbons around their necks. Of course, that never happens. So, not only did he wrestle ribbons on our boys this morning, but he put pink ones on them, which is something I'm not ever allowed to do because they're boys, and they don't like that (according to my husband).

By the time I got up with the camera, Calvin had already ditched his ribbon by the food bowls, but Doogie was still wearing his and looking quite picturesque.

Next I found a stuffed kitty wearing a pink ribbon, sitting on top of my morning newspaper (Steven retrieves my paper for me every morning), surrounded by more roses.

As a special gift, Steven bought me a first edition of my favorite book: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Not only is it a first edition, but it's signed.

I'm feeling a little guilty now that all I've done for him is buy him a copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Wii. He's far more romantic than I.

Happy Anniversary to my love, my best friend. May we have many more happy years together.

Updated to add: I was in a hurry this morning when I posted because I was supposed to meet our youth group to play volleyball with them. I didn't find the rest of the roses until after I'd posted. My husband left me more roses in the kitchen, in the bathroom, and on top of the piano! Isn't he the sweetest?!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Kidney Thing

Calvin's diagnosis of kidney disease this week has lit a small fire under my rear to take better steps in helping my husband with his own kidney disease. Animal proteins are the hardest for the kidneys to process, so my meat-loving husband really does need to cut back. Out of the 3 dinners I've cooked this week, 2 have been vegetarian.

He's not thrilled about eating vegetarian, but I do try to make things interesting. Monday night we had the Lentil-Rice Casserole from Amy Dacyczyn's Complete Tightwad Gazette. It's a simple, but tasty recipe that can be thrown together in less than 5 minutes. The directions call for baking it in the oven, but I make it in the crockpot. As basic as this meal is, I've even served it to guests, who loved it.

Also on Monday, I stopped into Half-Price Books and purchased Vegetarian Fast Food. Tuesday's dinner was spiced chickpeas. That recipe pretty much consisted of canned chickpeas cooked with onion, garlic, cumin seeds, and salt and pepper. Put it all in a pita with a mix of mayo and plain yogurt, along with whatever veggies you want (we used spinach, red bell pepper, and tomato), and you have a tasty dinner!

He may grumble about the lack of meat, but Steven does enjoy what I make without it.

The harder thing right now is Calvin's diet. The boys are doing well with the renal food mixed in with Eukanuba. (We're gradually switching them over.) Doogie hasn't thrown up yet, so that's encouraging. What makes this hard is that Calvin is used to little meat treats. Calvin has become accustomed to asking for (and getting) tiny bits of meat when it's being prepared. Last night I made Beef Bourguignon, and it was so hard not giving him a tiny piece of raw beef. He stood at my feet and screamed an begged, and I had to be tough.

Y'all, I'm not even allowed to give him tuna anymore.

Thankfully, we tried something new a couple of months ago. The water we drain out of tuna cans is always pungent with the smell of fish, so we tried giving the tuna water to the boys. They lapped it up excitedly, then barely touched the tuna we gave them. (I guess the tuna water filled them up.) I asked the vet if he could still have that, and she said yes! I'm so grateful for that because I think I'd be sobbing if I had to deny my boy his favorite thing in the world. You should hear the screaming around here when a can of tuna is opened!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Because I'm Having Camera Issues...

I'd love to post more about youth camp, but I'd like some photos to go with it. However, I accidentally deleted everything from my camera during the rained-out Mega Relay on Friday. *sigh* I'm attempting to recover some pictures since there were some really good ones!

In the meantime, I'll post this meme that Annie tagged me for. Good timing since I'm feeling a bit lost on what to post when I want to talk about camp with pictures!

What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was only 2 days away from my wedding, stressing over all that a wedding entails, along with trying to get Steven's apartment packed up to move his stuff into what was about to become our apartment.

5 Things on my to-do list:

1. Buy groceries
2. Pick up Steven's birthday present
3. Get dinner into the crockpot
4. Finish laundry
5. Attend praise team rehearsal

Snacks I enjoy:

Watermelon, Cracker Jacks, cheese... Um, lots of things, really. It just depends on my mood at any given time. To be totally honest, the things I like most have lots and lots of sugar in them. I'm trying to cut back, though.

What would I do if I were a billionaire?

First, I'd get rid of this house and build one that will never have foundation problems! I'd give a bunch of money to my church, Voice of the Martyrs, and animal causes. Oh, and I'd have a real library in my house. Shelves to the ceiling, ladders for reaching them, big comfy chairs, lots of lamps and natural lighting. And I'd buy my hubby the $4000 Ironman costume that he's drooling over.

Places I have lived:

Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
New Orleans, LA
Waco, TX
Stavanger, Norway

Technically, except for Waco, I actually lived in suburbs of all those places, not the cities themselves.

Jobs I've Had:

Camp counselor
English teacher
Substitute teacher
Servant to Cats

5 people I'm tagging:



Vader's Mom



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Bit about Youth Camp

We had a great time at Centrifuge in Glorieta, NM, but it wasn't without some difficulties. There was a little drama and tension between some of the girls, but they worked it out. Our van was hit in a Dairy Queen parking lot on the way to camp, but the pastor's son managed to get the license plate of the car that hit our van. It was a hit-and-run, but between the plate number from the pastor's son and the car description from another guy who witnessed it, the police were quickly able to find the guilty party.

The adults were given an hour of free time every morning, which was a new thing, so we'd meet over coffee during that time to discuss our kids and pray over them. We were amazed at the amount of answered prayer this week! Steven and I have been to a lot of youth camps over the years, and this is the first one in which it seemed as if the message every day was specifically geared towards our students.

When the girls were fighting, the next day's message was all about forgiveness. When we discussed a kid who didn't understand why he should pray when God already knows what he needs, the message that night answered that very question. In fact, the question was stated word for word, then followed by the answer. Many of our kids had been praying to see God in a new way, and every night in our church-group time, they shared about how God had done just that.

Really, it was just an amazing week. And one of our kiddos accepted Christ as her personal Savior this week!

Charlie Hall did the music this week. There were approximately 1100 kids in attendance this year! Here's a little video of the band playing. When the screen isn't totally dark, you can see just how very many kids were there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Disappointing News

When we came home from camp, Steven's first words upon picking up Calvin were, "He's lost weight." One of our catsitters agreed. Calvin has also been drinking a lot of water lately, so I made a vet appointment for him today.

He was diagnosed with kidney disease. So now my husband and my cat have this incurable disease. To say I'm upset is an understatement.

The good news is that this was caught early. Calvin's blood pressure is fine, and his kidney function is still acceptable. At this point we only have to change his diet. The concern with this, though, is that Doogie will have to switch with him. Doogie has had some major food issues in the past; he has trouble keeping things down. The renal-diet food the vet gave us is made by Hill's, which is the company that makes Science Diet. Doogie can't eat Science Diet, so I fear that he'll have trouble with Hill's renal food.

Nice welcome home, huh?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We're home from youth camp, and we're exhausted. For whatever reason, camps never seem to find it important to schedule in sleep. I'm tired and fuzzy-brained, so no updates for now. Just letting you know we returned home safely last night around 11:30pm. For those of you who were praying for us, thank you!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Going Home!

Camp is over, and we're on the long drive back to Dallas. Looking forward to my own bed! Our cats will be so happy to see us. They're always left in the capable care of their "aunties" and "uncles" who come to see them every day, but they really do prefer their own parents.

You can be assured that we'll be falling into bed tonight and sleeping the sleep of the dead. Youth camp is fun, but it's a week of sleep deprivation!

Please pray for a safe trip home.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Camp: Day 4

Passage for Study

Matthew 25:34-40 (New International Version)

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Camp: Day 3

Key Verse for the Day

Proverbs 14:14 (New International Version)

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways,
and the good man rewarded for his.

Passage for Study

Matthew 18:21-22 (New International Version)

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Camp: Day 2

Key verse for the day

Proverbs 16:16 (New International Version)

16 How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to choose understanding rather than silver!

Passage for Study

Matthew 13:44-46 (New International Version)

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Camp: Day 1

Key verse for the day

Proverbs 28:14 (New International Version)

14 Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD,
but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

Passage for Study

Matthew 13:1-9 (New International Version)

Matthew 13
The Parable of the Sower
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Still on the Road

We spent the night in Amarillo and are now on our way to New Mexico. We'll register at camp in the afternoon, get settled into our cabins, have our first worship service, and be assigned to groups.

Pray for the adults to be ready to deal with the issues the kids will be bringing to us this week. We'll definitely be in need of the Lord's wisdom this week! Also, this is a time of revival for us, as well as the kids. Please pray for all our hearts to be open to the Lord's leading this week.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the Road

We leave for youth camp right after church today. Each day this week I'll be posting the scripture reference we're using at camp that day. You'll be able to follow along with what our kiddos are learning this week.

As for today, please just pray for safe travel for us and for the kids' hearts to be open this week to what the Lord wants them learn. We have a few going with us who are not saved, so please pray that they'll accept the Lord this week.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Because We Don't Have Enough to Do Before Camp

The couch broke and needed to be repaired.

Two hours of labor, and it was all better. But we still have lots of packing, preparing for the catsitters, running errands, etc. that leaving town always entails. Why do things always go wrong when we're pressed for time?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer Bliss

My favorite fruit is watermelon. More specifically, seeded watermelon. What is it with all the stores only selling seedless watermelons lately? Are we so lazy that we'll sacrifice flavor for the convenience of no seeds?

I finally sound a store selling the sweet, seeded watermelons.

Ah, summer bliss.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This Sewing Stuff Is Kind of Addictive

I've successfully made dish towels, which received lots of compliments at a shower last weekend, so I'm feeling very encouraged to try more sewing. This week's project was a rush job because it's something I want for youth camp next week: a bed pocket.

The thing about youth camp is that we sleep in crude bunk beds, and of course, there are no nightstands. Just lots and lots of girls' stuff flung everywhere, making me crazy. I get a little antsy at night about putting my glasses on the floor by my bed, so that's why I want the bed pocket. It will also make a nice spot to stash a small flashlight for easy retrieval and something to read.

I got the idea for the bed pocket from this book, but I really just did my own thing. I bought 1-1/2 yards of fabric, which is hopefully enough to hold it in place under a camp mattress (we'll see next week--I'm a little worried that it's too short). I cut it into 2 pieces, sewed the wrong sides together, turned it all right-side out, folded up the bottom to make a pocket, then stitched all the way around. I wasn't precise with any of it, which definitely shows in the final product, but as this is for camp, I really don't care.

I think I spent approximately one hour on the whole thing. If I'd been more concerned about precision and perfection, that probably would have added another 30 minutes or so. This was a very easy project. Oh, and as all the spring/summer fabrics are on sale right now, I spent just over $5 on this. Easy and inexpensive!