Married to the Empire

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prognosis is GOOD

We saw Steven's nephrologist today. Long story short, we spent time in the ER over Thanksgiving weekend. He was diagnosed with an infection, then referred to a urologist. The urologist saw him 3 times. Every time, Steven was told that he has blood in his urine. The urologist sounded extremely concerned by this, so naturally, we were extremely concerned. An expensive CT scan was done, which showed nothing wrong. The urologist determined that it was a kidney issue and told him to see his nephrologist.

At that point, we were thinking his kidneys were in serious decline because of how alarmed the urologist had seemed. Steven's nephrologist didn't have an opening for 4 months. Today was his appointment.

Steven's kidney levels are stable. Nothing has changed since his appointment last summer. When we explained why were there, the doctor asked, "Didn't you tell the urologist that you have IgA Nephropathy?" We said yes, and he responded, "Well, of course you have blood in your urine; you have IgA Nephropathy!" He said that while there is some blood in his urine, it's in microscopic amounts. He was not impressed with how the urologist handled things, nor did he think the ER was much good in diagnosing Steven. He said he'd wondered what was going on because I was at the appointment with Steven, looking extremely anxious.

The nephrologist has allayed our fears. All is well. And the best part of all this is that Steven finally likes his doctor. He's been wanting to switch for a while now, but after today, he's decided he's happy with him.

All the house and car repairs seem quite minor now that this elephant has been lifted off of us. God is good!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Me V. The Drain

I've been having a problem for a few weeks. The drain in my kitchen on the garbage disposal side has been having some odor issues. There are some mornings that I wake up and can smell it halfway across the house. Here's what I've tried so far:

-Baking soda followed by boiling water
-Baking soda, then vinegar, then boiling water
-Grinding up citrus peels in the disposal
-Grinding up ice cubes in the disposal

Nothing has worked very well. (And yes, thanks to an email from my mother about this, I need to add that I did/do pull out the black rubber thingy and scrub it down. That hasn't helped. I've even scrubbed my dish brush down in there, but it doesn't get into all the nooks and crannies due to its handle.)

I broke down today and ordered the drain and garbage disposal brushes from The Clean Team. I absolutely adore their products, so I have high hopes for these. I just didn't want the disposal to have such power over me as to force me to buy special products for it!

Interestingly, today's episode of How Clean Is Your House on BBC America told the homeowner how to clean her drain. The thing I hadn't tried? Adding a cup of salt to that cup of baking soda. I still need to test that one out. Of course, I didn't see this suggestion until after I'd already ordered special brushes.

I'm open to any other cleaning suggestions for this stinky drain of mine.

On the positive side, when I took the Grimy or Gleaming quiz on BBC America's website, I came up with a gleaming home. So, it's just my drain! And believe me, I'm trying.

When it rains...

Well, you know the saying.

I posted earlier that we have hail damage to our roof, fence, gutters, window screens. The insurance company is covering it, but we still have a good-sized deductible.

On Saturday Steven pulled our Honda Civic out of the garage so he could get into the attic. When he pulled the car back in, he noticed a crack in the windshield. There's no starburst to indicate a rock hit it or anything. It's just cracked.

Thankfully our insurance company fixes this stuff for free, as long as the crack isn't too big. The glass guy came out today. The crack actually is too big, but he said he'd patch it anyway. He used some sort of "voo-doo compound" (his words) on it, and he said it would probably last longer than our car will. (And we'd like to get a few more years out of this car!)

We will get the windshield replaced, but this will do for now.

Of course, the AC is out on this car now, too. *sigh* Being Texas, we will have to get that fixed sooner rather than later.

Let's just hope that this string of lousy luck doesn't hold for Steven's appointment with his nephrologist tomorrow. It's a follow-up from his ER visit back in November. The ER sent him to a urologist, who determined it's a kidney problem. His nephrologist didn't have an opening until April, even though Steven has been an established patient for 8 years now. *sigh* I'm worried that his kidneys may be declining faster than expected.

Honestly, we could use some prayer right now. It's all a bit much to handle at once.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A few things from the weekend

Friday I decided to head to a local thrift store. My cookbook collection has outgrown my tiny set of shelves in the kitchen, so I was hoping that I could find something inexpensive that I could rehab for this purpose. I had great luck in the past finding an ugly piece of furniture there for very little money, then making it over into something fabulous. I was hoping for more of the same.

No such luck in the shelving department, but I did have success in the LP record section. I'm always on the lookout for albums since Steven gave me a new record player for my birthday. Someone had obviously donated their entire collection of Christian LPs because there were tons in great shape. I have fond memories of Petra, an 80s Christian rock band that was all the rage when I was in junior high. I picked up the 2 albums they had for only $1.09 each. I also found A John Denver Christmas, which didn't impress my husband at all (he says I like old people music), but I really like his folksy sound. I also threw in a copy of the album from the musical Oklahoma.

I also found 2 books, Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy and Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs. Admittedly, I'd always thought the second book sounded dumb, but after reading through a little of it in the store, I was intrigued.

On Saturday we went to Lowe's, as Steven needed a few things for the house. I found a section with bulbs for sale at 75% off. They're past their ideal planting date for our zone, which is why they were so cheap. I figured that at $1.24 a package, they were worth a try. If they grow, fabulous! If not, I'm only out $7.

I also spent a good part of Saturday in the kitchen. Our youth group had a casserole sale on Sunday to raise money for transportation costs to youth camp this summer. I made a huge pan of macaroni and cheese (made with real cheese only!), and another pan with my Jamaican Jerk Pork (along with a container of lime mayo, red peppers, and wheat rolls for making jerk pork sandwiches). I'd already pre-sold the pork to friends, so I didn't worry about its not being a traditional casserole. I forgot to take any pictures, but we made $580 in the sale! Everything was purchased, including the "Four-Cheese Mac and Elk" made by one of our middle schoolers. His mother and I were laughing hysterically at the name of his dish.

Stormtroopers on Deal or No Deal

I've just been informed that we're watching Deal or No Deal tonight on NBC. (Just kill me now.*) Members of the 501st Legion are on tonight's episode. You can read about it here. The things I do for love.

*I strongly dislike reality TV and prime-time game shows. Or really, any game show.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway: The Winner

My sweet stormtrooper did the drawing for me, pulling the winning number out of a hat helmet.

He had some of his fellow troopers help with showing the winning number.

Number 17 (after counting over a deleted double post) is Karendv! Congratulations! Be sure to email your mailing info to me so I can get these cookbooks out to you ASAP. (My email is in my profile.)

Thanks to all who entered!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Counting My Blessings

The verdict is in: We have hail damage. The insurance claims adjuster came today. We figured we probably have hail damage because the neighbors all up and down the street are having their roofs repaired. We were right. The roof needs to be fixed, several screens, part of the fence (that will make Steven happy!)...

I'm frustrated by this because we just paid TWO deductibles in the fall for the two leaks under our house. It's expensive.

BUT, I'm seeing the blessings in the midst of this. All the hail damage counts as ONE deductible because all problems were caused by the same storm.

We may get a new fence, or at least part of a new fence, out of this.

We're not having to pay for a new roof out of our own pockets beyond our deductible.

Between the economic stimulus set to go out next month and my last paycheck from tutoring (which ended yesterday), we have the deductible money. That's all extra money, not budget money or anything from our savings. Granted, we'd hoped to save that extra money, but at least it's there, and we won't have to raid our savings this time.

While I'm frustrated that more money is slipping through our fingers, I'm so grateful to God that he is providing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


If you're a regular here, you're seeing that some things are different. WAY different. My sweet stormtrooper decided my blog needed a more customized look, so he redesigned things for me! He made it pink and "Martha Stewart green," to use his terminology, just because he loves me. Isn't he the best?

*Edited to add: Okay, maybe he's not so awesome. He just told me that it looks like Barbie vomited all over my blog. Then he said it's very me. I'm not sure what to make of those two comments together.

The Great Stare-Down

Neighbors down the street have a very fat, very friendly cat. This cat has lately taken to letting himself into our back yard. I've tried to shoo him away, but when I go out there, he runs up to me meowing for attention. Same thing if I try banging on the window. If this cat had hands and could speak English, he'd be waving furiously and shouting, "Hi! Hello! I'm so excited to see you! Please come pet me!"

Calvin is pretty ticked about the whole affair. The back yard is his, and he doesn't get why I won't let him out to defend his turf. One glimpse of this cat, and Calvin is all riled up and ready to kick some kitty butt.

I have the living room windows open today. The cats have been enjoying the fresh air, but they are not enjoying the presence of the neighbor's cat, who just showed up. Calvin and Doogie were both in the window staring down this interloping cat, when the cat decided he needed to come closer. I think he's taunting my boys. Calvin started his "I'm so gonna kick your butt!" wail that he reserves for other cats, and Doogie fluffed up and freaked out. I think Doogie is now under the bed, and Calvin is having a serious stare-down with the interloper.

I'm not sure who is going to win this round. Calvin is tougher, but the other cat has a special power, otherwise known as apathy. He just doesn't care that Calvin is all angry and upset. That laid-back attitude just might be what wins the match.

Bloggy Giveaways: Star Wars Cookbooks

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

This contest is now CLOSED.

It's time again for another Bloggy Giveaway Carnival! In keeping with the whole Star Wars theme, I'm giving away 2 Star Wars cookbooks! If you win you'll receive The Star Wars Cookbook and The Star Wars Cookbook II.

These books are filled with fun recipes such as Wookie Cookies, Padme Pad Thai, Forceful Frittata, Yoda Soda, Hoth Chocolate, Dark Side Salsa, Ewok Eats, Boba Fett-uccine and much, much more! The recipes are simple and kid-friendly, and they'd make for great party fare the next time you have people over to watch the greatest movies ever made. (And just in case you're confused about that, I'm talking about the original Star Wars trilogy.)

There are extra little goodies at the back of the books like stickers and a Darth Maul template for making the most frightening-looking dip you'll ever see.

To enter just leave a comment (and a way to contact you if you're not a blogger) and tell me what you like best about Star Wars. For me, it's all about ewoks and the Jedi! But I make allowances for the Empire because I love my stormtrooper husband. Opposites truly do attract.

Unfortunately, this is only for U.S. residents. I have to save my overseas-shipping dollars for sending presents to my nieces in England. I'll randomly choose the winner Sunday night.

*Edited to add: If you see deleted posts, it's nothing personal against anyone. I just deleted duplicate posts for my own benefit. I'll confuse myself come drawing time if I have to try to count over duplicate comments.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Laundry Central

My laundry "room" is actually a closet in my kitchen. It's not the best location, but I'm not complaining. Some of my neighbors have their washers and dryers in their garages! However, it can make the kitchen a bit crowded.

I'm trying to be more green. (Actually, I just want to keep our electric bill as low as possible, but it sounds better to say that I'm trying to help the environment.) I'm air drying more of our clothes. I'm a bit obsessive about my laundry. Laundry Day, which is usually on Tuesdays but is currently on Mondays due to my tutoring schedule, is strictly for our clothing. I typically do 4-5 loads of clothing each Laundry Day. But I'm only drying 2 loads lately.

I'm rediscovering one of the many reasons air drying is a good thing. It makes our clothes last longer. For example, Steven has had his volunteer t-shirt from Star Wars Celebration III for 3 years now. It's never met the heated dryer. It still looks like new.

I really should have been caring for all our clothes that carefully! But it does make cooking in the kitchen a little too cozy on Laundry Day. Two laundry racks take up a lot of space. I guess it's a good thing we don't have a table in there!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

American Cancer Society's Relay for Life

We spent Friday evening in Euless at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life fundraiser event. The stormtroopers were asked to help out with a photo-taking booth. A high-school boy won a life-size Yoda in a Blockbuster drawing a few years ago. He decided to use his Yoda, along with his dad's photography equipment to raise money for cancer research. For $5 people could take a picture with Yoda and the stormtroopers.

The event kicked off with a survivor's lap around the track. Anyone there who had had cancer walked the track together. I was surprised by the emotional response this elicited. It's pretty overwhelming to see a mass of people who have come together to celebrate being cancer survivors.

Next, all the participants of the event who were there to raise money did a lap around the track. This included the 501st Legion members who came in costume.

We set up a table for stamping kids' hands with the cool Star Wars stamps Beth sent to me. I only gave kids the options of Yoda, Chewbacca, a stormtrooper, or Darth Vader. My Rebel-loving side was disappointed to see that most kids chose Vader or the stormtrooper. Why does everyone love the bad guys?!

The kids running the booth called their group "A New Hope." It was a fitting title for a Star Wars booth trying to raise money to give others hope.

During the evening, all lights were extinguished so that only the luminaries were visible. Bags with candles were set up all around the track in honor or memory of those who have had cancer. During this time, they asked everyone to walk a lap around the track in silence in memory of those who had lost their lives to cancer. Again, I was surprised at how emotional this wound up being. I thought about my grandfather who died from lung cancer over 2 decades ago. I said a prayer of thanks to God for saving my mother-in-law's life when she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Up in the bleachers, luminaries were set to spell out the word hope.

When I looked up a few minutes later, the word had changed.

Here are the kids who worked hard to raise money for cancer research. They raised over $450 that night!

I decided to do my part by paying to take a picture with the stormtroopers and Leia.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Last Day with My Nieces

I invited my sister's family to come over to my house today to have pizza, play with the Wii and dollhouse, and just hang with us before they have to leave. It also allowed my sister and me to go shopping together at the Talbot's Outlet in my town.

Ashley is just the right age for a dollhouse. My dad made my dollhouse for me when I was 7. It's pretty dusty right now, and it hasn't been played with in a couple of years (last time the girls were over), but we dragged it out to the living room. Ashley was enthralled with it. She and her sisters actually do own their mother's old dollhouse that our dad made for her, but it was too big to take to London. It's currently residing at their dad's sister's house. Ashley was too young to remember it, so it was fun to see her so happy with mine.

The older girls really enjoyed Wii boxing. As my sister said, it's the one time violence is condoned. I love this picture of Emily playing it. Her arms were moving so fast that they were just a blur:

Leah and Caroline boxed against each other while Emily actively cheered them on:

These videos will probably be of interest to very few of you, but here is Emily boxing:

And this is Leah and Caroline boxing. You'll get to see a little of everyone, except my BIL. I have no idea where he was during all this:

And finally, a shot of all the girls in the living room. Emily is the obvious gymnast of the family. Believe it or not, she finds the straddle split a very comfortable position in which to sit:

I boxed with Caroline and lost:

They fly back to London tomorrow. It was a bittersweet good-bye this afternoon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Family History

My 4th year is notorious in my family. It's the year I nearly died--once by drowning, another time by my mother's hand. Okay, so my mom didn't really almost kill me, but that's how the story goes. My transgression: using my brick red crayon right in the center of the gold-colored carpet in our living room. The whole carpet had to be replaced. This was in the days before Spot Shot.

That was also the year I left my sister screaming in pain with her finger caught in a door, as I sauntered slowly off to find our mother, told her nonchalantly that Cindy wanted her, then wandered off. As my message wasn't urgent, our mother didn't hurry to find my sister. Cindy spent far too long caught in a door because of me.

I was disobedient the entire week my sister and I were left with our grandparents. When my grandpa threatened to spank me, I told him, "Go ahead. I know you won't do it!" And you know what? He didn't. He had to leave the room so I wouldn't see him laughing. Then when we went to pick up my parents at the airport, I ran to my mother yelling, "Grandma didn't feed me!" My poor grandmother was mortifed.

Oh, my entire life was ruined that year, too. I'd left my beloved stuffed Pluto at the dentist's office. As we were going back in a week to have cavities filled, my mother wouldn't turn around to get him. I sobbed that my whole life was ruined. Every bad thing that's happened since, I can point back to that moment.

My 8-year-old niece, Leah, is in a stage in which she wants to hear stories. Real stories. My sister was running out of tales about her own life, so she started in on mine.

Within 10 minutes of seeing me for the first time since Christmas 2006, Leah started listing off all the things I did when I was 4. Then she looked at me with big eyes and said, "You were a BAD girl!"

Thanks, sis.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

At the Playground

The nieces had some energy to burn, so we loaded up the cars and headed to a park in my parents' neighborhood. These are a few of my favorite images from the playground:

Robert, my brother-in-law, scared me half to death:

Headed back to the cars, Leah rode on Uncle Steven's shoulders:

Caroline and Emily rode home from the park in our car. Emily still needs a booster seat in the car, so as she was getting out, Steven reminded her to take her seat with her, saying that our cats can't use it. I turned around and told Emily that the cats ride in little cages (their carriers) when they ride in the car. If she wanted to, she could trade with the cats. Give her booster seat to them, and she could ride in a little cage from now on. Her eyes became HUGE, and she quickly said she'd just take her seat with her.

Two to Tango and Other Niece Things

Y'all are just going to have to bear with me. I gave my camera quite the workout this weekend as we spent time with our nieces who are visiting from England. When you only see your favorite kids once every year-and-a-half or so, you tend to bombard others with pictures and stories about them. Consider yourself warned.

While I got to see my nieces last Wednesday, Steven didn't see them until Sunday. He thinks the girls see him as a sort of pet because when he walks in the door, everyone wants a ride or to sit on him or something of an active nature. Emily took advantage right off the bat:

He's such a great uncle. He spent a good amount of time on the floor with them working puzzles and such:

Later, the girls worked at the kitchen table:

Leah decided to watch Grandpa cut up the brisket for the fridge:

Cindy, my sister, enjoyed her beautiful piano again. My parents are keeping it at their house while my sister's family lives out-of-country:

And finally, some really cute video of Caroline and Ashley. Caroline taught Ashley to tango:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Too much Star Wars, perhaps?

I think my husband is becoming a little too one with Star Wars. There's a bird in our yard who chirps the same, long string of notes. Steven informed me that he thinks it sounds like the bird is singing "The Imperial March."

Sadly, ever since he mentioned it, now I hear it, too.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Martha Stewart Bargains

I'm a big Martha fan. I loved her old TV show (but don't much care for her new one). I loved her Martha by Mail products that used to sell on her website. The quality was top-notch, and when there was a sale, man oh man, could you ever get some great stuff cheap!

When Michael's came out with her craft line, I was excited, yet a bit disappointed. Much of it was overpriced. By a lot.

It seems others agreed with me because on Saturday, I found her wrapping papers, which were originally priced at $5.99 a roll (with only about 3 feet of paper on them!), on sale for $1 each. I'm willing to pay $1, so I snatched up 5 rolls.

The pastels will be great for baby gifts, and the others are just multi-purpose. The lavender is actually vellum, so I can use that with some of my craft projects.

In addition to the wrapping paper, I bought a new roll of white tulle ribbon, which is my favorite thing for making packages look fabulous. At $2.99 for 25 yards, it's an inexpensive way to make gifts look beautiful.

As for the pink-and-black ribbon, well, I'm a bit of a ribbon junkie. I use ribbons in my crafts and gift wrapping, but I also just enjoy looking at them.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sweet Reunion

My sister's family has been living in London now for almost 2 years. I hadn't seen my nieces since we visited them for Christmas 2006. I've missed them so much! They are here visiting, so I spent the day with them on Wednesday. It was great!

Ashley is the youngest at 4 years old. She speaks with a British accent. I wanted to capture it on video, and I asked her if she'd say, "Aunt Anne Marie is the best aunt in the whole world!" She said no. My dad offered her a dollar if she'd say it. She said no, but she'd do it for 20 pounds! Our little extortionist. We're so proud!

Here you can hear a bit of her accent. Well, what you can hear over Leah's piano playing!

Leah (8) and Emily (6) were bouncing all over the place and showing me all their gymnastics tricks. I decided to show Emily that I can still do a cartwheel. I wish I hadn't. While it was perfectly executed, I discovered that in my older age, I need to stretch first. A lot. And it didn't exactly help my rib issues.

Leah took this picture of Ashley and me:

She also took this picture of her mama, my sister:

Ashley likes to pose:

Caroline (10) was with her dad at a dental appointment, but once they came home, we girls all headed out to Claire's so Leah and Emily could get their ears pierced. Apparently, Claire's is the epicenter of all things tween. It was like the Disney Channel threw up in that store with all the Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and Disney Princess junk.

Leah bravely waiting for her piercing:

Emily nervously watching Leah's piercing:

Grandma (my mom), Caroline, and Ashley spent the time looking around the store:

Leah proudly shows off her pierced ears:

Emily freaked herself out with the anticipation of pain:

A happier moment:

Then... my camera's battery died. I didn't get a picture of Emily sporting her new earrings. I only had that one far-off picture of Caroline. But I'll see them again this weekend to have more fun with them and take many more pictures!