Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do you know. . .

Do you know this little girl?

She's the kind of girl that you would love to have as a friend.  And I'm sure she would have been your friend as well, for when I knew her, she never met a stranger.  She was  lots of fun and knew how to shuffle cards perfectly with a fluttery-snap finish.  If you didn't know how, she'd be happy to teach you to play "rummy".

Here are some other things about her:
She loved to read.

She was the oldest sister in a family of 5 kids.
She called her parents "Mother" and "Daddy" her whole life.

She was in lots of plays.

She became a teacher and a mommy when she grew up.  And she was really good at both jobs. 
She was really quite the classic "All-American Girl"

Her parents and sisters called her "Susie", but most of her grown up friends called her "Sue".

You'd probably know who she is better by this picture:  

Announcing my new blog series "All-American Sue" about the youth of my mother, Sue Benzing.  Be sure to check back every Thursday for a new chapter in her life!  This will be a 12-week series, taking breaks on the holidays.  Come back and learn about:
Susie's southern roots
The apple-peel story
The Popsicle stick story
Her bedtime "routine"
Plus lots of great pictures and much more!!
Please pray for me as I work on this project that I will write something worth keeping to honor my mom!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Resource!

Wow, check out this HUGE list of 100 books and blogs on parenting and related subjects from Inspired to Action!  When I perused the book list, I had only read, um, FIVE of the books!  For real! (though I have started a couple others)  This is just what I needed to inspire me to read a new parenting book.  That, and, I'm almost done with my classroom reading.  May I suggest, however, that if you check out her list, you consider purchasing a book from REAL people in a REAL bookstore?  If you like bookstores, I mean.  Someday you can tell your grandchildren about them, since they will likely no longer exist.  Ok, putting away the soapbox now.

Here's what I am choosing to read first: Grace Based Parenting.  I have read a couple of posts from this blog, and have heard it recommended highly.  Anyone out there read it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some things about Susie

Before I forget them all, I want to write some things Susie is doing/saying at 15 months. . . 

She is talking really well for her age.  Still lots of gibberish, but also lots of mimicking words and repeating us.  She calls me AND Josh "Daddy".  Once upon a time when she was really little, she called me "mama", but it's solidly daddy these days.  She will run between us and say "skeeeeeeeze" as she hugs our legs, then turn to "Daddy" and do the same, over and over, skeezing and skeezing. :)

She says this sentence quite a bit:  "This is a _____(fill in the blank)" or "It's a _______" or "Dat a _______" Sometimes the blank is just gibberish.  Often she'll say "This is a booty" (another word for birdy, belly, and I guess . . .  bottom -- she uses it in all occasions).  She also loves to recognize "watey" (or, water).  The bathroom is always "the watey", as is the pool we walk past on campus, or any body of water on television.  The first time I heard her say it was when Josh was taking a jug of water out to the car "Dat a watey!" she said, clear as day, pointing at the jug.  

She uses "all done" quite a bit -- not only when she's finished at a meal, but when I turn off the water washing dishes and she hears it go off "ALllll Duuuuuuuuuun" she says.  Or when she WANTs to be done with something, like getting dressed, or having her diaper changed "all duh, all duh!" she says quickly. I then have to remind her that we are NOT done yet. :)

She is very aware of what is on TV.  If is sports, she cries "BAAAWWWW!!!" very loudly over and over.  It could be soccer, golf, football, baseball. . . she knows a ball.  If it is an animal -- "DODDY!" (doggy) or "Baaaaahhh!" (sheep = baa baa) or "RAWRRRRR!" (lots of animals -- bears and lions and such).  Usually if is an animal she doesn't know on TV, she says doggy.  You'll notice I am putting these words in all caps.  That is because she is shouting and pointing at the screen. 

We have a ground hog that lives in our backyard, and she will stand at the window, calling it "daaaaahh-deeeee!" over and over.  She does this other people's homes, as well.  She stood and called for the doggy at my Uncle Ron's house in North Carolina, or at my dad's house in Illinois.  

She is VERY outgoing.  Sometimes while we are shopping in a store, she will say "HI" to just about everyone we pass.  I'm always amazed who does not respond.  I guess they are focused on shopping and just miss her, but she certainly speaks loud enough!  Of course, there are plenty of people who do respond, and she usually has a decent conversation with several people we meet.

She is very interested in noses, eyes, ears, etc. right now.  She says eyes quite a bit, and used to say "eyes" for every body part, but now she also says "eeers" and "beeeet" (feet), and will point to her mouth, tongue, belly, and sometimes nose and neck and teeth.  She has figured out how to make a fish face, and runs to Josh with her little fishy mouth when he is leaving for work to get/give a kiss.  SO CUTE!!

She is a happy and fun girl -- really becoming a toddler!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ultimate comfort food done cheaply and healthfully!

I love risotto.  

And I have been making it for years based on Rachael Ray's recipe for "Sweet Pea Risotto".  Before I used to keep such a close eye on our food budget, I would happily buy whatever the necessary ingredients were to make it because it is so good and everyone loved it.  A short while back I was at the grocery, and balked at buying the $5 container of arborio rice that is normally used in risotto.  I wondered if a medium grain rice would work ok, and decided to try it with a cheap-o bag of Kroger medium grain rice.  As I understand it, arborio rice is a short grain, so I was trying to get close and only pay like 89 cents.

Home made veggie stock and cheap rice
I also make veggie stock, which means it is free instead of pretty expensive (most grocery stores do not put veggie stock on sale, just chicken and beef stock).  Veggie stock is SO EASY and cheap to make -- seriously, it is free if you just save your veggie scraps (including onion peels, mushroom stems, etc.).  I would be happy to show you how to make veggie stock, but this is about my risotto recipe.  You can use chicken stock if you prefer or if you happened to stock up during a recent sale at the grocery store.

Here is how you make healthy, hearty, feel-good, CHEAP AND EASY risotto:

Use your biggest skillet.  Or maybe the bottom of a soup pot if you don't have a big skillet.
1 onion diced small
3 carrots, peeled and chopped thinly -- saute these 2 over medium heat in a few tbsp of butter (or evoo if you prefer) for 5 minutes or so.  I err on the side of cooking a little longer so everything starts to get tender.
Almost 1 pound of rice (use arborio if you want, but the medium grain was SO cheap and turned out fine!). Toss it in the butter and veggies in your skillet so the grains are coated
Add your stock, 1 cup/large splash/ladle's worth at a time.  I poured mine into a saucepan and kept it on low on the stove so it would already be warmish and not cool down the pan each time I added it.
Important: you must be diligent to stir your mixture quite a bit as it absorbs.  That is how your risotto becomes creamy.  The rice sort of breaks down as you gently stir stir stir.  I found myself almost dancing as I stirred it last night.
It will take somewhere between 4-6 cups of stock.  Sorry to be inexact, but I did not measure it, just tasted it when my pan looked very full and I think I'd used about 5 cups.  RR's recipe calls for 6, but she uses the whole pound of rice.
3/4 cups of Parmesan cheese -- stir into the hot mixture, and it will melt nicely.  I even remove it from the heat to do this.  You can use the nice shredded kind if you got it on sale, but the Aldi canned Parm is the kind I used and it was still good. 
2/3 bag of frozen peas -- stir these into the whole shibang, until it looks like a good pea/rice ratio to you.  If you thaw the peas first on the counter or fridge, they will heat up quickly.

Sooooo savory and hearty!
The whole thing takes slightly over 30 minutes to make.  You DO have to babysit it as you add the stock, but it's not like you never can walk away.  I was entertaining a 15 month old the whole time.

Here are the reasons you MUST make this:

It is so goooooood! I have gotten this feedback multiple times from non-vegetarians.  Josh and Sus and I all gobble it up.

It is HEALTHY! Easy way to get lots of veggies into your dinner.  

It is CHEAP!  I calculated this cost under $4, probably closer to $3.  It makes a big panful that would easily serve a family of 4.

It is Hearty!!  Lovely for fall (yesterday was the first day of fall, but still 97 degrees here).  

It is true comfort food!!  The only thing more comforting is snuggling with your baby after dinner. . . on the beach, if possible. :)


Monday, September 20, 2010

New Favorites

I've got a few favorites I want to link to -- in case you'd like them too!

Susie in her name "booo".
1. Principessa Bows -- I know lots of people have Etsy shops and make bows -- etc.  But I LOVE this girl, and wanted to give her a little shout out (not earning anything by doing so, or even entering a contest or anything).  I first heard of her when I won a green bow for Sus on Facebook, and struck up a little friendship with Alisa (who is either the sister or SIL of an elder at our church, Jeremy Pierre).   She is from Ohio, and sent me a free OSU clip for Susie with my order.  I just wanted to show you Susie's new clips and tell you how GREAT of prices she has.  They are the best I've seen!  Susie has been obsessed with her name clippy since it arrived.  She'd say "boooo, boooo!" and carry it all over the house.  I had to sneak it in her hair so she wouldn't pull it out to play with it.  Last night when I was getting ready to put her to bed, she tried to keep it in her hand while sucking her thumb, even though that meant it was poking her nose.  I tried to say "let's but the bow to bed" (she has a bow holder), but she'd shake her head vehemently. I'm sure I'll be ordering more!

2. Baby Half Off -- how did I just find this website a couple weeks ago?  Every day, they feature one item at half off (or more) the retail price, and sell them until their limited quantities are gone.  You can browse the archives with past items (many of the best sell out that day, obviously), and see if there are any still in stock.  OR you can just check every day for stuff!

3. Arts Cow -- this website consistently features incredible deals on photo gift items.  I first found it when they were doing free Post-it notes, and signed up for the e-mail offers.  They send out lots of special offers for great priced deals (though not so many as to be overwhelming) as well as credit your account up front for a bunch of free stuff (including 1200 prints!).  Now, you DO have to pay shipping for those, so I still haven't determined if it is a good enough deal, but I'm keeping my eyes out for great offers via e-mail.  For photo books, I am still dedicated to Shutterfly, but I'm interested in trying out some other stuff with Arts Cow.

I am currently working on a project that I hope to announce in the next week or two. . . but I'll try to blog a bit between now and then.  I've got some good books to mention that I've been reading lately, now that I'm done with Mommy's Piggy Tales!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Pets to Post People: a Mishmash from My Youth -- Chapter 15

I thought it over and decided that I was not going to be able to wrap up college and meeting my husband all in one last post, and that I still had some things from childhood I wanted to write about, but hadn't quite fit into one year or another.  So this chapter will be about aspects of my childhood that spanned several years.

Prinny with Aunt Pat and Emily
I was not a kid that asked my parents for a puppy for Christmas.  In fact, I never really remember asking for a pet.  But when we GOT the pet, it was very exciting to me!  Our first acquisition was a kitten -- we got her when I was about 7, I believe.  We named her Peaches because she was a tabby cat with spots of peach, though people were often puzzled by her name because she didn't stay very peach.  We called her "Pish" and all manner of other silly names because we just thought she was adorable.  She slept on the end of our bed, and Anna and I took great comfort when Mom told us that she would be our little fire alarm if there were ever a fire (I was very scared of house fires).  Peachy had the habit of sleeping on a kitchen chair, and pretty frequently was disturbed from her naps by a kid pulling out the chair and nearly sitting on her.  After we moved to Green Bay, she had kittens (we got her fixed after that), much to our joy!  5 little cute kittens that we named after food:  Oreo, Fudge, Marmalade, Stroganoff, and Toast.  We gave away Marmalade and Stroganoff to our friends the Schuhs, and Oreo ran away (oh that cat had MEAN back claws).  Anna would put Fudge in a doll stroller and feed him cat food made soggy with water with a spoon.  That cat let her put doll dresses on it -- which is sort of the cat every little girl would want.  We had Toast the longest.  He lived in 3 states with us, and was in the tiny airplane when we flew from Montana to Illinois.  Sadly, Peaches ran away when we lived in Green Bay, and probably was living happily among the cows at some farm.  Anna was broken-hearted when we had to move, and Dad took her around to all the neighboring farms looking for that cat, but was unsuccessful.  My sisters got other cats later on, but those were the cats that really were part of my life.

We got a Border Collie when we moved to Green Bay, and named her Princess.  She wasn't all pampered or anything, so her name didn't actually fit super well.  We usually called her Prinny (people probably thought we were saying "pretty").  She was a very good dog, largely due to the training school my mom took her to.  She obeyed simple commands well, and never dreamed of jumping on the furniture.  When we told her "Prinny, go lay down", she'd trot away, panting happily at you, just in case you changed your mind and wanted her to come back so you could scratch her head.  She was a great dog to have in the country because she sounded the alarm if ever anyone drove down the driveway.  I'm sure she protected us more than we knew.  When I was a teenager, I enjoyed going for walks into town, and I was only allowed to go alone if I took Prinny with me.  She was a great walking buddy.  Mom walked with her for years, and I walked with her for a few years as well.  Early on, she wore her leash all the time, which we thought was normal.  Apparently most people don't leave their leash on their dog in the house.  When we had a pool in Montana, Prinny had to stay inside where she couldn't see us, because she'd freak out, thinking we were drowning.  In fact, she made her little feet pads all sore from running around and around on the cement by the pool, barking at us to get out of the water.  Poor dog had cancer while I was in college, and Mom had to take her to put her down when I was a junior.  That was the only dog I had. 

Mom was a great one for teaching her kids to work.  We always helped with stuff around the house as long as I can remember (for instance, I recall washing dishes standing on a chair).  There were several eras in which we had EXTRA work to do, when we were moving, and showing the house frequently, when Mom was pregnant, etc.  There were long stretches of time when the 3 of us older kids woke up, made our beds and tidied our own rooms, wiped down a bathroom each, vacuumed and dusted our assigned rooms (I had living room), all before breakfast.  It actually went incredibly fast because we did it every day so it never got horribly dirty.  We also had several experiences with "once a month cooking".  Mom wanted to have meals planned out for several weeks when she was pregnant, so we helped in the kitchen ALL DAY on those occasions.  That was probably when I really learned about cooking.  Before that, I learned small things, and even "made dinner" a few times, but when I think through knowing about food and ingredients, it's those "Dinner's in the Freezer" events that stand out in my memoryIt was so smart of my mom to teach us that!

When I think of chores, I cannot help but tell about "post people".  Mom had seen this idea for making little people to stand by your front door, you know, decorating the stoop, and decided for herself and the 3 of us to begin a little family business.  Mom had taken some woodworking classes and built a quilt hutch, so she was all about saws and things.  This business began when we lived in Montana, where we mainly made scarecrow post people (for fall decor).  The body of the scarecrow was made from a telephone post cut down to 3 feet or so, and his appendages, including a crow were all painted separately and attached.  Anna and I did the majority of the painting after Mom showed us what she was thinking.  Nate did a lot of the woodcutting and sanding and assembling.  Mom painted the details, like faces.  These sold incredibly well.  Think about the early '90's and the craft/country craze!  We added snowmen, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Angel to our Christmas collection. . . all sold well.  We did Uncle Sams in the summer -- he was the dreaded order because you had to paint striped pants and a jacket and vest which was way more work.  I tell you I could paint a Santa beard on a telephone post in my sleep to this day.  When we lived in Illinois, we used the basement as our primary work area (the saw was in the garage, so Nate worked there).  Some days, right before big events or rushes, it felt like we stayed in the basement from morning til night. . . Anna and I got a little loopy from the paint and the hours (she was staining the bases, so I'm sure she inhaled more fumes, haha!).  I invented this idea that a creepy "Mole-man" lived in the crawl space off the basement, and lurked there watching us paint (he was very white because he did not go into the light).  Surely he was the one who left paint cans open or forgot to rinse the brushes, right?  The Mole-man legend has endured over a decade, and just so you can truly imagine him, his voice sounds like Joe Paterno (can you tell I was into college football when I invented him -- haha!).  Our business did pretty well, and we all had decent money in our savings accounts from it.  We sort of halted once Nate and I got jobs at the IGA, but the post people and the Mole-man live on.

Vintage Clothes
One really fun thing that I did as a teenager was model vintage clothing for the parks district.  We would wear these outfits owned by one of the employees and she would talk about them at lady's teas or WWII vet lunches.  Since I LOVED history, and LOVED experiencing other eras like this, it was a fantastic experience for me.  When I went through my heavier phase I was limited to wearing only certain gowns (this one green suit from the Victorian Era was one).  My friend Misty had a teeny waist and got to wear the bicycle bloomers outfit (which everyone ADORED) as well as the corset/undergarments (which everyone freaked over).  No fair!  After I slimmed down, I could then wear cuter 40's suits and things, which I loved very much.  Anna and I and quite a range of our friends all modeled together at some point, and started buying some vintage things ourselves.  Enter my love for red lipstick and nail polish and cat-eye sunglasses.  Once Susan (the lady who owned all the clothing who we volunteered for) took us on a big shopping trip to these places she knew had amazing collections of vintage clothing.  It was seriously one of the best shopping trips ever.  We tried on 50's wedding gowns, depression-era formals (almost had Mom convinced to buy it for me!), and gobs of DRESSES.  I have had many dreams about those stores in my life.  I bet the clothes didn't even cost too much, it just seemed like it to us because we were broke teenagers who shopped at Goodwill.
So I have REALLY enjoyed this journey with Mommy's Piggy Tales.  In fact, I just am not able to end it here.   So this 15th post, which is supposed to be the last, will be followed by at least 2 more.  If you want to continue to journey with me in my youth, feel free to check back the next couple of Thursdays, even though I won't be able to link up at MPT! *** EDIT: during the young adult memories version of Mommy's Piggy Tales, which I will be linking up to on Mondays starting Oct 11th.  I promise to tell some college stories (got out the college scrapbook. . . yesssssssss.) and the story of me and Josh. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Women of Encouragement

Susie modeling a darling outfit from Carrie
I was challenged by this post from the True Woman blog to encourage another woman you may know.  Think about the women in your life -- most of us know quite a few who would love to be encouraged like this!  In no way do I think you need to limit yourself to only the desperate situations.  I am so happy in my role as a wife and mother, but I still am extremely thankful for the women of encouragement in my life.

I am so thankful for a sweet friend that I know who constantly uplifts me with random words of kindness as well as gifts for Susie.  Carrie is one of the most generous women I know, and I know that she sincerely does it out of love for us.  She is a working mom who adores and enjoys her children, and she wants me, a working mom who also feels the same -- to be encouraged.  What a gift she is to me!  How blessed I am to know her!  She may never quite know how thrilled I am with the adorable little things she creates for my daughter, not only because I think they are fun and cute, but also because SHE thought of ME (and Susie).  It's like "how can I bless (fill in blank)" is at the top of her mind all the time without trying.

My Aunt Pat with me and Sus
I am also really grateful for the encouragement I get from my aunts.  My dad's sisters have been dearer than ever to me since my mom passed away, because I know they are sweet friends to my dad, as well as extra moms for my sisters and me.  They comment on my Susie pictures on Facebook, and read my blog, and send things in the mail.  I LOVE having these women in my life.  For some reason, it is ESPECIALLY important to me to have people I am related to love my daughter, probably because of the absence of my mom. 

Me with my friend Katie when Susie was born
There are also quite a few women at church -- from young teens to grandmothers, single friends and fellow mothers -- who frequently speak kind words into my life, who treat me and my baby as if we are special, not just one of 50 moms and babies they know (and I'm certain they all do -- we have LOTS of babies at our church).  There is not a time when I am not blessed by passing comments on Susie's new dress or a happy listening ear to hear about her latest achievement.  I cannot express how thankful I am to be in this kind of church body -- where my brothers and sisters in Christ not only pray for your requests, but check back with you down the road to see how things turned out.

I have a friend who is the mom of 2 and her husband is on staff at their church (it is not the church I attend).  She recently shared with me her struggle for joy in her position as a mom, and told me how much she'd appreciate my prayers.  Today when I told her I'd been praying for her, and asked how things were, she replied with this: (and I have her permission to share this)

"So anyway, thank you so very much for your prayers. I really don't have too many people actually tell me they are praying for me so it is nice to hear. You'd think I'd hear that all the time with my husband being on church staff but I think we are looked at more to be the encourager than to be encouraged...I've learned that everyone needs to be encouraged, especially if they are trying to encourage others."

I am SO SAD that this is the case!  It opens my eyes to think of many people who probably would love to hear that they are loved and prayed for!  Who can you think of?  Perhaps start with your own mother (if you are blessed to still have her), or pastor's wife, or other kind and godly woman you know.  And as the True Woman post challenged -- put teeth to your encouragement!   

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thinking I Knew What I Didn't Know, or, Being a Senior -- Chapter 14 in My Life Story

Senior Picture
I'm really having a hard time summarizing my senior year of high school.  In many ways I grew and changed a lot, and in many others, I was quite ignorant and naive of the world around me.  No large events categorized this year, so I thought I'd break it down into relationships, spiritual growth and looking to the future.

Relationships:  Steve had been my boyfriend through the first few years of high school, but we broke up the summer before our senior year.  I see, looking back, how hopelessly immature I was in how it was handled, but I'm so thankful that the Lord blessed us by enabling us to be friends again not far down the road.  I even went to his homecoming dance with him, just as friends, which sounds not possible for a couple of 17-year-olds, but actually was.  Several years later I introduced Steve to his future wife, Andrea, who was my friend in college -- I will always be thankful for how the Lord cared for my soul during that age, when it is so easy to have relationships that cause us regrets for the rest of our lives.  We did not have any regrets from our relationship, which was really just a small step up from being friends.

After that, I sort of adopted the foolish mindset that I could just look for and pursue another boyfriend if I wanted to.  In my defense, I really only considered good, godly boys, but I still somehow thought it would be my job to seek out and obtain a relationship.  My mom wisely warned me against chasing boys, and I would have done well to heed her, but instead I was pretty headstrong that I could "make the Lord's Will work out" (not that I really consciencely thought that, but that was the backbone of my mindset).  As you can imagine, nothing came out of this sort of pursuit, and I'm thankful for that.  I will certainly tell my daughter all about how not to get a boy to like you. :)

I had lots of really great girlfriends in our youth group at church, and Anna and I had lots of fun running around with them.  One really fun memory was our "college trip" where 6 of us traveled together for about a week visiting colleges.  Everyone was a senior that year except Anna, but she was allowed to come along on the trip since we thought our family would be moving again sometime that year, and she wouldn't have the chance later.  We visited a small Bible college in Tenessee, Liberty University in Virginia, and PCC in Pensacola Florida.  All those hours in the car were so fun!  Since it was only girls (besides the elderly couple that drove us -- Pastor and Mrs. Batley), we felt pretty free to spend long periods of time fixing each other's hair, putting on red lipstick and taking twelve trillion pictures.  Our chaperons had great patience.  My friend Misty's mom and little sister Shea came with us as well, and I will never forget how good Shea was on that trip.  She was just a little kid, but she quietly sat by and listened to us, and then was thrilled when we included her in our merriment.

Spiritual Growth:  I have mentioned how blessed I was to be under good teaching at our church in Illinois.  I was really shepherded by the preaching I heard from Pastor Joe.  In addition to youth group, the senior high had a Bible study on Thursday nights with a single guy who became a great friend to me (and many of my friends as well), Kirby Meyers.  He was one of the most influential people in my life, aside from my husband and parents.  Kirby was young and funny, but also took the Scripture seriously, and taught us to study through books of the Bible, and apply it to our lives.  He helped me think through some real questions about what the Bible teaches, and helped me to see a bigger picture of who God is, and how my faith needed to be based on Scripture.  I am so thankful for how he invested in me.  Not long after I went to college, Kirby and his wife (he got married right after I graduated) moved to California where Kirb went to Master's Seminary.  He is now a pastor near Indianapolis, and Josh and I see him from time to time.

Looking to the Future:  I think I was always a kid who thought growing up was exciting.  I always looked forward to the next step.  In those days, I rarely had a glimmer of nostalgia, looking back, but pretty much was just excited to look forward.  Graduating from High School and preparing to go to college was no exception.  As I mentioned, my family anticipated moving back to Wisconsin for my dad's job, so my mom encouraged me to apply to Maranatha Baptist Bible College, which would have just been a little over an hour from Kenosha, where we'd be living.  For a variety of reasons, that move never materialized, but I chose to go to school there anyway.  I visited the college with my friend Melanie and her family, and knew right away it was the school for me.  When my graduation came, I invited all my co-workers to come to the ceremony, and my party, in hopes of sharing the gospel with them.  I remember I gave a really nice present to one of my co-workers who also graduated the same year, an engraved pen with her name on it.  I wrote a card with a heartfelt challenge to her to consider her sin, and need for Christ's forgiveness.  I can honestly say that as much as I didn't know, and as sure I was that I DID already know it, I truly knew how much I wanted to live my life for Jesus Christ and be used by him.

One final note:  that summer my friend Misty and I attended camp together in hopes of earning college scholarships from the camp.  Kirby wrote recommendations for us to win them, and the letter he wrote for me was so kind it nearly broke my heart.  Here was this person I looked up to so much describing me in more glowing terms than I could ever deserve.  I only mention it here as a reminder that our affirming words have a lasting impact beyond what we could possibly know.  I didn't win a scholarship, though Misty did, but I was still blessed to have that experience of Kirby's words of encouragement.

Linking up to Mommy's Piggy Tales -- only one chapter to go!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sweet 16 -- Chapter 13 in My Life Story

Some of the girl cousins on the Benzing's side at a family reunion
Armed with a driver's license, I could now drive my parent's black suburban packed full of girls to area sporting events.  That summer I took us to the Danville Dans games (college summer league team in town) at historic Danville stadium.  We loved eating nachos with jalepenos and having crushes on the ballplayers (though, since I was usually the oldest, it wasn't like we had the guts to TALK to them).  In the fall, we'd go to football games.  I was still "with" Steve, who now went to public school, and we usually brought a significant cheering section to his football games whenever possible.  We'd also try to go to our friend Scott's games in Georgetown -- he was the president of our youth group and a good friend of Nate's.  There were JV games on Tuesdays, and Varsity games on Friday, so even if I had to work, we could usually swing a game just about every week or more.

Speaking of work -- Nate and I started working at the Georgetown IGA in the fall of 1994.  My dad worked in the grocery business and suggested that we interview there.  I remember being so nervous at the interview, and stating firmly that we could not work on Wednesday nights or Sundays because of church.  Of course we were hired anyway!  Nate worked as a stock boy with a tie, collared shirt and apron, and I worked at the check out in my smock.  We usually were scheduled on the same days, which was convenient for riding together.  Nathan would drive on those country roads so fast, flying around the curves, but I was not scared of his driving!  I just didn't want to be late!  We worked hard, and had our share of interesting co-workers.  It was my first introduction to the REAL world.  Pretty sure one of the "nicer" kids I worked with was on meth.  He was always looking through the health and beauty section, and buying innocent looking stuff.  I totally didn't know about meth back then.  The girls I worked with would invite me to go drinking or cruising or whatever with them.  I never did, of course, but I tried to walk the line to keeping them liking me by not refusing to sell them lottery tickets or cigarettes (this was before the big laws about carding).  I was promoted to the office not long after I worked the register, so a couple times a week I was in charge of the little office there -- counting down the drawers, making up the deposits, and stowing everything in the safe.  One interesting aspect of the office was doing the lottery.  I could NOT believe how many poor people came every week to buy their lotto with their lucky numbers.  I also sold the scratch-offs through the window (thus me not being able to refuse to sell them to my 16-year-old coworkers).  I got in debates with this one interesting customer who was a teacher at the junior high (I think -- he was super interesting) that made me interested in apologetics, and tried to witness to the girls I worked with (oh, did I ever lack boldness!!).  Even though our 7 hour shifts with a 15 min break got tiring, I really liked working there.  I always felt like I did a good job, and liked greeting customers and packing paper grocery bags with precision (I was a great bagger -- comes from upbringing).  

Our homeschool group offered a Spanish class that year for highschoolers.  My friend Jamie's mom was the teacher, since she was fluent.  It was a great situation for those of us whose moms were not able to teach languages.  I LOVED my class.  It was really my first schooling situation, and I was determined to earn only A's (my mom rarely gave us grades).  My Spanish name was Gabriela, which I thought was very pretty.  We met together as a class twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Often we'd have friends spend the night Wednesday night after church, do our schoolwork together Thursday morning, and then ride with us to class.  That was especially nice for our friends who didn't have their driver's license yet, because then their moms didn't have to drive them to church for class.  I LOVED those Thursdays!  For a while, my friend Kristie took driver's ed at the same high school my "boyfriend" Steve went to, and sometimes I'd take her to her class and do my math in the car while I waited for her.  We were SO small town -- Steve would sometimes come outside and say hi to us at the car.  Kristie and her sister would do their Spanish homework with Anna and me, and it was like "going to school" to do that together.  I have such distinct memories of us all sitting on the floor in Anna's comfy bedroom with our A Beka Spanish books out. 

While living in Illinois, my family enjoyed attending University of Illinois sporting events.  We had season tickets for basketball, football and volleyball, and I loved getting to go to those games.  My dad asked each of us older kids what sporting event we would choose to go to if we could pick.  I loved baseball most of all, but knowing that the World Series isn't won in a night, I didn't want to risk picking that, so I picked the Super Bowl.  There was no real time guarantee, but I figured my dad would get tickets pretty quickly and I was right!  Super Bowl XXIX was at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida -- so I got to go to Miami in January!  I was stoked, and planning accordingly, used sunless tanner on my legs.  We left after Spanish class on a Thursday, and drove to Saint Louis (we were flying out of the airport the next morning).  Even though we'd stopped for dinner, we felt kind of hungry when we got to our hotel that night, so we ordered a pizza and wings (told you my appetite used to be big!).  That was the first time in my life I ever had heartburn -- eating wings before bed, haha! (Is this TMI?  Sorry, I remember lots of specifics).  I remember I tried to dress nicely for our flight, so I wore khakis and a polo shirt (planning on it being hot there).  Dad picked a convertible for our rental car, so we got in the sun right away! We ended up switching hotels several times to find something quite nice enough, but we ended up in a great one packed with other people headed to the big game.  There was lots to do at the stadium during the days leading up to game, so we went there -- and the beach, of course!  It was really fun eating out and driving around in our convertible.  The day of the Super Bowl, kickoff was scheduled at 6:00pm, and the gates opened at 11:00am.  We arrived at 9:00.  My dad usually operates in "hurry up and wait" mode.  It was fine with me.  We got in line to enter the stadium, and got to our seats while it was still REALLY empty.  Watching all the set up and people was almost as good as the game -- it was a big blow out: 49ers over the Chargers.  In fact, at the end of the 3rd quarter, dad suggested leaving early, beating the traffic and going to eat somewhere good.  As we left we said "you know we can't tell anyone we did this!  Leaving the Super Bowl early!"  HAHA!  I was dreaming of quesadillas, so I was perfectly happy to go out to eat.  That trip was so fun!  I remember calling my friends from the Super Bowl on my dad's cell phone (he was cutting edge then) and trying not to brag, but still be excited.

Me with my siblings and cousins at Easter 1995
My brother graduated from High School in 1995.  It was the first year there was a group of homeschoolers who wanted to have a graduation together, so my mom organized the first graduation ceremony for that homeschool group (and amazingly -- the traditions they started that year pretty much carry on EXACTLY the same today).  The kindergarten class wore white little caps and gowns and performed one thing they learned that year in homeschool -- my sister Emily was in the kindergarten graduating class.  The 8th graders wore formals and had their parents read something about them, praising them for their accomplishments and character.  The seniors each made speeches and then took flowers to their mothers as a thank-you (this year my sister Abby took each of her older sisters a rose since my mother was not there at her graduation).  Our Spanish class sang some songs and read scripture passages in Spanish.  I loved Nathan's graduation -- we had a huge party at our house and it was so fun!  I had no idea how quickly our family would change, since he was already dating his future wife, Janet (Nate would sit on the roof of our house, with a large photo of Janet, listening to classical music, and doing his schoolwork) .  It's amazing to think about when I look back.

I'm linking up to Mommy's Piggy Tales!