Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gourmet Bean at DJ Liquidators, just 1.00

When I find a product I love, I can hardly wait to tell other people about it. Listen up, all you local coffee lovers. If you live in my area (you know who you are) get yourself over to DJ Liquidators right now. As of last weekend, they had a very large box containing bags of a wonderful, rich, smooth coffee that I've been enjoying since the first time I found it.

It's called Gourmet Bean (made for the Gourmet Bean coffee shop in Washington, DC, according to the label on the back). The foil bag is a Ravens purple color about the size of a Ziploc quart-size bag. It last me a couple of weeks.

Best of all, the bag only costs $1.00. One dollar for delicious Gourmet Bean coffee. I drink one large cup of it every morning. I was hooked on Dunkins, but Gourmet Bean surpasses even the coffee America runs on.

Every morning, you'll find me in the living room with a cup of Gourmet Bean coffee in one hand and a pen in the other, with my Bible and book study plopped securely in my pj'd lap.

DJ Liquidators is also my favorite place to buy big sleeves of disposable cups, lunch snacks, writing tablets, and stocking stuffers. It's cheap and conveniently located in the same shopping center with Gabriel Bros and Weis.

Gourmet Bean. A buck. Delish.

My guarantee: If you try it and decide it's not for you, I'll buy the bag!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not Eating like Mephibosheth

This morning I came to the place in my Bible study in 2nd Samuel where King David says, "Is there anyone left from the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness?" Reading it, you can almost feel the grief so raw from Jonathan's death, though it's been many years, that David can't quite get himself to utter that name without crying. I picture him asking in desperation a question he doesn't expect an answer to. "Is there anyone at all, still living after all these wars, that I could show my love to like I would if Jonathan were still alive?"

A servant says to him, "There is Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, but he's crippled in both feet." As a young child, he was dropped by his nurse, a fall that injured him for life.

"There is someone?" David's heart fills with excitement, "Bring him to me." Mephibosheth at comes at once and bows down to pay homage. I imagine it took quite some effort. I am not crippled, but both my feet always hurt and once I'm down, it's painful to get back up. So I empathize with Mephibosheth. At times pain is downright humiliating. When I want to be smooth and graceful, instead I hobble and limp. My old golden retriever and I move much the same way by the end of the day. At times I feel like a dead dog. That's the expression Mephibosheth used: "What would you want with a dead dog like me?" I deal often with a sense of shame because of my looks and the way I walk. I know I shouldn't, but I do. I use humor to cope at times, but it's a real deep longing to feel like I measure up.

Anyway, back to Mephibosheth: to his great surprise, the crippled son of Jonathan hears these words, "Please, sit at my table. Eat with me." The scripture says he was treated like a king's son. Not like a hired hand, a son! He was eating with the king, not bringing food to the table for the king.

I read on in my Beth Moore book. The name Mephibosheth means "shame destroyer. " God was starting to speak to me as I put the book aside and meditated. Whenever I've pondered this story of grace in the past, I have been overcome by identifying with Mephibosheth and only him. But today, not only did I feel crippled from the fall of sin, I also had trouble picturing myself seated at the table of the Lord. Instead I saw myself carrying food from the kitchen and saying to those seated, "Here you go, this is good stuff. Try some." In my mind I was simply delivering what smelled good and what little I might have sampled in the kitchen, hoping there might be leftovers.

God was saying, "No, you're not a hired servant. You're my daughter. Sit down and eat and enjoy everything I've prepared for you. I don't want you to live your life just giving out bites to other people."

I realized it's been a while since I really feasted at the Lord's table. It's probably why I spend so much effort trying to fill myself with physical food and activities and conversation and hobbies. Sure, I am faithful to read my Bible almost every day , and I certainly get something out of it almost all the time. And I've been offered rich food in the form of great sermons at church, but lately haven't really appreciated it for myself. It's been more like filling service trays to deliver to others at the next "occasion" rather than sitting down with the King Himself for a full course meal. I am praying that God gives me grace to see myself as one who belongs at the table, not just near it waiting for crumbs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"I Just Feel So Happy Today"

My students are so excited about BizTown. Today they wrote a radio ad, a TV ad, and a web page ad. They got interviewed by Lisa (my boss) and me for the jobs of CEO, beverage manager, food manager, and sales manager. They named our candy and soda business ZZ's Treats. Isn't that sweet? (pun intended)

As one boy was leaving, he said, "Mrs. Zubrowski, I just feel so happy today. I wish every day was this happy. I cannot WAIT for BizTown. I hope I get the job of beverage manager. I will do my best, no buts and no complaints. Do you think I'll get the job?"

I said, "I don't know. A few other people want it, too. I would say go home and pray and ask God about it and trust that He knows the right job for you."

"Okay, I'll do that. Even if I don't get the job, I'm going to be faithful and do my best. I will make sure everything--the tables, the counter, the drink station, everything--is cleaner when we leave than when we get there!"

I'm welling up with tears as I write this. Who could say no to someone with such humility, enthusiasm and desire to do their best?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Front-and Back-Burner Ministries

My friend, Terri, recently posted that she would like to start a massage ministry to women. Could anything be more appealing? Okay, so there are some folks who don't like to be touched, but the vast majority of us love such "hands-on" ministry. She is exploring the notion of helping to relieve women's physical pain and suffering as a door to ministering to their spiritual needs.

It got me to thinking. What ministries might God have for me in the future? Right now I feel I have two front-burner ministries: teaching elementary students is my bigger front-burner ministry. Caring for babies in the church nursery once a month is the other, smaller, less frequent, front-burner ministry.

As for back-burner ministries, I'm not sure. I ran into an old friend Saturday who is the director of the Greater Baltimore Crisis Pregnancy Center. A kinder woman than Alice is hard to find. Will God call me back there as a counselor? Another thing I'd like to do one summer is host a neighborhood Bible study for women. Perhaps Kelly will tell you of the wonderful fruit she has seen from the one she's been hosting? Sarah, my sweet girl, came home from a school "assignment" at a local nursing home where she was talking with a lady suffering from dementia, who repeated herself quite often, a common mixture of funny and sad. Sarah wants to go back and it's something I'd like to do, too.

How about you? What are your front-burner ministries at present, and what back-burner ministries has God put on your mind for the future?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Joel's 7th Birthday Party Pictures

His party was the loudest two hours and 41 minutes I've endured in a long time. But he enjoyed it, as did his young fellow StarWarriors.

I decorated the dining room as a galaxy. Hung two plastic tablecloths on one wall and put about 30 "stars" on that I used from scrunched-up foil strips I found at the dollar store. It was sort of a precious prep time, as I hung stars and thought about how God has hung every single one of the gazillon bazillon stars in the universe and named every one of them. I simply didn't care if any of mine had names, as long as they didn't fall.

We played "Shooting Stars." The kids, in turn, got 3 shots with Joel's new clone dart gun. If they shot a star, they got 2 Starbursts. If they didn't, they got a "constellation prize" : one Starburst. Everyone's a winner even on the Dark Side at Joel's party. Shooting guns and stomping on bubble wrap simultaneously was loud.

We (adults) also hid candies of all sorts around the universe (the house's first level) and sent the boys on a hunt. They loved it. Running around, they were loud.

Paul and the kids posed with Joel and his buddy, Jesse, while I took a picture. I wish now I had asked for someone else to take on of all of us, but I feel egotistical every time I ask. The one of me with Joel was taken on self-timer after the party. Yeh, sort of egotistical, too, when I think about it, but I do want him to remember that Mom was there.

The Cake: was only going to be one lightsaber, made by cutting a 9x13 into 3 strips and stacking/forming. Not fond of boxed cakes, I called Kelly for a recipe and she obliged, but I had left my 9x13 at Alpha by mistake and had only a laasagna pan to work with. I forgot to adjust the temperature on the oven, and the cake didn't turn out. Tasted good but flat and kinda stiff.

So I ran out and bought disposable loaf pans, cake mixes, powdered sugar, and other junk. While shopping, Joel asked, "Can I have dueling lightsabers, Mom? That'd be so cool!" Last I checked, dueling involves dual weapons--er, tw0....twice the work. But my heart melted at the sight of his dancing blue eyes, and I said yes. I learned that they had to be certain colors--good vs. evil color sabers; hence the blue and red. The singing was loud. The passing of the cake pieces was loud. The conversations were loud. One boy was the resident Screamer. I had to ask him to pipe down a few times.

The day before, Joel had drawn a picture of Darth Vader and a removable lightsaber . He taped it next to the front door and suggested we play "Pin the Saber on Vader." Great idea, except his saber was flimsy notebook paper and wouldn't have survived 7 players' sticking and unsticking it. So Paul made his version, depicting Obi Wan, and used posterboard. They played the game while the Star Wars theme music played loudly on the laptop.

Cute sidenote, a bit embarrassing: Most kids "pinned" the saber in innocuous places in the general vicinity of Obi's hands. However, as one boy started to pin his saber, Joel yells,
"No! Not there, you're sticking it in his----!"
Sarah and I quickly shushed him .

My parents came (with fair, fair warning). If you knew my parents, you would wonder why they would torture themselves like that. Growing up, our house was always quiet. Everyone takes turns speaking, the TV was moderately low when it was on, we didn't listen to music except in our own rooms, or when someone played piano. Big readers don't make big noises. But this was no
reading party. And it wore my parents out in the hour and 41 minutes
they came. (Thankfully they didn't come for the first hour!)

Overall it was great. The next day in school, the Screamer boy
saw me and said, "Mrs. Zubrowski, Joel's party was REALLY fun!"
Screamer's dad joked with me, "Yeh, Thanks for all the red dye
from those Swedish Fish." I said, "What's a matter? Kept you hyper
all night?"

Till the next lunar eclipse, I will keep things quieter around here--and give Kelly's recipe another try. The batter was delish.

BizTown Buzz

This coming week will be our final push in class to prepare for JA Day at BizTown and I'm feeling a fun-filled pressure.

JA stands for Junior Achievement. It's a national, not-for-profit organization designed to teach school kids how real-world business works. Students learn in class for several weeks all about economy, writing checks and deposits and other bank transactions, how to fill out a job app, choose items to sell on JA Day, write radio ads for their products, and other things. BizTown is a
mock "city" set up in a large facility in Balto County. There are lots of businesses to choose from, and each is sponsored by a well-known company. There's a bank, a gym, a radio station, city hall, pizzeria, jewelry store, insurance company, and others. We will be setting up our food in the area sponsored by Papa John's. (You don't sell Papa's pizza, you bring your own appealing food wares--either homemade or storebought--to sell.)

Citizens, as the students are called, get paid twice on JA Day, with fake paychecks that they get from their company and cash/deposit at the "bank." With their money, they have to open a savings account with $1.50, pay off buisness loans, debts, and choose what else.

Tomorrow is interview time. I have appointed the CFO since there is only one in my "six-pack" who has the attention to math details as well as the personality for the job. The other jobs up for grabs are CEO, food manager, and beverage manager.

Since we have to supply our own delectables, I was wondering if you might suggest some things. I will not be asking for homemade food because I personally would not feel comfortable buying food made by kids I hadn't been in the kitchen with at this age. (If you've ever seen middle schoolers in action, you wouldn't either.) Besides, we've already asked for a lot of food to be made or handled as fundraisers to offset the costs of our students' visit.

We will be selling candy. We are supposed to have one cheap kind (1.00) and one more appealing/expensive (about 2.00 per item).

Suggestions, anyone? They should be things that fifth and sixth graders would be willing to spend their own hard-earned money on.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two Dozen Things About Me

Besides being a closet redneck as I stated earlier, here are 24 things about yours truly. In no particular order, they are:

1. Sitting in a yellow school bus has the power to restore to me the joy of my salvation. It was in 1977, a month before I turned 12, that I went to an old-fashioned tent revival service in Elkton, MD . The "altar" was a yellow school bus parked behind the tent. Jesus became my Savior that day.
2. I had three grandmothers. One is still alive. From Granny I got my love for swimming and diving, from Grandma I got my love for old hymns and new dolls, and from Mayme a belief that it's okay to give 7-Up to a five-month-old with an upset tummy.
3. I won't live in a house without a basement. Thanks, Kansas.
4. I love the sound of my husband's voice on the phone.
5. My favorite way to sip a cold drink is from a clear wine glass. Even ice water with a lemon wedge tastes better from a wine glass.
6. I have a mild case of numeric dyslexia.
5. See what I mean?
7. I don't care for facial hair at all. Particularly on women.
8. Flying is one of my greatest thrills. The bigger the jet, the bigger the thrill.
9. I have a few fears (by God's grace, fewer than I used to have). I fear falling, dimentia in myself or a loved one, the ocean, and choking.
10. I nearly drowned with two of my children several years ago. Last summer I saw a small shark swimming within a few feet of me in the knee-deep water at Myrtle Beach. Hence two of the fears in #9.
11. I can do ventriloquism.
12. I once almost burned down my neighbor's barn. I was 9, and said yes when my friend Paula asked, "Wanna smoke some cigarettes in the hayloft? My parents aren't home." We went up there, lit our cigarettes, and then thought we heard footsteps on the ladder. I threw my cigarette down and hid behind a haystack. Paula stomped out the ankle-high flame that this moron ignited. The footsteps were a figment of our imaginations but the scare was so real I've never forgotten it.
13. I sometimes wish I had more children.
14. Five hours before my father-in-law died, I dreamed it. I woke at 2 a.m from the horrifying dream and couldn't bear to tell Paul. At 7:00 the phone rang. "Dad's dead," Paul's brother told him. "They found him slumped over the wheel of his work truck. Heart attack."
15. Up until about 10 years ago, I was creeped out by--and skeptical of-- the gift of interpretation of tongues. Then God gave me the gift. Tongues spoken in a corporate church service almost always come to my ears as English. Oddly enough, I don't speak in tongues.
16. One evening in May, 1996, I was at care group and heard a med-evac helicopter fly overhead. I had a terrible feeling it was transporting someone I knew. I asked the group to please pray. The next morning my mom called and reported the sad news that the father of my best friend in high school had been killed by a drunk driver on Rt. 1. He and two other passengers were killed. Margaret Ann's mom survived, but has never been the same. She had more broken bones than Maryland's Shock Trauma had ever seen in one patient.
17. I think in typewriter keys. As people are talking to me, I picture their words as individual letters on the computer keyboard, punctuation included.
18. I think about heaven a lot.
19. One of these days I would love to ride horseback through Estes Park, Colorado. It was one of my favorite childhood memories.
20. As long as I grow a flower garden, it will always have purple.
21. I enjoy planning kids' parties more than hosting them, and hosting adult parties more than planning them.
23. I own an enormous assortment of greeting cards.
24. I don't think I could live long without a dog.

There you have it. If you've read all read 24 without falling asleep, you're tagged!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chaos on Steroids

In three words, that's my best description of Joel's birthday party.

Pictures and prose coming.

I'm a Closet Redneck

Do you want to know 24 other things about me?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Funnie from Co-op (A Rerun)

Scrolling through old posts, I came across this one I thought a few of you would enjoy again (or for the first time). I was teaching art in a homeschool art class. My students were very young and quite adorable. I loved what came out of their mouths (most of the time). Here's a sample from last April:

Today I was teaching some more drawing lessons to my kindergarten, first-, and second-graders.

I started each class by asking what tips they remembered that I've taught them in previous classes.

"Don't hold it like this," one boy said, with the sharp point in his palm.

"That's right," I said.

"And don't get it near your eyes," said another boy.

"Oh, no, never," I agreed.

"And don't use the tips to poke someone else," said a third boy.

I was wondering why no one had said things like, "Relax your arm," "Use light strokes," or "Draw what you see, not what you think you see."

"Tips can be dangerous," he said, tapping his index finger on the sharp end of the pencil.

I burst out laughing. "Oh, you guys! That's funny. You thought I meant tips of pencils. I meant what suggestions have you learned from me?" (I almost said pointers, but that wouldn't have helped one bit straighten out the confusion!

Ah, precision in language. I sometimes forget how literal children can be in their thinking.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Love You, Joel, my Valentine Birthday Boy

Dear Joel,

You are the answer to countless prayers. I've told you over and over that I wanted a baby for ten years after your brother, Stephen, was born. I've told you that two babies died in my belly between 1996 and '99; Dad and I thought we wouldn't have another child. We wanted four children from the time we were married.

For eight years I asked God to please take away the desire if He didn't want to bless me with a baby. He didn't take away my desire, but he changed it a little. He gave us the desire to adopt a baby girl from China. Dad and I prayed, sought counsel, looked at our finances, interviewed other couples who had adopted, and--after two more years-- it seemed perfectly clear that adoption would be God's way of giving us a fourth child.

You have heard me say this so many times: the very day I was going to mail away our application to China was the very day I found we were expecting you. Our excitement was beyond words, our joy more than overflowing. Dad put his hand on the doorknob as he left for work the next day, turned back to me and said (shaking his head and smiling), "I just don't understand God." I replied, "That's because God is God." From that moment I knew we would name you Joel (or, if you were a girl, Joelle). Your name means "the Lord is God."

I asked God to please let you live. Losing babies made me so sad my heart would be sick for months. But I also knew that He had comforted me and sustained me and taught me that nothing--even the death of children--could separate me from His love. He had taught me that children are a gift, not a right, and they are His reward, not ours. If they were His reward, then He could watch over them in heaven or on earth. I just asked again and again, "Please, dear Lord, please let me give birth to him, to hold him, to nurse him, to have him at least a little while on earth. It would mean so much to me, but if You don't, I will still love you and still bless your Name." I held onto the promise of Joel 3:18.

I asked God, knowing that He wants us to ask, and that He loves to give us good gifts, "Would you make him a musician and an evangelist?" The first time I felt you move in my belly was during an upbeat worship song at church. When you were six months old, you loved to "play" a harmonica. You've dabbled at my piano and banged on Stephen's drums and strummed Dad's guitars. Those expressions of music give me faith that God has also heard my prayer to make you an evangelist.

Even though I was sick every day for many months before you came along, and even though I had a high risk pregnancy, and even though I ruptured all my pelvic ligaments giving birth to you, and even though I had to stay in bed for five weeks, unable to walk more than a few steps after you were born, unable to do much besides cuddle and feed you, I never stopped thanking God for you. Your cheeks, white and soft as whipped cream, your delicate fingers, your intelligent, playful eyes, your sing-songy voice even when you cried--were precious parts of a wonderful gift.

How fast seven years have gone--way faster than the years spent waiting for you. I so love to snuggle you (and when it's snowing, you call it "snowgling"). I love your quick wit and funny jokes. I love your hearty laugh.

I admire your artistic ability. When you were three years old, you used white chalk on black paper and drew a picture of Darth Vader I was sure had been done by a teenager. That same year you were really into Batman and one day took black construction paper and--without even drawing an outline or tracing something--you cut out a nearly perfect bat . Your great-great-grandfather Nickel used to cut and carve animal figures from paper and tin without a template. When I saw this talent had been passed down to you, all I could say was, "Wow, God. Wow! What do you have in mind for this child's amazing gift of art?"

The way you sit and build for hours with Legos and draw superheroes in action reminds me so much of your Pappaw's engineering skills. Drawing and building seem effortless to him. How precious that you have his talent, his blue eyes, his sense of humor. Pappaw and your dad are my two favorite men; Ben got Dad's name in the middle, and I wanted to honor Pappaw by giving you his name in the middle.

Thank you for being so thoughtful, so sweet, so quick to repent when you've confessed your sin. Thank you for making me laugh over and over. Thank you for all the art you've blessed us with,
and for your tender prayers.

I hope you have a very happy birthday today and enjoy your party tomorrow.

I love you very, very much and thank God for letting me have you for these past seven years.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scaling Back

Reviewing the list of the previous post, I am shaking my head. What was I thinking? I was thinking what I always think: I have boundless time, energy, and resources.

The lady whose posted these wonderful ideas (from a website I found) did preface with the fact that they spent 11 months planning their 5-year-old's birthday party. Yeh, that's not happening. If I plan a party for more than 11 days I go into a frenzy for nine of them and then go catatonic with fear for the remaining two. Giving myself just a week forces me to scale back, remember who it's about, and ask, "Will he remember all these details and who does it matter to anyway and are you trying to bless or impress?"

I want Joel to have a happy birthday, and I know my boy: what makes him happy is having a few buddies around running, building with Legos, maybe drawing (he prefers a quiet room for that, actually) and having some fun food to eat. I've bought some Darth Vader paper masks for each boy--the only choice in Star Wars guys. (Joel said about the store, "Don't they know there's other characters?")

Pizza,pretzel rods and a cake? Sounds like a plan.

I might even buy a cake this year. Every time I make a cake I find myself saying, "Next year I won't do this. I won't spend eighteen hours on something that's gonna be gone in 18 seconds." And yet...

Who knows. Anyway, thank ya'll for your input. Please pray that I will use wisdom and be at peace with simplicity and not get a case of the Mom Guilts that come from putting expectations on myself that my children don't have or sinfully comparing myself to the women who seem to make everything look fun, creative, easy, and altogether amazing. Pray I can enjoy my Valentine (the one I married) on a date this evening (we avoid the actual day that brings uncomfortably large crowds to restaurants). For the past six years,it's been a priority quandary for me, having a Valentine birthday boy to celebrate and a marriage as well, especially since my boy and I care WAY more about February 14th than my husband does. I grew up loving Valentine's Day because of how special my dad made it for Mama and all his girls. To this day, my Daddy can hardly wait to hand out (or mail out) our chocolates and cards. Because of him, Joel's middle name is my father's, and I will always have high hopes and fond memories of the day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Okay, so I'm Breaking My Blog Fast...for good reason

I need help and thought maybe some of you could lend ideas.
I'm planning a Lego Star Wars party for Joel. It's this Sunday. I've found some fun ideas online.

What I want to do is have the boys make their own lightsaber upon arrival. (My thinking: Taking the time to make weapons minimizes the time spent actually using them. This is a sanity move on my part.) For these I need cardboard mailing tubes and construction paper.

Qu. 1: Anyone know where I can get the tubes really cheap (or free?) and soon?
Qu. 2: Anyone have a huge piece of black fabric I could drape over Paul's head and body to make him Darth Vader? At the end of the party I want him to say to Joel, 'I am your FAAATHER" and have the kids pose with him and Joel. The pictures would go out in thank-you cards (in my ideal world).
Qu: Anyone have the Star Wars theme on CD?
Qu: Anyone want to decorate pretzel rods w/ green icing for me? (edible lightsabers)
Qu: Anyone want to bake two 13x9 cakes, one chocolate, one vanilla? I'm going to freeze them, then cut each into 3 strips to make a really long lightsaber cake (again, an online creative find, not my brain at work).
Qu: Anyone know where I can get (preferably big) silver sticker stars real cheap? I'm gonna stick them onto dollar store black plastic tablecloths and hang around the room, galaxy-like.
Qu: Has anyone regretted giving their son a real , battery-operated, noise-making lightsaber as a gift?
Qu: Anyone know who carried Star Wars folders real cheap ? (My theme is "cheap" if you haven't noticed). I want to photocopy coloring sheets of various SW characters and enclose them in the folder with a goody bag of candy.
Qu: Anyone want to decorate said cake above?
Qu: Anyone volunteer to clean my house , before and afterwards?
Qu: Any other cool ideas floating around in your creative head?

Feb Fast

Just to letcha know, I'm on a blog fast for February to curb my appetite for perpetual posting.
Reading fewer blogs, commenting a very wee bit less, but participating in polls. (I love polls.)
In fact, I'm posting a new one just because.

I hope to see long-lasting fruit of this Feb fast. I wish I could say my house is a lot cleaner, but I can say my conscience is cleaner.

Now off to plan my Valentine boy's 7th birthday party. The theme is Lego Star Wars and I need a pattern for a lightsaber cake. Go, Google, go!