Monday, December 26, 2005

A Pirate for Christmas

Well, I'm back in the ATX after a lovely Christmas with the family. Tomorrow I'm off to Kerrville for the senior high gathering that I've helped plan (along with our darling Becky) for many months now. . .we're ready for it to happen! Say prayers that it goes well, but mostly that God works through the presenters, musicians, and leaders. Thanks. :)

I got a crock pot for Christmas! I was excited about that one--oh, the fun we will have with that! I'm already looking for new recipes. And I got lots of gift cards, too, which are always good. Candles, gloves, clothes. . .it was a nice Christmas. But of course, my favorite part was just being at home.

My high school friends and I always get together on Christmas night--we used to Kidnap Caroling, but now we just meet up and hang out. We had a surprise visitor this year. . .

Teddy came to hand out gifts for Festivus. I think some people were a bit freaked out by the pirate appearance, but those of us who know Teddy were lovin' it.

. . .especially me!

Besties from high school: Liz, Em, me, and Marissa

And now for some family pictures (b/c I'm obsessed with posting pics):

Me and Padre

Leah and I decided to call Mike (our stepdad) Father Christmas this year. . .or Padre Navidad, whichever we felt like at the time. We call our real dad all sorts of nicknames, so we thought Mike deserved one, too.

Off to pack and sleepy sleep! Have a great week--the New Year's party is comin' up and I'm puuumped!

Lately you've been contemplating,

"Is this real or is this fading?"

What brought you here in the first place?


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christ-a-mus to All

Oh, goodness! One of our penguin pictures was copied and pasted onto someone else's blog! Under the title, "The official funniest post I have ever read on December 22nd," no less! That is awesome. Thanks, Thomas, whoever you are. . .that made me laugh.

Well, I'm home and I slept in til 11:30. Life is good. Tomorrow is Christmas Adam (or December 23rd, for those who haven't heard of our family's title for the day before Christmas Eve) and we'll do the traditional Galleria visit--one of my favorite rituals to come home to. Barrett's bringing the girlfriend home, which will be nice, but kinda weird b/c none of us has ever brought someone home for actual Christmas Day.

Dad's parrot is making gay noises. He just happened to wake me up this morning with them. Weirdo.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, friends! Enjoy your families, relax, sleep, and eat! :)

Oh my gosh. My mom just said, "Don't you be testy, or I'll take your presents away." Yep. I'm home. And I'm 12 years old again. ;)

Love to all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bars, Lights, and Lullabies

Tonight Carmack came to town and we went to dinner. Carmack's an old college friend of ours who now lives in North Dakota. . .I definitely miss that guy and always look forward to his visits! We tried a new bar, The Tavern on Lamar and 12th, which was actually really good. We of course took the penguins with us, as they wouldn't have it any other way.

Ping and Gwen immediately rushed to the bar and stood on it, waiting for the bartender. They obviously knew what they wanted!

The bartender, a very sweet girl, treated them just like any other customer. She did ask me and Courtney if we were on a scavenger hunt, though. Nope, we're just out with our penguins and they wanted a drink!

The guys sitting next to us at the bar were quite interested in our penguin friends. They offered Gwen a drink. . .flirting? Hmmm. . .

Whoah, slow down, Ping! Before you know it, you'll be. . .

. . .doing things you never thought you'd do with strange men at the bar! Interesting. . .though this guy was definitely cool for posing with penguins.

We had to stop at the grocery store on the way to the Hippie Lights to meet up with some friends, but no sooner had we walked in the door than. . .

. . .the 'guins managed to sneak inside the freezer! Goodness. We kinda felt sorry for them--they were obviously homesick. But then the random sacker guy had to do what we couldn't:

"Come on, guys. You know you can't stay in there." He was kind and understanding, but couldn't allow them to get too comfortable. They reluctantly came out of the freezer and we thought we'd lift their spirits by going to one of Austin's absolute best places ever:

Kerbey Lane, baby!

We concluded our evening out with a stroll through (Austin's) Central Park, which is really just a shopping center. But hey, this picture's cool. :)


Okay, so I'm done with the 'guins. . .for a little while, anyway. Call me immature, but my time with them is highly entertaining and definitely attracts some attention.

I'm headed to the other A-town tomorrow to hang with my fam for 4 days! Woo hoo! I'm totally not ready. . .haven't packed a single thing. I doubt I'll be out of here til evening tomorrow. But night drives are fun (as long as I'm awake!).

I took a bubble bath tonight and listened to a new song I downloaded: Goo Goo Dolls' Better Days. It's a good one. I was singing in the bathtub and Court was trying to sleep in the next room. She goes, "Lauren? Can you. . ." and I thought she was going to say, "sing a little softer?" but she said, "come in here and sing to me?" It was sweet. One of the things I love about us--we've always had little goodnight rituals throughout college and even now. . .they change a lot, but saying goodnight is always sweet and silly with us. I'm going to miss living with her. After I sang to her, we talked about how calming that is and we decided we want our husbands to sing to us every once in a while as we go to sleep. Sweet, huh? Another thing to put on my Husband Checklist. ;)

Have a beeeeautiful day. Adios, mis amigos!

So take these words and sing out loud

'Cause everyone is forgiven now

Tonight's the night the world begins again.


Feeling Christmas-y

I have "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" sung by Bing Crosby (or whoever--some male voice that's on all the Christmas movies) in my head. . .that song always reminds me of my Christmas fantasy-- walking hand-in-hand with the love of my life down the busy streets of NYC, ice skating by the Rockefeller tree (no matter how horrible we may be at it), breathing in the cold air. . .but mostly just walking together. I don't know why, but that's been in my head since who-knows-when. Probably because of all those dang romantic chick flicks based in NYC. And really, NYC is fun, but not my favorite place in the world. Yet still, my Christmas fantasy takes place there.

Someday, Lauren. Someday. :)

In other news: for all my Swankytown friends, I must announce that I have received my White Elephant gift and boy, is it entertaining (how could it not be? It's from the Mayor himself, the king of Entertainment!)! More to come.

We don't really need to find reason
'Cause out the same door that it came--
Well, it's leaving.
~Jack Johnson

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We Are Marching!

Goodness, what a weekend. I worked a TON (and still have more to do this week before I head home for Christmas) and played a lot to make up for it (including staying out later than I needed to, but doing silly things requires sacrifice, right? Right.) Here are some highlights. . .whether you're interested or not:

*I met my blog friend, Lanette, in person! My first internet friend--aren't you proud? :) It was very very fun and I think I'm just going to start calling her my Twin from now on. . .it seems to be our description for each other, especially now that we've met. I'm certain that there's a reason for meeting the people we meet, and I'm also pretty dang certain that we're going to be close close friends. Thank You, God, for orchestrating blessings we never would've imagined possible!

*We had our middle school Christmas Party at church on Friday night, and at the end of the party, I had them all come into the sanctuary. It was dark (intentionally) with only some candles lit. Coincidentally, the manger from the church Christmas pageant was on the altar (I'm assuming for rehearsal the next day), so the stage was set nicely for a telling of the Christmas story. I told the kids to get comfy--lay down, close their eyes, whatever--and listen to the story. Afterwards, I talked about how Jesus was their age once. One of the kids (this one's sometimes a handful) popped his head up from the ground and whispered excitedly, "Oh wow! I'd never thought of that before!" It was cool. And that's why I love my job.

*Court and I took the penguins out last night for their Austin Adventures. Their travels aren't quite finished, but we had tons o' fun. At first, I'll admit, I felt kinda weird carrying Gwen everywhere I went (mine's named Gwen and Court's is named Ping--get it? Penguin? ha), but I quickly got over it. People did look at us, but whatev. Off we go. . .

March of the Penguins: Austin Adventures

Court & Ping

Lauren & Gwen

Our first stop took us to Ross where Ping offered to buy Gwen a lovely red thong (it looks pink in this picture, but trust me, it was lovely red). Gwen declined the offer amid the jam-packed rows of lingerie that Ross is, of course, famous for.

While they played, Ping got himself stuck in a decorative cage. Gwen laughed and made fun of him from the outside. They asked us why cages exist. We explained that domestic birds (not feral penguins) are usually kept in cages. This saddened them.

We then took them to PetsMart (or is it PetSmart? I never know) next door and showed them what we meant. They gazed in awe at the caged birds, trying to fathom life in captivity. But the quickly lost interest once they waddled far enough to find the fish tanks. . .

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Gwen?"

Court and I looked at each other, fearful of what was coming next.

Ping took the plunge. The fish bit his beak, though. Yes, things are a bit different when you leave the Arctic, huh, guys?

"You're telling me, " Gwen retorted. "99 dollars for an igloo?? We make these things ourselves for nothin'!"

We decided to head to the Capitol building downtown. This time, the 'guins wanted to drive.

Needless to say, it was a bit scary.

We arrived safely, and the penguins struck a rather stately pose in front of the Capitol. (Don't ask us how they made it to the top of those newspaper stands.)

They wanted lots of pictures in front of the Capitol. They look so little!

Boy, did they have fun with this cannon.

Well, we can see here how Lauren plays favorites. Gwen gets a kiss while Ping lies motionless on the ground. Poor little guy.

We were flattered that they wanted a picture with us. We love our feral penguins.

On the way out of the Capitol grounds, we stopped to admire the Christmas tree. What a nice way to end the evening. Merry Christmas from Ping & Gwen!

And. . .thank you, dear reader, for being interested in the penguins' story. There are other adventures to be had, just you wait.

For now, I am headed to bed. Goodnight all!

Friday, December 16, 2005


Why is it that I go shopping intending to buy for others and come home with clothes for myself? Yuck, Lauren. I swear I don't shop for myself a lot. In fact, I'm really good about it--I just get on these kicks where I do a ton of shopping, then don't for a while. I guess I'm on one of those kicks. Perfect timing, huh?

It was nice, though. Listened to Sigur Ros in the car the whole time--good stuff. I have no idea how to pronounce the band name, have no information on them (him?). . .I should look that up. I just have a CD that Nate-dawg burned for me. The music is chill and I'm most definitely a fan.

Middle School Christmas Party tonight at church. I'm sure I'll be laughing quite a bit. Thankfully, I have parents helping me out tonight. These rascals can get crazy when they're all together in one room.

This weekend is lookin' good so far--Court has decided we should take our new stuffed emperor penguins out on the town. (I bought three of them at Toy Joy a few nights ago with Becky--they're modeled after the penguins in March of the Penguins, and they are oh-so-cute. Leah, you'll have one waiting on your bed when you return!) I just might have a photo tour of their adventures posted soon. Not that anyone would care but me. . .but the ideas we have are pretty dang funny (again, probably only to me).

Have fun, friends.

P.S. to Lee-lee: I'm going to be a tattle-tale (what else is new?) and tell you that Court drank one of your Capri Suns and said, " Leah's not here to be Capri Nazi!" Then she laughed her evil laugh. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas Parties & Such

I now know why people don't drink during the middle of the workday. All I want to do is take a nap, but I'm in a brightly lit office with work spread out on my desk. I'm tired and I feel kinda weird. Let me explain before one thinks I'm drunk from some crazy lunchtime escapade. . .

I love working at a church because the members are so generous--all the time, but especially at Christmas time. They leave us little goodies on the counter by the coffee pot with notes that say, "Thanks for all you do" and we get random gift cards for local restaurants or Starbucks in our mailboxes. All because we are church staff and they love us. It's awesome. And then there are the church Christmas parties. Lots of 'em. Moms' Bible Study party was today and Alycia, Jane, and I were invited to join them for free food and, little did I know til we arrived, mimosas! I'm a sucker for mimosas and Alycia and I just grinned at each other and put our fingers to our mouths in the "Shhh!" gesture as we enjoyed our first sips. :) I only had one, and I ate quite a lot of food, but I feel really drowsy and ready for bed. And it's 12:30 pm. So, as I said, now I know why people don't (shouldn't) drink during the day. Yucky.

I have another Christmas party tonight, don't know if there will be alcohol there, but I do know that all of our significant others are invited. Now I know just last week I announced to the world wide web how lovely it is to be single. . .but I hadn't gone to any Christmas parties yet. . .and let me tell ya--this is my second Christmas in a row without a significant other and I'm kinda wishin' I had someone to do the romantic Christmas-y things with. But but BUT, rest assured that I'm not turning into the bitter single woman quite yet. I'm enjoying the fact that I don't have to worry about what to buy a boy this Christmas--besides my brother and dad, but that's not quite as hard as buying for a boyfriend or, even worse, a new boyfriend.

I've also heard this question a lot lately: "Are you ready for Christmas?" It's usually asked of a group of people ("Is everyone ready for Christmas?") and people immediately talk about how they're so not ready and they wish they had more time to buy for everyone, and their families are being uncooperative with Christmas plans, and this and that, yada yada yada. And I feel sorta the same way--I have to bring food for parties, I have to buy presents, I still have parties with the youth group coming up that need details taken care of. But my answer to this question is always YES!! I am always ready for Christmas, in more ways than one. I'm always ready for the feeling of Christmas, the decorations, the food, the getting-together-and-singing-carols-around-the-piano (which we did at the party today and it was soooo fun) things that you don't stop everything and do at any other time during the year. And really, it's not about us being ready, anyway. Jesus comes into our lives whether we're ready or not. He was born into a world that wasn't really ready at all for what He was about to bring and show and do. But He still came. And He still comes every minute, every day, whether it's December 25th or July 25th. So I guess the question "Are you ready for Christmas?" really sticks out to me. Because I listen to what others say and I think, "Who cares? Christmas is ready for you! Relax and and enjoy it."

I understand what people mean when they ask that question, and I know that when I'm a mother bustling about in the mall trying to make sure I satisfy each of my children's Christmas wishes, I'll probably answer that question with an exasperated, "No, not quite yet!" But regardless, time marches on without our help and Christmas Day will come and go just like it always has. So whether or not I get everything done, whether or not I'm ready for it doesn't change a thing.

Have a good one, and wait til Happy Hour for that drink. . .trust me on this one. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes. . .and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom must be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, December 11, 2005


My brother graduated from UT this weekend! Woo hoo for him! It was a fun time, and a bunch of my family came to our house to celebrate. (Of course, right on cue, one of our toilets quit working last week, and there were a couple of other maintenance embarrassments. . .but everyone was excited to be here and that's all that matters. :))

And. . .in keeping with our family graduation traditions, I managed to squeeze all of our guests into one photograph. We always take one all-inclusive picture at these gatherings, and we seem to be having a lot of graduations lately!

The family and friends

Cousin & Siblings Pic

(I definitely looked pregnant in this one before I cropped it. . .ha ha!. . .bad pose choice, Lauren. )

So here's to Barrett: He's worked hard and accomplished a huge goal of his. The UT business school is one the highest-ranked in the country. Congrats, little bro!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Steve's been grading confirmation quizzes--here's a hilarious "kids say the darndest things" quote:

Question--Where did Moses receive the 10 Commandments?
Answer--Mt. Cyanide

That's the highlight of my day right there.

Oh, the weather outside. . .

Goodness, it's COLD today!! I love it, but I wasn't quite prepared for it.

Mmmmm. . .I think I'm going to have to sneak over to Starbucks for a peppermint mocha soon. . .I wish I could go home, pop in a movie, cuddle in a blanket, and be lazy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gotta Stay Fly

Yesterday after work I went for a run around the neighborhood. It was refreshing. Nothing like your favorite tunes in your ear (last night it was a little bit of Coldplay, Damien Rice, and of course Ciara & Luda) to distract you from the fact that your lungs feel like ice. I have shin splints today, so that's a yucky side-effect. Hopefully this running thing will become more of a routine now that my life is somewhat back on track. I go thru phases where I'll run a lot, then all of the sudden quit for a while. So yeah. Here's to Exercise Lauren!

While running, I saw some more of those new Christmas yard decorations-- the life-size snow globe (although it's not really "life-size" at all because life-size for a snow globe would be. . .smaller. But it's human-sized, I guess) that blows fake snow around inside. Have you seen them? Trish and I first noticed them at Wal-Mart. Anyway, I think they're kinda fun. Some people I know think they're tacky. Oh, well. To each his own.

Also while running, I watched people and observed normal neighborhood happenings. Now, I've looked forward to living in a real neighborhood ever since I started living on my own. There's just something about having kids and dogs and families around that makes me happy. Of course, my dream was to be friends with all the kids on the block--I imagined them running up to me and thinking I was so cool, then I'd say, "Come on in--want some cookies?" As I'm writing this out, I sound like the Scary Lady on the block. But I swear in my head it was cool. Anyway, that hasn't happened here yet. That's okay, though. Back to the point of this paragraph: I was looking at some of the houses around here and imagining what it will someday be like to come home and curl up on the couch with my husband, talk about our day, drink a glass of wine, etc. The houses looked so warm and couple-y. It's those everyday aspects of marriage that I look forward to probably more than any other part.

Which leads me to my next recent revelation: I am so content with my life right now. While I do still long for the same things I always have--a husband and a family--the longing is definitely tempered. And the only explanation I have for that is that time is, indeed, a wonderful thing. The longer I am single, the more okay with it, the more happy with it, I am. Does it mean I have entirely stopped looking for the man of my dreams? Um, NO WAY. :) I still notice guys, still wonder where and when I'll meet Mr. Perfect-for-Me. . .yet I find myself totally okay with my single status in a way I haven't been before. It's a wonderful feeling. And as I've talked to some of my friends about it, I'm thinking it's a God thing--that it has something to do with the fact that I'm leaving TX in six months. . .what's the point of starting a relationship right now, anyway? And it's not like I'm meeting tons of prospects, either. :) In that sense, I'm looking forward to going back to school and meeting new people.

Now, I say all this at 24 years old. . .who knows what I'll be saying once I've been single for five years, the godmother to all my friends' children, still wondering when it will be my turn? But for now, I can honestly say God has worked on my heart and given me a ton of peace with where I am. And I can't complain.

And all the clouds don't ever change
the shape of who I am to You.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It's Been Too Long

Highlights from my weekend:

--> Trish's visit was a fabulous one, indeed. We laughed a lot--no surprise there. We came up with the brilliant idea of hosting a New Year's Eve Par-tay at my house with live entertainment (hopefully). The only thing I've wondered lately is whether or not I need to obtain a noise permit if we're going to have a band in our backyard. Hmmm. . .

One of the lasting impressions of Trish's visit involves another member of our household: Our other cat (Courtney's cat--I feel I must distinguish them because Simon (mine) is the best cat ever and can do no wrong) has been without a formal name since September. You can do that with cats, you know. It's easy to just call her "Kitty," although the most common names out of our mouths have been "Annoying Cat," "Stupid Annoying Cat," or other choice words following her latest annoying behaviors. But Trish took pity on Annoying Cat and deemed her Sandwich. I won't go into detail (because I don't even think I remember the whole story), but for some reason in college, we had a joke about a sandwich. Trish looked at the cat, called her Sandwich, and it stuck. We call her Sandy for short. But mostly Sandwich because it's cool. And we all agree, the name couldn't be more perfect. (BTW, Trishy-- Court said it's the only name that someone else has come up with that she's actually used more than once when referring to her cat. . .now that's impressive.)

--> Saturday I went to Gruene for some fun small-town Christmas shopping (and wine tasting) with (who else?) Miriam! I love the market days in Gruene. . .heck, I just love Gruene! It's places and times like that that I will totally miss when I'm out of Texas. :(

--> Jeremy came over Saturday evening to hang out with me and Leah. He was "kicked out" of his house since his parents were having friends over for dinner. So he called me and I told him to bring some movies and we'd order Chinese. And that we did. We watched Team America and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: two movies about which any friend of mine would say, "Lauren, those movies embody everything that is completely opposite of you. And you mean to tell me you enjoy them??" Why yes, for some crazy reason, I do. I crack up laughing. I feel weird and terrible for doing so. But I crack up laughing. *sigh* Good times, good times.

--> Today was the first Sunday I'd been at my church in a month. All this traveling has caused people to jokingly inquire whether or not I am still employed there. :) It was such a joy to be there today, to be back in the "routine" with the kids again. I didn't quite realize how much I'd missed them until I was greeted by them today. I played my flute this morning and people clapped! In the middle of the service! So sweet (and funny!). And for some reason, I've been speaking in a British accent a lot lately. . .but only at church. . .and only specifically with Brian, one of my kids. Every time I see him, I burst out in it. No idea why. But it makes me him laugh (and probably wonder why his youth minister is such a freak!), and I enjoy it. We talked about the season of Advent with the high school group tonight. Very cool thoughts from them. I truly missed their witty comments and silliness--I laugh so much when I'm with them. What a cool job I have!

Time for beddy bed. Hugs to all--have a marvelous week!

The world is not as just, not as loving, not as whole as we know it can and should be. But the coming of Christ and his presence among us—as one of us—give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned.
~some website I found with cool Advent quotes :)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Out of a Thousand Invitations. . .

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

That's right. YOU. And by YOU I mean Swankertons, Cap'n, Mo, Trishy, and Twinkles. Let me tell you what we're doing and then you'll know what you're doing.

Trish and I are hosting a swanky New Year's Eve Party. . .smoking jackets not just allowed, but encouraged! We are fully aware that some of you live 19 hours away (just a guess), but you're still invited. And to those of you who live closer--well, we realize you may have other plans, but we know you'll make the right choice. ;) j/k

Anyway, this is just a brief announcement concerning the coolest upcoming New Year's Eve Party, um, ever. Formal invitations to follow. Watch your mail.