Tuesday, March 29, 2011

snow & sunshine

Chunky snowflakes that didn't stick to the ground very much fell when we were in Louisville this weekend. But that didn't stop the kids from wanting to play outside when the sun decided to show up late Sunday afternoon.

They had a fun [and, apparently, funny] time together. After Cate and Milla leaned in together, I said, "Hey, Jax, lean in there with the girls." So he did. Sort of.

Ben just wanted to go out with the big kids, but instead he was inside with the adults, who were watching Kentucky play. And win.

Go Big Blue!

Watching Sunday's UK game with my family was fun. Especially because the Cats beat UNC, earning a trip to the NCAA's Final Four. Really, I left Louisville wishing my brother, Kevin, and his fiancee, Laine, who is really already part of our family, could watch more basketball with us.

But the after story is pretty great too.

While driving down I-65 South from Louisville heading toward Elizabethtown, making our way toward home, Greg got a text from his friend talking about the weather in Houston this time of the year and how he'd let him know more next week. Interpretation: His friend was going to cheer for the Wildcats at the Final Four.

"Wouldn't it be fun to be able to go to the Final Four?" Greg asked. I'm sure he thought he was just thinking his rhetorical questions aloud. But I had something to say, of course.

"You know, Mom's friend Angela's son is selling his tickets?" I said, thinking he'd heard previous conversations about this Louisville fan rooting for the Wildcats because he thought it would make his tickets easier to sell. Thinking back, most of the conversations about the tickets happened at the bridal shower for my soon-to-be sister-in-law, officially.

"Um, no. This is the first I've heard of this."

So he asked some questions for which I didn't really have answers. You know, the basics when considering planning an impromptu trip to Texas: How much. How many. Which games. After a couple phone calls to my mom and another phone call from my mom to her friend, we got the answers.

Four tickets. To the Final Four.

So we discussed childcare and traveling plans. And the we invited Courtney and Andy, our basketball-watching friends who are so much more than that. They discussed childcare and traveling plans.

And we all four decided we'd go. Without our two kids or their two kids.

Courtney found a hotel. I made arrangements to get the tickets. We coordinated schedules. And Greg and I kept asking each other if we were really planning a trip to the Final Four. Indeed we were. In fact, we had the trip planned well before we got back to Murray, 226 miles from where we'd just watched an exciting Wildcat victory with my family.

My only hesitation was leaving my kids for four nights. I've only ever spent three nights away from Cate in her almost four years of life. Two were for one-night overnight dates with Greg and the other was the day Ben was born. Crazy part is, I have a weekend away planned for mid-April, so with these two trips I'll be gone overnight twice as much as I ever have before.

Yet attending the Final Four when Kentucky is there is on Greg's list of dreams. He said on the drive home that he never really thought it was something he'd get to do. So I'm glad we get to do it, together, and with dear friends. My kids with be in the care of their more-than-capable grandmas over the course of the long weekend. And all the logistics just lined up, like it's meant to be.

For us.

For them.

And, hopefully, for the Cats.

Friday, March 25, 2011

this morning

Most mornings I shower while Cate watches a TV show and Ben plays in his crib. I peeked in this morning after I got myself ready, and this is the sweet face I saw.

A few other things to note ...

Yes, those are his pants to the right side of the picture. I have no idea why they're off, but he's been doing that lately.

The book he's "reading" is indeed upside down.

If you're wondering why the skin between his nose and mouth is glistening, it's because he's had a snotty nose, and apparently it needed wiped, which happened after I found my camera to capture the moment.

'The Greatest Show on Earth'

My mother-in-law [more affectionately known as Gran-Gran] and I took the kids to the circus on Wednesday afternoon. I wasn't sure how Ben would do, especially after I heard the show was a little more than two hours. But he was mesmerized most of the time, enjoyed his first taste of cotton candy and was in awe of the elephants.

Really, we all were amazed by the elephants. They were so big. But so graceful and peaceful looking. The three elephants were definitely the stars of the show.

The same can not be said for the lions, who seemed mad they were expected to perform. They did, but they seemed to be grumbling in their own lion way. And, speaking of cats, there were cats. Like domesticated house cats. You know, like the poodles and other dogs, the cats did tricks, like jumped over things, crawled under the same things, walked on a rod, and jumped from a high tower. Seriously. I decided being that cat trainer must be the worst job in the circus.

Or twirling in the air by your air may be.

Yep. Really. These girls twirled in the air with a hook in their air.

A circus wouldn't be a circus without cotton candy. Ben liked it, although he didn't love how his fingers was sticky, which, really, surprised me because the boy doesn't shy away from making a mess.

He even shared with Gran-Gran ...

And the cotton candy came with a festive hat ...

Thankfully, Cate chose the light-up tiara as her souvenir. I say thankfully because it cost $12, and not $30 like the stuffed elephant or $20 like the light-up wand.

Yes, the circus was worth grinning about.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

'I love my dad.'

As part of Donuts with Dad at Cate's preschool last week, she and Greg traced each other's hands and then made a picture when hers glued on top of his. The project also included quotes from each of the 3-year-old kids about their dates.

Above is Cate's response to why she loves her dad.

It also should be noted hers was one of the longest responses. Yes, she's her mother's daughter. We're wordy girls. A few times, although not all that often, Greg has gone back to work after he puts Cate to bed. That has prompted the question, "Daddy, are you going to sleep here?" more nights than he actually goes back into work. Apparently that was on her mind when discussing why she loves her dad.

Personally, I love that her dad always comes home too.

happiest on the move

We took our first family bike ride of the season last night. Ben got to move from the baby seat on the back of my bike to the trailer with Cate. And, really, it wasn't as bad as they make it look! Ben wanted his helmet off, but he got over it once we started moving.

For all 16 months of his little life, he's been happiest on the move ... in the baby swing, in the stroller, in the carseat in the car, on his knees, in a park swing and now on his feet. He likes to move.

And then there's Cate. She just wasn't interested in looking at the camera. But, of course, she wanted to talk about it. "Can I see the picture? Did you get a good one?"

"Um, not right now. And, no, I really didn't get any good ones."

Cate continued with the conversation: "Why not?"

"Well, Ben is screaming and you didn't want to look this way. How about we go on our bike ride now?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

sunshiny days

We are happy for several lovely, sunshiny days.

Ben likes to swing.

Cate likes to be involved.
In this case, she helped her daddy sprinkle grass seed.

And this is how Cate cleaned up the riding toys*.

* It should be noted two of these riding toys don't belong to us and one stroller is for a baby doll.

And the winner is ...

Tabitha won a $25 gift certificate she can redeem at any of CSN Stores more than 200 online stores. Tabitha, you should have an email from me with the online code and additional information. Happy shopping!

And happy spring to all my readers. Hopefully you'll be able to put away those coats, pack the picnic basket for trips to the park, spend time watching kids be kids outside, watch baseball and cuddle with precious new life.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

compassion & faith

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
--Mark 10:13-16

In trying to explain to my 3-year-old why we are helping and praying for Roselyn, one of the first things that came to mind was how her house probably isn't as sturdy and dependable as ours. Cate seemed to want more, so I said, "Her roof may not be as good as ours. It may leak when it rains."

That was months ago. And nearly every night since, Cate has thanked God for Roselyn and prayed that her house doesn't leak. Sometimes she thanks God that our house doesn't leak.

It's cute and honest and persistent and innocent. While there are many other things we could pray for on behalf of Roselyn and her family in Guatemala, the simple request speaks volumes to my heart. Cate is thinking of someone she's never met and asking God to maintain a basic need.

Yes, I'll tell her about other ways Roselyn needs our prayers. And I'll continue to tell Roselyn about how we pray for her regularly. One of us reads Cate the letters Roselyn sends and Cate always thinks the hand-drawn pictures on the notes are for her.

Roselyn turned 4 in November and Cate will be 4 in less than two months. Yet their hearts -- Cate's shown through her prayers and Roselyn's through what she dictates to her tutor who writes the letters -- are such testaments to the faith God calls us to have.

There are plenty of other children who need these kind of prayers. You can find one through Compassion International, and I'm guessing your faith will never be the same.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wearing blue on St. Patrick's Day

I didn't wear any green today. And, really, doing so didn't even cross my mind.

Putting on my UK T-shirt did make me happy this morning for two reasons: The opening day of the NCAA Tournament is like a holiday at my house and sunshine and 70-degree temperatures were in the forecast.

So happy day to me.

It's nothing against St. Patrick himself that makes me not care about the anniversary of his death. Not even of Irish descent, St. Patrick was kidnapped when he 16 years old and lived as a slave in Ireland for six years. After he escaped, he studied to become a priest in his native Britain. He went back -- by choice this time -- to Ireland, where he spend more than three decades as missionary. The clovers are symbolic of his life because he used them to teach about the Trinity.

Sounds like a well-lived life to me.

But I don't understand how green beer and pinching people who don't wear green fit into his legacy. Maybe there are reasons; I just don't know them. And that makes me not care about the so-called holiday.

I even have Irish roots. My maternal grandpa -- John Lucas McAdam -- is have Irish, courtesy his Irish father who married a Scottish woman. They immigrated to the United States when my grandpa -- known as Poppy -- was about 3 so his dad could work for the railroad. These roots make me thankful for the journeys God takes us on.

And that is something to celebrate. Today. And any other day.

So, for now, back to watching basketball ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not all roses

I turned on the TV to watched the recorded finale of "The Bachelor" and there sat Emily and Brad on the couch while "After the Rose" show was airing.

Yep. I learned who Brad picked before the finale aired. Until today when Holly e-mailed me that she saw a magazine cover with Emily and Brad and then I saw the same magazine in the check-out line at the grocery store today, I thought Brad would choose Chantal. But I was still hoping for Emily.

Seems like my hope was reality. But, as Emily shared later, reality TV doesn't mean a transition into reality is easy.

Emily asked a tough question: What does being a father mean? As a parent, I so appreciate that. I get where she's coming from. I understand why Brad didn't want to be questioned over and over again, but I also think Emily just wanted to make sure she wasn't opening up her life -- and her daughter's life -- to someone that wasn't really in it. Even though it was a hard conversation, I think it was necessary, and it didn't deter Brad in the end.

And wasn't that Train song beautiful?

So ... after the final rose. They seemed still to be adjusting to each other but like they want to make it work. At least Brad seems to realize that the show is a fairytale and real life isn't.

I kept wondering why Emily's engagement ring was missing? And I was surprised they had planned to get married last night -- on TV. I think it's OK to wait, even if that's what they want, so they could deal with the logistics of this life-changing season. I hope it works. I hope love prevails.

Brad just keeps rubbing her ring finger, which really didn't have a ring on it.

Even so, Emily really needs to get over the show, and Chantal. I don't want her insecurities to get the best of all the potential good things. "I was watching it and thinking, 'I'd pick her.'" Thing is, Emily, Brad picked you.

Rest in that.

And -- finally -- he gave her the ring to put back on her finger. I guess it fits better now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

life-long friends

These five kids have known each other all of their little lives. Jaclyn -- mom to Luke, Norah and Caroline -- is one of my dearest friends. I love that our friendship has sustained so many seasons of life, starting with college life and continuing into our engagements to our college boyfriends, weddings two months apart in the summer of 2002, e-mailing while we adjusted to careers and married life, living in the same town again, trying to have kids, having a family, quitting our careers, and growing our families. I know I've written about this before, but I continue to be thankful with how God shapes friendships into what they need to be. Sharing our lives has changed as we have these little people who need us, but I'm thankful we've figured it out as we've lived our lives together.

Our kids love each other to pieces at some moments and fight like brothers and sisters the next moment. But that's part of it, and it's probably to be expected when there are five kids almost 5 and younger.

Ben certainly didn't want to miss out on playing with the window clings with the big kids.

Only nine months and less than 2 pounds separate these two. They'll go to kindergarten together. I hope Ben is the kind of boy who will protect her, even if she is bigger than him.

fishing in 70 degrees

Greg wanted to take Cate fishing. I just wanted to be outside in the 70-degree weather, so Ben and I went along. I took some pictures, tried to pacify my antsy 15-month old with snacks and read some of the book I'm reading. I should note a few fish were caught, all with the pink princess rod.

"Um, you want me to hold that?"

"Nah, I'll just pose with you and fish."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Celebrating Spring

My calendar tells me Spring will be here in nine days. We'll see if Mother Natures agrees. Even so, spring is coming.

I'm looking forward to pushing my double stroller outside, walking to errand stops like Rite-Aid and the Post Office, letting the kids have picnics outside, watching Cate ride her bike, watching Ben discover the great outdoors, sitting on my porch swing with a good book and tasting my husband's grilling successes.

Cate is ready to play in her house [actually a play set like some of these wooden swing sets], blow bubbles and ride her bike, helmet and all. Ben just wants to "go," as he said yesterday while beating on the back door, and get dirty, I'm sure.

What do you want to do when Spring arrives?

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Any U.S. or Canadian resident is welcome to enter. Each tweet about my contest earns an extra entry, just link the tweet in the comments section. An e-mail address must accompany each participate, so be sure to leave yours if you doubt I have it.

You have until March 20 -- you know, the First Day of Spring -- to enter. A winner will be selected sometime that day using random.org.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Chairman

Everything we do has endless ripple effects on his life and her life and their lives and eventually on people we don't even know. I've believed this for a long time, but I came away from "The Adjustment Bureau" feeling that truth even more so.

We make choices every day. Some are mundane and send small ripples through society, especially the community in which we live. Others are life-changing decisions and we know it while we are making. And then there are still others that end up changing us, even if we don't know that's part of the plan.

The Plan.

"The Adjustment Bureau" answers to The Chairman. The case workers are responsible for making sure people, specifically Matt Damon's character David Norris in this case, stay on the plan, which is literally mapped out in a book. But as Norris figured out, these case workers don't always know why The Chairman outlined a plan. Ultimately, Norris believed the love of his life was worth more than anything else he had pursued, regardless of whether she was part of The Plan on the paper.

Likewise, we live life making decisions. We consult our spouse, our parents, our friends and hopefully our God. We decide in our heart what is worth pursuing and what's not, but we don't have case workers guiding us with a map. We have to have faith being sure of what we hope for and certain of we don't see in our Chairman, the one who created the world and knows our hearts.

In the movie, Norris says, "All I have are the choices I make." And that's true. We choose to love, to forgive, to obey, to rejoice. And those choices determine our attitude and actions.

We may not have a map that blinks a different color when we're off course, but we do have a God who fills our hearts with his Spirit so we can be convicted when we've strayed from his ways. Knowing God that way is another choice we make. Continually. And we have the freedom to know the Author of the plan that revealed to us moment by moment, decision by decision.

... In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

--Ephesians 1:4-12

Sometimes the plan is a mystery. Life appears to be full of chance because we can't see the whole plan. Often we're left to trust the One we're serving, even when we sometimes have questions. We have a Chairman who cares about every last detail and wants us to choose him over and over again so that we can become more and more like His Son. Along the way, more of The Plan is revealed by The Chairman, who is indeed the author. And one day we'll meet him face to face.

David Norris wanted to find who wrote the book and take his love Elise through the door, even though he wasn't sure what was on the other side. That's faith in its purest sense.

'Remember how the Lord ...'

Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but even he came out of a 40-day fast renewed to do his Father's will. Before our savior walked the earth, Elijah and Moses spent 40 days in the desert and emerged changed. Elijah was still and heard God. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights with the Lord on Mount Sinai and emerged with the Ten Commandments and the peace that comes with obedience.

I've thought before about how God leads us through dry seasons and we emerge from our own desert changed. The dry season teaches us to trust our Guide to get us to the other side. I know because God led Moses and Elijah and his own Son out of their wildernesses and into renewed life. And I know because I've been in the wilderness, a dry place where I was yearning for more. And, you know, God was faithful to me, just like he was to Mose, Elijah and Jesus.

Reminders of God's faithfulness help sustain me in ordinary, everyday life because he called me to live this life for His glory. I don't want to forget who got me here and who will take me through each season that follows. And, really, I don't need to grumble about life like the Israelites did.

... Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. ...

Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land -- a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing ...

--From Deuteronomy 8

Today is Ash Wednesday, a ceremonial beginning to the Lenten season leading up to Easter. While I don't attend a church (Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) that formally participates in the Lenten season, God lead me to sacrifice something that hinders me from better serving Him during these 40 days (actually 47 counting today, Easter and all the Sundays between) before we celebrate the way Jesus obeyed his Father in his death on the cross and then stunned the world by rising from the tomb.

I'm not going to eat desserts for the coming 47 days.

Desserts aren't evil. But I'd be better without then. And I need God to help me do without them. Call them an addiction. Call them luxuries. Call them distractions. At different times, desserts are these things to me.

When I want dessert, I'll thing about all the good things God has given me, I'll pray to God to be stronger and more disciplined and I'll ask God to help me grumble less and rejoice more. Desserts are a mixed blessing for a Type 1 diabetic anyway. I'm trusting God to teach me something in these next 47 days. And I'll emerge from this dessert-free desert changed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let the games begin!

This is the basement before ...

The paneling has been replaced with painted drywall. The tile has been replaced with tile. And that exercise bike and built-in piano also are gone. Our game room is ready ... just in time for March Madness.

So, this is the basement now ...

Yes, the pop-a-shot game still exists for anyone who worried I may have persuaded Greg to get rid of it. But it works nicely in our new room for watching and playing games.

But, seriously, my favorite part of the room is this couch. We have a coordinating love seat coming so there will be plenty of seating when we watch basketball or whatever other sport [not any sport, but Major League Baseball, Titans football and college football are also popular in this household] is in season.

I particularly love the corner of the sectional that Cate is sitting in. It's one of those couches that is soft and sucks you right in. How do I know? Well, I've watched a couple shows down there and I spent more than an hour on it yesterday while reading.

And it's a FAMILY room. Not a man cave, in case anyone is wondering.

23 hours away

Hooray for a road trip!

We loaded up Friday afternoon to go to the OVC Tournament in Nashville to root on our Racers. Cate was especially excited to have her new pom-poms.

Even with all the cheering, the Racers shot 33 percent from the floor, which basketball fans know won't win many games. The Racers didn't play well enough to win, but they still had a chance if they could have hit crucial free throws or that wide-open 3. Maybe that double bye killed the Racers' momentum. Or maybe the guys were just tired.

Whatever it was, the regular-season championship without the tournament championship ensures an NIT bid. I've never cared about the NIT, but I guess having my hometown Racers in it will make it interesting. And, yes, I'll still watch the NCAA Tournament. The opening rounds are like a holiday at my house.

Speaking of the guys being tired, my little guy was tired. He started fighting sleep before the 7 p.m. tip-off and even screamed through the entire National Anthem. He gave into sleep not too long into the game and slept for the remaining three-fourths of the game. I'm sure the people around me were glad too.

I was glad he gave into sleep and then let me lay him down in the chair next to me. Even with all the clapping and cheering and comments toward the referees going on around him, he slept ... like a baby.

Cate was especially excited about staying in the hotel, which had two bedrooms. Finding "Angelina Ballerina" on the TV on Saturday morning was like icing on her road trip cake. And Ben, of course, likes to do whatever she's doing.

Our Racers lost, but the road trip was redeemed with Blackhorse pizza and beer cheese and a Target shopping trip during the Clarksville, Tenn., pit stop on the way home. You may recall I missed an opportunity last month to eat at this favorite restaurant of mine.

It was a fun road trip, even if it did last only 23 hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

15 months and on the move

Ben can walk. Just watch ...

But he prefers crawling. Quickly. And, trust me, crawling doesn't slow him down. In fact, I think he realizes walking will slow him down, at least briefly while he masters the new mode of transportation.

Really, though, who needs to walk when you can just crawl? Ben certainly doesn't care that he has to put his hands in dirt. He likes to be on the move and he's quick messy, regardless of what he's doing.

There's no slowing him down, I'm telling you. And that's probably why he has hovered around the same weight for a few months, despite his love of eating. He was 21 lbs. 4 oz. (25th percentile) at his 15-month check-up appointment earlier this week after being 21 lbs. 1 oz. when he was 10 months. And for the blog record, he's 32 inches tall, which puts him in the 75th percentile.

I was looking up details of Cate being 15 months old, and it's interesting to see their similarities and their differences.

He doesn't say quite as many words, but he's certainly not quiet either. He uses "uh-oh" when anything is on the floor, says "up" when he wants up, says "nigh-night" for anything associated with sleep, he says "hi" to nearly every we ever pass, can say "bye" but is rather stubborn about it, uses "thank you" for both it's actual meaning as well as for "please," and says "mama" more than "dada." He has his own versions of Cate and shoes. And I think he's trying to say Norah.

In other 15-month news, Ben likes to go to bed at 7 p.m., and sometimes before, and generally sleeps 12 hours. He's been taking one nap most days but a couple mornings a week he needs that extra nap. He likes to climb in chairs, has mastered going up and down the stairs quickly, and knows to say "hi" when he puts a phone to his ear. Unfortunately, he also likes to throw fits when he doesn't get his way, but I'm guessing he'll learn sooner rather than later that such a strategy doesn't work on this momma.

He's generally happiest -- and boy does he have a great smile -- when he's on the move.

When he's not crawling, he very well could be climbing, like up these playground stairs. And, yes, he prefers going down the slide head first on his belly.

Then there's Cate, who comes down the slide after Ben and says, "Momma, take a picture of me?"

So I took picture, and then she was quickly off to pick up some sticks, which make great tools for the digging in the same dirt through which her brother prefers to crawl.

Spring is coming ...

My calendar tells me my dear friend Spring will be here in 18 days and, technically, be here three months. But I live in Kentucky, so I know it will feel like Spring's visit is cut short.

Another sign of Spring's coming arrival: Murray's old-fashioned, walk-up Dairy Queen that is open from March 1 to Oct. 31 opened yesterday. I've lived in Murray for 11 1/2 years, and yesterday was the first time I've ever been to Opening Day. Probably because I don't want to wait in line for ice cream when I can just get is quicker the next day or the next week or the coming several months.

But when I drove by yesterday, the line wasn't nuts. So I stopped and treated my kids to Dairy Queen. Cate got a cherry Dilly Bar [which caused her to stumble over her words, which made me grin at the cuteness] and Ben got his first DQ cone, a baby-sized one, which he promptly devoured.

And then he mooched bites of his sister's. Yes, it's nice of her to share.

Now I'm hoping Spring will be just has giving with warm-but-not-humid temperatures and plenty of sunshine before Summer rushes my friend away.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

the piano is gone;
the couch is here

I watched "The Bachelor" last night while lounging on our new couch in our renovated basement that is being transformed into a TV/game room. Now I'm sitting on the same comfortable couch in what is likely to become my favorite corner watching Kentucky basketball.

Well, I was sitting in what is likely to become my favorite corner of the chocolate-colored sectional. Greg apparently wanted to try out that corner ... and who am I not to share? We may start racing down the newly carpeted stairs or playing Paper, Rock, Scissors for that corner.

The room is almost ready to show off. And, no worries, the built-in piano is gone. So is the paneling and basement smell.

Our goal was to have it ready to host NCAA Tournament-watching parties, so we're well ahead of that. All that's left is to haul off some trash, hang a few more pictures and a mop one more section of the newly tiled floor.

Speaking of mopping ...

Cate keeps calling it "mop-th-ing." Like mopping with an extra "th" sound in the middle. Regardless, she also keeps wanting to mop.

So Greg taught her how.

And then, of course, she wanted to do it herself.

Yes, there will be more pictures of our new room. Soon. But, for now, back to basketball.

Lions and tigers and roses ... oh my!

And "The Bachelor" and his ladies are in South Africa.

I'm liking Chantal more in Africa. Several weeks ago, I was really liking her, and then all the emotional drama got to me. She seems to be back. And how cool that they're sleeping in a tree house. Although, really, I'm not sure I'd actually sleep there, in the middle of the nowhere, where wild animals are sure to be.

Helicopters are no surprise on "The Bachelor," but Brad picked up Emily for their date on an elephant. "This is like 'The Lion King' but better." Nice, Emily.

I know I've said it before, but I respect Brad's respect for Emily being a mom.

Did Ashley really think she was going to be on "The Bachelor" this long and not ride in a helicopter? And, on the same note, did she think she was going to be in the final three and not have to talk about the future. Brad kept apologizing to her, but it's not his fault she's apparently not into talking about how their lives could come together.

I'm sure Ashley will have more to say next week on the reunion show. Oh, and speaking of talking, I'm sure Michelle will have a thing or two or fifty to say.

My favorite two women are left standing, waiting for Brad. After meeting his family, he'll [supposedly] pick one. I'm still hoping Emily is his girl, but I have the feeling Chantal will be handed the final rose ... and a ring.

How do you think this show will end?