Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflections on Our Christmas

A Little Background

Admittedly, I'm not a big holiday person. I tend to get a bit annoyed by all the hype of every holiday. Everyone seems to get in such a tizzy... only to get expectations unmet. Now that we have children, we've been forced to rethink how we celebrate and not celebrate holidays. My first thought was to just leave out all the annoying things and leave in the few things we do like. My focus was more to push aspects away then to actually have much of a plan of what we would do.

Thanks to Two Square's posts on Advent, Doug and I started rethinking our vision of the Christmas season back in late November. Looking back, I realize how negative I had been to the whole Christmas thing. While we had a few of our own traditions in place, I mostly wanted it just breeze by. I tend to be the kind of person who enjoys being surprised by the fabulous moments hidden in the ordinary every day ones. That's a good thing I want to hold onto... but I also want to better embrace the special moments that can come amidst the special holidays and seasons throughout the year. I don't want to "throw the baby out with the bath water," so to speak.

Reflecting on this Year's Advent and Christmas

All that to say, as we near the end of our Christmas celebrating, I'm deeply thankful to proclaim that my vision of Christmas has been redeemed. In this post, I want to share some choices we made which, for us, led to so many sweet moments in our family. I also want to start a Christmas scrapbook- idea first gained from this lovely friend- to record all that we're learning and experiencing together as a family! I never before cared about such a thing. We end our time together so refreshed and so thankful!


So I will start here... this might be a bit long. I admit this post might be more for our family than for you or yours. I cherish this blog space as one to reflect and remember. For some reason I'm more apt to write here than in a journal... anyone else like that out there? And at the outset, I want to explain that while I want to write about what we did and why... in no way do I want to preach it as the best way for you or your family. We are absolutely still learning and next year might end up looking a bit differently. Lord, may no self-righteousness fall into these lines. Amen? Amen. Okay, let's get started.

The start of our Advent was much later than we anticipated. A horrible virus befell this home and had us out for the count, one by one, for close to 3 weeks. In some ways, I'm thankful it turned out this way. Ten days of Advent was a good first trial run for us... and it was good to not feel bound by a certain length. Although next year, we hope to try it a bit longer.

Last disclaimer... I came up with none of these ideas alone. Only a few of them are linked, but all of them I stole from somewhere. In that tradition, feel free to steal any of these yourself.

Here are a few things we did:

We were given the Fisher Price Nativity Set which we set up on a low table and let the kids play with. Nathan simply chewed on the characters and clunked them on the floor; Justin enjoyed holding each of them and beginning to play out parts of the Christmas story on his own. It was a big hit with both boys in their own ways.

We bought a second Nativity Set (with which we didn't allow play) to set up in the middle of our dining table. Every morning during Advent, we added another character of the Nativity. Justin really got into the anticipation of who/what would be there each morning. AND it gave us fodder for our Advent time each evening.

Also each morning, we cut a link in a homemade paper chain. Each link had a line to the Christmas story. (Doug wrote the story in ten lines... the same number of days we celebrated Advent.) We read the story to Justin, which usually corresponded somehow to the new character added in the nativity scene. We talked about it briefly and then taped it to a cabinet near our dining table. Each morning, we read the links already opened and then the new one for that day. The theory is that by Christmas, the kids will have the Christmas story learned. Justin didn't have it memorized, but it helped him be more and more aware of the various characters and pieces of the plot. The paper chain added another element of anticipation and was another activity we could participate in together as a family.

At mealtimes, we lit candles to make it feel a bit more special. We told Justin we were lighting candles because of Advent- special time, to help us prepare for Christmas, Jesus' birth day.

At dinnertime, we gathered all the Christmas pictures of friends and family we had received that day and prayed for them briefly. This idea is yet another one that I stole from a family at our church. Adding another anticipation element, we all looked forward to the pictures we would receive from the mailman each day... how many and who they were. It was encouraging to pray together as a family for all those special people. This practice got us praying, blessed the prayed-for ones, helped get our eyes on others during Christmas, and was a little link in the chain to help teach Justin how to pray. We then hung them on a picture hanger on a wall near the dining table.

For Advent time each evening, we sat on the couch together (just before bedtime, pj's on, blankies in hand-- which helped everyone settle) and BRIEFLY talked about the new thing on the table. We asked Justin what was new, then we talked about one simple fact about that thing. For instance, when we added Mary, we talked about how she was thankful to God for having her carry His Son Jesus in her belly. We then read a few pages of a children's Christmas book to highlight Mary. We then prayed very briefly about that. I made a very simple ornament of each night's focus... just copied a simple drawing I found in a book... and then we helped Justin hang it on the tree. (Note: The bulk of our other Christmas decorations and ornaments were already hung on our tree, which we bought, set up, and decorated at the beginning of December.)

Just before Christmas day, I had Justin do some simple "art projects," chalk and markers on paper, that I made into simple Christmas cards for neighbors. Justin and I delivered them... it was a fun and simple (no baking required!) way to connect with our neighbors, for Justin to be involved in caring for others, etc.

So to recap a typical Advent day... in the morning we put out a new piece of the nativity scene we had on the table. We cut a link in the Christmas story paper chain, read all the opened chain links, and then taped the newest link to a cabinet for visibility. At dinnertime, we prayed for the people for whom we received Christmas pictures that day. In the evening, we talked again about the new element of the nativity scene on the table, read a few pages from a Christmas story that related to the other parts of the day, and hung the newest ornament onto the tree... and we talked and prayed briefly about all of that.

Evaluation of our Advent Time
Advent time became a very special time for our family. It helped Doug and I by helping us reread and think through the Christmas story. We enjoyed the chance to talk and relearn the story and its truths. It was helpful to our own faith to be forced to explain these truths in simple ways. It was precious to see Justin get so excited about that time... as simple as it was.

Another thing I was struck by was how kid-friendly the Christmas story actually is. I know that might sound silly, but think about it... the star, all the animals, the long travelling everyone did, the presents, a Baby, etc. There really are many things kids can connect with and enjoy in this Story. Seeing anew through Justin's eyes helped Doug and me realize once again how special It is. And because of all these elements interesting to kids, it is really not hard to peak their interest.

Are there other Advent practices you especially enjoyed incorporating into your family? What did you do and how did it benefit your family?

Christmas Eve/ Day

Christmas Eve, we read some Scripture from the Christmas story... which was special and also ended up being hilarious. Doug and I exchanged the bulk of our presents Christmas Eve after the boys were in bed so that we could have our own little intimate time. We sipped on homemade apple cider- a previously held tradition of ours and had quiet time for Doug and me.

On Christmas morning, we presented Justin with the full nativity scene, which he was so stoked about. We cut the last link in the paper chain and read all our links. We made a chocolate pie (I used that recipe except I used real whipped cream- of course!), added candles to it, and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. We were all pretty excited to eat chocolate pie for dessert after breakfast. We then made Christmas cards for each other (another previously held tradition in our family)... very simple but fun. Then, we proceeded to the den where we opened the gifts and the stockings.

We had downplayed the whole present-thing through all of Advent, so Justin didn't wake up Christmas morning knowing we would open presents... that's why we were able to some other things before present-opening. However, I know as he gets older he will certainly pick up on this sooner. I'm not sure if we'll do this part differently or not in the future.

We limited ourselves to buying 3 smallish presents for the boys (+ a few small stocking stuffers)... in the tradition of the wise men's bringing 3 presents to Jesus. Another tradition that we stole, this was definitely more of an accountability for us. If I had the money, I would be tempted to buy the world for the boys. I don't have the money, but I would probably find a way to spend more than would be good for them or for our wallet. This limit was good for us... on Christmas morning, I had totally forgotten the other gifts I wanted to buy for them. And the boys of course were so content with their $7 car carrier and other small presents... and oh, all that wrapping paper. We talked about how we give gifts both because that was the wise men's response to Jesus's birth and also because God gave us the best gift of all by sending Jesus.

So Brett, to answer your question about how we balanced the Santa part of Christmas with the real Christmas story... the answer is that we didn't. We aren't crazy about a lot of the traditions surrounding Santa, so we just skipped them. It seemed too hard to us to have 2 different things going on that seemed to us so opposing. However, many people I respect practice the Santa traditions, so I would welcome them to comment on how they've been able to maintain that balance during their Christmas celebrations. This book might touch on this topic... but I haven't read it so I'm not sure.

Family Christmas Time
Advent time spilled into "Family Christmas Time," which started on Christmas day... where we continued to talk about Jesus, now focusing on celebrating, thanking God for the Gospel, and talking about the implications in our daily life- for instance, being thankful to God now for sending Jesus because He loves us, loving our neighbor, etc. We kept all our Christmas decorations up for a week after Christmas to help us all remember that we were still celebrating Christmas... drawing from the tradition of the "Twelve Days of Christmas."
I would love to hear ways you and/or your family celebrated Christmas together that were especially meaningful.

Regular Family Worship Time
We had not previously been doing any "family worship" or prayer time together, mostly because we really didn't know how to do that or if it was really necessary. Knowing our children are growing up in a ministry-as-vocation family, we wanted to be sensitive to the fact that they are around ministry a lot. We didn't want to stuff spiritual stuff down their throats. However, now we are realizing that it's our students who are involved in ministry, our children aren't directly a part of that... and aren't benefiting except by having fun at gatherings with our students occasionally. We now have vision for the importance of living out our spiritual lives as a family, not just as individuals. And there are ways to do that without stuffing it down their throats. We're excited to share with them really good news about who God is and what He has done/is doing for us. Practicing Advent and "Family Christmas Time" gave us a framework of how that time can look on a regular basis. Having to practice looking at one story in Scripture gave us the confidence and vision to look at others with our family. And it gave us fodder to draw from throughout the day when other things came up that reminded us of the Story. If you do some sort of "Family Worship" on a regular basis, we would love to hear what you do and how you do it.

Children's Christmas Books
We also invested in some children's Christmas books for the kids at the outset of the season.

One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book is a simple, fun book that focuses on all the characters of the Christmas story through counting... we recommend it for the youngest members of your bunch.

My First Story of Christmas was our favorite... a great simple story with all the important elements of the Christmas story, and well illustrated.

This is the Stable is a sing-songy well-written depiction of the Christmas. We appreciated that the characters were all nonwhite. It was a little lacking the emphasis on Jesus... so while we recommend it, we would also recommend having others to balance it.

Away in a Manger is a tiny board book with the famous song... a fun way to sing together. It's very cheap and we recommend it.

Both Missy and Two Square have recommended The Advent Book that we'll likely invest in next Christmas.

We would love to invest in more children's' Christmas books... do you have any recommendations?

Adult/Family Advent/Christmas Books
These are Advent/Christmas books we invested in for us:

Before and After Christmas has a Scripture verse, reflection, and family activity for each day of Advent and Christmas. While we didn't use this book verbatim, It helped us think of various ways to break up the Christmas story, symbols to focus on, etc. Many of the reflections were secular in nature and seemed a bit irrelevant to us to the Christmas story. Also, many of the family activities were for older children. However, we're thankful we invested in this book as it's full of ideas from which we can draw for years.

Jesse Tree Devotions This is another family Advent activity book. On the order of the "Jesse Tree" tradition (newly learned by us this year), each day has a reflection of an Old Testament person in the line of Jesse who was David's father - and therefore in the line of Jesus, or another significant story in the Old Testament that leads to the coming of the Messiah. The last few entries have people from the New Testament that relate to the Christmas story. Each day has a paper ornament of various symbols for kids to color and a paper "Jesse Tree" to glue it on. It seemed like a great way to pull all of Scripture together and a great family activity to do, another year. All the prophecy seemed a bit too complicated to translate to a toddler, so we saved it for another year. If anyone has used the Jesse Tree tradition with preschoolers, we'd love to hear how you kept it simple.

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas includes lots of essays from various theologians and writers... some were amazing and some were very average. Does anyone have any adult reflection-type book on the Nativity they would recommend?

Thoughts for next year
I think we'll likely do the same things- focusing on different aspects of the nativity each day in various ways... maybe starting a little sooner- assuming we don't come down with awful viruses again next year! I found a very cheap and small Christmas wreathe at an after-Christmas sale. I think I'll use that for an Advent wreath either on our dining table or on the counter nearby. Two Square has a paragraph about this tradition here. If I get inspired with the creative bug, I also might make an Advent calendar like this really cool one. I also would like to include more Christmas songs/hymns into our preparations. Does anyone have any suggestions for Christmas song books or websites and how to include them in our Advent/Christmas practices? This post on Marshall's blog and the string of comments that accompanies it has a great list of Christmas Cd's. We'll use this to enlarge our Christmas CD collection next year.

Okay, I need to end this horrendously long post. Free blogger will probably send me a bill. Feel free to comment with further thoughts, answers to the above embedded questions, or further questions of your own.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Checking In

Several of my faithful commenters and lurkers have asked for more from MakingRoomForMore... so here are a few bullets from the last week or so.... lots of jumbled up thoughts and no good writing. But here you go...

We've been generally having quiet family time around here... as quiet as time can be with a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 yr old... and 2 talkative parents (we can't blame all the noise on the kids). I haven't been in the mood for blog-writing... just in the mood for being around home and in reading many of your blogs. We've enjoyed some bits of time with extended family last weekend and this weekend... and are also thankful we've had this week mostly to ourselves. We've loved the freedom to try out some new things and do them our way.

We infused lots of Advent practices into our Christmas experience... mostly thanks to TwoSquare for bringing up the topic. I'll do a post on that another day- if I'm in the mood and if there is interest. For now, suffice it to say for now that we really enjoyed/are still enjoying preparing and celebrating Christmas over the course of many weeks.

Christmas Eve night, we were talking about how Mary was thankful when God told her she would have God's son Jesus in her belly... Mary's being thankful was something Justin grabbed hold of the last few weeks. Doug explained how he was going to read "Mary's Magnificat..." (however you spell that) or Mary's Song. He started reading it... and Justin asked Doug to sing it since it was a song- a reasonable request. The next few minutes were hilarious. Precious Doug wanted to take Justin's request seriously and sing this VERY long song that has no tune that we know of, of course- it was a bit painful for him. I was laughing hard and trying not to wet myself, and trying not to let Justin know of my laughter.

Christmas day, Doug threw the Frisbee accidentally into Justin's face. Justin became scared of Doug and ran away, hiding behind my car! I comforted him and tried to explain that it was an accident, that Daddy didn't mean to hit him in the face with the Frisbee, but he wouldn't have any of it. Thankfully, he's moved on!

Nathan has decided the last few days that it's fun and curious to pull up in his bed... but when he gets there he gets really scared apparently, not knowing what to do with himself. He erupts in heavy crying. He did this several times throughout last night. We go in to comfort him and put him back down, only to have the situation repeated. Oh the fun. During the day, he has been the easy going guy, loving to play on his own and enjoying exploring all the toys. He's been into kissing lately... and we're all loving it. He's also gotten really fast and sly at poking Justin's eyes. He seems to come out of nowhere and nails him... getting Justin back for all the knocking over!

For those of you who receive our newsletters (all or most of you?) and read of my mishap with Doug's present... here's an update. I commissioned a friend/former student to do a drawing of Doug's favorite Christmas hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel for his main Christmas present. I was very excited about it and this amazing artist finished it a couple weeks ago. Just before I was to pick it up, I realized his favorite song was really O Holy Night and was disgusted at my mistake... only to learn on Christmas Eve- when Doug and I exchanged our presents, that O Come O Come IS his favorite song after all... O Holy Night is a Close Second. So all is well after all!

Doug and I (he's off this week) have also been getting lots of house projects done. He's been itching to create... so he's been building a really cool frame out of old barn wood for his new drawing (above) and constructing a new coat rack out of that same old barn wood and a bunch of antique door knobs, casters, etc. Many afternoons, if you were to peer into our backyard, you'd see Justin with his tools spread out on his very own "work table..." copying the precise movements of his Daddy at his own work table. It's been so preciously cute! At this very moment, they are digging out a section of the backyard in preparation for Doug's newest project- a garden. Covered in dirt and sweat, I'm not sure which one is feeling more at home.

I've been in the organizing mode... cleaning out junk drawers (I think we have about 5 of those!) and the like. Today I just printed out my new free 2008 calendar for my Notebook.

Okay, I think I'll close up this random post. Happy celebrating, everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Mom is Coming

She'll leap through the door with smile, with giggle, with vision for the day, with energy of 500 acrobats, with new trucks for the boys, with dark chocolate m&m's.

My mom is coming.

Soon the counters will be cleared of dishes full of uneaten food.

My mom is coming.

The dishwasher will be emptied and refilled to the brim.

My mom is coming.

Fever-reducing medicines will be consolidated. Mail will be sorted. Late bills will be located. Bags of dirty diapers hurled to the outside can.

My mom is coming.

Jackets, trash, used tissues, water bottles, toys will be removed from my kitchen counters. Puzzle pieces will be reunited from under the entertainment center.

My mom is coming.

Diapers will be changed more quickly, the boys' rooms will be swept of dust balls.

My mom is coming.

The boys will be happier by her Teflon presence. They'll laugh more, cry less, their noses will probably even respond by drying up.

My mom is coming.

I'll get a nap, a cooked meal, hear about how I did this to her during days of old.

My mom is coming.

I'll run around less, sit more, get frustrated less, laugh more.

My mom is coming.

My mom is coming, my mom is coming, my mom is coming!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Attractiveness of Living in My Own Whiny Head

I was inspired by dear friend Diane to take a few minutes of the grace of a dual nap time to write a bit of my mommy struggles today.

Like Diane shared in her post, I too am having a stretch of circumstancially crummy days. The boys collectively have had colds, snotty noses and eyes (lovely), croup, sleepless nights, sleepless naps, fussiness beyond measure, etc. We've watched more videos in this house the past 2 days then the last 6 months combined. And I'm paying the price with more fussiness.

There have been moments when I have risen to the occasion. With a heart full of compassion, I have embraced these sweet, tired, pitiful, and sickly boys. I've soaked in the snuggles, knowing these needy-Mommy moments won't last forever. I've sprinted to them in the middle of the night to assure the confused minds and wipe their salty tears. Moments when I've said "yes" to them more than I've said "no."

And there are the ugly moments. There are the moments when I'm more focused on myself and how they have ruined my plan for the day. Moments when I think of all the things I haven't been able to get done. Moments when I hang their disobedience in shame over their heads, not letting it go instantaneously as Christ does for me. When I speak to them with harsh tone and words.

And so, as nap time is once again interrupted with the coughs of a little boy, and now both, I realize that I'm at the end of my Mommy rope. My ability to serve unselfishly and with compassion is no longer here. It is now that I realize I've been serving with my own strength and not asking for and relying on the Lord for that ability to love these precious boys through me. I can repent of putting myself first, making an idol of my own comfort. I can ask the Lord to forgive and receive that never-ending forgiveness. I can choose to believe Him... and ask for Him to come and be the Lover through me.

So, why don't I? What is so attractive to me about staying in whiny, ME mode? Why don't I run towards the One who assures me time and time again that He is really present, really caring, really Sovereign, really unconditional in the giving of His love and strength?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Brothers' Love

Yesterday, I was chatting with Justin about how someday he might have more brothers and/or sisters (not preggers right now, just making conversation with my toddler). It went something like this:

me "Justin, isn't it so fun and special to have Nathan as your brother?"

Justin "Yeah."

me "Someday, you might have another brother or sister. Wouldn't that be great?"

Justin "Yeah. (insert concerned, thoughtful look) Would Nathan still be here then, too?"

Sweet Justin was only excited about the possibility of future sibling(s) if Nathan was included in the mix. I guess he thought I meant we'd have another sibling, as in... trade out Nathan for another baby. Oh, the sad thought!

These boys keep falling in love with each other more and more and I'm so grateful. They bless each other just by being in each others' lives.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Giveaway

Three posts in 2 days... I know, not like me. But wanted you guys to have the chance to get a free book.

TwoSquareMeals is hosting a book giveaway for Advent. We just ordered the book last week per her recommendation, so we can't apply for the drawing- ahh shucks. More chances for you to win! She's giving this book away... so if you'd like to try for it, simply post a comment on this post... make sure you provide her with your email address if it's not already on your blog, if you have one. She's drawing them out of a hat. Maybe you'll win the book!

Thanks for being generous with something that blessed you, TwoSquare!

And if you haven't checked it out yet, TwoSquare has a great blog... her posts have a variety of topics... Mommy issues, social justice, spiritual parenting issues, humorous/endearing memories with her kids, music, literature, and more. We used to be in a mentoring relationship... so I wish I could take the credit for all that she knows and does. However, she is yet another example of how the teacher has become the student. Most of my favorite mentoring relationships have turned upside down like that!

Hope one of you wins the book!

For Bod or Bust (or Pecks)... Post Thanksgiving Edition

Hi friends!
So how are you doing with your goals?! I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself... considering it was Thanksgiving! I didn't overeat, I exercised (ran with a little more distance than the previous week) almost every day. I enjoyed an amazing across-the-sky rainbow here before we left and gorgeous farm/mountain views at my in-laws. However, I did no abs... it's a bit difficult to do those outside of your own home, ya know?! How are the rest of you doing?

This week's Bod or Bust (or Pecks) award goes to my Aunt Betsy... for losing 40lbs+ last year doing Weight Watchers and for sending us a yummy (and healthy) dessert recipe last week. Congratulations, Betsy! Thanks for joining us! Your award is a large pumpkin... I'll toss it to you now, get your hands ready!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Traveling with Children

Hi friends!
On this morning after our return Thanksgiving travels, I want to share some humorous wisdom received from my friend Kelly. It is wisdom in regards to traveling with children, and as I sip my cup of coffee and squint through my foggy eyes, I'm brought to laughter with its perspective. For those of you also (enjoying) travelling with your little ones over the holidays, hopefully it'll do the same for you.

"Travel with kids is an adventure, not a vacation. Really, it's like childbirth. In the middle of it, you think, "I will NEVER repeat this experience," but then the memories fade and you even look forward to it next time around."

Thanks for sharing Kelly! Hope you don't have to get up 10 times tonight and that you get some sleep soon!

We travelled to my in-laws and had a good time. Justin started falling apart Friday... the missed sleep and over stimulation catching up with him. Doug and I started falling apart at the same time... for the same reasons I presume. Nathan sleeps in our room when we travel. And he loves to moan and talk throughout the night. He's the loudest sleeper on the planet, we're sure. We do look forward to their sharing a room someday, but we're convinced we'll have to don Justin some ear plugs in order to weather Nathan's noise.

Doug's auntie and family live down the street from our in-laws and we spend some time with them as well. Think farm country, lots of cows, slower pace, etc. When I called Aunt Moira (and the rest of her 9-person family) to make our visiting plans, she said, "The only thing we have this morning is skinning and butchering the dear we just received from some friends. This afternoon we have some friends (family of 7 + pregnant mama) coming over, but they can't come until they receive their hay delivery." Hmmmm, interesting. Words I would never use to describe my day! It's always fun and insightful to be around folks who live in different worlds then we!

Happy post-Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

For Bod or Bust (or Pecks) Continued

In this eve-week of Thanksgiving, how are ya? As we head into the eating/visiting with family frenzy, I'm wanting to remember to enjoy myself, try a little of everything, stop when I'm full, and take every advantage of going for walks and playing outside with family.

We have a couple new folks joining our healthy venture: Melanie- all the way from Thailand... making our group truly international since Laura is in too. Welcome!

Our "tip of the week" comes via another newbie Katie P... check this out to map out distances for walking and running... tres fun, mon amie! Thanks!

Marshall has had a great week, running his longest distance EVER- 5.85 miles! Marshall qualifies for the first ever MakingRoomForMore Pecks of the Week Award. Congratulations, Marshall! Keep a look out for your free Dunder Mifflin Anti-Nipple Chafing Cream, coming soon!

The last half of the week, I slacked off in the walking/running department. Doing okay in the eating department though. How are all of you doing with your goals??

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've always considered myself a multi-tasker... but after becoming a mommy, my multi-tasking has reached a whole new level. Tonight after the boys were in bed, I found myself:

doing a load of laundry
sipping a glass of red wine
listening to the quiet hums of the boys' monitors as they drifted off to sleep
listening to Poetry Speaks to Children on CD- thanks to Nina's recommendation
emptying cooked, pureed, and frozen raisins and dried apricots out of ice cube trays for Nathan's baby food
cooking green beans in the microwave
dreaming up my next blog post
imagining spending my 6th anniversary with my sweetie in February

Yes, all at the same time. These are the moments I think I am really amazing. I mean, when will the next Nobel Peace price go to a parent, I ask you?
What are some of your favorite multi-tasking moments?? Do share! I can't grant you to Nobel, but I can grant you public access for the rest of the world, via being read here on the www!

Monday, November 12, 2007

For Bod or Bust (or Pecks)

Thanks for embarking on my winter wellness challenge!! "Winter Wellness Challenge" speaks of the meaning of what we're doing but sounds a bit dorky. So today I've come up with a better title of our little venture... "For Bod or Bust (or Pecks)"... it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?! Pecks were added because our little community is co-ed by nature (or nurture?).

Here's how it will work. The beginning of every week, I'll post with our new little title as the subject so you'll get your cue. I'll post my successes and confessions. You chime in and comment on yours as well. Hopefully, commenting to each other at the beginning of each week about the last week will help remind us to get on track for the coming week. We'll continue this through the winter months or as long as it is helpful. If others would like to chime in, feel free... just be sure to let us know your goals as well. For the 6 of us, let us know in your comments if you've written something about it on your blog so we can read. I've put my successes and failures at the bottom of this post... so feel free to get started and add yours in a comment to this post. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for better ways to make this work. Thanks for joining with me! I look forward to hearing how your last week has been!

Here are the takers:
Two Square Meals
Marshall at Joy in the Margins
Diane at SleeplessinGreensboro
my Doug (blogless)
Laura is in Honduras and can't easily post a comment because she has limited bandwidth down there. I'm not totally sure what that means, but I do like saying the word "bandwidth." Maybe we'll name our 3rd born "Bandwidth." (don't worry... there's no 3rd yet.) Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Summary of our Goals
Two Square Meals: I need more exercise, more water, and fewer sweets.

Marsh: I plan on running 3 X's a week, followed by sit ups and push ups (gotta get ripped), and I am contemplating training for the marathon that is planned for Gso in May.

Diane: I'm trying to snack on better options-have more fruit available, etc. So, I would love to maintain a healthy diet, exercise 3 X a week with some ab and other toning exercises at least 2 X a week.

Doug: I'm gonna do push ups and sit ups 3 times a week, increasing each week. I'll even try to get Justin to lay on my legs for sit ups and back for push ups.

Laura: The one thing that is lacking is an ab workout. I am going to try to work out my abdominal muscles regularly. (Check out Laura's web page- linked above- for more info on all the exercise she gets naturally, living where she lives.)

Me: walk/run for 20-30minutes 3-4 times/ some sort of ab workout a couple times/week.during nap time, reduce my large snack to a small snack.say "no" to after dinner snacking, most nights.try to eat slowly, paying attention to when I'm full... decreasing my portion sizes as appropriate. try to focus on eating more fruits and veggies, cut out some cheese and crackers, save the dessert-urges for really good homemade ones... stop wasting them on candy corn and the like. continue to drink lots of water.

My successes: I've walked/run every other day ever since last Sunday... so 5x! I've gradually decreased my walking distance and added running distance. I've felt great! And I totally rock because it's been COLD when I leave at 7:15am... last Thursday it was 24 degrees when I left! I'm still only gone for about 20 minutes which is ridiculously short. So this week I want to work on increasing to 30 minutes. I've also done some ab work 3 of those days. Generally done better eating, but
Confession time: I had a few extra handfuls of candy corn and ate 5 pieces of pizza yesterday! And I need to drink more water... would help the headache I have right now!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Knit Happens

I've had the knitting bug for a couple months. Was it the crisp evenings creeping into my den? Was it the desire to create, the need to make something with a starting point and a finishing point with my own two hands? I think it was a combination of the two, along with the urge to do something fun for myself that didn't directly meet anyone else's needs in my family. Just for me.

Last week I hauled up my knitting box from the basement... uncovering piles of yarn, my favorite knitting book Stitch 'N Bitch (from which I lifted the title of this post), and my beloved needles.

You see, all these elements of knitting are beloved to me because of their sentimentality. I picked up the craft for a road trip my husband and I took just over 3 years ago. I hypothesized that I would need something to do for all those miles. Our road trip took us from here in the Blue Ridge Mountains all the way to Banff, Canada. My memories include balancing my book on my lap and knitting scarves for all the women in our families for Christmas presents... all the while thankful for all the straight, flat roads which kept car sickness at bay! Doug and I figure I drove about 2 hours that ENTIRE 2-way road trip... all ~5,000 miles. I was happy creating and clicking with my needles... so proud of all my new, little creations. Doug was content keeping the wheel straight and pointing out all the hawks off the side of the road. It was such a special time for us... completely uninterrupted on the roads and in the woods in both Banff and Glacier National Parks... only to our sharing more of our history, observing the gorgeous settings, wondering about the communities we traversed, and dreaming of our future. It was during that trip that our Justin was conceived, unbeknown to us at the time. And in the backdrop of all these memories is yarn.

"What am I making?," you might ask. Well, I started and stopped several things in the last week. Originally, I was determined to knit with my leftover yarn. But today I decided I needed a new skein of yarn in a new color. What I was wanting to make just wasn't clicking with the available choices. And as any knitter knows, it is no fun to knit if you aren't excited about your yarn. So I headed over to a discount craft store- I'm no yarn snob... synthetics are preferred around here. And with my new-very delectable- yarn, I returned to start something new. And you'll have to wait and see (or read) once I'm finished recreating this small nook of the world.

For now, just picture my cute little knitting bag, made for me by a dear friend who first inspired me. It hangs on our little Doug-made coat rack by the front door... with antique wood casters and hooks and door knobs. Amidst the cars and trucks and music shakers and Dr Seuss books and balls... the bag brightens the room and reminds in thankfulness of an earlier time in my story that helped bring me to where we are today. And I imagine it will beckon me to itself in the coming days... massaging my own hands and mind, for every knitter knows... Knitting is a ministry for both the one who receives the finished product and the knitter herself. I'm in need of some knitting ministry. So with open hands, I put myself at the feet of the yarn and the One who first Created in the first place.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I'm finally motivated. Not only have I invested in new running/walking shoes, but I've also walked/ran 3 times this week... and I've managed to say "no thank you" to Doug's offer to share his cheese and cracker snack, most nights. I'm still receiving small glasses of red wine upon availability.

Since we moved in this house, I have not exercised beyond taking care of the boys. This summer, it was too blasted hot. And with my milk supply issues, I felt like I needed to focus on staying hydrated for sweet Nathan... who by the way weighed in at 24lbs 4oz at his 12 mth well checkup yesterday!! I'm not sure if I can totally trust the accuracy of the scales, but I think it's safe to say that he's gotten his weight back!

He's my only legitimate excuse. The other one is my illegitimate excuse: laziness.

I'm now in the process of weaning Nathan, so I can no longer use him as an excuse... and I'm excited in general to feel more in shape. After just a couple days of walking/running, I found myself bouncing on and off the floor with more jump in my step. I just felt better. I really did. I'm excited now to feel stronger, more toned, etc.

So here's my little plan:
walk/run for 20-30minutes 3-4 times/week.
do some sort of ab workout a couple times/week.
during nap time, reduce my large snack to a small snack.
say "no" to after dinner snacking, most nights.
try to eat slowly, paying attention to when I'm full... decreasing my portion sizes as appropriate.
try to focus on eating more fruits and veggies, cut out some cheese and crackers, save the dessert-urges for really good homemade ones... stop wasting them on candy corn and the like.
continue to drink lots of water.

Maybe just maybe I'll sign up for a 10k in the area in the early spring as an added incentive, but I don't want to rock the house too much just yet. I'll start with the above plan and see how I do.

I hope I will then:
fit in my clothes better
feel stronger and have more energy for life with my boys and men.
just generally feel more healthy.

Notice I do not have a "goal weight." I'm actually not sure how much I weigh right now. And I largely don't care too much about numbers. But I know my muscle tone is in the negative. My days of a six pack are surely over, which I'm totally fine with... gaining 2 precious boys was certainly worth the trade. But I would like to feel more toned and lose my mushiness. If I could just lose those love handles that I feel shaking when I run (lovely image, huh?!), I'll be so content.

I'm thinking this would be much more fun to do "in community." So, WHO'S WITH ME? Post your goals as a comment on this post OR link us to your blog and post your goals there. If there is interest, then I'll post how I'm doing with my plan roughly weekly. Maybe I'll even get creative and post some inspiring information about nutrition and exercise. Come on you fellow mush-pots... I've talked to many of you about nutrition and exercise and know that you struggle with this too! Let's get stronger and more healthy for ourselves and for our families! Let's treat our sexy bods with a bit more respect as children created by an amazing God! Are ya with me??

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Post For Nathan On His First Birthday

Happy Birthday! to my sweet Nathan. As your name means, you have certainly been a gift to us. An unexpectedly expected one.

I had a son already. I loved having a son and loved Justin in particular- so dearly... so I was elated to discover we were having another boy.

So I think this was the mindset I was under... totally excited, but totally not ready to be blown away, again.

There I stood, after a short and intense labor, holding you in the tub... surrounded by your Daddy, our doula, our doc, and a confused nurse. My jaw was dropped, my eyes frozen in a "deer caught in headlights" kind of look. They were all so excited and were encouraging me to look at you. I'd take a quick glance but then look back at them in disbelief. I pushed you out- or you pushed yourself out is probably more accurate for how it felt- quicker than I expected. And I had no idea I would be overwhelmed by love for a child, again.

I expected you, but I did not expect to feel so shocked, so in love, again.

Today marks your one year anniversary. Day after day, I have experienced the unexpected gift that you are. Without realizing it, I ponder that I've seen this or that stage of development before... but then you get there and it blows me away, again. As your own sweet, unique personality emerges, I enjoy you at each step and I learn to receive you as your own person.

I love how you shyly smile and hide in my shoulder when someone says hi to you. I love that the 2 of us, we share a battle story of all the ups and downs that have come in our nursing relationship... we both fought for the opportunity to continue to be nurtured by each other and have experienced victory and grace upon grace. I love that your big brother copies you more than you copy him... that you have a special way of getting in your own little world that begs the curiosity and entrance of even your older brother. I love how you dive into our lap when you want to hide in us and cuddle. I love seeing your eyes peek through your open fingers as you play peek-a-boo. And although you are a very early riser, I love that you greet me with an enormous wave as I peer over you in your bed.

In every way you are a gift of unexpectedly expected grace to us, Nathan. We adore you and receive you with open arms, again and again. Happy birthday, our precious son!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Moment with a 'Shroom

It happened so fast. We were outside in the backyard. Nathan sat on a towel with a pile of toys to peruse, while Justin pulled out his riding toys. I was outside with them on the phone. A friend/alumni came over for dinner. She played with Justin while I finished my conversation. As I hung up, I noticed a wet, chewed up piece of white mushroom next to Nathan.

I rushed him inside and briefly looked for one of the hundred Poison Control magnets I've received and subsequently lost since embarking on parenthood. I gave up and called 911. The dispatcher transferred me to Poison Control and summarized my situation to their representative. Little did I know that we would be on the phone with her several more times over the next 24 hours. She walked us through the process of inducing Nathan to vomit with ipecac... as well as caring for him in general- what symptoms to look for, etc. By the way, we had to call a couple pharmacies to find it... so it might be worth grabbing a $3.99 bottle to have on hand in case of an emergency.

Nathan is totally fine and we're relieved and thankful parents. We found no pieces of mushroom in the vomit... so he probably spit it all out. Doug found pictures of the likely type of mushroom online, and it was indeed poisonous, so we were thankful for the conservative approach of Poison Control.

It was a scary and nerve-racking experience, but we were well-cared for along the way. Our friend's presence made Justin none-the-wiser to what was going on with Nathan... which freed us up to care for Nathan together for the next few hours. She was a huge blessing! Thanks, Sarah! And I was very impressed with both 911 and Poison Control... their professionalism, their wisdom, their gentleness and assurance, their take-charge mentality. They held our hand well at each step and told us in small amounts (as much as we could emotionally handle, for sure) exactly what to do. I hope you never have to deal with them, but if you do, I hope you have the same positive experience.

Summer and fall are common seasons for mushrooms to suddenly appear in your yard. We had never previously seen mushrooms in our yard. We later found our culprit 5 feet from where Nathan was sitting... so Justin probably rolled over it with his toy car and/or one of us kicked it unknowingly towards Nathan. So watch out for those 'shrooms!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blog Update and What are you doing for Halloween?

First, some personal thoughts about this blog. When I started, I found myself loving the writing part of blogging. It fed my soul in ways I had never previously experienced by this craft. It felt like I was discovering a new talent, enjoying a new creative outlet. Blog post ideas were bursting from my brain and the words to write them well flowed easily.

I've been hitting some bloggers' block for some time now. Sometimes I have little to say. Currently, I have lots of post ideas but my time has been eaten up by family needs of late. More importantly, I feel like I've lost the umph in my writing- and therefore the desire to sit down and put those posts "on paper." Maybe I never really had it, but it sure did feel like good writing for me anyway! It's like my blog has lost its music, to quote a line from Sonship about how the Gospel for many of us tends to lose its music over time. Anyway, all that to say, thanks for continuing to read my blog... and at this point I trudge forward, still thankful for the learning and connection I receive through blogging.

What are you doing for Halloween? Out of laziness and also the desire to maintain some margin in our life, we have not participated since we've had kids. The last 2 years, Justin has been too young to know he missed it, and Nathan was only 59 minutes old when the 31st rolled around last year. We're not scared of it, and don't think it's evil. We do shy away from keeping our kids up late. And we love that Justin still knows little of the existence of candy. I also hypothesize that Justin would freak out if we tried to dress him up in some sort of costume.

But I also think it could be a good opportunity to hang with some friends and/or get to know some neighbors better. A little initiating on our part could be a significant link in the chain to building some deeper relationships on our new side of town.

So there are our thoughts. I'm not sure if we'll participate in some way, or simply close the blinds to the world and cuddle on the couch. What are your thoughts on Halloween? What have and will you and your family do to celebrate?

Friday, October 19, 2007

So Big Now, So Small Later

Nathan slept until 6:00am this morning! That's so late for him, wehoo! After we got him up, we groped for our coffee and tried to shhhhhh! the little guy who loves to enter the day with happy but REALLLLLYYYYY LLOOUUDDD screams at the TOP of his lungs as he plays.

At lunchtime, Justin spilled a cup of milk on the floor. The milk splattered from one corner of the room to the other, including getting on toys, books, walls, etc.

Previous to lunch, we went for a walk where Justin put his rock findings in the lower pockets in my cropped pants. I had forgotten about said rocks until cleaning up the milk mess... during which those rocks dug into my knees and spilled onto the floor.

After lunch, Nathan pooped out of his diaper. He hates getting changed, so as he was kicking and screaming, I tried desperately to minimize the damages on him, his clothes, the changing pad, and me.

While working on that, Justin entered the scene having pulled of his very first painting from last spring off the fridge, something I'd been saving because it was so special to me. He ripped it in half.

While I continued to minimize poop damage on Nathan, Justin then went to his room and knocked over his large rocking chair- "Boom!"- and proceeded to pull off all the "padding" Doug had put on to protect the floors.

After all that, I let them play and cleaned up the kitchen, trying to take a deep breath. Then, I heard a large boom and a loud, helpless cry from Nathan... Justin the culprit was hovering over his victim, looking guilty.
"Justin, why is Nathan crying?"
"I knocked Baby over."

Justin did not go to sleep at nap time, but instead cried "I want your Mommy!" (He's still working on mastering pronouns... which is quite humorous. I always imagine which Mommy he could be referring to.) He did this for quite some time, until I consented and brought him out. I had some reporting that was due today for my job that I had to complete... I completed it with him on my lap. Don't you know there was some quality in that piece?!

"Done," I called Doug in desperation, "Please tell me exactly when you'll be home so that I can have that exact time to look forward to." We then decided it was a Chic Filet night (hallelujah!) and headed over to the playground at the mall to meet Daddy later. That event on the whole was fine except when the kid-who-was-way-to-old-to-be-in-the-toddler-playground (there's always ONE, isn't there?) ran over Justin which left him in tears. And then at dinner time, Justin spilled his water again... ice cold this time... all over his lap-soaking his clothes; we had no spares. Back to the sippy for a while.

My back and neck are so sore from all the picking up of these 2 big boys, all the getting up and getting down. And I can't afford my chiro until my next car wreck.

And of course there was all the daily stuff mixed in... the food preparation, the feeding, the nursing, the laundry, the kitchen clean-up, the many other poopie and wet diapers, the clothes changing, the discipline, the moderating playtime, the many towers and books read, the singing, the walk around the block, the many times Justin spontaneously hugged me, the peek-a-boos with Nathan, the moments of Nathan's head on my shoulder, getting him after his nap and having him him wave to me, all the times Justin was so sweet and obeyed so fast, etc. etc. etc.

The more I think about it, the more I realize even on a day like today, there are so many sweet moments nestled in there. The hard moments, which feel all-encompassing and big now (don't they feel SO HUGE in the moment?!) will certainly be so small later... and will probably even be funny... and maybe, just maybe, even be missed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Seven Things about Me

Twosquaremeals has tagged me write seven things about me. Thanks for the tag, 2square! Which things did you already know about me? Which are surprising or even horrifying?


1- I love living in urban-style neighborhoods. Love the variety of faces, noises, economic levels, etc. Love the natural beauty of the "nonmanicured" look. Love being challenged by people who think differently than I do. Love how sitting on my front porch lends itself to interactions with my neighbors.

2- In my past life (pre-kids), i participated in lots of
running events: 5ks, 10ks, and one half-marathon, and
triathlons as a part of a team with my family, including one half-ironman I did with my brothers... I always did the swimming leg. (Now I'm lucky if I get my rear around the block! But I'm getting motivated, I just bought new running/walking shoes!)

3- I love to make large quantities of food at one time... eating some, giving some away to friends having rainy days, freezing some for our family for later. I love tearing up the kitchen in this way, love not having to cook for a while afterwards, love giving away stuff, love feeling so productive. Food I tend to make in large quantities: banana bread, apple bread, zucchini bread, marinated meat, spinach-mushroom quiche, baby food, chicken veggie soup, etc.

4- I gave birth to my second son standing up in a bathtub. Thankfully, he was caught by someone! (my beloved family doc... who only had time to put on one glove.)

5- While I declutter often, I rarely clean my house. My new goal is to clean my bathrooms once/month, which horrifies my mother, who cleaned her bathrooms twice/week while she had young children. Love ya mom, but that trait didn't get passed down!

6- My very favorite thing to do right now is to go for a walk with our family. Boys in the double stroller, Daddy and I walking hand in hand behind. (Until we hit a big hill and then I return Daddy his hand!) Part way through the walk, we let Justin out to walk. I love seeing the world from his perspective (I never knew so many different kinds of rocks existed!), seeing Justin and Nathan sitting next to each other so happily, love the chance to talk with Doug (almost) uninterrupted while the boys are still awake, love enjoying the feel of community on our side of town together, love noticing work being done on homes, love chatting with passers-by, love watching people sitting outside to eat on the patios at the local restaurants.

7- I clog toilets often. I eat lots of fiber and things love to move on through! To help this situation, Doug installed the "Cadet 3, Large Trap Toilet." Thanks, sweetie! Thanks to his thoughtfulnes I've only had to plunge once in our new bathroom. Now THAT is love.

So now I tag Melanie!

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Few of my Favorite Things

Hi everyone! I'm ending the day tired... mostly from having a yucky attitude at all the normal parenting pursuits. The boys are fine, but some days my heart isn't. Today, even though I've had the partnership of my wonderful husband and boys' Daddy present all day, I end the day tired of the daily activities of caring for 2 small children. So I thought I'd end the day sharing a few of my favorite things I'm thankful for... to try to end on a good note. Think Oprah's "Favorite Things," except I won't be purchasing things for you.

We had a great family day perusing a local orchard. Sounds fun and beautiful and productive, right? Well, we searched and searched... and after even more searching, we found 4 apples the size of glorified grape tomatoes. Unfortunately, a late spring freeze killed the crop. Wisely of the orchard, their building was nonetheless stocked with apples from nearby local orchards that faired better. We enjoyed the search with our friends and were glad to discover a new favorite kind of apple.

Idared... Doug calls it a mix between a granny smith and a gala... a little tart and sweet... and with a red skin. Notice in the linked picture the apples were on a tree. Again, we did not see this. I originally bought some in the hopes of making apple pies. Doesn't that sound scrumptious? But then I got real... and bought them just to eat. They are amazing.

I did buy a large bag of golden delicious for which to make Nathan's applesauce. It's so yummy that I think I'll save some for us this time. If you were to try it, you'd never guess it had NOTHING added to it. And it's so easy! After 45 minutes, I had ~25 servings of applesauce for Nathan... at the total cost of $4 or $5. Not bad! But the ease of the making leads me to share a couple more of my favorite things:

Williams and Sonoma Apple Peeler/Corer
my VitaMix.
The Apple Peeler/Corer makes dealing with apples so much easier/faster... especially when working with a large quantity. I use my VitaMix almost every day and totally recommend it. The website is helpful if you're curious. It's expensive; you might have to take a 2nd mortgage out on your house, but it's been well worth it for us. The ease and high quality of this machine has made making baby food, smoothies, soup with fresh veggies, grinding nuts, and much more... commonplace around our full house. And I wouldn't be able to do these things without its help.

On a snackier note, have you tried the new Fire Roasted Tomato and Olive Oil Triscuits? Yummy. Try with a slice of cheddar cheese and your favorite red wine. Or even snuck out of the pantry when your toddler isn't looking. Either way they are amazing.

So there are a few things for ya. Off to sit on my tail on the couch w/the hubby and wind down this heart with him and the Lord... tomorrow our week begins.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hello from my Silence

Hi there!

I've not had the blog vibes of late. I've been motivated to work on some things around here when I've had those "free" moments.

Some things I've been working on:
--helped to throw party for a friend which was way special and fun. great to see more of her world and was a great excuse to provide chocolate from my favorite place. think dark chocolate with raspberries, dark with toffee, dark with espresso, dark with trail mix, dark with mint. it's sad i just wrote just as much about the chocolate as i did about my friend and the party.

--yesterday i cooked 4 spinach mushroom quiches to freeze, made this yummy cauliflower dish with cream cheese... totally did NOT taste like cauliflower!, cooked several other veggies including baby food for nathan, etc. i get in these "sprints" where i wipe out lots on my to-do lists. and then i'll crash for a few days. i definitely don't pace myself well but that's just how i'm wired i'm realizing!

--i've also been in a little season of longing for adult conversation and community a bit more than usual. after nathan was born, i was like, "give me a play date today or i'm going to scream!" i realized i needed to be more content home with the boys- since that is where i wanted to be, so i worked on staying home and pushing through those hard places-- not calling someone to come over or throwing them in the car and the first gut urge to do so... and thankfully the Lord worked on my me and gave me a content heart. i began to embrace the space and the gift of time with them so much more deeply. i found myself not living for nap times and all that.

but i'm a little back in that place. perhaps i was so thankful for this new season but then started to wrongly think i was "done." perhaps i thought i, the extrovert, would no longer struggle with the inevitable isolation that comes with staying home with kids. and perhaps i started leaning on my own strength for my peace. well, i'm back longing for adult conversation a bit more than in a healthy way. while it's certainly good to long for community, i can feel the difference (usually) when i'm longing for that community to meet my needs more than than going to the Lord for that. it starts to become an idol.

funny thing is that i've had lots of time with friends lately. it's interesting how the needs of our flesh can be insatiable... we chase after other things and those things never do meet the long-term itch.

--I've enjoyed going through the Sonship course with an amazing small group of women from my church who all live on my side of town. we are mostly in different stages in life so it's been a gift to learn from them and become better known by them. The course has been a great way to see my need for the Gospel every day and for that I've been grateful. I might expound more on that another day.

--we're working on helping nathan sleep better at night... he's gotten in a bad-habit-zone. he's doing much better but now i'm having a hard time sleeping! so i've been dragging around in super-fatigue world for a few weeks now.
There are other things of course going on but i'll stop with that. thanks for reading all the lowercased letters and rambling! Blessing to you all!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Reviews and a Request for Recommendation

Books on my nightstand of late:
Mitten Strings for God, by Katrina Kenison
This is a great book which fleshes out ways to live more relationally, more in tune with the needs of your family, less busily, and less in reaction to the pangs of culture. It led to some helpful discussions with Doug on issues such as when to start "little league" with our boys, the role tv has in our family, encouraging imagination in our kids, looking for hidden treasures in our daily life, making the most of our time together, and more. I loved this book, but don't go to it to deepen your theology. It's a bit vague and Oprah-ish in that department- which didn't bother me since I wasn't going to it for that purpose, but thought it necessary to clarify that point so its title didn't mislead you. There are lots of jewels to be gained nonetheless. Doug nicknamed this book "Soft and Gentle." ;) Thanks for the recommendation, Missy!

Harvest of Hope, Stories of Life-Changing Gifts by Kay Marshall Strom
I totally dig those "gift catalogs" where you can buy a goat for a family to help them have nourishing milk, give them offspring they can sell, etc. I've always wanted to know where the money actually goes. Does my money actually go to a goat or just generally to the organization? Do our small gifts actually make an impact on anyone? This latest IV Press book successfully answers these questions and more. While the author mentions several organizations, she specifically targeted Partners International for her search. She went all over the world and wrote everything from the logistics to how the gift-giving logistically happens to how a specific person's or family's life was changed. She reports the positive impacts and the challenges. I've loved learning how the gift multiplies itself for other deserving families as the family receiving the gift has to pay back the loan, how they start to make enough money to actually be able to send their children to school, how that family gets has a positive connection with the local Christian church through the operation, how the operation is led indigenously in each local town. I can't wait to get my new catalog in the mail and consider how it will guide our Christmas gift-giving.

Mothers Together by Ruth Bell Graham and (Ruth's oldest daughter) Gigi Graham Tchividjian
What a gift it is to read the everyday thoughts of these two famous mothers. I enjoyed the aesthetic look of this book and its short "devotional" style writing. There are real journal entries, poems, essays, and letters. Some are humorous, some touched my heart after a long day with the kids, all are encouraging. This is a fun book to read when you need it most... it's light and easy book, meant to be read in snippets. My only complaint was when Gigi mentioned how hard it was to get her house tidied up so that her housekeeper could clean. I don't mind that she has a housekeeper, but I don't want to hear how hard it is to prepare for her!

I'll soon be in need of a new book. Any recommendations for me??

Favorite children's' books from our last trip to the library:
Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi
I've known of this book for many years and was so excited to read it with my son. We ALL loved this short explanation of how pooping is native to every living thing on the earth. (I think Doug and I laughed the hardest.) How could I not like a picture of a circle of animals, all facing outward, with their unpolitically correct but accurate bowel movements underneath them?

Snow Family by Daniel Kirk
Daniel Kirk has such fun books. This is a cute tale about a little boy who finds little snow boys and girls who need snow parents. Kirk delivers his cutsie, sing-songy poetry amidst his delightful illustrations without disappointment.

A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy
I am illiterate in the poetry department so I appreciated this recommendation from Nina. This is a great starter book for kids and parents alike. The collection is divided into chapters such as "Silly," "About Me," and "Animals," along with Kennedy's sharing of how they used them in their family. Watch out for a few poems obviously geared for older children... such as "Elephants, Anonymous" which quotes "He tears a man like an old rag and hangs him in the tree." Yikes! As a whole, it's a fabulous collection I hope to own someday.

A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa by Jonathan London
There is nothing glitzy about this book, but I love it anyway. It's a fun book about trucks with happy and simple illustrations. And Justin loves it, which is the main point, right? He's always asking for "Twuck Goes Wattley-Bumpa!!" so of course I should mention it here.

The Moon Might Be Milk by Lisa Shulman
Does anyone else out there have a hard time suspending reality? If so, reading this book might be an appropriate next step for you. On the order of Henny Penny (but with a much more positive ending!), little Rosie goes on a quest to find out what the moon is made out of. She starts among all her animal friends and they all end up at Grandma's house. I won't tell you the ending, but I will say that the last page is a recipe for "Gran's Sugar Cookie Moons." My little moon-lover Justin and I tried out the recipe today and it does in fact work! We had so much fun applying the end of the book. The cooking process took him out of his whining mode.

And lastly, I need your recommendations! Nathan's first birthday is fast approaching... October 30th. As I mentioned earlier, we have a tradition in our family of presenting a book to each child on his birthday. The book reflects some personality trait we noticed that year, some way we want to encourage them, a way we saw them grow or develop, or the like. Just inside the book, we will write them a love letter telling them why we chose the book and ways we love and appreciate them. Will you help us come up with the prized book for Nathan this year?

Some information that might be helpful about Nathan:
He'll be turning one so I'd like it to be at least somewhat age appropriate-- board book would be nice but go ahead and shoot me recommendations of picture books that apply. He has an older brother. (A book about brothers or being the younger brother perhaps?) He took a long time to warm up to food and now he's all about food. (A unique board book about food?) He's a really fast crawler and loves to move. (Something about movement of babies?) He smiles shyly and giggles at other baby's faces both in picture and in real life. (Maybe a simple little book with baby faces?) My husband adds, "He has acid reflux, is there a really good book about spitting up?" Maybe we could sit it next to the poop book. He loves to swing, loves to look at cars from the porch swing, and loves to laugh at his big brother.

Any ideas for Nathan's book?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reaching for the Moon

Justin is fascinated by the moon. This fascination has been going on for months. He's always searching for it and often finding it way before we do. For his birthday last spring, we bought him "Papa, Please Get The Moon for Me" by Eric Carle. This gift started a tradition for us... every birthday we plan to buy a book for each child as their main birthday present. The book will reflect something significant in their year, some emerging aspect of their personality, etc. And then we'll write them a letter in the front of the book. We love the push to think thoughtfully about our child and the vision of their reading all the ways we saw how they are special throughout the years. What a collection they will have... both of great books and of our love letters. We hope it's a simple keepsake they'll treasure for years to come.

Tonight, we couldn't find the moon as we played outside after dinner. As I was getting Justin ready for bed, we found it... a small, low, sparkly crescent we viewed out his window. I picked him up and we paused cheek to cheek, staring at our end-of-the-day prize.

Justin: "I want to touch it."
me: "Let's reach for it!" (quoting Eric Carle's book, all to familiar to him by now.)
Justin (while reaching): "I can't get it!"
me: "Do you know how you can get to it? You can ride in a special airplane called a space shuttle. It flies way up high in the sky. Then you can get to it. Would you like to do that some day Justin?"
Justin: "mmm (yes)... and then I want to come back down."

Oh, good. I'm so glad!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Have to's and want to's
This post about knitting is so beautiful--- makes me want to go knit something!!! It's been so long since I held those clicking needles... since before Justin was born. I knit scarves for all the women in our families all the way to Banff and back! I think I drove a total of 2 hours the whole trip. I was so content in the passenger seat clicking my needles, imagining my makings hugging the necks of these women. Little did I know, on the return trip I was carrying our first born son. Perhaps all that clicking was spurred on by my first motherly instincts to nurture.

Oh there are so many things clamoring for my time, have-to's and want-to's. Isn't it dreadfully hard to decide how to spend time?? Perhaps knitting will rise to the top of the list as the cool winds of autumn approach our front door. Will I be content to sink into the time it takes to relearn this craft? Should I be?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It Is Finished

Almost. Just one more coat of paint on the crown molding and baseboards in 2 rooms- and we're officially finished with all the major house projects. I know I keep saying this, but it's really true this time!

The little boys and I just returned from a long weekend to grandma's (aka "Beep Beep") house where I participated in the baby shower of a dear friend and former coworker. In addition to getting some quality Beep Beep and shower time, I was also able to get some "out of town" work done. It was a full but fun few days. I return exhausted but grateful for all the experiences. While we were gone, Doug finished hanging the crown molding and baseboards in the kitchen, hallway, and master bathroom.

I await the return of my beloved from his long day of work (at his "real job") with a little background music, toys all over the floor, a grocery list needing starting, a calendar that needs at least a quick gaze, a wee bit more unpacking, and a desire to stretch my writing muscle. This blog has been such a refreshing practice for my mind and heart. It's calling my name right now and I'm grateful to concede.

Today I write a quick "thank you!" to my precious and industrious husband who has worked so hard in every way on our home long before we inhabited its walls and several months after. Thank you, Doug. Thank you for having vision that transcended the tiled-ceilings, smallish living areas, cracking walls, overpruned cotton-ball-on-a-toothpick-trees, limited kitchen, brass faux-ribbon drapery pull backs, and so much more. Where we now abide has plenty of leg room and plenty of space to play and rest. We can comfortably house guests for day and/or evening, all the while enjoying the noise barriers between living spaces and the boys' rooms.

Our impossible dreams of an open layout (in a 1920's bungalow), a "chop and see" where I can work in the kitchen in close proximity of the boys' playing, an extra bedroom for guest or office, a large front porch, a flat exit from the back of the house to the backyard... all a short skip to the "main street" of our urban-style culturally-mixed neighborhood... have become a reality.

The personality of this space continues to unfold. Just last week, Justin discovered that our front door was metal... something unknown to us... and excitedly used it as a new home for his letter magnets.

I'd like to insert here: "we did it!" But we both know that would be a massive joke. Had it not been for the generous help from friends, family, and students (who are like friends and family), we would still be demolishing walls, pulling up staples from the hardwoods, measuring for cabinets, and relieving ourselves in Ziploc bags (will expand in another post if interest presents itself). And we both also know it was the Lord who kept us asking for forgiveness when we were short with each other after long days. It was He who helped us know when to persevere with the house projects and when to throw in the towel and have a "family fun" day. It is He who continues to deepen our vision and desire to learn and live in this, our corner of the world, well.

But writing "a post for God" feels way to much like a slogan on a bad "Christian" tshirt. And so I write to you instead.

I'm grateful for you sweetie. I'm grateful for your hard work on the house. Your gifts in building are one in a million. But your gifts in husbanding and daddying are inestimable. I'm grateful for the ways you were present with us during this whole journey. And I sink into all the days the Lord has ahead for us.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Being In The World But Not Of The World

Justin and I have started to attend a 10 week long music class called "Music Together." I first heard of the program from my college roomie and dear friend Kara, who is very musically inclined and was a teacher for Music Together for a few years.

Our first class was last Thursday and it was so much fun. The music is so rich with flavor and possibility. The teacher was so engaging and encouraging. Justin spent half of the time staring with amazement and wonder. The other half was spent dancing around the room, laughing, and looking for the bathroom. (For some reason he was fascinated with the bathroom, anyway...) I loved watching his concentration, loved observing that he's more into gross motor movement than fine motor. And I loved being there with him, both new on this musical journey. The program emphasizes parental involvement... that he'll learn more from me than from the teacher. Fabulous! I had an excuse to dive in, be silly, and try new things. Doug's keeping Nathan during that time so Justin and I can have that time alone together. I'm really excited about learning and experiencing music in new ways with him.

I'm also excited about being in a regular group with other kids and their Mommies, where we are all invested with our resources, time, and mutual interest. This opportunity seems like such a breeding ground for new relationships with families in Asheville with whom I otherwise would have no contact. I am filled with hope and anticipation in so many ways. I have so much to learn and so much to share as well.

The teacher sent us home with our Music Together packet, including a cd of all the music we will listen to in the class. After we returned home, we listened to the songs and relived the fun we had. We also heard new songs that we will experience later in the class. One of the songs was titled "The Earth is Our Mother," and was about taking care of the earth. While I am much in favor of being good stewards of the earth, I don't feel comfortable personifying it, as this song does. In Sunday School, Justin has been "learning" or "exposed to" the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den. We've been talking about it a little at home. I felt a little like Daniel, being asked to bow down to a "god" who wasn't my God. I realized there was no way I would feel comfortable singing about the earth like it was a spiritual being, and no way I would feel comfortable teaching Justin to do the same. However, in no way did I want to be disrespectful, holier than thou, divisive, or annoying in any way. What was I to do?

I emailed the teacher and told her how much we enjoyed the class, how much I could see Justin benefiting from the class even here at the beginning, how excited I was, etc. (think: gracious, gracious, gracious, was the goal.) I explained briefly how the song made me feel uncomfortable because of our differing spiritual beliefs for the reason above. I also told her that I didn't want to be disrespectful in any way or disrupt the tone of the class. I asked her to let me know when she would be singing the song in class and we would quietly leave the class early that day or come a little late. I was open to other suggestions.

My excitement for the class was quickly replaced by fear and trepidation: how would she receive my email? I felt like I was suddenly fast forwarded to Justin in first grade, my emailing the teacher about some similar issue. It felt like the potential beginning of such stress... wanting to be hopeful and excited about our involvement in the world while simultaneously feeling the awkwardness of not wanting to be of it, and wondering how would this play out in all the details. I so did not want to put a damper on our new relationships and new journey in the world in any way.

Thankfully, this story has an amazingly positive ending. The teacher promptly phoned me to talk further of my concerns. She was so respectful and so accommodating. She at no point made me feel uncomfortable for our beliefs and concerns. She helped me come up with a plan to take Justin to the bathroom with me during that song--- something he enjoyed-hilarious- and something that shouldn't affect the tone of the room. AND we won't have to miss much of the class at all, another one of her thoughtful concerns. She also said that after 1-2 classes of being exposed to the song that she would play it without the words, explaining that the best thing about it was the opportunity for experimenting with the drums. She wondered if I felt comfortable participating if the words weren't sung. I shared that I would love to be a part of it if the words weren't sung and thanked her for her thoughtfulness. She expressed her utmost appreciation for my involvement in the class. She even troubleshooted with me about how to help transition Justin back to the "real world" after the class... an unrelated question/concern about which I had emailed.

Not only did my encouragement for our involvement in the class return, but it was accompanied by increased excitement and vision for being involved in our children's (Lord willing) public school experience. True, we are years away from that experience's birth. But, my heart and mind long to be nurtured with real vision, passion, purpose, and hope in preparation for that season.

I know that every such future experience will not necessarily go the same way, but I'm taking a few principles learned from this one and putting them in my pocket:

1- Teacher-types love parental involvement more than they love cookie cutter parents who agree with everything they say and do. I shouldn't assume that they will hate me, as my people-pleasing tendencies might pronounce. In actuality, if I'm not a jerk about it, in all likelihood these teachers will probably be encouraged by my thoughts and participation all the more.

2- The Lord really is with me and doesn't like to rake me over the coals just for fun. I know this in my head but it was good to experience it in real life. And I long to remember that He's with me even during a story with not as good as an ending, as I'm sure will happen at some point.

3- These are issues worth dealing with for the sake of many values significant to our family. These folks in the class are worth a little bit of finagling and discomfort on my part.
a) I need to learn from them. I've found that many folks in our town who do not put their faith in Jesus like our family does actually have more of their lives in line with Biblical principles than many of us "churched" folks. The areas that immediately come to mind are: living in the moment/not worrying about tomorrow, not being busy, being supportive and connected to their family members, being good stewards of the earth (for different motives than ours but I can still learn much from them nonetheless), having hearts and lives more bent towards social justice especially in issues of loving the poor and race, and so much more.
b) Jesus is the only real giver of life and we long to be vessels through which the Lord reveals this truth to others. I want to be available to let the Lord use our family to love on them and share this Truth as doors open.

The best way to learn is to dive in, so here we go!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Moment to Cherish with Justin

The boys and I had a full day of "everyday" fun... nothing dramatic or exciting, just a typical day full of being together. Library story time, running around the house, lots of puzzles, art projects, reading books, lining up cars and trucks, opportunities to practice sharing toys ;) as Nathan learns to crawl and get into big brother's toys, etc.

After dinner, Justin and I went on a walk together down the street while Daddy gave Nathan a bath. Just the two of us, hand in hand, noticing the cars, the rocks, the paint on the road, the dogs, talking about our day, etc.

As we returned home, Justin initiated our last mini-conversation.
Justin: "Justin happy."
Me: "Are you happy, Justin? Why are you happy?"
Justin: "Mommy here."

There is nothing else to say. My heart is full and I am thankful.

Monday, August 27, 2007

All's Messy but the Notebook

Okay, so I took my dear friend Missy's advice and have started my very own Home Organization Notebook. I'm inordinately excited about this thing. So excited I figured it was worth breaking my internet silence over. The front half is home/personal and the second half is for work. The front half has sections for a calendar, several categories of to-do lists, library (books to read for kids and for me-- yes, I'm trying to read more than Sandra Boynton these days) lists, weekly meal planner, birthday calendar (sorry I've missed so many birthdays lately everyone!), phone lists, etc. I've been giddy about this thing. The above site has FREE printable sheets in those categories and more.

I used to be a daytimer chic- I was newly out of college and in love with the supple leather, then I became a Palm Pilot ace- enjoying all the beaming and sinking, and now I'm back to 3rd grade with a turquoise 3-ring binder and fluorescent section dividers. I couldn't be more thrilled. I got tired of my computer losing my information, my palm dieing, not having a place for things only found on paper, waiting for my computer to pull up wanted information, fighting off wandering toddler hands, etc.

Now I have a place for everything... well, it's getting close anyway. And it's all in such a cute system I can use whenever! It's been so much fun to fill out the divider sections and arrange it all. I had forgotten how fun it was to stack papers, punch holes, click that 3 ring, all that. As I've come upon a new needed section for my notebook, I've sprinted to my hubbie in delight to announce the addition. I've showed him the update at every turn, sometimes every 10 minutes, and he's been graciously excited with me. He came home today with a "surprise" for me. Guess what it was? A new bright orange zipper pen pouch- equipped with 5 colored pens- that attaches to my 3-ring binder! It might be one of the most thoughtful gifts he's ever given me. That's a compliment to him and my notebook, not a statement on last gifts! Shame on you!

As I've had my head buried in the sand of my new home organization notebook, somehow my home has gotten quite disorganized. Now, how does that work?? I guess my time has been put to the bigger picture for a time while the toys and mail and laundry build. Hopefully like Tiger Woods new golf swing (am I good or what, Doug?!), after a time of organizational shifting and tweaking, the home will rise to a new level of peace. As I complained of the clutter this evening, Doug's advice was to simply "if you place your hand in such a way as to block the lower half of the room, everything looks great!"

He can use his hand, I'm going to use my new notebook.