28 November 2007

Imagination running wild

I think one of the neatest things about being a parent is watching my children go through all the stages of development that I just took for granted as an adult -- learning to smile and laugh, playing jokes, responding to scary noises, etc. It's all stuff that I've just always known how to do, as far as I know. It has been so much fun to observe the processes develop from the beginning.
Within the last couple of months, Annalivia has been doing lots of imagining. She can entertain herself for a good, long amount of time with her dolls or Little People or having big conversations, doing all sorts of motions, and running to and fro with her imaginary companions. Sometimes in the morning, she informs me that Kipper and Tiger, Pig and Arnold are here. Or she pretends to have long phone conversations with Uncle Jake or cousin Cleya. Or she practices saying things that she has heard her parents say to pretend people and will come up to me and say things like, "It'll be a couple of minutes, Mommy."
I love to just watch this happening. I try not to enter into the play unless invited and then I try to extract myself pretty quickly so the play can continue. I'm not sure whether that is an "officially approved" method of parenting. But my mother was kind enough to allow her children mental and physical space to explore our own little brains. And I'm grateful for it.
And it is just so delightful to me to discover how that little brain inside my daughter works. It's enchanting.
Playing in the curtains this morning
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27 November 2007

Not quite it

Tonight Annalivia and Daniel and I were heading back from the Quad Cities in the dark and I had just about exhausted my arsenal of car entertainment. Annalivia said, "Let's play Hide and Seek!" Then she proceeded to cover her eyes and count to five, uncover her eyes, and yell, "Gotcha!"
Not quite it, but it sure made Daniel and I laugh.

This pirate has new boots

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26 November 2007

Time flies

I love church time. I love, love, love it. Really. I love how, once one actually gets through November and stewardship campaigns and budget meetings, time just races towards the New Year like water slipping past a dam of leaves. It just seems to seep towards newness of its own volition.

I suppose this could be threatening in some ways because there's just so much stuff to be done between now and then. Bulletins, sermons, services, newsletters, meetings, parties, gatherings... There is indeed a lot to occupy this time.

But I love that this happens at Advent when we celebrate God coming into a world that was not prepared to receive God-made-flesh. I love that despite what flimsy barriers or bullet points on our to-do lists we will try to construct between this time and the fullness-of-time, God will come anyhow. Racing in quickly. Slipping in quietly. Seeping in of God's own volition.

I love church time. It's really God's time. And it's so good to remember that because it's God's time, it's not April's time. And whatever I construct is not as important as the Source flowing over it.

25 November 2007


My sistah, Kali, has photos of the Thanksgiving we missed over at her blog. I'm jealous of the whole thing -- food, presentation, Kalin's ability to compose a photo without total blur. I'm anxiously awaiting part 2.
Also, there's also a really nice totally and completely anonymous and unrelated-to-her commenter over there who thinks I'm cool. That's nice. So unexpected.

22 November 2007

Thanksgiving at our house

Because the kiddos were sick all week, the McStews remained in the northern regions of the state rather than making our customary journey over the river and through the woods to Grammy's house for Thanksgiving. It was a good choice for a couple of reasons: 1. We didn't infect anyone with our diseases. 2. It almost completely and totally cured me of any desire to have Thanksgiving alone with our immediate family anytime in the near future. 3. Dennis and I came to a tacet agreement that I would not try to make his grandmother's macaroni and cheese ever again and he would not let me.
Because originally the meal was to be potluck style and the family in central Illinois was expecting the food I was supposed to prepare to make their meal complete, I cooked yesterday.

I made a bunch of stuff, but this is my favorite Thanksgiving bite -- liver pate on a buttery pretzel. Delish.

For our meal, we declined to have the traditional Thanksgiving fare. I recently had a conversation with Dennis wherein he revealed to me that his favorite food at Thanksgiving was the Macaroni and Cheese. I thought this was interesting because we have never eaten Mac and Cheese at Thanksgiving. But his grandmother made it when he was growing up and he has pined for it since she passed away, so I decided we'd have it.
Problem is, no one ever got Grandma Stewart's recipe. So I cornered a lady at church whose Mac and Cheese Dennis had highly praised and got her to tell me how to do it. And I did indeed follow her directions. To the letter. But it stunk. It was gross and inedible, although Dennis and Annalivia were trying. The thing is, this is about the 6th time I've tried to make Grandma's Mac and Cheese without any real concept of what her M&C, in fact, was like. I'm embarrassed to admit that I might have thrown a mammoth little fit about the failure which prompted Annalivia to tell her mother, "Quit your' fussin', Momma." Being called out by my 2-year old spurred me to action and I made a nice Mac and Cheese like I know how to do and we ate it. And liked it, darn it.

This here is Mac n' Cheese II

We also had squash casserole and clementines for dessert/ centerpiece. It was simple. It worked for us.

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We tried taking family photos with the camera on the tripod and the self-timer counting down. That didn't necessarily work so well.

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Daddy set up a line of dominoes and Annalivia really enjoyed knocking them down.

Daniel enjoyed watching Annalivia knock them down, too.

And he even had fun watching her set them back up again.

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The Manger Set

When my sisters and I were little, one of the highlights of Thanksgiving Day was getting our nativity sets down from Grammy's storage closet after Thanksgiving lunch. We would pester the heck out of her until she'd go get them, then we'd disappear behind chairs in the living room where we'd play with our sets for hours.
Following tradition, we got out Annalivia's set today. Her godmother and godfather gave this to her last year and we put it away at the end of Christmas. She was enthralled.

Here, she is singing "Away in a Manger" to the baby Jesus as she rocks him.
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At the end of the day, I am so thankful for so many things, but what remains foremost is that these faces shape every moment of my life.

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We ended up having a great sistah night. It was freekin' cold and sleeting, but we met at our customary Irish pub and sat in the cold section to avoid the cigarette smoke. (Aside: I'm so excited for Jan. 1 when this no-smoking ban will go into effect in Illinois public places!) I had brought my camera along so after trying to take a few unstaged photos, Marissa suggested that we try to convey the intensity and hilarity of these gatherings with helpful scenarios to get us Pulitzer-esque photos.
Umm, that didn't happen, but...

Here's Roo and I. The scenario she devised for this one was "April is explaining something deeply philosophic while I listen critically with interest." She nailed it.

In this one, Roo directed Lillia to be a reporter returning from correspondence during World War and Kalin was to be a bar prostitute.
Some scenarios are more helpful than others.
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Here, Marissa shares her excitement about menu selections with Kalin.

Kalin considers the food delightedly.

This one was less staged -- note the straw wrapper Roo is applying to Kali's ear.
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20 November 2007

Only 34 hours til Sister Hang Out night!!!

I have a favorite thing about Thanksgiving and it's not the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, or even, (and this is about to be almost heretical) the gravy.
Nope. My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the night before when my sistahs and I get together and hang out. We don't usually have any particular plan to the hanging. The last few years we've ended up at a grocery store to get whatever it is that Roo is supposed to be bringing to Thanksgiving. This year, we're assured that we won't have to do that because Roo is making stuff, so we may just go and get coffee or food or something.
Point is, we'll be together. And we'll laugh a lot and harrass each other and Marissa will probably make us have some awkward conversation about what we truly appreciate about each other. And we'll laugh then, too. I'm so excited.

And then, I'll come home to my children and their copious amounts of snot that will prevent us from going to the family Thanksgiving this year.

But that's ok, because we'll still have Sister Night. And I'll be really thankful.

15 November 2007

If only I had an anonymous blog

I could then tell you about the family for whom I am doing a funeral this weekend, the same family who has only been to church four times in the seven years I've been here because I "don't preach from the Bible", the same family who called today and said, "we have two scriptures in mind -- where is that one that talks about an evergreen being like the soul and the one about slipping the bonds of Earth to touch the face of God?" the family about whom it has suddenly become obvious that there might be a reason that they don't recognize that black book in front of me when I preach.
But I don't, so I won't.

14 November 2007

Recipe: Breakfast pumpkin

It's that season again when getting up in the morning seems as though it should be optional. A chilly house is not a very inviting welcome-to-the-day. It's much nicer to snuggle with little ones under the down comforter.
Little ones, however, do not seem to appreciate the opportunity to loaf around and snuggle. So we are still getting up, just like every day. But to make these cold mornings a little more bearable, we are eating warm cereals, hot muffins and these wonderful pumpkin bars that pair perfectly with a nice cup of tea.

Breakfast Pumpkin Bars
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 small can (3 1/2 cups) pumpkin
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. cinnamon

Mix eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Add pumpkin and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin mixture. Bake on a greased jelly roll sheet at 350 degrees (or 325 in my oven) for about 20-25 minutes or until done.

Glaze with warmed icing shortly after removed from the oven. Cut into pieces and enjoy.

(The recipe has less sugar and oil than others and uses whole wheat flour and a very light icing glaze hence the "breakfast" label. But any favorite pumpkin bar recipe can be easily adapted. Also -- the pumpkin mixture and dry ingredients can be made up seperately (pumpkin refrigerated, of course) the night before and then it can be mixed together in the morning for a very quick yummy start to the day!)

13 November 2007


Tonight as I was working on the computer, Annalivia climbed up and laid her cheek against my cheek. She kissed my face and then just let her lips rest lightly on my cheekbone.
I gave her a kiss and said, "It's almost time for you to go to bed, little one."
"Nooooo!" she said indignantly, "I want to love your face."

Well, if you must...

:) :) :)

11 November 2007

10 November 2007

My cool brother in law takes on the political juggernaut

My cool brother in law, Geoff, is near the center of this storm in Iowa (or here or here), where he's an active part of the political landscape. He's a pastor. He's a good guy. He doesn't lie.
But they do.

08 November 2007

New skin

Yesterday, I went to the doctor's office to get my cast off, or so I thought. It has been a whole two months since I got it put on. I thought perhaps it was time to let my arm see the sun again and go through its two-month-of-no-exfoliation molting routine.
Alas, no such luck.
I came home with a new, slightly longer, much tighter cast. Where before I've chosen subdued white and black for my casts, this one is bright red. I'll go back on Dec. 10 to, hopefully, get it removed. But if not, I've requested sparkly gold -- doesn't someone make a fiberglass shot through with lurex yet? I was thinking I could use it for the Christmas pageant at church and we wouldn't even have to get a star -- I'd just hold up my sparkly arm and awe the folks.
Anyway, I was slightly punky, but when I got home, I found that which my mom calls, "skin for your back." That term originated with my grandmother, Ga, who cared for my mother when she was a child and scraped her back. Ga would bring Mom little treats and call it "skin for your back."
The new skin awaiting me yesterday was a treat from us to us in the form of our new camera. We got a Nikon D40x. We are excited. Today, I spent a lot of time playing with the 50mm lens. I got very few good photos -- as you can see, most are out of focus and over or underexposed --but I am learning fun things.
And then Mom called and she's sending some fun skin to me sometime soon. It's something I've wanted, and needed, I think, for a long time. I'll have to post photos when it arrives.
So -- on one hand, the cast -- on the other, new skin. I'll admit, it certainly softens any blow from my red Santa cast.

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