23 December 2009

Dec. 23: The wishlist

My grandmother had an address book with a picture of Santa on the front of it, onto which she glued a cotton ball. That was her Christmas wishlist book. Every year, her children, then eventually the grandkids, would write our Christmas lists in the book. As an adult, it was so neat to go back and see our childish handwriting evolve and the phases of our hearts' desires formed into Christmas lists, as well as Grammy's eternal list (Chantilly Lace and gloves). It was one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
This year I made a book for myself and the two sisters who have children. I decoupaged a picture of Santa (Grammy's was much more modern, but I couldn't find it) onto blank sketchbooks and then glued the requisite cotton ball to the front.
The kids made their lists immediately. Annalivia wrote hers and Daniel dictated his. Then we put it right in front of the tree where Santa can easily find it.

21 December 2009

Dec. 22: The manger

We went to see a living nativity last night. Truthfully, it was not the greatest. But, the kids got something from it. Afterwards, they made beeline for the manger to see what was inside.

Dec. 21: Shovelers

The snow prompted me to head outside to see if I could take any good kids-in-the-snow pics. The answer? No. No, you can't. Not when there is shoveling to be done.

20 December 2009

Dec. 20: Snowberries

It's snowing here! It's just in time for a few days of white before Christmas.

15 December 2009

This project would be easier...

...if I could find my flipping cable for my camera. I'm still taking photos for the December photo project, I just can't upload them yet. When I find it (at the bottom of my yarn bin? in the kids' room? next to the toaster?) I will make a bunch of back posts.

14 December 2009

Dec. 14: Going to work

Dennis brought home safety glasses from work for the kids the other day. Daniel wore his all evening and later came in with this get-up and told us he was "going to work." He's terribly busy and important there.

13 December 2009

Dec. 13: Mommy/ daughter day

Today, Annalivia and I went to church together after deeming the others too sick to participate. After church, I decided that today was a good day to spend with just her, so we came home and got the truck (which allows her to sit in the front by me) and when on a special Girls' Day. We went out to eat for lunch and had an AMAZING sandwich at a pub. Then we went to Goodwill and did Christmas shopping for her brother and sister. Then we went to WalMart and bought some new Christmas shoes for her. Finally, we ended up at the Messiah sing at the Episcopal cathedral in Peoria. The soprano and tenor soloists were wonderful, the orchestra was superb, the choruses were...fun, at least. We stayed for the first half, had some great thumbprint cookies, and came home. It was a lovely day. We were even wearing matching gold sparkly sweaters! :)

Anyone need a last minute Christmas photo card?

Last year, I thought I'd get into the Christmas photo card business, but I never got around to designing my own papers, etc. I do, however, have about five or six or so templates using free materials. If you'd like a free photo card you can take and have printed, I'd be honored to have my blog friends use one of these templates lest they sit around unused. Just send me a photo by next Wed, Dec. 16 and whether you'd like the card to be religious or secular, and any other verbage, along with whether you'd prefer a 4x6 or 5x7 and I'll get it to you asap. My email is mcclurestewart and it's a gmail dot com address.

12 December 2009

Dec. 12: 40 years old

Dennis turned 40 today. He spent this milestone day running errands, wiping noses, and dealing with fussy, sicky children. He only got a chocolate cake at the end of the day after bathing little ones. He didn't even get 40 candles. He did get 40 kisses, though. I won't say from whom...

11 December 2009

Dec. 11: Wrestlers

This child #3 had a challenge her older sister never had -- a big brother who likes to rassle. Little E is constantly being tugged, butted, jumped over, and prodded, etc. by this brother-of-hers. So far, he's being gentle and she is loving every moment, which is a good thing because she barely gets a moment's peace. Even when she's sitting on momma's lap.

09 December 2009

Dec. 9: O Antiphon

We've been lighting our Advent wreath at breakfast, then I read parts of Isaiah 9 and then we sing the first verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We were eating Cheerios on our first morning of lighting the wreath and I was teaching the kiddos the words to the hymn and Annalivia grabbed a Cheerio and said, "It's an 'O'! Like 'O Come, O Come!'" I, in my naivete, having not realized that anything can become TRADITION in the blink of an eye to a child, told the kids they could hold a Cheerio while we sang. So now, each and every time we sing, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" there must be a Cheerio in hand. 'O' has taken on a new meaning this Advent.

07 December 2009

Dec. 7: First snow

We had our first snow last night. It was a light dusting that was gone from the pavement by noon.
See that circle in the ground? Annalivia drew a bunch of these in our yard today. She said, "This is where we're going to build our igloo tomorrow!"
Here's hoping we get more snow tonight!

06 December 2009

Dec. 6: Angelic...ish

The kids were in a program Sunday night at church. Considering that it started about an hour before their bedtimes and they had no naps and had arisen VERY early in the morning, I thought my children were...not terrible. I was thankful that there were about 25 other kids in the same situation. The directors of the program deserve some sort of saint status.

This one DID NOT want to get pigtails in her hair; she wanted to have curly hair. The child's hair is slippery, thick and straight. It does not curl. After explaining this to her approximately 5000 times, she reluctantly agreed to pigtails, then changed her mind about three minutes before we walked out the door. She kept saying, "I look RIDICULOUS!" She didn't. But she took her pigtails out sometime between her entrance and the appearance of the children's choir at the end of the second act.

This boy only wore his halo for the first four minutes of the program. And he was so tired that he ended up sitting on the floor behind a cloud during the last song and doing the motions to Away in the Manger, though the choir wasn't singing that particular song at the time.

And this child squawked through the play, bounced around and banged her mouth on the pew several times and sobbed, and was generally disruptive. I took her to the back of the church with the other mothers with little ones and she tried to crawl out of my arms to grab the 7-month old beside us. She sure looks cute here, though.

After the program we had cake in the all-purpose room of the church and Daniel and Annalivia and the other 25 kids who had not had naps ran approximately 3 miles in laps around the outside of the room. I think there was a tacet agreement among the parents to not enforce the no-running-in-church thing because all of us seemed pretty grateful that our children, who were now past their bedtimes were, at least, not at our tables, sobbing.

When we got home, the kiddos went straight to bed, and, not surprisingly, the older two were asleep almost immediately. And when I went to check on them later, they sure looked angelic.

05 December 2009

Dec.5: Soundtrack to these days

My absolute favorite Christmas album ever. If nothing else would do it for me, Kiri Te Kanawa singing Mozart's Laudate Dominum puts me in a grateful, thankful, oh-my-goodness-the-mystery-of-it-all! Christmas mood every. single. time.

04 December 2009

Dec. 4: Playdough

Annalivia received some playdough for Christmas from one of her teachers at church. She was excited to use it and split it with Daniel so they could both play, which they did for about two hours non-stop. They absolutely loved it.
It was the first time I've ever let them use playdough. And it may be the last. Little bits of dried yellow stuff were everywhere. I swear I vacuumed the floor five times one day.

03 December 2009

December 3: Tea

One of the delights of living in a big drafty house is that one always has an excuse to drink a cup of tea. I really enjoy different kinds of tea, but I admit that I am loyal to my first love -- Constant Comment. I discovered it in junior high. Back then I used a lot of honey in it. Now I use a little teeny bit of agave nectar. I love the fragrance and the way the hint of sweetness brings out the orange and spices. Lovely.
The children like my tea-drinking habits and not only because hot tea means that there is usually warm water available for hot chocolate. Sometimes they take breaks from playing to come over and bury their noses in my cup of Constant Comment. And they like to carry my tea bags to the garbage and squish them between their fingers so that the scent is released again. Yesterday, Daniel kept coming over to me to smell my tea so often that I asked if he wanted the rest of it. He enjoyed every last drop.
My other favorite tea is one I never have on hand -- peppermint with honey. My grandmother sometimes grew peppermint behind the garage when I was a child and occasionally she'd make some into tea for us. Or when we'd go for a hike with my father in the local woods, we'd find wild peppermint and bring it back to her. And I remember my friend, Becky, bringing one of those bladder canteens full of hot peppermint tea to a church outing when we were in 7th grade. I think we felt very grown-up and it had something to do with the tea.
I keep thinking I need to branch out and try different kinds of tea. Hence, my cupboard is full of tea boxes with one or two bags missing as I attempt to love them. But I always return to my default. Do you have a favorite tea you'd recommend?

02 December 2009

December 2: Breakfast

A candle lit...O Come, O Come Emmanuel...Isaiah 9... hot oatmeal in bowls...cheerios in hand and on the floor...

01 December 2009

December 1: Gifting

As I think I've mentioned before, one of the things I truly love and appreciate about my family is that handmade gifts are encouraged and treasured. Christmas is not really about The Getting for us. We've realized along the way that The Giving is the real joy and it really is so much fun to think about what to give to loved ones, especially when creating presents from scratch. I think about the things that have been made for us -- baby blankets and ornaments and clothing and jewelry -- all of these handmade treasures always top items that are purchased. So I'm working hard today on handmade gifts. It's such fun work!

December Photo Project
If you'd like to see more photos in the December photo project, start here.

30 November 2009

Mac and Cheese and grandmas

This weekend, I overheard my daughter telling my mother that she is "not a fan" of my macaroni and cheese. My macaroni and cheese usually comes from a box. So does my mom's, but she has a complicated method of slightly overcooking it and adding extra cheese that results in macaroni and cheese the grandkids love.

I was thinking about this because my husband's favorite macaroni and cheese was his grandmother's recipe. She made it every year for Thanksgiving. Her recipe died with her because it didn't occur to anyone that Grandma Lyda's mac and cheese was going to be conspicuously absent at every Thanksgiving thereafter.

When we were first married, I, having heard of Dennis' "love" for macaroni and cheese got my grandmother's recipe. I remember cooking it for him and being very excited. He liked it, but did not love it. It wasn't his grandma's, after all.

For several years of our marriage, I tried to replicate his grandmother's mac and cheese. I had a lead when he discovered that the mac and cheese made by one of our church ladies was similar to his grandmother's recipe. But the recipe was in approximates and it did not involve a white sauce and I just could never get it to work.

I no longer try to make Lyda's macaroni and cheese and I've stopped making it for my daughter's lunch, too. I've realized that it is a special purveyance of grandmothers to create macaroni and cheese beloved by their grandchildren. This mother is not going to tread on that territory.

But I'm going to keep Grammy's recipe on hand. Someday I'll make it for my grandchildren. I'll tell them about how my grandmother made the best macaroni and cheese in the world.

28 November 2009

At the close of Ordinary Time...

In these last few minutes of Ordinary Time, a few things to remember about this November...

:: Little Emmeliese learned how to crawl and Mama finally let her eat her first real food. She's also doing some dancing (shaking her head, moving her body up and down, waving arms and legs) whenever she hears any music. The other day, I walked in the dining room and my baby girl was standing by her highchair which she had used to pull herself up. And she's sleeping better -- usually waking up only once a night since we moved her into her own room (thank the Lord!) She's growing up so fast!

:: Daniel has started drawing faces and the other day he colored orange in the middle of the flame of a candle picture. I thought that was cool. He and Annalivia are sharing a room right now and he likes that. He was glad to give his room to Emmeliese. He always takes such good care of her. And he and Annalivia have been playing really well together.

:: Annalivia has been very good about sharing her room, though she'd prefer that she and Daniel have the bunk beds we'll eventually borrow from my aunt instead of beds on the floor. We took her out of preschool at the beginning of the month and she has adjusted well to being home. I like it. She's an incredible big sister most of the time to both Daniel and Emmeliese. I'm trying to be more intentional about having special time alone with her. One day this month, we got home from our church's Kids Club and decided to have an adventure. We went and got ice cream and then I showed her the Big Dipper and the Milky Way. It was really neat.

:: Dennis has been making some progress on the house and we've experienced a renewed enthusiasm for it since we became members of the Old House Society in Bloomington. They operate an architectural salvage warehouse that made both of our hearts beat faster.

:: I've been working on some Christmas presents and looking forward to another handmade Christmas with our families. I am very thankful for my family's approach to Christmas -- handmade, edible or inexpensive presents are not only appreciated but encouraged. I love that.
:: We rearranged furniture and stuff in our rental house to allow for room for Emmeliese to move about unhindered. It was getting inconvenient to drag her out from radiators and corners with outlets and from under furniture and such several times an hour. In doing our rearranging, I realized that, though it doesn't look magazine-worthy at all, I really like openness in a room. Furniture anchored to or near walls is ok with me. I know that makes me uncool.

:: We had a great Thanksgiving with the family. We did a progressive dinner throughout the day with pate at my sisters, dinner at my mom's and pie at my grandfather's. It was lovely. The food was wonderful. I keenly missed, missed, missed my Grammy. But, in a way, those emotions made the day much more poignant and meaningful.

:: We are still loving our experiences at our new church and are so thankful that God led us there. Annalivia is having an incredible mid-week experience, the kids are both loving Sunday school and getting ready for a Christmas program this coming month, Dennis has had some really neat experiences with an active, viable, focused men's ministry, and I got to meet some neat people at the Beth Moore event and am looking forward to some women's ministry events this coming month, too. And Dennis and I love, love, LOVE our Sunday School class and the challenging, invigorating discussions we experience there.
:: Phil, our pastor, had a great sermon last week on giving and in it, he said something about giving from our abundance that caught me. He said rather than thinking about what we no longer use or need, we could think about what others could use or need. The latter removes the "I-problem" from the equation. The distinction has stuck with me this week and I'm ready to do some fresh examination of our abundance and see what others could use or need.

:: I'm going to try to post more often during December. I'm ready for Advent and already anticipating Incarnation. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Happy scrappy quilt giveaway

Marie-Madeleine has a great giveaway for a gorgeous quilt. More info here.

09 November 2009

Parenting book realization

I read a lot of parenting books. A LOT. I think I have a tendency towards obsession with self-help type stuff, anyway, and reading parenting books fulfills that in (what I can generally pretend is) a healthy way.

I realized something the other day and that is this... parenting books written by people who have two children three or four or more years apart are a lot different than parenting books written by people who have four or more children two years or less apart. Seriously -- big difference. Furthermore, I realized that the more kids an author has, the less he or she has to say about what a parent can do and more she or he has something to say about what God can do. There's just so much resignation (in a good way) from those people. It's inspiring.

And even farther-furthermore, I realized that the two-kids people often share wisdom that is really inspired and some great insights, techniques, etc, BUT the people I'm going to be referencing are the people with the zillions of kids. Even though I only have three children, there's something about reading the thoughts of people who have been-there-done-that (...and more!) that is so very helpful. It's one of the many reasons I love Holly's blog, and Tonya's blog, and Ann's blog, and Amy's blog, and Molly's blog...among many others. There's a wide range of theology and practices out there, but when graciousness is present, it is inspirational...and motivational...to this mom of three. Thanks to those of you who share.

08 November 2009

What a weekend!

This has been such a good weekend, that I feel like I should hit on a few highlights to remember.

-- I went to a Beth Moore Living Proof event this week, fully embracing the evangelical side of myself. Dang, was it good! She is such an energetic speaker and draws very cool connections. The subject of her talk was John the Baptist and it was fascinating. And it was illuminative when applied to my own life. I had heard her on the radio before, but had not seen her. She reminded me of several southern-woman friends. It was lovely. I had such an incredible experience, that I'm going to try to go back next year.

-- At the Beth Moore thing, I sat next to a woman from Chicago. She ended up being a homeschooling mother of 4 whose children have the same exact age range of mine. It was SO cool! She was my partner for a final commissioning thing that was very moving. We exchanged email address and facebook info and I think we will be spiritual friends.

-- I also got to hang out with some women from our new church and had a good time getting to know them better. It was just a lot of fun, though they were very worried about me driving down to the conference by myself, sitting by myself and rooming by myself. I explained that this sort of solitude really WAS a gift. Really. No, REALLY, chicas. Although it was just wonderful to get to know these very cool women, time alone was G-O-O-D!!

-- The weather was incredible this week. We've had so much rain this fall -- flooding and crops waterlogged in the field. This week has been so amazing -- sunny and in the high 50's, low 60's. Then this weekend it was in the mid-70's. This coming week is supposed to be beautiful, too.

-- We had a great church morning. We've been getting up early and going out to breakfast before going to church. I don't know if it's a wise thing to do that long-term, but it sure is a nice treat and a really special way to begin the morning. Lots of people were gone from church this morning, but we had a great conversation in Sunday School and the sermon was really, really good.

-- Today our yard was blitz-raked by a church youth group. We had 15 kids out there with rakes going crazy. They raked the yards of both elderly neighbors, too, and then moved on down the block, accepting no money -- just serving.

-- Since the youth group was such a help at this house, we went to our new house and raked. I tried tossing the kids into a leaf pile, but they did not appreciate the joy of such. Dennis thought my tenacity was rather remarkable since I refused to believe they were not having fun until they were both sobbing. Sometimes, I'm not the greatest mother ever. ;)

-- Tonight after dinner, we watched the end of a football game and Annalivia and Daniel did some swordfighting a la Narnia. Daniel, as King Peter, was hilariously relentless while Annalivia, as the White Witch or as Queen Susan, tried to pose her swords artistically. Emmeliese sat on the floor and bobbed up and down and watched and laughed at them encouragingly.

-- And now we're all going to bed VERY early! The house is messy, but sleep is a more important priority at this point. Hope your weekend was grand!

05 November 2009

The morning report

It is 8 in the morning on this Thursday of the first week of Annalivia being out of Preschool. Mom has also been sick all week, so we've all been together all day, everyday. I realized this week how spoiled I've been; the older two kids have been at my mom's house basically four hours of four days of a week since Emmeliese was born. It's been a real gift. Since we decided to take Annalivia out of preschool, the plan is to have the kids go to my mom's one night a week (to play with cousins) and on Friday morning (to give me a break).
I wish I could say that everything just clicked right into place this week with all of us home, but...it hasn't. However, the difficulties strengthen my conviction even more that this all-four-of-us-together-all-the-time should be the default in our home. Now that we are in day 4, it feels better. We are kind of relaxing into the routine of being together, working around and with each other, playing together and by oneself and referee-ing a different energy level than usual. I had thought we'd just jump right in to preschool-at-home this week. Now I realize that we need a bit of time to adjust to each other and the new routine. But I like how being home feels today.
So, right now, Emmeliese is sitting in the middle of the floor, lunging forward to get things in the middle of the floor. Daniel has been running around in a helmet and shield with sword in hand fighting dragons. Annalivia cranked up the cd player so we're listening to English church music while she alternately draws pictures of princesses and tries to get "The Prince" to dance with her. He's not been very cooperative, so she's mainly drawing.
I'm drinking coffee -- a habit I reintroduced with the time change. I found a pound of whole bean coffee a friend had given me over two years ago. It's ... not terrible, surprisingly. Not the best ever, but free. And hot. We have yet to turn on our furnace and the space heaters are nearing the end of the effectiveness, I think.
We have lots on the docket to do today. Daddy took the van to get a bit of a tune-up, so we're forced to be either home or walking to a destination, both of which are good for us. The house is a complete mess and I'm going to a conference with new-church ladies tomorrow so Grandma is coming to visit. She is terribly disturbed by blankets being the wrong direction on a bed so to say, "There's a little work to do" would be vastly understating things.
I best get at it.

31 October 2009

I'm having some issues...

...making things harder than they should be lately.

Some Halloween photos

For those who are interested, a couple photos of the kiddos dressed up at Gramps' house can be seen at this link. A report on the weekend coming later, I think.

22 October 2009

A place to cook

Dennis and I spent some time discussing the house tonight. Basically, we've run out of money to spend hiring other people to work on it and we still have a whole heck of a lot that needs to be done before whenever it is that we'll move in (hopefully before summer heat next year). It's stuff like running electricity into the main floor, sanding floors, redoing walls, fixing plaster where we can, putting in some bathrooms (because right now there's only half a toilet in the house) and a kitchen, because, um...well, this family's gotta eat. It was a very energizing discussion.

Tonight's discussion was about the kitchen and we figured out some solutions to annoyances. The kitchen is small, but will still be the largest kitchen we've ever used. Because of our cash crunch, and because he's always wanted to do it, Dennis is going to build the cabinetry. Another advantage to him building the cabinets is that whatever he comes up with will actually fit the 10-foot ceilings. And because he's going to build the cabinetry, and because I've always wanted it, he's going to make it very primitive -- but not in the way that involves red paint and star and moon cutouts and prematurely rusted wires. :) (It may involve beadboard and prematurely worn corners. We'll see...)

The door to the dining room had been moved at one time in the house's past. It made sense to leave it, but that meant the other entry door to the room was not symmetrical. I've realized that symmetry is a big thing for me in buildings, rooms, etc. I like a sense of order into which I can bring my messiness, I guess. :)

My brilliant husband's brilliant solution involves moving both doors a bit (and moving a brand new duct which he assures me is not a big deal) to make the doors symmetrical and thereby make room for an entire wall of shelves which will be concealed behind beadboard doors. That means we don't necessarily need upper cabinets, but can instead use open shelves for the dishes and mixing bowls and such which, I think, will make the room look a lot bigger. But the coolest thing about the wall o' doors is that our door to the second back stairs will be concealed giving us a "hidden" staircase. That's just the sort of thing that makes Dennis and I grin.

Now -- the question is just this -- when is he/ when are we going to find time to do all of this?

20 October 2009

Sweet things today

Daniel and Annalivia played together this morning really well. It was a very complicated game wherein Daniel was Annalivia's daddy. She'd cry out, "Daddy, Daddy!" and then run over to him as he sat in the rocking chair. He'd say, "Do you want me to rock-a-bye you?" and then she'd climb up in his lap and he would stroke her hair and say, "Shhh...it's ok..." Then he'd get tired of her sitting on his lap and shove her off the chair.

Later in the morning, I sent them outside to play. They had another elaborate game going involving their bikes/ trikes and several stuffed animals in the wagon. They went around to the far side of the house, however, and when I called them back, Annalivia explained that the reason they were over there was because they were discussing their child The Director. What director, I have no idea.

This afternoon, after naps, they were having a snack. I have no idea what they were talking about, but occasionally Daniel would say the word, "butt" and then they would both burst out into uncontrollable laughter. Then they'd get it together again and he'd say it again and they'd laugh hysterically. I pretended like I didn't hear for about 5 times and then came in and told them it we don't say, "butt" as per this post. I may be a hypocrite, but I have good reasons.

And lastly, tonight, after we got home, I worked on Annalivia's Halloween costume a little. I will elaborate more on its providential pieces later. I had to cut some stuff off of a long dress and Annalivia took the pieces and made a gaiter and scarf and headband out of them, told us she was on a "snow skateboard" and then ran around jumping off of things pretending to snowboard. At one point, she was talking about how she wants a snowboard, which she was still calling a "snow skateboard" and Dennis said something about he had a skateboard once. Her eyes grew really big and she looked at him like he was really cool and she said, "You did?" He replied affirmatively. Then she asked, "Is it still in your shed?" Those of you who know about the giant machine shed at his mom's house packed with everything he and his family members have ever owned will know it probably is. I just hope he doesn't have to go looking for it.

18 October 2009

A different expectation

One of the prejudices I managed to nurture throughout my previous mainline church experience was the notion that evangelicals have a sub-standard intellectual tradition. I thought that most of them just didn't want to really think about faith. (I mean, why else would they believe in the pesky doctrine of the sovereignty of God?)

I was introduced to the error of my ways about three years ago when I encountered a faith community of women at the now-defunct Choosing Home. For the most part, these were stay-at-home mothers who were...how can I say this correctly... not in the least bit dumb. I don't want to use "intellectual giants" because probably none of them would accept such a description of themselves, but suffice to say, their knowledge of the Bible, theology (both theoretical and applied), and church history just amazed and astounded me. I was brought up short in front of a false picture of evangelicals I had painted and hung off to the side of my faith journey. What I had created was not real. It was a convenient portrayal so I could disregard the hard questions I would inevitably be asked.

Our family has been participating in an evangelical church (Evangelical Mennonite is the best description, or at least the most well-known) for the last five months. Today, our adult Sunday School class, which involved about 25 adults from the ages of 20-40, engaged in a spirited, intellectual discussion about Calvin. I was amazed that laypeople, and not just a few laypeople, but many of those in the room, not only knew who Calvin was, but knew more about theology and the differences in the theology than I did. Their comments revealed an intellectual curiousity about faith that indicated that this discussion was not their first introduction to theological debate. And this was no milquetoast discussion; it was passionate, and complex. There was never a convergence of opinion/ belief -- some of the theology introduced was pretty liberal, some pretty conservative -- but it was an incredibly respectful discussion. It was completely unlike any conversation I've had at church, ever. It was, frankly, exhilarating.

When Dennis and I processed it verbally after church together, we realized two things...

1.) This church expects a certain level of literacy from followers of Christ. The expectation is informal, but it is there. It begins with Biblical literacy, but extends to a basic knowledge of different theologies, Christian traditions and world religions. Dennis mentioned today that he has been incredibly impressed by the knowledge possessed by laypeople in the congregation. I hadn't really thought about it much, but when he mentioned it, I realized how extraordinary this level of knowledge is, particularly in the light of my second realization, which will probably get me into trouble...

2.) I have been confronted again and again with the fact that, in large part, the mainline church is failing its people when it comes to really connecting the mind with the process of faith. I'm not sure where it was that it became a joke that we don't read the Bible. It should be incite a great sense of shame, I think. What mainline illiteracy has produced is a laity that is dependent on ministers to not only illuminate, but also introduce basic Biblical concepts. This allows for only a very narrow thread of theology to be discussed and considered amongst the people. Because hardly anyone, including pastors, are secure in Biblical knowledge, there is almost no ability to produce an intellectual discussion, let alone a classical argument/counter-argument. Debate doesn't exist. And when it does, it generally isn't very respectful. Bottom line -- the conversation I experienced this morning simply couldn't have taken place in the churches of which I've been a part or with which I'm familiar. And that's primarily because of a basic lack of necessary education.

So, I've realized again how ridiculous my former prejudice is. It turns out that picture I painted of someone who did little to move beyond preformed suppositions and did less to challenge one's faith intellectually, was the mainline me. The sub-standard Christian intellectual tradition was mine.

I was schooled again today. At church. It was a wonderful thing.

17 October 2009

Saturday update

It's a beautiful COLD day here in central Illinois. Dennis is out mowing the leaves around the house towards the street, Annalivia is "reading" to Daniel, and Emmeliese is bouncing up and down in her exersaucer, which she loves again now that we moved the legs up a notch so she can get some good bouncing action going. I'm trying to figure out how to save money on groceries. Right now all I've come up with is making a list of meals we like and the ingredients therein and trying to buy a lot of those when they are on sale. That's probably Basic Home Ec 101, isn't it?
We had pepperoni pizza for breakfast this morning. I had made the crust and two loaves of bread yesterday, but our oven smelled terrible when we turned it on. Dennis took it all apart and I put the dough in the freezer and we went out to eat. After tearing it apart and finding nothing but little mouse droppings, we think a mouse may have peed on the insulation around the oven. This morning, we suffered through the smell until I found that lavender/ vanilla Febreeze got rid of it, if sprayed every 10 minutes or so. The kids really wanted pizza and I hadn't been out to the store to get any proper breakfast materials, so we indulged in pizza while the bread baked. But the bread never rose properly from the freezer. I have two rather flat loaves. Still good, especially for meatloaf sandwiches, which is their immediate need, but not quite what I was anticipating.
Our new church is having an open house this afternoon to celebrate the new building, so we are going to head over there sometime after lunch. Dennis' brother is coming into town for the funeral of a beloved coach at the high school and college, so we'll get to see him, if briefly. And inspired by Ann, I think we may take a bit of a walk to soak up some sunshine, which has been in short supply here.
Emmeliese has been teething a lot lately. She has 6 teeth in and the seventh is taking it's sweet time, right below the surface of her gums for about 2 weeks now. She is miserable at night, and, consequently, so is Momma. She also isn't sleeping in big stretches during the day -- just little naps of less than an hour. It's such a vicious circle -- the sleeping less during the night leads to sleeping less during the day which leads to less sleep at night. She has also developed a howl of righteous indignation when something is taken away from her to rival anything her siblings have produced, which is really saying something. You'd think her hand was cut off. Poor, persecuted child has a mother who won't let her chew on paper... It's terrible. :)
Tomorrow, the church is having a dedication Sunday with a potluck afterwards. I'm singing in an ensemble, so I need to take something that can sit for a while or be refrigerated. I was going to take scallopped potatoes in the crockpot, but I let my little sister borrow it to take out of town, so I have to come up with something else. I'm thinking about making pea salad, because I have a whole lotta peas in the freezer, but I should bring something else. Flattened bread?
Well, the kids are trying to "help" by doing dishes without me. This usually involves an argument, followed shortly by a mess, so this is the end of this update! Hope your fall is beautiful!

15 October 2009

The artist

One of my favorite pictures by our 4 1/2 year old artist. The picture on the other side of the paper sort of shows through, too, but this one here is of a ballerina dancing. I love the motion in the hair, the 3/4 view of the face with proper orientation of facial features including earrings on the ear, and the pointy feet and ballet shoes...I may be biased, but she's good, isn't she? :)

The sweet squirrel

Tonight, I checked on Dan-o after he was asleep and removed about half of the stuff in with him. I always like to see what he considers important enough to take to bed with him. Tonight's haul included a picture of a semi truck. Drawn for him by Annalivia. Oh, how it warmed this momma's heart. :)

Our little biggie

Yesterday, I took Emmeliese to the doctor. For reasons I'll not detail here, but have mainly to do with insurance changes and errant parenting, she has missed her 4 and 6 month checkups. I knew we had a big girl, but I was surprised when she weighed in at 20.5 lbs yesterday! She had a pretty full diaper, but still...what a big girl! This explains why she fit so well into that 18 month romper yesterday!

Annalivia's growth was completely different -- a 50% percentile baby all the way. Hence, her clothes that fit Emmeliese right now are things like sunsuits and capris. Emmeliese is also taller than Annalivia was, though not by much. So -- it's time to go shopping. Again. I wonder how long she'll wear whatever we find today?

14 October 2009

An uncomfortable comparison

Have you ever had someone liken themselves to you and you think, "O dear God, please, don't let that actually be true..."?
This happened to me rather publicly with an individual at one point in my life and I had that reaction. And that person is on the far periphery of my life again and I think about it everytime I encounter them, which, thankfully, is not very often.
Before, I sort of brushed off the comparison, but lately I've been thinking about it a lot. I have always admired certain things about this person, but also realized that the relationship with them was sort of toxic for me. But lately, I've been realizing that, in some fundamental ways, we are a lot alike. And not in the good ways.
It's been a bit of a wake-up call. And then I realized, opening oneself to self-criticism can be a good thing. If a bit uncomfortable.

13 October 2009

A glimpse of things to come

So I've hesitated to say it here, "out loud" as it were, but Dennis and I are pretty sure that we are going to be homeschooling our kids. We've not started anything formal, but Annalivia has a little math workbook that she likes to do. It has counting and numbers and she gets to draw things. She always wants to "do math homework" so I let her.
Today, I was sitting at the table helping her and trying to pay bills online with Emmeliese on my lap while Daniel was sitting on the potty hollering about his progress there. Emmeliese was grabbing the computer and fussing, Annalivia was asking questions and Daniel was yelling to be wiped as the microwave alarm reminded me that lunch needed to be removed.
I wish I could link to my blog-friend Tonya's private blog where she took time to write out a journal of her day as a homeschooling mother of six. It was hilarious and totally delightful. I'm actually looking forward to this sort of chaos. :)

07 October 2009

Bringing down the volume

If there is one thing I say every day more times than I can count, it's this -- "BRING DOWN THE VOULME!" Sometimes I say it nicely, with a "please" tacked on to it. But most time, it's just the latest add-on to the ever-present din around here.
I only have three children, but I swear they make the noise of 30. Every thing they do is Loud.
They run Loud. They walk Loud. They sing Loud. They yell Loud. They laugh Loud. They cry Loud. Loud, Loud, LOUD!
Luckily, most of the time, Loud does not bug me much. It's when I ask Annalivia to go ask her brother who is upstairs if he wants a muffin and she stands 6 inches from me and hollers, "DANIEL! DO YOU WANT A MUFFIN?" that I get annoyed. Or when I say, "No, Annalivia, please go ask him if he wants a muffin" and she moves approximately 2 feet and yells, "DANIEL!! I SAID, 'DO YOU WANT A MUFFIN?!?'"
This house does not help. This rental is huge, has wood floors and high ceilings and the house we are redoing is huger, has wood floors, and higher ceilings. I've realized that we need to figure out the volume thing, and pronto. I've started not talking to the kids until they are in front of me. When I was in the hospital with Emmeliese, I got to see that show about the Duggars and saw that they have an intercom system in their house. When we bought the new house and started redoing it, I told Dennis that was going to be a necessary expense. We simply MUST figure out how to bring the volume down. Any ideas from you experienced moms out there?

24 September 2009

September remember -- ready for something

Daniel in the driveway yesterday drinking his juice box (a rare treat for us) and wearing his backpack. He likes to fill his backpack with various odd items -- the shape sorter box, a wood hammer, several Thomas trains and his baby doll before he goes to Grandma's. Then he leaves it in the van.

On internet access...or not

Recently, we ported our home phone number over to our cell phone company because it saves a bit of money. Consequently, our fomer phone provider automatically cancelled our internet service. We could have it reinstated, of course, or we could find another provider, but it's been so nice to not have the internet that we may just keep it unplugged.
Right now I am at our local coffeeshop enjoying my Mother's Sabbath. They have free wi-fi, as does the library. As do my parents, for that matter. I'm thinking that if I check in at least once a day, I should be able to keep on top of whatever I have to do with email and banking. And next year, I'm going to get out of whatever I have to do with email so that it's no longer necessary and I can just check in once a week or so.
It's nice to be unplugged at home. I forget how much mental energy the internet can suck from me if I let it. It's nice to be free.

22 September 2009

September remember -- Emmeliese's toothy grin

Her teeth really did come in like this. She also has her bottom center teeth. I'm so glad I got a picture of our little Dracula because the top middle tooth broke through today.

September remember photos -- Daniel's chunky sweater

I've been crocheting after missing an entire summer of not doing any crochet at all. My first project was a chunky turtleneck sweater for Daniel. He wants to wear it all the time including today when it was 83 degrees out. (And no, I don't have a pattern. I just make it up as I go and I never write stuff down. Sorry.)
Sweet story -- when I snapped this, he wasn't doing any natural smiling (i.e. he was either staring into the camera or saying "CHEEEEEESE!!"). I asked him what his favorite thing is. He looked up and smiled and said, "Obeying..." *click* :)

September remember photos

We've been going over to the College to the labyrinth about once a week. I walk the path with Emmeliese and contemplate.

I wish I could write that my kids are equally reverent. They aren't; they race around. Or they roll around in the grass, looking a whole lot like a certain great-grandfather I know.

The light is amazing there sometimes. I love September light.

When at home, my poor deprived child has to take safety in her own hands and create her own bicycle helmet... :)

September remember -- more

The cuteness has continued in large helpings here, but I haven't had time to write things down. I wish I had, though, because I miss things that I know I wanted to remember, but I just don't have the mental capacity anymore. Alas.

Anyway...two sweet things and then some photos...

Annalivia has taken to asking us questions and then prompting the answer in a stage whisper. The first time it happened, she asked me, "How did Jesus maked our food?" I had no idea what she was getting at and told her I didn't understand the question. "He SPOKE, Mommy!" she said in a loud whisper. Turns out, she was talking about Creation. Now I'm constantly quizzed on all matter of subjects but I never have to worry about supplying the answer because she always has one at the ready.

I dropped Annalivia off at my mother's house after preschool the other day for lunch with Daniel and her cousin, Lirah. Daniel was standing at the window and Annalivia shot out of the car screaming, "Hi, Daniel! I'm coming, buddy!"

13 September 2009

September remember #13

I wish I could get a pic of Emmeliese's vampire grin. She has four teeth -- two in the center bottom and her two top incisors. The effect is precious. Our little "Fangs..."
We had to go to a visitation up north today, so we had the older two kids stay with my Mom. As we were explaining we were going to a funeral home, Annalivia said, "So... who died today?" As though someone we know dies everyday and it's all old news. I'm going to chalk this up to the fact that we live across from a funeral home and there are always people coming and going from visitations. I hope that's it.

Sunday school today was in the new addition at church. Daniel and Annalivia were also in separate clases for the first time. We've been trying to sell Daniel on being in his "very own classroom!!!" for weeks. It worked well for Sunday School. He went right into the room and started helping the teacher. At Children's Church, he was less enthusiastic, until the teacher pointed out that they had Goldfish snacks. Then he was all about going to his room without Annalivia. (Her room had cupcakes, but we didn't find it necessary to point that out.)

On the way back from the visitation, we were winding down a country road and Dennis spotted a rear-mounted mower on the back of a little tractor about a quarter mile ahead of us. He said, "That's a Woods RM660. You can check if I'm right as I pass it." Then he talked about its 3 spindles and something or other drive shaft and something or other deck. It WAS a Woods RM660. Of course. He's so cute, especially when he knows what he's talking about.

12 September 2009

September remember #12

It seemed like a long day today. Dennis and I were both tired. Daniel and Annalivia foresook their naps, and bickered a lot, and Emmeliese was punky. When the big kids went to bed, they both went reluctantly while I was trying to get Emmeliese to sleep. Then they heard me laugh. Mayhem ensued. In their exhaustion, they somehow reasoned that while it was ok if Mommy was absent from bedtime routines due to rocking Emmeliese; if Mommy was absent and enjoying herself, well...that was quite another story. :)
Anyway, they were both calling for me and Annalivia was working herself up into quite a fit when Daniel began to cry, too. His volume began to approach her level (which is saying something) when I heard her yell with frustration, "Daniel! QUIT. YOUR. FUSSIN'!"
Apparently, there's only room for one dramatist at bedtime in our house and Annalivia staked out that territory long ago...

11 September 2009

September remember #11

The barges on the Illinois River were flying flags at half-mast today and our streets in Eureka were lined with flags, courtesy of the Boy Scouts. It reminded me of those days immediately following Sept. 11, 2001. Remember how the flag looked completely new somehow?

Annalivia has taken to asking, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Mom?" or saying, "I think I'm thinking what you're thinking, Mommy." I don't think we've ever been thinking the same thing yet since she's usually thinking about flowers, princesses and/ or kittens.

The other day, we had pudding cups as a treat. (We had these because our grocery shopping ended right around lunch time and we were all tired and cranky.) I overheard Annalivia tell Daniel that in just a second, they could have their "frosting cups". Ick.

10 September 2009

September remember #10

Emmeliese turned over last night. Finally. In honor of the occasion, she got her first little teeny tiny bites of food today -- mashed banana on her 6-month birthday.

Daniel had a dirty diaper right before naps today (around 2). He said, "Don't worry. Daddy can change it!" Yeah, um... Daddy doesn't get home until 5, buddy. That's not going to work too well.


I don't think I've ever mentioned here about Annalivia's prolific drawing. The kid draws CONSTANTLY on everything and if we dare leave a pad of paper out, by the end of the day, it's mostly full of drawings. Her drawings are almost always of girls, usually with long hair, dresses and high-heeled shoes on. I should scan some in sometime. They're amazing, if I do say so myself.

For a while now, when Daniel says "whoopsie-daisy", he says, "Upsie-doozy!" Today, he was singing about the upsie-doozy spider going up the hose and the water coming out. :) He'll learn the real version soon enough.


I keep this list going through the day and keep forgetting to publish these at night. So, here is a backlog of September-remembers, all published this evening. Goodnight!

09 September 2009

September remember #9

Every morning, the big kids come into my room and when Emmeliese wakes up, they want to "come see her". This means they want me to put her in the middle of the bed and let them kiss her and talk to her. If I don't put her in the middle of the bed, with plenty of room on either side, there is a constant accusation that the other one is "getting to look at Emmeliese more than me!"

Annalivia started Kids' Club tonight. It's a children's ministry program at the church we've been attending. She also started preschool at a different school than she attended last year because she gets to go in the morning. Since the preschool is part of a nursing home facility, the children visited the residents today. Annalivia was excited to tell me that she had been in the place where Grammy Adaline was before she died. Then we had a long conversation about dying and Jesus. The way her little spirit is so open and receptive right now is so amazing to me. I think I'm learning as much as she is.

08 September 2009

September remember #8

Today is my nephew's birthday. I remembered this when I woke up because Annalivia told me. I think that's kind of cool that she is at an age where she can remember important things.


Emmeliese is at that delightful age where, if conditions are precisely perfect, she can stand in an exersaucer and play for about 20 minutes. It's wonderful.


Daniel's affection for Emmeliese has not lessened at all since she was born. Often he will come up to her, give her a kiss and say, "Ohhhh, she's cute!" or "She's so pretty!" Sweet boy.

07 September 2009

September remember #7

Last night we went for a drive and I was talking to Dennis while Annalivia was trying to talk to me. She was tired of being patient and said, "Mommy, you talk to Daddy A LOT!"

"I do talk to Daddy a lot," I said. "I don't get to talk to him very much and I get to talk to you two all the time. And he's my husband and I love to talk to him and..."

Annalivia cut me off with "He's your prince!"

It's true. :)


My prince and I realized that he didn't have to work today, so we threw caution to the wind and watched a movie at 10:30 last night. It was practically a date!


Annalivia has been singing "I-lee, I-lee, I-lee" lately. Finally I heard her sing, "That's for me" and it occurred to me that she was singing "The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that's the book for me..."

06 September 2009

September remember #6

On our way to church this morning, Annalivia told me that if I kept driving on a certain road, I'd probably find her friend Charlotte's house. We'd know it was her house because it probably had a horse mailbox. Because Charlotte really likes horses.
This reminded me that Annalivia is convinced that Kylie, a girl who went to preschool with her last year, lives down the street from our new house. Why? A black cat lives there. And Kylie really loves cats.
When we got back from church, I went to put my shoes in the closet and found that Daniel (who stayed home from church) had piled about 40 books in there along with a bunch of clothes, toys, etc. I found out that was about 1/3 of what was originally in there. Dennis made him move most of it before we got home. I swear that kid is part squirrel.
Tonight Annalivia hid under a big towel after her bath well enough that her daddy couldn't find her. He wandered around calling her name until he heard giggling coming from the towel. He did the whole, "Where's Annalivia?" thing.
"It's just a talking towel!" she said. Then she showed herself with lots of laughing.
Then she told Daddy that she was going to do the same thing tomorrow night. "So it will be a surprise, eh?" he asked.
"Yeah!" she replied.
I came out to the music coordinators at the church we've been attending and told them I was a vocal performance major in the context of a larger conversation about singing with them. Since I went to college with the pastor and sang with him, I knew it would come out one way or another.
The reason I don't share this fact much is not because I don't like to sing, but because I don't like the way people apologize for their own musical abilities around me, even though it's not like I'm the world's greatest singer or anything. I think it's sort of like the way I feel around theory people. I can't count, really, but I can count enough to sing and participate in music groups most of the time. But put me with someone who really can count, or worse, sightread perfectly, or even well, and I feel like nervous-vomiting. Most people really can sing, but feel like they can't and then someone shows up who can and they feel all awkward. I don't like that. Especially in church. So if you're one of those people -- just sing -- sing proud. If the music performance majors are judging you, they aren't singing for the right reason anyway.

05 September 2009

September remember #5

Daniel has a fever and cough today. He is fussy, punky, naughty...and also...super-sweet. I read him Thomas stories at noon after he climbed into bed of his own accord. At 3 he wanted to lie down with me, so we laid down on the couch and he fell asleep again. Poor little guy.


Annalivia was being an incredibly patient and kind big sister today. Nothing she did was the right thing for Daniel, but instead of getting frustrated she just did other things. We let her watch a movie upstairs as a bit of a treat and after his nap, Daniel went up, took out her dvd which was mid-story, and put in one of his own. That almost did her in. Long-suffering for much more than 8 hours is tough when you're 4.

At the EtCetera Shoppe today, I found several of my favorite books from childhood, including Sleeping Beauty as illustrated by Sheilah Beckett. It was part of "The Best Book Club Ever", a book service from Random House that my maternal grandmother received. Finding these books reminded me of another favorite Snow White and Rose Red also produced by the book club. I found it for $2 on ebay and discovered that it is also illustrated Sheilah Beckett. Then I found out that a lot of the books I loved as a girl were illustrated by her. Very cool.

We had a guy come to the house today to give us a quote on drywalling everything. My aunt, the former architect happened (happened?) to call afterwards and when I mentioned this, she pointed out the increased noise that is transmitted in houses with drywall vs. houses with plaster. She also pointed out that, save for the parsonage, I've lived in houses with plaster walls my whole life. I am grateful for her insight. In a big ol' house with wood floors and high ceilings full of already-noisy kids, adding what would basically function as drumskins to the walls may not be the way to go. We're getting a quote from a plasterer on Monday.

04 September 2009

September remember #4

Today Annalivia had preschool orientation. She is going to a different preschool this year and though we will really miss her favorite teacher from the nursery school, she'll be in a morning class. And that's really good for her.

Last night after we were in bed, Dennis told me very excitedly and enthusiastically about a machine that has a 550 horsepower engine that Case IH makes at the location where he works . I faked enthusiasm and he said, "You really have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?" I don't. I feel sorry for him that he married a wife who has NO CLUE about his interests. Sorry, honey. Hopefully the cooking makes up for it.


We went on a little drive tonight and found an AMAZING homemade ice cream store in a little town near us where the church we've been attending is located. I got an ice cream cone for Dennis with Moose Tracks flavor. It was THE BEST ice cream I've ever, ever had. SOOOOOO delicious and uber-cheap. Wow.

Tonight is the full Corn or Fruit Moon. It was beautiful as it rose. And no, it's not the Harvest Moon because the full moon closest to the fall equinox is the Harvest Moon. That's Oct. 4 this year.


I love fall. The way the light becomes all golden and the shadows lengthen and the mist just seems to hang in the cornfields and the kids in football jerseys marking a home-game seem to get younger and younger... it is a delightful part of life.

03 September 2009

September remember #3

Last night, Daniel had about 25 books in bed with him. He had fallen asleep on top of a vintage Thomas book and a James Herriot compilation. I wonder if he dreams with an English accent?


We've been working on practicing cheerfulness instead of fussing and whining. I picked the kids up from my mom's today and Daniel got in the van, sat down and said, "I have a happy heart, Mommy!"


Annalivia and Daniel were playing with the couch cushions tonight. They were building mountains out of them and then rolling down them or jumping off the couch onto them. Then they were pretending to hide from imaginary predators behind them. At one point Annalivia said, "Oh no! Here comes a mean parent!"


The fridge is not cooling. I noticed that the milk wasn't really cool yesterday, but I think it was on the way to lukewarmness when I encountered it. We only realized there was a big problem after Emmeliese got sick on formula that had soured. We were up at 4 a.m. Dennis cleaned out the fridge at 5:30. Emmeliese had an icky day -- fussy and not sleeping well or regularly. Tonight Dennis thinks he fixed the fridge. Here's hoping!

02 September 2009

September remember #2

Today was garbage day. The kids love to bring the garbage cans up from the curb because they have wheels on them. Daniel was so happy, bringing up that big garbage can that's bigger than he is! Annalivia brought her can and both lids, then took time to take each lid out of her can and then bang them into place on top of their respective cans.
Annalivia after closing Dennis' laptop: "Mommy, I shut Daddy's computer so it wouldn't dry out."

And Annalivia after I told her to look at a flock of geese flying into the sunset, "Do the geese LIVE in the sunset?"

01 September 2009

September remember #1

Today, Annalivia had to go to the bathroom while we were out and about. We found a spot in the country where she could do her business. Daniel is a little monkey-do and said he had to go pee-pee, too. I reminded him that he was wearing a diaper, then got Annalivia out of the van. I was helping her, giving instructions on the finer points of going to the bathroom outside, and heard Daniel getting out of his seat in the van. I didn't pay much attention. But when Annalivia and I turned around to get back in the van, I found a little boy, shoes off, completely naked from the waist down (wearing an American flag sweater and a lobster shirt from the waist up.) He didn't understand why Mommy was laughing so hard. :)
Also, my new computer came today. I opened it up as the kids were headed up for baths with Daddy. Annalivia saw it and said, "Awwww, you got a new computer! Can I have your old one?"

September remember

Awhile ago, I read or heard of a woman who wrote down little things that happened every day on her calendar at home. It wasn't much -- just little sentences, but they were things that she wanted to remember.
It seemed like a good idea to me, but our calendar is a cheap desk calendar with pages that rip off. It's nothing I want to keep. So I thought I'd write things down here this month and see if it's a discipline I want to continue into private life.

25 August 2009

I still have a lot to say...

...just not much time in which to say it. I'm trying not to be on the computer when the kids are up and about. I've instituted a two-hour mandatory after-lunch rest period, which should leave some time available, but I find I want to do other things during these moments of break in the day. Like dishes or laundry, for example. :)

However, for posterity's sake and anyone interested, an update, in brief...
  • Emmeliese is teething right now. She had her bottom two front teeth break through last week and the week before and an incisor broke through this weekend.
  • For some reason, she's been sleeping ok, though. We drug her up with ibuprofen at night and, for the last few nights, she's been sleeping straight through. I love that.
  • Annalivia is getting ready to go to 4-year old preschool in a couple of weeks. She was moved to an afternoon class this year and I'm feeling a little uneasy about it. We'll see how it goes.
  • Daniel is coming into his late-2-year-old behavior stage and we're experiencing everything -- positive and negative-- that this stage of growth entails. There are so many things to love. And so many challenges, too...
  • So, along with that, we are working on discipline at our house right now. The older kids have had too many episodes of being whiny, fussy, complaining, angry, etc. I have great hopes that things will turn around soon.
  • Dennis started his new job on Monday. It sounds like it will be a real challenge (in the positive sense of the word). I think he's really looking forward to mastering new skills and learning more about this company that he's always admired.
  • While Dennis was off work, he did a lot of good work on the house (it has a roof and a foundation now and is getting heating and cooling this week!) We also found a good guy who is doing tons of work for us while he is laid off from work. It is so incredibly helpful.
  • We're having amazing weather lately. Highs in the 70's or low 80's. Cool nights. We had the coolest July on record, apparently. It's been a gorgeous summer.
  • I got out my crochet hook this weekend for the first time since March. I need to work on those Christmas stockings I started last year. I'm confident I can figure them out without much problem. And now with the mandatory rest period, I think I'll have time to work on them! :)
  • It feels like our church journey is being so richly woven into life right now. So many areas of life are interconnecting, interrelating...integrating, I suspect. It's just lovely -- and exciting -- to experience.

More later. I want to crochet a few rows before rest time is over!

20 August 2009

Jam Cake

Did you know that one can make cake in the microwave? I didn't until my mother showed me how. It is incredibly quick, does not deplete air conditioning in the summer, and is not rubbery or icky at all! I especially like that I can make it for a special treat, mix it up in a few minutes and have it done and ready to eat about 6 minutes after that!

I thought there might be some other poor souls out there yearning for a quick cake recipe, so here's a little show-and-tell.
First, get a box of this stuff. Or something like it. If you get it on sale, it's especially fun to make into cake. You can also use a homemade mix if you are an overachiever or if you shudder at the thought of whatever is in boxed mixes. (Who ARE you anyway?)

You'll also need a microwaveable tart pan like the one in the cake picture above. I see these things in thrift stores all the time or in antique stores. They're pretty cheap. Get one out, make sure it is nice and dry and then spray it with a little cooking spray, or oil it, or butter it. No need to flour it, unless you really want to do things right.
You'll be making half a recipe of cake. My mother divides the mix in half by eyeball-ing it. I use a scale after my engineer-for-a-husband pointed out that I could get equal layers by weighing it, which is especially useful when making a layer cake (yeah, you can make your microwaved cake into a layer cake by putting parchment paper in the bottom and making the layers one at a time.)
Divide the other ingredients in half, too. Except the eggs. Use 2 eggs and make it a little egg-y.

So, for one layer, use 1/2 a package of mix-- any flavor, 1/6 cup (2T 2t) of oil (or melted butter), 1/2 cup milk (or water) and 2 eggs. Mix it all up and pour in the dish.

Microwave at 60% power until the cake puffs up and little air bubbles appear on its surface AND a tester comes out clean. In my mom's microwave, this takes about 7 minutes. In mine, it takes about 5:30. Just check it and err on the side of slightly overdone.

When you take it out, let it cool. Or don't. I frost it while warm to make the frosting thin. Or I use jelly, like I did this one for the kiddos. I love this jelly. It's good, good stuff that I can only find at an Amish grocery store about five miles south of my mother-in-laws house.

Spread the jelly in a thin layer and cut into pieces. Serve to hungry kiddos who will only stop playing long enough to gobble it up.

Do have some napkins standing by... :)

18 August 2009

Photo by Annalivia

Annalivia likes taking pictures with my camera. Usually I find a bunch of semi-blurry photos of the hubcaps on the van or pages of a book or dolls on it once I go to download. I thought this was pretty good. I don't think Emmeliese is quite convinced.

16 August 2009

A really good Sabbath resource

After writing that post on the Sabbath, I remembered that I had bought a little booklet available from Doorposts titled A Day of Delight: Making Sunday The Best Day of the Week. It has TONS of great ideas and many, many resources in the back. I especially appreciate the very non-stressful approach the author promotes.

In an unsolicited commercial, I'd like to put a plug in for Doorposts. I bought a few other resources from Doorposts when Annalivia was very little. I put them away and forgot about them, but I've gotten them out and I think there's some great stuff there! I'm so excited that I found them again!

If anyone has other Sabbath resources, I'd love to hear about them!

15 August 2009

A sleeping baby

I hesitate to post this, lest I somehow curse it, but I feel I should state my thankfulness that Emmeliese is a very good sleeper, unlike my first two children. Right now, it's 7:02 a.m. and she's still asleep. She went to bed at 9:30-ish last night. That's a lot of sleep! (And if Momma had gone to bed at 9:30-ish, Momma would have had a lot of sleep, too. Hmmm...)

Since she's been teething, she's had a tougher time with sleeping, but, for the most part, she is a very, very good sleeper. I often wonder if Emmeliese sleeps so well simply because she's a different baby, but I have a hunch that it is largely because we're different parents. I am still uptight about a whole bunch of things nowadays. Whether or not she's eaten for the 9 hours she's been asleep is not one of them.

14 August 2009

Calling and family

Over and over again throughout the last few years, I've found myself buying into the idea present in our culture and perpetuated most everywhere that raising children is an interruption in a woman's life purpose. The interruption is to be endured until it can be managed more conveniently, generally through sending a child to school, at which time the woman can get back to or get on with doing whatever it was that gave life meaning and purpose pre-children.
I am finding that over and over again I'm having to remind myself, and friends are having to remind me (thank you, dear Melissa), that calling for me will not arrive apart from a calling for the whole family. Even if the calling is good and honorable and even holy in and of itself, if it is not good and honorable and holy for our family, it's not for me. Even if activities or circumstances or resources or situations would carry blessing for some, if these things wouldn't carry blessing for us, I should not do them.
What I really grapple with is why this is such a difficult thing for me to wrap my head around. Why is "it" always about me, me, me?

12 August 2009

Why we don't say "butt"

Today Daniel got his hair cut. It hadn't been cut since Easter; I thought it was time.

We found a nice barbershop with a nice barber a very nice distance from us. Daniel is naturally cute, but he's even cuter in the barbershop because he sits still, mostly, and talks fairly clearly. The barber was sort of enchanted with him and was playfully asking him if I call him Pumpkin (I don't) or Cookie (I don't) or Sweetie Pie (I do and he answered affirmatively with a big smile).

Then the barber asked, "Does your momma call you Stinky Butt?"

Daniel stopped smiling and looked at me with big eyes.

The barber didn't notice and continued very playfully asking him, "Does your momma ever say, 'Come here, you little Stinky Butt!'?"

Daniel looked very serious and shook his head and said, "No. We don't say 'butt'."
He's right. We don't say butt. We also don't refer to any bodily functions or body parts by their more exciting nicknames.

I realize that we might be almost totally alone in the world in this regard, but there's two very good reasons why...

First, when you are raised to refer to "parts and functions" by their proper names or not at all, you get to experience the thrill of getting to use the nicknames when you and your sisters are far out of the earshot of your mother or at your friends' houses when their mothers are out of earshot.

Second, there is nothing and I mean absolutely NOTHING that compares with the singular joy of hearing a good poo joke or bodily function humor a la Black Adder, or even Shakespeare, for that matter, when you've been raised to believe it's a little naughty. It's just absolutely delicious.

That's why we don't say "butt".

11 August 2009


Dennis got a job offer today from Case New Holland in Goodfield! That's just 7 miles from our house, for those who are not familiar with the terrain in central IL.

We are so thankful. So, so, so, very, VERY thankful! He will start work on Aug. 24 -- one month to the date -- that he was laid off. He'll be doing product development, which is his passion, and his salary and benefits are very similar to his previous position. Except that he gets an extra week in holidays and may get an extra week of vacation. Wow.

We have been all teary and weeping since we heard. God is just so, so, so good to us. My mind cannot really conceive of it all...

10 August 2009

Five months

Today, she's five months old. A little tooth is breaking through her gums and she has been sleepless and sort of grumpy this week. But, oh, she is beautiful and delightful and charming, laughing at her sister and brother, smiling and talking, playing in the exersaucer. Such a joy!

09 August 2009

Sabbath, Queen of the week

Awhile ago, I read an article or post or something or other about how conservative and orthodox Jews sometimes refer to the Sabbath as "Queen of the Week." Many Jews try to arrange their lives to point towards the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not just the last day of the week; it is the week's crowning glory, the pinacle towards which the week is headed. As the Sabbath approaches, everything is arranged to create an atmosphere of worship and rest for the family.

I thought it sounded like a very cool concept. Then the need for a Sabbath re-focus in our family hit us about mid-summer. We had a child meltdown at a church we were visiting and ended up leaving the service early. In analyzing the situation, we realized that the week before it had been completely crazy. The Saturday day preceding the meltdown had been crazy, the night before had been awful. Even Sunday morning was ridiculous. As we drove away from church that morning, we resolved to start thinking differently about our Sundays.

So, we've been trying to arrange our lives so that Sunday is the high point of the week. We're convinced that God created the Sabbath for a very good reason. Plus, we yearn for rest, for time for the family to be together, for special moments. Sabbath is just necessary.

So far, we are doing better at the practical things. We're trying to make sure that clothes are chosen, ironed and accessorized (i.e. shoes are found) before we go to bed. We pack the church bag with Bibles and diapers. And we try to make sure that breakfast is made (I've been making overnight rolls), lunch is on board and dinner is planned on Saturday evening. I've also been making a really conscious effort to discipline my thinking on Sunday morning. For some reason, I can be really grumpy and it just poisons everyone's morning. I've noticed Annalivia has a similar tendency, so we've been talking about being an influence for good. It's helped.

But if feels as though we have a long way to go in terms of how we think about Sabbath. How do we worship more fully? How do we see the day as unique in its blessing? And practically -- how do we rest? How do we capture special moments? What can we do to communicate to our children that the Sabbath really is a precious gift?

Any thoughts -- practical or cerebral/ spiritual? Anyone feel as though you do well with this in your family? I'd love to read about it!

07 August 2009

Recipe: Multi-grain bread

I've finally found a multi-grain bread recipe that works consistently. (The original recipe is here.) I think it's as good as the kind from Panera and costs much less. It's not a dense, chewy bread (i.e. the kind I would much rather have for toast, with soups, etc.) It makes nice, light loaves that are good for sandwiches and are easy to substitute for less healthy bread, since everyone in the family likes it, too.

Multigrain Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3-5 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups assorted whole grain flours (i.e. millet, kamut, oat flour, rolled oats, wheat germ, corn, etc)
5 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

Mix yeast with water, salt and sugar and let bloom. After the yeast is bubbly, break the yolk on the egg and add it. Then add 3 cups white whole wheat flour. (I use King Arthur brand, but have had good luck with Montana Wheat Prairie Gold). Then add whatever grains you have on hand, pouring them into one-cup measures so that you have approximately two cups of grains. Add wheat gluten. Begin mixing, adding more flour, until dough sticks together well. Knead until dough bounces back when you poke it with your finger. Cover and allow to rise until double, then punch down. Form into two loaves (can be braided), or rolls, or breadsticks or whatever. Cover and allow to rise until doubled again. Then bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until crust is lovely and brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out of pan and cool as long as you can stand it.

Some notes:

  • I make this in my Kitchen Aid mixer. It takes about 5 minutes of mixing. I have no idea how long one would have to knead it.
  • Depending on the humidity, I sometimes have to add a lot more flour than I expect.
  • If you want a nice, soft crust on the bread, use a butter wrapper on the top after you take it out of the pan.
  • This has no preservatives, so be sure to freeze or refrigerate if you are not planning to use it in a day or two.

06 August 2009

Expanding a music library?

If you sign up at emusic.com right now, you can get a two-week trial with 50 downloads for free.

I have not been impressed with their selection of other music, but they have a GREAT basic classical music library. If you are looking to expand your classical music stores (see some of my suggestions here) this can be a great resource.

BEWARE, though -- once the 14-day trial is completed, your credit card will be automatically charged for the next month AND you will lose your 50 downloads, if you have not used them. Don't ask me how I know this. :(

But if you are smart and can use a calendar and have a decent internet connection and can download quickly, I'd highly recommend it!

The Bible in church

The other big thing that has helped our new-found fascination with Scripture around here is that we have enjoyed worshiping with a church that promotes and expects one's actual, physical usage of the Bible in worship, Sunday School, Children's Church, as well as meetings.

This is new for us. We have grown up in, attended (Dennis), and pastored (me) churches that were fairly lectionary-based. The sermons were based on a lection or two, or maybe even four, but generally stuck to those readings only. Sermons typically did not reference other scriptures and line-by-line studies in worship are generally not employed by my colleagues in ministry.

The church we've been attending begins with a call to worship from the Bible, sets up the prayer with a passage, has us flipping back and forth all over scripture during a sermon, and then closes with a Scriptural benediction. I know that for some, this is distracting, but Dennis and I find it sort of thrilling.

The kids are also taught Bible stories exclusively in Sunday School and Children's Church. We've been amazed at the detail with which Annalivia recounts (and Daniel echoes Annalivia) the story of Lydia helping Paul or Paul and Silas bringing down the prison walls or just one leper/ leopard :) returning to thank Jesus, etc. The kids begin every class with a reading from the big-person's Bible. In a few weeks, the church will have a little ceremony and present Bibles to the first graders, since all of them can read and all of them remain in the church service instead of going off to Children's Church. They'll be able to participate with the adults in Bible-reading during worship, and from what I have observed, they do!

Again, all of these may not seem like big things, but for us, such practices have been absolutely liberating. And I mean that in all senses of the word. We feel free in a way we've just not experienced before.

I personally think it has everything to do with the presence and elevation of the Word of God.