18 December 2010

Peter the Magnificent

I am home and pumping because my little Peter is in the hospital being treated for meningitis. :(

I'm not exactly sure he HAS meningitis, and neither is the neo-natologist, frankly. But the pediatric infectious disease doc has given that diagnosis, so we will treat it.

The bad news is that he has to have a PICC line and will be in the hospital for 14 days total. But that's the only bad news, really.

The good news (which, on the tiny keyboard on my phone, I always type as "god news". Coincidence, I think not!) is profoundly greater, in number and substance. The good news -- all of Peter's systems look not only good, but wonderful! His white cell count in his blood is perfect, which means this infection is not multiplying. (i.e if he does have the bacteria, it's just hanging out). His breathing is good, his oxygen levels are good. His sleeping is good...

But the most wonderful thing, to me, is that he can be fed "ad lib" meaning whenever-he-wants AND, glory of glories, he's been a really good nurser!!! He opens his mouth wide, latches on almost right away, and then nurses himself to sleep. I LOVE it!!! I think my mammaries are so excited that I might have a little overactive letdown going on. The poor child was gulping as fast as he could the other day and the milk just kept pouring forth.

I cannot describe the joy this gives me! After nursing Annalivia for 14 months, which was such a sweet experience, both Daniel and Emmeliese were my feta-makers -- fed on homemade goat's milk formula. Long-term, they are none-the-worse-for-the-wear, and there were parts of bottle feeding that I enjoyed, namely being able to hand them off to someone else to have a bottle. But I missed breast-feeding. There really is something there that cannot be duplicated in bottle-feeding, regardless of how close one can come. I'm not sure what it is. But that "je ne sais quois" is remarkable.

And I get to experience it again...

Such sweet joy this little one has already brought... :) :)

For a few more pics, click here.

17 December 2010

7 Quick Takes

1. I can't believe that Peter is here. It is so surreal to think about my fourth child being here in this world now. He is beautiful. He is evocative of the other kids and at the same time, he just looks completely like himself. He reminds me of my uncle for whom he is middle-named, and he also reminds me of pictures of Dennis' dad. It's very sweet to look at that little face and contemplate who he will be and who he will resemble and what he'll do and become. I really do love being a momma.

2. Peter is in the NICU. For those not on facebook, he was moved there originally because he was not able to keep his temperature and oxygen up and his respiration rate down. He had a blood culture and lumbar tap which ruled out infection, then he received surfactant to bring his lungs into a bit more maturity. Right now, he is under the bili-lights.

3. I have to go home today. I've decided to believe that Peter is going home today, too. One of my prayers for the last few months has been that we could go home together. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like God has been asking me to continue to believe that He'll take care of things to make that happen. I'm someone who usually has many thoughts about what may or may not happen and how things may or may not work. But not this time. This time, I feel like God is asking me to abandon some of my "what-if's" and just do some simple (which, as it turns out, is not so simple) trusting. To quote a line from Facing the Giants, "I'm preparing for rain."

4. I am amazed and astonished by how different the C-section experience was for me this time. When Emmeliese was born, she was an emergency C after 20 hours of active labor. Because of the way she was positioned, the docs had to do a classical (vertical) incision on the uterus. They also had to make a classical incision externally, which meant that I had this very painful wound around my belly button. It was so difficult to move around, hold the baby, nurse, etc. This time, my amazing doctor worked really hard to take the incision low on both uterus and belly and oh. my. goodness., what a HUGE difference it has made.

5. I have been reminded over and over again how blessed we were through the experience with Emmeliese and the how the things we endured then have made Peter's birth so much easier. Because of E's history, Peter got antibiotics immediately when he was having trouble breathing instead of waiting for cultures to come back indicating an infection. Because of my experience with the surgery last time, I have known to ask for certain considerations. And...

6. Because of our experience in the NICU last time, we've been able to confront some communication problems brought on by the hospital's move of the NICU into a separate building while the Labor and Delivery ward has stayed where it was. In order to get to the NICU, a mother has to get into a wheelchair and be wheeled through two wards to an elevator, get on the elevator and go down two floors to a skywalk and then follow a circuitous path through another building which involves automatic doors that must have a button pushed on the opposite side of the door than that through which a mother is passing, then proceed into the final building, get back on the elevators, and finally, sign in at the NICU. This process must repeat itself anytime one wants to visit one's baby. And someone else must repeat it anytime one pumps and wants to deliver breastmilk. To say it is ridiculous is a MASSIVE understatement. The accompanying communication difficulties have been frustrating. I will be writing several strongly-worded letters. (Say that a la Gob Bluth. It sounds cooler.) :)

7. I have been so thankful for facebook and the ability to communicate information and, for that matter, hopes and dreams, needs and desires, etc. with lots of people. I have been so moved by the amount of people who are praying for us and our family. I tend to have a lot of inner conflict concerning facebook, but I've been nothing but thankful for it this week.

For more quick takes, see Conversion Diary!

15 December 2010

Peter John

He's here! Peter John Stewart, Monday Dec. 13, 2010, 7 lbs .4 oz, 19 3/4 inches long. A few more pics can be seen here.

07 December 2010

Just in case anyone reads here anymore...

It has been such a busy month or so for our family! We moved into the new house beginning at the first of November, fully intending to take our time and sort through junk/ not move unnecessary things, and instead, as always seems to be the case for me, ended up throwing things in boxes and "just getting it done already!" at the end of the month. One of our pastors let us use his trailer and, rather unsuspectingly, told us he didn't need it "anytime soon". He probably didn't realize that it is a McStew family trait to procrastinate as long as possible, so he MAY be getting back his trailer before Spring. Maybe. And in the midst of last month's craziness, we found out that Peter would be delivered early- a full two weeks earlier than expected. And I got put on "limited activity", which has made me about as helpful as a large walrus with definite opinions on how everything should proceed. I need not mention, I think, how my sainted husband is earning his stars-in-his-crown by the bucketful. :)

What all of this has meant, practically, is that we have a large house full of stuff that is not categorized or sorted, boxes most everywhere, Christmas decorations in our pastor's trailer parked, attractively, next to the house, six inches of snow on the ground, an overworked Daddy, a kindergartner on perpetual fall/ Christmas break, and a baby arriving in 6 days.

BUT- it's all good. We're in the house and I pray we will never, ever have to move again (though if I were God and Miss April let me know that she didn't want to move for another 50 years, I'd think she was just "askin' for it" :) ). Little Peter is doing well so far, and so am I, really. The kids are happy even we still haven't hooked up the tv. My mom has been taking them to her house every day and we wer reminded again of what an amazing fam we have when they all helped w/the move... There are just a lot of gifts in this process.

One of the most lovely, timely gifts is that this whole experience has afforded me yet another opportunity to reflect in this Advent time on how God took on human flesh and came into this messy, disorganized, not-at-all-ready-for-Him world and how He will come again - into the world, into my heart, and into the hearts of my family. I really wish this Christmas He would find the arrangements at the McStew house less like a stable than they will probably be, but I'm taking comfort in the fact that he WILL find a family waiting for Him. And in the end, the dusty, unorganized, chaotic chambers of our hearts will be His dwelling place again.
Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
Hope you are having a blessed Advent. I'll try to post here after Peter is born next Monday!

18 October 2010

School -- a mid-term evaluation

It is now the third week of October, and we have been "doing school" for about 8 weeks now, more or sometimes less, successfully. In public school, we always had a 9-week evaluation as students. I thought that was a wise idea and that I should do an evaluation of what is and is not working for us in this first year of homeschool.

:: Learning (and teaching) style -- I think so far that I've discovered that both Annalivia and I are interest-led schoolers, at heart. She does really well with learning that she initiates. She does ok with things I ask her to do; she's not resentful or difficult, it's just that she really sparkles with things that she wants to do. And, thankfully, she has wanted to do something with pretty much every subject. It's just a matter of figuring out what really excites her about each.

:: Sonlight Curriculum -- While I love the idea of Sonlight, I've found that, in practice, it's just not a great fit for me. I really like the literature-centric approach in that most of our learning can take place doing something (reading together) that we all like to do normally, but I think I might be more of unit-study homeschooling parent. So far, I like Sonlight's selections, but, for my interests, I want more integrated history, science, art, etc. I am thankful for the teacher's guide that details a schedule, but again, it doesn't really work for us. Most of the time I spend with it is working on adapting it. I think we'll use something else next year.

:: Reading -- Annalivia is doing very well at basic blending. The readers that came with our Sonlight program are very good -- simple and easy with illustrations reminiscent of the Frog and Toad series. And these little books also have a story line, which is really something when they only use words ending in -at and -ad! She likes to read them and does best when I let her initiate the reading and just sit by her to help, if necessary.

:: Spelling -- I bought the Spell to Write and Read program and really like the concept of it, but in execution, it does not fit us very well. Yet. I have thought about it, prayed about it, turned it over in my head a thousand times, and have come to the conclusion that I need to let Annalivia learn to read the way that she is already learning and use the SWR program in a grade or two. I think this may mean that she'll have to re-learn some things, but holding her back from reading to try to get her to work on this program is just creating frustration in both of us.

:: Math -- We started Math-U-See Alpha and I decided we needed to go back and do Primer. I haven't even gotten it out, though, since we are moving soon and I'd really like formal math to be something we do every day. Instead, we are working on writing numbers on the white board, which is just about the most thrilling thing that Annalivia and Daniel get to do, in their opinions, and identifying the plus and equal signs and talking about what they mean. And I'm trying to work informal math lessons into life more frequently.

:: Handwriting -- This and Reading are the two areas at which Annalivia really excels. She LOVES learning cursive handwriting and I love the program (New American Cursive) and the accompanying computer program (Start Write) that allows me to customize pages for her to practice writing. She's learning to write her name in cursive and is doing really well, though having a bit of trouble with the double n's. Dennis was telling me that the n's were always hard for him, too. :) Annalivia loves to practice "pretty" writing. I think it appeals to her artistic side.

:: Bible -- The Bible curriculum that came with our Sonlight core is the Egermeier's Children's Bible. Annalivia and Daniel really like stories from it, and I like reading the stories to them. The stories are relatively short, descriptive, and the interpretive details are good, or at worst, benign. The cd of memory verses, is, frankly, lacking, and a little boring. And, other than making a timeline, there's nothing else included in the program. Personally, I'd like a little more.
We have supplemented the Egermeier Bible with watching the new What's in the Bible dvd's from Phil Vischer. We love, love, LOVE them! They are funny and engaging and very informative. Annalivia and Daniel can tell you that the Septuagint sounds like a sneeze, but is also "a copy of a copy" of the Bible, and they know the definitions of "salvation" (to be saved or rescued from danger) and "redeemed" (to have your debt paid by someone) and they can apply those things to Jesus. And they know the patriarchs, and are learning the judges, and are fascinated by pirates in hot-air balloons who have to use the bathroom. I think this series is worth every penny we will spend on it.

:: Science, Art, Music, and the rest -- This stuff is easy for me to come up with and work on with the kids. Annalivia and Daniel love to draw and paint and things like nature study, art journaling, drawing still-lifes, dancing to music, singing hymns... that's all just part of things here.

Things to think about on the way forward

:: The reason for it all -- Sometimes I need to remind myself that the reasons we homeschool are to experience learning about the life with which God has blessed us, in the family with which God has blessed us, using the gifts which which God has blessed us. We don't homeschool to meet state acheivement test requirements or justify how we spend our days or compete with peers (mine or the kids'). I can get out of focus so easily. I need to tattoo these things backwards on my forehead so I read them in the mirror each morning, you know? :) There's a lot of grace in this...

:: Impending events -- the upcoming arrival of Peter, the complications I've experienced from my previous c-section (serious muscle separation resulting in three hernia necessitating "limited activity" from me) and the moving into of the house (we get to start moving next week, hurrah!!), not to mention the holidays, are going to change how we do things even more. I think we're going to cut to bare-bones (Bible, reading practice, handwriting on-demand only) until after Peter is born. Or, on the other hand, we may do a couple of unit studies on Thanksgiving and Advent. I could get excited about those.

:: Incorporation of Daniel (and Emmeliese) -- So far, Daniel has been in peripheral attendance, but he is getting interested in "doing school" too and I need to start working with him more intentionally. Emmeliese LOVES to draw when the other kids are drawing, and needs to be incorporated...somehow. Otherwise, she's just a screechy pest. :)

:: Curriculum -- I'm going to be deconstructing the Sonlight core and trying to figure out how to put together something a little more interesting to all of us. And I need to plan to attend some sort of curriculum preview/ homeschooling fair this year. Extensive internet research is helpful. To a point. Then, I just need to spend some time with some materials and find out what works. And doesn't.

30 September 2010

Late night update

It's after 11 p.m. here and I have a baby boy inside me who has hiccups, I think. Only they are the kind of hiccups that apparently cause his entire body to flail rhythmically against my bladder. I should be asleep. But feeling like I need to pee every 30 seconds is not conducive to sleep, regardless of how tired I happen to be. So, I sit here. Very awake.
I have been working for a bit on trying to begin crocheting a rag rug. I bought a bunch of sheets from the thrift store today for $1.25 and ripped them into strips. I was inspired to do so after looking for rugs for the bedrooms of the new house and realizing how bloody expensive those things are, even second-hand. I am sure I'll be able to make a couple of decent rug for the girls' room and the nursery for less than $10 each. If my wrist holds out, that is. Right now, my largest hook is a K hook. I think I need at least an M. My hand is cramped from pulling the fabric so hard. On the plus side, though, the rug is nice and tight. On the negative side, I may not be able to use my right hand tomorrow.
I'm doing my crochet while listening to Andrew Peterson. I am so, so, so excited to have found a Christian artist, other than Fernando, whom I absolutely adore!! I love Peterson's voice, his melodies, his harmonies, the way his albums are produced, his lyrics... everything. Love it. I think Counting Stars is my favorite album, but that might be just because I've listened to it most. It's just so good!
I really should be asleep. We had a mostly good day which, once again, had a bit of friction in it today. This happens to us most Thursdays and I think it's because we just don't have enough sleep/ rest/ recovery from the night before. We have a great kids' program at our church on Wednesday nights. Annalivia was involved in it last year and really enjoyed it and Dennis ran the sound for the program. But this year, Dennis is working on the house, so Daniel, Emmeliese and I have been taking Annalivia to the church and then helping with the nursery care. We get home late about 8:30 on Wednesday nights and get in bed by 9:30, usually, but I think it's kicking our rears. I'm considering having us take a break until after Christmas. In fact, I think I've mostly decided that we need to take the break. I hate to leave behind such a good thing, but I know we need to choose the better thing, which is peace between us all at a pretty hectic time. I just need to get up the courage to tell the pastor that I'm leaving him without a nursery attendant.
Tomorrow, we are going to go to the apple orchard, I think, with my niece and pick the last of our fall apples. I've been canning applesauce and apple butter and apple/cherry jelly, but I think I need to get some apples and make some applesauce to just freeze and eat in the next few weeks. My children love homemade applesauce so much; they will eat quarts of it at a time if I let them, which I do since I don't add sugar to it and the fiber in it tends to help their little digestive systems. I'd like to have some available over the next weeks without breaking into the canned stuff until later in the winter.
Anyway, I best go to bed. In just a few minutes, it will be the first day of October, which means 4 weeks until we move into our house, 8 weeks until Thanksgiving, 11ish weeks of pregnancy and 12 weeks until Christmas. Goodness, that's a lot to do.

19 September 2010

Because blogs never tell the whole truth

It was a day when nothing and no one fired on full cylinders here. It was cloudy and raining and everyone in the family was tired and fussy from the beginning of the day, all the way through to the end. At some point we sent Daniel and Annalivia up to their beds to just chill out for a bit, away from us, and sort of separated from each other, and Daniel fell asleep. It was obvious from his behavior before his nap that he was exhausted, so we were thankful. Until we realized he was going to have to get up again. I was getting supper together and Dennis asked if there was anything he could do. I told him he could go wake up Daniel. He grimmaced and said, "Is there anything else I can do?"
His foreboding was spot on. Daniel got up and sat on the stairs and sobbed for a good 20 minutes while the rest of us ate dinner. And in the midst of that lovely ambiance, Dennis declared, "I think we need a do-over today."
I think so, too. It's time for bed and, thankfully, we get to start over tomorrow.

11 September 2010

Yum, yum, yum...delicioso!

Last week, my sister tipped me off to a great little apple orchard near here that only charges $1/lb of apples. The kids and I went and picked a bushel of gorgeous, juicy Jonathons. That many apples inspires apple pie and applesauce. But I wanted to do something new, so, the last few days I spent canning applesauce and finally decided to make apple butter for the first time.
Since I've never made apple butter before, I didn't really know what I was doing. I just put two big batches of pure applesauce in my dutch oven and added some brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cardamon, and cloves -- way too many cloves since I added the other spices first and assumed the cloves had one of those little sifter things over the opening. It didn't. I ended up scraping up a whole lotta cloves and throwing it away. I also tasted it as I got it going and decided it needed some molasses and stevia, so I added those, too.
About two hours into it cooking, it occurred to me to look up a recipe for apple butter. All of the recipes I found referred to reducing the applesauce and adding a teaspoon or two of cinnamon and a bit of cloves in the last hour or just before finishing. I was worried. I had added a whole lotta cloves... and other spices. And up front.
But I kept stirring for hours. Finally, I was tired of checking on it, so I turned it up to high and pulled up a stool in front of it and stirred it near-constantly until it was reduced by half. Then I canned it.
There was just a bit left over and I stuck that in the refrigerator. I had been tasting it as it was cooking and thought it was good, but just that -- good. Tonight I got it out of the refrigerator for our bedtime snack and spread it on some thick slices of homemade bread and.... ooooooooh, aaaaaaah....mmmmmmm.... total deliciousness.
I was thinking that the stuff I canned I would give away as Christmas presents, but I'm not sure I can wait to share this goodness! Apple butter -- the highly spiced kind -- is going to be a regular fall event around here. It is SOOOOOOO delicious!!

02 September 2010

School and play

What a day this was!

School went fairly well today. I've realized, though, that Annalivia needs to go back and do the Primer in Math-U-See instead of starting with Alpha. I had read that the Alpha program covered everything in Primer and that it was very repetitive. But she is genuinely frustrated and I think she inherited my propensity to be truly anxious about math if she doesn't understand. (Aside -- if Math-U-See was not such a cool program, I would ditch it based on the pain-in-the-rear website and terrible phone customer service. Talk about frustrating!)

As I took the kids to Mom's for lunch, I "happened" to turn on the radio and heard a Family Talk program about homeschooling with a mother and father with 7 kids who are veteran homeschoolers. It was such a reassuring message and reminded me to focus every day on why we've decided to start doing this in the first place. One of the main reasons was to be able to teach our kids at their pace and instill in them a real love of learning from their first educational experiences. I think we'll change some things around to do that. Probably I'll understand more about what changes to make after four months, as opposed to four days. :)

Also around lunch, our kitchen cabinets were delivered to the new house. They are so amazing! We had a friend from church who was laid off from the custom cabinet shop where he worked for 13 years and then decided to form a business with a friend, do the work for us. They are so amazing. The kitchen and bathroom both have a 10-foot floor-to-ceiling cabinet in them that house the laundry chute and the space for the future dumbwaiter. It is so cool -- exactly what we imagined! Awesome!

For dinner, Dennis and I got to go on a date without the kids thanks to my mother's generous offer to hang out with all three of them for a couple of hours. It was so nice to just be together without having to cut up anyone's food or make sure the drinks were out of the way of Emmeliese's grabby hands.

When we came home, we drove through a major rainstorm and then picked up the kids and went to the new house. The rain slowed when we pulled in the drive and Daniel, who has been wearing constantly his "fire boots" (rain boots that look like firemen's boots) began jumping in puddles in the yard. Pretty soon Emmeliese joined in. Annalivia finally got into things and all three got very wet and muddy. I asked if they wanted to walk back to the house we rent and they said yes, so the four of us walked home while Daddy drove the van. We went through another dozen puddles. Daniel's boots were full of water, Emmeliese sat down in a puddle and Annalivia did so much jumping that her skirt and legs were splattered with mud all the way to her belly. It was so fun to see them having so much fun! When we got about halfway down our block, here came Dennis with his rubber boots on over his jeans. I was more impressed than the kids, I think, but it was sweet to see Daddy join in.

And, finally, tonight after the kids were to bed, I made up some baking mix and I'm going to turn on the oven tomorrow!! The storm was the leading edge of a big front that is bringing wind and cooler temps overnight. The high for tomorrow is supposed to be 74! Oh, so glad for fall!! I think we'll celebrate by taking a field trip to an apple orchard. Since we're homeschoolers now, we can beat the weekend crowds. At least, that's how I hope it will work!

01 September 2010

Hump day

Tonight the kids started our church's mid-week program. Daniel desperately wanted to attend, though the program is supposed to start with 4-year olds. Dennis volunteers and so, technically, Daniel could get special dispensation to attend. Dennis and Annalivia left early and talked to the pastor who agreed Daniel could try it so Dennis called me and I took Daniel over to the church.

Before we left, I gave Daniel a little lecture about listening to his teacher and obeying. He was ok with that. I also told him he couldn't fuss and he couldn't cry for Daddy. His lip trembled a little and he said, "Can I just give Daddy a hug?" I told him I was sure it was fine. I'm anxious to hear how it went when they all get home in an hour or so.

We've been working a lot with Daniel about fussing. He throws himself on the ground way too often, kicking his little legs and hyperventalating. I haven't figured out the solution. Time-outs are ok, but not effective enough (i.e. there's too much time to fuss until he turns it off). Daniel doesn't respond very well to swats, either. I don't know. Dennis and I are sort of just praying through it, trying new things, and asking for wisdom from God in how to treat Daniel with both truth AND grace. It's a little hard.

As for school, after yesterday's success, I was sort of thinking today would be smooth. But it was a more challenging day in the McStew house. We all slept late, it was grey and raining, and it was hot and humid. Not a great combination. Annalivia got downstairs before I did and turned on a movie, which I had to turn off to eat breakfast and start school. But we soldiered through, managed the punky attitudes during math, and set some ground rules on tv usage. And it was ok -- not ideal, but ok. That, in and of itself, was sort of comforting.

And now, Emmeliese and I are home alone, getting ready to give her a bath and then put her to bed, clean up the house and get towards bed myself. It really has been a good day, in retrospect. I'm thankful for it.

31 August 2010

There was Bach... and it was better

The second day of school went MUCH better than the first. The kids knew what to expect, the waffles were not black, the three-year old kept it together -for the most part, and all went smoothly.

We still finished quickly -- about an hour or so. We're starting with Bible and memory verses during breakfast, then on to handwriting for Annalivia and letter-learning for Daniel. Then math and reading practice for Annalivia followed by read-alouds for everyone. Right now math is simplified -- just practicing writing numbers; tomorrow I'll add the full program, which I hope will be a little interesting to Daniel, too, so I expect it will get a little longer. Once I become more familiar with our spelling program, I'll add it to the mix, too. And our read-alouds may get longer, too, though right now we are reading ahead due to popular demand, so it may not add much time. Art is in the afternoon. I'm hoping to add piano after Christmas.

I was kind of concerned by how quickly everything goes, but if Annalivia was going to kindergarten, she'd be there for about 3 hours and couldn't possibly be doing academics all of that time. Things will get a little more intense, I guess, but for now the schedule is nice and easy. If we start by 8ish, we are finishing up by 9:30 or so which means my niece, who comes to visit in the mornings, gets in on some read-alouds and then we are done.

I like it.

30 August 2010

The first day of school

My facebook post of 11 a.m.

The first day of school involved a 2 am wakeup by the 1 yr old, a 25 minute cry by the 3 yr old upon waking, burned waffles and an early recess called by Mommy @ 9:15. Other than that, it was great! :)

Yeah. I had a sneaking suspicion that today was going to be a little tough. I'm blog-friends with enough homeschoolers to know that, behind the cute pictures of children studiously parsing Latin verbs or reciting the third chapter of Leviticus while holding hands, things can be a little rocky on the first day of the new routine.

Still. I will admit -- I might have let myself dream of clean children with smiling faces, gathered around the table, eagerly looking to the mater familias to spark their little imaginations and fuel their fledgling educational desires. And in this vision, there may have been some Bach cello partitas floating in the background. Maybe.

But, ummm, yeah... not so much. I tried to be in bed by 9:30. Got there about 10 and Dennis and I finally stopped talking about 10:45. Then my head started to hurt. Sinuses? I don't know. As I wrote on fb... Emmeliese was up in the middle of the night which is very rare (thank you, Jesus, for that). She was awake and fussy for about an hour and Dennis and I were groggy enough to not choose the simple thing and just change her diaper, feed her and put her back down and hence stretched the treatment out far too long. I set an alarm to get up before the kids, who usually sleep until about 7:30. But Annalivia was awake before 7 wanting her school dress to be buttoned up by her sleeping mother. Emmeliese woke up 10 minutes after that. As we all headed downstairs, Daniel started crying and maintained his wail for about 25 minutes. And he continued to lament off and on for the half-hour after that as he laid on the bathroom floor.

In what I regarded as a sign from God, Eggo waffles are on sale this week at our grocery store, so I got some chocolate chip waffles, which we never have, as a special treat. I burned the first few. And, turns out, the kids don't like treats like that. After finally getting edible chocolate chip waffles on the plates of three hungry kids, I heard, "Mommy, can I please have just regular waffles?"

Annalivia and I did Bible study and began learning our memory verse for the week while Daniel was on the bathroom floor. This greatly upset him when he came to the table. Annalivia had, meanwhile, moved on to handwriting. Then Daniel got upset that he didn't have handwriting practice to do. Finally, I got him dressed and sat on the couch and kissed him until he stopped fussing andn then we did our read-alouds for the day with all three kids leaning up against me. That actually worked well.

After that as we only had one more thing to do and I was loaded with realizations of what worked and what OBVIOUSLY did not and what I can do differently, so I called a recess, turned on Kipper and laid down on the couch. And moaned a little.

Oddly, I would say it really WAS a successful morning. We got everything done we needed to do and Annalivia was excited by everything and the execution of everything worked pretty much like I thought it would... with burned breakfast and crying preschoolers thrown in.

But, tomorrow WILL be better...

02 August 2010

Another end-of-one-month-beginning-of-the-next update

:: We found out that the balance in the family is being righted. Our new little one is Peter John and he's doing very well, growing just fine, and not raising his momma's blood pressure at all.

:: Upon hearing the news, I immediately broke out my crochet hook. I started making him a green and brown striped blankie. And I had to buy some blue yarn the next day. HAD TO.

:: Good friends of my sister moved next door to us. The dad of the family is doing some work on the new house for us, which has been very helpful. The house is progressing in leaps and bounds. Dennis and my dad have been working their tails off. Right now, we have drywallers installing drywall on all the ceilings. A friend from church has just formed his own custom cabinetry shop, so we are hiring him to do the kitchen, for not much more than a kitchen from Menards. Then floors need to be sanded and painted or stained and walls need to be painted. Then the whole thing needs to be cleaned. Then we can move in! It's so exciting to see it finally coming together.

:: Far more exciting for Annalivia and Daniel than hired-help living right next door has been that the family has two children near their ages. They spend hours -- literally -- outside playing with them and by themselves hoping the neighbors will come out and join them. We had to do some basic neighbor education, including "no going into another person's house uninvited" ;) but they are getting the hang of it now. I think.

:: Annalivia has had a summer of dental appointments involving a silver crown and culminating in the same tooth being pulled. Poor bug. She got her first visit from the tooth fairy who paid extra for a silver tooth that had been pulled, unexpectedly. The $2.50 sort of made up for the trauma of the visit.

:: Daniel is very 3-years-old this summer. He is so much fun in so many ways, and also testing lots of limits/ learning not to be a baby anymore. It's a neat time. Most of the time.

:: Emmeliese went through a very fussy phase at the beginning of the summer and is now settling down into lots of sweetness. She likes to make us laugh and likes to play with her siblings, especially with whatever they are currently using to play. Her hair is full of curls in the back and constantly in her eyes in the front, since she always pulls out her rubberbands and I'm a lackadaisical mother who no longer cares about disciplining for those things.

:: I'm ready for fall. It's been bloody hot here this year. So far we've made it, but only thanks to air conditioning, ice cream and McDonald's smoothies. Bring on the 70 degree temps and sweaters. That's what I'm ready to experience.

Hope all is well with everyone out there!

04 July 2010

Seven years later

Today, Dennis and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. We had a great day. Today is also my mom's birthday, so we started with breakfast there, then went to church. Church was great and my sister and Dennis' mom were with us, which was extra-nice. Afterwards, Dennis' mom brought the kids home and Dennis and I went out to Biaggi's for lunch. Then we took a little drive, ended up meandering around an antique mall, had some ice cream and headed home.

After church and during dinner, we had a great time talking about the next 7 years in light of the past 7 years. Our lives have been so, so, soooooo GOOD since we got married! And sooooo much better than what came before. It was lovely to spend some time thinking about what we can do to make the next 7 even more wonderful (knowing full well that the best laid plans of mice and men...).

During our discussion, we discovered that both of us heard the same thing from God in the space of about 12 hours at completely different locations, circumstances, etc. It was very cool, though a little uncomfortable, since what we heard was that it is time to get rid of some luxuries we've enjoyed. But knowing God gave us both the same thing, an answer we weren't seeking at all, to different questions, is just really awesome.

I'm so proud of my husband. Not only does he sacrifice every day all the time for us, not only does he love me, his wife, and his children wholeheartedly... he also is willing to humble himself to ask for guidance from God AND, best of all, actually follow the direction he receives, even when it's a little tough.

What a guy!

What a GIFT!

I do love him so...

23 June 2010

FPU, VBS, RCBC, and AC (a summer update)

Time for an update, I suppose. My poor Wolfie can't sleep. :)

:: We have made it through most of June, thanks be to God. Last week was VBS at our church for 6 days and, oh my goodness, was it ever exhausting! Good, but exhausting.
:: Two Sundays ago, Dennis and I joined Rock Creek Bible Church, which we have been attending for the last year. Our pastor asked us to give our testimony before we reaffirmed our confession of faith and so we did. It was a very meaningful, moving experience for us. I've only ever joined a church when I was 12 years old. It was neat.

:: I'm teaching the junior high Sunday School class for the summer. I have loved, loved, loved being part of our adult Sunday School class, but felt like God was nudging me towards this. It has been wonderful so far! I have 15 kids who are intelligent, well-behaved, inquisitive and totally open to experiencing the Lord in their lives. It's very, very cool.

:: Dennis and I are taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class this summer at a church in Bloomington. It is a bit of a hike for us, but they offer free childcare, so we're in. :) It's been very good so far. We had read Dave's books, listened to his show, etc. before, but the videos and class discussion have been great. We're liking it.

:: The house is progressing. Slowly. Dennis was unable to work on it for about a month from mid-May to mid-June. Now we're at the point where we need to get it reappraised and get ready to move in. We have our geothermal/ heat/ ac guy coming to finish vents and run gas lines for us the week after next. Then we're having the kitchen, dining room, and all the ceilings in the house drywalled by actual professionals. I think my wondrous sister is going to come and prime the walls for us next week. And then we have to sand all the floors, put in the bathroom fixtures, mock-up a kitchen, and we can get it reappraised! That's not TOOOOOO much. In the grand scheme of things, I mean.

:: It has been raining, raining, raining all summer here. The kids have been inside far too much, watching far too many movies and being far too antsy. I've done absolutely no gardening. My grapevines and raspberries are being devoured by japanese beetles and there is a weed that is literally trying to pull down one of my apple trees. I need to get over to the new house and put in the rest of the trees/ bushes that are festering over there.

:: Our rental house does not have central AC so we use an aging window unit in the downstairs that occasionally just gives-up-the-ghost. But sometimes it works. So we stay cool with fans, clothes-optional days (for the kids!), and my constant refrain of "Make sure the back door is shut!". And sometimes we just get in the car which has cold air conditioning.

:: And finally -- baby is fine, I'm doing well -- tired, tired, tired. Kids are growing and changing and Dennis is making everything possible. All is well.

I'm going to try to write more often here. We'll see how that goes. Hope everyone is having a good summer!

26 May 2010


Yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite David Bowie recordings EVER. (Apologies to those of you who expect more out of me. I just love Mr. Bowie.) The kids decided to do some performing and grabbed their "guitars" -- a foam pirate sword and a giraffe thing from one of our sets of building blocks.

25 May 2010

An extra effort

Blogging seems to be falling by the wayside once again these days. I think this is the case for two reasons -- 1.) I'm back on facebook (yes, I know, Amalee -- soon I'll be diseased) and 2.) I have this new little phone that has internet and I can do most everything I ever did on the computer in about half the time with it. The only thing I can't do is type very well on it with its teeny little keyboard. Hence, the lack of blog posts.


Anyway, by way of an update -- we are all doing well.

We started homeschool for Annalivia. Since the middle of the school year will be pretty interrupted with the baby in December, I decided to start now. After deliberations ad nauseum, I decided to go with Sonlight, and so far, am loving it because Daniel can be very involved in it and it just seems to fit our family fairly well. We're also using Math-U-See for beginning math and Hooked on Phonics for phonics, which I never thought I would use, but, for some reason, it has really clicked with Annalivia. And we're going to use A Reason for Handwriting, but I've decided to wait until fall to start it. We'll see how all of this goes and how I feel about everything when we take our big Christmas break.

Annalivia and Daniel have been stuck in the house quite a bit so far this spring/ early summer because we've been getting a lot of rain. I send them out to play whenever the ratio of bickering: play heads in the favor of the former. But usually, they're content to draw a lot and build things out of chairs and tables and such, and do lots of pretending together.

Emmeliese is awfully darn cute. She's also frustrated a lot of the time, in that pre-verbal-yet-definitely-has-an-opinion stage of childhood. She loves trucks, trains, and things-that-go. She loves to climb on things, and especially loves to stand on kiddie chairs which freaks her mother out. She has found that, by pushing little chairs up to the kitchen counter and sink or near a drawer, she can reach or get into all manner of fun, formerly-forbidden things. Then she howls with indignation when others dare move her. We have to keep a close eye on this one. :)

Dennis is working hard on the house and coming up with all sorts of innovative ways to do things. Dad has finished putting a skim coat of joint compound onto the plaster walls, save for one room, and is now working on sanding them. I, of course, just want to slap some paint on them, but I'm deferring to the wisdom of others who think the walls should be more finished than I.

And I am doing fine -- feeling fairly well, though totally exhausted in the mid-afternoon and a little green around the gills occasionally. And I'm really hungry for peanut butter, which is odd. But other than that, I'm having a fairly normal early pregnancy for me.

Anyway, that is pretty much our lives in a nutshell. I wanted to upload a video of the kids being rockstars, but I can't get YouTube to cooperate right now. I'll, perhaps, post it later.

Hope all is well with you and yours!

10 May 2010

Art in the morning

My new phone makes video-uploading to YouTube a one-step operation. Today, I decided to film Little Miss Helpful trying to do artwork with her siblings. I wish I had kept recording. At the end Daniel said, "Emmeliese! For goodness' sake! NO! I mean 'For baddy's sake'!"

05 May 2010

That Peter was sure smart...

Lately I've been finding so much wisdom in Peter's letters. I love how I can read or hear a Scripture over and over again and then, suddenly, it appears, as though brand new, before me! Bread of Life, indeed...

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care; serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” ~ 1 Peter 5:2-4

01 May 2010

A different definition of "fruitful"

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the fruitful year I was planning to have beginning with the 35th celebration of my birth. I was thinking we'd plant a bunch of fruit trees, some fruit bushes... y'know... perhaps even go so far as to plant some tomatoes. That's what I was thinking...

This week, we found out that God has given us a special birthday gift that won't be delivered for 9 months (right in time to be a stellar Christmas present, too.)

Just a slightly different definition of "fruitful"...

Yeah, it has blown our minds, too. :)

20 April 2010

Strawberry Jam without extra sugar

This weekend the kids and I made no-sugar-added Strawberry Freezer Jam. Oh. my. goodness, it is good! We made a special loaf of Honey Oatmeal Wheat bread and the combo is our go-to food for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Fresh strawberries smeared on toasted perfection... what's not to love?

Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 lbs strawberries
1 tube frozen white grape juice concentrate or apple juice concentrate
1 package no-sugar added pectin
2 envelopes plain gelatin
2 T-1/4 c. lemon juice

Heat juice concentrate to boiling and allow to simmer until reduced to approximately 1/2 cup. Set aside.

Hull and cut the strawberries (we cut ours in 1/2 inch pieces). Crush the strawberries to desired smoothness (we left big chunks). Allow the strawberries to sit for a while, or until a lot of juice has come out of them.

Put strawberries in large pan, then mix in juice concentrate and 2 T of lemon juice. Next add pectin and gelatin and mix until both are dissolved. Heat the pan over medium high heat, stirring frequently. The jam should boil hard and thicken (if it seems too thick, add a teeny bit of water or more lemon juice -- it is better to have it too thick than too runny). It will eventually begin to foam. When this happens, turn off the heat, skim the foam and continue to stir occasionally for a minute or two. Taste the jam (carefully!) and add stevia to taste (Start with 5-10 drops and mix well before re-tasting. Don't add so much that it is bitter. Stevia is not good when it is the first thing one tastes.).

Ladle warm jam into freezer containers and allow to cool before covering and putting in fridge or freezer. It should keep in the fridge for several weeks and the freezer for several months, though, trust me, you'll use it long before that.

Before eating, stir it a little to make it less jello-like. Ours is exactly like regular sugar-filled jam when stirred.

Enjoy (in copious amounts)!

And let me know if you try it!
Edited to add: I forgot the lemon juice! It's fixed now.


Mommas... I entreat you. Read Ann's words here today.

19 April 2010

The fruitful year

This year, at the beginning of May, I turn 35. I have decided to make it my "fruitful year" by embracing the gardening gene long latent within me and plant the bejeebers out of the yard of our new house.

Dennis gave me the go-ahead and so, for a pre-birthday gift, I ordered a significant load of fruits, including:

5 apple trees -- Honeycrisp, Goldrush, Pixie Crunch, Sundance, and Pristine.
2 cherry trees -- Montmorency and Sweet Stella
1 peach tree -- Contender
1 pear tree -- Honeysweet
10 raspberries -- Heritage (above)
3 Currants -- Red Lake
3 Cherry Bushes -- Nanking
2 Native Plums
2 Gooseberries -- Pixwell
2 Grape vines - Cayuga
...and a partridge for the pear tree. :)

Our yard is very large, and the trees are all semi-dwarfs, so they won't get too unmanageable. We cut down some inherited trees -- two pears and an apple -- that were unruly, old, and non-productive, so now we can have the fruit we want.

This weekend was spent digging holes. The raspberries, grape, pear and peach are in. Pristine is waiting in a trench against the garage for her sisters to be delivered. I expect to get an email notifying me of impending delivery soon. I'm eager to meet these ladies.

I'm excited. I think it's going to be a fruitful year. :)

18 April 2010

What we've been doing lately

Collecting pebbles/ fish from side of the cellar door/ river

Doing Very Important Tasks with Daddy's hand truck

Building castles in the sky...and the sand

Watching the goings-on patiently...

...Or not so patiently

High-fashion digging

Helping Daddy...

... pants optional.

My new BFF

07 April 2010

Keeping eyes open for the risen Christ

Post-Easter has always been a bit of a challenge for me. In pastoral ministry, the focused intention of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter was a gift, especially for a congregation that was, generally, rather purpose-less. After Easter, we had a "now what?" feeling, I think.

This is now my second Easter as a layperson and both Easters, I've been surprised to find that, come Monday morning, the same feeling settled upon our family. Dennis and I talked about how it almost seemed as though we had spent Lent, and especially Holy Week and Easter morning, really carefully shaping our family's devotional experiences only to have Easter pass away with the dawn of Monday morning and a 5 a.m. alarm clock call. The question remains -- now what?

This year, in the face of a bit of malaise, I was smart enough to go back to the Scriptures and read about what the disciples did post-Resurrection. It looks like they had returned to a "normal" pattern of life, to a certain extent. They went to work, ate and slept. But they also shared stories of Jesus. They met together, presumably to remember and perhaps, re-enact what they did with Jesus. And, most instructive to me, they were receptive to meeting the risen Christ wherever they were, even in the most seemingly mundane of settings.

So, this post-Easter, Dennis and I have decided we should do the same. We're back to the day-to-day activities, as per usual. But as we work, eat, sleep, etc., we're going to be intentional about remembering what Jesus did and we'll be trying hard to re-enact what he did, especially how he sacrificed himself. But most of all, we'll be trying to keep our eyes open, ready to meet with the risen Christ wherever we are.
Photo: Dan-o and Annalivia with our Easter cross

06 April 2010

Easter photo attempt

We've yet to get a good photo on Easter. I don't think I ever made it into a photo this year. Oh well. Everyone knows what I look like.

This photo was taken outside church. It was incredibly windy, as you may be able to tell. Annalivia and Emmeliese are wearing dresses that Dennis' mom made. They were lovely and are large enough that they should be able to wear them for a good year.

Daniel was supposed to wear a little black Eton suit that I had him try on about a week before Easter. On Easter morning, he put it on and, I kid you not, it was a good 1/4-1/2 inch too short on the sleeves. He looked like he was wearing last year's suit (which it was). Luckily, I stockpile dress clothes for boys several sizes ahead when I find them in thrift stores or on clearance and we were able to put together an entirely different outfit in about 10 minutes. His shorts were a little long for his knee socks, but he looked very handsome and he was SO proud of his tie! ("Just like Daddy's!" he said.)

Since this is our first year at our new church, we left our traditional hats at home. Next year, perhaps.

05 April 2010

My Lenten "sacrifice"

I gave up facebook for Lent. It was a fairly easy sacrifice, though I expected it to be more difficult than it actually was. I found that I really enjoyed the silence in my life and that, when I wasn't being filled with online interactions, I actually sought out real humans friendship. Amazing how that happens... :)

One of the best side effects of giving up facebook was that I tended to not think very negatively about a lot of people. I've realized that there really is virtue in our grandmothers' teaching, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I realized as I thought about this during Lent that there are some key people in my life whom I really, greatly admire and one of the things I have always loved about these individuals is that they didn't share all of their opinions with all people. I don't know why the internet gives humans the permission to share things that normal, well-adjusted people wouldn't share in polite society, but it does. I don't need to share what I think about every subject all the time. I realized that it's a good practice to guard speech, in real life, and online, and that there are many subjects that really require relationship with others before most people are able to breech said subjects. Peggy Noonan, Eugene Peterson, and some others get a pass. Most of the rest of us should probably still our fingers when something pithy comes to mind.

During my facebook-fast, I also found that, honestly, I just didn't think about a lot of people I "saw" all the time on facebook. And what I discovered was that I didn't miss them. I don't mean that in a spiteful way. It's just that those people are not in my everyday thoughts. And I realized during Lent -- I don't think they're supposed to be. I think relationships are supposed to be at different levels of knowledge and intimacy.

So, I logged in to facebook again in the evening on Easter. I was on it for about 7 minutes. I read about some friends I hadn't thought about for 6 weeks or so. I looked at some pictures. Then I deactivated my account again. I just don't think it's a wise thing for me. And leaving it behind is not much of a sacrifice.


Dennis by the garage at the house we rent

04 April 2010

Christ is risen!

Where, O death, is now thy sting?
He is risen, indeed!!

Photo: First light of Easter dawn on our resurrection cross

31 March 2010

Pruning and being pruned

At our new house, we inherited a very old (30-40 years old), very large, VERY overgrown grape vine.
After watching about a thousand (more or less) YouTube videos on pruning, I attacked the vine today. First, I started by taking out the very obvious dead growth, then I started cutting back on those vines with questionable vitality. I cut until I found live wood, then cut back per my instructional videos.
We ended up with a fairly scraggly vine. I would not be surprised if it does not bear fruit this year, though my mother tells me it is entirely possible that it will. But, hopefully, in a few years, we will have a good crop of grapes.
The entire time I was cutting, I was thinking about the vine illustrations in the New Testament. I know regular gardeners are well aware of this, but pruning is sometimes a fairly drastic action. A whole lot of our vine had to be cut away to reveal life. I find that so often in my spiritual life, I balk at taking the drastic steps that cut away death to reveal a place where new life can occur. But, obviously, that is what is necessary sometimes.
The other thing that occurred to me is that growth is not necessarily a gauge of health. Last summer and early fall, our grape vine was full of green, hard fruit. But the sun couldn't reach much of it, and a lot of the grapes did not develop well because so many vines were pulling energy away from the fruit. Further, the growth on some vines, covered up dead wood and, from a bit of a distance, made everything look quite lush. I thought about the many churches where numerical growth is held up as an indicator of health, while energy-sapping offshoots flourish, death/disease goes unchecked, and individuals are not challenged to grow fully.
I guess I have always known that being pruned is a rather painful process. But until I was cutting away the excess myself, I didn't understand just how much of myself really needs to be pruned.

29 March 2010


On Palm Sunday morning, we were in the car and I was telling the kids the Palm Sunday Story again. Annalivia asked from the very back of the car,"What did the people say again when Jesus was riding into town?"
"Hosanna!" I replied, pronouncing it "ho-ZAHN-ah".
"Oh" she said and paused for a minute.
Then she said, "We should have Lozanna for lunch!"

23 March 2010

In the car

When we are in the car we listen to three Fernando Ortega cd's and two Glory Revealed cd's. We listen to them over and over and over and over... and over and over and over... and over and over and over again... and over...

(I love Fernando Ortega. And the Glory Revealed discs are pretty good, too. They're scripture set to folksy roots-rock sort of music. If given a choice, Annalivia and I choose Fernando. Daniel likes Glory Revealed II. )

Annalivia is at the age where she is remembering a lot of lyrics. That which we hear in the car, ad infinitum, comes out elsewhere. Today she put on a concert at the piano. The selections ranged from "There's Power in the Blood" to "The Lord is My Shepherd" to "All Creatures of Our God and King."

Her favorite song right now is Fernando's "I Will Praise Him Still". I love hearing her sing,

"When the morning falls on the farthest hill,
I will sing His name,
I will praise Him still.
When dark trials come
and my heart is filled with the weight of doubt,
I will praise Him still."

And she always sings this part, her favorite, really loud.

"For the Lord Our God, He is strong to save
from the
arms of death

from the deepest grave!"

And then I always join her on the end...

"For He gave us life in His perfect will
And by His good grace,
I will praise Him still."

I don't think it's necessary to have kids listen to "children's songs" in order for them to learn lyrics. Personally, I think it's more important for kids to hear good music, preferably beautiful music, and see that their parents are enjoying it, too.

At least, I hope that's how it works. I like singing such songs with my girl. It's s special sort of praise... in and out of the car.

For Monica's lovely ideas on car time, click here.

22 March 2010


We were without internet for the last five days.
I was twitchy... itchy?...scratchy? :)... for the first 12 hours. After that, it was good. We haven't had a tv for the last few weeks, so we didn't have much to artifically entertain us.
I read to the kids a lot more. Dennis, after smashing his finger in a log-splitter and getting the requisite stitches necessary, spent a lot of time reading. I read. We chatted a lot. I started a journal again. The house didn't, unfortunately, get any cleaner, until this morning.
After that, I called the internet company, whom I detest, and got the problem solved. Finally. I asked about just cancelling the service and it will cost two-months' worth of internet to terminate early, an arrangement they reserve for folks without land-lines.
Dennis and I were wondering -- is it worth it? We are becoming neo-Luddites, of sorts, I think, enjoying the inter-personal connections that come when we disconnect from electronics. We had a nice time this weekend. Save for a thankfully-not-severed finger, it was downright delightful. Why does that not seem possible when there are electronics to offer an escape from reality? Something to ponder...

18 March 2010

On truth and the search for it

In my previous life as student-of-the-liberal-church, I spent a lot of my time figuring out what I didn't have to believe about the Bible. Historical, social, or economic contexts, textual errors, authorship disputes, interpretive lenses and so on and so forth, blah blah blah.
I have mentioned before that when I was in seminary, I won an award for a very tight, well-constructed theology project. It was incredible, if I do say so myself. Everything in that paper fit together like puzzle pieces in a well-crafted frame.
It was crap.
When it came down to it, that which I had constructed was just...me. There wasn't any real depth or substance, wonder, mystery, etc. There was a small box and I filled all of it. No room for Jesus. No room for the Spirit. No room for the Creator-of-all-things.
Just. me.
I am at the point now where I no longer want to think about what may or may not be believable. I just believe that the Word is True. All of it.
I know some will think that is feeble-minded or that it is the "easy" way out. I would have thought that.
But I hadn't actually read the words then. And I hadn't had a real glimpse of the power of Jesus.
It's True. I don't know how, but it is.
That's all.
That's enough.

"If you believe in the Gospel what you like, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself." ~Augustine (a pretty smart guy)
Thanks, Roo, for the quote.

15 March 2010

Boys and girls

The DHM has a fascinating round-up/ summary of some links exploring learning differences between genders over at The Common Room.

When Daniel was born, I felt sort of as though I didn't really know him at all. I think much of that was because he is a boy. As the eldest of four sisters, with no male cousins around while growing up, getting acquainted with a boy-brain has been fascinating.

I have been amazed, intrigued and enthralled lately with watching Daniel (3) process life, especially in comparison with his older sister (5). It is incredibly interesting to study how he learns/ acts/ feels, etc. As we begin to teach them, it has been clear to us that the differences are deeper than simple personality traits. Reading this article was fun -- there's something going on in that little blond-haired blue-eyed boy that is completely, totally unique! :)

Oh, Lord, this is a long day...

That dern time change. I detest them.

12 March 2010

In process

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,
therewith to be content. ~Philippians 4:11

10 March 2010

What a year!

My youngest child is a whole year old today. Emmeliese Elizabeth entered the world at 12:25 a.m. via c-section. I waited too long to make the decision to have the section and was unable to give her the birthdate she probably deserved (Annalivia and Daniel's birthdays are numerically blessed -- 2/25/2005 and 2/7/2007. Emmeliese could have been 3/9/09.) Oh, well. It will always serve to remind me of God's great mercy in keeping her from serious harm while I waited.

What a gift she is to our family! She's our sweet baby girl and growing up so fast! Happy birthday, little love!

09 March 2010

Trust as love

Today, I was listening to Midday Connection on Moody Radio. Sheila Walsh was the guest, speaking about a new book. Something she said caught my ear. It went something like this...
"I used to think that our gift to God is our Love. Now I think it is our Trust. Trust is our Love lived out. Trust is Love with flesh on."

08 March 2010

Going forward without the crutch

We removed the tv from our house the other day. I am ashamed to say, it had become a crutch on which we leaned far too often. It was too easy for me to say, "Why don't you go turn on PBS?" while making breakfast. Or dinner. Or to use it as a distraction while getting Emmeliese to sleep. My eldest child was particularly susceptible to the lure of television, though her reaction was not unique in this family.

Now, we do not have a tv in the house. And, again, I am ashamed to admit that it has taken a bit of adjustment on my part. There is no escape. No diversion. No crutch. I was a bit nervous.

But, it turns out that we walk quite well without it. We had a lovely day today, even though it was a fairly cold rainy day with no foray to the outer world. It ended up being a day with just a few sibling clashes. They all played well all day together, drew a whole lot of pictures, colored, played with baby dolls, created an elaborate tow truck business, played dress-up. The friction was minimal. It was very, very nice.

I think we can leave the crutch behind.

07 March 2010

He who takes delight

Do you ever think of God as One who delights in you?

For me, it isn't too hard to think of God as loving me, even unconditionally. But that God likes me? Really, truly likes me? That he enjoys my company, smiles at my little jokes, feels exceedingly proud of my successes... that just blows my mind.

And as I think about what I communicate to my children about God, it occurs to me that it is critically important to convey not only His love and provision and mercy, but also His great delight in us.

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
~Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

06 March 2010

A culture of effort, or a culture of grace

There's a provocative article on racial reconciliation in the new issue of Christianity Today by Chris Rice, co-director of the Duke's Center for Reconciliation. If they make it available online, I'll provide the link, but I suggest any who have an opportunity to read it at a library, church, etc., should do so.

In it, he talks about a ministry of reconciliation of which he was a part in the late 90's that, in effect, had dried up. He was on the verge of leaving a partnership with an African-American friend and the congregation the two co-pastored was feeling the strain and angst in the relationship.

They consulted with John Alexander who diagnosed the problem with these words, "If you don't give God's love in your bones, you will become very dangerous people. Especially activists like you. The most important person in the community is not [the pastors], or any of you, or the people in the neighborhood. The most important person in the community is Jesus. Your life has to keep Jesus at the center."

After the consultation, the author and his partner actually did the hard work of extending grace and the author's partner pointed out that actually extending grace to others in the minutiae of day to day life is a very, very difficult thing.

I won't ruin the rest of the article by summarizing it here, but it's a great reminder that justice issues need to, first, be taken to the cross of Christ. As the author says, "We are not the central actors in saving the world's brokenness. In the life and resurrection of the crucified Christ now living in heaven, God has given us everything we need to live well in a broken world through the Holy Spirit. God has already changed everything through the power of a grace we do not deserve."

And, though I promise I do not mean to diminish the grandeur of working against injustice in the world, for me, the article was a great reminder that ALL issues need to, first, be taken to the cross of Christ. Even (or perhaps, especially) the day-to-day weariness induced by the "effort" so many of us put into parenting can be revived by a reminder to bask in grace for a bit. Again, in the author's words, "For us, 'telling the truth' had come to mean telling...each other how they needed to change. But now we saw that the greatest truth was telling and showing each other how much God loves us. Our paradigm for daily life had shifted to John's mantra, 'Caring for each other, forgiving each other, and keeping the dishes washed. We are forgiven. All the rest is details."

It resonates; that much is sure.

Good stuff. Check it out.

04 March 2010

Guarding and unguarding my thoughts

I've encountered a life-changing read this Lent in the book, A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. It is a compelling, challenging book for Christians. It is a compelling, challenging book for me.

I have been processing the book at the same time that our pastor has begun a sermon series on our thought lives. The basis of his sermon series is this passage from Romans 12 "I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye prepare your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (pardon -- I have the KJV memorized and it never sounds right to me unless in this version).

As our pastor has pointed out, scripture is clear here that disciplining our thoughts brings us into alignment with the will of God. He talked about how important it is to choose to expose our minds and, thus, our spirits to things that build us up and encourage us to be holy. And, of course, I thought about tv shows and songs and other media (like the internet *ahem*). I thought about what a huge difference it makes in my life to filter the things which influence me. And I thought about how, a year ago or so, I decided to listen to sacred music most of the time and how much that has changed what goes through my head throughout the day. I love the snippets of scripture that appear with melodies at odd moments. The echoes are just lovely.

But while processing my reaction to the earthquake in Haiti, especially through the lens of "the hole" in my gospel, I've realized that while God wants me to guard my thoughts when it comes to those things I seek out to entertain me, that God wants me to unguard my thoughts when it comes to the suffering of others. I am finding that to participate in the grandeur of self-focused thought refinement without applying the exercise to the world beyond is so...hollow. It is "the hole," I guess. And I have realized that the desire to live an insular existence is not a holy desire. I've thought about how many of us will gladly watch CSI or, heck, MYSTERY on PBS or will expose ourselves to all manner of crazy, violent thoughts and dissonant behavior, but won't watch the news or look at pictures of a disaster or read statistics of suffering or even discuss the presence of evil in the world. Being careful not to see the news does not mean that the news doesn't happen.

So, while being called to set my mind on things above, I've been being reminded to open my eyes and see -- really see-- this world God loves.

Thus, my prayer this Lent has been two-fold. First --"May the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Reedemer." And, I've been praying the prayer of Bob Pierce, World Vision's founder, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."

01 March 2010

Castille soap and conundrums

A few months ago, I got tired of having a shower full of hair and body care products and switched to castille soap. First, I bought the liquid stuff, then I found a bar and realized that it does a better job for less money (I think).

So far, I like the simplicity of castille soap for hair and body. I also like that I'm not putting many chemicals on my skin. And I like that the skin on my body feels pretty nice -- clean, but not so clean that I'm dry and scaly. And now that I've figured out I should use yogurt on my face as a moisturizer a la my cooler/ prettier sistahs, my face is better, too. (Though, Lil and Roo -- I wonder -- should I rinse the yogurt off? Or have Dennis lick it off? I've just been letting it soak in -- that's cool, right?)

Using just castille soap has left me with a bit of a conundrum in one department and that is that I think it would be logical, when one has largely cut out chemicals in hair washing, to follow that up with cutting out chemicals by not using styling products. But, um, I can't figure out a hairstyle that would play to my hair's natural state wherein the roots are slightly limp, the ends are frizzy almost-curls and the whole thing hangs either a.) awkwardly close to the face or b.) awkwardly extending out into the air. So I use my products (aka some miscellaneous curl spray on the ends, some miscellaneous gummy substance at the roots, and some miscellaneous hair spray on the whole thing).
Anyone out there got some wisdom on doing hair au naturel?

Praying for Chile

A slideshow can be found here.

27 February 2010


Often, after dinner, my children choose to run around the dining room table playing some LOUD game while Dennis and I sit, trying to talk before we banish them to another room. This evening, they were galloping around the table and Annalivia kept yelling LOUDLY something about "Tessa".
"Who's Tessa?" I asked.
"Our sleddog" she replied.
"I have a horse!" added Daniel. "His name is Burrboo."
"Biboo?" I asked.
"NO! BURRboo!" he clarified.
Annalivia chimed in wisely, "Daniel, that's a hard name. Why don't you name him Parachute?
... Or Tony."

For those worried about the "patriarchal" church we now attend...

... (and you know who you are)...

Today my children spent a long time playing "church." They turned two plastic storage bins on end to create pulpits, used the stick end of a hobby horse for a microphone, passed out children's bibles and pink and purple blocks for communion, and turned on Rutter's Gloria for the music.

Annalivia brought the sermon.

So far, so good... :)

26 February 2010

Whatsoever things are LOVELY

I thought it interesting that the word we translate "lovely" is only used right here in the New Testament. It means "acceptable" or "pleasing", but I've always thought of it as "beautiful" and when I think of beautiful things in the Bible, I think of many gorgeous word pictures in the scriptures. So here are some that I'll be pondering today...

1. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Is. 52:7)

2. Many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it (Song of Songs 8:7)

3. I will lift my eyes up to the hills; from whence shall my help come? My help comes only from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Ps. 121)

4. The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26)

Whatsoever things are PURE

Yesterday was Annalivia's birthday. In addition to thinking about that happy event 5 (FIVE!!!) years ago, I was thinking on these things...
1. God's pure gift God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16)
2. Jesus' pure gift Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Jn 15:13)
3. The Spirit's pure gift But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23a)

24 February 2010

Whatsoever things are RIGHT

I've had such a great time doing some in-depth study on this passage and these words. The word translated "right" in many translations is also translated "just" in others. It is used to describe "righteousness" far more than in other ways and that's what Dennis and I ended up pondering last night. It took us a while to come up with scriptures using "right" or "righteousness". But here is what we're pondering today...

1. Righteousness is a gift from God "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" Ps. 23:3b

2. Righteousness fulfills "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" Mt. 5:6

3. Righteousness protects "Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness..." Eph. 6:14

4. Righteousness takes courage "The righteous one shall live by faith" Rom. 1:17b

23 February 2010

Whatsoever things are NOBLE

The Greek word translated "noble" in the NIV means "worthy of respect". Here are those things on which we will be thinking today...

1. God is Creator of the universe "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" Gen 1.1

2. God is Creator of me "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb." Ps. 139

3. Jesus defeated death "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death has no mastery over him." Romans 6:9

4. Jesus died for us. "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1 Peter 3:18

5. Jesus creates us anew "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Cor. 5:17

22 February 2010

Whatsoever things are TRUE

Four true things Dennis and I have been thinking on today...

1. God loves me. "God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8

2. God is faithful again and again. "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Lam. 3:22-24

3. All things WILL work. "All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose" Rom. 8:28

4. Children are a gift. "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior so are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Ps. 127:3-4

Number 4 may have been targeted to a Momma stuck inside with sick children. ;)

21 February 2010

Philippians 4:8 challenge

Today, our pastor began a sermon series on sin and his first sermon was on disciplining our thoughts. During the course of the sermon, he encouraged us to read Philippians 4:8...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

He pointed out that there are seven categories of "whatsoever things" (as the KJV would say) and that there also happen to be seven days in a week. So he challenged us to assign each category to a day of the week, come up with four or five specific things under each category: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, and be purposeful about thinking on such things for that day.

So, we made our lists and tomorrow, we'll be thinking about four or five things that are true throughout the day. We'll see whether it changes things for us this week!

20 February 2010

The "What would you do with..." game

Tonight, after dinner, we played a fun game as a family. We found four items -- a box, a basket with handles, a foam sword, and a long scarf/ shawl and then, using one item at a time, we asked each person in the family, "What would you do with... a basket?" Then we acted out our responses and we had to guess how each person was using the item.

It was a lot of fun! Daniel didn't quite get the concept, but Annalivia was really clever! She came up with some great pantomimes. The sword was by far the best item. We used it as a toothpick, a guitar, dragon-fighting sword (Daniel), a metal detector, skiing poles, a walking stick, a dragon-fighting sword, a flute, a brake on a train, a shovel, a horse, a pen, and a dragon-fighting sword about 8 more times...among other things.

We only played the game for about 25 minutes. It ended while we were all really enjoying it and that was good. But I think we're going to do it again sometime soon.

Does anyone else have games you play with your family? I'd love to know what other families enjoy together.

18 February 2010


We all got sick here this week. Annalivia got the flu on Saturday evening. Daniel threw up on Tuesday. Emmeliese got sick Wednesday afternoon and I got it Wednesday night. We're all praying it will miss Daddy.

The four of us without a paying job have been inside since Saturday. Today, it was sunny and 32 degrees out, so we all got on our slippers and walked out to the front porch where the sun was shining. We came in when we were cold five minutes later. It was a good breather.

We are all in varying stages of recovery. I have a headache. Emmeliese is fussy and frustrated by everything. Daniel and Annalivia are both eating regular food now, but Daniel is getting very tired (and hence, fussy) in the afternoon.

BUT -- in the midst of this, as I was praying at some point for healing for a child, I realized that I really do take for granted the other 360 days in a year when we are all healthy beyond most of the world's populations' imagining. There are so many for whom that ratio works the other way. May I be mindful...