28 December 2007

And Now He Has Lost His Superhuman Strength

This is a picture of Judah from Christmas Day. For some time now, we have been debating what to do with Judah's hair; we love it long because it's so darn cute, but at the same time, the poor kid was constantly in danger of having his eyes stabbed out by his wayward bangs. Abe dreamed of Judah having long, curly locks, and he loved the way Judah's hair peeked out from underneath his winter hat (which he loves to wear all the time), but the reality was shaping up to be quite different from the dream. Judah's hair is incredibly fine, and with every trim I gave in an attempt to stave off the mullet look, I cut off more and more of his baby curl until it was all gone. The long, curly locks we hoped for were more like overgrown and straggly.

We've also gotten the "my, your two girls are adorable" line one too many times, and there is one particular male relative whose name I won't mention here, but whose initials are Grandpa Nichols, who makes comments every time we see him about how we need to cut our son's hair because he looks like a girl. Our response to all of these comments has always been something to the effect of "phooey on you, go suck an egg," but we finally realized that, girl cut or not, Judah's hair was no longer practical and was getting a wee bit out of control. So this morning, we did this:

I did the deed myself with a pair of clippers. I used the longest guide (an 8!!!), hoping to leave some of the length intact so Judah could retain some of that long-haired cuteness, but it quickly became apparent that I should have used a 15. 8 cut it as short as you see here.

I think it goes without saying that I sobbed. I felt as if my little guy had vanished, and in his place was this--this BOY. And I am not prepared for my baby to be a BOY.

He was covered in hair, so we ran him up to the bathroom, stripped him down, and gave him a bath. With his hair squeaky clean and all of the missed spots apparent, I was able to then trim with the scissors around the ears and at the nape and complete the cut. Here's the after, though it's not a particularly great picture, and I think I did trim up a few tiny spots after I took it, but you get the idea:

I still think he's about the most handsome little boy that ever walked the face of the earth, but this will certainly be an adjustment for me. He doesn't seem to mind or care about the change--in fact, he's probably grateful that his eyes are not getting poked out anymore. He'll probably wear his hat even more often now that he doesn't have all that hair for insulation, but his hair won't peek out from the bottom, sadly.

I saved some of the hair in a baggie. I can't imagine what I'm going to do with it, or how long I will keep it, but I'm just not ready to let it go just yet!

27 December 2007

It's a Christmas Miracle!

After months and months of wondering when it would happen . . . it finally has.

Charis is (mostly) potty trained.

I was starting to worry. I was also starting to think that Judah would be potty trained before his sister was. But we made the switch to Big Girl Underwear--for better or for worse, we decided--and let nature take its course. We used a reward system of stickers and suckers for attempts and successes, respectively. She had a few accidents at the beginning, but now, we are accident-free! In fact, on Christmas Day, Charis had nary a diaper on all day (we usually diaper her for naps and bed), and not once did we even have to ask, "Are you still dry?" or, "Do you need to use the potty?" She took care of it all by herself. Both functions, if you know what I mean.

As she's 3.5 years old, this has been a long time in the coming. It has mostly been a struggle of pride for me; I felt sheepish and ill-suited for motherhood because my child wasn't potty trained and many many kids her age are. But finally, I came to this realization: Who cares? So I ditched the pride and let her do it on her own time. She is a first-born perfectionist (somewhat like her mother) who does not like to do anything unless she can do it well. She did that with walking; in the morning, she was crawling, then she took a nap, woke up, and decided she was ready to walk. She did it with talking; I thought she'd never speak actual words, until one day, she thought it was time to make sentences. I figured that it would be the same with potty training. She is a very capable, motivated learner--she's just NOT motivated by pressure from others, namely her mother. I knew that when the time came, she would run away from the diaper quickly on her own, but that if I pushed it, potty training was likely a battle we'd be fighting for a long time. In the end, it turns out I was right. (I got lucky on that one, believe you me.)

I still put her in a diaper for naps, although it is not unusual for her to run out during her nap to use the potty, even though she is diapered. And we still diaper her at night. I'm not sure how much longer we'll have to do that, but I'm okay with it for now!

I know this is way more interesting to me than to anyone else out there, but in the interest of chronicling Charis' developments, I thought I should record it!

24 December 2007

The Meaning of Christmas

My friend posted a bit on her blog about how fed up she is with the whole "Happy Holidays" phenomenon; namely, how Americans have, in the name of political correctness, sanitized Christmas and taken its meaning away, leaving us with little but Santa and lots of shiny things. Christmas isn't just a holiday. It's a celebration of the event that changed our world: Christ becoming present and human, providing us with the ultimate payment for the sin that separates us from God the Father.

Glory! What a gift.

My hope is that our kids will grow up knowing Christmas isn't just about presents, trees, decorations and food. I pray that they will understand why we celebrate the birth of one particular baby born to a humble couple in a stable long, long ago. I pray that you, too, will be filled with wonder this Christmas season; not because of the lights or cookies or concerts, but because of the baby Savior that came into this world so that you could have a relationship with God and know His true love and peace.

Have a blessed Christmas, friends.

23 December 2007

The Ghost of Christmas Ick

*Side note (sorry if it's too early for one of those): I had to type that title three times, because my fingers keep wanting to type Charistmas. Force of habit.

We here at the CJ household have contracted the ick, and it is running through our family like the bulls through Pamplona. It all started with Judah, who one evening late last week, after having been asleep for two hours, woke himself up when he involuntarily tossed his cookies. And also everything he'd eaten in the previous 8 hours. He repeated this process twice, which meant that much sheet changing and laundry ensued.

A day later, I found myself feeling...funny. No tossing took place, through careful administration of ginger ale and saltines, but I did spent almost twelve hours immobile on the couch hoping for the world to stop spinning, already. I would have taken Pepto or something, except that I'm pregnant, and can't take much of anything at all. So phooey on that.

Next in line was Charis, who, on the same day I was like a mummy on the couch, told me that her tummy hurt. She was not kidding. In the aftermath of her ickiness, I hustled the kids up to the bathtub and waited for Abe to get home so he could clean up after us. Let me tell you, that guy is handy to have around, especially when you're still in your first trimester of pregnancy and so a touch sick most of the time, and also feeling flu-ish.

The only drawback to Abe's helpfulness is that last night, after we returned home from the Christmas program at Abe's parents' house, Abe declared, "I don't feel so good." He took the Pepto I had wanted to take and fell asleep on the couch until 2:30 this morning, when he stumbled to bed. Around the same time, my dear daughter woke up and announced that her tummy hurt again. Abe happened to be on hand for her first appearance and put her back in bed. A few minutes later, she popped out again, and I gave her water and put her back in bed. A few minutes after that, she stood at the top of the stairs crying and complaining about her tummy, so we let her come down and sleep with us. (But I've learned to first retreive a bucket to keep handy, just in case.) It was a long, long night, but we made it. We're home from church this morning trying to contain our ick a little better, hoping to regain health before Christmas.

All that to say that one of these days, when things are no longer chaotic/pathogenic and icky, I will get back to posting on a regular basis. But if I don't get a chance to say it in a few days,

Have a Blessed Christmas!

18 December 2007

I'm Back! (Sort Of)

Okay. Sorry to leave you with such a vague explanation ("I'm taking a break...'cause.") So here's a more thorough explanation about why I decided to take a little blog break:

1) Judah almost had lead poisoning. When we took him in for routine lead testing, his level came back as 9.1. I don't know what that means, but it is much higher than the normal level of 2.4. So of course, we were ordered to go back to the lab for a different, more accurate blood test to see what the deal really was. That test came back with a level of 2.4. Normal. So the first test was obviously a) flawed, and b) intended to give me heart palpitations.

2) Abe got laid off. This is particularly hard (since we are a single-income family) and emotional, so it has required a bit of adjustment to Christmas lists and shopping and other expenditures, as you might imagine. It's a temporary lay-off, and he'll be back to work when there are projects for him to work on, but unfortunately, this is a very slow time in his trade. In the meantime, he's working on the house and getting underfoot. :)

3) We had to take Charis to the doctor because she had blood in her stool. I don't have any further elaboration on this, and everything seems to be fine, so apparently it was just a fluke, but given that items 1 and 2 happened within a day of this pleasant experience, you can understand our concern.

4) I was knee-deep in preparations and practices for our annual Christmas concert at church. It's a big deal for us, with three performances, and this year I wrote the script and had a duet, and it was the first year we've memorized ALL of the music, so I was particularly nerve-wracked in the days leading up to the concert. But it all went very well, I'm happy to report.

5) Aunt Connie was coming to visit, so I was cleaning. She arrived last Friday and left today. We had a great visit with her! She is a very pleasant and easygoing house guest.

and last, but most importantly:

6) I am pregnant!

So of course, the raging hormones inside me magnified the importance of all of the above items.

I am just now coming up on 12 weeks, the end of my first trimester, and I am gradually feeling less sick and less tired. I have been quite queasy with this one--more so than in either of my first two pregnancies--and more tired, but obviously more busy, since I spend most of my time chasing two small ones. You know, when I was pregnant with Charis, I was exhausted all the time, but looking back, I think I was just a pansy. What the heck did I have to be tired about? Now parenting two kids under 3 AND being pregnant--that merits actual fatigue.

(I have also been afflicted with serious pregnancy brain-rot, so forgive this discombobulated post. Sentences are difficult for me to form these days.)

We are getting excited about this one, but the excitement wasn't immediate. The timing of this baby wasn't our idea, but is only a reminder that God doesn't care what our ideas are--He just cares about His perfect timing and all of that. Knowing God has only our best interest in mind helps us feel confident that everything will work out as He intends!

Also aiding in the increased excitement is the fact that we just learned that some friends of ours are also expecting--and their due date is about 3 weeks away from ours. That in itself is cool enough, but consider this: they also have two children, whose ages are identical to the ages of our two. In fact, a mere 6 weeks separate the birthdays of both sets of children. God apparently has something in mind for our families in timing our children so close together, since we obviously didn't plan to have the same child-bearing schedule.

There you have it. I will try, in the upcoming days, to post more, but unfortunately, since I am making a lot of the gifts this year, that may not be feasible within the time I have available to me. But Thank you for hanging on and checking in! I hope to be chatting with you again soon!

06 December 2007

Prayer, Please

Hey, all. I'm taking a few days off before I get back into the story of our southern vacation. We've got a lot of stuff going on in our lives right now, and I'm afraid that anything I'd write wouldn't be much good anyway. If you could keep us in your prayers as we try to sort through some stuff (sorry for being vague), I'd greatly appreciate it.

03 December 2007

Southern Vacation, Part II

So there we were, no longer in the cool north, but in the oh-so-pleasantly-warm south. We'd dressed warmly for the drive; the kids were both in warm pajamas, and I was in workout pants, a long-sleeve t, and a sweatshirt. Sorry, Abe, I don't remember what you were wearing, but I'm sure you looked awesome in it, whatever it was. Anyway, when we stepped out of the car and into 80-degree weather, it was a surprise. A lovely surprise. The kind of surprise you could really use when you're writing a recap of your trip and it's snowy and 30 degrees out, hypothetically speaking.

Another lovely surprise was seeing Steve and Katie's home, which we've never seen in person. But the best surprise of all was meeting a sweet little guy named Levi who was so excited to see us that he slept through all of the introductions. I will try not to hold it against him, since he is, in fact, but a month old, but I'm just saying, Levi: you're going to have a hard time remembering your favorite aunt and uncle and cousins if you're going to sleep through the actual meeting process, and also because you really have no capacity for memory yet. So there.

As I mentioned, it was not long before we all needed to crash. We all chose a soft spot to land, and snuggled in for a much-needed rest.

Hours later, Steve got home from work, and we re-lived the arrival excitement. I have not seen my brother and his wife since they visited us after Judah's birth 20-some months ago, so it was wonderful just to be in the same room with them. We speak most often via Nextel 2-way or IM, so it was a complete novelty not to have wait for the pauses in conversation. Though I did want to pepper my speech with "brb" and "lol" and "L8R"s.

It stands to reason that, since we haven't seen them in person in almost two years, they haven't seen us. Not such a big deal with Abe and me, because we mostly look the same; we've gained a few pounds, Abe shaved his head, and I acquired a nose ring, but everything else is the same. But the KIDS. They are very different. For one thing, Judah weighs more than 8 pounds. And Charis can actually pronounce the word "blanket." Steve and Katie say that they feel well caught-up on the kids' growth, but it's quite another thing to have a conversation with tiny people you mostly see in pictures.

So beyond becoming reacquainted with each other, there were no huge activities that first night. We may have played Catch Phrase, but then, we did that quite a few times during our visit, so maybe not. The next day was when the real excitement started: a visit to a playground leads directly to our first glimpse at the inside of an ambulance.

to be continued . . .

02 December 2007

Southern Vacation, Part I

Well, my goodness, it has been a long time, hasn't it? Sorry 'bout that. But I have good reason for being delinquent in my blog entries: we were on vacation.

Did my brother and sister-in-law, at whose house we were staying, have internet access? Yeah. Could I have updated the blog while we were away? I suppose so. But I didn't. The side effect is that I have fodder for several posts which I will space out over the next couple of days so you don't have to commit two hours of your time to reading the narrative of our vacation. So here we go: installment 1.

Our kids are not strangers to road trips; they make the 4-hour trip to my parents' house with ease, and on a fairly regular basis. They are 4-hour-road-trip PROS. This trip, though, was a lot longer than 4 hours. It shaped up to be more like 14. Yikes. Understandably, I think, we were hesitant to make the trip during the daytime, anticipating that such a move would lengthen the already dauntingly-lengthed trip unnecessarily due to the inclusion of frequent stops for breaks. So we opted to make the drive at night, during the kids' sleeping hours. Easy peasy lemon squeezie.

The night before, I stayed up freakishly late (4:30 am) in an attempt to adjust my sleep schedule. I sent the kids to Yia-Yia's house the next day, hoping to get several hours of sleep to prime me for driving the first nighttime shift. The plan was that I'd start driving, Abe would sleep, then when I got tired, Abe would wake and take the wheel, and I would sleep. The plan was also that the kids would sleep for the duration of the whole trip.

Are we fools, or what?

Because there was so much to do in preparation for our trip, I worked all day, napping only for 1 hour--1 HOUR--before the big show got underway. I was even more exhausted than I would have been if I hadn't made the elaborate sleep-adjustment plan, so Abe started driving. The kids didn't fall right to sleep as we'd hoped; they stayed up until 11 pm. Thank goodness for the portable DVD player we borrowed. I tried (in vain) to sleep while Abe started driving, and when he finally tired at 1 am and asked me to drive, I had no choice. So, even though I had only slept 5 hours in the last 36, I got behind the wheel and drove the 1-5 am shift. It actually wasn't that bad; I was amazed.

At 5 am, we stopped to switch. I was getting tired, but there was a good chance we'd all stay awake--especially since the kids were up--for good. Yep. Great night's sleep, kids! 11 pm-5 am--just like normal! Or . . . not.

We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast, taking our sweet time before we strapped back in to the Camry, and then pressed on to our destination.

All things considered, the drive down really wasn't that bad. We were a bit tired, yes, but that afternoon, we all took naps and felt somewhat recovered. Then began the whirlwind events of the week...

to be continued......

15 November 2007

Even Webster's Dictionary Would Be Stumped

Charis is clear-speaking and articulate enough that it's sometimes easy to pretend that she knows all the words in the English language. She'll surprise us every once in a while with a word whose origin in her life we just have to ask about: "Where did you hear that word?" She always thinks briefly and replies: "Um, I can't amember." Actually, that's her standard response for any question whose answer she doesn't know, as in this conversation:

Me: What did you do at Gopher Buddies tonight?

Charis: Um, I can't amember.

Me: Did you have a snack?

C: Um, I can't amember.

M: Who was the 16th President of the United States?

[I bet you know what's coming.]

C: Um, I can't amember.

She has also taken to copying our verbal mannerisms, as in this exchange:

Abe (brushing Charis' hair): Wow, you really have a lot of knots this morning!

Charis: Yes! Can you just imagine?

And then there are the un-definables. Usually, she slips them into a longer, otherwise coherent sentence where they might easily go unnoticed. Very often, they're almost-words that you assume she must have simply mis-spoken. When pressed to define these words, she always has the same explanation, as seen here:

Charis: . . . And then we're going to go visit baby Levi, who is my cousin just like Gideon! And I will have a neetie.

Me: A neetie? What's a neetie?

Charis: (sighing) It's just a silly word, Mom.

It's just a silly word.

Of course.

Today, in the car on the way back from Bible Study, I asked her if she could tell me some other "Silly Words."

"Um," she replied, "I can't amember."

14 November 2007

Fall Family Picture Gallery

More Fall

For any kid, one of the great joys of Fall is leaves--kicking them, throwing them, jumping in them--and I wanted my kids to experience that joy. So, one beautiful, warm Fall day, we went outside with a rake and I swept up some big piles for the kids to jump in. They loved it!

Here's Judah tackling Charis....

And here's Charis returning the favor!

Here's Judah relaxing in the fallen foliage...

And Charis finding her own comfy spot!

I was also able to persuade the kids that it would be fun to pick up leaves and load them into a wheelbarrow. Once the (toy) wheelbarrow was full, Judah took it for a spin around the backyard, in the process dumping out all of the leaves. So much for raking!

12 November 2007

Boycott PBS!!

Well, stupid PBS. When a handsome couple with a phenomenally adorable baby offers you a chance to put them on your program, you should do it. You're PBS! Aren't you trying to lower your demographic so your viewers don't die off take their pledges with them? What better way to attract young viewers to your programming than to show a young couple and their child--the new generation of antique collectors? What better way than to air the footage you have of a cute family displaying their family treasures--including their child, clearly the most valuable family treasure at the roadshow that day??

Fie on PBS. You never had my pledges, and you never will.

Here's what we said, and it may be cheesy, but please admit that it was better than what so many others had to offer:

"I'm Abe..."

"And I'm Cori...and these silver treasures that we brought with us aren't worth very much, but this tiny treasure [holding up the phenomenally adorable child] is priceless."

Now, seriously, if you were the producer of the show, how could you not put that on? It's 10 seconds of cuteness! Surely you can bump the old lady with the worthless horse doorstop to show a baby human of inestimable value.

Dumb PBS. Your next educational program could be on the tragedy of missed opportunities. We will be available for taping, should you so desire.

Viva La Bank Girls!

This weekend was a whirlwind! Abe had the kids Friday night and they spent Saturday with his mom as I attended my choir "retreat" at church. It was a great chance to do some intensive work on Christmas music, and on Saturday, we ran through the whole program and I got my first chance to see my script acted out--the actor did an amazing job, and it was a little bit emotional for me to hear my words spoken by someone other than me.

After the retreat concluded on Saturday, I drove to Champaign, Illinois to join a Bank Girl Weekend that was already in progress. The Bank Girls are the girls that I lived with during my senior year in college 9 long years ago. We lived in, well, a renovated bank. (Thus the clever name.) There are 10 of us that still regularly get together once or twice a year: this weekend, Marcy and Tiff were unable to attend, but the rest--Sarah DV, Ellen, Sarah M, Blaza, Ann, Stephanie, Noelle and I--were there, and man, did we have fun. Stephanie was our host for the weekend. She is currently working towards her PhD in History at the University of Illinois, and of the Bank Girls, she is the friend with whom I have the most shared history; we met when we ran track together in our freshman year of high school (we never made that mistake again), roomed together in Olson Hall, room 144, and lived together at the Bank. We have now officially been friends for 17 years!

Here are some highlights of the weekend in IL:
  • Thai food. I have been craving it for quite a while now, and it was great to have people to partake with. I had the Pad See You with Beef. Yummmm...

  • Blaza getting drenched with ice water while waiting for her thai meal.

  • The three-hour drive to the Thai restaurant that was only actually 5 miles away from our hotel. Steph is still learning her way around Champaign/Urbana...slowly.

  • Baker's Square Pie. I had Cherry. Blaza had Apple. Everyone else had some sort of Chocolate or Chocolate/Peanut Butter. (because apparently we were still hungry after stuffing ourselves with Thai food? Of course, when we get together, food rarely has anything to do with hunger)

  • Staying up late talking and reminiscing about the Olden Days. And laughing so hard we almost wet ourselves.

  • Blaza chasing down our retreating cars on foot as we unexpectedly switched restaurants on her.

  • The Mall with Ellen. {Though here are the elements I did not enjoy: 1) The sparkly, effeminate, foreign man ("More turkey, Mr. Chandler?") who massaged stinky Cherry Blossom lotion into my hands and then threatened to spray me with scented glitter so I could be sparkly like him, 2) The long and confusing trek to find a bathroom so I could wash off the stinky lotion, 3) The overwhelmingly poopy smell of the bathroom once I got there, and 4) The lack of towels in the bathroom, whose absence required me to wipe my stinky wet hands on my pants, thereby giving me wet pants.}

  • Cooking with Steph. She was planning a little dinner party at her studio apartment and making some very special homemade sauce, stuffed manicotti, meatballs, and strawberries and ice cream. I'd be lying if I said it all came together smoothly; I'd be telling the absolute truth if I said that the whole experience was a comedy of errors that had us laughing so hard we were crying.

  • Catching up with my dear friends. There are all sorts of things happening with us right now, and probably the best part of the (short) weekend was getting the chance to break into smaller groups and have more intimate, meaningful conversations.

It is amazing the we are still friends after all these years. I hope these friendships will endure for decades to come!

07 November 2007

Well, we're just gluttons for Fall, apparently. Had we already been to a pumpkin patch/apple orchard for Fall treats? Yes. Did we decide to go to a different one, just for fun? Well, sure. We hadn't taken the Daddies with us the first time, and they need donuts and cider just like the rest of us, so it was only fair that we bite the bullet and head out--yet again--to let them enjoy Fall's bounty. Sigh. The things we do for the people we love...

This particular farm was better than the first: for about 9 bucks, we all got in and had permission to do everything except the Corn Maze (planted to look like Gerald Ford, may he rest in peace) and the ground trampoline (a broken neck waiting to happen, I think). This included a Wagon Ride and a whole bunch of other stuff. Let's take a look, shall we?

Here is Judah enjoying the Mountain slide. It's brilliant, really: it's simply a long piece of some sort of pipe anchored to a hill. Inexpensive, and a big hit with the kids! Charis and Gideon each went down 4 or 5 times, and Judah went down twice. The first time, I didn't know he was coming, so I didn't know to catch him. Poor kid hit the bottom like a lead sled. Fortunately, there was plenty of soft sand to cushion his fall.

There was also a snow-fence maze for the kids to go through. They loved it! It had the adventure of the corn maze without the frustration and fear. We all did it--even Elise. And we all made it through to the end without incident. Unless, of course, you count the fact that somewhere in the middle of the maze, Judah learned how to use the word "down" and kept falling just to give himself an excuse to use it in its proper context.

Another highlight was the Hay Bale Mountain. The kids climbed on it for about 15 minutes--longer than you'd imagine a pile of hay might keep them occupied. Charis even decided she was the Queen of the Mountain, threatening to squash all dissenters.

Doesn't she look scary?

Part of the fun was that this wasn't just a pile of hay--oh, no. There were divots in the hay, perfect for hiding (kind of) and planning surprise attacks. Don't kid yourselves; there were plenty of surprises.

Here's Judah hunkered down in his foxhole, stealthlike. He's a ninja warrior, that one. Look at that fierce look on his face.

Grrrr! Hi-ya!

Just kidding. He thought the hay was loads of fun. If I had any use for 35 bales of hay, I'd build a Hay Mountain in our backyard for the kids to play on. Sadly, I don't.

This is Charis taking the helm (as far as she knows) of the Pumpkin Train. Charis, Gideon, and Judah rode this bad boy twice. Abe, ever the handyman, and inspired by His father's resourcefulness, immediately began planning how to make some of these cars to pull behind our lawn tractor. It's basically a 50-gallon drum, some wheels, and a kiddie chair; totally doable for my metal-working husband. Perhaps next year, when we've got the addition all wrapped up. Or maybe the year after that. This addition is taking forever.
After that, we loaded up on donuts and cider and hopped on the wagon for a "hay ride"--minus the hay. I took some pictures, but it was getting dark and I was loathe to use the flash, so they didn't turn out very well. But you've been on wagon rides; you know what they look like. I'll let you use your imagination!

But now, alas, the cold has hit. Gone are the sunny, 60-degree days that make for a pleasant Fall. I have a few more Fall pictures to tide us over for a couple more posts, though, so keep a lookout for more of my Homage to Fall!

05 November 2007

Just to Tide You Over

I have several posts in me, but haven't had the time or energy to write them, but I promise I will do so soon. In the meantime, let me share this small Charis anecdote:

As part of our construction project, we have acquired and installed a new steel exterior door. This is cause for much celebration, because the door that formerly separated us from the cruel outside world was a flimsy door that was never meant for use as an exterior door. We did have a steel door, once upon a time, but that was before the demolition, so it has been some time since we've been able to enjoy the peace of mind a good, strong door provides. Even after the new door was installed, we did not lock it--we had no keys. A small complicating factor, right? So I continued to lock the interior door, and life continued as normal. But then Abe replaced the knobs and deadlocks (for which we did have keys) and, without notifying me, removed the old house key from my keyring and replaced it with the key to the new door.

So shortly thereafter, I took the kids on an errand, locking the kitchen door as usual. When we returned, I breezed past the unlocked steel exterior door and stood at the kitchen door fumbling with my keys. I know it's here somewhere...my house key should be right here... I thought. Alas. It was not there. Because Abe had removed it, and it was sitting inside on the dishwasher. I did what any submissive wife would do and called my husband to yell at him. "Did you take my key without telling me? Did you TAKE it? And leave me with no key? NO KEY? HOW--HOW am I supposed to get into the house?"

He mumbled something about forgetting to tell me he had exchanged keys and how he had decided we weren't going to lock that interior door anymore.

"Well, what am I supposed to do? You know what? I am coming to your work to get a house key. We'll be there in 10 minutes." I said.

"You can't," he replied. "I don't have a key to that door anymore." He paused. "You could kick in the door, I guess."

I dropped the phone like a hot potato, I was so angry. Then, with my children watching in horror, I channeled that anger began kicking the door. It took me about 10 tries before the wood around the lockset finally splintered and I kicked the door in.

Now we really don't need keys for that thing anymore.

Several days later, the kids and I were returning home from the library. I had obediently locked the steel door and left the kitchen door unlocked. I unlocked the door and Charis went in first, with Judah and I trailing behind collecting library books from the car. We arrived inside to find Charis standing at the kitchen door, kicking it furiously.

"Mama, this door will NOT open!" She said.

And even now, if she makes it to the door before I do, she doesn't try the knob. Oh, no. She just kicks it. I may have scarred her for life, but at least she will never be locked out of the house.

29 October 2007

Antiques Roadshow

Just a reminder: we may (or, I suppose, may not) be on Antiques Roadshow on PBS today (10/29), next Monday (10/5), or the Monday following that (10/12). During the course of the show, we may be in the background, or there's a more distinct possibility that we may be show up during the credits in the "Feedback Booth."

26 October 2007

Renegade Peppers

...is not the name of my new cover band. It's what I've got in my back yard, along with 3 grape tomato plants and a CANTALOUPE vine, complete with an actual cantaloupe growing on it. !!!

I found them just the other day (sadly, I did not see them during the actual growing season), and I was stunned! I was like, "Hey, those weeds kind of look like tomato plants. HEY! They ARE tomato plants!" Charis actually picked a ripe tomato yesterday and ate it, and there are dozens more tomatoes that will probably never be red on account of the fact that we're starting to frost here. Stink. The pepper plants (two of them) have buds but no actual peppers, and there is a real, live cantaloupe with about a 6-in diameter growing back there!

Here's the funny thing: the plants that I actually plant, die. These plants have sprung up where our compost pile used to be. The moral of the story? I'm a better gardener when I just throw food on the ground than when I actually tend to and cultivate the plants. Kind of sad.

On a side note: does anyone know if I will be fortunate enough to see the return of these plants in the spring? Or are they just gone, gone, gone when they die for the winter? I could really handle having a supply of peppers, grape tomatoes, and cantaloupe at my disposal.

25 October 2007

A: Sticky Pink Hair

Q: What do you get when you combine a 19 month old, fruit punch, and a nasal aspirator?

The Prodigal Bear

Rejoice when a wayward Bear returns to the fold! I bring you good tidings of great news: Bear came home today, after a long absence. He arrived via the USPS, which must mean that he was really really excited to get home. Fortunately, he had brought pretzels and candy corn for everyone; when he got hungry during his journey, he ate his pretzels and candy, but was considerate enough to save some for Charis and Judah. What a thoughtful bear. Here is the letter that accompanied him:

Dear Judah,

I missed you so much!!

I was playing with the other bears at Grandma Donna's house and lost track of time. Luke, and Julie, and baby Annie, and I were having such a great time! We played jump rope, and board games, and sometimes we took turns hiding. We played with trucks and blocks, and read stories together. Then, when I looked around (just last week--I told you I lost track of time), you had gone--Grandma said you went back to our house far away, and it would be a long time till you came back. She gave me a hug when I cried.

I asked Grandma Donna if there was some way I could please go home to my Bubba. I really miss your hugs, and I miss cuddling up with you while we read books with Mama, and I miss sleeping next to you in the warm bed. I even miss when Ruthie wakes us up, 'cause she wants to play. She's so much fun!

Grandma said that I could take a trip in a big truck, but it would be dark and lonely for a couple days. She put some pretzels and candy corn in the box in case I get hungry on the way. I asked her to send some for you and Ruthie so we could have a party when I get home. (I hope I can wait to eat mine until then, but I might get pretty hungry on the way.)

I love you, Bubs. Grandma Donna took good care of me, but I sure am glad to be coming home to my family!

I love you,


Drawing Things That Look Like Stuff

Charis has been way into drawing for the past couple of days, and I think we're starting to turn the corner from abstract drawings to, well, not realism, but impressionism, certainly. Or maybe cubism.


It's a person! With a face, and arms and legs! And a mustache and hair! I asked Charis who she was drawing a picture of, and she told me: Aunt Beth. Though I assure you Aunt Beth does not have a mustache.

And this is an alligator--can't you tell? The two circles are his eyes, and the straight line is his mouth. Apparently he's not a very smiley alligator. Charis also gave him lots and lots of legs, and also a hat--the one accessory that alligators can't live without. She did ask that I draw a "spinny thing" on the top of his hat. I asked her what a "spinny thing" was, and she replied, "It's just a funny word, mom."

24 October 2007

Vocabulary Update

Just a brief post to update you on Judah's words--they're really starting to take off! Lately, he has been spouting words that I didn't teach him specifically, which leads me to believe he has really come full force into the Language Acquisition phase.

Here are the ones that he's used today, some of them for the very first time:
Waffle (waffo)
Banana (nana)
Shoes (zuz)
Belly (bobo)
Bubble (bubbo)
Kitty (kee)
Charis (iss)
Yuck (uck)

Of course, then there are always the old standbys:
This (dis)
That (dat)
Yes (yiss)
Hello (eh-wo)

...and I know there are others, quite a few others, but of course, I didn't write them down, and I can't remember them now. In fact, I really need to write them down as soon as he says them, because there was a funny one yesterday that I of course can't recall now for the life of me.

He can identify (but can't yet say) nose, eyes, ears, mouth, head, toes, belly (okay, he can say that one).

He of course understands hundreds more words than he can say, so it's only a matter of time before he speaks some of them! Today's addition of 4 new words (and yesterday's 3, of course)bodes well for the future.

22 October 2007

A Plug for the Environment

Hey, it's me! Have you missed me? I haven't posted a blog for 3.7 minutes, so it must be time for another! This one will be short, I promise.

I mentioned in the past that we use re-usable shopping bags for our grocery and other retail needs. I wanted to link to the manufacturer in case you, too, were interested in reducing the number of plastic grocery bags you go through. So here it is: Earthwise Bag Company. They specialize in custom-printed bags for retail stores, but you can also purchase sets of bags through their website. I have 8, which is usually plenty for groceries, since they hold much more than your standard-issue plastic bag can, both in volume and weight. They're also useful on trips to the library and to other stores, and also useful as general-purpose totes, so I try to keep at least one in my car at all times. Today, I packed one of these babies with 15 cans of tomatoes and cream soups and other various grocery items, and it handled it all with no problem.

You can buy a set of 10 bags for 12.50 through their website, or more, if you want to give some away for gifts. Here's what they look like:

Traverse City

Okay, don't look too closely at this picture, or you'll notice that we are not in focus, but the very lovely rocks and sand in the foreground are. And pay no attention to the fact that I'm standing in some sort of whacko pose. Both of these unfortunate attributes owe their existence to the fact that I am too timid to ask someone else to take our picture, but feel okay propping my camera in the sand, setting a timer, and running yards and yards away down the beach to stand next to my husband. Seeing this photo leads me to believe that I only just made it into the picture. It could have been worse; it could have been a photo of my retreating rear end.

"Did it take? Are we done?"

"I don't know. Hold still..."

This past weekend, Abe and I drove up to Traverse City, MI, the Cherry Capital of the World, to celebrate our 5th anniversary. What a gorgeous weekend to go north! The trees appeared to be the the peak of their fall color, the sun shone brilliantly the whole weekend, and temperatures were very mild. It was the perfect weekend!

We arrived in Traverse late Friday night and crashed. The next day, after carbo-loading on oatmeal, bagels, and fresh waffles (I know...), we headed to the Old Navy Outlet. Please don't mock me. I found a wonderful long anorak for $13 on the clearance rack which is The Coat I have been looking for for ages. Then, senseless outlet shopping aside, we hit the cute boutique shops of downtown Traverse. One highlight was a shop called Diversions which sold every kind of hat you could imagine: fedoras, barbershop quartet hats, cowboy hats, Civil War-era soldier hats, fur-lined aviator hats, flouncy Sunday hats, renaissance hats...needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), we tried most of them on. Sadly, again, I'm too timid to ask others to take a photo, so I have no documentation. My other highlight was the purchase of a small silicone spatula from Peppercorn, one of several kitchen stores. I have been wanting one of these bad boys for a while. It took a trip north to get one, which is sad.

After a tasty lunch at the Mackinaw Brewing Company (I had the Beef Brisket Sandwich, Abe had the Reuben), we walked the beach, then climbed back into the car and headed out for a scenic drive up to the tip of the Leelenau peninsula. It was gorgeous, even if its curvy roads did make me queasy. We drove all the way up to the tip, where we saw the Grand Traverse Lighthouse and walked out to the water.

For dinner that evening, we set out to find Boone's Long Lake Inn, a restaurant that was recommended by a friend. The wait was long, so we requested a menu to pass the time. When we saw the prices they were charging for steaks that we could enjoy at home for 1/20th of the cost, we made a hasty retreat. We drove around for ages trying to find a restaurant that didn't have a long wait, finally settling on Jesse James' restaurant in downtown Traverse. We were able to be seated immediately in this new restaurant. "Either it's so new, no one knows about it, or there's a reason it's empty on a Saturday night," Abe said. "We'll find out soon." $30 worth of mediocre-at-best Tex-Mex food later, we had our answer. Stinkin'...we should have stayed at Boone's.

Sunday morning, after being heavily fortified with breakfast (and I mean heavily), we headed out to Glen Arbor and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakefront. Our reason for visiting Glen Arbor was straightforward: The Cherry Republic. The Cherry Republic is a veritable campus of Cherry Goodness. There's the main building, stocked with more than 150 different cherry products, ranging from dried fruit to salsa and barbecue sauce to coffee to hand lotion. Then there's the winery, where you can sample 10 or so Cherry-based wines. Then there's the cafe, where you may partake of a cherry-laden lunch or a simple snack of--you guessed it--cherry baked goods. If you ever happen to be in Glen Arbor, plan to stop in here. We gorged ourselves on samples (after 15 tastes of the Cherry BBQ Southern Rub, I still liked it), tasted almost all the wines (we don't even like wine), and walked through the cafe...where we admitted that, after practically guzzling the Cherry BBQ sauce, we were not in the least bit hungry, and moved on.

After our cherry feast, we headed over towards the shore and Sleeping Bear Dunes. We opted out of the hill climb (too much like exercise) and chose instead to drive the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to better view the dunes. It cost us $10, but it was worth it. We obediently got out to admire the view at stops 3, 9, and 11, as the park ranger had instructed us to do. 3 wasn't particularly noteworthy, but 9 was--at stop 9, you walk along the dune and out on a boardwalk over the edge of the 450-ft drop off to Lake Michigan. It was there that we had our most tangible dune experience: we were whipped by gusts of blowing sand a la Lawrence of Arabia. My bald husband yelped repeatedly as the sand stung his pate, and I tucked in my shirt and covered my face to avoid the certain exfoliation the sand promised. Hours later, I was still brushing sand out of my eyebrows and hair, and trying to scrape some of it out of my ears. Ewww. Um, it's a great view and all, but it's probably best if you wear some sort of mask and also an astronaut suit if you go. We did also stop at point 11, but after all the excitement of point 9, how could it compare? It is already forgotten.

Well, with sand in our shoes, cherry wine and cherry jam in our bellies, and joy in our hearts, we finally headed home to our kids, whom we actually missed quite a bit. It seemed they missed us too, and this just goes to show you: often, the best part of being away is coming home.

Weekend Fun 2

Friday was so fun that Saturday needed its share of activity, too!

Tim had gone up with Abe (or maybe it was the other way around), so Beth and her kids were home alone, too. We decided to take all four kids to an apple orchard for some Fall activities.

Here are Judah, Gideon, and Charis after they climbed aboard the Apple Train. This is the most excitement we saw on their faces for the entire ride.

We tried to get a good shot of all four kids by the pumpkins, but this is as close as we could get. So here are all four kids...and Beth. I've entitled this shot "Nice Try."

Seriously? Four children under 3 1/2? What were we thinking?

Here's Judah striking a serious pose by a large Apple crate, plotting a hostile takeover of the apple stand. He had dressed in Camo for just such an occasion.

Shortly after this photo was taken, we visited the cider mill and the donut shop to watch some of our favorite treats being made right before our eyes. Then we bought some of those said treats and consumed them, so Judah's Apple Stand Coup never came to fruition, on account of the fact that his belly was already full of fried dough.

Here's Gideon during his Great Escape of '07. These mini fences can't hold me in, man.

I didn't get a very good shot of Gideon head-on; He and Charis are generally too busy to take time to pose for a shot. This is the best I could do, although I did try to make it a bit more interesting with the sepia treatment.

Unlike the boys, Charis felt no need to plot any takeovers or Great Escapes once she had this juicy, delicious apple in hand. No, she was content to wedge herself in between the pumpkins and enjoy Fall's bounty. (Also, she might have been a tiny tiny bit stuck.)

And then there's Elise. Beautiful, beautiful Elise! She didn't get wedged anywhere or overthrow anyone or try to escape. She mostly just sat patiently and looked pretty (until we tried to get a picture of all the kids--see above).

Another good day that got us one day closer to Daddy's (and Uncle's) return!

Weekend Fun

These are pictures from our Weekend Without Daddy two weeks ago. Abe had gone up north for a Men's Retreat, so we tried to occupy ourselves in his absence.

On Friday, the kids and I met up with our friends Megan, Katie, and Alyssa for a park playdate. We went to a nearby elementary school and climbed on the hugest playset I have ever seen. The kids loved it!

All in all, the playdate was very successful--I couldn't believe how well the kids played together. As we expected, Judah and Alyssa needed a little more of our help, and Charis and Katie were fine on their own. It's a new era, folks: the "Plays Well With Others" era. I love it!

This photo is one of Judah and Alyssa trying to decide whether to go down the slide. Alyssa is almost ready, but Judah is still unsure.

But then Judah decided to take the plunge, as it were.

Check out the static!

Elsewhere, Charis and Katie hung out on the stepping stones. 'Cuz maybe they're too cool for slides. I mean, they are 3. They'd much rather hang out and chat about important stuff like potty training and fruit snacks. And which Dora episode is the best.

Incidentally, all four kids are so close in age that a mere 10 weeks combined separate their birthdays. Isn't that wild?

Here's a photo of Charis channeling Spiderman. She would be a dead ringer for the superhero himself, were it not for the blond hair and death grip on the net. Those things aside, though, I think it's a pretty close likeness.
And here's the money shot: kids playing in mud. Not that all four kids got muddy, mind you; no, no, only mine. The other two little girls stayed clean and neat, while mine wandered into the parking lot and smeared mud on the clean BMWs. Learn 'em early, I say!

Thanks, Megan, Katie, and Alyssa, for a fun Friday!

19 October 2007

Ah, There It Is

One of Charis' most oft-requested foods these days is bagels with cream cheese. I've always said that, for me, bagels are merely the conveyance by which the cream cheese finds its way to my mouth, but Charis takes this to another level, often eating all of the cream cheese off of the top of the bagel and leaving the bagel shell behind. As you can guess, then, we go through cream cheese quite quickly.

I had just purchased a block of cream cheese last Monday and hurriedly stashed it in the fridge in an unusual spot. Even at the time, I knew that would cause frustration later when I looked for the cream cheese in its normal spot and could not find it. Little did I know . . .

Charis and Judah share a room, as you probably remember. I've safety-pinned a bedspread up around the crib's perimeter in an attempt to block the kids from seeing each other, and to give Judah his own dark space to be. The side effect of this is that the bottom of his crib is, in effect, skirted, hidden from view. Well, one of my frustrations has come during nap time, when Charis has developed a fondness for waking her brother up by climbing under his crib and kicking his mattress. She KNOWS that this is naughty, but she's 3, so of course, she persists. On Monday afternoon, the children refused to nap, and I went upstairs to find that Charis was again hiding under Judah's crib, apparently up to no good. I ordered her out, and she came out sheepishly, of course, and crawled back into her bed.

On Tuesday morning, Charis requested bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. I retrieved the bagels and opened the fridge to look for the cream cheese, and could find it nowhere. This is why I should have put it in its normal place to begin with, I chided myself. I looked and looked, to no avail, and eventually gave up the search, completely flummoxed.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, right before bedtime, when I was searching for Judah's bear. (Bear had been missing for quite some time, and is, in fact, still missing. If you have any knowledge of his whereabouts, please contact me.) Oh, I thought, maybe Judah lost Bear under the crib! So, as best I could, I wriggled under the crib. I did not find Bear, but what I did find astonished me:

A butter knife. And a half-eaten block of cream cheese.

So when Charis was hiding under Judah's bed, she was actually just enjoying an afternoon snack.

I promptly threw the cream cheese away, and I haven't purchased any since.

In Which I've Learned My Lesson

It started out innocently enough. Charis and I were playing on my bed. She wanted to play "Three Rides." I don't know what this means, exactly, except that one of the rides is called "Steering Wheel." (For a while, I thought she was saying "cereal," and that made even less sense.) So there we were, playing "Steering Wheel," and Judah was playing by himself--impressive, for an 19 month-old child--and being very quiet about it. Still, he popped his head in now and again, so things seemed fine.

Really, they did.

Several minutes later, I was changing Judah when I noticed that his arms were quite sticky. I still didn't think much of it, since we had had waffles for breakfast, so his stickiness was to be expected, sort of. It seemed a bit excessive, but I was not concerned.

But it all became crystal clear when I went into the kitchen to get a snack for the kids, and found this:

You will have to use your imagination to picture the floor, for two reasons: 1) I had not vacuumed, so the floor was quite crumby, and it didn't make much sense for me to sweep up the crumbs and then take a picture of the syrup slick, as if my floor is always spotless and crumb-free, and 2) My kitchen floor is carpeted, so it was an incredibly ugly mess. Really, who carpets a kitchen? I know several people who have carpet in their kitchen, and they must be much neater than I am to want to keep said carpet. I cannot count the times I've accidentally dribbled raw chicken juice or bacon grease across the carpet and flipped out because there was no way to properly clean and sanitize without renting a carpet cleaner when, if the floor had only been a hard surface like it's supposed to be, I could have wiped it up with some soap and water and spritzed a bit of antibacterial spray and called it clean. INSTEAD, my carpet is filthy, irreversibly filthy. And if we weren't going to rip it out in just a short while anyway and replace it with beautiful hardwood floors, I would have pulled it up then and there after the mess this morning, because that, my friends, is called The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back.

But I digress.

It took me forever to clean up the syrup puddle this morning because (in case you did not know this) paper towels don't really absorb syrup, they just sort of push it around. Stupid Bounty.

And after that, I would like to say "The End," except that the moral to the story is that I really had it coming to me. Abe's parents sell real maple syrup, and while I grew up on "Pancake Syrup" a la Log Cabin and thought I'd never like real maple syrup, I have grown quite accustomed to having a free and never ending supply of the real stuff in our house. Except that our supply did run out last week, and the kids had been asking for waffles (Judah can actually say waffle now), so I caved and bought a bottle of the fake stuff. And I'm not totally exaggerating (well, maybe a little) when I tell you that Abe, who grew up not only eating real maple syrup but also tapping the trees to get it, was APPALLED that I would even bring the fake stuff into the house. So I guess this is just karma getting back at me for buying the maple-flavored corn syrup in the first place. Sigh.

17 October 2007

Why My Sister-In-Law is My Hero

. . . She gave birth to a big, healthy baby boy at 10:44 this evening, after an HOUR of pushing and FORTY-EIGHT HOURS of labor. She will now sleep for a month. Oh, wait . . .

Congrats, Steve and Katie!!!!! We can't wait to meet little Levi!

I'm Pretty, Mama!

This morning, I was being so efficient: the kids had had breakfast, I'd already prepared my lunch, and by 9:30, I had dinner ready to go, too. I'm so good!!!!

But your kids will always remind you not to be proud, won't they?

Charis came into the kitchen where I was working and said, "Look, Mama! I'm so pretty!" I looked down to see my precious, fair-skinned little girl covered in black marker--on her face, her legs, her hands--she had given herself black circles of "rouge" and had "painted" her fingernails black.

Here's the thing: we don't have any black markers, except for the ones Abe uses at work....uh-oh.

"Where did you get that marker?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I just found it."

I groaned, knowing exactly which marker she had found. "Bring me the marker," I said. Sure enough, it was, as I feared, a Sharpie. You know the kind: permanent. Tonight is Gopher Buddies! She can't go to Gopher Buddies covered in permanent black marker!

Thank goodness for the internet. I had scrubbed at the tattoos with soap and water to no avail and was growing increasingly more worried, but found a suggestion online to use facial astringent. It worked like a charm!

(And that girl will never ever have a pimple.)

11 October 2007

I Just Want to Testify

With some gentle prodding from my friend Ellen, I have decided to post today. I had already planned to anyway, but Ellen's subtle reminder ("UPDATE!!!") helped me get on the ball. Well, Ellen, the post you're about to get may be more than you bargained for.

It has been an interesting two weeks. Three? Whatever.

It all began a few months ago at our Christmas Concert Planning Committee meeting. I attend a pretty large church (not one of those multiple-thousand-members mega churches, but over 1000--large enough to be one of the largest churches in the area), and for a few years, they've been asking me to be a part of this 12-person committee, which was organized to plan what is our largest outreach event of the year. I have no idea why I was asked in the first place, but I've always suspected it was for comic relief; I seldom have anything to add except a snarky comment or a joke. At any rate, they keep asking me to come, so either I'm pretty funny, or I have more to add than I thought.

This year, they asked me to be a part of the writing sub-committee. Generally speaking, we as a church do not do purchased cantatas or programs, so every year's script is an original, and always written by a member of our church body. I was fully expecting that I'd serve in an advisory capacity on this one, it being my first year on the sub-committee, but imagine my surprise when I learned that I'd been nominated to write the whole shebang by myself.


I like to write--love it, in fact--but this seemed a bit huge. What business did I have writing the drama script for this annual concert, which is always amazing and profound and impactful? Snarky jokes do not an outreach make, nor do stories of my children's potty songs or recipes. But I had been asked, and I couldn't say no. Besides, we already had the whole layout of the concert in place, and the general idea for the drama was there, so how hard could it be?

So right away, I sat down with the music for the concert and highlighted the inspirational keywords. I identified the themes in each section to determine what I needed to cover in each drama break. I listened to the songs over and over, having myself a merry little Christmas in September.

And when I really needed to get down to business and start writing, I . . . checked out every commentary on Matthew and Luke and took as many historical and theological notes as I could. I filled pages and pages.

And when I really, really needed to get down to business and start writing, already, I . . . checked out some more commentaries and Bible dictionaries and concordances and took some more notes. Because as long as I was adding to my research, I didn't have to face the fact that at some point, the studying needed to stop, and the actual composition needed to begin.

I encountered two problems, though: 1) I was still thoroughly convinced that I didn't have the talent or the wisdom to write something that would be interesting AND lead people to Jesus, and 2) My kids would not nap, so I had no time to just sit down and write. To be honest, my heart has been heavy these past few weeks, and I've felt absolutely weighed down by this responsibility. Afraid of it, in a way. And every time I thought about writing this drama, I cried--I felt sort of worthless, useless. Scared. And my deadline, October 15th, was looming large.

I didn't think about Satan's influence until I was approached by a wonderful woman at our church named Joni. She helps lead the kids' choir, and has written the Christmas Concert in the past, and is also a part of the sub-committee. She shared with me that she had realized that Satan will do his best to thwart the things you're doing for God, and said that she had experienced that firsthand while she was writing the script a few years ago. "So I'm going to be praying for you as you write, that Satan wouldn't be able to touch you!" I should have known that my fear was founded in Satan's lies; 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Of course my fear wasn't from God, so it could only have come from one other place.

I'd like to report that Satan was bound and that things got better right away, but that wouldn't be accurate. In fact, after that moment, I became acutely aware of Satan's power, and I was dismayed that, even though my confidence was ebbing back (due in part to a very timely blog post by Beth Moore), Satan still had a very powerful tool at his disposal; I'm sorry to have to tell you that it was my kids. All of a sudden, when it was crunch time, the time I so desperately needed them to take nice, long naps so I could focus on the Word of God and write the Good News, they wouldn't sleep a lick. Another writing friend and sub-committee member, Debbie, told me she would pray specifically that my children would take naps. I wanted to call her and tell her she wasn't praying hard enough. I actually had a veritable army praying for me--Mia, the Worship Coordinator, Mark, the Vocal Music director, and Jon, the Woship Leader. Then there was my choir Care Group. And my Sunday School class. And throngs of friends and family, all praying. It should all have gone smoothly, right?

This past Monday was the breaking point: the kids took only 30 minutes of a nap in the morning, due to the fact that Charis had never actually fallen asleep and wasn't about to let her brother rest, either. The kids got up, and I took them onto the addition to run around, where I promptly stepped on a rusty nail that went through my foot. I obsessed about the possibility of lockjaw for hours, until it was time to try another nap for the kids. Surely, they'll sleep--they're exhausted! I reasoned. Wrong again. Judah screamed and screamed, and Charis just sang and played with the curtains. I tried in vain to write while sitting on the stairs and periodically telling them to be quiet and rest. I was not successful in the least. It was while I was rocking Judah in an attempt to calm him several long minutes later that I had a breakthrough. I was rocking and praying, rocking and crying, and praying some more, when all of a sudden, God gave me these words:

Come, I'll show you.

I cannot tell you what an incredible moment this was: in that instant, not only did I have the assurance that God was literally telling me that he was about to show me what to write, I had the complete idea for how I was to write it. I knew exactly what my main character had to do and say. God is a wonderful multi-tasker with the best grasp on language: only He could take three words and a contraction and make it into a complete drama.

I still faced the hurdle of Time: Abe had softball that night, which meant more kid-filled hours, and they never did take that nap in the afternoon. So even though I knew what I was supposed to write, I didn't have the time to do it. And then God gave me a 5-gallon bucket and a hose. I filled the bucket with water and lugged it back to the sandbox, where the kids entertained themselves for 40 minutes and I was able to make some decent headway on my writing. Thank you, God, for that bucket.

That night, after a very encouraging conversation with Debbie after the kids had gone to sleep (finally!), I sat down to write. Words poured out of me, and I don't think I have to tell you that I had very little to do with them: it was all God. I wrote until 12:30 that night, accomplishing nearly half of the script. Praise the Lord!

The next day, I was as desperate for the kids to take a good nap as ever: I was in a groove and wanted to keep writing before I lost it. On Sunday night, I'd casually mentioned to Abe that we never had problems with nap time when Charis was still using a pacifier. Sadly, her paci days were over, and we'd tossed all of them. I thought about going and buying some new ones, just so I could write, but couldn't bring myself to do so. But that morning, the kids were snooping around in a bathroom cupboard, and while rooting through our travel toiletries kit, Charis found a necklace I'd been looking for. There's another necklace I'm missing, so I pulled out the kit to see if it, too, was hiding there. It wasn't, but there staring me in the face was the answer to a prayer I hadn't even thought about praying: a pacifier. A pacifier God had hidden from me so that I wouldn't toss it with the others months ago, hidden until the very moment that I needed it. God is a God of details. He is a God of promises. He is a God of pacifiers. Thank you, God, for pacifiers!

Minutes later, the kids were sound asleep. I was able to continue writing, and pounded out one more Act before I had to head off to be a substitute volleyball coach.

The next day, Abe's mom took the kids for the day, and I was able to finish the script. It was finished, and it was awesome.

Before you think I'm full of myself, let me clarify: it was only awesome because I really couldn't see much of myself in it: I had nothing until God showed me what to write. In fact, some parts I don't even recollect writing. God provided everything I needed to write that script--a bucket, a paci, even the words. I'm sure there will be edits to be made, things that I didn't, through my own humanity, get just right, but I'm confident that God will be glorified through this script, and through the music it accompanies. Praise the Lord!

Mia sent me Psalm 3 this morning, and just look how well it fits!

O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah.
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon Your people!

02 October 2007

Going Ape

When Charis was tiny, still eating foods that were pureed or mashed, her go-to food was bananas. I knew that if I absolutely needed her to eat, I could get a banana and a fork to mash it with, shovel the grey ooze into her mouth, and she'd be content. In later months, when she didn't need things mashed so thoroughly, Charis could plow through an entire banana in a matter of minutes. She loved them.

Naturally, I kept bananas on hand all the time, and when Judah came around, I found myself making trips to the store mid-week just to replenish our dwindled banana supply. He was almost--but not quite--as enamored of them as Charis had been. Plus, Abe had begun eating them for breakfast. Our compost heap was mostly made up of banana peels.

Then, inexplicably, the obsession stopped. I started having to stockpile overly-ripe bananas in the freezer for use in banana bread or banana pancakes. (I still have a fair amount available, if anyone out there needs a good loaf of banana bread.) Then I stopped buying them altogether--I figured, if we're not going to eat them, I'm not going to buy them.

So it has been a while since we've had a 'nana in the house. But this week, bananas were on sale--.29/lb! I figured I'd get some and just see how they went over. I mean, bananas are the perfect food, right? I'd be a fool not to supply my family with that kind of nutrition.

The craziness started last night, when, at 8 pm, Charis declared her tummy "not full enough" and begged--begged!--for a banana. Abe told her they were too green and that she'd have to wait for tomorrow. So this morning, Charis was more than ready for a banana treat, despite the fact that she'd already had half of a honeycrisp apple and half of a carambola. If you had been here, you would have thought I gave them pure sugar to eat.

Here's Judah, mouth full, banana in hand, banana peels nearby, doing his best monkey impression. And yes, he did get stung underneath his eye AGAIN last night. Seriously. I couldn't believe it when Abe told me. Do we need to get some sort of pith helmet/mosquito net apparatus for him???

And here's lovely Charis, striking a pose with her cheek stuffed full of banana. She's cute even when she's cramming food down her gullet.

So...I guess we're back on bananas.

26 September 2007

And the Hits Just Keep On Coming!

What is it with mosquitoes and my son?
You may recall that last week, Judah had a bonafide shiner as a result of a bug bite. The day after the first biting offense, he was bitten again in exactly the same spot.

Insult, here's some injury for you: last night, while we were playing in the sandbox, I noticed a mosquito sitting in EXACTLY that same spot on Judah's face--right by his eyeball. I brushed it away, but it was too late, because the damage was already done: yet another bite, yet another shiner. But this one has swelled so much that I think his vision is slightly obstructed. Seriously--short of rubbing bug spray directly into his eyes, I'm not sure what I can do to prevent the mosquitoes from snacking on my child.

On a slightly related note, this isn't the first time Judah has had lumpy eyes. Judah was born with two plugged tear ducts. We thought it looked a little funny the day he was born, but who wants to admit their child looks strange when they've only just met him? (This isn't the best picture, because it was his left duct that was the most plugged and, consequently, the most misshapen, but just note that his nose is not in the way of your seeing his left eye. It's the lump.) But the day after, when we asked the doctor about it, she confirmed the plugged duct theory. Apparently, it is quite common for this to happen, but Judah's case was a bit more severe--he actually had a little lump next to his eye, which is not normal. Our pediatrician referred us to an Ophthalmologist, who looked at it for about 10 seconds before referring us to an ocular plastic surgeon. He said that it was a plugged duct the likes of which he sees perhaps once every ten years. In a normal case, the doctor could probe (or lance, I guess)the plug, thereby freeing it--a simple procedure done in the office--but this lump was not normal. My fear was realized when the surgeon we had been referred to told us we'd have to operate. He immediately set up a date for my precious little boy to go under the knife--almost exactly three months after he was born. He'd respond better to the general anesthesia when he had a little more weight on him, they said.

In the meantime, they gave us some eye ointment to stave off infection, told us to wipe the ever-present goop from his eyes regularly, to use a damp cloth to ease off the crust when he woke in the morning, and to rub it. Rub the lump. Massage Judah's eyeball, in effect.

Like any mother would be, I was thorough and disciplined in what treatment I could give. I wiped goop with the best of 'em. I rubbed that kid's eye until I thought I might press it permanently into his skull. I knew that if this lump persisted into his adolescence and adulthood, we'd have some issues to help him work through, but we'd love him just the same. And even though his face was shaped a little funny, I still thought he was absolutely beautiful.

Then, one morning, it all changed.

Judah was up before Charis, as usual. I dampened a washcloth with warm water for my morning ritual of wiping and massage, but when I began to rub, I noticed that it felt different than normal. Something was different.

The lump was gone.

I looked and looked to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me, but it was true: the plug had apparently passed. And for the first time, I was looking at Judah and knowing what he looked like--for real. I would have loved the lumpy Judah every stitch as much had he remained lumpy, but seeing him lump-free took my breath away. He was the most beautiful little boy I had ever seen, more beautiful than I imagined he could be. Of course, I called Abe and all the grandmas and aunties and uncles to tell them the news. Here's a picture taken the day the lump went away:

What a stud.

Of course, now the mosquitoes have taken to munching on him, so we're back to lumpy Judah. But he's still the most beautiful little boy I have ever seen.

24 September 2007

She Even Takes Out Her Own Trash

I read this entry on Beth Moore's blog today, and thought I'd pass it on.

County Fair 2007

Last Friday, we went to the fair. In the past, we've headed out to our favorite fair after Abe has gotten home from work. This usually results in a very short evening and very cranky children. This year, we used the good sense God gave us, and Abe left work at noon so we could head out earlier. This minor adjustment made all the difference in the world. We didn't take the kids with us to the fair we went to last Friday, so this was their first this year. It was also the first year the kids were able to ride any rides. Combine that with the amount of time we spent in the animal barns and climbing on tractors, and this outing turned out to be a big success.

Here's a photo of Charis hiding from the magic show. Except at the time, it seemed more like some sort of stakeout or imminent Old West showdown. "You want to pull a foam ball out of my ear? I don't think so, pardner."

Likewise, here's Judah doing his best glare. Poor kid. When this picture was taken, his big sister was riding in a very fun fire engine ride. And he wasn't allowed on, on account of the fact he's so little. In fact, he spent a good portion of the day at the fair watching his sister ride things, like...

...the old-timey cars, which she drove while her friend Emily went for a ride. Two blondes in a car together? It's a good thing the car was on a track and required no actual driving on Charis' part. That could have been a disaster.

...the swings, which looked a lot more fun than they actually were. She liked it for the first 30 seconds, after which, every time she circled around, she'd say, "I'm done!" And it only cost us two dollars to let Charis ride this ride for a minute and a half. That's not a ripoff at all, I think we can all agree.
...and the pedal tractors. Which also looked like more fun than they actually were, since these mini-tractors had the turning radius of a mini-tank. Turning 90 degrees required a six-point turn, so mostly, we pushed the kids around and just lifted the thing when we needed to turn. needless to say, we will not be purchasing one of these any time soon. Here are the things Judah actually did get to ride:

...his stroller. Doesn't he look happy about that?

...big tractors. He really liked these. When we'd pass the tractor section, he'd invariably point toward them, purse his lips, and...

...make a noise that sounded something like "rmbrmbrmbmrbmrmbmrmb", which is, of course, his version of the sound a tractor makes. You know I couldn't resist putting this photo in, even though I know some of you will think his hair has a distinct Farrah Fawcett-like quality to it.

And finally, here's a shot of Judah inspecting a pumpkin. I was trying to get a cute shot of him while he was playing near a hay/mums/pumpkin display, and he's so cute, he actually drew a crowd. No, really. A crowd. I tried to get a photo of Charis, too, but she's 3 years old and is therefore in perpetual motion. All-but-gone are the days of cute closeups of her--she simply can't stand still long enough.

So there. County Fair 2007 is in the books. Did the kids consume too much cotton candy, pop, and grease? Almost certainly. Were they still whiney and out too late? You know it. Did they collect enough dirt and dust on their bodies to require sandblasting? Almost. But isn't that what the Fair is all about?