22 December 2008

Miscellaneous

Sad news: our digital camera may be dead. It has ceased to charge or be able to hold a charge, even though I bought a brand-new battery for it. So, until Santa brings us a new digital camera (and it may be a long time, because HELLO, bills), the only way I am able to snap pictures is if our camera is plugged into the wall. Unfortunately, because of this, we have missed out on a good many photo/video ops recently. Like, for instance:

  • When Charis and Judah were singing in the living room the other day. Charis was singing "It's the season to be Jelly." Judah was singing about rowing his boat "gently down the street."
  • When Charis, Judah and I decorated sugar cookie cutouts on an evening I've dubbed "Battle of the Sprinkles." We only decorated a dozen cookies, but we somehow used the contents of three bottles of sprinkles. Those gingerbread men were SPARKLY.
  • When Charis and Judah were sledding at Grandpa and Yia Yia's. Charis had on a skirt and tights, but she was having the time of her life. I guess frostbite isn't that big of a concern when you're 4.
  • When Ruby had her first bites of food. I only had peaches on hand, so that's what she started with. I thought she'd be a big fan. Turns out she wasn't.
  • When we went to pick our our Christmas tree. I made matching fleece hats for Charis, Ruby, and me, so we looked too cute for words. But with no picture to prove it, you'll just have to take my word for it. I did not make matching hats for Abe and Judah because they are too manly for that sort of frou-frou stuff. This was the first year we've actually been prepared with cold-weather gear for all of the kids. It's a big step for us!
  • When the kids "helped" me "decorate" the tree. It looked great, if your idea of great is six plastic snowflakes hanging on two branches.
  • When we were all dressed up and looking fabulous for Abe's cousin's wedding. Ruby was wearing a precious red velveteen dress, Judah had on a button-down shirt under a sweater vest like a Gap Kids model, and Charis was wearing a black, white and red Christmas dress with feathery cuffs and a flouncy, tulle-y skirt. Our outfits were immortalized in the family picture, but since we were five people out of thirty or so, and since we were in the back, I'm thinking they won't show up super well.
  • When we went with Tim and Beth, Gideon and Elise, and Moriah to the Festival of Lights Riverwalk. There were lots of photo-worthy moments, like the 12 Days of Christmas done in lights, with Tony the Tiger holding the 5 golden rings. Or the kids staring at the accordion-playing Santa in the warming house, or nearly mauling the talking Christmas tree. But the thing I would most have liked to capture on film was the moment that Abe and I stepped out of the van and realized that neither one of us had grabbed the big kids' coats. We had outfitted them in snowpants, boots, and mittens and hats, so they weren't completely without weather protection, but with no jackets, they were ill-suited (quite literally, it seems) to walk out in the snow. I shed my bulky sweatshirt and scarf and bundled Charis, and Abe donated his wind-breaking jacket to wrap up Judah, then we tucked them into a wagon with every towel and blanket we had (except for the blanket that Abe then used to try to keep himself warm). Of course, Charis wanted to walk rather than ride in the toasty warm wagon, and of course, she ended up getting a bit chilly tramping through the knee-deep snow, so I gave her my down jacket and took back my (now soggy) sweatshirt and scarf. Thankfully, throughout the ordeal, Ruby stayed toasty in her cozy layers and snowsuit. Still, despite the outwear mishap, it was a very fun evening, an event which I hope will become a family tradition. Though next year, I hope we have a camera to bring with us.
  • When, in a few days, I try to get photos of Ruby's first Christmas with an extension cord trailing behind me. She's so cute, I can't bear the thought of missing out on pictures of her, but it does feel a bit hoopty having to take pictures so close to electrical outlets. If anyone from Canon or Nikon or Kodak or Sony or, well, any digital camera manufacturer is reading this and wants to surprise this young family with a free camera, we'd be forever grateful.
I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas!

24 November 2008

My Girl Is So Big

Last night, we crossed some sort of line--a Charis-Is-Getting-Old line.

This fall, she began taking part in Wee Praisers, a kids' choir for 4 and 5 year-olds. Since she's not doing any sort of organized preschool beyond what we do at home with games and worksheets and projects and stuff, I've been trying to give her ample opportunity to learn how to "do" school--namely, the Sitting Still part and the Following Instructions part. Besides the obvious outlets like Library Storytime, she does several hours of Sunday School every Sunday morning, Gopher Buddies on Wednesday nights (where I am her teacher--but that's fodder for another post), and Wee Praisers on Sunday nights. I love her teacher, Mrs. Marcia, and Charis is in Mallory D.'s group. She LOVES Mallory. On Wednesday nights, I'm able to watch how Charis interacts with others and with her teachers, and I can witness firsthand how she performs the Sitting Still and Following Instructions tasks (um...let's just call it a Work In Progress.). But with the other groups, I must observe from afar, asking questions of the teachers to better grasp Charis' status and development.

Our attendance at Wee Praisers has been a little bit spotty, so I wasn't sure how well Charis would do in the first Wee Praisers performance this past Sunday night, but I was really looking forward to catching a glimpse of what she'd been learning there. We rehearsed her script in the car on the way to church, and there were several parts that she didn't seem to know. I'd start: "Psalm 100. Shout for..."

And she'd answer: "JOY!"

"To the..."

"LORD!"

"All the..."

"EARTH!"

"Worship the..."

"SEA!"

"No, Lord. Worship the Lord with...."

"SINGING!"

"No, gladness...."

And so on and so on. I told her that if there was any part she did not know, she should just stand still and let the other children say it for her--I could almost picture her in the mini-concert, not knowing the words, tugging the sleeve of one of the helpers: "Mallory! I DON'T KNOW THIS ONE! WORSHIP THE SEA!"

We also talked about standing still and not running around the stage. Again, I watched a video of this in my head, and it seemed an all-too-likely possibility.

During the rehearsal before the "concert," I shot a whole bunch of not-very-good pictures to document the occasion. I was so proud that my little girl was old enough to be singing about how Jesus Loves her, how All Ye Little Children should Praise Him, because God is Love. I was thrilled that there were portions of Scripture that she could recite. I love it when she hides God's Word in her heart! My heart swelled. Oh, there were funny moments during the rehearsal, like when Mallory let Charis go to the bathroom and Charis returned with the front of her dress tucked into her tights. Charis crossed the entire stage before God and everybody until some kind soul noticed the wardrobe malfunction and helped her out. But all-in-all, it went very well. I was so excited to see the whole thing during the actual service.

I saved a front-row seat for Abe and I to occupy, the closest I could get to my little girl acting so grown up. Abe asked if I really thought it was a good idea to be where she could see us. He was watching a mental video where she jumped off the stage to come say hi and talked to us during all of the songs: "Daddy! I worship the SEA!"

When she came out onto the stage, she of course waved. She was being so grown-up, so ladylike! Then the boy next to her lifted his shirt, exposing his belly. Uh-oh. We hadn't covered this in the car. Abe and I exchanged anxious glances. We knew it was only a matter of time until she did this:

That's our girl. She did not disappoint.

At one point, during a particularly long portion of Scripture--or maybe it was during the Doxology, which she didn't know (we were probably gone the week they learned that one)--she went and stood behind the girl to her right, much to Mallory's consternation. Charis considered it a game, and I considered crawling under the pew in shame. Not really. It's all pretty funny when you're dealing with 4 year olds.

But for me, the absolute highlight came at the end of the Wee Praisers' rendition of "My God is so BIG."



Where did she learn that?? Yes, Charis. Take your bow, little girl. What a joy you are to watch grow!

10 November 2008

You Were There

Like everybody, I have good days and I have bad days. On bad days, I listen to this song, and it is one reminder that I am never walking through life alone. My friend Sue sang this at church a long time ago, and I cried when she sang it. I still cry every time I hear it. Here are the lyrics--I hope they speak to your heart today.

You Were There (by Avalon)

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

'Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger's snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

'Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven't I learned that my ways
Aren't as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history's darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David's swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

08 November 2008

Rubaby

Dear, sweet Ruby. I haven't posted pictures of her for a while, so I thought it was high time I gave you an update on her.

A) She's a delight. She's so easy going, it's amazing! Sure, she cries when she's tired or frustrated, but since we keep so a fairly consistent routine, I can usually anticipate her needs before she can, thus avoiding a lot of tears.

2) She will not have blue eyes. The jury is still out on whether they will be green or brown, but I'm almost positive they will end up on the brown side of the spectrum.

III) She has words. My favorite is "ugrb," followed by "eeek."

F) She cackles in delight. Just a few days ago, I let out a big breath--HUH--and she thought it was almost as funny as the cat.

5) She is teething. It may be a while before we see evidence, but the drool and the incessant gnawing is proof enough. Charis, who, by the calendar, was born four days earlier, sprouted her first tooth on Thanksgiving day, and Judah's first popped out two weeks earlier than that, so it's time!

F) She sucks her thumb. At first, she'd get her thumb in her mouth with an open hand that would cover her face. Now, she's more experienced, and she hooks her pointer finger over her nose like a pro.

vi) She is so smiley. It makes some people feel special that they can "get her to smile," but I'm here to tell you that it's no mean feat. Toast can make her smile.

M) She's rolling from tummy to back, and she can scoot quite a ways with her legs, so we have to be very careful if we put her on a bed--we surround her with a barricade of pillows, and even then, she sometimes sneaks through!

45) She's fascinated by books. I'll sit her in my lap when I read to Charis or Judah, and she sits there, mesmerized by the pictures. Hopefully, she'll be a reader!

?) She's tall for our family--at her 4-month check up, she measured in the 60th percentile for height, and the 50th for weight. She's currently perfect in most of her 3-6 month clothes, but some are a bit snug at the feet.

[) She's just about the most popular person everywhere we go. There's just something about a cute, smooshy baby.

Case in point:





Several weeks ago, we attended the wedding of Abe's cousin. My parents came in for the event, too--not to attend, but to hang out with our kids while we went. The wedding ceremony was outdoors at the bride's parents' house, but the reception, several hours later, was held at the Country Club. Still, since she doesn't take a bottle, I couldn't NOT take Ruby, so she tagged along to the fancy reception.

The bride, Abby? She is a BIG Ruby fan. Huge. She came over several times during the reception to hold Ruby, and I wasn't about to turn her down, it being her day and all. Thankfully, Ruby didn't urp on her lovely shoulder or dress.

But then, people started clinking their glasses. Abby and Doug had been at far ends of the room, and convened near the head table for the customary kiss...only, she brought a friend. Ruby. I'd say that, with the exception of the HILARIOUS toast given by one of the "bridesmaids" (he was a guy, and not only did he use the word "bedazzled" in his speech, he also sang a ditty from The Music Man. We were in tears with laughter), this moment was about the highlight of the reception. The bride and groom say that they want to wait before they introduce children into their family, but I'm not so sure.








But make no mistake: while others may borrow her, she belongs to us! And we're not giving her up!

03 November 2008

Who Is This Girl?

Another entry from the "Where'd That Come From" file:

Judah's nightlight came up missing tonight. We had speculated about where it might be, we had looked under the bed, we had looked in toy boxes and in every nook and cranny we could think of, when finally, Charis had the answer.

"Oh, I know who took it," she said knowingly. "It was those three monsters. You know, the ones that talk to me?"

We apparently looked concerned, so she assured us that "They are nice monsters." She nodded for effect.

I asked what their names were. "Oh, Hone, Shon, and Pong. They're really nice."

I'm not making this up, but I think she is...

In Some Countries, It's a Delicacy

Charis was keeping Ruby company while I put Judah down for a nap. From downstairs, I heard her say, "Ruby just urped, and I need a burp rag!"

"Okay, sweetie. I'll be right there," I replied, not sensing any urgency in her voice. "We'll get you cleaned up and put a new shirt on."

"No, mom!" She scampered up the stairs, giggling. "She urped right in my MOUTH! And I didn't like how it tasted! I didn't like it at all!"

I suspect that's an understatement.

When we were back downstairs, she looked over at her baby sister and said in a very motherly tone, "Try not to do that again, Roo."

28 October 2008

Wrench Monkey

This summer, I was definitely on a grilling kick. You name it, I grilled it. The upshot is that our grill is stored in our garage, so every time I wanted to grill, I had to open the garage door. Now, to Judah, going through the garage door is like entering the magical world of Narnia; so many shiny things to touch, an alternate reality to imagine. He is drawn to Abe's tools, many of which took up residence on a makeshift table in the garage this summer. So when the magical world opened, Judah was the first one on the scene, fiddling about with socket wrenches and all sorts of tools whose names I do not know. For all I know, they could be called things like, "Blue-handled pointy thing" and "Round-ish flat metal Thingamabob" or "Screwdriver." Judah simply doesn't care what they're called. He just knows that he sees his daddy use them all the time to fix things, and he wants to be exactly like daddy. On one particular day this summer, when I was smoking ribs and chicken and making a hundred return trips to the grill to adjust vents, add wood, and brush on sauce, Judah tagged along just so he could "fix" a spare tire that sat near the grill. In the photo above, he's helping dad work on the brakes, I think. I know Abe loves that Judah takes an active interest in such things, and he's only mildly annoyed when essential nuts and bolts come up missing.
Judah loves daddy. Daddy loves Judah.

27 October 2008

Pictures of Things to Come

See this girl? That's me, sometime in the early eighties. I don't think about this girl very often, mostly because my recall is not very strong. I don't remember a whole lot of specifics about my childhood--I remember in snapshots, not stories, and consequently, the tales I have to tell to my kids about my youth are few. The magical thing about memory, though, is that even if it can't be called up in an instant, that doesn't mean it's not there; a scent, a look, a song all trigger memories hidden deep in the dusty, cobwebbed recesses, and suddenly, they all come rushing back, fresh. Take this photo, for instance. This was taken in my grandfather's house. And that cat there is my first cat, Karen. There's only one reason Karen would have been at my grandfather's house, and that's if this picture was taken the day I made Karen mine and we took her over to meet the family. That means this picture was taken in the late summer of the year when I was six. I remember nothing more about the day, but suddenly, looking at this photo gives me some lines to color in. I will tell Charis the story about The Day Mommy Got Her First Cat, and even though many of the details will be recently-concocted embellishments, I know the framework will be true. (P.S. Judah looks JUST like me. This picture is further proof.)

One of the things I do remember about my childhood is that I loved to read. I have always loved to read. As a child, I would save up my pennies to buy books, and then I'd rush home, lay in my room, and read them cover-to-cover, then get antsy for the next book. I'm still this way; when I've finished a book, I'm immediately on to the next one. I don't like gaps of time where I have no books in progress, but these days, when I'm a little bit out-of-touch with modern fiction and take a little longer to finish a book, I am frequently at a loss for where to go next. So I have this friend, Beth, who was an English major with me, and I ask her what she's reading, and she tells me. And then I go to the library and check it out and read it. This always works out very well. Her most recent recommendation was to read L.M. Montgomery, who wrote the Anne of Green Gables books. I had all but forgotten about these, it's been so long since I've read them, so I was eager to dive in and re-imagine life on Prince Edward Island. I was immediately struck by Anne's imagination--it was a short leap for her to paint elaborate pictures of romances and pirates and fortunes made and lost. I found myself jealous. Oh, I'd love to write books and stories, even if they're only for my kids, but DOGGONE IT, I always feel like my imagination is in neutral. I wish I could conjure up pirates and fairies like Anne Shirley could.

But just today, I uploaded this picture, and even though it is a photo of my daughter, I saw in it a snapshot of myself.

See that look in her eye? She's just sitting in a mini-train at the fair, waiting to take a two-minute spin around a 1/32-mile track. But she's there with her cousins and her brother, and she sort of looks like she's waving at us, and you can almost her the gears turning in her head, spinning a tale of her adventure to come: Farewell, dear parents. We're off on a grand adventure! Of course, some girls would be scared to be on their own at such a young age, and put in charge of three other kids on an excursion like this, especially since there is all probablility that our train will derail somewhere in the Alps and we will be the only survivors, lost and on our own. But I am brave and smart and strong, and I will protect us from the kidnappers that will inevitably try to take us. We will hide under tarps and behind doors to escape their grasp. And when we get hungry, I will beg for food if I must, but we will be well-fed. I will create a tasty new dish from the scraps I collect to feed us, and perhaps a passer-by will stop and sniff it and think it smells delicious and say that I should be a restaurant chef. And of course I will become one, because I have three other mouths to feed--and maybe more, because other wandering children might see my excellent, capable leadership skills and want to be protected and taken care of and join our gang. And wouldn't it be amazing if you saw a photo of me in the newspaper in the review of my restaurant that declares it "The BEST RESTAURANT EVER" and you realized at that moment that you knew I was always meant for greatness, and if you'd only known that when you sent me off on a train trip from which I would never return, you wouldn't have lain awake in bed all those years wondering where I was and if I was safe.

Or, you know, something like that.

So when I saw this picture and the wistful look in Charis' eye, I was immediately taken back to my childhood, where I would imagine scenarios probably not very different from the one I just described. In my young mind, every stranger was trying to steal me from my parents, my swingset was an Olympic apparatus where I always triumphed over the evil East Germans, the tree behind the garage was a hideaway and lookout from which I could see the neighbors' illegal actions, and I was a pro tennis player. If only I had written down all my ideas then; I would have material enough for a thousand books.

What I love about this photo is three-fold: first, I love it because it reminds me of a young myself; second, I love it because it shows a real depth of personality in my daughter; third, it suggests to me that even though we don't look a whole lot alike, my girl and I are not totally dissimilar after all. And even though I may do a thousand things wrong as a parent, maybe, just maybe, I can help her imagine pirates and fairies and dragons and princesses. Hopefully, her recall will be better than mine. And then she can write that bestseller and support me in my old age.

I was also scared of roller coasters. So, see? She's just like me.

24 October 2008

A Hundred for a Home

Whenever I leave the house, or whenever my kids leave me, I kiss them and hug them tight and tell them how much I love them. In an uncertain world, I know too well that it is not a promise that I will see them again. Losing my kids is one of my greatest fears in life.

Now imagine that you watched your children as they slipped away from you. This is the reality two college friends of mine, Matt and Shannon, face every day. Both of their children have Sanfilippo disease, a terminal and regressive disease which will cause their children to lose faculties and abilities until it finally takes their lives. Matt and Shannon have recently relocated to the US from London, where Matt worked. They are currently in a two-bedroom apartment, but are in need of a home. Some friends of theirs have started a project called A Hundred for a Home, where friends and strangers can go to contribute financially toward making a safe home for Matt and Shanon's kids, Waverly and Oliver, a reality. If you feel touched by their story and wish to help, you can do so at that site.

08 October 2008

You Heard It Here First

Our friend Jon, who is the Worship Leader at our church, wrote a simple and beautiful song, and I want you to check it out. It's called Mighty Jesus, and we use it our worship services at church. Follow this link, and select the tune Mighty Jesus from the list. Then listen, and enjoy, and you'll be glad you did.

(I suppose you can also follow this link directly to the song.)

03 October 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Last night, I saw Judah out of the corner of my eye, smacking Ruby's hand. "Naughty, Ruby! Naughty!" He said.

"Judah, what did Ruby do that was naughty?" I asked.

"Ruby play with the computer! Naughty!"

I wondered where all of my blog posts have been disappearing to. Naughty, Ruby! Naughty!

24 September 2008

Joy in the Journey

I wrote this piece some time ago and just found it this evening at the bottom of a mountainous stack of papers on my desk. Since it will probably be a while before I am able to write a decent post again, I thought I'd give it to you to mull over until then.

Years ago, before kids and a mortgage, my husband Abe and I decided to celebrate our anniversary with a trip out West. The plan was to fly to Portland, Oregon, meet up with some dear friends of ours, then drive down through California to Yosemite National Park. It was the first time I’d traveled to the West coast, and I was eager to see all that I could see. Indeed, we did see many awe-inspiring things that the Midwest, where I was born and raised, lacks.

One of the highlights of our trip (or lowlights, depending on your view of it) was a day excursion our friend, Tim, took us on. Tim is a very fit fellow. He hikes. He’s trim and athletic. My husband had hiked with him extensively in the past, but I confess that I am not much of a hiker—scratch that, I’m not really a hiker at all—so since our marriage, Abe has done little in the way of camping or trekking anything steeper than the nearby bike path. Suffice it to say, we were not at our prime physical peak when Tim suggested we “hike” Mount St. Helens. But again, Abe had been an accomplished outdoorsman, and I am moderately athletic, so we figured Tim had considered our physical limitations and planned accordingly.

Apparently, Tim has a different perception of what is exactly in our comfort zone. The hike up the mountain was far more than we had anticipated—no trouble for Tim, slightly more trouble for Abe, and a whole lot of trouble for me. Oh, it started out easily enough, similar to a challenging trail in a local park, but once we got up past the timber line, things became substantially more difficult. Instead of treading the well-worn trails we’d traversed from the parking lot, we were pulling ourselves up over vertical miles of sharp volcanic rock. It was physically demanding, the day was hot and humid, Tim was climbing full-speed ahead, and I was worn out.

I was mad, frankly, that we’d followed him trustingly into this outing, believing it would be a fun adventure, when in reality, it turned out to be just a lot of work. There were lots of shops and tourist traps I’d rather visit, I concluded, than some treacherous mountain. It was a mountain, for pete’s sake! The only good I could see of it was that we’d come after the volcano had erupted. That meant less mountain to climb.

Sad to say, I did not keep any of these negative comments to myself. No, I was vocal about my discomfort and displeasure, and spoke it loud enough for anyone to hear. You’ve never heard anyone whine the way I did that day. My husband, the lapsed hiker, confided in me that this was the hardest hike he’d ever done in his life, and that if he’d known how difficult the climb would be, he would have suggested to Tim that a different activity might be better, or at the very least, he would have suggested that I stay home. But Abe hadn’t known. So there we were, stuck on what I called “this stupid, stupid mountain,” with seemingly no end in sight.

I whined for hours. Literally. I complained about thirst. Fatigue. Aches and pains. Heat. But still we climbed, higher and higher. I knew that we’d better get to the top to make the trip redeemable in any way, but I was doing my very best not to like it.

Finally, after hours of scrambling over craggy rock and trudging the steep incline of unforgiving, unrelenting volcanic ash, we reached the top. Suddenly, as I looked down into the vast crater at the center of the mountain and out over miles and miles of lush, mountainous terrain, it all seemed worth it. Peering over so much of God’s miraculous and beautiful creation, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep from smiling. I was no longer thirsty or tired; instead, I was renewed and energized. We snapped pictures, savored the moment, felt kinship with our fellow climbers, and chiseled the images into our memories. There was not a complaint or whine to be heard from anyone, even me.

The way down was every bit as difficult, if not more so, and I am embarrassed to admit that I complained about that as well. I was bitter when my husband and Tim went on ahead of me and I lagged behind. I completely forgot about the high I’d felt at the summit. I was back in the whiny pit of despair, firmly planted there until the hike was over.

On the drive back to our friends’ house, though, the arduous trek behind me, I felt exhilarated. I knew this would be a great experience to reflect upon in the years to come, a wonderful story to tell, and an accomplishment I’d savor. Only one thing marred it: the fact that I’d been so whiny and baby-ish the whole time. I wished that I had kept silent about my frustrations and forged ahead bravely. I felt as if I didn’t deserve to have accomplished the summit because my attitude had been so poor. I wanted to do it all over again, but without the complaining spirit.

I knew this experience at Mount St. Helens had to be a metaphor for some other part of life, but at the time, I was not sure what. It is only years later, as I’m now chasing after kids, trying in vain to keep up with laundry, dishes, and bills, trying to stretch every dollar, and struggling to update our “fixer-upper” home, that I see it. So many days, I look at the things around me that I am charged to maintain, and I feel overwhelmed and tired. I resent being stuck in an uphill climb and long for the day when the path shallows and the way gets easier. I think that if someone had told me just how difficult the journey would be, I would have skipped it and gone to some nice shops instead. I spend those days bitter and complaining. Those are dark days.

But the St. Helens climb has a lot to say about living. God has put things in our lives—obstacles, it sometimes seems—for us to conquer and maintain, things like mortgages, families, ministries, and work. So often, we come to resent them for what they become—labor—and miss the joys they bring to our lives as well. We complain and whine about them, thinking instead of how our life could be easier or better. We miss altogether the fact that God has given these things to us as blessings. Is marriage a struggle? Perhaps. But your spouse is God’s gift to you. Do children manage to make us crazy? Occasionally. But children are a blessing. Does your home seem to be crumbling around you? It seems like it sometimes. But it is God’s provision for us.

The point is, we sometimes spend so much time complaining about God’s blessings, we miss the wonderful and miraculous view of his creation and provision. We don’t see the awe-inspiring view of life and its design, we only see our tired feet and aching backs. When we get to heaven, do we want to remember how our complaining and bitterness tarnished the experience? Or do we want to have shouldered on, thankful that God gave us the opportunity to make such an amazing climb? Do we want to be ashamed of our attitude and approach to life in the face of God’s limitless grace and blessing, or do we want to have been appreciative and fruitful? Perhaps instead of resenting the journey, we should seek to find joy in it.

20 September 2008

The Sun is Shining

Last night, Ruby slept through the night! Yep. I couldn't believe it myself. When Charis slept through for the first time, I thought (I'm not even kidding) she had died. Nearly hysterical, I went next door to her room to make sure she was still breathing. She was. Now, four years and two children later, sleeping through the night is cause for much rejoicing. I put Ruby down at about 10:30, she woke up at 7:30 to eat, and went back to sleep for another couple of hours. She still sleeps in bed with us, even though she is (as of today) 3 months old. I think that the fact that she is likely our last child has me cherishing this cuddly baby time more than usual. None of our other kids stayed in bed with us so long, but I am still not quite ready to let her go. Cuddling with her at night is one of my great joys.

You'd think I felt well-rested after Ruby's big feat; unfortunately, this is not so. I chalk it up to eating far too much fair food yesterday, but I woke up at about 2:30 with a horrible nightmare about Charis. It was heading in such an awful direction that I woke up from it, knowing it was a nightmare, but needing to see the reality for myself. I went up to Charis' room, crawled into bed with her and stroked her hair for a few minutes, just to reassure myself that everything as okay. I was glad to be there; I was able to witness her laughing in her sleep and saying, "It has such a big tongue!" (We had just been through a thousand animal barns that day, so she could have been talking about anything!) When I had woken up enough to replace the horrible dream images with real-life healthy sleeping child images, I went back to bed.

Just a few minutes later, though, I heard Charis at the top of the stairs. Apparently her sweet dream about funny, long-tongued animals had taken an unfortunate turn, and it scared her awake. I took her into the new room and we cuddled together for another few minutes, praying that God would take away the yucky dreams and replace them with pretty ones. Then she asked me if I would please go back to my bed. She shuffled off to hers, but not before pausing at her door and saying, "Have sweet dreams, Mama! I will pray for you!"

I did have sweet dreams, thanks to her prayers and a dose of Rolaids. When I woke at 7:30, I did the math and realized that Ruby had slept for 9 consecutive hours, which I woke Abe to tell him. At that moment, he was probably not quite as excited as I was. Hopefully, though, we've turned a corner, and this sleeping will become a habit!

And hopefully the nightmares will not.

17 September 2008

When the Roll is Called For Up Yonder

Judah and I took Ruby up to the pack-n-play for a nap just now, and as is so often the case, she didn't agree with the decision. I covered her with a light blanket because--wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles--it's actually getting a little bit cool, and she didn't like that, either, so she cried. In fact, she got so emotional over the whole thing that in the midst of her squirming, she actually turned herself from her tummy (so sue me, she's a tummy sleeper--all of my kids were) to her back. I knew it was about to happen and I became her one-mommy cheering section: "You can do it.....almost there! Keep it up!" And she did. Judah and I cheered, although I'm sure he had no idea why it was such a big deal.

I came right down to document the event in Ye Olde Blog, and midway through that first paragraph, I heard Ruby's crying intensify. I remember that when Judah was so little, he'd flip over and get stuck like a little turtle, and this really stressed him out. I suspected that this might be the case with Ruby ("Now she rolls over all the time! She can't help herself!"), so I ran up to check. It turned out that she hadn't rolled over again, but was in fact upset because her big, hulking brother had climbed into the pack-n-play with her. Too much closeness for her, I guess.

I must end this here because I think Big Brother may be up to his old tricks again, and Charis is begging for pretzels.

09 September 2008

Charis is Four

...and I have the photos to prove it. It had been a while since I'd sent any pictures to the grandparents or aunties and uncles, so I thought it was high time. I'm not a studio-portrait kind of girl, mostly because the idea of wrangling my kids to a professional studio is completely overwhelming to me. It does NOT sound like fun. What is fun to me, however, is doing photo shoots in the comfort of our backyard; we can change outfits if we want, the kids behave naturally in their element, and we've got a couple of acres to choose from, so it's never boring. Sometimes the pictures turn out quite well, sometimes they look amateurish. It's part of the challenge.

Miss Charis is especially difficult to shoot because she has an overly-dramatic mind of her own. Tell her to smile, and she'll likely frown. Tell her to look at you, she'll likely look away. And if it's not that kind of uncooperation (is that a word?), it's the kind where she wants to take the picture instead of being in it. Photo shoots with her haven't produced the best pictures lately.

But the other day, I noticed Kodak Gallery was running a Labor Day special with 4x6 prints going for a mere $.10, so I gussied Charis up just a little little bit (though, in retrospect, it is somewhat strange she's not wearing a dress, since they're her favorite), (And, come to think of it, the gussying consisted mainly of brushing her hair) and took her to an"open shade" area to snap some cheap photos. I like the rustic look of our fence, so we went with that as a backdrop this time. Two minutes later, we had a couple of passable 4-year pictures. And in case you were wondering, there's not a frown in the bunch--I finally figured out that I have to play the "Don't smile!" game. Works like a charm.

Enjoy!


It's kind of a goofy smile, but I think she looks sweet. She's really trying to stifle a grin here. Not too successfully, thankfully.


I don't know if this one really looks all that much like her, but I loved the band-aids on her knees. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that she actually didn't have an injury that warranted bandaging--she just wanted to wear her new Hello Kitty band-aids. You know, for the fashion of it.


This is just a close-up from the first picture. But man, she's cute. I love this girl!

02 September 2008

Things That Go Bump In the Night

Charis is a dear, sweet girl, and I love her. Sometimes, though, she tries my last nerve. Nighttime is a battle where this nerve is most severely tested, because we have differing opinions about what should happen then: Abe and I think Charis should stay in bed and go to sleep, while she believes she should get out of bed and wander. Usually, she is armed with a book and seeking out any lamp that will enable her to read for just while longer. Occasionally, though, I think she just wants to see what kind of action is going on without her. More than once, we've found her asleep on the landing at the top of the stairs, where she fell asleep while listening to whatever we had on the TV. Whatever the case, we almost always hear her creep out of bed and leave her room, so we're likely to jump on the situation and hustle her back to bed.

Last night, we didn't hear her.

We were watching a movie in the living room when we heard a series of sickening thuds. I knew in a moment what it was: my beloved daughter had fallen asleep at the top of the stairs and was now rolling down them. Abe and I both jumped up at once, but in moments like that, it is as if you're in slow motion, stuck in wet cement. We both instinctively wanted to catch her to keep her from harm, but we just simply couldn't get there fast enough. Charis tumbled and tumbled, and I thought the stairs would never end. When she landed at the bottom, I screamed.

Abe snatched her up, and while he cradled her, I spent the next few minutes making sure everything was okay: testing her reflexes, palpating her spine, making sure her arms and legs worked, feeling for head lumps, looking for blood. Then I took over the cuddling, because nobody comforts like mom does. Where she had been whimpering in a state of semi-slumber while
Abe held her, she calmed down as soon as I took over. We kept her up for a while to make sure she didn't have a concussion, which she didn't, and then I went and lay down in bed with her, just trying to soothe her back to sleep. I figured she was okay when she asked me to please go back downstairs so she could sleep.

It was just the latest in a series of bumps and bruises. But strangely, it was the first time for Charis to be involved in the scenario; poor Judah has had more than his fair share of injuries. It all started one evening when we were playing before bed. I think I've told this story before, but I'll recap: we were knocking the children over in Charis' bed, which the kids love. The kids fall over, land, giggle, and ask for more. On this particular night, I made an error in spatial judgement and pushed charis over before Judah was quite up. The result was the collision of their heads. The back of Charis' head hit the front of Judah's, and while she was fine, he immediately developed a giant lump on his forehead. It took forever to calm him, but we did the same as with Charis, keeping him up for quite some time to check for injury or concussion. We plied the bump with ice packs and plied Judah with popsicles, all in the name of comfort.
Here's Judah once hehad calmed down from the trauma. Note the goose egg on his head, and the end of his second popsicle. I couldn't believe how quickly this bump sprang up, nor could I believe how long it took to go away: it took only second for the bump to form, but it was weeks until the swelling went down, weeks until the purple bruise started to turn greenish yellow. And when it did eventually start to fade, the bruising migrated down between his eyes, giving Judah his first shiners. Then his shiners turned green, too, so instead of calling him Brown Eyes, we took to calling him Green Eyes. Poor kid.


Here he is a few weeks later, when the bruise had started to fade. Notice the green in the corners of his eyes? That took forever to go away.

We thought the bump was behind us, but it seems Judah has a knack for injuring his head. One day, not too long after this photo was taken, Judah was pulling his wagon up the hill to the pole barn when he fell on the concrete, landing on his--guess what?--head. In the exact same spot. The lump was back.

Only days after that, Judah was retreiving a puzzle from under the couch when he stood up and whacked his--guess what?--head on the wooden arm of the couch. We wondered if it would ever end, if the bump would ever ever go away.

As of right now, the bump is nearly non-existent. It has faded and flattened, so the worst of it may be behind us.

But we're going outside to play later, and we may take the wagon with us, so stay tuned...

28 August 2008

Teaser

I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: my usb cord arrived today, at about noon. Yay! The bad news? At about 11:50, I found my old usb cord, thus rendering the new one totally superfluous and unnecessary. So now I've got two, and should never have a time when I'm without. At any rate, the very good news is that I've dumped lots of pictures from my camera onto my computer (AND onto kodakgallery.com, just to be safe) and will continue to do so, so you won't have to suffer through quite so many word-heavy posts in the future.

I would show you all of them right now, but it has been a busy, busy day, and I've got about 30 pounds of peaches to freeze and turn into jam, so I've got a full night ahead of me. Soto whet your appetite, I'll leave you with one new-ish picture of each of the kids. Enjoy!

This is Charis at an extended family member's lake house. I loved the rustic, aged quality of those steps juxtaposed with the beauty and youth of my daughter. Now, if only I could stop her from making faces when she's getting her picture taken...

This is little man Judah in one of his two favorite hats, working on some bubbles. He's so serious!
This picture was also taken at the lake house.

This photo is new--just taken on Sunday in the picnic area above one of our favorite Lake Michigan beaches. Ruby was borrowing her cousin's hat. I know I may be slightly biased, being her mother and all, but I'm pretty sure that Ruby is the cutest baby in existence.

So that's all for now! But I promise I'll have more to come--and soon! Unless I misplace both of my usb cords, in which case I might have some sort of memory-loss issue.

27 August 2008

Oh, USB cord, Where Art Thou?

I'm still waiting on my usb cord. Sherrie seems like she's getting a bit antsy for a new post, so I thought I'd give her one.

A couple of days ago, my computer was running really slowly. I mean, the thing is ancient in computer years, so it's not ever lightning-fast, but on this day, its speed approximated that of slugs or my husband when I ask him to take out the trash. In an effort to thwart whatever was holding my RAMs back, I re-started my computer. Only, as proof that it was possible for the computer to move more slowly than it had been, it wouldn't restart. Not at all. Not only that, it was piping hot like a fresh dinner roll, if dinner rolls were made of metallic gray plastic. I pressed the power button over and over, like you do when you're waiting for an elevator, but with each press, the result was the same: not a darn thing happened.

I can live without the internet. I've done it for months at a time. I can go to the library to pay bills, though I don't like to do it. And I can go a couple of days without checking my email . . . I think. I can even do without Facebook. And I'm sure about that last one, because I still don't totally get the allure. But one thing I cannot do without is pictures of my kids, and unfortunately, many many pictures of my children exist solely on my computer. I know this is irresponsible--they should be backed up somewhere, like on an external hard drive or something. But the fact of the matter is that, on this computer-crashing day, they were not. So I panicked.

Immediately, what had been an okay day turned ugly. I was so sad to think about all of the beautiful images that were lost, and angry with myself for not protecting them as I should have. I moved my computer to the dining room table and left it to sit, hoping it would resurrect itself after a nice rest in a cool spot. I have this theory about electronics, that they need naps just like we do. Whenever they start acting up and being naughty, it's a sure sign, to me, that they need a few moments alone. I'm a big fan of giving electronics moments alone, so I walked away from Mr. Backstabbing Computer and went off to sulk and pretend the crisis had never happened.

When Abe came home that afternoon, I was visibly upset. Actually, he had called before coming home, and could hear the distress in my voice. "Are you okay?" He asked.
"Rough day," I panned.
He paused knowingly. "Oh," he said. "The kids?"
I sighed. "Actually, no. The kids are fine." Oh, my kids, my precious kids, whose childhoods I'd just erased because I was stupid. "We'll talk about it when you get home."

Only, here's the thing: by the time Abe got home, the computer was as cool as a metallic gray cucumber. I had, after all, given the machine a nice naptime--was it possible that it might start up now? I pressed the power button and waited. Miraculously, my beast of a laptop sprang to life! I was overjoyed. I immediately opened my photo software, and there were the smiling faces of my children. Ah, bliss. And sweet relief.

My next thought as that I had no idea how much longer my computer might hang on before it left me for good, so right away, I began uploading my precious photos to the internet--not the most trustworthy place for them, I know, but better than nothing. I am still in the process of uploading, because I have approximately twelve million pictures, but the process has nonetheless begun. And here are a few things I would have lost if the computer thing hadn't turned out so well:

Charis, 3 months

Charis, 10 months

Judah, 2 days

Judah, 10 months

Two of my beautiful children

Aren't those good ones?

Now. I have more than a hundred pictures sitting on my camera, waiting to be uploaded. When that blasted usb gets here, I will put those photos onto my computer. And then, I will save those precious images somewhere else, too, because this whole computer scare was enough to teach me a lesson about taking the time to protect the things that are valuable.

I'll be back soon with current photos!

23 August 2008

An Oodah by any other name

Judah will now say Charis, if pressed. It has a very "care-us" quality to it, but it is funny to hear it coming out of his mouth so fully formed after months and months of saying Oodah when referring to his older sister! The other thing we love to hear him say is the word pepperoni. It is so small and so perfect, as if he has known how to say it since the womb, but has been saving it for a special occasion.

My new usb cord arrives this week, so prepare to be inundated with kiddie pictures!

14 August 2008

Charis' Story

fgkgodfifd9r9r9r9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999e99e99999999e99999999909e0wpepe[e[e[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[pss-s--------------------------------------------------------ds-0s-0s-0e0-w0e0e----------0de-e00e-0-ed0-ed0e0=we0w-e;;pdpdpodopdopdfoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cv [v v v c c c cc c c c c c c iroi90r09re-9er-re-rere-9re9rr9e-9r99e8ter8rtt888t8t856488885858585885588888888888888888uyyyy66666666/d/
ds
'\sd\]d\]s\sd\s]]d\s]\[d]d'x]c[ds[[ds[sa[[][sasadDss]]d]df]sd[pf[dspfgrpgofd fdpogtopoojohopjoohohnonboonbojhpohpogphogopgoghpoygogohhpojoghopojphpoptohohhohoohohohotoptpopgphhhppnhph[pgopohgop pd[d[pd[d[d[d[cd[dc[cddpd[d[pdcp[d[dv[dppppv[d[[fvf[pfpfpfpppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppfp[fd[v[pgdv[pg]f[dpv[fdp[gfp[gfp[gfpppppppppppppppf[pgb[p[bg[bpgf[g[fpd[g[gg g/ g [gvfgf[[gf[fg[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[';;;.//////////.............................;kocokldcfvf;lvkdfvgldlf;skfkl;vl;fdl;fdldfskdl;ldsfkdfgfiodriioloooofcgopigdfpsfdoppvbdfopdcdo[cfiopf

The Most Timely Gift

Ruby is growing to be an actual human, which quite took me by surprise. She has been a really easy baby, so I don't have complaints, but for the first several weeks of her life, she was very lump-ish. Our favorite babysitter, Shelby, watched the kids last night for the last time before she leaves us for college (kids and their wayward priorities), and she asked me at what point babies really start to show personality. Thinking back to Ruby's lumpiness, I was tempted to tell her it took a year, but the reality is that any mother searching for the sparks inside her baby's head will tell you that the first glimpses of personality accompany the First Smile.

I remember Charis' First Smile very vividly: at two months, she was of course not sleeping very well, and I was, as a first-time mom, wondering what's in it for me? I mean, what with all the spitting up and poopy diapers and leakiness and lack of sleep and NO REAL ACTIVITY OF INTEREST WHATSOEVER from my little one, I was wondering what, exactly, the payoff was. But we went camping sometime in that second month, and one night ventured into town for pizza. Abe was holding Charis in a standing position on the table, and she was looking across at me, and all of the sudden, there was the payoff: a real, honest-to-goodness, with-her-eyes-and-everything smile. Sure, she'd had those little, gassy, involuntary smiles, but they hadn't really meant anything. This smile was ON PURPOSE. And she gave it to me in a Pizza Hut in Attica, Indiana.

Fast forward to the present. This past Sunday was a really weird, difficult, confusing and sad day. I was dealing with some Self issues and some family issues that had come to a head, and I spent the better part of an impromptu drive over to Ikea crying it out, asking Abe to make sense of it for me. When we arrived, Ikea was busy and crowded and we didn't end up buying anything all that fun, and I was pretty much feeling like the day was a total bust and that it had been a very disappointing end to a weekend I had really really been looking forward to. The day didn't seem like it could be redeemed.

But then, bada-bing, The Payoff.

I had just fed Ruby and was gazing into her smoky blue eyes, trying to find a bit of happiness in her innocence and unconditional mommy attachment. We had carried her around in the front pack all day and she had mostly slept a very lumpy baby sleep, oblivious to the world around her. But there, in the front seat of the van, in the parking lot of Ikea, after a disappointing and teary day, Ruby gave me the most fantastic gift: her First Smile. A real, honest-to-goodness, with-her-eyes-and-everything smile.

A miraculous thing happened: for a little while, I forgot about my shortcomings and those pesky family struggles and remembered to breathe in those gifty moments of life, the moments that surely God provides when we most need them. I laughed with my children, because there may come a day when laughing together won't be as easy as it is now, and I laughed with my husband, because he is good for putting up with me. And I rode the rest of the way home sitting next to Ruby, watching for another beam of light. She didn't give another one then, but that's okay. She had saved the day with her gift, improved my state of mind, and become a little bit more like a real human all in one fell swoop. Things were definitely looking up.

07 August 2008

And He Has, Hasn't He?

It's 2:51 am as I sit down to type this, and I'm doing so not so much because I feel SO SO compelled to write its contents, but because I was just awoken by the most unsettling dream (and some itchy feet, for some reason), and I cannot go back to sleep until I get the disturbing images of the bear in our house (Yes. A bear. In our HOUSE.) out of my head. I fully realize that tomorrow, when I read this post in full coherence, I will find it absurd that this dream kept me up--it was a friendly bear, apparently, because after it wandered into our yard, it had come into the house, hopped up on the kids' bed with them, and was letting them pet it like a dog--but there you have it. The bear dream was too much for me.

So now I'm here, listening to the calming hum of the fan and squinting against the glare of the computer screen, and I want to tell you about the most marvelous illustration of God's forgiveness that I saw today. It really struck me when it happened, and I knew at the time it was destined for Ye Olde Neglected Blog, I just had no idea I'd be giving it words so soon.

The napping arrangement in our house finds Judah upstairs in the kids' bedroom and Charis downstairs on our bed. We tried having them nap in the same room with each other, but it did not go well. At all. So Charis is in our bed for naps, and for the most part, this works out well. The downside is that, at age four, she has come to the point where she really doesn't need naps everyday (even though I really need her to nap for my sanity's sake), so naptime is very frequently a battle to try to get her to stay in bed. The rule is that she is not required to sleep, but she does need to stay in bed for a rest. Some days, she actually falls asleep. But on some days, like today, she is up a lot, claiming a need to use the potty (I'm afraid to call her bluff on that one) or claiming a need to "tell me something," or just up in our room playing in the curtains or in the closet, where she inevitably dumps the single-sock basket. Again, let me reiterate that while she doesn't have an absolute need for a nap on a daily basis, it is essential to the preservation of my sanity, and when naptime is a struggle, my sanity creeps away from me.

Today was one of those lost-sanity naptimes.

Charis had come out THREE times to use the potty, and one time to get another book to look at, and another time, she burst out of the door, waking poor Ruby with her excited yelps about the lost shoe she just found. I deduced that if she had found a shoe, she was most certainly out of bed. So I told her to go back into the room, which she did, and lay down, which she didn't. Minutes later, I stuck my head in the door, hoping to find that she had decided to obey, but was dismayed to find her in the closet and single socks scattered all over the room. She had also removed the pillowcases from our pillows, and had filled them with books and the eye-relief rice pack that is off-limits to her. To say that I was incensed would be putting it mildly. My sanity flew out the window, and I flew into a rage. I was so angry she had flouted the rules so repeatedly. I yelled and I yelled, I threw socks back into the closet, I flung books, and I scared my daughter. She cried. "Mommy, mommy, I'm so SORRY," she sobbed. I yelled something about her being SO NAUGHTY and stormed out of the room to the kitchen, where the Holy Spirit immediately gripped my heart. I prayed and prayed for God to forgive me for yelling at Charis in such a way, but He made it clear to me that I needed to go to her first. I nearly started sobbing myself for the conviction of it.

I went back into the room, and Charis, assuming that I was still out of control with fury, started crying at the sight of me. It broke my heart into a thousand little pieces. Like a small child myself, I crawled into bed with her, wrapped her in my arms, and repented. "Charis," I said, "I need to ask you to forgive me. I was angry, but I wasn't the right kind of angry, and I am so sorry for yelling at you like that."

"Mommy, I'm so so SORRY for getting out of bed!"

"I forgive you, baby girl. Will you forgive me for yelling at you like that?"

"Yes, mama, but will you lay down with me for a minute?" And I did. I laid with her for several minutes, in fact, until both of us had calmed down. And then I begged her not to get up again--which she didn't--and left the room.

Later that evening, we were tucking the kids into bed. I bent down low over Charis' bed and hugged her. "Charis, will you please forgive me for being so angry today?" I asked.

Charis looked at me as if I was crazy. "Mommy, I already DID!"

I am nearly in tears as I write this (though, thankfully, that dumb bear dream is gone for good), because if that isn't the perfect image of God's forgiveness, I don't know what is. So often, I beat myself up about a stumble or a shortcoming, or worse, my direct disobedience, and I beg forgiveness from God over and over, somehow thinking that He hasn't granted it yet. Like the incident with Charis, I carry those horrible images of my failures and faults around with me and they play on a more or less continuous loop, and I am convinced that I am the worst parent/friend/Christian there ever was, totally unworthy of forgiveness.

But when I ask for the umpteenth time, here's the truth: He has already forgiven. Can't you just picture Him saying, "I already DID!"? I usually can't. But today, when my sweet girl forgave me for being such a mess of a mother, I did. I saw that His Son's blood has paid for my sins, once for all, so that when I ask forgiveness, it is granted. Covered. Wiped away.

I can't say that I'm thankful to have lost my temper so completely today. But I can say that I am thankful that my daughter was able to be the mature adult that I was incapable of being, and in the process teach me a lot about God.

02 August 2008

I'm Sure He Understands

We sat down for some mac'n'cheese today, and the exchange went something like this:

Judah: PRAY!
Me: Yes, Judah. Let's pray. Dear Lord, thank y--
Charis: No, Mom! I want to pray! Thank you for this food, and--
J: A-MEN!!!!
C: No, Judah. Not yet. Thank you for this food, and thank you for this--
J: GOD! BIG! MIGHTY!
C: No, Judah, you have to be quiet. Thank you for this food, and thank you for this day.
J: AMEN!!!

Judah likes to be in charge of the praying around here, but he's got some stiff competition in Charis. Time will tell where Ruby falls in the mix.

22 July 2008

Happy Birthday Oodah

Dear Charis--

Happy belated birthday, Baby Girl! It does not seem possible that you are already four--it feels like it was just days ago that I was cradling you and marveling at your tiny fingers and toes. Now, you have huge, Big Kid fingers and toes, and you use them to do Big Kid things like draw pictures of people you love and pick black raspberries and put Ruby's paci in her mouth (just your fingers--your toes aren't that dexterous.). Moments ago, it seems, I was thrilled that you had said what vaguely sounded like "kitty," and now, here you are, four years later, and I think you know all of the words in the whole world. And you have the ingenuity to make up your own (definitions unknown) words, like chompley and wompley.

I love you for so much--for your independence, how you fearlessly adapt to every situation; for your spunk, how you really do light up a room when you enter it; for your helpfulness, how you are quick to comply every time I ask you for a favor; and for your kind heart, how you treat everyone as a friend, even those total strangers in the grocery store that you are constantly inviting to come to our house. You are so very silly, but when the rubber hits the road, you are also able to be sincere, too: two nights ago you woke up with a nightmare about a bird that was in our house, and we prayed that God would give you sweet dreams, and this morning, you told me that you had asked God for happy dreams last night and He had answered you! I love that you're old enough to be able to talk to God on your own.

I am so proud of who you are growing up to be, even if I am mystified by how you came to be that way. For instance, how is it that two confirmed non-morning people could produce a child that is so perpetually sunny as soon as she wakes? How could we, who enjoy team sports like basketball and volleyball, be raising a little girl whose only desire is to be a ballerina? Your dad can't understand how you can eat a tomato or a pepper and enjoy it, and I am equally stumped by your attraction to olives. How is it that you came to be so fascinated by dresses, and so repelled by clothes like jeans? We may not always understand your choices, but we're proud that you're capable and mature enough to make them.

I love that you will proudly claim the name "Oodah"--I have no idea why Judah calls you that, but it is kind of you to allow it, and even more wonderful that you seem to enjoy it. I love that you are (mostly) sweet to your brother and sister. I love that my only complaint about your treatment of Ruby is that you sometimes show her just a little too much love. I love that you love others, and talk about them often, usually asking if we can go visit them RIGHT NOW. You are a kind girl. I love that.

I am so pleased to be your mother. So pleased that you are so intelligent. Pleased that you are kind, helpful, fun, and sweet. I look forward to many more years of watching you grow! Happy Birthday, Baby Girl. I love you!

15 July 2008

Kid Talk

Judah prayed for dinner for the first time today. "God, Thank you. Food. AMEN!!"

Charis sang a sweet song to Ruby today. It went something like this:

Rock-a-bye baby
In the treetop
When the wind blows,
You'd better get out...

I couldn't be more proud.

08 July 2008

What a Difference a Stent Makes, etc.

April asked how things were with the stent and kidney stone, so here's a brief update. And after that, kid stuff.

Last Wednesday, I went to the urologist and had the stent removed. It took approximately 43 seconds. Tell me: why did it take a killer epidural and a surgeon to put the dadgum thing in, but it took no pain meds and a simple doctor's office to remove? At any rate, the effects were almost immediate--I am now more comfortable than I have been in months. And as for the stone, well, I still don't know. I go into the urologist's office in a week or two for a follow up (mostly so the urologist can charge exorbitant amounts of money for relatively little effort on his part), at which point they will X-ray (x-rays are so 1991) to see the location and size of the stone. If the miracle I've prayed for has occurred, the kidney stone vanished long ago. If not, we'll likely break it up (and by "we," I do not mean me at all) with lithotripsy. Until then, I take a big bottle of vicodin with me everywhere in case the stone decides to strike again.

On a more humorous note, Judah adds new words to his vocabulary every day. One of the more interesting is theword "Truck." It wouldn't necessarily be interesting, except for the fact that he can't so much say the TR sound, and instead substitutes an F. We just hope there aren't any trucks to play with at Sunday school. Goodness knows what they'd think we teach our kids.

Charis has taken to calling Ruby "My Baby." This is pretty cute. I thought she was just being affectionate until yesterday, when she asked me if we could pick a different name for our baby because she doesn't like the name Ruby. Some days, you just can't win.

Today we take Ruby for her two-week well-child appointment. I forgot to call my mother in law to ask if she could watch the older two munchkins, so I guess we're all taking a field trip! I'm definitely thinking that some McNuggets are in order to help make it a smooth experience. I might also get some for the kids.

Also: I seem to have misplaced the cord that connects my camera to the computer. So I have MANY pictures to show you, but no way to convey them at the moment. As soon as I locate that important piece of plastic, I will post more shots of our little chunk, Ruby. And also shots of her siblings, because while they aren't chinking out at the rate Ruby is, they are still mighty cute, in my estimation.

30 June 2008

Peanut, Bubba, and Jelly

A long, long time ago, when Judah came to live with us, I took to calling Charis and Judah Peanut Butter (Charis' nickname) and Judah.

Then I thought it would be cute if Judah's nickname was Jelly, because then they'd be Peanut Butter and Jelly. And besides, there's the matter of all the matching J's. C'mon. That's cute. Well, Judah as Jelly didn't really work, but we did take to calling Judah Bubba on occasion, so, as much as any nickname did, Bubba stuck. So at that point, in my mind, they were Peanut and Bubba. Still cute. (I realize that right now, many of you think I'm completely cheesy. I have no defense for that.)

Well, when we found out we were going to have a third, my mind started really working. How could we incorporate the new one into the PB&J theme? Simple, I reasoned: Charis is Peanut, Judah is Bubba, and the new child would be Jelly. Easy peasy. And when Ruby turned out to be a girl, I was elated--because really, Jelly is a much better nickname for a girl than a boy. I love it when a plan comes together.

One problem.

Charis decided she wanted to be Jelly. She reminds me regularly, too: "No, Mom. I'm JELLY." Apparently Jelly fits her four-year-old sensibilities better than Peanut.

Well, I'm trying to make the switch. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Hey, Peanut. I mean, Jelly." But I'm committed to making this work, even if it means that this particular amount of cheesiness will transform me into one of those denim jumper-wearing kindergarten teacher-types. It's just a risk I'm willing to take.

So, because I'm committed to making it work, and because I can't continue to call this blog "Charis and Judah" on account of Ruby's existence, I've decided to rename this thing "Peanut, Bubba, and Jelly." The url will be the same, but we'll go by this new and (I think) improved title.

Just thought you should know.

Oh, and by the way, if you should see Charis, call her Jelly. It just might help it to adhere.

Day One

Well, I survived it: Day One of Mother-to-Three-land. My parents left yesterday, and Abe worked today (of course), so I was on my own for the very first time in almost two months. I was pretty anxious about it, but it wasn't all that bad. The only glitch was that Ruby's right eye has been goopy, and since Judah had a plugged tear duct as an infant, I was concerned Ruby had one, too, so I took her (and her older siblings) to the doctor to get it checked out. Nothing like starting out Day One with a solo doctor's office visit with all three kiddos. It wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't had to wait to see the doctor for so long--their patience (and mine) was definitely tried. Turns out it probably isn't a plugged duct, just a run of the mill infection, probably acquired from a young visitor we had who, as it so happens, also saw the doctor today for an eye infection. Neat. I will say, though, that unfortunate as it was to have had to go in, I did find out that Ruby is gaining weight like some sort of mini-sumo. Considering I was convinced that she wasn't eating enough for even a small mouse like herself to thrive on, this was a huge load off my mind.

I also took Ruby (but not the other two) with me to the store to snap up a few 4th of July cookout bargains and to get her prescription filled. It was a difficult trip because of the stent, but it was refreshing to be out by myself doing something for my family, rather than having others wait on me hand and foot. It was nice to feel productive. Along the same line, I served my kids breakfast AND lunch, and with the help of a rotisserie chicken, I served them dinner, too! And I did a load and a half of laundry! And that's it, because MAN. I've got to work my way back in SLOWLY. Thankfully, we've got nice friends from church bringing us meals, starting tomorrow, and another beautiful friend from church gave us a gift certificate for maid service. So to a certain extent, I can just pretend at productivity without having to commit myself fully, and my family will still be well taken care of. I love helpful friends.

If tomorrow goes as well as today did, I will upload and post some more recent pictures of the kids, specifically our newest little miss. See you tomorrow! (Hopefully)

28 June 2008

Hallelujah!

the three of us--just before taking ruby belle home for the first time.
the kids meet their new sister for the first time--judah can't believe how "tiny! tiny!" her toes and "finners" are.
miss charis just wants to be sweet to her new baby.
you wouldn't believe how excited judah was to see "wooby."
hallelujah! we're so glad ruby is here!

21 June 2008

And Baby Makes 5!

Just a brief post to announce the arrival of our newest gem, Ruby!

She was born on Friday morning, weighing in at 6 lbs., 12 oz., and measuring 19 inches in length. We're JUST home from the hospital, so I haven't uploaded pictures from our camera yet, but I will soon. She's a beauty, and we're thrilled. Charis and Judah are also very excited, and come home tonight--let the new family begin!

16 June 2008

Bed Rest Update

Well, as of last Friday, I'm officially not on strict bed rest. I'm still on "take it easy," but since I'm now 37 weeks along (what a miracle!), my midwife wanted me to be up getting some sort of stamina back and helping my body progress towards labor now. Funny--a couple of weeks ago, I was on a slew of medicine to keep labor at bay, and now we're actually inviting labor to the party. I cannot tell you how ready I am to meet this little lady. No, really--I could try, but I'm not certain it would end up being emphatic enough.

The one glitch is this: because I still have the dadgum stent in, I am unable to be up for very long at a stretch. On my first day of non-bed rest freedom, I may have overdone it a wee bit--and paid the price. So now, I'm just up as much as possible, and the rest of the time I'm laying down. I've tried the whole sitting thing, but my body was not a big fan. I did, however, get a chance to get a haircut and make a trip to Meijer for some post-baby necessities. I thought I'd be able to walk around the store and stretch my legs a little bit, but I was obviously fooling myself; here in the land of the stent, walking more than thirty feet is like taking the long route to Mount Olympus. Instead, I opted for one of those scooter carts. I got some pretty funny looks from people who probably thought I was just being lazy.

In other news, today is Charis' 4th Birthday! I am planning the official Happy Birthday Post, but I want to give it the effort and attention it deserves, which I am at present unable to do. So stay tuned! After Baby Girl arrives and Mr. Stent leaves us, I plan a doozy of a post to celebrate my precious firstborn. I imagine there will also be a celebratory post about our precious Third Born, so stay tuned!

Happy Birthday, Charis! You will always be my Baby Girl.

07 June 2008

Since I've Been Gone

Well, it's probably high time for a post. I'm still laying on my side in bed, typing with one hand, so this will probably be brief.

To recap:
I went to the hospital ER in Ohio with severe left flank pain, and was diagnosed with a kidney stone. I was admitted, and the next day they inserted a stent. I do not recommend the stent. It is no fun at all, and is in fact one of the more miserable things I have ever experienced in my life. At the time, I had just entered y 31st week of pregnancy.

Four days later, I endured the longest car ride ever (thanks to the stent) to return home to my family. There, I embarked on a course of bed rest, owing to the fact that I was really incapable of doing much else. My mom stayed with us for a few days to help out and prepare enough food to last us until the next millennium.

I had been home for about five days when I started bleeding and began premature labor. Earlier in my pregnancy, I had been diagnosed with placenta previa, but that condition had been upgraded to "low-lying placenta," which is less serious, but still creates the potential for a C-section. As far as we knew, the bleeding meant that placenta had abbrupted, and we were about to have an emergency C. We rushed to the hospital, where I spent the next five days on some pretty powerful drugs to stop labor. They also gave me a few doses of steroids to "jump start" the baby's development in case SHE came early. Yep, it's a girl! We found out premature girls generally fare better than boys, so we decided to find out the gender of our baby, an unprecedented event in our lives. We met with neonatologists to learn about what would likely take place if our baby was born then, at 32 weeks. Twice during my stay, we seemed to be moments away from having that C section. Obviously, things did not end up that way. When things had stabilized, they sent us home, and prescribed strict bed rest for me. Thankfully, my dad was able to come up and stay with me, and the kids were able to go to Abe's parents' house (during the week) so I could rest as prescribed.

About 3 days later, I spiked a fever and was again admitted to the hospital, this time for a kidney infection (thanks a lot, stent). I was there for three days this time, and they sent me home with some Keflex for the infection, and also Procardia to stave off the contractions that were beginning again.

Three days after that, I went back to the hospital in incredible pain. They basically did nothing for me but tell me to take baths for my "discomfort," and sent me home right away. Two days later, I was still in intense pain, so my midwife advised me to head to the ER. They diagnosed a UTI (thanks again, stent) and gave me Macrobin for the infection and Vicodin for the pain. The nurse told me to take the Vicodin sparingly, so I did. Bad idea.

Two days later, I was back at the hospital, again in intense pain and with contractions five minutes apart. The midwife, after determining that I was not dilated or effaced, gave me more Procardia and told me I could take the Vicodin every 4 hours as I needed for pain. This helped a lot. She then sent me home. At this visit, I had just crossed over into my 35th week of pregnancy. 36 is considered carrying to term, so we were really hoping I'd make it that far. We scheduled an appointment with the midwife for the next Friday for a checkup.

The next Thursday (two days ago), my dad took me to the midwife's office, but not because anything was wrong; I had just completely lost track of the days and thought it was Friday already.

Yesterday, I went to the real appointment, and discovered that I am 75 percent effaced and 1 cm dilated. This really means nothing in terms of delivery time line, but it was encouraging that I was obviously progressing and not having any more bleeding, which means that there is still a chance for a non-C section delivery. She took me off of the Procardia, but I am still (somewhat groggily, most of the time) taking the Vicodin to manage the pain from the stupid stent and kidney stone issues. The stent will not come out until after the baby's arrival, but as of today, I am at 36 weeks, so it could happen any time. Charis was born at 37 weeks, so it could be soon. Judah was born at 39 weeks, so it may not be very soon. At any rate, I continue to be on bed rest in case of other bleeding issues.

Well, this is a very unceremonious ending, but my laptop is about to run out of power, so I will go ahread and post this. Likely, next time you hear fro me, I will be the mother of three!

18 May 2008

Out of the frying pan and into the hospital

Again, this will be short, since I'm typing with one hand from a recumbent position. On Tuesday afternoon, after more than a week of kidney-stone-induced bed rest, I found myself in the very scary position of needing to go to the hospital again. This time, it had nothing to do with kidney stones. I will spare you the gory details because they would probably gross you right out, but suffice it to say that when I arrived at the hospital, we were pretty sure that an emergency C section would be in order. At the time, I was 32 weeks along--I'm now 33--and we were briefed by all sorts of medical personnel on what to expect with a per-term baby. They started me on magnesium sulfate to try to stop the labor, and eventually, it worked. It also made me nauseated, churned up all sorts of acid, made me extremely lethargic, and took away any sort of muscle control. My time on that drug was not good. They started me on steroids to try to speed up baby's development, and we waited. Things seemed to have stabilized until Thursday night, when we again believed we'd be celebrating a birthday. We didn't, thankfully. I am now home, but on complete bedrest for the foreseeable future. Please pray that the baby will stay put for many weeks, and pray that my family will survive this time of adjustment. That's all the gusto I have in me for now. If I come by more, I will post again later.

11 May 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to a Relaxing Weekend

I had my first epidural--and did not deliver a baby.

I have to give you the short version because I can't really sit up for very long, which makes things like parenting and housework really hard. But I had--still have--a kidney stone. It's a super lot of fun when you are 32 weeks pregnant and have a large baby resting on your bladder.

I went to the emergency room this past weekend while I was visiting my parents with the kids. Abe was still at home, finishing up drywall, so he wasn't there for the drama. After my dad and I arrived at the ER, they did an ultrasound to confirm their suspicion of a stone and began a regimen of painkillers to help ease the pain. Let me be clear: kidney stones are a million times worse than childbirth in terms of pain. But they couldn't give me any "good stuff" for pain or nausea because of the baby, so they admitted me to the hospital, and then the next day, with the use of a very strong "C-section-type" epidural (which I hated), surgically implanted a stent to relieve the pain of the stone. I was released from the hospital soon thereafter, but my recovery has been particularly slow and uncomfortable, and pretty much all I am able to do is lay on my side all day. It was days before I felt I could travel, so Abe, who arrived on the scene shortly after the surgery, took the kids home while I stayed at my parents' home to recover. I am home now, but I can't do a bloomin' thing except lay on the couch. I am so sick of TV.

I feel very vulnerable saying all of this right now! Sorry if it's too much information. But I wanted to let you know that this has taken me forever to type, and so I will be stepping away from the blog for a few weeks, until either a) I've had the baby, or b) I've had some sort of miraculous recovery. Pray for my husband! He's now got a whole lot on his shoulders.

And pray for me--it's really challenging feeling as useless as I do. While I do want this baby to go to full term so it's healthy, I cannot fathom another 6 weeks of living like this. Pray that my body will figure out how to function so we can get back to life as normal! Thanks so much.

01 May 2008

Sleepovers

This past weekend, while Abe and I were enjoying a day away, we farmed the kids out. We sent Charis to her friends Katie and Travis (Charis and Travis apparently think they will be wed someday), and Judah went to Aunt Beth's house to have a sleepover with Gideon and Elise. We've left the kids before, but only with Abe's mom, so this was a new one--and the first time Charis and Judah have been apart for a night.

Uncle Tim and Aunt Beth were over helping work on our house on Friday night, so they just took Judah away with them when they left. Then Abe and I strapped Charis in the van and drove her to our church, where we were dropping her off to be driven to Katie's house by her mom, Tanya. The departures of both children seemed to go smoothly--no tears, no longing looks, no clinging (and the kids did okay, too).

But when we returned home from dropping off Charis (and stopping for ice cream, of course), the phone rang. It was Beth.

"Uh, oh." I said. "What happened?"

"I just need some guidance about what to do. Judah really misses you. A lot. He's in the crib, and he's really, really sad, and I just don't know what to do. Sould I let him cry it out? How long should I wait?"

Poor Judah! I felt terrible that he was so sad. But a part of me was secretly pleased--my little boy misses me. And he asked for me by name. I told Beth to let him cry for a few minutes, as I was sure he was absolutely worn out and would fall asleep soon. We found out the next day that he didn't fall asleep soon--in fact, Beth had removed him from the crib and cuddled with him on the couch, where they both had fallen asleep at about midnight. The next night started out similarly, but Judah ended up falling asleep in the midst of his sadness. Needless to say, he was happy to see us the next day. (And I'm working hard to overcome my jealousy that, even though he asked for me at night, when we walked in to collect him on Sunday, his first words were "Daddy! Daddy!!")

On Sunday, we picked Charis up from church. She seemed to vaguely recognize us ("Hey. You're my mom.") but didn't seem compelled to stop playing and come home with us. I was standing with Tanya, who had hosted Charis for the weekend, as I said to my beloved firstborn, "Charis, I missed you SO MUCH!!!!" Tanya hesitated only slightly before she said, "I wish I could tell you she felt the same." Of course, this is the Charis that never once cried when being left at the church nursery, never scoffed at being left with a babysitter, never seemed sad about our absence--ever. She is the most independent child I have ever known. And while it breaks my heart just a little bit to know that she's perfectly fine with our being gone, I guess I'm glad to know she knows who we are when we return. It's a start...