30 January 2008

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I know it has been a while since my last post, and I feel really, really bad about that. I know I should be doing a more thorough job of documenting life here, but the thing is . . . there just hasn't been much to document.

Well, we won our volleyball game against Second Christian Reformed Team 1 last night, but I think that was predestined. Tee hee.

And when we got home at close to 9 pm, Judah was still awake, and remained so until 10 pm, probably because his deadbeat mother let his afternoon nap last until 6:15 pm.

Then this morning, Charis woke up at about The Crack of Dawn o'clock because she had to use the potty, and of course, no one could sleep after that--except Abe. He's pretty resilient that way, the lucky duck. Of course, he let me sleep in on Tuesday morning, so I can't complain too much, even though I try.

And then my kids started in with the whining--Judah because he wanted to nurse, which we don't do anymore, and Charis, because she wanted a bagel and cream cheese. Pleeeeeeease? I just want a bagel and CREAM CHEESE!!!! Pleeeeeeease cheese I want bagel please cheesebagel bagel bagel bagel.... This went on for so long despite my command for the whining to stop that she lost all bagel and cream cheese privileges. She later settled for a few Kraft singles and half of an english muffin, which, in retrospect, is about as close as you can come to a bagel and cream cheese without having one.

Today, I'm trying to move mountains of laundry and help Charis finish up her gopher Buddies pages.

So, see? You haven't missed much. But as soon as I have something remotely interesting to say, I'll be back, I promise.

24 January 2008

Thank You

God never ceases to amaze me. I don't know why; His timing is perfect, His provision complete, His love unfailing. You'd think I'd come to expect it around every corner. Here's our story in a nutshell: Abe found out two days ago that it may be March before there is work available again. I had just used up the rest of one of the kids' Christmas gift cards to buy groceries, and have been constantly worried about money. So why was I surprised when we received an anonymous gift of money and grocery gift cards last night?

As soon as my friend Joni, the carrier of the gift, handed me the envelope, I suspected its contents. I opened it anyway. I pulled out this perfectly timed gift from someone wonderful and immediately started sobbing out of relief and gratitude. I don't know who gave it; they choose to keep that secret, making it difficult for me to know who to properly thank. I feel like I should thank everybody I meet, just in case. Whoever it was, they can't know what an indescribable blessing they have been to our family.

I'm writing this post for a couple of reasons:
1) To put my appreciation out there. I have no idea if the giver even knows about this blog. But maybe they do, and maybe by reading this, they will know how touched and thankful I am for their overwhelming generosity in our time of need.
2) To testify to God's never ending goodness. We have been blessed by so many, in unexpected ways--from money from a dear family member that helped us pay the mortgage, to this gift that helps us feed our family. People have given us these gifts, but I firmly believe that they were given with His prompting. God hasn't made us rich in dollars through these gifts, but He has continually reminded us of the richness of His love and blessing.

To whomever thought of us with this gift, we can't thank you enough! God has used you to bless us in a way you can't have predicted. And to the rest of you, take a moment to reflect on God's goodness and provision in your lives. It doesn't always show up when we're expecting it or in the way we expect to receive it, but it always shows up. Praise the Lord!!

18 January 2008

Charis Sings the Classics, part 2

Charis just walked into my bedroom singing that old Sunday School classic, "God Loves a Stiffer Giver." Apparently our denomination doesn't encourage tithing amongst the preschool set.

Oh, the Humanity

Quite a while ago, Judah developed the amazing talent of climbing out of his crib. Though we tried to discipline him to stay in, our efforts were fruitless, and in the end, we were beat. We ended up turning his crib, a sleigh-style crib, around, so that the high back was in the front, and the low front was in the back. The new front of his crib is so high that we cannot even put him down in his crib without using a step stool, so we figured we were safe from any more crib escapes.

Until last night.

I heard a ruckus up there after the kids were supposed to be asleep. I rose from my comfy chair and climbed the stairs to reprimand my daughter, who I assumed was the cause of the ruckus. It turns out that she was not. Instead, it was Judah standing at the bedroom door, looking guilty.

"How on earth did you do that?" was all I said, but it was enough for Abe to ascertain what had happened and come see it for himself.

Needless to say, we were both stunned.

So when we heard Judah climb out at too early an hour this morning, we started brainstorming additions to the crib that might persuade him to stay in: barbed wire, netting, and a series of 2x4s all came up, but I'm sure we weren't thinking clearly, it being so early. Chicken wire would certainly suffice.

Oh, of course I kid. But really. I'm just not quite sure how we're going to make it through this tragic development...

Okay, Charis says it's time for me to stop working and get off the "Pooter." Have a great day!

16 January 2008

Grocery Store Phenomenon

Today I ran a couple of errands with the kids. We struck out on our first two stops, at JCPenney and World Market, but were successful at our third, Meijer. Of course, Meijer had the easiest task: Stocking milk and eggs. The other two stores had a more difficult row to hoe: JCPenney needed to carry some cute maternity athletic pants (which they do not), and World Market needed to supply an (apparently) obscure Middle Eastern spice I'm looking for, Sumac (ditto).

But what I really want to mention about our errands is a special "Family Friendly" checkout lane I saw today at Meijer. I'd never heard of such a thing, so even though it meant waiting behind a lady with no family and a very very full cart, I was willing to give it a go. The premise is this: this particular checkout lane is not stocked with any sort of toys or candy, thereby reducing temptations for little ones. What they do not take into account, however, is that kids aren't only interested in toys and candy; Charis, for instance, is more than happy to while away our minutes in line playing with the bins of sundries like nail files and tweezers. And Judah isn't attracted to the candy bars, necessarily. He is also grabbed by small, brightly-colored bags of Trail Mix, which, while certainly a healthier option than a Kit Kat, are not something I'm going to spend money on. Long story short, I saw that the Family Friendly lane was every bit the minefield a normal checkout lane is, and I decided to go instead to the Express checkout lane, where there was no waiting. So while there was--gasp!--candy in the Express lane, we were not there long enough for it to tempt. We escaped the store without incident, and without candy. Take THAT, Family Friendly lane.

Money Talks

Speaking of avoiding candy, we've abandoned our sticker/sucker system of potty rewards.

It worked well enough in the beginning, when Charis was using the potty once a day. We can certainly allow one sucker a day for a reward. But when she started using the potty with more regularity (no pun intended) and was demanding several suckers a day, we knew something had to change. We shifted to smaller pieces of candy--whatever I had around--and that was fine, but she was still consuming more than her share of candy per day. Add to that the fact that if Charis has candy, Judah wants some, too, so then we had TWO battles to fight every time Charis used the toilet.

Two days ago, I had a brainstorm that seems to be working fairly well: pennies. Charis loves to put money in the piggy bank, so I decided to make that the reward. I counted out fifty pennies and put them in a bowl next to the piggy bank. Every time she uses the potty, she gets to put pennies into the bank. When she has transferred all of the pennies from the bowl to the bank, she gets to go pick out her very own candy bar at the store. That reduces us to candy every two weeks or so--certainly a much better ratio than 4 candies a day. Also, with pennies, we can subtract from the bank if she chooses not to use the potty as recommended, or up the ante with special large-amount penny rewards for bigger feats, like staying dry through the night.

So far, so good!

08 January 2008

Judah 1; Charis 0

We reached a new level of disgusting-ness last night.

Abe and I were downstairs and the kids had gone upstairs to play, which is fairly normal. Charis has been a bit whiny lately, so we weren't particularly alarmed when she began to whine, and were even a little annoyed when her whining turned into full-fledged crying. Gee whiz, we thought. Suck it up, kid. But then Charis came to the top of the stairs, wailing. "I'm all wet!" she cried.

Abe got up and went to see what all the fuss was about. "YHoly Cow, you really are wet!" he said. "Wha--what is th--Judah! What did you do?"

All of a sudden, my mother's intuition kicked in. I feared the worst. A glance over to the potty chair, where the potty cup was conspicuously missing, confirmed my fear: Charis was wet, but not with water. Oh, no. She had used the potty chair mere seconds before she'd gone upstairs, and somehow, Judah had stealthily removed the cup and carried it upstairs with him, and emptied the cup...on his sister's head.

Needless to say, Charis was rushed to the bath, and Judah was not far behind her.

07 January 2008

Oh Concolor Fir, Oh Concolor Fir...

Well, I'm seriously trying to play catch-up here. I am about to post photos of our outing to cut down our traditional Concolor Fir Christmas Tree, while at the same time procrastinating taking it down. I vowed I'd post about the tree while it was still in our house, and I am just barely making it under the wire.

There are a few traditions we observe in our tree-cutting outing. First: with the exception of Jed and Lindsay, who don't have room for a tree just yet, we go out as a whole family. It takes two very full trucks, but somehow, we all fit: Grandpa and Yia Yia, Moriah, Tim, Beth, Gideon, Elise, Abe, me, Charis, and Judah. This will not be the case next year, when we will have at least one more member in our family. Then, we'll have to take three trucks, environment be darned.

Second: we always get Concolor Firs. My history with live trees is short--when I was growing up, we always, always had artificial trees--so admittedly, I'm no Christmas tree expert. But a few years ago, we came upon these wonderful trees whose needles were just the right length, and soft, and when broken or crushed, those just-right needles give off a very pleasant citrus-y scent. There's only one place in our area that sells these trees, so hopefully, their business will flourish for years to come, so that we can always have the tree we want.

Third: our newest tradition is that we (our immediate family only) always go ill-prepared in the winter wear department. Last year, Charis had no boots, so we put plastic bags on her feet underneath her tennis shoes. How apropos. Judah had a snowsuit and hat of two very, very different prints; he was warm, but hard to look at. This year, though Charis' boots from last year still fit, we had only her old (too small) snowsuit, which kept riding up, exposing her very delicate calf. We also had only a pitiful pair of mittens for her, mittens that, though they have a theoretical place for the kid's thumb, do not actually fit any thumb larger than a toothpick. Poor Judah, on the other hand, was wearing an old, hand-me-down pair of boots with no liner, and--the unkindest cut of all--one of Charis' old snowsuits. In Pink. We have since acquired spiffy new snow pants for both children, bombproof boots for Judah, and fantastic mittens. And also hats that match. I did toy with the idea of turning these pictures black and white to save us all from the embarrassment of my children's attire, but I ultimately decided that this blog isn't about glossing over reality--it's about the real deal. So Judah, I apologize in advance.

I also apologize for not having a picture of us with the actual tree, but I'm sure you'll see it in a later post, trimmed and decorated.

Here's Charis going for a sled ride a la Superman with Grandpa. This photo was taken several minutes before Abe and Moriah were bowled over by Grandpa's runaway sled. Thankfully, Charis was not on board at the time--she had safely slipped and fallen on the icy, packed snow all by herself. Way to go, C!

Here's Judah in his lovely snow ensemble trying to take himself for a ride. At any rate, it's safer than being on a sled when daddy, Moriah, or Grandpa are involved. He remained in good spirits for quite some time, despite the fashion tragedy. On our way out, though, and despite the 20-degree temperatures, he stubbornly refused to wear his boots one second longer. I think he sensed that the red cuffs clashed miserably with the pink snowsuit.

Here's Peanut, plumb tuckered out on the way home. We weren't even out that long, but I think the excitement of the day, coupled with the caloric expenditure of trying to stay warm when her calves were constantly exposed to the elements, sucked the energy right out of her. Of course, our brief ride home was all the nap she got that day, but at least she looks good and rested here.

And finally, here's Judah, also worn out. And possibly hypothermic.

All in all, a good day. The Christmas tree may be seconds away from being another page in our history book, but the memories it helped create will live on--oh, for another couple weeks, anyway.

03 January 2008

So this will have to suffice, part deux

From left: Charis, Mom, Dad, Steve, and Katie enjoy a meal together.

This is, believe it or not, the best picture we could get of all three kids. Levi is easy to photograph. Charis and Judah are a little but more challenging; while Levi mostly lays still for pictures, my kids tend to, you know, run and jump and such. So this picture of my kids, diaper-clad and greasy, next to pristinely clean Levi, is one for the ages. Oh, well.

Okay, we're a bit out of sequence here, but this is Abe and Charis at that cool waterfall park. There's just something about a daddy giving his little girl a piggyback ride, isn't there?

Here's another park photo--it's the four of us inside one of those playground bubbles. Not a great picture in terms of clarity--the plastic distortion takes care of that--but it is a great one for the memories.

It's a good thing I was holding tight to my son in this picture; he was riding peacefully on my shoulders when he decided it would be fun to flip his whole self backward. At first, we thought he just fell over, but when he did it again after having been righted, we suspected it wasn't an accidental flip.

Of course, Charis had to get a piece of the action, too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a photo of Steve and Abe bonding, presumably over Call of Duty. Boys. In this particular picture, Steve is trying to teach his nephew the finer points of digital gaming warfare.

Charis absconded a integral part of the napkin holder and began playing with it, and Steve told her it was a scepter, like a king would have. She kept saying, "You be King!" and handing Steve the scepter/napkin holder. She's a loyal subject if ever I saw one.

And here's one last shot of Levi. It's out of sequence, but he's so cute, I just had to include it.

It was a fun trip--beside visiting the neat-o waterfall park and Steve's ambulance, we also played a lot of Catch Phrase ("Okay, who is Samwise Gamee?" asked dad), visited Katie's college Alma Mater for a no-holds-barred buffet lunch and a campus tour, went for a hike in a nearby park with trails, ate at Sonic (a lifelong ambition for Abe), had some yummy pizza at a restaurant called The Mellow Mushroom, toured the historical sites downtown, and spent a day up in Charlotte, NC, visiting Calvary Church, some of our beloved former pastors, and one of my dear friends, Amy. Whew. Long and busy, but good.

The trip home, after all of the fun had concluded, was . . . awful. Where our trip down had taken 14 hours (and that only because of a lengthy stop at Cracker Barrel) and had been smooth as silk, our return trip was 17 hours and smooth as a serrated knife edge, and every bit as painful. We traveled at night, as we had on the trip down, but this time, the kids were miserable, and Abe and I were exhausted. We stopped three times in various parking lots in an attempt to sleep. All three attempts were largely unsuccessful, and by the time we pulled into our driveway,we were toast. The kids napped for 5 hours that day and slept 14 hours that night, and Abe and I have no recollection of how we slept, probably because we were partially in a coma for the next few days.

We have since recuperated.

But then came Christmas...

So this will have to suffice

Okay. I can't blog about Christmas or New Year's stuff without first wrapping up our Thanksgiving-ish trip dow south to visit my brother and sister-in-law and their precious baby, Levi. I mean, one must prioritize. So here's a quick run down, illustrated with photos:

Here's a picture of my kids with their hero Uncle Steve, the paramedic. At the time of this photo, Steve was an EMT training to be a paramedic, but he has now successfully jumped through all of the necessary hoops to be licensed as an actual, no kidding, save-someone's-life paramedic. Way to go, Steve!

We've never had occasion to visit the inside of an ambulance, so Steve was kind enough to take us on a tour. Below, there's a picture of goofball himself posing for the camera and a picture he (or my dad?) took of the rest of us awaiting medical attention. Charis is particularly scared, probably because Steve didn't have his license yet and she feared the consequences of his care. Oh, I kid. He's very capable. In fact, Katie, his wife, is in training to be a midwife, so you could pretty much go to them for all of your immediate medical needs. Handy!

Here's a photo of what happens when my mom starts telling you stories about her youth: you doze right off like a baby. Of course, Levi is an actual baby, so he's probably more susceptible to frequent napping. We'll give Grandma the benefit of the doubt on this one.

We visited this neat park downtown that had great waterfalls and a super playground for the kids. It also had some shady characters, but that's to be expected at a city-central park like this one. Still, it was particularly nice. Here's my dad showing Judah around.

It was freakishly warm down there, particularly for a bunch of Northerners expecting typical end-of-November weather. Here, my dad displays the Northerner's ability to adapt: yes, it's warm, so I will wear shorts, but I am expecting a cold snap at any moment, so I will wear a fleece jacket. We northerners are nothing if not resourceful and versatile.

Now, I know that if I try to attach more pictures at this point, it will drive Blogger haywire, so I will post again in a few minutes with the continued saga. I know you're riveted...