Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Small Reflective Moment

Okay. I don't really have time for blogging today, as it is "out with the old" day. I have the goal of putting most of the Christmas sparkle away (the tree can wait until Friday) so I can begin prepping for baby. Although today, the 30th of December, puts me exactly one month from my January 30 due date, the doctor made the comment this morning, "I bet you're so ready for this! We will hope to get two more weeks out of you before baby comes." What?? Yikes, I am not, in fact, ready! There is a lot to do!

So I am going to begin by posting quickly about two of my favorite moments from Christmas morning. I will follow that up by taking a nap, and possibly starting to read a book I checked out of the library last week. And maybe even add some text to my book draft. Yes, I see myself accomplishing all of that by the end of the day. Mm hmm...

But more on my favorite moments.

After the kids had opened several of their gifts, we sensed that they needed a little time to assimilate their new treasures before finishing up the job. So we took a bit of a break. Here you see Miss Boo reading one of her new books, while Rooster is... throwing a piece of tissue paper in the air to see how it floats down.

At about this time, Miss Boo realized she hadn't gotten any of the things she had asked for. I quizzed her on that for a bit, during which time she realized she liked all the things she was given. As a mom, I had great satisfaction leading her through that conversation, because I saw her demonstrating contentment. Yee haw, because I knew the next two gifts were the ones she had been talking about for months!

My other favorite moment was actually a slow realization. All morning, Rooster had been saying something softly before opening each gift. I finally listened enough to make out a few words, which turned out to be a prayer of thanks! "Dear God, thank you for our food, thank you for me, and for Maren, and for mommy, and for daddy, and for me. Amen!" Oh how proud I was of him in that moment! As if I had anything to do with it.

But in this season when it is so easy to get carried away with consumerism (and lest you are deceived, my kids are just as much a part of it as anyone), they both had a shining moment in that morning full of presents.

Okay, I had a third favorite moment too. Watching how much they loved the new under-the-tree train that we have had hidden for a year, so we could surprise them on Christmas morning... totally gratifying!

There were so many other wonderful things about this Christmas, so many new memories to carry into the future. But a pregnant mommy with a four week timetable that just got shortened to two weeks does not have time to reflect right now! Time for some serious work, interspersed with serious rest!

The morning after, playing with new Play-Doh and weaving loom

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Merry Christmas to you and those you love!

If you have not been here for awhile and want to catch up on family news, start by reading the Key Posts of 2008, listed to the right.

Further down the right column is an archive of all posts, if you would like to spend more time reading. There are a variety of entries; from journals of what we have been up to, to humorous stories, to reflections on life.

Below that you will also find a link to my cooking blog, which includes recipes for spiced pecans, peppermint bark, and whatever thing I brought to that last potluck that you wanted the recipe for. As I learned to say in Michigan, how fun is that?!

Enjoy your visit, and leave a comment to say hi and tell me your favorite entry!

My Favorite Things

My fireplace mantel including the beautiful collectible
Nativity set
my mom gave me last Christmas.
I had no idea I would love it soooo much!

I am fairly confident that during the next two weeks I will not be spending much time online. Boo is off school, Daddio will be working from home, and we will be enjoying family time together.

So to close out the year, I present a few of my favorite things about Christmas. Advent in general is my most favorite thing, but here are a couple of the more tangible things dear to my heart.

My tree includes many special ornaments. We have the "depth of years" look, with a handful added each year. Both sides of the family get into giving ornaments, and I absolutely love the variety we have. As we get out the ornaments each year, the kids always ask where each ornament comes from. It helps me also to remember and be thankful for the people in my life.

Two tree decorations that are especially meaningful to me are this one from my Nana, of Santa kneeling in front of the manger; and the cardinal.

Several years back when my mom let me choose a selection from her collection, she made sure I took one of her several cardinals. She commented, "Your Papa loves cardinals." Cardinals are the state bird of Ohio, where he (and I) grew up, and they are red, his favorite color. I am pretty sure that for him there was an Ohio State connection too, but I can't swear to it.

Anyway, two years ago was Papa's first one in heaven, and I cried a few tears for my loss of him as I carefully placed my cardinal in a spot of honor on the tree. I happened to mention it to my Mom and my Nana, and next thing I know everyone in the family has a cardinal on their tree, too. It's sorta like Papa is here watching and enjoying his descendants having a happy Christmas morning.

January 2008 marked a special birthday for Justin's mom, and I got to decorate for the party. It was as much fun as decorating for a wedding, only without the added stress a wedding brings! Since her birthday was in January, we had a snowflake theme, and now I have a lovely collection of holiday-appropriate decor purchased at Hobby Lobby's post-Christmas 90% off sale! It is so much fun to display these things this year in my new home.

The peppermint cuss bark was merely a small setback, as the next batch turned out lovely. I just love using the red and green striped candy canes because they also have a purple stripe down the inside which makes them look like gems when broken up for the bark! The spiced pecans have been a staple of my diet all week. It's nice to have a holiday treat that includes protein!

And my Christmas celebration, while it truly only needs Jesus, would be missing something without these gems to motivate me. I was more than impressed this morning to be able to dress them up for church, and then actually get them to pose for a photo session afterward! All I had to promise was an hour of play on the Wii, and they were like putty in my hands.

I've posted more photos of them on Facebook, see these adorable children by visiting the album 2008 Kids Christmas Pics.

This week will bring more memories, more cementing of the traditions, and more time to reflect on the wonder of God's gift to humanity, in the form of a humble baby. May you be blessed by God's grace this Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Insomnia Files: What's in a Name?

Here I am once again, only tonight I am not so much up late as I am up early. I still have hope of sleeping more tonight yet, though. I awoke two hours ago with the onset of a migraine, and by the time I got my special green pill and got it working, my mind was spinning once again.

Tonight I am thinking of baby names. We have had a first name for our coming baby since before she was conceived. We have been talking about her by name for years in fact... as if she were coming for a visit someday, or perhaps only waiting in the next room for someone to call her out to meet us. We are all excited to meet this familiar stranger.

But the second name has been a little problematic. I had a great idea years ago, but the closer we get to naming day it just doesn't feel like the right name.

More than the others, this pregnancy has been characterized by my growing awareness of how fragile life is. I have found several mommy blogs describing struggles with miscarriage, complicated pregnancy, congenital problems, and childhood cancers; but I have also been personally touched in the last few months by friends dealing with miscarriage, death of a child, childhood leukemia, and most recently a complicated premature birth with the outcome still not known.

If my last two pregnancies and current monitoring are any indication, we are on track to have a third healthy child. Why am I so fortunate? God has blessed this family more than I deserve, and I am only now starting to appreciate the scope of how much.

And so, I feel the need to acknowledge my gratitude as part of the name of this little lady. Something to indicate how blessed we are, how much of a miracle I understand her normal gestation to be.

I don't have an answer yet; it only came to me today (well yesterday for the purists who believe midnight...or 6am...marks the beginning of a new day). But it is notable that for the first time I have opened the door to ask God to place a name on my heart for this little one. I am sort of shyly looking forward to see what word he might speak to me as I wait expectantly. And that is what I will be resting in as I hopefully fall back to sleep for an hour before the kids start to stir.

The grass withers and the flowers fade; but the word of the Lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sticky Weapons

The grey weather outside this week has inspired me indoors. While at the store a couple days ago, Rooster talked me into buying a fresh bag of marshmallows. When Boo Bear came home from school, I broke them out along with--you guessed it--graham crackers and Hershey bars. I found some skewers in the pantry, and we barbecued marshmallows on the gas burner.

Mmm. We made some yummy snacks. My favorite part is the char when the marshmallow catches fire on the open flame...

At one point I got impatient waiting for my turn with the skewer and stuck my marshmallow in the microwave. Boy did the kids' eyes get big watching it blow up!

12 seconds is all it takes!

As we were sitting at the table munching our sticky snacks, Maren reflected:
You know, if I were a superhero, I'd be Spider Girl. I would take a bag of marshmallows one at a time, blow them up in the microwave, and throw them at bad guys. Then they would be all stuck together and I could call the police to come get them and take them to jail!

I think microwave s'mores are the equivalent of gas station coffee. When you need a fix, it does the trick. However, for culinary satisfaction purposes, I have to recommend the gas burner method. There is just no replacing the char.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pecans, A Preemie, and some Peppermint Perspective

Ahh... the holidays. The season of cheer and sharing. I love this time of year!

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is make gifts to bless others. Every year it's something different, from handmade cards to cookies to oven mitts sewn by yours truly. This year, I've made spiced pecans and peppermint bark. Actually I am cheating a little because those were my love gifts last year, too. But I figured I had the learning curve conquered and I could just whip up a batch or two for those few special people who mentioned how much they loved it last time.

I was wrong.

Last year's Peppermint Bark,
Sugar Plum Drops, and Spiced Pecans

The pecans turned out very well. I can hardly stop eating them long enough to bag and give them away. I am on the second batch now. If I am lucky there will still be some left by Friday for the party I made them for.

The peppermint bark? Well, just as with last year, the peppermint bark is a little hit-or-miss. You see, it has to be done just right. Try to put the two layers together too soon, and the end result is marbled. Wait too long, and the white and dark layers don't stick together.

But I tried it last week and it worked perfectly! I forgot exactly how significant that was, and allowed myself and my family to eat quite a bit of it.

Then I made it again today... and all I can call today's product is Peppermint Cuss. Because that's all I want to do after watching 80% of the batch split apart along the color line as I was cutting it up. Grr! Frustration. If you would like to attempt the recipe for yourself, feel free to click on the words above for the formula! My advice: use Kroger brand white and chocolate chips, and err more on the side of marbled chocolate.

Beautifully, er... flawed

As my wheels were spinning over the failed batch of candy, two things happened. One, a cheery song from my childhood sprang to my mind, involving the use of the word peppermint.

Apple red happiness
Popcorn cheerfulness
Cinnamon singing inside
Peppermint energy
Gumdrop holiday
When you give Christ your life!
-Warren Watkins

At first I was irritated by this tune that would not stop running circles through my head. I am trying to have a tantrum here, people, and those words are NOT helping! Popcorn cheerfulness, indeed. Bah.

Funny thing happened, though. Finally I sat down and looked up the words. Oh, yeah, they are from a kids' Jesus song. And while we all know that life with Christ is not always cinnamon and gumdrops, some truth remains in these words. Candies and treats are the best things in a kid's world (just ask mine), and that is exactly the role Christ plays when we allow him to be in charge of our decisions and run our life! Yes, you read that right, I am likening Christ to the best treat ever. And that is soooo much more awesome than what I made today.

Guess I will just take these words as a reminder to loosen up and remember the big stuff.

Speaking of big stuff, the second thing that happened today is that I was made aware of a friend's preemie born last week, who is barely clinging to life. Little Lia struggles with each day, just trying to survive long enough to become a full term baby with the added stability that a full gestation brings. I am especially struck by her situation, as she was only due to be born a week or two before our own new one. She was born 9 days ago, yet is still more than three weeks away from what was supposed to be her birthday.

If you think of it, please offer a prayer for this precious newborn in her fight to survive. Her mom is with her, but dad (a friend of mine from college) and big brother have to remain at home, two hours away, through this scary time. Mom is pleading to be held up in prayer, as her words are gone. Me, I cannot even imagine the toll the situation must be taking on the family.

Click the photo to read about Lia at Caring Bridge

As I read through her mama's journal, I am simply driven to my knees. The raw entries reflect the depths to which we sometimes are pulled. What do you do when you are truly living hour to hour? In my head I know God is enough, but I cannot say that I have been tested to my limits as this family is being tested tonight.

And so all I can do is pray. I pray that the Holy Spirit will intercede for this mama, as she has no words to pray. I pray that he will give strength and sustenance to this family as they walk through a wilderness. And I pray that he will give physical healing to this tiny baby, and allow her to grow up knowing the love of two parents who love the Lord.

And I am stewing over ruined candy? Talk about resetting my perspective! It's not worth the effort to be frustrated, because too many other things are more important. Tonight I will hug my babies a little tighter, and thank the Lord for their presence in my life. Yes, a little Peppermint Perspective was just what I needed today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Canon's Last Dance

Back in May, Rooster turned 3. Such a big boy! We had a taco ring, balloons and presents. Yay for birthdays!

The next morning, on the exact same day I was starting to realize we might be getting another addition to our family, we lost a certain other member of our family. No condolences necessary, but I think it is legitimate to count the camera as a member of the family, since it allows the distant family members to feel as if they are closer.

Oh, what happened? I would be happy to tell you! In the excitement of birthday fun, our lovely Canon Power Shot was left on the coffee table at the end of the day. If you have been around many three year olds, you will know exactly what kind of jeopardy the camera was in from that moment on. And it didn't take many moments, either.

My camera contains a final set of photos, more than 80 in fact, that are time stamped starting at 7:47 the following morning. This means I had just gotten Daddy and Boo Bear out the door, Grammy was still asleep (we were still living at Red Boot then), and I must have darted upstairs to check Facebook or some other such lovely distraction.

The following are a sampling of the 80 photos time stamped between 7:47 and 7:58.

The area around the coffee table occupied the child for exactly four minutes, then he wandered into the kitchen for more scenery.

Another four minutes later, the outdoors beckoned. There are about a dozen iterations of his little toes, then a couple incriminating shots of the trees, demonstrating some fuzz in the center of the picture. It was at this point the camera must have been dropped right on the open lens. **sniff** And of course a final self-portrait in case there was any doubt as to the offending party.

It was at this point that Mommy came downstairs and found Rooster playing with the camera. He handed it over a little sheepishly, and I took what ended up being a final picture of him before turning it off... and that was the end of it. The camera never opened again, because the lens assembly had been damaged in its drop to the concrete.

Six months later, we decided our one and only Christmas gift was going to be a combined one, to each other, and it was going to come early. We went out yesterday to make the modest purchase of a new Kodak. These pictures finally came to light as we inserted the memory card from the old camera. I am now far enough removed from the sadness of the moment to be able to laugh about it, and at the very least to share it with you.

Merry Christmas, and I hope we have lots more pictures to share with you of this blessed season and of our new baby when she arrives in January.

You can believe Rooster will not be getting his hands anywhere near the Kodak.

To see more photos of Rooster's 11 minute walk with the Canon, visit this link to his album on Facebook.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Give a Cat a Pill

This first made its rounds back in the 90's, when the internet was still young. I was reminded of it the other day as I read a friend's description of how to dress a 2 year old. So in tribute to feline children everywhere, I hereby resurrect one of my favorite forwarded stories of all time. My 6 year old daughter took the photo of her Grammy's cat, who does not take pills.

How To Give A Cat A Pill:

1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.

3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.

5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from garden.

6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.

7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.

8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw.

9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.

10 . Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard, and close door on to neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.

11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Throw T-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.

12. Call fire department to retrieve the cussed cat from across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.

13. Tie the little bugger’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table, find heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.

14. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room, sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and remove pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.

15 . Arrange for SPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pardon me, your fragrance is showing

I have to brag on my neighbor today. She is so awesome, and I love that we both have plans to live here forever. Or thereabouts.

We are in our third home, and have had nice neighbors before, but Lady M and her family are the jewel in the crown. I am not letting her go without a fight, so if you would like to share her, you will just have to move into our new neighborhood! You can see here there are still a couple of lots available on our street.

From my front door.
M's house is the stone one closest to the camera.

Why is she so wonderful, you ask? Well I took a liking to her from day 1, but last night her fragrance showed through. Her what? Bear with me for a moment.

She and her family stopped by right at 7pm to drop off a plate of Christmas cookies. How sweet, you say! Yes, they were. They were chocolate dough, with some caramel yumminess on the inside, and chopped up candy bar on top. If you would like to share some, you'll have to stop by soon because I will be eating them all today. With help from the kids, of course!

But that was not all, oh no that was not all!
Apparently I am channeling Dr. Seuss

What the lovely Lady M did not know was that my honey had invited a few friends over for the evening, and they were also scheduled to arrive about 7pm. I had just gotten the call at 5:30 that this event would be happening. So just as the neighbor family got settled into the corners of the house for their impromptu visit (you know kids, you're in the front door with them one moment and they are deep in the toy closet the next), the doorbell rang again!

Lady M was chatting with me in the kitchen while I finished up the dishes in preparation for company. As she realized my prep time had just run out, she took advantage of my momentary distraction to finish washing my dishes! By the time I had hospitably greeted our guests, put their drinks in the refrigerator, and made them feel welcome in my home, she had finished the job like a pro, leaving no evidence whatsoever of the unpleasant mess that had been there only moments earlier.

And then, the whole family mysteriously disappeared back into the night. Like the fragrance of flowers that lingers after they pass through a room, the only thing left of the neighborly visit was a tidy sink, a plate of cookies, and a sense of peace as I sat down to visit with hubby's friends.

Go, Lady M. You rocked my world last night, and I can't wait to get you back!

Her small action reminded me of something from Scripture. Second Corinthians 2:15 says, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."

I would like my actions to have lasting impact! I read here that my actions actually show evidence that Christ has touched my life, a fragrance that lingers after the source is gone. Lord, help me to do so; both in the little ways as my friend did last night, and in eternal ways as I seek to present Christ to the world around me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh, the Novelty!

Yesterday as I got in the car at 2pm to go Christmas shopping, the temperature gauge on my car read 79 degrees. I fiddled with the temperature control dials in disgust, because the cabin of my SUV was stuffy. I could not even put the fan on because the air was too humid, I had to run the A/C. On behalf of Northerners everywhere, I grumbled.

Imagine my surprise at 5pm to read a post from a local friend that the Weather Channel was forecasting snow overnight! What????

Sure enough, as evening approached, the wind kicked up. Blowing even more of my icicle lights up onto the roof, of course, and detaching the ends so they now sway in the breeze. But I am not complaining. I love those lights, and love my hubby even more for climbing on that high roof three times already to make them just right. And from where I stand, down on the ground, they look just fine.

But back to the story. We slept snugly to the sound of strong gusts outside, which continue even this morning. I can even report that I slept straight through the night without stirring, for the first time in two weeks. Glorious.

Boo Bear leapt out of bed with complete joy this morning. I heard her exclaim, "I just love snow!" She dressed and flew downstairs in a heartbeat, then put on her full winter gear and raced outside to shiver in the sleet and powder.

Ahh, childhood.

Justin asked, "Do the kids have school today?" I scoffed at the thought that the question even had to be asked! Of course the kids would have school in this weather! But since chatting with a few other friends this morning, I realized that in Texas, this actually could be considered a snow day. What a world.

And while it was a real possibility, no the kids did not, in fact, have a snow day. At least, no one has called me to come pick up my child. Yet.

When Rooster heard the commotion, he wanted to get in on the action. So I dressed him as quickly as possible and put on his gloves and a windbreaker, as that is the only jacket he has, and sent him outside.

This was about as much time as Boo had needed to experience winter.

Rooster enjoyed it for a moment, but seemed confused about why this was supposed to be so much fun? He poked around the yard for a moment and then gave me a beseeching look to rescue him.

I'm cold, mommy

As for me, I was in such a hurry not to miss the moment that I was outside in my pajamas and flip flops. And no, I do not have a picture of that. But my toes are still cold. Good thing I bought gingerbread coffeemate yesterday for my morning java!

The snow is just about gone now. The wind continues, but only a few flakes remain scattered about. I tried to explain to the kids that an ambient temp of 35 is actually warm compared to other parts of the world, but they were too busy shivering and begging for cocoa and hot oatmeal to hear me.

And so it goes. In trying to give my kids the world, apparently tolerance for cold weather is one of the things we lost. But you can't have everything, and really, we are more than happy to share our warm climate with whomever wants to come visit (or live) here!

Best of all, the furnace guy is on his way to fix our heater so it actually turns on. Since it has been so warm, I have not been able to confirm my suspicion that it was not working, until this morning. Yes, it is disgusting, I know. I think once I get this house heated above 65, the feeling of living a cold Ohio (or PA or MI or IN or UT) day will disappear and the sense of living in Texas will return.

But we can say that we took advantage of the novel weather while we had it, and the kids have their memory of "that day it snowed in Texas."

After I wrote this, the snow started in earnest about 3pm. By nightfall we had almost 2 inches! At 7:30 I sent the kids back outside to build a snowman... carpe diem, ya know? An hour later they finally got cold and wet enough to return indoors. I popped them into my giant tub to warm up, then we watched "The Night Before Christmas" together before I tucked them in at 9:30. I totally blew bedtime, but oh, the memories.

Christmas Giveaway Result

Well I have had so much fun with this giveaway business. It has warmed my heart all weekend to know I was going to draw some lucky winner's name last night, and send her a little piece of me.

My winner, chosen from a scientific drawing involving slips of paper and my most favorite frosted snowflake mug, is Wanda of Queenie's Little Kingdom.

What I somehow missed was Wanda's blog as I was visiting the "little kingdoms" of all my lovely commenters over the weekend. I just found it last night as I was searching for her contact info, and I was struck by her reflections on life. As it turns out, she is attending the funeral of a friend's son today. So as you feel prompted, please just say a prayer for this sweet lady on a day bound to be full of a wide range of thoughts and feelings.

In case any of my commenters are back here to see the wrap-up of my giveaway, I would just like to say how rich I suddenly feel to have visited all of your sites, and to feel like I just found a world full of people very much like me. I admire you all for pursuing Jesus; for attempting to be good mommies, wives and friends; and for your determination to express your faith and your daily struggles authentically. Keep it up!

Know that your collective work inspires me to continue to press forward with my own dreams and goals. I hope to see some of you around again.

Blessings to all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crazy Mommy's Soundtrack

I have tried not to get too stressed this holiday season. So far I feel I have been mostly successful. I even did all my Christmas shopping for the kids in a single 45 minute Target sweep this afternoon. If I can get hubby to make a couple of eBay purchases in the next 30 minutes, I will be all done with elfing for the two younger loves of my life for this season.

But in the back of my head lives a crazy mommy constantly fighting to get out. If she were to escape, I imagine the soundtrack of her holidays might sound a little like this.

I give you Straight No Chaser, in "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Insomnia Files

If you are here to register for my Christmas giveaway, scroll down two entries to last Friday's post. There is still time to play!

I have to laugh at myself. As this is the first time I have ever done a giveaway, and I know I've gotten a lot more traffic here than usual, I seem to have suddenly found myself tongue-tied! There are definitely not a lot of profound thoughts in my brain searching for expression today.

But it could also be related to the fact that this pregnancy insomnia thing is really kicking me in the...whatever. I feel like a zombie, and don't even have a baby yet to show for it! This morning I got Boo and Daddy ready and out the door in record time, and didn't even wait for their departure before going back to bed for another two hours.

Thus the day fractured before it even began. The intent was to go to the grocery, then meet Boo for lunch at school, then come home and do something productive. After sleeping in, it was already Boo's lunchtime by the time I got my shopping list made. So Rooster and I met her first, with a modified plan to continue on with the grocery shopping in the afternoon.

We ended up acquiring Boo for the rest of the day, as I took pity on her request to leave school early. What was I thinking? I can barely walk through the store with my eyes open, let alone navigate sibling issues today! But I thought that with her along, we could also stop quickly by Hobby Lobby to get supplies to make a gift for her classmates.

An HOUR later, we were on to the next quick stop at Sam's Club for 8 items. I was still hungry, so decided we (I) needed some cheap pizza from Sam's Fine Deli. So another HOUR after that, we were finally ready for the Kroger part of the trip.

Oh, forget it. I'll just go tonight on the way home after a Christmas party.

We came home and started making ornaments, which lasted... longer than the kids did. I ended up finishing the ones the kids had started, then thought I might have a few minutes of quiet time. Hah! Rooster proceeded to produce his THIRD poop of the day on the potty, which led me to suggest he take a bath.

Of course, once he had one, Boo wanted one too. Rooster stayed naked in the bathroom to participate from the dry side of the tub. I have a good view into the bathroom from my computer chair, so felt I was doing well to supervise from here.

Next thing I knew, I looked over in time to see...my little man cub PEEING into Miss Boo's bath! Oh.My.Word. Bathtime over!

Now my little angels are running through the house "nekked." Rooster is wearing a hooded cape, Boo is wearing a horse. You know the one, you stand in the middle of a giant stuffed horse, and it stays on your shoulders via suspenders? That one. But underneath the accessories, it's all baby skin and parts showing.

Ah, the kid years.

I should intervene. If I could only think of what to do...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Go, tell it on the mountain!

Now that I have been listening to Christmas music for two weeks (already!) I have been reconnecting with my all-time favorite Christmas song.

Back in high school I was in a madrigal choir, and Christmas season was a busy time as we performed acappella Christmas concerts four or five times a week around town during the month of December.

I love the beauty of five part harmony; and singing Jesus songs with all my vocally gifted secular friends brought me a secret joy. Christmas is about the only time of year such a thing can happen.

One night after a concert, five of us had planned to ride home together. It happened that there was one of us for each part, so we decided to impromptu carol our neighborhood before splitting up. We parked at the end of the street, in the parking lot of a medical clinic, and started to walk.

As we passed out of the lot toward the neighborhood on that clear frosty night, we crested a hill and began to walk down. At once we were all struck by the view of the lights of homes and businesses we could see. And as one we knew what we had to do.

The five of us gathered in a circle, and began to sing to each other, solely for our own benefit and enjoyment:
Go, tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!
You know how sound carries differently in cold night air? It just sounds more pure. I think even the angels were listening that night; I know I will never forget that magical moment, as long as I live. Because while we were indeed singing beautiful harmony, and enjoying the sound we made together, we were also praising God for his wonderful gift. These high school kids who never discussed faith or religion together, were singing words that honored God.

Each year when the season rolls around and radio stations again play that tune, I am reminded once again that God accepts every good deed as if it is done for him; and although many people have lost the meaning of Christmas, I think he must also accept some measure of praise when people of all religious persuasions sing the Jesus carols.

But let those of us who believe also not forget the charge: Go! Tell it on the mountains and everywhere, that Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, has been born!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cool Giveaway Contest

Okay, I don't know much about the blogging world other than my little teeny corner, but my corner seems to be getting a little bigger every day as I visit my friends, then their friends and their friends.

Today I found a cool giveaway on the blog of a writer I read regularly for inspiration. Click the picture above to visit her blog and read the description of her contest.

Good luck!

**Update: I did not realize this was to be a giveaway on my part as well. How fun, and challenging in the midst of this season! Let's see, what do I have that I can share with a lucky reader? Okay. Time to practice my humility and not offer the spa getaway I wish I could...

I have an assortment of handmade cards I put together a couple years ago when I was trying to build a home business. Life got crazy and pulled me away from crafting for profit, but now I have a box of notecards that I give away on occasion. So while it is a humble gift, it is also something I offer with pride because I made it myself.

I will send 2 packets of note cards and two different birthday cards (and maybe another bonus or two) to one lucky reader who leaves a comment on this post before 10pm Tuesday! Just be sure there is some way to contact you in return.

So there is my attempt at holiday spirit without breaking the bank! Have fun!

**Second update: As I have visited the blogs of those leaving their comments, I realized most of these giveaways are ending Monday... So while the end date originally specified was different, I have indeed changed it to Tuesday night at 10pm Central Time.

Remember to enjoy the season!

**We have a winner! Thanks Wanda for stopping by!

MOPS: The Adventure of Knowing Christ

Christmas is known as the season of goodwill on earth. During this sacred window we are inclined to reach a little deeper into our wallets; we take a moment to be considerate of others in our path each day; and we thank the Lord for our blessings. We reach out to the poor, the homeless, and the otherwise disadvantaged in ways that we don't think to do during other times of the year.

While all humanity is indeed desperately in need of relief from hunger, disease, loneliness and more, the truth is that everything you and I do to help is meaningless without an additional piece. The love we share when we reach out to others is just a symbol of the love God showed for us when he sent Jesus to earth as a humble human baby.

Jesus, miraculously both fully God and fully human, grew up to become the ultimate sacrifice of love that would truly relieve the separation we all have from God, who is the source of life. He addressed hunger by becoming living water (John 4:10) and the bread of life (John 6:35). He cured disease by defeating death itself (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). And his death on the cross brought us out of loneliness into relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:18).

In this season of goodwill, let us remember that the goodwill we cherish is not of each person to another. That kind of goodwill is a wonderful thing, and God does use our actions to bless others. But it is not the meaning of Christmas. When the angels were there with the shepherds in the sky over Bethlehem, they sang of "Peace, goodwill toward men" as a message from God Himself to people everywhere (Luke 2:14).

The eternal God, existing outside of time; the powerful God, creator of our world and everything in it; almighty God Himself has goodwill toward degenerate humans in all of their sickness, hunger, and depraved ways!

May this same God bless you richly this Christmas season as you meditate on the ultimate gift, in which God became a lowly human of the humblest of origins, in order to show His goodwill to all of humanity. He made himself nothing (Philippians 2:7), so we could have the chance to be raised above the brokenness of our nature, and someday sit in the heights of heaven with him!

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:18

This post was first published in our MOPS newsletter for December 4. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

So This is Christmas

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
-John Lennon

So far I am really enjoying every bit of this holiday season. We put up the tree and lights the week before Thanksgiving, both of which give me a sense of contentment whenever I see them. The radio was also tuned to the Christmas station that week, although I've had to dial back on that just a little...wouldn't want to get sick of Christmas songs too early in the month!

Advent is my favorite aspect of Christmas. The anticipation of Jesus and the joy he brought to earth is the whole point of the season, after all; the traditions and memories are just a way for humans to represent that joy in our finite terms. We have been pulling figurines out of our advent calendar pockets each morning for four days now, and enjoying a little candle time before bed each night as we discuss different aspects of Jesus' significance to us.

For all the years we travel or seem to be "between" stages at this season, this year seems for me to have become that traditional childhood Christmas we all seem to spend our adult lives looking for. We have done a few Christmas crafts, and had a few friends over for a Christmas party, complete with a birthday cake for Jesus. And I haven't even begun baking yet!

I suppose part of the explanation for the lightness of my heart in this season is that I haven't yet been weighed down by the shopping and planning that so often threaten to consume us and steal our joy at this time of year. I have bought a grand total of one gift so far, and have no specific plans in the next few days to even begin this part of the season.

Frankly, I'm hesitant to begin for the exact reason that I am enjoying myself so very much, and I know that starting to think about purchasing and shipping and fairness will weigh me down. Don't get me wrong, I love to give gifts. But every year I seem to go overboard and end up with more debt at the end of the season than I started with. And that's not a good feeling.

Nor is it something I think Jesus intended for us. He certainly didn't go into debt to give us his great gift. Indeed, his gift paid a debt. Maybe my Christmas would be more honoring to him if I could figure out a way to give gifts without breaking my budget. I know, I can plan ahead better next year. But for now, I'm still pondering how to walk the line this year, of blessing my loved ones without sacrificing my contentment.

Meanwhile, I celebrate the gifts I already feel I've been given this year, starting with a home of my own that exceeds my wildest dreams.

My children are growing by leaps and bounds. Yesterday Boo Bear came to me for the first time ever and requested me to put ponytails in her hair. Significant because she has never liked me touching her hair, and any mention of her hair seems to end with us both in a foul mood. I am not exaggerating.

She has also had remarkable improvement in her behavior in the last three weeks. I knew in September that the bright spot in the challenges she was facing with controlling her actions at school, home and everywhere she went, was that it would be obvious when she began to develop a little more social maturity. And so it is; it got harder for awhile, then seemed to smooth out dramatically. We are so proud of how she is growing up. Just in time, too, to play the role of big sister once again.

I have been telling Rooster for weeks that all I want for Christmas from him is to be done with diapers for this month and next until the baby comes. Rooster informed me yesterday that he is now potty trained, and in fact has not had any kind of accident (other than nighttime but that's not on my hit list yet) for days.

Not sure how ready he is for a baby in the house. I'd love to know what's going on in his head. He sometimes talks about how his big brother is growing in his own tummy. Then this morning, we were standing in an elevator together and I reached down to see if I could still touch my toes. Suddenly he seemed to notice my swelling belly for the first time. He reached up and touched it reverently and said, "Wow, Mommy, your tummy is getting really big! Guess we'll have to punch out its lights!" Wow. I laughed so hard I wouldn't have been surprised if the baby made a sudden appearance right then.

And my loving husband is my treasure, my greatest gift of all. He works really hard all day long, then comes home and plays with the kids, helps with dinner dishes, and makes sure to talk and pray with them (the kids, that is, not the dishes) before bed. He makes sure I get my mommy nights out, as well as whatever writing time I need. He speaks encouragement in my ear constantly, affirming me whenever I need it. I feel so blessed to be eleven years into a marriage that has brought me more good than I ever thought possible.

And so this is Christmas. Maybe this year we can all take a breath and try to separate from the frenzy of the season, as we breathe in the wonder and joy of the gift given when Jesus came to earth to experience humanity for himself. Maybe we can celebrate the pure joy of knowing he made a way for everything to truly be "all right." I know that as long as I hold on to the wonder and joy that the season is meant to inspire, then that is the most important thing.

May God bless us all in special measure this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I think I should make a CD of Rooster's sound bites now while I'm sick to death of hearing them. That way when he moves to new ones in a few years and I miss these ones, I'll have something to go back to, to remember "the good times." So far, here are the tracks I am thinking to record:

1: Daddy, can I play with your iPhone?
2: Daddy, will you bring the (Nerf) guns home from work so I can play with them?
3: Mommy, can I have gum?
4: Can I play a video game?
5: Can I sleep in your bed tonight?
6: Wee-hoo! That's so great!
7: No!
All this to say, I think I finally found what would motivate him to be responsible for his own bathroom breaks!

As consequence: When the boy is so engrossed in his games or movies that he wets himself, that's the end of Media for the day.

As reward: When he poops on the potty, he gets to play the Wii all by himself for an hour.

He finally seems to have turned a corner. All weekend he was taking initiative to go pee in the potty. Sunday night I put him on the potty before bed, and he dropped a bomb in there. As he says so eloquently, "Wee-hoo!"

Monday he told me two times he had also pooped, and while I wanted to believe him, I hadn't seen it so wasn't sure what to believe. But later there was a brown smear in his pull-up (yes, I went back after the week leading UP to last weekend), so I tentatively gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then yesterday I realized we haven't had any wet pants episodes for a few days.

I started discussing this with a friend on the phone yesterday morning (so rude, I know, but it's where I'm at). Rooster was laying on the floor staring at the ceiling, sucking his thumb and holding his Eeyore (the love of his life). Suddenly he got up, smiled a secret smile, walked to the bathroom and sat on the potty. A moment later he shouted, "I did it, Mommy! I pooped on the potty! Now I get to play Super Mario Galaxy!"

Sure enough. The power of suggestion had inspired him. So of course I let him, and he was soooo happy.

Then 7 hours later, I was bragging on him to his Daddy over the phone, telling about the morning incident. I'll be darned if the kid didn't overhear and go repeat the whole incident by pooping again.

Apparently he has now gone from avoiding pooping for two days at a time, to putting it out on command for rewards.

I was suddenly reminded of my old cat Figaro, who always seemed to save a torpedo for emergencies. I would wait until he had left a fresh bomb in the litter box, then go scoop out the whole thing; but that cat would invariably come back after I was done and leave another one in its place. I found out later it's an instinctive trait of cats to mark their pooping place.

Although Figaro left us before Rooster ever entered the scene, I guess he passed on the kitty gene. But let me just tell you, I don't care the cause or the psychology of it one bit.

Bottom line, my kid has now pooped on the potty at least five times in the last four days, and that is all that matters to me. This child might be trained in time for college after all. Wee-hoo.


In my regular life, I suffer from insomnia somewhere between zero and one times per year. Pregnancy, however, seems to have robbed me of this thing I call "regular life."

To me there is no greater tragedy than being in my favorite place in the world--bed--with nothing to keep me from my favorite activity--sleep--and finding myself staring at the ceiling for hours in boredom. How totally rude.

Tonight marks the fourth time in a week I have sought a change of venue in order to pin down the elusive sleep fairy. Tonight is the first time that the secondary location has failed to work. Now I had a hunger pang and had to get up for an extra meal. Dang it.

So while I wait for my nocturnal bowl of frosted flakes to work its magic, I will tell you of an interesting exchange I had with Boo Bear a few days ago.

On Wednesday we girls were riding somewhere in the car together, when from the backseat I heard this:

"You know last year, when I was in kindergarten, one day a boy kissed me while I was waiting in the car rider line."

She had my attention. I asked, "Did you want him to?"

"No. It made me feel yucky. These two boys were playing a game to see who could kiss the most girls."

In kindergarten.

To which I said, "Did you tell a teacher?"

"Yes, she said not to worry about it."

Sigh. Where exactly does one go with this conversation? I chose to use the remaining minute of our car ride to establish two things.

1: "Well, honey, the teacher is partly right. You can't always be in control of what other people do to you, all you can do is decide how you will respond to it. I hope nobody ever does anything to you that really does hurt you, but just know that you are always in charge of how you will let it bother you. And that is exactly why Jesus is there for us." Totally inadequate words, I know. But I couldn't come up with a better way to deal with the strong mother bear instinct that was welling up within me.

2: "And, honey? You know that six is way too young for you to be kissing boys, right?"

"Yes, mom. I didn't kiss him! He kissed me!"

"OK. Just wanted to be clear on that. You have years before you need to be thinking about kissing."

"Of course, mom."

Disturbing enough, right? Now fast forward two hours.

The whole family was home, as it was the day before Thanksgiving. The kids were outside catching bugs in the backyard when the doorbell rang. It was our 8 year old neighbor D, wanting to know if he could play with the kids. No problem, I said, they're out back catching bugs. He said, great, my mom said I could stay for an hour.

They all played outside for 35 minutes, then went upstairs to play. At one point I went to the kids' room to put away some clothes (and, I confess, to do a little eavesdropping). I found the door locked with Boo and D inside, playing princess rescue with the Little People Castle set. Hmm. Obviously I stipulated that doors need to be open whenever friends are in the house.

A few minutes later she was showing her friend something on her little laptop. I noticed they were sitting close together on the sofa, but was trying really hard to quiet my paranoia.

Then D left. At dinner a few minutes later, Boo remarked casually, "He asked me if he could kiss me. Then he asked if I would be his girlfriend. I said no, because I know not to."

Daddy muttered something about a trip to Walmart to buy a gun.

On second thought, maybe pregnancy is not the cause of my insomnia.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No White Christmas Here!

I have lately been wondering what everyone south of the snow latitude feels about all the references to snow and cold in the repertoire of holiday music that pervades this time of year. Personally, after only one year of southern Christmas, I'm already feeling that "those Northerners" are pretty ethnocentric singing about sleigh rides and snowmen and getting warm by the fire, when those experiences are only really descriptive of a part of the national population.

I have heard one song about celebrating Christmas in Hawaii by the palm trees, which I liked. But that's one song out of hundreds.

And then... driving home from Kroger just now, I heard a new Christmas song. As I turned on the car I thought the station had been changed from my local Christian station, because my radio was belting out a country western tune.

I got pulled into the tune, then as I listened closer realized I liked the words even better:

"We don't get white Christmases in Houston..."

There was more that made me laugh, about wearing flip flops and drinking iced tea on the back porch; but thanks to years of fractured sleep, my swiss cheese memory enjoyed the words and then let them wash away with the tropical tide...

Thanks to a caller, I learned that the group is called Brandon. I came home and looked for lyrics online, but perhaps it's new to the world and not just me. If I find them or hear the song again, I will post them. They made me smile.

And for the record, if you'd like to be sure you DON'T experience a white Christmas this year, give me a call and I'll get the guest room ready!

**Update: I found a link to a home video another family made to this song. At least you can listen to it and get the words, but their photo show is pretty indicative of how it is!

Christmas in Houston