24 December 2011

Of Child-Like Celebration

We enjoyed a small and simple Christmas Eve service this evening at the church my father-in-law pastors. By way of Christmas Eve services, I would say it was just what we needed. Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. You could tell it was just right when our little 18-month-old on the second row spent the whole service dancing in his seat to the congregation's renditions of well-known Christmas carols. The end of every song was also punctuated with his enthusiastic, "Yay!" I feel it was a very appropriate celebration of the Baby we all came to worship. (Appropriate and adorable.) The ride home was filled with its own festive vibe as Micaiah led everyone in a rousing chorus of Jingle Bells. After a couple of rounds of the only carol she knows, she insisted we carry on with our own songs as she continued on with hers. And so it went - faltering versions of "Deck the Halls", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and, finally, all twelve days of Christmas, all rang through Gram & Grandy's van with a background singer happily belting Jingle Bells. Certainly doesn't get any merrier than that.

Of a Not-So-White Christmas

A couple of weeks ago, when I mentioned the holiday for some reason or other, Micaiah declared, "It's not Christmas; it's not snowing!". This was the point at which I realized an unrealistic precedent has been established in her life. For all the Christmases she is likely to remember (ie, the past two years), she has enjoyed a white Christmas. Having grandparents who live a little further north than Oklahoma has done well to increase the likelihood of this occurance for her. This year, however, the Midwest, in general, has experienced considerably less wintry precipitation than in previous years (thus far), and I fear she will learn the bitter truth - Christmas and snow are not always a packaged deal. It's sad she must learn the truth so early in life, but better to be disillusioned young than to allow oneself to become too cozy in a false assumption, right? It's kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. Here's hoping this latest revelation comes about with few tears. I'm thinking the presents will help to ease the pain.

21 December 2011

Of Finger Wagging

We have known for quite some time that our daughter has an inordinate amount of sass.  I mean, just look at this picture:

If that's not sass, I don't know what is.

And now she has decided to employ her sassy nature at times of discipline.  A move that, maybe, isn't so wise for her and leaves me asking, "Where does this come from?!"

Yesterday, as we had guests and Little Miss was not so eager for napping (not that she ever is, but particularly not when she has others to entertain), I instructed Micaiah to put away the train she had just pulled out and head to the potty.  Rather than listen to me, she (as she frequently does), yelled, "No!" and dropped the train on the floor.  I gave her the look that says, "You're going to get a spanking when we're alone and unless you want to make it worse, I highly suggest you pick up that train right now" (parents sure can pack a lot of message into one look).

Her response was to put one hand on her hip and wag her finger at me, with a very smug smile on her face, as if to ask, "And what are you going to do about this?"

And then she saw what I was going to do about that.  And it wasn't good.

It wasn't until I wagged my own pointer while scolding her about her inappropriate behavior that I even realized where she learned it - this is when I had to explain, "This finger is only for Momma - you do NOT wave your finger at Momma!"  Since then, she has tried to sneak it out once or twice and the phrase, "Don't you point that finger at me" has been said (by me) more than I would like in this house.

That girl.

She's lucky we love her.

20 December 2011

Of Charlie Brown

After bath-time tonight, we cuddled with kids in footie p.j.'s, inhaling the soft scent of baby shampoo, and enjoyed A Charlie Brown Christmas.  While Micaiah was upset any time Charlie, himself, wasn't on the screen, Emmett's sole purpose in sitting still for (most of) the film was so he could identify Snoopy whenever he made his appearance.  Emmett did so by excitedly yelling, "Puppy!" each time the little white dog showed up.

The downside to this classic is that the beautiful message of the movie is relegated to the very end - which works by way of any typical plot-line, but unfortunately that puts the meaning of Christmas at just past our children's attention span.

Ah well, there's always next year.

19 December 2011

Of Our Cookie Factory

Because we had yet to do so this year, our family spent the evening creating sugar cookies, with the help of Aunt Dia and one of the young ladies I disciple through our youth group.  And those girls, along with our kids, were cookie-making machines.  Here's what was going on in our dining room tonight:

 Dayla and Emmett made one cookie-making team, while Krista and Micaiah formed the other.  Both did exemplary jobs.

Sometimes Emmett's fingers decided they wanted to leave a lasting mark.

 He had fun!  And, don't worry, none of that snot made it into the cookies - at least not that we know of.

 She was awesome at getting the job done.


She and Daddy made a couple of amazing cookies together!

17 December 2011

Of Torturous Toilet Training

We've been dousing our little girl in Kool-Aid lately (ok, not literally - just refilling her cup as quickly as it empties) in an effort to keep that little body needing to potty.  The more she fills herself with liquid, the further cause she has to practice what needs to be a regular skill.

Yesterday was torturous.  There were many outfit changes and floor cleanings and a couch cushion cover thrown into the laundry.  Today was better.  We had one accident and one definite success (I consider her showing initiative in this department to be a success - following our leading is a nice step in the right direction, but someday she'll need to know to go to the potty when Mommy and Daddy aren't there to tell her to do so).

What will tomorrow hold?  We shall see.

God is definitely using this season of our lives to teach us patience.  I have seen a lot of ugliness in myself in my never-ending frustration in this department.  As I broke down in tears yesterday when my daughter simply would not learn, I fell into a shallow pit of despair.  I felt utterly helpless.

She didn't care.  Nothing could make her care.  We could talk to her all day long.  We could spank her until we were all red.  Nothing was making a difference.  The only results were a frustrated and angry family all-around.  And she doesn't deserve that.  None of us do.

She asked me, yesterday, after the above scene of sobbing and letting go, "Mommy, do you like me?"

If that doesn't break a Momma's heart, I don't know what does.

God has used this time to break me and remind me that I am not always the one in control - nor should I be.

And so we wait.  We encourage.  We discipline when necessary.  But we will always love.

16 December 2011

Of Completing the Task

I have very exciting news for everyone:

The church library is hereby complete and ready for its Grand Opening in January!

I'm not sure how many people realize just how exciting this day is for me, but for those of you who may not realize, I began my training to learn how to do any and all of this process over two and a half years ago.  While I have had many a hiatus since that very beginning, work has been done since then - sometimes with the help of magnificent volunteers and sometimes with none.

For the last three to four months, at least, I have gone in (as much as I was available) two to three mornings a week (most often with kids in toe, which always makes a task more interesting, if not hair-pullingly frustrating) to take the to the work of organizing nearly two thousand books, first in one order (the order the computer wanted to print their spine labels, which was not necessarily the most logical for library organization) and then in the final order.

I have gone through the labeling process of each of these two thousand books three times (the first time with bar codes, when initially entered into the computer, the second with spine labels and the third with spine label protectors) and have stamped every single one with the name and address of our church (well, almost every single one - I did have some help).

And now, dear friends, now it is done.  And this library - my blood, sweat and tears (mostly the latter two) will be opening before this tiny little one arrives.


(Please pardon the blurriness of these shots, but my actual camera was at home, so I had to go with the video camera, which has no flash.)

You can't tell, but those labels at the tops of the shelves list which call numbers are on each shelf.  They make me happy.  Plus, just knowing those books are in order makes me want to do a dance of victory.

This little mobile shelf for the children's books is also a source of happiness for me.  Isn't it just too cute.

(Also, please ignore that some of the books look haphazard as they fall over - I don't actually have bookends yet.  But that will NOT stop me from opening, so we're just dealing with it.)

13 December 2011

Of Angels

Micaiah's conversation with Daddy at the dinner table tonight:

"An angel came into my room and told me, 'Caiah, don't be afraid, there are no monsters in your closet.'"

I'm not sure how much of this statement was seasoned with her frequent hearings of the Christmas story, with the angel telling Mary, and later the shepherds, to fear not, but either way, we're intrigued.  

12 December 2011

Of Babies

It was a busy baby-birthin' day in our family.  No, not for me (this one's still got some cookin' time left on it's little biological clock!), but after hearing about their admittance to the hospital last night, I received word this morning that my newest niece, Miss Nella, was born at 8:51am - weighing a whopping 9lb, 5oz and measuring 21 inches in length - Whoa, Nellie!  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Then, after Facebook-stalking Philip's cousin (the original Angela in the family), who went in for induction early this morning, all day, we finally heard of her arrival via C-Section not too long ago (I'm sure the wait was much more difficult on those actually involved, rather than those watching closely via status update).  And, as my mother-in-law stated, today was the day of big babies as little (or not-so) Evalynn beat my niece by a solid 6oz - weighing in at 9lb, 11oz and measuring, also, 21 inches long.

Whew!  Glad today wasn't our day - and praying February brings the day of small-ish babies.

Congratulations to all the families who grew in number today!

11 December 2011

Of Christmas - the "Right" Way

I've struggled for the past couple of years, as the weight of the responsibility, as mother and wife, for such decisions has really begun to press upon me, with how to celebrate Christmas the "right" way.  What traditions will we take on?  What customs will we skip?  How do we really impress upon our children, and ourselves, the true significance of our celebration?

I know it sounds empty in our culture today to say I'm sick of the commercialism of the holiday.  For we hear that everywhere and yet under the trees of all of us who say that are still a plethora of wrapped packages.  Our stockings are still hung by the fireplace with care and our children still ooh and aah over the blinking lights on the tree and on their brand new toys.

But I just don't know what to do these days.

I am not opposed to gifts - only because that's my love language and I do like an excuse to show others I care by giving them that just right wrapped something, not because I feel I have to or because I desire something in return.  But is making the giving (and receiving) the focus of this "Holy Night" really the right thing to do?  Clearly not.

I am also not opposed to not doing gifts - in fact, at times I feel I'd really prefer it.  But that is not my decision to make alone and I refuse to be the Gift Nazi - "No gifts for you!"

So, what do I do.  How do I do it right?

I realized just today that this Christmas season isn't about a "right" or "wrong" way of doing things.  It's not about guilt.  It's about worship.

And learning how to "do Christmas" the right way should be no different than working out how we do our lives.  Because, as Christians, aren't we to be in constant reminder of Who Christ is - allowing Him to reign supreme, especially over the worldliness that ever threatens to take over?  Not just at Christmas, when we ponder His birth, or at Easter, as we appreciate the sacrifice, but in all things, at all times (Colossians 3:17).

This struggle between the worldly and the Divine is not just a December dilemma.  Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

So, here's my answer, for now.  We will worship Christ always.

This Christmas season, as with those past, and those to come, I am learning so much about Christ and His purpose on this Earth.  And this learning, this focus on our Savior, will always be my greatest joy at Christmas.  We will spend time with family, we will give tokens of our love, but never to extravagance or to the extent of breeding greed.  We will sing carols - both "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night."  We will delight with child-like wonder at the joys the season brings, but we will not allow the simple joys to be swallowed by the worldly gimmicks or glimmer.

And, always, we will worship.

10 December 2011

Of Spinning Our Wheels

I know I sound like a broken record, but you can trust me, it's even more annoying for me to still be talking about potty training as a process than it is for you to be reading about it - again.

I look around and see Micaiah's friends who all potty trained in different ways and at different times, but for them, the process is generally regarded as complete.  Sure, they may still have hurdles, such as naptimes or night-times - I honestly don't know their routines.  But I know they can go to church in their underwear and come home with it dry (as a general rule).

I still can't trust Micaiah to do that.

Because we still can't trust her to tell someone when she needs to go.

She goes when we ask her to - and even then, only if she's in a good mood.

Which is why the latest tactic is to try as hard as I possibly can to keep her in a good mood regarding the potty - so she'll at least go when she's asked.

Yes, I know, that's generally considered the rule - make it a positive experience.  And that's what we tried the first six months (or eight months, or who knows how long, really), and then, as not necessarily the most patient parents in the world, we let our ugly sides come out.  We saw her stubbornness - the fact that this overly intelligent three-year-old knows the process and chooses to to ignore it out of spite and sheer independence of will (as in, she won't go in the potty for the simple fact that she knows it's what we want) - and we bit back.

So, now we're back to the patient route.

Because we just plumb don't know what to do.

Unless potty training boot camp is an option.

It's not, right?

08 December 2011

Of Blue's Clues

As a new tradition this year (thank you, Pinterest), we have wrapped all of our Christmas children's books (and a few movies) and the kids get to open one every day until Christmas.  They love taking turns between being the one to open the book or place the small wooden ornament on the felt wreath as a part of the advent calendar my mother-in-law made for Philip years ago.

Tonight was Emmett's turn to unwrap the story (this has also been wonderful practice to be sure he's ready for the big day at the end of the month - he totally has this process down!).  However, he seemed less interested in his tale of the Nativity than in the Blue's Clues storybook he hijacked from my box of books waiting to be prepped for the shelves of the church library.

Rather than eagerly seeking a green-wrapped present under the tree, he sat next to his pilfered tale, pointing to the blue dog on its pages, declaring, "Boo-Boo!" (that's as close as he gets to pronouncing the title of his apparent favorite show - thank you, Netflix).  Then, he would bob back and forth singing proudly, "Boo be boo be Boo-Boo!" to the correct tune of the show's theme song.  He may have some work to do on his lyrical presentation, but this boy can definitely sing a distinct melody (he also has "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" down quite nicely - so much so that his sister starts to sing along when he starts babbling the tune).

Our children definitely earn their musical talent from their father (rather than their musically-declined mother).

06 December 2011

Of Rosemary

I love how effective our olfactory nerves are at conjuring forgotten memories.  As I stirred my ground turkey with mixed vegetables for the base of my Shepherd's Pie this evening, I was unexpectedly transported to the dining room of the dorm in which I stayed for the first half of my semester in Russia junior year.

I was standing in the hall outside the entrance, waiting my turn in line as the aroma of dinner wafted out the door.

I was seated at a small table for four, surrounded by walls painted a bright yellow with orange trim in a sad attempt to brighten the room in a way the dim bulbs overhead could not.

I'm going to have to guess Rosemary was a key ingredient to much of the cooking in those Russian meals that semester - as this was one of few recipes I've found which uses the herb, and I strongly doubt it was the pepper or steak seasoning that brought about such a journey down memory lane.

At least I now know which spice jar to turn to when I'm feeling homesick for Mother Russia.

05 December 2011

Of Pregnancy (and its Quirks)

- When I'm pregnant, I pull out my giant body pillow, the kind that's shaped like a candy cane and just seems to hug me, to keep me from rolling to my back when sleeping.  The thing takes up so much room in bed, he has become his own character in our pregnancy journeys - his name is Fred.  When I get out of bed umpteen times a night (you pregnant/previously pregnant ladies hear me), I always snuggle up to Fred facing the opposite direction I was when I got out.  Every time.  It does not matter if I just re-positioned two minutes ago, I always face the opposite way when I snuggle back up to Fred.  I have no idea why.  But I've tried not to and I just can't.

- One of the great things about being pregnant: not having to worry about "sucking in" for the last 4-5 months.  For just a short time, I have an excuse to have a pooch - and besides, it's not like it's going anywhere no matter how hard I try to tighten up those ab muscles.

- I love it when my baby gets the hiccups.  I started giggling in church yesterday, which was somewhat inappropriate when the pastor was preaching on the severity of the Garden of Gethsemane in the course of Jesus' life.  And there I am on the front row with a perma-smile on my face because of my baby's rhythmic hics.

- When I have a baby in my body, I have Braxton-Hicks ("false" contractions) a LOT.  Last night I was getting them so frequently, I started timing them (even though I knew, at 31 weeks, this baby wasn't going anywhere).  Is it any wonder I've gone into the hospital with "false labor" for BOTH of my previous children?

- Another great thing about pregnancy: you never a button or belt to undo on your pants, because they all just stretch on and off (which is nice when you're visiting the bathroom about 30 times a day)!

There are so many fun/crazy/quirky things about pregnancy (at least as far as mine have gone), but I'll just leave it that for now.

04 December 2011

Of Her Big Performance

Tonight was a rite of passage for any Southern Baptist child (not to alienate any other denomination, this is simply the one with which I have had most direct contact, so I know it to be true here, whether or not it might be elsewhere):  it was her first time to file onto the steps of the sanctuary stage to sing her little heart out for the congregation (although, being that this was during the evening service time, the "congregation" was mostly limited to friends and family of the other pre-schoolers and kindergarteners performing alongside/after her).

As we arrived (a little late) to her classroom for practice, another little boy was having a difficult time leaving his mother.  To encourage him, the teacher told him, "We need our best singer!"  At this Micaiah announced, "Teacher, I'm here!"  At least I had assurance she wouldn't be facing any confidence issues on that stage.

She had only two songs to present: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "Jingle Bells".  Truth be told, she seemed to have a better handle on the latter, but her practicing this on Sunday nights in children's choir definitely helps me understand why she seemed to have such a grasp for the lyrics as we read through a book based on the song earlier in the week.

I was so proud of our little girl, standing in front of everyone, not exactly singing, but at least paying attention and not causing a commotion - which is about all you can ask of a three-year-old in the church choir.

Now it will only be a matter of time before she's dressed like a donkey wreaking havoc on the peaceful manger scene while the Christmas story is read in the background (as was the scene directly following the performance of she and her peers).  Oh, how it flies.

Our Little Performer  (Please pardon the quality.)

03 December 2011

Of Snuggles and Tickles

Best moment of today:

Watching Emmett and Micaiah snuggle with Daddy as we enjoyed Disney's A Christmas Carol.  The moment lasted about that long - a moment.  Turns out neither of the little ones has the patience for a full movie quite yet. But it was sweet while it lasted.  The tickle-fest that ensued between the smallest two was also quite adorable (at least from the outside looking in - I'm not quite sure how it felt being the play-mat stuck in the middle, but Philip seemed okay, really).

01 December 2011

Of Reaching the Goal

And the moment we've all been waiting for . . . . (insert drum roll here) . . . .

We are the parents of a full-blown toddler!  Woohoo!!!

Okay, so maybe it's not quite as big as other moments people may be waiting for, but it's a pretty big "tada" moment for us.

Though I still have to carry him from the car to the door when we go out (are you kidding me?  It is not warm enough to wait for toddler-sized steps out there), the fact that I can set him on his own two feet when we get inside wherever it is we're going and he will stay on his own two feet?  Priceless.

Within just the past week he has given up on crawling almost entirely.  In fact, after crawling up the stairs at church just yesterday, he made it a few more paces on the top landing on just his hands and knees before he seemed to come to himself and realize, "Hey, I'm on level-ground again, what am I doing down here?"  And up he went, to biped mode.  

He can walk just about anywhere he wants to go, with no tipping over, and doesn't even require a hand to hold.  

It's true that the big hurdles these days are cracks in the sidewalk or the gap in the elevator door (might as well be a canyon for his refusal to step over it), but he's working on overcoming his fears.  The important thing is, our boy walks.

I love it.

30 November 2011

Of Ethnic Diversity

After three years of playing with her Noah's Ark set brought back by her Aunt Dia from a mission trip to Kenya when Micaiah was only four months old, Micaiah finally noticed Noah was a little different from her.

As I changed Emmett's diaper this morning, Micaiah came in from her room, holding Noah, "Mommy, this is my friend Ester."  Now, Ester is our sponsored child from Africa to whom Micaiah knows we send stickers and other fun things she gets to help pick out (but gets in trouble if she tries to play with them herself).  We keep her photo on our fridge and our little girl often refers to going to her friend Ester's house and has even called her her sister at times in the past.  This is the moment when I realized she has finally seen the differences between herself and her African friends.

"That doll is Ester?"

"No, this isn't Ester, but Ester has a brown face."

"Oh, like your doll.  Your doll and Ester both have brown faces because they're both from Africa.  But there are lots of people here who have brown faces, too."

"Oh, Africa.  And when we have brown faces - "

"Well, Micaiah, we won't ever have brown faces.  God made them with brown faces and he made us with not-brown faces."

"Oh, well what color am I?"

Uh oh.  I wasn't sure about the politically correct answer to that question.

"Well, technically, you're white."

At this, she laughed as only a three-year-old can at the ridiculousness of the misnomer.  "I'm not white!"

"I know, it's kind of a peach."


"Well, what color are you?"

"Oh, I don't know . . . maybe . . . orange?"

"Yeah, I guess it's kind of orange."

"No, not orange.  Maybe . . . yellow?"

"Are you yellow?"

"Yeah, yellow."


And that, my friends, was our first lesson on ethnic diversity.

PS She later pulled out her book on glaciers and attempted to identify Africa on her world map all on her own.  And, by pointing to South America, she wasn't very far off!  That's one smart girl.

29 November 2011

Of Our Dancer

I sit here taking a survey for our local Christian Radio station, wherein I listen to a variety of songs and give my opinion.  Well, Penguin certainly has an opinion.  This typical late-night mover is definitely a fan of all kinds of music as it wiggles and grooves to each tune as it begins to play through my laptop speakers.  The movement slows between songs but kicks back up with each new tune.  I love it.

Should have figured we'd have another dancer on the way - this one will get along great with its siblings.  I foresee many living room dance parties in our future.

PS I will also have to admit, my opinions on this music survey are definitely being swayed by this little person, as well, as my joy in this baby's enthusiasm is giving me a heightened sense of enjoyment from each song.  Sorry, House listeners, every song is my favorite today.

28 November 2011

Of Melmo

I was folding my son's clothes this evening when one of his shirts reminded me of this story:

While watching the Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning just last week, the kids were most excited to see the Sesame Street float (though, to be fair, Emmett was a big fan of the whole thing - the overwhelming amount of music did much for his love of dance - in fact, the Rockettes got him rolling his little fists while his sister only feigned interest, for my sake, for about 1.4 seconds).  Watching their favorite Sesame Street residents making merry music made the morning for both of them.

Then they saw Elmo - and the world was even better.

At this point, Emmett, remembering the striped shirt he'd worn earlier in the week with a large profile of the lovable, red-furried monster, pointed to his belly and announced excitedly, "Melmo!"  At this point he noticed there was actually no Elmo on the front of his top, so lifting his shirt he pointed to his naked tummy and inquired, "Melmo? . . . Peese?"  He accompanied this with most pathetically adorable expression imaginable.

I asked him if he wanted to wear Elmo and Gram pointed out he had even said the magic word - at which point he even threw in the sign language, rubbing his chest emphatically.  He needed Melmo.

Sadly, the shirt in question was at the bottom of his laundry basket (thus it was being folded tonight) - but fortunately he's only 17 months old - disappointment doesn't tend to linger at this age and the next Macy's float had his attention 7.9 seconds later.

But I'll tell you, I've never been more sad to see Elmo in the laundry.

27 November 2011

Of New Symptoms

My husband and I would agree: I have succumbed to a much greater amount of hormonal breakdowns as a result of this pregnancy than during the former two, most likely combined.  Though I have had mood swings in the past, the spontaneous weeping is relatively new.

It seems nothing is safe for me these days.  A sappy TV moment?  Tears.  One mis-spoken word from my husband?  Sobbing.  One well-spoken word from my husband?  The snot flows.  

It's ridiculous, really.

I wish I could control it, honestly I do, but it seems my tear ducts have a mind of their own.  

Thus, as we wait out this pregnancy, we're investing in tissues and my eyes seem to be in a constant puffy state.  

So, if you see me start to tear up, please ignore it and know, it's nothing personal and I'm not broken.  I'm just pregnant.

26 November 2011

Of Bookends

It may have begun a little too early with a little boy covered in sickness, requiring a bath and being returned to Mommy and Daddy's bed to snuggle for awhile more - though Mommy kicked herself out when she feared her own coughing would keep the men awake - but any day that ends with that same little boy chasing his sister around the living room, both giggling like mad as she screams with delight about the monster coming (while Littlest Bit seemed jealous as he/she began kicking like crazy upon hearing the squeals of his/her siblings), is a great day in my book.

25 November 2011

Of the Season

I teared up in the car today hearing the lyrics, "Simply having a wonderful Christmas time!"  I suddenly realized, with Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas time is, indeed, upon us.  It may have been because lack of travel caused Thanksgiving to, somehow, feel less like Thanksgiving, but either way, despite the months of seasonal tunes playing on retailer's airwaves or displays of evergreens in the aisles, the actual dawn of the Christmas season did not truly register until the melody of that first Christmas song emitted from the car stereo.  'Tis the season.

Accordingly, after the children awoke from their naps, Daddy pulled the Christmas tree and other seasonal d├ęcor from the attic and we went to town.  Micaiah and Emmett both helped decorate the tree this year and, with the help of the 24-hour ornament-emergency doctor we have on call, only one confetti-filled ball suffered irreparable damage (of course, it was one I was not sad to see break - do you think I'd really let them hold any other kind?).

While Micaiah's excitement at hanging ornaments of various shapes and sizes from the branches of our tree was to be expected, I was actually surprised at how eager our independent little boy was to take non-breakable ornaments from us to place on the tree.  Of course, the hooks were still a little complicated for him, but that did not stop him from trying to nestle his treasures among the lowest-hanging boughs.

The season definitely continues to get more interesting as our children grow older.

24 November 2011

Of the First Thanksgiving

For the curious, my first Thanksgiving (with the help of everyone present) went off without a hitch.  The turkey, though still slightly frozen in the morning, thawed with a little help from some hot water and roasted up beautifully (and, might I mention, with much moistness).  The table, though not very elaborately decorated, looked gorgeous with the bountiful spread, whose leftovers will feed our family for the next week, leaving me grateful for the overwhelming provision of our Lord.

Our children enjoyed the feast as well - Emmett's favorite part was, of course, the most difficult contribution to the meal - or not.  Unless uncanning free (thank you, coupons) jellied cranberries (which were only present for the sake of my in-laws as no adult in this house is a fan) is considered grueling work.  For Micaiah's part, the mashed potatoes were a homerun, but, sadly, neither stirred with excitement at the main dish.

Overall, it was a wonderful day of food, relaxation and family (oh, and some manual labor which lived up the standards of societal gender roles, as the women spent the morning in the kitchen while the men got their hands dirty outside, fixing a gate and setting up a compost pile).

Grateful for days like these to take notice of all we have been given.

23 November 2011

Of Omens

Between a bread machine that failed to properly mix the dough for tomorrow morning's cinnamon rolls and two failed chocolate pies for my mother-in-law, here's hoping that the kitchen failures are behind us.  While unexpected bumps make for a humorous (and memorable) holiday, I'd really just rather have some super good food and low stress.

Fingers crossed.

20 November 2011

Of Assumptions

It's time for another "Let's Awkwardly Stare at the Growing Belly" photo, so here you are:

In related news: This week, on the way to our Midwife appointment, Philip and I were briefly discussing names (again. We got nothin'.) and Philip casually mentioned he forgets to ponder the girl side because he just keeps assuming it's a boy - which I found surprising, actually, because I keep automatically assuming it's a girl, and figured we were all on the same page.  Apparently not.

Meanwhile, Micaiah maintains her "Sister Penguin" stance, so I guess we'll have to wait and see how this all pans out . . .

19 November 2011

Of Hormones

Sometimes the hormones take over.  My husband will tell you it's true.  And sometimes it's scary and sometimes it equals tears for unknown reasons and problems the mountainous expanse of a molehill.  Today was of the latter sort and my man did a great job handling it, by covering me with blankets, praying over me, and, eventually, kissing me good-bye as I headed out the door, demanding that I relax (even going so far as giving me the last $3 in his wallet on the off-chance I found something I just couldn't do without - now that's sacrifice).

I love him.  Even (especially) on my crazy-mixed-up days.

18 November 2011

Of Traumatizing my Son

After two haircuts in his young life, my young 17-month-old has already been shaggy beyond necessity for a couple of months now - his hair has the growing curse of his mother's.  Not that I have ever considered it a curse on my own head - but as the one whose responsibility it is to keep up with this mop of hair on a little boy upon whom there are certain societal standards for length, my perspective has changed.

For his previous two encounters with scissors, he has had the wonderful privilege of having his hairs clipped by a fantastic friend of mine.  She does a glorious job and as long as there are Cheerios or an entertaining light show (provided by her son and a laser pointer) nearby, he has done fairly well.  Unfortunately (well, for me, not for her - I know she loves it most days), this same friend has recently entered the realm of working motherhood and, having tragically bad timing in a previous hair-cutting request, I haven't been able to broach the topic since.  Her life is hectic enough without the worries of my son's hair issues.

Which leaves me with a Jonas-brother look-alike and no desire to pay to fix it (I rarely even do that for my own curly locks).

So, what's a mom to do?

Well, apparently, the answer is NOT to assume that breakfast and Qubo are enough to distract him from noticing the buzzing sound of the clippers approaching his head.  Be warned, if this technique is attempted, you may find yourself with a little boy bending as far over his booster-seat tray as physically possible, sobbing with enough intensity to leave snot dripping into Raisin Bran.  And, apparently, once sufficiently traumatized by the clippers, scissors are no longer acceptable either.  And once an appropriate hack-job has been accomplished, even the feel of his mother's fingers running through his hair may be enough to leave him in weeping fits.

Not that I've tried it or anything.

17 November 2011

Of Paying it Off

It was a big milestone in the Rowland household today.  We paid our midwives!

This payment deadline has been looming over us and sucking every extra dime for the previous four-ish months (since our initial consultation).  Though we looked forward to having this baby "paid for" (a task which was not accomplished for our other children until we approached their first birthdays) before its arrival, the inflexible nature of our budget was definitely a bit draining. Thus, while we are still not allowed to splurge in celebration (the money was just entirely depleted from our bank account, let's remember), there may be a happy dance of victory.

Now, on to the next hurdle, as I put it to our Sunday School class: locating (and procuring) a vehicle large enough to transport our growing herd.  Three carseats will not happily coincide in the backseat of our Ford Taurus - nor would we want them to.  Now taking applications for vehicles (that won't further increase our debt factor) . . .

PS I forgot to mention - none of this would have been possible but by the grace of God.  "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27)  And we are continuing to rely on the grace of God to meet all our needs - including this vehicle expansion endeavor.  Thank you for joining with us in prayer!

16 November 2011

Of Preparations

Something I'm sure I've mentioned before, but bears repeating in order to understand this post: I love organizing.  I am terrible at keeping up with organization (thus the oft-referred-to battle against clutter in our home), but I love to start it.  I love checklists and, when I was younger, I adored creating packing lists for vacations - I would do so up to two or three months in advance, using vari-colored markers and even decorating them with stamps and drawings depicting our destination.  I was always most sad when I realized I would not be allowed to start packing the items on my list for a number of weeks.

I think, in a way, this obsessive need to plan ahead is my way of keeping in touch with something I'm so excited for that I just can't wait, but the calendar forces me to do so anyway.

This is the state in which I find myself as we approach the coming holiday.  This year will be the first Thanksgiving at home for Philip and I and we're blessed to be able to share the day with his family, as well.  I am stoked about creating our own holiday dishes and possibly discovering some new must-have recipes or family traditions.

Thus, in preparation, I have tracked down a recipe for every course of our meal - there are no short-cuts or boxed goods here, honey - and selected those with only the highest reviews (while still not being too complicated, either in ingredients or in preparation - I'm excited not psychotic).  I have created a spreadsheet detailing the ingredients necessary for each individual recipe (including one for using the leftover turkey the next day), as well as a master ingredient list to be sure I have everything on hand (it's easy to think you have what you need when reading over a recipe that calls for an egg or two, until you realize you need a total of ten eggs spread across your entire menu - quite a difference!).  In fact, I have already finished my shopping and have every item on my list safely stowed in my newly cleared refrigerator and pantry (though I understand the possibility of needing to re-stock a few basics within the next week) - minus the turkey, for which I am merely awaiting a gift check from The Pampered Chef (thank you, Mom!).

Is it ridiculous?  Maybe. Anal?  Most definitely.

But you can just take this atypical Type A behavior as a mere sign of my anticipation of what's to come in a week - a day of cooking for my family on the biggest cooking day of the year.  Woohoo!

15 November 2011

Of the "Tree House"

We enjoyed the cloudy, yet beautiful, weather yesterday morning by trouncing, once again, to the back yard.  Only this time it had yet to rain, so the ground and, most importantly, the plastic tree house (I hesitate to call it that, because it might inspire grand visions of an exciting home atop our tree branches, when, sadly, it is simply a small plastic house squatting on the ground whose walls are molded to resemble a tree - not nearly as thrilling, but still fun for the wee ones), were dry.  This was Emmett's first experience in the little house and, while he spent most of his time simply sitting in it watching Sissy scamper about, he did really seem to enjoy it.  He even ventured down the tiny slide once or twice, but each time took a lot of motivating self-talk before he finally pushed his little booty down.  What a splendid morning.

Chillin' in the house.  
(PS This house used to sit on a cushy patch of grass - that has somehow turned to a mere dirt pit in the past year.  Isn't it lovely?)


Thinking about where to go next.

She's SO tall these days - she could even see through the peep-hole!

Enjoying the beautiful fall-ness of this morning.

13 November 2011

Of the Things They Say

Today, after their naps, Micaiah, at her cranky best, insisted she did not need to potty and declared, by yelling at her Momma, that she had already done so in her diaper.  Needing to deal with her equally cranky brother I calmly told her to go tell her Daddy what she had told me (so he could deal with her dirty duds while I handled Emmett's).  Thus, she turned in the direction of the living room, but suddenly stopped, turned, gave me the sweetest look and said, "Mommy, I'm sorry I yell at you."

File under: The things that melt a Momma's heart.

Later, as we were leaving church this evening, a little girl was tugging Emmett behind her through the nursery.  She announced, "One of these days, he's going to get bigger."  Feigning surprise, I turned to Emmett and asked, "Is that true?  Are you going to get bigger?!"

To which he replied, very emphatically, "Nya-o!"

That's right, Baby, you just let your Momma keep dreaming.

I love these two.

12 November 2011

Of Fevers and Teas

Though it makes him more snuggly and stinking adorable when he simply stares at me with little-to-no expression, a little boy with a fever is always awfully sad.

Which is why it was nice when he awoke from his long nap this afternoon, groggy, but in a much better mood (and two degrees cooler, though still slightly higher than normal) than he had been immediately following the lunch which he never finished.

In fact, as we settled in to watch Gnomeo and Juliet via Netflix, he was downright thrilled, getting upset when I paused it for a restroom break, pointing to the television and exclaiming, "Be-be!" (this would mean, "Baby" and would be what he calls any living - or non-living - being smaller than himself).  When the film resumed, he actually giggled at the antics of the animated lawn ornaments - this was the first time I had ever seen him react to something on T.V., other than by dancing or singing.  A giggle was delightful, especially from a feverish boy.

Later, he and I enjoyed a miniature tea party as he retrieved a pot for himself from his sister's kitchen and poured into my tiny blue cup, then took a sip from his own and sighed, "Aah!"  What a little sweetheart.

His temperature as he headed to bed was still not quite normal (which almost makes me re-think my decision to accept his offerings of the tea spoon he was sharing with me by shoving it directly into my mouth after having his own "taste"), but our hopes for a speedy recovery remain high.

Here's praying for a happy and healthy boy come morning.

11 November 2011

Of Clearing the Way

Cleaning out our overflowing fridge, and the pantry in which I could barely step, has been on my to-do list for a couple of weeks now.  Having a walk-in pantry is lovely, unless you can take only one step in and then are forced to lean way forward, hoping your front-heavy load doesn't pull you down with it.  And a fridge filled with leftovers and a remainder bottle of sparkling grape juice from last holiday season (yes, that would mean this appliance has not been cleared for a year - at least) leaves little room for the foods we actually eat.

The real fire under my rear, though, was the realization a few days ago that, in hosting Thanksgiving in our own humble abode this year, our kitchen will be abundant with foods that need a new home - and if things remained the way they were, our squatters would edge out the good stuff, leaving it homeless.

So, I tackled the big job.  And one filled trash bag later (plus three bulging grocery sacks from the pantry), suddenly the vacancies are abundant.  In fact, there now remains an entire shelf in the refrigerator to house a freezing bird that will need days to thaw - who would have imagined?

And the bonus?  My chores for the day allowed me to check four (okay, I cheated and checked a fifth that I didn't really do, but no one but you and I will ever know that) items off my fall-cleaning checklist.  Now if that doesn't satisfy a girl's home-making heart, I don't know what will.

10 November 2011

Of Bedtime Prayers

We currently have two Bible Storybooks we read to our children at bed-time (not both at the same time, but now that we've finished one we went back to the other) and both are wonderful for different reasons.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is amazing in the way it breaks the Bible stories down into words that are easier for little minds to grasp and, also, the way it strings the entire Bible into one long story that culminates in Jesus as God's "Rescue Plan" for the world.  I loved that!

The Beginning Readers Bible is wonderful in that the stories are taken directly from a child-friendly translation of the Bible - so they are actual Bible verses in words kids can understand (a little more advanced than the Jesus Storybook Bible, but still great).  In addition, each story is accompanied by a memory verse, a verse to "pray" and an activity (most of which are for children older than ours, but I look forward to using them as our children grow).

Of course, the concept of memorizing anything, let alone Scripture, is a bit advanced for our little ones, but my favorite part of each story is reading those memory verses aloud and hearing Micaiah's tiny three-year-old voice repeating God's Word back to me (recently, Emmett has been getting jealous, so he joins in the repetition as well, though he's mostly good at mimicking the vowel sounds and not so much the consonants, but he's trying!).  It is the most precious sound in all the earth.

Tonight, Micaiah wanted a turn after Daddy prayed over them before bedtime.  After being given the choice, she opted to let Daddy tell her what to say, and this is what we heard:

"Thank you for Mommy."  - "Thank you for Mommy."
"And thank you for Emmett." - "And thank you for Emmett."
"And thank you for Daddy." - "And thank you for Daddy."
"Help us to have good dreams. . ." - "Wait!  You forgot about me!"
"Oh, and thank you for Micaiah." - "And thank you for Caiah."

At least she's glad to be alive.

PS On the note of being glad, when she woke up from her nap this evening to find out her Daddy was already home from work, she hurried into the hallway before heading to the potty to yell to him, "Hi, Daddy!  I'm glad you're here!"  What a sweetheart.

09 November 2011

Of Potty Frustrations

I know it's entirely common in potty training, so I'm not looking for sympathy, just an outlet.

Micaiah, it would seem, has decided, once again, that she just plain doesn't care.

For quite awhile she had been going when we asked (not always happily, but she'd do it anyway) and even had begun running herself to the potty when she knew she needed it.  She was no longer even demanding a reward.  Being a big girl, it would seem, was its own reward.  We were living in a fantasy land of few accidents, dry underwear and happy parents.

Apparently the dream is over.

About a week ago she began going in her pants to defy us - if she was sent to time-out or told to sit in her booster seat until she'd finished her sandwich, she would sometimes emerge with wet pants.  This, of course, was frustrating.

And then, just yesterday, she began just letting go - whenever she felt like it - and not telling anyone about it.  She would be spotted with a large dark spot on her pants and, when questioned as to why she chose not to tell anyone, would shrug her shoulders and say, "I was playing."  She did not go in the potty once yesterday - despite being sent to try numerous times (usually that's all it takes).

Oh, if ever there is a moment in child-rearing when you just want to throw in the towel and ship them to potty-training boot camp, that was it.

This girl is the most stubborn being on the planet.  I have no idea where she gets it - I was certainly never that way (don't ask my parents, they're getting senile in their old age).

07 November 2011

Of Rainy Days

For the first time in a year, I took my kids out back to play.  It's Micaiah's favorite activity on a rainy day: making footprints.  The last time precipitation fell, she ran out front, found the closest puddle to get her little pink Dora shoes sufficiently wet and then figured out how to put her weight on her heels, so as to not waste the wet before she made her way to the dry porch to leave her mark - demanding I do the same, of course.

This morning, in the backyard, she discovered not just puddles but . . . mud.  And she was delighted.  Of course, if the mud had been on her hands life would not have been so pleasant - but on her hot pink boots, the muck was quite thrilling - it was a new way to stamp her mark on the concrete, smearing the brown every which way.

The joy that girl finds in the smallest things never ceases to bring a smile to my own face.

Of course, holding my son's hand as he stepped gingerly across the patio, practicing his newest skills, excited to be outdoors and also allowed to crawl all over the wet concrete when his legs gave out, was pretty great, too.

I'm not sure I could imagine a better way to spend a rainy morning.

Getting her boots wet.

Making footprints.

We love the Fall - and having a backyard again.

Toddling with my little man.

06 November 2011

Of a Walker

When Micaiah first began toddling about two years ago, we were eager to graduate her from the "Crawlers" Sunday School class to the "Walkers," where she could be with her friends (she had taken longer to reach the milestone than her comrades), but we were (only slightly) disappointed to be encouraged to keep her with the younger ones as she was not yet confident in her two-footed abilities and the Walkers, we were told, were a rough bunch.

And so she stayed, until she was running circles around those crawling babies and was finally forced to mosey along.

Thus, I anticipated the same slow transition with Emmett - who, at sixteen months was, by far, the oldest kid in his Crawlers class, but since a Crawler he was, in the class he stayed.  Apparently, though, they were much more eager to move our slow developer along because at the first signs of steps, he was hurried on up to the Walkers class, where he enjoyed his first Sunday this morning.

And it would seem the title has done much to increase his confidence.

It seemed the moment we got home all he wanted to do was be on his feet, as if seeing all those other kids his own age running around made him realize he could do it, too.  After lunch, while playing with his wooden train, he stood to play, only to bend over to actually roll the train along.  And when I asked for help putting the toys away, rather than crawling quickly over as he typically would, he proudly pulled to his feet to toddle across the room, as if to say, "Sure, Mom, I'll just head on over - on my own two feet - just a walkin' on over, 'cause I'm a Walker now, you know!"

That's my little man, the Walker.

05 November 2011

Of Quaking

It was the middle of the night and I woke up to shaking - though, "woke up" is a loose term, because I was still dazed enough when Philip announced, amidst the wiggling of the walls, "Earthquake!", it was actually news to me - in a way.  Until that very moment it hadn't actually occurred to me what I was feeling - I was in such a dream state I thought it all went together.  In fact, I'm pretty sure Philip thought I was talking in my sleep as I, very much disoriented, attempted to describe just what I thought had been happening.  I suppose he would have been half right.

We looked at the clock to verify the time, rolled over and went to sleep only to wake six hours later to a Facebook a-buzz over the latest natural "disaster" to reach our state.

Fast forward twelve hours to this evening, after bidding farewell to our neighbors following a wonderful evening of games, popcorn and cookies, we settled down only to feel an insane quaking that shook our entertainment center, floor, walls, and about everything else around us, and felt as though it would never end.  Thirty seconds never felt so long.

And my stomach is still feeling the queasiness.

I'm pretty sure at some point in the next week the earth will be opening up to swallow Oklahoma.  To everyone else, we love you and pray you love Jesus so we'll see you soon.

03 November 2011

Of Three Months

My due date is three months away (give or take).

Never has anything seemed so imminent and, yet, so far away.  For some reason when I tell people I'm due in February, even a couple of months ago, the response is always, "That's so soon!"  This reaction always surprises me because I have always felt February to be the distant future.  Even now - "three months" - it seems like quite a long time.

But my body is telling me it's not as long as I think it is.  Somehow, three months away, and I'm already having trouble getting off of the couch.  My ever-sensitive husband is already singing "Baby Beluga" to me as he watches me attempt to sit up.  And I already got light-headed trying to stand up while holding my 16-month-old son (who should totally be walking by now . . . but, alas, five steps does not get him very far).

And after reading through an entire book on birthing, I feel like I could just pop this baby out tomorrow.

And then I remember.  Three months.  Three more months of this belly expanding past the "cute pregnancy stage" into the "Oh my goodness, when are you due?!" stage.  Three more months of rolling myself off the sofa. Three more months of potty breaks and endless hunger.

Three more months to cherish time with my two eldest and my wonderful husband before our life, our sleep-schedule, and our routine revolves, once again, around a little being weighing less than ten pounds (or let's hope).  Three more months until I get to meet this squirmy, wiggly little child.

I can hardly wait.  And yet, three months sounds good.

02 November 2011

Of Leaf Art

I would first like to reassure you this evening that I am nearly recovered from the "loss" of our dogs.  My mind has been fully able to wrap around all the glorious aspects of not having two large animals taking up residence in our backyard and the trauma of last night's farewell has mostly passed.

Moving on, this evening I decided to tackle yet another item from our Family Fun Fall Checklist.  As I have had a nice stack of dried leaves hanging out ever since our "Nature Walk" a few weeks ago, I named tonight our evening to "Make Leaf Art."

I'm wishing I took pictures for you, but, sadly, I tend to get caught up in the activity at hand and fail to run for the camera to actually capture it for posterity.  Please forgive me for enjoying the moment.

We began with leaf rubbings, which I thoroughly enjoyed, though the idea kind of flopped as far as our three-year-old was concerned.  She loved, of course, coloring as a family, but the fact that the image of the leaf under her paper was showing in her colored strokes did little to excite her.  And Emmett was just happy to have a crayon in his little hand.  So, after Daddy and I got our creativity out on our own papers, we moved along in the evening's activities.

Next, I traced each child's hand on brown construction paper and cut out the hand, making a tree trunk extend from the wrist.  I then glued this bare tree to another piece of paper and planned for us to glue the dried leaves to the trees.

Micaiah actually really enjoyed this part and did a great job placing her glue-covered leaves.  Meanwhile, Daddy had to do all the work for Emmett - but he still loved having a crayon in his hand.

Sadly, our Elmer's did little to help the leaves actually stick, so that was kind of a flop, too.

But the important thing is we spent time as a family and we made art, with leaves, so that's checked off the list.  At least we I have priorities.

01 November 2011

Of a New Home

As you may or may not remember, 365 days ago, we embarked on a new journey as dog owners.  You may also recall this has been a roller coaster at best.  We've always loved the dogs - they're too sweet not to - but at the same time, with our three-year-old not being a fan of actual interaction with animals (though the idea of it always makes her happy, the execution not so much), we have not had the opportunity to spend near as much time with them as they deserve.  Thus, we've mourned the loss of our backyard as a play spot for our children and a viable gardening location (these little big guys are quite destructive as they have been, for most of the past year, still in their puppy stage).  So, we've loved the dogs, but hated what we've had to give up due to their presence.

And so it is, exactly one year after taking ownership, our journey has ended.  Tonight we bade Bennet and Bingley farewell as they entered into the next stage of their life with a new family (found via Craigslist, but we trust they will provide our guys with a loving environment).

All day long, while Micaiah was sad at the prospect of her dogs leaving ("The dogs don't go!  They have to stay with me!  I have to stay with them!" - why don't you just rip our hearts out, little girl?), Philip and I have been rejoicing - thinking of all the things we haven't been able to do this past year, but now will be able to enjoy once again.

We can plant garlic again!

We can put screens back in our windows (they tore these out, too)!

We can take the kids outside to play!

Oh, how marvelous!

What I didn't count on were the tears that sprang from my eyes almost the minute we shut the door on our beloved puppies - and I'm not talking a tiny trickle, but snot flowing, crying into my husband's shirt-sleeve kind of tears.  Having never had many visitors in the backyard, they didn't know anyone other than us.  They were terrified.  And I was heartbroken.  Micaiah hadn't said, "Good-bye." Bennet is nervous anyway, how will he handle new people (and a new canine friend in his future home)?

While I know I'll recover soon enough, there is, apparently, a mourning process, still.

Darn those pregnancy hormones.

 My shy, nervous and adorable Bennet

 Our hyper, loving, and curious Bingley

Good-bye, Boys!

31 October 2011

Of a Little Bit of This

Micaiah felt "Baby Sister" move for the first time today (no we still don't know the gender, but Micaiah is insistent).  The joy on her face with each tiny bump was contagious.

Also, I forgot to mention, Saturday was the first time a stranger recognized my pregnant state.  I always feel this is a big milestone.  It means the world at large can see I am with child and not necessarily overeager at the local buffet.

Unrelated to Baby, tonight's meal on my weekly menu listed "Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes" and just as I was about to dig out my old recipe I remembered this recipe* I had pulled out of my Woman's Day magazine last month and decided, why not be festive?  So it's what we (and by "we" I mean "I") did.  And it made me happy.

*I used cut-up green beans for the eyes as I didn't want to open a can of peas.  I also used 1lb of turkey rather than the called-for meats.

30 October 2011

Of What I Am

It would seem it's a Sunday theme for me: What I Learned in Worship Today.  It's truly remarkable that of all the teaching I take in most Sundays (which is nearly always excellent), I receive the greatest amount of revelation through song.  This is most likely because this is the only time in the week when I truly allow my brain to switch off from plan/worry/to-do mode and just allow God to truly have my mind.

This morning the song was The Stand:

"So I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One Who gave it all.

So I'll stand
My soul, Lord, to You surrendered
All I am is yours."

I felt during the song it may be better to offer all I have because, truly, doesn't that include everything within me and without, but then when I really focused on the words, "All I am is yours," the question arose: "Who are you?"

Because when I offer to God all I have, I think first of all my earthly possessions, which mean little to me in true perspective.  Yet, if they are worthless to me, why would I believe them of any value to God?  He doesn't need my resources.  He needs me.  I think, then, of my abilities - my time, my talents.  He can have those, too.  But that's still not everything.

Who am I?

I am a wife.  A mother.  A teacher (whether in a classroom or in my home).  A writer (even if I can't professionally claim the title).  This is who I am.  Have I offered these to God?

Am I mothering for Him or for the sake of quiet and sanity in my home?  Am I acting as a wife for God or for my own comfort and security?  Do I take seriously my role as teacher to my children?  Do I write for His glory or my own?

These are what He wants.  He wants returned not just what He has given me, but all He has created me to be.  He wants me to be His.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

It's interesting He would give me the fullness of this lesson today, because I believe He gave me the homework earlier this week.

I had seen in Reader's Digest (my husband hears this phrase about twenty times a week) information about a contest they were hosting: write a lesson, simple advice or funny story in 150 words or less and you could win $25,000.  Well, I thought, I can do that!  No problem!  Funny stuff happens to us all the time - and I love to write about it.

So I sat down to write.  And I had nothing.  Not one inspiration.  I made a few lame attempts but I knew they were nothing that would grab anyone's attention.  The deadline was coming fast as I had heard of the contest late, so I hated to put it on the back-burner, but I needed to relax my mind in order for this writer's block to ease.  I reasoned it was like looking for something you've lost - it always seems to come to you just when you've given up.

The next morning I woke up praying about it.  And what I realized was this: I wanted to enter that contest for my glory.  I wanted to be recognized and I wanted a prize - a way to provide for the financial needs of our family.  I felt as though God had directed me to this contest, but I wanted to leave Him out of my entry because "God-stuff" doesn't tend to be gold medal material in these kinds of matters - not in a secular magazine anyway.  His writing has certain venues and this wasn't it.


This was clearly not why God gave me any ability with words - not so I could pick and choose when He was allowed to be in it.  And I realized, this contest was, like anything I write should be, not for me.  It was for Him.  It was for His glory.  Whether it was read by five people or the world, it didn't matter.  What mattered is that I honor Him with my words - no matter the audience.  The only "prize" is making His glory known.

So, this is what I came up with.  Now, you're welcome to go vote for it if you so choose, but I'm not worried about it.  

This was my assignment, and today I received the lesson: All I am is His.

29 October 2011

Of Unexpected Discoveries

As Micaiah and I ran some errands around town (oh how I love our Mommy and Me shopping dates), I browsed our brand new Kohls for anything under $10 on which I could spend my coupon (with no out of pocket cost to frugal me).  While in the housewares department, I heard my little girl exclaim, "Look, Mommy! It's a hole for me!"  Sure enough, the wonderful store employees had staggered two display tables in such a way that there was created a tiny hole, just her crawling size, among all the legs.

Sadly, due to the breakable nature of the items on display I had to inform her she would not be shimmying through her tiny hole.  It's a good thing she's fairly good at handling disappointment.  It was awfully cute, either way.

28 October 2011

Of Highlights

I don't even know that I can pinpoint one aspect of this day which has made it what it is, but I do know I can walk away saying, "That was a good day."  Here are some of the high points:

- Helping Micaiah create slime after watching Sid the Science Kid do the same in his class and seeing her joy as she allowed the gooey matter to ooze over her fingers repeatedly for a solid half hour.

- Enjoying quality one-on-one time playing with my little man while his big sister was occupied with said slime.

- Feeling productive by hanging in Micaiah's room the ten-cent clock and curtain panels I scored during Dollar General's summer clearance on Tuesday.  Actually installing something within the same week it was purchased is fairly rare for Messie me.

- Reading through Ina May's Guide to Childbirth for the first time.  It may be a bit hippie and cult-like in the beginning, but now I'm wishing I'd read this sooner.  Can't wait to have this baby!

- Watching the Cardinals win their eleventh World Series in the year 2011 - little things like matching numbers make me happy (as if a Series Title wouldn't be enough).

Yes, my friends, 'twas a good day of enjoying the little things.

27 October 2011

Of Dressing Up

If you had asked Micaiah any time in the past couple of weeks, she would have told you, "I'm going to be a fairy!  I have wings!  I fly upside down."  I continually reminded her the latter would not actually be happening, but she was excited nonetheless.  Our costume creativity has definitely waned over the years, but I really was hoping to break out something different this year.  When given her choices, though, fairy was the hands down winner.  So fairy it was.

Then, as of today, as I was explaining how we would go Trick-or-Treating at the school where Aunt Dia works (even though it's not yet Halloween), she decided her face would be painted.  Where this idea came from, I have no idea, but as she was laying down for her nap, she insisted, "You will paint me and Daddy will paint Emmett.  And you will paint my eyes and my face and my nose and my chin and my ears!"  Well, the ears didn't happen and I tried to get away without the chin, but she wasn't havin' it.  So, the chin it was.  And none of it really turned out how I would have preferred, but she's three - I'll do more planning when the mere fact she has paint on her face isn't exciting enough for her. 

 This girl is pure sass.

 With a little bit of goofball.

 I decided the hair shouldn't be left out, so we threw some ribbons in, too.

 She loved it!

And then Daddy came home, ready for his task of painting Emmett, as demanded by our little fairy.  His task of creating a bear was a little easier, but he sure did a great job with it.  May I present the cutest little bear of 2011:
 Seriously, I dare you to find cuter.

 He was enthralled by his tiny paws.

 She needed a car picture, too.  

 So ready for this!  Daddy even taught him to "Rar!"

Our little trick-or-treaters.  So adorable!

And now we're ready to tackle it all over again on Sunday night for our church's Trunk-or-Treat.  By Monday, Halloween will be old hat to us and we'll most likely spend the evening in - with the porch light off. Sorry, candy hunters of Oklahoma, we're tuck-or-tired.

25 October 2011

Of Our Walker

If you have seen my husband's Facebook page, you have seen the latest on our little Emmett's walking abilities. This boy may be "behind" in his decision to start moving on his own two feet, but he sure is determined and independent.

He will now push himself to his feet confidently - still with that cocky little grin that shows he knows he should be proud of his accomplishments - but if you ask him if he's going to walk, he very firmly says, "Nao!" (which his adorable pronunciation of, "No!") - because he will take those steps when he's good and ready, not because you have asked him to.

And if you hold out your hands to encourage his steps in your direction, or to assure him you are there in case he falls, that little man becomes even more adamant, "NAO!"  At this point, he very pointedly will turn in the opposite direction to test his legs.

So, we're letting him go his own way in his own time.

Yesterday, he was already taking as many as 3-4 steps on his own as he joined his sister and me out on the driveway for some Vitamin D intake (aka fun in the sun).  In his little long-john pj's and socks, which were no longer white because of the sidewalk chalk and natural driveway dirt, he wobbled forward so excitedly.

Momma, however, was not excited when he began to venture onto the downward slope toward the end of our driveway - something about a brand-new toddler on uneven terrain that also happened to be concrete just seemed unwise to me.  So we keep most of his practice indoor these days.

Because the sharp corners of the entertainment center and fireplace are clearly much safer.

When did our home become a toddler death trap?  Where was I when Micaiah was learning to walk?!

Well, the good news is he's walking - and he's progressing at a very rapid rate, so soon those corners will be nothing to our confident little jogger - right?

23 October 2011

Of Fanaticism

Since moving to the Gateway to the West during my fifth grade year, from La Vista, NE, where my only regular stadium visits were to cheer on the Omaha Royals, I have been an avid fan of my hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, let me make this clear, my definition of an "avid fan" means I will go to the games as much as I have the opportunity to (which, now living out of state, means once every year or two) and I will watch on television if they are in the World Series - oh, and I purchased a set of Cardinals pajamas as Philip's Valentine's Day gift to me this past February, because they were on clearance.  I know you are so surprised at just how hard-core I am.

Thus, this week finds me, for the third time since moving from home (which, ironically, is also the third time since my family first moved to the St. Louis area . . . huh), glued to Fox Sports nightly as I cheer on my St. Louis Cardinals as they take on the Texas Rangers in this year's Fall Classic.

And by "cheer on" I mean I have the TV on in the background while I work on other projects on my computer or read a book during commercials.  I get excited when they score and sad when Texas runs past home plate.  When they win, I get cocky on Facebook and when they lose I'm a little down, but I understand - everyone has their good days and their bad days.  There's no yelling or jumping up and down (though that will come in the event of winning the Series Title - an event that has happened once since I have been following my precious Cards.  Turns out it's not nearly so exciting when you run outside and realize the rest of Oklahoma is going about life as normal.  Baseball isn't really their thing.).

For the most part, this roller coaster of fanaticism rides more like something from the three-feet and under corner of your local amusement park, but I can have my moments.  Like waving my rally towel when we're behind in the fifth inning.  Until I realize I have no idea where this towel came from because it's talking about the "1,000th Game" on December 7, 2007.  No one plays baseball in December.  I guess my real rally towel must be up in the attic with my other Cardinals memorabilia.

Because that's how we die-hard fans roll.

22 October 2011

Of the Eagerness of Anticipation

It finally happened.

After sixteen long months (although, really, it has felt so short and, really, I have only been anxious for this milestone for about a month or so), our son took his first step!

And his Papaw, his great-grandfather, had the privilege of being on the receiving end.  Of not only his first step, but his second, fourth, and fifth attempts to do more than tumble over after one timid step - somewhere in the middle, I got a step, too.

That is how little man spent his evening: proudly standing for minutes on end.  So improved has his balance he was even bending to reach his ball and righting himself to standing again with not so much as a waver - he can throw it, too, without losing his proud stance.

It's still true he prefers to bend and use his hands as aids to "walk" forward, but he definitely tried a number of times to move ahead unassisted.

He still has some time to go before Momma's arms will be baby-free for a short while before filling once again with Baby Penguin, but we're excited for our growing man.  And if you could see the grin of pride on his tiny face with each moment of independence, you'd be pretty excited for him, too.

20 October 2011

Of All Three of Them

All of my precious babies have updates today - what a day!

Micaiah: We're on three days in a row where our little girl has consistently not only used the potty, but did so after telling us she needed to!  And we've only had one wet pull-up in about four days (not counting sleep times)!  Rejoice!

Emmett: As I tinkered on my laptop this evening, I noticed him watching me out of the corner of his eye and saw the most proud smile on his face, as if to say, "Are you seeing this?"  And that's when I realized, seeing my son standing up with a toy in his hands - not touching anything else - is not a normal sight!  I quickly applauded him and he finally gave his legs a rest by leaning forward on the ottoman.  But he spent the rest of the evening standing for a second or two before dropping again and starting over.  Yay!

Baby Penguin: Apparently he/she has experienced a growth spurt in the last month, according to the midwives, as they measured the size of my expanding mid-section.  Meanwhile, this growth spurt has apparently not affected me negatively as I've actually dropped a pound in the same amount of time.  That'll teach those midwives to ask me with a wary eye what I've been eating.  (Please note, despite the smug nature of my previous statement, I am, in fact, eating, very much, just not more than I need and not tons of things I shouldn't be.  Please don't be concerned for my health.)

Oh, and we'll end with proof of this growing baby:

19 October 2011

Of Proper Training

I'll admit, we were not very good at capitalizing on our daughter's need for clean at a young age.  Though we occasionally remembered to ask her to clean up what she took out, we most often found ourselves facing a living room filled with toys after she went to bed and either cleaned them up ourselves or just left them out for the next day (after all, she was going to play with them again, anyway, right? - this was in our Messie stage).  On the times when we asked, she was very good at putting things where we told her to (she was a neat freak after all), but without consistent training she fell away from the habit.

Now putting toys away at nap/bedtime is a chore for everyone.

Everyone but Emmett.  It turns out, our decision to be more persistent about picking up now that Micaiah is of the responsible age has had more impact on him than his elder sister - who still acts like she's not sure what we mean when we use the all-encompassing term "toys" and must be told to intentionally notice and pick up each individual item ("Please put this doll where she needs to be," "Put your books away," etc.).

Which is why it's exciting to me when I'm helping Micaiah get up on the potty before naptime and I turn to Emmett to instruct him as he crawls toward us, "Emmett, please put the toys away" and he promptly does an about face, finds the nearest toy, crawls to the drawer where it goes, pulls open the drawer and deposits the toy, then proceeds to do the same with all of the other play-things on the floor.

Our little man may not be able to string two words together himself, but he is amazing at following orders.

Train up a child in the way he should go . . .

17 October 2011

Of Our Little Hound

It's been awhile since we've played hide-and-seek as a family, but tonight, as Emmett finished his cinnamon-sugar topped piece of pie crust (a remainder from last week's chicken pot pie), Micaiah begged to continue the hiding game she and Daddy had started before dinner.  Thus, we began many rounds of the game.

She has still not learned the fact that, as Philip puts it, "This is hide-and-seek, not Marco Polo!"  She still responds when we search for her and expects us to do the same (though we are typically much less compliant).  At one point, as she and I cowered in Mommy and Daddy's shower, she was just about to yell out to Daddy who still, unfairly, calls her name while seeking, but I stopped her just in time, "Shh!  We have to be quiet!  Don't answer Daddy!"  The anticipation and sneakiness of it all was just too exciting for her as she let out the occasional squeal of joy.  We were found out.

When it was our turn to seek out Daddy, we made the rounds in all the rooms to no avail.  So while she kept searching, I decided to release the hound.  Emmett had finished his pie crust by now and was eagerly watching our every move.  I knew he had not only seen Daddy, but this little sucker could sniff out his Daddy within a 500-ft radius.  Daddy is, after all, his favorite person.  After wiping his hands and face, I set him on the ground and encouraged him to follow us back to the bedrooms as we continued our search.

"Come on!  Let's go find Daddy!"

Our stubborn boy sat still, though, just between the living room and the entry hall.  Finally he lifted his little arm to point toward the front door and said in a confused tone, "Daddy."  Being that the entryway is where we had counted before beginning our search, we hadn't thought to look there, but knowing Daddy is a pretty sneaky guy, I decided to follow Little Man's leading.  Sure enough, there was Philip, squeezed into the newly-cleared coat closet, where he'd apparently sneaked while we peered in bedroom closets, and had now been for the past five minutes.

That little boy is the best secret weapon ever.