20 December 2012

Of Christmas Traditions

I am a big fan of traditions.  I like starting them and I like continuing them.  With every passing year, I treasure the repetitious rituals - it's what makes a holiday feel "right" to me.

For Christmas, one of my favored activities growing up (admittedly, I think I was the only child who enjoyed this - or maybe my brother's complete disdain overshadowed my sister's shared joy, I can't be sure), was looking at Christmas lights.  Every year, typically after the Christmas Eve service, my family would load up in the van, head to Sonic for milkshakes (because there's nothing like a cold treat while bundling up from the cold . . . apparently) and cruise the neighborhoods, admiring or critiquing the handiwork of others.

Thus, I have been eager to continue the tradition with our own little ones and have been pushing this for the past week.  And tonight was the night.

I prepped myself for the dreamy image in my head of a blissful family evening to go quickly awry - it always seems to with toddlers.  For our two big kids, who are accustomed to watching a dvd during any trip longer than five minutes, I was particularly concerned.

Apparently, though, Harry Connick, Jr. crooning "Frosty the Snowman" is the exact ingredient required to distract children from the lack of animated characters on the screen before them and entice them to gaze out the windows at the colored, blinking lights.  Either that or the "oohs" and "aahs" were simply sympathy admiration given in an attempt to match their mother's exuberance.  Either way, I'll take it.

The cries of, "Look, it's the Mommy purple reindeer and the Daddy purple riendeer!" and "It's Santa!  He's real and he's looking in our car!" were joy to a Momma's heart (for just one night, I didn't even feel the need to correct him).

And, yes, this evening of family togetherness was brought to you by Sonic, who, as always, provided the snacks.

Coupled with the spontaneous caroling at the dinner table for the past couple of nights (our children are loving "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer") and I would say it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

1,000 Gifts:
1063. Family traditions
1064. Lights on the street reminding us of the Light of the world
1065. "Good-bye, Puppy!  Have a special day!" said Emmett
1066. An evening of frustration ending with everything working as it should
1067. Plans, all asunder, falling back into place

13 December 2012

Of Something More

With my husband gone for the evening, I find myself preparing to drown my loneliness in ice cream and chick flicks.  Bringing my new favorite Blue Bell variety in from the deep freeze, I find myself wondering.  Is this it?

Not, "Is this all the ice cream?"  But, "Is this all of life?"

Looking forward to a bowl of sugar and milk and an evening on my couch.  Is this all there is?

It's the same question I asked earlier this evening, as I changed another cloth diaper, putting another insert into the diaper pail, waiting to be washed and re-folded and re-filled and re-dumped into the pail.  Is this endless parade of the same task all there is?

It's the same question I ask myself as I scurry through another December, determined not to be lost in the materialism, determining to let it all go and feeling as though it won't let go of me.  So I find myself, only twelve days left, worried I won't have the packages in the mail on time - the packages I bought long before this ridiculous deadline.  Is this breaking the same resolution year after year all there is?

It's the same question I asked myself a few weeks ago as I realized we're here.  The American dream.  We've achieved it.  If the dream is a warm place to live, food in my belly and a family (pets included), with a little money to spare to satisfy our (smallish) whims - we're here.  But is this really all there is?

And I find myself coming to the same answer: If I'm bored with life I must be doing something wrong.

It's like I have finally achieved all I meant to and now I keep waiting for something to happen and I don't even know what it is.  I feel like Rose of Titanic fame, envisioning my entire life before me, an endless stream of the same.  Glorifying God through it all, yes.  Loving the little moments, the thousands of gifts, yes.  But still feeling, truly knowing, that there is more to this.

And because I still haven't allowed myself to fully seek His path and let go of my own self-imposed to-do list, self-imposed expectations I imagine others have (or maybe don't even imagine, but the importance of their opinion is definitely sheer fantasy) and fully run after what I know He has laid before me, I remain listless unsatisfied, ready to just be home.  Done with here and ready for there.

But I am still here.  I still have a family I love, I still have friends who encourage, I still have the resources I need to do what He has asked - so maybe I should do something about this.

Maybe it's time to do something right.

1,000 Gifts:
1058. A warm December afternoon, shucking the coats and heading outside
1059. Tiny hands grasping orange fur
1060. The baby boy in my lap, giggling and nuzzling, in the warmth of the sun
1061. One bright spot of light on the wall, a ray breaking through the closed blinds
1062. This hope, a knowing, of something more.

10 December 2012

Of a List of Lately

This list has been about a week in the making, thus it keeps growing.  Life will slow down someday, right?

- A couple weeks ago Joseph ate something that disagreed with him - it led to a late-night bath (which he loved), three changes of pajamas, and a cuddle session with Momma that lasted until 2am.  And, yet, when he wasn't getting sick or sleeping, he was giggling and smiling.  Happiest sick baby ever.

- That same week, we studied the 10 Plagues of Egypt here at home.  As a result, Micaiah still talks about how we're all going to live because we put "blood" (in the form of a red ribbon) over our door (though Daddy's fate was questionable, because he was at work at the time and, thereby, not in the house), and the children continue to ask to drink blood at lunch (don't worry, we used Kool-Aid instead, because vampires aren't as cool as some people pretend).

- After a random suggestion by Micaiah, we planned an impromptu Saturday visit to the zoo last weekend.  It was pretty much the best zoo trip I could imagine.  Well, except for Emmett's insistence on calling the Bison "buffalo"- Mommy's still working on him.  He's still not cooperating.

- While playing with the Nativity set last week, Micaiah (playing the part of Mary) instructed the Wise Men, "I don't want the stuff you brought; I just want stuff for the baby.  I need water for the baby; bring me water!"  That's our practical girl.

- Joseph has begun cruising around the house, walking along the edge of the fireplace (which is lined with pillows, lest you worry) and the couches.  We predict walking before Christmas.

- Also, just in time for Christmas, Joseph's two front teeth.  Wish granted.

- Last week, after I got out of class early, I broke Emmett out of his class and spent a little time playing in the nursery with just him.  How fun it was to see what his little imagination comes up with all on his own, apart from influence from Big Sister.  I almost never get an opportunity to have one-on-one Emmett time and those imaginary cookies coming out of the microwave (and refrigerator, and cabinet . . .) of the toy kitchen were just about the best I'd ever tasted.

- I had a rare good-Mommy moment when I created an impromptu lesson on Joshua and the walls of Jericho last week.  We all marched around the wooden-block city of Jericho, shouted for all we had and watched the walls fall.  We then watched the VeggieTales rendition of Josh and the Big Wall, because what Jericho lesson would be complete without the French Peas?

- We made a family (+ Adopt-a-Bison) made a visit to the annual Christmas Parade on Main St.  The weather was perfect and the kids were perfectly content with the short half hour we stayed - they saw Santa (who Micaiah now insists is real) and each got a Tootsie Roll, what else could they need?  After, we decorated Christmas cookies, for which Micaiah promptly created an eating schedule ("I will eat the star after lunch tomorrow, and then I'll eat the snowman after dinner . . .), to which she stuck perfectly.

And those are just the highlights . . .

29 November 2012

Of Pausing to Remember

While meandering through my day, I stumbled upon this little video posted to Facebook:

Watching sent shivers through my skin and, eventually, brought tears streaming down my face.  And I felt absolutely ridiculous - crying at a crowd of people singing in the mall?  Really?

I could not peg down what was so emotional for me in this display.

"Because this is how it should be."

I felt the words in my soul and knew them to be true. It was for this we were created.  To bring glory to God in all places, among all people.  Not to restrain our chorus to the church pew or the kitchen counter (where I am most found singing in our home, if at all), but to declare Him to the world in every situation in every way.

This is how it should be.

His people.  And those who don't even recognize Him as Lord.  Stopping to acknowledge His name.  Pausing our busy lives to worship, right where we are.

Oh that I would be so bold.

27 November 2012

Of Becoming a (Little) Man

A sight to see around our house lately is our little two-year-old coming into his own.  Where once he parroted his sister and then began mimicking her words with his own twist, he has now branched out completely.  He has his own thoughts, ideas and desires.  And he is not so bad at expressing them.

The concept of a talks-a-lot big sister not letting her little brother speak for himself?  Not for this guy.  He'll shout to be heard.  Literally.

In addition, this little guy is all boy.  While, yes, he still asks to wear his sissy's headbands or colors with the pink crayon, we also find ourselves saying (much more than we ever have to with our little girl), "No hitting!"  Because hitting, pushing and kicking are just his ways of playing, conveying frustration and being an annoying little brother.

Don't get me wrong, he is also very loving - willing to share his chocolate with me when I ask or putting his arm around his sister at dinner or giving his little brother just-because kisses or snuggling with Daddy during TV time.  He definitely has a sweet streak - it just sometimes gets out-shone by his ornery side.

It's such a pleasure to watch him grow and realize he truly is becoming a little man.  Oh that we would raise him right.

1,000 Gifts:
1052. Duck, Duck, Goose with six adults (four of which are 50 or older), a pre-schooler, a toddler and an infant
1053. Extended weekends
1054. A kitchen built for entertaining
1055. Beautiful Thanksgiving weather
1056. The smell of fall in the air
1057. Family traditions

Thanksgiving Weekend:
Playing outside with Grandpa - Joey's first time in the tree house.  I love how it looks like the brothers are conspiring.

This is how we found them when Mom and I returned from our laidback version of Black Friday shopping.

Bowling for the first time.  They loved pushing the ball down the slide.

They even both beat Daddy the first game (then again, he didn't have the aid of bumpers).

Love tiny bowling shoes.

Tickles from Grandpa.

So proud of him for branching out and trying something new at Pops. The fact that it was mock Russian makes it that much better.

Getting Duck, Duck, Goose instructions.

Love her giggles.

Iconic Pops photos

Loved our family time.

Sights of the Season:
We open one Christmas-related book or movie every day of December leading up to Christmas.  Love seeing these under my tree!

Joey's "First Christmas" ornament - perfect!

20 November 2012

Of the Splash Zone

Two boys, sitting in waist-deep water, facing each other in the tub for the first time.

The big one raises his hand, high over his head, and brings it down with sheer force, sending water over the two of them, as well as the Mommy seated on the stool nearby.  Worried about the little one's reaction to sprays of water in his tiny face, I begin to scold the elder, while watching the face of the younger, prepared to console.

I hear a high-pitched squeal and begin my words of encouragement, but before they escape my lips, the squeal is accompanied by a giggle and two little white teeth shining out of a grin.

He loves it!

Tentatively, an itty bitty hand lowers to the surface.  Can he re-create this?

Before he tries, big brother brings down his hand again.  A bigger splash.  A bigger laugh - out of both of them.

The littlest bring his own arm down a little stronger and is rewarded with the smallest of sprays.

And so they go, back and forth.  Splashing.  Giggling.  Filling the floor with water and the air with laughter.


Doing what brothers do.

And a Mommy enjoying every moment from the splash zone.

1,000 Gifts:
1044. Witnessing a little boy's problem-solving skills
1045. Quiet time at the library
1046. A husband who will drive across town to turn the key in the ignition
1047. Leftover queso
1048. The way water splashes, covering a face
1049. A hard-working husband
1050. The adventurous spirit of our youngest
1051. Ice Cream for dinner after the kids go to bed

19 November 2012

Of Getting Out the Tree

This evening as we jumped the gun on our Christmas decorating, it seemed as though the amount of involvement by various members of the family has truly grown exponentially.  While last year we had an excited, but still not really understanding, three-year-old and a brand-new toddler who wasn't interested in much more than crawling around the greenery, this year brought an exuberant four-year-old with a plan and a penchant for hanging ornaments (our tree actually lacks the clustered effect one might expect by the decorating abilities of two children under the age of five), and a two-year-old who could not wait for it to be his turn with every new piece of memorabilia adorning the branches.  I mean, he was into this thing - much more so than I believe his sister was even last year.

Of course, there was also the little crawler who was relegated to his spot in the corner, just watching the action, but when he was let loose, he was ecstatic by all the glimmer and flair.  With a ten-month-old opening gifts next month, I think this will be, by far, the most fun first Christmas in our family.

In any event, I'll declare this season gets more fun with every passing year.

1,000 Gifts:
1037. Two kids bent in the dirt
1038. The two of them, working together, to rip open a letter from their cousin
1039. Chicken on the bone
1040. Memories hung on a tree
1041. The little guy, standing in his crib
1042. How excited they get to see their little brother
1043. How thrilled he gets to crawl after them

15 November 2012

Of My Future Grandchildren

Scene: I am walking three kids to the car in a fairly deserted and complacent parking lot - but recognizing a teachable moment (as in one that won't get my child run over for making the wrong decision but knowing they need to learn before that happens), I order them to stop running, stay close to me and stay close to the car.  I then kneel down to have a rational conversation with my four-year-old . . .

Me: "I know there are not many cars in this parking lot, but we still need to be very careful because we don't know when a car might come and these cars are a lot bigger than you and could crush you (now realizing I may be getting too graphic for a four-year-old but also not wanting to end with a simple, "and you could get hurt" because paper cuts hurt, cars are a little more serious) and then you could get dead."

Micaiah: (not too fazed) "Yeah, and when I get dead because of the cars, then I will see Jesus."

Me: "Well, yes, and we want to see Jesus, but I don't want you to see Jesus until you're old and wrinkly and have had lots of kids and grandkids."

Micaiah: "And when I am big like you, I will have kids!"

Me: "Yep, and when you're big like Gram, you will have grandkids.  And when you're big like Grandma Veta, you will have GREAT-grandkids and I don't want you to see Jesus before that happens."

This lovely scene led to a great fascination with the idea that someday she will have her own children.  Also, it led to the realization that her children will call her little brother Uncle Emmett - but for lack of anyone else, she will be marrying Joey.  And they will have lots of "different kids".  And they will have a little girl named Kylie, "just like my cousin."

And these are the things we learn through one teachable moment in the parking lot.

1,000 Gifts:
1032. A calm evening out with the family
1033. Gingerbread House ice cream
1034. Thanksgiving preparations
1035. A Christmas suit for my toddler
1036. Rice scattered everywhere - signs of good times for our children

14 November 2012

Of Keeping the New

Last week, as I attempted to dress three children for a photo shoot with their aunt that was supposed to take place at 10am, for which I was hoping to arrive by 9:30 so as to allow more actual photo time, I scrambled to find three pairs of socks, pull on three pairs of pants (ok, four if you include mine - and that was important to me), tug on shirts, locate jackets and secure shoes.

Meanwhile, the children had been bathed and were eating breakfast.  And as I scuttle to and fro that middle son of mine has pushed off his shoes, tugged off his socks and run happily to play.

Frustrated, I demanded, "Emmett!  Stop taking off your shoes!"  Because anyone who has ever put tight shoes on a squirrely toddler will tell you, it's not fun and it's not quick.  We were behind and this shoe thing was not helping.

So, we re-locate two socks and two shoes and put them back on.  I scurry to find that third jacket.  I return to find that same boy in socks.  No shoes.  Trying to work himself out of the jacket on his arms.

"Stop taking off what I have put on!"

In this exasperated moment, I had clarity of thought to recognize these very words as ones I could just as easily have heard from God Himself - in fact, I'd dare say it was the Holy Spirit who pointed this out to me, saying, "Are you hearing yourself?  Why, then, do you continually take off what I have put on?"

And I recalled right there in the Scripture where we are commanded "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24, ESV).

Too often I am that child, the one God is trying to dress in the new manner, holy and righteous as He, preparing me for the tasks ahead.  And there I am, stubborn and obstinate, ripping off the new (or maybe even doing so more subtly, simply slipping off what still feels a little uncomfortable at times, what hasn't been broken in), in favor of the old, the easy - the harsh words, angry tones, bitter spirit.

And all the while He's there, pleading (in a much more patient manner than I tend to display with my own children), "Daughter, stop taking off what I have put on!"

Since that moment of epiphany as I hurried the kids to the car, I've noticed a change.  As I strive to keep on the new, the old is what suddenly feels out-dated, uncomfortable and stiff.  I find myself, after years of trying it back on to see how it fits, finally ready to throw it out - because goodness knows I don't dare desire to see my children wearing this hideous monstrosity.

I think I just might like to keep this one - this one He has put on.

1,000 Gifts:
1026. Three children in my lap for story-time
1027. Following the Spirit's leading in service
1028. Twister with my littles - this old body ain't what she used to be
1029. A refreshing time with girls
1030. Keeping on the new
1031. A sick Sunday morning which meant lunch snuggled in Mommy and Daddy's bed - for everyone!

Photos from Sunday:
Joey's baby dinosaur face.  Makes me smile every time.

Brother kisses are the best.  Especially when they're unprovoked.

13 November 2012

Of Nine Months with Joseph

Our littlest guy celebrated nine months of living yesterday.  He celebrated in typical fashion - by living life as a nine-month-old, which is exciting enough, in itself, when there is still so much world to discover.

At this point one might normally be able to say he has been out of the womb as long as he was in it, but considering our little Joey stayed cozily tucked up inside me for a ten-day extension, we won't be able to say that until Thanksgiving (which is now nine days away, what?!).

Considering all the development which occurred in that first nine months and ten days of existence - proceeding from a tiny fertilized egg into a being with a beating heart, arms, legs, toes, fingers, eyelashes and a soft dusting of hair, 9.5 pounds of squirmy, squishy, sleepy baby - it's hard to imagine any more miracle packed into so short a time.  Yet the nine months following his exit into our world have had their fair share of milestones.

He now has two teeth to boast of and even saw the scissors to his hair for the first time this past week (just for a little over-the-ears trim, nothing major).  On top of using his hands and knees to transport himself wherever he would like to be, his new favorite is pulling up to get a closer look at all that used to be out of reach - like his brother's lollipop or Mommy's laptop.

He loves to giggle, grin, and, recently, wave "bye-bye."  His tongue is his favorite toy, as he sticks it out (and in) in rapid succession, like a giant lizard, flips it over and under and all around works it for all it's worth.  When he's sleepy, lately, he resembles a baby dinosaur, opening his mouth wide, tongue partially out, squawking for all to hear - sometimes a yawn is involved, other times not.  When he's sad or hungry and wants my attention, he cries, "Mmamamamamamamaaaa!"

He is, by far, our most exploratory baby, often getting lost in one room or another before Mommy even realizes he's missing (blame it on being the third child).  He loves finding new things and, of course, trying it all out in his mouth, feeling it out with that favored tongue.

He alternates between being a most amazing sleeper (13 hours or more) most of the time and spurts of waking Mommy at 4:30 in the morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  He is our only so far to not have completely given up that early morning feeding, but I always know when it's growing time.

Considering when we first met face to face he was capable of little more than gazing, sleeping and eating - unable, even, to support his own head - I would say he has accomplished much in his, as yet, short little life.  Looking forward to seeing what else our little Joseph Peter has in store for us.

Just to give a visual to a little of the above:

1,000 Gifts:
1018. Micaiah, picking up her baby brother
1019. Joseph investigating his sister's face while she sits placidly, watching television
1020. Emmett kneeling to kiss his sissy's face, wordlessly and randomly
1021. Watching a favorite show after a long hiatus - still a favorite
1022. Preparing for a new resident
1023. Finding just what we need at just the right time and place
1024. "Look, Mommy! He's standing on his feet!"
1025. Being pronounced "Super Mommy" by my beautiful daughter

09 November 2012

Of Following the Rules

I have rules issues.  As in, I seriously need/like rules.

I think I don't - I like to pretend, because I am fiercely independent, that I don't like to be told what to do.

It is a lie.

I need structure.  I need guidelines.  I need painstakingly clear directions.

Lest you think I exaggerate, you need to know I have had no less than three different teachers, in three different states of our nation, in three different stages of my life who have disliked me on varying levels for my need to clarify.  One praised me the day I asked my first "smart question."  One scolded me in front of the entire class, telling me she'd put more restrictions on her open-ended project if I really wanted her to (though it was perfectly clear this would be a punishment).  One e-mailed me the Webster's definition of the project I was to complete, because I clearly didn't understand enough to not ask.

I'm not kidding.

I have a deep fear of doing something wrong, of earning disapproval, so I map out every detail of what's expected (and somehow meet disapproval anyway).

Only today did I realize this is where things work well for me in the kitchen.

After all, what is cooking but following a step-by-step guide for creating something delicious?  My obsessive need to read, re-read and then check again on each individual stage of the baking process lends itself very well to producing the desired result.

I can cook because I can follow directions.  Because I need to follow directions.

And I like to cook because it's the one thing left in my life with clear-cut instructions - and tangible evidence of my ability to follow them.

It's the one thing left, after the meaningless trophies, the cheap certificates, the cap and gown, that rewards me for following the rules and gives opportunities for open praise.  No one sees the clean bathroom, the folded laundry or the sometimes-behaved children and says, "Well done!"  But they bite into a soft chocolate chip cookie and the appreciation is lavished.

Only one more deep insight unlocked for me today into my own psyche.

I think there's something wrong with me.

1,000 Gifts:
1010. The bright orange of freshly pureed pumpkin
1011. Open windows
1012. Rewarding my children
1013. Re-living fond child-hood memories through my little ones.
1014. Preparing for a weekend of catching up
1015. The bright colors of fall leaves
1016. Pinecone turkeys
1017. A sink-full of bubbles and tiny hands to appreciate them

A product of yesterday morning's photo shoot with my lovely sister-in-law - I feel this photo captures the essence of my crazy life.

07 November 2012

Of Potatoes

"I haven't blogged in a really long time."

"I was thinking that, but I didn't want to say anything."

"I just don't know what to blog about."


"Blog about potatoes?"

"Yeah.  Our kids seem to like them; they made a lot of jokes about them."

[Side note: the kids had been exchanging "jokes" with Daddy for the duration of dinner this evening.]

"Like what?"

"Knock. Knock."

"Who's there?"


"Potato who?"

"Knock. Knock."

[I was now beginning to expect an "Orange you glad I didn't say 'potato'?" ending to this saga of a joke.]

" . . . I'm not doing this. . . . sigh . . . Who's there?"

"Echo potato!"

"Echo potato who?"

"I don't know, that was Emmett's joke."

This is probably a "you had to be there" kind of moment, but the image of my two-year-old spouting out this clever joke he made up amid Daddy's knee-slappers pretty much sent me over the edge of tired hysteria this evening.  Man I love my kids (and their Daddy, too).

1,000 Gifts:
1002. Leaves of varying colors 
1003. Bubbles blown in the sunshine
1004. Tiny hands trying to catch said bubbles
1005. Cries of "Yay!" coming from their room (and for who knows what reason)
1006. Dinner-time comedy
1007. A whole weekend of just me and the kids - and enjoying every minute of it
1008. A Slumber Party 
1009. Bantering with my husband

31 October 2012

Of the Costume Conundrum

I kind of maybe really enjoy coming up with fun Halloween costumes.  Not since the days of plastic smocks and cracking masks have I ever longed to simply purchase a costume.  The fun for me is in the creativity.  So, when Micaiah told me what she wanted to be this year, I was kind of excited about the prospect for a family costume.

True, I might have thrown together the details at the last minute, but it's because I knew we had what we needed.  Re-purposing our own clothing to create the perfect ensemble?  Priceless.

Problem?  Apparently no one knew what we were going for.  Do you?

Tromping around our church's Fall Festival on Sunday evening, beaming with pride at my old swimsuit made new as Mama Bear's dress, my spirits fell when we began hearing guesses.  Dogs?  Mice?  Farm animals?

Clearly my creative spin was not quite as clever as I had envisioned - even the well-read among us missed the Bear Family references*.

Micaiah, of course, was all too happy to remind them, "I'm a Berenstain-Berenstain Bear!" (she always says it twice and it always sounds a little more like "Bouncy, bouncy bears"), but I was taken back to my high school days (my theory was we're never too old for free candy - apparently others don't feel the same way), my face painted entirely in blue, with blue turtleneck, white skirt and white gloves and only the one inebriated door-opener who called me for what I was, "Hey, look!  A smurf!"

Really?  Am I so bad at costuming that one has to be under the influence to recognize my work?

Apparently so.

Oh well.

At the very least, Micaiah was thrilled to wander around, collecting her sugar, declaring to the world that she was Sister Bear and her parents were Mama and Papa Bear.  And that's all that really matters.

Joey, by the way, was the male version of the littlest Berenstain Bear: Honey.

*To be fair, nearly everyone who was told immediately recognized us and announced, "Of course - now it makes sense!"  I was more sad that it wasn't more obvious without a caption.

1,000 Gifts:
994. A pocket of electricity for loved ones
995. Warm days and cool nights - fall is here
996. The full moon behind hazy clouds
997. The light of the moon, orangey as it rises
998. Our children, discovering for the first time the changing colors of the "waterfall" - the wonder of the Fountain for a new generation
999. Paper airplanes - the simple joy of every day
1000. "God, I love you. . . I just told him." - Micaiah's response to being told we obey to show Him we love Him - evidence of a child-like faith
1001. Emmett's constant declaration: "A spaceman's got to do what a spaceman's got to do!" - such assertiveness from our shy one

23 October 2012

Of Memories

I sat yesterday morning, in the coolness of the dawn, with the warmth of a fevered baby's head resting on my chest.

We sat, the two of us, in a chair settled on uneven ground in the small piece of land we call our own, the one protruding ever so slightly from behind our home.

The two of us, snuggled together, facing east as the first brilliant strokes of color emanated from the skyline just over the fence, behind a tree, still black against the dawning rays.

Slowly and ever so brilliantly our two pairs of eyes watched the colors of the morning emerge.

I thought of my camera.

Should I grab it?  Shouldn't I capture this beauty in its lens?  Because who can allow such exquisite handiwork to go to waste?

But then, is it really wasted on our two pairs of eyes?

Is not appreciating it, this one moment in time, enough?

Will God not be so good as to produce another sunrise tomorrow?  And the next day?

Are His mercies not new every morning?

And yet I strive, ever backwards, like cupped hands trying to stop the water flowing, trying to hold on to just a little, as if this will be the last sweet sip ever offered before the stream is cut off forever.

I try to capture it all, remember it all, hold on to it all.

Because each moment is precious.

But, then, if this moment is so precious, can I not trust the next to be just as precious?

Can I not trust that the moving forward will bring new beauty, new moments, new mercies?

I can get stuck in hoarding the memories rather than living the moments.

Will God not be so good as to bring another blessing tomorrow?  And if tomorrow never comes - was today wasted?

Certainly not.  Let not any day enjoyed, lived, and shared, be considered a waste - no matter the work left undone, the tasks neglected or the minutes missed.

Every day is grace.  Don't miss it.

1,000 Gifts:

989. The first blushes of pink on the morning clouds
990. The way clouds float in layers - one speeding along, the other standing still
991. A sickie baby snuggled in my arms as we watch the sunrise together
992. Children chasing after one another in joy
993. My kids, all three, giggling together

21 October 2012

Of Her Genuine Prayers

Philip and I have prayed with our kids every night before bedtime since the day they were born.  It's one thing I feel we actually get right in days fraught with failure.

However, while we regularly voice prayers over them, they do not typically speak their own.

There have been periods of time when one or the other or both of our older ones would repeat after us.

There have been times, recently, when they have frantically, excitedly, sputtered out a modified version of sissy's prayer, "A,B,C,D,E,F,G.  Thank you, God, for bedtime. Amen" (I often feel if they really thought about what they were saying, they would not be quite so grateful for bedtime, but we're still working on the sincerity issue).

The idea, then, of Micaiah speaking to God thoughts and gratitudes from her heart is a concept we're still waiting on.  We have heard maybe a handful of self-motivated conversations between her and God in her short four years.

So, tonight, when she began to pray on her own, without the alphabetical opening and without even mentioning "bedtime" in her list of gifts from him (maybe she's started to truly consider her words), my heart swelled.

"Thank you, God, for everything you made" - she's thankful for creation, and all of it, so incredibly sweet - "and for my friends and for my whole family" - glad to hear not only is she thankful for all of us, but she's decided to take the all-encompassing route, rather than the toddler-tendency to list each member individual - "and for the baby that came out of Mommy's tummy" - now I was truly grinning with my eyes clinched shut, apparently Joseph wasn't included in the "whole family" clause; also, she's never going to forget where he came from - "Amen."

It's the rarity of these moments that makes them so incredibly precious.  I love hearing the overflow of her heart.

1,000 Gifts:
979. Arms to hold me on a weepy Saturday
980. Baskets filled with bright green lettuce and brilliant red tomatoes
981. A squirrel skittering along the wire spanning the street
982. Fall leaves fluttering
983. A bright orange package shipped in the mail
984. Circus games on a warm fall morning
985. Hot dogs under the "big top"
986. A lazy Sunday afternoon, snuggled in bed, reading, holding kids and napping
987. Tabletop games, popcorn, and baseball on TV

19 October 2012

Of Saying No

I'll be honest, we are not a baby-signing family.  I kind of wish we were.  I have a book of signs for babies.  We've watched Signing Time quite a bit.  But I lack the consistency.  As in, I usually forget to accompany my words with a physical motion of any sort.

Our older two both eventually learned "More," "Food," and "Please" so we could survive feeding time.  Anyone knowing our kids wouldn't be surprised by that combination of words. (Don't worry, we did teach them "All done" too).

Otherwise, nothing.

Joseph, however, seems to have figured something out.  Even if it's not technically correct.

When he reached the age of six months, we considered this to be the appropriate age for his first swats - nothing serious, just a small slap to the back of the hand when he touches something we prefer he wouldn't or to the leg when he's heading into a room where he doesn't need to be.  A firm "No" accompanied by a little swat (not even enough to draw a whimper) are typically all it takes for him to switch directions.

Eventually, though, much as I remember his older sister doing, upon hearing the word "No" as he crawled away, he began to stop, sit up, look at me, and slap his lap.  He knew what I was saying.  And he wanted me to know it (also that he could handle the discipline himself, thankyouverymuch).

Today, though, was the first time I had noticed a similar reaction when caught touching what shouldn't be touched by baby fingers.

"Joseph, no." I stated.

He looked at me, clapped and smiled, so proud of himself.  He was slapping his own hand, his own way.  And it was darn cute.  Philip agreed when he saw the same thing later that evening.

Now, he won't clap just to clap.  Only when we say "No".  As if it's a Sign.  Clearly that's what that little two-letter word means - "Let's Clap!"

What was really great, though, was later in the evening when Philip was antagonizing his littlest son (frustrating the children seems to be one of his favorite past-times) by putting his daddy hands all in Joseph's face.  And then Joseph clapped.

"I think he's telling me no!"

I think so, my dear.  I think so.

1,000 Gifts:
975. What once was lost, now is found (My camera is back!)
976. Melting crayons into something new
977. Creating a care package - mailing love
978. Her licking a stamp - apparently the old is not lost.

After a hard-core effort this evening, my camera was finally found, after I remembered we took photos at an air show two weeks ago and I hadn't seen those pictures - erego, it was misplaced at the same time.  Sure enough, it was found in Philip's coat pocket.  That's what happens when the temperatures drop suddenly and then pick back up, leaving the coats in the closets for weeks.

At the air show, me and my boys.

Love this face.

Standing on his own for the first time!

He loves his brother.

One of the few moments they were paying attention to what was happening in the air.

Joey and I were interested, at least.

15 October 2012

Of Our Determined Boy

This youngest kid of ours - he goes for what he wants.  If it's just out of reach he will not give up until he has found a way to get his hands on the desired object.  If there is water in his brother's cup, he will try every possible angle until he has figured out how to get the liquid in his mouth.  If there is anything, - a stick horse, a slinky, whatever - between the boy and his toy, that item will be tossed aside without a second thought.  Don't try to distract him.  He's on a mission.

That boy.

Case in point: His first time to his feet - all because there was a toy in the corner of that chair and he just had to have it.

Is this the one?

Got it!

And . . . straight to the mouth.

This tongue his is trademark, always out, always wiggling around.  Silly goose.

1,000 Gifts:
971. Reminding myself I'm not a failure.
972. Having it all ready on time.
973. The squeaks of a little boy's hands on the balloon - and the squeaks of happiness from his mouth.
974. A column written

14 October 2012

Of Eternal Conversations

As a part of our home-schooling efforts, we generally share a "verse of the week".  This past week, Micaiah's verse was Matthew 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures."

While she traced a few of the words on her coloring sheet with clipart of the earth on it, I pulled out our inflatable globe to discuss the continents with her:

"And this is Africa, where Aunt Dia went, and Europe is over here - that's where Aunt Becky and Uncle Gary live [these are Philip's aunt and uncle who currently serve as missionaries in England)].  And God wants us to go into ALL the world," I explained, indicating the entire ball in my hands, "to preach the gospel - which means to tell them about Jesus.  That's why Dia went to Africa - so she could tell people about Jesus - and that's why Uncle Gary and Aunt Becky live in Europe - so they can tell people about Jesus."

At this, Micaiah stopped her coloring and looked at me with interested surprise, "Is Jesus real?!"

I could see in her face this confusion over the fact that anyone would travel to or live in a completely different place just to tell people about this Jesus who was in the stories Mommy and Daddy read and the teachers at church talk about.  Until this moment, I understood, Jesus had been no more real to her than Santa Claus or Rapunzel - great characters in books and movies but nothing more.

"Yes," I said, "Jesus is real."

Excitedly she responded, "I want to see him!"  What she was really asking was, "I mean, seriously, if this guy is real, why haven't I met him?!"

"Well, he is real, but he lived a long time ago.  He doesn't live on this world anymore," I indicated the ball in my hands, "He lives in Heaven, with God."

"I want to see God and Jesus!"

"Well, we can't see them now.  They live in Heaven.  But, if we believe in them and do what they say, then someday, when we die, we will get to be with them in Heaven."

"I don't want to die!"  Suddenly she was scared and I realized the error in proselytizing a pre-schooler.

And while the topic might have gotten a little scary for her, it was a good conversation (up until she began focusing on the death part).  It was one of those moments that made me realize just how important my job, between the washing of the dishes, the folding of the clothes, the enforcing of the naps and the changing of the diapers, really is.  These children are my ministry.  And nothing could be more valuable.

1,000 Gifts:
966. Eternal conversations
967. A twirling dress
968. My husband, the official snuggling buddy of the two-year-old classroom
969. An old camera revived (while the other is still in the land of the lost)
970. Fancy desserts (at home)

The photo I would have posted on Friday - stained glass cookies hanging in the window (until it's time to eat them, of course).

Micaiah, wearing Aunt Dia's old dress from Mexico (I believe?).  She looked adorable.

Emmett wanted his picture taken, too.  And, apparently, so did Diego - the orange kitty who has adopted us.

Last but not least - Joseph.  Our little one-toothed, crawling, eight-month-old.

12 October 2012

Of Understanding the Neat Freak

A number of years ago I watched my first episode of Jon & Kate Plus Eight.  I am not now, nor have I ever been an avid viewer of the show, which probably has a lot to do with that first experience.

She was hiring a housekeeper and I found her standards to be completely unrealistic - meaning she required more than the bare minimum I consider acceptable and, thereby made me feel guilty about my own pathetic cleaning efforts which led to the old standard female-fallback - annoyance and disgust.  Because being inspired to raise my own standards would have just been too much work.

What woman, I wondered, with eight kids underfoot, really has time to care about getting on hands and knees to scrub the dining room floor daily?  This woman was too much for me.

Fast forward my life to three kids later and I'm feeling all sorts of sorry for that judgment (well, ok, I feel bad, anyway, for judging, but that's an issue God and I are working on; for now we'll focus on the point of this story).

Lately I've been patting myself on the back for the mere act of sweeping once a day instead of my former goal to shoot for, which was once a week.

Stop judging - it's not nice.

I was feeling pretty darn good about myself, really, while trying not to brag - because that's not nice, either.

And then this afternoon, as we ate lunch, my littlest guy, who is generally allowed to roam like wild bison (we don't call them buffalo in these here parts), as long as he keeps his act together and makes good choices, found his way under the table where the rest of us sat, and spread himself out prostrate on the ground to - yes, I'm serious - lick the floor.

Apparently there were still remainders of chips and cheese from last night's Doritos Locos Nachos (our home-made take on the wonderful Tacos one can purchase in the Drive-Thru - we're still not judging, remember?  That includes my nutritional choices), and this little guy was not letting this golden opportunity slip through his fingers, or his one tooth.

Clearly my once-a-day efforts are still lacking.

Thus, as I swept these small particles together while the kids napped, thinking how I might need to be pulling that broom out a little more often than I have been, I suddenly recalled that crazy, Type-A, Neat Freak on TLC.

She had six of these scroungers wriggling on her floor.  At once.

And it all made sense.

Perhaps my hands and knees could use a little more time on the floor, as well.

So, I'm sorry, Kate.  I just needed to say that.

I still don't think it's necessary to dust behind the movies on the shelf, but I'll let that one go.

1,000 Gifts:
962. The way her little feet curl up like a monkey's as she holds her workbook in her lap
963. Sitting in a circle on the floor, crushing candies for the greater good
964. Stained glass cookies shimmering in the window
965. A tent in the living room

For those of you missing the photos of the day, please note how my heart is breaking that I have no photo of those precious heart-shaped cookies hanging like a banner along our dining room window.  My camera is currently missing and, should it choose to return home, will return to much rejoicing and, possibly (but probably not) a fattened calf.

10 October 2012

Of Opening My Eyes

Through my current Bible Study of Beth Moore's "Mercy Triumphs" we were recently asked (in the workbook, not in person - I don't feel like this is going to be next week's small group discussion question) what one thing was we've been desperately wanting and know is possible because we see others who have it.  She was drumming up fodder for a discussion on jealousy, if you couldn't tell.

At first I didn't know what to say.

Physically I have all I need.  There are silly things here and there I think would be nice to have - a guest room, a front porch, extra hours in the day.  But no glaring lack came to mind.  No bitter jealousy over that job, that family or that perfect kitchen.  I am, overall, satisfied with the blessings we have been given, knowing we have more than enough.

But then one word in the following paragraph brought all my desires flooding in: "relationship."


That was it for me.  Friendship.

Don't get me wrong.  I have friends.  I have beautiful, wonderful friends.  I have friends with whom I can talk for hours if you get us all in the room together, I have friends with whom I can chat on the phone occasionally (I'm not much of a phone girl unless it's my only option), I have friends I see at church, I have friends on Facebook and I even have friends living within 50 yards of myself.

But I hold myself back.

I'm afraid of getting too attached because it seems every time I allow people in, life happens, separation occurs and I have to start all over again.  And I get weary.

What I really wanted - what I tried to communicate in that small space on the blank page - was a friend I knew I could call at any hour of the night (should the need arise), a friend who just knows when I'm having a bad day and will bring me a frappuccino to soothe my soul, the kind I don't feel bad about asking to watch my kids so I can go to the dentist or who I can call because there's a chick flick playing at the dollar theater (that now charges $2, but will always be the dollar theater in my mind).

That's what I want.

God spoke to me two things:

1) What I was looking for in one human being was everything He wants to be for me.  He is my confidante, the one Who lifts my soul and knows me better than I will ever know myself.  He is there, day or night, and will never scoff when I call on Him.  He wants to know me, He wants to me to trust Him with my kids, and He wants to spend time with me.  No, it's not the same, exactly, but He's not going to put someone in my life that I would potentially use as His replacement.  He should always be my first source of comfort and strength.

2) What I was looking for in one human being God has already given me in so many different, magnificent people.  Sometimes I get picky.  Sometimes I get jealous.  I want the cliched "best friend" - you know, the one who would wear the other half of my broken-heart necklace if we were still in middle school.  But God is continually, even just in these past weeks, opening new doors of friendship for me.  Deepening relationships that already exist and carrying new opportunities to my doorstep.

How could I possibly long for more?

So, instead of longing for that one perfect friendship, I'm taking a different route.  I'm making the deliberate effort to be the kind of friend I had so desperately (and so long) longed for.

Crazy how pouring myself out brings in so much more richness of fellowship than I ever found when I was looking to be poured into.

I love how He does that.

1,000 Gifts:
957. Lunch with friends
958. Strawberry milkshakes (for the kids)
959. Chatting, just chatting
960. Being open
961. Hugs and kisses

09 October 2012

Of Wearing it Down

When I was in middle school I still had my hair done daily by my mother.  And by "done" I mean pulled into a ponytail.

Ok, let's be honest, she was still doing it for me in high school.

I'm sure a lot of this stems back to her "helpful" nature for which we often tease her.  The nature that led her to look at my poor attempts at self-styling and assure me, "That looks great, honey.  Do you want me to help you?"  Eventually I realized it was just a lot faster to hand her the brush and skip the facade - I was never going to be able to handle a bump-less ponytail.

Thus, one day in seventh grade, I sat at the black tables of the science classroom and, for whatever reason, some hairs escaped their holder.  I was doomed.  I pulled the elastic out and tried, in vain, especially with no mirror, to capture every one of the millions of hairs on my head and tame them into submission.  Pulling them all together, I turned to the outspoken, no-nonsense acquaintance sitting next to me and asked, nervously, if it looked ok.  I could not be seen with bumps.

Her response was to pull the elastic out of my hair once more, hand it to me and tell me, "I like it better that way."

Wear my hair down?!  Well, that's just not something I do.  As mentioned, there are millions of them (seriously, I have an obnoxious amount of hair - as noticed by every hair-dresser ever) and they just get in the way.  I don't wear it down because I get tired of pushing it from my face.  All. Day. Long.

But someone thought it looked good that way.  And no one (besides my mother, of course) ever told me I looked good any way.  So, for that afternoon at least, I wore my hair down.

Throughout the years I have tried various styles, but almost every day, no matter how it starts at the beginning, I end the day with my hair pulled back.

It still drives me nuts.

Thus, a week or so ago, as Micaiah and I sat on the couch during a family game night of Mario Party, I relaxed, in my pj's and ponytail (which is still bumpy, but I have long since gotten over it, recognizing my curly hair is not destined for bump-less-ness - and not wiling to drive eight hours to have my mother "help").  Suddenly, as she observed my face, she announced, "You need to keep your hair long."

I was confused a little until she pointed to my up-do and repeated, "It needs to be long. I don't like your ponytail!"

Well, apparently I have once-again encountered an outspoken, no-nonsense girl with very strong opinions about my styling options.

And now I'm the mother consistently pulling her hair up - only she's more independent than I was (hard to believe, really), as she declares, "No, Mommy!  Girls wear their hair long!"

So we have.  Well, I more than she.  But I'm doing it on her behalf.  I hope she appreciates this.  Because I don't wear my hair down for just anyone.

But I am a girl - and this is, apparently, how we do it.

1,000 Gifts:
949. Being the kind of friend I look for
950. Recognizing He has always been everything I have ever longed for
951. Friendships on the horizon
952. Being on the same page
953. Talking things out
954. Bees, many of them, flitting from flower to flower, pollen on their legs
955. A defenseless wasp, skittering away
956. Learning of His Creation

We painted pumpkins last week with Aunt Dia.  I did the swirly one for me and the polka dots for Joey.  Philip did the awesome Jack-o-Lantern face.  Micaiah's is all drippy (I LOVE it) and Emmett's is green, because that's what happened when all his paints blended.  So fun.

05 October 2012

Of Choosing Our Way

Before heading to bed last Saturday evening, a tired girl cried to us about one of umpteen things she was upset about not getting to do.  In frustration, we relayed to her all the fun things she had done – going to the science museum, watching a fire-nado (in a controlled demonstration, of course), having fun chicken for lunch, playing in the restaurant after lunch, picking out new toys with her $3 Birthday coupon from Toys R’ Us, picking a pink donut with sprinkles and eating it when we got home, playing her favorite video game and enjoying time with her brothers.

I mean, this was a fun-filled day, so jam-packed with goodness we had to cut out nap time to fit it all in (an action that was most likely leading to the current melt-down).  And, yet, as we discussed it all, she cried, not because she didn’t have fun, though she did, but because none of it was this one thing (whatever the one thing was in that particular moment) she wanted to do.

And we were angry.  Angry that we had put in so much effort and received so little appreciation.

On contemplating it all, long after the melt-down, long after the frustration had subsided and long after the sleepy girl was slumbering in her bed, I pointed out to Philip that while we had a really good day and she was able to do all these great things we had planned, she didn’t get to choose any of it. 

These were our plans.  Our plans we made with her best interest and desires in mind.  Our plans for her good, for her joy.  But still, they were ours.  They were not her plans.  Her plans were often shot down – for many good reasons, but none that she could see.  And her anger and disappointment seethed in the midst of a mound of blessings.

How often is this me? 

Throughout my life, faith has been a spiritual gift.  I know God’s way is perfect and I have sought His will at every turn.  Sometimes it took me where I wanted, sometimes I wasn’t so sure.  But still I followed.  Because I trusted His plan.

Yet, there are times when I look back and I wonder.  What if?

What if I had followed my plans? 

Sometimes there’s a small tug in my heart for my past.  The paths untraveled.  And, unfocused on the hoard of blessings surrounding me, I look beyond it all to the one thing beyond my grasp.  The thing I chose and was denied and I pout. 

It was fun.  It could have been great.  It made me feel good.  And it’s calling me back.

But the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).

It’s all a siren song.  Luring me to my death.  A drowning in the what-if’s so much that I can’t reach the surface of the sorrow to see what-is still waiting for me on the shore.  Or that’s what it would be if I let it – if I give in to the deadly melody.

But when I turn away – when I recognize what I have been given.  What I did not choose for myself but something better than which I could have never imagined.  When I ask myself to complete the statement, “My life would absolutely be better if ________________ were different,” I have no answer. 

I look into the faces of these beautiful children.  I see a husband who loves me more than I deserve.  I sit in a dry home, protected from the rainy morning.  I wear clothes that are whole and unstained (for the most part).  I drive a car that fits all our needs perfectly.  But more than any of that, I own the love of a Savior Who gave up everything for me.

Life, life as I have known it, following God’s leading at every turn (with, yes, a few mistakes along the path, those times I decided the what-if was more tempting than His way), is absolutely the best life imaginable. 

And my plans had nothing to do with it.

Micaiah, following the Treasure Map Daddy made for her this week - the "treasure" was her Bible - may she always be so determined to follow the path to Truth.

939. A swept floor (two days in a row)
940. An unasked-for offering for much-desired help
941. Jesus clothing the 5,000 (or three, or six, or whatever)
942. My Little Explorers
943. Her holding her baby brother's hand as they sit in the backseat
944. Hugging that middle boy close as he plays
945. Neighbors who look out for us
946. Picture frames in the mailbox - because they knew what we needed
947. Lunch outside with a new friend
948. A pile of painted pumpkins

02 October 2012

Of Dating my Mate

Like most wives, I'm a big fan of date night, but, like most young couples, we're lucky to scrape together enough money to go out, let alone the sitter that goes with it - which means we're generally left to either mooch time off our friends and family (when available) or being content with Netflix and home-popped corn.  It's not bad, of course, but for some reason it never occurred to me that dating my spouse at home could actually be spontaneous, fun and creative.  I mean, really, we spend all our time at home - what else could we possibly find to do here?

Then I discovered (via Pinterest, of course), an amazing blog entirely devoted to creative date ideas.  I was in love.  And when I saw a date idea based completely on silly science experiments, I knew that was the kind of experience my husband needed.  Acting like a kid while watching crazy scientific reactions?  Well, that's just the kind of nerds we are.

And instead of just looking at it and thinking, "That's such a cute idea.  That would be fun to do someday,"  I thought, "We're going to do that and we're doing it now." - Ok, so there may have been a little more delay in my putting the date on my mental calendar, but the fact that I moved out of the thought phase and into action is a big step for me.

After a little research, both on the initiating blog and on Pinterest, I had my experiments chosen and I was ready for fun!

So, on Friday morning, I printed the invitation (bonus: my computer accidentally printed it in black and white, so when I re-traced it in marker to add flair, my man totally thought I drew it all by hand - yeah, that's right, honey).

Then, the kids and I went on a Wal-Mart run for supplies and left this in Philip's car at work as a surprise for him to find when he came home for lunch.  The Reese's Pieces may have had nothing to do with our date, but I knew they would make him beyond happy.  And I don't know where to find beakers, but I felt this vase looked "science-y". He was intrigued and a little confused (and, yes, happy, because he had candy).  

And since we were in the surprising mood, we stopped by Aunt Dia's office to brighten her day (which was entirely Micaiah's idea as we passed the flowers in Wal-Mart and she declared, "I want to get flowers for Dia!"  She insisted on the pumpkin, too - which Emmett is thinking is a little heavy in this photo).

As the kids napped, I gathered all the supplies for our chosen experiments and put them in fun gift bags - because everything is more exciting when you get to unwrap it.  I left it all on the counter to taunt him until the kids wene to bed.  The goggles may not have been necessary, but they kept him guessing.

For dinner, we had Mexican Chicken Stuffed Bell Peppers - which looked kind of like little explosions.  This may or may not have been entirely a coincidence, but it worked out nicely.

After we tucked all the little ones in, it was time for some one-on-one fun!  I first did the trick of serving him water from the tap that changed colors in his glass.  Philip was concerned he'd be able to taste the food coloring - he has overly sensitive taste buds (slightly rolling my eyes).

Before we moved on, we had to put on our safety gear just in case (okay, really just because we had them and, when you have safety goggles, why not wear them?!).

Then he began to open up his surprises . . .

First up, a Mentos and Coke explosion.  Only lame me didn't read the directions fully before going to the store and didn't notice the emphasis on Diet Coke - the experiment was much more sad than exciting.  Good news?  I couldn't find just a single sleeve of Mentos, so we have plenty more to try again next time.

The next experiment fared a little better - creating a lava-lamp-like reaction with oil, water and salt.  This one was rather fascinating.

The third "experiment" was creating secret messages out of lemon juice.  Again, lame me forgot to get real lemons - note to self: lemon juice in a bottle is NOT the same thing.

While we waited for that to dry, we moved on to creating soap foam in the microwave.  I was so excited about this one and glad we saved it until last.

Look what Ivory soap does in the microwave!  The fun part?  You can still use it as soap!  Coolest ever.

We were still waiting for the lemon juice to dry, so we played Mario Party, as Toad and Toadette (because they match and we're cool like that), because we had just discovered that evening that you can do a two-player duel on Mario Party - it's not like we've owned the game for five years or anything.

And, finally, we revealed our messages - or tried to.  But after using both the iron and Philip's super-hot painting lamp, we could only see half the messages, at best.  But I got a really neat photo out of it, so I count it as a win.

Shopping list for next time: Diet Coke and real lemons.

The next day, we continued the theme by taking the whole family to the Oklahoma City Science Museum for Smithsonian's Free Museum Day (it's kind of our annual tradition).  There, Joseph loved the Science Live show.

Micaiah did, too.

Plus, she got to paint her own face.

And Emmett made new friends.

And we topped it all off with Chick-Fil-A for lunch, Toys R' Us (to use Micaiah's birthday coupon), Krispy Kreme donuts (hey, when you made the drive to Oklahoma City, you're going to make the most of it) and video games at home - I'd say we all had a fantastic weekend. 

Let's do this again, sometime, shall we?