Saturday, March 31, 2007

Easter Decorations

Rosalie, one of the neighbor girls, brought over this beautiful bouquet of daffodils and forsythia this evening--as well as a card for my birthday (which I am being self-disciplined about and not opening until tomorrow!). I love the vibrant colors of the Easter eggs and flowers and the way the same shades appear in the painting but in more muted tones.

Daffodils on the Dinner Table

Aren't these daffodils some of the cheeriest flowers ever? It's so much fun to drive around town and see just how many people have daffodils growing somewhere in their yard. I think the reason we all plant them is because they're such a happy reminder that winter is over and spring is here!

The Tomcats

Josiah began his career in team sports today (not counting the tennis lessons he took last summer). Yes, that's's time for youth soccer!!! His team is the Tomcats, and they get to wear cool purple shirts (which is nice because David can actually say "purple" and cannot say "brown" or "black" or "green" or a lot of other colors...and he got a lot of practice saying "purple" today, though when he says it, it sounds more like "burple"). The soccer league Josiah is in is really great--no keeping score, no competition, just having fun and learning about soccer. Now, I'm all for competition in some settings, but I'm learning that Josiah is highly competitive even without anyone else pushing competition on it's nice that this league does not emphasize that!

There was a lot of herd mentality exhibited today--a huge swarm of kids following the ball all over the field. On Josiah's team, there was one boy who didn't do that; he had obviously played soccer before and understood the concept of positions a little more. But everyone else simply ran around in the direction that everyone else was running, and they probably couldn't even see the ball half the time because of all the bodies.

Some positive things about the day...
~ Josiah announced as we got into the van after his game, "Now Saturdays are my favorite day of the week!!!"
~ Coach Miller remarked to me about what a polite kid Josiah is...I did hear Josiah often saying to him, "Excuse me, Coach, my legs are tired" or "Excuse me, Coach, I don't know where to go so I'm going to stay with you" or "Excuse me, Coach, I didn't kick very well today"
~ David had fun being silly on the sidelines...he twirled around in a circle until he fell over dizzy, he did the splits until he plopped down on his padded bottom (thank goodness for thick diapers!), he threw a ball back and forth with somebody's grandfather who was watching the game, he even got to share the team snacks when it was all over :)
~ good sportsmanship and good attitudes were emphasized
~ I got to see several other moms that I knew from Josiah's music lessons
~ it was just plain old fun to watch Josiah play!

A few negatives...
~ I saw Josiah hit kids a few times...I had to pull him aside and make sure he understood that in soccer, we don't hit football, you do...but today was soccer and not football!
~ after the game, we had team pictures; and by the end of that, David was so exhausted and fussy...he cried and cried when his juice (part of the team snack) was all gone

This isn't really a positive or a negative, just a fact of life--but it was a little tough to try to focus on both Josiah and David. For safety's sake, I had to make sure that David didn't wander away...while also watching Josiah so I could cheer at the right moments (and make sure he didn't push any more kids)...while also trying to take pictures and video...while also trying to be polite and make conversation with the other parents...while also trying to juggle the form for the photos and the money...etc. Most of the time, I feel like I can function well as a mom of two kids, but today felt a little difficult. (Julie, stop laughing...I have no idea how you do it with seven!) :)

Four Years Ago

Four years ago, I was sitting in our apartment in Tel Aviv when the phone rang. I answered it, and it was my brother-in-law Mike (the husband of Jeff's sister). I instantly knew it was bad news, and my intuition was right--Jeff's father had died. At the time, Josiah was napping, and Jeff was at a Hebrew class; so when I hung up the phone, I cried alone and wondered how in the world I was going to tell my beloved husband about his dad's death.

As it turned out, Jeff saw my tear-stained face as soon as he entered the apartment; and his first thought was that the workmen who had been fixing something outside our apartment had hurt me in some way. I quickly assured him that wasn't the cause of my tears--and then told him about Mike's call.

Soon after we moved to Israel, Jeff's father had a stroke; and we had actually returned to California in February of 2003 to visit him in the hospital. It seemed like he had been making some small improvements in March, so--while we weren't completely shocked at his passing because of his previous stroke--we had become hopeful that his health would continue to improve...but it was not to be.

In honor of my father-in-law, I dedicate today's gratitude list to him. Here are five special things about Dad Fisher...

1. his art--he left an incredible legacy for his children (and so many other people) through his art...the world is a much more beautiful place because of him, and whenever I stop to consider the paintings that we have from him, I am awed by his ability to capture beauty and emotion--and so very grateful that he shared it with us

2. his love for Josiah--I am eternally grateful that he lived to see Josiah's birth...Dad Fisher really loved Josiah...from his first visit in the hospital when Josiah was born to our Thanksgiving visit with them when Josiah was a few months old, he always held Josiah eagerly and would talk to him and croon to him...Dad commented on how Josiah would always look in people's eyes and really seemed to connect with them...even though Josiah doesn't remember him, I'm so glad that we'll be able to show him pictures of them together and tell him, "Your grandfather knew you and loved you"

3. his understanding of my musical side--as a college senior who was a music major and was engaged to his son, I went to visit him and was nervous about it!...since he was an artist, he could relate to me in some ways, and we were able to discuss and listen to classical music together as well as talk about other forms of art

4. his acknowledgement that I was the perfect wife for Jeff--over lunch one day in an Italian restaurant, Jeff's dad admitted that (despite his earlier misgivings!) Jeff had indeed chosen perfectly when he asked me to be his wife

5. his son Jeff--the most important reason that I love Dad Fisher is because he was the father of the man I love more than anything else...and I know that Jeff would not be the man that he is today without the influence of his dad

Friday, March 30, 2007

Soccer, Waffles, Checkers, Chess, Mancala, and Candyland

What do all the things in the title have in common? Well, they are all part of Josiah's family night!
Jeff got home from work early tonight--yippee!--so while I made dinner, he took the boys outside and played soccer with them. I was able to have peace and quiet while I made waffles and orange sauce and blueberry sauce; I was surprised (but happy) that Josiah requested waffles instead of his usual mac & cheese from a box.
Then the agenda for after dinner was one game each of checkers, chess, mancala, and Candyland (which was added by Josiah so that there would be a game that David could play--how thoughtful!).
As usual, we shared things about Josiah for which we thank God.
~ Jeff said: that Josiah loves to play...that Josiah loves to come to the barbershop and that he's a joy to everyone there.
~ Josiah wanted to share something so he said he's thankful that he has every part of his body.
~ I said: that Josiah is old enough to do things like soccer lessons and music class, and old enough to have such interesting conversations with us...I love every stage of his life; but even when he was a little baby, I looked forward to this's so much fun to do things with him and/or watch him do them (like music and soccer).

Virginia State Bird

I managed to get a picture of this gorgeous cardinal as he was eating his dinner tonight at the feeder that Josiah refilled this afternoon. I never seem to have my camera ready when I spot a cardinal or blue jay--the most colorful birds at our feeder--but tonight was my chance!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday's Gratitude List

1. all the new words David is able to say: Daddy, wall, hi, bye, I-yah (his word for Josiah)--his language ability is soaring, and it's such a relief!

2. a heartfelt email from my old friend Christin (not that she's old, just that we've been friends for a very long time!) :)

3. the opportunity to serve my former piano teacher today--she and her husband are moving to Goshen, Indiana; and I was able to help her do some cleaning at the house they are moving out of...she has been a dear friend to me through the years and has supported and inspired me in countless ways...I was so grateful to be able to give back to her in a very small way today

4. the fact that my parents live so close to us and we can often eat meals together and connect with each other throughout the day

5. a very encouraging Instant Message with my friend Julie--I was feeling a bit down tonight; but when Julie popped online and we started chatting, my spirits soared...God used her to bring me joy and refreshment tonight

One Happy Kid

It's continual joy to see my son frolic on the same expansive lawn I enjoyed as a girl. I never get tired of his delight in the great outdoors; and although he insists he's a city kid, I think he's got some country roots deep down inside, too!

The Joy of Planting

the tough job--digging the hole (and he does it one-handed!)
the fun job--planting the tree
what a great gift! what more could a girl ask for on her birthday?! :)

We Love Our Neighbors!

No, these are not the wonderful neighbors I referred to in #3 in the previous post! These lovely ladies do, however, live on the other side of the fence from us. Aren't they beautiful? I have always loved cows, and I still get a thrill out of looking at them up close. Their eyes--aren't they gorgeous? I'm not even kidding about this... :)

Wednesday's Gratitude List

I know...I is Thursday, not Wednesday (and if I stay up much later, it will actually be Friday)...but I didn't get to post a gratitude list yesterday, so here are some things from yesterday for which I am very grateful!

1. Tree planting--for the past two years for my birthday, I have asked Jeff for trees...last year, we got two fringe trees...and this year, we got four magnolia trees. Yesterday morning, Jeff showed me love through acts of service, and he did the hard work of digging the holes for my trees. Then I got the fun part: actually planting them. :) It was such a beautiful day--so good for my soul to dig around in the dirt and be part of the process of growth and beauty and new life--so much fun to be outside together as a family and work together on a fun project. The trees are quite short right now; but as my neighbor Wilma said, "Isn't it fun to imagine how they will look in 20 years?" Planting trees definitely requires long-term vision. :)

2. My first riding lesson--I have always loved horses, and learning how to care for them and how to ride has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Recently I kind of "woke up" and realized that there's no better time than now to pursue this's not going to get easier in the future! And Jeff generously agreed that I could start taking lessons. There is a stable just up the road from us where I can go for lessons, and my teacher is very nice. I had such fun yesterday and managed to brush the horse without him kicking me and ride the horse without falling off! Of course, he was only walking so it wasn't much of an accomplishment, but still exciting for me!!! :)

3. Our wonderful neighbors--I can't say enough good things about the Shanks. I am eternally grateful to God for giving them to us as neighbors!

4. The sustaining friendship of Bob and Cindy--we enjoyed a delicious dinner at their house last evening, and we felt our souls refreshed by our conversation with them. Their hearts to simply pursue God are amazing, and their maturity and wisdom are treasured by us.

5. The joy of doing honest hard work, getting all hot and sweaty, then coming inside and taking a shower and putting on clean clothes

Josiah's Memory Verses

Here is a little video of Josiah saying some memory verses. The camera quality on this is low, but you can still hear his verses.

Our Life

I love this little video Jeff made yesterday...and I LOVE our country life!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Senior Dream

As I was reading Donna Otto's book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom last night, I had to pause to ponder the following words:

Have you ever stopped to envision what kind of old person you want to be? How you want to be remembered by others? It's an interesting exercise that can tell you a lot about yourself and help you make important choices now...From the time I was quite a young woman, I have seen myself as a gray-haired teacher who derives energy and pleasure from helping younger women learn to manage their lives. My friends laughed at me and raised their eyebrows because I thought a lot about being old. But my vision of a lively and useful old age has shaped my decisions along the way, helped me form goals, and brought me motivation as I worked to grow into the older woman I wanted to be. Today, I'm happily living out the "senior dream" I've always had for my life.

This concept of a senior dream was new for me. It's not as if I've never thought about the future and things I want to accomplish as I get older, but the idea of having a specific vision for who I want to be as an older woman brought a different focus to my thoughts. I don't think I have a solid senior dream yet, but I'd like to spend some time thinking about it because I agree that it's an excellent way to guide choices that are made now.

As I think about all of this now, I'm reminded of my dad because, from time to time, he brings up what he wants written in his obituary. My obituary is the last thing from my mind--I'm hoping I have a lot of time yet before that needs to be written and, besides, by the time it actually does need to be written, I won't care a bit about what it says. :) But not so for my dad! I was talking recently with someone (I don't even remember who it was) who said that her parents also talked a lot about what they wanted in their obituaries so I guess my dad's not the only crazy one. :)

Anyway, on a serious note (actually, I guess the last paragraph was serious, too, since it's hard to write about obituaries and NOT be serious!), it seems like my dad does have a senior dream that is shaping his life, and I admire that a lot.

Fresh Flowers on the Dinner Table

One of the many joys of spring and summer around here is having fresh flowers from our yard on the dinner table. Last night for the first time, I was able to do that!

As I was hanging laundry outside on our clothesline yesterday, I noticed these hyacinths in our back flower bed. I didn't even know there were any hyacinth bulbs back there! But lo and behold, these beautiful flowers had opened in our warm spring air; and I was delighted to be able to cut some for our table.

I thought the contrast in these pictures was interesting. The only difference between them is that I used the flash when I took the first one and only used natural light for the second one. The actual color of the flowers is more purple than blue--more like the second picture than the first.

Dinner with the Myers

Last night our good friends Chris and Misty and their adorable children Trinity and Houston came over for dinner. It was nice to spend "extra" time with them (besides our Friday night fellowship potlucks). One of the very cool things about Chris and Misty is that inevitably, one or both of them end up on the floor, usually with a lap full of kids, either reading a story or playing with something. As a result, our boys really enjoy spending time with them!

The discussions we have with them are always very interesting and thought-provoking, especially since their background and ours are different in some ways (but the same in a lot of important ways!). It's fun and so helpful to be able to openly discuss things and see each other's perspective as we grow together in faith.

Tuesday's Gratitude List

Before I write anything else tonight, I want to go back to the basics and do one of the quickest, easiest, most foundational attitude tune-ups imaginable--write 5 things for which I'm grateful. (Not that I'm having a bad attitude right now--on the contrary, I actually feel quite cheerful. But I still think it's a good idea!) In a book I was reading last night, I read about how author Donna Otto did this simple exercise every day for a year. Wow, that's a lot of gratitude! I think I'll start off by doing it for a week. :)

So, here's the list...

I'm Grateful For...

1. the beautiful pink hyacinth that is blooming by the fringe tree in front of my dad's office...for my birthday last year, Jeff gave me two fringe trees; and we planted one in front of the office and one in front of my parents' house...last fall, I planted some hyacinth bulbs in a circle around each tree; and now they have sprung up, and the first flower has bloomed!...that's some delayed gratification--to plant in the fall, wait all winter, then see the blossom in the much as I love gardening, I still feel a little insecure about it all, so to see something that I bought and planted all by myself actually survive and do well is definitely encouraging! :)

2. some great comments from Josiah today...before dinner, he announced that Moses is his favorite character from the Bible (it's true--he's infatuated with Moses!)...and then at bedtime, I asked him to pray a little and thank God for one thing, then I would pray after him...he didn't argue with me, but was perfectly willing to do what I asked...he prayed, "God, thank You for my parents" the past, he has been somewhat reluctant to pray aloud, so this was a small victory tonight...and I think I will continue this tradition with him each night as I tuck him in bed

3. the wonderful warm spring weather we've been having!

4. the fact that the grass all over is actually green again!!! (I even saw two people out mowing their lawns today!)

5. Jeff's amazing day and all the spiritually-focused conversations he was able to have because of his deep passion for God

You know, this is so much fun that I just can't quit. I thought of another thing to be grateful for...

6. David's speech development...he has been significantly late to develop speech, even to the point of us considering having him evaluated to see what we could do to make up for his delay in this area...but today he was saying new words and sounds left and right! are some words he said for the first time today: wow, bubble, water, boat...and he did a great job of imitating Josiah growling like a's such a relief to see him advancing in this way...this has been a specific prayer request of mine, so a great big thank you goes to God for this one (and all of the wonderful things on my list)!!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Parenting Dilemmas

Parenting is a funny thing. Just as soon as I think I've got it figured out and life with my sons is sailing smoothly along, one or both of them up and change on me!...and along come new challenges. I constantly think, "Well, back to square one!" By nature, I like to have a strategy; I like to be prepared; I like knowing that if Josiah does a, I do b...and if David does x, I do y. But how do you have a strategy when the rules of the game keep changing every day?!

Here are some recent dilemmas I've been mulling over in my mind...
1. When we're playing a game/running a race, etc., when do I let my child win and when do I go ahead and win? There are very few competitions right now that I couldn't win against Josiah (Candyland being an exception). So, do I win all the time? That leads to him being discouraged and having a crushed spirit, but is that just the way it is until he really can beat me at things? Or do I let him win? I don't know...
2. What do I do with all his stuff? It seems like every day brings new "stuff" to deal with--a picture he colored, a craft from story time at the library, etc. 99 out of 100 times, after I put one of his papers away, Josiah never asks for it again. So until recently, I simply laid his things aside, gave him some time to forget about it (just to make sure he wouldn't ask where that item was), then threw it away! Of course, I do keep some of his "treasures," and I often take a picture of some of the other items that are special but not worth saving. But I still felt a little bothered by my system of dealing with his stuff. It seemed a little deceitful, and I would prefer to have him involved in the decision-making process. But everything that I asked him about, he said he wanted to keep! (He gets it from a child, I was a terrible pack rat. If anyone was getting rid of anything, my famous reply was always, "I'll take it!") Anyway, with this dilemma, my wise friend Cindy suggested a solution. Have a place (a storage box...or in Josiah's case, I use a dresser drawer in his room) where he can put his things; then when that space is full, he will go through his things and decide at that point what to throw away. I've just started using this method, and so far I'm pleased...but we haven't gotten to the point when the drawer is full and he has to throw some things away. We'll see what happens when that time comes! :)
3. When they are learning new skills (dressing themselves comes to mind), how much do I help them? And how much do I let them struggle to learn? It's funny to me--yet it makes perfect sense--that in many areas, Josiah will insist on doing something himself...and if I do it (i.e. opening the blinds), he'll literally want me to close them again so that he can open them. This occurs in areas that are easy and fun for him. But in other areas where I would love for him to achieve more independence, he always wants me to help him. I know one of my roles as a mother is to serve my children; and I also know one love language is acts of obviously, it's important to serve my boys, and I do serve them in countless ways throughout the day. But on the other hand, one of my roles as a mother is a teacher and trainer--a preparer who equips children to handle life on their own. I think it's a balancing act to keep these two roles in proper perspective. I often fall off the tightrope and land on my head, bringing pain to myself and my boys as I struggle to deal with this dilemma.
4. How do I handle Josiah's frequent complaint, "I don't like..."? He could say that about putting on shoes, using toothpaste, feeding fish, eating oranges, walking on wet grass, and any number of other things. He has memorized Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without complaining or arguing"; and I definitely feel the importance of helping him to develop a grateful, non-complaining spirit. But I also don't want to make him stuff his feelings or feel unable to express a genuine opinion about something; after all, there are plenty of things I really don't like, too! It seems important to let him express feelings but in appropriate ways. I haven't figured out how to do that yet!

I definitely feel like parenting is the hardest job in the world--but also the very best! I just wish I knew what I was doing a little more often!!! :)

The Changes of Spring

Spring has been bursting out all over around here recently, and I love it! It seems like I notice changes on a daily basis--the grass is a little greener, the buds on the trees are a little bigger, a few more flowers have bloomed as I drive around town.

One poem that I've been thinking about a lot recently is "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost--an appropriate poem for this time of year!
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Adventures in Self-Feeding

David had fun on Saturday trying to feed himself some yogurt. He hasn't done much self-feeding involving a spoon, so I was actually pretty impressed with how successful he was. Doesn't he look like he's having a blissful time with that creamy vanilla yogurt?! :)

Kicking Back

This was the scene in our living room on Saturday morning before I left for my reunion. Sometimes it's so hard to tear myself away from these little guys! One thing is for sure--time away makes me appreciate them even more, and I'm always overjoyed to be coming home to them!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cutest Little Pea Planter You Ever Saw

On Friday, before I headed off to the choir reunion, the boys and I headed outside to play in the dirt!

Back on March 6, I wrote that I was dreaming about planting peas...and now I can say my dream has come true. :) Friday was a wonderful warm spring day, just right for getting out the tiller (and tugging on the string for an extended period of time before it would start--oh, well, I can count it as great exercise--who needs a gym when you live in the country!) and getting started with our spring planting. Josiah got into the spirit of things and was a great helper--by himself, he planted about half a row of peas (we planted two rows total) and helped me with fertilizing them (he also kept himself entertained by running races around the garden with God--he's been hanging out with God a lot recently!). Now we get to eagerly wait for the first little plants to poke their heads through the ground!

Where I've Been

I've had a good reason for abandoning my blog for the past few days... I was involved in the EMHS Touring Choir Reunion celebrating 25 years of Jay Hartzler's leadership of the choir. Wow, what a fantastic weekend!!! It was so much fun that I hardly know how to put it into words. But I'll try... :)

Some highlights:
~ the music!--I am really speechless now...but it's a good speechless...what can I say? being involved in making that kind of music fills part of my soul that has been empty for a long time
~ seeing old friends and catching up on their lives--it was so good to see people that I haven't seen for years...I only wish more people had been able to come! (but then, how would we have ever fit on the stage???) hear the various pursuits of my old friends (whether career, marriage, children, or whatever) was so was also interesting how many of the reunion participants have lived abroad and/or been involved in some kind of service/mission work
~ honoring Mr. Hartzler--the quality of his musical leadership, the level of integrity in his personal life, the depth of his concern for his students, and his focus on worship, not simply performance, all stand out
~ realizing how much I've grown since high school--during Friday night's activity, there was an open mic for anyone who wished to share words of affirmation with Mr. Hartzler...I was happy to have that opportunity so I went up to the front and spoke for a bit...some of my friends remarked later that I NEVER would have done that in high school (too shy)...they're exactly right!...but the years have changed me...I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and so much more confident in who I am in God's sight first and then in the eyes of others
~ evaluating my life and being grateful that my life is my life!--as I spoke with other people who were able to pursue some of the dreams that I had but did not pursue (mostly, higher education and advanced careers in music), instead of fretting and wishing that my life was different, I felt so grateful and peaceful and secure in this life that God has given me...if I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing: I would study at the college I chose, I would marry the man I did (a million times yes!), and I would essentially live my life exactly how I have done (as far as major life decisions go)
~ singing hymn 118/606 to close out the weekend--it brought tears to my eyes...I hope when we get to heaven, we sing that hymn before the throne of God! :)

I am so very grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the reunion--and for all the people who worked so hard to make it happen--and to Jeff and my parents who sacrificed their time and energy to pick up extra duties on the home front so I could attend--and I'm especially thankful that I live close enough to be able to participate in events like these!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Playing Chess with God

Josiah LOVES to play games. And if there's no one around that will play with him, he's content to play games with God. Yes...that's right...God. Josiah is especially fond of playing chess with God or checkers...slapjack is a little harder when you're playing against an invisible competitor!...but Josiah is great at moving pieces for both himself and God when playing chess or checkers. The funny thing is--God always loses!

I'm grateful that the idea of God is so real to Josiah that he can connect with Him as a person. I'm sure one day Josiah will question God's existence...I think almost all of us go through some kind of a questioning phase as we grow up...but for now, I'm happy to sit back and watch Josiah play chess with God.

I wonder if God will ask for a rematch from Josiah when he gets to heaven? After all, it must be pretty tough on God to lose all these chess games! :)

Thank God for Wednesdays

A while back, I wrote about how much I love Mondays. Well, I also love Wednesdays for one good reason--Jeff has the day off on Wednesdays! Wednesdays are also one of Josiah's favorite days because he loves the extra Daddy time; he seems to think of every day of the week in reference to Wednesdays and Sundays, Jeff's days off. For example...

Josiah: What day is it?
Me: Thursday
Josiah: Then comes what?
Me: Friday
Josiah: Then what?
Me: You know!
Josiah: Saturday...then Sunday, and Daddy has the day off!!!

Anyway, yesterday was a great day of being together as a family and getting some things done. Like what? Well, like...

~ breaking twigs for kindling off a big pile of branches in our pasture
~ carrying wood from the woodshed to our porch
~ measuring and marking where we're going to plant some new trees
~ taking recycling to the recycling center
~ going to a local plant center to buy magnolia trees for me for my birthday
~ buying some paint at Home Depot
~ taking ink cartridges back to Staples to recycle them
~ painting the rabbit cage (Josiah helped Jeff with this one)
~ painting an old picnic table and benches (another Jeff job)
~ unpacking some boxes from the garage

I found some wonderful items in the boxes. One was an iron! Imagine, we now have an iron! We have survived without one for the past year and a half, only borrowing my parents' iron a few times...obviously, ironing is not high on my list of enjoyable household chores! But it is nice to have an iron now.

Another thing was a pair of gloves for me. The timing of this discovery was wonderful because just last weekend at the Maple Festival, I lost one of my gloves there. Well, one glove without its match is not much good, so I was really happy to find a pair in the box last night.

I also found a mesh sweater bag for washing sweaters and delicates in one of the boxes I unpacked...which was also perfect timing because just this past Monday as I was doing our laundry, our old sweater bag became unusable--broken zipper and big holes in the mesh.

One last thrilling find for me was some of my old recipes! I had not been able to find my recipe book that had various hand-written or clipped recipes from various sources, and there were certain foods that I wanted to make but couldn't remember how to do it. It was so much fun to sit down last night with that old recipe book (and also a recipe box bulging with recipes) and look through them to see some old favorites. I'm excited about cooking some beloved yummy dishes again!

Don't Mess with Pepper Spray!

A funny incident occurred last night here in our house...

I had been unpacking a few boxes from the garage (the never-ending process of unpacking!) and had collected a pile of items to ask Jeff about--should we throw the stuff away, give it away, keep it, etc. One of the items was a small, old canister of pepper spray, the kind you might put on a key ring to use if attacked. Because it was so old and had been in storage while we were in Israel, Jeff decided to spray a little to see if there was anything in he went over to the kitchen sink and sprayed just a tiny bit in the sink. Well, it worked! Within seconds, he and I were both coughing up a storm. I escaped to the living room and pulled my sweater up over my mouth and nose; he went out onto the porch to get some fresh air. That stuff was strong! It got into our lungs and would not get out. Even after we drank some water and brushed our teeth and inhaled a Vicks inhaler and went upstairs to bed, we still had to fight to not cough. I'm so grateful that I wasn't actually sprayed by it because I know the pain from the burning of it can be extreme...but my goodness, simply inhaling a tiny portion of vapors was enough for us!

We all know the saying: don't play with matches. But I learned another one last night: don't play with pepper spray!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

LeapPad Boys

We are big fans of LeapPad/LeapFrog products around here. When Josiah was 2 and 1/2 years old, he received the Fridge Phonics set and the My First LeapPad set for Christmas. He immediately loved them; and almost immediately, we could see how much he was learning from them. Those products have been around the globe with us, and have been worth their weight in gold, I think!

Now David is intrigued by them as well...after all, if it's good for Josiah, it must be good for David, too! I loved seeing them both on the couch this morning, bent over their "work." It's interesting to note that Josiah is right-handed, while it seems that David is a lefty. He has not settled for sure on being left-handed, so he tends to switch back and forth between both hands...but overall, I would say he uses his left hand more. Both my dad and I are lefties, and I think we're both rooting for him to be one, too! :)

The Ultimate Gift

Last night was date night for Jeff and I, and it was wonderful. After eating subs at Quizno's (I had a coupon for a free sub), we went to the theater and saw The Ultimate Gift. Wow, what a fantastic movie--one of the best I've seen in a long time!!! I definitely give it two thumbs up...and if I had a third thumb, it would be straight up in the air, too. I won't write about the plot here, in case anyone reading this hasn't seen it yet, but I highly recommend it. Very touching, and very well-done, I thought.

We returned home to two sleeping boys...but about 10:30 last night, Josiah woke up and was sick with a fever of 103.6 degrees (that's his highest recorded temperature) and was complaining of a headache and hurting legs. I wasn't too alarmed...just called my dad for advice...then gave Josiah some Motrin. He slept pretty well the rest of the night and is acting like his normal, chipper self today, although he still has a fever.

I wasn't too surprised about Josiah getting sick because last week our neighbors were sick and I babysat their girls one day. We were all sitting close together on the couch as I was reading stories to them; and when the girls would cough, I could just "see" the germs flying around in the air. Oh, well, all these little bugs now are just serving to strengthen Josiah's immune system, right? :)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Scenes from Highland County

Gate to a magical winter wonderland

Valley where one of the maple sugar farms is located

Perfect example of the little country church

Maple Festival

This afternoon we, along with my parents, went to the annual Highland County Maple Festival. Last year we went when Jeff's mother was visiting us from California, but we had gone on a Saturday and Jeff couldn't go with us because of work. So today was Jeff's first time going to this event.

Highland County is actually in Virginia, but to get there we drove through West Virginia. Highland County is famous for a few things: the maple festival...and the fact that they don't have a stoplight in the whole county!

The scenery on the drive back there was GORGEOUS! They got more snow over there than we did here during our surprise snowstorm last week, and their snow is sticking around a lot longer than ours. It was beautiful to drive along and see the contours of the mountains so obvious because of the snow outlining them...and to see the snow piled on each branch, each fence post, etc. The sky was so blue today with big puffy clouds; it was the kind of day that was simply good for the soul, as we soaked in the sight of God's marvelous creation.

We joke that every year it's freezing cold for the Maple Festival; and sure enough, this year was no exception. We bundled up well and enjoyed it regardless!

St. Patrick's Day

Josiah and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day by dressing alike (green shirts and khaki pants) and attending a Soup and Arts Fest at my alma mater. We feasted on all kinds of gourmet soup donated by area restaurants, delicious bread, yummy desserts...then we wandered around looking at a number of displays of art by the students there (quite impressive!) and watched a demonstration of pottery-making...then watched a performance of Charlotte's Web by a group of student actors. Josiah knows the story of Charlotte's Web so he stayed intrigued during the whole performance.

It was a fabulous evening. I had so much fun with him, my little date! It was refreshing to simply focus on him and not be distracted by anything else...and really fun to just talk with him and relate to him as an interesting person, not my son whom I simply need to watch out for and discipline if he misbehaves! :) It was our best mommy/son date yet.

At the end of Charlotte's Web, Charlotte dies, after she lays her eggs. That part made Josiah emotional; and as I was tucking him into bed last night, he tearfully said, "You'll always be my mommy!" I assured him that, yes, I would always be his mommy--and he would always be my son--and I would always love him. And then he told me that he doesn't want me to ever die. What do you say to that??? Of course, we assume that I'll be around for a long time...but sometimes mommies do die young. Only God knows when I'll die, but I tried to assure Josiah that when that day comes, God will help Josiah to be strong enough to bear it. It was a longer discussion than I'm writing here... A tough conversation with no easy answers, but for me so heart-warming to feel so loved!

While Josiah and I were away having fun, Jeff and David were having a great time together here at home. Jeff was introducing David to the joys of Starfall ( a fantastic educational site--and David was loving it! It looks like David is going to have the whole alphabet learned before he starts really talking! If he learns to read before he learns to talk, we'll just get by with communicating that way, I guess. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Consequences of Obedience

Josiah and I were having a conversation over lunch today about consequences. It's normal to assume that the consequences of obedience will be good, and that's the level of discussion that Josiah and I were the most basic level, he needs to know that disobedience brings bad consequences, but obedience brings good consequences.

But later this afternoon, a very dearly-loved and respected friend came over; and as we talked, I thought about this issue of consequences a little deeper. I was reminded of a devotional from Oswald Chambers' classic book My Utmost for His Highest. It's entitled, "What My Obedience to God Costs Other People."

Chambers writes: If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us; and that is where the sting comes in. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything, it is a delight, but it costs those who do not love Him a good deal. If we obey God it will mean that other people's plans are upset, and they will gibe us with it, "You call this Christianity?" We can prevent the suffering; but if we are going to obey God, we must not prevent it, we must let the cost be paid...We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but we shall be a grief to our Lord. Whereas if we obey God, He will look after those who have been pressed into the consequences of our obedience. We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences with Him. Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him.

I think it's easy, on one hand, to assume that our obedience to God may hurt people who don't know God or love Him. But what about people who do know God, who love Him very much, but who disagree with how we hear His voice speaking??? That's where the deepest pain comes in, and I don't know of an answer to that except to endure the pain, trusting that further down the road, it will be clear what God was doing...and we will see that the consequences of obedience are indeed good. God is big enough to make it all clear, big enough to continue to lead us through the fog and the pain, and big enough to take care of both sides: the one who thinks he must take certain steps to obey God, and the one who is hurt as a result.

How It All Began

Eleven years ago on this day, Jeff was sick.

I remember it well...

We were students at a small international university in Jerusalem. It was the middle of our semester, and Jeff got sick. So I made him a small card and put it in his mailbox to wish him a happy St. Patrick's Day and a speedy recovery. This was not unusual behavior for me...throughout our time there, I had made little cards for some of the other students for various occasions, so it didn't seem like a big deal. Except...

Jeff wrote back. And not only did he write back, he wrote a most elegant letter, rolled it up like a scroll, tied it with a ribbon, and hand-delivered it to me in the dining hall with other students around...who quickly started teasing us. I fled to my room to read his note...and then, just to be polite, I wrote back! Well, Jeff is a pretty polite guy, he had to write back. And just never stopped!

It was only a few short weeks later that we had "the talk" and realized that we both had strong feelings for each other...only...well...there were a few complications. I won't go into all of that; but suffice it to say that in early October of 1996, on Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean, half a world away from Jerusalem, Jeff asked me to be his wife, and I said yes.

And to think it all started because Jeff was sick on St. Patrick's Day...

Thanks, Schmu, for the wild ride that these past 11 years have been. I knew my life with you would be anything but ordinary, and you've proven me right! :)

Friday, March 16, 2007


Here are some pictures of our "little girlie." She had fun running around in the snow today!

Surprise, Surprise!

After thoroughly enjoying our 70+ degree weather yesterday, we were slightly shocked by the snow that fell today! Hard to believe we were outside without jackets yesterday, and yet here are the boys playing outside this evening all bundled up in snowsuits and gloves. I think this storm caught a lot of people off guard. We personally were happy about last (maybe?) hurrah for winter before spring really comes.

Tonight was Family Night in honor of Jeff, so tacos were on the menu...and after dinner, Jeff did a little work on his Jeep while the boys and I played in the snow (and Josiah ate the snow). A low-key Family Night, but aren't they just the best kind sometimes? :)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Day in Court

This afternoon was the preliminary hearing for the robbery case which happened back in December, so Jeff had to go to testify. I did not have to go...but I wouldn't have missed it for the world! I knew that, if I didn't go, no matter how many questions I asked Jeff when he got home, I still would not have been satisfied but would have wanted more and more and more details. Better to go and see for myself!

It was very interesting...and very intense. Jeff and I, as well as our neighbors (who both had to testify), are simply exhausted tonight!

Some impressions from the afternoon...
~ actually seeing the robbers in person was very strange
~ passing the mother and girlfriend of one of the defendants on the courthouse steps was also strange, especially after they had just seen Jeff testify against their son/boyfriend
~ seeing utter lack of remorse, especially in the case of one of the defendants, was very sad
~ passing the house of one of the defendants on my way home was unnerving
~ seeing so many Old Order Mennonites in a courtroom in our town was historic
~ hearing the attorneys ask various Old Order Mennonites to describe the robbers' car and hearing the Mennonites (who drive buggies) answer mildly, "I don't really know much about cars," was humorous and quite an understatement!

All who testified did extremely well. They were factual, truthful, not willing to venture a guess if they weren't sure of a detail, calm, dignified, etc. I was so proud of them, and I know a lot of prayers were ascending on their behalf.

It was an interesting peek inside a different world--the world of court, where the players (judge, DA, defense attorneys, police officers, etc.) all seem to know each other, but the witnesses don't have a clue about how things work.

The next step is the indictment which will happen next week. If it goes to trial, that probably won't start for a few months...but I think all of us are hoping and praying that it does NOT go to trial because none of the witnesses wants to go through the time and ordeal of testifying and being involved in a trial that could stretch out for weeks. It was hard enough to get up there and testify once, much less go through an extended situation.

One thought that has comforted me today is that God did such an amazing job of protecting us the day of the robbery, and in so many ways He orchestrated it so no one was hurt. He hasn't stopped doing that! He's still in control of this situation, and He's still taking care of each piece of this puzzle to work it all out for the good. I'm so grateful for that!

Bubbles, Balls, and Brooms

The other big entertainment items for this morning were bubbles and balls...always, balls in this balls, basketballs, footballs, tennis balls, etc. Josiah also really got the hang of blowing bubbles. It was interesting to remember how last summer it was hard for him to do it by himself--he often blew too hard or didn't aim his air at the right place--but today he was blowing bubbles like a pro. I tried to get some good pictures of this, but I discovered it's hard to capture the right moment after the bubbles are blown but before they blow away or pop!

While this was going on, I was busy moving boxes, sorting through things, moving shelves, and sweeping. Whew, what a dirty garage floor we had! I swept and swept and swept. It's such an interesting process to try to tackle a project while the boys are awake and around. I would work a little, then have to take a break to watch Josiah throw a football in a new way, then work a little more, then peek around the corner of the house to see David going up and down our front steps, then work a little more, then pay attention to Josiah as he blew bubbles and wanted me to see them, then work a little more, then make sure David hadn't wandered too far down the driveway in pursuit of a runaway ball, then work a little more, then answer Josiah's question about why it's not a good idea to throw a football at the minivan. :) Sometimes in situations like this, I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels; but at the end of the day, I am able to look back and see that I actually have accomplished something...and that's a good feeling.

Fun with Sidewalk Chalk

The weather was once again gloriously warm this morning (though it is cool and raining now), and I took full advantage of it by cleaning out one side of the garage while the boys played nearby. I don't think I've ever been so grateful for sidewalk chalk as I was this morning. It's such simple, wholesome fun--and the boys had a blast with it! Josiah wrote a lot of words, and David made a lot of scribbles. And now the rain is washing it all away, so the next time we play outside on the driveway, the boys will have a blank slate to write on again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Plan B

Today's morning agenda was a busy one: go to the post office to mail some packages of things we sold on eBay, drop off recycling at the recycling place, go to the library, go to the hospital to visit two friends who are sick, and go to the mall to look for something (and, of course, eat an Auntie Anne's pretzel while there!). But all of that came crashing to a halt after I got everything loaded into the minivan and the boys buckled into their car seats, then...the minivan wouldn't start. This happened last week, too; but that time, my mother was home and we could simply transfer to her car and continue on our merry way. Today, however, she had taken our Old Order Mennonite neighbor to the store for some medicine, so I had no transportation option. Time for Plan B...

By nature, I don't do well with quick transitions. I like to have a plan and follow it! Early in our marriage, if we were going out to eat, Jeff used to drive me a little bit crazy by picking a place to eat, then on the way to that restaurant saying, "Oh, maybe we should eat at Jalisco's," or "I've always wanted to try this Chinese place; maybe we should go there," or "Here's our favorite pizza place; let's go there!" He would do that the whole way to our restaurant--literally, pointing out all the other restaurants that we could go to. These days, we still do that to each other for fun...but it wasn't fun as a newlywed. When I had my mind set on Italian food, I didn't appreciate him trying to offer Chinese or Mexican or anything else!

So this morning, I was a bit frustrated by the change of plans--and the lack of control I was feeling as I saw my whole schedule go down the drain. As I write this, it seems so silly to admit I was feeling that way; it shouldn't have been a big deal at all. But it was. So I kept my mouth shut and didn't say very much as I unbuckled the boys from their car seats and we traipsed back into the house; I didn't want to say something I would regret later! It didn't take too long to realize that while we already had our jackets and shoes on, it would be a great time to go outside and carry in wood! (We have a lot of wood in a wonderful woodshed on our property, and we carry it onto a glassed-in porch on the side of our house. Even though the weather has been much warmer and we haven't been burning as much wood, we still need a fire about once a day to take the chill off. And the pile of wood on the porch was very low.) So outside we went!

And what a wonderful time we had!

It was warm...mostly spring-like...full of such promise of warmer days and new growth. I got my exercise by carrying in wood, and the boys improvised and found ways to entertain themselves--running around, playing with sticks (and later picking them up and putting them in a bucket to be brought into the house to use as kindling for our fires), pumping water from our cistern, swinging, pushing a play lawnmower around, etc. It turned out to be a truly wonderful morning, and I almost spoiled it by having a sour attitude about my changed plans. Let this be a lesson to me!!!

First Crocus

One of the welcome signs of spring is the first crocus, and that appeared in our yard today and was warmly greeted by us! Now we just need to see some daffodils blooming, and we'll really be convinced that spring is right around the corner...

Monday, March 12, 2007


One thought that stood out to me yesterday was how much compassion Jesus had for the people who surrounded him. A quick search of Bible Gateway shows several places in the Bible where that is mentioned...for example, Mark 6:34, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."

The pertinent question clearly is how can I show compassion for those around me? And I quickly thought of two answers to that. One situation involved making some food and taking it over to a neighbor family that has been sick. The other involved calling another neighbor, a woman whom I met last fall at our neighborhood potluck, and inviting her and her children to come over some time to play and talk.

It was fun this morning to talk with Josiah about what I had learned yesterday and how I was trying to apply it to my life. I know that it's so important for him to see faith lived out in my life and Jeff's...and for us to take the time to talk with him about what we're learning and how we're trying to change to become more like Jesus. Too many times, we look "perfect" to him--imagine that! It's hard to believe when my own imperfections overwhelm me so many times! But it's important for him to see us falling down and getting back up...and through it all, relying on God's mercy and forgiveness to sustain us.

Our Fish

"I'm the flashy one."
"I'm the big bully."
"I'm the baby, and I'm hanging out in my favorite hiding place in the coral."