Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lowell Byler at Hymn Sing

Sunday in Pictures, Part Two

~ On our date, Josiah and I went to Kline's Dairy Bar (one of the truly great Harrisonburg institutions!) and shared a pint of chocolate ice cream. :)
~ We called it a double date because my parents came along with us! :)
~ After our ice cream, we went to a hymn sing at Park View Mennonite Church. Wow, the singing was glorious, heavenly, truly inspiring! Participating in events like these fills my soul in immensely refreshing ways. This is a picture of our good friend Lowell Byler leading a hymn tonight. He is the husband of my beloved piano teacher Miriam Byler, and he has been our (including my parents') piano tuner for some time (and was also extremely helpful in re-assembling our piano after it got moved here from California). Tonight was bittersweet because the Bylers are moving very soon to Goshen, Indiana, so this was the last hymn sing before their move. I took a little video of Lowell directing...whenever I get Jeff to help me, I'll post it here on the blog. :)
Anybody notice that all my comments end in a smiley face? Obviously, it's been a fantastic day!!! :)

Sunday in Pictures, Part One

~ Josiah and David playing with trucks before we went to a gathering of the church this morning (they're both wearing "new" shirts, courtesy of Gift & Thrift) :)
~ Sunday afternoon nap after a scrumptious lunch at my parents' house--Josiah's nap started in his bed; then after he woke up there, he came down to the couch to cuddle with me and fell asleep again :)
~ Jeff and David got to have some daddy/son time this evening because Josiah and I went out on a mommy/son date... :)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Who's Your Best Friend?

Yesterday I was looking through a journal that Jeff and I pass back and forth, writing answers to leading questions that help us to get to know each other better. One of the questions had to do with friendship: who are your three best friends? and why? It was interesting to see what I had written (basically, that Jeff was my very best friend, my mom was my second best friend, and third place was occupied by a number of women who each fulfilled different roles in my life); and then today as I stumbled across this piece of writing (not mine) that I had saved in a "Stories" folder, it made a lot of sense to me all over again...

20 Minutes or 20 Years
When I was little, I used to believe in the concept of one best friend, but then I started to become a woman. And then I found out that if you allow your heart to open up, God would show you the best in many friends.
One friend's best is needed when you're going through things with your children. Another friend's best is needed when you're going through things with your mother. Another when you’re going through things with your spouse. Another when you want to shop, share, heal, hurt, joke, or just be.
One friend will say let's pray together, another let's cry together, another let's fight together, another let's walk away together. One friend will meet your spiritual need; another, your shoe fetish; another, your love for movies. Another will be with you in your season of confusion; another will be your clarifier; another, the wind beneath your wings.
But whatever their assignment in your life, on whatever the occasion, on whatever the day, or wherever you need them to meet you...with their gym shoes on and hair pulled back or to hold you back from making a complete fool of yourself...those are your friends.
It may all be wrapped up in one friend, but for many, it's wrapped up in several ... one from 7th grade, several from high school, several from the college years, a couple from old jobs, several from church, on some days your mother, on others your sisters, and on some days it's the one that you needed just for that day or week ... that you needed someone with a fresh perspective, or the one who didn't know all your baggage, or the one who would just listen without judging....those are good best friends.
I thank my friends, those who honor intimacy, those who hold trust, and those who hold me up when life is just too heavy. The special bond we share is unique. Thanks for the words we've shared....the prayers we've sent up. The laughs, the tears, the phone calls, the emails, the shopping, the movies, the lunches, the dinners, the talking, talking, talking and the listening, listening, listening.
So whether you've been there 20 minutes or 20 years, I appreciate you!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Daddy & His Boys

~ playing ball
~ watching an airplane
(In case anyone wonders...yes, Josiah is wearing pajamas in these pictures. Today turned into a Pajama Day for him; and when evening rolled around and we were heading outside to play, I figured it didn't really matter if he played outside in pajamas or he stayed in them until his bath tonight. Everybody needs a Pajama Day every once in a while--and not just during times of sickness!)

The Asparagus Gatherers

Our asparagus bed has started producing--which means I'm going to once again try to force myself to like asparagus. When I was a child, we had to eat everything on our plate and had to try a little of everything that was served for dinner--an excellent policy, I firmly believe--but at the time, I wasn't thrilled about it on the nights when asparagus was on the menu! I remember smothering my asparagus in ketchup, then quickly eating it before the taste could really register, then drinking a lot of milk to wash it down.

Now as a (mature!) adult, I realize that it's much better to simply learn to like foods (and that IS possible), especially when they are healthy like asparagus is. So I'm gonna work on it...I really am...although if worse comes to worse the next time I eat asparagus, I'll just pull out a bottle of ketchup and do the smothering trick! I did find a recipe that included asparagus that I really want to try; it seemed like it had enough other tastes in it that it might actually be delicious. :)

Anyway...the boys had a good time tonight picking asparagus with Grandpa. All he had to do was point at it with his cane, and Josiah would pick it and give it to Grandpa. That method saved Grandpa's back a little, gave Josiah a job, and taught him a useful skill. And, of course, David trailed along behind to see what was going on--he doesn't want to miss a thing!

David on His Family Night

This was David's family night, and it was a nice low-key evening. We had spaghetti for supper, as well as the new favorite of the Fisher boys: jelly bread (homemade grape jelly on a piece of bread). Dessert was jelly beans, left over from Easter--2 for David, and 4 for Josiah. (When deciding how many pieces of food to give to the boys, I often use their ages to figure it out...i.e. 4 baby carrots for Josiah, 2 pieces of dry spaghetti for David, etc.) For the first time, we let David use our special "Celebrate" plate tonight since he's old enough to be trusted to not throw his plate on the floor. :)
Yesterday and today were rainy days (which was wonderful because it will help our new potatoes and my birthday magnolia trees get a good start in life), but the weather cleared up beautifully this afternoon so Jeff and the boys went outside after supper and played while I went with my dad to a nearby farm to get milk. When I returned, I went outside, too, and enjoyed a lazy spring evening with the family. Ah, the simple life--how sweet it is!
I suppose one of these years, I may take all of this for granted: living here, having so much room, being close to family, enjoying the four seasons, etc. But for now, I am continually grateful for it. It reminds me of how, after we finally got a dryer in Israel (after living without one for 2 years), I don't think I ever did laundry without being consciously thankful for that dryer! That's how I feel now about our country life.
One other thing I did tonight during David's family night was to measure him on a Peter Rabbit growth chart we have in our upstairs hall. As best as I could measure him, he was 32 and 1/2 inches tall; that could be a little off because he didn't really like standing there and holding still while I tried to make sure the measurement was accurate. But even if it's a little off, it's close. :)
Here are some pictures of David playing outside this evening...
~ sometimes I still gotta suck my thumb
~ I sure love to go barefoot outside and feel the grass on my feet...cuz I'm a country boy!
~ I can say "ball"!

Enough Tulip Pictures Already!

OK, OK...I know I've posted pictures of my tulips before...and really, I do realize they're not the most interesting thing in the world! But I couldn't resist...I have simply been enjoying them too much to not post a few more pictures that I took this evening. I think these will be the last tulip pictures on this blog--at least, until next year--but really, I could be overwhelmed in a few days and just have to put up a few more pics. We'll see... :)
I love the way the colors of the tulips show up against the white of the woodshed.
Isn't this particular tulip gorgeous?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Been Thinking About...

Abortion. Here's why...

Two blogs that I follow (one that I started reading several months ago, and one that I just started reading this past week) are written by women who have each been pregnant with a child with rare, SERIOUS health problems. I don't remember exactly the condition of each baby, but they were truly serious conditions (not, as I understand, conditions that were completely incompatible with life, but conditions that would undoubtedly lead to a very long journey of pain, suffering, numerous operations, perhaps life support, huge handicaps, etc...and perhaps, in the end, death for the infant). Both of these women chose to abort her baby, and their reason was because of love--love for their baby, desire for him to not have to suffer, compassion, etc. Both of these women also have some level of faith in God--belief in Him, belief in His love and goodness, belief in heaven, etc.

When I read the first woman's story, it filled me with anger, disbelief (that someone who professed to believe in God could come to that decision), and deep sorrow. I could not understand her point of view at all and disagreed intensely with her decision.

To give some background on myself, I have always been staunchly pro-life, even to the point of, as a teenager, standing on the streets of our town holding a sign to protest abortion...and going to the Rally for Life in Washington, D.C., to stand up for the rights of the unborn. Of course, while I was doing all of this, I had never actually met a real woman who had chosen to have an abortion, so I had no context for understanding how a woman could get to the point of making that choice. I don't regret taking the stand that I did--that's where I was at in life--but I do see how a protester could come across as harsh and out of touch with reality...and if I was a woman who was pregnant and scared, I wouldn't run to the nearest protester for help--in fact, I'd run the opposite direction. I do realize that compassion is not really the point of a protest though. Protests are for voicing public opinion so the powers-that-be will realize that a large segment of the population holds a certain opinion and will (hopefully) change the laws to reflect that viewpoint. I also realize that many of the people who protest abortion do live out their opinions in other ways and show compassion for real women in extremely difficult situations--i.e. through volunteering at a pregnancy center, etc.

In any case, my judgment as I read this particular blog was based on my own background, of course. And I have to mention, too, that I have never walked in the shoes of the woman who wrote the blog. Besides my miscarriage in December (which seems extremely mild in comparison to the struggles of this blogger), I've never dealt with tragedy in that area, and I am keenly aware of how that affects my opinion, too.

When I was pregnant with David in Israel, I discovered that Israel places a very high level of importance on prenatal testing--higher than here in the States. I suppose I can understand why, since certain diseases that afflict the Jews in particular are obviously genetically based. In our situation, we declined a lot of the prenatal testing that was offered/encouraged/mandated; but we did have a very thorough ultrasound at about 20 or 22 weeks (I can't remember for sure)--right before the cut-off for legal abortions in Israel. After the ultrasound (which was simply fascinating for us as we watched David cavort in utero), the doctor said to us, "Well, I've checked everything except for one ear (the way David was lying made it impossible to see that ear), and I can guarantee that everything is perfect." I wanted to make it clear to the doctor that even if everything wasn't perfect, we still wanted this baby!!! But I realized that doctor didn't really care and was just doing his job.

That experience though made me think about how society operates when there are "less-than-perfect" individuals in it. I think society loses something vitally important when the handicapped are eliminated. Within a family, think how much growth happens in the character of a mother or father or siblings when a handicapped child is born...or rather, think about how much potential for growth there is...I understand that each family's reaction will determine whether the positive growth occurs or not. Within a workplace, think how much richer the lives of all the workers can be when there is a handicapped person working there. Within society in general, think how much compassion and understanding and grace can be developed as we look beyond the surface of a person to see their soul and as we realize how vastly imperfect we all are. Who defines perfection anyway???

So with these thoughts in mind, I felt extremely condemning of this blogger's decision to "play God" and end the life of her unborn son. It seemed to me that she was saying that she was wiser than God and more loving and merciful than Him. God might have let her son be born and suffer, but she wanted to send him peacefully to heaven and spare him the suffering. But how could she know better than God what the future would hold and how to best treat her son?

However, my thoughts haven't ended there. I realized that in SO MANY WAYS we "play God" with modern medicine now--and for the most part, I am all in favor of that! Coming from a medical family, I hear stories of the "good old days" and how medicine used to be practiced...and I'm eternally grateful that I live now in this day and age!

In these situations with the extremely ill babies, if they were born 100 years ago, they almost certainly would have died. And yet now, with our modern technology, we can prolong life so long that it's almost unbelievable. When is enough enough? How can we say that we won't play God by ending life before it's time, but yet we play God by continuing life way past the point where it would "naturally" end? As for me, I don't want to play God in either of these situations! Yet I realize that real life sometimes intrudes so violently that choices like this must be made, and no one in these situations asked to be there.

One night as I was mulling over all these thoughts, I had the opportunity to talk with my dad about all of this; and that was helpful. He told me about some specific situations that he had known about/been involved in. One was an unborn baby who was developing without a significant portion of the brain. It was a situation completely incompatible with life--there was absolutely no chance for the baby to live; and so in a case like that, I can definitely see how an abortion would be "allowed." My dad also told me, however, that in certain cases, even if the mother knows her baby will die when born, she can carry it to term so that certain of the organs can be harvested and used as transplants to give others life. That was a new thought to me, but how amazing would that be! What a sacrifice for that mother to make to continue with the pregnancy, knowing that she would not be bringing a baby home with her in the end, but also knowing that others would benefit enormously from her sacrifice. Wow!

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts recently. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I'm striving to understand another's point of view first before making a snap judgment. It's much easier to judge first--and much more difficult to take time to empathize!

Oh, one other thing...I am well aware that only a tiny percentage of abortions that happen now are done in situations like these women faced. In general, I am as staunchly pro-life as ever before, and I wish so much that more women facing abortion could see their way clear to choose to either keep their baby or to let them be adopted. I'm a huge fan of adoption, as anyone who knows our family can imagine. :) And it's mind-boggling how many couples are desperately longing and waiting for a child to adopt--babies, that if not aborted, could be filling the void that so many people feel.

I thought of something of my biggest reasons for being anti-abortion now is that, now that I actually know some women who had abortions, I see the damage that can be done to them through an abortion. I think in so many cases, there are emotional and spiritual consequences that literally last a lifetime. So as much as my heart hurts for the unborn victims of abortion, I ache even more for the grown women and men who are also affected by it.

Circus Circus

The circus came to town!!! So yesterday afternoon we took both the boys and had a fun family outing to see it. Last year Jeff took Josiah, and I stayed home with David (and when they got home, Josiah told me about the noisy motorcycles and the big elephants--his two major impressions of the circus)...but this year, David was old enough to go so we all went. It was really fun, and I'm very glad we did it...although, I have to admit, it was a little cheesy. Jeff and I were talking about how he and I have seen some really fantastic entertainment in our lifetime, so there's really no way a traveling circus can top that. I was impressed though by the skill of some of the performers--i.e. a 10-year old girl who was part of a family of flying trapeze artists and who performed quite skillfully herself, even at her young age. My favorite part though of the whole circus was the horses, of course! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Swinging Good Time

After sudoku, it was time for swinging...and Jeff obliged the boys by giving them plenty of underdogs. It's funny to think about how this old swingset is the same one that we had when I was a kid, and I've spent hours and hours on it. I vividly remember how my brother David and I would get ourselves going pretty high, then jump off the swing while it was still moving. When I got older, I remarked to my mother that I can hardly believe she let us do that--didn't she know we could have easily broken an arm--or leg--or neck??? She replied by saying that as a parent, she felt like she had to say "no" so often that in this case, she wanted to grant us liberty and say "yes." I understand that now, as I feel like some of my days are filled with endless repetitions of "no" and I want to carefully consider more opportunities to say "yes."

Sudoku on the Patio

Last evening was another gorgeous evening, and Jeff and Josiah took advantage of it by playing sudoku outside after supper.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Potato Perfectionist

OK--last pic for tonight. This afternoon we planted potatoes--"we," being my mother and I. In consideration of her knees, I gave her the job of sitting in the rocking chair and cutting the potatoes, while I had the fun job of actually getting in the dirt (and the condition of my feet right now proves it). :)

In case you haven't noticed, there's a theme in all the titles of these posts for this one, I had to come up with a "p" word to go with "potato." I had to think for a few minutes for this one. I thought of "Potato Peeler" or "Paring Potatoes"--but they weren't really accurate. Then I thought of "Parsing Potatoes" because I think "parsing" means splitting--but I wasn't really sure about that and was too tired/lazy to google "parse" to find out. Then I thought of "Potato Perfectionist" and knew that was--well, perfect. Every time the word "perfectionist" is linked with my mother, it somehow seems to fit. :) You can be sure that the potatoes we planted today were cut exactly right--with two eyes per piece and enough "meat" of the potato for each piece to have a good start in life--it couldn't be any better! :)

Terrific Tulips

I continue to enjoy this row of tulips, as each day more and more of them open. What marvelous examples of God's creativity and beauty!

Lovely Lunch

Today was another gorgeous day--and I took advantage of it by doing a lot of work outside. Josiah saw one of my dad's nurses eating her lunch outside under a pine tree*, and it gave him the idea that it would be fun to eat outside, too! So here he is--enjoying a "picnic" today--a banana, cheese, and potato chips--lunch of champions. :) When I look at this picture, I notice the clothes drying on the clothesline...and the fresh mulch around the lilac bush...and it reminds me of some of the fun projects I got to do today. Oh, springtime is such a wonderful time of year!

*When Josiah saw the nurse under the tree, he came to me and said quietly, seriously, "I think someone is hurt." I was behind the house hanging up clothes, but as I came around the corner of the house and saw what he was referring to, it brought a smile to my face; and I quickly explained to him who it was and what she was doing. I guess he had not seen someone eat lunch under that tree before!

Horrible Hives

Yesterday morning, as I was getting David dressed before we left for a church service, I was shocked to see big welts on his cheek and hands. I quickly called Jeff to look at them, and then my dear dad hurried up the hill to check on his littlest grandson. None of us knew for sure what had caused them--we discussed a reaction to food and tried to think if David had eaten anything different. Oddly enough, his hives diminished fairly quickly; and he didn't seem bothered by them at all. During the service, he was clingy, didn't want to look at any books or eat a fruit snack or do anything except be held. He even fell asleep in my arms--just like a little baby! It's been a long time since he did that, and I relished every second of it. :)
Later in the day, the hives returned and broke out fiercely over his legs, arms, and face. Today they're even worse--basically, over every part of his body.
Dad is having a hard time with this. He said he's used to having sick people come into his office, treating them, then seeing them go on their way...but when it's his own family, he wants to figure out what is causing the problem and then fix it immediately! :) We haven't made it easy on him recently--between Josiah's illness last week and David's condition now--neither one responded quite how he/we thought it should. I don't know how many times, in the past week or so, Dad has come up the hill to check on his little patients or has called (even in the middle of the workday) just to see how they are doing. We are again immensely grateful that we live so close!!! I remember when we lived in Israel, we would sometimes take a digital picture of some health problem and send it to Dad so he could diagnose us over the Internet...or we would call and try to describe our symptoms as best we could so he could figure out what was wrong with us. At least now, it's a tiny bit easier for him to treat us! :)
In David's case, after doing some research and consulting with a local pediatrician, Dad has come to the conclusion that the hives are the result of a virus. It could even be the same virus that afflicted Josiah so much last week, simply manifest in a different way in David's body. There doesn't seem to be anything to do for it except wait it out, and give him some cough medicine with Benadryl in it, and if he itches, put ointment on his skin.
The absolutely amazing thing is that the hives don't seem to be bothering David at all. It definitely bothers the rest of us because he looks like he should be just miserable...but, for the most part, he's his normal happy self...and that is a huge blessing!!!

Extraordinary Evening

I'm feeling a bit brain dead tonight--tired physically and mentally. Questions swirl in my head about where God is taking us spiritually and what the next step in our journey is. Most of all, I feel a deep sense that only heaven will bring clarity to all these muddles in my mind.
In any case, I'm just going to post a few things tonight--pictures from the past couple of days. All my profound thoughts will have to wait for another time to be written down. :)
Yesterday evening was a perfect spring Sunday evening, and Jeff and the boys had a great time playing outside--with frisbees, horseshoes, David's new birthday ball, Josiah's bicycle, sidewalk chalk, etc. One thing about Josiah's bike--it was really interesting to see how much better he's getting at riding it. Compared to how he did last summer, he has made some significant strides! For example, in our driveway, there is a slight incline leading up to our garage; and last year, Josiah couldn't peddle up it by himself. Last night, however, he was riding up it like a pro.
Another thing that happened recently that reminded me of how much he's growing is that, when he's standing outside on our patio, he can now easily open the door leading onto our porch. Just like with the bike, he couldn't do that last summer--wasn't tall enough to reach the handle or strong enough to push in the button to open the latch. But now, it's no problem at all for him. Our boy is growing up, and it's fun to watch!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Need a Good Cry?

Through a comment on someone else's blog, I heard about a website ( that specializes in infant bereavement photography to preserve memories for families who have lost babies through pre-term labor or other difficulties. I just visited that site for the first time and--oh my goodness--I could not even look at it for more than a few minutes without breaking down and weeping, much less read the personal stories of loss. So I stopped looking at it! But what a wonderful service it is. I'd never heard of it before; but apparently, it is a group of photographers in different cities who provide their services to bereaved parents, even if the parents can't pay. I was amazed and touched by how sensitively the babies were portrayed, even if they were not nearly full-term and thus lacked the basic development that we associate with newborns. I cannot imagine the pain of going through such a loss. Our own miscarriage was hard enough, and it was so early on in the pregnancy! To have felt a child move, to have seen the heartbeat through an ultrasound, to have known whether it was a boy or a girl...and then to lose it...I simply cannot imagine. A lady that we know is likely headed for this situation, and I am taking some dinner to her tomorrow--such a small way to help--I wish I could do more. She is 5 months pregnant, but major health complications and pre-term labor make it unlikely that the baby will survive. I pray so fervently that God's perfect will be done and that His comforting love and sustaining grace cover this family and draw them to Him.

Prayer as Hospitality

Some things never change! To mention just one example, I'm continuing my pattern of reading several books simultaneously. I try to "be good" and finish one before I start the next; but what it all comes down to is that sometimes I'm in the mood for different kinds of reading--sometimes I want something lighter, sometimes I want something deeper--sometimes I know I only have a few minutes to read, sometimes I can dive into a book for an hour. So, in the end, I always have several books going at the same time.

One of the books that I'm reading and really enjoying now is A Celebration of Children by Edith Schaeffer. The book belongs to my mother who just finished reading it and passed it along to me. Recently I read something in it that stood out to me, primarily because it combined two things that I often think about and have written about on this blog: prayer and hospitality. Here is what Edith wrote...

We are commanded that a part of our growing Christian life is openness to others, that is, hospitality. Now hospitality is often thought of as serving a meal. We think of hospitality as giving someone in our own "circle" a warm welcome.

Think of prayer as another form of hospitality. As with everything we are to do, finiteness makes it impossible to invite the whole city into our space, but we are to include some. Prayer takes time and energy and is a matter of choice. As we each take a notebook and begin writing down the names of those for whom we want to intercede, we will soon discover how much choice is involved, and we will worship more deeply our infinite intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is not limited and does not have to choose which one to pray for today.

That day as Jesus took the little children on His lap and prayed for them, He did not have every child in the world on His lap, because at that time He was truly man as well as truly God. He then could show us, as our example, how we are to give hospitality in prayer for the ones who come to us, into our minds, into our homes.

First Tulip

Last fall I planted a row of tulip bulbs next to our woodshed. Because they are on the north side of the shed, they are later in blooming than other tulips in our area. But today I was happy to see the first one finally opened! Isn't it beautiful??? I've loved tulips ever since my brother David gave me a bouquet of purple tulips when I performed my senior piano recital in college (10 years ago), but this is the first time I've ever been able to plant any of my own and watch them grow and bloom. What fun! :)

Life on the "Farm"

~ Molly's new roommate
~ "hey, come back here, I want to play!" says Molly
~ getting to know you!

Our dog Molly has been enjoying running around in our pasture with lots of room to stretch her legs; but with summer coming and the weather warming, we really needed a living, breathing, (eating!) "lawnmower" in that pasture to keep the grass from getting too tall. So when our neighbor inquired about the possibility of putting his calf in our pasture, we were thrilled! Our neighbor said it was not a problem to leave Molly in the pasture, too, since he thought the calf and the dog would get along fine. Today was the big day; and so far, everything seems to be going fine. The calf--Sweetie Pie is her name--knows how to kick if Molly gets too bothersome. I looked out the window a few minutes ago, and it looked like Sweetie Pie was trying to settle down for a nice nap, but Molly was bugging her to get up and run around. It will be interesting to see how they interact as they get used to each other!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Finally, the Gifts!

We finally gave David his birthday gifts tonight. The sickness in our household has mostly gone away, and life is getting back to this evening while my parents were at our house for dinner, we had the big moment: present time! :)

~ David looking at some new books from Grandpa & Grandma (which Grandma later read to him during snuggle time on the couch)
~ David hugging a new little teddy bear
~ David pulling a Tigger & Pooh ball out of a gift bag (which he then later tossed back and forth with Grandpa, accompanied by squeals of laughter)
David's birthday is turning into birthWEEK, which is always fun. Tomorrow we will have birthday cake when some friends come over for our regular Friday fellowship potluck. Speaking of the cake, I'm off to make the icing and get it all ready for tomorrow...

Just for Fun

One of my college friends sent me one of these silly emails today that I love to read because I'm curious and enjoy the peek into people's real lives. :)

Rather than forwarding it on to anyone else, I'm just going to answer the questions here. (I'm terrible at forwarding stuff like this on to others; I almost never do it.)

1. Where do you work? - at home! (the best and hardest job of all--stay-at-home mom)

2. What color are your socks right now? - navy blue

3. What are you listening to right now? - the low hum of the computer and the clicking noise as I type

4. What was the last thing that you ate? - chewable vitamin C tablets

5. Can you drive a stick shift? - yes, although I haven't done it in a while!

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? - navy blue

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? - a lady from a church that we visited several weeks ago

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? - of course! (why would someone that I didn't like send it to me? and even if they did, why would I ever admit publicly that I didn't like them?) but in this case, my college friend Amanda sent it to me; and I do really like her :)

9. How old are you? - 31

10. Favorite drink? - milk, straight from the cow

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? - ice skating or equestrian sports (although I can't remember the last time I've watched either!)

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? - no, but I've got quite a few gray hairs now, so I'm going to have to decide one of these days (weeks? months? years?) if I'm going to start coloring it or keep ignoring it :)

13. Any pets? - a dog named Molly, two white rabbits named Grandma Fisher (Josiah named her) and Snowball, and a bunch of fish

14. Favorite food? - spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese

15. What was the last movie you watched? - The Ultimate Gift

16. Favorite day of the year? - that's a tough one...I've never thought about it...maybe New Year's Day???

17. What do you do to vent anger? - I usually hold it inside, but it comes out in the tone of my voice

18. Favorite childhood toy? - maybe an old porcelain doll named Peaches? maybe a miniature cast iron stove with pots and pans? maybe a little stuffed koala bear that I made little outfits for (involving cutting holes for the arms and legs and attaching it to the bear with pins--no real sewing!)?

19. Cherries or blueberries? - both!

20. When was the last time you cried? - yesterday, when my neighbor Wilma came over with her girls to wish David a happy birthday; and she started reading the book Love You Forever...when she started reading, I told her I can't read that book without crying...she thought I was kind of silly--until she started crying while reading it!...I discovered not only can I not read that book without crying, I can't even be in the same room while it's being read--or see the picture in it of the grown man cradling his little mother--without crying!!!

21. What is on the floor of your closet? - my shoes on a shoe rack, and various items to donate to a thrift store (that's my collection place for get-rid-of stuff)

22. What did you do last night? - sang happy birthday to David, took care of my sick Josiah, did loads and loads of laundry, blogged

23. Favorite smells? - probably cooking smells: cookies or a cake baking in the oven, or onions being fried to put into a recipe (that's probably Jeff's favorite smell...I always know that if I am frying onions when he walks in the door, he'll smile and say, "Yum, something smells good!")...I guess I like the cooking smells because I love to eat; and when you smell something cooking first, then your mouth starts watering, then you wait and wait and finally it's ready, then you sit down and eat it--ah, that is bliss!!! :)

24. What do you regret the most in life? - I'm going to copy Amanda's answer and say not having more patience

25. What are you most afraid of? - my children deciding to not follow God--and consequently, our family not being all together in heaven

26. Favorite types of hamburgers? - bacon cheeseburgers

27. Favorite breed of dog? - collie

28. Number of keys on your key ring? - five, I think

29. Favorite day of the week? - Sunday/Monday combo

30. Which states have you lived in? - Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, California--and, of course, Israel

31. Favorite holiday? - I'll be traditional and say Christmas...although any holiday that gets family together is a good one in my book!

Gil Colman's Blog

For anyone interested in more info about Gil Colman who was shot on Monday at Virginia Tech, here is a blog set up for updates about him -- His gripping story is told in detail in the first post on that site.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Shooting Article

This article is from our local paper; and it tells the amazing story of Guillermo Colman, the man who lived with my family back in 1990 and who was shot yesterday at Virginia Tech.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


As I mentioned earlier, I had lots of time to think in the middle of the night because of Josiah's illness. While carrying vomit-laden sheets and blankets down the steps to our laundry room around 3:00 a.m., I thought, "I sure wish life would slow down a little bit. When am I ever going to get caught up? When am I ever going to get some rest???" And then I realized that sometimes life does slow down--drastically--like it did for our friend Bob in the hospital in Winchester or our friend Gil in the hospital in Blacksburg.

For Bob, a heart blockage nearly ended his life; and now things have slowed down to a crawl for him and Cindy, with one focus--getting him well. I can imagine Cindy sitting beside Bob and thinking, "Just breathe. Just take the next breath and the next and the next." And for a time, that's all that matters in life.

Gil is a man from Uruguay who lived with my family back in 1990 when he arrived in this country. Because my dad knows Spanish, our household was a good place for Gil to begin his adjustment to life in the USA. Now Gil is a grad student at Virginia Tech, finishing up his master's degree in engineering. Yesterday, Gil was one of the students shot in the horrific events that have been broadcast all over the globe. Because of God's grace, he survived! But for him, like Bob, life and time instantly slowed down to a crawl with a singular focus.

So often, we measure time in weeks or months or years. Occasionally, we measure them in moments--one breath to the next--like Bob, like Gil, like I do when I lie in bed beside my sick child. But I can't forget that for so many people yesterday, life didn't just slow down; it stopped.

How fortunate I am to have vomit-covered sheets to wash! How blessed I am to have a safe, living, breathing child under my roof tonight! As I laid beside Josiah last night, I watched his chest rise and fall with each breath, I saw his hands like little starfish holding his teddy bear, I noticed how his closed eyes look like little half moons, and then I couldn't tear my eyes away from his eyelashes curling gracefully, brushing his cheek. Is there anything more beautiful than the eyelashes of a sleeping child--my sleeping child?

And so, time slowed for me--finally--after Josiah had been soothed, after the trash bag with throw-up in it had been taken down to the garage, after the washer and dryer had started spinning their way to cleanliness, after the dirty teddy bear had been put in the laundry and a second one found--and I lay there counting time by moments and feeling overwhelming gratitude.

Grandma and David, Then and Now

~ April 18, 2005 -- in the hospital in Tel Aviv
~ April 17, 2007 -- at home in Virginia

Birthday Boy

Today is David's birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our celebration tonight for him was low-key, to say the least; and I'm grateful that at 2 years of age, he's mighty pleased if anyone simply looks at him and says "Happy birthday, David!" With Josiah being sick, I didn't even accomplish the very minimal amount of preparation that I was planning to do for his we didn't have a home-cooked meal tonight (Jeff brought home pizza, and we shared that with my parents), or a birthday cake (but I did give David an Oreo after he ate some pizza, and he was thrilled!), or presents or even a card (maybe tomorrow???). However, we did enjoy being together as a family, and we did sing "Happy Birthday" to him; and we do thank God with overflowing hearts for the wonderful gift of having David as our son!

He has changed so drastically over the past two years. Here is a glimpse in pictures...

~ April 17, 2005 -- in the hospital in Tel Aviv, the night he was born
~ April 17, 2006 -- at home in Virginia with a homemade carrot cake
~ April 17, 2007 -- enjoying an Oreo cookie!

Living Out Matthew 25

Once again, I've gone AWOL from this blog for a few days. It certainly wasn't my intention or desire; but life spun and twisted in a variety of unexpected ways, slowly knocking blogging down my list of priorities until it finally fell off completely! I've missed it. I find that time spent blogging is valuable for helping me process events and emotions. After I write about something, I actually understand it better--and, often, value it more.

So, where have we been???

Sunday, we drove south to visit my nephew Jason who is in prison. It was really good to see him. He gets out of prison relatively soon--the beginning of June--and we are very excited for him and very hopeful and prayerful that he can make good choices and begin again to build his life in a positive way.

One interesting thing about visiting him... On Saturday night, Jeff attended a special worship service at a local church; and while there, he saw a woman that he knows. When she asked him whether he was coming back the next morning for their regular worship service, he replied by telling her that we were driving down to see Jason in prison, etc...and she responded by saying, "Prison? That's no place to be on a Sunday morning!" To which he replied, "On the contrary, prison is exactly the kind of place to be on a Sunday morning." The light bulb then went on in her head as she thought about Matthew 25 and the admonition to visit those in prison.

On Monday evening, Jeff and I spent our Date Night driving north to Winchester to visit our good friend Bob who was in the hospital there after emergency heart surgery on Saturday. It was fun to have time together in the car--just Jeff and I--and we got to talk about a lot of things. It was also really good to see Bob and his wife Cindy, and we are unspeakably grateful that God protected Bob's life on Saturday and helped the doctors keep him alive when his heart had stopped beating. Bob and Cindy are relatively new friends for us, but we already feel a very deep heart-level bonding with them. We have gleaned wisdom, contentment, joy, and insight from them in our time together; and we're not at all ready for those times with Bob to come to an end! I think one of the things we appreciate most about them is how they focus so intently on Jesus and how effectively they strip away so many of the outward facades of religion that can hinder a pure relationship with God.

As far as Matthew 25 goes, we've done the "visit those in prison" part, the "visit the sick" we need to find a stranger and take him in, or find a naked person and give him clothes! :)

I was thinking further about these verses last night as I was caring for Josiah who was throwing up off and on all night and into this morning. Josiah HATES to throw up; and when he can't hold it in any longer, he screams and screams as he vomits. I don't know how to help him to understand that it's actually OK to throw up; it doesn't need to be such a big deal, and he doesn't need to get so worked up about it. But worked up, he does get! And besides the physical part of caring for him (changing his clothes, cleaning his body, bringing him water to rinse out his mouth, giving him medicine when appropriate, changing the dirty sheets on his bed, doing multiple loads of laundry in the middle of the night, giving him a bath--Jeff took care of this one, hugging him, and tenderly rubbing his back, etc.), there is the huge job of emotionally caring for him and comforting him.

As I was trying to keep a positive attitude about all of this in the middle of the night last night, I had a few thoughts...well, actually, lots of thoughts, since there was so much time to think! :) But one of the thoughts was that I don't have to go far from home to find ways to fulfill Matthew 25. When Jesus says, "Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me," there's no reason that "the least of these" can't refer to my own children. When I clothe them, give them food and drink, care for them when they're sick and afraid, I'm actually obeying this command of Jesus. This is hugely comforting for me because I so often long for bigger ways to serve. Last night, I was reminded of how important these "small" acts of service--here in my own home, to my own family--really are.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Easter Evening

~ the scene in our home on Easter evening after my brother and his family arrived from Pennsylvania

Heart Treasures

This morning was a busy morning: a 9:00 a.m. soccer game for Josiah (it was lightly raining during the game, but David and I gleefully sat on the sidelines to support our favorite player...I've caught a little cold this week so I know it wasn't a great idea to do that as far as my health, but there seemed no choice...oh, the sacrifices parents make for their children--and, almost always, the children are blissfully unaware of the sacrifices, as my own parents reminded me after dinner tonight!) :) -- and then a (free!) John Farrell concert with the boys and our friends Misty, Trinity, and Houston after the game. I had never heard of John Farrell before, but I was so glad we went. He is a talented, down-to-earth, kid-friendly singer/performer.

I know "precious moments" is such a cliche, but it seems perfectly appropriate to describe some of the day's happenings...
~ Josiah kicking a ball into the goal during practice, then running to the back of the line, then turning and blowing a kiss to me
~ Josiah waving "hi" to me while running during the game, then colliding with another kid because he was looking at me and not paying attention to where he was going
~ Josiah running off the field at the end of the game, and looking a bit anxious until he saw where I was...knowing that at that moment, I'm the most important thing in the world to him; and as he stretches his wings and flies, he still needs to run back to his mommy because his world still largely revolves around me
~ Josiah marching up to the front of the auditorium during the concert when John Farrell invited the kids in the audience to come up to sing the last song...Josiah went so confidently, without a bit of prompting from see him singing "Love Grows" and acting out the hand motions was enough to bring tears to my does grow; and when it's my love for that boy, it grows so high and wide I can't even contain it
~ Josiah saying, "Mommy?" answering wearily, "What?"...him simply replying, "I love you!"
~ Josiah giving me a bear hug at bedtime and holding me in that hug while he counted to 31, then him wanting me to hug him and count to 4 (for our ages)

When I read in Luke 2:19 that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart," I think I understand that so much more fully now than I ever did before I had children. I know the day will come when Josiah won't blow a kiss to me while warming up before a sports event, so I cling to the beauty of these days before they flutter away in the winds of growing-up.


My parents subscribe to quite a few magazines; and they use them first in the waiting room of my dad's office, then my mother takes them and reads them, then she gives them to me to read, then I pass them along to Jeff to take to the barber shop. We definitely get our money's worth out of a subscription! :)

In a recent Guideposts magazine, I read a few quotes about kindness that stood out to me. The first is from the book Grace: Quotes & Passages for Heart, Mind, and Soul by Princess Jackson-Smith: "Never underestimate the power of simple courtesy. Your courtesy may not be returned or remembered, but discourtesy will."

The second was engraved on a plaque that a soldier who had served in the Middle East gave to his pen pal when he returned to the States: "Remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."

So, I got to thinking about kindness and courtesy. So many examples came to my mind--examples of both discourtesy and remarkable kindness. I remember one time when we were traveling back to the States from Israel, and our original flight was cancelled so all the passengers from our flight had to be herded onto another flight at the last minute. We had a very nice flight attendant who was working hard to make sure that Jeff, Josiah, and I could all sit together. The two seats that she found for us (Josiah was a lap baby at that point) were next to a lady who made it clear that she was NOT pleased at this change of events and that she did NOT want to sit next to a couple with an infant. We apologetically moved into our seats, praying that Josiah would be a little angel so that we would not incur her wrath. As it turned out, he was fabulous; and the lady relaxed, complimented us on the good behavior of our baby, and even offered to take a diaper to the bathroom trash for us after we had changed his diaper.

Thinking about traveling brings back a multitude of memories! So many times, God blessed us by granting us favor with officials so we could skip ahead in lines or somehow avoid some of the strain and delay of traveling. I remember being in the airport in Cyprus, and a wonderfully kind woman coming to us as we stood in the very long customs line. She saw we had a small child, and she told us to follow her as she helped us move to the front of the line. We were so grateful!

I remember another scene from the Cyprus airport. This was a different occasion, and it still rips my heart in two as I recall the events. Again, we were standing in a long customs line; and with nothing else to do, we were glancing around at the other people in the large room. Suddenly, we heard loud shouts and saw quite a commotion. An African man was being told that he could not enter Cyprus and that he would be returned to his home nation. He was frantic--desperate--I don't even know what words to use to describe how urgently he was begging and pleading to not be sent back to his country. Of course, we only had a tiny glimpse of the situation so we didn't understand exactly what was going on; but it was easy to jump to the conclusion that he would be facing persecution, perhaps death, certainly extreme hardship when he returned to his nation. I know that the customs officials were only doing their jobs--they have rules to follow--but oh, I wanted to weep as I thought about what might await him. Events like that helped us to not take our freedom as Americans for granted. So many times I thought about how we were the owners of something that almost everyone in the world would like to have: an American passport.

To return to the original subject, however, the other time of life that I think about when kindness comes to mind is childbirth. The events surrounding the births of Josiah and David are so highly significant that every little thing about it becomes a big deal. The person who brought me food in the middle of the night after David's birth when I was ravenously hungry is an absolute saint. The nurse who wheeled me into a hallway after I gave birth to him and left me there without any explanation of where they had taken David and Jeff or when someone would come to take me to my room is a horrible person! Not really, of course, but that's how things get exaggerated in my mind. :) I still remember the name of the nurse that helped me through Josiah's birth. Her name is Stephanie, and she lands a place on the incredibly wonderful side of things. The midwife who was urging me to push David out while lying on my back in the hospital bed and was not willing to have me stand up to get him out rates in the terrible category. Our friends from church who brought us meals for two weeks after Josiah was born have a special place forever in our hearts as we continue to think of them with deep gratitude. The doctors and nurses who ignored us, delayed us, made us jump through hoop after hoop after hoop when we wanted to check out "early" after David's birth definitely land in the horrendous position. The lady in hospital administration in Tel Aviv who cheerfully helped us each step of the way as we navigated a foreign system of insurance, checking in while in labor, registering for a birth certificate, etc. is an angel in my mind. Such extremes!!! :) I wonder if labor and delivery nurses realize how much of an impact they can make on a woman's life. I know in our case, these stories are an eternal part of our family history; and I'll never forget the kindness of a nurse like Stephanie. It was all in a day's work for her, but a forever moment for me.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Power of Perseverance

I've referred to the book Night Light for Parents by the Dobsons before and have shared a few golden nuggets that I've gleaned from that book. Here are more goodies...

The devotionals this week have been about the power of perseverance, and one of the verses that has encouraged me is Revelation 2:19: I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. So many times I compare myself to others who seem to be doing much more and much better than I am...or I look at the end goal (perfection) and feel overwhelmed by all that stands between my current situation and that goal. But this verse helps me to keep a better perspective...maybe my house isn't perfectly organized, but it's better than it was a year ago (maybe just a little better, but still there's been improvement!)...maybe my children aren't perfectly obedient, but now we do have better spiritual routines with them than we did previously, and that is making a difference little by little...maybe I'm not respectful 100% of the time with my husband, but at least I don't make some of the same mistakes I made as a newlywed (criticizing his driving, for example). In almost any area of life, I can either see all that I'm not accomplishing--or see it from God's merciful perspective of "you're doing more now than you used to."

Dr. Dobson gave two examples that have stuck with me. One is about cockleburs. He writes: Have you ever had the experience of walking through an open field in late summer and feeling the sting of cockleburs in your shoes and around your ankles? These thin, brown weeds are armed with dozens of sharp spines that grab your socks and eventually work their way into the skin. They're terribly annoying. Cockleburs are remarkable in another way, however. Inside their prickly seedpods are not just one, but several seeds, and they germinate in different years. If the first seed fails to sprout one year due to poor conditions, the second is still waiting in the ground. When the next season rolls around, it begins to open and grow. And if that one doesn't take root, there is still a third seed waiting for the year after that....Like a cocklebur seed that lies dormant for a decade or more, the lessons you plant now may one day break through and blossom in the hearts and minds of your children.

And the second example: Elmer Bendiner flew on numerous bombing runs over Germany during World War II. He never forgot one of those missions. Bendiner's B-17 was hit especially hard by enemy antiaircraft guns; eleven shells pierced the fuel tank. If even one of those shells had exploded, the plane would have been blown out of the sky. Incredibly, however, all remained intact. As Bendiner wrote in his book, The Fall of Fortresses, he eventually learned the explanation for this miracle. When demolition experts opened up the shells, they found no explosive charge. All were empty--but one. That shell contained a small note, apparently from a factory munitions worker, written in Czech. Translated, it read: "This is all we can do for you now." Scripture says that God notices our persistent acts of faith...That includes our small efforts as well as the great ones. When you are discouraged by the evils threatening your children and feel that your "insignificant" attempts to shield them make no difference, remember that the Lord is watching--and when it is within the wisdom of His divine plan, He will honor even the smallest endeavor.

Encouraging Words

From Philip Yancey's book on prayer that I've been reading recently...

Whenever I get depressed by a lack of spiritual progress, I realize that my very dismay is a sign of progress. I have the sense of slipping further from God mainly because I have a clearer idea of what God desires and how far short I fall.

When I first read this, I thought immediately of a dear friend who is going through a bit of a rough time...but the more I contemplate it, the more I understand its application for myself, too.

To Clarify

I've just returned from a riding lesson (postponed from Wednesday because of rain), and I'm staggering around the house like a drunkard. My legs feel like jello, and I KNOW I'm going to be sore tomorrow. So before I fall down, I thought I'd better sit down! I learned to trot today--woohoo!--and I didn't even fall off the horse. I'm thrilled about that! :)

It's been really interesting to read people's responses to my last post (both in the comments section and emailed directly to me), and I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness and concern behind each comment. I think the danger in opening myself up through this blog is that I'll constantly feel like I need to explain again if people don't understand, or justify myself if people don't agree, etc. Once I open myself a little, I'll have to open myself A LOT, it seems. But I don't necessarily want to go down the path of discussing until everyone agrees with me or until everyone sees things from my point of view, because, well, that's never going to happen anyway! And everyone is entitled to their opinion.

With that said, I do feel the need to speak a little further about the incident on Wednesday. I think the critical ingredient that I was missing was balance. (This seems to be a key in so many of the things I write about in this blog.) The balance between the first glance of "uh oh, beware of these guys" and the longer look of "oh, they just need help." The balance between "I've got to protect myself and my children at all costs" and "I need to be willing to risk, in order to show Christ-like compassion." (Living in Israel was definitely not the protective route, yet I am sure it was God's will for us.) Even the balance between submitting to my husband's wishes and, on the other hand, feeling the Spirit speak to me in my husband's absence.

As I examine my heart, I do not feel like, in general, I have racist attitudes. Some of my very dearest, life-long, heart-level friends are of different races than I. And even recently, I was lamenting to Jeff about how "white" our circle of friends is here. I cherish diversity...I love immigrants...I appreciate immensely how "colorful" the Huffman family's very important to me that our children grow up with respect and admiration for different cultures, languages, races, etc.

But in the split second decision of looking at someone and judging them simply on appearance, that's where I feel like I failed on Wednesday. What else is there to use to judge someone in the blink of an eye? I guess deep down I just long for God's heart and God's eyes as I view people so that I can have discretion and wisdom based on that and not my flawed human perspective.

I still don't feel good about what I did on Wednesday. I feel like God gave me time to evaluate the situation and listen for His voice, and my choice to ignore that is what really bothers me. But thank God for His grace and mercy and forgiveness...for His provision of someone else to help the men in need...for the lesson He's teaching me about reaching out beyond my comfort zone to serve others...and for His protection over all of us.

As I continue to meditate on all of this, I am especially grateful for the verses Chris mentioned: I Corinthians 4:5-7...and also something that my sister-in-law wrote to me: God, after all, is God; and if you are not available, he has a tremendous resource and will meet His will and the needs of others regardless. While this is not an excuse for inaction, God's will does proceed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shame on Me

I blew it today. I had a clear opportunity to be like Jesus--to be Jesus with skin on--to be a good Samaritan...but I passed it by. Or rather I sat quietly in my car hoping the opportunity would quickly pass me by.

It was raining. We were at the bank, and Jeff and Josiah were inside. David and I were in the car waiting for them. A few parking spaces from where we were, there were two young men who, I realized as I kept watching them, were having car problems--apparently, a dead battery. They made several calls on their cell phones, they eventually figured out how to lift the hood of their car, they got out some jumper cables, they stood in the rain and waited, they gestured at several cars going through the lane across from them to come over and help...and meanwhile, I sat and waited with locked doors, thinking that if Jeff returned before they had gotten help, he would be able to help them--in fact, if he was hesitant, I would be zealous in convincing him to help because I'm such a caring person. But I couldn't help them. After all, I don't know how to hook up jumper cables. After all, I had a young child in the car that I needed to protect. After all, I'm a woman and am vulnerable.

Why didn't I just roll down the window and talk with them and offer to move my van so they could use it to jump start their car? Why didn't I inconvenience myself to serve them in such a small way? Why wasn't I like Jesus???

I know the reason. I was blinded by fear and prejudice. I looked at the color of their skin and the bagginess of their clothes, and I decided not to help them. I am so ashamed. I know if it had been a woman, especially a woman of my own skin color, I would not have hesitated to help...and yet I judged those two men simply on external characteristics that don't mean anything. I sat there praying and knowing that God was urging me to act, and I ignored His voice. Shame on me!

Recently, we had problems with the battery in our minivan so I know what it feels like to not have your car start and need a simple jump. I know how miserable it must have been for them to stand in the rain and almost beg passing cars to stop to help them...and watch as they went on by.

You know who finally helped them? A Hispanic man. Through his dark eyes, he sees the world so much differently than me, so much more humbly than me, so much more purely than me.

Oh, God, forgive me; I am so very sorry for my actions today and the horrible heart it revealed. I long to be more like You, to have a heart transplant and live and breathe and move and serve with Your heart and not my own. I need You so desperately...

Josiah Gets the Prize

Josiah finished filling up his job chart today so he got a prize--two prizes, actually, since I had saved a train that Grandma Fisher had bought for him when we were in California. He got that train today--the gold prospector's cars--and then we also gave him Roley, the steamroller from the Bob the Builder series. He can keep himself incredibly entertained with those little vehicles and figurines (which he mysteriously calls figurettes); he's got a great imagination!

His responsibilities on the chart were putting away silverware from the dishwasher, feeding the fish, doing sudoku puzzles, saying memory verses, making his bed, and brushing his teeth. The last category to be finished was making his bed. I usually help him with it, but yesterday and today I "encouraged him" (aka, "made him") do it by himself, to the tune of LOTS of protests yesterday and a few milder protests today. I think we're making progress!

Can of Worms

The legendary can of worms has been opened today...

One of the books we checked out of the library today is called Going West by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier. I give it a hearty thumbs up for several reasons: the honest portrayal of the difficulties early settlers faced as they headed west, the detailed illustrations that give so much more information than the text itself provides (it's enjoyable to spend a lot of time on each page, just looking at the pictures and talking about what's happening), and the happy ending. :)

But, oh my goodness! The same thing that makes it a good book--specifically, the honest portrayal of hardships--has opened a can of worms for Josiah. Since we read it, he has asked a multitude of questions about it.

"What is in that Indian's hand?" -- A tomahawk.
"Why did that man fall off his horse?" -- He died.
"How did he die?" -- The Indian threw the tomahawk and killed him.
" Why is that horse coming back with no rider?" -- His rider died.
"Why is that wagon burning?" -- That man set it on fire to turn the buffalo away.
"Why?" -- Because a buffalo stampede can kill people.
"Is that Indian a good one or a bad one?" -- A good one.
"Is that Indian a good one or a bad one?" -- A bad one.
"Were all the England people [Josiah's way of referring to white settlers] bad?" -- No.
"Were all the England people good?" -- No.
"Did that man drink bad water [some other people in the book drank bad water, got sick, and died]?" -- No, that looks like alcohol.
"What's alcohol?" -- Drinks like wine and beer are alcohol.
"Was that dead Indian a good or bad Indian?" -- I don't know.
"Why is that Indian watching them?" -- I don't know.
"What is he holding?" -- A spear.
"Was there a big war?" -- Well, there were a lot of battles between Indians and settlers.
"Why?" -- The settlers were taking the Indians' land.
"Was that good?" -- Well, (what should I say???) yes and no.
"What does that mean?"

Whew, on and on and on the questions came. We had endless discussions about people being good or bad, what makes them good or bad, how some people in any people group are good and some are bad, how we can't judge them by their group, how and why battles were fought, what kind of weapons were used, etc.

When we get books from the library, I usually read them after I pick them off the shelf to judge whether each book is acceptable and beneficial. With this one, I scanned it, loved the pictures, liked the subject matter, but didn't realize it was quite so REAL. Now I wonder whether I should have gotten it. Of course, I know Josiah has to learn about the harshness of life sometime...but is this the right time??? He's only 4! Now it's too late...he's seen the book, and he will doubtless have numerous questions every time we read it (and judging by past habits, he will randomly bring it up for months after we return it to the library!). But I wonder if I made a mistake?

But how should I go about the process of getting library books? In the heat of the moment, while trying to keep my eyes on both my boys and simultaneously scanning books to determine whether they're OK, it seems difficult to do a good job of both tasks sometimes! Maybe I should make a list before I go of books that I already know are good, and then look for them. But my limited experience with that has seemed even more difficult because I've had to really search (either the computer or the shelves or both) to find certain books, and that takes even more attention away from the boys and onto the books, and David is not quite old enough for me to look away from him for too long. What to do???

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bragging about David

Two incidents happened today that convinced me that not only is Josiah a genius, but so is David!!! OK, I know I'm using the term "genius" a little loosely; but a mother has that right, agreed? :)

One of the incidents occurred at the end of music class (which I referred to in my last post). David was the last child to get a chance to play the drum (not pictured--in this picture, he's playing the resonator bells, in case you didn't know what they are really called!) as everyone sang the goodbye song. He did such a good job of keeping a steady beat; it was amazing!!! And all during the class, he was so quick to imitate and do what the teacher and the other participants were doing--so happy to be involved--so eager to go get rhythm sticks that the teacher was passing out or return the scarf he had used during a song--so cute as he tried to march or hop or do other actions. I was smitten with pride!

Earlier today, we were at the library for story time; and again, he participated so happily, cheerfully, and obediently. After the stories, the children got an opportunity to draw on a piece of paper that will be hung in the lobby of the library next week in honor of National Library Week. There were pens, finger paint, markers, etc.--all kinds of art supplies. David was delighted to hold a blue marker and draw circles--that's right, circles. Is it normal for a child (especially a boy) who is one week shy of his second birthday to be able to draw a real circle??? The librarian was impressed by him! And impressed by his left-handedness. Hey, maybe that's why he's so talented--he's a lefty! :)

Anyway, I have kept my mouth shut (mostly) about these accomplishments today because I didn't want Josiah to feel jealous or less-accomplished. Of course, I told David good job and all that good stuff; but I didn't go on and on about it because I know one of the keys to avoid sibling rivalry is not to heap tons of praise on one child to the detriment of the other child. And knowing Josiah's nature, I know he would probably feel the need to draw attention to himself in some way if he felt like too much attention was being focused on David. So I certainly complimented David but didn't overflow with what I was feeling until I started writing here. In this blog, I can say what I really think; and that is that David is an extraordinary child and such a delight! I'm so proud of him!!!

(As I read back over this, it sounds like I'm perhaps bending over backwards to protect Josiah's self-esteem, maybe more than I should. I don't actually think I am in real life. I know that it's important for him to learn the lesson that the world doesn't revolve around him and that he isn't and doesn't need to be the best in everything. So he did hear me speak highly of David, for sure; I just didn't gush repeatedly about it all as I talked to Jeff or my parents later in the day. This brings up another topic: being "fair" with your kids. To what extent do you try to be fair? When dividing possessions? When dividing time? When giving affirmation? When giving privileges? I know it's impossible to be completely fair all the time; and in fact, it's not necessary. But I also don't want to treat my boys unfairly--in a harmful way. Oh, well, that's too much for my brain to figure out tonight! I'll save it for later...)

Last Day of Music Class

Today was the last day of music class for Josiah. He has been taking Musikgarten classes, and-wow!-I can't say enough good stuff about them! This series of classes was the third one that he's taken, and the lessons were structured around the theme of winter (previously, he's done spring and fall). I'm so grateful for this early training that he's gotten in music and especially for the early exposure to the FUN of music (and movement and rhythm, etc.).
We had originally signed up for Wednesday classes so Jeff could keep David while Josiah and I went to class; but the schedule changed, and we ended up in Tuesday classes, resulting in me taking David with us to class. I had no idea how good that would be!!! It's incredible how much he has picked up and how well he can participate in a class of kids that are older than him. What a fortunate accident! :)

Nine Lives

Let me start by saying I LOVE MY LIFE.


I sometimes think about what I would do if I had nine lives like a cat. :)

Today as I thought about it, I decided to actually write down what I would do in those other lives and see how many choices I really had rolling around in my head. It didn't take long to come up with some options! So, in no particular order, here are some things I would have liked to do with my life, if I didn't already have a life...which I this is kind of a moot point. But just for fun...

1. study to become a nurse, then move to Africa and serve in a desperately poor country where good medical care is incredibly difficult to find

2. pursue a master's degree in music, specifically in accompanying, and see how far I could advance musically in the field of accompanying...ever since my first experience with accompanying when I was a sophomore at EMHS and accompanied the Junior Choir for "This Endris Night" during a Christmas concert, I've been hooked...although I did a fair amount of solo work while getting my degree in music, I've always preferred accompanying...I like to play a supporting role and be an essential, but background, part of making outstanding music, rather than being the one in the spotlight

3. become a doctor in family medicine and take over my dad's medical practice when he retires (if he ever retires!) :)

4. be a flight attendant and travel all over the world...I know it's not always a glamorous life, but even the service part of it appeals to me...from our experience with traveling, I know how much of an impact a kind, friendly person can make to weary, stressed-out travelers; and I like to think I could be that kind of person (maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'd go nuts dealing with grumpy people all the time!)

5. own and run a Bed & Breakfast

6. go back to school and study to become a my role as a women's ministry leader/minister's wife (and simply in my role as a friend), I often felt that I should have had more training in the area of psychology and counseling so that I could help women many times, I felt like I didn't know what to say or how to respond to really HELP women who were going through such difficult circumstances and/or dealing with such powerful emotions; and I wish I could gain more knowledge and wisdom in this area

7. be a librarian...everybody who knows me already knows how much I love to be a librarian and combine a love of books with the opportunity to help people would be so wonderful, I think...of course, I might get fired after the first week for reading too much...the first time I tried to put a book back on a shelf, I'd probably end up sitting down on the floor and reading it first...that's what used to happen when I was told to clean my room as a child :)

8. be involved in missionary work overseas, possibly Bible translation through Wycliffe, or service through Mercy Ships, or any number of other good organizations (although Wycliffe is definitely the front-runner since it has ALWAYS been on my mind, from when I was a young child)

Well, that's 8 lives. So what about the 9th one???

That's easy... I would be married to a wonderful man named Jeff, have two incredible sons named Josiah and David, be a stay-at-home mom, and live in Virginia in the house in which I was raised!!! And this--without a doubt--is the very best life of all, better than I could have dreamed or imagined and better than I deserve. Thank God for His grace; it is the root of it all!

If You Love Me, Let Me Feed Your Fish--Slowly

Feeding our fish is usually Josiah's job. But today, for the very first time, David did it!!! He enjoyed it so much and did a great job, despite the fact that it took him FOREVER to pick up each little ball of food individually and carefully--slowly--drop it in the tank. He savored the process, and I bit my tongue and tried to learn a lesson in patience.

Sometimes I talk with Josiah about the process of growing up and how, as he gets older, he will have new jobs to do and his old jobs will be passed down to David. Whenever we have those conversations, it usually seems somewhat hypothetical and too far in the future to really comprehend. Sometimes these days of early childhood seem to stretch on and on indefinitely in my mind. But today I was reminded that time is passing quickly, and this transfer of responsibility from my older son to my younger one will truly happen--and sooner than I expect. My little one reminded me again to savor the process, just like him.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Fun Times and Family Ties

~ David pointing out Grandma's lovely blue eyes (he likes to stick his fingers behind her glasses and actually touch her eye!)...and the reason he's wearing a hat and gloves inside? Josiah had worn them while playing outside last evening, so of course, David wanted to wear them, too; he is in such an imitative stage now!
~ Isaac and Josiah playing an early morning game of checkers...that's not exactly my activity of choice before breakfast, but I was happy to see them enjoying themselves!
~ David listening to Aunt Lori read a Thomas book (and sing along in her beautiful "I had a solo at Festival" voice!) :)...seriously, Lori does have a gorgeous voice; she even sang in our wedding, and did a fabulous job!