Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye, 2008!

What a way to end a year!

~ With a fire burning fiercely in the faithful woodstove, chasing away the chill of a 17 degree night (despite the cold, in a few minutes, Jeff, Josiah, and David will go out onto the porch to bang pots and pans to welcome in the new year...are they crazy or what?...this is David's first time staying awake until midnight, by the way; and he's almost beside himself with joy) :)

~ With an old, easy-read book (The Song of Ruth by Frank Slaughter, copyright 1954) on my just-finished pile

~ With a Harmonia Sacra singing, an annual New Year's Day tradition, to look forward to tomorrow

~ With a paid bill on the kitchen table, ready to go out in Friday's mail (Jeff is responsible for the vast majority of our bills...I think there are a grand total of two that regularly fall into my lap...but somehow, I still procrastinate terribly about have taken care of this particular bill so promptly gives me quite a sense of accomplishment!)

~ With boxes of treasured maternity clothes scattered around my bedroom, and the delightful job of switching wardrobes begun (hopefully, to be finished tomorrow so the boxes are not still scattered around my room next week!)

~ With a blog award having been given to me from the very kind hearts of Rebekah and Emily!Here are the qualifications for this award:

- Has an inspirational blog.
-Blog is updated at least 2 times each week.
-Shows faith.
-Has a positive attitude on life.
-Makes mistakes.
-Shares real life stories/experiences.
-Enjoys blogging.

Here are the women I am nominating (and I think some of these women aren't really into blog awards...that's fine, of course; there is no compulsion to "play along" or "pass it on" chain-letter guilt coming from my direction!...but I do want these women to know how much I admire and respect them and their blogs):

Renee at A Baker's Dozen - Amazing mom of 13 children...need I say more? :)
Christin at Meandering Through - Real life friend of mine from years ago...our child-bearing lives mirror each other's, except she has girls!
Sally at Honey Run - I also know her from a long time ago, but never knew her as well as I do now!...that's the power of blogging ;)
Debbie at Wisteria and Roses - She always has a unique take on life, and I admire so much the way she celebrates joy and beauty around her.

And now, it's time to bid farewell to 2008. What a sweet, sweet year it's been!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Every Family Has "Stuff"

Bad stuff. Hard stuff. Stuff they wouldn't choose, if they somehow had a choice. Issues that are challenging...painful...heart-rending to deal with.

I've been reminded recently of this basic fact of life--that every family has such issues--as I've spent more time than usual talking with and listening to family and friends during this holiday season...and as I've heard the stories of the "stuff" their particular family is encountering.

Several thoughts stand out to me from all this conversation and contemplation:

1. You don't always get to choose your stuff. In fact, you rarely get to choose it; rather, it's often forced on you by the choices and actions of others whom you cannot control but whose lives affect you because of the bonds of love. You don't really get to choose cancer over depression, or heart disease over Alzheimer's as you age...or perhaps even harder, you don't get to choose it for your parents as they age...and, harder still at times, you don't get to choose what kind of treatment (if any) they pursue for their ailments. You don't get to choose a brother who is jobless over one who is a drunk. You don't get to choose a child with his or her marriage on the rocks over a child who dies in a traffic accident. In many of these situations, no one gets to choose it...but in some situations, there are some very definite choices that lead to undesirable consequences. And yet, you can't make anyone do the right thing. You can, however, suffer along with them when they do the wrong thing. But you can't think, "Oh, our family has so many problems; and if we were just like that family over there, things would be so much better." The truth is, they have stuff, too.

2. It's a good thing we don't know the future. If I knew the hard things that await me in the future, I think it would be nearly impossible to live joyfully in the present. The trials to come would steal virtually every ounce of joy from life now and in the interim. When we marry, and especially when we become parents, we agree to let our heart walk around outside our body; and that's a very vulnerable position for a heart. If I knew now what Josiah (or David or Tobin or baby-in-my-womb) will someday do to hurt my heart, I don't know if I could take it. It's such a relief to leave the future in the only set of hands big enough to hold it: our Creator and Sustainer's.

3. With all of that in mind, I find it even more imperative to constantly remember that each day is a gift. I think this is going to be one of the huge themes of this coming year for me--this remembrance of the infinite treasure to be found in each day, this daily decision to not wish life away, to not look to the future with so much longing that I'm blinded to the daily gems scattered around me. But the hard part about all of this is that sometimes the gems are covered in poop and, consequently, very difficult to recognize. In the midst of the exhausting work of mothering young children, may I never forget to cling to these moments and to thank God for each one of them, knowing that the sands of time are slipping away, never to return.

Jeff told me last night that so many people he meets through the barber shop tell him that the best time of life is when the children are younger than 10 years of age. I don't entirely agree with that since I believe with earnest hope that my children's teen years and young adult years (and older adult years, too!) can be full of joy and laughter and trust and love and respect and deepening, maturing relationship between parent and child. However, I think I understand the point. Now, with our children all at home, we don't have the ache of seeing the empty place at the table. We don't have to wonder where our children are and if they're OK. The obedience issues and attitude problems we deal with now are on a much smaller level than they might be in the future. We glow with joy as we listen to our children pray and hear them sing made-up songs of praise from their hearts to God, and we don't agonize over the one who has detoured away from a relationship with his Heavenly Father. The "stuff" we deal with now, in the lives of our children, is so much smaller than the stuff that may await us in the future (although, of course, we sometimes deal with hard stuff in the lives of other members of our families: parents, siblings, etc.). It really is a golden time; and I pause these days to watch my children more, to lean over their beds an extra time to kiss their sleeping faces; and I want to whisper, "Stay little a while longer, OK?"

As I read back over this, it strikes me as having a pessimistic tone; and yet, that's not my intention. I would, however, feel extremely pessimistic if not for my unshakable trust in God's unimaginable power and unfathomable love for me that moves His heart to exercise His power on my behalf! With that, I walk forward confidently, not being paralyzed by fear about what the future may bring. As the old King James Version that I memorized as a child says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." Death--or things in life which seem even worse than death--cannot rip me from the grip of God's sheltering hand; and with that knowledge, I hold the fear away.

As tears roll down my cheeks now, let me change the subject and mention some of the GREAT stuff we have in our family! About 12 years ago, my brother David was so full of wisdom that he decided to marry Lori (and let me just mention that I knew her before he did, and I knew they should get married before he did!); and one of the fringe benefits of that tremendous decision was the opportunity to get to know Lori's parents, Alan and Jean. A yearly ritual that we look forward to with much anticipation is their annual pilgrimage from the cold of Pennsylvania to the warmth of Florida. Why do we look forward to that (rather than being jealous that we don't get to go to Florida, too?) :) Because they always stop on their way south to spend a night with my parents, and we get to have them here in our home for supper on that night! It's a joy to spend time with them, and we would be sorely disappointed if they changed their route one year and didn't come our way! :)

To end this post on a happy note, here are some pictures of our sweet Tobin tonight...
...first, with Alan (and I love the way Tobin's little hand is resting on Alan's watch; Tobin is quick to find interesting objects like that to touch--and usually, to try to yank off the watch-wearer's arm!)...
...and then with Jean who had started playing peekaboo with him and was making him laugh over and over with simple delight (making some of his hearers think or declare that there is no sound in the world so sweet as a child's laughter)...
...and with all of them together. We're so grateful for these fine folks and are indeed blessed to have them as part of the very good "stuff" in our lives!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Simple Sunday - Extended Family

~ so thankful for the wonderful family time we had today!...thankful for cousins (the ones present in this picture, as well as the absent ones)...thankful that now there are six children on this couch, instead of the five we snapped a picture of last Christmas!
~ also thankful for my brother David and the special relationship we've had through the years...I always have to take a picture of the two Davids in my's fun to compare how they're changed through the last few years!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


...are underway for the second half of our Christmas celebration. Tomorrow my brother and his family from Pennsylvania will be coming to visit for the day, and my niece Sheena and her son Christian will also be here. Yippee!

We're planning a Mexican meal...quasi-Mexican, I suppose, since some of the food items aren't strictly Mexican. Like these tortilla roll-ups I made this evening, for example...not exactly authentic, but oh so yummy!
I never noticed until now how much I dislike the look of them. If you know me well, you know that certain sights just bother me. It's a hard sensation to describe, but I simply get a tiny bit queasy when I see certain things. Certain patterns...certain textures...certain things with bumps and lumps...etc. I've known someone who got grossed out by feeling velvet. I thought that was kind of crazy; but if so, then what am I? :)

If seeing this bothers me so much, then why did I put the picture on my blog? I'm not really sure. Maybe so my sons will remember this strange quirk of mine 50 years from now, and (hopefully) smile affectionately when they do. :)

I've always wanted to meet someone else like me in this area, but I never have. Maybe I'm not the only one in the world afflicted in this way???

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas

It was indeed!

I laughed...I cried...I laughed until I cried (particularly when Jeff was reading the Matthew account of the Christmas story, and was reading from the Bible that had been given to Josiah at the beginning of this school year when all the first-graders in our church were given a new Bible...the--ahem--adult language in it, in regards to Joseph and Mary's relationship was a bit surprising, to say the least...and it was a kids' Bible!).

I thought these must be the best days of our lives, when Jeff and I are surrounded by our young sons and I have one nestled in my womb, when my parents are here and can fully participate with my family in our celebrations. One of these days, there will be an empty spot, whether through death or someone taking a trip or one of the boys growing up and leaving home or... But for now, every place is filled, and I am filled with gratitude for that!

The gift I was so very eager to give was this one below: the first volume of Life on Sylvan Drive, printed out in book form and given to my parents. I knew they would love it, and they certainly did. They can hardly wait for the next installment, but unfortunately it looks like it will be a while until that happens because I just discovered this morning that Blurb's system and Blogger's system can't communicate right now, so there is an indefinite delay in Blurb's ability to slurp my blog into its system. Boo hoo! Guess I'll have to look around the Internet and see if there's another company out there that will work with Blogger. Meanwhile, my parents can savor the feel of a real book in their hands as they read my words. There's no fan like a parent, I tell ya! :)
I gave Jeff clothes; and to be perfectly honest, they were clothes I got at various thrift stores. They are in excellent condition, and Jeff loves me even more because I'm a tightwad and don't waste money. We're two peas in a pod when it comes to thrift shopping! :) Clothes are a boring gift though; but the surprise get-away we recently had at a Bed & Breakfast was also part of his Christmas gift, and that was more exciting than new shirts!
One thing that struck me this year was how much Josiah was reading. Last year, he was not nearly this advanced in his ability to read; but wow, what progress he's made in a year! He was reading labels, directions on boxes, names on packages, all kinds of stuff. I'm so proud of him! He told me this morning that his two favorite gifts were the marble run set (shown later) and this giving bank that my parents got for him.
Tobin enjoyed lots of snuggle time--here, on Grandma's lap, he practiced his kazoo skills (not a new gift, but a hand-me-down toy from Josiah and David that Tobin enjoys sucking and chewing on these days)...
...and lots of time on Grandpa's lap. Grandpa helped him open his gifts, all of which came from thrift stores. It is truly amazing what high-quality, excellent-condition items can be found at thrift stores. Tobin liked this learning bug (and David played with it a lot today during his quiet time; I knew the older boys would have to check out Tobin's gifts!)...
...and this soft fabric book about sea creatures (probably the gift Tobin has paid the most attention to in the last 24 hours)...
...and this rain stick. Actually, I think I got the rain stick for myself because I love the soothing sound it makes...and being able to see the pretty beads inside this one is a bonus. :)
David was delighted with his gifts and usually wanted to pause and look completely through each one before he went on to the next one. At the end of our gift-giving time, he had a pile of a few unopened gifts beside him, after all the rest of us were long done opening ours, because he took so long with each one--which is a good thing, of course!
This year I took Josiah shopping by himself to buy a gift for David from Josiah, and also took David one time to get something from him for Josiah. I think it's helpful for the boys to have the experience of giving something that they picked out, rather than simply receiving. It's important for them to learn the joy of giving early on in their lives, and I think this simple exercise did indeed help in that area.
David was thrilled with this Preschool Fun book that Josiah got for him, and I'm thrilled that Josiah wants to be David's teacher as he does this book. :) I remember an educator speaking once about the importance of children having someone younger that they can be the teacher for; they learn so much by stepping into that role, as well as feeling proud of themselves for being able to do that.
Here is the Marble Run set that Jeff ordered off Ebay for the boys. It was definitely a hit! They played with it so much yesterday, and again today. It brought back lots of good memories for me of a similar set that my brother David and I had as children and all the fun we had with it.
I had written previously that we weren't having anyone over until Sunday, the 28th; that's when my brother David and his family from Pennsylvania are coming down for our family Christmas. However, as it turned out, we did have two extra guests with us yesterday, and I'm so glad we did! My friend Judy, who lives in North Carolina, happened to be in the area and available to come over yesterday since her family get-together isn't until this weekend, too; we all had a great time with her, and she hit it off great with the boys--getting down on their level to play, literally, and just generally having a blast with them! Judy and I have been friends since elementary school; she's definitely my longest-lasting friend...hmm, that sounds funny...let's see, she's the friend that I've had the longest and stayed in the most contact with through the years. Make sense? Anyway, she knows things about me that very few other people do...and she still likes me enough to come over. Amazing! :)
Our other guest was Jane Burkholder, a friend of ours from church, a woman whom we all admire for her gentleness, faithfulness, strength, and a host of other good qualities. When we were sitting down to eat, David saw that I had not arranged for Jane to sit beside him; and he said several times, "But I wanted to sit beside she!" "Her," I said, "you wanted to sit beside her?" "Yes," he said mournfully. :)
Today has been a wonderful day-after-Christmas for us. New clothes have been worn by Jeff, new toys have been played with by Josiah and David and Tobin, new books have been read to the boys, a new figurine has been admired repeatedly by me (Cherish by Willow Tree--a perfect gift for Jeff to give to me this year). And in my energetic spurt this morning, accompanied by zeal to bring order back to our home and life, I managed to completely organize Tobin's room, getting out the boxes of maternity clothes I'll soon (very soon!) be needing from under his crib where they'd been stored, packing away his 6-9 month clothes, unpacking his 18 month clothes, etc. His room seemed as good a place as any to start my joyful work this fine morning!

To finish up this looong post, I'll just mention again that it really was a wonderful Christmas. Truly wonderful. And we still have another celebration to look forward to in two more days!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


There is so much I could be doing right now. There is also so much I could be writing about. Preparations for Christmas, for example...or the fact that I threw up last night (which I'll blame on pregnancy, rather than illness, since I feel fine today and felt fine yesterday, too, until about 5 minutes before I threw up)...or the blog award that Charree graciously gave me some time ago and which I planned to write about when I had some extra time (which never came, but regardless, I am very grateful for this award, and I've enjoyed visiting Charree's blog and having a peek into her life...she's a very talented young wife, miles ahead of where I was at her stage in life...she's inspiring to me!).
Or I could mention this "gingerbread" house that Josiah made with Jeff's help from a kit Josiah received as a gift from his Sunday school teachers. I put gingerbread in quotes because after Josiah remarked last evening about how he liked the brown pieces more than the icing or candy, I grew suspicious and asked him for a small bite. He kindly agreed; and after I tasted it, I knew why he liked it so much. It's sugar: just pressed sugar! I'd rather have that than gingerbread any day. :)
But what I really want to write about today is dreams. I've had a few recently that were vivid enough to stick with me, even after awakening, and I want to jot them down before I forget them.

First, in the early morning hours of December 9, I woke up from a particularly disturbing dream that David was sick--very sick. In the dream, I remember blood pouring from him, and this strange white substance coming out of his head from around his eyes. In the dream, my dad was acting as David's doctor and gave us the diagnosis. "Leukemia," he said calmly, as if we had known all along what was wrong and thus wouldn't feel any shock. "Leukemia." Later that day, I wasn't terribly surprised when David threw up. Despite my dream, I knew it wasn't leukemia and wasn't worried at all about David...until some days later when he was sick again, but this time in the middle of the night when fears are always bigger and I am always less rational. I will admit to Googling "leukemia symptoms" in the middle of the night that time!

More recently, I had a dream that the old church bench in our kitchen was completely cleared off. It is quite a Hot Spot, collecting various items that conveniently get dropped there and never get put away; and for quite some time, I had not been disciplined enough to get it 100% cleaned off. But in that dream, I thought, "Wow, that bench looks so nice!" When I awoke the next day, I got busy and cleared everything off it so that I could stand back and admire it again. Wish I had motivating dreams like that more often! :)

Another recent dream was that there were ants in the kitchen, especially around the dishwasher area. This wouldn't have been so unusual if it had been summertime because we do have pesky ants from time to time during warmer weather. But in my dream, I was astonished that we had ants because, after all, it's winter! I could hardly believe my eyes! I was glad to wake up from that dream and realize that it wasn't true...that yes, it's still winter...and one of the positives about winter is the absence of ants in the house! :)

Interestingly to me, I haven't had a dream I can remember about our baby. Jeff has, of course--the twin dream--but I haven't yet; or if I did, I don't remember it.

Last night, however, I did have another vivid dream. In this one, Jeff and I with Josiah and David (no Tobin in this dream) were leaving to go north to my grandparents' home in Pennsylvania (my mother's parents). Of course, they have both died (in real life), and the farm was sold, so no one we know lives there now. But in my dream, it was still their farm. We were already planning to go or perhaps were even on the way when word came of an approaching snowstorm, so catastrophic that thousands of people were fleeing from it. It was a snowstorm from the south which is odd; and as we were traveling north, it was chasing us. We started out in our car in good weather, then it started snowing and the roads became slick and we slid through one intersection after the stoplight turned red (but fortunately, the traffic in the other direction had not started moving yet, so we didn't get into a wreck), then we got into an area where it hadn't started snowing yet, but as we came around a corner to approach a bridge to cross a river, we saw that the snow had already arrived there. At this point, we must have been forced to abandon our car, maybe because of the press of people all around who were escaping via the same route we were taking. We started walking, and we did have a child's red wagon to pull. At this point, I was in front (with Josiah, I think) pulling the wagon; and Jeff was behind, followed by David who started wailing from fear of being left behind. It was difficult to stay together with all the people around us. I paused as Jeff picked David up and as the people surged around us, thankful for the wagon in which we could put David so he could ride. But that wagon was heavy to pull! In the next scene, we had arrived at my grandparents' farm; but no one was around--not my parents, not my grandparents, no one. I had a sense though that they (my parents and grandparents) would all return sometime. We were in the house, but I told Jeff that I MUST take a wire basket (the basket used, in real life, to collect eggs from the henhouse, I believe) and go down to the cellar under the house to bring more canned food into the house before the storm really got bad. It was bad already, but I knew I just had to be prepared; and with no direct entrance from the house into the cellar, it would be better to go now than later when the storm was worse. I think we were looking around for a rope that I could tie to the front door to hang onto so that I wouldn't get lost going from the house to the cellar and back (sounds like something from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book!). And then I woke up...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gone Forever

The farmer who owned the calves came this morning to get them--finally--FINALLY! We love having animals in the pasture in the spring and summer when the grass is growing tall and lush and we need something to keep it eaten down. But by late fall, and especially by winter, we are more than ready for them to be gone. They make an absolute mess of the pasture when it rains, they nose around for grass and leaves wherever they can find them (dislodging the intricate system Jeff has devised for keeping the dogs in the pasture!), and they're old enough and big enough to be ornery.

As they rode away this morning, I thought with a bit of nostalgia, "Well, we'll never see them again." So goodbye, Bartimaeus--who had some sort of vision problem, if not total blindness (hence the name), and who surprised us by turning out to be a girl after we named her. Goodbye, bull calves, who once got pepper-sprayed by Jeff when he was in the pasture plugging a hole in the fence and the calves charged him (an incident which made both my neighbor Wilma and I laugh hilariously, but which Jeff didn't find so funny). And goodbye, my favorite one of all, the all-black, female, gentlest one--you were the beauty queen.

You'll be missed--not by me, but by our dogs, who liked to give you a hard time by snatching bites of your food and sometimes even charging you (the nerve!). It was fortuitous that Jeff snapped this picture of tender animal camaraderie yesterday when we arrived home from our church's morning service. We didn't know at the time that the calves would be taken today, but now they're gone forever, and the dogs are supreme masters of the pasture again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Simple Sunday - Josiah's Art

~ thankful for Josiah's love of paper, pencil, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, COLOR!...thankful for his creativity...thankful for the good artistic genes he got from the Fisher side (because obviously, they didn't come from the Huffman side!) :)...and especially thankful for one of his latest works of art--this Christmas tree, with its rows and rows of colored lights and its angels winging through the air as well as perched on the top, is my favorite piece he's ever done...something about it makes me happy whenever I see it

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Sun Came Out Today...

...literally and figuratively.

After a rainy morning and some recent cloudy days, it was nice to see the sun shining brightly this afternoon. I was sitting on the couch, reading Christmas books to Josiah and David when I happened to look up and notice that even though it wasn't raining on the front side of the house, it was raining behind the house...but the sun was still shining. Josiah immediately piped up and said that there should be a rainbow. I got up from the couch to look towards the east; and sure enough, there it was--just a piece of one, but enough to brighten our day and put excitement in our hearts.
The recent clouds outside have only mirrored the clouds inside, it seems, as our family has gone through the longest, most drawn-out spell of sickness we've ever had to deal with. I'm grateful that none of the illness was truly serious--when dealing with sickness, I always think, "It could be so much worse"--but for several weeks, it seems like we've been passing the germs back and forth to each other, but never getting rid of them. As soon as one person gets better, another person (or two or three) gets worse.

First, it was Josiah and my mother and me.

Then, it was Tobin.

Next, David.

All three boys.

Jeff. (Don't miss his comment on this post about "baptizing the restaurant toilet with vomit"...he has a way with words, doesn't he?) :) He even stayed home from work yesterday, something that he "never" does.

And all along the way, I've had plenty of days of simply not feeling great.

If you'd only read our blog during the past month, you'd think we were a sickly family. I'm surprised I don't have health "experts" emailing me to tell me that if we'd just "take more vitamins...grow our own wheat...never eat at McDonald's again...remember to make the boys wash their hands every single time after feeding the calves...avoid dairy products completely...(you fill in the blank)...and especially, never eat a chocolate raisin from Costco again!" we'd be fit as a fiddle! Actually, we're usually quite healthy, believe it or not. We've just had a streak of sickness that has lasted longer than we would have liked (or would have even thought possible, a month ago!).

Today was a good day though, with all five of us feeling basically well--hooray for that! In fact, I've gone almost 24 hours without having to clean up anyone's diarrhea (David being the latest offender in that category). I even had a larger-than-normal-for-this-stage-of-pregnancy portion of energy today. Life is looking up! :)

Thankfully, my spirits have been good this whole week though; and I think a huge factor in that is my surrender to it all. When person after person kept getting sick, I sort of just threw up my hands, plopped on the couch, and laughed at how ridiculous it all was. That ability to not fight it but to laugh at it goes a long way in preserving a joyful heart. :)

Another thing that helped was cancelling all the invitations we had extended (or were thinking about extending) to people to come over for dinner or whatever. Since we're not having anyone over, if the house still has a faint smell of vomit, if the dust on the unvacuumed floor is an inch thick, if dear old FlyLady hasn't been seen around these parts for weeks, it's really OK. Really.

I still have a week and a day until any guests are due to arrive for the holidays; and that's plenty of time to air out the house, try to figure out how to use the vacuum again, and even do a Swish & Swipe or two!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hello, Gorgeous!

All is well!

We saw a baby about an inch long (the perfect measurement for this stage), a beautifully-beating heart (178 bpm), and arms and legs that actually moved around! We did not, however, see twins, thus proving that Jeff's dream was not truly prophetic...and enabling me to breathe a huge sigh of relief since I wasn't at all sure how in the world I would handle twins. :)

We also saw a subchorionic hematoma (a blood clot somewhere between the placenta or uterus)...or, rather, the skillful ultrasound technician did, and then pointed it out to us. I wouldn't have had the first clue what it was. It, apparently, was the source of the blood, but doesn't seem to be of any major concern. The article I linked to for general information's sake is full of much more worry and gloom about it than the professionals we saw today seemed to be.

I am full of joy and hope and RELIEF! What a blessing to have access to an ultrasound to so quickly put my mind and heart at ease!

~ By the way, this is my second post today. Two posts in one day! I haven't done that in a while! :)

The Surprise...

...was great! I had arranged to have my mother stay overnight with the boys so that I could steal Jeff away for the night. I showed up at the barbershop at 5:30 PM, informed him that I was kidnapping him, and that he must follow me. He was a bit surprised, to say the least. :) From the shop, we first went to By the Side of the Road, a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, to check in...then out to dinner at Wood Grill Buffet...then back to the B&B where we watched the movie Cinderella Man (a really great movie, by the way) in our suite. Staying at a B&B is something we have occasionally indulged in throughout our married life; it's probably our favorite extra-special date. However, we are at the stage of life where it just doesn't happen very often! The last time we got to slip away to a B&B was a year and a half ago, to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Nothing ever seems to go quite like I plan it though, and last night's surprise was no exception to that rule. I won't mention everything that went wrong, but here are three examples.

1. I was not remembering AT ALL that Jeff had a 6:00 AM meeting this morning to plan our church's worship service for Sunday; when planning this whole event, that thought never even entered my head once...needless to say, Jeff didn't remember either, until around 9:15 when we were eating a delicious breakfast at the B&B...oops, missed that one!

2. With the boys' recent sickness, we weren't sure how they would do so we prayed specifically that they would stay healthy during our time away and not cause extra challenges for my parents to deal with. We should have prayed for my mom's health since she was the one who started feeling sick in the middle of the night! :(

3. I had some bleeding last night. This morning I called SWHC and got an appointment for an ultrasound this afternoon, so we'll be able to find out what's going on. You can imagine how my thoughts raced in the middle of the night to every imaginable possible scenario. It took me a while to fall asleep. The good news: we get to have an ultrasound, and if all is well, it will be wonderful to have a peek at our tiny one! The bad news: well, there was blood. Nuff said.

Anyway, let me end with some happier thoughts. Both Josiah and David were eager to help with tree-decorating this year so the bottom half of the tree got richly-ornamented. There was LOTS of ornament clumping, which is the name of the game when it comes to kids' decorating style, I suppose (and Josiah exemplified it well last year). When we first pulled out the ornaments this year, David kept calling them "convertiments," and I laughed every time he said it. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Surprise Up My Sleeve

I've got something wonderful planned for someone wonderful, and I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! If all goes well, by the time this posts (I LOVE the "Post Options" feature with Blogger so I can set the time for later!), the plan will be well underway. I so hope it all works out!

Meanwhile, here is a picture Jeff snapped of our big boys, saws in hand, at the Christmas tree farm a few weeks ago (the same one we went to last year, which I wrote about here...I just glanced back at it and had to laugh when I saw what Lisa wrote in her comment...well, yeah, we didn't think we'd have a tired pregnant lady this year, but God thought otherwise!). :) We were planning to all go for a whole family outing, but Tobin wasn't feeling well so he and I stayed here and kept the home fires burning while the others set off on their expedition.
Don't Josiah and David look so serious and determined and mighty? :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Simple Sunday - Secrets

~ thankful for this time of year when secrets abound and are oh-so-delicious to ponder...numerous times a day, I find myself thinking, "I can hardly wait until they see their gift!...I can hardly wait until he finds out what I got for him!...I can just hardly wait!"...I'm as bad as a kid--not so much for the gifts I will receive (although I'm pretty eager to open them as well), but for the gifts I will give :)
"Every good and perfect gift is from above..." - James 1:17

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Comfort Food

My parents are our Costco connection--always willing to pick up something for us from there whenever they are going--and then we pay them back later. It's a beautiful system. :)

I'm sure they weren't too surprised when my latest Costco order included this...

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Am Well...

...unfortunately, my boys are not. David's intestinal virus of Tuesday did indeed spread throughout the household, with David himself having a recurrence of vomiting in the early morning hours yesterday, then Josiah getting it around suppertime, then Tobin--the sweet, tiny thing--being afflicted by it around 11:00 PM last night. It was Tobin's first time with a throw-up sickness...but not his last, I'm sure. Another first: within 24 hours, I got to clean up vomit from all three of my boys!

Despite this, I feel calm and peaceful, if a little tired! We've cancelled or are cancelling almost everything in life right now, so the only thing I have to focus on is taking care of the boys. There is also the small matter of taking care of myself, so for that area, I simply called my wonderful mother this morning and asked her if she could come up and read/play games with Josiah and David so that I can grab some sleep--something I haven't seen much of during the past two nights--while Tobin is still sleeping this morning. She's here already, and I'm on my way to snooze...

Meanwhile, someone very special in our family had a birthday!!! Jeff turned 38 yesterday, and didn't seem to mind that I didn't have time to make a cake for him, he made his own birthday dinner (taquitos--always his job), and repeatedly during the meal, Josiah was throwing up, David was saying, "my tummy hurts!" and Tobin was crying (we thought it was teething...guess we were wrong). After supper, he took all three boys upstairs for a bath; and when I went up to get Tobin out so I could nurse him and put him in bed, Josiah and David were sitting in the bath, wide-eyed and tummy woes forgotten, as Jeff regaled them with stories about the Hobbit. What a birthday! What a man!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Making a List...

...and checking it twice...and crossing things off! Hallelujah for finishing something!

It's such an energizing feeling to have stressful things be OVER with; and I realize that as stress leaves my life, my dear friend optimism returns. She's been poking her head around the corner every now and then, as if to check out the state of things in my house and my heart. I try to make her feel welcome so she'll stick around, but things still feel a bit tenuous. Two steps forward, one step back is often the way life seems to be these days...or even one step forward, two steps back. It still seems difficult to get ahead, and there's always a good reason why.

Like today, for example, David was mildly complaining of a tummyache during quiet playtime this afternoon, so I tucked him in bed for a nap and he snoozed while I taught a piano lesson to my one student Lily (a model student if there ever was one!). It wasn't too long after the lesson was over and Lily was gone that David woke up vomiting. Ugh. I guess he really did have a tummyache.

There went my agenda...hello, snuggle time on the couch! It probably wasn't too big of a secret to Jeff that I was very much enjoying sitting on the couch this evening with David cuddled up next to me, stroking his forehead, while Jeff changed Tobin's poopy diaper, fed him yogurt and sweet potatoes, made a little supper, attended to Josiah's various needs, etc. When I told David that I had to go upstairs to get Tobin, he begged me to not leave him. Yes! That was exactly what I wanted to hear! ;)

Here are pictures of David on a happier, healthier day, shortly after I got my new camera and was experimenting with its features. So much to learn with that camera! So little time to sit and read the manual! Someday...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Simple Sunday - Three Generations

~ thankful for intergenerational living...with our three generations living so close together, we have plenty of special moments like this grandmother/grandson snuggle time
~ also thankful for the response to the S.O.S. I sent out in my Friday post...before I even left the computer that night, the encouraging comments from Sally and Julie came in and were so parents responded immediately, too (well, the next morning as soon as they read that post), with Dad insisting that he take us all out for dinner today (with the choice of restaurant being mine!) so that neither Mom nor I would have to cook, and Mom doing load after load after load of my laundry to help me dig out from under that burden, as well as having Josiah and David come down to their house yesterday morning to watch movies (The Velveteen Rabbit and Animal Babies--very educational!) so that I could catch my breath and do some work around the house...but most of all, Jeff was my rock (as always) and helped me think through our schedule and eliminate some very good and worthwhile (but completely overwhelming) is seeming a bit brighter already; and for that, I give thanks!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dear Optimism

I miss you.

You used to be my almost-constant companion, filling me with energy and enthusiasm, making even cloudy days seem sunshiny-bright, causing me to easily live up to my nickname, "Happy."

But now, you're gone.

I don't know if these troublesome pregnancy hormones drove you away; is it impossible for you to coexist with them? Maybe you're not getting enough exposure to the sun these days, and that's why you left. If so, I don't blame you. Perhaps it's all the noise from my three boys; were they too hard on your eardrums, and you had to flee?

Whatever the reason for your absence, life is certainly different without you. I drag my way through each day, chiding myself for my lack of gratitude and joy, reminding myself to just hold on--things will get better soon; they must. How can a woman so blessed feel so blah?

Please come back soon. I need the strength of hope to fill my days again.

I'll be waiting with open arms for you.

Your lonely friend,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Wouldn't Know...

...from these pictures I took yesterday morning, but Tobin has been sick for the past few days. The night before last was particularly rough, with a number of pain-cry wakings--something that Tobin never does. He seems to be getting better though, and just has a bit of a runny nose left. The wonderful thing is that during daylight hours, Tobin was basically his normal cheerful self...the dear boy made it hard to believe that anything was really wrong with him.

Tobin also managed to squeeze out another new tooth; his second popped through the gum exactly a week after his first. Now I can't call him my "One-Tooth Wonder" anymore. "Two-Teeth Wonder" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Speaking of calling Tobin something, David has given Tobin a new nickname: Bobin. I have no idea why he calls him that, but he's been doing it for a while so it seems to have some permanence to it.

As for me, most of the time he's still "Tobin Bear." I may still be calling him that when he's 50.

Monday, December 1, 2008

7 Weeks

I've made it to 7 weeks, 2 days; and I'm feeling hope--what a sweet sensation! When I miscarried before Tobin's pregnancy, I was 7 and 1/2 weeks along when I found out for sure that we were going to lose that baby; but I had been having danger signs for a number of days before that so it wasn't such a huge shock. I know that with this pregnancy, getting past 7 weeks is no "magic sign," indicating that all will go well in the future; but admittedly, there is an emotional sense of relief that comes from passing this milestone. I've had a few days of anxiety--most notably, last Monday when my fear made me a very unpleasant person to live with. I didn't like who I was on that day. Since then, things have seemed easier and my emotions more in balance, making life much better not only for me, but also those around me!

When I shared my concern last Monday with Jeff and my parents, they all encouraged me to take yet another pregnancy test (since I happened to have a few unused ones lying around!) for the reassurance that would provide. Before they even suggested that, I had done so. :) This one was an immediate and strong "YES" which was so nice to see after the vague, yeah-maybe-you-have-some-pregnancy-hormones-in-your-body tests that the first three turned out to be. For memory's sake, here is a picture I had taken a few weeks ago of those nebulous three, along with number 4 that was clear. I haven't taken a picture of number 5, but the fact that I felt the need to do 5 pregnancy tests made me wonder if any woman ever does just one. :)
Not surprisingly, the question, "Are you hoping for a girl?" has come up already. My answer hasn't changed since I was pregnant with Tobin! But it did catch me off guard recently when a friend from church asked, "Are you hoping for a..." and I "knew" she was going to say girl...but she said, "BOY?" Then I remembered that she, a mother of three girls, has said several times that she would quickly be ready to have another baby if she could guarantee that it was a girl. Since she would love to have four of the same gender, she assumed I would want the same. It made me smile. :) (The other comment that surprised me recently was when someone asked, "So are you going to get your tubes tied after this?" I wasn't offended, since it came from someone close to me, but I did think it was funny.)

Speaking of gender, Josiah has declared that he wants another brother so they can wrestle. :) I think the last thing David said was that he would like a sister, but I expect his answer to change regularly between now and when we find out! Very early on, Jeff had a dream that we had identical twin girls; and he energetically woke me out of a deep sleep, asking, "What do you think of twin girls???" as if we were choosing the make and model of a car we had decided to order. In his dream, their names were Megan and ______ (the girl name we've had chosen FOREVER); and they were as opposite as night and day. If one liked pink, the other chose blue. If one thought it was cold, the other was sure it was hot. And so on and so on... We'll wait and see if his dream was prophetic or not (his dream very early in my 3rd pregnancy apparently was; he dreamed I had a miscarriage--but didn't tell me that until after I had it--and, consequently, his heart was prepared for that eventual reality); but oh dear, I'm not sure what I'll do if it's true! ;)

One of the thoughts I've had during this pregnancy is, "But I've just done this!" Tobin's pregnancy is still so near in time and in memory that I haven't forgotten the more uncomfortable parts of the process. When I think too much about the future, I grow concerned. I have to remind myself OFTEN to simply take life one day at a time. Over and over I tell myself that this tiny baby isn't taking any additional time--yet. Life can just go along like normal, and I can devote my time to my regular duties, and nothing has changed that. I'm really not sure if that's exactly true, particularly when I consider the fatigue-of-early-pregnancy factor; but it's comforting to pretend that's true anyway. And I do think it's mostly true!

The best quote I've heard recently about pregnancy fatigue is from my friend Julie by way of my friend Misty's blog: it's like having liquid sleep running through your veins. So true, and I've learned by now that if I merely sit for three minutes or so--especially on our couch by the woodstove--I will have a nearly irresistible urge to fall asleep.

Other than that, I'm feeling well with only slight feelings of "uh, my stomach doesn't feel very good." I'm learning again that keeping some food in my stomach helps to chase those feelings away, so I'm in the grazing mode. So far today, I've had three meals with one snack in between. I've given up weighing myself consistently. :) Oh, I'm sure I'll start up again one of these days, but for now it seems better to not pay too much attention to the scale.

There is a beautiful song that I've loved ever since I was pregnant with Josiah, "The Love that I Bear" by Michael Card. Some of the phrases from that have been running through my head repeatedly today; I think it's an appropriate soundtrack for this stage of pregnancy. Here are the words...

I sing of the life that I bear
I sing to the one who’s inside of me
Whose face is familiar
Though I’ve never seen
Whose life lies ahead
Like a wonderful dream.

I sing of the love that I bear
I sing to the Spirit indwelling me
Alive deep inside me
As surely, I know
As my baby is living and grows.

Passion and pain
Come together the same
As the flesh and the blood
Come by way of one love
Sing then to life
And of love come alive
So all that is darkness will die.

Alive deep inside me
As surely, I know
As my baby is living and grows.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Simple Sunday - Jeff

~ thankful for Jeff, for all of the reasons I've mentioned this month...and SO MANY more!

To finish up my 30 Days Thankful series, I need to backtrack a bit, back to last Wednesday...

Day 26
- I'm thankful that Jeff shredded some Swiss cheese for me on this night, when I was up late getting ready for our Thanksgiving trip the next day. Shredding cheese has always been one of the jobs that he's been eager to do for me, and I appreciate very much this act of service that makes me feel loved. And besides, he's quite a bit faster than me when it comes to shredding cheese, so it only makes sense that I would always ask him to do this job, right? ;)

Day 27
- I'm thankful for Jeff doing so much of the driving on this day, as we traveled about 3 hours each way to visit my brother's family. It was a long day, but Jeff safely drove us home on this night as I was deep into dreamland, sharing a pillow with Josiah in the backseat. By the time we got in the car to come home, I was so tired that I felt like I just couldn't drive home. It's a good thing I didn't have to. :)
~ Jeff and Tobin on Thanksgiving Day
Day 28 - I'm thankful that Jeff loves winter. I'm discovering that I dislike winter more and more as I get older, but I'm challenged--in a good way--by Jeff's love for it. When I want to complain about being cold or having to get the boys bundled up before we go outside or getting chilly, wet fingers while watering the animals, I remember Jeff's appreciation of the fresh, crisp air of winter...and that helps me stop my grumpy words before they leave my mouth--most of the time, anyway!

Day 29
- I'm thankful for Jeff's ability to "roll with the punches" and adapt to changing situations. When he came home from work yesterday, instead of a hot meal on the table and a family waiting to gather around, he found the neighbor girls here (while their parents were hunting in a nearby woods), a mess of books and toys strewn about, even more noise than usual(!), and no supper ready. Rather than express frustration, he simply got to work, making part of our supper, and patiently waited until things got back to "normal" again. And all of that after a long day at work!

Day 30
- There is so much more that I could say! Today I was reflecting on how Jeff does so many things excellently. He has so many roles--and fulfills them effectively. As I observed him today, I saw someone who fed his youngest son and dressed him...someone who had stimulating conversation with the retired English professor who was our guest for dinner today...someone who read a chapter of Mountain Born to two of his sons before they all fell asleep together for a nap (a Sunday afternoon tradition for us--Fisher Family Naptime!--although I didn't get one today because of a rehearsal for which I had to prepare)...someone who unselfishly supports me in my music and other endeavors...someone who had the knowledge and willingness to fix our problematic toilet this afternoon...someone who has made it his pursuit to learn as much about the Bible as he can. Most of all, he's the one who brings joy to my heart with his love and tenderness. I'm so grateful for the friendship we have...for the romantic adventure we continue to live...for the gift of God that he is to me. I had high hopes for my marriage to Jeff; but truly, being married to him is even better than I imagined!

Friday, November 28, 2008

We Gave Thanks... Pennsylvania this year, celebrating the holiday in my brother's home. I was personally very thankful for my sister-in-law being the hostess since, at this stage of life, it seemed easier to take some food and pack everyone up and go somewhere, rather than have a big dinner here!

We had a wonderful time, as we always do when we get together with them. I didn't take the time to snap as many pictures as I would have liked because I was just enjoying the fellowship so much; but at the end of the day, I discovered a random assortment of images on my camera, including these pictures...
...of the place cards that my nephews and niece made for everyone.
Twelve of us gathered around this table, and five of the old-enough-to-be-unsupervised children sat at another table in the kitchen, and one baby--Tobin--rolled around on the floor or got passed from one set of arms to another.
I thought often of the fact that last Thanksgiving, Tobin was still in my womb, still virtually an unknown person to me. Sure, I knew he existed...I knew the way his kicks felt...I knew that he occasionally hiccuped...I knew he was growing and getting ready to come forth. But I didn't know him, didn't know what he looked like or what his voice sounded like or that his hair would constantly stand up and refuse efforts to be plastered down. I hadn't looked into his beautiful blue eyes, I hadn't seen his smile light up my heart, or heard his laughter break out as I tickled him. Even though pregnancy is a time of deep connection, it still doesn't compare to the depth of knowing that I have with Tobin now. Of all that I know about Tobin, the thing that stands out is how much of a gift he is. He's our Tobin Treasure.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Must Be Dreaming

This afternoon an angel appeared on my doorstep and GAVE ME A CANON REBEL! I am in complete shock and have almost been rendered speechless. I knew this friend of mine was dropping by today, and I looked forward to seeing her. But I'm not exaggerating when I say that never in a million years would I have guessed that she would have given me such an extravagant gift. I am over the moon with joy about this and want to do nothing else but take picture after picture after picture, stopping only to read more in the manual, then take more pictures to learn and experiment and get used to this new camera.

I have SO MUCH more to learn, but it didn't take me long to fall head over heels in love with the Canon Rebel. Actually, I think this picture was all it took...
It was so very easy to take this picture with my new camera--yet seemed an impossible feat with my old one. To get the focus on just one ball of cookie dough, to have the blurred background, to do all of that in poor lighting--I'm just in awe.
Jeff was working on the computer downstairs this evening, but kept hearing me take pictures in the kitchen. He knew I was supposed to be working hard to get ready for Thanksgiving, so he had to tease me about not getting my work done because of being so distracted by the camera. I assured him that I was only taking pictures when I was waiting to take a batch of cookies out of the oven. I wasn't wasting time; really I wasn't! :)
In addition to taking multiple pictures of the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I baked to take to my brother's house in Pennsylvania tomorrow, I also took plenty of pictures of other random objects. Decorations on the wall...the stairs...a canister of straws...candles...a plastic cup...
...and even Tobin's toys. The boys were all in bed, or I would have made them be my models!

I still can't believe this really happened today. Tonight I am giving thanks for the completely unexpected, over-the-top generosity that was shown to me today! WOW!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The News

I'm only writing this post tonight because I said I would--NOT because I, in any way, feel inspired. Today was a good day--don't get me wrong. It was much better than yesterday, and I'm grateful for that. But I'm just so tired. All my creativity vanished like the water from the tub after the boys' bath tonight. It's just gone.

Anyway...the news. I didn't mean to have that much build-up about it or make it seem like such a huge thing. In fact, after Misty's comment today on the previous post, I've been racking (or "wracking"--a quick Google search didn't convince me of how it should be spelled) my brain, trying to think of what she thinks the good news might be. Obviously, it's not a pregnancy announcement. I didn't win the lottery because I didn't play. I didn't get a job promotion because I "don't work." :) We didn't buy a new car. None of our children is getting married. I didn't receive an all-expense-paid trip to Jerusalem. Hmmm...I just can't think what might be in her head. :)

But, here is the news: Tobin got his first tooth!!!

Surprised? Feeling let-down? Not all you imagined it to be? I'm so sorry; I'll try to be more careful with my words next time so I don't cause undue excitement. :)

In any case, I was very excited to notice a different look to his mouth yesterday when I was feeding him his oatmeal; and sure enough, when I rubbed his gum, I could clearly feel his sharp little tooth sticking up. It's his bottom right one, and I didn't even realize it was coming because he had not been abnormally fussy at all during the last several days. He continues to be an easy-going little fellow, even when it comes to teething. What a blessing!

Day 25 - We spent some time with Jeff at the barbershop today, and I was reminded of how extraordinarily well he runs his business: besides doing an excellent job with the actual haircuts, he is also caring enough to reach out to people, learning their name (not the easiest task for him), sometimes even jotting down a bit of information about them so he can remember them more personally, making them feel special as he serves them. His loyal clientele is evidence of how well he does his job, and I'm so proud of him!

Monday, November 24, 2008

In a Cave


That's exactly how I feel today...which is exactly why this post is going to be very short--and why I need the reminder of the plaque pictured belows: "For everything give thanks." Really? Everything?
Day 24 - I'm so grateful that Jeff rescues me from my predicaments, like when I let a package get rained on and the label smears and becomes completely unreadable and the mail carrier can't take it and I don't know how to print a new one and I don't know what to do. Between Jeff (and my mom, who took the freshly re-labeled package to the post office for me), I'm in good hands.

There was one happy thing that happened today, but I can't say what it is yet because Josiah wants to be the announcer of good news to Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa at the supper table. If I wrote it here, they might read it and spoil the surprise. I'll write what it is--tomorrow.

Back to my cave, I go...