Monday, March 31, 2008

Gym Night (or Why I Love Our Church)

Our church had its annual gym night at EMHS on Sunday evening: snacks, games, open gym for volleyball and basketball, and relaxing fun for the whole family. We had not gone before, since we haven't been attending this church for a year yet, so this was a new event to us. But we all had a good time, and the boys in particular had a blast; their joy was uplifting to Jeff and I, too.

Gotta love seeing your children so happy...

Gotta love a church that is so welcoming to you AND your kids...

Gotta love a church where a couple of preteen girls spend their whole evening entertaining your 2 year-old (thanks, Holly & Katherine!)...

Gotta love a church that lets your 5 year-old "play" volleyball on one of the teams, even though he mostly gets in the way and occasionally gets hit in the head with the ball...

Gotta love a church that has nursery workers that, when you thank them for taking care of your child, say with great sincerity, "Thank YOU for letting us take care of him!"...

Gotta love a church that has open arms for your baby so that, at any event, even when he's fussy, someone is always willing to say, "Oh, it's OK; I'll hold him"...

Gotta love a church where young and old mix so freely and comfortably...

Gotta love a church where everybody's related to somebody...and even if you're not, they'll make you feel like you are...

Gotta love a church where the pastor plays Candyland with your 2 year-old...
~ Sherry and Tobin
~ Kristin and Tobin
~ oh, surprise! someone else is holding Tobin!...this time, it's Joy, Sherry's daughter
~ Josiah, the lil sprout in a field of tall trees
~ Jeff Kauffman and David and the oh-so-exciting game of Candyland
~ Glendon & Jeff played games all night, in between conversation about church history and homiletics (and interruptions by Floyd, AKA Simon the Zealot)...and Holly and Mary played checkers
We are blessed!!!

Celebrating Tobin, Celebrating Life

The Celebration of Life on Saturday evening was a great success! 62 people present (not all at once, but spread out through the evening)...tons of food (I seriously overestimated how much we would need!)...and lots of wonderful gifts for the pregnancy center. Along with the very practical gifts of diapers, wipes, bottles, etc., there were also adorable baby clothes and a number of beautiful hand-made blankets. We have talented, generous friends!

One of the best parts of it all for me was the personal victory of getting through the event and the days leading up to it without becoming a horribly grumpy, stressed-out wife and mother. I know in the past, there have been plenty of times when I have let the stress of activities such as this turn me into a person that none of my family wanted to be around. :) But this time was different, thanks to God! And I really did feel supported by all the great helpers around me: everyone in my family who pitched in to accomplish a number of various tasks; the Sauders who helped set up, serve, and clean up; some people who spontaneously helped at the end of the evening (like Ruth Schrock and Betty Kiser--and maybe others that I didn't notice because I was busy with other things?); and most of all, Amy Wampole, who did an amazing job of keeping track of a myriad of details and was willing to help out in any way imaginable. She also did an exceptional job of encouraging me if I found myself weighed down by the tasks at hand. A huge THANK YOU to all those involved!!!

During the party, I found myself torn between all the different people I wanted to talk to! Judy who drove up from North Carolina for the party...Ryan and Kate that I probably haven't seen in over a year...the Myers with their trio of children... I wish I could have spent more time with everyone there!

At the end of the evening, I found myself thinking, "I'm REALLY GLAD we did this...but I'm also really glad we don't do this every week!" :) It was so worth it, though...and it will be so nice to be able to tell Tobin about this as he grows up. At the party, we had the participants write notes that we'll put in an album for Tobin, along with pictures from the celebration. What fun in years to come to look back and remember who was there and what they said about Tobin!

~ all set and ready to go
~ the cake

~ the food line (we're still eating the left-overs) :)
~ playing a game of "Find Someone..."
~ the guest of honor, cuddling on Anna Kathryn's shoulder where he eventually fell asleep :)
If you're interested, here is the "Find Someone..." game that we played. I know that we had someone there that fit each category, except for the "only child" and the "adopted" category--I'm not sure about those. We cut short the game before anyone found someone for all these questions. The winner got 14 out of 20. It was interesting to discover some new facts about our friends! :)
Find Someone…
____________ …who has been to China.

____________…who has been married 40+ years.

____________…who was born in a state other than Virginia.

____________…who was born in a country other than the United States.

____________…who enjoys spelunking.

____________…who is an only child.

____________…who has run a marathon.

____________…who is adopted.

____________…who has adopted one or more children.

____________…who doesn’t have a passport.

____________…who is a published author.

____________…who has eaten bear meat.

____________…who plays the trumpet.

____________…who is a schoolteacher.

____________…who was born on a holiday.

____________…who has climbed the Washington Memorial.

____________…who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.

____________…who makes chai tea from scratch.

____________…who has ridden in a horse & buggy.

____________…who speaks a language other than English.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Party Prep

No time for much blogging tonight! But here are a couple pictures of my good helpers as we prepare for the party for Tobin. After looking forward to this event for so many weeks, it's exciting to think it's almost here! I feel remarkably calm and not stressed-out, and everything seems to be proceeding as planned. I meant to get a picture of my mother and my friend Amy who were here this morning chopping veggies, making country ham sandwiches, and doing other food prep; but I completely forgot to get out the camera while they were here--oops! I don't know what I would have done without them since their extra hands made the work go so much faster--and be more enjoyable, too! :)

It's been really fun to involve Josiah and David in the preparation for this celebration. Josiah, in particular, has wanted to help as much as possible. He even declined an invitation to my parents' house tomorrow morning (a place he LOVES to go) so that he could go along with me to Shady Oak to help set up! My little man! :)
~ Josiah and David putting gravel in bags which we then covered with colorful tissue paper; these will be the weights in the center of the tables to hold the balloons which are the centerpiece
~ Josiah pulling grapes off the stems

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From Weekend to Weekend

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but I just thought I'd throw it in here to show off the tremendous art being produced around this place recently! :) After Jeff, Josiah, and David saw the Dr. Seuss movie last weekend, Jeff got the boys these painting books...and they got to work. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time David painted anything. Can you guess who painted which picture? Answer at the bottom of this post...

Each of the past few weeks (and the coming weeks) has been merely preparation for the big events of the weekend that follows, it seems. One week was devoted to getting ready for the Easter play. The next week was preparation for Easter. This week is all about Tobin's party. The following week will be getting ready for being gone part of the weekend to a marriage retreat (and Jeff preaching in our church that Sunday). Maybe the event of the weekend after that will be a day trip to Pennsylvania to see the cousins we didn't get to see over Easter? I really feel like I'm living weekend to weekend, not even able to think about the next weekend until the events of the current one are over with. Each week brings a new focus.

In between all of these events, I'm trying to continue to do all the one hundred and one things that make a household run smoothly, that contribute to Josiah's education, and that help my husband and children feel loved and secure.

There's not a lot of time for extras--especially this week--since I do have quite a few things to do to prepare for the party on Saturday. Fortunately, the preparation is going well, and I have good helpers. But what I don't have is a lot of time for blogging...

On another note, here's a link to a documentary that looks very, very interesting. Thanks, Crystal, for alerting me to this! Somewhere I have an article along these same lines that I've been wanting to post about for a while. Maybe one of these days, I'll find it! :) If you do go to the website, you can watch a trailer which only takes a few minutes.
* Answer to the question above: David painted the one on the left, Josiah did the one on the right...which, knowing their personalities, makes sense. Josiah grieved that he didn't have gray paint for the elephant (which would be correct!), but decided to use blue, and therefore put blue where it belonged (on the elephant and the water) and green where it belonged (on the leaves). David randomly painted various colors wherever he thought they looked nice! Orange, green, and pink water? Sure! A speckled elephant? Why not! :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Can You Give Me a Hand?

...or at least, your pinky???

This morning, one of the neighbor girls spent a few hours with us; and when it was time for her to leave, I went to the door to help her with her jacket and see her off. When I came back to the couch, this is what I found. David, being always attentive to his little brother's needs, was kindly letting Tobin suck on his little finger (like he occasionally sees Jeff or I do for Tobin). But that didn't stop David from simultaneously sucking his thumb. Oh, no, he's quite the accomplished multi-tasker! I just love these little guys. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter's End

One more post before this Easter is over...

About a week and a half ago, Christin left a comment asking about pictures of my shorter hair. I finally got around to asking Jeff to take some pictures of me tonight, but what fun is it to pose alone when I can have my littlest sweetheart with me? So, Christin, these are for you. :)

The best way to end Easter: with my baby cuddled on my shoulder and my family safe at home together.

Disappointment and Resurrection on Easter

Our Easter turned out very differently than I expected. The plan was for my sister Donna to come on Friday and stay the weekend with us (which did happen) and for my brother David and his family to come down on Saturday to spend the day with all of us and meet Tobin for the first time (which didn't happen). As it turned out, Jeff got home from work on Friday evening feeling very sick; and by the time I went to bed that night, I too had caught the flu bug. Such nausea! Fortunately, by using all my powers of concentration to simply lie still and not let myself throw up, I didn't vomit...but what a miserable few hours I had in the middle of the night. Jeff and I kept waking up and asking each other, "How do you feel now?" "Not very good" or "maybe a little better, but not the greatest" was usually the answer. Misery loves company--even in the middle of the night! :)

During the night, it dawned on me that when morning came, I would have to call my brother David and let him know about the sickness in our household so that they didn't arrive without warning and find themselves and their kids exposed to our germs. I just knew they would decide not to come; and although I realized that was the wisest decision by far, I was really disappointed about it--not just for my sake, but for my sister's sake, my parents' sake, and most of all, Josiah's and David's sakes, who were literally counting down the days until the cousins came! I can handle my own disappointments much, much better than seeing my children be disappointed.

Strangely, in the middle of the night while I was pondering all of this, I decided to pick up a devotional book (Prayers and Promises for Mothers) that has been lying on my bedside stand for months but which I had not read in quite a long time. I felt certain that there would be something specific in it that would apply to my situation; and sure enough, on the very first page I read (which happened to be discussing Isaiah 66:13), it said this: "You've drawn me near in times of sorrow, and You've given me assurance when I've faced great disappointment." Wow, thanks!

Admittedly, my situation was nowhere near the top of the list for World's Biggest Problem that night. But how comforting it was to receive reassurance even for such a small problem (but one that could have been big for the youngest occupants of Sylvan Drive)!

When morning came, I did indeed call my brother David and tell him what was going on; and, as expected, they decided not to come. As it turned out, that was definitely the very best decision, since our David caught the bug that day and ended up throwing up several times (once, down at Grandpa & Grandma's house where my mother had taken Josiah and David so that I could get some poor mother always seems to have to deal with the boys when they throw up...for example, David threw up the night of Tobin's birth when my parents were taking care of him...another example, Josiah threw up last Tuesday evening while Jeff and I were on a date...and just yesterday afternoon, I happened to be in the bathroom here at our house, and guess what David did? that's right, he threw up--and who caught it? my mom). I didn't recover from the sickness as quickly as Jeff did (who heroically went off to work and had a busy day at the shop yesterday); and I spent the day feeling tired, weak, and generally miserable. It would not have been a fun day to have company. But we did miss them very much, and hopefully will be able to see them soon--when we're all feeling better and don't have any germs to give them! :)

On this Easter morning, I was feeling so much better that the concept of resurrection took on a new meaning for me. I felt like, in a very tiny way, I had participated in the suffering and death of Jesus from Friday night through Saturday--and then Sunday morning brought my resurrection. Silly, I guess, to think of it in this way...but that's what has stuck in my mind a lot today.

Before I wrap this up, I want to jot down a few things about my sister's time here. She thought Tobin was simply wonderful and pronounced him a "pretty baby." :) When my dad asked her who she thought he looked like, she thought a minute, then said jokingly, "Doug"...which made us all laugh because Doug is my brother--my ADOPTED brother--so nope, no genetic connection there. But she thought Tobin's dark, wild hair looked the way Doug's did when he was born.

Another funny thing happened when David said to Donna: "Aunt Donna, do you know what?" She said, "What, Baby?" He replied--immediately, seriously--with, "I'm not a baby; I'm a BIG BOY!" as if the mere suggestion of him being a baby was unthinkable and should be corrected as soon as possible. The concept of him being his mama's baby and the word "Baby" being a term of endearment didn't seem to make a bit of sense to him! :)

Anyway, what he was originally intending to say was, "Do you know what?" And when the person says, "What?" he says, "I love you!" Which is what he's been saying over and over these days. Aunt Donna sure got a good dose of love from him and from Josiah who, in addition to the love letter pictured below, had written a note just for Donna which said, "Josiah loves Aunt Donna." Whenever her love tank is running low, she can come here and get filled up with hugs and words of love!
~ Tobin and his Aunt Donna
~ a love letter that Josiah had written for the arrival of our guests

Scenes from Our Easter

~ two cutie pies cuddling on the couch this morning under the blanket Grandma Fisher made
~ Josiah looking under the couch for Easter eggs
~ David looking on the bookshelf for Easter eggs
~ counting them up--did we find them all?
~ David enjoying opening his Easter eggs

Our Easter egg hunt was very different from last year's. For one thing, it was just Josiah and David who participated. For another thing, David really knew what was going on this year. Yet another difference: in some of the eggs, there was a sticker (a sticker! how healthy! our boys are at ages where they still find delight in such simple treats as a sticker!) other eggs, there was a candy (a candy! one candy! not like the eggs FULL of candies that my brother prepared for the hunt last year!)...and in the rest of the eggs, there were a sticker and a candy (a sticker AND a candy! how extravagant!). :) The boys were delighted with it all, especially when we said they could eat ALL the candy in ALL the eggs today. We're such lenient parents. :)
Not pictured in these scenes from our Easter: saying goodbye to my sister this morning who headed back to her home in Ohio...yummy breakfast with our church this morning (which is obviously a popular event because the social hall was packed)...meaningful church service where Jeff portrayed again the resurrection scene from the Easter play last weekend, and the choir my parents were in sang one of the songs from that play...lunch at home with my parents...short afternoon nap...snuggle time on the couch with Josiah while we looked through our church directory and talked about the new friends we're making there...father/son outing tonight with Jeff taking Josiah and David to the theater to see the new Dr. Seuss movie (and then probably out to eat at "Old McDonald's," as it's still called in our household). :)
One thing I was contemplating this morning as I looked around the church and thought about the people we've met or reconnected with during our months of being a part there is the impression that I have of each person. Granted, the impression I have of them could be completely wrong! But when I look at someone, I tend to have a general thought about their character: "I really like her; she has a soft heart"..."he is a true worshipper; his hands dance when he worships"..."she is a hard woman"..."she is a made-up woman, too concerned about outward appearance"..."he's just going through the motions, but doesn't really lead his family spiritually"..."she's willing to be real, and I admire that about her."
As I was thinking these things this morning, I felt a warning on two levels. First, as I already mentioned, I could be entirely mistaken; and I need to be vigilant against judging someone based on quick observations. Second, when people see me, they probably make a snap judgment about me, too! What part of my character shines (or glares) through? Especially as I get older (which I'm about to do since my birthday is quickly approaching) :), I want to be aware of what about me stands out to people--not so that they'll think I'm wonderful, but so that God's light will be reflected through me (Matthew 5:16).
More Easter musings in the next post...

Dad Doesn't Know...

...that I took these pictures! One of the joys of living up the hill from my parents is spying on them. :)

Although my dad doesn't normally do laundry, I did catch him in the act of taking some clothes off the line the other day. I happen to know that it was a busy day for my mother, and she had a lot of things to do before they left to attend a viewing that evening, so I can imagine her asking Dad, after he finished his work at the office and walked home, to please go out to the clothesline and bring in the laundry. (Actually, I don't know exactly how their conversation went because, although I do take pictures of them without them knowing, I do not have their house bugged!) :) I'm so grateful for a dad who is willing to lend a hand to help his family--even in situations that he doesn't usually find himself.

This isn't the first time he's helped out...then been photographed by his personal paparazzi...then had his picture posted on someone's blog! :)

~ if you look closely in this picture, you can actually see the clothespins flying out of my dad's hand into the laundry basket

Thursday, March 20, 2008


It happens every time I get an alumni newsletter from either my high school or my college. "So-and-so won this award in their field"..."This person began an organization that is making a huge difference in the lives of these people"..."We honor Alumni X for all their distinguished accomplishments through the years!" No matter how closely I read the fine print, I never see a special section honoring stay-at-home moms! :)

It's not that I question the legitimacy of my decision to make my family the highest priority (after God) in my life. It's not that I doubt the worth of what I'm doing. It's simply that I seem to think I should be able to devote myself to my husband and children...and STILL be accomplishing other "great" things on the side. How do the people in these alumni magazines do it anyway???

These kinds of thoughts swirl around in my head on a fairly regular basis, so last night I was encouraged to read these words from Max Lucado in his book And the Angels Were Silent (about the last week of Christ's life before the crucifixion):

Take this quiz.

Name the ten wealthiest men in the world.
Name the last ten Heisman trophy winners.
Name the last ten winners of the Miss America contest.
Name eight people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
How about the last ten Academy Award winners for best picture or the last decade's worth of World Series winners?

How did you do? I didn't do well either. With the exception of you trivia hounds, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday too well. Surprising how quickly we forget, isn't it? And what I've mentioned above are no second-rate achievements. These are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one.

Think of three people you enjoy spending time with.
Name ten people who have taught you something worthwhile.
Name five friends who have helped you in a difficult time.
List a few teachers who have aided your journey through school.
Name half-a-dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? It was for me, too. The lesson? The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.

Thanks, Max. I needed this reminder.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

High Points and Low Points

In life, doesn't it seem like the good and bad are inseparable? Joy and sorrow go hand in hand; success and defeat are never too far apart; ease and difficulty are close companions. Highs are closely followed by lows which are (hopefully quickly) followed by highs again. When I keep a positive attitude about things, I realize that the lows only serve to make me appreciate the highs more...but to tell the truth, I don't always have such a positive attitude!

Here are a few examples I have noticed recently of this cycle of highs and lows...


Tobin has been doing GREAT with giving me eye contact and smiles! If you read my last post, you can imagine how greatly relieved I am about this!!!

Much of this wonderful eye contact has come in the middle of the night when Tobin thinks it's great fun to wake up, drink some milk, then look at me--just look. I'm flattered that he thinks my bedhead is so attractive; but really, I'd gotten used to the sleeping-through-the-night thing and wouldn't mind returning to that! So, Tobin, my boy, could you save the tender look-me-in-the-eye moments for--oh, say, the middle-of-the-morning feeding when I'm actually awake? :)


Thanks to the generosity of some friends who gave us a gift certificate to Applebee's when Tobin was born (what a smart idea for a baby gift!!!)....and thanks to the generosity of my parents who kept the boys for us last evening...Jeff and I had a date! It was wonderful!!!

We returned to a sick boy. Josiah was sitting at the dinner table at my parents' house, had hardly eaten a bite, told his doctor grandpa that his head hurt, took a spoonful of pain medicine, announced that he was going to throw up, then promptly did just that, filling a bowl that my dad had the quick thinking to grab and shove under Josiah's mouth. It's a wonder that my parents even agree to babysit for us anymore, since this isn't the first time this has happened (i.e. the night Tobin was born when David was the one throwing up)! After we returned from our date, Jeff brought Josiah up the hill to our house and gave him a bath, which worked well to get him sweet-smelling again before he threw up two more times. Josiah HATES to throw up and shrieks and carries on like he's dying. In the words of my mother after her first-hand observation of Josiah's vomiting fit, "I have never seen a child do that." Sigh. From romance to vomit. Sometimes it's hard to wear the hats of wife (or husband) AND mother (or father).


Today we had a lovely family outing through the mountains of West Virginia. The boys--all of them--were happy little men. Jeff and I had a chance to spend time talking in the car (the best part of road trips, I think). :) We ate at a new-to-us local restaurant to which we'll return in the future, I'm sure. We got to see that area at a different time of year and, without all the leaves present, were able to notice the shape of the trees, the bark, the moss, etc. Wonderful!

Our reason for going was to look at a piece of property that we were considering buying. A long-time dream of ours has been to own a bit of wooded land and have a small cabin on it to which we could go for family get-aways and which we could share with friends and family. Some friends from San Diego, Jerry and Terry Jordan, had such a cabin; and we have delightful memories of being there. Their generosity has been an inspiration to us!

Through the barbershop, Jeff has learned to know a local contractor who owns some land in West Virginia. He offered to sell us this piece of land (10.5 acres) for a FANTASTIC price, so we went to take a look at it today. Now we know why it was so cheap. It's virtually impossible to build on it! Why? Well, it's a very long, very narrow piece of land that goes straight up the side of the mountain and is basically inaccessible. To build a driveway to the top (where a cabin could be built and would have an incredible view) would require numerous switchbacks and would essentially result in a 2 mile long driveway at a 10 percent grade. Virtually impossible (for other reasons as well). So...sigh...our dream is still off in the future (which is not a big deal because, really, we had no money to build on it in the near future--say, the next 20 years!). But it was fun to dream a little and feel hopeful about taking the first step. Only, we fell off the ladder before we could even reach the first rung.

Here's another high point that occurred though. After Jeff and his friend, Mr. Thompson, looked over the land, Jeff asked Mr. Thompson for his recommendation of a restaurant; and he told us about the place where we ended up eating. Then he said goodbye and went off to visit some old friends in the area. As we were sitting in the restaurant, partially through our meal, who should come in but Mr. Thompson! He asked the waitress for some decaf coffee, chatted a little with Jeff while she was getting the coffee ready, and then left. When we were getting ready to pay our bill, the waitress said, "It's already been covered." Apparently Mr. Thompson had, completely unnoticed by us, arranged with the waitress to cover the food we ate there, the tip, AND a whole pie that we brought home with us. Wow, what an unexpected act of kindness! On the way over the mountains to look at the land, Jeff had told me what a genuinely nice person this guy is. Now we had proof! Wish we had some way to pay it back to him. Maybe we'll just "pay it forward!"

~ Mr. Thompson and Jeff at the base of the property

~ a pretty little stream across the road from the property~ David, asleep in the car, sucking his thumb and clutching a new "Mickey Monkey" that Jeff was given at the MDA fundraiser today...the name "Mickey Monkey" comes from the stories that Grandpa tells the boys


One more thing about highs and lows: I've thought of something that has no lows. Easter. The real meaning of Easter. The resurrection! Yep, that has no lows--only high, high, highs!!! Thank God for that!!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Tobin News...

What's new with Tobin these days?

Well, for starters, he officially turned 2 months last Wednesday.

He's definitely making non-crying sounds...verbalizations that I can't think how to write down and can't reproduce myself...but it's the beginning of speech (which will obviously come much, much further down the road). It's nice to hear happy sounds come from his lips, rather than just sad ones!

He's moving around a little in his crib. When I open the door to get him out of bed, I've been finding him in places that I didn't put him! It's not that he's truly rolling over (since that first time, he hasn't repeated it); but he does manage to somehow scoot or twist himself so that he wiggles to a different spot.

He's getting much better at making eye contact and smiling--connecting with people. We've had some anxious moments in this area. From when he was 4 weeks until he was 6 weeks, I was convinced that something was wrong: blindness perhaps? or other eye problems? or maybe autism? Something just didn't seem right. My heart felt pierced over and over again. At 6 weeks, I had a conversation with some women in the nursery at church that helped me to turn the corner as far as my own heart about this; they reassured me and helped me get a better perspective, as well as giving me sound advice about how to help him if there truly was a problem. From then on, he seemed to start improving quickly in this area; and I breathed many sighs of relief. At 8 weeks, I had another day of panic because he seemed to totally ignore toys that were dangling in front of him; he was completely oblivious to them. But then I again calmed down. Whew! It's been up and down, and I try to keep the monster of worry off my back, but that rascal is awfully good at creeping up on me when I least suspect it.

I can say with certainty that Tobin is much improved in this area. But sometimes I still get the sense that he's looking right past me and not really seeing me. And even when he smiles, sometimes he's just smiling into thin air, it seems. There are a few things I know: it's really way too early to worry about this! And no matter what the future holds--whether he is "normal" or there is some issue in this area that we'll have to deal with--we will love him and cherish him and parent him to the best of our ability. God knows each detail of Tobin's life, and He'll walk with us each step of the way.

With each of our boys, I have had my valley of worry to agonize through. With Josiah, it occurred when he didn't crawl until he was 16 months old and didn't walk until he was 18 months old. Imagine a 15 month-old child who sat--just sat--like a bump on a log. We were in Israel at the time and found it bewildering at times to navigate the "system" there for figuring out what was wrong with him. As it turned out, it was a simple case of hypotonia (low muscle tone); and it resolved itself without too much intervention. But for a time, it seemed that autism might be a factor; and that, to say the least, was a tough battle for my heart. Anyway, that's a long story in a tiny nutshell that hardly does it justice...

With David, I worried about him when he was close to his 2nd birthday and didn't talk. Other than a very few "words" (some of which were unique to him), he just didn't talk. Jeff had more confidence than me that everything was fine, but we were considering speech therapy. Suddenly, the floodgates opened; and David started talking. Now I can hardly believe I was ever worried about it!!! :)

Now, here we are with Tobin, finding ourselves again in a place of learning to trust...feeling so helpless to know exactly what the future holds as far as his development...fighting fear, embracing the "peace that passes understanding."

Well! I really didn't mean to pour out all of this tonight. I'm not sure what got into me. ;) Anyway, all of this makes me treasure these days with Tobin. Each feeding, each bath, each snuggle in my shoulder is a precious jewel to be stored up. I'm so blessed...
~ I couldn't decide which of these pictures I liked best, so I just thought I'd put them both in this post :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So Proud

This was the weekend of our church's Easter play, with performances last night and tonight. Our neighbor Wilma babysat Tobin and David for me last night so I could attend, and it was FANTASTIC! I was on cloud nine after the play...and I wasn't even in it. :) But my family was, and they all did such a great job. Josiah got to be one of the children in the crowd in several scenes, my parents both sang in the choir, and Jeff--oh, Jeff!--was Jesus. A huge role. Lots of lines. Vitally important. And he did it magnificently. Such passion he brought to the part!

This is one of those nights when I wish so much that I had more energy and brainpower to stay up and write a longer post. But it's been a long week, and I'm dragging...dragging myself up to bed. :)
~ Jeff with Josiah on his left (looking adoringly up at his daddy)...during the Triumphal Entry scene
~ during the Last Supper...Jeff speaking a blessing in Hebrew over the fruit of the vine
~ the choir, with my parents in it

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This clearly falls in the "Duh!" category...but for some reason, recently I've been realizing--more than ever before--how much time homeschooling takes! And I'm realizing that because of my commitment to educate Josiah here at home, I just don't have the time to devote to other things like I would love to do. It's a shocking discovery, I know. :)

I think because I came into it thinking, "Oh, it's only kindergarten; it only takes an hour or two a day," I didn't mentally prepare myself for what a huge investment of time it is. Even an hour or two a day adds up (and sometimes we spend longer than that doing "school," especially on days when we have a fresh stack of books from the library waiting to be read)! Even an hour or two a day, if used for other things, could result in a cleaner house...or an organized recipe collection...or a weed-free flowerbed...or fewer dust bunnies under my bed...or a bigger pile of wood carried into our porch...or perfect picture files on the computer where I could instantly find nicely-labeled pictures from the past 3 years...or laundry that's been folded by me, not by my mother who's become my perpetual laundry helper (fortunately, she likes laundry!)...or any number of other worthwhile accomplishments.

Once again, I find myself facing the battle of determining what is best and separating it from what is merely good. Even in this single year of homeschooling, the memories we have made and the conversations we have had and the bonding we have enjoyed and the growth we have seen (growth in Josiah and in me!) are worth so much more than the value of a clean house. But honestly, I constantly have to remind myself of that. As I contemplate all the good stuff that I would like to do, I can either get discouraged (which I do more often than I would like to admit)...or I can focus on what has eternal value...and feel content--no, more than content; triumphant is a better word--with accomplishments in that realm. Even if my guest room is a mess and guests are expected next weekend... :)

I know the other factor in all of this is the ongoing adjustment to being a mother of 3. In the two months since Tobin's birth, we have all made HUGE adjustments...and thankfully, life feels so much more settled and "normal" and manageable than it did many times during the past 9 weeks. But still, the care of a newborn is, without a doubt, time-consuming; and that certainly affects how much time I have available for other projects. Sometimes I feel myself getting antsy because I just don't know when I will ever get around to certain things! Before Tobin was born, I basically knew our schedule and knew when I would have "free time" to devote to whatever I chose...and even if that available time wasn't happening immediately, it was comforting to look down the road and see it coming. All of that feels very unpredictable right now. I don't know when I'll have time to blog...I don't know when I'll ever have time to catch up on the other blogs I gain inspiration from...I don't know when I'll ever be able to go through all the papers in my everlasting "pile" by the telephone...I don't know when I'll ever get around to organizing the garden shed (OK, that one is waaaaayyyy down on the list of priorities!).

Anyway, as I look to the end of this first year of homeschooling (not that we're extremely close to that yet, but I'm already looking for it!), I have to realize that it's acceptable to anticipate the summer and the extra time during that season for various projects to do with the boys and by myself...but meanwhile, I have to make sure I don't begrudge the time I'm spending now to teach my son.

On a positive note, he's making such good progress!!! His reading is coming along so well. I'm immensely proud of him. But that's another story... :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Doing Good

I was reading Titus 2 today and found these words:

...the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

It seemed very appropriate to be reading about "the blessed hope" since Easter is drawing near. But what really caught my attention was the last phrase: "eager to do what is good." Those words, combined with my recent thoughts on how much we have and how abundantly we are blessed, reminded me that I've been wanting to write a post about one way that Jeff is making a difference in the lives of those with challenges in their life that we have never dealt with and, really, have no understanding about.

Pictured below are two boys that Jeff knows through the barbershop: Caleb and Brennan. They both have muscular dystrophy and deal continually with all the hardships that come from that. But look at those smiles! Jeff is participating in a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association where he gets "locked-up" for a while. But these boys are constantly "locked" in bodies that don't function like ours.

I'm so proud of Jeff for wanting to help them and other kids with this disease. If any of you feel particularly compelled to help him with his fundraiser and donate to MDA, there is a link in the sidebar of this blog that you can use to do it. It will take you to a secure online site. I know requests for financial help constantly barrage all of us, and I don't want anyone at all to feel undue pressure about this. In matters like these, you've got to do as the Spirit leads! But I did want to highlight Jeff's participation in this because I'm just so stinkin' proud of him and his heart for others!!! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What Made Me Smile

Here are some things from the past week or so that have added to my joy...
~ finding this little guy sucking his thumb in his crib...I first found him this way early in the morning last Tuesday, March 4; and since then I've discovered him doing this a few other times...I think it is so cute!...and I love the fact that he is getting better at self-soothing (which means he's getting better at sleeping...which leads me to my next point...) :)

~ Tobin sleeping through the night...I wrote about the first time that he did it...since then, he hasn't been perfectly consistent about sleeping through the night; but Saturday night, he slept a full 8 hours, and Sunday night, he slept 8 and 1/2 hours straight...I'm so grateful!!!

~ Tobin rolled over!...last Tuesday, March 4, at Josiah's choir class, I had put Tobin on the floor on a blanket...he was on his back, but soon he had rolled over onto his right side, then--what do you know?--he had rolled onto his tummy!...he had no idea what to do next, so when he fussed, I "rescued" him and picked him up...I was so surprised that he did this, and I think he was, too...he hasn't done it since, and maybe he won't for quite a while?...I looked back in David's baby book; and he had an early episode of rolling over (except from his tummy to his back--different than Tobin) which wasn't repeated for a long time after that, so maybe Tobin will be the same way...anyway, "firsts" are always exciting :)

~ David's affection for Tobin...last Monday evening, Tobin was in his bouncy seat in the kitchen while we were eating supper...he had some spit-up on his chin; and David announced, "He has spit-up," then he went over and picked up the burp cloth and gently wiped Tobin's chin for him, just like I would do...what a great big brother!

~ bird songs...changing the subject just a bit! the mornings these days, as I lie in bed for a minute or two before getting up, I've been noticing the delightful sound of birds singing outside...spring really is close at hand, and the music of the birds is just one of the delights of the season for which I'm thankful

~ my dad's least twice recently, Dad has remarked that he likes my haircut...if you know my dad, you know he's not a "gushy" guy :) when he does give a compliment, it really means a lot...thanks, Dad!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Easter Eggs

What to do on a Sunday evening when two boys are craving their daddy's time and attention? Well, the first idea was to fly a kite; but lack of sufficient wind soon brought that activity to an end. Next on the agenda: decorate Easter eggs!

This was much more successful, and gave the boys a pleasant, creative evening.
~ Daddy demonstrates how to do it
~ writing on the eggs with an old candle stub before dipping them in the color was a fun way to personalize the eggs
~ Daddy's fancy glitter egg
~ the completed project (minus one that broke when Jeff was trying to blow the raw egg out of it...Jeff's glittery egg was done this way; since it's hollow, we can keep it...but the rest are hard-boiled and will be eaten--but not before pictures were taken to preserve the memory!)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More Info

Jeff found this article with more details about the homeschooling situation in California.

From the Los Angeles Times

Bill on home schooling rights urged
Governor criticizes court requirement of a teaching credential and says he will move to protect practice.
By Seema Mehta
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 8, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Friday for the reversal of a recent appellate court decision banning parents from educating their children at home if they lack a teaching credential. If the state Supreme Court fails to act, the governor vowed to push through legislation guaranteeing families' right to home school.

"This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will," he said in a written statement.

Schwarzenegger's comments about the ruling came as home schooling families and national conservative leaders expressed increased concerns over the practice that they believe every parent has a fundamental right to exercise.

On Feb. 28, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that parents must have a teaching credential to home school their children. The decision has not yet gone into effect and it is unlikely to be enforced pending appeals to the state Supreme Court by attorneys representing Phillip and Mary Long, the Lynwood couple at the center of the case, and others.

The California Department of Education allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts' responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.

The Pacific Justice Institute, which is representing a parochial school that is popular with home schoolers, including the Long family, plans to appeal the ruling.

The institute estimates that there are as many as 166,000 California students who are home schooled. State education department officials, whose Sacramento offices were picketed by home schooling families Friday, said there is no way of knowing the true number.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell spoke out about the ruling for the first time Friday at a news conference in Alameda in which he reaffirmed his support for parents to educate their children as they see fit while urging them to work with institutions to ensure that their children will be successful.

"Whatever works best for that family, he would support as long as the children are getting a good education," department spokeswoman Pam Slater said.

"He wants home school parents to make sure they have partnerships with school districts or charter schools to make sure they have the right curriculum, everything a child needs to succeed and get into college," Slater said.

Conservative leaders across the nation also weighed in on the matter, with evangelist James C. Dobson interrupting his "Focus on the Family" radio program's regular programming to discuss the ruling.

"What has occurred is yet another egregious decision handed down by a California appeals court that strikes at the very heart and soul of families and their children," he said Friday morning. "The court has assaulted parental rights again and this time with a sledgehammer."

The Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn. also started an online petition to urge the state Supreme Court to "depublish" the ruling, meaning it would apply only to the family in question and not set a precedent.

Thousands of supporters from across the nation were signing the petition every hour, and by 6:30 p.m., it had more than 82,000 signatures.

In California, hundreds of worried home school families have been inundating the state Department of Education, the offices of the governor and state legislators as well as home school advocacy groups with phone calls and e-mails.

"We're very busy" answering phones, said Susan Beatty, co-founder of the Norwalk-based Christian Home Educators Assn. of California. "Most of them are confused and just want to be reassured. There is some talk that home school is illegal after today, which is, of course, not true."

Beatty said the group was telling parents, "There's no reason to be afraid, they can continue to home school as they have in the past."

The appellate court ruling stemmed from a case involving the Longs, who were repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services over various allegations, including charges of physical abuse involving some of their eight children.

A lawyer appointed to represent two of the Long's young children requested that the court require them to physically attend a public or private school where adults could monitor their well-being.

The appellate court ruled that a parochial school's occasional monitoring of the children's education is insufficient to qualify as being enrolled in a private school, and because Mary Long does not hold a teaching credential, the court determined that the family is breaking state law.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Threat to Homeschooling

This picture is of Josiah on his first day of school last year; and it reminds me of some of the things I'm grateful for about homeschooling: the opportunity for interaction and deep friendship between siblings, the ability to educate the child AT HOME, the chance to do school without shoes on... :)

Today, I heard about a shocking court ruling in California that severely limits the rights of homeschooling families there. Probably some of you reading this already heard about it; but here are the facts, as I understand it.

There was a court case in California involving one family who lost their right to homeschool their children; but instead of making a ruling that would only affect that family, the judges issued a ruling that basically makes it illegal for other families in California to homeschool their children, unless the parent is a certified (by the state) teacher. The vast majority of homeschooling parents are not state-certified teachers, so their right to educate their children at home could be stripped away from them.

As I think about our own situation, I realize that I take for granted the freedom that we have to educate Josiah at home. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know if we'll homeschool him "forever"...but I would hate for that right to be taken away.

If any of you reading this are so inclined, there is a petition that the Home School Legal Defense Association is organizing, to be presented to the Supreme Court in California, that would, in essence, reverse this decision. You can go to the website for HSLDA, and it's very easy to find and sign the petition. You don't have to live in California to sign it, and you don't have to anyone can do it.
I could write a book about the unexpected benefits and joys of teaching Josiah this year. I thank God continually for the opportunity to do so, and I pray that families in California and other places will never, ever lose that God-given right.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sorting Through Picture Files

It never fails: as I wade my way through accumulated picture files on the computer, trying in vain to get them and keep them organized, I always find pictures that I haven't posted; and I think, "Well, I'll just put this on the blog really quickly. Maybe Aunt Kim in California would like to see this!" :) So here are some miscellaneous pictures from recent days...

~ Josiah had bought this cash register some time ago--probably last summer--using his birthday money, I had been enthusiastically played with for a while, then (as is so common) pushed aside and it's been resurrected (I love how toys can be so interesting again as they cycle around), and David has really been having fun with it
~ just like his big brother, David loves numbers; and this cash register is a good way to practice them...another thing about David and numbers: this morning after Josiah finished his schoolwork, David picked up Josiah's math book which had been left lying on this little desk; and David found a chart of numbers and started counting each one as he put his finger on it, "31, 32, 33, etc."...he was having a great time, and Josiah was so excited about what David was doing that he called me into the living room to see what was going on!
~ yesterday was Jeff's day off; and first thing in the morning, he suggested to Josiah that they go to Wal-Mart together and buy some doughnuts for off they went and returned with a dozen delicious goodies...we all sat down to enjoy a yummy treat, and David soon got his doughnut (with chocolate icing and--his favorite--RED decorations) smeared all over his face and hands...while we ate, Jeff told us about how, in his growing-up years, his dad or mom would often go out early in the morning and bring back doughnuts for everyone--to the delight of everyone in the family!

~ this is a picture that Josiah drew yesterday, I think; and the reason it's so special to me is because it's the first (if my memory is correct) picture he's drawn that has included all five of us in the this drawing, at the bottom left of the picture is a tall sunflower, and then our family is beside it: Jeff, me, Josiah, David, and Tobin in a stroller--each figure getting smaller and smaller until Tobin is actually smaller than the wheels of the stroller, and all of us are dwarfed by the huge tree he drew next to us...just for my memory's sake, I'll also mention that at the top of the page is a sun, of course, followed by lots and lots of the sky are two airplanes and numerous birds...and at the bottom of the page is a round pond with two fish in it (who happen to have sad faces because they're soon to be eaten by the birds)...when Josiah was showing the picture to my mother, he told her that the birds are crows and she said, "Well, crows don't eat fish" today Josiah told me that he changed the faces on the fish to happy faces! :)

Boys with Garden Tools

Recently on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart (where else?), we spotted these very nifty, child-sized garden tools--for less than $3 each. So being a generous dad :), Jeff told Josiah and David that they could each choose one. David, of course, chose the shovel because it was red (he chooses anything that's red, simply because of the color). And Josiah chose the yellow leaf rake.

Later at home, when we showed them to my parents, they were delighted to see the boys so excited about such a USEFUL gift! Anything that promotes good, healthy work gets two thumbs up in my parents' world. :) So not long after that, they happened to be in Wal-Mart and, being generous grandparents, bought the other two tools in the set (a purple hoe and a green garden rake) so that Josiah and David would have a complete set. Our boys were thrilled. :)

They've been longing to get out in the garden and use their new tools, and yesterday afternoon was their opportunity. They had fun switching tools around to see which one worked the best for their projects. :)
~ Aren't these hard-at-work little men adorable?
~ Even when it got a little chilly outside as the sun was going down, they didn't want to come inside but asked for gloves and hats so they could keep digging!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sleeping Through the Night a good, good thing. And our boy Tobin did it!!!

That's right, folks, last night Tobin slept through the night for the first time; and the angels rejoiced. Well, I don't know if they did or not...but I sure did!!!!!!!

Tobin's late feeding was at about 11:00 p.m. last evening, and he didn't really eat a whole lot. By 11:20 or so, he was tucked in his crib. A few minutes before 3:00 a.m. I heard him cry out so I prepared to get up to feed him. But before I crawled out from under my warm covers, he was I waited. About 5 minutes later, he cried out again and then quieted down. I thought, "Well, if he's quiet, I'm not going to leave my cozy nest." :) Next thing I knew, it was 6:20 a.m. and time to give Tobin his morning feeding. Glory hallelujah! :)

Seven hours of straight sleep is a beautiful thing, folks, and does much to restore my sanity. The sun seemed a little brighter, the world a little better, today because of a simple thing called sleep.

I'm not so optimistic as to think that Tobin is past all night wakings; in fact, I'm not even sure that he'll do a repeat performance tonight of sleeping through the night. But I am grateful for his success last night and encouraged by the thought of longer, better sleep in the future. And I also know that we'll be able to stretch out his nights so that they'll be longer than just 7 straight hours...first, by moving his late night feeding earlier and earlier.

For now however, I'm simply grateful and proud of our little man! :)
~ Tobin in his swing, with an unfortunate, self-inflicted scratch on his right cheek...his little fingernails are so hard to cut, and I tremble each time I attempt it...but I must do a better job of keeping them short!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spinach & Fruit Salad

This is my new favorite salad, and it's from my new favorite cookbook! It's called Country Home Cooking by Marjorie Anna Rohrer (a local in these parts); and it was one of the gifts Jeff gave me on Valentine's Day, so it's extra special to me. :) And, let's face it, you just gotta love a cookbook that includes recipes for:
~ Homemade "Fizzy" Root Beer
~ Farmer's Breakfast
~ Mollie's Squash Rolls
~ Great Grandma Knicely's Soft Sugar Cookies
~ Spring Tonic "Joggin' In a Jug"
~ Washday Dinner
~ "Old Lady on a Bus" Chicken
Looks like my family can look forward to sampling lots of fun, new recipes! :)

This particular salad caught my eye immediately and was the first thing I tried from the cookbook. Here is the recipe:
2 qts. fresh spinach, torn
1/4 small sweet onion, diced
1 qt. strawberries, sliced OR
2-3 cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c. toasted, sliced almonds or pecans
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar*
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 c. oil

Mix together and pour over salad ingredients just before serving. Looks pretty and is delicious!
*I use red wine or raspberry vinegar. Purchased raspberry vinaigrette dressing is very good, too. 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds may be added to the dressing for variety.

When I made it, I used strawberries, not mandarin oranges (though I'd like to try it with the oranges sometime), and slivered almonds, not pecans. I used red wine vinegar and olive oil in the dressing.

It really was an easy salad to make, and I loved it. I always love fruited salads though (fruited anything, for that matter); but even Jeff who doesn't always care for fruit in salads, liked this one very much. My parents were here that evening for dinner, of course; and my dad's comment was, "It seems like something that would be served at the Joshua Wilton House!" (which is a fancy schmancy B&B here in our town). I took that as a high compliment. :)

One of the nice things about this cookbook is the poems and sayings scattered throughout. Some are funny, some are thought-provoking. The one at the bottom of the page where this recipe appears says this: Serving food is not about impressing people, it's about making them feel comfortable. Knowing the Mennonite heritage that Marjorie Rohrer comes from, I think it's safe to say that normally both goals are accomplished by these famous Mennonite cooks. They make you feel right at home, just like a part of the family; but along the way, we find ourselves impressed, to say the least!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Time for a Change

For a while, I had been asking Jeff to cut my hair--more specifically, to trim my hair--since it had been a long time since it had been cut at all; and it was so long that when I put it up in a hair clip, it pulled down and gave me a headache. (Plus, little Mr. Tobin is getting good at gripping things--including my hair!) But for one reason or another, we never got around to the haircut. Suddenly today, I realized that my hair was long enough to donate to Locks of why not cut off enough to donate to them? I wasn't really planning to have my hair cut short; but, after all, my hair will grow again, so why not go for it? Jeff agreed, and tonight the deed was done. :)
~ before
~ after
~ my hair for Locks of Love
~ holding Tobin will be fun to experiment with this new length in the coming days to see what it will do...and by the way, isn't Tobin getting so big? his neck is so much stronger; and although his head still bobs around sometimes, he's definitely getting good at holding it up
My hair FEELS so different!!! I'm thrilled with it and very grateful that Jeff was willing to cut it. I know it's a sacrifice for him because he really prefers my hair long. I will grow it again for him! But I was glad to hear him say that it reminded him a lot of how my hair was when we first met in Israel 12 years fact, he even called me by the nickname he first gave to me before we were even officially dating, which was sweet to hear again. :)