Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Most Boys?

An email from a friend recently got my mind spinning with thoughts of families that have all sons or all daughters.  I was trying to think, "Which all-boy family do I know that has the most children?"...and oddly, the most I can think of is four sons in a family (the Hartmans, a family that my parents have known for years).  When I think of all-girl families, I immediately think of the Gardner family who had eight girls in a row...but then, they went and had two boys at the end, destroying their daughter-only status.  :)  I know there are other families out there that have lots of sons and no daughters; but as I think about the families I know in real life or have "met" through blogging, I just can't seem to think of any.  Hmmm...

Seems odd to me that if this little one is a boy, we'd match the record of all-boy families that I know.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bring It On

Hello, Summer!

I know, of course, that the calendar thinks there are almost two months until you come; but you can't fool me.  The weather the past few days has felt exactly like your weather, and I know you've snuck in the door when Spring wasn't looking.  Maybe Spring will kick you out when she wakes up enough to realize you've taken over, but it won't bother me if you stick around for a while...say, until November.

Summer, this is what I love about you.  My boys wear shorts and a t-shirt and go barefoot.  Jackets are left in the closet, not struggled into before we venture outside.  Windows are open day and night, letting the stale house air of winter escape and letting your fresh breezes enter.  Ceiling fans twirl lazily at night and a bit more vigorously during the day, bringing natural, non-air-conditioned refreshment to us and particularly delighting Tobin who has suddenly realized that those things on the ceiling magically move!  Our regular schoolwork is done for the year; and although we do a little bit of extra schoolwork some days, most of our time is used for other things, like the boys playing hide-and-seek around the lilac bushes and the sheds while I hang out a load of laundry.  Speaking of laundry, Summer, you are definitely my favorite season in which to do that.  Although our electric dryer sure makes the towels softer than your sunshine does, nothing can replicate the scent of fresh-from-the-line clothes.  It's a wonderful thing.

Besides all of this goodness, you bring us something else really special: summer vacation.  My particular family is taking our vacation early this year, during Spring; but where we're going in California, you'll already be there waiting for us, I'm thinking, so we won't be deprived of your pleasant attributes.  Today I've been thinking about what I need to pack for our trip; and if that isn't a summer thing to do, what is?  Since I was a child headed yearly with my family for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I have delighted in the planning and preparation for the actual vacation; and that hasn't changed a bit.

You know, Summer, people warned me that this year, I'd be a huge, hot, grumpy pregnant lady when you rolled around.  Two of those characteristics may be true, but grumpy won't be one of them.  I like being hot.  So bring on your 80s, your 90s, even your 100s.  I'm ready for you.  You don't scare me one bit.  

In fact, Summer of 2009, you just might be the best summer of my life so far--for one reason in particular: no other summer has ever brought me a baby.  That makes you extraordinary.

Monday, April 27, 2009

26 Weeks...27 Weeks...28 Weeks...

First, a few pictures to get caught up to date...
~ 27 weeks, 5 my birthday magnolia tree
~ 28 weeks, 2 the backyard this morning, after hanging a load of laundry on the clothesline
~ completely unprompted, David came over to be in the picture (which Josiah was taking) and gave his littlest sibling a kiss...I know this is often a posed shot in a maternity shoot, but this one really wasn't!  :)
~ then David wanted to take a picture, so Josiah handed the camera off to him and came over to be with me and give our baby a little love...I love my sweet boys!

Someday when this newest child of mine grows up and becomes a parent, he/she might just ask, "Mom, when you were pregnant with me, did you have...?"  So, to someday satisfy his/her curiosity, let me record the answers now before I forget!  :)

Heartburn? - occasionally...I do have my nightstand stocked with a bottle of Tums, but I haven't been forced to use them on a regular basis...I "never" have heartburn when I'm not pregnant, so even the slight amount I have these days is definitely a pregnancy thing; but it's not a major discomfort, just a minor inconvenience

Braxton Hicks contractions? - not very often--yet...I expected to have them a whole lot more than I've experienced so far...of course, I realize that I'm just now entering my third trimester and the number of contractions might escalate dramatically in the coming weeks, so it's too early to say that this won't be an issue during this pregnancy...but so far, they haven't been noticeable at all

Back pain? - a little...I've reached the point where I get out of bed stiff and sore, despite the great maternity pillow my sister-in-law is letting me matter what, it takes a little while for the kinks to work out of my back, which is no fun when I need to hurriedly go to David and comfort him in the night when he awakes from a bad dream (this happened two nights ago) or when I need to bend over Tobin's crib in the morning to get him out of bed and carry him downstairs for breakfast or when I awake and need to get to the bathroom RIGHT NOW...but overall, even the back pain hasn't been significant...if I could have about 5 minutes of time when I wake up to stretch and ease the pain out, it would be nicer; but I don't seem to wake up 5 minutes before I need to actually get out of bed!  :)

Pressure on the bladder, resulting in the above-mentioned "need to get to the bathroom RIGHT NOW?" - Yes!...I am definitely reaching the stage of the baby's position affecting my bladder...I can go from "no, I don't need to make a bathroom stop" to "oh my goodness, I've got to find a bathroom!" in less than 60 seconds...fortunately, sometimes Baby shifts again, off my bladder, and then I can once again take my time in finding a bathroom...this is just one of those silly, but very real, parts of pregnancy, I guess

Here are a few more questions this baby might someday ask:

Where did you feel me move most often? - With this one, I'd have to say the right side of my belly.  That's where I remember feeling Josiah the most, especially towards the end when he stretched his little legs up and kicked my ribs mercilessly.  :)  With David, there was a spot just to the left and above of my navel; and he put his little foot there and pushed until I was quite sore.  I can't remember so much with Tobin, but this little one must have hands and feet on my right side because that is where I feel the most movement.

What did it feel like when I moved? - So far, the movement has been mostly gentle, almost like an internal massage, someone kneading my insides.  However, the most recent sensation is that of convulsions.  Several times recently, as I've been sitting somewhere (like in our church service yesterday morning), this baby has been so active that I feel like an earthquake is happening inside me.  The oddest thing is that at times, he/she will kick or punch so strongly that I will almost feel like it makes my whole body lurch; and I'll look around, expecting everyone to be looking at me strangely, wondering why I can't seem to keep my body in one place on the pew.  But no one seems to notice!  How can they not, when it seems to me that my entire being is jerking in response to the jabs of this little one?  :)

Did you think I was a boy or a girl? - To be honest, I went back and forth so many times on this question that I never did get a deep sense of what--or who--you are!  At times, something would prompt my thoughts to move more in the girl direction (like the whole apples with peanut butter idea!); but before too long, something else would happen to make my thoughts shift towards a boy.  For example, the day after I wrote about apples with peanut butter, I had an appointment with the midwife (Ann, this time); and when she checked the heartbeat, it was in the 130s, which is low = typical boy range.  After that, I was (and am, as I write this) pretty convinced that the baby is a boy...which is wonderful, except that it means that Jeff and I REALLY have to decide on a boy name.  We had decided, but I've waffled a little, primarily because the name we chose is SO different.  Of course, that's true of my name as well; and I don't mind a bit the fact that I've always needed to correct people on the spelling and pronunciation of my name, as well as giving a 3 minute speech on the history of my name to every new person I meet!  I truly love my name and wouldn't want it to be anything else.  But will our son feel that way if we give him such an unusual one?  When I think about more common names, however (even common ones that I like), I just feel like, "Ugh.  Blah.  I want our son's name to be more distinctive than that!"  Even Josiah, when we said, "Do you like ---- (the original name) or ------ (a new name we were discussing)?" answered that he liked the original name best.  So back and forth we go, but I always keep coming back to this name we had chosen.  And that, in and of itself, is very significant...which doesn't make a bit of sense until you know the name and the meaning.  ;)

I don't know what else this baby might someday ask me, but let me jot down just a few more things before I wrap this up.  At my last appointment, I got to drink the lovely orange drink and do the glucose test, which I passed with flying colors.  I also did well on the hemoglobin (I think that's what it was) test, and I stayed so distracted talking to the lady who drew my blood that I didn't even mind the process.  My blood pressure was good, although I didn't write the numbers down so I can't remember what they were exactly; and my weight had jumped up about 7 pounds or so (I think it was 167.5), but Ann assured me that it was actually a good thing because I hadn't gained much weight previously and this stage of pregnancy is often accompanied by a significant weight gain because the baby is putting on more weight, too.  I love those midwives!  ;)

One thing made me a little emotional this week.  (What?  Just one thing??)  I washed my four maternity sweaters and got them ready to put away until...well, until when?  I had to wonder, "Will I ever use them again?"  If not, I'm sure I'll be able to pass them along to some other pregnant woman which will be fun to do; but the thought of maybe never wearing them again is bittersweet.

Ah, I thought of another question this baby might ask years down the road:

Did you love me even before I was born?  Were you so happy to be pregnant with me? - Yes, my little love.  Absolutely!  The love I have for you is beyond words.  Someday, my dear one, if you are blessed with a child of your own, you too will understand how deep the love of a parent is, even for an unborn child.  There are no words...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Simple Sunday - Storytime

~ thankful for this sweet moment between brothers:  Josiah reading an illustrated and abridged version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to David a few days ago
~ when I look at this picture, I see the hard work that went into it  :)...for one thing, Josiah was not always the happiest, most cooperative student when I was teaching him to read...he didn't want to sound out "m-a-t" or "c-r-a-b" or anything else; he just wanted to know what the word was already! we progressed through his reading lessons, I sometimes wondered if I should have been stricter about making him sound things out; but hearing him read now reassures me that I needn't have worried about that since he's doing exceptionally well in this area and reading books that are much, much harder than I would have expected him to read at this age

~ the other area that we have worked and worked and worked on is the sibling relationship between Josiah and many times have I asked them this question during/after a dispute:  what is the most important thing???...they unenthusiastically answer, "love"..."that's right," I say, "love for God and love for people!"...sometimes I feel like I've been talking to rocks or banging my head against a brick wall when we go through this whole routine yet again and they still haven't gotten it!...then I remember how many times I've been taught certain aspects of Christian living, and I still haven't gotten it either...but at moments like the storytime pictured above, I realize that they are getting it and that their relationship is growing as each of them grows and matures in Christ

~ two verses seem particularly relevant today:
Galatians 6:9 - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Hebrews 12:11 - No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

~ in this whole process, my sons are not the only ones being disciplined!...I am, too, as I learn to be consistent in drawing out their hearts and dealing with their characters to help to shape these amazing little (fallen) men into the image of their Creator...isn't that the challenge?  to stay consistent and not give in to weariness???

Stay the course, Davene.  Keep your hand to the plow.  Don't give up, because a harvest of righteousness and peace is coming.  And meanwhile, enjoy these beautiful little moments that give a glimpse of what the future holds, here on earth and most of all, in heaven where we will live fully in peace and righteousness...and where I'll be able to hang up my "referee hat" forever and never again break up a sibling dispute!  :)

This turned into more than just a Simple Sunday post since I usually keep those fairly short, but these thoughts have been much in my mind and heart the past few days so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to pour them out here.  :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Abundant Beauty

We are making up for winter.

The past few days have been gorgeous, with temperatures steadily rising through this week until today hit the low 80s--perfect!  We've been seizing every opportunity to be outside, reveling in the sunshine and fresh air.  I love this season!

Last evening, we were spending some family time outside; and I couldn't resist grabbing the camera to get some new sidebar pictures for each of the boys.
~ Josiah - 6 years, 10 months old
~ David - 4 years, 1 week old
~ Tobin - 15 months old

The word that has come repeatedly to mind recently as I've contemplated the unfolding beauties of springtime is ABUNDANCE.  This is a word that I primarily associate with the fall of the year (as I did in this post); but here in 2009, I've been struck by the abundance of delights that are springing forth from the earth.

Take these daffodils, for example...
...when have we ever had this many blooms from these plants?  I've used some for cut bouquets and given some to our neighbors, but the flowerbed is still full of these bits of sunshine.

And these tulips!  Sigh... 
...I can't get over how lovely they are.  The shades of color seem particularly beautiful to me this year.
If God put so much beauty into a flower, how much more beauty resides in our souls as we draw our nourishment from Him as naturally as flowers draw nourishment from the earth?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When I Need to Laugh...

I find it impossible to watch this without completely cracking up. Isn't it refreshing to see what amuses a small child? Simple pleasure--pure and delightful!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

He Loves Me

Some husbands show love for their wives by giving them expensive jewelry.  Some women receive love that way.

Some husbands express love by taking their wives out dancing.  Some women are into that kind of thing.

Some husbands demonstrate love by giving their wives foot massages.  Some women like having their feet rubbed.

I am not that woman.

However, let me record, for memory's sake, a few of the ways I have seen Jeff's love for me in the past several days.

The Gift of Time
On Sunday evening, Jeff took all three boys to a game night that our church's junior high youth group was hosting, giving me time to clean and organize our bedroom, which had been in chaos for a little over two weeks, due to the painting project.  That was long enough to make me a teensy bit antsy, and I reveled in the time Sunday night--the uninterrupted time--that I could use to restore order and beauty to our bedroom.  It was a gift, and I knew I was loved.

The Gift of Solitude

This is closely related to the above gift, but here is another example of Jeff showing love to me in this way.  Today he took all three boys to a trout pond in West Virginia (and they caught 11 fish!), giving me the opportunity to run errands in town alone--oh, joy!  :)  I had an appointment with the midwife; but before that, I was able to go by a friend's house and have a cup of tea with her while I looked through a box of hand-me-downs from her three boys to mine.  After the appointment, I went by a few fabric/decorating stores to get some ideas for the fabric I want to use for window treatments for our bedroom, as well as a slipcover for an old chair (from my maternal grandparents) that I have in the bedroom as a cozy reading spot.  Then I was off to Gift & Thrift, to drop off a bunch of stuff I've collected to donate...and to leisurely look through almost all the sections of the store to see what "needed" to come home with me.  :)  To be able to do all of these things by myself was a joyful break for me, and I appreciate so much Jeff's willingness to give me that time.  It wasn't so long ago that it was tough to take all three boys, because of their varying needs; but now that Tobin is getting a little older, Jeff has begun to include him with the others, and it provides such a time of refreshment for me when he does.

The Gift of Service
I've been eager to get my birthday magnolia in the ground; but for one reason or another, its planting kept getting delayed.  Until this afternoon, that is, when Jeff donned a coat against the chilly wind (although the sky was beautiful, the breeze had a bite to it) and dug the hole for my tree.  It turned into a community effort, with my mother joining us to give advice and provide the right mixture of fertilizer, Josiah and David using a small shovel to "help Daddy," the neighbor girls gathering around to watch and help as needed with putting fertilizer in the hole or bracing the tree trunk against the wind or holding earthworms that they had picked out of the dirt, and even the painter Kevin joining the crew to...well...offer encouragement and support, I suppose.  :)  I know digging a hole isn't much fun, but I'm so grateful to Jeff for loving me and showing it by serving me in a way that really meant a lot to me.

With all this love being lavished on me, I wonder how I can express my love more effectively to him?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Latest Craving

Take an apple, fresh and crisp from the refrigerator.  Wash it in cool water, cut it in half, core it, then fill the center of each half with a generous dollop of smooth--never crunchy--peanut butter.  That is what I've been craving.  That is what I eat every day.

Unlike my earlier pregnancy craving, this one actually has some decent nutritional value, so I'm not holding back but am indulging my craving whenever it strikes.  Not that I held back with the earlier craving either...  :)

I read a comment recently on someone's blog that caught my attention (but not enough for me to actually remember who wrote it!), something to the effect of when you're pregnant with boys, you crave citrus.  I can testify to that, having craved and eaten huge amounts of citrus fruits while pregnant with each of my boys.  This time, however, I'm not as inclined to go for the citrus.  So does that mean I'm having a girl?  It's certainly not strong enough proof for me to go and raid all our local thrift stores for pink clothes, but I'll keep it in the back of my head until July when I'll either say, "Hey, that was true!" or "Hogwash!"  :)

In the meantime, I'll keep eating my apples with peanut butter...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Finally Four

The eagerly-awaited day finally came, and David officially turned four (and I'm finally posting about it).  This birthday was unique in that David was so aware of what was going on and was SO excited about all of it.  Last year when he turned three, he enjoyed his special day, for sure; but his level of enthusiasm was minimal compared with this year!  :)

We kept his birthday dinner simple by just inviting one family over, the Sacras; I didn't have the energy to try to do a bigger party than that (oh, Kevin, the painter, was here for dinner, too; but that's been the norm during the past few weeks as he's worked around here!).  However, despite the lack of a big party, we did have beautiful daffodils on the table as a bright centerpiece (David calls these, "the flowers that smell like Play Doh")...  :)
...and David did get to lick the icing off the beaters--beauty for the eye, beauty for the tongue.
He tried to fit the whole beater in his mouth, but it didn't quite fit.  :)
When I asked David what kind of cake he wanted, he was very specific: chocolate cake...with green icing...and sprinkles...and four dinosaurs on top!  :)
He managed to get the candle blown out by himself as Jeff held the cake for him and we all sang "happy birthday" -- again -- to him.
We enjoyed our company very much.  It was the perfect way to cap off a very special day for a very special boy.  He even got to stay up until almost 11:00 PM that night, a huge treat for him.  :)

Before I sign off, I have to jot down one other thing about David.  Recently, I've noticed that when he wants me to watch him do something, he will say, "Watch me the whole time!"  He's old enough to realize that, unfortunately, my attention sometimes slips away from him by the time he finishes whatever clever thing he was performing for me; and by the time he's done, I'm only paying attention to whatever had occupied me previously.  In this coming year, I pray for the grace to slow down and show him the respect he needs by really focusing on him and helping him to be convinced of how much he means to me by my willingness to stop whatever I'm doing and give him my undivided attention...and when I can't do that immediately, to let him know when I WILL be able to watch him--the whole time!  :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simple Sunday - First Tulip

~ thankful for this glorious tulip that bloomed today...I never cared much for tulips--until my brother David gave me a bouquet of purple tulips when I performed my senior piano recital in college...since then, I've had a soft spot in my heart for these beauties--and the fact that they are some of the first to bloom in the spring makes me love them even more...this gorgeous one is the first of the season for us, but not the last...a whole row of them is getting ready to burst forth in exuberant color, a true delight to my soul!

I was planning to include a verse or two in this post; but when I looked at Matthew 6 in The Message, I got so caught up in reading it that I decided to use more than one or two verses!  I appreciate the freshness of this version, and these particular words (verses 25-34) speak volumes to me...

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with gettingso you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Last Night as a Three Year-old

Tomorrow David turns four.  

It's hard to believe that this little boy, who surprised us even by his birth, has been a part of our family for four years already.  It's also hard to believe that we ever existed without his laughter and energy and vivaciousness.   Our world would be dark and gloomy without this ball of sunshine.

Here is David, the last time I'll tuck him in bed as a three year-old.  He clung to my neck an extra long time as I hugged him tonight.  Maybe he sensed my mood and the significance of this night in the unstoppable passage of time.
I love you, David, more than words can say.  You are truly beloved.

Why I Want White Closet Doors

See the face in this door?
Here, let me darken the picture so it's more obvious.  See it now?
THAT is the reason (one of them, anyway) why I've been eager for the closet doors in my bedroom to be painted.  Who wants a freaky face like that looking at them?  Even if it is only wood, it's weird!  :)

I can't imagine what the person was thinking who put these boards together to construct this door.  Maybe he didn't notice?  Maybe he did it as a joke?  Maybe he thought it looked cool?  Maybe a machine did it and a person never touched it until it was all over?  Who knows!

What I do know is that for all the years of my childhood, that door hung on my mother's closet and that face peered out.  It's not as if I was seriously afraid of it, and even now it's not like it really bothers me...but I do think about it from time to time; and, boy, am I glad it's now covered with a nice layer of white paint.

Goodbye, strange face.  Rest in peace.  :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Daddy Takes the Day Off...

...he just might end up playing Risk with two of his sons.
Risk isn't too advanced of a game for a three year-old and a six year-old, after all, when Daddy is the brains behind the conquest of the world.  :)  

During the game, I overheard David saying this to Jeff:  I won't be sad if he wins or you win, but I will be happy if I win!  :)

Actually, Josiah happened to be the victor in this game and proudly dated and signed his name on the game board (a tradition in our family for such games).  David, who had won a game of Candyland just before this game, then wanted to sign the Candyland board, so Jeff let him and David was thrilled.

Jeff took off Thursday of last week and Tuesday of this week, just for fun, simply to spend extra time with the family.  We have LOVED it!  Too bad he can't do that every week!  :)  Yesterday, besides the special time to play games with the boys in the afternoon, we all went out for breakfast as a family to Thomas House Restaurant in Dayton (a first for us, although Jeff had been there before)...then we went to the Children's Museum and let the boys have a ball there like they always do (and this time was even more special because Jeff used some of the face paint there to decorate their faces, David being a cat--but acting more like a tiger--and Josiah being a clown; if his face looks funny in the above photo, that's why!)...then to the barbershop for a haircut for Scooter--I mean, Tobin--who looks so different with his neatly buzzed hair style.  I love to rub the soft peach fuzz on his head now, and he tries to grab his hair like he used to; but now he can't get a handful, and he probably wonders why not!

Today, on Jeff's usual day off, he stayed home with Tobin this afternoon and evening, while Josiah, David, and I headed east to Charlottesville for a Flat Stanley play at the Paramount Theater--a beautiful old theater that I had never been to before.  One of the other moms from our homeschool co-op found out about this play and let us know about it, and it turned out to be a very fun adventure for my oldest sons and I (as well as the other co-op families there, I'm sure).  One of my favorite parts was having David want to sit on my lap the whole time we were watching the play; and even though I got a little cramped, I wouldn't have traded it for anything.  :)

Family time is a treasure!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good, Better, Best

Many years ago, when I was a girl, my mother taught me this saying:

Good, better, best,
Never let it rest, 
Til your good is better, 
And your better, best.

She had no idea I would someday apply that saying to a house--her house--the house she and my dad designed and had built.  Sorry, Mother, sometimes things backfire!  :)  Here's another saying she taught me, "To each his own"; that seems to apply in this situation!

Here is the good...
...white walls and wood trim.  My mother, she likes her some white walls!  Me, on the other hand?  Color--lots of it!  I must get it from my mother's parents who had colored walls--purple in their bedroom, a blue bedroom where I sometimes slept, another bedroom that was yellow.  I guess it's in my blood somewhere; but at any rate, I have longed for colored walls ever since I knew we would finally own a home and not have to deal with rented white walls.  However, the white walls and wood trim were undoubtedly good, and we continue to feel blessed beyond measure 
to even be able to live in this home and call it ours, no matter what color the walls.  :)

Here comes the better... walls but still with wood trim.  Our friend Kevin, the painter, made good progress last week with basically finishing the blue walls; but a bout of sickness over the weekend slowed things down considerably, especially the painting of the doors and trim.

However, here comes the BEST... walls and white trim.  Isn't it gorgeous???  I keep saying when I look at it, "I'm so excited," and Kevin laughs.  He's used to seeing walls transformed in his line of work; but to me, this is just amazing.  I love it so much!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009


I am so proud of Josiah!

On Saturday, he finished up the last of his official first grade work, which means two things: 1) summer vacation has already begun in our household, and 2) we have a second grader in our family!  This book, Detectives in Togas, was the last thing we needed to finish reading and cross off the list before we could close the huge curriculum binder and call it a year...
Later that afternoon, Josiah curled up on the couch and started reading Five True Dog Stories, just for fun.  (And speaking of fun, I let the boys have a pajama day on Saturday since it was an extra-special day and we didn't have to go anywhere!)  Josiah has taken off with his reading this past year.  He technically learned to read during kindergarten, but during his first grade year, he soared with it; and the thing I'm most pleased about is that now he reads of his own initiative, simply for the pleasure of it.  That's what I would have done all day long as a girl, if my parents would have let me.  ;)

Not to be outdone, David announced on Saturday that he was doing math like a big boy.  He got out this game and matched the numbers with the pictures, announcing that 2 + 2 = 4 and figuring out that 2 + 8 = 10, etc.  
At supper on Saturday, when Josiah got the Celebrate plate and was congratulated on his successful school year, David announced that he didn't feel very special.  Of course, we reassured him about how special he truly is; but it seems he needed to prove himself because today he hurried up and finished his dot-to-dot book and then asked if he could have the Celebrate plate tonight for his big accomplishment.  Of course you can, David dear!  :)

Now that we're not doing regular schoolwork (although we are continuing to do a little bit to get a head start on next year and keep the learning fresh), I have time to turn my attention to other things.  My big goal is to get back on track with FlyLady.  Last summer, I made some significant strides, but lost most of it during the busy school year.  Today I'm jumping back to the beginning with Day One of FlyLady's BabySteps.  And so, I'm off to shine my sink...  :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Simple Sunday - Empty Cross

~ what else could I choose on this day but the very symbol of Jesus' victory over sin and death?...I'm so very thankful for the event we remember here at Easter time...the cross truly changes everything
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.
~ I Corinthians 1:18

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Good Friday

Good Friday! I wonder who first gave it that name and how things progressed through history to cement that title to this day. The only people who would ever call it "good" are the ones who stand on this side of the cross and, in retrospect, see the inherent goodness of that horrible day. Surely the followers of Jesus couldn't possibly grasp, at the time, how anything good could come out of that atrocious day that resulted in the murder of the only innocent man the world has ever contained. How full of despair the disciples must have been! But more about the disciples in a minute...

First, here are some pictures from our Good Friday, which, happily, included a peaceful evening with each boy finding some means of quiet entertainment after supper.

David got out this electronic matching game and had fun with that...
Josiah played Monopoly by himself...
Tobin got the seat of honor on Grandma's lap and looked at books with her...

Speaking of Tobin, I just had to include another video of him. I know, I know...overkill on the Tobin videos. But this one that I took this evening shows the way he scoots around the floor. He may not crawl, but he can go places! At this rate, I won't have to worry about him wearing out the knees of his pants. The hind end? Well, that's another story... :) To clarify what might be confusing, my mom's voice is also heard in this video (along with my talking-to-baby voice; do I always sound so funny when I talk to my little ones?). :)

But back to the disciples... We participated in a Maundy Thursday meal and service with our church last night (and the most poignant moment I captured with the camera of my heart was when Tobin and Joelle Blosser sat side by side near the basin as Joelle's mom and I washed each other's feet); and as our pastor, Gordon, spoke about the disciples falling asleep in the garden, my mind flew to Passover night in 1996 when Jeff and I and another student at the school we attended in Jerusalem decided to retrace the steps of Jesus on the night of his betrayal. Jeff figured out the timing of everything; and as best we could, we did exactly what Jesus did on that night. I remember the delicious aroma of lamb and the other foods that the Old City Jewish residents were feasting on that night; as we walked through the deserted streets, the smell drifted through open windows to tease us...and the sounds of family and friends and fellowship filled my ears and made me feel the loneliness of being an outsider. But then we came to the Mount of Olives; and, although we couldn't go into the Garden of Gethsemane because of locked gates, we did sit down in a graveyard on the Mount to spend time in prayer. And I received an unforgettable lesson in humility when I, who had always been so critical of the disciples because they fell asleep when Jesus needed them, for crying out loud!, became so tired that I, too, drifted off to sleep.

I am no different than they were, and I've never forgotten it.
When we arrived home last night from the service, I noticed the full moon rising behind the forest to the east of us. I tried to capture it, but really haven't the slightest idea how to effectively photograph the moon. This was as good as I could do, but it's enough to remind me that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus, too, saw a full moon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Can't Get Enough...

...of this sweet boy. I love to watch him grow and change...I love to notice all the new things he does and new sounds he makes...I love to study him, noticing things like the mole on the middle finger of his right hand, the way he's quick to wave and say "bye" (without the "b" at the beginning) when he sees someone getting ready to leave, his eyes that watch and absorb everything that goes on around him, the way he loves to talk on the "telephone" (which could be just a string held to his ear), his knowledge that socks go on feet and sunglasses go on faces and hats go on heads and his attempts to put them there (even though he himself can't get them on the right way). These video clips just make me smile as they capture a unique stage of his life (and unique stages in Josiah and David's lives, too, since theirs are the voices that are mostly heard in the videos!).

Tobin Bear, I love you so much. You are truly a treasure!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

23 Weeks...24 Weeks...25 Weeks...

Well, it's been a while since my last pregnancy update.  So much for weekly pics and news!

I'm grateful to still be in the basically-feeling-good stage of this pregnancy.  These golden days of feeling Baby's movements, having an immensely precious connection with him/her that no one else gets to experience, having energy, not feeling sleep-deprived, not yet being at the point of waddling everywhere :), are cherished by me, especially since I know that harder days are coming.

It's a funny thing: on the one hand, I feel like things are slipping along so smoothly and easily these days.  I think, "Hey, I can do this!  It's not so bad, trying to balance the needs of my three sons and my husband and all the other people in my life while being pregnant--not nearly as hard as I imagined it might be during those emotional first weeks of pregnancy.  This is easy!"  But then, at other times, I think, "You know, this is kind of hard; and I think it's OK to admit that!"  But mostly, it does feel easy; and I'll be grateful for each day that feels that way!  :)

Although I'm not eager to rush through this stage, I do look forward to the baby being born for several reasons.  Obviously, the first one--and the most significant by far--is meeting our amazing little one and beginning the process of getting to know who the child is in all his/her uniqueness and God-given characteristics.  Besides that, I'm anticipating stepping on the scale and seeing my weight go down, wearing smaller clothes, being able to turn over in bed without a second thought (rather than the careful planning that rolling over requires in the later stages of pregnancy!), and seeing if the terrible eczema on my hands will lessen after the pregnancy hormones rushing through my body have departed in peace.  During the last few years, eczema has been a bothersome part of life for me; but my hands have NEVER been this bad.  On the good side, my hands are the only part of my body currently affected by eczema; but they are horrible.  It used to be that my fingers would get itchy patches and would occasionally get so dry that the skin would crack open.  Now, however, I have large, red, scaly, itchy patches--not only on my fingers--but worse, on the backs of my hands.  There is no way to hide it (other than a return to the glove-wearing days of the Victorian Period, but somehow wearing beautiful gloves and blue jeans at the same time doesn't quite work!), and I have had a number of people ask me if I burned myself (adults ask that) or the more blatant question, "what's wrong with your hands???" (kids blurt out that one).  I'm actually relieved when someone does ask me so that I can tell them what it is and assure them that it's not serious and not contagious!  If I lived in the Old Testament period, I'm sure I would have been cast out of the camp long ago and would have had to wander around calling out, "Unclean!  Unclean!"  :)  Maybe, after this pregnancy, the eczema will lessen tremendously.  Live ever in hope, right?  :)

Before each of my children was born, I always thought, "How am I ever going to...fill in the blank...with my children?"  With Josiah, it was a general, "How am I going to survive as a mom?  How am I going to do anything?"  :)  With David, there were two things that concerned me: how to take a shower if no one else was home to watch Josiah and David, and how to go out with both Josiah and David (this was when we lived in Israel...we didn't have a car so we either walked or took public transportation).  Before Tobin was born, I worried that I'd never get good at going to Walmart with all three boys.  Now I look back and grin sheepishly as I realize that somehow, I did indeed learn to do all of those things and now I wonder why I ever was concerned about them!

But of course, this time around, I have a new fear: how to handle mornings.  When Tobin wakes up, he is hungry and--not surprisingly--doesn't like to wait very long for his breakfast.  He won't understand if I say, "Sorry, Tobin, but The New Baby had a diaper blow-out, and I won't be able to feed you your breakfast for 5 more minutes.  Just be patient, OK?"  That will work for Josiah and David--no problem--but not Tobin Bear.  I've already resigned myself to sitting at the kitchen table with a Boppy pillow, nursing The New Baby and simultaneously shoveling Cheerios into Tobin's mouth...but if it gets too much more complicated than that, I don't know what I'm going to do!  A year from now, I'll look at this and laugh at myself--I hope!  :)  

Before I get to the adjustment period as a mom of four though, I have to give birth to this child.  I've been thinking more and more about the fact that somehow, this baby has to get out of my body!  Yikes!  :)  It was interesting after homeschool co-op last week to sit around with a few other moms and hears bits and pieces of their labor stories.  One of the moms got epidurals very early in both of her labor experiences and happily sailed through labor and delivery.  Another mom, who has 5 children and gave birth to them at home, obviously didn't have any medication.  But the third mom (who has 6 children) has done both: sometimes having quick labors and going the natural route and sometimes having longer labors that wear her out so much that epidurals give her the break she needs to recover her strength for the actual delivery.  In my mind, I had pictured her as going the strictly-natural route, and I was a little surprised--pleasantly--to hear that she's done both.  It was a completely peaceful, respectful conversation between all of us with none of the infamous "Mommy Wars" about the best way to give birth...but it did remind me of the reality of what's coming!  Ah, but at the end, A BABY!

Back during week 23, I had a routine appointment with the midwives; and this time I saw Marty which was good because she's probably the one I saw the least during Tobin's pregnancy.  It was an enjoyable appointment, complete with a surprisingly short wait and a friendly chat with the midwife.  I love how they take time to talk with their patients!  I was measuring exactly right for this stage.  Baby's heartbeat was 148, solidly in the middle range.  My blood pressure was good: 122 over 66.  My weight was 160.5 pounds.  I was shocked when Marty said I had only gained 5 and a half pounds so far this pregnancy because, really, does this growth I'm sporting look like only 5 and a half pounds???  :)  When I got home, I had to look back in my records to see if she was right; and sure enough, at my first visit with the midwives, I was 155 pounds.  However, I'm really counting my starting weight as 150 because here at home, at the very beginning of the pregnancy, that's where my weight was hovering.  So, 10 and a half pounds.  That sounds more reasonable to me; but oh my, when I look at these pictures, I think I look all that--and more!  :)
~ 25 weeks, 1 day...on Palm Sunday
~ David wanted to be in the picture with me, so he picked a daffodil, too, and stood with me in the flowerbed while Jeff took these pictures...doesn't it look like he's thinking, "wow, Mommy is BIG"?  :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Brilliant! ... and Not-So

Brilliant: the colors of nature surrounding me today...vivid green grass, gorgeous blue sky, white and gray clouds scudding across the vast expanse, attention-getting daffodils...I had the opportunity to get out of the house and drive several places today, and my time in the car brought such delight as I drank in the sight of such vivacious colors

Brilliant:  the way the dark blue of the paint I chose for my bedroom walls looks against the newly-painted white trim...dark blue and white is my absolute favorite color combination and has been as long as I can remember...I am immensely pleased with how the bedroom is coming along!

Not-so-brilliant:  my choice to stay up until 2:30 AM last night, just to finish reading a's been ages since I did that, but A Voice in the Wind gripped me so much that I was powerless to put it down before I reached the end (even though I knew what was going to happen because I've read the book before) :)...fortunately, today was such a busy day that I didn't have time to sit for a moment and realize that I was's hitting me now though, so even though I would like to just peek at the first page of the first chapter of the next book in the series, I'll show great restraint and not even pull the book off the shelf!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Simple Sunday - Paint on the Wall

~ thankful for this smear of blue paint on my bedroom wall...also thankful for the ladder that's currently in the room (not a normal part of my decorating scheme!) and the total mess that is present everywhere in that room (which would normally drive me bonkers)...why?  because my bedroom is getting painted!!!...I've only been thinking about this and planning it for the past five years or so (no exaggeration), so to say I'm a little excited is an understatement  :)
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, April 3, 2009

7:00 AM

In my last post, I mentioned that Josiah and David stayed in their beds until 7:00 AM, the time that we allow them to get up (which is certainly not an original idea with us; although I can't remember from whom I first heard that idea, I know that a number of other people do something similar).  Susan commented with a question about how we do that--how do we get our children to obediently stay in their beds in the morning?  It's a very good question, and I'm glad she asked it so that I can write a little more about it.  My first thought was just to leave a comment back in response to hers; but knowing my tendency to be long-winded  :), I decided to turn it into another post.  Besides, it deserves its own post because it touches on some vital issues!

By the way, I hope very much that this doesn't come across as an oh-they've-got-it-all-figured-out-and-have-perfectly-obedient-children kind of a post.  I'm actually writing this after a rougher-than-normal day with the boys, so I feel very humbled and aware again of how only through God's grace and strength do we ever "achieve success" in the raising of our boys.  The glory is His.

The simplistic answer to Susan's question is this: we bought a digital clock, made sure that it was positioned so that both boys could see it from their beds, taught them what 7:00 (or later) looks like on the clock, and then told them they couldn't get out until that time.

The real issue is much deeper and more complicated however.  What do you do when the child challenges that?  How do you handle it when it's 6:45 and they wander into your room?  How do you get them to stay in bed even if they wake early?  How do you help them choose to obey?

First of all, with Tobin (14 months old) who still sleeps in a crib, obviously he can't get out before 7:00 because he's stuck in there.  :)  But his situation is different: he sleeps in a different room than the other boys, we haven't taught him to tell time yet :), and if he cries before 7:00, I get him and don't even try to enforce the 7:00 AM guideline.  He goes through phases of different sleep patterns; and back around the time he turned a year old, he was waking earlier than 7:00.  I didn't like it because not only was it more difficult to pull myself out of bed in the 6:00 range, it was also very dark.  Winter mornings are not when I like to get up early!  :)  But I knew it was just a phase, so I got to practice the art of self-denial and simply get up with him earlier than I desired.  Now he's back to waking up after 7:00 almost all of the time, so I'm grateful for that.  I try to pay attention to his need for sleep and adjust his bedtime so that he wakes later than 7:00, rather than earlier.  At this point in time, he normally goes to bed around 8:00 PM (sometimes a pinch earlier, but rarely later).

There is another factor with Tobin though.  Because he's a Babywise baby, we put him in his crib awake and he goes to sleep by himself.  For him, his crib is a happy place; and his normal pattern is to wake up (whether from a nap or from nighttime sleep) and play and talk and be content in his crib for a while before he's at the point of fussing to get out.  He likes his crib and the stuffed animals and crib toys in it.  

Now on to Josiah and David...  

I have heard from a variety of sources that if you focus on training your oldest, that training rubs off on the younger siblings.  Firstborns are such powerful forces in a family!  For better or for worse, they have a huge impact on the younger ones; but that can be used to our advantage as parents.  Obviously, we also deal with the hearts of every single child because they are each unique and will each have personal struggles that need the shepherding of a parent.  I'm not suggesting to ignore the younger ones!  :)  However, from our experience with morning wake times, I'm convinced that the fact that Josiah "got it" helped David immensely when we transitioned David from a crib into a bed in Josiah's room.  David sees Josiah waiting until 7:00, so it's very natural for him to follow suit.  Josiah, in fact, has a tendency to be a little policeman when it comes to David so I'm sure he has verbally "encouraged" David to stay in bed if he wakes early.  :)  

The question still remains, how do you train the firstborn?  I actually don't have too many vivid memories of this with Josiah, but here is what does come to mind.  When the child gets out of bed too early, you simply take the child back to bed (or if they are old enough and have gotten into the habit of getting up early, you simply tell them to go back to bed).  When the child is first learning this concept, lots of gentle reminders can be used.  

On the other hand, kids are smart--very smart.  :)  And they can conveniently "forget" the guideline, so parental discernment is needed about when to simply remind and when to take it to the next level.  If a child of mine gets up too early and comes to me and I instruct them to go back to bed until the right time, if that child does not obey, the issue changes completely from reminding about a new habit (not such a big deal) to direct disobedience (much more serious).  At that point, we would deal with it the way we deal with a blatant challenge to our authority (and there's not just one way that we would deal with it...depends on the age of the child and the training methods that work best for him).  But the child would realize that their behavior was unacceptable and that we take it seriously.

Another thing that helped me put this 7:00 AM guideline into practice with our boys was deciding very consciously when to begin this, choosing a time when I was not sick or extra tired or stressed, and giving extra attention to it for the first few days until they consistently started to obey it without constantly challenging it.  In fact, in this post from way back in June 2007, I mentioned how I stayed nearby when I first put David in his new bed in Josiah's room.  I found a project I could do and still keep an eye on and ear out for David as he adjusted to the new freedom of his different sleeping situation.  For me, when it comes to any kind of sleep training, I've discovered two things: first, it's always better for me to tackle it in the daytime at the child's nap, rather than trying to be coherent and consistent in the night; and second, sustained attention at the beginning reaps enormous rewards in the end.  If I can devote some focused time and energy to training the child, after a day or two or three, they get the lesson and don't really challenge it much after that.

All of this assumes that the child has learned basic obedience--that they are not commander-in-chief of their own little life and that they must submit to the authority God has placed over them.  That is the true challenge!  

For the first few years (even up to age 5 or so), I consider that the most important lesson for my children to learn.  Obviously, they are learning SO MUCH during this time: that they are loved and cherished and we hold them as precious gifts from God and that there is no one like them on earth and that they are WONDERFUL!  Lots and lots and lots of love and hugs and kisses and cuddles and FUN gets heaped on them.  But they also desperately need to learn this lesson of bowing their head to authority; if not, they will fight and kick and scream their way through life, rebelling against all kinds of authority that they will have to encounter.  I view it as a grave disservice to a child to NOT teach them that lesson early in their life.  Would the problem child in school be such a problem if the parents had, in a loving context, taught him/her the principle of submission?  Would the teen sitting in court for vandalism or theft be there if his mom and dad had taken the time and exerted the energy to teach him that he must bend his will and sacrifice his own selfish desires for the good of those around him?

There have been times in my life as a mother that I have been specifically concerned about my boys' obedience (lack thereof, to be exact).  One year, I wrote in my new planner that my top priority for the new year was to focus on obedience with Josiah and David.  Much higher than losing weight, organizing my closet, writing handwritten letters, drinking more water, even serving on another church much more important than those other worthy goals was the one crystal-clear goal: to teach my children to obey.  (Obviously, the very highest life-long priority for me is to grow in my relationship with God and to reflect His glory and likeness more and more.)

I find that it takes a significant amount of energy and mental focus for me to train them in this way.  But when I'm on top of my game, so to speak, I don't dread their disobedience because I recognize that it gives me the opportunity to speak life into them by training them in how to live correctly.  Kevin Leman mentions this in his book Have a New Kid by Friday--this idea of actually looking forward to their mistakes because of having a plan for how to deal with it and how to turn it into a learning opportunity for them.

I remember when I decided to teach David to obey my verbal commands.  He was crawling around and decided to go over to the steps and see if he could go up them.  At that point in time, I knew it was not at all safe for him to do that by himself; and rather than throwing baby gates up to block all the dangerous parts of the house, I realized that I could teach him to obey, even at that young age.  You know what?  It worked!  I gave him the opportunity to disobey, watched him like a hawk (even if he didn't realize it), then dealt with his behavior and taught him not to go up those steps.  We never had a single incident where he tried to go up and got hurt as a result.  (To clarify: we did, however, have a gate at the top of the steps leading downstairs and also had a barrier around the woodstove.  Those truly dangerous spots, where one mistake could cost him terrible suffering or even his life, were blocked.)

Obedience protects.  When the child steps out from under the umbrella of obedience and submission to God-given authority, they are no longer protected and will much more likely "get wet" as a consequence of their disobedience.  I have often used this umbrella imagery with my boys to help them understand this principle of the natural, completely normal consequences of obedience versus disobedience.  It's just a fact of life, and you can only fight it so long before you realize you're just banging your fists against a stone wall and only accomplishing the act of bloodying your hands.  Some children take longer than others to learn this lesson.  ;)

Before I leave the subject of obedience, I must mention that I can always tell when my heart is particularly troubled by what I see as a lack of obedience in one of my children because I have a recurring theme in my dreams when that is the case:  the theme is wild animals tracking and attacking my children.  At this point in time, I feel confident in Josiah's basic obedience (so we've moved on to other issues like the condition of his heart while obeying!); but when he was still learning this lesson, I would dream this about him.  With David, I had a dream like this not too many months ago, which reminded me that obedience is still an ongoing lesson with him.  The dream has had a number of variations--sometimes the animal is a tiger, sometimes a bear--sometimes we're in a place I don't recognize, sometimes we're here in our home.  Often I'm inside the house, and my child is outside, and I'm struggling to reach the child or make my voice heard or somehow communicate the warning that they need to come inside to be safe from the predator.  I always wake up from such dreams in quite a panic; they are the type of dream that lingers so forcefully and causes you to feel the raw emotion of it for hours afterwards.  It's not as if I've had hundreds of these dreams during the past almost 7 years of being a mom, but it has been consistent enough for me to recognize the pattern.  I don't put a whole lot of stock in my dreams since they are usually quite absurd; but in this case, it seems like these dreams do accurately reflect the deep concern of my heart in the times when they come.

Whew!  I know that was a lot more than Susan asked for; but with a quiet house this evening (Tobin and David in bed asleep, and Josiah with Jeff at dress rehearsal for our Easter play), I could let my thoughts and my fingers flow freely.  This is the result:  lots of words.  :)

I do want to clarify one thing though.  The 7:00 AM guideline is not a hardship for the boys.  It is not an area of wills clashing.  It is a very normal thing for them to sleep past 7:00 AM; in fact, as I mentioned in the last post, it's rare for them to both be awake before that time.  David's normal sleep pattern is to sleep until close to 8:00 AM, if not later; and Josiah, although he usually wakes up before that, does not often awake before 7:00.  If I noticed that my boys tended to naturally wake up at 6:30 or even 6:00 and that their body rhythm didn't seem to budge even if I adjusted their bedtimes, I wouldn't fight it and make a huge issue out of this.  There are enough other issues that are more important!  But this works very well for our family, particularly since we don't have to get up and out the door by a certain time every morning.  If the boys went to public school, that would all be different.  For us, just one of the many advantages of homeschooling is the ability to have relaxed mornings.  :)

Ah, I hear the Jeep!  Jeff and Josiah just got home, so I'm off...  :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It's been a sweet day.  How could it not be, with a venti mint hot chocolate and a piece of banana chocolate chip coffee cake at Starbucks for breakfast and chocolate ice cream from Kline's as a bedtime snack?  :)

My day officially started with hearing Josiah and David talking and laughing together a few minutes before 7:00 AM, which made me smile.  It is rare that they are both awake that early--usually David is the one who sleeps in--but this morning, they woke up before 7:00, then obediently stayed in their beds until that magic hour when they're allowed to get out of bed.  After that, they quickly came into our room and sang in whispery voices (since Tobin was still asleep in his room just off ours) "Happy birthday to you!"  I loved it.  :)

After that, I got ready and left the house.  Since my birthday landed on a Wednesday, Jeff's day off (I wish that happened every year!), he graciously agreed to stay home with the boys and let me have some time out all by myself this morning.  It was thrilling.  :)  I went to Starbucks and used the gift card that I won in a give-away on Jo Ann's blog, then sat there and started reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.  It's been a number of years since I read it--probably ever since Carolyn Fields had all the women in her discipleship group read it way back in San Diego--but I'm enjoying it immensely and being challenged by it.  Only problem is, now that I've started that book, I want to sit and read it while I should be doing other things!  :)  

After Starbucks, I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond because Jo Ann, in her generosity, decided that since it took her longer than expected to get the Starbucks gift card to me, she should include a gift card to Bed, Bath, and Beyond as well.  OK!  I'm not complaining!  :)  I peacefully walked through the whole store with no little people tugging at me or wanting my attention.  I thought about a few things I might like to get; but when I saw this sign...
...I knew I'd found the one.  It was the first time I'd seen a sign with this saying, and I look forward to hanging it in our bedroom as a reminder of the wonderful love story woven through my life!

My last stop before heading home was the nursery to get my big gift: a magnolia tree!  I have some magnolias already, but I want to continue the row of them all along the western side of our property.  This tall specimen was actually $20 cheaper than I thought it would be, so that made me happy.  :)

After I arrived at home, we got ourselves ready and headed north, my parents included, to eat lunch at the Olive Garden in Winchester.  It's a long trip for just a lunch out, but oh so yummy...and worth it on such a special day.  :)

Then home in mid-afternoon for a nap (interrupted by vivid dreams of characters from A Voice in the Wind!), followed by family time with no set agenda.  Jeff loved me through acts of service by working on a few little projects around the house, and I went on a little nature walk around our property.  First, I found my mother up on a ladder, pruning the grapevine! 
Then these cheerful daffodils caught my eye...  
Ours are on the north side of our house, so they always bloom later than most in the area.
Some hyacinths...
...which I planted a few years ago around the base of my fringe trees.
Green grass... It's kind of silly to take a picture of grass, I know.  I only wish the color was better in it so the vivid green would be visible (I'm too tired tonight to even try to edit it to correct that!).  One of the things I love about the month of March is how the grass greens up.  Beginning of March, it's brown.  Beginning of April, it's beautifully green.  What a difference!
Water drops on lily leaves from our light sprinkle of rain earlier...
But most precious by far of all the things I saw around our house is the treasured face of my little Tobin Bear.  He's gorgeous to me!

It's always interesting to me to look back on my previous birthday posts (appropriately named 31 and 32!).  Last year, I posted some old photos; and this year, I decided to take another trip down Memory Lane (and, by the way, I pulled these old pictures out of boxes and albums and took pictures of them with my current camera to post here; that's why the quality of some of them is not the greatest...but again, I'm too tired to do anything about it now!).  It's hard to believe that I was this little girlie...
...who grew up and (skipping a bunch of years!) became this skinny college student...
...who had short hair and liked big earrings...
...and went off to Israel and met an almost-too-good-to-be-true man and fell crazily in love and was wooed long distance by him and received countless letters (real letters, hand-written, not emails) from him and occasionally even flowers...
...and who became engaged to him and could hardly wait to marry Prince Charming...
...but who still had to finish her senior year of college, but fortunately had fantastic friends to help her through...
...who finally did graduate, three weeks before the wedding day...
...who embraced the adventure of being a newlywed in the far-off land of California (here at the San Diego Zoo...there's a lion in the bottom right corner of the picture)...
...and did silly things like kissing Jack (from Jack in the Box restaurant, but most East Coasters probably haven't heard of that restaurant) on Halloween...oh, you guessed it, it's really Jeff inside that silly head he made!...  :)
...and came back to her college campus in Pennsylvania a year or two later to dress up in her wedding gown and take more wedding pics, just for fun  :) (since the wedding was in Virginia, we didn't get to take real wedding pics in this gorgeous location)...
...and who eventually became a mother--A MOTHER!--to her firstborn son...
...and her second...
...and her third (but there are plenty of pictures of that on the blog already!), and now is expecting a fourth.

What an incredible adventure the past 33 years have been!!!  

At this stage of life, I feel a very deep sense of contentment.  Oh, sure, there are some things I'd like to change; but overall, I feel like I am living out my earliest, most cherished dream.  Surely I must be the most blessed woman on the face of the earth.  In the words of The Shack, God must be "especially fond" of me.  How grateful I am!!!!!!!!