Sunday, November 29, 2009

If I Don't Blog Tonight...

...I'll forget the look on Tobin's face when I got him up from his nap and he saw our Christmas tree. We hadn't even put any lights or ornaments on it yet; but even still, his face conveyed such wondrous surprise and joy. To think that in the place where his train table normally stands, there was now a tree?! In the house?! How delightful is that!

As he stood there gazing in amazement, I told him that he could touch it; and he toddled over and gently reached out to feel the needles. It was as if he was thinking, "Is this real?? Did somebody really put a tree in the living room? And Mom and Dad know about this, and they're OK with it?"

Ah, the magic of that moment and the sweetness of his face!

Yes, if I don't write this down tonight, I surely won't remember it. And I do not want to forget this.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In My Arms

Thanksgiving is over, and it was wonderful; but I haven't yet downloaded my pictures from our celebration so writing about it will have to wait.

Tonight I sit here in my rocking chair, more aware than normal of the many dangers that surround us. I was thinking to myself today that I used to be brave. The second trip I ever took on an airplane was by myself to Israel (the rest of my college group had gone ahead of me because I stayed in the States to be in a friend's wedding; to catch up with them, I had to fly alone, and the trip required three different airplanes, as well as finding my way from the airport in Tel Aviv to the place outside Jerusalem where they were staying)--even though I was really nervous at the last minute about doing that since I wasn't an experienced traveler at all, I still did it and didn't chicken out. I also showed bravery when I was willing to move to Israel with a 7 month-old baby, at precisely the same time as the war with Iraq started and Israel expected to be bombed. I used to be brave.

Somewhere along the way, I've lost my courage; and I think I know what stole it: the four precious little souls whose pictures appear in the sidebar. It is one thing to put yourself in danger. It is something entirely different to expose your children to danger. And like it or not (and I don't), the reality is that there is always danger around us.

Tonight I listen to the song "In My Arms" by Plumb. I think how beautiful it is. I also think about how utterly helpless I feel, knowing that my children won't always be "safe in my arms," as she sings. I can accurately say to my children that "you are never all alone because I will always, always love you" - beyond a shadow of a doubt, that is true. But my arms are too weak to hold them safely, too short to reach them everywhere they will go, too limited to protect them from every danger they will face. I want desperately to croon--and to believe--that yes, all it takes is to hold them, and that will protect them from danger. But it's just not so.

And so, as I listen to it again, I hear the voice of God singing it to me and to my children. He is the one, the only one, who can keep me--and my children--safe in His arms.

His huge outstretched arms protect you--
under them you're perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
~ Psalm 91:4 in The Message

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not Just Today...

...but every day, I give thanks for the blessings God has lavished upon me, chief among them being my own dear family. I am a rich woman indeed!
Happy Thanksgiving from my household to yours!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Faith, Hope, Love: What They Mean to Me

Faith is...

~ believing that this little baby who can't walk or talk but who can spit up and have diaper blow-outs, necessitating numerous changes of clothing each day...
...and this little toddler who can walk, can just barely talk, and can make such a mess at mealtime that he too needs his clothes changed...
...will someday grow up to be men: big, strong, healthy, confident, Godly men (who feed themselves and do their own laundry). Men who are "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." (Isaiah 61:3)

Do I have the faith for this?

*******

Hope is...

~ looking around me...
...at a chaotic, cluttered kitchen...
...and choosing to focus on a spot of order and beauty.
"What a beautiful canister set," I say. "How clean the counter is in front of it. I think I can make the whole kitchen look that neat before the little ones get up from naps and quiet time to make it messy again!"

Do I have the hope for this?

*******

Love is...

~ learning to ignore the mess so I can...
...appreciate the mess-makers!
Do I have the love for this?

*******

We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (The Message)

*******

Days 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, & 25 - Whew, I really got behind with this! But that's OK because a catch-up day will give me the chance to share quite a few of the memories that I have from our annual vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These are some of the very happiest memories I have from childhood (and that's really saying something because I have SO MANY happy memories!).

I remember the days and weeks and months of anticipation that preceded vacation. My brother David and I would make lists of EXACTLY what we needed to take: red shirt, navy blue shirt, jean shorts, black shorts, pink shorts (well, David never wrote pink shorts on his list!), sweatshirts, socks, flip-flops, sunglasses, toothbrush, notebook, sunscreen, spending money--anything and everything that we could possibly think of went on that list. As the time approached, we would make a spot in the house where we could begin to gather our things. At least half the fun of the whole event was the anticipation!

And then when the day finally arrived, we woke up quickly, early, happily, energetically, ready for the very long car ride, which had its own delights. We got to munch on sugar cereals like Apple Jacks or Fruit Loops (something we never got to do at home), and we each had a bag of assorted candy to make the ride go faster. As we approached the Hampton Roads area, we still had hours of travel left; but the sight of the ocean and the trip through the tunnel made us feel like we were almost there! We stopped along the way to eat, of course; and our favorite restaurant by far was Fisherman's Wharf in Wanchese (which is no longer in business, sadly).

As we traveled south on the Outer Banks to get to the cottage in which we always stayed, we began to search the horizon in front of us for our first glimpse of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We actually knew that until we went around a certain curve of the road in the town of Avon, we wouldn't be able to see it; but that didn't stop us from looking while we were still far north of that point! We had it narrowed to such an exact science that we knew that whoever was sitting in the front passenger seat would see it first as we came around that bend, but the rest of us still looked for it anyway. :)

It's impossible to use enough words or to arrange them creatively enough to convey our sense of excitement through all of this. Arriving in Buxton, turning down the familiar streets (we literally memorized the list of all the roads we would need to take to get us from our driveway to the beach house), pulling up in front of the house in which we always stayed (it belonged to the parents of some family friends of ours; and when we first started going there, we got to stay for free because of my mother's piano accompanying work that she did for our local Christian school), getting out of the Suburban, smelling the salt air, hearing the ocean waves rolling just past the dune (our cottage was in the second row of houses, and we could see the ocean from the porch), feeling the sand beneath our feet, climbing the steps, entering the rooms that held such fun memories for us from previous years, unpacking, getting ready to go to the water for the first time, knowing that we got to have a week--A WHOLE WEEK--in such a wonderful place. It was heavenly.

There was a shelf in the dining area that held various books, puzzles, games, etc.; and one year, someone had left a pair of those silly glasses that have a big plastic nose and fuzzy eyebrows attached. We had the best time with those glasses! All week, we tried to trick each other by putting them on at the most unexpected times and suddenly appearing in front of someone (like when they were just coming out of the bathroom). We laughed to no end at how silly we all looked in them.

At the beach, we knew there would be TIME: time to play games, in particular. At home, we rarely played games as a family because there was always work to do (for Dad, at his office, and for all of us, either inside the house or in the yard and garden or schoolwork during the school year). But at the beach, we could--and did--play games to our hearts' content.

Playing in the water was, of course, a highlight. I remember being really small and not wanting to venture too far from my mother's side. I would run and splash in the water as it broke on the shore, but I didn't dare go too deep. My mother, who does not like to be in water, would stay on the shore, letting us bury her feet in the sand and (I now realize) constantly looking around to make sure that all of us were safe. When I'm out with my children now, I find myself doing headcounts without even realizing it; and I know she did a multitude of those during our days at the beach.

One year (maybe more?) a shark or two were spotted off the coast, so everyone cleared out of the water in a hurry. It's funny how, when you're standing on the sand looking out into the water and feeling paranoid, any little wave can look exactly like a shark fin. A few years, we saw dolphins; and they were both fun to watch and reassuring (since, according to our understanding, if there were dolphins, there were NOT sharks in the area).

Besides spending time on the beach itself and in the cottage, we also took various trips: ALWAYS to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, sometimes a ferry ride to Ocracoke, sometimes a trip north to the Nags Head area to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial and then over to Manteo to see The Lost Colony (a dramatic production that told the story of the first settlers in the area). We took food (and bought some in the local grocery store) so we ate most of our meals in the beach house, but we always went out to eat one or two times during the week.

Fishing: that was another fun activity. We had poles for ocean fishing; and not only would we fish on the beach in front of our house, but also sometimes we would go to the pier to fish, or to the jetties by the old lighthouse site, or to The Point where the land jutted out into the ocean and the fishing was supposedly better. We caught several kinds of fish: spot, croaker (which you could really hear croaking if you held them up to your ear), occasionally a sand shark, once in a while some flounder. I loved the process of catching fish and didn't even mind being part of the cleaning of the fish on the old wooden table behind the house; I never had the responsibility for fully cleaning the fish, so I could just watch and enjoy while I swatted at the mosquitoes that would always swarm around us out there. I did NOT, however, want to eat the fish, since I had (have) a strong aversion to seafood. My parents' (wise, I now know) policy was that we had to take a little of every food that was served, and then eat everything on our plate, so usually when we had fish, I had to choke down a tiny bite. One time however, my sister Donna had mercy on me and convinced Mom and Dad that I really didn't need to eat any fish. They finally agreed, so Donna fixed sugar toast for me instead. Yum, much better! :)

I could write for hours about our times at the beach, but the hands of the clock keep turning and I need to make some preparations for Thanksgiving so I'm going to end this by simply saying: I'm so thankful for ALL these happy memories!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TTT - What Beautiful Is



David often has a song on his lips, and I love to hear the music that pours forth from him. Recently I heard him singing a unique version of the Doxology: instead of "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow..." he was singing, "Praise God, all Mumaw, blessings flow!" This is understandable, considering that the Mumaw family goes to our church and is good friends of ours. I'll have to tell them that David's been commanding them to praise God! :)

At lunch one day, my boys and I were sitting around talking about things that are beautiful. David suddenly turned to me and said almost gruffly, "I'll show you what beautiful is..." Then he smiled his trademark grin, jabbed his finger straight at me, and said, "You!" Goodness gracious, where does he come up with this stuff? I asked the little sweetheart where he had learned that line, and he said, "Nowhere." If he's this romantic at four years of age, what's he going to be like when he's 17??? He must take after his daddy... ;)

Monday, November 23, 2009

4 Months, 3 Days

Finally, Shav's four month post. Just looking at these pictures makes me melt, but I'll try to hold myself together long enough to jot down some thoughts about this stage of his life.

Shav continues to be a champion sleeper at night, usually going to bed about 8:00 PM and sleeping through until sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 AM. I am so blessed, so grateful, and so mindful of what a difference it makes in my attitude and outlook when my children sleep through the night. He is not, however, completely consistent with his daytime sleep. It used to be that he would fall asleep in the swing a lot during the day; but within the past few weeks, that wasn't happening as much anymore. Now he's becoming accustomed to falling asleep in his cradle during the day and does fairly good with that, but I know he'll get more solid in that skill as he gets a little older. At this stage, he normally takes two naps, both of which are normally several hours long (although how often does a day go by and I think, "wow, that was really a normal day"? not very often!). Once in a while, he'll catch a shorter third nap if he's extra tired; and that one, when it occurs, is usually in the swing or in the car if we happen to be traveling or in my arms after I nurse him.
Shav has really discovered his hands recently but hasn't yet made the connection that his feet actually belong to him (someone else did though; click here for Misty's post about the adorable Anastasia finding her feet). :) Sometimes I catch Shav moving his hands in the air and looking at them--just watching them as if they're the most fascinating things! He's also getting good at grasping things, which makes his playtime more interesting since he can actually do something with the toys above him in the playpen or the dangling animals from the bar across his bouncy seat. He also can--and does--grab my hair, shirt, earrings, etc.
Shav is quick to smile, and who can resist smiling in return when confronted with a baby's beaming face? Shav has also begun to laugh more. I think David is the one who's best at drawing forth big laughs from Shav.
Shav wears lots of hand-me-downs, of course; that's what happens when you're the fourth boy in a family. But along with the clothes that his big brothers wore, he's also been blessed by some new-to-him clothes that have been given to us by various friends and family members. My sister, in particular, blessed us with several large bags of very gently worn clothes for him; and along with the old favorites I remember from when the other boys wore them, I am loving the new clothes. More than with any other boy, however, I am favoring soft clothes; the texture and feel of an item means almost as much as the way it looks--maybe more, in fact. Shav has some cute outfits that really look nice, but they're stiff or bulky or have hard metal parts (think overalls)...and I find my hand sailing over them and coming to rest on something soft when choosing what to dress him in. I just want soft!
Shav's still a thumb-sucker. It's not a constant thing for him; but definitely at night and when he's trying to go to sleep, he'll suck his thumb--sometimes ferociously, with loud slurps. I guess he's also discovered that when Mommy is taking forever in a photo shoot, sucking a thumb is a good way to pass the time.
One of my favorite things to do with Shav is just hold him in my lap. He likes to be in a sitting position so he can look out and see what is going on; and sometimes, even when I know he would be content in the swing or playpen or bouncy seat, I still keep holding him on my lap, rocking gently in one of our rocking chairs, nuzzling the top of his soft, fuzzy head occasionally, just soaking in the feel of his precious body so close to me and reveling in the fact that he's still so small and satisfied by being held. I know the day will come when his little legs will start to take him further away, and he won't want to simply sit on my lap and watch the activities of the family around him. But for now, I'll steal extra moments to simply sit with him, relax together, and savor the sweetness.
Another thing I savor is how I can lay Shav on a blanket on my bed while I fold laundry. It's such a cozy feeling to have him close by, happily lying there and gazing around, sometimes watching me, sometimes looking at the ceiling fan, sometimes looking at the pillows or the stacks of clothes that grow around him as I fold. It's so peaceful in those moments as he keeps me company; and as I think ahead to the days when he would rather jump on the bed and knock over all the clothes I've folded, I appreciate these fleeting days even more.

Shav, I am crazy about you! You are such a good gift to us, given by our Father before we even knew we needed you or thought to ask. Each day of your life, you become more precious to me, as unbelievable as that seems; and I don't take for granted the privilege of being your mommy and seeing you live your life. I know each day is a gift. I love you deeply and tenderly, my little man-cub, and I will never, ever stop!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Important

The crik didn't rise...the deviled eggs and cake got made...but I'm not following through with my intention to blog about Shav at four months. The reason is because another four month old boy, Ayden, was taken home to be with Jesus some time ago; and tonight, I wanted to spend my time doing a little something to bring a ray of comfort to his mother.

I don't know Lindsay in real life, but I ran across her blog and was touched deeply by her story of love and loss. I cannot imagine what she's going through; as much as I try to fathom the pain of losing a child, I just can't do it. The only thing that gives me a glimpse of what it might be like is the miscarriage I had almost three years ago, but that doesn't even come close to the level of suffering that Lindsay is enduring.

However, when I read on Lindsay's blog that she is finding comfort in pictures that people are sending her of her son's name, my experience with the miscarriage gave me a tiny insight into why that means so much to her...at least, I think it does. Maybe her thoughts are totally different from mine, I don't know. But I do remember how, after my miscarriage, I wanted that baby to be real...I wanted someone to recognize that life and remember that it had existed...I wanted something to hold onto, to be able to see and touch, something concrete so that the pregnancy wouldn't simply evaporate into the air and be lost from memory in the history of the world. The baby I had dreamed of having was gone, but I didn't want the memory of it to vanish with it. In our case, it was far too early in our pregnancy to know if it was a boy or a girl, so we didn't name it or anything like that. But I still remember...I still hold it in my heart...and I can imagine that seeing Ayden's name pictured in various ways helps Lindsay hold him in her heart and reassures her that others are holding onto his memory, too.

So many times when I read blogs of people who are going through difficult times, I wish fervently that there was something I could do to help. I do pray for situations I read about, and I truly believe that is the most effective thing I can do. But when I read Lindsay's request for pictures for Ayden's name gallery, I was so happy to be able to actually do something for her. I used some buttons from my button stash and came up with this...
I'm posting this in hopes that there are others of you who could come up with a way to take a picture of Ayden's name and then send it to Lindsay...and even more of you could simply take the time to pray for comfort for her and her husband. We may not be able to change the world; but if we can ease the suffering of a fellow mother even a small amount, it's worth the effort.

I still plan to write about Shav at four months...maybe tomorrow? But for tonight, this was more important.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shav Celebrated...

...his four-month birthday* by relaxing in his daddy's arms this evening while, per Jeff's special request for his family night, I played my guitar and we sang songs of worship as a family. It's been a while--a long while--since we've done that; and I'm so glad that Jeff asked us to do it tonight because I had forgotten how refreshing and fun it is. After all, what's better than singing "When the Spirit of the Lord moves in my heart, I will dance like David danced..." and watching your own David dance around the living room? What's better than being asked by your firstborn, "Did David really dance naked?"...and then when Jeff replied that no, he was probably wearing something, hearing two of your sons talking about how they should dance in their underwear. What's better than ending with the classic hymn "On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is stinky sand"? (Yes, that mixed-up line is still floating around our house.)
Shav, meanwhile, just hung out with his daddy, peaceful and contented. I wonder if he already knows how loved he is.

I wonder if he'll ever know that.

*More about Shav at four months tomorrow, I hope, including more pictures I took of him during our little photo shoot two days ago. If the crik don't rise, and if the boys git edjicated, and if the deviled eggs and Shank cake for the potluck on Sunday git made, and if the washin' gits washed, and if the sky don't fall--yeehaw, I'll do the post!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yellow Lilies

Yesterday Jeff showed his love by bringing home a bouquet of yellow lilies for me. He also showed his love by giving me two big Milky Way bars...and by taking the three oldest boys to town so I could have some peaceful time at home with Shav...and by bringing home yummy pizza for our lunch...and by working hard in the garden shed to clean it up (with amazing results)...and by keeping all the boys so I could go alone to a meeting...and by unexpectedly cutting my hair (which had been discussed previously, but wasn't a sure thing until his spur-of-the-moment decision). He keeps me on my toes. :) But back to the lilies...

There's something so gorgeous about a bouquet of fresh flowers, especially during this time of year when things outside are dying down and getting ready for winter's sleep. To have such a flashy spot of beauty on our kitchen table is delightful...
...and a constant reminder of Jeff's love.
Exquisite: the flowers and the love!


Day 19 - Thoughts of Jeff and the perfect-for-me husband that he is remind me of how, as a girl, my mind would often ponder the questions: will I marry? and if so, WHO will I marry? My friends and I played all kinds of silly little games on paper that would supposedly tell us who our Prince Charming would be. I remember MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House): a game in which we listed the names of four "available" guys, four possible numbers of children we would have, and four things in some other categories that I can't remember at the moment. Then we drew a swirl on the paper, stopped and counted how many lines there were, then used that to eliminate options until...voila! our future was revealed. Of course, if we didn't like the outcome, we could always do it again until we received the answers we liked. That, of course, was the true prediction; and we would hang onto that one and throw the rest away. Or there was the apple game: twisting the stem and saying a letter each time. Whatever letter we said when the stem came off was the first letter of our future husband's name. There were others, too--ways of folding paper and writing on it and moving it and...oh, I can't even explain it. As I look back, I think, "How silly! How fickle! How absurd! How...how CHILDISH!" But I laugh because, after all, we were kids--girls who were waiting for our knight in shining armor to come along and sweep us off our feet and take us to the Land of Happily Ever After.

I'm so very thankful for my own Prince Charming, for how he suddenly materialized in my life without any help from MASH or the apple game or other immature pastimes of girls longing to be loved and chosen, for how he continues to love me to this day--and show it so generously, and for these happy (albeit silly!) memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zorro Came to Church

Here's proof: a visitor card, left in the back of a pew. And look, Zorro even desires a pastoral call and desires to know more about the Christian life! Fantastic!
However, it's going to be a difficult task to get in touch with Zorro for any kind of follow-up because, oh dear, his phone number is listed as "ZORRO."* That's not very helpful.

Equally unhelpful is the fact that on the back of the card, he wrote "ZORRO" in the blank for the date; and for his address, he put "DAVID, ZORRO, JOSIAH." His home church is interesting: "MOM DAD." Looks like he's a house church kind of guy.
I wonder if that Fisher family would know how to reach him. It's rumored that they're awfully friendly with him... ;)

Days 15, 16, 17, & 18 - I've been reminiscing about visits to my maternal grandparents' home. They lived on a farm in southern Pennsylvania, a treasure trove of nooks and crannies for young grandchildren to explore. I remember that someone--must have been my granddad--made boats for my brother David and I. Really, they were just pieces of wood, slightly hollowed out and curved, with a hole in one end to put a string through so we wouldn't lose them in the water. But to us, they were grand boats, and we delighted in sailing them in the "crik" that started by the springhouse on their farm and trickled along until it joined other streams and eventually ended up in the Potomac River. Every time we drove to their house, we had to cross the Potomac; and I always felt so proud that water from MY granddad's farm was supplying that mighty river!

I remember evening walks "down the Wallbash." I have no idea how to spell that, but that's how it sounds: wall-bash. It was the country road that turned off my grandparents' road and went straight out from their house, and it was a splendid place to walk in the cool of summer evenings. The older folks would each have a walking stick; and I'm sure as we went along, David and I would go ahead and then come back to the slower moving members of the group, then race off again. With very little traffic, it was quite a safe place to be (although every time we took this walk, I had to look up a small hill to see if I could spot the entrance to a cave on their land...who knows what might have been hiding in that cave?...a little thrill would go up my spine at the thought). If we did encounter human traffic, we would be sure to give the obligatory wave. Chances were good that my grandparents not only knew who it was that was passing us, but also where they were going--and why!

I remember playing croquet in their front yard in the evening. Daytime, of course, was used for the work that needed to be done (although even that was a fun adventure for me as a child); but when evening came, we could relax and cease our labor for the day. There were always gnats at their house, it seemed; but we learned that they were attracted to the highest part of a person's body (that's why you don't get swarms of insects around your knees, just your face), so if we raised an arm high in the air, they would fly around that and not bother our faces so much. There were lightning bugs, too; and we would catch them and put them in glass jars with holes in the lids. What child in the country hasn't done that?!

I remember my grandparents' dog Frisky. It was a Siberian husky and was white (although "muddy" was sometimes more accurate a descriptor). It was an outside dog, like most farm dogs, and was kept chained in the backyard to be a watchdog. It knew how to bark, that's for sure! When my brother and I were a little older, my mother would encourage us to take Frisky for walks to let him have some exercise. Take him for a walk? That was a joke. He took us! Round and round the yard we would race as fast as our legs could go, holding onto the leash for dear life. He certainly enjoyed those runs! :)

There is SO MUCH more I could write about those wonderful times on the farm, and I hope someday I will get more of those memories written down. For now, it's time to skedaddle to bed, so I'll end with this: I'm thankful for country criks and boats that float, evening walks in places where everyone knows everyone, fun in the yard catching lightning bugs, dear ol' Frisky, and these (many) happy memories!

* Did you notice that on the visitor card, David wrote all the "z's" correctly? That's an improvement, but now we have to work on "j." When Josiah sees the way David writes his name these days, he says somewhat sadly, "David wrote my 'J' backwards."

Sneak Peek

I just took this picture, just downloaded it, and just had to post it. I had been wanting to take some photos of Shav for the four-month post I plan to write in a few days, so today, while Jeff and the oldest three boys were out on the town, I had my chance. Shav's bedroom became my photo studio; and boy, did I have a ball! This photo is SOOC; maybe I should have tried to retouch it a little, but I'm supposed to be planning a Christmas Eve service instead of taking and posting pictures of my baby. Oops, got a little distracted. This boy will do it to me.
I have another post coming later today--all about a mysterious visitor to church, as well as catching up on 30 Days Thankful. But I just couldn't resist popping in to show off my littlest cutie. I'm smitten...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TTT - Sometimes Funny, Sometimes Serious



It's been a while since I've written a Tiny Talk Tuesday post, but this boy...
...hasn't stopped opening his mouth and blurting out things that I want to be able to read about when I'm 85 years old, drinking iced tea, and sitting in a rocking chair on my front porch.

Things like...

"When you pass gas when you're pooping, you don't have to say 'Excuse me'." He said this from the bathroom where he was...ahem...taking care of business; and as his little voice drifted out to the kitchen where I was, I thought, "Well, at least he's getting this etiquette thing figured out." :)

********

A few weeks ago, my parents' car broke down, so we picked up my mom to take her to run a few errands, and my dad stayed with the car until the tow truck got there; we reconnected with him later. As we were making our way through Walmart, Mom was pushing a cart with David and Shav in it, and I had Josiah and Tobin with me. We happened to meet an old friend of mine, Maretta, and we stopped to chat for a few minutes. She remarked to David about how nice it was that Grandma was with him and was pushing his cart, and then he proceeded to explain to her the reason Grandma was with us: namely, that her car had broken down. All of us adults had basically tuned him out and were doing the "smile and nod" thing to him as we tried to continue our grown-up conversation, so as he went on with his explanation, Maretta absentmindedly said, "Oh, that's nice." He got our full attention quickly when he blurted out with a significant amount of indignation, "No, that is NOT nice!" We had to smooth his ruffled feathers and assure him that Maretta didn't think it was nice that the car had broken down, but that she did think it was nice that Grandma could be at Walmart with us. :)

********

On another day, our friend Robin Zook was here to practice a piece of music with me. Josiah and David were having quiet time; but after Robin and I finished practicing, I told them they could come down and say hi to her. "Hi" turned into an extended conversation which covered quite a few topics; but at one point, David was sitting on her lap and asked her if she would marry him. (I guess he forgot that he's supposed to be engaged to Joelle!) Robin laughed and told him that she couldn't marry him because she already has a husband (not to mention the fact that she has children that are 4 and 5 times older than David). David's innocent reply: "You can have TWO husbands!" Oh, dear David, polyandry is really not an option. :)

********

Besides the humorous stuff that David says, recently there have been plenty of serious conversations as well; and these are just as precious and note-worthy to me as the lighter quips. For example, David has talked a lot about good guys and bad guys, the good side and the bad side, etc. I couldn't help but think of Star Wars when he asked me one day, "Will you promise me that you'll never go to the bad side?" I smiled a bit as I earnestly promised him that I would never, ever do that.

Another conversation along these lines came about when he asked, "Are there bad people becoming good every day?" I answered him that yes, there are bad people making the decision to change and follow God every day; but I also added that people are being born every day, and they will have to decide when they grow up if they are going to follow God. Like Shav--he will have to make that decision someday to stay on the good side and be part of God's family. David was worried about Shav making the wrong choice, so I stopped what I was doing and we prayed for Shav to decide to follow God so he can go to heaven, too. We started talking about missionaries and how David can be God's messenger to the lost and help bad guys become good guys. David had one concern; he asked, "If I'm a missionary, can I still play-fight and have plastic swords?" :)

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And here's a conversation that touched my heart in a very deep way...

Out of the blue on our way to Josiah's violin lesson one Wednesday afternoon, David spoke up from the backseat of the minivan and asked, "Why doesn't God give us a shorter life? Because I want to go to heaven pretty soon!"

We talked about how some people DO have a short life, like Rein, the grandson of our interim pastor. We talked about how old he was when he died: four (just like David).

Then David said, "I wish I was him."

I told David about how God has a special job for him to do here on earth, like maybe there is a special lady for him to marry, special children for them to raise, and people that David needs to tell about Jesus so that they can go to heaven, too. David wanted to know if God had a special job for Josiah, too. I assured him that God has a special job--or purpose--for everyone, even Shav, little though he is; and when our special job is done, God lets us go to heaven.

It's interesting to me how much David thinks and talks about heaven; heaven is very real to him. It was also interesting to me that, while many people were mourning Rein's death, here was David, ENVYING him. May I have such simple, childlike, confident, eager-to-see-God-face-to-face faith!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Chinese Got That Right

There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.
~ Chinese proverb

I would agree with this proverb, except in one minor detail. There are actually four pretty children in the world.
~ Josiah, 7 years & 5 months


~ David, 4 years & 7 months



~ Tobin, 1 year & 10 months


~ Shav, almost 4 months

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rocking My Baby

As I was nursing him in my rocking chair this afternoon, my baby fell asleep in my arms--sound asleep. He slept and slept and slept, and I held him and held him and held him. I couldn't bear to let go of him; in fact, I couldn't make myself do it until another child awoke from his nap and loudly proclaimed his desire to be lifted from his crib, forcing me to empty my arms of one child so I could lift another.

Not much in life is sweeter than holding your peacefully sleeping child. Not much at all. Oh, maybe walking hand in hand with your husband, just the two of you, as you talk and connect on a heart level...or feeling a refreshing intimate connection with God during an intense time of worship...those would qualify for the Life's Sweetest Moments award. But not much else compares with the joy of holding your child in your arms, feeling the weight of his sleeping body, watching his chest rise and fall and his pulse beat in his neck, listening to his soft breaths and occasional sighs, feeling his body jerk from his startle reflex and then relax as he settles into deep sleep again, breathing in his scent that beats any manufactured and bottled-up scent any day, knowing that God chose him to be yours. Oh, the privilege!

With no one else around to help me take a picture this afternoon, I tried to do a self-portrait. This was my best attempt; and poor as it is, it serves its purpose of reminding me of the special afternoon I shared with Shav and the deep gratitude I feel for the blessing of being his mother.

Day 14 - I remember a rocking chair that we had when I was a child. It had no arms, consequently being perfect for when I grew almost too big to fit in my mother's lap but still wanted to be there. Without sides, I didn't have to worry about bumping into something or having to squeeze into a too-small space; and so, as a result, I didn't have to give up rocking on my mother's lap for a long time.

I'm thankful for rocking chairs, a mother who took time to hold me in them, the privilege of being my mother's daughter and my sons' mother, and this happy memory.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today I'm Loving...

...Breyer's new yogurt: mint chocolate chip flavor, of course. It's every bit as good as their mint chocolate chip ice cream (one of my all-time favorite ice cream flavors), just not as cold.

...this chocolate chip cookie recipe from Lisa's blog--definitely my new favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I first saw it almost two years ago(!) and wanted to make it then, but kinda sorta "lost" the recipe in one of my infamous piles of papers. Although my cookies in the picture above don't look as good as Lisa's do in her post (since she's an amazing photographer of anything: people, food, trees, anything), they surely did taste good. I won't say how many I've eaten, but I will say they're all gone.

...clementines from Costco. Tis the season! I'll write more about that in a sec...

...Josh Groban's Noel CD. I'm not the type to wait until after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music; in fact, I listen to it all year round, whenever I feel like it. After all, Christmas is a celebration of an event that CHANGED THE WORLD, and why confine the remembrance of that to just one month? (I do find it bothersome, however, how businesses, particularly retail stores, start playing Christmas music and putting up Christmas decorations very early--just to get people to buy more stuff for Christmas. What a manipulative misuse of the Christmas holiday in general and Christmas music in particular.) Anyway, my spirits have been soaring recently as I've been listening to this CD. Josh Groban's voice is undeniably spectacular. I've wished for years that I had a better voice; but I'm convinced if I had a voice that good, I'd be so full of pride that no one could stand me!

...Christmas candles in our windows. It's actually a misnomer to call them Christmas candles, because I typically put these candles in our windows in the beginning of December but don't take them down until the spring when it's warm enough to have our windows open. At some point during my growing-up years, probably during high school, I was part of a choir that toured; and we happened to pass through an area of Pennsylvania where it was very common for people to have these white candles in their windows--not just at Christmastime, but all through the year. I thought it was simply gorgeous and have always loved the look of white candles in windows. It was fun to go ahead and put them up this year a few weeks before my normal time; it makes me feel like I'm actually ahead in one area of life. ;) The picture below doesn't do justice to the beauty of these candles. I would have gone outside to try to get a photo of the house exterior with these lights, but it happened to be raining when I took this picture and going outside in the cold, damp weather didn't appeal to me at all! This picture was taken in Shav's room; and although it's very hard to see, he is actually visible in the bottom left corner--asleep in his cradle. What an angel.

Time to catch up on 30 Days Thankful...
Days 11, 12, & 13 - As my mind has jumped ahead to Christmas during the past few days, I've thought of several sweet memories connected with that. For one thing, I remember how much I loved falling asleep while the candle in my bedroom window was still on. These days, we have candles that automatically turn on and off; but back then (SO long ago!), the candles had to be unplugged when we wanted to turn them off, so every night before they went to bed, my parents would trek around to all the windows and unplug them all. I always wanted to be in bed and asleep before they got to my window so that I would have that lovely dim glow while I fell asleep. I didn't always achieve my goal; but when I did, it was wonderful!

I was also thinking back to our Christmas fruit. Every year, we would order some boxes of fruit through the FFA. We would store them in the garage where it was cool; and when we wanted a juicy grapefruit or tangelo, all we had to do was go down to the garage to get one. That fresh citrus scent is closely linked in my mind with winter and Christmas. To this day, all it takes is to begin peeling a citrus fruit and catch a whiff of that scent; and I instantly travel back in time to those times of my childhood and the excitement of Christmas approaching. It's been happening recently as I've peeled the clementines I mentioned above, some for me and lots for my boys. They love them as much as I do; but I don't just love the taste--I love the smell for the sake of the memories connected to it.

Of course, I have to smile as I think back on the Christmas gifts I received as a child. I remember...that I often sat on the piano bench to open my gifts...that I was always amazed by how the gifts--the wrapped gifts--showed up just in time (as I got older, there were a number of years in which I KNEW that my mother had fallen behind in her preferred schedule of getting things done early and the gifts were not wrapped until the last minute; but somehow--probably by staying up late on Christmas eve!--she always finished them and wrapped them so creatively, using bows and other decorations in unique ways to really make the packages look special)...that I received things like a box of pencils personalized with my name, a subscription to Ranger Rick magazine, and pretty handkerchiefs--and was thrilled to receive such things.

I'm thankful for candles in the windows (during Christmases past and now in this November), clementines and the way their scent carries me back, Christmas gifts that were simple and practical but beautiful and thrilling at the same time, and these happy memories.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scooter No Longer

Today Tobin turned 22 months old, and today he hardly scooted at all.

Amazingly enough, walking is now his chosen mode of transportation, at least most of the time. Based on how old Josiah and David were when they started walking, I wasn't expecting Tobin to break any records and be an early walker...but I also wasn't expecting him to be quite this late. It's taken him a solid three months--from his first steps recorded here until now--to develop his walking ability to the point where it surpasses his scooting ability. But now--wow!--even within the last week, we have noticed such a change in his walking: so much quicker, so much more confident, so much more often! When he's in a hurry, he still scoots occasionally; but for sure, his walking surpasses his scooting in frequency.

I vividly remember how excited we were when Josiah began to walk, particularly since we had to wait so long for it to happen. I feel the same way about Tobin: the fact that he kept us waiting just makes it that much sweeter to see him walking so well now. We can tell he's proud of himself, too; and we delight in noticing and applauding his progress.

As always when faced with such transitions, I feel the bittersweet nature of it. Are we really (almost) past the scooting stage? Is he really growing up and able to walk now? Will he really be able to carry his own weight soon and not have to be carried all the time when we go places? I'm immensely grateful for the little videos we have of him scooting; I would be so sad if I didn't have those to help me remember this special, unique, quickly-departing phase of Tobin's life.

One thing is for sure: even though Tobin is now definitely a walker, once in a while we'll still call him Scooter. ;)

~ a couple of old (from the end of September), not-so-great pictures...I don't like the shadows on his face, but I do like his expressions--first thoughtful, then joyful...and I do love him!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There Were Three in the Bed...

...and the little one said, "Roll over, roll over."

or

...and the little one said, "What are YOU doing here? This is MY bed."

or

...and the little one said, "Awesome! This party rocks! Can you come back tomorrow? I'll provide the crib toys; you provide the--oh, whatever, just bring yourself. This will be cool!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

That's How It Feels

I recently stumbled upon a quote that made me smile and nod:
Any mother could perform the jobs of several air-traffic controllers with ease.
~ Lisa Alther

That's really how it feels, isn't it? The balancing act of knowing, really knowing, each of my four children and meeting their individual needs (which change hourly just to make the job more difficult); coordinating the schedules of the six people who live in our house (as well as being familiar with the schedules of others with whom we interact); maintaining a livable home--no, more than that, a home filled with peace and beauty; being discerning enough to know when it's more important to do a load of laundry and when it's more important to spend that time listening to my son play the piano; trying to be an excellent teacher so that my children will have every opportunity to excel academically and in other areas...not to mention all the other roles that I (am supposed to) fill. Whew! Maybe it does make the job of air-traffic controllers seem easy in comparison. ;)

I'm learning that I need to assess my productivity in terms of an entire week, rather than a single day. Every day will not be perfectly balanced as far as how much time I spend on housework v. time with children v. schoolwork v. whatever. But if I look at a week as a whole, I can see that there is a more appropriate balance (certainly not perfect, but that's OK) that exists. Some days, I realize from the start that I'm just not going to be at home very much, so when the end of the day comes and I look around at a mess and feel like I didn't get anything done, I know that there will be more time the next day to catch up at home and bring balance in that way. I started this paragraph by saying that I'm learning this concept: "trying to learn it" is probably more accurate since I still get frustrated with myself far too often when I don't manage to accomplish as much as my lofty goal-setting nature had projected.

Enough rambling on this subject for tonight... Here's a picture of my darling David with a brilliant red leaf from one of our maple trees. I'm not sure why his eyes were closed; but hey, what does it matter? I still like the picture. :)

Day 10 - Today while we were doing school, I read to the boys the story of William Tell and his bravery (as well as his skillful aim!). We talked then about the famous William Tell Overture by Rossini, and I mentioned how that music has had many lyrics put to it through the years. They are familiar with it from their Wee Sing Dinosaurs CD, but my most prominent mental connection with it is from my mother singing, "Giddy up, giddy up, little rocking horse" to that tune. When it was time to trim our toenails, she would have us sit on her lap so she could reach our feet; but when she was finished, she would sing us this song and bounce us along, still sitting on her lap, until the phrase "fly away to candyland" when she would pretend to let us fall. The anticipation of that silly song, complete with bouncing and mock falling, made the ordeal of having our toenails cut seem minor. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

He'll Be a Great Dad...

...someday.

I'm looking forward to seeing Josiah with his own children, in about...oh, 15 or 20 years. I think he'll be a wonderful father to any children that are blessed to call him daddy. He's getting lots of good practice now as he functions in his one-of-a-kind role as biggest brother in our little flock of sons. Recently my heart has been warmed immensely by his kindness and tenderness, particularly with Shav and Tobin.

For example, today I had Shav on my bed while I was folding laundry. I needed to run downstairs for something so I asked Josiah, who was in the room with me, to watch Shav for a minute. When I came back, this is what I found...
...my oldest cuddling with my youngest, his arm placed over him protectively and lovingly. Pure maple sugar--it's as sweet as pure maple sugar.

Josiah has also been very tender with Tobin recently, and they've had a lot of fun together. Last Saturday afternoon, the three of us were being goofy together. I was trying to get a video of Tobin talking and walking, but he wasn't the most cooperative. Finally, he said some words, and did some walking (accompanied by the sounds he often does when walking these days...halfway between a growl and an engine noise...I guess it helps him move!), and then some spinning. Josiah did some spinning, too. I did lots of laughing. :)
video
I love these boys! They bring such sunshine to my days.

Days 8 & 9 - There's something about the food at Grandma's house. Even if it's the same basic stuff that you get at your own house, it somehow tastes better, more special somehow. My paternal grandmother wasn't much of a fancy cook; she was too busy helping my granddad with the patients in his office to devote a whole lot of time to cooking. She was very hospitable, to be sure, but chose to serve simple meals in a warm and gracious manner, rather than worrying about lavish foods with lots of preparation time. But food was still special there, in my opinion. I remember Quick Refresher and cottage cheese with lavish amounts of apple butter piled on top, cheese slices on Ritz crackers (which we never had at home because at home, we had to have healthy wheat crackers!), eggs fried in an alarming amount of grease; but most of all I remember the snack size Milky Way candy bars they always kept in the refrigerator. My brother David and I thought we were so sneaky as we crept into the kitchen to snatch one. I'm sure all of the adults knew exactly what we were doing, but we felt very daring as we made our raid. To this day, although it's very hard to narrow down, I'd say Milky Ways are my favorite candy bar, all because of those memories of eating them secretly at my grandparent's house.

Another memory that surfaced in my mind recently was about one Sunday afternoon when we had dropped by their house to visit. I was wearing my church clothes--a dress and black patent leather shoes--and after a while, I went into the backyard to play. As I was out there, down a slight slope from the entrance to the house, what should appear before me but a mother skunk and her babies?!?! I was terrified! I scrambled up to the house as fast as my little legs in those slippery-bottomed shoes would go, breathing hard, heart beating fast, sure that any second I'd get sprayed. What a relief to be in the house! What a sense of security came from those sturdy limestone walls, thick enough to keep out any skunk that wanted to spray me!

I'm thankful for the food traditions I inherited from my Grandma Huffman, for the sweet delight of eating Milky Ways, for safety from skunks, and for these happy memories.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Silliness for Saturday

Some randomness for a Saturday night...

I just saw this quiz on Kristal's blog and had to try it (especially because I read a few chapters from Farmer Boy to Josiah yesterday and he's been reading Little House in the Big Woods to himself, so the Little House characters have been on my mind recently). :)
Which Little House on the Prairie character are you?
Your Result: Laura Ingalls

You are as strong as a little french horse and can be feisty at times. You are stubborn but sweet and very creative. You know exactly what you want, and are not afraid to fight for it. You do, however have a tendency to jump to conclusions at times.

Which Little House on the Prairie character are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
I was SURE I would be Caroline Ingalls; but no, it said I was Laura. Strong as a little french horse (whatever that is)? Feisty? Stubborn? Not afraid to fight for what I want? Hmmm...I'm not sure that quiz was really accurate. Those words don't describe me, do they? :)

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I had a date tonight...
...with this little guy. Four year-olds can be such interesting conversationalists; you never know what's going to come out of their mouths! This was the first time that David had ever had a "date" with me so it was a Big Deal to him. It happened very spontaneously: I realized that I needed to make a Walmart run tonight, and I knew that David had fallen asleep during quiet time this afternoon so he wouldn't be tired at his regular bedtime, so I asked him if he wanted to come with me to Walmart and then to Chick-fil-A. He was thrilled! It's amazing how, with a minimum of effort, an ordinary boring trip to the store alone turned into an exciting adventure and memory-making opportunity and chance to show David how much I love and cherish him.

In the picture above, he's riding his new stick horse that he got (with his own money) at the dollar store on Wednesday. He needed to have a horse because Zorro does, of course. Zorro's horse is black and is named Tornado so obviously David's horse is named that, too. Josiah also bought a stick horse, but he named his Hurricane...just to be different. :)

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The other day, I was cleaning out one of the junk drawers in our kitchen. We actually have two: one for house-fixing junk (like tape measures, screwdrivers, string, nails, etc.) and one for toy junk (like yo-yos, a harmonica, popsicle sticks for crafts, and those ridiculous plastic toys that come with kids' meals at certain restaurants). In the toy junk drawer, I found an astonishing number of bouncy balls; I had no idea we had so many. I threw away some (secretively, of course!); but when I saw the beautiful array of patterns and colors of the ones that were left, I decided to come up with a different, more decorative way to store them. I headed down to our cellar and found this interesting jar, filled it with bouncy balls, put a lid on, and set it in the windowsill in the kitchen (for now--eventually I'll find a better home for it). Today I noticed the afternoon sun shining in on it, and I liked what I saw.

Day 7 - Inspired by the numerous bouncy balls my boys have collected, I thought back to my childhood and how I used to play with them (and this is a memory I haven't thought about for a longggggggg time). My brother David and I would get down on the kitchen floor, roll the balls with some force over to the cabinets, then listen for the distinctive sound that they made as they bounced very quickly between the floor and the overhang of the cupboards (about two inches off the floor). We loved that noise and were glad when the balls cooperated and bounced a long time so we could hear them longer. We said they were "speaking Spanish." :)

I'm thankful for having a brother who was also my best buddy growing up, the simple and unchanging pleasures of bouncy balls, silliness and laughter, and this happy memory.