Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year Gone By

In my very first post of this year, I reflected back on 2009 and included the header pictures I used each month.  I've enjoyed looking back on that post so much that it wasn't hard to decide to do it again for 2010.  (And a big THANK YOU to my uber talented friend Lisa who originally inspired me to change my header and blog look monthly!)  :)

~ Wild and Sweet Christmas by The Cutest Blog on the Block

~ Fresh Fall by The Cutest Blog on the Block

~ Classic Candies by The Cutest Blog on the Block

~ from Hot Bliggity Blog: (which apparently doesn't name their designs, so I can't link to it directly, but as of this writing, the 7th background down when using the search word "paisley")

~ Red, White, and Blue (the top one) by Aqua Poppy Designs

~ Hot Bliggity Blog (again, I can't link to this background exactly; but this link brings up only a few options, and it's obvious which one I used)

~ Watermelon and Ants! by Daisy Gray Design

~ Bubbles n Daises by The Cutest Blog on the Block

~ Valentine's Gift by Blog Designs by Dani

~ Sweetheart by The Cutest Blog on the Block

~ Keeping Warm! by Simply Blog It Backgrounds

I'm trying to decide which one is my favorite, but I just can't.  ;-)


Another way to recap the year is to scan back through the year's posts and make a list of some of my favorite posts--and maybe these are some of yours too, judging by the feedback I received!  I was originally going to make a Top Ten list, but then I got on a roll and couldn't stop and had to stretch it to 25.  *sheepish grin*

Not Your Average Midlife Crisis 
I Kinda Sorta Did a Photo Shoot 
I'm Going to Have to Fire My Sous Chef 
The Power of Prayer
I Love a Husband Who...
You Might Be a Mother of Boys If...
And Then My Bubble Went POP!
Just a Piece of Blue Cotton
This Is Crazy, Ridiculous, Horrible...
Living in the Lap of Luxury
TTT - Women, Eggs, Mammals, Oh My!
I Try Not to Let Schooling Get in the Way of Learning
13 Years Ago... 
Second Grade - Somehow
TTT - Z's, Bless-You Boxes, and Milk Supply - Oh, My!
The Kind of Mom Who...
The Gum-Chewer
You Just Never Know
The Professor
What Shav Thinks of Grass
The Nicest Compliment
TTT - Christians in the Bible?
You Wasted a Perfectly Good Cake...
Little Trying to Be Big
The Cat and His Boy(s)


As the year ends, here is a bit of history that I've been pondering through the past month and a half...and that I hope to continue to keep in mind as 2011 begins.  To me, the over-arching lesson of this is NEVER DOUBT THAT GOD IS INVOLVED.  Even though I'm proud of my Southern heritage and have been known to occasionally joke that "the South will rise again!", I'm truly grateful, of course, that the North won the Civil War.  :)  Only God knows how the outcome might have been different, if that rifle had not been stolen.  Without a doubt, God works in matters large and small to accomplish His purposes.

From The Shenandoah Journal, November 16-22, 2010...

The Gun That Could Have Changed History
by Alan Cramer

One of the first repeating rifles ever built in the United States was created near Stokesville.  William Sheffer (or Shaffer, as it is sometimes spelled) was a German-speaking early settler of North River Gap.  he was a respected blacksmith and gunsmith.  Both he and his brother Abraham were exempted from fighting in the Civil War to build wagons and guns for the Confederacy.

Around 1860, Sheffer invented the rifle that would later become known as the "Virginia Pacificator."  One of the first of its kind, the 48-shot repeating rifle had eight magazine tubes that held six rounds each.

As the story goes, the rifle was stolen as Sheffer was on his way to the patent office in Washington, DC.  A patent was eventually secured, but curiously, the rifle was never mass-produced.

If the rifle had been used during the war, it could have changed the course of history.  The gun is now in the Virginia Historical Society Museum in Richmond.


This morning, I read this prayer by Amy Carmichael in a devotional by Elisabeth Elliot.  Today and every day in the new year, I'll cling to the knowledge that God knows my children better than I do, is more powerful than me to guide and protect them, and loves them with a bigger, stronger love than I can even imagine.

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril,
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand pluck them,
Holy Father, save our children.

From the worldling's hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Through life's troubled waters steer them,
Through life's bitter battle cheer them,
Father, Father, be Thou near them.

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children.

And wherever they may bide,
Lead them Home at eventide.
~ Amy Carmichael

She, the giver of hope to India's children, had quite a way with words.  Those phrases - "the sting of faithless sadness" - "read the language of our longing" - oh, they're powerful.  I'm always grateful to discover a thinker and writer who expresses better than I can what I'm feeling in my heart.


To end beautiful 2010, here is one of the sweetest sights and sounds on earth to my blinded-by-mother-love eyes and ears:  my two youngest sons, clad in snuggly sleepers, playing happily together this morning in a Bumper Chair game they invented.  If I can ignore the baskets of laundry to be folded that appear in the video and focus instead on their bubbly laughter and infectious smiles, I'll have grasped what's really important.  I am blessed beyond words...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eleven Tidbits

If I could sum up today in one word, it would be LAZY.  With our guests gone and the first big part of my parents' move over, I felt all entertained-out and could hardly summon up the motivation to do anything.  So I did very little - almost nothing, really.  I didn't even cook dinner, because it was Jeff's annual end-of-the-year barbershop dinner out, at Wood Grill Buffet (at which the boys behaved beautifully and I had a lovely time chatting with Jenny).  I wouldn't want every day to be a lazy day (and no one else in my family would want me to have lazy days all the time either!); but for today, it was SO nice to relax and not worry about accomplishing much.

I did, however, start a project that I'd been wanting to do for a while but had pushed aside until a rainy day, so to speak.  (It did, as a matter of fact, rain a little bit here today, so I happened to choose an appropriate day for this rainy day project.)  :)  I have a basket-like file box, with hanging file folders in it.  Although some parts of it were in fairly good order, others were not; and it needed a good going-over to get the whole thing organized.  It was one of those things that I thought "this is going to take a LONG time" and "I'd better do this when I have some alone time so I won't be distracted by the boys."  But as it turns out, I was able to nearly finish the project today; and much of my time spent working on it was also spent in the company of one or more boys.  Even Shav cooperated wonderfully, and played peacefully by himself in the living room, occasionally scooting over to me to see what was going on.  I would hand him papers to be discarded, and sometimes he would crumple them and enjoy the noise, and other times, he would scoot over to the little trashcan and put the papers in it.  So helpful.  :)


Speaking of Shav putting things in the trashcan...

We use that little trashcan, during cold weather, to collect paper and burnable trash for kindling for the woodstove.  Shav enjoys making random deposits in it; and when I pull out the trash to burn, I've learned to always check through it to see what he might have put in it.  These are some of the items I've found so far this fall and winter:
~ a spoon
~ Christmas ornaments
~ Scoop, the yellow tractor from Bob the Builder
~ a wooden spatula
~ bullet shells (the big boys like to play with old bullet shells, setting them up on end like toy soldiers)
~ a stencil
~ a large sieve
At least the sieve was easy to spot when I lifted the lid of the trashcan.  :)


As I went through my file folders today, I found the folders I have for Medical Records for each of us.  One thing stood out to me about them:  our folders for the boys are so thin.  I discovered a new cause for gratitude...thank You, God, that my boys have been so healthy, and consequently, their folders are so thin!


We received news a few days ago that dear Helen Rae, the mother of long-time family friend Mary Faith, passed away.  She was quite old and had been losing the battle with dementia for some years, so it was one of those deaths that is, in many ways, a relief.  But still, grief lingers.

It was poignant tonight to discover in my Wedding folder, a letter Helen Rae, always gracious, had sent to my parents shortly after my wedding.  It said in part:
What beautiful memories you have to treasure in your heart of your lovely Davene, from the time she was conceived until now.  And of course, it doesn't stop here!  Your joys are multiplied.  I'm praying that Jeff will be as sensitive to your needs and Davene's, as Jerry has been to ours.  That, indeed, is expecting a lot!  
I have never seen lovelier invitations.  I almost feel that I have been a part of it  all.  Mary Faith filled me in on all the details which you had planned so carefully.  How dear that your mother was able to attend.
It's apparent that her prayers for Jeff to be sensitive to my needs and my parents' have been abundantly answered!


Once upon a time, I wrote a post of confessions.  It's time to add another one.

I know I'm supposed to brown meat before I cook it in the crockpot.  Roasts, Swiss steak, pork chops, whatever - they're all supposed to be browned on the stove first because it makes the flavor richer (or something).  But I don't do it.  Nope, I use the crockpot so I can be a lazy cook; and the thought of browning the meat first (and getting a frying pan all dirty and greasy, making an extra dish for me to wash) defeats the purpose in my opinion.  Maybe the flavor suffers a tiny bit; but really, if you did a blind taste test, do you think you'd be able to figure out which roast was browned and which wasn't?  I think making a great-tasting roast has more to do with the seasonings you put on it.  That's just my {humble, of course} opinion.  :)


How do people find your blog?

Every once in a while, various bloggers that I keep up with will mention what searches brought people to them; and it's always interesting and frequently hilarious to read.  Now that Blogger has added a handy-dandy stats button, I occasionally look at mine and am able to see how people found me.  Most are very straightforward, but a few make me grin and/or shake my head in puzzlement.  Searches like these actual ones I've seen recently...

~ around my bubble
~ mother in law visits are too long (for the record, I don't think they are, but I can see why a search for that would lead to my blog)
~ maternity shop tel aviv
~ i'll go to bed now
~ avniel pronunciation
~ a thank you note from god to a grieving fisherman family
~ geriatric story nursing home story oh holy night
~ tomcat holy ghost (really?  what in the world?  I actually had to look this one up to discover what it led to...sure enough, it landed on this post...oh, yeah, I forgot about that)


This is the way Jeff and I show love to each other these days:  whoever goes up to bed first turns on the other's electric blanket.  ;-)  It's so comforting to crawl into a nice warm bed, rather than the sheets which always used to feel frigid on winter nights.


Why does it seem like I'm always the one to discover that there's not much toilet paper left on the roll?  Occasionally when I spot a roll that looks close to the end, I'll think, "Oh, I'll pull out a fresh roll later."  But I've learned that it's best to do it right then, because if not, inevitably I will be the one left in an uncomfortable predicament.  Why does that happen to me?   Maybe the system of justice in the universe demands that my procrastination will have negative consequences.  Or maybe it's just because I'm the only female in this household, so maybe I use the most toilet paper.  ;-)


Do not depend on the hope of results... You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
~ Thomas Merton


Tomorrow, if I happen to have more energy than today, I think we'll start taking down our Christmas decorations.  The boys want us to leave our tree up indefinitely, but that idea has been vetoed.  I love their enthusiasm though.  :)  Doesn't it seem like it was the beginning of December just the other day and we were putting our decorations up?  And now we're taking them down already!  How does that happen?!  :)


The chain of cause and effect which makes up human life, is bisected at every point by a vertical line relating us and all we do to God.
~ Baron Von Hugel,
quoted in an Elisabeth Elliott devotional

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let the Moving Begin!

Today was the first official day of my parents' move from their "old" house into Dad's-old-office-turned-residence.  We refer to the two buildings in grand terms:  The East House is their old one, and The West House is what they're moving into.  In the West House...

There were beautiful empty spaces, just begging for something to fill them. (And we did.)

New hardwood floors waiting to be walked on and furniture set gently upon.  ;-)

Jeff and my brother David moved the beds over to the new house.

David also wielded a mean feather duster while Lori showed off her muscles by carrying dresser drawers.  :)

My mother, who LIKES detail work (bless her heart!), focused on cleaning the ancient refrigerator that they moved over from their shed.  I'm not sure, but I think the frig might be older than I am.  But being the penny-pinchers that they are (that's a compliment!), they chose to continue to use it, rather than buy a new one.

Mother was fueled by her ever-present companion, her iced tea cup.  If we were somehow able to count the number of gallons of tea that have been drunk by her from this cup, it's likely to be more than the amount of water in the Shenandoah River!  :)

Two of our neighbor girls came over to help out by watching Tobin and Shav at our house while I was helping my parents.  All the other kids (Josiah and David and their cousins) did a great job of helping; they truly contributed to all that was accomplished today.  When their energy and spirits were lagging, all I had to do was say, "I'll race you back to the old house," and they perked up right away.  I think they beat me at every single race, too.  ;-)

My strong brother held up a bookshelf while the whole earth titled.  Oh, wait, that was just the camera tilting. ;-)

His lovely wife started organizing the kitchen.  And the worst part is -- she left before she finished the job!  We should have demanded that she stay with us for a few more days/weeks/months, so that she could complete what she started.  ;-)

All in all, it was a GREAT day; and we really got a lot accomplished.  There is much more to be done, however.  ;-)

I'm really proud of my parents.  When they decided to sell this house to us, they went through a considerable period of downsizing as they moved into a much smaller house.  Then when Dad retired, he sorted through and got rid of an immense amount of medical stuff as he prepared to change his office into a house.  Now, as they go through this move, I'm reminded of how they've handled these transitions with grace, holding their possessions with a light grasp, and keeping their eyes focused on their home to come.  Their real home.  Their permanent home.

Thank You, God, that when we move there, we get to travel light...and You do all the moving for us!  ;-)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

She's At It Again

There's not much time to blog tonight.  Christmas, Part Two, is in full swing over here; and we have beloved house guests sleeping under our roof tonight.  Plus, tomorrow is Part One of my parents' Very Big (Across the Parking Lot) Move.  But before I get a little sleep, I've gotta say...

That sister-in-law of mine!  ;-)  Three years ago, we caught her feeding David (who was two years old at the time) much more Oreo Ice Cream Dessert than he was "supposed" to have.  :)   And now, this year, look who's benefiting from her generosity!
I do believe Tobin ate virtually every bit of her dessert; and when she went into the kitchen and got more for herself and came back with a full plate, he wanted it, too!  It made me wonder:  if we set the entire dish of ice cream dessert in front of Tobin and let him eat as much as he wanted, would he eat the whole thing?!  :)

Tobin's not the only one who loves his aunt.  We are all big fans of their family, and I think my favorite part of every visit is the time after all the kids are settled in bed when my brother David and his wife Lori and Jeff and I can sit down in the cozy living room and talk.  Tonight we covered the topics of creationism, colleges, switching churches, rusty trucks and Jeeps, Craigslist, cigars, tithing, time shares, and more.  I love it. 

I love them.  ;-)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grandma Loved a Pirate

And the pirate, he loved her.
Everyone thought Grandma was such a good girl.
But now we know the truth.  ;-)
Those dashing pirates are hard to resist.
Even for good girls.  ;-)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Gift Only God Could Give

I loved Christmas Eve.
I loved seeing the living room set up with pillows and sleeping bags and blankets for excited little boys.  I loved hearing their daddy reading from our Advent book, Bartholomew's Passage, as he laid on the couch.  I loved feeling the warmth of the fire in the woodstove.  
For a full year, I had been looking forward to my night of sleeping on the couch near my boys and the Christmas tree; and, needless to say, I loved actually doing it.  Josiah and David and I were the only ones who made it through the night there.  Tobin tried, but after one too many times of bouncing up out of his cozy nest and bugging his brothers, I took him up to his room about 10:00 p.m; and despite his protests, he quickly went to sleep there.  Jeff fell asleep on our little couch, but also departed part of the way through the night.  But I stayed there, waking occasionally to shift my position on the couch, drink in the sight of my two oldest sons in their youthful peace-drenched sleep, and breathe a prayer of thanks for such moments.

When we woke up this morning--around 7:30 a.m.--a glance out the window showed a most wonderful thing:  it was snowing.  Snow on Christmas morning?  Unbelievable!  It couldn't have been more perfect.  As I rejoiced, I thought, "Only God could have given us this gift."

Sure, a weather forecaster could tell us the scientific reason for the snow arriving this morning.  This high pressure system here...and the low pressure system pushing against it...and the moisture from this storm system...and the winds from the south...blah, blah, blah...  But can a weather forecaster make it snow?  No.  Can you?  Not a chance.  Can I?  No way.

The snow this morning was a gift only God could give.

Almost as soon as that thought entered my mind, I realized that that was exactly what Christmas is all about.  Only God could give a gift like Jesus.  Thank You, God, that You did!

I'm tempted to write more tonight, to share more pictures, to capture in words the moments that made this Christmas so special.  But I can't.  You see, one of the gifts Jeff gave me is The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven; and I started reading it while I was munching on left-overs a while ago.  I could barely pull myself away from it long enough to talk to Jeff, tuck Josiah and David into bed, or do this post.  ;-)  I think it's going to be one of those books--the kind that makes you stay up WAY later than you should, just because you can't bear to set it down for one single second.  If my bedside lamp is still on at 3:00 in the morning, you'll know why.  :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have You Done It?

Last weekend, I had the privilege of taking part in a Christmas program for the residents at a local nursing home.  I've been wanting to do that for years, because outreach to the sometimes-abandoned elderly is dear to my heart; but I had never made it happen.  This year, however, Josiah wanted the opportunity to play a few piano pieces somewhere, and it worked out for him to play in this program and for me to sing in it.  

It was an incredibly moving experience for me; and if I had more time, I would write much more about it.  But here is what I want to focus on tonight:  one of the women in our group sang "O Holy Night."  And it got me.

Everybody knows that song, right?  When I hear the first notes of it, I usually think, "What a gorgeous song!"  But by the end of it, I'm thinking, "What a long song.  Whew, I'm sort of glad it's over."  Maybe I'm the only one who feels that way.  :)  I'm sure, however, that I'm not the only one who likes to belt out "O niiiiiiight diviiiiiiiine" when no one is around.  I'm pretty sure Jeff doesn't do that.  I'm pretty sure I have a time or two.  This year.  Every time I hear it on the radio.  ;-)

One of the lines in the song says this:
Fall on your knees.
And when I heard Cara belt out that line in the activity room of the nursing home, I thought, "What am I doing on my feet?"  I was so moved by that whole morning of music that I could hardly keep the tears from flowing, though I hid it well, I think.  As I stood there listening to her, my thoughts were racing:  Yes, I should literally fall on my knees.  The awe that God's entrance to earth produces knocks me over.  But if I really do kneel now, what will everyone think?  I'm just here to sing harmony on a few Christmas carols, not to cause a stir or raise a ruckus.  What do I do?

I stood.  I didn't fall on my knees.  The program went on, I kept my tears of wonder in check, and the residents got cookies at the end.  Nice.  But not awesome.  Not awestruck.  I didn't do what the song said.

Until later...

Was it that night or the next that I was here at home, late at night, with everyone else asleep?  The radio was on in the background as I went about my various tasks, when suddenly I heard those familiar arpeggios as "O Holy Night" began.  It wasn't hard to figure out what to do.  Without delay, I dropped to my knees, let the magnificence of the lyrics wash over me, and worshiped.


Have you? 

Have you heard "O Holy Night" this Christmas season?  I would wager (except I don't) that the answer is yes.

Have you done what it says?

Have you fallen on your knees?


Today, I sat on the floor near Shav and watched him play with the figures from our manger scene.
As he lifted the camel and moved the sheep and tried to set one of the Wise Men on the sloping roof and, yes, popped Baby Jesus' head into his mouth (until I gently admonished him, "Don't suck on Jesus, Shav"), I silently prayed.
"May the commonplace not become ordinary.  May my familiarity with this story not breed contempt.  May the easy availability of nativity sets of every size, shape, and material not diminish my respect for who these figures portray."
"Lord, may I never hesitate to fall on my knees before you, aware of the majesty of your coming, and filled with delight in your presence.  Let me not forget Who Christmas is all about."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mr. Spontaneity

I never know what Jeff will think of next. 

God knew that being spontaneous was not one of my natural gifts (ha!), so he blessed me with a man skilled in spontaneity, a man who would be able to bring out of me something that wasn't there to begin with.  I've changed so much because of Jeff, but I still don't hold a candle to him when it comes to spur-of-the-moment ideas.

Today, for example, one of the first things he did this morning was say, "Let's hang up this shelf.  Where do you want it?"  This shelf, by the way, was given to us months ago by my dad; it was a cast-off from his office, no longer needed because of his retirement.  Since Dad gave it to us, it's been hanging out in the back of Jeff's closet.  I haven't pressured Jeff to put it up; and in fact, I haven't even thought about it recently.  

Apparently, something made Jeff think about it, because he was all gung-ho about putting it up this morning.  I didn't complain.  :)
Jeff found the studs and screwed it in securely--it's a heavy shelf--and now it's a perfect place to display some of our books where they can visually tempt little hands to reach for them, pull them off the shelf, and peruse them.

We decided to hang it right under the big map in our upstairs hallway, which reminded me of this quote I read recently in an article by Jill Hardy in my oft-used and much-appreciated homeschool planner, The Well-Planned Day:   
Your personal preferences will dictate a lot of your storage and organizational methods.  I know many homeschoolers who bristle at the idea of leaving maps on the wall, or having desks in common living areas, and just as many who embrace home learning as a decorating style.
"Home learning as a decorating style"?  Yes, I'd say that sounds about right.  :)

The next thing Jeff did to surprise me today occurred when he returned to the house from taking some food scraps to the compost pile and feeding the animals.  He came in the kitchen from the porch; but instead of quickly closing the door to keep the heat inside, he held the door open and gave a short whistle.  In trotted Molly.  Dear, sweet Molly.  Our first dog, my favorite dog of the three we have now.  But in the house?  Our dogs are outdoor ones and always have been; they enjoy the room to run freely in our pasture, and I enjoy the fact that my house has no dog hair or dog smell in it!  :)  But The One Who Surprises Me decided that it would be fun to bring Molly down from the pasture and bring her in the house...
...and then take her for a walk with three eager boys.
It was fun, too; and if it wasn't for that little bit about the dog hair and smell, I would dearly love having Molly as an indoor dog.
As it is, we'll let her stay outside with her two dog buddies and two goat buddies; but I'm so glad Jeff thought to bring her inside for a little bit today.

That man!  He surely keeps me on my toes.

That's why I married him.  ;-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Compared to Last Year, I'm...

...way ahead!

Do you remember my late-night Christmas Eve marathon gift-wrapping session last year?  I do!  And I wince a little every time I think about the stress of all that was going on last year, including the hour and a half I spent "throwing" presents into gift bags and stuffing tissue paper on top, when what I really wanted to be doing was falling asleep in the glow of the Christmas tree lights.  I was determined that this year, things would be different.

I'm happy to say that they are.  :)
Thanks in part to my friend Sally who came over one afternoon to watch my kids so I could have some time to myself (a portion of which I used to wrap gifts), and to Kathryn whose weekly visit to play with the boys gave me time this afternoon to finish the project, I am now able to say that all the gifts I needed to wrap are done: wrapped, tagged, bowed, and placed under the Christmas tree.
What a lovely feeling.

I can hardly wait for Christmas morning, so I can watch the faces of the ones I love as they open their gifts.  I must be growing up because these days...

...I'd rather give presents than receive them.  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

40 Days for 40 Years

"I've really been getting a lot of nice emails recently," Jeff said to me a few nights ago as he stretched out on the couch by the woodstove.

I was puttering around in the kitchen, putting some things away, I suppose, or doing one of the myriad of tasks that accompany the keeping of a home.  "That's great," I said, and tried to hide the huge smile spreading across my face.

"What?"  Jeff asked.  "Why are you smiling?"

I wasn't going to tell him.  I was trying to keep it a secret as long as I could.  I knew he would find out eventually, but...

Finally I had to confess that I had arranged for someone to email him each day with thoughtful words of affirmation for him:  40 days for 40 years.  Jeff's not a big party guy, and it's nearly impossible to find a gift--a physical item--that means a whole lot to him.  Oh, he receives them graciously, but they usually don't touch his soul.  But words of affirmation?  They speak to him.

Back in September, I read on Krista's blog about how her husband (also named Jeff, incidentally) had planned 40 days of celebration for her 40th birthday.  "Aha!" I thought, "I could do something like that for my Jeff!"  But what to do?  I wished that I had the money to take him on a trip, but that wasn't possible.  I knew that I could easily make a list of 40 special moments with Jeff, so I did.  But what else?  Then it dawned on me:  simply contact 40 of his friends--ranging from guys he knew when he was young and single, to men that he's met and become close to during our years in Virginia, and from every time in between--and ask them if they would be willing to spend a few minutes jotting an email to Jeff expressing appreciation for his friendship and for the way God has used him in their lives.  The response was immediate:   yes, I'd love to help!  what a great idea!  I'm honored that you asked!  what day do you want me to send my letter?

It's been fun, so much fun, to see the emails arrive.  They're not even written to me; but as Jeff shares them, they bring back a mountain of memories and reminders of cherished friendships through the years.

I'm not sure it's fair for me to be gaining so much enjoyment from this when it's supposed to be for Jeff's birthday!  ;-)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oh, the Questions They Ask

Before I write another word, let me first say a big THANK YOU to those of you who commented on the previous post, shared your experiences with me, and assured me that you understood my pain and were praying for Shav's sleep issues to resolve.  That means the world to me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear blog readers friends!

To answer the questions left in the comments...
~ Misty, what eventually settles him back to sleep?  Well, time, I guess.  But it's been up to an hour and a half of crying during a spell.  I keep checking on him every so often, just to see if he's aware enough of me to be calmed by my presence and is able to "snap out of it."  But yeah, two (or was it three?) nights ago, the whole episode was about an hour and a half and was absolutely draining for me.
~ Valerie, I don't think there's a problem with Shav's ears because he hasn't been sick recently, he doesn't pull on them, and he's not particularly fussy at any other times.  Even when I lay him flat when I'm changing his diaper or putting him to bed for a nap or at the beginning of the night, he doesn't cry then.  As far as what he is like after a screaming episode, he basically seems fine!  After the naptime crying session, he was a little tired (can't imagine why, after all that screaming!) and sat on my lap quietly for a little while before getting down to play.  But when it happens at night, he definitely seems normal by morning and doesn't seem mad at me then.  :)
~ Stacey, I'll try to pay more attention to his eyes next time.  I have a feeling that even when they're open, he's not really aware of who I am; but it's hard for me to imagine because, hello, I'm your mom, Shav...remember me?  :)  But I think you're absolutely right about a child being able to walk, talk, cry, or whatever, and not realize what's going on.  Jeff told me that he sleepwalked as a child, so maybe there's some connection to Shav's experiences.  I'm not sure about foods or events that might be triggering it for Shav, but he might be a little extra tired.  I'll be more intentional this week about what's going on with him during daytime hours so that hopefully that can be a clue if these episodes continue.  About the anointing with oil--absolutely!  That is totally biblical.  We've prayed about it, that's for sure.  :)  But we haven't done the anointing; thanks for suggesting that.  And one more thing for you:  I'm SO sorry that you have had similar experiences.  I know what it's like to awake from a bad dream and still feel caught in the emotions of that, so I can only imagine how terrifying it is to deal with your experiences.
~ Ceci, that's really interesting about putting Sydney with Meredith.  I hadn't heard of that before.  The funny thing to me is that, even though Shav's crying seems so loud to me, the other boys are somehow able to sleep right through it!!  Their bedrooms are across the hall; but, believe me, Shav's cries are loud enough to reach that far--and then some.  :)  I'll keep your suggestion in mind, if these spells continue.  Thanks!
~ Michelle, I really appreciate you sharing your experiences.  The reminder that this is a real occurrence with a scientific cause and explanation, and probably not just a temper tantrum issue, is VERY helpful.  And yes, it is so bewildering to see Shav looking like he's awake but having him respond so strangely to me.

Last night was a good night; he slept straight through with no problems at all.  And so far tonight, I haven't heard a peep from him.  However, he usually starts with one of these crying fits around 12:30 or 1:00 AM, so I'm still holding my breath to see if this is a good night or a bad one.  Even in the depths of the agony of listening to him cry, I keep reminding myself that "this too shall pass"; and I also remember that God comforts us so that we can comfort others, and maybe someday down the road, I'll be able to share about my current trials with another sad, frustrated mom.

* I spoke too soon.  Shav awoke crying around 11:45.  Jeff got him, and Shav woke up enough to realize that I was sitting here in my rocking chair.  He reached out for me and calmed down when I held him.  We had a little cozy snuggling time; then when I was starting to carry him to bed, he reached out for Jeff and had a little cuddle time with him.  Now he's back in bed and occasionally whimpering, but clearly that wasn't a typical episode for him.  Who knows how the rest of the night will go?

Moving right along...

The big boys have been amusing me recently with the questions they ask.  For example, as we rode in the Big White Van over Afton Mountain to a church service this morning, David asked, "Are there more people or trees in the world?"  Hmmm...I'm not sure...maybe trees?  Then he asked, "Are there a googol trees in the world?"  Uh...probably not.  "Is there a googol of anything in the world?"  Well...maybe grains of sand?

During the church service, Josiah, who read nine chapters of Revelation during the sermon, leaned over to whisper in my ear, "So, are there only going to be 144,000 people saved?"  Well, sweetheart, let's talk about it later.  The standard I-have-no-idea-what-to-say-right-now answer of parents everywhere!  :)

On the way home, Josiah asked, "Are there more white people or black people in the world?"  Probably more Chinese, was my reply.  :)

Goodness!  These boys!  They're good at reminding me how little I know.

Earlier this week, David asked me one that I could answer definitively.  "Do real policemen brush their teeth?" he queried.  "Yes!" I said with certainty.  Then he asked, "How many times do they brush their teeth?"  

All I could think to say was, "The next time you see a real policemen in Daddy's shop {because Jeff cuts the hair of a lot of policemen in our town}, you can ask him!"  :)
~ my little architects, hard at work  :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Something's Wrong...

...and I don't know what to do about it.

It concerns Shav.  *Sigh.*

Our youngest son is exquisite.  Treasured beyond my ability to describe, he is a perfect puzzle piece for our family.  I love him more and more and cannot bear to think of life without him.

With all that said, I'll also admit that Shav has never been the greatest sleeper--a fact which, if you've read this blog for a while, you're very familiar with.  To tell you the truth, he's the worst sleeper we've had; and after three boys who consistently slept through the night from a very young age, I've had to really adjust to Shav's challenging sleep habits.

However, he had been doing much better in recent months; and I was hopeful that his sleep issues were a thing of the past.  I was hopeful, that is, until he started waking up in the night, screaming at the top of his lungs.  *Sigh.*  Here we go again.

My first course of action, when awakened by his cries, is to go to him, pick him up, let him bury his head in my shoulder for a little cuddle, give him a drink of water, do the familiar-to-every-mother sniff test to discern whether his diaper is dirty, then lay him back down and tuck his blankets around him.  When these latest sleep disturbances started happening, he was comforted by me doing that.

But after a few times of that, he apparently decided that that was not enough; and the comforting progressed to me holding him for a few minutes in the rocking chair before laying him back down.  As you can guess, that worked for a while; but then came a night or two when that didn't do the trick and Jeff ended up holding him in bed or taking him downstairs.  But then...  *Sigh.*

Shav started waking up and crying hard, very hard.  When I would go to him to comfort him, he would cry harder and arch his back as if in pain.  When I would reach out for him to pick him up, he would roll away from me and sometimes even grab the crib railings and cling to them.  When I would gently say his name, he would wail louder.  When I would lift him in my arms, he would push himself away with all his might and make me feel like he was going to do a back-flip and propel himself out of my arms.  He made it crystal-clear that HE DID NOT WANT ME TO HOLD HIM.

That happened a few times in the night; but today, it happened during his nap, and the episode lasted about 40 minutes.  I don't like this progression, this sequence of events that makes me feel so dreadfully helpless.

It's absolutely bewildering to me.  Why does he do that?  Why doesn't he let me comfort him?  The possible explanations we've pondered are:
1. pain,
2. constipation (a form of pain),
3. character issue/temper tantrum,
4. night terrors.

Pain was definitely my first assumption, based on how he was arching his back and writhing.  But the fact that he didn't even want me to hold him left me puzzled, and besides, if he was in some kind of pain, wouldn't it hit him while he was awake and out of bed, too?

Same with constipation--wouldn't he have spells with that at other times, too, and not just when he was in bed sound asleep?

Jeff and I thought that maybe Shav was reacting to the fact that he knows that when he cries in the night, I'll pick him up and comfort him briefly, but then put him back in bed.  Maybe he wasn't getting what he wanted, and so he was taking it out on us in a way that an almost 17-month-old can do:  by throwing a fit.  But if it's just a temper tantrum about having to be in bed, why then did he do that this afternoon during his nap when I did come to him, take him out of bed, carry him downstairs, offer milk, get him ready to play, etc.?

That leaves us with option #4.

I was vaguely familiar with the term "night terrors," but I only really knew enough about them to be confident that none of our other boys had dealt with them.  A quick Internet search, however, uncovered a huge amount of information about them (here is just one among many articles about them...and here is another).  Is it possible that Shav has started having these?

Some of the symptoms sound like what he's been going through--for example, the way he fiercely resists being touched or spoken to--but his crying spells last much longer than the few minutes these articles mention.  Not ever having had experience with night terrors, I'm at a loss to know if that's what is going on.

Is it something else entirely?  Something we haven't even thought of?

I just don't know how to help him.  I feel so helpless.  *Sigh.*

*BIG sigh.*

Friday, December 17, 2010

In a World of White...

...I notice colors.  The blue of Tobin's hat, coat, and snow pants.  The orange of our sled.
Most of all, the pink of his lips and his sweet, kissable rosy cheeks.  In the past two days, since the snow started falling, I've had the privilege of thrice being Tobin's companion out of doors.  We've shoveled snow, eaten it, tromped around in it, eaten more of it, gone sledding in it, made a snow angel in it, and eaten even more of it.  Can you tell what Tobin's favorite thing about the snow is?

Ah, here's another color I love these days:  the brown of the delicious hot chocolate we make every time we return to the house from our adventures outside. What better way to warm up than with this liquid love?
I grew up drinking my mom's homemade hot chocolate, so of course, no other kind tastes quite as good to me.  Here is the recipe we've always used:

Hot Chocolate Mix

1 box (8 qts.) dry milk
1 bag (1 lb.) powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 c. (6 oz.) nondairy coffee creamer
16 oz. Nestle's Quik

Mix well.  Makes 1 gallon dry mix.  To serve, mix 1/3 c. of mixture with 1 c. hot water.  Top with marshmallows, of course!

My boys sometimes choose colored marshmallows.  For me?  Always white.  After all, they match the snow that way.  Well, until they get dunked in the hot chocolate.  ;-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Funniest Thing I Heard All Day...

...came from the lips of my firstborn at supper tonight.

My parents were telling us about the memorial service they attended today (and provided music for--my mother played the piano, and my dad the trumpet--you didn't know he plays the trumpet?--well, neither did almost everyone in attendance at the service--but now they know, and so do you!).  The service was for a wonderful, dear lady, and I remember her with much fondness, and I could write a whole post about that... 

However, to stick to the point, I was asking Dad what kind of cancer Ellen had--specifically, where it started.  He answered that it started in her ovaries.

"What's an ovary?" Josiah wondered aloud.

I responded off-handedly, as if this wasn't a Sensitive Subject.  "The place where a woman's eggs are stored."

His reply was immediate and sarcastic.  "Oh, great!"  Then he continued, "Please don't talk about that.  Especially in front of David and everybody else.  I don't really like the subject."

I nearly cracked up then and there, but I tried to respect his dignity and not give full release to my merriment.  Now that he's in bed, however, I can laugh all I want.    ;-)

That boy!  How I love him!

This Can Only Mean One Thing

The area around our woodstove crowded with random coats, mittens, socks, boots, hats, and gloves?  That must mean...

It's SNOWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oil on My Head

Did you ever read Psalm 133 (about unity between brothers being like oil poured over the head and beard and to the edges of the robe) and think, "Ewwww.  Who would want that?"  ;-)

While it may be true that culturally, we can't quite relate to the significance of oil on the head or the desire to be anointed in such a way, think of how we do use oil.  How about the way it keeps machines going and helps gears mesh without too much friction or overheating?  

In our family, the oil of brotherly unity keeps our wheels turning, and that oil is made up in large part of fun and laughter.  The family that laughs together stays together, right?  

When I watch Tobin playing "chase me" and "peekaboo" with Shav around the couch, I feel the oil refreshing me.

When I see an impromptu concert with my three oldest sons, and no one gets mad at each other or tells their brothers to stop interrupting them, it's oil on my head.

When Tobin wants the stage and I see an older brother hovering in the background, but the older brother doesn't demand attention or do anything to antagonize Tobin, I think, "Well, we're making progress!"  The oil washes over me.

When I watch them, on another occasion, having so much fun together, instead of being The Sandpaper Boys who rub each other the wrong way, I sense more oil being poured out.

When Josiah and David decide to empty the block box so they can both fit inside and I hear their joy, the oil flows again.

Off-topic here, but did you notice in that last video how Shav was cruising around so well with his walker?  Isn't he amazing?  :)

He is doing GREAT with walking when holding on to something, but do you think that boy likes to be enticed and encouraged to take a step alone?
Not at all.

But it will happen.  One of these days, he'll let go and launch out and discover that he possesses the power to walk.  And the delight which will flow from my little band of boys to their littlest brother will be like oil on my head, like oil in the cogs as our life as a family swirls around.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Late Night Hours...

...I'm more grateful than usual for the shelter of these red-brick walls and the warmth enclosed within them.

I glance at the thermometer.  14 degrees.

"A person could die outside on a night like this," I think.  Then I correct myself, "Of course a person could die, but could a person live?"

We pray for the homeless, that they have found warm shelter.

We put more wood on the fire and hear the lonely sound of the wind howling down the chimney.  Oh, this wind! It cuts like a knife when we venture outside and gives new meaning to the term "bitter cold."

I walk quietly into the boys' rooms to check on them, to pull covers up under chins, to kiss exposed cheeks, to breathe a prayer for these little ones who are so unspeakably precious to me.  In a little while, I, too, will crawl under my covers and pull them up to my chin.  I will be reminded of how I used to dread getting into a cold bed on nights like these, and how all that changed with the purchase of our cherished electric blanket.  I will give thanks again for such luxury; and although I have no one to tuck me in, I will feel God's smile warm me and His soft kiss on my cheek.

Tonight, when harsh weather conditions outside feel like a threat, my gratitude for all that is good and lovely in my life wells up and finds a single, focused expression.  In these late night hours, I thank God that...

...I am warm.

In the Early Morning Hours...

...the house was peaceful.  It was just me and the Christmas tree.

Yep, just me and the Christmas tree and the cheery fire in the woodstove.
 That's right, just me and the Christmas tree and the cheery fire in the woodstove and a cup of coffee.
Yes, like I said, just me and the Christmas tree and the cheery fire in the woodstove and a cup of coffee AND this little fellow...
...who, in the early morning hours, apparently decided that he had had ENOUGH of sleeping and it was time to get up right now!  So he and I went downstairs, he had a little bite of breakfast, he played and climbed on me, I watched and applauded as he scooted and sat up and stood up and cruised, he smiled gleefully as I twirled big plastic rings on the floor.  Great fun.

"Well," thought I, "if I have to be awake this early..."  (because, remind me again, WHO gets up this early by choice??)

"...I might as well turn it into a blog post!"

And I did.  

The End  ;-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Let Consequences Do the Talking

As part of our Sonlight curriculum that we're using in our homeschool this year, we're reading a wonderful book of Aesop's fables:  The Aesop for Children, with pictures by Milo Winter.  The boys love it; and even though Josiah has read the whole book himself (several times, I believe), he still eagerly listens each day; and when I finish the page I'm reading, he begs me to read another one.  "But I like this one," he says as he glances at the following page.  "That's what you say every day," I tell him.  "Well, I like them all!" is his response.  True, that.

The only thing that I don't like is that the book uses an old-fashioned word for donkey, a word that has three letters and starts with "a," a word which I won't type here because I don't want this post to attract strange Internet searches.  I don't mind the boys hearing that word in the proper context so I read the fables as written when we're reading them together, but I'd be glad for my sons to remain ignorant of the slang meaning for quite some time.  How long can we preserve their innocence?

One of the fables that we read some weeks ago comes back to my mind repeatedly as a lesson in wise parenting.  Here it is, with my only editorial change being the use of the word "donkey" instead of...well, you know.

The Donkey and the Load of Salt

A Merchant, driving his Donkey homeward from the seashore with a heavy load of salt, came to a river crossed by a shallow ford.  They had crossed this river many times before without accident, but this time the Donkey slipped and fell when halfway over.  And when the Merchant at last got him to his feet, much of the salt had melted away.  Delighted to find how much lighter his burden had become, the Donkey finished the journey very gayly.

Next day the Merchant went for another load of salt.  On the way home the Donkey, remembering what had happened at the ford, purposely let himself fall into the water, and again got rid of most of his burden.

The angry Merchant immediately turned about and drove the Donkey back to the seashore, where he loaded him with two great baskets of sponges.  At the ford the Donkey again tumbled over, but when he had scrambled to his feet, it was a very disconsolate Donkey that dragged himself homeward under a load ten times heavier than before.

The same measures will not suit all circumstances.

What wisdom!  I'm especially impressed by how the merchant dealt with the situation, finding a way for the donkey to learn his lesson without long speeches from the merchant or harsh beatings.  He let consequences do the talking:  a very effective method of teaching.

I long to do better in this area.

I remember when I was in college, I had a certain professor, and the word spoken among students was that his young children were unruly because he tried to reason with them, and everybody knows you can't reason with a two-year-old.  But how many times do I find myself using an overabundance of words with Tobin when, in reality, the wisest approach would be to get my tongue out of the way and let consequences teach him important lessons.  I don't want to suggest that two-year-olds (or older children, or younger, for that matter) are incapable of receiving verbal instruction and so should not be taught in words.  Of course not!  But I do long for clear thinking so that I will be able to quickly discover ways to teach my sons the lessons that will prepare them for success in the future.

And just like the "Donkey" in this fable found out, many times, natural consequences are hands-down the best teacher.  May I have the wisdom to let them speak!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now That You're 40

My dearest love,

Now that you're 40, 40 seems young.
To tell you (and whoever else is reading this) the truth, I've had a tiny bit of apprehension through the years as I've thought about you turning 40.  We've known some people who have apparently gone crazy when they hit the big 4-0 and have made some terrible decisions, particularly related to their marriages.  I've wondered, would that be you?  You've always made me feel so incredibly loved and secure in our marriage, and I couldn't imagine life any other way; but would this birthday suddenly make you lose your mind and look for a way out?  I'm happy to report that, as of this morning when you kissed me goodbye before you left for work, you still seem quite sane and in-love with me.  ;-)

I've only known you for the last fifteen years; but from that time, it's not difficult to remember 40 significant moments for us.  Wanna take a walk down Memory Lane with me?

1. first time I saw you (on the steps of the university in Jerusalem)
2. the field trip to Ashkelon and your decision to stay with the small group of us that were heading to Tel Aviv to spend the night (instead of going back to Jerusalem with the larger group)...I knew I was falling hard for you on that trip because I was so jealous!  any time you talked with another girl from the group, it tore me up inside; I wanted you for myself!  :)
3. you going with me to Bethlehem to help out at Bethlehem Bible Institute (instead of going away sight-seeing during Spring Break)
4. "the talk" in the garden on the night of Passover
5. the kiss at Petra
6. the proposal at the Western Wall (I had no answer for you then)
7. you riding with me to the airport when I flew back to the States after that life-changing semester in Israel (and your suggestion to me that we hop on a plane to Australia together and get married! crazy man)  :)
8. our discussion on the big rock at Camp-of-the-Woods, hammering out not only our beliefs, but also how we would handle disagreements
9. our drive home from Washington, D.C., via the Skyline Drive, and all those deer we saw
10. the proposal here in Virginia (I still wasn't ready)
11. the proposal at Lover's Cove on Catalina Island (this time, I said yes)  :)
12. the many pictures you sent me of our first apartment, and your excitement about finding one with such a gorgeous view (the bay in San Diego)
13. our wedding, wonderful in every way
14. the pomelos you went to great pains to find so you could bring them to our wedding
15. the elaborate, romantic Valentine's Day dinner you planned and served me on the beach in Coronado
16. your compassion, during the first years of marriage, when I would occasionally wake up during the night with horrible headaches (one time, you fixed me some soup...another time, you mixed a little Kahlua with milk and gave that to me!)  :)
17. your statement on January 1, 2000, that you were ready for us to have a baby (two and a half years ahead of the schedule I thought we had in place! didn't take me long to adjust my thinking to your revised schedule)  :)
18. standing outside the Boys and Girls Club with the Fields and Bentleys and being asked to go on staff for the church, knowing that one of your (our, really) dreams was coming true
19. watching you preach in the Boys and Girls Club; standing in awe of your zeal and passion and ability to communicate and inspire (God uses you mightily because you're such a willing vessel)
20. your graduation from the University of Phoenix (I was SO PROUD of your diligence and determination)
21. your weekly trips to the Chula Vista farmer's market to get Oro Blanco grapefruits for me when I was pregnant with Josiah
22. the birth of Josiah
23. the sermon you preached the Sunday after he was born (which happened to be Father's Day)
24. the phone call you received, asking us to sell our stuff, pack a few suitcases, and move to Israel
25. the joy you brought into our apartment when you would return from a morning of Hebrew Ulpan (language learning) to have lunch with Josiah and I (we always eagerly awaited your arrival, often watching out the window to see you come into view)
26. the many, many times you strapped on the Snugli and carried Josiah with you during outings in Tel Aviv
27. our seventh-anniversary celebration, which included a stay at the famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem, fulfilling a long-held dream of mine
28. the evenings of walking with you to your Hebrew classes at that Ulpan that was further away; I was pretty far along in my pregnancy with David and I waddled as I walked; you slowed your steps to match mine; I loved that time to talk with you; sometimes we got freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on our way; Josiah was in the stroller, and after we kissed you goodbye, we would waddle our way home, looking in the shop windows, and watching the people on the streets
29. the birth of David
30. the time we spent in England while moving from Israel to Virginia, and your advice to me to just relax and enjoy everything (that was exactly what I needed to hear)
31. the day you walked into West Side Barber Shop with resume in hand (little did we know that God would use that shop to provide for our family during these years in Virginia so far)
32. the morning after your birthday in 2006 when you opened the door to our neighbor being held hostage by a gunman, and I saw first-hand that "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13)
33. your encouragement to me in January 2007 to start blogging; I wouldn't have done it without you (little did we know just how much I would indeed blog over the following years!)
34. your calm demeanor when we were stuck in the ferry line to go to Ocracoke, NC, while vacationing on the Outer Banks in September 2007; we were stuck there because the battery of the van died! (talk about stressful!  whew!  but you handled it amazingly well)
35. the birth of Tobin
36. the way you missed me and the boys so intensely when you were in Israel without us in July 2008
37. the birth of Shav
38. you killing the snake (well, snakeS, since you've been a part of more than one snake incident around here); you're my protector and hero  :)
39. our decision to leave the church of which we were a part; I saw your heart torn to pieces by your love for God and for people and by your desire to see righteousness be done
40. late night talks on the couch ("can I sit at your feet, Boaz?") about where God is leading us and what the next step is

Now that you're 40, I realize anew that, in all the ways that matter, you've made me a extravagantly wealthy woman.

Now that you're 40, I still can't believe that you chose me to share the adventure of your life.

Now that you're 40, I stand in awe of who you are as a man:  your talents and abilities, your convictions, your provision for us, your boldness and courage, your character and integrity, your tenderness when appropriate, your knowledge base which is so vast (you seem to know something about everything!), and the love you lavish on me and our family.

Now that you're 40, I look forward to the next set of memories we'll build in this new decade of your life.
Now that you're 40, I love you more than ever.

I am yours,