Wednesday, August 29, 2007


My youngest cousin, when she was three years old, used to ask, “What are you doing in the world?” instead of “What in the world are you doing?” Either way, here’s what we’re doing…


Ethan started classes last week.  He’s in his final year of seminary, and these five classes look to be as enjoyable as seminary classes can be when you live in the real world (with wife and kids whose idea of a good seminary joke is, “It’s all Greek to me!”). He is done with his language classes, which means no more lengthy exegesis papers that make this proofreader’s head swim. He has his senior sermon to preach in October; and that, along with the upcoming oral licensure exam, will be good to have done.


Benjamin (5) has had a very productive summer. Thanks to his Aunt Becca, he’s learned to tie his shoes; and thanks to his papa, he’s learned to ride a bike (but not stop it!). He gets more capable and more confident each day. He has inherited my tendency to aim the bike straight for whatever he most wants to miss (who knew that was genetic?) and has about six bike-related scrapes, of which he’s very proud. He loves math, and his reading has gotten much stronger.


Lily (3) is quite the accomplished beautician. At any given moment, her hair has at least three clips in it, and brushing is optional. She loves to play with Benjamin and is rarely seen away from him. She is a very able big sister, and she often changes the twins’ diapers and asks how she can help. Sometimes it amazes me to see how gentle and loving she is towards her siblings.


Abraham (2) is getting potty-trained, which for him means that he sits on the potty singing loudly for about ten minutes, gets up, and promptly goes on the floor. He is also unnervingly good at sound effects. When we were in Maine, he perfectly imitated the musical saw at the farmer’s market; and he loves to imitate the vacuum and wheat grinder, which always gives me a start and him a good laugh. He continues to be the ham of the family and enjoys long hugs.


Miriam (2) is also getting potty-trained, which for her means going on the potty, getting praised, Mommy cleaning potty, two minutes later going on the potty, getting praised, Mommy cleaning potty, two minutes later going on the potty, getting praised, Mommy cleaning potty, two minutes later going on the potty, getting praised, Mommy cleaning potty, two minutes later going on the potty, Mommy cleaning potty, getting diaper on. Enough is enough! Her vocabulary has really expanded; and she is always busy busy busy, making sure everyone is doing what she thinks they should be, and helping maximize the trouble her twin is getting into.


Eden (7 mos.) is quite the troublemaker now! Her hair is massive and I have to clip it so it doesn’t hang in her face where she’s not coordinated enough to pull it back. She crawls everywhere and pulls up on any surface available (couch, chair, leg, toy basket…). She cruises along the couch to reach whoever’s closest; and her favorite activities include attempting the stairs and pulling videos down from the entertainment center. Edee had her first word on Monday, and it was…drum roll, please… “MAMA!” She says it on command and usually when she wants food, so it could mean “more,” but I’ll just take it at face value and say it means “Mama.” It beats “hi,” (2 kids), “ball,” and “no,” which were the other firsts around here.


And me? I’m busy running in circles, getting dog-tired but never quite able to catch my tail. I have enjoyed playing around in the kitchen with cost-effective, healthy meals. Summer was fun, laid-back, and memorable; and now the school year looms ahead. Fortunately, I only have one that I have to be legally schooling and that one is only 5 years old, but I do need to get some routines in place as little ones quickly wreak havoc otherwise. I am a bonafide schedule-hater (and yes, I do own Managers of Their Homes and still declare loudly that I hate schedules), but I do enjoy a good routine now and then. You know, to down with my coffee.

So, what are you doing in the world?


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Maine Thing

After months of dreaming and planning, we finally went on our long-awaited trip to Maine to visit good friends who moved there in November. It was the kind of vacation a parent of little ones dreams about -- their five children (ages 13, 10, 6, 4, and 2) played for hours and hours and hours with our five, inside and out, with chickens and geckos and dog, with play-doh and playsets, with dress-up clothes and dolls and light saber. The only times I saw them were 1) when there was a dispute over how many passengers a ride-on toy could handle, and whether said passengers should sit behind or on top of one another, and 2) when they would gather like starving orphans around the kitchen island, mimicking the puppy in Disney's 101 Dalmatians: "I'm hungry, Mama, I'm hungry. Mama, I'm hungry."


And I got to visit with my very good friend, who has risen even higher in my estimation after putting up with us for a week. She's the kind of friend you love to just watch and learn from -- I received an education in culinary delights (summer savory, grilled home-grown chicken, homemade bread that shamed mine), parenting ("Your voice is whining. Listen to how I say it, and say it like me..."), laundry (a little eucalyptus oil in the wash makes it smell better and kills bedmites), and chicken farming ("Do they still have water? Do they still have water? Do they still have water?").


Ethan got to enjoy the outdoors with their 13-year old son, an outdoor companion of his from before they moved. He and the father grilled together and shared theological discussions, as well as serving as the "wet" parents at the lake (otherwise known as the fun ones). They succeeded at finding a fine wine and failed at finding a fine movie.


This family is the kind that has the two stepped-out-of-a-magazine parents with the five beautiful children that behave themselves. You know, the kind that every church pastor wants to introduce new people to (See what fine members we have? You, too, can be beautiful and put together if you join our church...). Normally this would be cause for me to steer away from them. (Beautiful and well-behaved? There's got to be SOME kind of well-hidden problems brewing that I don't want to get anywhere near. Me, jealous? Perish the thought!) But what sets them apart from the other goody-two-shoes (hee, hee) is their sense of humor. They can match every sarcastic remark I make, and even the children enjoy a hearty laugh at themselves. Or at me (just ask their 10-year old, who calmly pointed out that I was using the knife upside down and it seemed a lot sharper if you put the blade end to the beet you were trying to cut).


We enjoyed their beautiful home and attached barn, their well-behaved dog Jasper (even if he did start gagging whenever I got close), the harvest of their garden, and their adorable town. But most of all we enjoyed the companionship, laughter, and probing discussion of friends. We have been united by the bond, welcome or not, that comes when you spend a length of time with outsiders. A week of our lives has been shared, and I cherish the memories that week provided...chasing the birds to get the perfect picture of a gull hovering in front of the lighthouse, playing ImaginIFF and arguing over what kind of a shoe our pastor's wife would make, crocheting with my friend and her daughter, the three of us frustratingly pulling out stitches, smiling at the draft of a book, Ethan and their son making apple wood chips from a branch that fell from their apple tree, watching kids splash for hours at the lake, the four of us adults sleeping through "The Tower of the Firstborn," seeing five bedecked and bedazzled children in play clothes play "pound" with stuffed animals, watching their two-year old "baby-sit" (in the very literal sense of the word) my two-year olds who seemed to struggle with pattern recognition whenever he got the sumo wrestler look in his eyes, Abraham adopting their 13-year old as his older brother, Edee snorting hysterically at anyone who would pick her up and smile, the children hypnotized at the man playing the musical saw at the farmer's market, five girls sleeping peacefully in their shared room, four boys sleeping peacefully in their shared room. Each memory brings a smile and a sigh.


But I'm almost sure I heard a collective sigh of relief from their house as we pulled away...



Thursday, August 2, 2007


Believe it or not, that's the first thing I noticed about my husband. I was sitting in my Southern History class, and my eyes drifted from the teacher to the floor. My hand was doing that sprawling notes thing it does when I am almost asleep -- you know, the thing where you look at your notes later and they say something like, "drafted a charter to soooo boring boring BORING" and each "boring" is written in a different way: bubble letters, mirror writing, circles on the end of each letter... I was trying desperately to stay awake, when my gaze wandered over to the left and landed on a pair of forearms that even Popeye would have envied. They were huge. There were muscles outlined that I didn't even know existed outside of comic books.


I looked to see whose they were and was surprised to see that they belonged to a guy with whom I'd had several classes. I don't know what kind of blinders I'd had on to not take notice, but they were certainly removed that instant.


The professor called on him to answer some Charlie Brown teachery "Wah wah wah wah wah" question, and he gave this clear, well-thought-out-but-not-groveling answer in a deep, soft voice. I remember my face getting hot and flustered at the thought that if he looked over, he would see how intently I was looking at him.


At the time, I was living with some very well-meaning friends who were both engaged. For some reason, engaged people seem to view unengaged people as, well, unengaging, and they do their best to remedy the situation. They had given me a book whose thesis was that if you wait patiently, doing all kinds of marvelous deeds of housewifery like ironing your sheets and learning to crochet window treatments, and keep your gaze on God, He will provide a dashing husband. The irony of this book was that it used Ruth as the biblical model of a lady in waiting.




I called my mom and told her that I had just met the most outstanding man in the universe. He was good-looking AND could stay awake through Southern History! Her advice? "Ruth lay down at Boaz's feet!" With this theological argument at the helm, I thought out my battle plan.

  • Talk to said history professor (I MUST STAY AWAKE! I MUST STAY AWAKE! I MUST STAY AWAKE!) to find out everything I can about ... what's his name? Nathan. Or Ethan? Maybe Ian. Report: He is not dating anyone and is said professor's favorite student. He works at the library, in addition to being a history grader. He is a member of the history club. His name is Ethan.

  • Join history club. Report: attended the field trip to the Holocaust Museum. Vacuumed out car just in case he rode with me. Ended up riding with four giggling girls. He rode in pickup truck with only 1 other person.

  • Go to Christmas party local community history society is hosting at the museum. Report: Ethan was the person you were supposed to RSVP to, so I called him to say I would be attending (and woke him up: "That's OK. You make a nice alarm clock." Oh, the things said in that hazy place between dreams and reality... I now have to regularly remind him that I make a nice alarm clock.) Bribe another girl to go with me. Ethan does not go; my friend and I are the only two people under the age of 72 at Christmas party.

  • Take brownies up to his dorm floor. One of my good friends had a crush on the same floor, so we decided to make brownies and take them up there during the "open dorm" hours (4 hours on the weekend). Report: neither my friend's crush nor mine were there. Give brownies to my cousin (on same floor) and play 3 1/2 hours of some African card game (this was the Missionary Kid floor) with every male on the floor. Listen to 3 1/2 hours' worth of bush and jungle stories. Thank them for the "wonderful" evening and leave with empty brownie pan. Meet Ethan on stairway where he is returning from a bike ride, bike and helmet resting on massive forearm. Manage a frazzled, "You missed some great brownies!" through clenched teeth and roll my eyes at his puzzled expression.

  • Check out theological and intellectual books from the library. Report: in a strange twist of irony, this was the one that got his attention. So guess who had to read up in order to carry on the discussion? And I thought Southern History was a snoozer... This plan of action resulted in many, many nights spent reading heavy books at the back of the library. Well, many, many nights with my head lying on heavy books at the back of the library. But at least he had to come over to wake me up in order to close the library...


I laugh heartily when people make assumptions and ask me my "courtship" story. I stalked him! How's that for courtship?


On Sunday, we will have been married for seven years. I won't be naive enough to say that I don't know where the time went, because I know that's not a very long time. But what has amazed me is how much richness a short seven years can bring. When we started going out, I thought of all those people, books, etc. that advise you to make a list of what you want in a husband. I had made my list(s), and he far surpassed them all. I didn't even know God made guys that good. And with every year (month, day) that passes, I am even more amazed at his "goodness": in important ways (godliness, intelligence, humor, sensitivity) but even in the "unimportant" ones (making me laugh at myself, knowing the perfect thing to say or do to snap me out of my selfishness or uppityness, knowing the places all of the kids like to be tickled -- which is no small feat -- just ask them -- "Mama's a terrible tickler.").


And tomorrow is his birthday. This is the beginning of the glorious 10 days of the year when we are the same age. The other 346 days, he loves to rub in that I am older than he is. Respect your elders, I say.


But I love him. And I don't know anybody who doesn't.


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