Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Reason for the Season?

I have to admit, I’m torn.


Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love the cinnamon, the caroling, the hot chocolate, the mesmerizing twinkle lights. I love the mittens and toggle hats (which, where I currently live, the wearing of has less to do with the weather and more to do with it being *Christmastime*). I love the wrapping and unwrapping. I love those J-I-N-G-L-E Bells (whoo!).


I even love jolly ol’ Saint Nick. I never believed in him, and neither do my kids, but he’s just jolly and old and round. What’s not to love?


But trying to explain Christmas when my 7-year old asks?




I almost think it would be easier if it were just called something generic. Like December Day. Or something.


But Christmas? And this with the 7-year old who is learning about compound words and can make the leap to “Christ Mass”?


No, we don’t do mass. Christ died once for our sins, and that was sufficient.


And no, Christ probably was not born in December. April, more likely.


So what’s with the “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” signs and nativity scenes wedged between the reindeer and the lit-up train whose wheels seem to move?


Ummm. Well. You just try to explain it. And let me caution you with the word “syncretism.”


And what about cute baby Jesus? Well? What about Him? Is this what our faith is reduced to…singing, “Happy Birthday” to the Savior of our souls? Gushing over cute little plastic fingers and toes, forgetting the wounds their flesh-and-blood Antecedent would suffer for our natures of flesh? Cooing over this baby in the crèche, mindless of His ever-present deity?


It is easier to explain Valentines’, Thanksgiving, or even, {{I whisper carefully}}, Halloween. There’s no ambivalence. No trying to defend my love of pine and singing by throwing around a few verses from Luke.


I don’t have the answers to this personal dilemma. I know some have solved it by whole-heartedly embracing all "traditions," and others shun it altogether.


I just don’t know. It was easier when it was only me wondering, when the occasional pondering could be entertained or snuffed at will. It is more difficult now, when the “Why?” is constant and sincere. And freckled, with the big blue eyes of his father.


I don’t think a “Why not?” will suffice.


It is time for me to finish this thought.


Do you have any?



Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Overheard in the van, as the radio played called-in expressions of gratitude:


Ben (freshly 7): I'm thankful that we found a house in Montana. Your turn.


Lily (freshly 5): I'm thankful that God gave me a family. Your turn.


Ben: I'm thankful for God. Your turn.


Lily: I'm thankful for sickness. Your turn.


Ben: {Groan} OK, Lily, we need to stop. We've run out of things to be thankful for.


Our cup runneth over. Happy Thanksgiving.



Monday, November 24, 2008

Montana City

Ethan and our Brave Friend Doug are flying in tomorrow from Montana. They have spent the last seven days searching far and wide for a rental for us to live in while we get our bearings and search for a more permanent home.


Brave Friend Doug was Friend Doug before he agreed to accompany Ethan, driving one of our vans to Helena. Brave Friend Doug and Ethan tested our route (it takes longer than Mapquest wants to admit), leaving a van in Montana so that we have one less vehicle to worry about.


And they did good. They found us a home in Montana City (10 minutes outside of Helena). It backs up to the BLM (Border Bureau of [what do I know? I'm still a Virginian] Land one can build there), so there is lots of land for the children and our sanity. It's on a mountain, and the view is "as beautiful as I can imagine" (Ethan's words). It's a 3-bedroom (us, the boys, the girls) with a living room, family room, extra room (schoolroom!), and a heated 2-car garage with an additional room (office!).


I am excited. The take-off date is December 15th. Ethan's mother has volunteered to drive with me (can you imagine??) in the van with the children, and my brother has volunteered to drive with Ethan in the moving van.


I can't wait to see our new home.



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moving to Montana

Specifically, Helena. Pronounced HELL-in-uh because the miners thought Huh-LAY-nuh sounded too girly.
This move, prompted by Ethan's acceptance of a call to pastor a small starter church ("mission work" is the proper vocab. in our denomination), agitates a whole host of conflicting emotions.
Relief: finally knowing where we will live.    
Anxiety: wondering where EXACTLY we will live.
Excitement: the thought of the Wild West. Sort of. 
Dread: the thought of the 35-hour drive, with Ethan piloting a moving van towing our camper, and me piloting our van towing our six kids. In a few weeks. Winter.
Happiness: meeting our new church family. 
Sadness: leaving our old church family.
And extreme sadness: leaving my family, which is whole-heartedly East-Coast tied.
Certainty: this is God's will for now. And as such, the anxiety, the dread, and the sadness will have to succumb to the surety of Doing the Right Thing. Calvinism over Emotionalism.
I can talk myself out of the anxiety and the dread. And the sadness? The part that is tied to fear (How long will it be before we see everyone? How will my children cope without their regular dose of grandparents?) needs to be doused with the promises of Scripture and the reminder of God's omnipotence and omnipresence. He can care for us over there and them over here. And the sadness that is tied to love (How long will it be before we see everyone?) will have to comfort itself with the same promises and busy itself with plans of having family come see our new home. Airplane tickets, people!!
Ethan took some beautiful pictures of Helena on his 12-day trip in September. Once I find the CD that I had them copied to (because our camera cord to the computer is packed away *somewhere*), I'll post those.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


This is the number of car seats of which I am now the proud owner.




Because on Tuesday, Officer Evans called to let us know they had found our stolen van.


With the car seats.


And (PRAISE BE!), not only are the car seats all there, but every. single. thing. that was in the van when it was stolen, is still there. Every theological book, every important paper, every library book, every crusty sippy cup. Ewwww. It's all there.


To give a little background, two nights after Ethan came home from his trip (during which the van was stolen), I awoke at 1:30 AM to the camper shaking and Ethan scrambling. "Oh, those punk idiots!" he whispered excitedly before zipping the window shut and hurrying towards the door. I was still in a slumbering stupor, so nothing was registering. I flipped over and blissfully enjoyed having the whole bed to myself.


A few minutes later, he came back into the camper, fumbling for the cell phone. "Hello? Yes, we had a car stolen a little over a week ago, and now I'm watching three guys with hoods and backpacks check all of the cars on the street.  They're looking in every car with a flashlight and checking all the doors." The next morning, we discovered they had opened his locked truck and stole his sunglasses and a shortwave radio.


Now, for those of you that know my husband, you know that it is a big deal that he did not go after them himself. Ethan is a strong horse of a man that you don't want to cross by doing something like outright stealing his entire vehicle. And if you have the nerve to come looking around for more, well, watch out. So anyway, it was a pleasant surprise to find him not chasing after them himself.


That was a month ago. We called our officer occasionally to check on the status of the van.




Until two days ago. After we received the call about the van, we began to piece the story together. It took the help of a detective. "Hello? I'm Officer XYZ. Now that your van has been found and is again in your possession, I have been assigned as the detective on your case. Obviously I'm a little out of the loop here. Tell me what you know so that I'll know something."


This is what happened.


The night Ethan called the police, those three thieves were found and arrested.


A week earlier, the van had been found a few hours after it was stolen. At 5 AM the morning I discovered it was stolen (at 8 AM), the thief had been caught speeding near Chesapeake, VA. He was driving on a suspended license. They gave him a citation and towed "his" vehicle away. Since I had not yet reported the vehicle as stolen, they did not know this. Later, the tow truck driver processed the vehicle (meaning he let the DMV know he had it). It came back as "blocked," but the DVM didn't let him know this was because it was stolen. After waiting three weeks, he tried to process it again. It again came back as blocked. He called the state police, found out he had a stolen vehicle, and the rest is history. Well, $500 later, the rest is history. Because we had to pay the impound fee (on which he graciously ...ahem... gave us a 2/3 discount). And the thief? He's already in custody, as he is the same one found stealing from other vehicles. One of the ones Ethan called on. So add grand larceny to the mix.


But I am happy. We were certain that stuff was gone and that was that.


And God would still have been good.


But I am so grateful that He has again expanded our idea of good! He has given, He has taken away, He has given again.


Car seat, anyone?



Monday, October 20, 2008


After hearing four of my children tell me about their wonderful adventures playing "bolleyball" with some friends from church, I decided it was time to set things straight.


"It's volleyball. Vvvv. Volleyball."


"Volleyball," said Benjamin (6).


"Volleyball," said Lily (4).


"Bolleyball," said Abraham and Miriam (3).


"No. Vvvvolleyball."


"Vvvvv...bolleyball," said Abraham and Miriam.


"No. Listen. Say van."


"Now say volleyball."


"We'll try again later."


[10 minutes later]

Abraham: "Mom! Mom!"

Yes, Abraham, what??!!!!

"Watch me! Watch! Ready?






Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where Was I?

It has been a while since I've posted anything. We'll just blame that on moving, a slow Internet connection, and lots of little children.
Those are always convenient things to use as excuses, and people seem to be satisfied.
So here's the scoop on our lives:
Yes! We are now in a house! For those of you that know the area, it's very near the Salem Church Library. And two minutes from Ukrops! It has its quirks, which will be unquirked as soon as the plumber decides to show up. Again. I can't really blame him for taking his time, as there are quite a few things for him to fix. Wait a minute, I CAN blame him! Huh. Anyway, the house will be PERFECT when the master tub, washing machine, dishwasher, and right side of the kitchen sink are in working order.
But even so, it is a WONDERFUL house. It is a split foyer, with a family room, laundry room, bathroom, and large garage downstairs. Upstairs is a living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom, three bedrooms (and the master has a bath), and a screened-in back porch (with ceiling fan!!) next to the deck, which overlooks a large fenced-in yard. We've divided the bedrooms into our room (and Jon in his crib), a boys' room, and a girls' room. We LOVE having a living room and a family room. And we LOVE not having a lot of stuff. Most of our stuff is still in storage, as we will be moving again shortly (more about that below), but we are taking 10 boxes at a time out of storage and paring down. This is because we are realizing how relaxing space is and how stressful non-essential stuff is. Right now each kids' room has a set of bunk beds (and the girls' also has Edee's toddler bed). And that's it. Clothes are in the closet. And I love it. The kids play much more happily together with no toys to fight over, and it's so easy to maintain the house. There are some things we don't have right now that I will want to keep (photos, books, shelves), but there are LOTS that I don't (excessive clothing, videos, chintzy toys that shouldn't have made the first cut, stupid junk I've kept for sentimental reasons).
Ethan left for twelve days (right before the van was stolen) candidating for a position as a pastor in a small church. He was offered a call (that's the presbyterian way of saying they want him). Due to the fact that another church had already asked him to candidate, he (and I and Edee [20 mos.] and Jonathan [3 mos.]) will be traveling to another state for him to candidate there as well. Then, if they issue him a call, we will have to pray for the Lord's guidance in deciding which call to accept. Either location is fine with me. Here's a hint: we will no longer be on the East Coast.
We have one! And it doesn't have the word "mini" in front of it. It's a 12-passenger with two benches (we'd have to stick another bench in if we truly wanted to um... passenge 12 people). It's a 1999 Ford Econoline, with...drum roll...60,000 miles. Can you believe it? The price was outstanding. Everything looks brand new on it. And everything works. I've never owned a car where everything works. The driver's side window, the interior lights... My parents generously provided financing for us. This might have something to do with the fact that it took all three of their cars to get us to church.
::big sigh::
Is it any sort of clue that I've read The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's article on Mary Hood (known as "The Relaxed Homeschooler") three times?
I'm trying. I'm really trying. Ben (6) reads to me regularly. He's a very good reader. I'm reading Paddington Bear to him and Lily (4). We are reading through Mark and memorizing some Psalms. We have been doing Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography (love it! love it! love it!), and we checked out a DK book on weather from the library with easy experiments included. We've started Cozy Grammar just for the heck of it (I think he's still a little young for grammar, but oddly enough, he loves it). My friend Kendra's advice to just get the kids outside and let them love nature on their own has proven to be true. He researches bugs and snails and other boy things all on his own. We've been doing some Walmart workbooks, which has him practice stuff like alphabetizing, following directions, etc. I know I'm lax in the math department, but that has to do with our math stuff being in storage still. So until that gets unearthed, we're practicing with the 100 chart and skip-counting.
Lily is still doing her 15 minutes of phonics and sitting in with Ben on his stuff. All in all, it probably takes us 1-1 1/2 hours to do the "formal" schooling part. Which fits in nicely with the younger four's nap.
So that, grouped together with normal life (what's that??), constitutes our schooling right now.
And you know what? I'm honestly OK with that. Ben is learning and maturing and loving his life. Lily serves as an able classmate and enjoys having time to help me and call it school.
So that's where we are with our Home, Job, Van, and School.
Although currently, I'm sitting at my parents' house waiting for the wash to finish. And yes, loving their high-speed Internet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Official

I took the Wii Fit Body Test yesterday on my brother's Wii.
The result?  "You are unbalanced."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Martyrdom Is Not for Wimps

My sister gifted me with a pillow embroidered with the words, "Motherhood Is Not for Wimps."
And, I might add, neither is martyrdom.
Lest anyone think I am a saint (anyone? anyone?), let me assure you that I do my fair share of foot-stomping, whining, and all-out boo-hooing when life seems to be "unfair" (whatever that means). I sometimes feel that the world has gone to the dogs, and I am the last piece of bacon.
I OFTEN feel that way.
In fact, I feel that way so frequently that my husband has teased he is going to teach our children to call me "martyr" instead of "mother." (But then I remind him that if "mother" turns to "martyr," then "father" must turn to . . . and he stops teasing. Because I WOULD have them call him that.)
But I have been GROOMED for this kind of life -- the kind of life that makes people say things like, "You get more opportunities to trust God's providence than most people I know!" (, Kendra!) Theologically, isn't every single second an opportunity to trust God's providence? What I'm trying to say is, I would like to practice trusting God when I have it all together! But I grew up hearing phrases like, "God's mercies are new every morning. Tomorrow will be better" and "We're making a memory!" Even then, I wondered why people never made GOOD memories.
For instance...

  • On one of my first skiing trips, in middle school, I was taking the "How to Ski" class on the bunny slope with a bunch of 5-yr. olds, and I started sliding backwards down the hill. I landed on my face, and the instructor used this opportunity to instruct a giggly group of sippy-cuppers on how to stick your rear end in the air to get up on skies. Trust me, it sounds a lot easier than it is. Especially when 5-yr. olds are chortling at every synonym the teacher gives for "big ol' ski-panted bottom."

  • On the very same trip, my ski tag got caught on the ski lift chair as I was trying to jump off. They had to stop the lift and disengage my dangling self.

  • Growing up, we had a bronze van. Enough said.

  • Well, not really enough said. This bronze van actually LOST A SIDE WINDOW as we were driving down I-95. It fell off the van.

  • This same van broke down in inner-city Washington, D.C. My mother called AAA and Dominoes. The pizza guy got there first ("We're a broken-down bronze van on the corner of Gang and Delinquent").

  • My grandmother lived with us. Her slow senility quickly drove us batty.

"I just can't finish my milk tonight."
"Grandma, that's Ranch dressing."
"Even so..."

"I just can't swallow this pill tonight."
"Grandma, that's your denture tablet."
"Even so..."

  • And, most tellingly, my mother made me suit up ALL THE WAY whenever it snowed. This meant moon boots. In Virginia. Not mountainous Virginia, but Just-North-of-Richmond, Virginia. Where the forecast of an inch of snow meant the A&P sold out of bread in an hour.

I had visions of grandeur back then. I knew I would outgrow this crazy family and all of its inconveniences and live a life others would envy.
If anyone would have told me that I would have six perfectly normal children (which means there is never a time when there is not someone whining), even worse, HOMESCHOOL six perfectly normal children (which means I get to try to creatively categorize the day's worth of whining into some kind of educational jargon so that I can feel that I'm being a successful teacher), and that before leaving to go anywhere, I would actually resort to COUNTING to make sure everyone was here because I honestly couldn't recall all of their names, or that at random moments during the day I would again resort to COUNTING because I thought they were all here and yet still I hear someone crying in the distance, only to find that they are all indeed here so who on earth is crying in the distance or is that just phantom crying...
Well. I would have just labeled that prophet as another "crazy" and forgotten the whole business.
Pass the Ranch, please. I need something to wash down this Polident.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Calvinism over Emotionalism"

When Ethan told me this was our motto for the summer, I should have run for cover.
Since then, his grandfather died unexpectedly, we were kicked out of our house, we have been living in a camper with six children, Ethan has left for a far-off state for 12 days to candidate for a pastoring position, and someone has stolen our van.
Yes, stolen the van. The nerve. Can you imagine what dire straits you must be in to steal a MINI-VAN (puh-tuwee! How I hate that word!) with six (SIX! SIX! SIX!) carseats and a ton of junk? Not even decent junk, like cool radio parts or bank notes. Junky junk, like six weeks' worth of Sunday School papers, crusty sippy cups, thrift store mock Crocs (child sizes 6 and 12), eight pillows, and many, many other things that escape my mind now but I know will come back to irritate me later.
There are some other things that weren't junk to us but probably won't be treasures to anyone else...a special stuffed animal from Ethan's grandfather, my file of important-to-me papers, Ethan's briefcase of important-to-him theological books, Ben's bag of important-to-him library books.
The library books is what put Benjamin (6) over the edge. "Mom, don't tell the library! I don't want them to kill us!"
(At which point my younger brother chuckled and mumbled something about Conan the Librarian. Just what Ben needs -- confirmation of his worst fears.)
Miriam (3) explained it to Ethan over the phone this way: "Mama lost the car. Somebody else is driving it. And that's a bad, bad boy."
Yes. Very bad.
What throbs in my head the most is that this was MY stuff. MY hitch for the pop-up camper. MY husband's very important books. MY bag of crusty sippy cups. MY crumpled up bulletins, gum wrappers, and mushy chicken nuggets.
While I slept in a pop-up camper with six snoring children, someone took MY stuff away.
And then the teary-eyed call to Ethan, who responded (in true accordance with this summer's motto) with loving words and rock-solid truth. "It's just stuff, Rachel. We're OK. It's just stuff."
And my six-year old's voice, with his memory verse for the week:
"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
       where does my help come from?"

I answer, falteringly:


"My help comes from the LORD,
       the Maker of heaven and earth."


The rest of the verses fade and I have to look them up:


"He will not let your foot slip—
       he who watches over you will not slumber;

 indeed, he who watches over Israel
       will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The LORD watches over you—
       the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

 the sun will not harm you by day,
       nor the moon by night.

 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
       he will watch over your life;

 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
       both now and forevermore." (Psalm 121)


Yes, He will. He is MY surety. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the One Who will not let anyone snatch me from His hand (Jn. 10:28).


The stuff? It would have faded and gone away with or without someone stealing it. It could not have healed broken hearts, opened prison doors, unstopped deaf ears, made blind eyes see.


But my God? He is sovereign. He is Creator and Sustainer. He foreknew this and rules over this.


My emotions are strong. But my God is stronger.


Calvinism over Emotionalism? Well, we've tested it this summer, and I'd say it's a worthy motto.


But I have an idea for this Fall's Motto: "Health, Wealth, Size 8 Jeans, and Smiling Children."


Well, the jeans might just be pushing it.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Crazy Crust Pizza

This is a recipe from Phyllis Pellman Good's Fix It and Enjoy It Cookbook: All-Purpose, Welcome-Home Recipes.
My kids like it.
Even my nephew likes it. That's saying A LOT.
Crazy Crust Pizza


Makes 8 servings

Prep Time: 20 min.

Baking Time: 20 min.

Standing Time: 5 min.


2 cups flour

4 eggs

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups milk

1 lb. ground beef or sausage

1/2 to 1 cup chopped onions, according to your taste preference

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

26-oz. can tomato sauce

1/2 to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (you can use whatever kinds of cheeses you like for these)

1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1. In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, eggs, 2 tsp. salt, and milk until smooth. Pour onto a greased and floured jelly-roll pan (or cookie sheet with sides, or 2 9x13 pans).

2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onions. Season with oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper (you can skip the seasonings if you're using a seasoned spaghetti sauce for the tomato sauce). Stir in tomato sauce. Pour over crust.

3. Sprinkle cheeses evenly on top.

4. Bake at 475 for 20 min. Let stand 5 min. before cutting.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Overheard: Thoughts on Marriage

Benjamin (6): I am NEVER getting married.
Papa: I used to say that, too. You'll change your mind.
Benjamin (adamantly): NO, I WON'T. When you get married, you have to go on a honeymoon. And I definitely don't want to do that.
Papa: Why not?
Benjamin: Because when you go on a honeymoon, you have to play games that I don't understand.
Papa: (!!!???!!!)
Benjamin: Like tennis.
Ah, yes. Perhaps it's best if he doesn't honeymoon for a while. The rules can be so confusing: you have to win the right to serve, and love is when you don't score.
Besides, there's always the tennis elbow thing.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Photo Op: Maine

Many thanks to my friend Kendra, who played the role of friend/chef/mentor/pianist/hostess/photographer extraordinaire while we visited her family in Maine. Bear in mind, my family is allergic to the word "photogenic"; so the fact that I am willing to post these bears testimony to her pictorial prowess.
   Benjamin, enjoying the day:

Lily, about two seconds after saying, "I AM being careful. I WON'T fall." (Please notice the knee):
Abraham, awaiting his turn on the kayak:
Miriam. Notice the bangs she gave herself. I must admit, I am secretly impressed.
Eden, demonstrating our aversion to cameras:
Me with Jonathan:
Jon and Mama  
Me, Jonathan, Eden, and Ethan enjoying a paddle:
Paddling About  
What happy, happy memories I have!
Thank you, Rick and Kendra and crew! We love you!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Real Cup Cake

After reading this recipe for a cake microwaved in a mug (at Chasing Cheerios), I gave it a try last night.
It's fun, it's yummy, and it takes 5 minutes TOTAL.
In a bowl (or in a microwaveable mug, but I used a bowl in order to be able to stir it thoroughly),
4 T. sugar
4 T. flour (all-purpose OR self-rising; there are recipes for both online -- I used all-purpose)
2 T. cocoa
3 T. milk
3 T. oil
1 egg
If you're like me, add the mandatory handful of nuts and chocolate chips.
Pour into a microwaveable mug (no need to grease) and nuke it for 3 minutes (1000 watt microwave, so you may want to watch your time). The cake rises and climbs up the mug, eventually mushrooming up over the top. It's pretty cool .
You can turn this over onto a plate and dust it with powdered sugar. A cherry on top makes it extra pretty.
I was thinking a fun idea would be to keep it in the mug and put whipped cream on top, so it looked like a mocha.
And if I had a camera cord, I'd show you!!! (Grrr...)
This is very fun and easy. So easy, in fact, that I'm going to have the kids do this on Monday for a Labor Day Treat. They'll get a kick out of watching it grow.
I'm thinking this is a good College Student Recipe, too, as you don't need an oven.
Try it and let me know what you think! Did you change it? What worked? What didn't?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"If You're Opposed to Logging, Try Using Plastic Toilet Paper"

(I apologize for the lack of pictures ... still no camera cord ...perhaps my friend Kendra can email me some pics and then I will post them...hint, hint. Edited to add: Kendra pulled through for me! The pictures are posted here.)
When you wake up to your husband slowing the van into a rest area, and the first thing to enter your consciousness is a bumper sticker bearing the above quote, THAT'S how you know you're in Maine.
Wide smile. Maine truly is Vacationland.
You know how you can listen to a very busy piece of classical music, and sometimes the most poignant and striking parts of it are the strategically placed rests? The quiet? This was the much-coveted "rest" for us.
It only took us an additional day and an additional alternator to get there, a successful trip by our standards.  Ethan spent two Sundays preaching to a delightful group of people in Bucksport, Maine.  We stayed at a vacation rental in nearby Stockton Springs. The landlady had left a list of suggestions for enjoying the area, and we systematically went down the list, finding each item a winner.
We watched a sea otter dip and dive as we towered 420 feet above it in the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, and the pirates were just leaving as we arrived at Fort Knox at the tail end of their anachronistic Pirates' Day at the Fort. We wore out before the children did as they played hide and seek in the shadows of the fort, running ahead to explore the next darkened corners.
Sears Island, the largest uninhabited island on the East Coast, brought shrieks of shock and thrill as the children quickly disproved my "You don't need swimsuits; the water's far too cold" piece of motherly intuition. A quick trek back to the van provided said unnecessary swimsuits (and, as it turned out, I only SAID they were unnecessary -- they proved quite helpful -- grrr), and stubby fingers stained red from berry-picking scratched the shore for sea glass and sea shells. A few hours later, the children dribbled ice cream on their swimsuits as we surprised them with the rare treat of ice cream cones ("Papa and Mama! We love you FOREVER!").
On the way to Schoodic Point, we found the BEST! lobster rolls at Chase's Restaurant ("strictly a local's place," in the words of our landlady) in Winter Harbor. Benjamin and Lily shared a shrimp basket, and Abraham and Miriam shared a platter of fish-n-chips (and fought over the FISH! They never even touched the fries!). Edee took a little from everyone. Schoodic Point coaxed frightened giggles as the children played on nature's version of a playground, every child demanding, "I can do it!" as they picked their way from rock to rock to rock, the ocean lapping at their feet.
The Big Chicken Barn (one of those unusual places that sells antiques at junk prices instead of the other way around) proved to be one of our favorite stores.
Ethan marveled over the model boats at BlueJacket Shipcrafters (and I have to admit, even I was having a hard time maintaining a bored look).
We enjoyed the view (and the blueberries!) at Camden Hills State Park and then strolled around the boardwalk of downtown Camden.
(Incidentally, this is where we were sitting on benches eating freshly-purchased pastries when a woman pushing two yappy puppies that were dressed in doll clothes in a pink pet stroller saw us and loudly proclaimed, "ARE THEY ALL YOURS? OH, MY WORD! MY DOGGIES JUST LOVE CHILDREN. DON'T YOU, DOGGIES? LOOK AT ALL THE CHILDREN! THEY'RE ALL YOURS? ARE YOU MORMON???"
And she thought WE were a sight.)
And after this delightful week was over, we ended our stay in Maine with a few days of fellowship, fine food, and fine wine at our friends' home in Freeport. Despite the almost constant rain, we got out and about and had grand fun. We made the requisite Freeport trip to L.L. Bean (the kids always get a kick out of the big boot ... well, not literally ...) but also enjoyed kayaking and going for a mini-hike with a grand view at the top. But the most fun were the hearty laughs and honest discussions after the kids were tucked in bed. I had forgotten what deep friendship (outside of marriage, of course) feels like ... that settled feeling where you don't always have to be talking but it's OK if you are.
Aaaah. It was good. It was restful, it was rejuvenating, it was needed.
Strike up the band.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy Campers

I have been so behind on ... well, keeping up ... that I will have to post my updates in parts. So first, we start with the Housing Update, because that's the thing that I think I'm most behind on keeping up on (ugggh, I can hear the Vocabulary Police siren, not to mention that of the Grammar Squad...).
Last time I posted about housing, our landlord (a development company) had told us that we had a month to move as they were going to be developing the land around us. That meant we had until June 30th to find a new home, and our baby was due June 16th.
Well, that baby was born on June 16th (naturally, even...huh... a baby that knows his own due date!), and we were encouraged to ask for an extension. So we asked, and the landlord gave us another month. That gave us until July 31st. We were also given an incredible opportunity for Ethan to preach in Maine (and for us to visit with very special friends up there). He was to preach August 3rd, and we signed a lease for a vacation rental (WONDERFUL! WONDERFUL!) beginning July 31st.
That meant we had to find a home, pack for Maine, and pack the house by July 30th (so we could take the two days we knew it would take us ~potty stops~potty stops~potty stops~). But more about the packing (and potty stops) later.
So where are we now? Well, here' s a clue:

Only where this one has "wpclipart," ours has an air conditioning unit. It's a good trade-off, I'm thinking.
We are staying in my parents' side yard in their pop-up camper (because our camper does not have air conditioning OR "wpclipart"). We have found a house to rent but it has some work that needs to be done and should be ready in the next week or two. Meanwhile, we sleep in the camper and spend the day in my parents' house.
There have been several unexpected blessings to this arrangement (one of them being high-speed Internet! -- three posts in three days! Are you shocked?). But I must say that one of my FAVORITE things is seeing our children at night. They have been amazing about going to bed (albeit we still have the routine boo-hooing at "Time to get your jammas on!"). Lily, Abraham, and Benjamin share one end of the camper. Miriam and Eden share the middle bed. Jonathan shares the other end bed with Ethan and me (and it's surprising how much room a 2-month old can take up on a bed).
We put the kids to bed a few hours before we go, and we turn on a baby monitor so we can hear if any shenanigans are going on. When we go to bed, I love to see the kids all sleeping soundly, cuddled up next to each other. A few days ago, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to see Miriam (3) quietly getting out of bed and carefully covering Edee (20 mos.) up before she crawled back into bed and covered herself.
These children, who are used to having a CD play while they sleep and no baby brother to occasionally cry in the same room, have slept soundly each night with the brother and no CD.
I know it's a temporary arrangement, and I'm thankful for the great house that waits for us on the other end of this time. But for now, I love the quiet snores and gentle sighs in the middle of the night.
And I even love the muffled giggles and not-so-muffled 20-month old jabbering we catch over the monitor.



Thursday, August 21, 2008


Amy is hosting a giveaway for one lucky participant in her Notebook Experiments. You can find the details here, but the gist is that you have to try one of her experiments and post about it on your blog. The winner, to be picked randomly, wins a videocamera.
I wish I could include pictures, but we are staying with my parents until our next house is ready (more about that later), and the camera cord is packed away somewhere. So use your imagination!

We tried the WHO Bread recipe (from Notebook Entry 02.14.07) ... the acoustic version (from SouleMama), which we tweaked a bit. I have a large family and nearby extended family, so I made five loaves in my Bosch. I'm not sure where the name "WHO" Bread came from, but I'm guessing it's for Wheat, Honey, and Oats (???). Anyway, we changed the name to protect the ... delicious. We call this Shocker Bread, as my dad took a bite and said, "WHOA! This is delicious! That's a real shocker!"
It IS absolutely delicious. If you don't have a Bosch or just want to try a one-loaf version, go here. There's also a bread machine version, for those so inclined.
But here's our recipe, tweaked for a Bosch.

Put in Bosch:

6 c. warm water
1/2 c. plus 2 T. honey
5 T. brown sugar
3 T. active dry yeast


Let it sit for a few minutes, then add:


10 T. butter @ room temperature
2 T. salt
12 c. flour (we used freshly ground prairie gold wheat, but you could also mix white and wheat or use all white or whatever...)
2 1/2 c. rolled oats
2 T. cinnamon
LARGE handful of nuts

Mix briefly. Add enough additional flour to clean the sides of the bowl (but still leave it sticky like masking tape). Turn mixer onto 2 and mix for 5 minutes.


Remove dough and form into 5 loaves in greased loaf pans. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise  for 45 minutes or until doubled. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. OH, YUM. It smells delightful and tastes even better.


And topped with Amy's suggestion of this honey butter (which my 4- and 6-yr. olds made), it is unbeatable.


Or, to put it another way, shocking.


Don't you think I should get bonus points just for including more links than I have ever included before? That, combined with my minimal knowledge of ... computering (or computtering around), made this post take three times as long as it should have!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I don't think there's a word for the way my brain feels right now...full of nonsense information organized into nonsense piles content in their nonsensicalness. I have so much to update and elaborate on:

  • where we're living

  • where we vacationed

  • homeschool curriculum for this coming year

  • etc.

But that will involve a bit of strategic brain organizing, and I'm too tired for that. So another day.
I'll just start with today and leave the rest for later (or forever buried in those piles). Today is the day my baby sister left for college. I am INFAMOUS for crying at goodbyes...we're not sure how I inherited this trait from my husband's paternal grandmother; but somehow, I did. I mean, when I was eighteen I was at a slumber party with my best friends. I spent the ENTIRE night crying because I was leaving for Texas to go to college. (Granted,  I still think Texas is worthy of tears, but we'll leave off that for now.) It was so bad that my friend's mother called my mother to come get me (Carol, do you remember this?). I WAS EIGHTEEN. (See what six kids does to you? I have no dignity anymore and don't even hesitate to share this with you!) Anyway. So she picked me up, and I spent the entire next day in the bedroom that I shared with my baby sister, me crying because I was starting college, and she crying because she was starting kindergarten.
And today, she left for college. My daughter Lily is the same age that Rebecca was when I left for college.
And despite my constant pep talks to myself during the day, I cried saying goodbye.
Even with my husband's self-righteous "I KNEW you would cry!" chuckles, I still cried. Darn it.
But this time was different. I always cried before because I had no idea how on earth the world would go on without me. Who would mock my siblings for their own good? Who would clean the bathrooms? Who would micro-manage? Who would love ____________ (name of person I was leaving) like I did?
Oddly enough, each of these problems worked itself out. I'm still a bit shocked at this, but it's true.
But today, I cried for ME. It was a purely selfish cry (as opposed to all the other selfless, humanitarian cries). I know SHE'S fine. Heck, this is a semester-long vacation for her, after being the only teen relative within shouting distance of eight nieces and nephews. (Granted, we do have incredible lung capacity and shouting ability in our genes.)
But what about ME? Don't tell me I have to teach all of the rest of my children how to tie their shoes! Certainly she can't expect ME to be sympathetic to their owies in Sunday School? And I don't have time to read all those stories! And how ON EARTH!! am I supposed to get a date in NOW? And doggone it, if I am alone the NEXT time one of my children knocks herself out, I am going to march into that Academic Dean's office and demand that they return my baby sitter sister, for the safety of my sanity.
Not to mention how OLD I feel every time I look at Lily and think about Rebecca at that age, and how it seems like yesterday.
And how another tomorrow, not many tomorrows from now, that will be my Lily going off to college. And even sooner than that, it will be my Ben. And there they will find spouses, and then there will be grandchildren...
AAAACK! Come to think of it, I'm glad Becca's off to college. She needs to hurry up and find a husband so she can hurry up and have kids so my grandchildren have babysitters.
Oy. I can just feel my bones getting older. I think I need to grab an aspirin, rub some Ben Gay on my temples, and take out my teeth so I can head to bed.
Before the baby cries to be nursed.
See what she's done to me?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Month Old Today


And a little bit of a rascal, yes.



Monday, July 14, 2008

Helping Hands

Today's supper preparation (More with Less's Bierrocks) brought a new kitchen helper:



Her method for stirring is quite unique: she holds the wooden spoon still and spins the bowl.



Still, the cheerfulness is appreciated. And every seasoned cook knows to test the recipe:







Now who wants to kiss the cook?







Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why So Worried?


Maybe this will explain it . . .



In his little world, there is nothing scarier than an Orange-Julius encrusted 17-mo. old sister. With itchy fingers.


Can't you just hear Elmira's (from "Animaniacs") voice: "I want to hug him and kiss him and squeeze him tight and . . ."  


On another note, last night he woke only once to nurse for less than five minutes. And spent none of it in our bed. I am thrilled!



Monday, July 7, 2008

Everyone's Entitled to Have Dreams

Our oldest, Benjamin (6), knows he was not an easy baby. The only way to get him to stop crying was to nurse him. Getting him to sleep was, pardon the wording, a nightmare. It involved at least 45 minutes of nursing, lying down, until he would fall into a fitful sleep. Three-fourths of the time he would awaken the second I dared to try to sneak away, and then the nightmare would replay. Even the seasoned mothers at church commented on how fussy and clingy he was. Fun.


The next four were a breeze. They all know that Lily (4) slept a lot, Abraham (3) didn't trust Papa, Miriam (3) was feisty about diaper changes, and Edee (17 mos.) slept through the night by the time she was 2 months old. But they all also know that all Benjamin did was cry and nurse.


And we don't feel bad about them knowing this, because we always balance it by saying, "But he turned into one great kid." And we've always consoled ourselves by saying, "Part of it was his intolerance to dairy. The other part was our naivete at parenting. If he would have been anything but our first, it would have gone much more smoothly."


Oh, ye of grand rose-colored hindsight, be careful what lofty claims ye make.


Jonathan is our chance to test that little "We are weathered parents; let us at 'em" bit of ignorance. Like his oldest brother, even the smell of cheese ties his tummy into knots. He can scream longer than ... well, longer than he should (please excuse this sleep-deprived scramble for any kind of vocabulary). He doesn't exactly nurse to sleep, but he has to be looking like he's nursing to sleep. In other words, he has to be in position, just not necessarily sucking.


Granted, it has been easier than when Benjamin was little. We don't stop the car for his crying (yes, part of Ben's problem WAS his naive parents), we laugh at his protests when getting a diaper change, and we follow the pattern of eat, play, sleep. Only Jonathan's "play" is squirming and screaming until Mom puts him in the nursing position where he can nurse or fake at will until he's asleep.




I've been excusing his melodrama because he's only a little guy (albeit a big little guy). And a lot of the screaming and squirming has subsided now that I've gone off dairy. But he's three weeks old today, and we're gonna stop the rest of it right. now.


So here's the plan: I keep off dairy. Jonathan keeps a strict routine, where he nurses until he's full and then plays nicely until he's not nice anymore. Then he goes down for a nap. If he screams more than fifteen minutes, I'll try nursing him again or changing his diaper, etc. Then back down.


At night, I will NOT lie down with him, no matter how tired I am. Because when I do, he stays in our bed and I stay frozen in a twisted position until he wakes again. NOT RESTFUL! So I'll nurse him sitting up and then put him back in his bed.


I'm sure this will work. OK, I'm not at all sure this will work. But it sure does give me a feeling of empowerment and control. "I AM MAMA; HEAR ME ROAR!!!"


Or maybe even, "I am Mama; hear me snore."


Monday, June 30, 2008


Yesterday after church, our family went to our somewhat-of-a-tradition Sunday dinner at my parents’ house. The kids “swam” while Grandma finished the lunch preparations. Two of them were even brave enough to take off their arm rings and inner tubes (4 feet of water is truly daunting when you’re 3 feet tall). I tried to help with dinner, but I’m not sure putting baby silverware on the table lightened the load any. I can guess, though.


Anyway, after the scrumptious surf-and-turf lunch which we all eagerly gobbled up (pass the tartar sauce and A-1, please!), my mother offered to watch the children if Ethan and I wanted to get away.


As Ethan stretched and yawned, I shouted (because it’s hard to hear when you’re yawning), “WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?”


I then yawned through whatever it was he said (too quietly), but I can speculate it had something to do with my parents’ leather reclining sofa. I ignored the speculation and reasoned that he would want to do something with me apart from the children. We opted to take Jonathan as he is one of those lingering nursers that nurses for 3 minutes until falling into a deep sleep from which the only way to awaken him is to set him down. And then the only way to make him stop crying is to nurse him.


And once we got away, we just walked leisurely together. As we strolled, Jonathan fast asleep in the baby sling, a grandmother with her daughter and 9-mo. old grandson stopped me. “Oh, how old?” she asked. I answered that he was almost 2 weeks. “Is this your first?”


“No, this is number six.” She did the obligatory eye pop and then asked how old the children were. When I gave their ages, the oldest being six, she asked in a sort of sugary tone, “Oh, do you homeschool?”


I don’t know who decided that large family means homeschooled. I mean, I won’t even get near a denim jumper, I don’t have to move my hair out of the way before I sit down, and I don’t think two-piece swimsuits are sinful.


But the kids? They are just a dead giveaway. I mean, I didn’t even have to deny being Catholic, Mormon, or married to a Marine first! She jumped right to homeschool!


Anyway, once her suspicion of homeschooling was confirmed, she said, “Oh, I don’t know how you do it. I had five, and I LOVED when the school bus came in the morning!”


Even as she said that, I thought what a nightmare that would be for me. Theological, social, and safety misgivings aside, if I had to load school-aged children onto a bus every morning, I would be losing two of my best helpers. My two oldest are only 6 and 4, but there is A LOT that 6- and 4-year old arms can do. Especially if the only other options are two sets of 3-yr. old arms, a 17-mo. old set, and a 2-week old set. Oh, and a thirty-one year old set.


As providence would have it, today I got to test that theory. My two oldest are off to magical thrills unknown with my two sisters, brother-in-law, and two young nephews, as they go to an amusement park for the first time. And I already miss them terribly! Fortunately, I did get Ben to change the kitty litter (one of his daily chores) before he left, but OY!


I have had to read the same book four times in a row. And it’s not even a Boynton book. It’s a Little Golden Book. One of those weird ‘80’s ones. Normally Ben does this, and he will pick a selection of books. I have been frozen in the corner of the couch with a sleeping/nursing/whatever-it-is-he’s-doing baby.


I had to fold all the clothes that came out of the dryer (fortunately, the 3-yr. olds emptied the dryer for me) and put them away.


I had to empty the dishwasher, get everyone’s drinks, clear the table, soak the dishes, load the dishwasher, play with the twins and Eden, hide Lily’s doll that everyone was fighting over … all while carrying a baby that usually falls asleep on his brother’s lap (the lap of the brother that’s 6. He wants nothing to do with the lap of the 3-yr. old brother). And after naptime, I will have to get Edee out of bed, fix her drink, get drinks for the twins, and think of a fun game. Only mine probably will not involve jumping from the back of a couch to a much-too-small-and-terribly-lumpy couch pillow on the floor.


The one redeeming thing is that when everyone went down for a nap, EVERYONE went down. Meaning I have time to sit here and write this long-winded post (so maybe not so redeeming?). But on the other hand, there is no 4-yr. old to brush and style my hair, whispering, “I love you so much, Mama. Are you so glad I’m your daughter?” and no 6-yr. old to “surprise” me with his daily offering of a glass of chocolate milk.


Why do I have six kids? Because four is just too much work!!!



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Now We Are Eight

Well, as of a little over a week ago.




Jonathan Van Til Allison

10 lbs., 20 inches

Monday, June 16, 2008, at 7:14 A.M.


Finally, a boy with brown hair and brown eyes.


And more than enough chub for kissing!


Abraham and Jonathan

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rocks in the Road

Usually I am all for smooth roads, figuring that they make for easy paths, whether I’m driving our green GMC Safari or just myself crazy. And, admittedly, this month has not been our month for smooth roads. There have been quite a few bumps…the one on the front of my being that HELLO COULD BE BORN ANY DAY NOW AND WHY DON’T YOU HURRY IT UP I HAVE OTHER THINGS TO COMPLAIN ABOUT!!!, the fact that we have 17 more days to find a place to move, finish packing up our house, and move there, and the continual search for the church where God would have Ethan serve. Not helping this is my inability to do anything (or, OK, perhaps it is “my choice” to do nothing – but if I put it in that light, I will have to deal with my attitude and how even in this God is sovereign and I am being a whiner and choosing not to glorify Him – let’s just stick with “inability”) but dwell obsessively on my desire to be rid of this huge, morphing, heartburn-inducing, varicose-vein throbbing mass inside of me (oh, and um, I love you, little one).


But when I ASK for there to be bumps in the road – say, when I purchase a half-gallon of ice cream that loudly advertises its bumps with the screaming title “Rocky Road” and large sliced almonds enticing me on its label – well, there better be some bumps.


But in a strange all-too-exasperatingly-familiar twist of fate, the half-gallon we purchased Tuesday night has not one bit of almond in it. Excuse me? ROCKY Road? Where’s the doggone ROCKS? I hate smooth ice cream!


When you can’t even console yourself with the time-honored balm of Breyers, something is terribly wrong. And not only is something wrong, there is no telephone number on the carton for me to call to inform them that something is wrong. I have to FINISH the ice cream, cut out the UPC code, and mail that with the code on the bottom to such-and-such an address.


In the frenzy of packing and tossing, I am sure we will lose some things. Probably a priceless heirloom, more surely my wallet, and definitely the van key.


But I will NOT lose that UPC code and carton bottom. They will be hearing from me. And they will either send me a coupon for a new half-gallon or choose to rename their ice cream. Something like, “Freshly Paved Asphalt, with Lactose.”



Friday, June 6, 2008


We drove home from my parents' last night, van laden with containers full of water and a new portable fan, to a very welcome sight...every window of our house was ablaze with light. Our light switches are horizontal, not vertical, and I can never remember which way is "on," so I guess they had all been turned on by children when the power was out and we didn't notice (because, um, the power was out). But Ethan and I let out a cheer when we saw that we had power. And no less than FOUR voices behind us let out a groan and said, "Oh, no, POWER!" (And I'm sure Eden [16 mos.] would have if she could figure out how to say "power.")


" 'Oh, no?' " I echoed. "You don't like air conditioning? You don't like getting to turn the water on? You don't like TOILETS THAT FLUSH????"


"I can flush the toilets at Grandma's," Benjamin (6) replied.


I tell you what. You just can't please all of the people all of the time. And children are nigh impossible.


But I, for one, promptly took a shower, drank a large water, and flushed about four times last night.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pow'r, Pow'r, Wonder-Workin' Pow'r

is not so wonder-workin'. Well, not if you depend on ye local power company, that is. After a thoroughly enjoyable celebration of the twins' third birthday (hold that pinkie down with your thumb!) hosted by my tireless mother and complete with all the finger foods two three-year olds could desire (pigs-in-a-blanket, cheese sticks, chicken nuggets, strawberries dipped in chocolate), TWO delicious cakes, and "scary funder and outside light" (thunder and lightning), we drove home an hour past bedtime to find our home especially dark -- plenty of "outside light" but none inside.
It helped that the children were worn out from the excitement of the party (and even the unbirthday-ers got goodie bags), so getting them in bed happened quickly. Getting US in bed was not so quick. Unlike my children, I have not been trained to sleep to the sound of the CD player (hurrah for batteries!), but my mind races without the steady hum of the air conditioner, or the rattle of the refrigerator, or the drivel of a movie. And there is no way my husband will ever be bedding down at 9:30 unless he is seriously ill. I did mention he's from Alaska, right? That's like 5:30 Alaska Time. (And, yes, after being away for over ten years, he is still on Alaska Time. He insists.) But being the decent, thoughtful husband he is, he went and got a Redbox DVD to watch on his laptop via this alternative power thingy (what is it called? It's not a generator...) so that I could sleep. Which I did, before he even got to the main menu.
And since we are on a well, when the power goes out, the water goes out. There is no electricity for the pump. Fun. Imagine having a bowling ball sit on your bladder -- wait -- change that -- imagine having a bowling ball dance on your bladder and then trying to find a good squatting spot in the dark outside (because, of course, the itty bit of toilet water that is left after your children have flushed wastefully is for the kitties -- what if they dehydrate in the night?).
So the first thing I did this morning after double-checking that the power was still out (sweaty? check. thirsty? check. bladder about to explode? check.) was call my parents, who fortunately live about 8 miles away and are on the city grid.
We have invaded their home, and I am LOVING the A/C (MY TURN IN FRONT OF THE VENT!), the endless drinks, the long showers, and the ever-at-the-ready toilet. Oh, and the high-speed Internet connection (what will I DO with the rest of my day?).
I guess I'll just have to revel in their wonder-workin' pow'r.

(And no, obviously I never made it past the first-round auditions for "Pioneer House.")


Monday, June 2, 2008

Moving Right Along...

Well, things have been busy around here. I guess it hasn't been any busier than normal, but this time the busy-ness has a purpose. On Thursday, a representative of our landlord (a developing company) informed us that we have thirty days to move. They are going to turn the surrounding fields into ballfields and parks, and our house will be used as a clubhouse of sorts (you mean officially?). The representative was apologetic and obviously uncomfortable having to tell us, which is to her credit. I mean, really, who can watch five young children playing in the front yard with their mother standing on the porch, 9-month pregnant belly extended past all reason, and NOT at least feign regret at saying, "Hope you can find another place"?


But we are actually very calm about it. We ended up reassuring her that it is the Lord's timing and we were anticipating a move this summer anyway (not with a two-week old, but whatever...). It has been God's wonderful provision that has allowed us to stay in this wonderful house, up on this hill with fields in every direction, neighbors far enough away to never hear our shouting (always gleeful, of course), with a month-to-month lease and ridiculously low rent.


He has provided, and He will continue to provide.


And so we continue to toss and pack, and I am loving the tossing part (Ethan can tell you I am no great packer). It feels so good to finally be getting rid of things that I don't know why we ever had in the first place.


And the adventure continues...


"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." Phil. 3:20 (ESV)




Tuesday, May 27, 2008




I tossed and turned last night (a great feat for someone whose belly is not a thing to be tossed and turned lightly – or easily – if at all), my mind on things lost. As is the usual protocol for dealing with lost items, I traced and retraced our paths, our exact steps, the last time I remembered seeing them, holding them, making mental note of them.


It was our weekend for losing things…a credit card, a Very Special Necklace from a Very Special Aunt’s trip to Disney World, my husband’s maternal grandfather.


The credit card and the necklace are replaced easily enough. A call to the credit card company, a trip to the Disney Store (where perhaps a close enough likeness will work), careful thought to take care of these replacements.


But the grandfather? How awful if it were so simple to replace a man! My thoughts of him are vivid and stark in comparison to the vague, blurry recollections of the credit card and necklace. He wasn’t a person to be forgotten or to fade into the background.


My first meeting with him was 10 years ago, at Ethan’s college graduation (10 years ago? ACK!). It was December, and we celebrated an early Christmas with a poinsettia and candles in Ethan’s mother’s hotel room in Longview, Texas. Wayne (his grandfather) and Arvilla (his grandmother) expressed their pride in Ethan’s accomplishments: Wayne loudly and Arvilla softly. Each accolade seemed to be accompanied by a sly passing of a crisp dollar bill as Wayne shook his hand, or patted his knee, or squeezed his shoulder.


And at the actual graduation, as I sat next to Grandpa Wayne and turned to the right page in the program to sing the first hymn, I nearly jumped out of my skin. This was no meek, “I don’t know these people; I’ll just sing quietly and blend in” voice next to me. This was a loud, proud, exultant voice singing “How Great Thou Art” as if great Thou really wert. Two years later, he stood as the best man, my husband’s sole groomsman, at our wedding; and his firm handshake, intense blue eyes looking directly into mine, and strong words “It is a rare thing to find a good wife,” made my gaze watery as I considered the recent loss of his good wife.


I know there are lots of family members and friends who are today replaying their interactions with this man who was Grandpa Wayne. There are those who saw him in his last moments, in a coma. There are those who saw him for the two long days he was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. There are those who saw him marry Ethan’s grandmother, saw them both grieve the loss of a child, saw him grieve at his wife’s death, saw him rejoice again in the finding of new love just a few years ago. There are those who called him by other names: Friend, Brother, Swede, Dad, Love. And I know each of their memories differs drastically from mine. But for me, this granddaughter-in-law who is admittedly part of the outer circle who knew him not as intimately nor well, the unembellished memories can be encapsulated in two words: his voice.


I don’t know how to describe it clearly. It was a voice that said what it said loudly and plainly, but it said much more than that. You could tell he had had a hard life but was not going to let that keep him down. You knew from the way his large, muscular hands moved in coordination with his words that he had worked the land and worked large animals. And I’m almost sure that Henry Higgins would have pinpointed him as a Midwestern Swede in less than half a sentence.


He loved to sing and sing lustily and forcefully. This was a definite family trait, I realized as I listened to him join several of his brothers in chorus at the reception of his second wedding two years ago. There is something so joyous about hearing grown men sing at the top of their lungs, first in English, then in Swedish. Uninhibited by social convention or fear or whatever it is that makes the rest of us sing timidly and poorly, these men sang as if they had reason to sing. No mere congratulatory toast or prepared poem would suffice. This called for !!!SONG!!!


And so I realized, as I tossed and turned, searching in my mind’s eye the van seats (credit card?), the back yard (necklace?), and the unknown glories of heaven, that really we’d only lost two things this weekend. Grandpa is far from lost. We know where he is, and I know that he is absolutely reveling in the fact that all of the singing there is purposeful and strong and heartfelt.


And I was reminded this morning that not even his voice is lost, as I heard my almost 3-yr. old son (also a fraternal twin, like his great-grandfather) loudly proclaiming his usual morning chorus as he descended the stairs: “HOW-WAY-WOO-YAH! HOW-WAY-WOO-YAH!”


Hallelujah indeed.


(photo: Ethan, Grandpa Wayne, Grandma Irene, and our five last October)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Ethan and Abraham

I'm still a little bit in shock, as I'm sure my husband is. After five (I think?) years of late nights filled with heavy books, theological treatises, and word-wrestling at the mercy of often combatant computers, it is finished. All of the final papers have been written, reworked, proofread, footnoted, and submitted. All of the final exams have been answered with the appropriate amount of head-holding.


Seminary is done.


I must admit I sniff a hint of superstition as I write that...a childhood fear that by saying it I might cause it not to be. That somehow there is a class that was frightfully overlooked or a requirement that was never met.


But I am going to ignore that fear and say it anyway. And loudly.




I am insanely proud of my husband, a man who fathered five (one yet unborn) additional children, and fathers them well, in the midst of papers and preaching and presbytery meetings. I am constantly amazed when I hear him preach or teach a Sunday School...this man who went from wanting to be a pilot to a lawyer to anything that would let him work outside...then realized an undeniable calling to proclaim the Word of God. We listen to the same music, we watch the same movies, we deal with the same runny-nosed, whiny, exasperating, hilarious, wonderful children; and yet when I hear him teach I am blown away by the surety of his calling.


And in the middle of all this craziness...of kids and classes-via-live-time-video and work and church...he remains a steadfast husband and father who is head and shoulders above the crowd. When cashiers or postal workers or shocked co-shoppers count the young heads around me and ask, "How do you do it?" I explain that my husband is such an incredible father that lots of kids should have him for a dad.


I can't find the time to apply a temporary tattoo because there are two loads of laundry waiting to be folded; with numerous 20-page papers waiting to be written and several church meetings to attend, he can find the time to take lingering nature walks that involve goose intestines, snakes, hummingbird moths, and animal bones.


I told you he was good.


So now we shift from papers to preparations for Friday night's graduation, including getting the van serviced and loaded and the camper readied.


And these are welcome chores indeed.


(photo: Ethan and Abraham in 2006)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Word to the Wise(r than I)

If you find yourself in the middle of an "I Think I'll Do a Spontaneous Fun Mom Thing" moment and this is uncharted territory for you, beware.


Especially beware if it involves dragging child-sized table and chairs onto the back deck and then loading the table with a bin containing the contents of three bags of dried beans and various kitchen utensils.


Before you unleash your children, take note of how big the cracks are in your deck. Smaller than the beans? Good. Bigger than the beans? Fine. The same size as the beans?


I would say, "Don't ask me how I know to do this," but we all know how I know. I should have stuck with, "Fifteen minutes cleaning your bedroom and then find something to do outside," but inspiration struck. Hard. (ouch!)


Thursday, May 8, 2008


My friend Kelly sent me a very kind and concerned email, worried that I was on bed rest or something since I haven't posted in a while.


Bed rest? Well, not officially. Does it count if you're so plumb tuckered it's all you can do to muster a feeble "Move over" before you flop on the couch for the fourth time in an hour? All right, all you gals who have been on bed rest, calm down. I know it doesn't count.


No, nothing's wrong. Nothing abnormal, anyway. I'm just too tired to be ... well, to be. My left leg is blue from veins that protest too much, my ankles are the same circumference as my thighs, and I no longer need eye shadow -- my eyelids are a deep plum color au naturale. My tone of voice is annoying, even to me, and my sense of humor has gone missing. It's probably hiding under the stacks (HA! that's a gracious word for the disorganized chaos) of winter coats, blankets, and boots that are waiting for me to sort through them. In the middle of the hallway. The downstairs hallway. The one to which the front door opens.


I've been in a funk, and I know part of it is due to the ... well, closeness of the due date (something like 7 weeks? I've lost count and am too tired to go to the calendar...see what I mean?). There's also the fact that Ethan graduates at the end of next week (oh, glorious day!). But first, there are papers and exams to be completed (and for some reason, I stress out about this way more than he does). And since we will be going to the graduation (two states away) and camping in our camper, there are lists to be made, swimsuits to be found, lotions to be packed, and food to be prepared. And since he will be graduating from seminary, we will be much more aggressively pursuing a call to a church. So there are decisions to be made, possessions to be de-possessed, and familial bonds to be stretched as we move away from family.


The last few weeks of pregnancy are sort of like the first for me -- I cry easily and often, although rarely in front of others, and I am better not seen nor heard. I always remind myself of that horse (or whatever it was) in the movie "The Never-Ending Story." I'm not even exactly sure of the scene, as it was the first movie I saw as a kid on our brand new (**Beta!**) VCR and I haven't seen it since, so pardon me if I butcher this...but they are travelling through some sort of slough or bog or quicksand or something and if they think sad thoughts, they just keep sinking deeper and deeper and deeper. So the trick is to think happy thoughts. But the horse (or whatever it is) can't think happy thoughts and ends up sinking.


My self-misery enjoys the entrapment, I think. I look at the hallway, and then the dishes, and then the boxed-up books, and then my puffy toes...and I just want to call it quits. That's when I am thankful for women who won't allow giving up...writers of sites like this and this and this. It's when I have to force myself to read God's Word, and not just to the children, but to see what the reality is. It's not in the mess or dirt or discomfort or anxiety of these things that will (YES, THEY WILL!!!!) pass away.


So, no, I'm not incapacitated or hampered (although, speaking of hampers, there are quite a few clothes that need folding...).


I've just been trying to figure out how to get out of this Sulky Susie get-up.


Anybody got an extra Wonder Woman outfit?



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