but not so much the digging out of the tree. Our tree looks more and more sad every year. If I had all the money in the world, I would get something prelit. I enjoy putting up ornaments, but the branch fluffing and bending and light stringing leaves something to be desired. You know, if I had all the money in the world, I would probably also hire a decorator. And a maid.

When my husband was little, he asked his parents why people put stars and angels on top of the tree instead of baby Jesus (good question), so from then on a small baby Jesus topped their tree. When I was growing up, my sister had the angel to put on top of the tree. So when I grew up I couldn't wait to have my own tree, and my own angel. And yet, how do you trump a baby Jesus? Perhaps this year an angel with a baby Jesus directly underneath, so the angel can "announce" the baby. We'll see.

Anyway, this year I have been bitten by the FaLaLa bug, and I am so very excited to get into the Christmas season. I have downloaded MercyMe's Christmas cd from itunes, and I nearly had chills down my spine when I stumbled upon all of the Christmas decor at Target *gasp* WELL BEFORE Thanksgiving. I have nearly all the Christmas presents planned, and many purchased.

Since having kids of my own, the Nativity has become more and more of a miracle to me. I was proud to endure labor twice with no epidural, and yet Mary could bring the savior of all mankind into the world in a stable. I love Sara Groves song "Child of Love", imagining what it was like for Mary to hold her precious child who she knew would one day save the world. Mary must have been a truly, truly amazing woman, with incredible faith.

So Jesus is coming, and I can't wait. The spirit of the season is alive and well. Sparkles and music and cinnamon, and the best gift of all.


A note to men...and some women too

First, I would like to say that I in no way want to discourage polite behavior. I really do appreciate the sentiment that is involved here, but there's just got to be another way. I am 28 years old. I'm not ready for "ma'am."

Yesterday I was in line at Cost Plus World Market, and there were two high school or maybe college guys being obnoxious all over the store. They ended up behind me in line. When another checkout opened, one of them said to me, "Ma'am? You were here first, why don't you go?" Pleasant surprise? Yes. And yet, I hardly heard what he suggested because I was so hung up on the "ma'am" part.

What happened to "miss?" When did I stop being "miss?" Couldn't I still be? I mean, when in doubt, I would think you should go with "miss." Or, I am also in favor of going back to using "madam." I'd prefer that over "ma'am." I really am very grateful for the respectful tone, which is all too lacking in our society in general. But "ma'am?" Since when?

Is this because I'm almost 30?


10 years later

Oh my goodness, I did it -- I went to my reunion! It really wasn't bad. It was nice to see people and hear what everyone is up to these days. It was good to go back in time and see how much I've changed, and to see the same of a lot of other people. And it was really nice to see that the basic friendships are still there.

The reunion and a worship team devotion on Sunday really got me thinking about something though. I think lately I've been guilty of expecting my relationship with God to just happen. As if just because I want it to, it will magically take place. Like God is going to do all the work for me. But I don't expect any other relationship to be good without some work on my part. So this week I feel inspired & challenged to put a little effort in! I want to make a daily choice to spend time in God's word and in prayer. I also want to focus more on Jesus in an eternal way, and not get so wrapped up in the trivial day to day things.

I had a really amazing experience on Sunday when someone I didn't know told me that a song I'd sung a few weeks ago had really helped him through some things. It was "You are the Sun" by Sara Groves, which I had wanted to sing for a year, because it meant so much to me as well. I love the image of God being the Sun, and me being the moon -- that I can't shine on my own, but I only shine when I turn my face to Him. I just felt so incredibly blessed to have been allowed to play a tiny role in God's work, and I was thrilled to know that the song meant so much to someone else as well. Another confirmation that it's not about me, it's about letting God do what he'd like to do through me.


So far under the weather, we can't even see weather anymore.

About two weeks ago, Ella got this fine, sand-papery rash on her left side. So after a couple of days I took her in, after all, she was starting preschool and couldn't go with an undiagnosed rash. Ears looked good, throat looked good, but they decided to do a strep test anyway. Sure enough, she had strep. Apparently some kids get a rash with it. So Ella missed her first day of school. And of course we figured Natalie had it too, because she actually had more symptoms than Ella.

About a week into it, Ella's rash exploded and spread. She looked awful -- it looked like hives I think. So back to the doctor we went. It turns out the strep is infecting her blood vessels, and it surfaces to look like hives. I guess a few kids will get strep like that. There's really nothing you can do -- she's already on antibiotics. Benedryl doesn't work because there's no histamine involved.

The next day (Sunday) I woke up knowing I had strep as well. Swollen sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever of 101.3. I've had the 10 antibiotic pills before, and felt yucky the whole time I was on it. So the last time I did it, I vowed to get the shot next time. I wanted to be un-contagious as soon as I could, since the girls were about to come off of their antibiotics. So I got to go into the ER. Brennan had to run sound at church, my mom came over to watch the girls, and I headed in. I sat for quite a while, which was sort of nice in a way. I was the only one in the ER so it was incredibly quiet. The nurse took my stats, and my pulse was high. When I told her I could feel that it was, and it's not normal, she put me on a heart rate monitor. At one point, even after sitting for half an hour, my pulse reached 134 (which I'm told is rather high if you're at rest). So I got hooked up to the EKG monitor. The nurse told me a higher pulse was a sign that my body was trying to fight an infection (interesting). Eventually the doctor made it back to say that I could have a shot. Today I feel much better.

Natalie has gotten such a diaper rash that she screams "Ouchie" and cries if you even suggest changing her diaper. It was pretty bad yesterday, but seems to be a little better today.

In the meantime, Ella's splotches started spreading to her face. This morning she woke up to an eye that's half swollen shut. The poor child looks like some kind of text book photo of an awful, awful disease. She seems to feel pretty good, except a little itchy at times. She's not contagious. It should go away within about a week. But for now, she just looks terrible. Ella is missing her second of 3 days of preschool, and today was picture day. Everytime she catches me smiling at her she says "I will be okay, Mom." She's such a pro at the doctor's office now that she marches right in, heads for the scale, sits down to take her shoes off, and when we're done with the appointment she says to the doctor, "I'd like a sucker now."

Somehow Brennan seems to be making it through unscathed. But we're all tired and hopefully on the mend, so if you think of it, say a little prayer for us!


I cannot possibly have a preschooler

Tomorrow is Ella's preschool picnic. We are to bring a potluck item beginning with the letter E. Such as "Ella's Excellent Enchiladas." Very few potluck-able items seem to start with the letter E. I'm sure this is only the beginning of my preschooler mom challenges.

In any case, she starts school on Monday, and I don't see how this is possible. Since when could I have a child ready for preschool? I'm sure I will sit in the parking lot and cry. She's going to have a great time, but oh my goodness. Perhaps I will take the new laptop and set up office in the school parking lot. I'm sure stranger things have happened.

I think the scariest part, is this is the first time when our parenting can really be seen by someone else. Poor thing -- all of the sudden it's unacceptable to run out of the bathroom with your underwear and pants in hand. Sure, she's been growing up, but now it's going to go into hyperdrive.

Your prayers are appreciated. Oh, and for Ella too.


It's Monday

I had a great time at Brennan's sales conference. I met some of my graphic design customers, and somehow got more.

I know some of you (well, of the 3 of you who check this), may be wondering what I thought of book 2, "She's Out of Control." I was able to sit down in one afternoon and read the whole book. No children climbing on me. No one needed a snack Well, except for me, but I was prepared with Ghirardelli incredibly dark chocolate. It was also fantastic, and I have to keep this short so the girls and I can run to the library and get the 3rd book, "With This Ring, I'm confused."

The girls had a great time at Grandma's house, so all parties are happy. Except Brennan, who had to get on a plane and head to Chicago without even seeing the girls.

And that's all I have to say about that. Today anyway.


I blame it on Nita

I get lost in books -- novels in particular. In an almost unhealthy way. Like a children using me as a jungle gym and I can't help but turn the page kind of thing. I'm usually stuck in the middle of some sort of historical Christian romance that's 7 books long. This time it's a series by Kristin Billerbeck, and I blame it on Nita. Nita is a very dear friend of mine who has just up and moved to North Carolina with her family so that her husband can attend seminary, and one week she handed me this book and said I had to read it. As her moving day got closer and closer, I decided I'd better read it quickly so I could give it back to her and tell her I liked it. I had no idea.

The book is "What a Girl Wants" by Kristin Billerbeck. I enjoyed this book like nothing I've ever read. If I had the patience and talent, this is the book I would have wanted to write. It is so real, and so funny. I completely appreciate the main character, Ashley Stockingdale. Ashley is living a real person's life, just trying to figure out what on earth God wants for her. I can't even say much about it. Just please read it. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion, which is sort of embarassing when your husband already thinks you have issues with novels.

I'm taking book 2 "She's Out of Control" on a trip later this week, where I will actually have the chance to read it without children climbing on me or demanding that they need silly things like food & attention from Mommy. It has taken all the self-discipline I can muster to not open the book until I arrive at my destination.

I miss Nita, by the way.


Lost -- A Mommylogue

Good news -- there are no perfect people. Hope Covenant Church in Chandler, Ariz., has a sign outside the building that says, “No perfect people allowed.” I know with all certainty that I am not perfect, but it often seems like other people are. Sometimes it feels like everyone is a better Christian than me. I look around and think, that person’s got it all together. Particularly when they don’t act like they are perfect. We put on our happy faces on Sunday morning, and politely smile at each other in church. “How are you?” “I’m good, thanks. You?” “I’m good.” Sometimes it leaves us all the more lonely, and all the more distant.

But we are all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. Our lives are full of sin with none greater than any other -- all of our lives. It’s only through His gift of grace that we are forgiven. And what of this forgiveness?

No matter how many times I’ve heard the truth, there have been times in my life when I thought, “I’ve asked for forgiveness and I believe myself to be forgiven, but how can the all-knowing God possibly see through this thing that I have done, and see me as his blameless child?” Jeremiah 31:34 says “...I will forgive them for the wicked things they did, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” But how can that possibly be? I know that He operates under a different logic system than human understanding can ever hope to fathom. But it still seems so odd to me that He could just essentially forget what we’ve done, even when we are forgiven. It’s hard to believe that in His eyes, it’s as if it never happened. I mean, this is the all-powerful, all-knowing God we’re talking about here. He knows the deepest and darkest part of us. How can He not remember our sins once we are forgiven?

It was at four in the morning when I heard my two-year old calling. When I opened her door she whimpered, “Mommy, I’m lost.” So I sat on her bed, rubbed her back, told her where she and that she should go back to sleep. As I was laying in bed trying to hurry up and fall asleep again, it was like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “that’s it.” When Ella said she was lost, I forgot when she didn’t listen to me yesterday, or when she knocked her little sister over, and even when she rolled around on the floor of the scrapbooking store -- my heart had melted -- my baby thought she was lost.

At one time or another, we all feel lost. We all feel detached from God, perhaps because of our sin. Not one of us is perfect. When we cry out to God in our darkness, how much more does He put his arms around us and say, “oh, Honey, you’re not lost. I know where you are, and I am here with you.”


Rainy Reflections

What is it about rain that makes you feel reflective? We haven't seen rain in a long time, certainly nothing that will actually help our lawn grow back. So of course on my way home from church today with the munchkins, I started to think about the rain. It seems like even when you're in the middle of a drought, every rain makes a difference. And it doesn't have to rain long before you start to see the benefits. No matter how much I run the sprinkler (never enough by the neighbor's standards), it's not the same as a good rain. Which got me to thinking. I can try and make it rain in my life, but that's just me trying to have control and make something happen. No matter how long of a spiritual drought you have, you reap the benefits immediately when you are back in the fold. The wonderful difference, is that we don't have to wait for the spiritual rain. We just have to ask.

Heard a wonderful sermon today about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. We are smart, but are we wise? Knowledge is what you know, wisdom is what you show. The pastor also asked how our lives would be different if we relied on the Bible as much as our cell phones. Use it in an emergency. Check it several times a day. Don't leave the house without it. Go back if you forget it. Always have it on a trip. Check the text for messages. (Immediately went to the Super Wal and bought a wee little Bible to weigh down the mom bag some more. Decided I'd better get to memorizing so I don't have to carry it with me. In the meantime, weight of tiny Bible will be a good reminder of the goal.)

Time to drop my own agenda, and let God rain and reign in my life.

I'm a blogger. I blog now.

For 3 years I've been wanting to write a book called "The Mommylogues," followed by the one woman show after a rousing success on the New York Times best seller list. I now know that I will have to wait until the girls go to college, and I am reintroduced to that little thing called "spare time." Plus, then I'll be having an identity crisis, which will only make the book more riveting. In the meantime, this will have to do. Keep your eyes peeled for pictures -- coming soon!