It's all in the attitude

Luke 1

Lately I've been wondering about Zechariah and Mary. With a quick read, it seems like they're both questioning the angel Gabriel. But Zechariah is rendered unable to speak, and Mary is called blessed. I'm sure this is something everyone else has noticed, but there is a difference in their attitudes. What Zechariah essentially says is, "Seriously? Prove it." But Mary says, "How does that work? Ok, I will trust God." It's not the question of how that gets Zechariah in a little trouble, it's the doubt. Before I can even work on having Mary's attitude, I need to get to the place where I'm really listening to God. I need to be able to hear His voice.

I am absolutely in awe of Mary. I haven't seen her the same way since I became a mother. I can't imagine if God sent an angel to me, promising to bring me a scandal, changing everyone's view of me, and turning the life I thought I would have upside down, that I would respond the same way. She is able to focus on God's will, and what will bring Him glory. Historically I understand that Mary was probably much younger than me, but must have also been much more mature in her faith. I pray that in whatever God would have me do, I am able to say, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."

Merry Christmas -- and may you find Christ at the center of it all.


Not surprised

Brennan showed me this story this morning, and it's too good not to share. First, look at the front page photos. The top photo is a cheery decorating for Christmas pic. Below it is a man caught on surveillance. Notice anything odd? Then click the link for the story below.



That will be one chicken and a bag of corn please...

Natalie had her 2 yr appointment today. Yes, I am aware of the fact that she is 2+8 months old. Thank you for the gentle reminder. She was the ultimate patient. She headed straight for the scale, kicked off her boots and climbed on. She let the nurse get her height. She sat still as could be while the nurse took her temp and listened to her heart. I was so relieved.

Then Dr. S came in (FYI, Dr. S was my pediatrician as well), and I was reminded why I live in a small town. As he's running down the list of potential "environmental risks", he sort of skips over and answers for himself the "does anyone smoke" and "are there any guns in the house." He gets to lead, and I say I don't think so. "Well, I don't think there would be in your house." Because he knows where I live, and around what time the houses here were built. Then I tell Natalie we'll have to drive by Dr.S's fabulous Christmas lights soon. "Actually, I didn't have time to put them up this year." "What???" I say. For as many years as I can remember his house has been on our personal drive-by light tour. "I know. I've heard about it. Someone complained to Wife at the grocery store."

At this point, Dr. S starts asking about her developmental progress. Does she string 2 or 3 words together? "You mean like 'Ella's being so fwustwating?', yes." So I'm all proud of my brilliant child. He asks Natalie if she likes to talk. And my perfect patient gets down on the floor and starts hopping like a bunny. Then a frog. Then she starts crawling and barks like a puppy. I guess I'll hold off on Mensa testing for now. But perhaps it's time for acting classes.

The nurse came back then and gave Natalie a flu shot in her thigh. It was over before she knew what hit her, and she just whimpered a little -- sort of in shock. The nurse chuckled as Natalie limped out of the room. Yes, perhaps acting classes are in order.

I'm already sort of dreading Ella's 4 yr appointment next week. And yes, I'm aware she is 4 1/2. I'm doing my best here. She has already announced that she will not be having any shots like Natalie.


A post worth sharing

This concept seems a little foreign to me, but I have started reading the blogs of people I don't even know. It seems really weird, because I think of my blog as sharing with people who know me. But a good writer is a good writer, and worth reading. This was a link shared by one of those blogs, and it just seemed to good not to share in this season of excess.


A medley of carols for your enjoyment

I was up with the sun today, which is much more impressive if you forget that it's winter in Minnesota. I hustled over to my parent's house to let the dog out, and helped myself to a Tassimo Chai tea (thank you, my sister, for the lesson). Giddyup, giddyup, giddyup let's go... Then I buzzed back home to get Ella out the door for preschool. Natalie and I did our 30 minutes (probably 20 without the commercials) of Shimmy ("good job, mommy! you're doing it!"). Let's look at the snow... I got my shower complete with Waffle Cone Philosophy body wash. Set the dryer to wrinkle release the laundry from a couple days ago, and put it away finally. We're riding in a wonderland of snow... Read the Christmas story on biblegateway.com to get a little more in the season. Giddyup, giddyup, giddyup it's grand.... For my Friend's friends: everything is aglow with the light of a million fairies.

It is now 10:45. I need to get a little more work done before the week's out. But I'll just take a peek at weather.com for the weekend. Winter storm advisory. Up to or exceeding 6 inches of snow. Sleet. Blowing snow.

Here is what I want: (from White Christmas) Snow...snow...snow...snow...it won't be long before we'll all be there with snow...I want to wash my face, my hands my hair with snow... But here's what I'm getting (hopefully because my sister got it in my head): In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.

And now I guess I'll get back to work before braving the frozen tundra to get Ella from school.


Grace in the little places

Not only was Thanksgiving wonderful, but I had Reunion weekend. Saturday I got to meet my friend April for dinner, and Sunday I got to meet up with Mike & Monica and their kids for a little bit. It's always so fun to get a chance to see good friends and catch up.

Mike & Monica were stopping through town on their way home, so I went over to Perkins for a little bit while they grabbed lunch. Our Perkins is often disappointing. Not enough wait staff. Kind of a pokey kitchen. It was that way again. But here's the conversation that I loved: Mike & Monica debating whether to leave a small tip for the poor service, or a good tip to make her day. They decided that they could guarantee this woman was not having a good day. She had too many tables to wait on. Undoubtedly it would be a small tip day. She had been friendly enough when she managed to make it over. A bigger tip was going to be more noticed, and a better way to be Jesus to her that day, so that's what they did.

I thought of it when I was doing the group gift shopping for the quadruple baby shower last night, and had a cartfull of 3 separate purchases. Some kid was about to go on break when the photo girl called him over to help me check out. "But I'm s'posed to go on break." Cody didn't want to help me and my complicated cartfull. But I felt for the kid. He's coming off of Black Friday. He's probably been working like crazy. Customers aren't nice around this time of year. Holiday cheer is reserved for your friends, not the cashier. And poor Cody, the second he starts to help me the manager comes over "Cody, you need to take your half." So she leaves and I say, "Cody, you can't win." And he says, "I really can't!" He asks me if I want to open a Target account to save 10%. I say no thanks. He says he didn't think so, but he has to ask. So he rings up my second order, and I say, "And I'll still pass on the Target account, but thank you." He laughs enough to forget my change and he has to open the drawer again. Three large purchases later, I say, "Thank you, Cody, for a job well done. Enjoy your break." He says thanks, and he will. Honestly, my first instinct was to be rude to him. How dare he be so obvious about not wanting to ring me up, when this is his job. But I don't know what he's been through today. And being rude was only going to make me feel cranky, and not improve his day at all. I'm not saying I changed the kid's life, but I felt better.

I remember Christmas as a quiet, peaceful but exciting time of year. It is now holiday madness as I write party after party & dance shows and doctor's appointments on the calendar. If I can make a conscious effort to show people some grace in the little places, it will certainly make me feel better. Hopefully them too. And I'm guessing Jesus (reason for season) is okay with it as well, and I pray He helps me to remember it.


A History Lesson

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Abraham Lincoln


Parenting attempts

There are things I thought I would never do if I ever had kids. Those things that I couldn't even comprehend BK (before kids). And somehow, those things change AK.

For example, I never could get why people couldn't get their kids to be quiet in a store. In my mind, you just told them to be quiet, and if you were a good parent, the kids were quiet. Then I had children. It's not that easy. I once stood in line in my least favorite, WalMart, for 10 minutes with Natalie screaming so loud I couldn't hear the people's kind comments around me. By the end, I could hardly hear anything. Bribing with M&M's? I like to think of it as encouragement.

I never understood all the sticker charts & reward systems. Can't you just explain to your children what is expected of them? Ha! Ella pottytrained in about a day. "Ella, if you want to go to preschool, you'll need to go potty on the potty." "Ok." Done. Natalie knows what she's supposed to do. She will occasionally do it. But her stubbornness prevents her from making the complete switch. "Natalie, do you need to sit on the potty?" "NO!!" "Natalie, if you need to poop, go on the potty." "NO! I want the changing table." So today I made a sticker chart for the potty. We'll see what happens.

We have also not been having very good listening lately. I will make a request of them like, it's time for lunch, come to the table. "But first I have to finish this book." Or "I not hungry, I want to play." Or today it was, "It's time to put your socks and shoes on," to which Natalie replied, "No. I being cute." So I'll be darned if I didn't make little listening jars today. We're going to have listening tokens. Given for listening the first time I ask them to do something. Redeemable for treats/prizes. I can't believe it. Again, we'll see what happens.

One thing I have learned for certain, I cannot hold to much of anything I thought BK, because in life AK, all bets are off.


It's a ricey little game...

Got this site from another blog I read. It's a vocabulary game, and for every word you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice through the United Nations. It turns into a really addicting game, and it keeps track of your vocabulary score up to 50. The donations come from the advertisers on the bottom of the screen. Give it a try.


Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving, but I sort of feel bad for it. It's totally overshadowed by Christmas, and it's become all about the food and football (which is not to say I don't enjoy the food). So in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I'm starting the journal that a friend of mine gave me called "A Journal of Gratitude." It's just a list of all the things, great & small I'm thankful for. Then when the gloom of winter has fully kicked in, I can look back through it and focus on those things. Perhaps cozied under a blanket, with a hot cup of tea, and a miraculously quiet house. Hopefully my attitude will become less whiney (brr, it's so cold, MN stinks), and more grateful (gee, I'm so glad I'm not preparing my sod house for the long & harsh winter now that I'm done doing the harvest by hand, having stopped only long enough to birth my 8th baby).

Psalm 100
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.


Chicken Little

Disclaimer: I am aware that I live in Minnesota. I am also aware that it is November, and these things may happen.

I saw white stuff coming from the sky today. I am more inclined to believe the sky is falling than to accept it for what it is. I'm just not ready yet.

On a side note, today Natalie was reading a Winnie the Pooh book when she yelled, "Mom!! Look!! It's Christmasfor Robin!" I had to stop what I was doing and go give her a little hug. That made my day.


Ahh, the memories.

Today I got to help Ella carve a pumpkin at preschool. Now, I have four memories of preschool. I remember playing in a sandtable that was kind of like Mr. Rogers'. I remember picking out Christmas presents for our parents. I remember going to my classmate's horse farm (I guess it was a ranch, but I don't really think of MN as having ranches), and seeing the puppies (although I'm sure we were supposed to be looking at horses). One of those puppies later went to work at the nursing home my mom worked at, and ended up living with us. Best dog ever -- Snickers.

And I remember carving a pumpkin. My dad came to help me, which was pretty cool in itself. I remember sitting on the floor, over squares of Pope County Tribune newspaper. And I remember thinking it was really, really cool that we were using my dad's newspaper (as in he made the newspaper, rather than just reading it). After we were done, we cleaned the seeds and baked them at the school. I don't remember if I liked them then, but I love them now.

So today, I dug out pumpkin guts with my little girl. A little girl who, frankly, was not very interested in participating in the carving. Too slimey. Which I remembered from last year, so I brought a smaller pumpkin this year. And I bagged up the seeds, brought them home and roasted them (for the first time). I think I went a little too heavy on the vegetable oil spray, but all in all, they're good. Ella won't even try one, which is not surprising. Luckily, I'm thinking it's the time together that is remembered over the actual pumpkin or seeds. After all, I remember sitting down with Dad to carve it, but I have no idea what it looked like when we were done.


I should have written this yesterday, but...

Have I mentioned I'm a procrastinator? I probably hadn't thought to do that yet. Yesterday we had fall pictures done for Ella & Natalie. Been meaning to do them since late August. I think it went relatively well, but since I waited til the last second it was in the 40s. Brrr. I plan to order almost immediately. Last year I never got pictures ordered. Seriously. Just ask my family, who all enjoy giving me endless flack about it.

Today I went out in search of a pumpkin (at 5 p.m.), because we have to carve them at Ella's school tomorrow morning. Even at the SuperWal there were about six pumpkins left, all looking like the pumpkin version of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. I found a smallish one, decently round, but it has no stem. That was the best I could do at this late date.

I often read my Bible study book in the car on the way there. When I was running the monthly high school newspaper for the 22 high schools in the
Iron Range, I'd put most of it together in about two days. Wrote most college papers the night before they were due. Why do you think my blogging is so infrequent? I have no deadline. Til Amy starts asking for posts.

Oh, and I seem to now be a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes late to anything.

In other news, I have lost my voice. I think it might be allergy induced from yesterday's jaunt through the woods.


Crunch, crunch

The leaves are finally crunching again! After a week of rain, gloom and sog, fall is back where it's supposed to be. Fall is my favorite season, and I'm stealing my friend Jersey's blog technique --
5 things I love about Fall
1. The crunch of colorful leaves under my feet (makes me feel like I should be at Fall Retreat again).
2. Honeycrisp apples (have you tried these??? YUM)
3. I can drink hot tea again. I'm mostly into the red teas these days. No caffeine, no bitter taste, but a lot of flavor.
4. Clothing options. I love that I can wear a skirt, jeans, long sleeves, short sleeves, jacket, sweater, flats, heels, socks, no socks... We're past the heat of summer, but not into parka weather yet and there's no ice to slip on.
5. Pumpkins! Pumpkin pie is my favorite of all the pies, with cherry coming in second. I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bars, pumpkin candles. I think I would love the pumpkin spice shake at Culvers if I could get myself past the calories (I am by no means a calorie nut, but the small shakes are over 750 calories, which is a little outrageous when you're trying to stay in the 1400-1600 range in a day).

I'd love to hear your favorite fall thing. I mean, you know fall's special -- it's the only season with two names.


What's important

Now, I don't LOVE forwards, but I got this one from a friend, and I just loved this illustration. I've been thinking more and more lately about how to prioritize my life, and what things really do matter, and this one came on just the right day for that.


One day, a professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your God, family, children, your health, friends, and favorite passions. If everything else was gone from your life ...

but these things still remained ... your life would still be full."

The professor continued, "The pebbles are the other things that matter ... like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he said, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18 holes. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal."

"Take care of the golf balls first ... the things that really matter.

Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."


I've been feeling lately like sometimes I fill my jar with sand & pebbles before the golf balls, and he's absolutely right, if you do that, you can't fit the golf balls in. I really want to work on determining what is actually a golf ball, and what may be a pebble or sand. I'd also like to start getting a little coffee in my jar.


Fresh Starts

I don't care what they say about Spring and fresh starts, Fall will always be the fresh start for me. We live in a school year calendar society, and Fall means a new year (and new pencils!!*). The chaos of summer is over, and the order of Fall has arrived. It's Ella's first day at school today, in her second year of preschool. She may have been a little hesitant last year, but this year I couldn't get her to stop and take a picture because she wanted to go. NOW.

Natalie has adjusted well I think. Much better than Mommy. She has played everything there is to play, and really seems to enjoy having it all to herself. I am hoping these times of Ella at school lessen the amount of fighting we have during the day. Perhaps all that was needed was a little alone time.

I, on the other hand, was not prepared. In the future I will need to be much more caught up with work the night before a preschool day, because Natalie alone is far more high maintenance. Her attention span when playing alone is about 30 seconds, which means I haven't gotten a whole lot done today. And yet, in the time I have found, I am doing this. Priorities?

In other fresh starts, Ella started dance this week! I have a tiny dancer! It took a little convincing for Daddy, but in the end it came down to Ella enjoying it. Imagine my distress when she then informed Daddy that she didn't want to go to dance class. Hush!!! She did seem to have fun, although parents have to wait in the hall so we're not distracting, so I couldn't see if she did. When I asked her she said, "I don't want to talk about it, I'll tell you next week." 4 or 14? Later she showed us how she makes an X, so it must have been at least a little fun. If you're looking for a home for outgrown leotards & skirts, we're happy to help out with that.

* I don't think I can properly convey my excitement over school supplies. I love them. New pencils, notebooks, folders, crayons. I was thrilled this year that we needed to get some supplies for Ella. She needed a pack of glue sticks, I bought 5. They were 20¢. She needed a pack of jumbo crayons, I bought 2. They were 80¢. For only 50¢ you can get a fresh start in the form of a pen. Love it. Thank you, Jesus, for back to school shopping. It's the little things, isn't it?


Filling my box

One of the sessions I went to at the Willow Creek Arts Conference was about creativity. And one of the things the speaker said really stuck with me: in order to be creative you need to "fill your box." We all have these boxes that we fill with our experiences, and that's where our creativity comes from. We need to be continually filling them so when we need to be creative, we can draw from it. I thought I'd share with you what's filling my box today:

Music: I admit it, Brennan and I are loyal watchers of "So You Think You Can Dance." Recently they had a band called OneRepublic who performed their song "Apologize." It's an amazing song, and I love everything about it musically. It gets stuck in my head, and then I have to listen to it again and again. It's not available on itunes yet, because their album doesn't come out til fall, but I found the video on youtube.

Books: Have I mentioned Donald Miller? Well let me do it again! Blue Like Jazz, Through Painted Deserts and Searching for God Knows What. They rocked my world like my friend Andria said they would. I still need to read To Own a Dragon, and he's got a new one coming out soon. Currently I'm reading "They Like Jesus but Hate the Church" by Dan Kimball. It's also very thought provoking & eye opening.

The Web: antiquemommy.com My mom sent me that blog today, and I couldn't stop reading it. Antique Mommy is a very gifted writer who made me laugh and cry -- and that's a good thing.

The World: Last night Brennan and I took the girls for a walk, and the sunset over the lake was amazing. Columns of light shooting out from around the clouds, and a pink-red sun reflecting on the still water -- incredible!


I love my children

Last night we met Brian & April for dinner in St. Cloud, which was long overdue and very fun. My mom brought the girls back here and put them to bed, and Ella said, "Grandma, thank you for staying with us until Mom & Dad get home." She's such a four-year-old. I love that.
Here's my help request of the day: Looking for a cute, reasonably priced bigger backpack for Ella for preschool. I like having one that's personalized so there are no mixups. Any ideas? Right now I'm thinking potterybarnkids.com, lillionvernon.com, landsend.com or llbean.com



Friday: God is in charge. Wahoo!
The end of the week is tough. The kids seem to get more wired everyday, and the adults look more weary. All in all, I think it went well for everyone. Ella had a really great time, and I had fun helping out. They sang in church on Sunday, and did a great job.

Work: Rough day yesterday. I misspelled the name of customer that got printed on $21,000 worth of products. It was a $30 mistake for me, but quite a lot more for my sales rep. Still feeling slightly nauseous about that, but I am assured by my other reps that these things happen.

Friends: Say a prayer for my friend Natalie. She's taking the bar today through Thursday.

Books: I've now read three of Donald Miller's books. Just finished "Through Painted Deserts." I love his writing style, and I'm looking at my relationship with God and the world around me in a new way. Now I'm reading "They Love Jesus but Hate the Church" by Dan Kimball. I saw him speak at Willow Creek about the emerging generation, and their views on "church", and it was really eye opening. The book is proving to be very good so far. It's a new way of looking at things for me. Highly recommended.

Kids: (might as well skip this part if you don't have any, because you won't care to hear this) In the past 24 hours Natalie has used the potty 4 times, even pooped once. Very exciting! Every package of diapers may be my last. She worries me more than Ella. Ella we just said it was time to use the potty, and she did. Natalie is STUBBORN. She goes if it's her idea, but you can't suggest it without a knock down drag out fight. We're trying to pick our battles with her. Right now we're focusing more on the potty since she's showing some interest. At some point we also need to get rid of "Gee" (pronounced with a hard G, it's the blanket) and the thumb sucking. They seem to go together, so it's going to be either very easy or a huge problem.

Online: www.jellybellyoutlet.com You can buy Belly Flops for half the price of regular Jelly Bellies. I got a couple of bags, and it was fun. Some of them are two beans stuck together, some are missing the Jelly Belly stamp, some are just misshapen. I didn't run into this, but I guess they may also be misflavored. I found the Flops to be a fun adventure. I'd do it again.


Wahoo!! It's a wild ride!

That's right, it's Vacation Bible School week. Ella is going for the first time, and just loving it. Natalie's been enjoying the nursery, and I've been trying to make myself look busy enough about the church that I don't end up with a group of preschoolers, but I'm still helpful. 108 preschoolers, 113 elementary age. Here's what I've been learning at Avalanche Ranch this week:

Monday: God is real. Wahoo!! "The Lord is the one true God."
Sometimes kids pay more attention when the adults leave.

Tuesday: God is with us. Wahoo!! "For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
250 kids in one room is a lot of kids. Have you ever noticed that large groups of people, including kids, sound really great when they sing together, no matter who is in the group or what singing abilities they may have? I love that. When we all sing the same song to God, it sounds beautiful no matter what.

Wednesday: God is strong. Wahoo!! "The Lord is my Strength."
The treats are down in the kitchen. Kids get a treat of the day, but helpers get a wide assortment of yummy cookies, cakes, donuts, etc. It's like a secret place with secret snacks!! Wish I would have learned that on Monday.

Thursday: God is awesome. Wahoo!! "The Lord Most High is awesome."
Give kids an open space, and they will run with wild abandon. Before all the kids get there to sing, the early birds (or really the on-time birds, the rest are very late) tend to just run. They knock over signs, they knock over each other. I must remind myself that they are kids, and having fun. VBS for me growing up was sitting quietly in my very small group and listening to the teacher. I saw something very cool this morning though, we had a crew without a crewleader (yikes!!), and the second it was announced one of our teenage helpers hopped right over and jumped in. I didn't catch who she was, but I think she'll be someone to watch. That showed an awful lot of initiative in an age that often can't travel without a friend.

It's been really fun to get the girls out of the house, and to be a little involved in what's going on. It's fun to know what Ella's learning so we can talk about it together. We've also been enjoying singing the songs together.

Let's see what Friday brings!


Things I hope they remember

Someday when the girls have grown into adults (yikes), I hope they remember things like this:
Sometimes when we get ready for bed, we go into Natalie's room, and we all sit on the floor in the almost dark, and we take turns singing songs. It's usually Ella's turn first. She will make up a VERY long song about her happy feet ("They like to hide in my socks and shoes..."), or about her day ("...and I love everyone, like my mom...and dad... and Natalie"), and at some point the rhythm gets her and she stands up to do a little lyrical dance. Ella seems most moved by the contemporary style (or at least that's what we've learned watching So You Think You Can Dance). Then Natalie will take a turn (sometimes delayed by Meow Meow's turn), and then Mommy, and then Daddy. Sometimes Natalie sings a song she knows, and she's starting to know quite a few. Sometimes she'll make one up. I will always sing a song I know, which Ella will question. "Is Jesus Loves Me really a lullaby Mom?" Brennan will make up a fabulous song about two little girls going to bed, and sleeping all night. Those are the nights when I feel like I know what it means to have a full heart.


I have been to the Willow, and it was good

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a worship conference at Willow Creek Church by Chicago, with some people from our church's worship team. It was really incredible. First of all, to be on the campus of a mega-church like that was impressive -- it's a gorgeous building. The worship was of course pretty impressive as well. I mean, when the David Crowder Band shows up to lead worship, it's got to be good, right? And being with like-minded people in the numbers of over 5,000 in worship is even more amazing. Not only were these my brothers & sisters in Christ, they were fellow "artists." Although, I confess, I have never considered myself an artist.

But what blew me out of the water and shook up the faith I've known my whole life, were two speakers: Dan Kimball and Donald Miller. Dan Kimball is the author of "They Love Jesus but Hate the Church." What an eye-opening experience it was to hear him talk, and see videos of college students being asked what they thought of Jesus. Every one had this serene & loving impression of him. Then they were asked about Christians. Judgmental, aggressive, hypocrites -- all negative.

Then there was Donald Miller. Honestly, I'd never heard of him before. He was hilarious and so real. But his knowledge of the Bible and the history of Christianity leads him to really astounding observations. He's written several books, and I ran out and bought "Blue Like Jazz" immediately. I mean immediately, it was available in the hallway. When I got a chance to have lunch with Andria (hadn't seen her in months, SO good to catch up), her only comment on that book was "That rocked my world." Um, ok, I thought. On the drive home, I soaked in as much as the daylight would allow, and then I finished it the next day. I'm half-way through the next book now. What makes him intriguing to me is that I don't know where he's going with it. So many times when you hear someone speak, you've got a clear view of where it's headed. And much of the time for me, I feel like if I can see where it's going, then I don't need you to tell me. I had no clue where he was going, but I really wanted to know. In reading "Blue Like Jazz", I laughed out loud (much to my embarrassment), but so many times I also wanted to say out loud, "Exactly!" And, yes, it rocked my world.

It really made me think about how I live my faith and show it to the world. Because when I ask myself why I became a Christian, what really drew me in, it certainly wasn't someone telling me that I was wrong. Or that I needed to repent. Or that they were right. I had met people who had the peace of Christ, and I wanted it for myself. When I made that decision, I wanted to make changes in my life. What makes so much sense to me, is the way they talked about it as a relational faith. It's all about the personal relationship with Christ, not rules & regulations. The closer I get in my relationship with Him, the more I want to follow Him and do what God would have me do. But it can't be broken down into bullet points & lists.

This has also led me to feel differently about the Bible. It's always been hard for me to read because I've always thought of it as something I'm supposed to be doing. It's the book with the rules. But it's not. It's a story. It's a letter from God, to me. There are lessons I will learn to be sure, but it's really a story. Each one of us will learn something different, because each of us needs to learn different things. And how incredibly amazing is it that the story has been crafted so that it can personally speak to each of us and meet us where we are?

I have been refreshed, recharged, renewed and challenged. I highly recommend "Blue Like Jazz" and the books that follow. And if you want to try him out for free, subscribe to his podcasts. Just search for Donald Miller. Or try Imago Dei, which is the church he goes to. There's a podcast from 12/31/06 that's him talking about our stories, which is much like one of the talks he did at Willow.


By request

My dear friend Amy says it's time for a new post, and I suppose she's right. Not sure what's new. We're enjoying more outside time, despite our allergies. Thank you, Jesus, for Claritin. Yesterday was Ella's last day of preschool, which I can hardly believe. Tomorrow we will have a program and picnic at the school. This girl LOVES school, and I'm afraid we're in for a long summer. We have many conversations E: "Where are we going today?" M: "We get to stay home today, and you can play with your toys." E:"But where are we going?" M:"Nowhere today." E:"When Daddy comes home from work, will he stay with Natalie so we can go somewhere?" I'm going to have to learn to be very proactive with activities for these two, so I can continue to get some work done during the days. (Hint, hint: suggestions welcome!)

In other news, our small group is just completing a study on James. I've really enjoyed it, even though James is at times painfully convicting. I want to focus less on the day-to-day blah, blah blah of all the "stuff" I have to do in order to blah blah blah, and concentrate more on spending everyday and every activity with God. I think life can be much simpler than I make it. I want to raise my children with God's love, do my work with God's joy, and generally live my life in God's peace. Doing things for yourself with your own energy gets tiring. One passage in particular that smacked me in the face this morning was James 5:13-15 from The Message:
13-15Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven—healed inside and out.


Who put a quarter in this one???

I'm not sure who did it, but someone has put a quarter in Natalie. She has spent the last couple of days copy-catting everything Ella does & says. Sometimes she copies what I say. This morning Ella is at preschool. I sat down to eat a little oatmeal, and Natalie runs up, "What are you having? (which comes out more like ah-ving)" I told her, and she said, "I have cereal...in bowl...with milk on it...and spoon??!!" Then she came back for more "I have more cereal? Could I? Could I, could I?" Such a chatterbug for a little girl who just turned 2. My favorite with her as of late, has been her rendition of "Oh how I love Jesus." It just goes on and on, never getting to the "Because He first loved me" part.

Which brings me to the tear-jerking mommy moment of the week. We had some storms roll through on Saturday night, and as I was putting Ella to bed, she was starting to traumatize over it. Then she said, "Mom, do you know who can keep us safe from the storm? God can." Regaining my composure I told her she was absolutely right. So I told her when I was a little girl, I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart so he would always be with me. She kind of ignored me, but then said God was in her heart to keep her safe. Well the first thing she did Sunday morning was tell the woman at Sunday School, "And it was storming last night, but I don't have to be scared because God is in my heart to keep me safe." So sweet, and such a good reminder for me of what it means to have faith like a child.


A Mommylogue

The other night we were at our Bible study, currently studying the book of James, and we were talking about the way we often get so wrapped up in things, but when you stop to pray, God just takes care of it. It was then that this picture came to mind like a tap on the shoulder:
So often I will ask my girls to do something. They will hem and haw and fuss their way through it. "But....but...but..." By the time they are done, they could have done the task 20 times. I will often say to them, "if you would stop fussing, you could be done by now."
How often am I that child? God has asked me to do something, or tried to tell me something, and I fuss my way through? Go through unnecessary heartache? If I would just be still and listen, and then be obedient, I could be done by now.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:5-8, New Living Translation


Updates: Babies & Sickies

Luke Michael joined the cousins on Saturday, March 17. Molly was induced on Friday morning, and he finally decided to get out at 3:30 am on Saturday. 7 lbs. 9 oz (same as Ella and Bria). Everyone's doing well, and Big Brother Sam is pretty interested in his little brother.

Families are expanding all around us. I have 2 new nephews and a niece (my first) since the beginning of the year. Everyone seems to be doing well, and it's wonderful to get a baby fix.

Natalie is mostly recovered from the flu, except for lingering diaper issues. Ella came down with it Wednesday night at 10:30, and was up about every half hour til 8:30 am. LONG night. She was well recovered by Friday. I wasn't. On Friday I was so exhausted from staying up all night Wednesday, that I stayed in bed most of the day. The cute part was Friday night when I put Ella to bed. "Mommy, if I need to throw up, then I'll call you and tell you I need a bucket. But I won't throw up, because I feel better." "Oh, Ella, I'm so glad you feel better." "I hope you feel better soon too, Mommy." Definitely growing up too fast, but so sweet. I'll tuck that little memory someplace safe to bring out when she's being less than lovely.


More nurse practitioner-ing

Today it's a stomach bug for the worst patient. Poor Natalie. She's not yet 2, and completely panicked by the throwing up. Not so much grasping Mommy's urgent need for bucket usage. In a way, I wonder if she thinks the bucket makes her throw up. In any case, the poor girl has got issues at both ends -- diaper rash, here we come. She's fallen asleep now in a chair I have covered with towels and sheets.

It's funny how your little baby getting sick brings out the different sides in you. It's frustrating. I feel awful for her. I feel awful for me. I feel awful for Ella, who doesn't seem to like all the attention Natalie's getting. I'm amazed at what I'm capable of in the heat of the moment. I'm usually completely sickened by just the sound of it, but when it's my baby, it's like I don't even see it. Whatever I can do to make her feel better. I somehow become like a multi-tasker 3000 robot. Clean up, wash up, sanitize, and on to the next.

Any minute now I'm sure she'll wake up and we'll start it all over (or Ella will get going as well), but I am very grateful for this little break. Grateful for a little rest for her poor little body. And grateful that with God's help I am truly able to do things I never thought I could do (even when it involves throw up).

I hope your day is going better than ours, but I know in only a matter of time I'll be thankful for our health again.


Nurse Practitioner Sarah

My sister always jokes that her husband is a doctor and I am a nurse practitioner, because we have a knack for remembering medical information, and then correctly diagnose ailments. We have a running joke that one day he and I will open an office, and because we have no degrees in that field we'll just accept bags of corn and a couple of chickens for our opinions.

I earned a few more NP points on Thursday, when I was in the delivery room with Amanda when she gave birth to Bria Marie. We had sort of talked about me being there before, but I think we all thought there would be a lot more time to try it out. She called in labor at 6:30 Thursday morning. My mom ended up staying home from a nun event (that's another long story) so she could take the girls, and I got to the hospital at 8:20. I walked into a room full of nurses and equipment, and after being cleared by Amanda I hopped right in next to Connor. Amanda had already started pushing. She had arrived at the hospital at 7, and was dilated to 7. Within minutes she was at 10. I ended up in charge of her oxygen mask -- on between contractions and pushing.

Originally, I had thought I'd just hang out with her during the long hours of labor, and I'd probably end up leaving for the actual pushing. I figured I could stand up by her head and miss it all. Of course, the truth is that her head was not as far away from the action as I'd somehow imagined.

So there I was. Cheering her on. Holding her mask. Bria was born at 9:09 after a completely natural childbirth (too fast for anything else). Then I was able to hold her hand while the doctor patched her back up, and Connor got all of the pictures of Bria getting weighed and measured.

I'm in no way signing up for med school, but I am very glad I was there. My proudest moment later, was when Amanda said she had noticed that all of the sudden her oxygen mask was going on and coming off at exactly the right times, and she had looked up and seen that it was my hand holding it. I'm surprised by a lot of things. Really surprised I managed to stomach that whole scene. Even more surprised that I've done that twice, and still didn't really know that's what it looks like. And then just surprised that I've done that twice at all. Childbirth sure isn't pretty, but it is amazing. How you can witness something like that and not believe in God, I have no idea. What an intricate process He's designed. There's a reason it's often referred to as the miracle of birth. I'm so thankful that He gave me an opportunity to get that new perspective.

Bria Marie
7 lbs. 9 oz.
9:09 am, March 8
19" long


Time to pitch in, marketing team!

Alright loyal readers (all 3 of you)! I need a campaign slogan for a Wisconsin health system that is implementing a smoke-free campus in November. The sample slogan is "We're clearing the air." They'd like something like "Smoke Free for Everyone's Health," only more catchy. I'm so swamped today that fresh, creative ideas are really nowhere to be found.


It stopped snowing!

Well, it stopped snowing in time for us to go home. Sunday it started melting, and now it's freezing cold again. This of course turns everything into an ice rink. Gotta love a MN spring.

I had a wonderful time at Brennan's conference. It was good to get out of the sweatsuit for a few days, and wear shoes instead of slippers. I got to see several of my customers, which was good. We also got to eat dinner at Rossi's steakhouse. Wow. Wonderful food. But as another wife said later, "How would you ever eat there without an expense account?" It's one of those places where they brought us a platter with all the cuts of meat on it, so we could choose. One of those places where the $35 steak doesn't come with any sides or soup or salad. It was definitely a fun experience though! I had the salmon, which was wonderful. Our dessert was a giant strawberry shortcake, which the 10 of us were only able to eat half of.

I picked up some fun freebies at the trade show -- a requirement from GrandmaCare. It was a good, relaxing time, and I feel like I came home refreshed to be mommy again.

Welcome to the world: Joseph Daniel Martinson, born March 5 at 10:47 pm. 8 lbs., 10 oz. later, mom & baby are reportedly doing well.

Arriving Friday (hopefully): Baby Girl (we think) Murphy. Amanda is set to go in at 6 am for inducing. Arriving the following Friday: Luke Michael (I think) McFarland. Molly is set to be induced March 16. It's baby mania.


It's snowing again...but I don't care!!

Everything is continuously covered in a blanket of white -- but I don't care! I'm at Brennan's work conference at the Hilton Minneapolis. That's right. Downtown Minneapolis. Connected by skywalks. All the shopping, no driving, no parking, no coat, no SNOW!

A few thoughts on the Hilton: I would like to take this room along with everything in it, and plop it down where our bedroom is at home. I love the colors, love the carpet, LOVE the bed, the curtains, absolutely everything. And of course, love the housekeeping service.

Just a few skywalk minutes away is the Minneapolis Convention Center. They are currently having the Home & Garden show. I think I'm going to have to go check that out, not to get ideas for my own yard (my grandmother does my gardening), but just to smell some flowers and spring.

Talked to my mom an hour ago. The girls slept all night long. Furthering my theory that Natalie is just out for Daddy attention in the middle of the night.

I think I might go find Barnes & Noble.


Shovel, shovel, shovel

Now that I'm completely ready for spring, we're living in a winter wonderland. We had freeze-your-face-off cold for weeks. Then it got warmer, even to 40 degrees. I was thrilled -- bring on spring!! And now we finally got our snow. The whole winter's worth in one weekend. We shoveled 4 or 5 times, just to keep up. Yesterday we bundled the girls up to go play in the snow while we dug out the driveway. Ella had a great time, and Natalie was iffy on it.

I have purchased new sandals, hoping to bring spring in more quickly.

In other news, I vaguely remember a time when Natalie slept. I may take her in for an ear infection check, just to make sure I'm not getting falsely frustrated. My hunch is that she's just trying to snow Daddy. Four or five times she was up last night. If I go in she pitches a fit and wants Daddy. Daddy has to go in and rock her until she falls asleep again. I'd just feel bad if she had an ear infection. But tell me, does that not just sound like a spoiled child?? Like a habit to be broken??

We'll be going to Brennan's work conference later this week. I always feel bad for the month ahead that I'm excited to go, but I'll miss the girls. Like I'll be away from them for too long. Then it seems about the week beforehand, everything shifts, and I feel like we could use a break from each other. Perhaps they sense it, and that's why they get the extra edge of crazy. God bless Grandma & Papa.


Like any other business

I have decided to take a more proactive approach with the stay-at-home portion of my life. This morning I really worked on having some activities ready to go for the girls, and what a difference it made! I'm discovering that 5 minutes here and there can actually make an impact in housework. Five minutes of dishwashing is progress. Five minutes of picking up clutter and finding homes for things adds up. It takes less than 5 minutes to start a load of laundry when I have it sorted and ready to go. A 15 minute break from my work to play a game with the girls puts everyone in a better mood. We took a 20 minute break to drive past the post office and wash the car. Little things here and there can make the difference. And what a difference some sunshine makes!!

On that note, the sun is out and things are starting to melt a bit. Coincidence that the girls are coughing and have runny noses? Or allergies??

I don't know what to say, except God is good, and a little extra effort can mean big things in whatever you're doing.


What is going on here?

Today is another day. Natalie hardly survived the morning she was so exhausted, and she fell asleep sitting up at noon. So she napped for about an hour & a half. This is really not a legitimate nap for that girl. While she was napping, Ella consented to rest time, and fell asleep (yay!). Natalie is up now, and is deliriously cranky. I have run out a lengthy list of options for her to eat, drink, do -- all to no avail. She's just whiney crying again. Finally, I asked about the Hyland's teething tablets, and those she did want. She seems to have calmed enough to at least start breathing normally. When she opened her mouth in a scream, one molar appears to still be working its way through, and seemed sort of swollen. Teething pain would explain the restlessness at night, lack of appetite, and generally poor attitude.

In any case, now Natalie's up and Ella is sleeping. Meanwhile, it's reaching the mid-30s outside, our first reprieve from lung-freezing temperatures in so long I can't even remember. And here I sit. Inside. Watching snow melt outside. And the very moment Ella wakes up, I'm sticking the two crankpots in the car so we can get a carwash.

By the way, on Saturday I got my time out! My loving husband sent me to my room for a half hour. I had a chance to read my Bible, and refocus my day in prayer.


Can I have a time out?

It's only 8 am, and today patience seems less and less like a virtue, and more like an impossible dream. Natalie was up several times last night (Brennan got up with her), and then up at 5:45 for the day (my turn). Natalie screaming at 5:45 woke Ella up as well (in another room with the door closed). The morning thus far has been a series of whiney cries, followed by me begging to know what will make her stop, followed by more crying, and Natalie ended up in my lap. She didn't want a waffle, she didn't want cereal, she didn't want anything to drink, she did want an animal shaped pancake but we didn't have a giraffe, she doesn't want a hippo, she doesn't want an elephant, she wants Diego, she doesn't want Diego, Ella has the doll and she wants it.....I think you see where this is going. So it's one of those days, and it's only 8! Now Natalie is pretending to be a tiger, and Ella is crying because she's scared. Of Natalie.

So here's my question: can I please have a time out???? They say you should go by age, and that means I'd get 28 minutes. Alone. If we round up, I could have 29. At least it's Saturday, and that's my shower vacation day. I tend to take a really, really long scalding hot shower on Saturdays because we're not rushing to get anywhere, and I will literally enjoy the hot water so much I'll forget if I've washed my hair yet. It's like a little vacation. I'm not sure our hot water heater can keep up with the shower I need today. It could take hours. Especially because I just got a new Philosophy body wash, in chocolate dipped strawberries. Bon voyage....the shower is calling to me....


It's out of control!

I vividly remember Valentine's Day parties in elementary school. The older you got, the more likely you'd take home a couple of sticks of gum and a couple suckers. Not every Valentine had them. I don't think I ever got to give candy. Maybe you'd score a sticker or two. Or a couple of conversation hearts (certainly not a whole box). Ella had her first Valentine's party today. Oh my goodness. She brought home a brown lunch sack FULL of candy. Twenty 3 and 4 year olds made for quite a haul. One kid gave out those heart-shaped, frosted brownies on his Valentine's. There were a few that actually came attached to small goody bags, with several snack-size candies inside. Small bags of Skittles, Runts, Bottle Caps, Nerds, some Reese's peanut butter cups, suckers galore, pencils, stickers and temporary tattoos. This amount of candy will last both girls to Easter.

I remember the most fun part was making a Valentine's mailbox. Although many years it was a "Oh, no! What on earth will I throw together by tomorrow??" All the kids made paper bag Valentine holders today. They cut hearts out themselves, and glued them on. And Ella made the cutest Valentine for us. It's 4 pieces of paper taped together accordian style. One piece has her picture on it in a heart shape, the next is her left handprint in paint, then a note that says "My childhood days will go by fast. But my love for you will last and last." which Ella has signed, then the last paper is her right handprint. Such a cute idea, I had to share it.

Happy Valentine's Day to you! (all 3 of you!)


You just never know

In an effort to keep Natalie awake til we pick Ella up from school, I let her open the "hair stuff" box in one of the recliners. She wasted no time dumping out all the tiny hair ties and clips (none of which will she tolerate actually being IN her hair), and after playing with them she started to put them back in the box. I went over to help her, and reached down in the corner of the chair to get a stray clip that was about to fall into the inner workings of the chair. As I reached further, I made quite a discovery. I found the nail polish I spent 20 minutes looking for yesterday. I found a Mickey Mouse figurine. More hair ties. A pair of small-child sunglasses broken in half (this explains a horrible snapping sound I once heard as I put the footrest up on that chair). And the kitchen timer that has been missing for a good 3 months. That's in one of two chairs. I have since gone on a recovery mission in the other recliner, finding a comb, a set of baby keys (LONG time no see), a toy necklace, a matchbox car and another hair clip.

I am constantly amazed where things show up. As I sort laundry, I will find in the clothes basket some tea party plates, a bottle of baby powder and a nightlight. There are socks everywhere, and yet, no matches. Take two little girls and add one sneaky cat, and the mysteries really add up. A magnet from the refrigerator is downstairs by the washing machine (I'm guessing a girl took it off the fridge, and a cat batted it down there -- nice team effort). Our crazy cat has a throw blanket she likes to move around the house. I mean a full-sized throw blanket. It starts in the downstairs playroom, and she will drag it all the way upstairs. Sort of funny until Brennan tripped on it carrying a load of laundry downstairs, and fell down a couple of stairs. Now every time we see the blanket halfway up the steps, it feels a little like the cat is out to get us.

In any case, never a dull moment.


Potty. This post is not for the faint of heart.

I'm not going to say that Natalie is potty training, because she's not really. But she likes to do everything Ella does, and Ella uses the potty. So yesterday, Natalie used it twice. This morning she came to me and said, "I poop." So I said, let's go sit on the potty. Natalie said ok, and I was thrilled when I took off her diaper -- we'd made it! So she sat on the potty. Then she stood up and said no. So I tried to put her back on the potty, and she panicked and stood up. She said she didn't have to go. Chaos ensues. (this is the part not for the faint of heart) I start to grab her diaper, when poop falls on the floor. She refuses to sit down, I grab poop with some toilet paper and toss it in the potty, and suddenly, she pees all over herself, and then more poop. Now's when I give up. This moment can't be salvaged. I start the bath, and put her on the rug while I clean everything up. Rug? Have I learned nothing? She pees on the rug. You're kidding. These are the moments when my former life as a newspaper employee almost looks good. ALMOST. Soon she'll say something cute and sweet and I'll forget all about it. Now I will be afraid to ever take her diaper off again.


Ella's Helper

I was the helper again yesterday at Ella's preschool. Just another confirmation that we don't pay these teachers enough. So I got to be "Ella's Helper" for the morning. It's a constant stream of "Stand up please. Sit down please. All the way on your bottom please. Hands to yourself. Eyes up here. Sit down please. Sit down please." I'm so impressed with her school and teachers, though. It's a Christian preschool held at the Assembly of God church here in town. After they do attendance, they pray together for the kids who weren't there. Miss Heidi leads them, and they repeat after her. They say grace before snack. They have a time when they sing songs with cds together, and do actions, which is referred to as "worship time." They do creative activities, and I've seen progress in Ella's learning. Miss Heidi and Grandma Lora Lee handle the kids lovingly, but with firmness when necessary. And both of them seem to have a real joy for working with kids.

I have one more class that I have to help with, as part of the school requirement. On the one hand, I sort of dread the time. I am not a preschool teacher for a reason. But on the other hand, it's really good to see what's going on at school, and it's a special time with Ella. And when we get in the car to go home, Ella says, "Mommy, thank you for coming to school with me." It's worth it right there. The other great thing is feeling so reassured that we made the right choice for Ella's school.

So, two down, one to go.



Oh that's right. This is what a Minnesota winter is. As I drove to Target today, it was -15. The wind chill was in the -40s. What I found most amusing, was the number of people who left their cars running today in the Target parking lot. Did they have 2 sets of keys so they could lock? Did they just leave running, open cars in the lot for the taking? Of course, this is a trusting area. We always know out-of-towners at the Pizza Ranch because the women take their purses with them to the buffet. I always leave mine on the table to reserve it. When I was at Joann Fabrics today, a woman left her purse at the fabric measuring area, and went with a store clerk to look at something, her husband started to follow her and said, "Do you want me to grab your purse?" "Nah. It's fine." This is why I live in a small town.

The cute moment of the day with the girls: I invited Ella to go shopping with me, so she could pick out her Valentines for school. Natalie needed to stay home, as she's been a little under the weather again. Ella asked, "Can Natalie come?" I told her not today. "I think I'll stay home and play with Natalie." So they both stayed home and played, and played and played.


Success! And by that, I mean today, not overall.

The watch did the trick, and both Ella and Natalie had much needed naps. I had an afternoon of quiet, so I could make a dent in my work. I took a little quiet time for myself, too!

How does she not sleep?

For Christmas I got Ella a digital Dora watch. She doesn't seem to have as much of a concept of time as of accessories, but I can understand that. Long ago, Ella gave up naps. I have finally decided to take rest time back. Mommy needs it. So I give her the watch, and a post-it with the time on it that she has to wait until before she can get out of bed. I've thought of setting timers, but then won't the timer wake her up if she falls asleep? So for 2 days, we've done the watch. I gave her 30 minutes yesterday that she had to stay in bed quietly. Today was 45. She came out a minute ago whispering, "Mom! It's 1:45." So I went in to check her watch, 1:25. I tell her she still has 20 minutes to lay down. So Ella lays down, staring at her watch. How can she possibly stare at a watch for 20 minutes and not fall asleep (which is my true goal)? Time will tell....


Grace each day

I had a co-worker a couple of years ago, who was a truly amazing woman. She was in her 40s, and was a raging diabetic. She had divorced within the past couple of years moved back to her hometown, and had ended up having to go back to work, so we hired her for our front office at the newspaper. I have never met anyone more full of joy and peace than Jean. Even with her health problems, she still seemed to find immense joy in every day -- every day was truly a gift. Just having her around calmed my spirit. She just never got upset. Even when an angry customer would call because their bill had a mistake, she'd calmly handle it. Afterwards she'd come tell me about it, giggle, say she'd take care of it, and go on with her day. After she'd been with us a few months, she called me at home on a Friday to say she wouldn't be in -- she was too sick. She said she just didn't feel right. I told her to take care of herself, we'd see her Monday. By Sunday she was in a coma, and on that Tuesday, she passed away. I still miss her. At her funeral her sister said that Jean used Max Lucado's "Grace for the Moment" devotional, and she read the beginning prayer every day. I wanted to share it with you (all 2 of you):
I Choose Love...
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I Choose Joy...
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical... the tool of a lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I Choose Peace...
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I Choose Patience...
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I Choose Kindness...
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I Choose Goodness...
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I Choose Faithfulness...
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I Choose Gentleness...
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I Choose Self-Control...
I am a spiritual being... After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.


I love the internet and I'm raising a bilingual child

I love, love the internet, and I'll tell you why. I have spent January re-establishing contact with long-lost friends. Between myspace, email and the blog, I am having a fabulous time. Just this morning I got a comment from my dear sweet Shawna on my blog...it's been just ages, and I was so thrilled to see pictures of the little munchkins! My good friend Nita keeps me posted on her NC adventure, which I love reading about. I love catching up with what Amy has been doing.

I adore talking on the phone, but I have reached a phase of life where I don't want to call anyone. As soon as I reach for the phone I start thinking "Is she busy? Changing a diaper maybe? Is it naptime?" I don't know anyone's schedules, and it just makes me so hesitant to call. Honestly, I don't know what my problem is, since I love when people call me. So I love being able to keep up with people. I love feeling like I'm still in the middle of people's lives. I'm learning to seek out joy, and right now, the internet is one of the gifts I am thanking God for.

On another note, I am raising a bilingual child. Natalie has a deep love for all things Dora and Diego. She's almost 22 months. The other day at the doctor's office she wanted to climb on the table, and looked at me, "Suben?" Now, she's not getting the tense right, but she isn't in English either. Then yesterday morning she got in a box and said, "Push me Mommy?" I had to sadly explain to her that Mommy can't, because Mommy is now old with back injuries. So instead she got out, and started pushing it herself, "empujen, empujen." I haven't had a Spanish class since 1995, so I know I'm probably not spelling it right. But still. Spanish for push. All I can say is, Noggin really is like preschool on tv.