Friday, October 30, 2009

more good words

when my world is shaking
heaven stands
when my heart is breaking
i never leave your hands

I had caught a beautiful little song on the radio a few days ago. The artist's name though eluded me; I recognized the voice but couldn't place it and the station never identified her. Finally, though, I caught the song and the name of the artist and realized I knew it because I had downloaded her album months ago! (I don't know what's crazier--I liked a song on Christian radio or that they played something good.)

Through a Rabbit Room promotion, I listened to JJ Heller's CD Painted Red. This was months ago and I played it on my computer while I wrote and worked. But I forgot about it! (I'm so not used to the digital age! If I was cooler and more adept, I would post the song as well as the lyrics.) Heller has a bit of Sandra McCracken quality to her voice and a simple, acoustic sound to the instrumentation. Nothing is overly produced. Her voice and lyrics come through clear and unfiltered.

i have unanswered prayers
i have trouble i wish wasn't there
i have asked a thousand ways
that you would take my pain away
you would take my pain away
i am trying to understand
how walk this weary land
make the straight the paths that crooked lie
oh lord, before these feet of mine
oh lord, before these feet of mine
when you walked upon the earth
you healed the broken, lost, and hurt
i know you hate to see me cry
one day you will set all things right
yeah, one day you will set all things right
Amazing grace and providence, that this week, when I needed this words, I heard them and was reminded yet again, that the hands that shaped the world hold me as well.
So here you go, dear readers: JJ Heller has both the AP & Co Rabbit Room thumbs up and the AmyFlem seal of approval. And I'm going to burn a CD right now so I have it in my minivan--where God speaks to me often in silence and in song.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Settling

Often when one moves, physically, like we have done, one hears the well-intentioned question, "Are you settled?" I usually answer in the positive considering I had boxes unpacked within a week or so, pictures on the walls within a month, and even new paint in some rooms before the summer was over. I can find my way to the grocery store, Target and Home Depot, I'm beginning to navigate the mall, and I have my favorite restaurants already. We have a school and a church and friends. By all accounts, we are settled.


But I sort of dislike that term--settled. For me, it conjures up images of sediments and silt sinking in a glass, falling to the bottom, lying where they land. That's passive and defeating.


I prefer the question I was asked a few weeks ago: "How is your family adjusting?"


James begins his practical epistle, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (1:2). According to my MacArthur Study Bible, the Greek for "trials" here means anything that interrupts your life. Like, say, a move halfway across the country?


Trials, various and diverse, interrupt our lives. They come without notice, they come when we don't want them, they just come. We are uncomfortable at the least. And, sometimes, the trial brings blinding, searing pain.

Adjust: from the Latin ad meaning "to" and juxtare meaning "close"--to put close to.


Adjust is a verb more active than simply settling. I am required to do something to "adjust." I will not be the same person once I have made adjustments. There is continuous tweaking, polishing, renovating of my heart. The trials I face illuminate the places in me that need the most change.

The result? Perseverance, a complete faith, maturity (James 1:3-4). My discomfort makes me dependent on Him. Adjustments put me closer to the One I look to. Adjustments in my posture, my position, my perspective shape me more and more like my Savior. In the potter's hand, the clay is molded and shaped into something both beautiful and useful. That can't be done without making more than a few adjustments.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One of the Good Things

Some time in these past few crazy months I had a birthday. It was sorta a biggie--the 3-0. We celebrated over a weekend with Texas Sheet Cake, a steak dinner prepared by my hubby, and a beautiful pearl necklace from Rita Creech's Galleria.

My other birthday present was Jill Phillip's latest CD, The Good Things. Jill is a perennial favorite in our house; at least one of her albums is in a CD player in the house or car at all times. I was first introduced to her music through Andrew Peterson's project Behold the Lamb of God on which she sings the hauntingly beautiful "Labor of Love" and then hearing her in concert where we heard some of her own music. I was hooked.

From last Christmas until our road trip to Texas in May, Kingdom Come, an album of hymns, played nonstop in the minivan. "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" became our "good morning" song as we drove to school. I practically wept out "Have Thine Own Way Lord" each time it played as I struggled with our impending move and drastic change in our life. Sang with joyful smiles "Hosanna" and "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" around Easter.

I switched out Kingdom Come for Nobody's Got It All Together on the drive out to Houston and needed to remind myself of that very fact as I faced my insecurities in a new place, new neighborhood, and new church. I listened to Writing on the Wall and affirmed that no matter what came my way "Still Is My Soul." There was a song, a phrase, a melody for all the events in my life and thoughts in my mind. Her songs ring of truth worked out by a wrestling heart, just like mine.

Which brings me to The Good Things. This album, more than her others, is deeply personal. The conversational songs are written out of life experiences in friendships, marriage, and parenting. And the sound is a bit of a departure from her other more folky albums. There is a tension musically in many of the song that reflects the both the messiness and reality of the lyrics. While still highly crafted, complex, and interesting, the songs aren't neat or simple. There's a bit of roughness to them.

"I can’t explain how weak my conviction is/How I can make up my mind but it won’t make a difference/It’s like I am allergic to solutions that would make any sense/Just a moth around a fire
But You’re reaching out your arms of forgiveness/Its your usual response I’m afraid/After all the things I’ve done you love me anyways
I heard Jill sing "All the Good Things" in person at last winter's BTLOG concert, sitting in a row with friends who were walking their own rough roads and knowing that these were good things in our lives because these days are ordained by a good God who does all things for our good and His glory. Again and again, I come back to "Forgive me for my shortsighted look at this world/Where you keep proving that you know what you’re doing" and "I wouldn't have it any other way" from a song about the ups and downs of marriage. One of my favorite aspects of Jill Phillip's music is that she writes songs from and about a woman journeying with God through life, marriage, kids, work. Because, as she closes out the album, "If you look real close you’ll find you’re a lot like me." And those are the kind of songs I need.
And if that sounds at all like you, you'll want to listen to her music too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The big #5

Boy, do I feel old(er) lately. Thirty was a big one. Five is a big one. She's so grown up looking, losing most of her chubby cheeks and talking (more) like a teenager. She can sure try us most days, but I also love her growing spiritual awareness and maturity, how she loves her family (when she wants to) and her friends, and her unbelievable mind.

We had a great birthday weekend. On Saturday we took our friends' advice and tried out the Children's Museum of Houston. For a reasonable admission price of $7, we spent nearly four hours exploring, running, creating, playing, and pretending. Kidopolis, the kiddie-sized city with everything from a police car to ATM to voting booth to HEB (a grocery store) was a big hit, especially the HEB apron she is modeling there. And the other favorite--the Lego center in the invention room. The three *ahem* kids poured over the Legos creating cars that would survive the test track.
I love this picture of Ben. Uncle Dave, this is a boy after your own heart. Can I send him to you for a while?
On Monday, her official birthday, we had a few girls from church come over to play and have lunch. The costumes were out, there was jewelry making, and lots and lots of giggling.
Good five-year-old fun.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The most wonderful of fairy tales


For the past few years, The Jesus Storybook Bible has been figuratively on our shelf. I say figuratively because it rarely stays on the shelf. It is a frequent choice at bedtime, a rotating staple in our family's devotions, and, now that R can read, a favorite of hers during rest time.

Though I grew up in church, as did David, and knew countless Bible stories and characters, Sally Lloyd-Jones' book helps connect the dots as I read to my children. While I might struggle with all the explanation and finding the right wording, her retelling, along with the great illustrations by Jago, bring it all together.

Lloyd-Jones uses the context of our culture's renewed fascination with fairy tales and heroes in her introduction: "It's like an adventure story about a young Hero who came from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne, everything to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that have come true in real life. You see, the best thing about this story is--it's true." With vivid word choice, Lloyd-Jones foreshadows or reflects upon or ties in the greater Shepherd, stronger Warrior, perfect Leader, and wonderful Rescuer. God's love is described as His "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love," a phrase she repeats several times. These stories are meant to be read aloud, with passion and excitement. They captivate young ears. I get goose bumps each time I'm reminded of my Rescuer. I get caught up in the poetry and beauty of God's one story. This "children's" book stirs my heart each time I read it.

(I'm not the only parent or adult to get caught up in these stories. You can hear Sara Groves' son read from the story of Gabriel's visit to Mary on her Christmas CD. Jason Gray's newest CD is entitled Everything Sad is Coming Untrue--one of Lloyd-Jones' phrases. And Andrew Peterson opened his Behold the Lamb of God concert this year with a reading from the book.)

In October, a new edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible will be released. This deluxe edition features the narration on three CDs for children--and their parents--to listen to. You can check out the new website at http://www.jesusstorybookbible.com/ to hear an audio sample and see some of the illustrations. The Jesus Storybook Bible has been my favorite baby shower gift to give and I've encouraged parents and grandparents to give them to their children and grandchildren. And what a gift it is!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feathering our nest

Slowly, little bits at a time, we're making the house reflect us. I have to live with lots of unchangeables right now, especially the mauve on the walls of the entire downstairs, upstairs hallway, and gameroom. Which is good for me.

My Mother's Day present from my mom. Can you guess why she picked the green duck for Ben? They are now in a line across the mantle along with a few new accessories. I'm looking for lighter and more colorful pieces for the new house.

Ben's room is no longer Raspberry Regalia thanks to Mom and Dad's multiple coats of paint. They also painted over the burnt pumpkin in the laundry room and replaced the light so I can actually see if my laundry is clean. Ben's holding the color book I made for him--months ago! finally got around to finishing it and giving it to him. It's full of pictures of all his favorite things by color. "I lub dis book."I worked on our office/classroom. Erased the lilac, pink, and yellow from the walls with "Parchment Paper." Letters from Rebekah's old room on a border of dark brown. Number line on the line right now for Ben. It's good for hanging up finger paintings and our memory verses.

This half of the room, up two steps, is all kids. The other part is my desk, cabinets, and bookcases. A work in progress.


And my latest work, the dining room. Once mauve like the rest of the downstairs, it's now Benjamin Moore's Cinder. Awesome color. Makes everything else in the room look better. Still have to paint the molding and find a color for the ceiling. And I have some ideas for wall decor.



It's coming along.






Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Titus 2 Moments

One of the most difficult aspects of moving was leaving the women of Orangewood. In various ways over ten years of my early marriage, early parenting, and general growing-up, women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and stages ministered to me--from the wives of my coworkers who fed me and introduced me to french press coffee to my co-laborers at school who knew the trials and blessings of teaching high schoolers to the women of WIC who spoke truth, encouraged me, shared their hearts, and demonstrated the beauty of Christ.

So I was heartened and a bit saddened yesterday when I chatted on Facebook with a wonderful older woman who exemplified the kind of relationships the church is supposed to foster when women instruct, encourage, and bless each other. Our relationship might not have been deep or long, but she is a woman who gives to those around her and I was blessed to have received.

That same evening, I went to dinner with a group of women from our church here. The age range was wide as were the situations and struggles. And while I was a quiet observer much of the evening, I saw again the beauty of women being together, building each other up, laughing, and sharing. On the drive home, I teared at both the memory of the deep, irreplaceable bonds I've had and the prospect of new friendships.

This morning, with kids playing and babies not sleeping, a time out and a potty accident, a friend and I had a few hours to have an extended, though often interrupted, conversation of Bible, babies, bread, and some phonics! As we hustled tired children out the door, the morning's emotions got to us, and we both welled up a bit. We'd had the kind of morning where you laugh and commiserate, spur each other on and edifiy each other.

I so love, love, love the body of Christ!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What happens when....

you (the middle brother) have a big sister....

and when Mom has two boys to dress alike...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where We Live Part I - The Woodlands

We live in between two areas: Spring and The Woodlands. Literally, you come out of our neighborhood and turn right for Spring and left for The Woodlands. Spring is more rural and I'll post about that later on. For now, here's The Woodlands.

The Woodlands is a planned community with tons of green spaces, smartly designed residential, business, and shopping areas, and tons of, well, woodlands. Every intersection looks the same; you have no recognizable landmarks other than trees. All the businesses, like gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores, are tucked away from the road. There are signs near the road very similar to the Chick-Fil-A sign (see below). That's all you'll see from the road. Pretty, but also difficult to navigate when you have just moved here! You have no idea what might be in a shopping center unless you pull into it or the Garmin accurately delivers you there (rarely!) In the spring, the medians will be filled with wildflowers, including blue bonnets. There are several man-made lakes and lots of parks that I hope we can take advantage of when it's not 100+ degrees!

This weekend we took the grandparents to The Waterway. It's not quite as developed as San Antonio's Riverwalk but it's getting there with more shops, restaurants, and offices to come. There a really nice Mariott right there on the water. We like The Goose's Acre, a "bistro and Irish pub" with outdoor seating on the water. They have good pizza, go figure. We walked up and down the Waterway, feeding ducks and fish as we went, as far as The Pavilion, where the Houston Symphony plays during the summer as well as other musical acts--NKOTB (we just missed them!) and Rod Stewart in a few weeks. I hope we can take R to see Swan Lake in October when the Houston Ballet comes too. There is lots of public art throughout The Woodlands too. The obelisk and the deer by The Woodlands sign (the only deer we've seen so far) pictured here are just a few.

There are more shopping areas I haven't photographed like Market Street which has some upscale shops and nice restaurants, sidewalks to walk, a splash pad and green common space as well as a movie theatre. Maybe next weekend....



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Family Resemblance




Some pictures of the other two at around 1 month for comparison.

Here's the girl at just over one month. Oh, the hair!







Big Fella--totally different face--always Mr. Serious, too.







And the Bean, mostly like his sister but a bit of brother too, I think. And usually asleep.









One Month


Man, time really does fly, especially with the third. And it could also be all the other factors we've had going on as well.

William looks good in his orange and blue excavator/Go Gator outfit, size 6 months. When I weighed him last week, he was just over 12 lbs. Yikes! I hope we're not in for another chubby baby, a la Big Ben. He looks so much like Rebekah though, especially with the spikey hair.

We're off to swim with friends this morning and hopefully have scones and coffee with a fellow new mom during nap time tomorrow. Then Grandparents Part Deux arrive on Thursday. I think we can make it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What she's writing

This is the results of R's "rest time" yesterday:


"by rebekah fleming too mommy fleming and dad and ben and willyum

one morning rebekah fleming got up and said i want too wear my leeatart her mom said that outfit is too dressy why not blue dress no her dad dressy why don't you no so she put on her leeatart the end"


I was crackin' up and impressed. Then she informed me that she used Ella Sarah Gets Dressed to write it. The story is about a little girl who wants to wear a particular mismatched outfit and everyone else in her family suggests something else. Stubbornly, she puts on what she wants to wear and, at the end her friends, also crazily dressed, come over for a tea party.



Maybe today during rest time she should copy the definition of plagiarize.

(I do think "willyum" is hilarious!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What We're Reading

I had to finally admit I just don't have the brain cells right now for Updike and Chesterton. They remain on the bookshelf, staring at me and making me feel slightly guilty. Them and the pound cake.

So, instead, I've read some easier and enjoyable reads, starting with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I saw the book ages ago when it first came out and wasn't quite sure it would be worth reading until I saw LuAnne Schendel's review on GoodReads. Mom picked up the book to read and then mailed it to me in my Mother's Day package. (Our lending library is going to get more expensive now that I've moved.) A quick read, predictable but satisfying, and persuasive. Mom and I are determined to visit Guernsey some day. I had never known the story of the German occupation of the Channel islands, the closest the Germans got to invading England. I also enjoyed the novel's epistle structure. Letters reveal a character in personal, intimate ways and I appreciated this change in narration. Side note: I knew a woman in our church growing up who lived in post-WW2 Yugoslavia under Tito as a child. Because her family was German, they were sent to an internment camp as retaliation. After escaping, their life was difficult. Ever resourceful, her mother made a type of cake from potato peels and I always remembered that, wondering if I would be able to one, eat something like that and, two, be that determined and plucky. Her mother also used a giant pumpkin shell to bathe the children in so they wouldn't get lice while in the camp. Mom just read The Zookeeper's Wife, set in German-occupied Poland, and we've both wondered if we would have survived that type of life.

I also just finished Olive Kitteridge, a novel told in short stories. The author says she chose that type of structure since she figured the reader would need a break from the hard-to-live-with Olive, who permeates every story and every life in the tiny Maine town of Crosby. Though almost every tale involved infidelity or contemplations of suicide--a bit depressing!--they are well written, complex, and engaging. I love the short story genre and every chapter left me thinking about what would happen next. Strout's stories perfectly follow those New Critic values of irony, ambiguity, and tension. I love stories like that! It would be a good teaching text, though I would pick and choose which stories I taught.

Finally, the ducklings are discovering the Frances stories. I was reminded about this series through a radio segment on NPR about a couple who try to make reading to their kids more enjoyable for the parents by creating voices for the characters and making reading a competition between Mom and Dad (listen to/read "Bedtime Story Showdown" here). I love these stories. They are a perfect challenge for Rebekah who reads them to Ben. In fact, I've employed her reading services a lot lately while I've been otherwise occupied. They take a stack of books into Ben's room, lay down on their tummies, and read and read. She has pretty good voices too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome to the World, Baby Boy!


William Nathanael Fleming
Born on June 12, 2009 at 1:45 PM
8 lbs, 10 oz.; 21 3/4"
Pratically perfect in every way!

We just wanted the easy-t0-remember birthday, so we induced on Friday. My OB, after seeing how big William was, reminded me that she offered to induce me a week earlier. A few post-delivery complications meant I had to remain in the delivery bed until the next morning, hooked up to all sorts of things--including my epidural for almost 8 hours and an IV line. All I wanted by the morning was to get things off of me!

Despite proclaiming that she would take one look at the new baby and then run away to her room, R is quite smitten with Will, partly because she had voted for "William" from the beginning (it's Olivia's little brother from the children's books). Big Ben checked him all over, pointing out his eyes, nose, arms, and mouth. Granddad got to hold his third grandbaby at the hospital instead of weeks later like with the other two.

We had visits from friends at church, including our pastor and wife, who was due with their first child on Sunday like me. She's still waiting but will deliver by Friday! Nice to have babies come in pairs like that so they can be buds.

William definiately wins the prize for best baby of our three. He's eating like a champ, sleeping well, especially at night, and has a quiet disposition so far. We've successfully eaten our dinners with both hands while the food was still warm. He has very nice coloring, lots of dark hair, and looks like Rebekah. We brought out some "first days" pictures to compare and while William looks all boy, the two are very similar. He's made a few faces here and there that are "Rebekah faces" if we ever saw one!

So, we're recooperating well, managing just fine with the extra grandparent help. I haven't washed a dish or dirty clothes in days, thanks to Mom! It's hot, hot, hot here which makes sending the kids out to play rather difficult but we're trying to keep them occupied.

Thanks for all your prayers, wishes, and congrats! I'll keep posting as much as three kids will let me!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Big-Bellied Brunette

For the Diva, since she insisted...

Here's the belly this week. The lady at the deli counter yesterday told me I was tiny. I told her she was very kind. The photography is from R, hence the interesting angle.


And, the blond is gone if you can tell from my glamour shot after a trip to R's Beauty Shop. Certainly the fun has not ended. The purple boa was the only thing in her costume box that fit me (obviously) so I had to wear that. She chose the pink leotard with the tulle skirt.

Mom and Dad arrive this afternoon so it's one last outing to Guadalajara for dinner tonight. I've been there twice and gotten their signature enchiladas both times--shredded chicken with a roasted corn salsa on top. And salsa I could eat by the gallon. Yum!

Monday, June 1, 2009

When in Texas....

this is how you celebrate a birthday!
For D's birthday we slapped some big steaks on the grill accompanied by baked white potatoes (that's a treat for us!), Caesar salad, and, for dessert, homemade sopapillas.

The sopapillas were better than merely edible though labor intensive. I don't enjoy deep frying things. But fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with honey can't be that bad. Some puffed nicely, some were good and crispy, some were doughy and raw-tasting, and some were almost burned.

But all were eaten!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let your voice be heard

For those on Facebook, we put a poll of our six baby names in contention. Place your vote and do so quick; we only have two weeks left--maybe!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Reflections

Here I am, my 2nd Monday in Texas. One week and a few days of actually living here. We've had two Sunday services--one outdoors for groundbreaking at the new church property, one indoors with nursery and Children's Church--and A/C! Attended one baby shower for the pastor's wife--who is due on June 15th at the same hospital as me with a boy. We could be there together with our newbies! One playdate invite for sometime this week. One evening with Houston relatives: four fun boy cousins, two fun uncles, two sweet aunts, and good BBQ brisket. One upcoming ladies' Bible study/book club night this evening. (They're discussing the final section of Ginger Plowman's Heaven at Home which I have read and can locate on the shelf!) And a dwindling number of boxes left to unpack.


I've successfully located two grocery stores, Costco, David's office, Target, Home Depot, and a Chick-Fil-A. I have not gotten lost, really, thanks to my Mother's Day gift--a Garmin navigational system, loaded with all the essentials for me (the aforementioned stores and restaurants).


This week will be another adjusting week: there is not as much chaos, grandparents have departed for the other cousins' house. We'll be following Mommy's routine, establishing boundaries in a new house, learning how to two-parent again, and more discipline than last week.


A kind friend inquired if I had cried yet. And the answer is no. Partly because I've been busy, tired, and not by myself. And partly, I think, because I'm done with that part. The grieving is ending and the moving on to the "new normal" is beginning. It doesn't mean I'm not sad or not missing Orlando people or things, but I'm ready to be happy here.

Tuesday morning update: Didn't finish the post yesterday afternoon. Kids melted down in the afternoon. Disciplining made dinner late. Didn't make it to the book club night. Garmin got me confused and almost lost. Cried. Came home. Ate cookies--very good oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Now, I'm enjoying an unseasonably cool morning. The birds are all over the backyard (we have six birdhouses around the yard. Nana has plans for a bird feeder project when she comes). I can see the zinnias and knockout roses from the breakfast table. Deep breath. Warm coffee. Quiet house still at 7:06 AM. Today is a new day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

One down...




R's girly pink room is pretty much done. Hers is the only room in the entire house that doesn't need painting. Pictures are hung, new bedspread is spread, and lots of cute girly items that haven't been seen since her nursery are back out, including the letters Nana painted for her baby room.

The boy's room has just a bed, a hamper, and some toys. The walls are hot pink but Nana and Granddad said they would take care of that in a few weeks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How we spent our day (yesterday)


Organizing my closet: Look at all that room! Don't be a hater!












Cleaning outside: What started as "help Mommy clean the sand table" turned into "fun with a bucket of soapy water and brooms." The patio is very clean now!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Project

Building a soccer goal with Daddy...


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Have truck, will travel


I'm sitting in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Covington, Louisiana. I've been awake since 3:30 Central Time. I finally showered and dressed around 5:00 and am now down here making my grocery list, checking the weather for the day's driving, and smelling the breakfast that should be served soon, I hope!!

Here's the ginormous moving vehicle David is driving. We filled the 26' U-Haul truck completely, tight, no spare inches, and then had to rent a 6'x12' which we then filled, completely though not as tightly packed as the professionals earlier did.

The drive was uneventful for the most part, though I realized around 9:30 at our second stop (the first was about an hour after leaving when we realized that R hadn't peed that morning! MickeyD's here we come!) that I forgot the entire bag of snacks, vitamins, dish soap, and other things I've forgotten about sitting in the living room of my in-law's house. So our snacks for Day 1 came out of the vending machine. Luckily, I had juice boxes in the cooler! Second mishap came around 4ish after our afternoon snack of whatever was in my diaper bag. The DVD player wouldn't work. B is yelling "Lightning! Lightning!" as I am desperately hoping some combination of unplugging and disconnecting will magically jumpstart this crucial piece of technology! (I charged the battery pack overnight. Here's hoping it's good for one movie today.)

Today's drive is shorter though just as boring. I hate driving through Louisiana, especially that stretch over the swamp stuff with the thump, thump, thump every few feet. At least I'm in a minivan with cruise control instead of a monstrous U-haul truck towing a trailer!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday, Sunday

Last Sunday...I made it through with mascara intact. My man texted me (in the middle of Sunday School with Dr. K!!!) with an encouraging message, letting me know he was thinking of me on this difficult morning. For some reason, maybe the busyness of getting kids in place, talking calmly with friends, or maybe even a sense of peace finally coming, I didn't totally break down.

I shed a few tears as we worshipped, singing "So I will wait for you to come and rescue me." The songs during worship revolved around the theme of peace, so appropriately. We ended communion with "It Is Well," a hymn we also sang the one Sunday I was in Houston. I made it through that as well. And Jeff's message, from Eph. 2, was on our new life and identity as a family once we have new life and identity in Christ. Upon leaving one church family and looking towards a new church family, that was a good reminder that it is so much bigger than just me and my world.

On the way to lunch, I put it to MC this way: Worship and teaching and preaching will be good wherever we end up. But the hardest part of leaving and starting new is not knowing people's stories and knowing they know your story. From my bleacher seat in a noisy gymnasanctorium, I can see a young man--once bitter and angry--sing Gloria! Peace is coming. To see others who have had such loss and tragedy sing with joy and gratitude. It's being stopped in the hall or hugged at the passing of the peace by women who I've had contact with here and there over the past years who have met needs and given wisdom and God's grace to me at just the right time. It's having people who know my quirky kids and love them anyway.

I know in going to a new church I'm still connected to God's family universal and that the Church doesn't reside in a building. My biggest anxiety or desire is for authenticity. (C'mon, I've been friends with Patti, Marie, and Hilda to name a few. If they won't tell you like it is, no one will!) And that takes time more than anything, but I am grateful for their openness and vulnerability and acceptance.

Being at O-wood for these almost 10 years has been a lesson for us. We've grown up here in many ways, coming as college sweethearts, getting engaged and then married, starting first jobs, having two kids. While our journey here hasn't always been easy, I know we've learned a lot about God, His Word, and His people. And I am so excited about how God is moving already through the church in TX. Good things are coming and I can say that because I have a good, good God.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Covenant Family


Today was the first "last....". For the last four years, Tuesday morning has meant going to the women's Bible study. (I really don't like the Women in the Church or WIC term. We need another name!)
At first, I was a bit reluctant to join this group. The first week I walked in, 8 months prego with the girl, Hilda yelled out my name and a "You're here!!" thoroughly embarrassing me. Already a sad that all my friends were back at school teaching and I was starting a new phase of stay-at-home mom, I didn't know what to do with myself in this group of ladies in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.

Since that first day though, WIC has grown into a central part of my life. It's been a primary means of social connection (pastries and coffee in the morning, Chick-Fil-A nuggets afterward), a respite in a busy morning with munchkins, a time of learning and growth through Bible study that keeps me in the Word and accountable, and a rich time of interacting with women of all ages and stages.
In the past year or so, Women's Ministry has been the primary avenue for service in the church as I joined the board as a communications person and then gradually elbowed my way into a role in the Bible study and teaching part. This semester, I even taught a few weeks--YIKES! Incredibly intimidating teaching to a room of women all older and much wiser than I but I also enjoyed it and thought maybe I may have even made sense a time or two. I got a reminder of myself in a role that I used to do (every day even) and a glimpse of what I may get to do later on.

So today, while I cut ribbons and punched out name tags for our upcoming VBS, I was grateful for the friendships and the connections that this ministry has meant to me. And, after dropping not-so-subtle hints to our Children's Ministry Director, she presented me with the beautiful quilt of God's promises that two fabulous, incredibly talented ladies make for new moms. I really wanted one for this little guy and even more so once I knew we were leaving. I know the picture is hard to see, but each square represents a promise of God. In the corners are depictions of what God ordained--His Word, the family, community, and the Church. Between those are pictures of His gifts--food, creation, music, and "you," the soon-to-be here baby. In the middle, represented by the lamb, is His Son, Jesus. I'm blessed to have a memento to take to Houston of God's covenantal love for his children and for the covenantal love of the Church.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

There's a first time for everything....


...including staples for head wounds.

Ben has been quite the independent spider monkey lately, climbing up and down various things like the couch arms or into his booster chair at the dinner table. This time it was a bench in the Chick-Fil-A play area. He fell and his head collided with the only non-plastic, non-rubber surface in the entire place.
Thankfully, this happened during our Chick-Fil-A Fridays. Marie and Jeff were there along with Susie, B.A., Sarah Jane, and Diane. It was Diane who brought a screaming Ben to me from the play area (we were like 5 minutes from leaving for naps at home). Someone handed us napkins, Marie grabbed my keys, Susie cleared out the passenger seat for me, Jeff took Big Sis home with him (she was completely blase about the whole thing, willing to follow Aaron anywhere), someone else got the cars in the drive-through lane to back up for us. And thankfully, Marie kept her wits about her and called our pediatrician where we were able to get in quickly and have familiar doctors staple Ben's head together instead of waiting for hours in the ER.
Ben was a trooper through the whole ordeal, having stopped crying about his boo-boo by the time we reached the van, more upset over leaving Chick-Fil-A so abruptly. He jabbered during the drive to the doctor's and while in the waiting room, choosing his sticker with care and patiently waiting for the "doctor to come back and fix boo-boo." He didn't flinch as the staples went in (I'm glad we opted to forgo the anesthesia of two needle pricks). I must have been turning shades of pale since the nurse kept asking me if I was alright. Sarah Jane had wondered what to do with a fainting pregnant lady too. All in all, the major trauma was over in about an hour and we were home for a much belated rest time.
I had thought back in February that it would be highly unlikely we could get through this transition time without a trip to the emergency room for someone. But at least it was only an emergency trip to the pediatrician (the doctor house, as Ben called it) and I had all the help and support I needed. The body of Christ is beautiful.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I know cool people too!

A shout out to my sister-in-law Sarah who ran the Boston Marathon today. She finished in 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 20 seconds. Out of 10,934 female runners, she came in at #2858. None too shabby!

Way to go!

Friday, April 17, 2009

embarrassing


That this is the only book I've read this year.
But it was sooo good!
I bought it with a Christmas gift card (thanks sis-in-law) and started it back in late January or so but then just didn't have the mental or emotional energy to read during so much of the ups and downs of our life over these past four months. My mom got the book way after me and finished way before me.
But if I was only going to read one book the first half of the year, this was a good choice. I first heard about it on NPR's book review series that has a reviewer pick three books with some kind of connection. This was part of a Shakespeare series. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle has, at its center, a Hamlet story. Set in a rural Minnesota of some years past, its also a beautiful Americana story, in love with its setting. The Sawtelles are a close knit family of three. Edgar is his parents' only child and also mute. The family breeds Sawtelle dogs, a fictional but amazing dog, and stays cloistered in their family and business. The beginning is a bit slow in parts but necessary as it builds to the action. Part of my reluctance to really get into the story though is the beauty of their family life in the beginning since I knew tragedy would come a'knockin' courtesy of a jealous and emotionally distant brother.
Wrobleski handles his plot source carefully. The Sawtelles' kingdom is idyllic though sinister forces of people and inner demons arise. And while you can make direct connections from the Shakespeare characters and plot devices to ones in this modern tale, the story is enjoyable and rich on its own. I especially liked Edgar's coming-of-age escape into the wilderness--a portion of the original play that we don't see. Wrobleski also continues the existential themes of Hamlet--fatalism, destiny, purpose of life. And he also handles the supernatural well, not neglecting those pivotal moments.
And update on the TX house: everything is progressing smoothly. We will close, pack, and move the week of May 4th. (I get a house for Mother's Day this year). Keep praying that the FL house sells and sells soon!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Could it be...



that this is where I'll live?

After two rollercoaster weeks of negotiations, stress, Plans B through ......, we have a contract on this home in Spring, TX. It is not the house we originally picked out. That one, amazingly, we walked away from once we could no longer reach an agreement with the owners. (Can you believe that in this market?! They let us get away!) These pictures were taken in December (hence the red bows on the exterior lights) so I'm trying to picture the lawn greener, the trees leafed out, and the sky not so dreary. Oh, and the rocks in the front beds don't stay with the house.

This house, on the same street no less, I have not stepped one foot in. We drove by it when I was out there but I don't remember much. So I have put my trust in God, my husband, Internet slideshows and told D "Yes, make an offer." CRAZY!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My sweet boy







We had a rare experience in our house this week.

R spent two nights at her grandparents' in Titusville while her only girl cousin was in town for Spring Break. That meant B and I had one-on-one time from Sunday night to Tuesday morning. And really, we hardly saw R Sunday at all once her cousin arrived. Those two were stuck on each other.
B was a trooper and accompanied me on all the Monday morning errands to church (where we ate snack with R's class and B showed off his alphabet flash card abilities. I did not make him, let's get that clear. It's MC's fault.), the OB's office, Publix, and the mall. All after waking up at 5:30 AM to get Daddy to the airport.
There's such a difference between these two kids of mine. (Duh, I know). But having B alone reveals that much more. I worked for quite a while in the kids' closets one morning while he played at the train table in the playroom out of sight. R would have been at my elbow the whole time. His tantrums were short and mild. And though I figured I would have to do Moe's Monday for some company and conversation, he kept up his end pretty well. I'm amazed all over again at how kids learn to talk and at what he wants to talk about. We snuggled, read Curious George stories til I lost my voice, vacuumed (his favorite activity lately) and consumed scrumptious banana bread warm from the oven. (New recipe from the King Arthur Flour people--sooo good!) He's also becoming a bit of a neat freak--not in that he doesn't make messes as much, but that he insists on getting mess off of himself immediately. Which mostly means he spreads it around more or brushes all the crumbs onto the floor. But he also insists on lining up his shoes and he's putting things away better, lining up his cars neatly too.
In other news, we did not get the house we put an offer on. After an agonizing week of back and forth with the owners, we finally just threw up our hands and walked away. With 9 1/2 weeks to go until Baby, I can't believe we don't have a place to live in TX yet. And in this economy, knowing what we do about the owners' situation, I can't believe they let us walk away! So D looked at more houses yesterday to buy and/or rent and he's at two more today--on the same street as the one we bid on. And it just may be that I will have to trust my husband to choose our next house--just as I've trusted him with the job, the move, a church, a neighborhood.
See, I'm growing! (and not just my belly!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ouston

They don't say the "H," you know.

I've been in Houston for the weekend, spending some kid-free time with the hubby. (The kids stayed with my parents, in Charlotte, which is where I am tonight before heading home tomorrow.)

I flew out on Thursday while severe weather passed through most of the south--either where the plane was coming from, where I was, where I was going, or where I had to pass through. So it took over 7 hours to get to Houston. I have made much headway in Edgar Sawtelle which is an excellent read that I hadn't had time to focus on. I highly recommend it and maybe I'll post more when I finish it.

The house D has been staying at these past few weeks is interesting to say the least. I had to bring my own soap and I did consider wearing flip-flops around the house and even in the shower. It was a bit like camping with limited dishes, food, and comforts of home. We ate some great Tex-Mex food on both Friday and Saturday (I think Houstoners will eat it every day just about!) and had a wonderful lunch at a cute bistro/cafe after church on Sunday. (Yes, I do judge my trips by meals consumed).

Our main objective this weekend was house-related. D drove me in and around The Woodlands which is a planned community north of Texas with businesses, parks, green spaces, shopping/entertainment, and residential neighborhoods. D's office is in The Woodlands (the city's name). In the height of spring and on the beautiful days we had this weekend, I was completely won over by the scenery. It is wooded--everywhere! Lakes, creeks, The Waterway, wildflowers in the medians--amazing amount of nature has been preserved in this area. The Woodlands Mall is a huge complex with a traditional mall (very big with some fabulous stores), restaurants, movie theater, and Market Street with high end stores and quaint restaurants. The Waterway runs along this too with wide sidewalks. The Waterway Art Festival is next weekend and this is also the summer home of the Houston Symphony. For all the oil and cowboy image of Big Texas, Houston is a cultural and artsy city.

And we picked out a house. We've made our offer and once we know if our offer has gone through, I'll post a picture or two.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Much Ado--Much Needed!

For Christmas, my beloved gave me tickets to Much Ado about Nothing at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Unfortunately, because of some crazy airline prices, for him to come home this weekend and attend this performance was not possible. So, I got the next best thing--a girls' night out with the Diva!
After chopping on chips and salsa and yummy salads, we headed over to Lockhaven (with a short detour!). I love being at this theatre. It's intimate and lovely, not rinky-dink at all. I love the U-shaped seating and how the action is all around you. I love being so physically close to the performance that you are part of the performance. Actors interact with audience members. (At Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio sat on some one's lap during a monologue.) Being here reminded me of past plays I had seen here or at Lake Eola (sitting in the rain with high school students, eating pasta at Kathy's, the fire alarms). I was glad I was able to do this one more time before leaving.
We were seated in the center, a few rows back, with a great view of the action. As Patti and I flipped through our programs, she gestured to the older couple next to her and then at the picture in the program. We were seated next to Mr. and Mrs. Lowndes--as in the law firm, as in one of the $25,000 kind of donors. (When we left the theatre, the couple that came with the Lowndes returned one of their programs to the basket by the door, only taking one home with them. Mrs. Lowndes, in appreciation, notes, "That does help with the printing.")
Much Ado is such a fun play with fabulous sparring, great insults, and sweet romantic moments too. They set the play in a 1940ish post-war Italy, with matte red lipstick, peep-toe shoes, and swing music. Benedick and Beatrice were fantastic and Don Pedro (who reminded me of Bocc the whole night) was very good. During the scene where Claudio, Don Pedro, and Leonado are deliberately talking about the eavesdropping Benedick, I was clutching my belly from laughing so hard. Benedick was swinging from the banisters, flailing on a ladder, and stuck under a push-cart umbrella as he tried to "hide" from the conspirators. It was a great escape for the evening.
When I got home (so late!), I found the house neat and orderly thanks to my wonderful babysitter. She even organized the basket in the bathroom that holds the kids' toothpaste and hair accessories. No dishes were in the sink and every toy was in its place.
Aaaaaa......


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boy Wonder

This is the kid I posted about--only a few short months ago--in frustration over his lack of speech and confusion of what to do next.

We chose the option of nothing. And this is him now. (Sorry I'm so loud and I also apologize for Big Sis in the background. Can you see why it might have been difficult for him to get a word in?) He continued until all the letters were out. Then, in typical two-year-old fashion, swiped all the letters to the floor and ran off giggling when asked to pick them up.


video

Monday, March 9, 2009

What was missing

It's not just when something goes away that you notice what was missing, but when it returns. In this case, the "it" is the Daddy Bear of our house. D was home for the weekend and while much of it was spent painting, cleaning, and working, there were more than one or two moments when I thought, "Ah, that's better!" Someone else to help take out the trash, change a diaper, fill a sippy cup, or empty the dishwasher, true, but also, someone else to talk to, to read a book, sing a song, even give the evil eye to child out of line. I sometimes think that I don't really need much interaction but while I am an introvert, I do need a little bit. I love making my husband laugh; I just get tickled! And love hearing him laugh at and appreciate the funny kids we've created and getting to laugh a bit more myself too. My husband is funny! I think I was in such a "do it all" mode for two weeks that I didn't stop much to laugh, either at the kids or primetime comedy. (I don't laugh at the TV as much when I'm alone!)

We ate well this week--pot roast with mashed potatoes and all the fixings and some decadent cookies that we gave away to many of the people who helped us out these past two weeks. I'll be making them again--though maybe not until TX.

Other highlights of the week:

B following Daddy around the yard all morning.
Sitting in church together.
Sleeping til 8:30 on a Monday morning. (I hate time change weeks!)
B looking for his missing blue Croc. He followed D around the house looking for it and saying "Nope, nope." When we finally found it, he exclaimed, "Odder blue shoe!!!" over and over again.

Me deciding that we really need to name this baby. Not because we're running out of time but to give the Bean a bit more attention. When I brought this up at dinner, D suggested Orlando-Houston, kinda like the way they name roads. I promptly squashed any and all Texas-realted names--Sam, Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Walker, Ranger. Then D threw out Walker Texas Fleming. You put the initials together. I thought mashed potatoes might come out our nose!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On my own...

C'mon, sing it with me.

We're on Day 10 of life on our own and I am TIRED. We haven't had major meltdowns, at least no more than normal, but the juggling of housekeeping, pool cleaning, remodeling, mommy school, Bible study teaching is crazy. Even as I write this, I'm tossing a mini nerf football with the boy, not unlike playing fetch with a small dog. And can I just say that Silent Ben is turning into quite a chatterbox and I'm lovin' it! His progress has taken off and he's putting multiple words together now, repeating what we say and adding to his vocabulary hourly it seems. Still doesn't help when it's 1 AM and he's crying out something I can't comprehend.

While most of our day runs like any other--with or without Daddy--those evening hours, the "witching hours" of dinner, bath, and bed are enough to drive me to well, eat Bearfoot Brownie ice cream. But we did enjoy a Moe's Monday this week thanks to friends who entertained the kids while I ordered and gallantly carried my tray to the table. I had company to eat with and R and her betrothed (according to me and his mother) had a quesadilla date in the next booth.

We managed to mostly de-leaf the patio and pool this morning. While my northern friends and family were shoveling snow this week, we were scooping the inches of leaves that the cold front shook down. And then I cleaned the hall bath, eagerly, knowing that I'll get to finally shower in my new bathroom this afternoon!

Small victories, small rewards, but that's what keeps me going! And only two more days until Daddy comes home for a weekend. We can make it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

M.I.A.

I have really good excuses, I promise. Hormones, fatigue, chaos, remodeling, traveling, general busyness. And, I just haven't wanted to post what's been going on lately, mostly because I don't want to have to deal with it.

To recap, we are going to move, we are in the process of moving, 1/4 of "us" has already moved. To Houston. The one in Texas. After a two-and-half-month job search, D was offered a job as a controller with an engineering and manufacturing company that makes parts for oil wells. Houston was the only city that he had multiple interviews in and this was the only interview that led to an offer. Orlando is drying up and the Central Florida area has nothing to offer in regards to employment. And as I have frequently said lately, we kinda like to eat.

So, in a few weeks we will join D, who left this weekend and started work on Monday. I'm holding down the fort as best as possible, overseeing a master bath remodel (after nearly 4 years of ickiness, I'll get to enjoy it for two months), and getting the house ready for a sign in the yard.

Much of this is so overwhelming that I can't even process it. I'm best when I'm busy with my day-to-day activities, knowing all the while that everything that is my day-to-day will soon change. It still doesn't feel right. As we said good-bye to D on Saturday night, tears streaming down everyone's faces, the question of "Why, God?" was all I could think about. We'll be a 16 hour drive or a plane trip away from both sets of grandparents, uprooted from a church that is pretty much my entire world--worship, school, friends, service, study--and placed in a new town with new everything just as baby #3 prepares to arrive.

I struggle with disappointment over not being able to move to Charlotte, close to my family, and at the confusion of it all. With why others around me seem to be getting just what they want while I'm leaving with resignation and some resentment. Mostly, I struggle with why this is better for me, why this is part of God's plan, when I think that everything is really very good right now, and in fact, had just gotten really good, comfortable in a comforting kind of way. After nearly 12 years in Orlando, I feel like I've fit in, found my niche, found a place to be. I struggle with why God is taking us away when I feel like we've done "good things" in desiring to be close to parents and family, with taking on a leadership role with Women's Ministry and using my gifts, partnering with a church that loves our kids' hearts and minds.

Intellectually, I know it all. I can quote scripture and stories to myself all day long. But my heart is still hurting over it. This week, as we studied "Blessed are the meek," I was encouraged by a look at Psalm 37 which is full of the promises of God to those who trust in Him. One of the questions in the study asked us which promise meant the most to us right now. I chose verses 3-5 which took on new resonance in the context of our current circumstances:

"Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this."
The meek, the gentle, the humble, don't fret and worry or think they have to control everything. They trust in the One who takes care of His sheep and gives them safe pasture.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Clarity

Some things right now are pretty clear. There is no doubt that Baby #3 has "boy parts" as R would put it. Our family picture is taking shape--girl, boy, boy. Trucks and trains may reign but there will be one princess in the family. That sounds good to me.

Other things right now are not so clear. What job D will have? Where we might be living in a few months? Here or somewhere else? When? How quickly could all this happen? North or West? Southern drawl and NASCAR or big hair and cowboy boots?
We're in limbo mode right now, cautiously taking steps to prepare and getting our heads and hearts wrapped around the prospect of leaving here and going to...whereever, whenever.
Thanks for praying for us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

weekend update

We've been promising R a trip to Chuck E Cheese for almost two years now--on the condition that she stop sucking her thumb. I was planning to start the taping and pinning of appendages after Christmas to get her over her habit. But, lo and behold, all it took was one Chick-Fil-A lunch date with a fellow recovering thumb-sucker and she was cured. She announced that afternoon that she was going to stop sucking her thumb like N. I figured, sure, after Christmas, will start taping your thumb to your hand. But she just stopped. I thought I would catch her during the car trip to SC. Nope. Maybe I would hear the sucking sound during her sleep when we were all in the same room over the holidays. No. She had stopped, cold turkey. Does this give you an indication of what kind of will I daily encounter?

So, Saturday, we delivered on our promise. Both kids were not thrilled with the live Chuck who walked around giving high fives. But despite her face in these pictures, she like the horse ride and a few others (though many were malfunctioning!) and she refused to have her picture taken, smiling, at least.

B added "ch-ee-cheese" to his vocabulary and cried, "Bob, Bob, Bob" as I pulled him out of this ride to let waiting children have their turn. He grins and says "Bob" whenever we mention C.E.C. and pointed it out as we were driving today.
R redeemed her tickets for a tiny heart-shaped container of lip gloss. Later, when we called them for dinner, they came running out of her room looking like leftover extras from Braveheart. Smears of purple sparkly goop covered their faces like war paint. I would have taken a picture but I was too afraid B was about to run it into his eyes, so I washed him up fast.
It was also a weekend of experimenting. We put B in the other twin bed in R's room on Friday night to see how things went. Lots of red bottoms! The next night was better. The next, not so much. Hopefully, they'll get used to it, soon! We could hear R talking and B "shushing" at times and other time B babbling and R telling him to be quiet. I told D that this marks about a year or so of little sleep for us, just get ready.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Prego Ponderings

D asked the other night how many weeks we/I were/was along. (I'm 18 wks as of Monday). "Mmm, that's not even halfway," he observed. Thanks.... Now that there is no hiding the bump whatsoever and the hubbub of the holidays is settling down, more and more people have noticed that, yes, I am indeed pregnant. D & I were at his company's "holiday" party and we got plenty of congratulations. One girl asked me, "Are you so excited?!"


I had to stop and think a minute.


Of course, I'm elated that there is life within me. But....there's not as much to get excited about at this point. Being baby #3, there are very few surprises at this stage. And since I carried my saltines to church this morning and then still had to duck out between services for a food run for my queasy tummy and woozy head, I'm not all that "WHOO-HOO!" (Really, I'm not a "WHOO" girl much anyway for those who watch "HIMYM".) And the other night, as we were leaving a friend's house, R had a colossal, nuclear meltdown that went on until she finally fell asleep. And all I'm thinking is...man, we've already made another.


Generally speaking, I'm not one of those women who love, love, love being pregnant. I'd much rather get this part over with and get to the baby part--even those first few weeks! So I'm confident that my current blase attitude with this baby will disappear the moment I lay eyes on him or her.


R is less convinced that the Bean is a girl but just as convinced that she only wants a sister. She told me the other day that if this is a boy she is NOT going to play with him. In the same breath, she was begging B to come back to their bedrooms to play. I pointed out the contradiction and she explained that she would keep playing with B but no more boys and that she really needed a girl to play with. B has been carrying around a Cabbage Patch doll of R's and giving it a bottle several times. So cute! In other news, he has added "shoe," "truck," "car," and "choo-choo" to his lexicon. No words that are actually helpful in our daily routine but progress nonetheless. We are working on being a bit tougher with him, withholding the item we know he wants until he makes some attempt at saying the word. He's proud of himself when he does it so I'm hoping these are signs of further development to come.


I'm craving strange things--though sometimes, like today, nothing sounds good. Several times in the past few weeks, I've made some form of nachos/taco salads with grilled chicken or ground beef topped with black beans, lettuce, tomatoes (GOT to have tomatoes right now), cilantro, salsa, sour cream. (Please note, this picture was a meal for both of us, not my dinner plate!) I think we're taking the kiddos to the park this afternoon after naps which means we'll also go to Bubbalou's for dinner. I will be getting their smoked chicken which tastes good all the time but is really good right now. Strawberries have started coming in already which means I will be loading up. That's been my favorite fruit of both previous pregnancies and now I have two strawberry-loving kids too. Yum!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Christ the Lord: Ann Rice

The last two novels I read in '08 were the first two books of Ann Rice's Christ the Lord series. I had never read anything by her before since she seemed (to me) consumed with vampires and other Gothic/horror material and that really does not appeal to me. (I remember freaking out at a slumber party over the movie Interview with the Vampire. I don't have the stomach for that.) But WORLD magazine had a fairly favorable review of Road to Cana (book 2) so I thought I would give this a try.

Rice had a revival of her faith from atheistic dormancy to the Catholicism of her childhood a few years back and decided she would not write anything else that did not pertain to her new faith. So she set about writing a series of fictional novels of Jesus' life. Her conversion story is told in part in the Author's Note at the end of Out of Egypt and she has a new memoir, Called Out of Darkness, detailing this.

Out of Egypt (book 1) begins with seven-year-old Jesus and his older half-brother James playing with some neighborhood kids, including a bully who tries to pick on Jesus. Somehow...Jesus ends up knocking down the kid and it appears he is dead. Jesus doesn't know what happened but he felt some kind of power or force leave him. Right away, I was a bit perturbed at this and I wasn't sure I could continue. Apparently, James is a child from Joseph's first marriage (wife now deceased) and there are no other children from the union of Joseph and the Virgin Mary. Rice's decidedly Catholic beliefs are all over the novel. Jesus later brings the bully back to life but he's got a bit of a reputation for doing weird things. (Rice notes that she used apocryphal and traditional medieval tales for some of this information.) I did finish the book and there were some bright spots. Rice is very well-researched and she brought to life the atmosphere and political situation of Judea under Roman control. The helplessness of the Jewish people and the oppression of Herod and others sets up the Israelites looking for a Messiah King who will march in to Jerusalem on his horse, lead an army, and overthrow Rome. Because the narration is from a young child's perspective, the writing seemed clunky at times--too seven-year-oldish. And it is impossible to know with certainty what Jesus knew when--when did he realize he was God's Son, fully God and fully human? There is a beautiful passage at the end of the book when Jesus has gone out to an olive grove alone at night, looks into the star-filled night, and prays to his Father that nothing he will ever do will be outside of God's will.

Road to Cana picks up years later as an adult Jesus is about to begin his earthly ministry. Again, I had some problems with Rice's plot, I guess, places where I was a bit uncomfortable with the Jesus she portrayed but again, it is impossible to really know. A grown man who is expected to marry, Jesus mourns that he never will and at times is tempted by a beautiful, godly woman, Avigail, who everyone in town expects him to marry. Rice is on more solid ground in the last portion of the novel when she covers Jesus' baptism, temptation in the desert, calling of the disciples, and the marriage feast at Cana. Here, the writing soars. Jesus' responses to Satan while being tempted were fabulous. There you hear the mission of Christ to save "soul by soul" the world, rejecting power, riches, and self-preservation.

Our women's Bible study this semester will focus on the Beatitudes and look at examples in Christ's life where he demonstrated and fulfilled those words. Coming out of the season of Advent, reading these earthy, human depictions of a very real God come to earth in Rice's novels, reading Reggie's blog posts about Incarnation, has renewed my desire to have relationship with a "Who" and not just study the "whats." We can focus on theology and concepts that end in -tion all the time and lose sight of the divine Person of Jesus who walked this earth, dirtied his feet and hands, and rescued his children.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas Recap


Just a few pictures from our Christmas. We spent a week at my parents' house in South Carolina in chilly and generally gray weather. But it was great to have so much family there for the holiday. My grandmother endured the 8 hour drive with the munchkins in the minivan so she could be with us and my brother and sister-in-law spent the weekend as well. That also meant one Christmas Eve dinner (our traditional lasagna), one Christmas Day dinner (rib roast cooked on the rotisserie of Dad's grill), and one more with the full crew (smoked turkey and trimmings). There were 2 pies baked that week, 4 kinds of cookies, and 1 from-the-freezer pumpkin cheesecake Mom baked beforehand. We played Speed Scrabble (my family could not compete with the Fleming side at all! We stink!), watched movies ranging from silly (Elf!) to intellectual (Expelled), and put together the wackiest puzzle ever. It was called "Proverbidioms" and depicted literal illustrations of common idioms like "so hungry I could eat a horse." The conversation around the puzzle putting-together was PG13 as we searched for weird characters or called out "I think this one goes to the saggy boob chick". Then, once it was together, we took the list of idioms from the back of the box and tried to find them all. (Saggy boob chick was both "flat as a board" and "knockers.")

The big presents were a Disney Princess bike for the princess (she went around the house finding clues that led her to the room where we hid her bike--and she read the clues herself too!) and a train table for the little guy. We only brought the trains and some track pieces to SC so there was another surprise waiting for B the morning after we returned home--a huge table with mountains, bridges, and a train station. Neither one moved more than 6 inches from it the first day. We also received our share of noise makers. R has an "electric guitar" (also pink with Disney Princesses) and B got an electronic drum pad.

The kids were completely into the season this year--from lights to carols to reading the Christmas story just about every night. A week before Christmas we walked along Crane's Roost at night to see the lights and the light and music show at the fountain (pretty impressive for Altamonte Springs) then came home for a fire, roasted marshmallows, and singing. Nice to have a quiet time together in the midst of the hullabaloo.