Friday, December 28, 2012

Before I Pack Them Up

 I'm waiting for confirmation that both boys are napping so I can join them in blissful oblivion. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you my favourite room of Christmas decorations. I try to put a little Christmas in every room, but decorating is not my forte, and it was even worse than usual this year with my two terrors trying to destroy everything in sight (you should see the Christmas tree--never mind, you don't want to, it would scar you for life).

Anyway, perhaps ironically, my favourite room of decorations belonged to the boys. Maybe since it was their room, they wanted to keep it looking pretty. Ha ha. Yeah right. Maybe it was just that since I was decorating their room I was smart enough to keep it out of arms reach unlike the rest of the house. Point being, the Boys' Room: the Christmas Version.

This is probably the reason their room was so awesome. The Man's super cool mom made us this advent calendar two years ago. This is the first year we have successfully done every day of advent, and it was awesome! And yes, Joseph's head is upside down. I'll give you one guess as to who got to stick the little felt ornaments on every night.

X-mas in the original sense, but really because there wasn't enough space to write "Christmas".

I cannot tell you how many times those twinkle lights got pulled down, but they were totally worth it.

All our Christmas cards went up in the boys' room this year, on the bulletin board and on the clothesline. Plus, we hung the extra stockings in here just for fun. (The elephants on the mobile have little ornaments hanging from their trunks).

There's your better view of the clothesline, complete with some original artwork from Littles and the obligatory train picture done by Aki.

Okay, this is NOT in the boys' room, but I'm including it anyway for personal reasons. This year I made the mistake of putting this lovely brass manger scene on our dresser. Unfortunately, every time we opened a dresser drawer, the figures shifted, so that the camel was heading the wrong way or Mary was leaning down to tie the shepherd's shoes and saying "Next time double knot them!" Then, to make things even better, the cat entertained himself every night by knocking over at least one of the wise men so that they were worshiping Jesus face down to the ground. Anyway, lesson learned. But I'm sure there's some deep significance here about how little disturbances can shake us off course and big disturbances can knock us over while Jesus remains steady--but I still think that's cheating. That brass manger is pretty solid.

Anyway, I'm posting this now so that after nap time (if nap time ever happens) I can pack up the Christmas decorations and stop growling at the boys to get out of the Christmas tree. Everything's a growl right now, a froggy growl. I guess I should glue together the 2 broken ornaments before I do that though...or just leave them for next year. It's not like Santa's going to be using his arm while he's in storage, right?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Pictoral Explosion

Christmas came early for us with a visit from my parents and sister. Littles and Tiny had more than a little fun, and I actually managed to snag some pictures for you. Pat me on the back: I deserve it.

My sister downloaded a Thomas the Train game on her iPad. We could not tear Littles away.

This is Tiny's new face whenever anyone takes a picture. Not the first face where he's getting kissed, but the second face where his eyes are all squished up. Luckily for me, Littles has noticed that everyone laughs at Tiny when he does this, so Littles is doing it too. Lovely.

We have fun together.

Little Man had been asking to make cookie trees with Neni all year. I'm giving myself a check-mark for 2012. Even though all I did was eat the cookies.

Isn't he festive with his red bow? At least he was until he chewed his way out of it. Trigs has no sense of style.

The Man took Littles out to play in the snow before Christmas dinner. They had more than a little fun out there, although Little Man didn't know quite what to do when his dad picked him up and dropped him into the big snow drift. Tiny and I had braved the weather with them earlier in the day so this time we stayed inside the kitchen and took pictures through the window.

See? This is us. Nice and warm.

The boys had fun playing with my Christmas hats this morning. Admittedly, there's not much else to do since I am sick and voiceless, and I can't just throw them in the stroller for a long walk as the streets are still covered in ice and snow. We've been watching a lot of Veggie Tales...and eating a lot of those sugar cookies...and hoping against hope that January gives us a turn for the better health-wise.

My favourite picture from Christmas. Too bad their mama couldn't give them a good face!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Presence not Perfection

My parents prayed for our family before they left to head back to Tennessee. This is not unusual in our family. We are not usual as a family, I should add. One line stuck out to me though, and I have been mulling it over in my head since then. My dad prayed that when people come into our home that they would sense, not perfection, but Christ's presence.

May I put this in context for you?

December has turned into the month of sick (I told you this already), which has necessitated missing the last three weeks of church. This has been discouraging in more than a few ways. Neither the Man nor I are legalistic about making it to church on Sunday morning. We go because we want to worship Christ in the company of others who love Him; we go for the encouragement of being with other believers; we go because we want to learn more about Him from others who perhaps have a little more time during the week to study and pray and then pass on what they've learned. We don't go because we have to. During December, though, I also go because I love the Advent season.  It's been disappointing to miss the lighting of every single candle on the Advent wreath this year, even the candle that our family had been asked to light. I'm holding out hope that the boys are going to pull through so we can at least make the Christmas Eve service, but at this point there's a better chance that we're going to have a white Christmas--and we live in Oklahoma.

All this to say that while I am walking in gratitude and we are making some wonderful Christmas memories together as a family, it has been hard to realize Christ's presence in my life the last few weeks. Getting barfed on twice yesterday did not help. The perfectionist in me is cringing even being in our house these days: I haven't been able to clean like I normally do (between guests and sick boys), the bottom two feet of our tree look like they have been attacked by hungry wolves, my running routine has been sabotaged, my Bible study has gone out the get the point. It is a daily surrender to let go of my own agenda and just be with my sons, just be with my husband, just be with Jesus. And if I let go of my own desires for perfection (and also let go of my frantic attempts to avoid my imperfection), I think I might find the presence of God in my household already...

...cuddled beneath my chin, coughing in my lap...
...setting up train tracks for his son and making cocoa in the kitchen for his wife...
...hugging the dog and sharing flashlights with his little brother...

Maybe if I stopped regretting not seeing the Christ I want to see, I might see the Christ who is already there, waiting for me, in my imperfections, in my need.

It's easy to get caught up in how we want Christmas to be, really how we just, in general, want life to be. We draw out our plans, we make our schedules, we write our lists, and suddenly we aren't just doing this to our own lives, but we're doing it to Jesus. We are etching an image of Him that may or may not be true. And that's why I think he allows the unexpected in our lives, whether that is the month of sick or the grief of goodbye. It's not that He delights in our struggle but that He longs for us to know the real Him, and sometimes we get too caught up in what we think is reality, even good realities like Christmas, and forget to know Him--His reality--His truth--His presence.

This is what I'm learning this month. This and what the reality of His presence is reminding me of: that the joy of His birth always and only leads to the terrible grace of the Cross. I hope that years from now when my boys look back they would know that--more than the scraggly Christmas tree or the crumbled sugar cookies, more than the dog-accompanied car ride to see Christmas lights and the neatly wrapped presents, more than the stocking stuffers and the Christmas movies--that they would know that because He came we have life and that because He died, today is not just any other day, but one of joy in His presence.

Kate Seredy and Real Men

A few weeks ago I started out the Christmas season by rereading one of my favourite Christmassy children's novels, A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner (yay for mittens and a girl named Pup!). Today it was time for another: Kate Seredy's The Good Master. If you've read it already and don't understand why this is a Christmas book, you've obviously forgotten that the last two chapters are all about Christmas--Hungarian Christmas complete with Mikulas. It helped get me in the Christmas spirit just a little bit more (and then we took the boys and the dog to see Christmas lights which completed the job).

Anyway, as I was reading it I got all excited about sharing it with the boys when they get older. They have such a great role model in their dad already (and their grandfathers and uncles, for that matter), but fictional male role models are so important, and Marton Nagy is one of the best. He teaches true leadership, discipline, laughter, and, above all, gentle grace--this is what it means to be a real man. I hope my boys pay attention and learn this early on, avoiding the cultural traps that have led to a generation of more than a few weak, spineless men who think that to be strong they have to be bullies and to be respected they have to be louder than everyone else. I'm so glad that Littles and Tiny will grow up surrounded by men who can both teach and model true manliness, and I plan to ply them with good books to reinforce the lesson. The Good Master is one of them, closely followed by its sequel The Singing Tree. If you have boys, are a boy, or are married to a man who used to be a boy, Kate Seredy is always worth a read.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Smoothies and Sugar Cookies

Last night, I let Littles have a smoothie and sugar cookies for dinner.

Today I spent at least an hour on the bathroom floor with both boys, playing with their Christmas flashlights while steam rolled thickly from the shower.

This may or may not be indicative of how I have spent and will continue to spend most of December.

Two weekends ago, Tiny got a virus. Then last weekend, Littles got croup (complete with a panicked E.R. visit--never a dull moment). And now it seems that Tiny is trying desperately to get croup from Littles. I told him that I would not allow it and he'd better get himself in line or be court-martialed. Unfortunately, as always, he is displaying a mind of his own and an impossibly strong will. Basically what this means is that there is a chorus of hearty coughing echoing out of the nursery at all times. It's lovely.

But my family came to visit, and that really was lovely, not sarcastic lovely, even though I'm pretty sure my sister fed Littles sugar cookies for breakfast (as if he hadn't had enough the night before). They left this morning so there will be no one to tell us if, in our exhaustion, the Man and I sleep through the crying, coughing baby's midnight wake ups. Evidently that happened last night. One day I will forgive myself. I'm not there yet.

The funny thing is that as much as it should've been That Day--the cat barfed on my favourite biscuit recipe, Littles dumped the humidifier on the Man's computer, cleaning the house was like carrying water in a sieve, we had an unplanned for hospital run, I lost one of Littles' favourite socks, I let the neighbor's dog escape, etc., etc., etc.--it was a really fun day.

Even with Littles putting his arm around Trig-Dog and saying with woeful eyes, "Trigger misses Aki and Neni and Auntie Aman."

Even with him telling me he likes Thomas more than Mommy.

Even with barely there naps.

I have no explanation for this--because goodbyes, second place, and naplessness (especially naplessness) make me cranky, crazy, and crappy--no explanation other than grace. I was surprised by His goodness, whether in new play-dough cutters or the sharing of fried okra, matching Eric Carle t-shirts or Christmas cards from old friends, folded and put away laundry or my husband showing up unexpectedly and helping me get both boys and a big box in the car (just because).


For That Day and for every day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tangential Revenge

I have a cricked neck. I mean, I have a crook in my neck--aaaaah! It's a crick in my neck! Now even that sounds wrong!

It's been a long day...

But the Man is still at work, I'm trying desperately not to watch JAG without him, and I must do something that doesn't require me to move my head (all my other plans today did not coincide with that desire--picking up dog poop, anyone?). So here you go.

A few of my new favourites:

  • This morning I put "salad" in our smoothie. I like green. That is all.
  • Spaghetti squash is evil. That also is all. No wait, it's not all. You should be glad that I'm typing this post with both hands still attached. Said squash was out to get me. It kept trying to use my knife against me and then it attempted to drown me in boiling water. So I ate it in revenge.
  • Littles entertained himself this morning by pretending to be at church and reading out of my Indonesian Bible. From the kitchen, I hear him pronouncing to Tiny: "Jesus is born! Go to Ninevah and see a giraffe with a long neck!" 
  • Flute practice provides never a dull moment around here. Littles likes to shove things up my flute while I'm playing (funny, his aunt used to do that too..). Tiny likes to accompany me exuberantly on the piano. I'm forced to stop mid-phrase to break up whatever mayhem is occurring. They both like to mimic my high notes by producing tin whistle squeals that make Trig-dog run around the house howling in pain. You get the picture. Today, flute practice was completely sabotaged by Tiny wanting dinner. Then he proceeded to sabotage dinner by wanting a bath. Fine: I retaliated by sabotaging his bath by finishing my practice with flute music propped up on the sink. Revenge is mine, sayeth the Mommy. (I promise I'm not usually this vengeful.)
  • Last week my wonderful friends threw me a surprise birthday party in my own home. Not only did I not have to shove both kids into their car seats and get them buckled in while freezing and getting laughed at by people who don't have kids in bulky jackets, but I didn't even have to put on shoes to go to my own party! It was fantastic! Next year, I'll tell them to come over even earlier and provide me breakfast in bed.
  • This year for Christmas, we decided to do one family present and then stocking stuffers. We bought ourselves a fire pit, and we are already enjoying it together (in spite of the nonstop Oklahoma wind). The only down side to this is that when I take the boys out to the yard with me so I can pick up the aforementioned dog poop, Tiny finds the lighter the Man left out and walks proudly around the yard trying to light the dog on fire. If only...
  • I spent the morning going through baby clothes so I can pass them on to my new nephew who should arrive sans wardrobe sometime next spring. Baby clothes are tiny. Tiny is no longer tiny. When did this happen?
Supposedly the Man is almost home. He had to stop for AA batteries for the video camera at the front gate. Out of the goodness of my heart, I gave him the last two we possess this morning. Does anyone else have trouble keeping batteries in their home? Every time I turn around, one of the "men" is asking me for some. I wouldn't be surprised if Tiny's next word was "battery". Whatever happened to just reading books? They don't require batteries! (Incidentally, Jan Brett--it's so his week in our home. Who's That Knocking On Christmas Eve, anyone?) That was a tangent. The point is that when he does get home (after restocking on what is apparently an essential for our family), I will bribe him with food so that I can sit on the couch and do nothing for the rest of the night. By "do nothing" I mean "watch Harm and Mac save the day". I have a problem... 

And he's home! My life just got fifty million times better! This is no exaggeration...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mersmas Eve

I went running this morning with my moon shadow.

I had seriously considered just staying in bed, but I'm so glad I didn't. It started off my day right. I had to close out 25 well, maybe not excitingly, but well. So the house is clean, the Christmas presents wrapped, most of the Christmas cards addressed, the boys bathed and in bed... and I celebrated at the end of it all with Little Women, biscotti, and coffee. The Man is at work helping out at the front gate and having loads of fun with it, I'd guess. He made sure to scrutinize my I.D. card when I came on base earlier. One can never be too careful.

The truth is that I've been wanting to blog all week, but Monday and Tuesday were Mayhem. And Wednesday was recovery and rest day. And now today I'm thinking about a few different things:

  • I've been entertaining myself this week by giving orders to Little Man to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Try it. You'll like it. Plus then you don't have to remember the real words. Which one was the drummers drumming?
  • Boys tell it like it is. When they introduce you to their stuffed animal lions they make sure to warn you not to get bitten and then they show you where the pee hole and poop hole are. Also, when you try to figure out why their little brother is sobbing desperately, they inform you calmly that they "ate Tiny's fingers."
  • Littles sings his own version of "I Love You a Bushel and a Peck". In his, it's: "I love you a bushel of crap." I refuse to take any credit for this whatsoever.
  • Foosball does wonders when it comes to teaching three boys their lines for the Christmas play.
  • I didn't want to jinx this, but Tiny has been fairly regularly sleeping through the night since I switched him to his fleece Christmas footie pajamas. He will wear those for the rest of his life now. Even when it's the middle of summer and his toes have popped through the footie part. This also forces me to keep up with laundry as there are only three sets of pajamas, and the idea of a night without them brings me to tears of terror.
  • I checked the weather this morning before leaving on my run and duly noted that it was cold enough to send a sane person to the gym, so I grabbed a pair of gloves on my way out. I wiggled my fingers into them as I walked down the driveway only to realize I'd grabbed Josh's gloves, not mine. The fingers flapped while I ran. 
  • We spend almost every afternoon at the playground. At first I thought this was because I am an awesome mom who wants to provide fresh air, exercise, and happiness for my children. Then, I thought it was because Littles is extremely persistent in asking and I am a pushover. Finally, I figured out that it's because if we're at the playground, the boys can't destroy anything around the house. So far we're at three broken ornaments, and I have no clue how it hasn't been more. In their defense, I just about shattered African baby Jesus this morning while I was dusting. It was a close call. 
On that note, I need to go to sleep so I can get my beauty rest before my big date with the boys tomorrow night. The plan is to take me some place snazzy that still has high chairs...and is in town. It could happen?

Saturday, December 1, 2012


That's the star rising in the east of our TV--or just my camera flash.
Also, don't mock our lack of a tree skirt. Trigs ate ours last year.
In our family, the month of December has become lovingly known as Mersmas. My birthday is at the beginning of the month, my favourite holiday at the middle-end, and my anniversary on the very last day. It's not about presents or having the month be all about me, it's about enjoying the wonderful blessings that have been given--friends and family (as birthday and Christmas and anniversary cards sprinkle their way through the days), favourite things (twinkle lights and Christmas music), warm memories (watching White Christmas with the Man and explaining manger scenes to Littles).

But the truth is that on the first day of Mersmas, there was a broken Christmas ornament by 8 a.m., family breakfast unexpectedly delayed, more fussy teething, inevitable whining, sore muscles, lost tempers, and general mayhem--just like almost every other day--because I am a sinner and I live in a family of sinners and there is no such thing as a picture perfect, idyllic anything in life. Which is wonderful.

It's wonderful because it's in the mess that we meet Jesus. It's in the mistakes. It's in the mayhem.

That's what Mersmas is about for me. Not this massive celebration of who I am, but about who I want to be in Him and, perhaps, who He is in spite of me.

When I first started this post, I had more than a few other thoughts in mind, but I think that'll do for now. I have 24 more days to talk about Christmas, and six more after that to prep for the New Year, and, unfortunately, a lifetime to talk about myself, which is what blogging is all about, right?

I do, however, want to take a moment to shout out to the Man, who not only conveniently sent me to the commissary at the exact moment when I was going to lose it with Tiny, not only bathed both boys while I was gone, not only took Littles out on a father-son date this afternoon, but also makes a mean Hungarian stew. And looks good doing it. Sure, he may call himself a Scrooge for not wanting to hang Christmas lights on the outside of the house and for being burnt out on Christmas music mere hours into the season, but he makes my heart grow three sizes each day (how do you like those mixed literary references, eh?). He's one of my favourite parts of Mersmas, and it doesn't hurt that he bought me an evergreen candle today to make up for our fake tree. That's real love, people. Real. Love.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Sprit

He wants to decorate the pets for Christmas.
We haven't decorated for Christmas yet. I'm planning to get to that this weekend. Maybe. In all honesty, I'm still enjoying my two autumn decorations. They're so festive. Plus, I'm cracking down on my exercise routine, and I'm sore. Sue me.

But I have started listening to a smattering of Christmas music, and today I'm letting Littles watch Christmas Veggie Tales episodes while Tiny takes an unplanned morning nap (teething is really getting him today; the snot waterfall--snoterfall?--is unparalleled). Then we're hitting up the commissary so I can make chicken and salsa soup for dinner, but that's totally unrelated. Or is it? Soup is Christmassy, right? And I'm putting in zucchini, so in combination with the salsa, it'll be red and green. Hmm, let's light the evergreen candle and bring it on!

I love Christmas. Admittedly, it's easy to get distracted by all the extra "stuff" we add on to Christmas, but the Man and I are being more purposeful each year with how we spend our time and money during this season (and how we ask other people to spend their time and money). So I'm planning to relish every moment of doing the Christmas decorating this weekend, and then every moment of pulling Tiny out of its spiky branches. I'm most excited about decorating the boys' room. For some reason we have more than a handful of excess stockings this year, and I plan to hang them from the clothesline in their room that is currently displaying all of Littles' drawings from "school" this year. He does love some handprint turkeys.

This blog had a point. I don't remember what it was. I was up running at 5 this morning in 22 degree weather, and I'm pretty sure my brain froze. So, my candles, plans for advent calendars and Christmas lights, Mannheim Steamroller, trains and singing legumes, more soup for meeeeeee, presents starting to accumulate on the desk in the guest room, who Jesus was and is, nutcrackers, frozen brain (not to be confused with brain freeze), and the need for more coffee and my very ugly and fuzzy red snuggie. Christmas doesn't get boring. Plus, I'm really psyched about how the boys are going to react to the Christmas decorations. Littles is still thanking me moving his room around and that was 2 months ago. This is no lie.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Gifts

Yep. It's 6.38, and both the boys are in bed. And before you go crying foul and telling me what cruel parents we must be, Littles asked to go to bed. We just cheerily acquiesced to his request. So my loving husband asked me if I needed to write tonight, and I admitted that I probably did, and he prodded me in the direction of the computer since the kitchen is clean and it's early enough that I can blog and we can still watch The Avengers before bed. Our lives are terribly exciting.

I was going to write about Thanksgiving and how mad I am that I didn't take a picture of my three handsome men, and then share with you a few of the thousand gifts I've recorded over the year (Ann Voskamp, anyone?), but I realized that three out of my four journals containing my 1110 gifts from the last 11 months (I do not make these numbers up) are in the guest room where Littles is currently sleeping (we're trying out solo sleeping for Tiny tonight), so that's was a no go until miraculously Littles decided he wasn't asleep and wanted to share something unintelligibly sleepy with Mommy who took that moment to quickly swipe aforementioned journals. It was a moment of brilliance. Also, I think I write about Ann Voskamp a little too often.

Anyway, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few of the wonderful gifts I have been thankful for this year:

25. Crescent-moon eyelash shadows on round cheeks.
85. Watching the Man love on newborn Tiny.
99. Juice, even juice that's only 15% juice.
153. Colouring purple and orange spotted dinosaurs.
221. Belly buttons! Or rather, detached umbilical cords.
240. Daddy-son lunch dates. More specifically, being married to a daddy who wants to take his son out on lunch dates.
359. The sound of my sisters laughing.
367. Learning to say thank you, even for deployments. (Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? John 18:116)
420. Band-aids. Because even if they result in blood curdling screams from Littles, they keep the blood in.
443. Fourteen dead caterpillars. You'd think they would learn.
568. A stopped up kitchen sink that forced me to stop, drink some coffee, wait for the plumber, and focus on Christ.
575. Making military mistakes. Because, yes, I'm still a clueless hippy.
634. Littles calling the Man "Captain Honey".
645. Tiny's brother-proof skull.
793. "Mommy, why did you put clothes on me again?"
916. A long "England" walk with the dog, tiny bits of mist on my face, when my heart is breaking.
963. That gratitude begets gratitude.
1000. Pretend naps and having my brown eyed boy pat down my blanket and say, "I like you, Mommy."
1054. That there was nothing but black coffee in the travel mug that sat in the car for a week.
1110. God's incredible Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

And on that note, I'm going to go kick the dog off the love seat, curl up with the Man, and watch The Avengers (yeah!), possibly with a slice of apple pie (also yeah!). Happy Thanksgiving, and try hard not to cry about the lack of a cute picture. I know it's hard. Frankly, I'm upset too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worshipful Obedience

Last week Little Man and I read the story of David and Goliath together. It's one of his favourites and gets fairly frequent retellings in our home. I'm not quite sure what attracts him to the story since he doesn't quite understand the concept of Goliath getting killed, but something about it gets him. At any rate, as I was reading to him I caught something new (this is the advantage of reading Bible stories to your children--if you can't manage to squeeze in your own quiet time, you can still learn something). That day all David was doing was taking lunch to his brothers as his father requested. He didn't go visit the army because he had received a specific calling from God to go kill Goliath. He went because he was being obedient to his father in the small things. This is something I've been trying to learn the last few months, and something I've been writing about as well (though for the life of me I can't remember what post it was...maybe this one).

Just this Sunday, I was talking with our Sunday School class about hearing the Holy Spirit's voice. We were reading in Acts 13 and 14, about how the church in Antioch was worshiping the Lord when God told them to send Barnabas and Saul out from among them. We discussed how when our focus is on God and not on ourselves, when we practice moment-by-moment worship, we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit's voice.

Then I ran across a blog by Ann Voskamp that started tying everything together for me (I know it seems like I'm rambling but I promise I have a point I will get to eventually--bear with me). She writes (and I'm jumbling her words here a bit, mea culpa):
Your father calls you. And if you can't hear him? ...[You're not where you're meant to be]... We want clarity--and God gives us a call. We want a road map--and God gives a relationship. We want answers--and God gives us His hand.
We cannot be in real relationship with God without the inevitable response of worship. When we worship, He tends to speak. And when He speaks, we must respond, taking the obedient next step, however small, however insignificant--taking lunch to our brothers, perhaps. Because sometimes, when we open ourselves up to the Lord through worship, through purposeful obedience, He puts us in the right place at the right time so that we might give Him even more glory.

It's Wednesday now and I started writing this blog on Sunday; it's taken me that long to finish up, not because I didn't know what I wanted to say but because life happens. Library books need to be returned; bloody noses occur; laundry needs to get folded; dog hair must be vacuumed. And each small moment is a choice that sometimes I forget I am making. As I give Littles the stink eye for waking his brother up at nap time, am I remembering to worship? Am I remembering that this too is a chance to be obedient? As I dig the wood-chips out of Tiny's mouth for the hundredth time, as I re-hang the hand towel that has been left beside the sink, as I scoop up dog poop in the back yard, am I remembering? Am I really holding onto His hand?

Because I might find that if my hand (dry from soap, chapped from the wind, smelly from diapers) is held in His (scarred and blood stained) I'm in the right place at the right time after all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Buffalo Boy Won't You Come Out Tonight

This is just a smattering of wonder. Allow yourself to be blown away and don't be distracted by the fact that the items in this post have little to no connection with each other. Sit back, relax, and eat some doughnuts while you read. You'll thank me later.

1. Buffalos are awesome. My two year old will tell you so. He will also spend the entire time at the Wildlife Refuge saying, "Daddy, I want to see more buffalo!" And then as soon as you get close enough to one to take a picture, "It's scary. Let's leave." And then "More buffalo!" and then "Drive!" and then "Another buffalo!" and then "LEAVE!!!" Really, we think he has a split personality.

2. Christmas cards, on the other hand, are terrifying. There's too much pressure! That thing is going to be hanging on someone's fridge for a whole year (two, the way I do things--last year I had a baby instead of sending out a Christmas card--no, that's not an announcement). What if I accidentally use a picture where someone has a booger hanging out their nose? On that note, if you want a Christmas card, speak now or forever hold your peace (and don't judge me if all the pictures have red eye).

3. The Man and I typically agree that preschool programs (really, programs by children of any kind) should be lovingly skipped. However, now that we have our own kids, we can't get out of them. So today we diligently cheered on Littles as he stood, shell shocked, before a microphone and whispered "Gobble, gobble" a couple of times. His stage presence was unparalleled. We're starting him in show business next week.

4. Tiny decided to start for real walking this week. Incredibly, I have a video of Littles pretending to be a statue in a turkey hat from the program today but none of Tiny walking. My priorities are sadly out of whack.

5. Does anyone feel all Thanksgivinged out before Thanksgiving actually rolls around? It's not that I dislike Thanksgiving (it's one of my all time favourite holidays), but by the time I finally get to Thanksgiving I will have attended four other Thanksgiving meals. It just seems a little overkill. Unfair thinning of the turkeys, I say. But bring on the pumpkin pie.

6. Trig-dog gets really sad when he has no email.

7. I have a Cars band-aid covering a massive bug bite on the back of my leg. I am the coolest. In contrast, mystery bug bites are not cool at all. They are as terrifying as Christmas cards. Is my leg going to shrivel up and fall off?

8. I have to stop myself from spewing a ridiculous amount of stories about Tiny and Littles on here. Like how Littles asked me if he could take swim lessons with a turtle or maybe a dolphin. Or how he told me his first story last week (Once there was a little cow, and he was very nice). Or how I walked in on Tiny at two in the morning bouncing up and down in his crib with no pants or socks in sight. Or how he already thinks he's funnier than he really is (okay, as ten month olds go, he is pretty funny). This is just the tip of the iceberg but I realize that not everyone comes to my blog for the sole purpose of stalking my children. For those of you that do, however, I will leave you with this:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fear and Failure, White Noise and Writing

My computer has been comandeered by the boys. In our desperation to get Tiny to sleep through the night, we are using it as a white noise machine during naptime and night time. This should be great, except that I have trouble writing when they are rampaging during the day, and all my cool pictures for the blog are on the Mac. So aforementioned Mac is playing ocean sounds absolutely guaranteed to make our baby sleep through the night (they haven't) while I type up pictureless blogs on the Man's PC. This is how the world goes...

I've been thinking about writing lately. Not just writing, really, because I write pretty frequently, but writing to be read. The truth is: I'm a chicken. It's not even the fear of having someone tell me that what I'm writing is absolute rot (though that's there too), but the way that words can bounce back at you from the silence. And the echo effect makes them sound incredibly pretentious and idiotic. Ever noticed that?

I'm learning to risk more. I've put more out there this year than I have in a while, but the fear is always there, and it would be so much easier to just Not. There is no risk involved in sitting on the couch watching a movie. There is no risk involved in going through the motions at home. But I'm not sure I want a risk free life at this point. It's baby steps, and I acknowledge that. I'm not writing a three part novel and sending it in to a publisher by any means. But even just typing this blog while my husband plays a video game and reads over my shoulder invites that little trickle of fear that challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and venture into uncertainty.

It's an every day process to look myself in the eyes and ask, "What is it that you are afraid of doing?" and then go do that very thing. But I think the results might be worth the effort.

The results of my computer-turned-sound-machine are not so promising. My prayer life, on the other hand, is spiking in preparation for the day when I can pray for something other than a semi-decent night of sleep. You win some, you lose some.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bath and Book Combo

Every once in a while I have a day when all I want to do is take a hot bath and read some E. L. Konigsburg. Today is that day. I reached that conclusion somewhere between folding yesterday's laundry and loading the dishwasher with french toast encrusted plates. Tiny systematically upending the contents of my diaper bag may have had something to do with that as well.

Anyway, as I said, today is that day. The View from Saturday. Bubble bath. Really ridiculously hot water. And maybe I'll shave that patch of extra long hair on my left knee that I obviously missed in the shower yesterday.

Other women read romance novels, but I read children's books. And I have this deep seated premonition that if I ever make it to my dreamed of bath and book date, I will discover a squirreled away chocolate bar to take with me...

Bathtime reading? Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Joy in the Morning

This morning I wake to primordial screams coming from our sons' room. Upon entering, I discover Littles sitting in bed holding his brace in two hands--broken--again.

My frustration is tangible. Vibrant, if you will. Most definitely, loud and possibly a bit abrasive. Even after I realize that all he had done was take out a screw that I can very easily replace.

It's just not nice waking up to 1. full throated yelling, 2. the potential rearranging of an entire day to get the brace fixed, but worst of all 3. my own lack of grace and patience as a parent.

The screw replaced, the tears dried (Little's, not mine), two sopping wet diapers and a bed sheet changed, and I drag myself to the kitchen to get breakfast on the table. And that's when I hear myself:

Today is a bad day.

I've brought the day in to court and acted as judge and jury. I pound the gavel, and it is so.

Except that it isn't.

Because regardless of the lies with which I brand my life, real Truth reminds me that This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! And I know that joy is in part an act of obedience. The coffee is still brewing in the pot and my mind is working double time to function past all the trips out of bed with Tiny throughout the night, so I scramble for truth and come up with the children's song:

This is the day, this is the day that the LORD has made, that the LORD has made...

I sing from obedience (but also a little bit of desperation) as I slice pumpkin bread and hand out sippy cups, and the croaking of my morning voice is joined by Littles, a smidge off key and off tempo, but so lovely. From habit, I continue:

Hari ini, hari ini harinya Tuhan, harinya Tuhan. Mari kita, mari kita bersukariya, bersukariya...

The words are just as true in any language. And that's when I hear it: my stubbornly monolingual son singing along. In Indonesian. And it's my first hint that today is absolutely not and never will be a bad day. It's my morning gift from the Lord. As I choose joy, He pours out more.

So I let the boys rampage in the kitchen, creating a joyous noise with the pot lids, as I drink my coffee and write and listen. Listen because every few minutes Littles sings, "Hari ini, hari ini..." Just that short phrase, but it's enough.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Bevy of Books

I picked up Randy Alcorn's If God Is Good again this week. I say "again" because my parents gave it to the Man about two years ago and we started reading it at the time, made it about 50 pages in, and then lost our momentum. It's been sitting on my nightstand since then, glaring at me. And now I'm guilt-free and thoroughly enjoying it.

But that's not what this post is about. The boys and I went librarying this week and picked up a couple fun books that I feel the need to share with you about.

So here you go.

As shortly, sweetly, and succinctly as possible and in no particular order:

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away by Elanna Allen. Super adorable, great illustrations, not just for girls, funny even for adults, and full of my favourite colour--green. I now want to run away, or at least let Littles run away (and possibly Tiny). But the very best part? Her dog is named Puptart. Yes. Puptart. My favourite line: Little girls don't mow lawns! Grown-ups do!

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by author Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld. Hands down the best truck/bulldozer/machinery (stuff with engines and wheels that boys like, you get the picture) book that I have read. And I've read a lot of them. The chalk drawings are whimsical and sweet (my favourite part is when the crane truck cuddles up with his teddy bear), and the story is written in rhyme and meter that actually flow, which is more rare than you would think...

Press Here by Henré Tullet. Quirky and lovable. Plus, teaches important things like "left" and "right" and how to follow silly directions. I'm enamored.

And finally...

Moose on the Loose by Kathy-jo Wargin, illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello (which may be the coolest last name ever). All that needs to be said about this book is that after reading it, Littles wanted us to get a moose and I decided that the next time we PCS, we'll get moose antlers to carry all our stuff instead of a U-Haul.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Smelly Memories

I love this country
It's dark outside, and the stars are still out as I stand over my battered kitchen sink peeling an orange for Little's lunch. As each curl of peel falls into the disposal, the scent of citrus greets me and, with it, memories. Memories of sitting carefully, knees together, a plate of wedding food in my lap--rice, curried vegetables, spicy meat, a midget banana, and one small orange with its thin peel holding the slices together into a glowing globe of celebration.

My mother used to say that wedding receptions in Indonesia were about her three least favourite things: smoke, trash, and really loud sound systems. If I force myself, I remember that too, but mostly when I look back, I remember the food and the scent of jasmine (this is called selective remembering, ha!). The physical act of peeling that orange transports me back to my awkward childhood self, trying to tuck too-long legs neatly beneath a folding chair.

The sense of smell does that for me often. The smell of clove cigarettes brings memories of the streets of Indonesia, crowded with street vendors, beggars, scrawny chickens, and overflowing public transportation. The wafting scent of fresh baked bread  takes me back to Jordan and sitting scrunched between my sisters in the back of a taxi, tearing off chunks of fresh baked bread as we drank in the sights. And the smooth aroma of percolating coffee always reminds me of waking up at my in-laws, knowing that the Man's father has a pot of decaf brewing on the stove for me (yes, on the stove--no cop out coffee pots for them).

I suppose what I'm saying is how grateful I am for the gift of my nose. Although on the whole I think noses are a little weird looking if you think about them too long, they help me to remember. And while sometimes that makes me homesick, most of the time, it just lets me enjoy being momentarily transported elsewhere.

And then Reveille plays, and I'm back in my kitchen, filling up a Thomas lunch box and getting ready to start another day. A door bangs open, and the sound of running feet greets me. Littles throws himself into my arms for his morning hug and says, "It's still dark outside, Mommy." That's right. And I've already made a PB&J and put a note that you can't read in your lunch box. Labour of love, dude, labour of love...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween and Horses

Our train jack-o-lantern. Littles was thrilled.
At 7.33, I closed down shop.

If you didn't make it to our house before then, tough luck. At that point, Tiny was crawling after me to the door for every trick-or-treater, sobbing desperately. It could be because he wanted to nurse and go to bed OR because in my distraction, I'd allowed him to chew on a bite sized Butterfinger that he'd managed to rip open with his extremely pointy teeth. Guess we can now rule out a peanut allergy. I kept Littles from being terrorized by the creepy children coming to our door by allowing him to watch all the way through The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, which will probably terrorize him in a whole different way (cheese curls?!?!). I think he thought the kids at the door were bringing us candy as I kept coming back to the couch with the bowl full again (topping off in between, you know). Anyway, another Halloween come and gone. Hurray...? Worst. Holiday. Ever.

But if you want to see some cute kids in costumes, I did semi-dress up the boys for the fall festival on Sunday.
Lumberjack Tiny. His beard was a bit sparse,
but his pimple could've had its own zip code.
Prepster by day.
Superhero by night.

There is one last thing I want to say, in regards to the below picture. Really, there's enough for its own post, but I'm not going there, at least right now. Do you see my beautiful little son? All he wanted to do at the fall festival was sit and watch the horses. Bouncy house? No. Take a picture with the person dressed up as a dog? No. Go around and see the trunks at Trunk or Treat? No. Ride the horses? No. Touch the horses? No. Just sit and watch them. I did get him to throw some "mean"bags, but only if I held his hand. 

Initially, I felt a little frustrated for him. Frustrated is probably the wrong word. I just know how much fun he could have if he would let himself. Bouncy houses used to be his favourite thing in the world; now he just wants Mommy. But I am learning to be grateful for the son I have right now. Not just the son I used to have and not the son I may want to have, but the son I have right now. This goes for Tired Tiny (who sleeps in two hour blocks) as well. And for my husband who is frequently the undeserved brunt of my "fixing" spirit (that's a nice way to say "critical"). Every time I look at this picture of Littles, at his perfect smile and his happy eyes, I'm going to try to remember that. Because if I can just chose to enjoy who and what I have in that moment, if I can just say thank you, if I can just sit down on the grass and watch the stinking horses for a change, I might find myself with a memory that transforms everything.

And may I say, he didn't get the horse thing from me.
They kind of creep me out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fire and Trains

If there's one thing people know about Littles it's that he loves trains. Specifically Thomas, but any train will do in a pinch. If he could, he would wear Thomas shirts every day and Thomas pajamas every night, and on the rare occasion that Tiny has worn clothing with trains, said clothing was in danger of being ripped off of him. He has three different toys trains that he prefers not to ever share, and if he could, he would spend all day looking at Aunt A's train pictures online. Consequently, the highlight of his visit with Neni and Aki was the trains, because while we may have planes galore on base, the town they live in has a regular train route just three blocks from where my parents are staying. Every morning at breakfast he would hear the train and every night at dinner and several times in between, and it never failed to illicit thrills of joy. Aki was roped into drawing train after train after train, and even loving Aunt J sent over a train set for Littles to play with while we were there.

So taking him to the train station to see a real live train was a no brainer. Best. Day. Ever. Right? Little's excitement was unparalleled. The train came rumbling into the station, rattling and roaring as it slowed to a stop and then it sounded its horn, long and loud. And there was Littles with his hands over his ears, crying.

I thought to myself, in retrospect, isn't that just how we are about God? We love the idea of Him. We love to think that we know everything there is to know about Him. We read books about Him; we talk about Him; we diagram and debate and decipher Him. We think that we are on the inside track (no pun intended, but you're welcome to laugh if you like puns) when it comes to God. But then He comes rumbling into our lives, rattling and roaring and making perhaps a brief stop, and He doesn't have to stay long or be loud because we find ourselves shaken to the core. That is the only response to His presence.

Our God is a consuming fire.

Think of Moses in Exodus 33. All he saw was God's back, and his face shone so brightly that the people of Israel couldn't look at it. Or Isaiah in Isaiah 6 whose response to seeing the Lord was to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips!" Yes, there are times when He speaks to us in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19), but how often do I come into His presence expecting gentleness, a pat on the back, a cup of tea and some tissues when there is just as good a chance that He will respond with fire?

As Lewis so poignantly says at the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, "He's not a tame lion." He's not a toy train. And it is presumptuous of me to not expect to be just a little terrified in His presence.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Discovering Home

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. And getting back into the swing of things. The Man helped me clean the house when I got back, and we have groceries in the fridge, and our three (count them, three) autumn decorations are up. It's a new day. Incidentally, when I went in the boy's bedroom this morning to get them out of Tiny's crib (Littles likes to join him for some pre-dawn playtime), I discovered every single stuffed animal and blanket from both their beds thrown into the middle of the floor. Littles gestured to them proudly and said, "Look at our decorations, Mommy!" I like the way this kid thinks.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get life straightened up and organized again and have that mean regular writing through the month of November (along with other things). We'll see how that goes. Regardless, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be faithful in the little things and I think one of my challenges with that is my entertainment addiction--I'm trying to be honest here. I love to be entertained. And sometimes when the boys are finally asleep (finally...wait, did I mention finally?) I like to just sit on the couch and shut off. It's hard for me to remember that allowing myself to be entertained is not the same as allowing myself to rest. Sometimes doing "nothing" is more exhausting than doing something purposefully and well, whether that be writing or finishing up a project or even just that last load of laundry for the day. I say all this and I just finished off Season 4 of Parks and Recreation with the Man and loved every minute of it. Especially the minutes that were accompanied by ice cream and cookies.

I'm including a couple pictures from our trip just for your viewing pleasure and for my own enjoyment. Even though there are no fall trees here in Altus and our house is consistently covered in pet hair and cobwebs, I am so glad to be home. I like putting my boys to sleep in their own beds. I like cooking in my own kitchen (even though some of the dishes had been lovingly reorganized by the Man while I was gone). I'm even enjoying rubbing the pets between their very furry ears. And it should go without saying that I'm happy to be back with the Man because, well, he makes my life happy and does things like carving a train jack-o-lantern and hanging a picture for me without being asked and reading the boys books in very silly voices. That's home for me, more than the leaky windows or the falling off closet doors. And I want to make that the truth I live out because I realize that in some way I am home for them too. I want to make sure that means something worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seasonal Waiting

The expiration dates on the cartons of milk in my parents' fridge read November.

The leaves in the trees outside their house have turned gorgeous shades of crimson and gold and ochre and are falling now, spinning through the air until they land crisply on the cold ground.

My suitcase stares at me from beneath the window, and my son asks me nightly when we are going home.

I have the flu. And so we wait. But it's more than that. This is a season of waiting for me. It's not a passive waiting--I am learning to be faithful in the small things; I am learning to pray--but it is a waiting none-the-less. The Lord has asked me to close my mouth and open my hands and...wait.

It is frustrating for me. I am good at being lazy but I discover that I am not good at waiting. This round of the flu has confirmed that in me. Littles tucked me back in bed this morning with Rolly and Blue Blanket, telling me "good night" and "get better", and I laid in bed and tried to sleep (I really did) but I was mentally twiddling my thumbs and thinking about packing the car or doing a load of laundry or, try not to laugh, mopping my own kitchen floor. Finally, I turned on the lamp, propped myself up in bed, and tried to pray, and I heard again: wait.

I have lists of things that I want to do (some that I've convinced myself I need to do): dreams I want to accomplish, art I want to create, projects I want to set in motion. It's hard for me to remember that these things aren't going anywhere and that, even if they are good things, doing them at the wrong time means I'm doing them for the wrong reasons and doing them for the wrong reasons makes them worthless.

This is where I am right now. This is where I am because when things start happening I want them to be because He is making them happen not because I am. It's time for me to stop striving to fix and to straighten and to perfect. There might be a time for that later, but right now: It's time for me to wait.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! 
Psalm 27:14

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I stole my mother's camera...

...and these are some of my favourites.

The fact that his hand is a blur is not an accident. Child is into everything.

I found out that my hatred of chalk was come by honestly: this was a sacrifice of love on my dad's part. It just feels so scummy on your fingers. I desensitized myself while I was taking art classes in college, but the desensitization unfortunately wore off before I got a sidewalk chalk obsessed toddler. 

Littles loves locomotives.

My two little guys adore their Aki, and I adore those autumn leaves. If you're wondering where I am while the rest of the family is sidewalk chalking, I'm probably curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of something warm. Autumn makes my life so happy.

Tiny is almost the same size as my mom. Obviously he got his genes from me, not Neni. And I love how Littles is hugging her from the back. She's like a miniature grandmother.

I have a bit of a blog about trains and the fear of the Lord waiting in the wings (try to contain your excitement), so check back in the next few days. I also have a little blog about memory and the sense of smell that's writing itself in my mind late at night when I can't sleep. So don't let me forget or flake out! And in the meantime, revel in the sight of my adorable children and those gorgeous leaves.