Sunday, December 28, 2008

Asking for Prayer

If you are keeping up with the (scant) news over here in the TwoSquare family, you know we have been sick for awhile. Basically, at least one person (and usually more than one) in our family has been sick since before Thanksgiving. Right now, I am fighting the lingering effects of a head cold I developed before Christmas and my be getting an ear infection. Both boys have gotten the cold and seem to be getting ear infections. I'm afraid to take them to the pediatrician for fear they may pick up something else. My husband is still dealing with a cough that developed around Thanksgiving and is on his second round of antibiotics, hoping it is just bronchitis and not walking pneumonia.

Add to this the physical exhaustion of labor and life with a newborn. Then there is my fear that the baby will catch one or all of these sicknesses. (Even though I am breastfeeding, it's hard to know who has had exactly what viruses.) As you can imagine, we are not having an easy time over here. I don't even feel like I am getting to enjoy these first days of new baby time. Such precious days that I can't get back. We are sick of being sick. Thankfully, my mom is here for most of this week. Otherwise, who knows what we'd be doing.

If you are the praying sort and think of it, we'd love your prayers. And if you are our friends, you may want to stay away from us for awhile or just stop by to see the baby at the door. Coming inside may be dangerous!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Choosing a Name

A conversation at our house last night:

Daddy: "What do you think of baby (first name)?"

Calvin: "I have told you guys thirty-seven times. His name is NOT (first name)! It's Gandalf Wall-E! Why do you keep calling him (first name)?"

Maybe I should call him Gandalf Wall-E on this blog? Nah...But what then?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Unto Us a Son is Given

Hobbes kept saying that Christmas Day was the day the baby would come out. We thought he was just confusing the baby Jesus and our baby. Turns out he was right.

After slow contractions from 1 am on and a quick and crazy 1-hour trip from 4 cm to birth, baby boy 3 arrived at 7:22 pm on Christmas Day. He weighed in at 8lb. 4oz, and has a full head of dark hair (completely unlike his blonde brothers). He is sweet and beautiful and seems to be a self-soother (also unlike his brothers).

What a Christmas Day!

Though I will not post pics or a name on this blog in order to keep it anonymous, I am happy to e-mail them to my regular readers. Just let me know.

Now off to rest. And Happy Second Day of Christmas to those of you celebrating!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Preparing the Way

I didn't intend for this Advent season to be one of silence on my blog, but I just haven't felt like writing. We have been so busy around here, in a good way, preparing for Christmas and for the new baby. Whenever I have had time to write, I have chosen something else instead...reading to myself or my boys or taking a nap. But I have been thinking. Here are some of my scattered thoughts.

Being this close to delivering a baby at Christmas brings an entirely new perspective to Advent. The hymns and scriptures we are using at church often have multiple meanings for me now as I sit uncomfortably in a folding chair feeling a baby push into my ribcage and wanting oh-so-badly for him to come already! In some strange way, it heightens my awareness of what it means to wait in the brokenness of this world for God's Kingdom to be fully ushered in, for all pain and tears and misery and weariness to end. As I say, "Come, quickly, Jesus!" my body is saying, "Come, quickly, baby!"

I have been thinking about Mary and how tiresome and difficult that journey to Bethlehem must have been. I can barely handle riding in a car on paved roads these days, and she was on a donkey on rough terrain.

3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Maybe when God issued this prophecy He was also making a literal command: "Someone get those roads smooth for that poor pregnant woman carrying the Messiah!" These are the crazy thoughts that go through my head at church.

Prepare Ye The Way
As I fold baby clothes and wash diapers and clean the house, I occasionally have the presence of mind to also prepare my heart for the coming of Jesus and for the celebration of His birth. I am not super-spiritual, and part of me wishes I had seized this chance for meditation and spiritual preparation more fully. Still, I am busy in the daily and seasonal tasks of cleaning and decorating and nurturing and resting. I suppose most woman throughout history didn't have time to meditate on the spiritual significance of these things, either. They were too busy just doing them.

Even so, the slow ordering of our home, the daily rhythms of our Advent traditions, and the gradual emergence of Christmas decor are preparing our home and our family for His coming. In the same way, whether I meditate on it or not, my body is doing the work of making a baby. With every stray contraction and sore muscle, my body is preparing the way for his coming, hopefully soon.

Now, if only we could decide on a name...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sometimes I have...

...lots of things to write and no energy to write them.

...a very messy house and no energy to clean it.

...very funny and sweet boys and no energy to play with them.

...very disobedient and mischievous boys and no energy to deal with them.

...a house to be decorated and presents to be wrapped and no energy to do it.

You get the picture. I think I'll go take a nap on the couch now. Anyone want to cook our dinner?

Friday, December 12, 2008

7 Quick Takes-Or Why You Haven't Heard From Me Lately

Jen at Conversion Diary has started hosting 7 Quick Takes on Friday. I love the idea because it allows me to share a few things going on around here without writing a full post. These days, that's all I have time for, and here's why:

1. Advent-We are definitely enjoying Advent around here, but trying to set aside time to be reflective while preparing for baby and Christmas is proving to be a challenge. Let's just say I have new respect for my mother and mother-in-law and anyone who ever had a baby near Christmastime. It makes things much crazier!

2. Nesting-As noted above, I am pretty busy getting ready for this baby. After three nights of contractions that were just a little too long, I finally got my husband to bring the baby things down from the attic. Now I am busy washing and folding tiny clothes, shopping for things I will need and trying desperately to get my house in some sort of order. It is amazing how much more chaotic it seems around here than usual.

3. Cold season-Around our part of the country, this is the worst cold season I've seen in a while! All of my friends have had multiple illnesses descend on their homes. Around here, all four of us have had a nasty cold and cough thing for nearly a month. Both boys have had pink eye and ear infections, and now we are fighting another little cold. I am considering quarantining us until after the baby is born.

4. Hobbes-We have been getting him evaluated for speech therapy over the past month. Turns out that he skipped a major developmental stage in his know, the one where kids learn to make the basic consonant sounds. Thanks to his verbally advanced older brother, he jumped right to complicated sentences and vocabulary that we, unfortunately, cannot understand. Can I tell you how excited I am about finding time to do therapy with him with a newborn?

5. Calvin-Seems he decided to hit another difficult development phase right before things got busy around here. It has been a rough month, to say the least. But we seem to be coming out of it. Today he has been helpful and cheerful and downright cooperative. Let's pray it continues!

6. Sleep-I am sooooo tired these days that whenever I have time to write, I have to choose sleep instead. My body will do nothing else. Is it child neglect to put your four-year-old in front of a movie or computer program while you nap with the two-year-old? If so, I am in big trouble.

7. Gift shopping-I am actually enjoying having the excuse to scale down the gift shopping this year thanks to the baby. I finished all of my shopping in one day, thanks to my mother-in-law watching the boys. We are doing a few presents for immediate family, and even many of those are "gifts" through charitable organizations' gift catalogs. It is so freeing to give gifts that help someone instead of searching for the perfect something that someone doesn't really need!

So there you go. Not too exciting, but at least you know why I have been silent lately. Really, I am mostly just moving inward as I meditate on the changes to come. For once, I am not finding writing helpful at all for reflection. Maybe there will be some time for that in the days to come, once I get the external things a bit more organized. I do need time to get the thoughts in my brain a little more organized, too.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Change I Can Believe In

If you read my blog at all, you know I am passionate about saving Appalachia from Mountaintop Removal Mining. This is a really cool site. The top 10 ideas for change will be presented to Obama. Go vote!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waiting and Preparing

Five weeks to go. Is that really all? I feel completely unprepared to welcome this little one into the world. We haven't even decided on a name! The baby clothes are still packed in the attic, along with the infant carseat. The crib, though set up in our room, is full of other projects that I have going on, evidence of my very feeble attempts at nesting. Thanks to my dear friends at church, I do have some of the essential baby supplies. If worse comes to worse, we have one new outfit that isn't packed in the attic and a few disposable diapers on hand.

Even more than that, I wonder if our family is ready to welcome this new baby boy. Calvin and Hobbes are certainly eager, asking nearly every day how long it will be until the baby comes out. But my husband and I are so busy and tired these days, him with classes and a huge deadline at work, me with church and the boring details of life that have to be taken care of...not to mention running around after two very energetic boys. On top of all of that, we have spent the past week being sick ourselves or staying up with sick boys. The weariness of life is weighing heavily on me.

In the midst of this exhaustion, I find myself more grateful than ever for the rhythm of the church calendar. While I enjoy the routine and work and growth of ordinary time, the coming of Advent offers a welcome reprieve, a time to slowly and intentionally prepare for the celebration to come. I am so thankful for the traditions that we established last year and for the experience that we had as we observed Advent as a family.

We will continue those traditions this year...

a lunchtime reading of scripture and placing of the Jesse Tree ornament as we follow God's own story of preparing for His child...

slowly enjoying our Christmas picture books and adding some new ones...

a Saint Nicholas Day celebration with gingerbread cookies, this year with some friends joining us for a little party...

evening prayer with the Advent wreath and the Story of His birth slowly unfolding...

gradually bringing out the decorations and assembling the nativities...

and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve...

As we observe these traditions, slowly preparing for His birth, making gifts and doing a bit each day in order to be ready for the celebration, I will be doing my own preparing. A bit each day. I'll pull down the tiny clothes, wash and fold. I'll pack a bag and make notes about whom to call when. I'll clean out the crib and finish the nesting and organizing. Just a little each day while beginning to imagine life with this new babe. I'll wait and prepare until my home and my heart are ready for that magical moment when a slippery, screaming new baby is placed in my arms and my heart grows even bigger to hold the love I didn't know I had.

And I pray that all of our hearts will find ways this season to prepare, a little bit each day, for the coming of the Babe whose life, death, and resurrection make all things new.

For more reflections on celebrating Advent, visit the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions at Kerry's blog. Posts will be up on Friday.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Keeping Me Up At Night

And I'm not talking about the baby, though his kicks are getting strong enough to wake me up and the reflux and aching hips of pregnancy aren't helping. Mostly, I have been unable to sleep at night because I am thinking about this post and this one and this one.

The abortion issue is one I have always felt strongly about, but for some reason, this election has brought it even more to the front for me. Perhaps it is my cynicism of politicians and government in general. I just don't see how any of them do much good for the economy or the environment or many issues. At least, what they do gets overturned by the next president and so often doesn't have lasting impact. But I do see that they could do lasting harm or good to the soul of our country on this one issue.

And then today I read this article. While I honestly don't know what I would have voted on Prop 8 if I lived in California, I do wonder what is wrong with our society. While many people I know would have voted "no" on Prop 8 and are also pro-life, I know even more who would have voted "no" and are pro-choice. How can one argue for the fundamental right of a gay couple to marry and not vote for the fundamental right to life of another segment of our society? A gay or lesbian couple might live a relatively happy, self-indulgent, carefree and safe life, even without marriage. I am not denying that there is real hatred and violence toward gay couples out there or that not being able to marry isn't painful. What I am wondering is how avoiding that pain is fought for as a fundamental right by the same people who fight for a woman and doctor's right to inflict immense pain on an innocent child?

Surely the rights of the most innocent of us not to be ripped violently limb from limb while conscious and to be left to die on a cold metal tray or suffocated in a hazardous waste bag is even more fundamental. (If you think abortion is less than that, then check out some of Jen's links on this post.) Surely without the right to life, the right to marry whom and when one wishes is not even an issue.

There is so much I could say to try to convince people of this, but I fear our culture has been too blinded to the evil of it. We are unwilling to look at the gruesome facts because the intense anger and false rhetoric on both sides of the argument blind us to the very simple truths at the heart of the matter: the truths that we have dehumanized and are systematically killing a portion of our population. I do ask you to take a look at the posts I linked to above. They say it so much better than I.

And if you read those and agree that this baby in my womb has a right to live, even if he were to be unwanted by me (because there are plenty of loving couples out there who would want him), then please go and sign this petition.

Lord, have mercy.

I realize that this post just skims the surface of a very big issue. I am not averse to answering counter-arguments, but please do not post them just for the sake of posting them. I have read some version all of the counter-arguments there are, I assure you, and I am still convinced, more than ever, of my stance on this issue. So feel free to ask respectful and thoughtful questions, but please keep it civil. Thanks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family "Rules"

It seems my posting during this pregnancy is going in fits and starts. I have days and weeks of great energy and days and weeks where I can barely manage parenting, much less housework. Writing, and even reading, take a back seat on those weeks. Part of the problem is that both Calvin and Hobbes have been going through phases of difficult behavior this Fall. I'm sure much of it is due to Hobbes adjustment to school, Calvin's growing independence since he turned four, and both of their minds adjusting to the idea of a baby in the house. Nonetheless, there are some definite behavior tendencies that we need to be more consistent about dealing with now, while they are young.

With that in mind, we have decided to institute some sort of system that rewards good behaviors and discourages bad. Something more than consistent timeouts and other disciplines is in order. I had thought of doing a sticker chart, but I am copying a good mommy-friend of mine instead. We are going to have four basic behaviors that we work on, written out and visible to the boys. I am going to put marbles or small, polished stones (from a craft store) in a clear cup. When one of the boys expresses a good behavior, we will move a stone from the full cup to an empty one. When they do something negative, we will move a stone from the reward cup back to the original cup. Once the reward cup is full and the starting one empty, we will get some sort of family reward, like a trip out for ice cream.

Calvin has helped me to come up with the list of good behaviors, and he seems excited about the idea of having some visible sign of how well or poorly he is doing. I think this will really motivate him to work on some areas. I'm hoping Hobbes will go along with it because his brother is excited. (He usually does.) So here is our list. (I plan to put a scripture reference or two with each in an attempt to begin some scripture memory with the boys. Number 2 is specifically addressing our main issue with Calvin, and number 3 is mostly for Hobbes.)

In our family...

1. We respect daddy and mommy by obeying them the first time they ask without grumbling or complaining.

2. We use kind and polite words when we talk to others. (No violent language, talking back, interrupting, or yelling.)

3. We respect one another's need for space. (No hitting, biting, kicking, or grabbing.)

4. We work together to make a clean and welcoming home for friends by cleaning up our things when we are done playing and by doing our daily jobs.

Please tell me what you think, should I add or delete any? Any editing suggestions? Does this sound like a good idea? I am excited about the idea of collective reward, because I want to emphasize that these behaviors are about us as a family, creating a home of peace and respect and laughter. I am hoping it will help the boys works together, especially as Calvin would have a tendency to get really down if he had a separate reward system and wasn't doing as well as Hobbes. This way, it's not all dependent on him. He's already anxious enough as it is, no need to add pressure.

I'd love to hear what you think, especially the more experienced mommy-types out there. I am definitely up for suggestions!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Link Love

My friend, Farrah, makes the most lovely ring slings (and her babies are pretty cute, too). She's hosting a party over at her online shop through midnight Friday. So if you need to buy a unique, handmade baby gift for someone or want a little sling love for yourself, head on over. The details are in this post.

Also, it's hard to believe, but Advent is just around the corner. Last year, I participated in the Anglican Advent Carnival and met all sorts of wonderful bloggers. Kerry is hosting the carnival again this year, so please head over and visit her site if you want to participate. Submissions are due by the 23rd. You won't be disappointed! You need not be Anglican to participate, just liturgically minded.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Hope Lies

Some scriptural perspective for my friends who despair too greatly or who hope too much in this day, for neither reaction reflects our reality.

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

33:1 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

4 For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Name, Name, Bo-Bame, Banana-fana, Fo-fame...

So, we need a name for this baby. The trouble with having a third boy is that we have had a great girl's name lined up for awhile now (like four years or so), but we are running out of boy names that we like. Since you don't know that actual names of our other two (no, we didn't REALLY name them Calvin and Hobbes), you may have trouble helping us out. Though if you know us in real life, you have an advantage.

Just so you know, each of our boys has a Biblical first name and literary second name. We are thinking of going with the same idea this time around. I am sort of lobbying for using my dad's name as a middle name, so if you have a good literary and Biblical name wrapped into one that would help my cause.

So...feel free to leave your suggestions. While we're at it, I need a blog pseudonym for him, too. There aren't any other male characters with names in Calvin and Hobbes (except the bully), so I need help. The boys really want to name him Wall-E, but I don't think I can use that, even on a blog.

If you read this blog, you probably know me enough to know what I like for a real life name. Any good old Appalachian names will get top consideration, as will names from Southern literature. Just remember that we want our boys to be named for people whose characters are worth living up to. No Thomas Sutpens around here, thank you very much.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Little Things

I had a revelation tonight. This time with little people under my feet really is going to fly by, and soon I will miss it. I don't know how many times people have told me that. Heck, I have told people that many times! But it never really sank in until tonight.

We had a rough weekend with Calvin. All of the excitement of Halloween combined with a lot of social events and tons of sugar made sleep difficult and behavior a disaster. But, whether difficult or fun, as each day goes by he is becoming more of a male and less of my little boy. He spends significantly less time cuddling and playing quiet games and a lot more time imagining monsters and dragons and turning everything into weapons these days. There is so much more rough-housing and craziness in our house lately, and Hobbes is being pulled right along with Calvin as he enters this new world.

I do not begrudge him this growing up, though we are working on curbing the violent imagination and replacing it with stories of courage and adventure. I know that he needs more time outside imagining that his swing is a space shuttle or his ball bat is a weapon for fighting monsters. I am trying not to demand too much cuddle time and to just enjoy it when he offers. I am learning to respect his space (and hopefully, he is learning to respect mine).

I do already regret how much of his preschool years I spent worrying about the little things. The laundry and dirty dishes and floors that needed sweeping never did seem to go away. In fact, they are still with me. But Calvin's sweet, funny little toddler self is already becoming a memory. I don't think I totally let it go by unnoticed. We did really enjoy the funny and sweet moments. But I wish we had enjoyed them even more, slowed down to savor his quirky attempts at humor and his precious cuddles in our bed in the mornings.

Perhaps we can never enjoy those moments enough. The mundane stuff of life is always happening around us, calling us away. Clothes do need to be cleaned and meals cooked. So many little things demand my attention. But the most important things are those boys asleep in the other room.

So tonight, when Hobbes asked me to lay with him as he fell asleep, I did. There was laundry to be started, a weekly menu to write up, and plenty of e-mail to answer. All of those little things waiting to be done. But they had to wait 15 minutes...while five little fingers that are growing bigger every day gripped my thumb and pulled me close...while little eyelashes settled over sleepy eyes...while little breaths became slower and slower...while a little brother kicked inside my womb...because those are the little things that matter.

Now if only I can remember...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For All The Saints...

I just went back to read my post from All Saints' Day last year. I'm sorry to say that we didn't get around to doing anything special this year, once again. We had such a crazy weekend and an incredibly difficult parenting day yesterday that we were lucky to get to church this morning. (Thank God for the time change!) I was glad we made it. Despite my completely missing the Holy Day, we still managed to get a good dose of it at our service, and I was reminded why I love this day.

The whole service was about the reality of the Kingdom of God and the hope and security that we have in that Kingdom. We sang some of my favorite hymns, and the pastor preached on the freedom from fear that comes from knowing that, ultimately, Christ is King, resurrected and coming back. Those who know Him will also come back, to a Kingdom fulfilled, a life beyond our imaginings. We don't have to fear death or hardships or uncertainty if we live in that truth.

It was a timely message, with the election coming in just two days. Whether you are excited or fearful about the election, the truth is that God is the supreme authority. Our actions may determine the next President, but God already knows whom that will be and what the outcome will be. No President can save our country, neither can he destroy it, outside of God's will. I suppose the message is, do not fear either candidate but also do not hope too much in the power of either candidate to save our messed up country. The only right recipient of our fear and hope is the one who rules over all nations. Makes the election results seem small in comparison.

Be still and know that He is God.

A verse from one of the hymns we sang today. (It's one of my favorites.)

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Friday, October 31, 2008

In Need of Your Opinions

Okay, my dear readers (if any have stuck with me during this period of silence), I need your help. As I prepare to bring home boy number 3 into this family, I am trying to get Calvin and Hobbes ready for the changes. I am not too worried about Calvin. Even though he often has difficulty with change, he has had plenty of time to get used to the idea of a baby, and he will settle well into the role of mommy's helper and protector of his baby brother. He may have some difficulties, but I am hopeful that the transition will be a joyful one for him.

Then there is Hobbes. Since Calvin was only a year and a half when Hobbes was born, I never had to deal with a sibling losing his status as "the baby." Calvin had not had too much time to get used to being the spoiled only child. He was so young that he quickly forgot life before Hobbes, and though he was slow to warm up to his brother, he never really acted jealous or seemed to feel threatened.

Hobbes, on the other hand, is definitely a mama's boy and the baby of the family. I think this transition is going to be super hard for him. I don't think he is terribly spoiled. In fact, it is easy to tell when he tries to pull the youngest card and act pitiful to get what he wants. It doesn't work. But there are ways in which I still treat him as my baby and ways in which our relationship is going to change. The biggest difficulty is our naptime routine.

You see, I rock Hobbes to sleep at naptime. I didn't always do this, but lately we have fallen into the habit. I do it partly because it is expedient: he goes to sleep quickly this way without eating up too much of Calvin's and my quiet time. I also do it because we both enjoy it. Calvin was not a cuddler and didn't like being rocked. Hobbes loves it. Because Calvin often takes up so much of my emotional energy and time, Hobbes doesn't always get the one-on-one time with mommy that he needs. He and I both crave those 15 or 20 minutes of rocking and cuddling and singing. It is our bonding time.

So this is where you come in. Should I start weaning Hobbes from this process before the baby comes? Part of me thinks there is no way I can keep doing it with a newborn in the house, but another part thinks it is worth a try, even if I have to rock with him beside me while I am nursing. I could try to come up with an alternative for us to have bonding time each day, but this is the best time. Hobbes is settled and Calvin is in his room with books. I am just not sure what to do. I'd love your suggestions, especially those of you with multiple little ones who have been through this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great With Child

I still don't have much to say these days. While writing is usually a good outlet for me, I feel like it is more of a chore lately. Reading, however, will never feel like a chore (unless it is trying to figure out our sample ballot for the election).

As I look toward the end of this pregnancy, (Can it really only be nine more weeks?), I have pulled out an old friend. Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness, and Becoming a Mother by Debra Rienstra is my favorite pregnancy book. In fact, it is the only pregnancy book I own or find worth reading. I have read it with each of my pregnancies, and I still find her reflections worth meditating on again and again. Each time I read it, something different strikes me. This time, I was surprised that she, too, was a little disappointed to find out she was having a boy.

Really, I cannot do the book justice in a review. You should just read it. Her weaving of the experience of pregnancy and motherhood with literary allusions, feminist theory, and theology is astounding. I will give you just a few lovely pieces:

On Creating Life
The longing to create life is elemental, on the level of fire, earth, and death. The steadily humming tissues and organs, as they play out their unconscious patterns, long to serve something spiritual, to touch the eternal. Perhaps the mortal body snatches out toward the immortal body. I believe that immortality is not a matter of disembodied spirits floating about in some cloudy afterlife, but of flesh, the carnal, renewed and perfected beyond our imaginings, reborn with all of creation. It does not seem strange to me, then, that our physical bodies lean hard, with our souls, toward the eternal (3).

On Blood
After all, we bleed because the world bleeds. Life is always paid for with suffering and blood. That is the way of the fallen world. Women know this in their flesh...if one must cycle through the sad and dark in order to perceive and receive the light, and if women's bodies are designed to model this same kind of cyclical movement, is that design a pain or a power?...We women don't shed our blood for sins, ours or other people's. But we do shed it, typically, amid some sadness, and we do shed it for the possibility of new life. Does this not give us a kind of connection to Jesus that has been very little discussed or appreciated...Because I see Christ's bleeding at the center of redemptive history, can I also see women's bleeding resonate outward from this, across all ages of history and races of women (16-21)?

On the Desire for Children, Fulfilled or Unfulfilled
Desire is the psychic engine that drives us toward God. It is not wrong to desire something good, to desire it deeply, earnestly, tenaciously. It is not wrong to grieve when this good thing is delayed or when it never comes. I believe God understands and honors desire, even when that desire will finally be answered with a "No."...Even in desire there must be an openness that is not exactly a welcoming of grief, but a sober acknowledgment of the possibilities, a willed acceptance of the risks (31).

On Mary and Surrender
Mary's task was the bearing and raising of a child, which can operate as a symbol of all things that require great effort and bear fruit far beyond the personal rewards involved. But the literal bearing and raising of a child is indeed a calling, a mission, and moments of joyous surprise and expectation have the shadow of a cost. I think this is why the first several weeks of pregnancy typically feature an assortment of discomforts: we need reminding...that if we foolishly imagine for a minute that parenthood is an accomplishment or achievement or right, sooner or later something will smack us with the realization that it is, above all, a surrender (41).

On Women's Work of Waiting
Nothing is so uncomplicatedly wholesome and holy as this. And how rarely in history has it been acknowledged as women's good work. Labor and delivery, obviously work because of the pain and danger, have received sympathy and concern through the ages, but too often, as the cursed analogue to Adam's sweaty toil in the soil, childbirth pain is celebrated in misogynist writing and talk as exactly what those vile women deserve. (How often have women written gleefully about how men deserve every weed they pull?) Nevertheless, the quieter work of pregnancy is part of women's massive and profoundly beautiful contribution to human history, and while its archetypal image is imprinted in human culture, the inner experience of it, the soul-work of it from the woman's point of view, has been passed over mostly in silence. Perhaps this, too, is why I write: to speak from out of that silent place (51).

On Fear and Nightmares
If I had greater faith, would the dreams not come? Would I awaken to stronger feelings of comfort and reassurance...If this is all a matter of hormone levels, then does that mean that hormones influence the state of our souls, tipping the delicate balances of fear and trust? As far as I know, this question represents completely unexplored theological territory. While I am waiting for theology to catch up to women's reality, what should I do with my fears? (65)

The book only gets better from there, exploring a theology of the body, what it means that our days are ordained by God, and so much more. It is such a lovely, honest piece of work that does not gloss over the difficult sacrifices of motherhood or the very real grief and fear that come with trying to conceive. Rienstra only begins to delve into some very interesting theological concepts that apply to the experience of women and have yet to be explored. She offers thoughtful alternatives to our culture's current views of feminism and sexuality. In my opinion, you should throw all your other pregnancy books away and just read this one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise..."

We went to the mountains last weekend to enjoy the Fall color and see my family. The boys had a fantastic time hiking to Linville Falls and searching for treasures of leaves and acorns along the way. Calvin and his daddy ran ahead of us several times and hid, jumping out to scare us with monster noises. Hobbes and I pretended that the tree roots were dinosaur bones and we were fossil hunting. And Nana was along to make everything perfect. On the way back to TN, she drove the boys in her car, and we returned on the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying these fantastic views of the back side of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct.

Since I am busy pricing items for a yard sale tomorrow, I leave you with this feast for the eyes. Enjoy! (Unfortunately, the color is a bit off, the reds were even more brilliant, but something happened when I saved the photos for the web...)

Linville Gorge (looking away from the falls)

Grandfather Mountain

the Blue Ridge from the viaduct

Linn Cove Viaduct and the Parkway

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One-Issue Voter

In case you hadn't noticed, things keep getting quieter around here. That's not because it's quiet at my house. I'm busy purging and preparing for a yard sale, nesting and reorganizing for baby, and falling asleep every time I take a break and sit down. Anyway, don't expect to hear to much from me for awhile, but I am still reading your blogs and thinking some thoughts of my own. I just don't have the energy to write.

I rarely watch TV, and my only news source in BBC News Hour on my local radio and the occasional NPR. As the election season heats up, I am intentionally fasting from the media as much as I can. I haven't watched more than 5 minutes of debates (and that was the first one), and I don't read anything that folks have to say about the candidates. I think that debates and media coverage are totally useless, so I read the candidates websites, listen to a few of their older speeches, and try to discern which choice is the best.

My problem this year? I don't like either candidate. I want to. I really do. Come to think of it, I haven't liked either candidate in any of the elections I have voted in. Maybe I have something against politicians. Maybe I find it hard to like insincere people. (And please don't start gushing to me about how one or the other of these candidates is completely sincere...they are playing a game.)

Traditionally, I tend to vote mostly Republican. Stereotype me if you want to, but I vote that way for one issue. I really like babies. I think babies are humans from the moment of conception, and I don't think anyone has a right to end an innocent life. I also think that a society that slaughters 800,000+ of its most innocent citizens a year is a pretty screwed up one. If we can't get that right, what can we get right? The Old and New Testaments are pretty clear that the devaluing of innocent life was the one thing that really ticked God off. He's a pretty merciful and gracious deity except on that issue.

BUT, Republican Party, I have something to say. You have had my vote for this long because you know how to play the pro-life ticket well. That does not give you license to do what you want with the rest of the world. I like babies, but I like other people, too. I think we have an obligation to help the poor in this country. I think that war that ends innocent lives should be avoided at all costs. I think that the sick have a right to receive medical care. I think women facing unwanted pregnancies need our support. I think we have an obligation as the wealthiest of nations to help the poorest of nations. I don't think that liberty or happiness or safety are the highest virtues. I do think that compassion and justice and concern for the poor and widow are pretty high up there. So don't take my vote for granted. If you want to keep it, show me that you care about all life, not just the unborn or how they happen to further your political agenda.

And Democratic Party, you do at least try to get some of these things right. I appreciate your efforts, I really do. But until you learn to value the most innocent and needy of lives, I am going to find it very hard to trust that you really care about those you want to help.

I am a one-issue voter. I want to vote for the candidate who truly cares about protecting all life. Problem is, no one supports my issue, at least not all of it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book Therapy

I feel like I am living several lives right now...that of the mother of a very complicated but amazing four-year-old, of the mother of a very stubborn but sweet two-and-a-half year old, of a woman in the last months of preparing for a baby...of a wife, follower of Jesus, and so many others. I am navigating so many streams, and none of them seem to be converging. Perhaps that explains the variety of books I am tackling at the present time. I am usually a one book kind of gal, but I feel the need to be reading all of these.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Three pages into this book, I knew it was what I had been needing. The author describes Calvin perfectly. I am a third of the way through it and have already learned so much about how to parent Calvin well and how to help him manage the world around him. People often don't believe me when I tell them he is different than most kids. It is so hard for people who don't have an extra-sensitive, extra-perceptive, extra-intense child to understand.

When Calvin has a meltdown or a stretch of bad behavior, I tend to blame it on my bad parenting or to get really angry at him. This book is giving me a language for understanding Calvin's unique personality, an ability to see his intensity and sensitivity as strengths to be channeled into good behavior, and methods for avoiding meltdowns and preventing discipline problems. Really, I wish I had discovered this book two years ago, when Calvin's emotional outbursts really began to show themselves. I am so glad I have it know, as the outbursts are becoming more angry and violent. I am learning to see what factors lead to an episode and to control his environment better in order to help him avoid big problems.

Great with Child: Reflections of Faith, Fullness, and Becoming a Mother by Debra Reinstra

This book made my top 100 list for good reason. This will be the third time I have read it, and with each pregnancy I enjoy it more. It is such a fantastic meditation on motherhood and on being a woman. I love how Reinstra weaves her faith, the physical experience of pregnancy, and feminist literary traditions together as she reflects on her third pregnancy. I tell all of my pregnant friends to throw their pregnancy reference books away and just read this.

A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot

I have promised to write a more detailed post on this at some point, and I will. In the meantime, I do want to recommend it. While Pierlot's approach is a little too detailed for me, working through the book and questions has been a good exercise. I am still figuring out how to do a schedule and make charts and bring my kids along on this adventure of getting our lives more ordered. I think it will compliment what I am learning about dealing with Calvin's intensity. It will also help me to be sure I am setting aside time for those other lives: mother to Hobbes, wife, and follower of Jesus.

Family reading...
In other news, Calvin is having some book therapy of his own. My husband decided the other day that it was time to introduce our son to Tolkien. He has been reading a little of The Hobbit to Calvin every evening, and I am enjoying listening, too. I'm not sure how much Hobbes is listening, but he does love the songs. So far, the dwarves' clean-up song at the beginning is their favorite...Chip the glasses and crack the plates!...That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!

Books. I am not sure what our family would do without them. What are you reading right now? I want to tackle some fiction soon, but I have enough stacked up in my book basket for the time being.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Three Sons

I am slowly adjusting to the idea of having another boy. Three's better than three girls once the teenage years come along. A friend in my Bible study passed this along to me from The Mother's Almanac:

Three Sons

There must be a special place in heaven for the mothers of three sons. Your certainly can tell them on earth. They're those ladies with amused, bemused faces and an amazing tolerance for disaster--for they have learned that shouting doesn't help.

No other combination of children, not even twins, can create so much chaos or camaraderie. Even the most introspective child will join the team--them against you--and like all good players, they encourage each other to bigger feats of daring.

We recommend the advice of so many successful mothers of three boys. Give them as much outdoor playtime as possible, and indoors, set up two rooms: one for sleeping with nothing but beds and bureaus, and the other for playing, with much climbing equipment. With three children, one is bound to be quieter than the others and he probably will need a corner somewhere else.

You will be frazzled in the early years but when your boys grow up, we think you'll find yourself perhaps more treasured than most other mothers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Year in Review

My one year blogging anniversary has come and gone. Tonight, since the boys went to bed early, I sat down and perused my archives, remembering what I had written and what had happened over the past year. It was a good exercise, one that helps me to be thankful for all of the good things God has done in my life and the ways I have grown over the past year.

For those of you who haven't been around the whole year, here are some highlights of the past year:

-the origin of a blog name

-my current cause

-my favorite meditations on parenting

-our worst (or best) parenting moment

-my favorite pastime

-the time I chose to take up a controversial topic

-my sweet, strong-willed Hobbes

-Calvin and his -isms...there are just so many

-a favorite Grandma recipe

-on being an Anglican family, Advent, Lent, and other holy days

And if you want some deep reading to get more acquainted with my history, you can read any of these posts.

The best part of this blogging thing has definitely been the folks I have met over the past year. Even if you don't want to go back and read any of my posts, please do check out the posts of these lovely ladies, who are just three among many:

Kate at A Telling Place, who is a fellow Appalachian living in Scotland

Kerry, a fellow Anglican and local foodie, who blogs many places, including at A Ten O'Clock Scholar

And Tipper, whose posts about Appalachian life and music at Blind Pig and the Acorn never fail to make me homesick

Genesis 3 and Parenting

I have been thinking a lot about my parenting philosophy and practices lately (or my lack thereof). I know I am doing something wrong, but I am still so unsure of what that is.

In my Bible study group today, we were talking about how to apply the truths of Genesis 1-3 to the world of parenting children. A couple of really important things came up as we looked at how God interacted with Adam and Eve after their sin. We noticed that he met them in gentleness and love, getting his own hands bloody to create a covering for their shame. My pastor's wife pointed out that God did not curse Adam and Eve. Certainly the serpent and the ground were cursed, but the words that he gives to Adam and Eve about the pain that life would bring were not a curse or a threat. They were just an explanation of the way things would be, the consequences of their sin. When God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden, it was a chance for redemption. Instead of living eternally in the garden in brokenness, they were promised a new life, healing, hope that would come from God.

So what do these truths have to do with parenting? They must be applicable if our role as parents is to mirror God's role as our Father.

First, God always acts toward Adam and Eve out of gentleness and compassion, not out of pride or anger. Though he is the offended party, God approaches Adam and Eve in love. He asks gentle questions, giving them a chance to see their errors and to take responsibility for them. When they don't take responsibility, he does not attack them or walk away in anger, he simply explains the consequences of their sin and reminds them of his love. There is still discipline, but it is not a discipline that heaps on more shame or condemnation.

How often do I deal with my children's disobedience so gently, still showing them the consequences of their actions but not letting my pride be offended? Is my goal to defend my pride or to help my children see their error, accept the consequences, and still know that they are loved? Do I approach my children with compassionate questions or harsh, self-righteous words?

Second, God never forced Adam and Eve to obey him. He left them a choice, a tree from which to eat or not to eat. When they made a bad choice, he dealt with it. But he never stepped in and muscled his way between Eve and the serpent, grabbing her wrist and forcing her to drop the apple. Sometimes we wish he had, but what would the result have been? Obedience, yes, but obedience out of fear and obligation, not out of love and respect.

How often to I try to muscle my children into obeying me? What results do I see when I force obedience instead of teaching it in a relationship grounded in love? Resentful, angry attitudes arise when children are coerced and strong-armed into good behavior. Rather than muscling, I need to practice modeling. Do I show others (my husband and even my children) the love and courtesy I expect my children to learn? I can still be the authority without being authoritarian.

Finally, God chose to cover Adam and Eve's shame, their nakedness, through his own initiative. He respected their personhood, their value as people created in his image. He did not leave them in a state of guilt and vulnerability or tell them to go off and deal with their brokenness alone. He loved them beyond what they deserved.

Do I value my children as unique creations in the image of God? Do I willingly step in to cover their shame at personal cost to myself? This does not mean taking away the consequences of their sin. It does mean making sure that they feel secure and loved so that they do not live in shame or wallow in guilt. It means practicing redemptive love that frees them to live in hope, to strive for better.

I am still working out how this applies on a very practical level. A few things I do know:

It means yelling less and approaching in love more, by using a calm voice, gentle questions, loving touch, even in the midst of discipline.

It means not parenting by coersion or threats. My children are learning every day what it means to make choices. When I ask them to do something, I don't need to threaten. God certainly told Adam and Eve the consequences of eating of the tree, but he did not threaten them with his power or authority. It was enough to tell them lovingly the way of things and to calmly explain the consequences of their actions. My children do not need me to tell them all the time that I am in charge and can punish them. They will learn that either way if I am firm about showing the consequences of sin and enforcing the rules.

More than anything, my children need to hear and see and feel from me every day that I love them, that I respect them as God's unique creations, that I have compassion on them sometimes even beyond what they deserve.

Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why I'm Not Blogging...

My one year blogging anniversary came and went, and I missed it.

The presidential debates came and went, and I missed them. (Though I hear I didn't miss much.)

The first day of Fall came and went, and I missed it.

Funny kid stories have gone unrecorded. Deep thoughts have been tucked away for another day. Movies and books to be reviewed have been shelved. And my last trip to the farmer's market yielded lots of lovely produce but no photos or post.

Why the blogging lull? One word: nesting.

This weekend I completely rearranged the furniture in our tiny house to open up the space and make room for baby. With the help of my dear husband, we switched the boys' bedroom with the spare bedroom/office. While I watched UT lose yet again, I completely rearranged the living room. I am purging closets and dressers and dark corners of the house. All empty space that I created by my furniture rearranging is quickly being filled with items for a yard sale. Our 1200 square foot house is in total chaos with no hope of returning to normal until the yard sale is over.

And then I was hit with the sudden urge to fix everything we have talked about fixing for the past two years we have lived in the house. Bathroom floors, exterior that needs a good pressure washing, weed-covered flower beds, other tiny imperfections that drive me crazy...beware! Anyone know a good tile guy?

Hopefully I will return to the world of sanity and down time soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008


The weather has been as inconsistent as my mood lately. We've had lovely, crisp, sunny days of Fall followed by a cold and rainy Thursday. And today it is warm and muggy, the skies threatening to burst but waiting until we are all good and miserable.

Around here, I have had days of relaxing and enjoying my boys and days of ragweed induced headaches. I have had bursts of energy to begin cleaning and purging and rearranging to make room for baby, and today I am fighting off depression and grumpiness, trying not to let it affect how I interact with my kids and not doing a very good job. Needless to say, the boys' behavior has been as on and off as the weather and my mood, affected by both.

Despite it all, we are managing to enjoy a few things. We took an exploring walk on Tuesday and found some wonderful Fall treasures to decorate our house, acorns and leaves and pinecones. (Oh, yes, and moon rocks, of course. The space obsession continues.)

And we picked up some wonderful books at the library this week. I think I have found two new authors for the boys and I to fall in love with. Daniel Kirk's Moondogs has all that my boys love right now, space and adventure and a moon monster. His illustrations and subject matter are perfect for boys, and the rest of his books look just as promising. And then there is Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. What and absolutely charming book! The boys and I were enthralled and have already read it half a dozen times, at least. If I get out of this funk, we may even try to make some leaf men for ourselves.

I am loving Kerry's recipes these days. We have a lot of squash to use up from our CSA box, and her baked butternut squash and apples were fantastic. We had cinnamon raisin bread last night and loved that, too. In fact, I have never tried a recipe she's posted that I didn't like, all simple and fabulous.

Finally, I am trying to fight the funk by working through A Mother's Rule of Life and putting some of it into practice. I think it is going to be really good for me if I can find someone to keep me accountable to living it out. Circumstances are not likely to change much for me anytime soon. In fact, I am going to be even more tied to home and children in a few months. I suppose it's time I start learning to live this vocation well, giving thanks and glory to God for the gifts He has given, even when I think I want something else.

What are you enjoying these days? Any suggestions for good books, good recipes, or fun Fall activities? I am in need of some inspiration.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A to Z...

Kids are tiring me out these days. Glad someone tagged me. Have nothing to say of my own.

Tagged by Elizabeth.

A: Attached or Single? Very happily attached for 6 1/2 years.
B. Best Friend? the guy I'm attached to
C: Cake or pie? pie, in general, unless we're talking Grandma's chocolate cake
D: Day of choice? Saturdays in the Fall! Football!
E: Essential Item? Does sleep count?
F: Favorite color? all colors in bold, deep shades, Tennessee orange?
G: Gummy bears or worms? sour patch kids
H: Hometown? ooo...somewhere in the mountains of East TN (This IS anonymous.)
I: Favorite indulgence? Chai latte and a cinnamon scone
J: January or July? January in the South, July in the Midwest
K: Kids? Wearing me out...cute as will I handle three?
L: Life isn’t complete without? mountains, good literature, learning, God
M: Marriage date? You figure it out.
N: Number of brothers and sisters? 1 brother, 3 sisters-in-law, 1 bro-in-law
O: Oranges or apples? oranges
P: Phobias? small spaces (literal and figurative)
Q: Quotes? "Screws fall out all the time, the world's an imperfect place."
R: Reasons to Smile? the smiles of my boys
S: Season of choice? Autumn!!!!!!
T: Tag 5 People: I don't like tags. If you are reading and want to do it, go for it.
U: Unknown fact? I've never eaten a McDonald's hamburger.
V: Vegetable? crisp asparagus
W: Worst habit? interrupting
X: X-ray or Ultrasound? Well, I've had a lot of ultrasounds over the past four years.
Y: Your favorite food? Grandma's cooking, all of it.
Z: Zodiac Sign? Capricorn.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"...o' mice an' men..."

a post for those of you who always tell me how well-behaved my children are...

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men...

  • pick boys up at preschool
  • unload groceries
  • read books with boys
  • settle Hobbes in bed while Calvin has quiet time
  • settle Calvin down for a nap
  • do some work and rest a bit
  • put bread in bread machine for dinner
  • have snack time and do a craft for Daddy's birthday
  • pick up veggie box from CSA
  • cook dinner to serve with yummy bread while boys play or watch video
  • welcome hubby home for dinner and birthday
...Gang aft agley,
  • pick up boys from preschool
  • unload groceries
  • read books with boys
  • settle Hobbes in bed while Calvin has quiet time (so far so good)
  • casually mention to Calvin that he might want to try a nap
  • spend next 30 minutes trying to calm Calvin's emotional meltdown and convince him that holding him gently is not hurting him, just keeping him from hurting himself or me
  • send Calvin to bed with a book while I rock a completely awake Hobbes to sleep
  • spend another hour alternately listening to Calvin melt down, bursting into tears myself, having a discussion with Calvin about speaking respectfully, trusting Mommy, not being violent, and finding healthy ways to express his emotions
  • leave room having completely given up
  • return when a calmed Calvin asks for help sleeping, even though it is really too late for him to nap
  • enjoy 15 minutes of detox time until Hobbes wakes up, having wet himself and his bed
  • change Hobbes and give him a snack, forget to feed self and baby
  • rouse Calvin from bed just in time to run out for CSA box
  • return to wash wet bedclothes in time for bed tonight, realize I am starving
  • throw children on hubby as soon as he comes home and heat up leftovers for dinner
Sorry, love! So much for a peaceful birthday evening.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Snapshots of a Weekend

There are times when I forget my camera and wish I hadn't. This weekend was full of those moments. So that I won't forget them, I write here.

...a trip to a local dairy's country store for ice cream, two boys sitting on hay bales in the back of a horse drawn wagon as we bump around the edge of the cornfields, feed for cows drying in the hot end of summer...

...Calvin with his double chocolate ice cream all over himself...forehead, ear, chin, shirt and shorts...

...Hobbes contemplating his mint chocolate chip cone so seriously as it dripped down his hands and arms...

...Calvin, when asked what he wanted to order for lunch today, pointing at the menu and saying, "I want the cheese pizza with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese." That was exactly what it said...

...Hobbes in his red and white Hawaiian print shirt, following carefully behind a white chicken with red comb in Gram's orchard, saying, "May I please pet you chicken? May I please pet you chicken?"...a lovely shot of red, white, and green in the late afternoon sun...

...both boys helping Gram pick watermelon, beans, and tomatoes in the garden on a warm, sunny, Sunday afternoon...

It was a pretty good weekend. My team even won.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Help Me Save a Mountain!

Please, please, please!!!!! This is more important than the babble I usually write here. Read it and take action. We're talking about people blowing the tops off of beautiful mountains and polluting the air and water, forever changing the topography of a region, and putting people in danger. Will you join me in doing something to make a difference?

Please take a few minutes to sign this petition to save Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. Massey Coal company tried to begin blasting today and was stopped by the governor, thanks to e-mails, phone calls, and the petition. The citizens of that area are offering a fantastic alternative of harnessing the mountain's wind power for clean energy while allowing some underground mining to continue for coal.

In case you don't know, I am a bit passionate about saving my mountains from mountaintop removal mining. If you don't know anything about the damage this horrible practice causes, watch this video. With MTR, the Coal River Mountain will only provide about 14 years of coal supply. If the mountain can be saved, the energy harnessed from the wind is endless and coal can still be mined responsibly.

If you want to do more, check out this site. And if you haven't already, plug your zip code into the box on my sidebar and find out your connection to coal. Leave a comment and let me know you have helped!

Thanks for helping save the most beautiful, rugged place in America!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Goodness of Old Friends

Today I am thankful for...

...a friend who let us live with him in our poor grad school years and whose home and generosity we still return to on visits...

...three wonderfully fun and godly couples with whom we have shared so many meals and laughs...

....God's faithfulness as those couples have prayed and cried and rejoiced our way through incredible loss and beautiful blessing...

...the community of Christ, which survives moves across the Atlantic, and even across the Mason Dixon, and hopefully one day across the Pacific...

...committed, kind, missional professors who are still happy to see me after all these years and who don't think I am wasting my potential by teaching my own children instead of college students...

...holding yet another little boy born to one of the best mamas I know, a boy who is even more of a gift than most babies because of the path his mother has walked...

...his mother and two other beautiful, strong, intelligent women whom I am blessed to call friends...

...women who can reunite after years apart and feel like no time has passed, who love me despite my propensity to talk too much and listen too little, who graciously open up their lives and homes to us whenever we return to see them...

...and most of all, for these same women, who don't judge me or try to make everything okay, who know just the right way to respond, when I surprise myself by being a little bit disappointed that it's another boy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Boy or Girl?

Now that I am very obviously pregnant, I often get stopped when I am out with the two boys. Complete strangers will come up to me to make comments.

"Is this one a girl?"

"Bet you're hoping for a girl this time!"

"Trying for a girl?"

I don't know why, but this really irks me. I love my boys. I actually wanted to have two boys. I think I am better suited as a mom of boys, and the thought of having a girl scares me a bit. If we have another boy, we will be more than happy. Having a girl might be a fun, if scary, change. Of course, as you other parents out there know, we will love our child no matter who he/she is.

I remember wondering when pregnant with Hobbes how our family dynamics would differ if we had another boy or a girl. I remember thinking there was no way we could handle another child. I remember wondering how we could possibly love another as much as we did Calvin. And then Hobbes arrived. Now our family would feel incomplete without him. Of course Calvin needed a little brother just like Hobbes. That was how it was meant to be.

The same questions are floating around my head this time, about how our family will change once this baby arrives. One thing I do know. Once I hold this baby in my arms, our family will feel incomplete without him or her. In fact, it already would. This child already has a place in all of our hearts.

With both Calvin and Hobbes we chose to wait until birth to find out what we were having. I loved the mystery of not knowing this little person inside of me, and I am not sure how to be pregnant without that element of surprise. That is why I am hesitant.

We brought it with us to Illinois, the envelope that has been sealed and in my dresser drawer since our ultrasound six weeks ago. Our plans were to open it this evening, as we gather with three dear families, families that used to be couples and have now grown to include 11 children age 5 and under. We have 8 boys and 2 girls and our little mystery.

I know that I will love our baby. I know that our baby will be just what our family needs. I just don't know if I want to know if it is a boy or a girl...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Bags Are Packed

Well, actually, my suitcase is at my sister-in-law's, the house needs to be cleaned, I have laundry to put away, and I am nowhere near ready. Nonetheless, we are leaving tomorrow for a long weekend with some dear friends. Not that you have heard much from me lately, anyway, but I thought I should explain my absence. Be back next week!

Oh, and in case you are following the Hobbes situation, he cried again this morning when I dropped him off at school, despite his best efforts to control it. I'm so glad Calvin is there to grab his hand and distract him. I hope this will get better.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

But It Can Get Worse

Update: My friend, Catherine, tells me that Mr. Rogers is gone from all PBS stations. Please consider e-mailing your local PBS station and the national organization, asking them to return the best children's show on television. (Go to and send an e-mail from the "help" page.) I truly cannot imagine my kids growing up without Fred Rogers' compassionate, respectful, and loving way of interacting with children. It just makes me sooooo sad.

Unfortunately, things have gone downhill since yesterday.

My team lost. In overtime. With a missed field goal. To and unranked team. They looked terrible.

And then I just discovered that Mr. Rogers is no longer being shown on our local PBS station. No Mr.Rogers?!?!? It makes me sad to think my kids suddenly won't have access to him anymore. We can't buy DVD's because Mr.Rogers is only available on PBS, no videos for sale. I am almost as sad as I was when I found out he died. If you can't imagine being sad about losing Mr. Rogers, here's why I love him.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Orange Shirts, Football, and Free Chick-fil-A...Does it get any better?

That's right folks. Today is it, the day everyone in my family is forced to wear orange and prepare for the opening of my beloved Vols football season. It's been a good day so far. The boys slept late. I spent the morning on Skype with a dear friend who lives overseas. And we just returned from some Labor Day shopping and a fun lunch. After naps we are headed to a cookout and swim party with church before coming home to prepare for Tennessee vs. UCLA tonight.

What a sight we were today, all four of us wearing bright, obnoxious, lovely orange as we strolled through Babies 'R' Us to buy Calvin a new booster seat for the car. Then we headed to Chick-fil-A for our free chicken strips. If you are near a Chick-fil-A and love it as much as we do, put on your team gear and head over for a free 3-pack of strips.

There's nothing a pregnant mama likes better than having her husband home on a Monday and getting an almost free lunch out! Except of course, watching her team win tonight...Oh, I hope they do!

Wish that I was on old Rocky Top...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Farmer's Market and Football

Time was when I would wake up early on this particular Saturday morning of the year with one thing on my football! I still think this is the best time of the year. I love the opening of the football season. But since my Vols don't play until Monday this week, I was freed up to actually think about going to the market. I almost didn't make it; this baby is doing me in. I woke up at 2:30 this morning feeling like my stomach was going to digest itself if I didn't put some food in it. Needless to say, getting up early to go to the market was not first on this pregnant mommy's mind. But since I hadn't been able to go in a few weeks, I made myself do it.

And I was so glad I did. I always come home from the market in a good mood with a basket full of treasures. This week, I came home with my usual batard, farmer's cheese, and pastries for breakfast and lunch. I also bought two fresh chickens, as we'll be out of town next Saturday and unable to get one. Corn, arugula, radishes, homemade raisins (out of this world good!), radishes, eggs, melon, peaches and mozarella also found their way home with me. I picked up some eggplant and red pepper to add to my CSA goodies this week for some ratatouille.

My favorite finds are always the new ones. This week I stopped by the goat cheese guy's booth and talked to him a bit about his operation. My mother-in-law used to keep dairy goats, and when she lived in France for a few years, she took a cheese making class at a genuine French dairy farm in the countryside. I picked up a bit of chevre for her, though the feta and cheddar were tempting, too. I also found out that they host a dinner at the goat farm once a month. A local chef who uses their cheese gets invited to cook a multi-course meal for a few lucky folks in the old farmhouse. What a great date night when we have some money!

As I was leaving, I had $2 left to spend, so I decided to pick up a treat for the boys. The little guy in the photo (and his friend who is napping with Hobbes) just had to come home with me, finger puppets crafted by a local artisan. I rarely have money left to buy crafts or soaps or any of the fun things that are sold at the market, but these were in my budget. The boys loved them! What made it's way into your basket this week? Write a post and go on over to Kerry's blog to link to the Farmer's market report.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And Sometimes They Cry...

Today was not as good as Monday on the school front. Hobbes broke down into hysterics when I started to walk out the door. I reassured him that I would be back after lunch, reminded him how much fun he had on Monday, and told Calvin to help him adjust. Then I decided it was best to just leave him in the arms of his very loving teacher and go. My staying was only going to make him cry more.

If you read this blog regularly and are the praying sort, please say a prayer for him and for me. I am still not settled on this decision, though I do think that God has led us to at least try school with Hobbes this Fall. And I know that the teachers and principal there are fantastic, and many of them are Christians. The principal even told me this morning that they are doing a space shuttle craft and learning to say "space shuttle" in Chinese because she knows Calvin and Hobbes are really into space right now. The school is small enough that they pay that kind of personal attention to the kids. I know it is a good place; I am just praying that Hobbes sweet little heart is ready for this separation. It was much easier with Calvin, as he was already 3 1/2 and a Daddy's boy by the time he started.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Go Ahead and Try, It's Not Going to Kill You

Today was Hobbes' first day of Chinese preschool. He is a little young to be starting, but the other option was to start him in January, right after the baby comes. We figured he only needed one major life change at once. To say I was worried about how he would do is an understatement. When I try to leave him in the nursery at church, he always cries pitifully, and though he stops crying, he starts up again as soon as he sees me. From what I know, that means he is just waiting until he feels safe to cry.

Our nursery is a very safe and friendly place, full of kids that he sees on a regular basis outside of Sunday mornings. The same woman works in there every Sunday, and the other volunteers and teens who help in there are people he loves outside of nursery. School, on the other hand, is full of people he doesn't know speaking another language. The only thing it has going for it is that Calvin is there. Last Spring, I tried to leave him there a couple of times while I was at a parents' committee meeting. Even with me in the building and Calvin right there to play with him, he came crying to me.

Needless to say, I was prepared for a scene when I dropped the boys off...and maybe a phone call later saying I needed to come calm a crying boy. I was so worried, in fact, the my husband had assured me we could pull Hobbes out if it wasn't working (a substantial financial loss). Imagine my surprise when I dropped him off this morning, said good-bye, and barely got an acknowledgment when I left. Not a single tear.

And when I picked him up this afternoon? He came running to me saying, "I didn't even die, Mommy! Not at all!" Well, I wasn't to worried about that...It sounds much more dramatic until you know what he was actually saying.

And me? I was able to enjoy a child-free morning catching up on some reading and work at a coffee shop and getting stuff done around the house. I don't think this situation is going to be too bad for my health, either.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Around the Bend

I'm in a bit of a blogging slump lately, in case you didn't notice. We have been busy trying to enjoy the last few days of summer before hubby starts back to grad school and the boys start Chinese preschool. With my limited energy level these days, that means blogging has been put on hold.

We have had a good summer, full of swimming and visiting family and enjoying having Daddy home without homework. But I am not sad to see it coming to an end. I think the boys and I are ready for a change. I love this time of year. In my mind, Fall instead of Spring is the time of new beginnings. I love the coming of cool mornings, the smell of nature preparing for hibernation, the anticipation of coming holidays, the beginning of new learning, and, most importantly, the opening of college football season!

In preparation, I am trying to get a bit of order back into my life. I have been working my way through A Mother's Rule of Life in an effort to implement more of a schedule into our daily routine. I'll probably write more on it later, but the process has been good for me. I am looking forward to having a little more self-discipline and finding time for prayer, exercise, and quality time with my family. The time is right. Hopefully we will have some routines in place by the time the baby comes. I know they will change, but it will be good to have a foundation.

The boys are in need of more structure, too, and I think school will be good. It has forced us to get their bedtimes into more of a routine, which we needed desperately. Though I am a bit worried about Hobbes going to school, I know that the time apart will be good for all of us. We have had a bit too much time together with no schedule, and we have suffered from impatience and lots of sibling rivalry. Calvin's burgeoning independence has led to a lot of conflict with me, and we are both ready for him to be in a challenging and stimulating environment a couple of mornings a week.

There are a lot of exciting things around the bend, and I am feeling my energy return. Hopefully that means you will hear more from me around here.

What about you? How do you feel about Fall? What are you doing to prepare for the change in seasons?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nothing to Say, Lots to Love

Despite our recent parenting difficulties, we are find a lot of things to enjoy around the TwoSquare household these days. Since baby brain is sucking all of my deep thoughts, I offer a list of some of our current favorite things.

John Adams
We thoroughly enjoyed this miniseries. It was incredibly well acted, and it was a great look into some American history that I have little knowledge about. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Abigail Adams. The Adams' marriage relationship may be one of the most interesting and inspiring of American history, and this series focuses a lot on Abigail's role in her husband's career. If you're looking for Revoluntionary War action, this is not the show to watch, but if you want to know more about one of the more interesting and confusing figures of that time, I highly recommend it.

The Olympics
I've already mentioned that I am enjoying them. In fact, I am watching way too much TV these days and getting way too little sleep. We only turn the TV on to watch DVD's or football, so this is an overdose for us. I can definitely see how regular television watching would be bad for our family. All the same, I am thoroughly enjoying the games, except for the trampoline. Um, how did that get to be an Olympic sport?

The Jesus Storybook Bible
I purchased this book when it first came out, but we have just recently started reading it. The boys both love it, especially Calvin. We are reading it for our Bible story time during prayer every evening. It is very well-written in a fantastic storytelling voice. Each story points forward to the high point of God's story, the coming of Christ. Calvin is especially drawn in by the emphasis on God's faithful love and promise to ultimately save His people. He is anxious for God to send a hero. It's a great way to introduce children to the narrative of God's history.

Cool Weather
Well, it's cool for August around here, anyway. After last year's drought and 90+ degree temperatures that went into October, this summer has been a pleasant surprise. We have still had some hot and humid days, but we have had many, many days in the 80's. It's still warm enough to swim and enjoy summer activities, but it is bearable to be out past 9:00 a.m. This is unheard of around here in the summer, and we are taking advantage of it. It gives me hope that we will have an Autumn this year.

The Mysterious Benedict Society
I wandered into the bookstore one Saturday looking for some light reading for the beach and came out with this fun kids' book. This is absolutely the sort of book I would have loved as a young reader, a story of four genius, orphan kids sent on a mission to save the world. It's one I'll hold onto for my kids when they get older, and I'll probably buy the next in the series. If you have young readers or are looking for something fun for yourself, check it out. kicks, fresh tomatoes, football previews, kisses and hugs from little boys...