Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

For those of our loved ones who weren't with us this morning, here are a few pictures/videos of the kids this morning with their Christmas goodies.

AJ's "haul" - don't worry - he's sitting down!

AJ opening a gift

"Nooooooooo! Don't make me show off my new duds!"

Learning to unwrap

Learning to unwrap some more!

Not quite sure what it is

"Where's the baby?"

Cutest picture of all time


video
AJ opening a gift. One of these days I'll learn not to turn the camera. Or they'll build a camera that automatically adjusts or something.


video
Joanna opening a gift

Joanna's pretty bow

video
Tidmouth Sheds


video
AJ "driving" a MarioKart on Auntie's Wii

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends and Family,

This year for Christmas, we decided that instead of more "stuff" for each of you who, like us, are insanely blessed, we'd use that money to bless someone who would otherwise not have anything by giving them an animal through Heifer, International.

Here's AJ to tell you which one we picked:




And here's Heifer's description of what a water buffalo will do for the family that is chosen:

Water Buffalo
Helping Hooves

A water buffalo can lead a hungry family out of poverty and give them a chance for a bright future filled with hope and free from hunger.

In poor Filipino villages, water buffalo from Heifer provide draft power for planting rice and potatoes, milk for protein and manure for fertilizer and fuel. A farmer can plant four times more rice with a buffalo than by hand.

Water buffalo haul heavy loads to the market, where the sale of extra produce brings in vital income for clothing, medicine and school. By renting their buffalo to neighbors, Heifer partner families can earn money for home improvements. And one day, those same neighbors might receive a water buffalo of their own as recipients pass on the gifts of animals and training.

Protein-rich milk, strength to till soil, manure to enrich the land ... so many benefits. And, in turn, water buffalo are happy just to graze on coarse grasses and other plants not suitable for harvesting.

My favorite thing about Heifer, International is that the gift is given with the stipulation that they then give _their_ first born female to another family, so this gift could potentially take not just a single family from poverty to being self-supporting, but an entire community!

We love you all and wish you the merriest of Christmases!

Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace, goodwill to men!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MythBusters

So ever since I saw the MythBusters where they tested various objects to see how germy they were compared to a toilet seat, I've had a _REALLY_ hard time touching my dish sponge.  When I clean my fork at work now, I wash it and my hands off with their antibacterial soap after "washing" the fork with dish soap and the sponge.  And I'm not a fan of the anti-bacterial (you know - super germs and such).

Am I the only one who's crazy?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

While You Wait

I'm not usually one for pimping other people's blogs, but this post by Shaun Groves is awesome.  Great perspective.  Great hope.  Possibly even "good news of great joy!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Successes and Random Animalia

So last night, our little ones gave me two blessings:
1) Joanna slept until 5:30!!!!!!  I got like SIX hours of uninterrupted sleep!!!
B) While his timing was impeccable (he woke up at 6:30 to tell me this, so I'd been back asleep for less than an hour), AJ _woke_up_ to tell me that he needed to go potty.  Then he got up, sat on the potty, peed (in a timely fashion), got re-dressed, got back in bed, and went back to sleep!  Not without help, but still.  He might not be in pull-ups forever after all!

Then, after I got them into the car to go pick up CaptainConundrum and get to work, I brought the trash out to the dumpster.  The sides were closed, so I opened one of them and got the scare of my life.  Immediately, a squirrel (who'd apparently been trapped) tried to jump out of the opening.  But then saw me and freaked out and jumped back _into_ the dumpster while I screamed and jumped back.  But then he was scared to come out and I was scared to throw my trash in, so (after I re-collected my senses), I pounded on the outside of the dumpster enough that the squirrel made his escape (angrily chattering at me the whole time - like _I_ was the one who'd trapped him in the dumpster) and I was free to dump my trash.

It was quite exciting.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Getting Bolder

Apologies for any spelling mistakes.  Blogger used to have a spell-checker....it doesn't seem to anymore, for some reason.

Anyway....

Joanna's still not really "walking" yet (although she took her first steps a week or so ago), but she _is_ getting far more confident in letting go of things and standing without support.  She'll pull up on the coffee table, let go, twist her body around, and grab onto the couch.  Not far enough to require a step, but definitely a "step" in the right direction!

She's also hilarious when she's trying to reach something.  She'll pull up on the coffee table, then try to get to the entertainment center, but it's too far to reach, so she'll stretch out from the table as far as she can - arms fully extended, legs spread wide, reaching just as far as she can.  When she still can't reach, she'll usually let go of the table, stand there for a few seconds pondering her next move...........then squat down and finish with a crawl.  The pondering takes longer and longer as she gets more confident though, so I'm sure that any day now, she'll start trying more often to make it without crawling.  She _has_ tried once or twice, but that typically ends up with her on the floor anyway.

(AJ's sitting at his train table having a pretend conversation - it includes our typical him: "but I _want_ to" me: "but you still can't" and several "please"s and "thank you"s....in addition to the occasional "I _said_ please.")

I know some moms fear each new stage (crawling, walking, etc.), but these kids of mine have been so wonderful and wondrous in each new stage that even while I miss them being little, I can't help but look forward to each new day with them - seeing them learn new things and grow into actual little people!

Plus, when they learn to walk, there's less for me to carry!

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Did It!

Woohoo!!! 30 posts in 30 days! I didn't forget even once! I think the birthdays and Christmas/birthday lists helped a LOT, but even so, I did it!

Third time's the charm, I guess! :)

The question now is.....do I continue? We'll see. I'm certainly not going to get out of bed just to post if I miss a day. Bed gravity is WAY too high for that!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Percolation

So our small group is reading the book "The Divine Commodity" by Skye Jethani. I wouldn't say that it's necessarily blowing my mind, but I _would_ say that it's bringing together some scattered thoughts that I've been thinking for years and putting some words to them.

For instance, Mr. Jethani talks about how we, as American consumers, have lost the ability to imagine God actually _doing_ miraculous things. And since we can't imagine it (or to put it in more common "church" parlance, to "have faith like a child"), it doesn't happen. Well, that's not really true....it's not that it doesn't happen, it's that we don't _see_ it happen. Because we don't believe that it could or that God could/would do it. It just doesn't make "common sense" to believe in the miraculous. And our culture is all about the "common sense."

I'm also thinking about what church should and shouldn't be. We've spent so much time and energy making church "relevant" and "seeker-sensitive" that I think we've forgotten that church is actually for those who _ALREADY_ believe. Yes, non-believers will be drawn in (especially as we practice the community aspect of being a follower of Jesus and then show His love elsewhere through service both near and abroad), but the main point of "church" (imo) isn't to "bring people to Christ," but rather to equip and renew those who already follow Him.

And as believers, we seem to think that if we "bring a friend to church," then we've done our job. Nevermind actually _serving_ that friend and meeting them where they are. We just want to get them to join our club.

Back to the imagination aspect, it's like we've run out of ideas for ways to actually _serve_ people. It's not _bad_ to bring cookies to our local fire station...but when we talk about acts of service, why do we think so small? Why do we think of things that will make someone's _day_ rather than change their lives? And it's not to say that bringing someone cookies couldn't be used by God to change their lives...but there are other ways that _DEFINITELY_ will change someone's life. Maybe those take more work? But I don't even necessarily think so.

I don't know....lots of stuff percolating....still not quite ready...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quiet...

So we made a whirlwind trip to NC for Thanksgiving/VNB's birthday - down Wednesday night, back up Thursday after lunch - ~12 hrs of driving in just over 24 hours. Why'd we bother coming back so quickly, you ask? Well, that's because VNB had to work not just yesterday, but this morning as well.

_I_ wanted to sit at home and not go anywhere or do anything - just be _us_, together, for a day without anything we had to do or anywhere we had to go (either individually or as a group).

Well, birthday boy trumps would-be-hermit wife, so we did the trip instead.

But out of gratitude (and since he knew I needed the break), VNB just walked in the door from work, checked something, grabbed the kids, and left until at least nap time. At which point they'll (theoretically) be quiet for a couple more hours.

So I've got the place to myself. No DVDs, no one to care for...plenty to do, but still....it's quiet....no little people underfoot. I can clean something and it actually has a chance at staying clean for a minute our two! (Or I can sit here on the couch under my blanket and write a blog post...you know...whichever is more important...)

I could fix a cup of tea and actually put it on the table without it spilling and/or scalding someone! Or even a glass of water!

I don't have to fix anyone's lunch!

Now to play on the computer until I actually relax, then get up and reclaim my territory with a happy, grateful, and peaceful heart....

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Hump

So I'd have to check to be sure, but I _think_ this is the longest I've made it for NaBloPoMo! Just a couple more days and I can say that I've succeeded!! Woohoo!! (Wait....is that counting chickens?)

Anyway....

So I've been meaning to tell this little gem for a week or so now, but there were always more pressing things to post about.

So here you go:

A few weeks back, VNB took the kids for a Saturday morning to give me a little decompression time (have I mentioned lately how awesome he is? Even though he's OLD?). Since he'd forgotten we'd planned on him doing that, he was at a bit of a loss as to what to do all morning, so he took them to the train store. And since he was there, he bought a train or two. And since he'd bought a new train, he just HAD to pull out his train stuff and make a quick layout on the dining room table, much to AJ's delight.

After a few days of train play, the small group was coming over for dinner at the dining room table, so the trains had to be put away. VNB promised AJ that when we bought a bigger house, the trains would come back out.

The next day, AJ became _very_ insistent that we go to the store. He got upset when I told him that we didn't need to go to the store for anything. After a little questioning, I found out why - he wanted to go to the store to buy a bigger house.

If only it were so easy....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hap Birday Two Three!

Happy birthday to my sweet husband! I am so thankful for you and all the joy you've brought into my life and look forward to many more years together!

Oh....and don't worry about being SOOOOOO OLD! (He's 30 - I'm older, so I can tease him.)

video

(Sorry it's sideways - I always forget not to turn the camera for videos and Blogger had issues uploading the rotated Windows Movie Player version).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Clothes vs. Toys vs. ...

So my SIL (disguised as my BIL) commented on my "what to get my family for Christmas this year" post. Since she raised a question that I think applies to more than her (and since I wasn't sure that she'd get my response if I only replied in the comments), I thought I'd dedicate an entire post to the question.

Basically, she stated that it sounded from my post like I'd rather the kids get clothes than toys this year. While that's true for the most part, it doesn't really capture all that's behind the scenes in that post. And since I think people think that I'm either:
a) overly-protective
b) overly-controlling
c) crazy
d) weird
e) all of the above
I wanted to explain a bit...

You see, my kids don't _need_ anything this year - they don't even really _want_ much (especially Joanna - pretty much you feed her, change her, let her sleep, and play with her occasionally and she's good). Plus, we live in a VERY SMALL condo that's already stuffed to overflowing with four people, a cat, a 55-gallon fish tank, a piano, and all the "stuff" that goes with all of that. At this point, more stuff is pretty much one of the largest sources of stress for (and between) me and VNB. Couple that with the fact that we both scored amazingly low (as in, I got a 0 and he got a 2, I think) on "Gift-giving" as our love language, and getting gifts just isn't important to us.

On the other hand though, we recognize that gift-giving is one way that people _OTHER_ than ourselves show us how much they love us and our kids and we don't want to completely take away that source of fulfillment for them. Nor do we want to deprive our kids of the "fun" of Christmas/birthdays (although we also don't want them to _expect_ gifts, but rather be grateful for any that come).

So, my solution thus far has been to post/email a list of the things that can be given to us which will make us (me) the least crazy while giving the most joy to (or meeting the thing that comes closes to a need for) the kids. Giving them a new VeggieTales DVD, for instance, will still add to the stuff that we have, but it will also give us another viewing option for when we're watching kids DVDs All. Day. Long. So I think the amount of craziness equals out. And while I really have no idea where we'd permanently store a board game for AJ, I also know that those will help him learn to count, which is rather high on my "to do" list at the moment (right now he can get to "eleben" sometimes).

But really, what would I _RATHER_ they have? I'd rather they get something small and you either give the rest of the money you would have spent to someone who really needs it, you save it (or give it to us to save) for someday when they want a car or to go to college or something. The kids aren't going to miss it either way.

The problem is going to come in when we have a bigger place (so I don't have that excuse anymore), but I still don't really want to them/us get any more stuff . We live in such a consumer culture. I _WANT_ my kids to learn to live simply (and _I_ want to be able to live simply) a) so that others might "simply live" (i.e., so that we can give more away), and b) so that they can learn from the beginning that gifts are something not that they are entitled to, but something which are completely unnecessary expressions of love and which should be accepted with gratitude, not expectation.

So that's what's going on in my head. Scary place, huh? It's not that we're ungrateful for any gift you would give us...I just want to maximize the joy it brings to us since I know that will maximize the joy you get in giving it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

La-dee-dah....

Yeah...I got nothin' today....

Uuuuuuuuuummmmmmmm.....

Some enchanted eeee-v'ning.....
You will meet a stranger.....
You will hear him call you....
Across a crow-ded room....

That's what's going through my head right now.

And now I need to go wipe someone else's butt and then get that butt into bed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas, 2009 (and Birthdays, 2009 and 2010!)

Ok, so this post is primarily for our families, so both of you who read this who are not related to me or VNB can ignore this.

We're still REALLY cramped for space, so PLEASE do not give us a lot of stuff. The kids really do have (more than) enough toys.

I've listed their current and upcoming clothing, etc. needs here (AJ and Joanna), and will do my best to keep those updated. I'll put a link over on the sidebar so that way you _should_ be able to just click the link at any time to see what they need, clothes-wise, and what sizes they are (I'll include the date they were last updated in the link title).

If you _do_ buy them toys/DVDs, here is what we have of the Thomas stuff, and here is our current DVD selection. I listed what we _have_ so that it only needs to be updated when they get something new, not every time the companies come out with another something. About the only other brand we're loyal to is Lego/Duplo (i.e., no MegaBlocks, please!). I'd really rather limit the number of "character" things they have, so even though AJ loves "Cars" and lots of other things, try to limit licensed merchandise to Thomas and VeggieTales, please!

AJ is also starting to get into board games. We have "The Ladybug Game" already, but wouldn't mind some of the basic counting/colors games like Chutes and Ladders and CandyLand. I would swear that at one point I saw a "classic" version of CandyLand in Target in a sturdy wooden box that I would FAR prefer to the current version, but I can't find it anywhere, so maybe I was dreaming.

We're pretty maxed out on books (sadly).

For me, I'm going to be getting a set of these (any brand would do as long as it's good quality and dual-driver). You're welcome to contribute to the cause. Alternate ideas would be iTunes gift cards, any Hillsong United CD, either of Michael W. Smith's last two albums (Stand or A New Hallelujah), or Matt Redman's latest (We Shall Not Be Shaken).

For VNB...I think I know what _I'm_ getting him, but I've got nothing to help you out at the moment. Sorry! This is the local train store where he likes to shop, but I don't since my college stalker works there. We don't have the new Star Trek yet though.

Also, one thing that we both want that we _do_ have a little space for would be more of our china. We'd love to end up getting 12 place settings, but we currently only have four. Macy's has finally closed our wedding registry (the gall - it's only been four years!), but the pattern is available lots of places and all that we have is the four place settings. Random other pieces would be welcome as well, but I think we'd rather get the place settings first. The pattern is called Silver Palace and is by Noritake. Here is Noritake's link.

FYI - we're probably getting AJ a toddler digital camera this year for Christmas/Birthday

Sunday, November 22, 2009

She Walks!!!

Ok, really, she steps....with a LOT of encouragement, approximately the same time as her brother (I was just looking back over the blog and all I can find is that AJ took his first steps "a few days" before he was 11 months - she'll be 11 months tomorrow).

We've been trying every so often for the past week or two and she's been getting better with her balance, but it wasn't until tonight that she slid her foot a couple of times. We're very proud of our big girl!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Success!

So VNB turns 30 on Thanksgiving. To celebrate, we did what no one thought we could pull off - a surprise party for him! Except for my excessively poor lying skills (which, really, not a huge problem, if you ask me...), he wouldn't even have suspected anything. Until, of course, he walked into the church and someone in the office asked, "so who's the party for?" He still acted mostly surprised and _was_ impressed with the fact that I'd almost thrown him off the scent.

But we did it, and it was fun, and lots of people came, and we have a LOT of food left over (come over and eat a sandwich, please!).

Even baby Abigail was there to show off her chubby cheeks! :)

The bathroom has all of its drywall again, and slowly things are finding their way back into their places. I even managed to do six loads of laundry today (only five more to go (yikes!) - helps that there are two washers and dryers). Someday, life _may_ even return to "normal." Who knows?

Friday, November 20, 2009

AJ's Clothing Info

AJ's pretty well set for the winter now (thanks everyone!).

If you do see anything you want to buy him, he's currently in 3T clothes, although any PJs that are bought now should probably be 4Ts. I don't know his current foot size (bigger than 7s, that's for sure!). Next time we're at a store with a foot measuring thingy, I'll try to remember to measure his feet.

Looking ahead:
- He's got lots of short-sleeved shirts (mostly 2Ts), but only a few pairs of shorts (all 2T)
- "Balance bike" (not now, wait till we have a house with a place to put it, please)

(updated Jan. 4, 2010)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Operation Christmas Child Hits Home

So today we collected the filled shoeboxes from the church to take to the collection site. Including ours, there were 78! A little down from last year, but I know that there are several folks out there just planning to bring the boxes to the collection site themselves, so we didn't do so badly.

AJ and I filled our box last Sunday night (Joanna and I had bought all of the stuff, but she wasn't so much into the packing). It was VERY hard for my little man to see the fun toys get packed away (along with some soap, pencils, crayons, some copy books, candy, shirts, off-brand play dough, and a few other things), but eventually he got excited about the present for the boys and "dirls" (it helped that he got his own set of play dough to play with). The box has been sitting on the counter since then, and he's mentioned it a couple of times - "Dat p'esent not foh Ay-Day. Dat foh boys an' dirls." He was very excited this morning when the box was clearly ready to leave the house. I had to explain to him that _we_ weren't going to bring it to the boys and girls today, but that we'd give it to someone else who would bring it to them. ("Although," I said, "wouldn't be cool if one day we would get to deliver our own box?!" Planting the seeds early...)

So after our MOPS steering team meeting this morning, AJ helped me load the boxes onto the cart and then into the back (and floorboards) of the car. It was kind of a blessing that we didn't have quite as many as last year since I had an extra passenger (CaptainConundrum) and car seat (Joanna) that weren't there last year (well, Joanna _was_ there, she was just still hitching a ride in my uterus). When we got to the collection site, he helped carry in and stack the boxes, but we saved one for last - OURS.

I'd taken one home from our October MOPS meeting for AJ to help fill, knowing that it might be disastrous, but that it was worth it to teach him early to give to others. He'd been excited when he saw the wrapped box - "Dat foh me, Mom? Dat foh me?" To which I replied, not sure how much he understood, "No, Buddy, that's a present for a little boy or a little girl somewhere else in the world who doesn't have any toys." Thinking that we'd bring it into the store with us when we went to buy the stuff to fill it, I left it in the car, between the car seats.

Every now and then, he'd ask again, "Dat foh me, Mom?" and I'd explain again that no, it was for a little boy or girl far away who maybe didn't have toys to play with. Time passed and passed and there was never a good opportunity to take him out to buy the stuff for the box, so last Sunday after choir practice (when he was _not_ with me), I stopped by Target, and hit their "Dollar Spot" and school supplies aisle. When I came home, AJ was excited to see both the box and the new toys. (Again, "Dat foh me, Mom?" "No, Buddy...") We talked as I packed the box about the little boy or girl who maybe didn't have crayons and paper to draw with or toys to play with or soap. We talked about how they lived far away, about how much God has given to us, and about how that means that we need to give to other people.

He cried a little when the toys went straight into the box, but he was surprisingly good about it, eventually repeating his mantra - "Dat not foh me, dat foh duh boys an' dirls." He was especially upset because the box was getting new play dough, so I was glad when the box was all packed and I could surprise him with his own play dough (which I think has all already dried out or been eaten by Joanna!).

I was reminded at my meeting this morning that if you donated online (you're supposed to pay $7 per box to cover the costs of shipping, etc.), you could print out a bar code to track where your actual box had gone. Since I hadn't yet donated, I borrowed a computer and printed out a barcode for us and taped it on OUR box, which sat on CaptainConundrum's lap the rest of the way to the drop-off location.

After AJ had helped unload the boxes at the drop-off point, I pulled out OUR box from the dashboard. As I handed it to him, I asked if he wanted to pray over it, and he said yes! So we prayed, thanking God first that we had been given so much that we were able to give to others, but then praying that the boy who got our box would enjoy drawing with the crayons and playing with the toys and eating the candy and using the soap. There were tears in my eyes as I thought about how proud I was of my little man, not yet 3, who was so generously and happily giving up fun toys that he would love to a little boy that he'd probably never meet.

Then we got to the stacks of boxes and he started to cry. We asked where he wanted to stack his box and got an incoherent response. Thinking that he maybe just couldn't reach the top of one of the stacks, I helped him put the box down, at which point he collapsed onto the floor, face buried in his hands, boohoo-ing about how he wanted to draw (with the crayons that our prayer had reminded him were in the box). I picked my sobbing boy up off of the floor and carried him to the car (picking up an "I donated a shoe box" sticker along the way), reminding him about his crayons at home and how we were giving OUR box to a little boy who didn't have any crayons.

He calmed down eventually, and I'm still _VERY_ proud of him, but what can I say? He's not even 3 yet. We've done well not getting too much "MINE" from him, but he's still a very little boy.

Someday I'll remind him of this, his first time giving away something that was hard. I think on that day maybe _I'll_ be giving away something hard as he goes out into the world to do the work that God has for him to do. A mommy can certainly dream worse dreams for her little man.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's the End of the World as We Know It....And I Feel Fine...

So I'm sitting here, watching a Discovery Channel offering about the various ways that the world could end in 2012....and I can't help but laugh. They're just so......dramatic......every time they describe some horrible way for millions of people to die due to some natural disaster, they say something to the effect of: "but _that_ may just be the tip of the iceberg" and then they go to commercial. When they come back, they go, for instance, from talking about a specific volcano in the Atlantic that could erupt, cause a massive landslide, and that would cause a ginormous tsunami. They didn't say which way(s) the tsunami would go, but it showed graphics of the entire Delmarva peninsula being underwater. Then there was a graphic of Air Force One with a huge wave crashing over it (the Capitol Building was another favorite to show waves crashing over). Knowing a little bit about that particular geography....there's a LONG way between the east coast and Washington DC (or Andrews AFB, as the case may be). I get that tsunamis (especially "mega" tsunamis) would go a long way inland....but really? A wave significantly higher than the Capitol Building making it _TO_ the Capitol Building? I can see some flooding making it into DC - it is a swamp, after all - but _that_ big a wave? That would take like all of the water in the Atlantic.

Leading up to this most recent commercial break they said what has got to be my favorite line EVER in a doomsday scenario show: "Space is full of lots of things just floating around _looking_ for something to slam into!" I can just see the asteroids out there, chatting with each other - "So have _you_ seen anything good to slam into? Me neither....wait...what's that over there? Oooooohhhh that little blue and green planet looks like it might be fun! Let's slam into THAT one!"

Seriously?

A "disastrous traffic accident in space!"

I _told_ you everything is cooler when you add "in space" to it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Joanna's Clothing Info

Joanna's pretty well set for winter (thanks!). But just in case you find something adorable, she's currently in 9-mo stuff, although 12-mo stuff doesn't quite fall off of her anymore. Since she's really learning to walk right now, I'd rather her be barefoot, so no shoes, please!

Looking Ahead:
- A forward-facing car seat (theoretically she could have this by the end of the year, but there's no way she'll weigh enough by then). We'll probably buy it from Babies 'R Us, so a giftcard could be designated for this purpose.
- Shoes for spring/summer (no idea what size at this point, but probably size 1 or 2) - sandals, "church" shoes, and maybe sneakers.

Please avoid pink, especially in the shirt. I don't mind accents, but I'd rather the base color not be pink.

(Updated Jan. 4, 2010)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thomas Trains We Have

AJ is a HUGE fan of Thomas the Tank Engine and all of his friends. We therefore have ended up with quite the collection of Thomas train cars. We ONLY collect the wooden railway series, so don't buy it if it says any of the following: TrackMaster; Die Cast Metal; or Take Along!

These are the engines that we have:
- Thomas (plain - two - one with a band-aid holding on his face)
- Mud Covered Thomas
- Easter Thomas
- Sir Handel
- Peter Sam
- Percy (came with the Easter Thomas set)
- Lights and Sounds Percy (2 of them)
- Lady
- (Repaired) Hiro
- James
- Psalty
- Mighty Mac (hasn't been seen in a while)
- Gordon
- Henry (hasn't been given to AJ yet)

Other cars that we have:
- Trevor the Tractor
- Terrence the Tractor
- Annie & Clarabel
- Troublesome Trucks (we have the giggling one in hand right now, but I think I've seen the non-giggling one recently)
- Musical Caboose
- Aquarium Cars (Shark and Octopus Cars)
- Winter Caboose
- Milk Barrel Car & Cow Car
- Cherry Picker & Spotlight Lorry (What? They're British!)
- Sodor Zoo Cars (from a different series, but they work in a pinch - have the Lion car in hand at the moment, haven't seen the monkeys in a while)
- Express Coaches
- Harold the Helicopter
- Chicken Cars
- Two plain wooden freight cars that came with the Easter Thomas set

"Sets" that we have:
- Roundhouse (non-deluxe)
- Stacking Risers
- Suddery Swing Bridge
- Round-About Action Turntable

Other cars that we've had in the past, but may or may not still be in our possession:
- Toby (been MIA for quite a while - at this point, we're declaring him officially gone)
- Terrence the Tractor (I've seen him recently)
- Non-giggling troublesome truck
- Sodor Zoo Monkey car

(Updated Apr. 7, 2010)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mmmmmm.......Pomegranate.....

I think the title says it all....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kids DVDs We Have

There's actually a method to my madness here, I'm not just posting something completely random.

VeggieTales:

- The Ballad of Little Joe
- An Easter Carol
- Esther
- Gideon: Tuba Warrior
- Heroes of the Bible (Daniel, Dave & the Giant Pickle, Esther)
- LarryBoy & the Fib From Outer Space
- LarryBoy & the Rumor Weed
- Lessons From the Sock Drawer
- Lyle the Kindly Viking
- Madame Blueberry
- Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella
- Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Sampson's Hairbrush
- Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving
- Sheerluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler
- Sing Alongs: Dance of the Cucumber
- Sing Alongs: I Can Be Your Friend
- Sing Alongs: I Love My Lips
- A Snoodle's Tale
- The Ultimate Silly Song Countdown
- Very Silly Songs
- Where's God When I'm Scared?
- The Wonderful Wizard Of Ha's

Thomas:
- Come Ride the Rails
- Free Sampler DVD: Fun With Thomas, Two Thomas Adventures
- Hero of the Rails
- It's Great to be an Engine!
- Milkshake Muddle
- Team Up With Thomas
- 10 Years of Thomas
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad
- Ultimate Christmas

Full Length Features:
- The Adventures of Milo and Otis
- Alice in Wonderland (Disney animated version)
- Babe (VHS)
- Cars
- Finding Nemo
- Ice Age (VERY scratched)
- Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
- Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
- The Lion King (Disney)
- Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa
- Monsters, Inc.
- Muppets from Space (VHS)
- Robin Hood (Disney animated version - VHS)
- Shark Tale

Other:
- Awesome Animals in the Bible
- Awesome Mysteries of the Bible
- DangerMouse Seasons 1-4
- Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 (3-DVD Boxed Set)
- Elmo's World: Birthday, Games & More!
- Elmo's World: Flowers, Bananas & More!
- Elmo's World: Head to Toe With Elmo!
- Hermie: A Common Caterpillar (It's About Being Special)
- Psalty's Praise Party Two!
- Psalty's Songs for Li'l Praisers
- What's in the Bible? With Buck Denver DVD #1: In the Beginning
- What's in the Bible? With Buck Denver DVD #2: Let My People Go
- The World's Greatest Bible Stories & Songs: Daniel in the Lions' Den

- The World's Greatest Bible Stories & Songs: David & Goliath
- The World's Greatest Bible Stories & Songs: The Story of Jesus

(Updated Apr. 8, 2010)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let's Gooooooo Mar'land!

So VNB called this afternoon saying that a co-worker had season tickets to the MD men's basketball game tonight that he wasn't going to be able to use, so he was giving them to us! We tried to find another couple to go with, but couldn't think of anyone that could come (no names came to mind until we were driving there, then I thought of like a dozen folks - sorry!). So instead of finding and paying a sitter, we just brought the kids with us and had two extra seats.


AJ's never been a big fan of loud noises, but I'm very gratified to report that he was only upset when they were playing canned music over the loud speakers. When the band was playing, he was all smiles and spent the time dancing and shouting! He even got to the point during the second half where he'd heard the "Victory" song so much that he had his own little run around in a circle dance to it and it alone. By the end of the game, he was distracting the other team's free throws, cheering when MD got a basket, and yelling "Let's go Pirates" at inappropriate times (he mostly sees ECU games with his Daddy, so I guess he's still got a little to learn).




Joanna, having spent 9 months in utero while her Mama was playing for Amplified (our Rock 'n Roll service), has never been bothered by loud noises, so she was busy clapping (her most favorite thing ever!) and melting the hearts of the folks behind us.




AJ even got to meet Testudo!




All in all, we had a great time! Here's hoping this co-worker can't make a couple more games! :)

(Oh, and Maryland won - like 80-something to 40-something - they were playing Charleston Southern U? I dunno...it was a blow-out, as befits one of their first games of the season.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gentleman(?) Caller


So about a week ago, I was coming in from the car (it had to be a weekend, because I didn't have the kids with me) and I noticed this large, black and white cat hanging around. S/he scattered when I came near.


A few days later, Monkey (our cat, yes I know it's confusing - keep up) started attacking the sliding glass door to our porch. Sure enough, our "friend" (let's call him/her "Tom" for the sake of argument) was sitting back there looking in.


"Tom"

He's (she's) done that for a little while at least once a day since then, much to Monkey's dismay.

And mine. You see, s/he seems to like best to show up right about the time I'm trying to get things quiet - or about the time the baby who had screamed for several hours had fallen asleep on my chest (well....we'd probably been asleep for a while at that point, but after 2+ hours of screaming, no amount of sleep is enough).

So if anyone wants a cat - s/he seems friendly enough when I can get out there without Monkey attacking - I've got one for you (yes, I'll be putting up flyers one of these days). I'll even throw in a litter box for free (got a new one that Monkey refuses to touch).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Look What I Can Do!

video

As her big brother would say, "So toot, Baby, so toot!"

(toot = cute)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes!

Happy birthday to AJ's favorite "Unc Toady" or "Unc Toy!"

Just think, next year on your birthday you'll be an old, married man!

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Fever

So Joanna's got "the fever" now too. Good thing, too, because otherwise she wouldn't have woken up at 11:15 which eventually reminded me that I hadn't posted yet today.

She woke up from her afternoon nap a little out-of-sorts and pretty much stayed that way all afternoon. She was VERY clingy and seemed tired. Then, about the time VNB got home, her fever got up to about 101, so we gave her some Motrin. After a quick nap on Daddy's chest, she hopped up, right as rain. Until bedtime. When she screamed like a banshee for most of an hour. Then woke back up about an hour later. Reminding me to post for today.

And we've come full circle.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Silver Lining...

So here's the silver lining of the cloud of sickness we've been in this past week or so:

With Joanna nursing as much as she has, I've lost between five and ten pounds, putting me back at my pre-Joanna weight! There are still ten pounds to go to get to my pre-AJ weight ( and a _LOT_ of exercise/toning to get to my pre-pregnancy _shape_), but AJ was well over a year old before I was at this weight.

Woo hoo!

(And thanks to my FIL for pointing it out!)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Arg...

Really, one of these days I'm going to remember prior to 11:38 PM and post something witty or at least interesting.

In the meantime, today AJ seemed to be at least maintaining. When his fever spiked, he was miserable. The rest of the time, he was ok-ish. We've made it through Day 1 of trying to keep him in his room. We'll see how long it lasts.

Joanna seems to be perfectly fine again, although she _really_ needs to gain some weight now.

VNB managed by himself for a few hours while I was at Amplified ("leading" the service tonight). That's been interesting. Most of the songs we sing are "guy" songs, so I have to radically alter the key in order to get it to something I can sing...but I seem to be over-estimating my voice in both directions. Well, over-estimating isn't quite the word. What I can do by myself and what I can do in the heat of the moment in front of a bunch of people are apparently different things. My range shrinks a bit....especially after a full rehearsal and then a whole service!

It's definitely been a learning experience. And once I find a group of songs that will work for me to sing, I'll definitely need to learn to talk intelligibly occasionally in between songs.

Oh well...next month...

Friday, November 06, 2009

2AM Wake-Up Call

So at approximately 2AM this morning, AJ started crying and saying that he had to go potty. While helping him to the potty, I noticed exactly how warm he was. When he was practically in hysterics because he wanted to go to his friend's house, VNB woke up too and we took his temperature - 101.4. Some children's Motrin later, he was sacked out on the couch, watching a movie. We waited an hour to see if the Motrin worked on the fever (it did), then we went back to sleep (all of us).

After a call to the pediatrician (the third since Tuesday - two for Joanna, one for AJ), we were pretty sure it was the flu, and according to her, 99% of flu cases in North America right now are H1N1.

So we spent the day trying to keep Joanna (who was successfully keeping down solids today!) away from him and monitoring his symptoms (runny nose, cough, fever, aches). There was a small chance that Joanna had it too and was just presenting differently, so VNB (and his dad) took them to an urgent care place to get them tested. Neither of them had strep, but AJ definitely tested positive for the strain of flu that contains the H1N1 branch. Joanna did not (confirmation that she just had some random virus that made her vomit, but nothing else).

So we came home, ate dinner, and completely remodeled our house. AJ and his train table are in his and Joanna's room (the crib's pushed up against the wall and we took out the chair I usually nurse her in). Joanna's in the pack 'n play in the playroom. Neither of them was a big fan of the arrangement. Well...AJ's a big fan of having his toys in his room, but they really seem to do better with sleeping when they've got each other in the room. Joanna especially took a while to get to sleep.

We have no idea how long this will take or if any of the rest of us will get it. Apparently we're not contagious as long as we're not coughing or anything.

We're going to try to keep AJ in his room as much as possible. It's going to be an interesting few days...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Success!!

So there's still work to be done, but I finished my analysis for work today! Yay!!!!! And the amazing thing was that the very first time I worked through all of the numbers, I got it right! There's one little thing that I need to go back and fix (that won't make a bit of a difference in the long run), and then we have to do our pseudo-documentation (just a memo saying very briefly what we did) and our charts for the review and we're "done!"

I sent my compatriot the final results and then said, "I'm logging off for the day - I'll get back to you on more stuff tomorrow!" And I did! And my house was mostly clean by the time small group got here tonight!

So tomorrow I get to tackle the mountain of laundry that has sprung up since last week. it's really not that much, it just seems like a lot because it's been dumped in our floor instead of being put in the hampers (mostly by me, I'm not pointing fingers here). And the pile got added to considerably today when Joanna projectile vomited on me and my sofa blanket twice today (well, twice on me, once on the blanket, but they were both basically all water and pointed exactly at me - which was good for the laptop that was within splashing distance).

Anyway, she hasn't thrown up since then and that was three hours and a nap after she'd eaten last...and she's kept down 1/3 of a banana since then, so yet again I'm hopeful. I talked to her pediatrician today and was relieved to hear that MANY people are calling in with the same symptoms, so it's just a bug going around - no fever, not respiratory, with vomiting, but as long as you don't lick anything that she's licked or drooled on, you probably won't catch it.

So that's been my day. Vomit and risk analysis and cleaning.

Ah, the life of a work-at-home, rocket scientist mom. It's glamorous, I tell you!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Life...

I really have nothing of interest to say tonight. My mind is pretty mushy. I've been working around the clock to try to get a project done for work for about a week now. I could be done if I'd stop messing around and just get it done, but instead I find myself doing Griddlers.

Soooooo addictive.

Ok, really....I do have interesting things to say....lots of stuff percolating in my brain right now. Some silly, some theological, some political, some medical (nothing to be concerned about, just looking for a new doc), some parental, but mostly silly.

But in the meantime, at least I haven't forgotten yet! Woohoo! I've made it to day 4!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dude...

Dude...it's only November 3rd and I already would have totally forgotten if I hadn't gotten out of bed to burn some CDs for VNB really quickly and checked my email. Someone commented on yesterday's post. I've only got 24 minutes left, but it still is November 3rd!

So far, so good.

That's how I feel about ABC's remake of "V" too. I'm anxiously awaiting the next few weeks to see if they decide to screw it up or keep going with it being the same (that is, AWESOME), just updated (i.e., even AWESOMER)!

Monday, November 02, 2009

See, I Told You So...

Remember when I did this to my smallest child? Well, you can tell me now how right I was...


(Nevermind the grumpy-looking Pirate behind her - he'd had a long night of making sure another little pirate (see below) didn't find his way into traffic.)


And here is her equally-cute older brother:


Now if only I could take Joanna from the next picture to put into that last one, and it'd be perfect!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Postage

OK, so I totally planned on posting the world's cutest pictures tonight, but instead I'm still working, trying to get something done for a deadline at work. I promise, pictures tomorrow (unless I'm still working on this then). But this counts as today's post.

Really, I won't phone it in every day...

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

...for the grandparents of my children. You see, November is "National Blog Posting Month" or NaBloPoMo. For some crazy reason, I've participated the past two years, and I guess I am again this year. The "rules" are that you have to post something to your blog at least once daily every day in November. If you do, you can win a prize. And really make the grandparents happy because, for at least one month of the year, I post more about their grandkids (sometimes even pictures)! (Because, really....what else is there to talk and post pictures about?)

So I guess, for the third year in a row, I am reluctantly throwing my hat into the figurative ring. Why reluctantly? Well...for the past two years I've made it about 3/4 of the way through and then just forgotten one day...so it was all that work of thinking of something pithy to say for weeks on end for nothing (not that I'm guaranteed a prize or anything, but I didn't even get the sense of accomplishment for having actually succeeded).

But who knows? Maybe this year is my year!

Wait....I should _totally_ save this post for Sunday....

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Other Side of the Story

Here's the "other" side of the story...

Wow...

So last weekend was a big one for me and my small group. When our small group started, we were doing a study called "40 Days of Community." As part of that study, we were supposed to do an "inreach" project (something to help our local church body) and an "outreach" project (something to help out community). Rick Warren suggested that we do something so big that _we_ couldn't do it alone, making it obvious that God actually did the hard stuff. We hemmed and hawed and just couldn't come up with anything. When we did, it was something that required someone outside of our group to do something for us without any of us able to be there. There was some miscommunication, so that didn't get done, leaving us without any projects planned and most of the way through the study.

But a while ago, I'd read another mommy blogger's post about her church doing a "clothing swap" where folks bring clothes, they sort them, then folks take clothes - it's open to church members the first night, then anyone the next day. And I've been following Shaun Groves' "shlog" for a while now, hearing about the work he does with Compassion, International...and an idea formed in my head for this ginormous weekend of meeting the needs of folks in our church, our community, and around the world.

So I presented the idea to my small group, expecting to hear what I'd heard from others before - "it's too much...maybe next year...maybe." Or the credulity of, "a Christian musician can't possibly come for free..." But their immediate response, with no questions or discouragement of any kind was, "That sounds GREAT - let's do it!"

So we started the process, getting approval from the church, then working out the details of Shaun coming. It didn't all come together for absolute certain until two weeks ago...but all of the sudden, all of the details were in place, exactly like I'd initially imagined them (and when I say that, what I really mean is "exactly like the idea that God had given me").

Folks helped sort the clothes (and each time I thought we were done, people brought more), and then folks came and took the clothes - over 90 people came, representing WAY more people than that. We had one couple come from a men's shelter in Capitol Heights, looking for clothes for 40 men! People brought canned goods too (because, well...why not?). And everything that was left over was sent to a pastor who works with refugees - he'd just had four new families come in - over 20 people in all! So hundreds of people were served by this one event, both within our church and outside of it!

Then Shaun came and sang in our morning services (even the one in Spanish)! Despite the nightmare I'd had that morning which woke me up at 4 and which was about a) me being late to meet them in the morning, and b) Shaun being a diva and yelling at me, he and Ben (his road manager/booking guy/sound guy extraordinaire) were great and just as personable, fun, and funny as I expected them to be. Then we had lunch and naps, then the concert. And people sponsored 47 kids!

So here I am, after the fact. There's nothing left to do - the clothes are taken care of, the canned goods are gone, Shaun and Ben are (hopefully) back in TN by now...all that's left is to rest today, soak my sore feet (love the boots...don't love the after-effects of walking in them all morning all over creation), and let the kids nap in their own beds at their normal times for the first time in many days!

Lowlights of the weekend:
- I didn't communicate effectively with my small group about when I needed folks where for the clothing swap, so it ended up being just me (with both kids) on Saturday morning when all of the people from outside the church came!
- Getting chastised by the couple from the men's shelter that we weren't having this again in a few weeks.
- Getting yelled at by the man in the couple from the men's shelter because AJ was standing at the doors - his son had lost a finger in similar doors.
- Not having a great turn-out at the concert.

Funny things of the weekend:
- Without help on Saturday morning, the canned goods were not effectively policed, so people started taking those in addition to clothes.
- We still had a few left over on Sunday though....but those had also disappeared by Sunday evening. Oh well...less work for me! And I can assume that the people who came needed the food!

Highlights:
- Getting to tell Shaun that he'd gotten my phone number from my brother shortly after I came back from overseas (to pick my brain about what it was like there and what the transition back to America had been like)...but like lots of men, he got my number but never called!
- Having the pastors "get" the idea behind the whole weekend.
- Having so many people show up to help with the clothing swap!
- Having people actually _come_ to the clothing swap!
- Having a place to take all the left over clothes!
- Having my friend Cindy bring lots of folks from her church to the concert! They nearly doubled our crowd!
- Having 47 kids sponsored!

It was a great weekend of helping our neighbors, both near and far!

Anyone want to give me a foot massage?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

MOPS Blog Tour - "Intimate Conversations: Devotions to Nurture a Woman's Soul"

So MOPS sent me another book to read - "Intimate Conversations: Devotions to Nurture a Woman's Soul" by Alicia Britt Chole. This time it's this year's theme devotional book. I'm not really sure how it goes with the theme exactly (Together on Planet Mom), but it was a great devotional book - I just wish I'd had more time to read it so that I could do just one a day instead of having to power through all of them to get done in time to post my review. (Disclaimer: they give me the books for free, but they want an honest review of them...it's just that so far all the books have been really good!)

The book contains 52 different devotions, divided into 12 different categories. When I was counting them initially to see how many I needed to do per day, I thought - "huh...52...so I guess you could do one a week for a year...wonder why some are groups of 4 and some are groups of 5." It wasn't until just now that I counted the sections. Duh...12 months...52 weeks...

I'm a rocket scientist.

Anyway...the devotions are pretty short - usually 1.5-2 pgs, plus a little discussion or reflective journaling section of questions to think about and/or respond to. The sections don't really match up to the Planet Mom theme book sections, but you might be able to pick one per meeting that matched that month's meeting theme. Alternately, if you've got a women's Sunday School class or small group, this would be a great way to open your time together. They're not _BAD_ devotionals for mixed company, it's just all written from a woman's perspective using women as the examples.

As with all devotionals, some of the entries struck me more than others, but my favorite section (or rather the section that spoke to me the most) was one entitled "Dear God...why do I feel so unproductive?" The devotions in that section spoke of women who have chosen family over career (which I sort of have...the job is only part-time and isn't exactly way up there on the priority list, especially now that we're that much closer to being able to get by just on VNB's salary), and women who have gone through times of spiritual "winter."

It's not that I feel like God was ever far away or anything, but the first two years of marriage (which include AJ's pregnancy and the first year or so of his life) are a bit of a blur to me. And I'd stepped back from so many things at church that it's taken a while to really feel like myself again. Lately I seem to have found my footing again in terms of my "place" and it really seems like things are bearing fruit and expanding (for lack of a better term). So to have the analogy of a winter season where you just lie low for a while...well, it really made sense to me, especially given this new "spring" that I seem to be encountering.

Anyway, I plan on keeping these in my pump bag and reading one every time I pump, giving myself ample time to really think through the devotion and the reflection questions. I'm also looking forward to the next book MOPS sends me!

And the required stuff:
Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, October 02, 2009

I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General

Ok...so I'm not really, but that song is running through my head as I scamper about keeping balls in the air.

Let's see....the in-laws (of both sides) will be glad to know that VNB found our camera last night, so pictures will abound as much as ever again. Woohoo! (Really, I promise - at the very least we can actually _take_ them again, even if I don't manage to post them ever.)

But even other than that amazing find, the world is a little topsy-turvy for me right now - nothing at all bad, just lots and lots to do and keep track of. Once next week is over, things "should" settle down again...but then I think I've been saying that since June.

So this Sunday starts the collection of clothes for our "first annual" (that means that it's the first time we've done it and theoretically we want to do it again, but let's see how this first one goes first, mmm'kay?) clothing swap. So people will drop off their "gently-used" clothing at the church Sunday, Oct 4 - Friday, Oct 9th. My small group (and hopefully some others) will sort the clothes and they'll be given out to church members on Friday night (Oct 9th) and the community on Saturday (Oct 10th). We'll take canned food donations at the door, but they're not required. Just please don't take all of our clothes in order to sell them at your own yard sale. That would be kinda rude. Click here for directions.

So theoretically, by Friday we'll have everything sorted out and people will come and take what they need. That may or may not happen though because the room that we've been assigned (which is probably too small anyway) isn't free until after MOPS on Thursday. So Wednesday we'll be seeing what's there and doing what we can out in the hallway and maybe on the front of the stage, then Thursday after MOPS we'll really start the mad sorting.

But wait...there's more...so I'm supposed to sing on Sunday morning with the praise team which means rehearsal Wednesday night...and since I'm there anyway, I might as well stay a little later to help set up for MOPS the next day.

And in MOPS the next day I'm in charge of the "creative activity" which this month is wrapping Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. Last year we had like 50 boxes to wrap and I think we managed to wrap about 25 at the actual meeting, but ended up at about 100 boxes total...most of which I wrapped myself. So there's probably going to be a shoebox wrapping station at the welcome desk (or whatever) for the clothing swap....because we're supposed to have them all wrapped and ready to be handed out on Sunday the 11th.

But wait...there's more! So Sunday at church we'll also have Christian artist Shaun Groves at the church to sing and talk about the work of Compassion, International. He'll be in the services on Sunday morning, but will also be doing a concert on Sunday night. We've been working on this concert since um....May, I think....but only got firm confirmation that he was coming last Friday (lots and lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is my own penchant for procrastination) and only got the contract in hand yesterday. Which means that all the advertising that I've been putting off needs to be done YESTERDAY!!!! So the church is printing posters and I'll pick them up tonight to start posting in various places. Announcements (for both the concert and the clothing swap) went out in the Fall Festival bags last weekend and there's been stuff in the bulletin, but I just posted stuff to local radio station events pages today.

And I'm also tying up loose ends at work for lots of stuff as we come down to the wire for this spacecraft that I'm working on.

And my power adaptor for my laptop stopped being recognized by my system so I'm having to track down a new one of those and tech support doesn't believe that I know the difference between a power adaptor failure and a battery failure.

So I just feel like I've got 500 balls in the air. I've got lots of help with most of them, but there are so many things vying for my attention right now that it's hard to focus on anything. Especially with random VeggieTales songs (or Gilbert & Sullivan, as the case may be) stuck in my head.

Ok...but I'm at work now, so I should focus on work. And stop blogging about all I have to do that I need to focus on...

Oh, and did I mention that I've had several people now ask if Joanna knows how to talk? It would appear that she can answer yes/no questions. And might possibly know how to say "Cat." The Cat part is pretty normal...and saying "yes" or "no" isn't too far from normal...but actually answering questions? That's something that AJ still can't do reliably. And he's no dummy. But that would be like scary advanced - not only understanding the words in the question, but the form of question/answer itself AND being able to correctly respond, depending on the question. It's really a lot, if you think about it.

Ok....but to work....for real....no more distractions...got stuff I need to do....

Oh yeah...I've got to write a review of the latest MOPS book they sent me!!! When is that due....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meeting "Larry"

So the end of last week was an exciting time for me. I was at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) convention with most of the rest of our steering team (and 4000 other women). Operation Christmas Child sponsors MOPS and VeggieTales' new Christmas DVD is about the joy of giving, so they're partnering with OCC too. Plus, Matthew West was scheduled to give a concert at one of the general sessions and he wrote (and sang) the song that goes over the closing credits for the new VeggieTales.

All of that combined together so that VeggieTales and OCC sponsored "VeggOut Nite" the first night of the MOPS convention at which they debuted their new DVD. Beforehand, a guy from OCC, Matthew West (Christian singer mentioned above), and Mike Nawrocki (co-creator of VeggieTales and the voice of "Larry the Cucumber") all got a chance to say a little something about their partnership and the new movie, then we watched the movie.

Afterwards, I got to "squee" a little bit as I asked Mike if I could get a picture:

I thanked him for making DVDs that don't make me crazy.

AJ, however is _FAR_ more impressed with THIS picture:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Creating a Memory

It's been one of those mornings where I _know_ I got stuff done, and I _know_ it was important, but somehow I still _feel_ like nothing got accomplished. My kids ate a relatively-healthy breakfast, I got all of the laundry folded and put away (every last bit - nothing's sitting waiting for a hanger or socks to be matched), I put away some of the dishes (some still needed some more drying time), the kids and I all got dressed and I even got a shower.

I also managed to pull out our cat carrier for a friend who needed to borrow it. "No problem," I said. "It's just in the top of the kids' closet," I said. "I'll pull it out and have it for you, no problem," I said. Little did I realize how well the top of the closet was packed. Inside the collapsed carrier were all of our small photo albums, a few other random things, and all of VNB's old Bibles - i.e., the sucker was HEAVY). In front of the cat carrier were all of our Christmas ornaments and random Christmas dancing and singing things (Santa who plays the sax, snowman who sings something, polar bear, and a couple of random "Christmas" stuffed animals). I hoped that I'd be able to pull the carrier out without having to move anything, but the geometry of the situation told me otherwise. Then I hoped that just by pulling the other stuff off of that shelf (i.e., the Christmas stuff), I'd be able to pull it out (at that point at least it would be in front of the closet door), but no dice there. So then I had to start moving the stuff that was stacked up (very neatly) _next_ to the shelf - VNB's collection of Christmas village, all in its original packaging for safe storage (plus my Christmas Veggie Tales snow globe). So I pulled all of _that_ down, managed to pull the 500-lb cat carrier across the shelf (over occasional bumps from shelf supports) and far enough into the opening to be able to get it down.

The whole time I was doing this, and becoming increasingly frustrated, AJ was finishing up on the potty. After finishing his business, he came in, pants still around his ankles to investigate what Momma was doing. After telling him calmly to go back into the bathroom and pull up his pants a couple of times (the idea being that he doesn't _leave_ the bathroom without pulling them up), he managed to get his underwear up, but not the pants (which are a smidge too long, so he was stepping on cuffs). About the time I got the cat carrier to the point where I could attempt to bring it down, he was crowding my space - with his pants still around his ankles. So not only was he not obeying by getting his pants pulled up, he also wasn't obeying as I was telling him repeatedly to back up (just in case I lost control of some or all of the cat carrier and/or its contents). And in my defense ("why didn't you just go help him?"), I was up on a chair with all the contents of the closet packed around me, trying to remember where it all went so that I could get it all to fit back in there.

So with only a few photo albums dive bombing me, I managed to get the cat carrier down and into Joanna's crib. Then I managed to get everything else back up into the closet. During which time AJ was still struggling with his pants and probably crying because I was yelling at him to pull up his pants and back up (is it bad that I don't even remember if he was or not?).

On the plus side, I found some pictures I'd promised to show some friends a long time ago! And I got the cat carrier down. And eventually we got AJ's pants pulled back up.

But that was my morning. And even though it just took me like fifteen pages to explain what I did this morning, it still feels like I didn't accomplish anything. (And now I'm at work and blogging instead of getting stuff done here...)

But my "Sanctuary's In the Small Things" task for the day is to create a memory. This morning isn't something I want to remember, but last night was. So _technically_, I didn't perform the _task_ on the right day, but I'm recording it for posterity so that I actually _remember_ it today, so I think I should still get my 40 points. :)

So last night I sent AJ to bed instead of going in with him, singing to him, and "saying Amen" (i.e., praying). An hour later when VNB and I were going to bed, he was still awake, so I went in and did our usual routine. Except that I told him to sing with me. We have a repertoire of all of three songs for bedtime (all three of which we usually sing at least once each night), so he's heard them all a "few" times now. It was the most adorable thing (and I know that it's true because VNB took like five trips to and from the bathroom during that song just so he'd have the excuse to walk past the door and listen). He wasn't on pitch, and usually he'd sing an intelligible word a phrase or two after I'd already sung it...but he was singing _with_ me. All the way down to the "yeah" at the end of "God is Bigger than the Boogy Man" (a recent addition to our repertoire, due to our first "I'm scared of the monsters" pre-bedtime event). Probably the best part about it too is that he really seemed to enjoy it and was definitely focusing on singing. You could see the wheels turning as he thought about what words came "next."

I did better in my description of the cat carrier incident, but this memory is one of the sweetest yet since I've been a mommy. My boy, singing. Knowing by heart that "God is bigger than the boogy man," that "there is nothing I can't do when God is at my side," and that "a thankful heart is a happy heart!" Sweet.

So even if I accomplish nothing else today (which would be bad since the kids and I are flying to Nashville tomorrow and haven't even started packing yet!), I've recorded a memory that I want to cherish forever. It's a good day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pictures!

Thanks to UncleR, here are some recent pics of the littles, taken at a family reunion a few weeks ago. If we could find our camera, there would have been another shot of Joanna sleeping this morning. She didn't quite go down for her nap as easily as she usually does, but I let her cry for a little while hoping that eventually she'd settle herself down. About the time I was going to go in and comfort her, the crying abruptly stopped. I peeked in and she was sitting up with her head leaning against the bars of her crib, fast asleep. I eventually laid her down, but man was that cute!

Also, one of her top teeth decided to poke its way through yesterday. That makes three now!
And AJ has had a few successes with the potty! Now if only we managed to have a couple days in a row at home, we might be able to actually get this done!

Anyway, pics:

AJ

And Joanna

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are you sure it isn't Monday?

So this morning I did something I only rarely do - I set the alarm. You see, my kids' internal clocks are magical. They wake up between 7:15 and 7:30 on days that we have no where to go and mama is super tired (wait...is there a day when I'm _not_ super tired? I don't remember one...), but on days that I need them to wake up exactly at 8 so that we can get to were we need to be, they sleep until 9:30...and so do I because they're my usual alarm clock...and what I said about always being tired? Yeah, very true. Joanna's "only" waking up 2-3 times per night now...

So this morning I set the alarm for 7. You see, we had to be at our first MOPS meeting of the year at 9, which means we had to leave the house at 8:30-ish, which means that they needed to have breakfast the moment they woke up (at 8, theoretically) so that I could get them dressed and out the door on time. But since I was going to work straight from MOPS, and then our small group was coming over, I also had to have the house "company ready" before I left. Fortunately, it was already relatively close and these are people who come over on a weekly basis, so as the weeks go on, my standards slip bit-by-bit. Anyway, so I got up a "few" minutes after the alarm went off the first time (or was it the 5th?), gathered up the non-toy clutter, ran a load of dishes, then fed the baby breakfast.

As I was putting something or other away in his room, AJ woke up, saw me, and immediately stretched his arms wide, indicating that he wanted a great big hug. Melt my heart...

Anyway, so Joanna tried "mixed cereal" for the first time this morning. She had her 4-oz jar of applesauce with pomegranate juice (yum! Why don't they make flavors like that for adults?!), then most of another 4-oz jar of "mixed cereal" with applesauce and bananas. I gathered up everything I needed, got everyone dressed, brought all the stuff out to the car, came back, turned out lights, grabbed babies, and then got all of the people out the door.

As AJ was mosey-ing up the steps, I started strapping Joanna (adorably dressed in a "we're seeing Mama's 'mommy friends'" outfit) into her car seat when she proceeded to add another "first" to things that she's done - empty the entire contents of her stomach full of "solid" food (almost two 4-oz jars!). All over her cute outfit. All over the car seat. Completely freaked her out.

So, I unstrapped her from her carseat, and held her at arms' length (I was dressed in "work" clothes) while I found the keys, yelled for AJ to come back inside, unlocked the door, and got her de-stickied, re-dressed, and somewhat calmed down. We went back outside (where AJ was still mosey-ing, not having apparently received the message that I yelled for him to come back inside - but at least he was still on the side walk and not playing in the parking lot or something), mostly cleaned up the car seat, strapped her back down (she isn't a huge fan of that at any time, but certainly not shortly after such a traumatic event in said carseat), strapped AJ in, and got to MOPS before the meeting started, if not quite when the leadership team was supposed to be there.

It was quite the morning. And they tell me it's Thursday. Feels more like a Monday to me!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Quiet

Our small group has gone home, the kids are in bed, VNB's gone to bed, the TV is off and all is quiet.

I've got piles of dishes in (and around) the sink, puffed rice cereal all over the floor, books and toys scattered about, a dining room table that's practically in my lap right now (it's so big with all the leaves in for the small group that came tonight and our house is so small)...but it's quiet. And there's no one using me for a jungle gym.

Back 10,000 years ago, before I went overseas, this was what it was like all the time (well, the TV was on occasionally). Then it was _too_ quiet. Now it's a welcome respite from the noise...but at the same time, the noise is a welcome respite from the world.

Even with all its flaws, this house is home because the people who sleep under its roof are my family - people (some smaller than others) for whom I am ceaselessly grateful and absolutely amazed to be able to call "mine."

Someday (in sha'allah), the kids will grow up, move out into the big, wide world, meet people, get married, and start families of their own. But even then, they will still be "mine" (and VNB's pretty much stuck with me "till death do us part").

And in these rare moments of quiet, I can dream dreams for them (and for us). I can pray that they will be successful in every way that the world calls "success." I can pray that they never want for anything important. I can pray that they have strong marriages and healthy families.

But mostly...mostly what I want for them is that they follow God's will for their lives, no matter where that takes them. And now that I'm a parent myself, I understand the terror that statement invokes (so, um, thanks Mommy and Daddy for supporting me in the whole "I'm going to Iraq" thing!)...but alongside the terror comes peace. Peace that God's in control and will continue to be whenever they are called to do whatever it is they will do.

But mostly peace that I don't need to worry about that today. Today I get to worry about laundry and potty training and random things they put in their mouths. Today there is noise. And every now and again, there is quiet.