23 December 2008

The Gift of Sacrificial Love

We had Christmas at the nursing home on Sunday. Rather than enjoying an evening in the warmth of one of my aunt's and uncle's homes, we celebrated the gift of Jesus in a cold community room, so that Grandpa could be there. Alzheimer's continues to grip him in a downward spiral that seems to have sped up since he entered the home last spring. When Grandma wheeled him in to our gathering, I almost cried to see my Grandpa who could at onetime fix anything now not even able to stay alert long enough to say hello.

But Grandma has eyes of love as she makes daily sacrifices to care for Grandpa. She isn't in denial of Grandpa's condition, and his inability to always recognize her as his wife doesn't stop her from visiting him everyday. Although the home pays no attention to the fat content of its meals, causing her to gain weight, she eats a meal or two a day in the common room with Grandpa.

We recently watched a movie, Away From Her, about a woman (Fiona) with Alzheimer's who shortly after being moved into a nursing home no longer recognizes her husband (Grant) and falls in love with another patient. Like Grandma, Grant never stops visiting his wife and is soon relegated to watching Fiona from across the room as she cares for her new beau. He sacrificially visits everyday and eventually takes action to bring Fiona happiness even at sacrifice to himself.

Grandpa and Fiona are no longer able to respond to these sacrificial gifts, but they daily receive the love being directed to them. They seemingly don't deserve it but that doesn't stop Grandma and Grant from giving.

Anyone's name could be exchanged with Harvey and Fiona when it comes to the gift we have received from God. We did nothing to deserve, and often barely acknowledge, the love we've been given through the gift of Jesus and his death on the cross. He sacrificially gave of Himself to be born on earth with the purpose of paying the debt of all of our mess-ups and injustices.

This Christmas I hope to better understand the sacrificial love of God, which sent the greatest gift of love to this hurting world - the baby Jesus.

19 December 2008

Joy Has Come!

I admit this picture isn't one that would win any contests for depicting joy....Unless you understood how much this "guitar" means to Asher and the type of joy that goes beyond outward happiness.

Asher got to borrow this guitar at our annual Thanksgiving at the cabin and it didn't leave his side for more than a couple of minutes at a time the whole three days we were there. He dreams about guitars and as we talk more seriously about potty training he is becoming increasingly adament that he needs guitar underpants. (ideas on where to find those would definitely be welcome!) It may not be the most expressive representation, but this picture depicts a boy completely filled with joy. The very thing he had been waiting for had been fulfilled.

I have often lost sight of this, but Christmas is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of the very thing I have been waiting for.

In Mary's words recorded in the book of Luke, she praised God when she found out she was carrying the Messiah. One of the things she praises God for is that "He has filled the hungry with good things."

The good thing she talked about wasn't tangible riches or even a magic wand answering all of her dreams, but the promise of joy coming through a Baby. Not just any Baby, but one who would bring restoration to all that is broken in the world.

Even if there is no more happiness, there is joy because the Lord is come!

12 December 2008

Peace through Change

Why is it so hard to stay peaceful even when I'm trying so hard? I knew this was the Advent week of peace and was looking forward to the focus on something that is normally just out of my reach.

I see peace when Asher is (finally) sleeping and his face is so soft and relaxed that I can't keep my hands from touching him. There is peace early in the morning before anyone else in the house is awake and I can sit, reading with my coffee. And there was peace last night when both Walter and I noticed the bright moon shining up the darkness. On a small scale, there is peace.

And there is also peace to be thankful for in our country on a larger scale. Yes, our country is at war, we're fighting the fear of another terrorist attack, and the never-ending line at the post-office is anything but peaceful.

But an email from my dad reminded me this week that we do have peace in this country. While writing about an Ethiopian's perspective of the American election, and how excited they are to have an African-American lead such a powerful nation, my dad also wrote about the admiration his Ethiopian friends have that there is peace in our political process. We don't anticipate riots from Bush supporters (I'm sure there are some faithful few) when Obama is sworn in as our next president on January 20.

In fact, the president and president-elect have met peacefully face to face to discuss the transition. We will take it for granted, but it is very probable that Barack Obama will take his oath of office, move into the White House, and begin his presidency without a single gun shot being fired in protest. Even while our country is in the middle of so much turmoil, there is peace in our leadership (unless you live in Illinois, but Blagojevich's issues aren't really fitting with my example of peace here!).

So how does this fit with Christmas? Jesus, as the ultimate ruler and authority in the universe also did not make his entrance into His world with swords and shouting. As a baby born to humble parents in a barn, he came. I don't imagine the whole scene was as serene as our nativities show. Childbirth is messy and animals are noisy, but He came to the world He rules and as newborns do, He slept.

Even though King Herod was terrified of this baby king, Jesus wasn't interested in the power to be had in a palace but the power to change hearts.

Still today, He doesn't change hearts by terror or force. But in peace He speaks and in that peace which only He can give, there is infinite power.

06 December 2008

There is Hope

Hope is the theme for the first week of Advent. All week, I've been thinking about what I want to say about hope and how I have seen hope fulfilled.

Today I saw hope demonstrated perfectly.

Jesus' birth on earth which led to His death, resurrection, and forgiveness for our sins is the ultimate reason for hope, but I believe He gives us illustrations of this hope that He is working for ultimate good in everyday circumstances.

Today was one of those circumstances. Asher has been terrified of Santa Claus from the first time he was forced to sit on his lap when he was too little to move himself off. So we've been preparing him for weeks for this annual visit to see Santa at Walter's office. We gave a lot of encouragements of how he needs to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas and Asher has rehearsed saying that he wants a guitar and tools over and over.

When the big moment arrived, things did not start off too hopeful.

But then miraculously, surprisingly, Asher reached out his hand, and let it rest on Santa's chair. Our hopes had become reality. There was no screaming. Asher did not run away. He stood there with his hand (fingers?) on the chair and posed for two pictures and even smiled!!
There is hope. We may not have the most outgoing two year old living in our home, but he can be courageous when he needs to be. Today I saw a glimpse of the changes that can happen in a little boy's personality.

I am reminded of the changes that can happen in my own life because of hope that was embodied in Jesus who came to this earth 2000 years ago.

19 November 2008

Proving His Love

Every day, Walter has to re-earn Asher's love.

Even though his daddy is the one who plays with him for hours every evening after work, something happens during the night that erases memories Asher has of Walter's love for him.

Asher is allowed to watch two shows on the computer every morning. The first thing I often hear at 6:00 am from my penguin outfitted little boy is, " I want watch something." Before I turn on his show, I try to encourage him to be friendly to me. I usually ask him to come tell me Good Morning with a kiss first, and he happily complies.

We then go back upstairs to where daddy is just waking up and Asher knows he must also tell daddy Good Morning and give him a kiss before I turn a show on. Since daddy is the one who just nine hours earlier played the cow tuba and allowed Asher extra time to splash in the tub, I'd expect him to run to Walter with open arms and tell him Good Morning.

But each day, Asher hesitates, cries, sometimes clings to me, and doesn't want to greet daddy. It's as if Walter has to begin again each day to convince Asher that he loves him and is worthy of trust.

This morning, I was feeling especially bad for Walter about his daily task to prove his love for his son who I clearly see how much he loves. When I attempted to lament about this with him, my dear husband told me he is used to having to reprove his love since he has to do it with me when he's in the middle of studying for an exam and not around the house very often. Ouch...so that's why this feels familiar.

On a much larger scale, this also feels familiar. How many times do I wait for my Heavenly Father to reprove His love for me? The sun rises every morning and I miss the realization that I've been blessed with life on another day. Asher pads downstairs and gives me a hug and I forget how easily Asher was sent to our family. I have coffee with a good friend who has had such similar life challenges that our friendship must have been planned by God and I count it as coincidence.

I have been given daily reminders of God's love for me and these daily reminders are in addition to the most sacrifical gift He gave of Jesus which we are about to celebrate again this season. This morning as Asher again refused to run to his daddy I realized I'm no different. Just like Asher's memory gets reset during each night so he can't remember what a good daddy he has, my memory begin empty each day and I forget how God has already abundantly shown His love for me.

13 November 2008

Lose, but Don't Give Up

We went to see a movie this weekend. In high school, I went to see a movie almost every weekend, but this was a major event for Walter and me. I was really looking forward to seeing The Changeling. Usually I can judge a movie's potential as good if it
a. has a guy and a girl (a love story)
b. has a mom and a son (pulling at my mommy instincts.)
Since this was about a mother and her little boy, I was pumped to see it.

The movies is based on a true story about Christine Collins, a single mother who has to leave her 9 year old son home alone while she goes to work one day. She comes home and he is missing. The story gets worse as the LA police department reunites her with a boy who claims to be her son and then declares the case to be closed - mother and son reunited and all is well. But the boy isn't her son and her little boy is still missing.

Throughout the story, the mother loses battle after battle. She takes the boy home in defeat after no one believes that this is not her son. But just as any mother, she does not give up and won't accept this boy as her son. She returns to the police department with clear evidence that this is not her son, but is soon checked into a mental institution on the claims that she has attempted to shirk her motherly duties. Again and again, she loses battles, but never gives up. She lost so much and is willing to sacrifice everything rather than give in to defeat. Christine Collins' story is tragic beyond words and I believe I would also never give up even if I lost battles for Asher.

But what about the smaller battles I lose much more frequently? We learned in church last week that the enemy is not so interested in getting us to lose individual battles, but he wants us to give up all together.

If we will give up trying to make time to spend in prayer, the enemy has won. When we decide our tongues are too out of control to attempt to cut back on gossip, we have lost and he has won. While we are working towards the goal of winning the war over things like depression, anger, and pride reality is we will sometimes lose a battle. But as soon as we decide we have lost too many times and give up, that is when we have truly lost and the enemy has won.

It's ok to lose a battle, but don't let a loss defeat your passion to win the war.

05 November 2008

And Breathe...

When something is over, it never seems so bad.

I thought my legs would turn to mush and I would fall over as I ran miles 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 0.2 of the Chicago marathon, but then I crossed the finish line and felt like I could run another five miles.

I knew my body couldn't handle any more pain when I requested an epidural after 15 hours of labor. When it was final administered, I felt like I could have handled the pain a while longer.

I didn't think I could spend another day and night by myself while my husband stayed late into the night studying at the office yet again, but now it doesn't seem like that should have been such a big deal.

I shouldn't have grumbled and agonized about my situations because I know I've made it through those times in the past. Not just that I have made it through on my own, but that God has given me strength in each of those moments to persevere.

I've been trying to understand how God's people could grumble and complain against Him just three days after He miraculously parted the Red Sea. And if I remember my proneness to grumble despite recent gifts, I might give the Israelites a little more grace. During the time of deprivation, it feels like life can't go on unless the problem is solved.

And then the need is met. Food and drink are provided, my husband is at home, a baby is born, and the running is done. All seems well and we vow to never complain about our perceived suffering again.

The thing about the scene in the Sinai Desert that is most amazing is God's patience with His people when they grumbled against Him. He knows what He has just done and our proneness to quickly forget, yet He does not grow tired of meeting our needs again.

Until the need is taken away, we can just breathe.

03 November 2008

I've Been Tagged

My friend Marla tagged me. so according to the rules, I need to post 7 random facts about myself. You're probably thinking that's all that my blog is - random facts about us. This time I'll try to make them about me and not Asher, even though he is much more interesting. So here goes...

1. This drives my husband crazy, but I can not sleep at night unless the sheets are tightly tucked in, all the way around the bottom of the bed. If they become untucked I have to get out and retuck them.

2. I really want to visit Siberia. For the longest time (until I got married), I thought I would live there some day. Why? Because no one else wants to.

3. There are certain flowers that I despise. The main one being carnations. Walter has learned never to bring me flowers with carnations because they just make me mad and I will pluck them all out and toss them in the garbage can. There was a big ordeal this year for our anniversary, because the bouqet he ordered for me had carnations in it even though he had specifically requested tulips (my favorite) and not carnations!

4. I was born on Friday the 13th. This has made me always consider 13 my special lucky number. However, we stayed at a hotel this weekend and ended up the "14th" (the sneakily renamed 13th) floor and I did feel a twinge of spookiness until I remembered I don't believe in that stuff!

5. I refuse to shop at Walmart. I'll save my tirade against that mega-store for another post, but I will not set foot into the store. Someone gave me giftcards for Walmart once and I asked Walter to go use them for me so I didn't have to go against my principles of not shopping there.

6 Tomorrow marks exactly two months that I have been out of the paid labor force. It's been a long adjustment and I'm sure I'm not fully adjusted yet. I really miss the coupons my boss used to save for me from the Chicago Tribune!

7. We went to a wedding this weekend for one of Walter's college friends. It was nice to see his old friends again, but honestly I was just as excited about getting the matchbooks which were passed out as the favors. Our match supply was running really low and I have an obsession of burning a candle on my desk on the afternoons that I write. The idea of using a clicker lighter to light the candle kind of ruins that romantic writing mood for me.

That's 7 facts. I'm not sure I have 7 blogging friends who haven't already been tagged, so I am offically tagging any friends who read this and want to join in on the fun!

23 October 2008

This is Not a Monkey

We have a favorite book from Grams that we like to read this time of year called, "This is Not a Pumpkin." Every page has a picture of what looks to be a pumpkin, but the words tell us that in fact even though it looks like a pumpkin in many ways, it is NOT a pumpkin. Finally at the end, we discover it is not a pumpkin, but a jack o' lantern!

It's a little like that at our house these days. What looks to be an inflatable monkey is not that. It is a Guitar! Asher has always loved music and lately is hugely obsessed with guitars. We have found him "strumming" everything from stuffed animals to books.
His love of guitars has become so strong that it has replaced a former strong opinion that mommy should not sing along to songs on the radio. Now I am delighted to hear requests saying "Mommy, sing." Not because I suddenly have a beautiful singing voice, but because my son can now accompany me on his "guitar."

Any flies in our Jeep yesterday were probably rolling on the floor with laughter as Asher, with his bright yellow hard hat on asked mommy to sing in the front seat while he sat in his carseat strumming his monkey guitar. .
(Judging from the looks given by fellow motorists, I'm thinking we might want a little more practice before we take our show on the road.)

20 October 2008

Royal Visitors

I wish I had known today was going to be such a special day. I would have gotten out the fine china, ironed linen napkins, and polished the silver (if I had any of those things!), but I didn't have advanced information. Maybe Asher didn't know either, but I am proud of his hospitality as he gathered enough chairs for the most distinguished of guests.

Our guests arrived, and each took a seat. The queen in her seat, the bishop in another, the knight in yet another. If only I had known about this important day in advance, I would have found more chairs so all of the pawns and less important guests didn't have to gather on Asher's booster seat.

You might wonder what the grand occasion was. Why did such royalty decide to visit our house today?

It appears that there was a mighty big checkers game that took place in our very own living room and all the chess pieces wanted to be here to watch!

All the chess pieces gathered around to watch the big game. Unfortunately, I had planned to get new tires on the Jeep today, so we weren't able to stay and root on the best team. This must be a big match-off because our royal guests are still here and the checker game is still in progress.

16 October 2008

What I Expect

When I plug in my hairdryer, I expect it to blow hot air.

When I click send on the button in Outlook, I expect the email to be delivered to my friend.

When I press mute on my remote control, I expect the tv sound to stop.

When I attempt to work for God, I expect Him to use that effort in a way I've already figured out.

Technology has trained me, or maybe spoiled me, to expect life to go as I want. When something stops working around the house I am the first to freak out, panic, and believe that my life is put on hold until its fixed. That's just if the vacuum starts to make a funny noise. It doesn't take a lot to go wrong for me to get anxious and I often stay uptight until the potentially broken item is back to working as it should. After all, things should just work, right?

Maybe in a pre-fallen world life would go like that, just as we expect at the time that we think is best. But as I have learned again and again over the past year, this world is broken. Not only do computers freeze and batteries run out, but non-technological things break too. People get sick when they shouldn't, babies die, and bosses change their minds about plans that we count on.

We take a chance for God and those efforts can sometimes seem failed.

Through studying Moses' life I've recently seen how he had such a experience with his attempts to work for God without getting the results he expected. He heard from a burning bush to do something. He obeyed that bush, and life got worse! This was not what was supposed to happen so Moses ran back to God in a panic, saying that God had not fulfilled His promise of rescue at all! The deliverance didn't happen as Moses thought it should and He lost sight of God's character, that He is I AM who needs no other name.

God has not responded as I expected this year. Some things I've attempted for Him have not worked out as I think they should. When my plans are so logical, I wonder why they don't happen as I would like.

I've come to terms with knowing that technology - which is supposed to be robotic and happen the same way every time - does not always work like I want. As much as I don't like it, I've come to a place of accepting this.

But yet I still haven't fully come to peace with this in the spiritual sense. I'm still fighting to understand that God, who is the infinite opposite of robotic, does not work life out as I expect. I have learned to accept technological problems in stride, but continue to have such trouble when God does not act as I expect, and I wonder why.

07 October 2008

Writing My Article

Doesn't every parent want their kids to love what they love?

I love writing, and lately have been finding more outlets for this long-held interest. It has become more apparent to me that my writing interest is no longer just bottled up and saved for my private journal entries.

Families reveal a lot about what happens within the home and children reflect back what they are hearing. So when Asher frequently tells me, "I need write my article," I take that as a sign that my family is noticing the time I am increasingly putting towards writing

After Asher makes known his need for space to write, he dutifully takes a pen and sits to scribble his creativity onto a piece of paper. I love it! I am praying this means he will really love writing as much as I do.

My newest writing outlet is a weekly Tuesday Tips online column for The Pantagraph, our local newspaper. These are published as a Hearts at Home resource and you can read the first one here. Although they are just short little clips, I'm excited to have this opportunity, but even more excited that these are contributing to my budding article writer.

06 October 2008

Praying for Turtle

When we say bedtime prayers with Asher, we have habitually asked him who he wants to pray for. The usual winners are mommy, daddy, Asher, and often Uncle Sam. We are of course eager to pray for our immediate family and since my brother often scares us with his dare-devil antics, we know he needs many extra prayers as well.

But recently, Asher has requested prayers for turtle, bird, and Albert the alligator. These are his best friends and he takes such wonderful care of them, that I understand his desire for all to go with for them. But Walter and I have found ourselves at a loss of how to pray for stuffed animals.

I have tried,

Dear God, please keep turtle clean and germ-free, please keep all of his stuffing inside, don't allow either of his eyes to come off, and protect him from accidentally getting kicked out of bed tonight. Amen.

But I feel a little funny praying for a non-living object no matter how precious it is to Asher.

Rather than long prayers for the beloved animal of the night, we are instead trying to redirect Asher's request toward prayers for friends and that he will always be surrounded by companions that he loves!

30 September 2008

The Fleece is Wet, the Fleece is Dry

I've always been kind of annoyed with the story of Gideon in the Bible. God told him to go into battle, and guarantees him to achieve victory.

But Gideon's faith is weak
And he asks God for a sign.
God gives the sign abundantly.
But Gideon refuses to believe.
Gideon asks for another sign
Again God answers

Place my name, Angie, in each of Gideon's spots above and that's how my week has gone.

Signs have always seemed superstitious to me, and sometimes even ridiculous. I'm thinking along the lines of, "God, if I open to a Bible passage about a man, that means I should marry that cute guy I like at church." I'm pretty sure most Bible pages refer to a man and Jesus was fully man as well as fully God so if there was no human involved, surely the passage could be stretched if any allusion to Jesus was there.

When people talk about these kinds of revelations from God, they could possibly be legitimate, but there is so much room for interpretation or excuses, that asking for a sign from God always seemed to me like using your own mother as a reference on a job application. Of course, they have your back.

But one morning this week, I flippantly asked God for a sign of reassurance about something weighing really heavy on me lately. The sign was not something I had control over but what I asked for happened - and as in Gideon's case, it happened abundantly, obviously, with no doubt. Rather than thanking God and going about my day in peace, I panicked. I didn't take it as a sign that I need not fear, but rather took it as a sign that my worse fears were coming true.

My situation would have been like Gideon taking the fact that the fleece was wet to mean there's a flood coming, don't fight the battle - even though his initial prayer was for affirmation through a wet fleece and dry ground.

Because my fears were getting the best of me, I again prayed somewhat flippantly for the reverse sign to happen. It did. Just like Gideon's second request when his fleece was dry and the ground wet, my situation had completely reversed. So all should have been good. My fears should have been eliminated, I should have trusted that God was in control as these two signs indicated.

But again, I feared. I complained to my husband who could only roll his eyes and tell me how crazy I am. But yet I still question. Were those signs? Was it just coincidence? Is God playing with my emotions only to allow disappointment again?

I think maybe I'll let these raging questions settle while I go finish re-reading the rest of Gideon's story.

22 September 2008

Wienie Roast Memories

Do country people people still have wienie roasts?
Last night, we sat around our little metal firepit on our back patio. We got out our Target roasting sticks and Asher reminded us that we were like Snoopy roasting marshmallows. I love sitting around a fire poking at the burning logs, watching the flames dance, and looking out for escaping sparks.

Back in the falls spent at Indian Creek, my family had wienie roasts complete with straw bales, burning leaves, and hayrack rides almost every weekend. Because they were so commonplace, I chuckled at my dad's coworkers and city friends from church who got so excited about the whole production. I hesitate to even use this term now, because I'm not sure its used anymore, but I miss those wienie roasts.

I miss knowing the exact spot in the local graveyard where my brother would jump out to spook all those city folk on the hayrack ride. I wonder whatever happened to the dozens of roasting sticks my dad designed and carefully labeled with our last name so they could be used year after year.

And since my parents aren't able to read this blog from their home in Ethiopia, I will even admit that I kind of maybe might be able to see how in the future I could possibly miss raking leaves for days and days and days (and days and days) every fall. Since I am no longer working, I may even get desperate enough to miss the penny my dad would pay us for each hedgeapple that we threw down our back hill and out of the way of the riding lawnmower.

Now that I am one of those cityfolk, and no longer spend weekend afternoons in the fall carrying caramel apple dip and s'more ingredients down the hill for the evening's gathering, I am thankful for the firepit that we were given this summer.

Thank you to Grandmother and Grandad for the memories that firepit brought up last night.

17 September 2008

My Refrigerator is Full

Now that Asher is involved with several "schools," our refrigerator represents well that a child lives here. Getting Asher to answer the question of what he did while I was at Bible Study or Mom 2 Mom is a challenge. I'm usually given a teenage type answer of "Mommy don't ask you questions," or "Mommy not say, 'what you do?'" But every once in a while he provides me with some interesting details.

Yesterday after Bible Study and after we established the fact that Mommy was going to be asking questions and he needed to answer if he wanted to listen to his Bee Music CD, I learned "you grab that guitar." Today after Mom 2 Mom I learned, "teacher say, you get down from box." When I ask about whether he heard a story, sang songs, or even had a snack, I hear an emphatic "no!"

When we eventually get home from our morning activities, and are eating lunch, I often find out a few more details about the day. I love all of you teachers who take the time to provide parents with information describing what you talked about during the day, because those guides help me to at least know what questions to ask.

Yesterday during lunch, we sang the song "God is so Good" and repeated his memory verse from Bible Study. Today we talked about creation and how "God created the trees and the Earth." He gets so proud of himself after he says his verse and continues to repeat it as long as he gets any kind of reaction.

13 September 2008

The Bishop is Missing

"Mommy, help you find bishop!"
"Knight wants eat cookie."
"Go to Farmer's market, play chess!"

Tonight, I'm coming out of the closet about yet another obsession of Asher's which is not exactly typical for a two year old. In recent days, I have heard Asher say each of the above phrases.

We are all kind of relieved that he no longer begs to open the cleaning supply cabinet every day and doesn't (usually) ask to sleep with his "cleaning supplies" anymore, but Asher's latest love is almost as worrisome for such a little boy.

Walter and I are impressed that he does know the name of all of the chess pieces, can set the board with each piece in its starting position, and has a basic idea of how each piece can move. We just get a little worried when these pieces take the place of stuffed animals in his bed or when he tries to walk around imitating how a bishop would walk.

I will also go further in this confessional to provide parents with a tip: you can find videos of almost anything on Youtube - including clips of chess games. Asher doesn't watch a lot of tv or videos, but he does regularly "watch chess." But not the ones that fall down, and not the ones with eyes - those chess video clips are just a little bit too scary for us.

All you parents of children with normal interests, we invite you to bring your kids over and expose Asher to some typical two year old boy games. Obviously, we are not making cars, trucks, and trains as interesting as they should be!

09 September 2008

First Day of My Stay at Home Life

Today was Tuesday and I was at home.

I didn't go to visit my interns, just played with my one mentee named Asher.
I didn't edit any papers, just got out the coloring book.
I didn't attend any meetings, but made sure Asher kept his afternoon nap appointment.

I keep thinking its Wednesday. Why else would I be home during the day since I was also home yesterday? I keep thinking about making sure I have everything ready for being gone all day tomorrow, but I will still be here.

Maybe I should have spent the day preparing an elaborate dinner and actually unpacking the suitcase from our weekend getaway. But Walter is studying tonight and Asher and I had ice cream for dinner.

This was the first day of my new life.

01 September 2008

Reaching the Clouds

"You Get Big, You Reach Clouds," stated Asher earlier this weekend.
(These days when Asher says "you" he is referring to himself.)

Since reading The Happy Hedgehog, a book about a hedgehog who spends his days watching the clouds, Asher has had a fascination with clouds. Throughout the summer, he has talked about how he wants to touch the clouds. Although I'm referring to it in the metaphoric sense and he wants to physically touch them, I assure him that someday he will in fact reach the clouds.

So when we were driving home late at night this weekend, Asher declared the leading statement to this blog that someday when he got bigger, he would reach the clouds. Never wanting to miss an opportunity, I again agreed that someday he would reach the clouds, but he could probably touch them faster if he stopped using a pacifier - something we've discussed for many months. He didn't object, but the moment passed and he was soon snoozing in his carseat.

On Saturday morning, Walter and I were still in bed while Asher was jabbering in his bedroom. I could hear him saying mostly nonesense words and then distinctly heard, "You throw it way."

Hmmm...what was he going to be tossing in the garbage, I wondered? So I called out and asked him what he was throwing away?

Confidently, he responded, "pas-fier" Then we heard clunk-kachunk of the diaper pail going back and forth. He not only threw it away, but had put it in the place of no return! There was no going back now!

Throughout the morning, we worried about the remorse Asher would have when naptime came around, but there was no mention of the pacifier and he fell asleep like he had been sleeping without a pacifier for his entire life.

The truth is he had slept with one at every sleep-time since he was 48 hours old. Deciding whether or not he would struggle with nipple confusion if we introduced a pacifier was the first major decision Walter and I made for our son while we were still in the hospital. The decision seemed so huge at the time.
Two and a half years later, we are so proud of our Asher who took a first step towards reaching the clouds! What a big boy he is becoming!

25 August 2008

Letter from Exlie

Asher and I haven't slept in our own house for the past two nights. It doesn't look like we'll be there again tonight either. We aren't even allowed to be there during the day but have been banished to live across town with my parents who have graciously opened up their upstairs to the two of us. Its just Asher and I who have been banished. My husband is enjoying all of the comforts of home and permitted to be in the house as much as he chooses. With the few stops I've made to my home sweet home in the past two days, I've discovered what seems to be a bachelor's wreckage - living it up while the wife and son are banished.

Well...maybe I'm giving a slightly biased perspective on our current housing situation...

Walter has been busily, with much sweat and dedication been refinishing the wood floor in our living room! The floor had been covered by carpet that needed replacing when we bought the house five years ago. It had gotten worse to the point that I no longer cared what spilled on it because the new spill might help blend all of the stains together into one giant stain soaked piece of wool. So about a month ago, on a joyful Friday night, my brother helped Walter rip that nasty carpet out of our house forever.

The termite hole in the middle of the floor slowed down the progress of refinishing the wood floor, but my sweet husband figured out how to ensure we are no longer in danger of crashing through the living room floor into the basement. And now from the glimpses I've had through the window into the front porch, we have a living room with absolutely beautiful wood floor! When we refinished the dining room floor last summer, I thought there was never a more beautiful sight as shiny wood with all of its natural variations. I'm sure I'll feel the same when I am allowed back into the living room.

With all of the sawdust that would be created, running the loud sander all day on Saturday, and then the toxic fumes from the polyurethane, we decided it was best if Asher and I just move out for a while. So, here I sit in exile...waiting to get back into my house.

(By the way, I'm sure this exile would not have occurred if I actually had a key to my front door!)

19 August 2008

A Red Shoe Day

This morning, I stepped onto the stool to grab the box in the top corner of my closet. The box held the skinny heeled red shoes I bought two years ago, but never had courage to wear until today. With confidence from our babysitter that they were cute I set out to conquer my world with red on my feet. This day of my courage also happened to be the first day that the parking garage is under construction adding another 250 steps to my hike into the office. I know it was 250 steps because my feet shouted at me with each one as I thought about Chinese women who were subjected to feet binding.

I bound my feet today because I will soon have many fewer chances to wear nice shoes and my closetful of business casual outfits are now in even greater danger of molding to their hangers. I needed red shoes today to remind me that this is a day of independence. Those shoes took me into my boss' office. I left the letter on his desk without being able to look him in the eye. The officialness of the words on that paper meant the three year long decision I've been pondering has been made. Today I resigned from my job.

Its kind of free-spirited to say "I quit my job today!" but I don't really feel free. The loss of my twice weekly commitment to the adult world makes me more afraid and relying on hope that this is the best decision.

15 August 2008

All I Want for My Birthday

On August 7th, we celebrated our 5 year anniversary of being in debt to this old house. It is very fitting that as we celebrated this milestone, our living room is unliveable, the ceiling in the entryway is watersoaked, and the doorknob for the backdoor was lying on the ground. Our house isn't always in such a state of disrepair, and the current projects may be causing the biggest disruption we've had in the past 5 years - although I reserve the right to claim other repairs as equal interruptions.

There are many things we love about living in our old house, as well as hundreds of things I want to change (NOW!). But there is one thing that has bothered me about our eighty plus year old house that I have repeatedly asked my dear husband to change to no avail. I am hoping that my public annoucement here on my blog about this request may be the final prompt that my sweetie needs to give me the one thing I ever wanted, and since I just celebrated a birthday, now seems like the perfect time to grant my wish.

What I really want for my birthday this year is a KEY TO MY FRONT DOOR! When we closed on our house five years ago, with the shady couple who previously owned our house the alcholic husband handed us a set of many keys. The usual keys to the back door, key to the garage, key to the lock box around the thermostat (a topic for another time), and then he almost forgot - the key to the front door. Since the lock on the door is almost ninety years old, I suppose we should have been thankful to have received a key to it at all.

The plan was to immedieately get several more copies of the precious key made, but a few detours along the way kept us from getting that task done and here we are five years later with still just one key to the front door of our house. Since Walter moved into our house before we got married and I moved in a few weeks later, he got that first key and I haven't seen it since.

This leads me to my plea...Alll I Want For My Birthday is a Key to My Front Door!

06 August 2008

Fair Rides

Last week was the county 4-H fair. I have bad memories of being forced into a 4-H club, but that's a story for another time. Despite the thoughts I carry of my mom making me do something I did not want to do, I still have great memories of going to our county fair.

Times have changed. Lowes now stands on the dusty field where the fairgrounds used to be. The fair is now mostly spread out over cement with all of the 4-H projects in a large air-conditioned building and the smelly animal barns banished to the far corner of the park. But there are still funnel cakes to be eaten so we continue to go!

This was the first year that Asher was ready to go on any rides. He wouldn't have known the difference if we had skipped the carnival section completely, but my good memories of riding ride after ride prompted us to find one that Asher would like. We did find a good one! He got to drive a blue truck all around a construction site!
Grandma and Grandpa joined us at the fair this year. Per Grandpa's request, we found the tractors and Asher got to do something that to him is a novelty, but for my dad was a chore - ride (sit) on a John Deere.
Asher didn't actually get to ride a dog, but the combination of two of our little boy's favorite animals - dogs and monkeys - was a very big hit!
Before we left the fair, Asher did get to ride on an animal - this one a little more appropriate for a boy to ride on. He got his first pony ride - and he was grinning like this the entire time!
The evening grew late and Asher decided he needed to ride in the stroller, just in time to hold a monstrous ice cream cone with eyes!
Once again, the perfect end to a fun-filled evening!

23 July 2008

Celebrating 30 Years at Ravinia

My absolute favorite thing to do for a night out in Chicago is to spend an evening at Ravinia. I discovered Ravinia during the summer after my junior year in college. My friends Suzy and Steve were also in Wheaton for the summer, and we felt so sophisticated enjoying our strawberries and wine while listening to music at such a classy place!

I've been to Ravinia several other times since then and this most recent one to celebrate Walter's 30th birthday was probably the most adventuresome.

Our evening started off well, we had all the essentials to make a high class night at the festival. Special bakery croissants? Check. Knife to cut the gourmet cheese? Check. Citronella candle to keep up us from falling victim to the bugs repelled from the other citronella-touting picnickers? Check. Check. We enjoyed the items I carefully had picked from several Bloomington specialty food stores and then the dark cloud in the sky moved closer and closer...Until we found ourselves hanging out by the bathrooms. Not exactly on the list for a romantic evening!
The good news was that the rain didn't last long but gave me just the perfect amount of time to check in with our boy and hear all about his fun times with Grandma, Becky, and Sam. Then we returned to our once dry grassy picnic location to rescue our chairs from the newly formed pond.
Walter decided to prove that even though he turned 30, he was still young at heart. Although he was soaking wet for the rest of the evening, he put on quite the show!
Giving us hope that Walter's next 30 years of life won't be all drab and gloomy, God gave us a rainbow and the concert went on.

Although we listened to John Hiatt under a rain-soaked blanket rather than lounging on the soft lawn, this evening at Ravinia is one to remember.

(And no, although he does crazy things when he's around people he doesn't know that really was not Walter jumping into the water puddle!)

19 July 2008

Who's Having More Fun?

Asher idolizes my daredevil brother Sam. Every time Asher hears a motorcycle, he asks, "What's that noise?" even though he already knows what that noise is. That question is just his way of letting me know that he hopes that loud motor noise means that Uncle Sam is in our driveway.

Tonight, the uncle-nephew relationship was bonded even tighter. Sam got to re-live a part of his childhood and Asher got a fun ride. I remember watching Sam, who is 11 years younger than me, ride this green tractor around our driveway. He was always pulling something in that green wagon, and often tried to put Lucky, our shaggy cocker spaniel, or one of our many cats and kittens into the wagon. Time after time, those animals jumped out as soon as Sammy started riding that tractor. Finally, almost 15 years later, Sam found someone who would ride in the little green wagon while he pedaled the green tractor.

The big question we've been wondering is who is having more fun? The two year old little boy, or the 20 year old uncle?

17 July 2008

Grandma is Home!

It's been a year since we last saw my mom. She arrived home from Ethiopia yesterday and we are so happy to have her back home. The weirdest thing is that when she showed up at my backdoor, it didn't even seem surprising, it just seemed normal, like the way things should be.

Asher and Grandma reconnected fast even though he was only just under 18 months when she left last summer. She quickly turned him into an Ethiopian boy wearing traditional Ethiopian clothes and she received instant affection for adding a new family to Asher's giraffe herd.

We are waiting to see if these will also be the syrup eating variety of giraffes!

16 July 2008

He Passed! He Passed! He Passed!

Can you hear me singing the words, "He passed, he passed, he passed!?"

I'm so proud of my smart husband! After eight agonizing weeks of waiting to find out if he passed his latest actuary exam, we just learned that he did!

Walter now has got FIVE actuarial exams out of the way which means we are over half way to him becoming a Fellow. Thanks to all of you who prayed for him during the studying months and for me as I learned about the difficulties of single motherhood.
We've had a free couple of months but now the studying has begun again... Next Exam date is October 29th!

07 July 2008

A Kansas Celebration

We spent the holiday visiting Walter's family in Kansas City. It was a weekend of celebrations.

Walter's 30th birthday is coming up on July 18. Since it is such an important milestone year, we've started the celebration early by remembering important DATES in Walter's life.

Here are 3 generations of Reedy men. Can you tell at all that they are related?

Grams and Asher celebrate the 4th of July with bubbles!

Asher wasn't too excited about sparklers.

This is "the dog that nods." It is a huge hit at Grams and Grandpa's house. Asher starts off our visits by being terrified of this dog but by the end of our visits, he can't get enough of bobbing its head and wagging its tail. Asher has been so un-photogenic for the past 6-9 months. This must be the best picture of him we've had since his 18 month portrait.

14 June 2008

Asher's 1st Race

Last night, I felt like I was pinning wings on my little boy as I pressed the safety pins through the race number I was attaching to his back. I've worn many of those racing numbers and each time felt a sense of pride, knowing the work it takes to get to the point of being able to race.

Our training for this first Friday night kids run consisted only of practicing running around the kitchen table for about ten minutes while we waited for daddy to get home, but it was still fun to watch Asher be excited about running.

The fun lasted for only so long. Asher enjoyed a couple of practice jogs down the track with daddy, but by the time the actual run began and daddy said, "Ok, Asher now is the time to run."

Our son who we at one time thought would be a compliant child stated, "NO, WALK."

That was then followed by another defiant statement of "Sit in grass." So, Walter ended up carrying Asher most of the way around the track while I waited and waited for them to come running by. They came around eventually, dead last.

I explained to a race worker that my son had indeed completed the race and asked for a ribbon like she had handed out to all of the other racers.

He was excited about the "trophy ribbon" and we are hoping that next time he will actually run during the race to earn his prize.

Mommy thought we needed another prize after the race - nothing is completely celebrated unless it includes ice cream. Asher thinks that ice cream cones with eyes are even better!

09 June 2008

Fun Facts about Returning to Wheaton

In college, everything was "fun." I daily found myself exclaiming with friends that their good news was, "fun for you!" There were "fun facts about Nancy," "fun facts about Ukraine," "fun facts about Fischer 5W," and fun facts about every other thing that was...fun. Since I just spent 4 days back on campus, I thought of some

"Fun Facts about Returning to Wheaton - 10 years later."
1. Late night talks with my roommates - this still happened!
2. Getting to ride in the new elevators at Fischer dorm.
3. Knowing where the not-so-crowded bathrooms are.
4. The buildings still smelled the same!!
5. Watching current students eyes glaze over - just as mine used to do when an excited alum described how great it was to be back and what it was like when they were a student.
6. Everyone around campus says "hi" to everyone else on campus.
7. The phones in Fischer dorm are the exact same model from 14 years ago.
8. I gravitated to the same places in SAGA, the cafeteria, for every meal.
9. I remembered to take multiple glasses of drink on my first pass through the food line.
10. The chimes still ring!
11. I wasn't worried about being raided by the brother floor when I went to bed at night.
12. Blanchard lawn is still the perfect lawn to nap on.
13. I felt completely safe walking across campus late at night.
14. God is there. I found myself once again talking outloud to Him.

29 May 2008

Mommy will be OOO

Next week I am going to become an independent woman again. For four days, I will not be performing my duties of “mommy,” “honey,” “boss,” or “employee.” I will simply be Angie – and I am so excited!!! Of course I absolutely love those titles (especially the first two), but I will get to represent just myself and have a schedule that depends only on how I need to best spend the day.

It is so appropriate and yet coincidental that I will be enjoying this brief stage of autonomy where I first found true independence. That would be in Fischer Dorm on the campus of Wheaton College, where I lived for two years during my time as a freshman and sophomore in college. .

Ever since I was selected for the “Reedy/Walling Writing Conference Scholarship” several months ago, I’ve been dreaming about walks to Adams Park and sitting in those familiar classrooms scribbling notes while learning important life-changing information. I’ve been preparing my manuscripts, researching the faculty who will be in attendance and reviewing with my husband all of the rules that must remain in place during my absence.

In the past week, its been the rules of our home part that I’ve struggled with the most. My manuscripts have been submitted, I’ve learned as much as I ever needed to know about the publishers who will be there, and now I’m struggling with how I will handle this independence while my family flounders here at home. The longest I have ever been apart from Asher has been a little more than 24 hours. I haven’t even been away from Walter for more than a couple of nights! I will be gone from home for four nights and FIVE days!

Over the course of our almost five years of marriage, I’ve read many books about the joys of traveling alone and being an independent woman. These books are helpful not only in satisfying that part of me that likes to be free but also in reminding Walter that if I left on one of these independent adventures, he would really miss me. But now I really am going to be on an adventure of sorts and the reality is that I think it will be a challenge.

I am looking forward to attending the Write to Publish conference next week, but my enthusiasm for a rush of independence is somewhat dampened by my thoughts of not seeing my little boy and my sweet husband for an extended amount of time. My more than capable mother-in-law will be here to take care of my family but if anyone catches Asher out and about past his bedtime looking rather grungy, please excuse us, but mommy is going to be OOO (and that is Out Of the Office for all of you non-Corporate types).

21 May 2008

The End of an Era

There aren't many things left in my life that have been consistent for more than a couple of years. And now this one thing that has been very predictable for 9 years is changing. I've been involved with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for a long time. Monday nights have always found me with my group and Friday mornings I have committed to getting up early and preparing with the other leaders for our discussions on Monday nights.

Some of the leaders in that Friday morning circle have seen me through much change in my life. They were there when my parents moved to Ethiopia to understand the pain in letting them leave. When I became engaged and lamented not having my mom around to make wedding plans with, they volunteered to be 30 moms for me and one gave me a phone card to call my mom for a few minutes. Although we had Asher's name picked out long before his birth, the Bible study lesson that week when he was born happened to include the study of Jacob's sons, one of whom is Asher.

I've come to love Friday mornings with those women. Its there that I learned how to pray: on my knees, adoring God for who He is, thanking him for what He has done, and bringing requests to Him. It was on those mornings that I watched women I served with reveal they had just received diagnoses of terminal cancers and then over the months and couple of years, I watched them serve out the rest of their lives, never wanting to stop until they were physically unable. I learned what it means to rejoice over kids as they make choices to turn back to God. This spring I saw God answer the prayers to bring a new life into a fellow leader who was so real in her struggle with infertility. That group of women has taught me what it looks like to live as a Christian woman in each stage of life.

Its bittersweet to leave the group. I'm not leaving BSF altogether, but just switching to the day class, so that I can take Asher with me! Now that he's 2, he can go and learn verses, songs, and Bible lessons. I know that even at this young age, he will be taught truth and I pray that truth will remain in him and that he will never stop adding to it.

Here's my BSF commercial...if you have never attended a BSF class, it is an international organization with classes all around the world. There is a class finder on their web site: www.bsfinternational.org that will help you find a class near you! Next year we're all studying the life of Moses - what a great study!

12 May 2008

Football with the Girls

Tomorrow is Walter's exam! My days as a single mother are almost over again... until about August, but the exciting thing for now is that I will see my husband again soon.

Walter has had extremely limited time for fun things lately, so when he won 4 tickets to go watch our local arena football team, he was a bit disappointed that the tickets had to be used on a night he needed to be studying. But that meant that Asher and I could go with a friend, and we picked AUNT BECKY!

This was Asher's first football game! It's kind of interesting that he experienced it with his mommy and his aunt who didn't really know (or care) much about the actual sport. This is the conversation Becky and I had a few hours before the game:

Becky: So is this soccer that we're going to tonight or is it real football?
Me: It's real football, but different since it's indoors.
Becky: Is the team a part of a league or some kind of club?
Me: Hmm...They seem to be pretty good, maybe they're some kind of minor league.
Becky: Where is the game going to be?
Me (I knew this one!): The Coliseum.
Becky: What kind of food are we going to get?
Me: Definitely nachos and maybe we could share a hot dog.

Walter is a bit distressed over Asher's first football game experience. We did get there early enough to get a free t-shirt, but left as soon as half time was over.

It was something to do.

02 May 2008

Running Tears

Running often brings me to tears. I doubt that I'm alone in this sentiment, but this week I was brought to tears during a run in a way that has never happened before.

Its easy to understand why there were tears when I was in track in junior high. I struggled so hard to make running my sport, but eventually I realized that my short little legs just were not going to be helpful when running competitively.

I started running again during a summer internship in my college years and in my care-free pre-Walter and Asher days, I trained for and ran a lot of races just to prove to myself that I could do it. Tears came to my eyes often in those days, weeks, and months of training. There were many early mornings when I just wanted to stop.

The most victorious running tears came when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon and then again after the second. I couldn't believe I had actually run so far!

But this week, I experienced running tears in a whole new way. Its kind of nice to say "I went running this morning," but honestly I haven't been able to say that since last fall. I am currently counting down the days and hours until Walter's exam when I will be rescued from single motherhood, and I reached my boiling point one morning and told Walter I needed to cry.

Although he normally tries to leave the house between 6 and 6:30 he agreed to stay home until I got back from a run. So I tied up the laces on my shoes and set out. As I passed the lilac bush in our driveway, I took my first sniff of the freshly budded flowers and tears began to flow. When I reached the sidewalk, I started running and tears came that needed so badly to be released.

It was the most freeing feeling to run and cry! Sometimes I stopped to walk because I needed to breathe, but it was so good, refreshing, and exactly what I needed! Even though I am completely dismayed that my legs are sore after such a pathetically short run/walk, I can hardly wait to go run (and maybe cry?) again.

23 April 2008

Spring in an Old House

It seems like everyone loves spring these days. Of course we do! How could we not be excited about sunshine, warmth, and the beautiful tulips blooming? Honestly though, spring has always been my favorite season, so I was in for a real treat when I experienced the first spring in this old house. Not knowing what all was planted around our yard, I was overwhelmingly happy when the tulips began to bloom in clusters up and down our driveway that first year we lived in this 80 year old plus house.

Every spring I like to imagine about how many years those bulbs have produced beautiful blooms and what the lives were like of the people who lived here each time they opened. Maybe some of those years the tulips appeared at just the right time when the families before us needed something good in their lives and some years, those flowers may have been an added bonus to celebrations they already were experiencing.

In the almost 5 years that I've been watching the green shoots poke out under cloudy gray skies and then a few weeks later burst into reds, yellows, pinks, and purples, these flowers have accented my life as well. Three years ago when Asher was born in March, the tulips were an outside display of the joy we had inside (and were also a bright spot when my tired eyes were bleary from being awake through the night).

This year, the tulips represent hope. I've been reminded that God is faithful and that all things are renewed - even lives that have gone through wintery periods.

14 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #5

Five is a good whole number, so this will be the last in my little series (sniff, sniff).

When I was young and immature, I hated salad and any kind of vegetables. Believe me, I know its a chore to get a child to eat vegetables but I think I might have been more extreme in my hatred of raw carrots, lettuce, celery, or really anything raw. My high school best friend and I prided ourselves on disliking salads. When we went to Prom and Homecoming, we left our salads untouched and somehow this was the cool thing to do while our other girlfriends nibbled away like rabbits at their salads.

My taste buds didn't really start to mature until I was in college and began to force myself to eat salads and raw vegetables. It is a true story that when I was preparing to spend a summer in Ukraine, I began a self-imposed training to eat at least one raw cucumber at lunch and dinner in anticipation of a summer of eating cucumbers under watching eyes. This training worked and I made it through the summer gnawing on those horrid veggies without gagging. I wasn't really able to maintain a conversation during those meals, but since my Ukrainian words were limited to "please," hello," "thank you," and "no more book pages as toilet paper," I did just fine.

After that summer, I became more and more adventurous and I now eat salad and select raw vegetables frequently (just had a salad for lunch!). So, the thing that I never thought I would say is

"Let's have an adventure this summer and try to eat more vegetables!"

My excitement began this past weekend when Asher and I attended a Sustainable Living Expo at Illinois Wesleyan. I learned a lot of interesting things but am most excited about joining a CSA. I'm probably showing my Mid-West "green" uneducation by saying I just learned that CSA stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. Basically its like having a garden without the hard work. Members of a CSA pre-pay into the group in exchange for a weekly distribution of fresh, locally grown produce.

I'm planning to join a half share of the Mitchell Farms Produce CSA (www.mitchellproduce.com). It sounds like a healthy adventure to receive fruits and veggies every week and a challenge to try to use them all up before getting another round a week later.

If anyone local is interested in joining too, let me know! We could each save $20 if we sign up together!!

Although I still avoid cucumbers at all costs, I now have a husband who has agreed to eat all of the cucumbers we receive (and I'll eat his share of tomatoes).

12 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #4

I thought I was done with this series, but I've been thinking about another statement recently as I've been writing about it for another project. This one is not something I actually originated, but I found myself repeating it often because it was kind of out there and mysterious.

My parents moved to Africa a little over 7 years ago to become missionaries. While I am extremelly proud of what they are doing and totally supportive of their work, its really not easy to have parents who live so far away and who I don't get to talk with very much. I just tried a new phone communication option with them yesterday, and almost ended in tears of frustration because the connection was so horrible.

While I was in college, I dreamed of living overseas doing some type of missions work. This wasn't a foreign concept that I picked up while away at school, although the passion was fanned there, but my parents had instilled this excitement of God's work around the world in our family from the time I first went to Brazil when I was 6 and my sister was 3.

My dad worked at State Farm for over 25 years - a very stable life and kind of the nerdy comfort zone that I find my little family in now. I imagined mom and dad would be doing missions trips for the rest of their lives, and would probably do longer stints once they retired, but never thought they would move away before retirement while I was still unmarried, my sister was still in college, and my brother was just entering junior high. But that's what happened.

Their first step in doing full-time missions work was joining Wycliffe Bible Translators. After completing a training course here in the U.S., they headed to Tanzania to do a field training where they lived in huts and eventually sent back pictures of my brother with spears and machetes attached to his body as if he was daily fighting off lions and large snakes.

Since the field training was meant to be very remote and physically challenging, we did not hear from them often at first. Until one day about a month after they left, I went to my mailbox and finally found a postcard from Tanzania! It was from my mom and one of her first sentences was,

"My monkey scratches are healing nicely."

What?? This was the first report I had from them on their well-being in the wilds of Africa. Was this supposed to be comforting? It was one of those things I never imagined I would be hearing from my mother.

Since they don't get mentioned often in this blog, I'm attaching a picture of my parents. Here they are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Looks beautiful, doesn't it? Anyone else want to sign up for the adventurous life that may include monkey scratches that need healing?

07 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #3

An Ifft family tradition which I've implemented into our little family is to hide the Easter baskets after they've been stocked with Peeps, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans. As we got older the hiding places became more difficult. I'm not really sure where the tradition started...maybe its like hiding Easter eggs, which we never did while growing up.

So on Easter morning I explained to Asher that he needed to look for his Elmo basket because it had candy and other treats in it. He seemed all excited until he spotted the cleaning supply bottle and a little rag which he had reluctantly left at the bottom of the stairs the night before.

He gravitated to the little bottle and immediately began to "squirt squirt" while wiping with the rag. Because Asher was otherwise occupied, I convinced Walter to look for his basket (although he did not have the same temptation to clean first). So here is a picture of the scene where Walter had found his basket in the closet and Asher continued to clean.
I finally had to say another thing I never thought I would need to say;
"Asher, look for your Easter basket then you can finish cleaning."

02 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #2

Moving on, now to one of the things I've said to Asher recently that makes me wonder if I am doing something wrong in our home that made my son choose vacuums over toys.

Not too long ago, I was at Target with Asher looking for some things that he might like for his birthday (isn’t it great when you can shop for presents while your child is with you!?). I was letting him hold and play with various toys and he was having a great time until his eagle eyes looked way down and across the aisle and saw the vacuum cleaners! In a very loud voice, he shouted, "AUUMS, AUUMS" (translated to be VACUUMS, VACUUMS and meaning we needed to go look at them immediately because they are so cool).

I then heard myself say “We will go look at the vacuums, but first we need to finish looking at the toys.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I found myself hoping that there wasn’t anyone I knew lurking in the next aisle!

29 March 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #1

Lately, I've found myself saying some things that I just never imagined would come off of my lips. Most of them have been said to Asher, and mainly are related to his continued obsession with cleaning - which we keep waiting for the day that will stop - but I also have found myself saying things to Walter that I immediately want to take back.

Walter is studying almost constantly these days (ok maybe not that much, but it feels like it), and last week we actually had a night where we were both home. I wanted to watch one of our favorite shows, but he was reading a book I had just ordered on a really interesting topic to us lately. Now, I LOVE to read and I do read almost every night.

During my single days when I spent many evenings reading for the entire night after work until I went to bed, I dreamt about the time when I would have a husband to sit on the couch next to me. We would both be reading our books and would pause every once in a while to tell each other some insightful things we had just read and then after some brief discussions or a quick laugh, we would return to our own books to be lost again in the words of the pages.

This was my romantic dream...that totally did not become reality.

Walter tells me that he enjoyed reading while he grew up and throughout high school, but then in college it become "uncool" for him to read other than if it was assigned reading. So he just kind of stopped reading. He will read if we are reading aloud to each other, or if we are on vacation and I have my nose in a book all day and he has nothing else to do (this was before Asher - now he gets to chase Asher while I read!). But other than that he doesn't just pick up a book and dive in.

So the other night when I told him, "Honey, please stop reading." I couldn't believe what came out of my mouth! I immediately asked to take the words back and changed them to "Wait wait, please keep on reading!" but it was too late. He put down the book and we went to watch The Office leaving a missed opportunity for my romantic ideal to become a reality.

Since this post got way longer than I intended, maybe this will be the first in a series of "Things I Never Thought I Would Say."

16 March 2008

He Chose Mommy!

We (I) have had an incredibly busy week. I was gone several nights (and even a day) in a row leaving Walter and Asher home alone together. Asher loves his daddy and they did a lot of fun things together. But Asher kept my heart missing him yesterday while I was gone. He said exactly what I needed to hear during a conversation over Cheerios.

Its always fun to talk over the events of the day with him. There's usually something going on that's really exciting. Yesterday, there happened to be lots of exciting things lined up for Asher's day. We told him that throughout the day he was going to get to play with his friend Grant, go on an Easter Egg hunt, see his Aunt Becky, and go to a hockey game! We are starting to ask what his favorite things are just because his opinions are so important to us. So we asked which of those was his favorite thing. And guess what he said?
Out of all of those fun things, he said..."MOMMY!"

I'm still his favorite! :)

03 March 2008

Our Little Boy is Two

Happy 2nd Birthday Asher!!

Two isn't exactly the age when children leave the house and start spreading their wings, but somehow, Asher seems older to me now that he turned two. He strings words together now, he wakes up and gets out of bed on his own in the morning, and today he even reprimanded me when I sloshed some coffee out of my mug by telling me that I needed to use "two hands!" (Hmm...maybe he's heard that somewhere before!)

This weekend, Walter's parents came in for the celebration and Aunt Becky and Uncle Sam drove over for the evening. We had so much fun together and even our shy little boy enjoyed all of the attention.
Asher requested an Elmo cake this year which is what I made. When we talked about his birthday in the days leading up to this weekend, he would always say, "mommy make Elmo cake." So mommy made an Elmo cake.
Much to everyone's dismay, but to mommy's delight, Asher was very organized as he opened his presents. We had made Asher's cleaning obsession public knowledge previously but until Saturday, no one knew that the obsession extends to organization. After he opened each present, Asher would go put it away where it belonged. Here he is putting away the Elmo movies he just opened.

In the Ifft Family growing up, we loved the Bernstein Bears. I think my sister had every one of those books and bought the new ones as they come out (just like with the Babysitters Club). One of our favorites was Bernstein Bears and Too Much Birthday. I think Asher and Grams illustrate that title exactly!

27 February 2008

We Escaped and We're Back

We just got back from Florida where we truly had a (much needed) winter escape. For the first day, I laid in the bright sun and soaked in God's warmth. It was exactly what I needed.

Its nearly impossible to get a good family picture, where Asher is looking at the camera, but here is an attempt.

The beaches we were at had a crazy number of shark's teeth. We now have a little collection with every size and sharpness. Walter really liked looking for them and could have done that for days on end.
I was happy because I read a whole book and it was such a good one. I read lots of sections of it outloud to Walter and underlined most of the rest of it. We don't have any pictures of me reading, but at least the book (in orange) is in this picture!
Last year when we went to the beach, Asher picked every grain of sand off of his legs. This year, he at least would walk in it although he often wanted to be carried. He did like playing in the sand, with the shells, when daddy held him in the waves, and when we swam in a calm area with no waves. One of his favorite things though was getting to have peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day!

Ahh...the simple things in life; sharks teeth, a good book, and peanut butter and jelly. May we continue to celebrate life even through blessings and cursings.