29 December 2009

Cherry Lane

I will never forget Cherry Lane. It was there that I learned some of my most valued skills. Most of all I learned creativity as we created a world where money was cut out of notebook paper and friends visited each other everyday. Day after summer day, my sister, best neighborhood friend, and I fought our boredom through returning to our made-up lives in Amber's basement.

I long for Asher and Amelie to have opportunities to find their own creativity when their own boredom strikes. But I need to allow boredom to strike which isn't exactly easy in a culture focused on productivity and structure.

In my Pantagraph column this week I described several ways to leave room for boredom that leads to creativity.

Still Me

Have you ever been forced to be someone you're not?

I've dressed in a skirt and blouse when I'd rather be wearing jeans.

I've pretended to be fine with a situation that hours earlier I stood fuming in my kitchen over.

And each time I've covered raw hurt and sadness with smiles and cheer the outside properness creates an inner stretch of intensity that makes me want to shoot across the room.
Sometimes I just want to be me even when me isn't pretty.

My sweet Amelie received beautiful princess jewels for Christmas this year. Aunt Becky knew all little girls need a tiara, sparkly necklaces, earrings and rings, so she invested in the most beautiful set available at Toys R Us. After we opened that present, and decorated our little baby with her sparklies, Asher immediately fell in love with his beautiful princess sister.
Plain Amelie left and royal Princess Amelie has moved in. Whenever she wakes from a nap or sets her jewels aside for a moment, Asher immediately brings Princess Amelie the tiara, the necklace, the clip-on earrings, and the ring (although she eats the ring so Mommy gets to wear her ring). And our little baby sparkles as she crawls around the house because with her princess things on, Asher claims she is more beautiful.

While wearing her weight of jewels and looking ready to rule the world, Amelie teaches me that its still ok to be who she is. Sure she's dressed up, but she still screeches, her diapers still stink, and she still scavenges whatever crumb, button, or other dangerously small item lies in her path.

Even in her forced situation of royalty, she is still Amelie.

Whatever situation I find myself in I want to still be Angie.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Unto us a Son is given, unto us a child is born.
He shall be our king forever!
Merry Christmas!

21 December 2009

Guard with Gratitude

Raise your hand if all your presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree?

Are your Christmas meals planned and organized?

Have you packed the gazillion baby supplies you need for just a one night stay at your in-laws?

I'm guessing not many hands are raised, and if yours is, please let me know your secret!

We have much to do this week to finish preparing for Christmas. I love it and I stress over it all at the same time.

My secret weapon to preventing the mile-long to-do list from becoming a joy-killer is to Guard myself with Gratitude. I wrote more about this over on Exemplify and you can check it out today!

14 December 2009

Cardboard Testimony

About 10 people gave cardboard testimonies at church yesterday. Reading their short statements painted on large pieces of cardboard reminded me how simply and yet dramatically the Peace of God changes lives.

If Mary, Jesus' mother had written a cardboard testimony her "before" side might have read:

Simple teenager living an average life.

When she flipped it over to the "after" side the transforming gift of God would have allowed her to write:

Mother to the King of the world.

Joseph could have written:

Carpenter wondering how to care for his fiance.

His "after" side could read:

Receiver of not only a divine baby, but gifts to care for him.

The shepherds could say:

Stuck in a monotonous all-night job.

And after a visit from God:

Excitement found at work changed everything.

A true encounter with God's peace changes everything. Hopeless, worrisome, desperate situations become filled with purpose, contentment, and knowledge that good will overcome bad.

I could write many statements testifying of how God's peace has changed my life, but today my cardboard testimony reads:

Lost in a focus on my own abilities to create the perfect life.

And I can flip over that "before" side and now I live

Found by teaming with God who is more than able to do all things.

What is your cardboard testimony today?

09 December 2009

Focus on Christ

I'm shifting my focus 180 degrees.

So far this Christmas season, I have spent much time writing and thinking about avoiding the commercial aspects of what Christmas has become. I wrote about this being the most stressful time of the year and about slowing down the pace of Christmas and I realized on Sunday that I've left out what I should be focusing on.


A baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago who came to be Emmanuel, God with us. God who understands how simply the stresses of daily life can make me grumpy. God who knows how quickly distractions can shift my mind away from Him. God who remembers the pain of disappointments.

He understands humanity in the most intimate way, being Creator and yet living perfectly in His created world.

Yes, consumerism threatens me everyday when I open the newspaper or step into a store.

Yes, larger than life Grinches bob at me when I'm out looking at Christmas decorations.

Yes, pressures to exchange cookies and bake my entire repertoire of Christmas treats loom when I walk through my kitchen.

But I don't have to focus on these distractions. Rather than seeing all that is wrong with this "Holiday" season, I am choosing to look at all that is right about Christmas time.

Generosity flows from parents, friends, teachers, and even complete strangers who toss coins into red kettles.

Nativity scenes stand right next to those Grinches and living next to the bah humbugs of the world is exactly what Jesus would do.

The gusts of wind are howling outside this morning, and I think I'll let those winds shift my focus.
Evidences of Christ's advent are everywhere.

Will you join me in seeing them?

07 December 2009

A 3 Year Old's Advice

Yesterday Asher freely gave me two pieces of advice. I didn't even ask for his 3 year old parenting tips, but he didn't mind sharing.
About the time we reach the corner of Kroger and Walgreens on our way home from church, we begin asking Asher what he learned in Sunday School. Rather than tell us the direct answer to the question his take home paper tells me he learned about, we spend up to 15 minutes convincing him to share.
Yesterday's question was no exception.
I asked what the angel came to tell Mary?
As expected, he claimed a brain lapse and didn't remember. We continued for the next ten minutes (with the looming threat of no lunch until he told us), until standing in the kitchen, he eventually told me that the angel told Mary she would have a baby!

Every parenting book I've read has stressed the importance of praise, and I agree. I firmly believe in encouraging Asher and try to build his confidence by regularly telling him I'm proud of him.

So when he finally answered the question, I thanked him for answering and told him I was proud of him! But then he threw a twist into all my parenting strategies by telling me,

"Mommy, next time don't be so proud of me!"

What else can I say?

His next piece of advice came as we followed his bedtime routine.

As usual, I lay in bed with him to sing his favorite song. Lately, he likes to sing the song back to me and the recorder in my brain tries desperately to soak in every moment of being close to his little body and hearing his sweet voice. My lips uncontrollably lift in a smile. But this time I received clear instructions.
"Mommy, don't smile when I sing the song."
Again...What can I say?

Bad advice.

What bad advice have you heard today?

03 December 2009

Stressful Time

I think I'm beating a gift horse over the head with my thoughts about slowing down this Christmas season. Or maybe I just realize my tendencies to get caught up in all the wrong parts of preparation.

Either way, Hearts at Home is running my blog post today about ways to manage stress during the Christmas season. You can find it here.

And just to give you a quick laugh if you're already feeling your blood pressure rising, here's Walter's version of our latest Thanksgiving family picture.

02 December 2009

Christmas Rush

I knew it was coming. I've looked over our December calendar frequently to make sure it wouldn't get packed with unnecessary commitments. But I already feel the craziness of a month focused on doing things to reach a goal of the picture perfect Christmas morning that rarely happens.

If our culture encourages us to think about the Christmas holiday for three months, then why is much of the actual month a focus on preparing rather than celebrating?

At risk of being held accountable to sticking to my ideas, I'd like to share the newspaper column I wrote about slowing down the pace of Christmas.

Check it out here!

01 December 2009

Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do, seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking light.

To you we say, Come Lord Jesus...


This Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen simply states the reasons I so much long for Christ's coming.

His presence brings



Anticipation of a better future


Light in a dark world.

(I am frantically searching for daily Advent reflections. I'd love to hear from anyone who has a resource to recommend!)

23 November 2009

By the Goodness of God

"By the Goodness of God we are far from want."

With these words, Pilgrim Edward Winslow ended his description of the first Thanksgiving festival.

I admit I forgot the reason for Thanksgiving.

Sure, I've lamented over the crazy focus of Black Friday over Turkey Thursday and the mad rush to Christmas before the potatoes have been mashed or the pies baked. But when Asher pulled a picture of a pilgrim and a sewn boat with Indians out of his backpack I remembered Thanksgiving is about even more than family and an attitude of thankfulness.

Its about the history of our country.
A celebration by surviviors who made it through a year in the wilderness of America.

They arrived at Plymouth Rock with little provisions at a time of year when they would quickly discover the harsh winters of the Northeast. Many did die during the first months in their land of freedom, but those who lived found new friends and discovered how to provide for themselves.

And when they made it through, they celebrated with a three day feast.

I don't presume to be able to offer a full history lesson on Thanksgiving here, but I encourage you to take a few minutes to do a little research about our past leaders who have celebrated.

The first to officially declare Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday held on the last Thursday of November was Abraham Lincoln. He encouraged our nation towards thankfulness shortly after he became a Christian in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving.

Even in the middle of the Civil War, when neighbors and brothers fought against each other, Lincoln found innumerable reasons for the country to stop and thank God for the blessings of "fruitful fields and healthful skies."

He encouraged fellow Americans in that day to see past the many troubles in the country and recognize the good things directly from the hand of God.

"No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."

And even now almost 150 years later, despite the rough economic times and daily stresses of life, I can absolutely proclaim that only by God's goodness, I am far from want.

17 November 2009

The Eighth Day

"I will be nice to my sister on the 8th day!"

When Asher took the "No Babies" sign off the front porch in September, we thought the switch in his brain had permanently switched to being sweet to Amelie.

But then she started to screech.
And now she crawls.
She even dares to look at Asher's toys as if she might possibly be interested in them.

And so now the unkind Big Brother Asher has returned. Whenever I correct his mean behavior he calmly tells me not to worry because he plans to be nice to Amelie again on the 8th day.

I know about what happened on Days 1-7 of Creation but I never thought about what might happen on the 8th day.

Every morning last week I tried proclaiming, "Today is the 8th day!"

For two days I received the reply that "No it's not the 8th day yet." Finally we reached the 8th day on Friday but Saturday sent us right back to Days 6 or 7. On one of those days he even resorted to putting the "No Babies" sign back on the porch.

Just when I think he's making progress, he'll slip in a little poke to his sister, or yet another reminder to her that "YOU SHOULD NOT SCREECH! IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU ONE MORE TIME NOT TO SCREECH I WILL BE VERY ANGRY." (And yes I did just mean to scream at you just as Asher screams at us.)

Probably our son isn't the only one in the family who progresses and regresses on a daily basis. Despite my good intentions as I start each morning, I often find myself lapsing back into negative selfish, prideful patterns I thought I already conquered.

I might make good progress towards becoming the loving mom, wife, and friend, I want to be and finally arrive on the 8th day, but too often the 9th day comes back around and I easily fall back into interacting with others without the grace I have been shown.

But its a new day again and I declare today to be the 8th day!

12 November 2009

Creating Thankfulness

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only TWO weeks away?

Thanksgiving for us means hiding away from the shopping madness with Walter's family in a Missouri cabin. We can hardly wait to sit around the campfire, hike down to the river, and of course play (or cheer for) the annual Reedy-Walling-Fry football classic.

Amelie will get to try her first turkey.
Asher will (hopefully) walk on his own down the hill to the river.
I will take knitting lessons from Laura.
Walter will try not to dominate in Poker and promises to hold his tongue as some of the family plays the less strategic game of Dominoes.

Beyond the traditions and excitement of Thanksgiving, I hope it will ignite gratitude that lasts through the Christmas season.

Today my ideas to create thankfulness are posted on the Hearts at Home website. I invite you to check it out!

09 November 2009

Hilarious Giving

Paul didn't ask us to toss coins into an offering plate laughing hysterically or cracking jokes to our pew mate, but he did challenge Christ followers to be hilarious givers. I don't know exactly what it means, but giving hilariously must go beyond writing a check with a smile on my face.

For my 3 year old who knows nothing of what it means to really need something I want to teach a lifestyle of hilarious giving that goes beyond duty or going through the motions because its what we should do.

He doesn't know anything about little boys and girls who don't get snacks or even healthy food when they wake up from their naps.

He lasts less than five minutes raking leaves in the yard with mommy and daddy before running off to ride his bike so the concept of forced labor is completely foreign.

Even knowing that some kids go to sleep at night without even one bedtime story or goodnight kiss is out of his realm of understanding.

So how do I teach him to hilariously fill up a shoebox for a child who has only a tiny fraction of the material things we have?

For the little boy who still daily questions my choice to go to the bathroom sitting down instead of standing up, I must start with myself.

Give creatively. Give regularly. Give cheerfully.

03 November 2009

Treasure hunting

If you've seen us with our faces hidden in a tree, please don't think we're crazy!
We might have seemed a little strange hanging around a port-a-potty when we ran into friends from our small group on their evening walk.

Tennis players may have wondered what we were doing at the back corner of the tennis court pushing a stroller and explaining to a 3 year old the intricacies of trees and sap.
And best of all Grams and Grandpa might have mysteriously returned to Kansas covered in poison ivy because they spent a visit with their grandchildren bushwacking through Illinois woods.

With a three year old and baby, we aren't exactly the most inconspicuous geocachers.
But we use them as our decoys and admit our addiction.
I wrote a column that ran in our newspaper, The Pantagraph, this weekend describing the fun times found in geocaching, and I realized I've never shared of this new found obsession on my blog.
Since we started looking for treasures, we've visited parks we never knew existed in this town. Asher's had a fun time discovering new playgrounds and we found a beautiful diamond ring for Amelie.

I enjoy knowing the secret about what is under a light post in one of the parking lots of a fast food restaurant on our town's main drag. I also look at those trees by my regular grocery store with a new found appreciation for what they contain.

So I write this post to notify friends that if you see us poking around town in odd places, don't be surprised. We're just searching for treasures and would love for you to join us!

Check out the fun at http://www.geocaching.com/

30 October 2009

The Movie Angie

I seriously used to think someone secretly followed me around documenting my life for a movie. Not because I believed my life to be so exciting, but more because I felt like everything I did was typical and would be interesting if anyone cared about the life of an average Illinois girl.

But no one does care about the average unconflicted life. Characters must be compelling and overcome conflict.

We listened to Donald Miller speak last night. I loved his book "Blue Like Jazz," so when I heard his 65 city tour included a stop in our little town, I immediately knew I would be in the audience. His funny poignant and carpe diem type challenge encouraged me to live my life like I imagine the movie-Angie would live.

Real life Angie avoids conflict because of the work, pain, time, and sacrifice it involves. Movie Angie plunges into the conflict (otherwise known as life) to live full days of no regrets.

Real life Angie quits her knitting washcloth project because my purl stitches still look exactly like my knit stitches.

Movie Angie determines to make washcloths for Christmas presents to force herself to perfect the craft (don't worry family, I don't even have time to attempt that - this year!).

Real life Angie abandons her dream of writing a book because I have no platform, I'm just...well me.

Movie Angie wakes up early every morning forcing herself to sit at the keyboard because of a love of creating words on the page.

Real life Angie dreads the practicality issues of leaving a nursing baby for day long adventures in Chicago.

Movie Angie can't wait to spend time with her sister and experience the surprises of the city.

Real life Angie's heart aches for orphans but knows the drawn out process of adoption is expensive and could take years.

Movie Angie plunges into adoption embracing diversity and identifying with God's heart.

Real life Angie rushes inside when coming home late at night.

Movie Angie pauses before going inside to see the incredible star filled sky. Musical Angie might even break into song praising God for those stars. But in my movie I still can't sing well so maybe I'll just speak my praise.

OK. So my life, my story, would never make a blockbuster movie (especially that knitting thing) but I do hope that every once in a while, real life Angie remembers to make the choices that movie Angie would make.

What choice would that be today?

26 October 2009

What can I do?

"Mommy, What can you do?" Asher asked as I tucked him into bed last night.

I'm not exactly a Renaissance woman, but I chuckled at his question.

As a student I can get good grades.
As an employee I can research and report on my findings.
As a writer I can create columns and essays.
As a baker I can concoct yummy treats.
As a driver I can get us to school and back.
As a former runner I can finish a marathon.
As a decorator I can peel off wallpaper.
As a gardener I can plant, water, and prune.
As a shopper I can find a good deal.
As a Bible study leader I can point out God's truths.
As a friend I can listen for hours over coffee.

But none of those skills mean a thing to him.

He wanted to know what I can do as a mom?

I can make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I can puree and freeze baby food.
I can read lots of stories.
I can push my boy super duper monster high on a swing.
I can bathe a slippery wiggly baby.
I can navigate a stroller and tricycle across a busy street while holding a little boy's hand.
I can bite into an apple to "get it started."
I can comfort.
I can hug.
I can sing a favorite good night song while Asher is snugly tucked into bed.

And this is all my indirect son needed me to do.
So I did.

19 October 2009

Any day of the year

Celebrating Christmas in October seemed like a lot of work.

But when I logged on to my homepage yesterday morning, the day of our celebration, the daily Bible verse affirmed the good in our early celebration.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Yesterday was Christmas.

Compiling wish lists, gathering (and wrapping) presents, preparing holiday food, setting up the Christmas tree, coordinating clothes for family pictures, and even disrupting normal napping schedules. All those preparations that typically run me ragged in mid-December didn't seem so bad in mid-October.

It was just enough.

Stores didn't tempt me at every turn with extra discounts if I just bought one extra fleece blanket for $15.

I didn't feel sick to my stomach after hearing about the proverbial roasting chestnuts for the bazillionth time.

My wrapping took less than half a day.

And when I left mom and dad's house with a stomach stuffed to overflowing, I felt a little better knowing it was from just one evening of indulgence rather than an entire month of overeating.

Maybe best of all it was a family gathering we hadn't had for a very long time.

We've celebrated Christmas as a family at my parents home in Ethiopia a couple of times in the years they've been missionaries there, but never with our traditional potato soup made with all the American ingredients or a fire blazing in the fireplace.

Yes our celebration was out of the ordinary. I spent my days in Christmas preparation mode when friends picked out fall pumpkins.

Asher is now completely confused about when Christmas actually is.
But the memories we created made the celebration worth it!

And we've been reminded we can sing Happy Birthday to Jesus any day of the year.

Even today He is Emmanuel, God with us.

14 October 2009

How many more times?

Are your days as long as mine?

There must be 23 hours in my day when kids are awake, translate needy, and possibly ONE hour for me to catch my breath.

Especially on these long days when Walter prepares for his actuarial exam I fight constant battles to be present with whatever defines my mommy job at the time.

It could mean making another peanut butter and jelly sandwich

or pushing Asher on the swing until my arms fall off

or changing yet another diaper

or filling more ice cube trays with puree baby food to freeze

or putting on shoes and socks and coats and hats and blankets (and don't forget the pacifier!)

or draining a baby's nose with that handy squishy bulb the hospitals send home

or exclaiming one more time about the beautiful music notes Asher drew.

But when I'm about to quit and boycott any more responsibilities, I'm reminded of the alternative.

Someday those little runny noses will not be here. Sure I'll have other responsibilities as a mom, but these physically demanding days will be gone. The emotional challenges of teen years will come and eventually a new phase of interacting with Asher and Amelie as parents themselves will dawn.

So I wonder today how many more times will I get to

push Asher super duper monster high on the swing?

cuddle my sweet girl before she starts to walk ?

make room on the refrigerator for more of Asher's sunshines and smiley faces and music notes?

point out diggers and firetrucks and construction sites while we drive?

tuck them in and kiss their peaceful faces?

And with this thought I end my hour of aloneness and begin my 23 hours of being needed!

06 October 2009

Relationship Analysis - Pantagraph

Writing about being a mom comes easy for me. Every day Asher gives me new ideas of things I want to ponder through writing and my mind works through parenting questions as my fingers pound out words.

But writing about marriage challenges me and leaves me feeling like I have so little experience and such primitive advice to share. Walter and I have been married for six years and I feel like I have more things to learn about being a wife than I did seven years ago.

But, I took a challenge and wrote about analyzing relationships in my Hearts at Home column this month. This I do know; I will forever be curious about new ways to better understand my marriage. Any other ideas are definitely welcome!

03 October 2009

Auction Day

Grandma picked up the child-size iron and wiped off invisible dust when I said I planned to bid on it. I'm sure she had wiped it a dozen times before, but this time was the last. One cart full of her lifetime collection of household treasures had already been scattered among eager treasure hunters and this cart was left. There were a few large items of Grandpa's outside waiting to see where their new home would be and then they would all be gone.

Today's auction clearly proved that the possessions we spend a lifetime collecting will someday be scattered for pennies. Grandpa sat just a few blocks away, with his mind much farther away, while the farm equipment he used daily headed to other barns and even antique shops. That wooden wheelbarrow which he once used to haul hay then spent years gathering dust in the back of the hayloft now will complete its journey to rest in a gardener's yard.

My heart grew heavy when I thought about the stories behind each item being sold. The washbins where I spent hours washing sweetcorn while Grandpa cut the kernels off, Grandma steamed, and aunts and cousins husked stood in the corner and I discovered them just in time to snap a few pictures before they too were auctioned away. I rescued dad's firetruck but many of his tractors found new homes.

It's just stuff. Stuff that will rot and rust. Moths will destroy and thieves will break in and steal.

Some will spend a lifetime focused on collecting stuff to fill up houses and barns here.

I have been challenged today to spend my lifetime focused on storing up treasures to be discovered someday in a new Home where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.

29 September 2009


The box under Asher's bed holds treasured creations. There's the almost straight lines he drew when he was 2, the hand print turkey from last Thanksgiving, recent attempts to write his name (complete with a clearly drawn "A", the proud mother said!), and now his first identifiable drawing, a smiley face. I'm amazed at how quickly his artistic abilities have taken off since he started preschool. Now he colors close to the lines and works on drawing even straighter "straight lines." I watch his little artistic abilities grow and love encouraging this God-given desire to create.

I share Asher's excitement over making beautiful, tasty, and even useful creations.

Those rows of holey uneven yarn still hanging on the needle, waiting for me to learn how to cast off, represent my recent attempts to learn how to knit.

The bare walls in my kitchen where wallpaper hung yesterday morning show my intentions to create an updated space for my family.

And even the dozens of paper scraps lying here around my desk hold the beginnings to that next great article waiting to be written.

As summer has clearly given way to fall, as I button my jeans that popped open last year at this time because of the life growing inside of me, evidence of God's creative hand are everywhere. His creation story began thousands of years ago with an amazing garden, hilarious yet scary animals, and people, in the image of the Creator. And He continues to create.

Red yellow and orange leaves, squirrels hustling across the road, developing babies, and even the smiley faces of a three year old. His creation, and inspiration for us to exercise the gift of creation ourselves.

What do you love to create?

Whether its baking a scrumptious apple pie, singing joyfully, or knitting a few rows, attempting another washcloth, make creation a priority on your to do list today and glorify your Creator whose passion for creativity we share.

11 September 2009

Three signs

1. No Dogs.
2. No Babies.
3. I love you!

These were the 3 signs Asher hung on our porch a couple of months ago. Don't look for them if you stop by, they exist only in his mind.

The first sign shows his intense dislike for dogs. Whenever we see at dog at the Farmers Market, walking on the trail, across the street, a mile away, anywhere, Asher launches into a dramatic soliloquy. It usually goes something like this (read in a very loud intense voice):

"Oh no! What is that creature up there that I don't like with its tongue hanging out? I do not like dogs! The whole earth is covered in dogs and none of them are nice!"

And so, we have a sign on our porch announcing that dogs are not invited to our home.

We are still puzzled by the third sign. It must have been hung because we ask Asher to say something nice whenever he says something mean. The nice thing he says is usually "I love you." So a sign on the porch covers anything mean he will say?

The second sign announcing his feelings about babies was our most troublesome one. It might as well just have said "No Amelie." because she was the motivation for hanging the sign. For over a year, Asher has felt the need to yell at babies and talk about how there should not be any babies allowed - anywhere.

When we actually brought a baby into our home, you can imagine his dismay! For months he has talked about how he doesn't like his sister and regularly describes very creative but mean things he wants to do to her. The most entertaining of those ideas has been to cover her in sap.

But out of the blue this weekend, he told us that he took down the No Babies sign on the porch!

And he has been absolutely true to his word. From that moment, he has loved his sister. There have been no more mean words directed to her, I don't have to shield her from being "hidden" under a pillow and he wants to give her a kiss every night.

Somehow he softened towards her and has not looked back. Babies are now allowed and welcomed in our home.

Sorry dogs, maybe your sign will come down soon.

04 September 2009

Out of the office still

A year ago today, I packed up my cubicle and left the office for the last time.

I still don't regret the decision to be at home full time, but I do miss going to work more than I thought I would. I loved the researching, writing, working with interns, and presenting in my old job, but I think its getting dressed and going to the office that I miss the most.

My business casual clothes hung in my closet all year and I look at them some mornings and consider dressing professionally. But then I remember the items on my daily agenda include changing diapers, playing at the park, wiping crumbs off the floor and I reach instead for clothes that better fit my mommy profession.

Some days this year I've watched jealously as Walter grabs his coffee thermos puts on his dress shoes and drives away. I don't really want to drive away from my family, I know I would miss answering a hundred times a day why I go to the bathroom sitting down instead of standing up, but it would be exciting just for one day to rejoin the sea of employees walking into the office building.

Over the past year I've learned to enjoy drinking coffee while feeding a baby instead of while chatting with my coworker, George or hearing Sheryl's latest cat story.

I've birthed a baby rather than a hundred research papers.

I've met with other moms to strategize how to resolve potty training issues before preschool starts rather than deciding how to meet a request from the top floor that needs to be on his desk before the end of the day.

I've received payment in hugs and kisses instead of merit increases and bonuses.

And this last reason makes it worth every day I stay at home instead of making that trek up four flights of stairs to my old desk.

They are my investment in the future and the reason I stay home.

31 August 2009

The mystery of Badtalks

We were so anxious yesterday at our church picnic to finally get to meet Asher's friend, Badtalks!

Every week we peek into Asher's Sunday School classroom hoping to get a glimpse of this blond haired boy. Our son, the one set on doing his own thing regardless of who is joining him in the activity, declared to us over a month ago that he had met his "favorite friend in the whole world!"

Immediately we asked what his name was. Typical to a three year old, he had no idea but only that he was a construction worker, just like him.

So the next week, we prepped him with a conversation he should have with this mystery boy. Asher was to introduce himself and then ask the other boy what his name was. Well, it was reported that the conversation did take place, but the other boy did not disclose his name.

How disappointed we were. Visions of meeting this fun boy, inviting him to our house for playdate after playdate and encouraging a life long friendship had gone by the wayside.

To compensate for not knowing the little boy's name, Asher gave him a name..."Badtalks." And so I've found myself so eager to drop Asher off each Sunday hoping to get a glimpse of this favorite friend. While the teachers pin Asher's name onto his shirt, I question him in a whisper about if he sees a "special" friend?

I am so overeager to meet this boy and all because Asher so excitedly told us about him weeks ago. I've thought about this child I don't know and wonder what kind of magic influence he has to make our son actually talk about how much he likes a friend. Badtalks is a friend I want to know because of the praises of my son.

So does anyone want to know my friends because of the good things I say about them?
Most importantly, does anyone want to know Jesus because of the praises I declare about Him?

Have I told enough people about
- His goodness to give me a wonderful husband and happy six years of marriage?
- His compassion to answer my constant prayers for another child?
- His provision of wonderful stay at home mom friends that I love hanging out with?
- His sovereignty and perfect timing for my parents to be home while Walter studies?
- His refreshment, restoration, peace, joy, and hope?

And that's just getting started.
I doubt I've told enough people but now I've told you! Jesus is way better than Badtalks! I hope you will meet Him as well.

26 August 2009

I'll never know

Everyday, I walk around the house and ask why.
Why is the kitchen rug neatly rolled up and laid on the living room couch?
I will never get an explanation that makes sense.

And this is the way life is.

God also doesn't and doesn't need to explain.

Like he did with Job, God gives and takes away without needing to provide any kind of eplanation.

He takes houses, jobs, loved ones, dreams, and we are usually left wondering why. And that why is left dangling, usually for a lifetime.

We can guess, try to figure it out, and speculate on God's working, but we won't know why until we meet Him in His presence and then it will likely by the furthest thing from our minds.

I don't know why God has allowed pain through His fingers, but I also don't know why He allows joy through His fingers. And it is good and right to accept them both.

17 August 2009

Moment to remember

It was a moment.

A moment when time stood still and we basked in the uniqueness of that exact point in life. There have been few moments like this in my life.

At the altar of Christ Church saying "I do."

In the crystal waters of Vieques floating and snorkeling while Walter dove after a sea turtle.

Swinging furiously in my hammock tied to the top deck of an Amazonian lineboat under a sky filled with an infinite number of stars.

On the upper bunk of an Ukrainian train feeling the first blasts of air conditioning and hearing ABBA sing "Dancing Queen."

And now I add, standing on the track watching my son round the bend to complete his quarter mile run ALONE.

Not the only little boy to run alone, or the fastest, but my son. The one who needed constant encouragement from daddy running beside him all summer. The one who previously wanted to run like a slug.

He ran. Alone. Far away.

After I recovered from the disbelief that he would actually run by himself, I found myself lost in the symbolism of the moment.

He was so far away and I was supposed to just stand and watch. If he stumbled and fell, it would take at least a minute for Walter or I to reach him. If it started pouring down raining, he was over there, on the other side, all by himself. It seemed he had never been more independent and I had never been so amazed at what he could do when he put his mind to it. Just a small green shirt putting one foot after another. Amazing.

There was no bribing, no begging, no ordering to "march faster soldier." He took off without a backward glance and ran the lap not stopping even when he passed by the construction cones.

I stood mouth gaping open, lost in the moment.

07 August 2009

Sisters Forever

After school, Becky (my sister) and I would rush downstairs take our positions on the couch and turn on Full House. We loved watching the Tanner family tackle family issues. But DJ and Stephanie were especially near and dear to us since Becky and I were about their ages and could each understand the challenges of being the older or younger sister.

The girls usually had some kind of disagreement, but always ended the show as the best of friends. Of course, Becky and I have had our similar ups and downs. Having a sister, especially one as patient as mine has often given me the falsely-perceived liberty to say whatever I think and let the grump monsters out to attack her. But as a sister who knows me well, she forgives and we move on.

I can't think of anyone more selfless than my sister (although my husband might be in the running) who focuses so much energy on serving others.

One afternoon, when the Tanner sisters had an especially difficult fight and in a moment that could possibly be the cheesiest moment of television history, they ended their disagreement with declaring to each other that they are "sisters forever"!

Becky and I pulled that sappy moment into our own relationship and often close our notes and letters reminding each other that we are "SF".

Today my dear sister has a significant birthday and I want her to know how special she is, how thankful I am for her and that I love her!

Happy Birthday Becky!!

04 August 2009


Shame on me. I failed.

The deadline to complete the requirements for the summer reading program came and went on Sunday and I did not read the 18 hours I needed to in order to get my prize.

I'm actually quite upset about my failure. In my childhood summers, I finished the reading programs within the first week or two. With days and days on end available to lay in the hammock swinging and reading for hours a day there was no challenge.

Ramona Quimby, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (I should give a prize for anyone who can place the books those two are in?), those wise babysitters in The Babysitters Club, along with random others were my best friends for many summers.

This year I joined the club attempting to relive those childhood reading summers and committed to not counting the Franklin, Curious George, and dinosaur books I read to Asher or the time consuming blog posts I read everyday, or the drafts of my dad's book towards my Reading Program goal.

I found that I could sit down for 10 minutes at a time before something erupted. A pacifier fell out, a bottom needed wiped, dinner was about to burn, or most frustrating of all my eyes became so heavy I needed toothpicks to prop them open.

And so, it became apparent last week that reading in 10 minute intervals would not be enough for me to complete my goal.

I bumped up reading on my priority list, drank more caffeine, and buckled down.

But alas, it just was not meant to be.

There's always next year...

18 July 2009

Bad Guy Walter

Before I begin this post, I will proclaim how much I love my husband and wish him the happiest of birthdays today!!

But....yesterday on the front page of the newspaper, I read some very disturbing news. My husband is destined to be a "bad-boy!" As I reflected on the results of this study reporting that my husband has a name in the Top 10 "bad-boy" names, pieces began to come together.

No wonder Asher often labels himself as the "baddest king." My husband must secretly be encouraging him along these lines behind my back.

No wonder Walter dedicates himself to long hours away from home "studying." He's planning his next bad trick.

And no wonder he attacked our son with bubbles (of all things) at our recent family gathering! He even cajoled his sister to join in on the attack to shift the blame from himself.

After 31 years and the results of this study, my "bad-boy" named husband has been found out!!

Happy Birthday Walter, I hope we can enjoy another year together "on the outside!"

13 July 2009

Dr. Asher and Mr. Dinosaur

"Would the mother of the screaming child who refuses to get into the swimming pool please come retrieve her son immediately? And will the rest of you parents please laugh and point while this duo leaves the pool area never to be allowed back again?"

This is how Walter and I imagined the first day of swimming lessons would go today. Asher does not do well conforming to group settings and regularly refuses to speak to adults other than Walter and me (well sometimes he refuses to speak to us too!). This combined with his aversion to putting his face in the water caused us great concern as we expected swimming lessons to be a total flop.

But my little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde surprised me once again. He did great!!! Even before his allotted time began, he won all the waiting teachers over with his smile and sweet answers to their questions. When they asked him to get in the water, he complied. When they wanted the swimmers to hold onto the wall and kick, Asher's splashes outdid them all!

As I watched from my lounge chair, hardly able to keep my head from shaking in amazement, I beamed with pride. He can participate in a group setting. He can obey a teacher. And he may just even learn how to swim!

But we do know his little secret. He may be a good performer and put on a good act in front of other people.
My little Dr. Asher
But at home, his inner-dinosaur becomes unleashed!
My irresistible Mr. Dinosaur.

07 July 2009

Don't miss the view

We use Priceline religiously. After checking in at a front desk, our conversation on the way to our room is whether we will have the bad Priceline reserved room next to the elevator or the Priceline reserved room at the farthest corner of the hotel. These unwanted but cheap rooms never have a view - unless you consider a dirty roof with swirling airconditioners and puddles of rainwater a view.

So I don't race to look out the window of a new hotel room. If we're there longer than one night, I might peek out of the curtain, but never have expectations of looking out over the city or onto a sunny beach.

But this Fourth of July we had an amazing view. Despite a rain soaked day, we took the crew to check out the local fireworks. After all the planned activities had already been canceled for the day, we were ready to get out of the house making us about the fifth car to arrive at the fireworks field. After backing the cars onto the grassy, now muddy field, and popping the SUV back doors open, we had a prime (and even dry) view of fireworks.

I think they were more incredible this year than ever maybe because we were in the front row. But our dear Asher who so bravely declared his intent to "sword the fireworks" many times throughout the day spent the entire fireworks display on daddy's lap not daring to look at the view.
Caught up in the loud booms of the fireworks, Asher refused to open his eyes and see that the earth shaking noise made the fireworks even more spectacular.
And then I found myself in a post-holiday/vacation recovery yesterday. Cleaning puddles of poop, rescuing strangers at the pool from being dumped on with a tiny watering can.
And I almost missed the views of a sweet smiley watermelon baby
and a mischievous boy in sunglasses who couldn't be happier.Whatever tomorrow brings, I hope to be consumed with the view rather than distracted by the boom.

18 June 2009

A boy, not a Person

When is a person not a person?

When he is a boy, of course!

Yesterday Asher and I were having an in depth discussion about whether or not I am a person. I informed him yes, mommy is a person. Then we were trying to figure out if Daddy is also a person. The conclusion to that question is that no, daddy is a boy and boys are not persons.

I guess in a way he's right. Daddy, a boy, is much more fun than just a regular person.

A boy sits in a tree for an hour pretending to be a bird with his baby bird son. A person stays in the house.
A boy sleeps on an air mattress on the front porch answering non-stop questions from his hammock swinging son during a boy's night camp out. A person gets a good night's rest in her comfy bed.
A boy excavates dinosaurs on the dining room table. A person worries about the mess all that excavating will create.
Although he might not understand them, a boy can handle the emotions that cause girls to scream and fuss. A person simply puts the girl to bed.
As Father's Day approaches, Asher, Amelie, (and me) want to thank Walter for being a boy and not a person!

We love you!

11 June 2009

Call me a fortune teller.

Almost ten years ago, I predicted my parent's future.

When they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, we threw a great party for them. As part of the dinner entertainment, my sister, brother, and I performed a song depicting what we believed their life might be like in the future.

And the crazy thing is, that song filled with far-out ideas such as mom and dad living in a far away country is more true than I would ever have believed.

The one part of what I wrote that is least true out of all of the outlandish ideas I introduced is that they are not missionaries on a Caribbean island, but in Ethiopia. Somehow, I missed that vision!

We sung a song of mom pulling mango bars out of the oven. Maybe she doesn't make mango bars, but mom can whip up amazing treats with unknown ingredients while the electricity fades in and out!

Becky was coming to visit them in that song we sang ten years ago, and Becky is actually preparing to travel to Africa in a couple of weeks.

There is one piece of the song that I wrote so long ago which has taken place this week in a almost to the letter manner of accuracy. My dad has started writing a book and has been sending it to me in chunks for editing. I believe in my song, I implied we were faxing the book's edits back and forth, but maybe that will be the next step as his writing is becoming prolific.

Anyone want to see in to their future? Just let me know and I'll write you a song!

After thousands of years of events unfolding according to His sovereign plan, without missing an iota of accuracy, does God feel so excited when plans unfold just as He knew they would?

02 June 2009

Tree Climber

Three years later...

Camping Fun

There's nothing like the smell of campfire to start the summer off right! We had such a fun time camping this past weekend with some good friends. By going at this time, we gave Amelie some bragging rights. She will always be able to claim that she is the youngest member of our family to go camping. Asher went when he was about 3 months, and Amelie went at 2 1/2 months. She's got him beat and was a very happy camper!
There aren't a lot of places to lay a baby at a campsite - especially one covered in poison ivy! But she fit just perfect in this chair!

Fireman Asher is very pleased to report that our fire remained only in the firepit. He was a good marshmallow roaster but was most excited just to be near a real fire!

He was also thrilled to be in a sleeping bag. If you ask him his favorite part about camping, he'll flip flop between roasting marshmallows and sleeping in the tent!

The one thing Asher would not say was his favorite part of camping was our little hike. The whole time we hiked, he talked about the mud on the trail making him "very angry." He also insisted that we should get lost in the woods.
As much fun as camping is, it is exhausting! Both kids were happy to sleep in the car while we put away all of our gear. Fun times!!

21 May 2009

When I grow up

What did you dream of becoming as you grew up? The toss-up for me was between a writer and a pilot. When I realized that being a pilot would greatly reduce the time I would be at home with my family, I whole-heartedly decided that a writer was my dream job.

Reality hit in my later years of high school (or dad's insistence that I do something practical won!), the writing dream was put on hold, and I became a business/econ major. So ended my childhood dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Walter and I used to dream about the career adult Asher would have as we pushed him in his stroller along the trail. Of course we thought of the usual prestigious careers such as doctor, lawyer, actuary (?Walter!), journalist (?Angie!), but we never imagined some of the ones Asher now dreams about.

It will come as no surprise that he dreams of being a rockstar. We still don't know who he has seen rockin' and rollin' like a crazy person, but Asher loves to play his guitar while screaming and dancing around the house.

Another dream of his is to be a firefighter putting out fires and rescuing the world from danger! Grams brought him a fire helmet a few weeks ago and so now his head is protected as he fights the fires that frequently break out in our neighborhood.

A new dream is to be an artist. We saw an artist spraypainting a picture of Spiderman at last week's Farmer's Market which was a huge inspiration to Asher. Just call him the post-it artist!

The most interesting one is his passion for furniture delivery. We had some furniture delivered several months ago, including Asher's bedroom suite. He carefully watched the men put his bed together but I didn't realize the impact it would make on him! We frequently hear him talking about how he wants to have a big belly (?!) so he can be a strong furniture delivery man!

I don't know when practicality takes over career dreams, but I can't wait to see where all of this creativity takes my boy!

13 May 2009

Prefer the given

"Does it ding?" I asked the lady behind the card table.

She answered that in fact it does and I quickly tucked it away as my greatest garage sale treasure of the year.

I could hardly wait to get home and watch Asher's eyes brighten when he saw the clocks dinger swing back and forth and heard the chimes pealing out the time of day. This was way better than the educational cow cuckoo clock gift he received on his birthday!

Finally! A ding clock. It seemed his dreams had all come true. Until we went to the lobby of his school yesterday where a beautiful, big, majestic grandfather clock stands, and I realized he will never be satisfied until he has a grandfather clock gonging in his room.

I heard aphrase on my favorite midday show today that reminded me of the grandfather clock dream. Talking about jealousy, they discussed the freedom of being able to "prefer the given." This phrase coined by a great thinker who I didn't catch the name of, has stuck with me today. And I realize that my instincts are no different than those of a three year old.

Usually I prefer anything but what I have.

I have a beautiful new baby but long for freedom.

Walter's job allows me to stay home full time, but I miss the officialness of work outside the home.

Writing opportunities have appeared in my life but I don't feel the urge to write.

Contentment has never come easy for me. Even though my life is so blessed and good, I always long for something else. Sometimes I long for big parts of my life to be different, but the longings that disrupt my contentment most are the daily small things.

It's little things like an attached garage on a rainy day, a warm walk-in closet when I find frost on the clothes in my tiny box of a closet, or a slug-free flowerbed when the buds on my flowers are popped off one by one, that steal my contentment.

If only Asher and I both could prefer the clocks life has given us.

01 May 2009

Bunnies, Turtles, and Triceratops

What little boy would want a turtle when he already has a pet triceratops?
According to Asher, our family has met its pet quota through a prehistoric three horned beast, who arrived on March 19 this year. We were informed of the news earlier this week in one of those conversations where I had to hide my face behind a pillow to keep from laughing my head off.

Asher got to pet baby bunnies and a turtle at my moms group this week. That evening, Asher and I told Daddy about our fun day with the animals. I then described to Asher how Aunt Becky used to have pet turtles and how fun they were. Then Walter and I asked if Asher would like to have a pet turtle someday?

This is when we were informed that we already have a pet triceratops!

"Where is this triceratops?" we asked.

"She is in daddy's arms," he replied.

Walter's arms aren't big enough to hold a thousand pound dinosaur, but he was holding a six week old little girl!

Of course she isn't a triceratops, we tried to reason, because she doesn't have three horns.

To this, Asher jumped off of the couch and pointed out the two horns on Amelie's forehead and the one horn next to her nose.

Of course! Why couldn't we see them before?

Maybe the brother/sister relationship will improve now that Amelie is a three horned dinosaur and not a sweet little girl?
They didn't have triceratops carousel animals at the zoo, but here's Asher enjoying a ride on a velociraptor.
Maybe we should be thankful we have a "funny" dinosaur for a pet and not a meat eating dinosaur like this one.

29 April 2009


This is the age of "why?". Nonstop, all day long, I get questions asking me to explain everything in life. It has gotten so rampant that Asher will even mock himself when I don't answer right away by saying, "Why, why, why, Asher always asks why."

Here's a typical conversation:
Asher: Why is my baby crying?
Me: Because she is trying to tell us something. Maybe she's hungry.
Asher: Does she eat food?
Me: No, she can only drink milk now.
Asher: Why can she only drink milk?
Me: Because her stomach is not able to digest food.
Asher: What is digest?
Me: Making food into small pieces.
Asher: Why small pieces?

And this might be the point where I stop answering because truthfully, I don't know why!!

Here are my "why" questions.
Why does Asher never open his eyes for pictures?

Why won't Asher hold Amelie's hand nicely?

Why is she so cute?! :)

As I'm getting ready to publish this blog, we're having this conversation...

Asher: Are you the mommy?

Me: Yes, I am the mommy.

Asher: Why are you the mommy?

Me: Because I said.

Asher: Why, why why?

21 April 2009

Ethiopian princess

Our Ethiopian princess...

Get out of the house

"Get out of the house, right away," Asher told my mom when she stopped over for a visit.

Of course mom didn't know what to say in response to Asher's rude demand, until I explained. In Asher's mind, our house was consumed with blazing flames. About to use his axe to chop a hole in the roof, his command was intended to save our lives rather than force Grandma to go back home.

We actually see fires blazing all around town these days. When we pulled up to a restaurant last week, Asher claimed there was a fire burning down the building that he needed to put out. Walter and I were able to convince him the other firefighters were on their way so we could safely go eat, but the fire was still there when we emerged an hour later. Since we had brought the firehose with us anyway, we allowed Asher to run over to the building and save the shopping center from burning to the ground.

When we got home, there was a fire on our neighbor's house which Asher was also able to put out. And there was even another at the library yesterday which mommy and Amelie helped to get under control.

We seem to attract fires these days, so if you see us coming in our red pumper fire engine, look out for the fire!

16 April 2009

10 April 2009

A dark night

It's so tempting to rush past today.

Remembering Jesus' death on the cross this Good Friday is plain sad. Trying to explain that Jesus died to Asher has been hard because I want to skip past this part. I want to make sure he knows the good news that Jesus rose from the dead and is ALIVE.

We've been looking at pictures of Jesus on the cross and how He was hurt in our place and I see that Asher understands that this is sad. Of course I don't like to see my little boy feeling the sadness, but I also know that its important to feel this sadness. Because without it, there can be no true joy on Easter morning: when the best news ever is realized. Like Jesus said as he was being arrested, "...it's a dark night, a dark hour." recorded by Luke in the Message version.

What an understatement. Absolutely the darkest night and the darkest hour.

There has to be a true understanding of the bad news before the good news can really be good news.

I am always jolted into reality of my part in Jesus' death when I remember the words to the hymn, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us."

"How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life -
I know that it is finished."

07 April 2009

01 April 2009

These are days.

I was in labor for 20 hours with Asher. Many thoughts filled my mind during those intense hours. For the sweeter part of that time, my mind ran over and over the lyrics to a Collin Raye song. I remembered these words from my post-high school summer of country music listening when it was cool to go see Collin at the Illinois State Fair.

One boy, one girl Two hearts beating wildly To put it mildly, it was love at first sight. He smiled, she smiled, and they knew right away This was the day they'd been waiting for all their lives, And for a moment the whole world, Revolved around one boy, and one girl.

Although, he is singing of a couple who found out they are expecting twins, in between painful contractions, I mulled over the fact that this was one of those days I had been waiting for all of my life.

There are few days such as this. Days that I dreamed about as a little girl. For as far back as I can remember, I've had discussions with my girlfriends about becoming a mommy, planning how many kids we would have, and what kind of mom we would be.

And there I was. In that moment. Experiencing the labor I had wondered about for years.
About to meet the baby that had long been in my dreams.

So here I am again. Living in the days that I waited for all my life. And the words I keep thinking of are the title words from 10,000 Maniacs song, "These are Days."

These are days youll remember.Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.And as you feel it, youll know its true that you are blessed and lucky.Its true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.These are days youll remember.When may is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour.Youll know its true that you are blessed and lucky.Its true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.These are days.

Few times in life are there days so contented. When I am not wanting the next thing or the last thing. Even though I'm itching to get out of the house, I want to be living in this part, right now. These are the sweet days I will remember when my little girl goes on her first date, when she graduates from high school, when she gets married, when she has her own babies.

These are days.

24 March 2009