29 January 2010

Fun in the snow

We don't have very much snow on the ground here in the middle of Illinois right now, but the winter isn't over yet! If you're looking for fun ideas of how to enjoy rather than endure the white stuff, check out my ideas for having fun in the snow on the Hearts at Home blog.

While you're there, take a look at the info about the national conference coming up in the middle of March. It is a great mom refreshment, I'd love to meet you there!

28 January 2010

Our old house

The old fashioned light post reflected off the new sign in our yard when we arrived home last Saturday night. It's official our home is for sale!

When I saw the sign, my heart sunk and tears welled until I remembered we asked for it to be there.

Is it just us or is letting go of your first home like cutting an umbilical cord?

Shortly after getting engaged, Walter and I started our house search. Finding a "cute house" was our only criteria. We didn't worry about square footage or school district or playrooms. Even wallpaper, old carpet, and outdated light fixtures didn't bother us.

When I walked into the screened-in front porch overlooking the brick street and that same old light post, she captured my heart. The image of me reading countless books on that porch clouded my vision so I didn't even notice the Chinese wallpaper or the nail holding the kitchen floor down in that one squeaky spot.

We fell in love with her, this first house that we looked at, and handed over our earnest money before the end of the week.

And that was our first monetary investment. Since then we've sacrificed more difficult investments including buckets of sweat, much muscle power, and countless hours of thought over all the dilemmas this 100 year old beauty has brought us.

But I will miss her.

The night before our wedding, I sat with my college friends around this kitchen counter. And a week later, Walter and I drove up her driveway fresh and sunburned from our honeymoon. Three years later, Walter cautiously drove up that same driveway with our precious newborn Asher inside. We mourned recurring losses while sitting in this office watching The Office for hours trying to laugh ourselves back to peace. And then almost a year ago, I walked into this pink streamer-filled dining room with our sweet Amelie.

This old house has been the backdrop to many of my memories of early married life and first years of parenting. I will be sad to leave.

When I see people stop to grab a flyer I want to stop them to explain everything that paper doesn't list. We didn't mention the continuous cycle of flowering and sweet-smelling plants that bloom in the spring. Our realtor left off how cozy the small kitchen becomes on a Sunday morning. And it doesn't mention the generations of chirping house sparrows who annually add to their family line in the birdhouse attached to the garage.

Yes, that flyer lists the facts of dimensions and dollar amounts, but it could never capture the facts of all this house has to offer.

25 January 2010

Kids are cheap dates

Add sprinkles to ice cream.
Stop for 10 minutes at the park.
Push them higher on a swing.

It doesn't take much to thrill kids but its also easy to rush past opportunities to make their day.

I wrote about easy ways to make their day special on the Pantagraph and you can check it out here.

Take advantage of the little opportunities today to WOW your kids!

22 January 2010

Letter to my dad

I sent this email to my dad this morning and I post it here first to bring attention to their new holistic ministry - Misgana ministries - doing amazing things in Ethiopia and second to simply brag on my dad.

Dear Dad,

The forecast for as many days as shows up in my Google weather is full of clouds and rain. I supposed that is appropriate considering I am sending my final piece of sunshine to Ethiopia today. I can't believe it is finally finished. The sad thing is that I know if I read through it again there would be more edits. But there is a time for everything to just be done. I find it very appropriate that my part in your book is completed the same weekend that a for sale sign will go in our front yard. The end of eras - although my era as an editor has been much shorter than our era living in this house.

I wondered when we started how many version of edits we would have and thought about separating this one today into two just so we could reach an even number of 40. But I guess I won't be so anal.

It has been my pleasure to edit your book. Even though my comments have been harsh and red bleeds all over the pages, you have an amazing story of how God has brought you to where you are today. I know others will be very interested in reading it. I for one am very proud of where you are. Having parents who live so far away is really hard and many times sad. But I always take comfort knowing you are impacting so many lives and more personally are providing a wonderful example of not settling for an unpassioned disobedient life. Of course this challenges and encourages me, but is even more important as you are now examples to Asher and Amelie. I hope they will be challenged and motivated by what they see their "Grama and Granpa who live in Et-opia" doing.

I can't wait until they are old enough to bring them over there and show them life outside of their structured comfortable world. And I too can't wait to come and see the work in Ziway.

So now what? When will I get to hold "I'm just an Illinois farm boy" in my hands?


20 January 2010

Busy hands

When I worked in my cubicle from 7 - 4:15, my hands pounded away on the keyboard for most of the day. As an editor, I used my favorite red pen to mark up my interns work and sometimes pushed buttons on the telephone to provide information for an executive assistant or the random associate in the pacific northwest.

But now I'm a stay at home mom and touching a keyboard or finding time to complete the big editing project of my dad's book are my escape, the me times of my day.

Most of the time, my hands are immersed in a hundred different jobs throughout the day and yesterday is a prime example.

In the morning, my hands became splattered in milk as I persisted in trying to get Amelie to finish a bottle.

Slow cooked beef was on the menu for dinner, so cow fat and juices ran down my hands while I worked to prepare our evening meal.

After getting Asher to pre-school I wondered if I should be wearing rubber gloves to protect my hands from the grease and harsh chemicals I used to clean off our stove top.

When Amelie woke from her nap with a smelly diaper, I could hardly contain my disgust as I accidentally stuck my hands into the open messy diaper and wondered why my hand had squishy stuff on it (eww!)?

We picked Asher up from school and he sweetly tucked his hand into mine as we navigated the parking lot. And his was the best thing my hand held all day.

But after handling peanut butter and jelly, mushy sweet potatoes and applesauce, my hands tackled cleaning the soot out of our fireplace and praised God that I am not a chimney sweep.

The water I doused on the candles lit in the freshly cleaned fireplace turned to a freaky fireball as I leaped out of the way of a crazy water/fire/chemical reaction. Thankfully it went out and my hands didn't need to grab a fire extinguisher.

Through dish soap, credit card swiping at the grocery store, and food preparation for my mom's group today my hands proved their versatility throughout the rest of the evening.

Then my hands rubbed my little boys back and smoothed his soft hair as I tucked him in for the night and our sweet time made me look forward to all that my mommy hands let me do again today.

What will your hands find you doing today?

18 January 2010

Books, books, everywhere books!


My name is Angie and I am addicted to books.

They pile up on my nightstand.

Walter just found another hidden bookcase in the basement storage room.
I stack them two deep on the wall covered with built-in shelves.

The box in the attic held about 50 more!

Our realtor told us (me) I needed to pack them away before we put the house on the market. So I have been sorting and boxing and my give away pile has grown to about 5.

I struggle to depart with any of my treasured friends.

Just as I look through Asher's toys and see the progression of his interests from dinosaurs to firemen to construction tools to soldiers, I see my life journey through the books that I'm rediscovering.

I uncovered treasured Siberia and Russia adventures from my obsession from wanting to live there. Then there are the deep theology books from when I had time to invest in plodding through rich truths that took my brain 10 minutes per page to comprehend. I've found the women wanderlust ones that make Walter freak out when I open them.

I want to keep telling you about my marriage books, the ones by Hearts at Home authors, the ones I've saved from my grade school days but I know you may not all be so intrigued by the progression of my great love.

But through all the focus on my books this weekend I heard a great reminder from our pastor this Sunday about the most exciting book of all. What if I packed up all of my adventure books, the ones that challenge me to become a better person, the pages filled with love, and focused on the Bible which has all of those elements and more?

God's Word couldn't be more exciting or life changing and I don't read it nearly as often as I should. I don't intend to give up my passion for reading great books but I do hope to control my need to hoard the words I read and challenge myself to spend more time reading the best book that is guaranteed to follow me through all of my evolving life passions.

And now I have books.
Does anyone know of a great way to find new homes for my beloved friends?

15 January 2010

New mommy

He slammed doors.
He yelled at his sister.
He whined "But Mo-om" over and over.
And finally Asher told Turtle and Pucah, his alter-ego stuffed turtle and penguin, that
"I want a new mommy."

I felt tears starting to well to the corners of my eyes and questioned my interactions with him. My tears didn't come from worries that he would never love me again or that he really wanted to discard me. But more from realizing he is learning to identify himself away from me enough to understand his own independence from his mommy.

Of course I want him to stand strong in his own identity and not lean on me. But his comprehension is a sign of growing up and following the natural progression of separation from his momm and daddy. I feel like the number of those signs I see are snowballing and they always confront me with the reality of the shortness of childhood.

Even though I may be a mean mommy I love my boy and told him he will never be able to run away.

I will always be his mommy.

12 January 2010

Positive Training

Yesterday at a meeting for my mom's group, we were asked to answer 4 questions:

1. What is not going well for us in the group?
2. Where are we struggling in our relationship with God?
3. How have we grown through the group?
4. What victories have we had in our relationship with God?

These questions were grouped by the first two and the second two. As we got up to write our answers on the blank sheets attached to the wall, I heard someone comment, and I immediately agreed that the first two questions were a lot easier than the second.

My frustration with the questions and myself magnified as I later realized the first questions were the negative ones and the second two were the positive ones.

Without consciously realizing it, we were proving its much easier to pull out the negative and converse about those issues rather than focus on the positive ways good is being infused in our lives.

I am much quicker to pick up the phone to talk about or get a blog post out about the negative things I'm dealing with rather than telling the world about the good in our home.

And there is much good here.

The most selfless giving man is my husband and amazing daddy to my kids.
Asher can easily entertain himself these days and his imagination is so exciting.
Amelie smiles and giggles at my smallest attempts to engage her.
I get to spend my days as I choose, taking care of the little gifts God has given us.

I suppose recognizing the good is an exercise I need to train myself to do.

Will you join me?

06 January 2010

My 2010 Story

It's 8 days into the New Year. Are you still sticking with your New Year's resolutions?

I never did which is why I don't make New Years resolutions anymore. But when you all start talking about your weight loss goals and plans to pay off debt during the new year, I feel left out. So this year, I'm so excited that Donald Miller gave me a way to plan for the year without breaking my rule about creating resolutions.

In his post, and in the book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald describes life as as story. The best of our stories are about a character who "wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." He also gave 3 suggestions for planning a life story.

1. Want Something

2. Envision a Climatic Scene

3. Create an Inciting Incident

So now I'm at my decision point of whether I want to create accountability for myself by posting what the stories are I want to live this year.

Ok. I guess if I want to show that I believe in #1 - that I want something, I better prove it by telling. So rather than list them out individually, I simply share a snapshot of my life a year from now if I have lived the 5 stories I hope to.

Next December I will sit at my kitchen table wearing my still crisp 2010 race t-shirt while I watch Asher and Amelie play in the living room. While they are playing, my eyes glance around the room noticing the magazine with my byline on the coffee table and the pile of books to return to the library on the counter by the door. Walter and I will sip our coffee, smile into each others eyes and reminisce over our romantic date the evening before.

(Can you figure out what I want my 2010 stories to be?)