03 October 2013

The best island

When researching which Greek island to visit, I discovered that every island is the best in all of Greece. Each travel website I visited claimed to have the inside view on which island has the most beautiful beaches, friendliest people, most delicious traditional Greek food, and the real spirit of Greece.  Most of the websites didn't agree.
View from our patio.

After thinking through my criteria more specifically I narrowed the search down. I easily ruled out the ones that claimed to have the best party spots, the places to spot celebrities, and the ones with the most nude beaches.  And zeroed in on the islands stated to be where Greeks holiday with less commercialized beaches and more family friendly spots.  From this short list, I read about each one in depth.  Travel writers are so good at what they do and each one of them convinced me to visit the island they were describing.

Our hotel, Porto Raphael from the "best beach on the island."
Until I read about Tinos.  This Cycladic island is a  four hour ferry ride from Athens meaning it was reasonably cheap and quick to reach.  As I read further I discovered that because of the healing powers associated with a sacred icon of the Virgin Mary found on the island, Tinos is a religious destination for Greeks - especially those looking for a miracle of healing.  This also includes many families with young babies who want to have their child baptized at the holy church housing the icon.

The holy church, Panagia Evangelistria, with a pilgrim
who has almost completed the crawl up the hill.
Pilgrims, mostly women, are so sincere in their belief that many crawl up the half mile hill to the church in humility and with hopes of receiving the answer to their prayers.  A red carpet lines the cobblestone street to make the journey easier on the knees of those making the pilgrimage.  We saw several people doing this while we were there and admire their belief but at the same time are thankful to believe God hears our prayers wherever we are and regardless of our self-sacrifice.

While we didn't choose Tinos for personal religious purposes,  we did love the unspoiled aspects which are preserved mainly because the island is a religious destination.  This holy reputation has kept away the party and commercial atmosphere of several other islands especially the closest neighbor of Mykonos.

The island does have beautiful beaches with crystal clear water.  The hills and inland paths are high and winding which allow for amazing landscapes of the Aegean Sea from almost every point on the island. Scattered throughout the island are many small villages which have quaint tavernas (cafes) and artistic shops.
The hills of Tinos contain an abundance of beautiful green marble that is cultivated for sculpting. As a result many famous marble sculptors have come from the island and study here.  We visited several marble sculptors shops and met one artist who opened his studio to the public.  His shop is right on the corner in the beautiful village where our little car was almost swept off the road by the bus.

One of the 1000+ dovecotes on Tinos.
One more interesting thing that the island is known for are its dovecotes.  There are at least 1000 of these very ornate structures throughout the landscape. I'm amazed at how elaborate the architects made them as their main purpose was simply to attract pigeons for their meat (and droppings).

I have no perspective on whether or not Tinos is the most beautiful island.  But I can tell you it fit every bit of what I was hoping to find in Greece.  It had white buildings narrowly built together.  The beaches were uncrowded beautiful with crystal clear blue and green water.  We did encounter several nude sunbathers, but they were discreet and mostly older men who had clearly been swimming freely all of their lives.

Tinos market with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and capers.
There was just enough to see on the island that we always had something more to go do but without feeling overwhelmed at needing to see it all.  We left plenty of time for relaxing on our porch or at the beach but countered that with exploring Tinos town, attending an annual jazz festival, and driving around the island.

We ate enough Tinos and feta cheese to make us cheese snobs for a while, but also tasted enough Greek coffee to know we are happy with what we can brew in our own coffeemaker on the counter. The chocolate croissants and the spinach pies flaked into pieces over breakfast and the little fishes stared up at us with their many tiny eyes for dinner. Nothing like eating unprocessed and fresh to the table!  Clearly those fishies had not sat in any freezer.

Whether or not it was the perfect island, I will remember Tinos for being all that I dreamed my perfect Greek island to be.  

23 September 2013

We didn't drive into the sea!

I never thought the transportation aspect of our trip to Greece would play such a major role in the experience.  But it did.

I'm sure me in a rental car isn't one you thought I'd include in describing out trip
to Greece, but it surprisingly was a major part of our trip.  This is the hotel
parking lot that was on a cliff.
Being the one in the family who drives a manual transmission, the driving duties landed on my shoulders.  I was good with that...at least it sounded fine at home.  But when my knuckles turned white after the quarter mile drive from the port to the rental car agency we began to realize driving on Tinos would be part of the adventure.

Renting a car on Tinos seemed like a reasonable idea back in the US where I drive on very flat, and wide roads that are clearly marked.  Signs exist, are in English, and are illuminated in the dark.  Drivers stay in their lanes, buses don't take advantage of their large size and I really don't think too much about the technicalities of driving.

Not so on Tinos...

The beautiful village of Panormos and it's two laned road.
After I asked questions about signs and rules, our rental car representative looked at me with a patient look and said, "Just don't drive into the sea."  That she felt the need to spell it out worried me a bit.  I also remembered the one book I read that took place on Tinos centered around a couple who had been killed when their car drove off one of the curvy roads.  This reality of driving into the sea created a seed of panic that never went away until I turned in the keys to that car.

Our hotel was a 15 minute drive outside of the main port city. It took about five days before I could drive that route without feeling lost.

The car added to our adventures and sparked a daily stress/relax cycle.  Really, I would have been relaxed and stress-free after one day at the beach, but the driving thing allowed me to decompress multiple times on a single vacation. I cycled through building up stress by driving to a beach, relaxing on the sand, and then creating more stress by driving back to the hotel and then enjoying being able to relax again on the outside porch.  Sleep and repeat.

Some of our driving adventures may or may not have included:

Blocking traffic when turning into a bakery parking lot causing a bus to swerve wildly.

Keeping a very close eye on the clock to make sure we left the main port hours before sunset so we wouldn't have to drive back to the hotel in the dark.

Driving on the part of the main drag that closes down at night to become a pedestrian boulevard after it has already closed.

Finding ourselves millimeters away from being scraped in our little car by a giant bus coming down around a curve.

Figuring out a longer alternate route back to the hotel so I could stay on the inside lane closer to the mountain rather than the edge.

But I will tell you that I did feel like I was driving up into Heaven on this alternate route. All I could see was a road going up and blue all around.  At that moment I didn't really want to die, but comforted myself with the thought that at least we would die doing something exciting.

This pictures doesn't do the experience justice, but this is the drive
"up to Heaven."
Eventually that road climbing into the sky wound back down and we found the "grocery store road" again which led us to the BP where we turned left with a quick right which led us past the sweet bakery, the little digger, and the yummy bakery where we bought chocolate croissants.  Just when I thought we were lost, the restaurant we always talked about eating at showed up on the left followed by the restaurant that we did eat at when they had the baby baptism.  Just one more curve to the right and then we needed to turn a sharp left and a sharp right.  One more time up the hill - don't kill the engine this time- and turn right into the parking lot that resembled a parking cliff.

While parking just remember not to drive into the sea!

I told Walter I would feel successful when I was tailing behind someone
rather than having a long line of cars behind me.  On the last day, here I
am behind this truck.  It lasted for about a minute.

21 September 2013

We went to Greece

We went to Greece...and we came back.

We traveled Amazing Race style with everything
we needed for 10 days on our backs.
Early on a Tuesday morning, life transformed into a big, scary, thrilling, exciting adventure and then on a Friday ten days later, it came back to the familiar, routine, comfortable life that I love.

For years I've dreamed of Greece.  The white washed buildings with accents of Agean blue, the cobblestone streets, and the Agean Sea itself sparkling and clear beyond belief.  I found it to be exactly this way.  The movies and travel pictures don't lie and it's not a make believe magical place.

There is a place across the ocean where gobs of tourists climb up a hill to visit the ancient Parthenon.  Museums house proof of a deeply ingrained belief system that explained every occurrence with the temper and story of gods and goddesses.  In this city of Athens, modern life brushes right next to ancient ruins.  A simple walk to get an ice cream would lead you past ruins of libraries and temples built to honor gods we read about in mythology classes.
The Parthenon.
Traveling even further on the adventure, there are ferries that line up to escort the smiling tourists, the businessmen needing to visit clients on the islands, those simply traveling home with their caged birds after a weekend in the city.  Possibilities of the places those ferries would land are the same that I dreamed about for so long.  The Blue Star Ferry we boarded was giant and I couldn't stop smiling as we left port and headed out to sea.
Our boat to Tinos!
For hours we watched tiny islands come and go with more sea and yet another island off in the distance.  As we approached Tinos, we waited in the dark garage with the other passengers ready to disembark.  Finally sweet music played and the ramp lowered, revealing my dream destination in slow motion. Seriously there was music and even in the rush of the disembarking crowds, I felt the magic.

I added a ferry in the Mediterranean to the list
of places I have knitted.
The island of Syros.  Wish we had one like this of Tinos,
but we were in the garage on that approach.
To Be Continued...

24 July 2013

The posts I would have wrote

Beautiful beautiful summer, why are you slipping away so fast?

The posts I was going to write this summer were along the lines of

"A whole summer ahead to spend with three of my favorite people"

"A beautiful wedding joyful and special that united Becky and Dave"

"The stubborn daughter who refuses to participate in organized activities"

"Hours and hours planning for a Grecian dream trip."

"Canning 101: my attempts to be a pioneer woman"

"Talking - voted overrated by my two year old."

"Ditching Direct TV and switching to "Ropegoo" (Roku) the best choice ever according to Asher."

"Boxes and boxes of hickory wood flooring arrived. I cheered while Walter sighed."

"Mom is dreading the start of school more than the kids."

These posts almost made it into this blog, but the summer continues to escape from us and I have adopted the spirit of lazy summer mornings.  I'll be back when the muse inspires, but until then, I'll rest knowing our summer has at least been captured in headline titles.

27 June 2013

Let the celebration begin!

Let the celebration begin, this is wedding weekend!

Becky and Dave will be getting married and we will celebrate at the castle in just a couple of short days!!

My little sister getting married.

No she's not a little girl leaving the house early, she is a grown woman who has accomplished and experienced many things in life on her own.  My maid of honor speech is written, but I've found I just can't brag on my sister as much as I would like with out it sounding like well, bragging.  But Becky and this gift of marriage deserves celebrating for all that it is.

If you average out her moves, Becky has moved every year since graduating high school.  She has traveled around the world.  Lived in several different countries for months at a time. Succeeded in getting her masters degree.  Taught countless students  More importantly she has been the kind of teacher who really cares. The kind who comes to your house and takes you shopping for underwear when no one else can.

She has led small groups of college students.  I'm talking about really leading. Leading that invests hours into preparing, praying, and making all of these sweet things that make you feel special.

She has been the aunt who comes to all of my kid's celebrations and the sister who has been the representative of family to me for many years.

Becky is an amazing woman and Dave is an extremely lucky man.  After praying with fervency and tears I have not committed to many other requests, I am beyond joyful to celebrate God's blessing of marriage on Becky and Dave.

And we are ready to celebrate!  Amelie has perfected her dance moves. There is the "Twister Twister,"  "Grasshopper twister hop," and several others "written" in her book of dances.  The boys' suits are altered and packed in plastic garment bags.  Rewards have been bought for the three kiddos to claim if when they make it down the aisle successfully.

My toes are pretty, Walter is prepped for helping the kids to pull this off  I think we are ready.

Let the celebration begin!

18 June 2013

The "Sick" Game

This isn't the post I wanted to write today.  I have a great one in the works about Asher and his latest accomplishment.  But for today I'm feeling guilty enough that I need to write and sort out my parenting battle of the day.

I'm the wicked stepmother today. Amelie is assigned to stay in her room today because she is "sick."  Mysteriously she has no symptoms but a stomach that needed a yogurt stick and more mysteriously her sickness cleared up after swimming lessons were scheduled to start.

We've been battling her involvement in swim lessons for a week and a half.  When we at the pool but not in lessons, she is a fish.  Entire head under the water, kicking up a storm, attempting back floats.  But when we arrive at the pool for lessons, she becomes a girl terrified of the water.
"Too young for lessons."
"Scared to get my knees wet."
"Need to blow my nose."
That kind of girl.  We are the family. I am the mom who drags a screaming girl from beach chair to waters edge twenty times in twenty minutes.  Asa is the boy stuck in the beach chair slats screaming for his mama while mama tries to settle daughter in the water.  And topping it off yesterday, Asher was that boy who managed to stub his foot on the concrete at just the right angle causing blood to gush out of his toe.

Oh yes. We are that family. And today I am that mom who let her daughter stay home "sick."

I battled my intense desire to stay home and not be embarrassed at the pool again and my fierce stand that my daughter will not be a quitter.

My pride tugged on by a dramatic daughter won today and so today we stayed home playing the sick game.

It's a game because I'm convinced she is not sick and I believe she also realizes its all a big story.  But yet she is spending the day content with her room confinement as I grow more and more scared of how easily I can play this evil step mother thing out. More and more good ideas to make the day miserable pop into my head as the day goes along.

When she seemed too eager about the idea of me bringing lunch up to her bedroom on a special tray.  I changed plans to seat her at the kitchen table far away from Asa so she "doesn't get him sick."

And so we spend the day. Me having to pull out more and more stops to make the day awful while not really sure what parenting lesson I'm accomplishing through her room confinement.  And my girl singing and playing with the ponies and kitties in her room.

As the day goes on, I'm more convinced she possesses this genetic stubbornness that refuses to budge.

The game of me treating her as sick and her accepting the confinement of being sick plays on and this mommy knows she has to win!

Just so no one thinks I actually am an evil step mother, and to ease my increasingly guilty heart, I'll share a picture of my girl and me from a happier day.

22 May 2013

Goodbye to The Office

The Office opening music switches my brain into an escape mode.  Those notes calm my spirit with the relief I imagine a drug addict gets from that initial inhalation. 

A bit of an extreme comparison?

Maybe, but The Office came into my life when I needed escape and for a while it was my drug of choice.  I became acquainted with Jim, Pam, Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the gang while walking through dark days of losing babies.  In those long evenings after we put Asher to bed, the hours until I could go to bed seemed to last forever.  

And so Walter introduced me to what he pitched as an American version of a popular British show about an office.  I worked in an office, I got the humor of the cubicle life so we let ourselves get hooked. 

We watched The Office in our upstairs home office next to P.Rick, the adorable hedgehog.  Walter sat in the rolling office chair and I lounged on our nursery chair which had been moved into the office simply so we could watch The Office on our computer.  In those old fashioned days, we only had a desktop and couldn't stream Internet to our tv.  That was the tv that required a risk of electrocution if you wanted to turn it on because the power button had broken off and we had to stick a finger in to reach that little on-off button.  

Ah yes, The Office has been part of us for a long time.  Back then I could easily relate to the drudgery felt by returning to an enclosed office space surrounded by people with all kinds of idiosyncrasies   Of course I was the only normal one in those cubes.  I compared Michael Scott to previous bosses I had endured (of course I am not referring to Bill or Jon) and loved the parody of a life I knew well.

Laughing out loud felt so good.  Somehow the show made me laugh out loud even after Michael Scott left and even when it reverted to low humor.  It was that absence of my laughing that may have cued Walter in to my awake (or not awake) status.  We learned how to watch tv together through our years of watching The Office.  

I will quietly admit here that I sometimes struggle to stay awake through tv shows.  Over the years and depending on his mood, Walter has taken a variety of approaches to this idiosyncrasy of mine. If he is feeling sweet, he will gently rub my arm and remind me to wake up.  But the most common strategy of his is to pause the show and wait until I protest.  If I quickly cry out he knows I'm  awake.  If the pause lasts for longer than 10 seconds without hearing from me he knows it's time to turn the show off.  

At times his strategy turned vindictive when he gave me a brief warning that he planned to delete the show as soon as it was over. This warning was explained as an opportunity for me to watch and not miss out later. It still seems rather cruel though because before the last words of the show are spoken, he has quickly stopped the action and deleted it - hoping to teach me a lesson that I better stay awake or speak up.  Yes, The Office has been part of the evolution of our marriage and how we interact with each other.  

It's a show that now joins Seinfeld as somehow holding a special place in my heart like a childhood and college friend.  Someone who I connected with at a deeper level but for whatever reason the connection has changed and time has marched us into different places.

Emotionally I am in a different state than when we first needed the shot of humor The Office gave us.   P.Rick is no longer around to watch with us, we have upgraded to a tv free of electrocution risk, and we now sit together on a couch. 

Along with Jim and Pam we had babies, learned to work through our marriage, and have come to this point where it is time to move on and say goodbye to The Office.

Thanks for the guaranteed laughs.

09 May 2013

The courting sneeze

Walter covered his mouth and nose, held up his hand and sneezed.  The walls didn't shake and I didn't jump. Our conversation continued as I thanked him for not letting loose with a full-blown bellowing sneeze. 

In that loving moment, he named it his "courting sneeze."  This sneeze is the one he used regularly until a year or so into our marriage.  Now he uses the unrestrained free for all "AACHOO" that you would imagine comes from a bear.  I jump, shudder, and hold on to objects so they don't fall to the ground.

Ok, so they aren't really that loud or terrifying, but there is definitely a difference between the courting sneeze and the 10-year married sneeze. 

My brother and sister and Walter's sister are all engaged and preparing to be married in the next six months. At the same time Walter and I are preparing to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. 

Since I'm not the one thinking about the wedding every second of the day and I am looking forward to showers, seeing family, and celebrating these great joys I've had more time to think about their marriages. I can't think of a lot of wise advice to give. Life has been too busy to analyze what makes it work. Not much advice other than the practicalities of what life is actually like once the courting sneezes are gone.

Our courting time was amazing. 
Our wedding was beautiful. 

When we got home from the honeymoon and settled into White Place, I thought the work was done. The wedding stresses were behind us, we had picked out and were settling into our new home and I was ready for the blissful married life to begin.

Many parts of our married life have been blissful, but many parts of this married life have been about adjusting to things like the disappearance of the courting sneeze. Sometimes I miss that sweetness, the formality, the politeness, the cautiousness.  That time was special but it was for a season. 

While I have nostalgic thoughts about the attention and wooing of the dating and engagement period of our relationship, there is much security and comfort in the love of the 10-year married stage.

I love our comfortable routines, his steady strength, a growing relationship history, timeless and tireless emotional support, and I love that we can share in the mundaneness of things like diapering and bathing kids.

I now live with and love the man who relegates the courting sneeze to special sweet flashbacks of a time past.

I embrace the Walter who feels comfortable enough to share with me the 10 year married sneeze.

And I guess I will hold on to my head as I brace for what the 20, 30, 40, 50... year married sneezes will be like!

23 April 2013

Happy Birthday Asa!

We put Asa's highchair in the attic this weekend.  The mornings of wheeling my little guy over to the counter for breakfast have passed and now it's his birthday.  Proof that he's not my baby, but he is two. 
 Two means he can climb up onto the barstool without needing "Asa's stool" anymore.  He can find his way outside by himself and gets lost in the joy of sifting in the dirt.  And in his mind, two means he no longer needs to drink from a sippy cup.

We celebrated Asa with plenty of "rawrs", trucks, and a dinosaur cake. His excitement reached a level so high I must say it had to have been the best day of his life. 

Screeches of "ruck!" and even more "rawrs" came out of the mouth of my little boy who usually refuses to speak. He forgot himself and literally jumped up and around.

I love the excitement of two.
I love my Buddy Boo.
Happy Birthday Asa!

16 April 2013

Thoughts on Boston

I used to be a runner. Two times I crossed the finish line of the Chicago Marathon. Both times I ran slow.  Slower than the 4:09:44 time shown on the finish line clock of the Boston Marathon that I keep seeing over and over in the news pictures.  The finishing time of around 4 hours means the elite winners had long ago crossed that line and were likely relaxing in hotel rooms relishing in their victories. Runners crossing the line at four hours of the Boston Marathon were not the professional athletes, but the moms, office workers, programmers, the average person who was completing an extraordinary accomplishment.  To run Boston is a dream, an aspiration, a category of elite to admire.

So when I watch the videos of the horrible events of yesterday I see very ordinary runners who were fulfilling their dreams and as the running cliche goes, it was the victory lap to all of the grueling training they had completed.  Not only were the runners fulfilling their dreams, but their families and supporters were completing their part.  They also sacrificed to help their runner loved ones live out their goals.

Something so aspirational turned absolutely tragic.

At this point of not knowing who or why or maybe even what I just feel anger.  Anger and a bit of defiance. 

Do you feel like me sometimes in a big crowd?  When I go to a big mall, stadium, or really any event where a large number of people are gathered I now fight back the thoughts of terror attacks, bombs, and crazed shooters.  These fears are exactly the ones the perpetrators want us to be filled with.  I imagine a big agenda item for a terrorist is to create terror. To create a sense of uncertainty and cause people to live with a spirit of underlying fear and maybe even to make that fear so overwhelming that people change their behavior - stop attending concerts, stop pursuing an education, stop gathering together, stop crossing finish lines in essence to stop life and hunker down at home.

The organizer of the Boston Marathon was interviewed on the news last night.  The words of his interview stick with me and remind me today that we must continue to pursue life if not simply to defy those who attempt to make us change our lives because of fear.

The interviewer asked if the Boston Marathon would be run again next year and the director described how the marathon has now run for 117 years.  This has taken the race through 2 World Wars, through the years immediately after 9/11.  While not being oblivious to the changes of the world, this race symbolizes life and pursuit of dreams that continue even in the middle of tragedy.

Will the Boston Marathon be run again next year the interviewer asked?  Fred Treseler responded, "I am quite sure there will be a Boston Marathon next year. But for certain the Boston Marathon has been changed forever."

Changed forever?

Changed towards a spirit of determination to pursue dreams in spite of even more opposition.
Changed to defy those who attempt to take away life.
Changed to prove evil can not win and Good will be what crosses the finish line as the winner.


11 April 2013


"Gawk!" "Gawk!"
My little baby (ok he's not a baby, he's almost two!) sounds like a squawking bird whenever I pull the car into a parking lot.  In his limited vocabulary, Asa wants me to know he does NOT want to be carried, but wants to walk.

Walk in the parking lot, walk in Target, walk Amelie in to preschool.

The boy who was the slowest to walk can't get enough of walking now.

And so life has slowed waaaay down.  When I have my companion along we don't rush in and out of a store.  Appropriately, we "gawk."

Gawk in the dollar section of Target.
Gawk at the Elmo cards when picking out a card.
Gawk at the snacks spilled onto the ground (and then grab them and eat before mommy can pick them up - ewww).
Gawk in the woods.

Over spring break we visited dear friends in Tennessee.  They led us on a couple of beautiful hikes and proved patience with our family as Asa insisted on gawking for as much of the hike as possible.  We did notice more leaves, bugs, interesting trees, and birds but we also took quite a bit longer to complete the hike than ever before.

Life slowed down is rare for me.  I like to conquer the world as quick as possible - whether shopping or hiking, I'm a let's get it done kind of girl.

Occasionally God sends something into my life to slow me down for a season.  Accepting the slowness drives me crazy at first and then I notice more, enjoy more, even feel more.  I'm working to accept this slowing down as God's message to me that life needs to more savouring.

Thanks to Asa's insistence that we gawk.


20 March 2013

Magical Four

It was a unicorn birthday for Amelie and now she is four!

I spend more time with my sweet Amelie than anyone else.  Often I feel we are attached at the hip and we talk (or she talks) all day long.  Mostly we talk about being a kitty, when is snack time, how much we love daddy kitty, and how we need to be kind to Asa.  Occassionally our personalities bump against each other and I see my own stuborn-ness combined with daddy's stubborn-ness and how that has created this incredibly stubborn little girl (er...kitty).

But most of the time, she is laughing and twirling and whirling and hugging Asa too tightly. I know she won't always be here to talk to and when I will most want to know all that's going on inside of her she won't want to tell me. So I listen to her deep desire to be a kitty and how her favorite color is now purple even though five minutes ago it was purple and pink.  The fact that my favorite color is red and doesn't change from being red mystifies her and actually makes her kind of annoyed because red after all is not a very pretty color.

When the doctors lifted Amelie into this world, incredible relief and great hope flooded through my body.  For what had seemed like a lifetime I never thought I would have a second child and then she was a sweet girl.  A daughter.

Just four years and there has been more sweetness than I could imagine from one little person.

Happy Birthday to my sweet Amelie Kitty.

14 March 2013

What's that Asa?

Woof Woof Wooof Bark!
What's that Lassie? Timmy fell down a well?

Uh, um babadub.
What's that Asa? The balloon floated into the bathtub and you can't get it out?

And so the day goes.  Asa encounters a problem. He appeals to me through a series of sounds strung together in a usually undiscernable way and I get to play detective and interpreter to figure out what he is trying to tell me.

There are a few words in his vocabulary that I understand but mostly they all sound like either "mama" or "ball."  The rest of the time he communicates through a series of "uhh"s, "ummm"s, and "blabublub"s.  (I really love the blabublubs the best and I think this is the word for marshmallow, balloon, or something else super cute.)  Often he physically pulls on my leg and drags me to where the problem lies - usually a ball stuck somewhere or a snack he wants in the pantry.

Most of the time, Ican figure it out but you probably wouldn't be able to.

Asa never got into sign language. While Asher quickly picked up on being able to say the necessities like more, milk, thank you, and a wide variety of animals, Asa never showed any attempts to try our terms of communication.  He prefers the screaming, dragging, and temper tantrum ways of letting us know he needs something.

He presents the fact that there is a problem.  Then we spend the effort to figure out what the problem is. 

Oh, your dinosaur is stuck under the chair?

"MaMa, ahh, Mama, Mama"
Would you like some milk, Asa?
"AHHHHH, ahhh Mama"
Oh, you need some water?

Everyday my prayer for Asa is that we will be able to understand him.  Amelie prides herself in being able to understand Asa's babytalk and actually often she is the one who figures out what he is screaming about.

He is not even two yet, and maybe my expectations are too high.  But then I see other toddlers speaking in full sentences that I, as a stranger, completely understand and I laugh at our cryptic Lassie/interpreter relationship.

"Ahhh, mama, Ahhh, gaaa"
What's that Asa? You can't find giraffe in your bed? 

Got to go put on my interpreter hat.
Such is life with my Buddy Boo.


07 March 2013


Asher celebrated his seventh birthday last Saturday.  As the big day approached, he could hardly contain his excitement and I became more and more nostalgic of what my life had been in those last days leading up to the birth of my first child.

I remember giving a final presentation at work, wondering how I would fill my days at home and what I would do without the camraderie of my coworkers,  I couldn't imagine how the baby inside of me would make it out into the world.

Seven years later, my days look a billion times different and I have a new group of friends who are comrades in these motherhood trenches.  This different is good.

My boy can't get enough of his DS which drives me crazy, but he also can't get enough of reading which fills me with pride.  I can see his internal battle as he struggles to figure out how to control and correct ways to express his emotions.  Some times control wins and other times emotions win - you could say the same for me.

He loves his alone time and needs periods of just doing nothing with no one.  I've learned that for his introverted personality, these hours spent in his room recharge his personality and bring back my happy Asher again.  But he also loves his friend time. 

Seven years have been good.  The birth of my Asher, my creative child who always has an elaborate solution to solving problems changed everything seven years ago and I couldn't be more thankful for him.

26 February 2013

Missed it

It was the last quarter of the last game.  The team had proven to be tough over the long season.  Although tired, the players pressed on continuing with their passing and shooting.  The Panthers stacked for Asher.  He broke away towards the basket.  After receiving the pass, he turned to eye the basket.  He raised his arms and released the ball for the shot.  And SWISH! He scored!

At least I imagine it happened this way.  Asher's basket.  The one and only of the season.

While this excitement happened at the church down the road, I rummaged through the storage room at home sorting camping gear and delighting in the growing pile of items to take to Goodwill. Asa slept soundly upstairs during his usual afternoon napping time.  This precious nap time was the reason I stayed home and also the reason that

I missed it.

I missed the big moment of Asher's basket.  For the million other moments I have been there.  Throughout soccer season, I refused to miss a game hoping that week would be the one when Asher would score a goal. We are still waiting for that first goal.

Through basketball season, our family prioritized the games.  We all went, we all cheered for the team, and encouraged Asher.

And then when it happened, when he made a basket, I missed it. 

I don't think Asher minded too much that I wasn't there.  He might have been happy enough to just tell me about it.

As a mom who has prioritized my kids enough to stay home with them full-time, I can't help but kick myself.  I can't be there for everything.  But I sure want to.  I would love to witness all of their successes, cheer them through all of the failures, and celebrate every victory. 

Realistically I know there are a billion moments I will miss.  Little ones and maybe some big ones.  It's part of the growing up and separating away.  Seven years ago, I felt his every movement and knew everything that went into and out of his body.  I can't say I'm nostalgic for all of that feeding and diaper changing, and surely someday I will not miss the many hours of sitting at practices and games.

Through this separating and moving on, I simply want to remain there for his life.  I want to experience it, rejoice in it, shed tears when we need to.  Ultimately I don't want to miss out on my boy.  Whether he retells the story to me, or I get to experience the moment in person, I hope there will be more moments of being there than missing it.

Soccer season will start soon and I will once again be in the front row at every game in a absolute refusal to again admit that I missed it.


14 February 2013

Asa's stool

A foam rocket shot up on the counter?

Crayons out of reach on the craft table?

A comfy couch waiting for someone to lounge on?

No problem.  Even though he is only about three feet tall.

No problem when he has a stool anyway.

Being the third child, Asa doesn't have many things that are solely his. Toys blend together. He plays with tea sets, eats with a pink spoon, and reads our tattered copy of Goodnight Moon even though the binding no longer holds the book together.

But the black plastic stool I got free with a rebate at Menards is Asa's.

The stuffed animals, the books, the blocks, Legos, those are all ambiguous and at any time ownership may shift from one child to the next. 

The stool is always Asa's.

Maybe because I know what it's like to not be able to reach something on your own two legs.

And it's partly because I totally love his ingenuity to go get a stool when he sees something up high he can't reach or wants to sit on the couch and no one is around to help him up.

Upstairs, downstairs, it doesn't matter where he needs to reach, he doesn't mind lugging the stool up and down.  It's almost half his size, but the handle in the middle makes it manageable and gives him the ability to be one of the big kids.

I feel a bit sad that I haven't been there to always get what he needs or lift him to where he wants to go. but I am proud of him for figuring it out on his own.

I love this determination in my Asa and will continue to defend his stool.

07 February 2013

Staying sane

I'm not crazy, really. 

That screaming you heard from the garage on Monday morning, that was um, that was my happy filled with excitement scream. OK fine, that was actually my scream that gets the kids to stop their own screaming for just one minute while they try to figure out what in the world mommy is doing.

Earlier Monday morning I reminded myself not to start yelling because that meant they had control over me (Being a good mom who reads good parenting books, I felt proud of myself for remembering this good piece of advice).  So I kept my voice in check. Held my temper down. We were going to make it out of the house with all of mommy's emotions bubbling up, but not yet boiling over.

And then he said it.

In the middle of a heated argument with Asher about why I wasn't even going to discuss with him whether or not he needed going to school, he shot back at me, "All you do is stay at home with the kids."

Hold everything.

That statement is the one causing every stay at home mom to suck in her breath and decide which aspect of that outrageousness to address first.

Should I list out the billion examples of what I do during the day other than just sit on the couch watching kids? Or maybe I needed to let out my pent up frustration over sacrifices of money and self-satisfaction given up to stay at home. 

In one millisecond, of my anger, I thought of describing how much I cared about him and his brother and sister and this love motivates me to stay at home with them.

But, continuing with my good mom facade, I simply told him that staying home with the kids doesn't mean I don't do anything all day.

I left it at that and continued the crazy morning routine of getting Amelie to speed up and convincing Asa he does need to wear a diaper and we do not need to carry all of his earthly possessions into the car. 

It was this shrieking insistence from my baby that he needed to bring giraffes and snacks and blankets into the car, which made my emotion boil out.  I screamed as I carried him to the van.  I kept screaming while I buckled him in.

All three kids stopped their own screaming, whining and arguing and stared. 

I think they got it that now was the time for obedience and quickly getting into the car. 

For the three minute drive to drop Asher off at school, I laid out what I do all day. I described what life would be like for me (lots of positives!) and for them (lots of negatives!) if I did not stay at home with them.  Whether they understood or will remember, I don't think so, but I dot think Asher will not be saying that again - at least not in the near future.

We continued our drive, dropped Amelie off at preschool.  Then Asa and I waited at church for mom's group to begin.  While we waited, I realized my baby never really did get to finish his breakfast, but at least he had brought his pop-tart along.

What a good mom I am.

25 January 2013

Am I pretty?

"Daddy, am I the prettiest girl?"
"Yes, Amelie you are very pretty."

She twirled in front of him showing off her new dress. The dress spun out in a bubble around her legs and she smiled confident that she looked beautiful.

I regularly see evidences of Amelie's deep desire to be recognized as pretty. She no longer wants to be called cute but asks if her clothes, jewelry, shoes, hair, ultimately her very beautiful self is pretty?

Of course I reassure her that she is SO pretty! Often I also remind her of the other amazing qualities that make up Amelie. She is funny, sweet, caring, smart, creative, kind... While she lets me list these other compliments, she ultimately asks again, but am I pretty?

Oh how that desire to be beautiful in someone else's eyes is so deep.

Before Christmas, after I had already spent over an hour in the kitchen, Amelie came behind me while I stood at the sink deep in a pile of dishes. Armed with her pink feather boa and a flower petal headband, she asked me to bend down. With sudsy hands that crack and bleed all winter long, hair pinned back in a mess just to keep strands from falling in my face, my mom uniform of jeans and a comfortable white shirt I knelt down.

My sweet girl wrapped the boa around my neck and pushed the petal headband onto my head and exclaimed "Now you are more beautiful than just wearing that ugly white shirt."

And so I continued through the pile of baking sheets and bowls with a feather boa and petals that made my face look like a flower. I admit I did feel more beautiful.

It seems like not long ago when I twirled and whirled in my Sunday dress wondering and hoping that it made me pretty. Deep longings of wanting to be a beautiful princess filled my imagination and I wondered if I was pretty enough and if I measured up to everyone else. I remember hoping to be pretty enough, wondering how I measure up to everyone else and trying to figure out what I could do to become more beautiful.

Honestly those questions never end. The questions have matured and moved beyond the basic "Am I pretty" to
"Why am I not able to lose just a few more pounds?"
"Why don't I look as good in these jeans as the model looked?"
"Why doesn't my hair look fun and cute instead of sticking out and silly?

As an adult the pretty question has translated beyond just my own person to my house, my kids, my life in general. Am I pretty enough? Do I measure up to everyone else and this vision I have of what the standard of perfection is?

My critical eyes generally suggest I don't measure up. I'm not the prettiest girl, my house won't win a prize for being beautifully decorated, and my style these days leans heavily on the practical without much attention to beauty.

But Amelie's innocent desires for beauty have reminded me that pursuing beauty doesn't have to equal vanity. She changes to wear a special necklace for naptime and a different sparkly headband for getting in the car to pick up Asher from school, and then different shoes to wear waiting for Daddy to get home. Dressing up for these mundane daily activities when no one will see her other than her family fills her with joy simply because she enjoys the beauty.

She doesn't wait for a special occasion, and doesn't save her favorite sparkly beautiful things so they don't get broken or ruined, but she enjoys them in the everyday for the pure delight of beauty.

This delight has challenged me to go ahead and wear my favorite shirt rather than saving it for a special occasion. Look for sparkly scarves and necklaces to dress up the plain. Wear the knitted treasures because really I will enjoy them more now rather than next year when I want the next latest and greatest.

I have been taught by Amelie's pursuit of pretty. Sparkly, glittery and beautiful still have a power to bring me joy and remind me of how enjoying beauty can be pure delight.

15 January 2013

Careless in His care

Asa is in love with his stuff.

At 1 1/2 his "stuff" consists of two blankets - the blue Winnie the Pooh one and the yellow dotted one, Snoopy, Eeyore, knitted bear, Llama, elephant, Mouse, Hedgehog/Elephant, and owl.  Over Christmas Jingle Bear and moose joined the club and occasionally Amelie decides she doesn't want frog anymore so Asa gives him love until Amelie suddenly needs to take him back.

He loves these friends and insists they follow us throughout our day.  They all need to come out of his bed every morning, be taken downstairs, then a few select are stuffed into the backpack we take in the car. At nap time we reverse the craziness and take everyone back upstairs into his bed. Of course they he can't go back downstairs without them and you guessed it back upstairs for bedtime.

I feel like a Sherpa. Someone needed simply for my abilities to carry the stuff.

The stuff is organized on the couch and five minutes later looks better on the floor but then not much later and they are reorganized back onto another couch.  We spend a lot of time moving his stuff around.

Through this new job of mine I've recognized Sherpa tendencies with my things as well.  Way too often my mind is trying to figure out where to put something.  Clothes need to be sorted in closets.  The Christmas stuff just got put away and the everyday things put back out.  We have bags of stuff to go to Goodwill in various closets and then there are all of the things for a garage sale someday. 
My boy may be simply modeling what he sees the rest of the family doing...loving our stuff.

Honestly I'm so sick of the stuff and despite my love of shopping, I find great pleasure in throwing things away.  (Asa has joined me in this love as well although I'm usually not ready to throw away the things I often find he has put into the garbage can.)

This morning I was reading about God's provision for us.  Matthew tells how Jesus asks us to let go of our worries and frets about our food, clothes, and all of the other things that consume too much of our thoughts.  Rather than spending so much time worrying over our stuff God asks us to be "careless in the care of God."

What freedom to be free of caring for all of our things.  God cares for us and provides what it is we need. What would that look like - to be careless in God's care?
Oh yes, Careless in His care.

02 January 2013

Petty prayer?

In a moment of desperate tv watching, we tuned in to a show I previously recommended myself  never watch. The show was mildly entertaining, but I found myself judging the people on screen for something I didn't expect to be judging them about.

Their prayer.

In much the same way as I would pray, I watched as they asked Lord Jesus to "bless" a creation they had made with items stolen from around the hotel because "we promise to return them when the pageant is done."

Seriously? Asking God to bless something they had stolen with a seemingly trivial end purpose??

Immediately I felt bad for judging their prayer request because I know God does promise to hear us when we call out to Him.  I believe He wants us to talk to Him about all of the things we struggle with.  I spent the rest of the show fighting with my judgement as they continued to ask God to bless things that seemed obviously out of God's plan.

Theologically I think God always hears and also always answers.  He always answers according to His will, which might not always fit with mine, but is ultimately best.

This morning my usual over analyzing mind flipped back to that prayer and the way it seemed so trivial to me - but clearly not trivial to them and therefore still heard by God.  My mind wandered to the question of what in my prayers is trivial, petty, clearly not in God's will?

Is it my cries for meaning to days?
Or my pleas that I will have opportunity to sit a read for 20 minutes this afternoon?
Maybe it's crazy to ask that Amelie will get dressed without drama today.

A Chinese believer who is suffering for owning a Bible or a woman living in poverty whose daily chores never ever end might equally scoff at my struggles to maintain a consistent Bible reading plan or my regular battles over finding worth in the daily routine chores in that fill my days.  They might judge my prayers to be ridiculous as I sat in judgement of the tv show prayers.

From my perspective my prayers are heartfelt outpourings of where I need God to intervene. The people on the show also felt they needed God to intervene. Suffering Chinese believers need God's intervention and so does the hard working woman around the world. 

We pray to request, to thank, to acknowledge, and to connect with our Creator.

Wouldn't it be cool to hear all of the prayers that reach God's ears? As a human, I would laugh at how trivial some are and be burdened beyond comprehension at the pain in many others. But I imagine God, Abba Father, listening with concern each time a prayer reaches His ears.  He would gather the tears into a bottle, maybe smile at the sweet requests of a child, and nod with patience at those that are seemingly less important.

No matter the request, there is a promise that God does hear and also RESPONDS to us all.

That is amazing love and individual caring beyond my comprehension.