Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Holy schnikes! November has been one jam-packed month. I haven’t updated a lot because I haven’t had TIME to do so! In the interest of keeping my blog up to date (and in trying to NOT bore my three faithful readers to tears!), here’s a recap of my month.

It started on November 2, when Dan demolished the shower in our master bathroom. It was necessary, because the shower tiles had started coming loose a few months ago and we knew water damage was close behind._MDS0591

After twelve days and LOTS of caulk and time with one of Dan’s best friends, the project was complete and we got to use our new shower! It really looks fantastic and I’m proud of the hard work Dan put into it. And I’m REALLY happy about the  money he saved by doing it himself. (Can you believe one of the quotes we received to fix this little shower area was THIRTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS?!!)02_After

And here’s one last shot of the shower, before I move on to another topic. The reason this is important is because it’s typical of DIY projects in our house. Starting way back in 2004, I have been writing messages or quotes underneath and behind the background of projects. This photo shows the wall behind the shower tile, where I wrote scripture about singing (which I often do in the shower!), water, and love. Now when I shower, I remember how Jesus’ blood cleanses my soul while the bath water cleanses my body._MDS0617

On November 12, I was asked to photograph an event that turned out to be pretty special. My church has a refugee ministry, and they help immigrants who have just arrived in our country and are lost in the new culture and surroundings. Every November, the ministry has a Thanksgiving meal to share our American custom with the refugees. Since most of these families don’t own a nice camera and don’t get family portraits taken, I was asked to photograph the families. At first, I said no because I didn’t have anyone to watch Jackson while I worked the event. The friend who invited me said I should bring Jackson because there were so many kids coming to the dinner too. So I did, and it turned out really well! I got to photograph the multi-national blessing of the meal, which my friend says is what Heaven will look like: so many different people worshiping God together. This photo looks like a bunch of people holding hands around a big room, but it’s so much more than that! It’s Americans and Bhutanese and Burmese and Burundi and Congolese, all asking for blessings from our Creator._MDS0741

I loved providing a service to the families, but the photographer in me really enjoyed taking photos of so many different ethnic groups, and seeing their inherent beauty._MDS0836-2_MDS0817_MDS0831 

The very next day, I got another chance to witness worship with my camera. I volunteered to photograph the grand opening of my church’s third location._MDS1177

The highlight of the day for me – and possibly the closest I’ve ever come to Heaven on Earth – was in taking this photo:_MDS1349-2

I love God. I love photography. I love Revelation Song. This photo captures all three of those things in one moment. The entire church was worshiping God while the praise band sang Revelation Song and I was capturing it all with my camera. It was a thin spot for me, meaning I felt Heaven in the very air I breathed.

The middle of November brought an end to a Bible study class I’ve been taking since the end of August. I studied a book called A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God with about 15 other women. The book is about finding contentment no matter what circumstances you face in life, and was a study of the letter Paul wrote to the Philippians. This class was such a blessing to my life for the 12 weeks I attended. I struggled with some hard things during that time, and met some women who are struggling too. We encouraged each other, helped each other see truth, and I was so moved by the Spirit in this class. I was truly sad to see the class end._MDS1449

For Dan’s birthday this year, I bought concert tickets to see Chris Tomlin perform. The concert was on November 18, and we had a fantastic date night. Chris Tomlin is an amazing singer, and his songs so beautifully capture God’s heart. Christy Nockels performed with Chris, and a pastor named Louie Giglio spoke too. When it was Louie’s turn to speak, I was kind of bummed because I wanted to hear Chris sing more. But by the time Louie was done, I wished I had a copy of his sermon to hear all over again! He spoke of the Psalms and how God’s creation proclaims His glory: the stars and the creatures join His angels to praise Him. Louie is an astronomy buff and talked about stars emitting unique radio frequencies. He showed us photos of stars and clusters of stars, and let us hear what they sound like. Then he talked about animals, whales specifically. He played clips of the songs whales sing to each other. Then he took the star sounds and whale songs and played them together. The keyboardist came on stage at that point and added a melody, and it turned into the song “How Great is Our God.” The entire crowd stood and sang along with the stars and the whales as we all praised God. It was one of the coolest worship moments I’ve ever witnessed.IMG_0531

Next up in our crazy month of November, my wild little boy had surgery. He has failed five hearing tests since a regular screening in May, and the doctor thinks it’s because of fluid he’s had in his ears for months. The day before Thanksgiving, we took Jackson for surgery to put tubes in his ears. He did very well with the surgery, although we all got pretty impatient since we had to wait two and a half hours for the surgery to start. That’s a long time for a four year old to wait in a sterile environment with an empty stomach! He was his usual goofy self, as you can see in this photo. He was making his favorite face (complete with crossed eyes), and wearing his comfortable Santa costume. As I write this post, it’s been a week since the surgery. We haven’t noticed a huge change in his hearing, except he has covered his ears a few times when there is a loud noise (a child crying or my hair dryer blowing). At bedtime prayers the night of the surgery, he prayed and asked Jesus to “fix my ears.” I told him we already had surgery to fix them, and he responded that he can’t hear anything now. Sometimes he gets his absolutes mixed up, so I think maybe he means he can hear everything now instead of “nothing.”IMG_0560

And then we had Thanksgiving. Dan started brining our turkey and preparing breakfast and dinner casseroles two days in advance, so we had a feast at every meal for four days straight! _MDS1647

However, the best part of Thanksgiving wasn’t the food. More than cheesecake or turkey or leftovers, my favorite part was this:_MDS1717

My sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces arrived the evening of Jackson’s surgery and stayed for four days. The weather was pretty decent on Thursday, so we had their annual family photo shoot. Then we hung out, talked, looked at old photos, watched old family videos (the girls *loved* seeing the videos of themselves when they were two and six), shopped a little, went to church, and ate some MORE. (Ugh!)_MDS1657

The only bad thing about family visiting is when they leave. It makes me so homesick and lonely to say goodbye! Jackson and Katie really miss their cousins and aunt and uncle now too._MDS2043 (2)

The day after Thanksgiving was the culmination of almost three months of work for me and a team of volunteers at my church. We had our annual Thanksgiving Experience event at church, and it was really fantastic this year. The theme was [Worship Fully], which is one of the four tenants of the Advent Conspiracy movement. One of the main doors of the church was turned into a modern “stained glass” panel._MDS1812

There was a 360 degree video scripture wall._MDS1923

There was an actual Living Water well pump that pumped video “water” out on a screen, giving participants a chance to feel what it’s like to pump clean water._MDS1883 

We had live musicians, a prayer wall, comic books, an idea station for inexpensive gifts of presence (not presents!) for Christmas, and lots of candles._MDS2003

It was a really good day, and I was especially happy that my visiting family finally got to go through one of the Experiences that I’ve been telling them about for years now.

Thanksgiving weekend ended with Christmas decorations and Jackson’s first time to put the angel on the tree._MDS2070 (2)

Last but not least, November ended with one more big event. This time, it was surgery for me! I had a Morton’s neuroma removed from my left foot. It happened just earlier today (the day I’m writing this post), and the numbing medicine is just now wearing off, so I haven’t really started getting into the hard part of post-surgery pain. So far, all is well and the worst part was having to sit through TWO blown IVs until the third one finally took. That was extremely agonizing, but the poor nurse felt horrible about it and I know she would have crawled under my bed in shame if she could have._MDS2108

I am praying for quick healing from the surgery, a chance to get back on my feet without pain once I am released to exercise again, and a quiet and uneventful December!

Oh NO! I was LITERALLY about to hit publish on this post when I heard Dan’s car pull onto our driveway after picking up Jackson from Grandma’s, where he stayed today during my surgery. I heard wailing, then Katie ran into the house and yelled, “Mommy! Jackson barfed!” My poor husband cleaned puke up from all over his car; it was so bad, we decided to just throw the booster seat away and we’ll buy a new one at Walmart tomorrow. I gave the barfy boy a bath, and we’re praying it was just car sickness and nothing worse.

Ten Things Kids Need That Nobody is Trying to Sell

In October 2005, I attended a class offered by our local Parents As Teachers program.  It was called “Ten Things Kids Need That Nobody is Trying to Sell.” I took copious notes and typed them into my computer. I recently came across those notes, and wanted to share them with you here… especially since we are entering the time of year when kids are covered with LOTS of things they don’t need (toys, candy, Christmas presents) and maybe not as much of what they DO need.


  • The average bedtime for kids in America:
    • Preschool and primary school-age: 9:30pm
    • Middle schoolers: 11pm
    • High schoolers: 12-1am
  • When kids are sleep deprived they are 1) crabby, and 2) have decreased problem-solving abilities. No wonder they get mad and throw a puzzle when they can’t find the right piece! They can’t solve the problem because sleep deprivation prevents you from being able to think from your frontal lobe.
  • Kids need an 8pm bedtime. If you’re caught out in public with your kids after 8pm, you should be arrested!
  • Many parents of very young ones say, “She gave up her nap.” If you believe her, you’re saying sleep isn’t important.
  • There is no study or research that supports the myth that skipping a nap means your child will sleep better at night!


  • Obesity is a major problem in America, and in our children.
  • It’s sad that in America, the top-selling breakfast foods are: Froot Loops, Cocoa Puffs, and Pop Tarts. So bad for you!
  • We’ve been telling our kids “Eat what tastes good.” Instead, we need to tell them “You have to eat this, it’s good for your body.”
  • You can’t FORCE your child to eat, but you can give them good options to choose from. Kids can’t go to the store themselves and grocery shop! You do that for them, so do it well.
  • Watch your child’s portion size, and your own! Your kid is going to want to grow up and eat what Daddy is eating, and you don’t need a double Quarter-Pounder!


  • Endorphins are good for you and help heal your body. There are only three ways that your body releases them: through a cardiovascular push, belly laughing, and sex.
  • Your kid isn’t getting endorphins from sex, so you gotta make sure they’re getting them elsewhere!


  • We’ve raised wimpy kids who don’t go outside because it’s “too hot” or “too cold.” Then take some clothes off, or put some on!
  • The sun gives your body vitamin D. Vitamin D helps strengthen your kids’ bones.
  • Sun can be “stored” in your body up to 2 weeks, so even if it’s sunny only one day every 2 weeks, get your kids out there to play in the sun and the effects will last.


  • It’s good to let your kids be in darkness. If they are afraid of the dark at night time, then you need to empower them to cope with their fears (problem-solving!), don’t just turn on the light for them. Some ideas are making a sign for the bedroom door that says “Monsters Keep Out” or using a magic wand or Monster Spray (hairspray or a spritzer bottle with water inside) to fight off monsters.
  • It’s okay to let your kids be alone and learn how to entertain themselves. If your child says “I’m bored”, do NOT offer some sort of entertainment as a solution! Say, “Well, you can clean out the basement” or “You can clean your room” as an alternative. Then they’ll find their own entertainment, which makes them increase their creativity levels.
  • It’s okay to ask for silence in your home or car sometimes. You will not hurt your child’s self-esteem by not answering her questions every time. Children can be told that it’s quiet time!


  • Kids need play time with adults!
  • Stanley Greenspan did a study on Floor Time. He found three major things:
    • Parents need to get on the floor with their children! Get at their same eye level.
    • Let your children direct the play. Men are better at this than women. Women usually say, “Oh, no. The dinosaurs shouldn’t fight. They should be nice to each other.” But that doesn’t let your child learn to resolve his own conflicts and play at his own pace. Dinosaurs can fight, cars can crash! And the rules to Candy Land don’t have to be “right” every time. Let the child change the rules every now and then.
    • Have resolution available. Have a dinosaur hospital, a garage or tow truck for wrecked cars. That lets your child develop problem solving and they can shift the play themselves.
  • Studies show that at least 15-20 minutes a day, five times a week of Floor Time will result in significant changes in a child’s listening abilities. They’ll listen and respond better to you, even in non-play times!
  • [I found one link about this: http://www.mindspring.com/~dgn/childart.htm]


  • So many parents think limits equal punishment. Not true! Limits just means discipline.
  • Children shouldn’t just assume they can turn the TV on and veg on the couch. They should ask permission!
  • Use your humor! Examples (some are not age-appropriate):
    • If your child is kicking & screaming in the store, get down and kick with them. That will embarrass them so much that next time, all you’ll have to say is, “I think I feel a tantrum coming on.”
    • Or if they’re having a tantrum, talk to people around you. Say, “Anyone else have a day like this? She won’t quit screaming! She’s just yelling and yelling…” and most kids will stop because they’ll be so embarrassed. They think their behavior is a secret and are embarrassed when bad behavior is pointed out.
    • If your child won’t make the bed, then take the sheets off. Say, “I decided you were right. You don’t need sheets!”
    • If your child won’t get dressed before school or fights it when you try to do it, then you take off your clothes and go naked. Get your purse and start walking to the car (which is in a closed garage, of course!) and the child will be mortified and realize how silly it is not to wear clothes. Or, just take him in his pajamas. It’ll only happen once, and schools see it all the time. Of course, some schools may just make him sit in the front office all day, which he’ll see as punishment.
    • If your kid keeps slamming the door, take it off the hinges and put it in the basement.
    • One woman had two girls who fought every night about setting the table for dinner. So one night the mom put the spaghetti directly on the table and poured a puddle of milk above it. When the girls came to the table, they said, “Ew! Gross! Where are the plates?” The mom said, “I decided you were right. We don’t need to set the table and we don’t need silverware.” She started eating the spaghetti with her bare hands. The girls were so embarrassed that they never fought about setting the table again.


  • We barely touch our babies anymore! We put them in a pumpkin seat to carry them to the car and from the car to the building.
  • We don’t let strangers touch our babies, even if they are safely complimenting them.
  • As parents, we need to increase our touching even more! Kids will get deprived.
  • We also need to SAY loving things like, “I love you” and “You’re special” and “You’re beautiful and cute.” One woman realized she never heard her parents compliment her looks when she was growing up.

*What do all these things have in common? They are all FREE! We don’t need more STUFF in our lives. We have enough. Babies come with more gear these days, and our kids have more than enough toys to use.

*Be the voice that kids need… ALL kids, not just your own. You will be considered a mean parent, and that’s okay. If you don’t hear, “You’re the meanest mom ever!” at least once every week, you’re not doing your job.

*All kids push, but they need a wall to push against. BE THE WALL!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Best Teacher (May 2007)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

May 2007: Right now, I’m watching the local news. There are some awful stories of things people have done to each other, animals, their children, and themselves. What is wrong with us today? What in our society is so lacking that such awful crimes are becoming more common? It seems to me there is a hole somewhere that people keep trying to fill with the wrong stuff. What is going on? And is there any way we can change the direction we’re taking?

The only answer I have is the one that’s sleeping upstairs right now in her big girl bed. She, and all the other little answers you have sleeping at your houses, is the place where we as parents get to hopefully start over and try to get the train back on track. It starts with you and with me, and it continues through our children and on to their children. The job of teaching our babies how to become responsible, compassionate, and moral people is not the job of teachers or friends or grandparents. It’s YOURS. The stakes are getting higher and higher with each passing generation.

I don’t expect Katie to change the world (yet I wouldn’t be surprised if she did!), but I do hope and pray that if we all teach our kids – AND OURSELVES – the right path to walk, we can make a difference. On your worst days when you feel too exhausted to show your child (yet again) how to use her manners or how to share toys or how to stop hitting, I hope this will inspire you to keep trying and keep walking that path. You’re the best teacher he’s got, and your contributions will help change our world one child at a time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dear Gina

Happy one year anniversary! Technically, it was yesterday… so I’m a day late.

Oh, you mean you don’t remember what you were doing one year ago yesterday? I didn’t remember either, until breakfast this morning. I have an index card file on our kitchen table, with 365 index cards inside. There’s one for every day of the year. Each morning at breakfast, I pull out the card from the previous day and write one or two sentences about what we did that day. As the days and years pass, I’ll have an instant time capsule to go back and look at our life and the daily minutiae.

Today, I looked at November 13 and it said, “2010: Dan grilled for Second Saturday and Eric came too. Elizabeth took kids for haircuts. Church tonight with first-time visitors Gina, B, and L.” (initials for privacy)

I got tears in my eyes. Katie said, “Why are you crying?” She was in the midst of filling out a leaf for our November Thankful Tree, so I told her, “I’m thankful for friends who go to church with us.” She looked at me with a confused look on her face, so I showed her the card. Then I explained by saying, “You know L’s mommy and daddy? A long time ago, I asked her to go to church with us. She said no. I think it was because she wasn’t so sure about Jesus and God. But I kept asking her and asking her. Finally, after a year of asking, she said yes. She went with us a year ago, and I think since then she has become a follower of Jesus. And I’m so glad for her!”

Oh, Gina! My heart is so full of joy in watching you and your husband and the changes God has brought to your life this past year. I love when you write on your blog about your growing faith, and I LOVE when you text me about the little ways The Crossing has permeated your life. The best was this one you sent me yesterday, after your first day of training in the kids ministry and how much you enjoyed it. You wrote, “I cannot believe it took me a year to agree to come.”

That sentence literally makes me weak and fills my eyes with tears. What a testament! To know you fought it for so long, but God is faithful and He wooed you. Most importantly? He NEVER gave up on you. I am blessed beyond measure to be a witness to that.

I can’t WAIT to see what He continues to do in your life and B’s!



P.S. I looked up the first emails you and I sent to each other. In only the second email I ever sent you, I invited you to The Crossing. The date was 6/5/09. It took you until 11/13/2010 to attend, or exactly 526 days. (But who’s counting?!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Has Parenthood Changed You? (April 2007)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

April 2007: I just read an advice column for new mothers, and the columnist said, “To state the obvious, a baby changes everything. And he or she does so by magnifying everything, whether it’s love or anxiety, joy or exhaustion.” Yep! Ain’t that the truth?!

That really struck a note with me, because not only did having a baby magnify my external life, but it magnified me internally too. When I became a mother at the ripe old age of 29, I was under the impression that I knew myself inside and out. I thought I was pretty much in control of my life and myself, and I thought I was pretty patient and even-keeled. A little emotional maybe, but a stable person in general. HA! (My husband’s going to get a laugh reading that part!) I have no idea what fantasy world I was living in, but it all crumbled a bit for me when Katie was born. Postpartum depression aside, I found out more about myself in the first year of being a mother than I did during all the other life crises I had experienced up to that point.

I learned that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, and I also learned that I’m weaker too. I learned that I need people – my husband, my family, my friends. I’m independent, but still dependent. I developed a deeper faith by looking at my choices as a parent and comparing them to the choices that I think God makes for me as my parent. I learned that I need a certain amount of sleep to function, and pulling all-nighters in college was nothing compared to sleep deprivation compounded by breastfeeding and running a household. Becoming a mother made me more compassionate, more aware of the passing of time, more in love with my husband, and more appreciative of life in general. It also made me more aware of my limitations. And as time passes, being a mother has made me more understanding and – my mother would be chuckling to hear me say this – more forgiving of my own parents.

How has parenthood changed you? Look back at the last few years, and give yourself a pat on the back for the great job you’ve done, the growth you’ve accomplished, and the education you’ve received. While some of it might have been painful at the moment, it is pretty amazing to see how much the human spirit can adapt and overcome and grow. You’re doing a beautiful job, Mom! Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let Me Worry About That

All of a sudden, life has gotten a little “overfull” for me. I feel like the moment the calendar page turned to November, more obstacles appeared on my radar and on my To Do List. Blame it on the overzealous stores who are eagerly displaying Christmas decorations, plus Thanksgiving looming just a few weeks away, but my list of tasks has tripled.

The week has been especially hard for my brain to process. In the last six days, my husband has demolished our master bathroom shower, gutted the walls behind it, then built everything back up again (tile, grout, sealant, caulk, doors, faucet). The result is very nice, but I’m still a few days away from showering in the new beauty. Meanwhile, my toiletries are scattered between two bathrooms and a gym bag, and that alone makes me feel torn in opposite directions. On top of that, I made the decision to have surgery on the Morton’s neuroma in my foot on November 29. (Yep, right at the height of the holiday season!) And in case that isn’t enough to focus on, Jackson is having minor surgery to insert ear tubes the day before Thanksgiving (which is also the day my family arrives for the holiday). He has failed five hearing tests since May. We hope the surgery will help drain fluid from his ears and recalibrate the pressure inside so his hearing can be restored.

Yes, this post does have a point, and the point isn’t to bore you with my To Do List and my To Worry List. All of a sudden, I am struggling to focus on TODAY because tomorrow is nagging at my concentration.

Lately, Jackson has been driving me a little bonkers with one incessant question: “What are we doing _____?” Fill in the blank with: today, after breakfast, after lunch, after nap, after dinner, after the gym… He can’t stand to not know what the next few hours holds. I’ve been trying to train him to focus on NOW and every time he asks this question, my answer is, “We’ll talk about it later. Right now your job is to focus on ______.” (Fill in that blank with the task at hand, such as coloring or eating lunch or getting dressed for the day.)

Just before his nap today, we were finishing a puzzle and he wanted to know what we are doing after nap. I answered the usual “focus on the puzzle” and added, “Why don’t you let ME worry about that?”

(You know where this is going, don’t you?)

I literally heard God’s voice whisper in my head, “Just like you do with me.” And then I saw myself doing to God exactly what Jackson does to me: “God, what are we doing tomorrow? Have you seen my To Do List for nap time today? I gotta power through so much stuff! And what food am I going to cook for Thanksgiving? Should I buy a Santa bag for gifts on Christmas morning? Don’t let me forget to measure the chairs for the dessert gala. And, and…”

Yes, God, you are right. I get so far ahead of you and don’t wait for you to show me the way. I can hardly see the blessing of today because I am so focused on the tasks of tomorrow. Forgive me! Help me to trust that you already have it all figured out. Remind me of this: when needs arise, you will give me the strength to fulfill them. Thank you for always being enough for me! Amen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To Katie (March 2007)

I was president of my mom’s group a few years ago. Every month, our newsletter included a President’s Greeting. It was usually a cheery preview of the month’s upcoming activities. Since I’m not very good at cheery previews, I used the space to write my own personal thoughts on motherhood. I am including these on my blog for my children to read one day.

March 2007:

Dear Katie,

I can’t believe you’re such a big girl now. I remember meeting some of your friends in our mom’s group, and not being able to grasp the idea that one day you might be a year old like them. I thought time was standing still, and that it would be an eternity before you rolled over or crawled or talked. And now you are one of the big kids, and I am so proud of you!

I wish you would be able to remember what it’s like to be three years old. It’s such a shame that adults can’t remember their early childhoods. In 20 or 30 years, I’d love to be able to talk about yours with you. I’d love to find out what you’re really thinking these days. I wish you could tell me the reasons behind so many temper tantrums, and I’d love to hear your reaction to so many of the new things in your life, like carousel rides and your first taste of new foods. As it is, I can only watch with joy as your face explodes in happiness or wonder. At least I’ll always have that: the memories of your happy face, and remembering your gasps of surprise and awe. And I am blessed to be one of the people in your life who get the honor of holding on to those memories until you’re old enough to hear them and remember them for yourself.

I feel so lucky to be able to spend each day with you, watching you learn about the world. I know I am blessed to have the choice to be home with you every day, even the days that are full of tantrums and tears. I love the routine we’re in, and maybe I love it even more because I know it’s going to change in just a few weeks when your baby brother arrives. I can’t wait to see you become a big sister, but I know it will also be bittersweet because you and I will no longer have our days to ourselves. I am excited to watch you grow into a little lady, and watch you teach Jackson all the things you know: how to roll over, crawl, talk, sing, and laugh. Once you were the little one – now you’ve become the experienced leader. And now I know that time stands still for no one. I love you, Katie. You are an amazing little girl!



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