January 30, 2007

Baby Update

Wow. Amazingly, I am exactly 6 weeks away from my due date today. Someone remarked to me that time flies when it's someone else's pregnancy, but I'm thinking the same thing! WHERE have the past few months gone?! I know we've lived through them, but all of a sudden, here we are, expecting our fourth child in a month and a half, and I'm still trying to figure out if we have any baby girl clothes or not! (I did spend about an hour sorting through things in my closet earlier today, and I managed to locate the Boppy and the Baby Bjorn carrier, so that's something, at least!)

The answer to the Big Question is yes, we do have a name picked out, one that we both prayed over and agree fits perfectly. The answer to the next Big Question is no, we won't tell you what the name is. :-) We do let people know that we're having a girl, so we have to keep something a surprise, right?! But to soothe the pain and rejection of not being able to know the name ahead of time, I'll post some of my pregnancy and baby trivia for you to enjoy instead.

* All of our children have 2 syllables in both the first and middle names: Charis Noelle, Tobin Michael, and Arden Daniel. The exception is the baby I miscarried last year--I named her Aliana Elizabeth, and you can read about that by clicking here and scrolling down to the entry with her name.

* All middle names contain "El," the Hebrew word for God.

* All names are carefully chosen based on their meaning.

* So far, in these 34 weeks of pregnancy, I have gained 23 pounds. I'm on track to having the least amount of weight gain yet--wahoo!

* Our little girl is extremely active in the early mornings when I have my hot tea as well as in the evenings from about 8-11 p.m. She is currently doing some type of gymnastics and reminding me that my bladder is at her mercy.

* During all of my pregnancies, in the last couple of months, I get a numb spot on my right side towards the top of my belly. Sometimes it gets that tingly, pins-and-needles feeling, and other times it's just numb. It's annoying at night because I can't sleep on my right side without being awakened by the tingles.

* I'm not sure which I miss the most--my skinny ankles or my brain. I know my ankles will return to normal after the birth, but I'm never quite sure about my brain...

* Average number of trips to the bathroom each night: 2

* Average number of trips to the bathroom each day: No idea. Too many to count.

* Average weight gain of my other 3 pregancies: 37.5 pounds.

* All our babies have come within 2 days of their due dates: Charis was 2 days early, Tobin was 2 days late, and I went into labor with Arden the night he was due and had him the next morning.

OK! It's Baby Pool time! If you'd like to participate, email me with your guesses on the following. We'll see who's the closest in each category! Prizes may or may not be given out...who knows?!

* Date and time of birth (My due date is March 12.)
* Birth weight
* Length
* Duration of labor

If you'd like to compare with our other children, here are the stats:
CHARIS: Due October 20, born October 18, 2000, 7:41 p.m. 6 lbs, 13 oz, 20 1/4" long, 17 hours of labor.

TOBIN: Due April 11, born April 13, 2002, 2:08 a.m. 7 lbs, 10.9 oz, 19.9" long, 6 hours of labor.

ARDEN: Due October 17, born October 18, 2003, 9:24 a.m., 7 lbs, 9.9 oz, 18.7" long, 11 hours of labor.

January 26, 2007

Proud of My Hubby!!!

Congratulations to Ted, who was named Flight Commander of the YEAR, 2006!!!

He received the Flight Commander of the Quarter award for January - March 2006, so his name was up for the annual award, and he earned it!!!

I love you, Babe, and I'm so proud of you!!!

January 25, 2007

Our Week

I haven't really posted much about our current activities, so this post is for those family members (and friends) whom we don't get to talk with very often but who care about the little details of our days!


Last Thursday after Bible study I took the kids to lunch at McDonald's. There's one close to church with a Terrible's service station, and I dropped the van off to get an oil change while we headed inside for lunch and play time at their amazing Play Place. (Those things are so much more exciting than the McDonald's playgrounds of my youth!) Last week was extremely cold and windy, so it was nice to hang out inside while the kids got some exercise. I bumped into a friend from our home schooling group, and we enjoyed chatting awhile as the kids played. When we picked the van up later, we went through the car wash--Terrible's gives a free car wash with oil change. The kids LOVE going through the car wash, so this was another treat for them. Then it was off to the library, our first visit after returning from Florida, so we stocked up on lots of chapter books and other reading materials especially for Tobin and Charis, though Arden did pick out a few on his own. I actually got NO books for home school this time around...oh, well.


On Friday we had another fun day planned. I took the kids to Home School Skate Day, their first time at a skating ring. They had been anticipating this day all week. My friend Sarah had told me that she was planning to take her kids for the first time also...her girls had had a blast at a skating party, and she thought it would be good to get out and let them skate again, though Sarah herself wasn't feeling well. (She found out later she had strep--yuck! I'm amazed she made it through the morning and very thankful that she wouldn't let my kids hold her hands!!)

After 20 minutes I was questioning the wisdom of bringing my children to Skate Day. The boys wanted nothing to do with their skates. Tobin was happily "playing" the video games at the other end of the room, and Arden was crying and clinging to me. Charis, meanwhile, had her little skates on and was dutifully circling the ring, shuffling her feet forward and backward so that she "skated" along at a snail's pace, but she was having more fun! We tried to teach her how to push off with her skates, to spread her legs a little bit farther apart and go in more of a side to side fashion, but she continued with her straight-legged shuffling and seemed perfectly content. As more and more people came, it was comical to watch her out in the middle (she orbited the very center of the ring rather than going around the outside and hanging onto the wall) being passed by so many bigger kids. It didn't seem to phase her that she was one of the littlest people out there!

After awhile, thankfully, Arden allowed me to get out and skate with him again. Tobin decided that if I was out with Arden, then he should come too, so we'd circle around the outside, with Arden holding the wall, me in the middle, and Tobin on the other side, and make our way slowly around. Then we'd come to the beginning, and the boys would be ready to stop. They'd take off their skates (thank the Lord for velcro), tear off to the video area where their friend T.J. was playing, then come back for another lap around the ring.

In this fashion, we passed 2 1/2 hours! By the end of the morning, I could see some definite improvement in the boys' balance. We were able to skate a bit faster, and I wasn't having to pull them or keep them upright nearly as much. Charis proudly announced that she had completed 20 laps. She counted and kept updating me on what number she was at. That girl was focused! She chafed at having to stop lapping when they took a break for the Hokey Pokey, the limbo, and some races, and she headed out as soon as she could after the breaks.

All in all, it was a fun morning, and as this is a monthly home school activity, I believe we'll try to make an effort to get there every month.


Let's see...not too much to report on the next few days. Saturday we shopped for a baby shower and an upcoming birthday party, and I had a scrap club meeting in the evening. Sunday afternoon I attended the baby shower while the kids played at a friend's house. Monday was a blissful day here at home with no other obligations. We had a great home school morning, and Charis and I started her pine needle basket project, which I explained a bit about in the last post. I also read lots and lots and have noticed how irritating it is getting to sit with a child on my lap for long periods of time. They can't help that I'm getting so big, and it's not their fault that I get a numb spot towards the top right side of my swollen belly. But it's frustrating to feel like I just don't want to sit for long, because I love reading when we're all piled on the couch.


Tuesday was another good home school day. After lunch, we went to my friend Cindey's house. Every Tuesday Cindey opens her home for ladies to bring their kids and scrapbook. I haven't actually gone to scrapbook ever, but Cindey has graciously allowed me to drop the kids off there on the Tuesdays when I do stamp workshops for the Silver Belles (my deaf friends). So, this Tuesday, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to get the kids out of the house after the very cold, windy weather we had been having. Tuesday afternoon was sunny and fairly warm, and the kids enjoyed about an hour and a half of play time while I chatted with the moms and stamped some cards. That evening I presented a devotional at our monthly home school group's parent meeting. (You can read my speech that I posted on the blog. It's titled "Rest.") The kids were in child care for the evening, and as the meeting isn't officially over until 9 p.m., that meant that they didn't get into bed until after 9:30.


The kids did sleep in a bit on Wednesday--Charis didn't wake up until about 9:30 or 9:45 a.m.! She was a reluctant student that morning, and we didn't do everything we normally would have. I had done some school activities with Tobin before she woke up, so by the time she was ready for school, the boys were playing and making tents in the living room (which is right by the school room), and I could tell she did NOT want to work...she wanted to play! But we actually did get some work done, and then the kids played quite awhile, even going outside for a bit.

Charis took a break from playing, believe it or not, to help me with some chores! I had gotten the broom out to sweep the crud out from under the table, and she insisted on getting the little broom and sweeping herself. So she did, and Arden helped by holding the dustpan. Then Charis decided she wanted to be Cinderella. She donned her Strawberry Shortcake doll's hat, wrapped a baby blanket around her for an apron, and told me she was Cinderella doing all the chores. (I did note that Charis never has to do ALL the chores, but she was happily pretending!) Thus, she wanted to dust!! My house has not been dusted in literally 2 months at LEAST. Dusting is just not a priority in my schedule anymore, even though it technically does have a spot on our weekly chore chart. However, as it was Charis's idea, and I didn't have anything pressing to do, we both grabbed dust cloths and our Shaklee cleaning bottles and went to town dusting! My friend Debi had called about this time, so I put the headset on and enjoyed visiting with her awhile as I dusted and organized some of the clutter piles in the family room.

Then Sarah called and said it was too nice of a day to stay home, so she was taking her kids to the Dinosaur Park! What a great plan. After lunch we met her and her kids at the park and had some time to catch up. It was great to see all the kids AND Sarah healthy again and fun to visit awhile. The kids always have such a great time together.

Late in the afternoon, I realized just how big of a day it had been...Arden fell asleep in his bed at 5 p.m.! Since we had AWANA that evening, I decided to just let him sleep. After all, we had had a very late night on Tuesday with the home school meeting, and he had been up early Wednesday morning coughing, plus all the activity of the day. I ended up taking Charis and Tobin to AWANA, leaving my pagers with Sarah, and taking Arden with me to Walmart. He hadn't wanted to eat anything, as I had awakened him shortly before we had to leave the house and he was in that grumpy, I-just-woke-up-and-don't-want-to-socialize mood. But by the time we got to Walmart, he was quite agreeable and happy to spend some time just with Mommy. I got him a Happy Meal at the McDonald's in the store and watched him as he ate his fries bit by ketchup-soaked bit. Fries, for Arden, are more a means of transporting ketchup to his mouth than anything else. It was fun to just spend time with him...we don't often get many alone moments together.

We grabbed a few groceries before heading back to church to get the kids. Wednesday nights are always late nights. (I'm realizing that I keep saying "late," when I know some parents don't get their kids in bed until 9 or later on a regular basis. However, since our kids are ALWAYS in bed anywhere from 7 - 8 p.m., depending on how the day has gone, getting to bed between 9 and 9:30 is simply shocking to their systems AND to our well-laid plans! :-)

So, we ended the day with the kids getting in bed around 9:15ish--two "late" nights in a row for them. But as they slept in this morning (see the last post), it has all worked out. Hopefully we can get back to our normal routine!

A Day to Relax and Catch Up

I'm not attending our ladies' Bible study this morning. The kids all slept until 8:15 or later. Usually we leave around 8:30, but I had had the nagging feeling last night that I may need to either stay home or else skip the breakfast/fellowship part of the morning and just attend the teaching and small group discussion. It seems we've been running around a lot, and I was questioning the wisdom of putting my kids in child care for the third time this week.

After a wonderful quiet time (I too slept in, waking around 6:20 instead of about an hour to an hour and a half earlier), I settled on the plan of just going late and having an unhurried breakfast with the kids. However, when I went to wake Charis, she sat up partway and coughed a terrible-sounding cough, like a dog barking, and gave me a piteous look. She said her throat hurt also. I immediately scrapped my plans to attend Bible study at all, made her some hot tea with honey, and served her breakfast in bed, much to her delight.

Arden made his appearance shortly after all this. Tobin had been the first one awake at 8:15. This is nearly unheard of, to have ALL of the kids sleep past 8:00!! Especially Arden. He typically wakes at 6 or 6:30 to go potty and can't get back to sleep.

Anyway, the boys are playing amazingly well together in the family room, building a Lincoln Log house, while Charis sits in bed, happily reading A Bear Called Paddington, which I brought to her after she finished her breakfast. It's from my own library of books from my childhood...I love that she's enjoying so many of them herself now.

I feel as if I've been given a gift of time! I plan to cuddle and read to the boys on the couch, and maybe Charis and I can work on her pine needle basket project later. That kit was a gift from my Aunt Judith for Christmas, and we started working on it Monday. It's looking good so far if I do say so myself, though it's not a project I would have chosen personally because I despise needlework! But Charis adores anything resembling sewing, and this is definitely something I need to help her with. When we finish, I'll take a picture and post it.

Also on my new agenda for the day are making chocolate chip cookies, doing a load of laundry that originally would have had to wait until tomorrow, and cleaning the bathrooms and floors. I have a scrapbooking club meeting at my house tonight, so now I can get the place cleaned up without stressing about time and neglecting all the fun parts of being a mom in the meantime! Wahoo!

January 24, 2007


Last night at our monthly home school parent meeting I had the opportunity to speak about an important topic: rest! I was asked to give the devotional at the end of last week, and as it was a topic that the Lord has been speaking to me about recently anyway, it was easy to say yes. I thought I'd copy my speech here in hopes that it will encourage other moms (whether you're home schooling or not). It's a long read (my presentation was somewhere around 17 minutes), but I hope it will bless you.


Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Unfortunately, many of us neglect to make time for a very important activity: rest! As home schooling moms, we assume roles such as Teacher, Cook, Laundry Maid, House Cleaner, Landscaper, Chauffeur, Animal Caretaker, and more. Some of us work outside the home; others run a home business; and many of us volunteer for ministries in addition to our responsibilities as wives and mothers.

Let’s look at some people in the Bible who Jesus determined were in great need of rest. Mark 6:30 – 32 says: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

I thought about how this passage might read if written about our own lives:
“The children gathered around Mom, reporting on what they need right this minute and what their siblings are doing that they shouldn’t be doing. Then, because so many tasks and people were screaming for attention so that Mom didn’t even have a chance to eat, she said in an exasperated voice, ‘I wish I could get away by myself to a quiet place and get some REST!’ So she ran to the bathroom and locked the door, enjoying the solitary place, if only for 45 seconds.”

If this sounds like the only peace and quiet you get these days, let me encourage you with some thoughts from God’s Word about the importance of rest.

Matthew 11:28 – 30 is a familiar passage. Close your eyes as I read it, and imagine Jesus speaking directly to you—because He is. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Greek word for rest in this passage is the same word used in Mark 6 when Jesus told the disciples they needed to get some rest. The word (anapauo) means to offer rest, not cause rest; to re-create, be refreshed, take ease. Jesus is offering us—urging us, even—to get some rest.

Often in the past when I have read these verses, I have wondered about the analogy of the yoke. Why a yoke? That doesn’t sound very restful to me—it sounds like work. But a recent Bible study I was involved with, Beth Moore’s Breaking Free, gave me some insight into these verses. Beth notes that we are a captive audience to anything on the other side of our yoke. If Jesus is the One to whom we are yoked, then we are walking in the places AND AT THE PACE He wants us! When we accept the yoke Christ offers, we are not driven by the captivity of activity, the need for accomplishment. Instead, we discover complete fulfillment. When Jesus says, in verse 29, “You will find rest for your souls,” the word for rest means an intermission of sorts. It’s an inward tranquility while one performs necessary labor.

We ALL have necessary labor—that’s undisputed! But how many of us give ourselves unnecessary labor? Unrealistic expectations, perhaps, whether in the area of home schooling, housework, or other chores? If we allow ourselves to be yoked with Christ, then by default we allow Him to direct our steps to the things which He wants us to accomplish. And, believe it or not, REST is something He WANTS us to do!

God rested on the seventh day after creating the world, one day after creating people. That means the first full day of Adam’s life was a restful one! God charged Adam and Eve with the task of caring for the garden. They were given work to do before they sinned—therefore, it is a good thing to do good work. But along with responsibilities, God also gave the command to rest, to remember the Sabbath. In Exodus 20:11, God says, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The Hebrew word for rest (nuwach) includes these synonyms/ definitions: to rest, settle down, cease, lay, let down, be quiet, remain. That should be a clear picture of what REST should be for us!

Think back to Jesus’ invitation in Mark 6:31. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We know what rest is, we know God wants us to have it—now let’s talk about some practical ways to do it.

It’s common sense—one of the best things we can do is allow ourselves to get the sleep we need. Some of us have no problems with this, but others, like myself, may have a hard time turning in a bit earlier at night in order to get 7-8 hours of solid sleep. Perhaps we feel we need to “get stuff done.” Perhaps we enjoy the quiet peacefulness of the house when the children are in bed. Perhaps we feel we deserve some time to ourselves to pursue hobbies or individual interests. Those things are fine, but if we are sacrificing hours that we should be sleeping in order to be involved in those activities, then we are not following where Christ wants to lead us. Still not sure? Listen to Psalm 127:2—“In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for [the Lord] grants sleep to those he loves.”

Jesus said “Come to me” in Matthew 11 and “Come away with me” in Mark 6. This is a personal invitation to make a decision to spend time with Jesus. In His presence we can be renewed and refreshed. We can soak up His Word, finding encouragement, wisdom, guidance, and hope. We can be filled with the Holy Spirit so that when we resume our role as Home School Mom, we have the satisfaction that only Jesus brings and we aren’t expecting our families (or anything else) to fill the needs in our lives.

My personal choice nowadays is to wake early, long before my children are awake, and spend time alone with the Lord. I enjoy a cup of hot tea as I sit in my favorite chair by a window that faces east so I can enjoy the sunrise. There I commune with my Savior. I read and study His Word. I pour out my heart to Him and listen for His responses. It’s the perfect way for me to start my day.

However, there have been seasons in my life (especially after having a newborn) during which my personal quiet time had to be in the afternoons, during nap time, or else I would have slept through my whole appointment with the Lord! Other times (especially during college) it was right before bedtime. Whatever works for you and your schedule, find a time if you haven’t already and commit to it. It doesn’t have to span a whole hour—in fact, it doesn’t have to be any particular length of time. God will honor whatever time you give to Him. The important thing is doing it consistently. I have found that missing this time with God actually takes away my energy! I need my quiet time, so I do whatever I can to protect that time alone with God.

Do you really need to be serving on three different committees? Do your children really need to be in multiple activities that meet weekly? Do you really need to attend every single EAGLES event? Do you have a hard time saying no when volunteers are needed? Look at your weekly schedule. If you feel tired just reading about all the commitments you have, it’s time to think about dropping something.

My husband and I have chosen not to involve our children in sports, music lessons, or other weekly activities just yet. The only exception to this is AWANA. The time will come when other activities will be appropriate for them. However, our goal as parents is not to produce professional musicians or athletes, or even very skilled ones. Our goal is to raise godly children who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Running from one activity to the next is not the way to teach our children to love God—but it’s a great way to teach them to find fulfillment in activities and accomplishments rather than in Christ. An overly full schedule can also teach them to burn themselves out instead of resting in the Lord.

A concept that was presented to us at the church we attended 2 assignments ago was the idea of creating margin in one’s life. This includes finances as well as time. If, for example, your monthly expenses use up 100% of your income, you have no margin in your budget to give when something extra comes up. Likewise, if your calendar is consistently full, you have no margin in your life to respond with love and compassion when needs arise, whether in your own family or in the family of believers around you—or in the lives of unbelievers who need a touch from someone who isn’t too busy. Here’s a challenging question to consider: If a close friend or family member called you this week with an urgent need, would you be able to take their family a meal or babysit their children without being totally stressed out about getting behind? If not, you may need to build some margin into your life.

If you feel your calendar is simply overflowing with activities—even if they are GOOD activities—spend some time praying and talking with your spouse (and children if appropriate) about what needs to give. Sometimes the Good needs to give way to the Best. Remember, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven! Maybe further down the road will be the season to do some of the things you’re trying to do now. Remember that God created us to be human beings, not human doings. Take more time to BE—don’t spend all your time doing.

This last way of incorporating more rest in your life is a concept that God has recently been putting on my heart more and more. Why is it we feel it’s so important to adhere to all the 10 Commandments—except this one? We relegate it to the “Old Testament era” along with hundreds of other obscure laws that seem to have no relevance to our lives today, yet all the other commandments we deem important and strive to follow, even knowing we are under the New Testament era of grace.

God gave Israel the gift of the Sabbath, a chance to rest and remember Him. Unfortunately, legalism crept into the beauty and holiness of the day, adding hundreds of little nit-picky laws that were impossible to keep. Today, we can easily set aside one day a week to honor God, to spend time with Him and with our families. This is an idea you can pray about, but I’ll share a few ways our family is seeking to remember the Sabbath more consistently.

 No outside work—that means for me personally, my home business. I don’t schedule events or workshops on Sundays, and I try not to even make phone calls or emails related to my business.

 Planning ahead for meal times—if possible, I make dinner on Saturday or else spend a few minutes Sunday morning throwing together a quick casserole or crock pot dish so I’m spending as little time in the kitchen as possible, leaving me free to enjoy meal time with the family. Supper is simple and often consists of breakfast foods, which are easy to cook!

 Our kids are off the hook for their daily chores, with the exception of cleaning up any toys/books/etc. that they get out that day.

 When possible, I try to get a nap, and the children have quiet time in their rooms during the afternoon.

 Family time in the late afternoon/evening—this may include watching a football game, playing games, reading as a family, etc.

These are just a few ideas of how to experience rest as God intends for you to have regularly: Get more sleep; commit to a personal, daily quiet time; continually evaluate your schedule and activities; and remember the Sabbath. I pray that each of us chooses on a daily basis to “Come away to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Cute Stuff

I didn't want to forget this...

Tonight I was tucking Tobin in bed, and he told me he liked my necklace. I told him it was a gift from Daddy when he worked overseas for a little while. That led to a discussion of just where Daddy had worked, and for some reason Tobin decided that he'd like to live on a little tiny island (which is NOT where Ted had worked, so I'm not sure how this train of thought came about).

I said, "Well, you never know! With Daddy's job, maybe someday we could move to an island."

Tobin thought about that for a moment. Then his eyes lit up, and he said, "I want to move to heaven!"

Ah, yes, the PCS to end all PCSes!

(For my non-military friends...PCS = Permanent Change of Station, i.e. moving.)


Arden's newest prefix is "Un." As in, the "unpartment" that we stayed in while we visited Florida, and the "unraser" at the end of a pencil.


I don't have any cute sayings from Charis at the moment, but a current tidbit about her is that she has been waking a bit earlier than usual and reading her Bible on her own in the mornings!! I'm so proud of her and thrilled that she is so excited about this activity. I hope and pray it will begin a lifetime of loving God's Word.

January 19, 2007

The Cross

Our church recently put a large cross on top of the main building. I don't remember exactly when it went up, but I am pretty sure it was before our Christmas vacation. When we were home again and getting back to our routine, the cross is the first thing the kids noticed when we drove to AWANA a week ago Wednesday night and then again the next morning for my ladies' Bible study.

Arden is fully convinced that THAT is the cross that Jesus died on. It sparked a wonderful conversation, both on the way home and later Thursday afternoon, when Arden was building with his Legos and constructed his own building with a cross on top. Our talk went something like this:

Arden: I don't want to die on the cross.
Me: I know, sweetie. That's why Jesus died on the cross--so we wouldn't HAVE to. Do you know why He died on the cross?
Arden: For our sins.
Me: That's right. Do you know what sin is?
Arden: No.
Me: Sin is anything bad that we do. When we disobey, that's sin. Anything that God doesn't want us to do is sin.
Arden: Oh. Jesus died on the cross.
Me: That's right! He died on the cross because all of us do bad things. Do you know why He did that?
Arden: Because He loves us!
Me: Yes! He loves us and wants us to be in heaven with Him someday!
Arden (with a grin of delight): Yes!

Our conversation lasted just a few minutes, but it was so precious, seeing him with his Legos strewn about the room, proudly holding the cross he had made. I cherish the time I got to spend talking about the gospel message with my 3-year-old boy, trying to see things through his eyes as he works his way to a deeper understanding of God's love and Christ's sacrifice. What a privilege to share God's Word with His little treasures!

January 18, 2007


January 15 was the one-year anniversary of my miscarriage. I hadn't really had time to think about it until Sunday, which happened to be Sanctity of Life Day and the first baby dedication service of the year at our church. (They do one in January and one in August.) I remember last year this day occurred the week after my miscarriage, and it was an incredibly hard service to go through. This year I was also caught unprepared for the tide of emotion that flowed over me. I knew three of the moms who were dedicating their children, and that made me joyful to see the parents and children on stage...but at the same time, it brought back all the pain and sorrow that I felt so deeply for so long, and even now struggle with at times.

It's a strange thing to have so many conflicting emotions. No wonder my husband doesn't understand me sometimes. It feels odd to grieve the loss of a little one who had developed a scant 8 1/2 weeks when the baby girl inside of me now is so real, so here and now...so eagerly expected. So insistent on making her presence known by a jab under my rib cage or a ripple across the front of my belly. If Aliana hadn't been taken to heaven last January, this little girl wouldn't exist. How can I possibly reconcile the emotions that thought conjures up?

I can't. So I don't even try.

I shed some tears Sunday morning, mostly because I remember the grace and peace, which passed all my human understanding, that flooded over me during the whole ordeal. God is so good. It's not just a trite expression or a familiar tune. He is God, so He is good. All the time.

But I don't live in January 2006. I have a future and a hope, just as this little one inside of me does. I don't dwell on the past...but I won't forget it, either.

January 13, 2007

Goodbye, Florida

Whew! We're home. I'm still trying to catch up, but here's a brief wrap-up post about our Florida trip. Our other trip highlights include one more trip to the beach, a visit to the acquarium, and a day at Dinosaur World. Along winding trails there were life-sized replicas of tons of different types of dinosaurs. Of course, the paint jobs were from the artists' imagination, but it made for a colorful display of ancient creatures. The only bad thing was the hot and humid weather, which made for some cranky kids at times. But they did seem to enjoy the fossil dig, during which they were given a little sieve and allowed to dig for real fossils. They each got to pick 3 to keep, though Tobin decided he didn't want to keep any. (Who knows what goes through that boy's head?!) They also had fun on the playground and in the "boneyard," where they "excavated" a dinosaur skeleton. You can see Ted and Arden being T-Rexes here in this photo. (Tobin was not in the mood to have his picture taken!)

So now we're home. The kids are enjoying being back in their own rooms (no sharing space or beds anymore!) and being "reunited" with their toys. It's like everything's new again. I, for one, am looking forward to starting school next week, as we haven't done anything "official" for nearly a month now! It's not as if the kids completely stopped learning, though...lots of great stuff to see and do in Florida, and we all read a ton of books. Still, it will be nice to get back into the home school routine and be a bit more purposeful about some things we've put on the back burner for awhile.

January 07, 2007

Magic Kingdom, Day 2

Surprisingly, our whole family was up and ready to go even earlier than the day before, despite the high level of energy we had used up! The early start helped us get started on activities in the park sooner than we might have expected, and with the sun shining down on us, we were eager to take advantage of the better weather.

Having learned our lesson about the characters not being available for autographs/pictures until 10 a.m., we chose to stay together this morning and simply walked to the back of the park after getting our stroller. We did the Dumbo ride first, since we had had to skip out on it the day before. Then Ted took the kids to ride the carousel and the tea cups again while I went to stand in line for the opening of the Toontown area. So, by 10 a.m., the kids had already been on 3 rides, and we had a great spot in line to see the princesses!

There were 3 of them to see: Ariel, Cinderella, and Belle. Ted and I were quite impressed with the kind and gentle spirits shown by the characters. The ladies were all so sweet with the children. The boys were almost as excited as Charis was to meet the princesses and posed very sweetly for pictures.

After this, we walked through Minnie Mouse's house, then found Tigger just as he was walking out for pictures, so we added his autograph to the kids' collection. We unanimously decided to view Mickey's Philharmagic movie again because it was just that cool, and then we crossed to the other side of the park and climbed a replica of the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house. Very cool! It made Ted and me want to see the movie again, and perhaps the kids are old enough to watch with us sometime. It also has pirates in it, so I'm sure that will be enough to entice Tobin. :-)

Speaking of Pirates, we then rode that ride again, then escaped the heat to view a rather silly show with animatronic birds--but at least it was cool inside and we didn't have to wait to get in. We did wait to ride Aladdin's flying carpets, a huge mistake, as it was extremely hot and the line was much longer than we anticipated. The kids were quite grumpy and bickered a lot in line, and we were relieved to end the ride and move on. We took them to Donald Duck's water play area, and Ted left us there to go on a secret mission to purchase personalized Mickey ears for each child. Meanwhile, the kids began by rolling up their pants and taking off their shoes and socks. They ran through the little fountains, giggling and enjoying the cool water. I ended up letting the boys take off their shirts, and soon, I reluctantly let Charis take her shirt off as well. (There were a number of buck naked little kids running around, and I just couldn't bear to make Charis get all of her clothes wet.) Arden's pants came off next, leaving him in only his underwear, but hey, the kids were wet, cool, and happy! They definitely needed this break.

Ted successfully completed his mission, and we gathered up the kids and took them to Belle's story hour, where they enjoyed an interactive telling of the Beauty and the Beast story, complete with child actors that were picked from the audience. It was very cute.

Then we went back to the entrance to the park and picked a shady area to sit and wait for the Dreams Come True parade. Ted treated us to Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, which were only slightly less messy than the ice cream cones from the previous night. :-) The kids loved them, though, and we got a great picture of the boys with their chocolate faces that I'll have to post here when we return home. The parade was tons of fun. I loved watching the children wave to all the characters, shouting out, "Hi, Mickey! Hi, Pinocchio!" and so on. Now and then they would turn to us and exclaim, "There's so-and-so!" It was so exciting for them.

By now it was close to 4:00 and quite warm, so we went back to the hotel again for a rest time. I think Tobin is the only one who napped...well, I may have fallen asleep a bit myself, but I can't remember. It's all kind of a blur now.

For dinner we went to a more casual restaurant in the hotel, and Ted presented the kids with their very own Mickey ears. When he was about Charis's age, his parents took him and Joel to Disneyland, and he remembers their Mickey ears being very special to him and Joel. He recalls wearing them often over the next few years, and he wanted our kids to have something special to remember our trip. He had great fun picking out unique hats for each child. Charis, of course, got a pink princess hat. Tobin got an adorable pirate hat, complete with red bandana (which actually covers up his name on the back, but oh well) and earring. Arden's is very colorful and features Mickey on the front, Donald Duck and Goofy on the ears, and Pluto on the back. The kids were delighted with their gifts and were excited to wear them as we went back to the park.

Our return, however, was delayed slightly after Tobin dumped his lemonade, and he and Ted had to go back to the room and change. But we did make it back in time to do the Buzz Lightyear ride again, which was a huge favorite with all the kids. Then we took Charis to shop--she had been saying she wanted to buy a Minnie Mouse with her spending money. The boys had decided to purchase items from the AAFES store (Army-Air Force Exchange) in the hotel, which was just fine with us, as the prices were better than WDW and we didn't have to pay tax. But Charis ended up with more spending money anyway, since she's the only child who gets an allowance at this point, so I took her into the Minnie store only to have her tell me that each Minnie Mouse was "Too much!" Then she remembered that she had seen a stuffed Lady dog (from Lady and the Tramp), so we spent some time searching for the dog and finally found the ONE that the store had. Though Lady was only $2 less than the largest Minnie that Charis had looked at, and was in fact $4 more than a medium Minnie that she had looked at, Charis promptly decided that Lady was the love of her heart, and we carefully counted out her $1 bills for the lady at the cash register, who seemed impressed that Charis had saved her money and was paying for the item herself.

Then it was time to watch the fireworks! We found a place close to the castle and settled in for the show. And what a show it was! Tinkerbell "flew" from the top of the castle across the sky, and the kids squealed as they watched her. The fireworks were truly the best I have ever seen. Disney must spend billions of dollars on fireworks every year. I remember being at Epcot a few years ago (courtesy of Stampin' Up--it was part of the Manager's Reception when our convention was in Orlando) and seeing the fireworks there. That was also quite a treat. Disney definitely doesn't skimp when it comes to entertainment! We all enjoyed this part of our WDW experience tremendously.

After it was over, however, it looked to be quite stressful getting back to the front of the park. It's amazing how many people were there during what is supposedly an "off-peak" time of year! I'd really hate to experience WDW during a PEAK time of year! Since we knew we could sleep in the next morning, we decided to go to the back of the park and ride the Tea Cups again. We had thought perhaps we could get on the train and ride back to the entrance, but unfortunately it had closed down prior to the fireworks show and wouldn't run again. But, by the time we finished our ride, the throngs had thinned somewhat, and we were able to get to the park entrance faster than we would have if we had stayed to shuffle along with the pack.

The lines for the monorail were insane. Ted and I decided to forego getting in line for the express monorail, which would have taken us directly to the Ticket & Transportation Center, where we had to get on our hotel shuttle. Instead, we opted to take the monorail on the other side, which stopped first at one of the other resorts, then went on to our stop. We couldn't believe that more people didn't figure this out--we only waited for a couple of trains before getting on, and if we had gotten in line for the "express" ride, we definitely would have been waiting at least 45 minutes. Crazy!

We made the right choice. When we got to the transportation center, it was about 10 p.m. We waited with a number of other Shades of Green people for 30 minutes before the LAST shuttle of the day arrived. We aren't sure why it took so long, nor why there was only one shuttle. The driver looked rather alarmed when she saw how many people were waiting for her, and frankly, I think we probably doubled the maximum number of people allowed on one vehicle, but by that point no one cared. Arden had promptly fallen asleep in my arms when I sat down on a bench to wait, and Tobin was having meltdowns over every little thing. We were so glad to get into our room and get the kids in bed just before 11 p.m.!

January 06, 2007

Magic Kingdom, Day 1

We got a fairly good night of rest and had a quick breakfast in our hotel room before going to catch the 8:45 shuttle from the Shades of Green resort. The kids were so excited to be able to ride the monorail, or, as Arden pronounced it, the "modorail." The forecast called for cloudy skies, and we came prepared with ponchos for us and jackets for the kids. By arriving at the park just a little while after opening, we avoided quite a bit of the crowds. We rented a double stroller, which was well worth the money we spent. It was easy to handle and could actually accommodate all 3 kids when they all wanted/needed to ride.

Ted and I had made a plan based on a tip we had read from mousesavers.com. Ted rented the stroller and walked through the park to Mickey's Toontown Fair, on the opposite side of the main gate. The kids and I boarded the steam train (that's the picture at the left) and rode it to the Toontown station. We had read that many characters can be found here, and by hitting this place early in the morning, we thought we could get the kids some pictures and autographs before the rush. Well. What the tip neglected to tell us was that the Toontown area didn't even open until 10:00! Ted was stuck on one side, while we were roped off in another area! Thankfully, the side we were on had a play area that the kids were able to run around and enjoy, and we just decided to meet up with Ted in the tent where we were told the characters would be.

Our plans changed once we realized that we were in a very short line to see The Mouse Himself! As a cast member opened the walkway (the kids were beside themselves to see Mickey and some other characters appear), she ushered us behind Mickey into the "Judge's Tent," where we were about 8-10 families away from seeing Mickey! I quickly called Ted to update him, and he met us just in time. The kids had their autograph books ready, and we got our first pictures and autographs. As Mickey was signing the books, Tobin provided us with the first great Tobin quote from our Disney trip: "Awww, he's just a puppet!" That didn't stop him from being excited, though. :-)

Then we scurried over to the big tent and found that there was NO line for seeing Donald Duck, Chicken Little, and Chip and Dale, so we got their autographs and took pictures of them with the kids. After exiting that area, we realized that there was a long line to see the princesses and decided that we'd try to catch them later.

So, we headed out to the rides! The kids and I rode on the tea cups while Ted got a fast pass for the Winnie the Pooh ride. We were hoping Ted would be able to join us, but he wasn't able to get through in time. Our next stops were:

Mickey's Philharmagic, an awesome 3D movie experience that we ALL loved
The carousel--we saw Mary Poppins riding a few horses ahead of us (Ted and Tobin, above, get ready to ride!)
The Winnie the Pooh ride--the Fast Pass option is GREAT

Then we saw Pooh himself signing autographs, so we got in line to eat our lunch while Ted made a dash to get Fast Passes for Peter Pan's Flight. He returned in time for us to get our pictures with Pooh, and then the kids spent some time playing in the 100 Acre Woods play area. I decided to get in line so the kids could meet Tigger, since he was right by the play area as well, but unfortunately, it began raining when we were about 5 people away, and Tigger was escorted to a dry area.

The rain began coming down in earnest, so we dashed to Tomorrowland and stood under the overhangs around the Buzz Lightyear ride. The wait was incredibly long for that, so we thought we'd try getting another fast pass...only to discover (AFTER waiting in line for it) that we weren't eligible to get another fast pass because we still had the one for Peter Pan's ride.

So...we dashed over to the Carousel of Progress, which got us out of the rain for maybe a 20-minute show. This was a fun show, at least for Ted and me, as it started out with an animatronic man sitting in a kitchen from 1900. We saw the various "wonders" of that day and age, and then our seating area spun around to the next stop, 1920, and viewed another vignette from that era. Then we journeyed to 1940, and finally to present day. It was interesting to see the changes throughout time, and I only wish they could have continued with the every-20-years thing, though I'm sure space and time were major factors in why they didn't.

Outside, we discovered our stroller was completely soaked, not surprisingly, so we made another potty stop and brought out paper towels to dry off the seats. The kids wanted to do the race cars, so we made our way there and found that at least the line was much more reasonable than it had been earlier. So we got in line for that, hoping that perhaps the rain would let up by the time we had to get in our cars and "drive." It didn't. Ted drove with Charis and Tobin, and I drove with Arden. This ride is NOT very fun in the rain, but as we were rounding a last curve before coming back in, I looked over at Arden and asked him, "Are we having fun?"

He turned and looked at me, all wet in his little red jacket with the hood over his head and partially covering his face. I saw rain splashing on his nose, and he gave me the sweetest smile and said, "Yes!" as his whole face lit up. I decided that my wet jeans and cold arms were no match for the joy that was evident in my little 3-year-old boy, and my heart warmed to know that the rain couldn't dampen the magic that blooms in the wonder of youth.

Since our window of time for using the Peter Pan fast pass was approaching, we walked over that way, thinking to maybe try the Dumbo ride first since the sign said it was a 20-minute wait and we still had some time to burn before we could use our passes. However, the 20-minute wait time was grossly underestimated. After 12 minutes we were still on the outside loop, which meant we were getting rained on. Charis and Tobin were having line placement issues, so we decided to ditch Dumbo and go straight to Peter Pan. Once again, we zipped through the Fast Pass line, grateful to be avoiding the long standby line, and decided that Peter Pan's Flight would have been a major disappointment if we hadn't had the Fast Passes! The kids enjoyed it, but it definitely wasn't worth an hour-long wait.

By this time it was about 2:30, and we were fairly certain that the afternoon parade was going to be cancelled. The rain was still coming down in buckets. We had planned to return to the hotel anyway for some rest time, and this was definitely the time. We slogged our way back to the front of the park, out the gates, and to the monorail.

I have to say, Ted and I were so proud of the kids. After enduring over 2 hours of chilling rain and a few disappointments of not meeting characters or getting to ride certain rides, we heard not a single complaint from any of them about the dismal weather or circumstances. They were real troopers. I think the excitement of finally being at the Magic Kingdom, after months of anticipating our trip, did help off set the negative aspects, but frankly, I was just amazed at their good attitudes...particularly since we had other moments on other days that were definitely NOT examples of good attitudes!

Back at the hotel, the kids all got hot baths and snacks, and then we lay down to rest before dinner at the hotel buffet. By the time dinner was finished, the rain had subsided, and we made the trek back to the park to see what we could do in the evening.

We checked the Buzz Lightyear ride first, since we had had to bypass that earlier, and ended up getting Fast Passes for that since the standby line was way too long. Then we walked to the other side of the park to do what Tobin had been waiting to do all day: experience the Pirates of the Caribbean ride! Though our kids are much too young to see the Disney movies based on this ride, Tobin has been interested in pirates for a long time, and he was beside himself to think that he could go on a ride that featured these interesting characters! The sign indicated the wait time would be 40 minutes, but the lines moved quickly, and there were interesting things to see (like cannons and barrels and other pirate-y things) along the way, and as it turned out, we didn't have to wait but maybe 25 minutes or so. The kids all loved the ride and seeing the animatronic figures doing their thing.

Then we walked back to Buzz (Ted got spit on by a "camel" near the Flying Carpets of Aladdin and was a bit disgruntled at having to spend the evening wet after finally drying out) and did battle with Zurg--a great ride that all the kids enjoyed.

We walked back to the entrance to find a spot for the Spectromagic parade, which was to begin at 9:00. Ted and Arden then left to search out some ice cream and returned just as the parade was beginning. Unfortunately, the ice cream store was quite a ways away, and apparently Disney ice cream sellers haven't figured out how to help customers transport multiple ice cream cones over a distance, so Ted was very stressed and sticky by the time he met up with us. The kids, oblivious to the effort made by their dad to allow them to enjoy their treats, sat in awe of the lit-up characters and floats, licking their ice cream cones much too slowly for our liking. We gave up trying to get them to hurry and figured, hey, we'll be finished here soon and can clean up later. The magic on the kids' faces was too precious to be spoiled by worrying about ice cream dripping down their jackets!

After the parade we did clean up the best we could, and then we joined the throngs heading back to the various hotels and transportation center. On the monorail, Tobin asked what Pooh and Tigger were doing, and we said (of course) that they were probably getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth, going potty, and getting their jammies on. Thus prompted Tobin's next memorable Disney quote (said with a huge grin and an expression that indicates, "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?!"):

"Nah, they don't have privates like we do!"

Of course this was announced at a decibel level only achievable by our Tobin, so people in the next monorail car were sure to hear our son's analysis of Disney characters' anatomy!!

Whew! What a day! The kids promptly fell asleep as soon as we got them tucked in bed. (Actually, Arden fell asleep even before we got to our hotel!) Ted washed off their sticky ice-cream-covered jackets, and we hit the sack ourselves.

January 05, 2007

Happy New Year from Florida!

Most people who read our blog already know that our family is enjoying a New Year's vacation in Florida! We've been so busy having fun that I haven't gotten on the laptop to blog about our activities, but I wanted to try to update this a little so that when I get home I won't feel so overwhelmed and procrastinate another month! I won't be able to post any pictures until we get home, but I'll add them in afterwards.

We spent a lazy afternoon last Sunday at the beach. Ted and I didn't put swimsuits on, but we did let the kids don theirs, not certain that they would actually want to get in the water. It's a good thing they had their suits on, though, because we couldn't tear them AWAY from the water! That is, until they noticed a flock of sea gulls standing near the shore a ways down from where we were. The rest of the afternoon, Tobin ran back and forth across the beach, scaring the birds into flight! Even Charis, who is typically more sensitive of other creatures and their feelings, had no qualms about running as fast as she could to stir things up a bit after the birds had settled back down. It was quite amusing to watch. Arden took the whole experience in stride, though he did look a bit alarmed as the first waves washed up on his legs...I think he felt the pull of the water and wasn't sure what, if anything, he should be doing!

On New Year's Day we drove our little rental car to the Shades of Green resort at Walt Disney World. Ted's cousin gave us the tip to stay here...it's for military families, and we got a great deal on our room compared with the actual Disney resorts. It's a beautiful place, and we had access to the WDW transportation, extra Magic Hours (not that we had the energy to use them), etc. We had decided that 2 days in the Magic Kingdom would be all we could handle (and afford!) this trip, so we enjoyed a leisurely day on Monday, checking in, unpacking, and then heading to the downtown Disney Village area, where we were promptly overwhelmed by the massive marketing pull. Ted noted that he thinks Las Vegas is the only other place he's been in that is as successful at separating people from their money as WDW is!

We did browse the stores a bit...the kids had some spending money, but we talked with them beforehand about looking around and making wise choices, and thankfully Charis didn't beg to buy anything in particular in most of the stores we were in. (Apparently the boys wanted to buy EVERYTHING--Ted and I split up for awhile to allow the kids to see different things.) Charis quickly learned the value of her dollars, asking me the price for various trinkets that caught her eye, only to reply, "Too much" no matter what the amount was that I told her!

The Lego store was very cool, and the kids loved seeing the huge Lego statues inside and outside the store. They didn't seem as interested in actually playing with the Legos, though there was a play area there...but the fact that dinner time was approaching probably had something to do with that. We stopped into Mickey's Mart (everything is under $10, and Charis was all over that) and found Charis's first purchase, "Mars Mud." It's kind of a gooey, putty-like substance. Grandma J had given each of the boys a jar of brown Mars Mud for Christmas, and Charis decided she wanted her own. She picked green, though. :-) We were given a plethora of Mickey Mouse stickers at the checkout, so all in all, it was $4 well spent.

Then we went to the Rainforest Cafe to eat, where we decided to take the hosts up on the offer for immediate seating if we were willing to take a table outdoors. We figured the sooner the kids could eat, the better...but quickly found that the cool night air was going to make for a very whiny Tobin, who does not deal well with discomfort. Ah, well...we enjoyed our meal as quickly as we could, then headed back to the hotel.

We had promised the kids we would take them swimming, and as the pool was heated, we wanted to keep that promise to them. So, we donned our suits and headed for the pool, much to the kids' delight. The big pool is shaped like a Mickey head, and there is a shallow kids' area as well. The "heated" pool wasn't particularly warm, but that didn't stop the kids from having a grand time! We called it quits around 8 p.m. and got ready for bed as quickly as we could. Thankfully the kids all settled down really well, which was good because we had a big day ahead of us--Day 1 of our visit to the Magic Kingdom!