Sunday, December 30, 2007


"God can soften a heart of granite if you'll let Him. Wait it out a little longer. Laugh a little harder. Snuggle a little tighter. Love by faith. Not just by sight. As the Apostle Paul says, all that matters is faith expressing itself through love."
--Beth Moore on her blog

That quote just touched me just a few moments ago when I read it. Beth Moore's blog entry was her reflecting on her marriage, but that quote goes beyond that. Sure, my heart can always be softer toward Greg; I am, after all, by nature a stubborn perfectionist who wants to be in control. But our marriage is probably in one of the best places it's ever been.

For me, I struggle more to have a soft heart toward people with whom I don't naturally connect yet am around because of circumstances. One particular person here in Murray comes to mind.

I love her too often "by sight" by letting my mind dwell on all our differences -- worship style, parenting style, hobbies, movie choices, music preferences -- rather than focus "by faith" on what binds us -- our by-marriage relationship, motherhood, faith.

So, sure, I can wait longer, laugh harder and love stronger, all with a softer heart.

On a slightly related note, I love how Cate is experiencing love of an extended family during little moments and not just large celebrations, like Christmas. Here are two pictures from "normal" outings around here.

First, at a Murray State game ...

This picture was taken in November as served at my in-laws Christmas picture. We're all dressed in our blue and gold, ready to root on the Racers.

And then in November just before Thanksgiving we had a birthday party at Greg's parents house in honor of a few family members with November and December birthdays. Cate, Elijah and Ethne all paused their various activities to sit on their great-grandparents' laps. Cate's middle name is Greg's grandma's name, so they have a special bond.

Cate seems the most excited! This picture accurately reflect Elijah's hesitation and Ethne's quiet reflection.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

"Every baby girl has the same rights for a future as every baby boy. ... I don't believe Pakistan can stabilize ... until dictatorship is replaced with democracy."
--Benazir Bhutto during a speech at Murray State in March

My faithful blog readers may remember me writing about Benazir Bhutto. Well, in addition to that column, I covered her speech on Murray State's campus. Since then, reading news about her and Pakistan in general has been easier for me to follow and hits a little closer to home. So you can imagine reading about her assassination yesterday was a bit surreal to me.

My story from March ...

Click on images for larger view.

Eric, the editor at the Ledger & Times, interviewed me yesterday to localize the international news for today's paper. Like I told him, when I listened to her speak in March, I kept thinking I was listening to history. Her words about not choosing this life but vowing to help Pakistan experience democracy are a bit haunting now.

This story today also quoted my story from March.

UPDATED at 3:03 p.m. Just got my paper. (A little later than usual, but the Ledger is an afternoon paper.) Anyway, here's the story ...

Christmas @ The Hills

We were in Louisville from Sunday until Tuesday afternoon, celebrating Christmas with my family and some friends.

Cate got to share her first Christmas with her Aunt Cassie and Uncle Zac, who were celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple. And she apparently had a lot to tell them about it ...

Cate is no less spoiled for being the second grandchild. Mom bought both Cate and Milla huge stockings ...

... I told you they were huge! Cate can fit in hers with room to spare, and her Grandma filled it with books and toys! (The bottle of lotion she's holding is just an accessory she picked up sometime during the evening, and she didn't want to let go so I just let her keep it for the picture.)

So then on Christmas morning, Cate got to open her stocking ...

Cameras were popular gifts around the Hill household. Cassie and Zac tried to get theirs set up. Then later Milla just dove right in to using hers.

And here is a close-up of Cate and Aunt Cassie loving on each other. Cate had just finished showing off her talent of pulling of her socks.

Christmas with Friends

Next on the Christmas agenda was brunch on Monday with the Shirrells (Bekah, Barrett and 19-month-old Ila) and the Sapps (Dustin, Shelley, 4-year-old Evan, 2 1/2-year-old Nate and 3-month-old Lizzy). Bekah, Shelley, Barrett, Dustin and I are all friends from high school. It was fun catching up (in person) with old friends and letting our kids play.

That's Greg holding Cate, who is looking at the dog Honey. Ila and Nate are watching Evan shoot marshmallows out of a "marshmallow gun" while Barrett supervises.

Shelley (well, Nate and Evan ...) gave Cate an enormous penguin, as you can see ..

... And Cate loved it.

And now here's Lizzy ... She's so sweet and tiny (even compared to Cate who is just four months older). I enjoyed meeting her in person for the first time.

Lizzy even tolerated the Christmas ribbon tied around her head!

Then there was this ...

We tried to take the three girls pictures while the boys were rough-housing with Barrett. I got the first one before Ila decided she didn't want to be confined to the couch.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas @ The Taylors

Yesterday when it was just Cate and me at home, I could tell she was wondering where everyone else was. "Everyone else" started with the Taylors on Saturday, when we had Christmas at Greg's parents' house with his brothers, sister-in-law, niece and nephew.

Cate enjoyed sitting in her Granddaddy's lap ... and playing with all the goodies in his pocket.

The wrapping paper kept her entertained while people were opening presents.

Charles (on left) gave John (on right) a life-size John Wayne (in center).

Greg used the camera again!

Cate enjoyed some of her new toys as well as the trusty used Diet Dr Pepper bottle.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas @ Our House

I had a request to be in more pictures, so I gave Greg camera duty on Friday night when the three of us had Christmas ...

Here we are reading "Goodnight Moon," which was my favorite book as a kid. Each Christmas we're going to buy Cate a book that has something to do with our year. Since this was her first Christmas I decided to buy a classic from my childhood.

These name stools are popular with my family. Kevin, Cassie and I each had one (and I still do!) growing up. The tradition continues.

More Christmas pictures to come ...

Friday, December 21, 2007

These are a few of Cate's favorite things ...

... her daddy's sweatshirt strings.

... these plastic balls. Not so much the toys they go with. She likes sitting near the toy, and then rolling around the floor with the balls. Then she gets distraught when they roll out of her reach, making me think they will be the motivation for her to crawl.

... her friend Luke. They (well, OK, we the parents ...) exchanged Christmas presents last night, but they were more interested in each other. It's so cute to watch them together. Much jabbering occurs. He likes to lay on her or near her, and she likes to pull his hair. He also shares his toy cars, and gave her one of her own (Sally from "Cars") for Christmas. She's probably plotting her revenge for when she's more mobile.

'Tis the Season

My favorite lights I've seen this season were on a rather large tree at Patti's, where we had Greg's company Christmas party earlier this week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One Word

I stole this from a friend's Facebook page. Yes, Facebook. I've gone over the dark side of online social networks. And I like it. If you don't have a Facebook page, you should make one. Then let me know about it.

Anyway ... I did something like this with three words once, now it's about one word. Just one word.

1. Where is your cell phone?

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend?

3. Your hair?

4. Your mother?

5. Your father?

6. Your favorite thing?

7. Your dream last night?

8. Your favorite drink?

9. What?

10. The room you're in?

11. Your ex?

12. Your fears?

13. What do you want to be in 10 years?

14. Who did you hang out with last night?

15. What you're not?

16. Muffins?

17. One of your wish list items?

18. Where did you grow up?

19. The last thing you did?

20. What are you wearing?

21. Your TV?

22. Your pet?

23. Your computer?

24. Your life?

25. Your mood?

26. Missing?

27. What are you thinking about right now?

29. Your work?

30. Your summer?

31. Your relationship status?

32. Your favorite color?

33. When is the last time you laughed?

34. Last time you cried?
Hmmm ...

35. School?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Merry Christmas ...

Today was a busy day. And it was a day that I started grumpy because I didn't want to go to a college graduation in the rain with a 7-month-old baby. Well, I ended up going. And, although it took awhile, I got in a better.

This little face helped. Grandma did a good job picking out the dress, huh? It's the same one she's wearing when she met Santa, but I wanted some more shots of the dress. In this one, I particularly like her sweet hands clasped and how she appears to be singing.

After graduation, which, by the way, was for Greg's youngest brother John, who recently finished his master's degree, we went to lunch to celebrate. And Cate needed a nap ...

Then after watching UAB beat Kentucky (Totally the tale of two halves ...) we went to the annual Taylor Christmas Party. Like 50 Taylors. This family is special in that Cate will get to know her second cousins once removed. (I learn much about genealogy hanging around the Taylors!) Here she is with Sam, one of those second cousins once removed.

Seriously, though, to have Greg's grandpa and his two brothers, all their children, all their children, and now their children mostly living in the same town is really neat. I appreciate it more and more all of the time. Tonight Greg's Great Uncle Dan read a letter his son -- who was adopted at 15 weeks old -- wrote to him about appreciating the family values passed down from one generation to the next, I got teary-eyed because I'm thankful we chose to bring Cate into this family (along with my relatives) and that she'll get to experience an extended family that just isn't common today.

And here she is with her Aunt Angela. Apparently Cate had much to say about the spoon that was frequently in her mouth. Then on the floor. Then we got a new spoon. Good thing we really didn't need the spoons for dinner!

Today's party also included Cate's first-ever Christmas present. She was briefly interested in the wrapping ... then the present held her attention quite well, even before it was out of the box.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No words needed

I tend to like to use words along with my pictures to tell stories. It's the journalist in me. But sometimes, I admit, pictures do the moment justice. That was the case with "Tummy Time." I just needed the sequence ... playing, playing, crying, smiling. A few days shy of five months, Cate didn't love being on her stomach. Like a light switch, a simple turn to her back solved the problem, as you can see.

(And I'm finished using words to tell you about not using words!)

Finally, she's officially a Taylor!

It took a little longer than was probably really necessary, especially consider the adoption was final in September. But we got the amended birth certificate in the mail today. She's a Taylor!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baking and Making

In addition to a productive trip to Wal-Mart for some stocking stuffers and a couple of other gifts, I made and baked the treats to go inside some holiday tins. I wanted to take them around to a few people/offices this week. I made chocolate chip cookies, fudge and peanut butter/chocolate cookies that are a delightful version of Tagalongs. (You know, the red Girl Scout box!) Each tin will have some each, plus some of those tasty peppermints that dissolve deliciously.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Play at the Park

It's been awhile, but here's a scrapbook page I finished tonight. It's nothing special, but I'm really into purple (Cate has quite a few purple outfits!) and buttons. I just like the way these colors go together.

A Racer fan

Cate likes basketball games. Not so much the actual basketball game. But oh how she loves the band. I think it's so cute she pays attention to the band because it is diagonally across the arena from our seats, pretty much as far as possible while still being on the lower level. She also likes when everyone cheers. She spends much of the game moving her arms up and down -- an expression of excitement. Then she usually has to take a nap during the second half. Lots of action for a little one.

These photos are courtesy Ray Biagini, who noticed Cate's cheers during a timeout Saturday night.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Growing up with The Bear

I know I have at least mentioned the monthly bear pictures so I can show Cate's growth throughout her first year. But to elaborate, I'm taking pictures each month with the same stuffed animal, and then at the end of her first year I can make a scrapbook page with the 12 pictures. Well, our monthly photo shoots with the bear always have plenty of out-takes. The ones of her doing other things -- grabbing the bear, chewing on the bear, falling over -- really show what she can do and how she is, so I'm liking those as much or more than the posed ones.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, you can enjoy my favorite from the other day ...

She looks pensive. Like she's plotting her next move.

Meeting Santa

Cate liked Santa's beard when she sat on his lap this morning. I figured with her fascination with feeling different textures and grabbing things that his beard would be a hit. She was kind of serious, just taking in her moment with Santa.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Changing traditions; loving family; celebrating the season

I have lots of things on my mind. Some important. Others slightly more trivial. And I've been thinking about how to make my thoughts into a blog entry ...

I'm not there yet. But I'm blogging anyway.

So let's let someone else start. I read this earlier in the week:

Practically every aspect of the holiday season can be tied to some sort of tradition. The reality of traditions, however, is that they eventually have to change. That seems kind of odd, given the definition of the concept, but when you think about it, it's impossible for things to always be exactly the same. ...

Even if you have been able to maintain the same arrangements for major holiday events for several years, change will eventually come. Parents and grandparents grow older and may be unable to host the big family bash like they did for years and years. Once your children are a little older, it may be important to you and to them to wake up in your own home on Christmas morning.

... There are lots of reasons why traditions undergo changes as the dynamics of your family change,but there are ways to keep family traditions strong and healthy. Focus on the positive parts of having a tradition--being with family, having fun together, and remembering why we celebrate. Base your holiday activities on that principle and your traditions will not be so hard to bend every so often in order to accommodate change. ...

Holiday traditions are important parts of our lives. But remember that they may need to change every so often. It's OK to bend them to adjust for your circumstances...and when you have to break them, do so gently.

--Becky Wiese in a Hearts at Home newsletter

Oh, boy, traditions. The thing I've been thinking most about traditions is how we want to start them with Cate. Some can start now. Like the one that involves me buying her a Christmas ornament each year. Eventually she'll hang it on the tree herself. This year, I decide it was best that I handle it. She would have just put it in her mouth.

Other traditions will have to wait. Like doing something every day in December in anticipation of Christmas. I'm talking something like untying a piece of candy from something cute that counts down the days.

I also want Cate to wake up in our house on Christmas morning. I want to enjoy Christmas morning as a family, with music, presents and a good breakfast. That's probably a good one to start next year. When Cate can participate, at least by eating more than baby food.

But to have new traditions, I maybe have to let go of old ones. Like going to midnight Mass with Mom. Although I'm going to let go of that one this year because the idea of having a 7-month-old in church at midnight is ridiculous. (My baby sleeps through the night and I think messing with that is crazy!)

My other struggle is to balance our extended families. Mine is in Louisville and doesn't really have many steadfast traditions. Greg's family is bigger, closer and full of traditions. This is our sixth Christmas together, and I still find myself trying to balance our families. Thing is, and I have no idea why it took me so long to figure this out, our families will never be balanced, in the equal time sense of the word. There are more Taylors and they are closer to our house.

Now, this doesn't change how I feel about my family. My family is my family. Always will be my family. But they plan a little less and don't have nearly as many Christmas parties and events.

I am, however, looking forward to being with Cassie and Zac in Louisville on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because it was last year at that time that they came bearing the news of a baby on the way who needed a home. The hope of Cate began last Christmas. Not a baby. We'd hoped for a baby for quite some time. But Cate was already growing and plans started being made for her to be ours.

On a related but different note, I also read this:

It is not always easy to be friends with those to whom you are related, but it is very good to make peace with them. Even when relationships are strained, we can be happier and healthier people when we see the truth in others only as clearly as we see it in ourselves. Relatives can be just that kind of mirror. As I enter the Christmas season, I will try to see the good that we share, correct the habits that have thrown us off, and enjoy the diversity God has designed even in our similar DNA. I will try to become the kind of relative others look forward to visiting.
--Mother Cheryl Pacilio in the same newsletter

There are a couple people in my family with whom I have a hard time forging a bond beyond the fact we're related (and I'm not talking about my mom, my sister or my mother-in-law here ...). But I dearly love both my family and Greg's family. Sometimes I just have a hard time expressing that to a couple certain individuals. I've been trying to think of ways to create bonds, but sometimes I'm left with no ideas.

Even so, these people are in my life, and I hope I can learn about myself, them and other relatives from being around them. Even if I struggle to find common ground outside family functions, I certainly can make the most of the time I do spend with them.

And, one more thing, if you're still with me. I never really blogged about the Jars of Clay/Third Day concert we went to last weekend. Jars was mellow and wintry in a way that helped me be thankful for the season. Then Third Day helped usher in the celebration of the season with stories about the songs, for which the words were displayed as a backdrop.

My favorite song from that night (and while listening to their Christmas CDs) changes daily, but today I keep thinking about this Third Day song about one of the band member's adoption process.

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
There the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white,
Make angels in the snow

But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven's angels come to carry you here

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
And so tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in his arms
And tell you from my heart I wish you Merry Christmas

Christmas is a time to celebrate the holy child
and we celebrate his perfect gift of love
He came to earth to give his life
and prepare a place for us
so we could have a home with him above

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I'll hold you in my arms
And I'll tell you from my heart, and I'll you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

--"Merry Christmas" by Third Day

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Seven Months

The last month has been especially fun with Cate. Every day she wakes up wanting to be more observant. She wants to touch and taste more. She wants to sit up. And when we walk by the tree in the morning, she just stares. Today she touched it for the first time, and then noticed one of the wrapped boxes under the tree. (Boxes she's seen before during the making of our Christmas card!)

She smiles and giggles often. That's been part of her personality from the beginning, but the last month or two it's really come alive. She loves going to the grocery and ballgames, where there are lots of people and new things to see. She also makes this great "clicking" sounds ... and loves it when I make it too.

I can't believe she's already into the second half of her first year.

And I know there's more to come. So much more. Right now she's content to be standing and bouncing in the jumperoo. Yes, I've been told many times recently to enjoy these times of immobility. So I will, and look forward to what's to come.