Wednesday, November 30, 2011

{Worth Repeating Wednesday} My Side vs. Your Side

God knows I need repetition to learn anything. And he's working on this lesson right now: I don't understand plenty of things. And it's not always my place to get it.

Whether it's parenting strategies, incorporating God into everyday life, schooling choices, or holiday traditions, there is usually a "my side" and "her side." And usually there is even a third side. Of course, I think my side is the best side, otherwise I'd move to her side.

Conviction and commitment are honorable. But judging and thinking the other person is wrong isn't. And sometimes -- rather, many times -- it doesn't matter whose side is better or right. I'd be better off if I just genuinely loved the people around me.

Yes, that's a hard pill for me to swallow.

So, I've been thinking about that sort of thing. And then I read this.

{Go read it. Really.}

I haven't really been thinking about Calvinism versus Arminianism. In fact, I had to look up "Arminianism." And apparently this debate has been going on for quite some time. OK, so, I don't have a strong opinion about this.

This lack of a strong opinion is probably a surprise to my husband. He says I have opinions about everything. And then that statement is usually followed by a reminder that I don't have to have opinions about everything.

OK, so back to what I do have opinions about. I've been thinking about how just birthing a child doesn't make someone a parent, how parenting is hard and requires quick thinking and long-term vision, how family dynamics are constantly changing when people are added, and how everybody celebrates the same holiday differently.

And sometimes -- OK, too often, really -- I get caught up in the whys and hows. Just today my 4-year-old girl who is thinking when she's not talking and talking when she's not thinking asked a record-setting number of questions. And I found myself getting annoyed.

Yet I'm like that. I question what I'm doing, what she's doing, what he's doing, what they're doing, and what she's doing again. Sometimes I question it aloud and sometimes it's just all spinning around in my head.

"Because what we believe about how we were born must never define us more than our shared belief that Jesus lives." That's from Shaun Groves' blog. Yes, that's the post I linked earlier. Yes, the one I thought you should read.

Truth is, much of what we believe and practice is rooted in what we've always known and what our parents did. We take what we've known and merge it with what our spouse has always know and make our life. It probably changes along the way because we grow as people and we grow up.

I don't care if you're a Calvinist.

And I shouldn't care if you include Santa in your Christmas celebrations.

Or trick-or-treat on Halloween.

Or like the way "Lost" ended.

Or let your baby sleep in your bed.

Or home school or attend public school or go to Christian school.

Or drink Pepsi Max instead of Coke Zero.

Wherever your side is and my side is, I'm hoping the gap becomes narrow and we continue to live our lives together. Because, really, that's what God wants. And if while sharing our lives and genuinely loving each other we want to engage in healthy debate, I'm sure he's OK with that too.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

{Branson} Falling into winter

Well, hello, blog readers. I've missed you.

We're home from Branson, Mo., where we spent four nights, including Thanksgiving. We were there with Greg's mom and his two brothers and their families. That's seven kids 7 {almost 8 ...} and younger. And seven adults.

And would you believe my mother-in-law found us all matching pajamas? All of us, from 5-month-old Kieran to 60-year-old Gran-Gran. Admittedly, I had reservations about dressing up like 13 other people and posing for a picture.

Turns out I loved it.

We did those two group poses and then smaller groups {families and then Gran-Gran with all the grandkids}. Of course, there are plenty of funny ones ...

This was me trying to get the camera set up right. Clearly, the kids were excited.

I hadn't made it back from behind the camera on the tripod before the self-timer started clicking off the four consecutive shots. And look that front row of kids. Those are some serious faces!

Ben apparently thought it was nigh-night time since everyone was in pajamas. {He's not really asleep. Sleep didn't come that easily on vacation.} And his snuggling is distracting his sister, who wasn't going to let her new doll go. Kieran was so done with the photo shoot by this point. Mae is a little unsure of the whole thing and decided to inch closer to Gran-Gran. Ethne seems a little distracted by something. Evelyn and Elijah are ready to go!

We left on Wednesday, which was Ben's 2nd birthday! My boy who is all boy is now officially 2. I brought along some cupcakes to have after dinner that night. He obviously enjoyed that.

... and some lemon.

While in Branson, we ate a delicious Thanksgiving meal from Cracker Barrel, saw "Happy Feet Two," spent a day at Silver Dollar City, played indoor mini golf, and saw "The Miracle of Christmas." It was a fun way to spend the weekend transitioning from fall to winter. I left with a heart full of thanksgiving thinking about Christmas.

This was our third trip to Branson. We first went in September 2008. And again in October 2010. Our family is growing and so are the memories we're making.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two years of Ben

{The birthday boy is getting over a cold. Hence
the snot, chapped lips, feverish eyes and
disheveled hair. Hopefully he's on the mend.}

Happy birthday, Ben!

We've had fun celebrating you. And, trust me, buddy, there's no one else like you. Plus, you're always up for a party.

You don't usually want to snuggle, but you nearly always want to be help upside down and tickled. You say "holda" when you want picked up. And you aren't afraid to make this -- or any other wish -- known.

You say hi to nearly everyone we pass in the grocery store, call most every elderly man "Papaw," and often {although unpredictably} growl a bear-meets-Incredible Hulk sound to get someone's attention.

You're all boy. People always told me boys were different than girls. After about two days with you, I believed them. And I haven't doubted it a day since. You like trucks and balls and animals. You drum on anything using any utensil or stick-shaped object. And you are always moving.

You go and go and go. Then you crash for naptime before you go and go and go some more until bedtime. You like to go to bed at 7 and then wake up close to 7 the next morning. Of course, anybody would sleep that well if they were as busy as you.

People told me my second-born child who was a boy wouldn't talk nearly as much as my first-born girl. These people were wrong. You repeat anything, get frustrated when we don't understand you, and add new words to your vocabulary often. Sometimes you even yell just to make sure you're heard. You're starting to put together words to make short sentences. I love hearing all you have to say.

Unsolicited "I love you" is the best phrase. You melt my heart.

And then you make a mess. Lots of messes really. You like to feed yourself with a spoon and fork. And then you often put the utensils in your hair. Bibs returned so we didn't have to throw away any more food-stained shirts. You really love hot dogs, pickles, Cheetoes {which is what you call any chips ...}, yogurt, applesauce, yogurt-covered raisins and fruit snacks {which is what you are requesting with the seemingly general "snack."}

You want to be big. Really you have no idea you're little. You'll climb and jump and run and keep up with whoever is near. Especially Cate. You like her close. You {try to} do what she does. And you let her help you. There's not an ounce of fear in your 27-pound self.

Day 1 as your momma, you've keep me on my toes. You're loud, messy, fearless, sweet, independent and friendly. You've rocked my world of having everything just like I think want it. But I wouldn't have it any other way. You're going to do great things, love people fiercely, and always keep up with your sister. I'm blessed to be along for the ride.

I can't believe you're two, but I'm glad we made it here. And I can't wait to see what's next.

I love you, my boy.

Looking back on Ben's two years: 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months,9 months, 10 months, 11 months, 1 year, 15 months, 16 1/2 months, 18 months and 23 months.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

{Adoption} Children of God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will -- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. -Ephesians 1:3-10

November is Adoption Awareness Month. And today is National Adoption Day.

But, really, I'm thankful for adoption every day, any month. God created our family through adoption. And through that he not only entrusted me with two children to raise, but he also taught me about our adoption into his kingdom.

I'm grateful two women chose life for Cate and Ben. And I'm grateful God gives me new life. Today. And the day after that. And the days still to come.

So, yes, praise God indeed.

Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God ...

--From "Children of God" by Third Day

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

{Worth Repeating Wednesday} Courageous

Casting Crowns sang this when we saw them in concert last week. I'm thankful for the song, and, more importantly, the message. The movie by the same name is also worth watching. I'm grateful Greg prioritizes his roles as my husband and my kids' dad. I certainly wouldn't want to do life without him, but I do it even better when he's with me.

... Where are you, men of courage?
You were made for so much more
Let the pounding of our hearts cry
We will serve the Lord

We were made to be courageous
And we're taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

The only way we'll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

This is our resolution
Our answer to the call
We will love our wives and children
We refuse to let them fall

We will reignite the passion
That we buried deep inside
May the watchers become warriors
Let the men of God arise

We were made to be courageous
And we're taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

The only way we'll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

Seek justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly with your God

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand ...


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{Boston} Walking Around

"Don't drive in Boston."

That was the most frequent piece of advice we got before heading to the Northeast. Thing is, we didn't have a vehicle while we there anyway. A family friend who lives in Boston, let us borrow his mini van to drive from Manchester, N.H., where we flew into, to and around Maine. We then drove from Ellsworth, Maine, to Boston, where our friend, affectionately called Uncle Steve, picked up his van. We spent three nights in Boston and didn't need a vehicle until we called a taxi to take us and all our bags to the airport.

We were less than 5 miles from Logan International Airport, but the Charles River was between us. Plus, look at all that luggage we had: two kids, a double stroller, a car seat, four suitcases, four duffel bags, and six carry-on bags.

Google Maps was our friend in Boston. The walking directions we looked up on my iPhone got us everywhere we wanted to go ...

Like to Faneuil Hall & Quincy Marketplace.

{Inside Faneuil Hall}
{Outside Quincy Market}

And by Paul Revere's house.

And, of course, to Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings -- Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. My kids, only one of whom actually knows Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings" -- loved the duck statues.

{Yes, my kids are posing for someone else's camera in that last picture!}

To our starting point for riding the Ducks. Specifically, we rode a magenta duck called Penelope that was drive by Tom Foolery, who really likes Notre Dame football.

And by many buildings, including this one where Denny Crane and his crew pretended to have their law offices on "Boston Legal."

And by these. I love the contrast of the fire station and church -- two distinctly different buildings that both help take care of people.

And by this ugly City Hall.
And by the Massachusetts State House.

And right by a movie being filmed. And, unfortunately, I did not see Ryan Reynolds anywhere.

Boston, you were good to us, and you didn't even feel like that big of a city.

I've been blogging about our vacation to the Northeast as I have time. You can read about our time in Maine and look at plenty of pictures. There's at least one more post to come, but until then you can read the Boston posts and look at Beantown pictures.


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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Celebrating Ben!

Lots of leaves cover our backyard. And when they're raked into piles, kids can be entertained for quite some time. Cousins Milla and Jax came from Louisville with Grandmom to help celebrate Ben's {early} second birthday with us yesterday. We celebrated early to accommodate Thanksgiving-related travel plans.

'Twas a good day for a party ...

All seven of my kids' first cousins and two dear families we adore came to celebrate my boy, who is all boy. Part of me can't believe he's 2. And the other part is relieved he's 2. He keeps me on my toes and gives me a mental and physical workout most every waking moment.

But life wouldn't be the same without him. And I'm so thankful he's here with us. He fits in our family perfectly. I'm excited to see where we go from here. And, with Ben, we know for certain we're going somewhere in a hurry.

Happy birthday, sweet boy!

He kept saying "eat water" when looking at the waterfall down the side of his Diego cake. {Didn't Courtney do a fabulous job? She always does! Here's his party and cake last year.} So, "eat water" he did ...

Believe it or not, we kept the blue icing out his hair. That's no small feat around here, trust me.

He was amazed at the musical card that sang "Happy Birthday" to him. He kept looking for something {someone?} behind the card.

He opened some presents himself. Of course, he had plenty of help when he needed it ...

After the party, we went to the Murray State football game ...

... where eating Dots {"gummies," according to Ben} is serious business.

Of course there are more pictures. And because we're spreading out the celebrating, I'm sure you'll hear more about my boy turning 2.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

{Boston} Fenway Park

We like baseball around here. So we had to tour Fenway Park when we were in Boston. We aren't Red Sox fans, but it was so neat to see the oldest, smallest operating ballpark.

Yes, Greg is wearing his Cardinals jacket. I may have suggested he put it on for the picture with Ted Williams.

That's us on The Green Monster, er, rather, Monstah. What a unique feature. I can see why people would want to fork over the extra money in the special lottery for those seats.

And here's a view of The Green Monstah from the other side of the stadium ...

Because we took a tour when it wasn't game day, we were able to see the press box. Obviously, the reporter blood that still runs through me made me excited about that. Does my girl look cute there? And here ...

I love this red seat. It's Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21, and it's where Ted Williams' 502-foot homerun -- the longest ever hit at Fenway -- landed.

I've been blogging about our vacation to the Northeast as I have time. You can read about our time in Maine and look at plenty of pictures. There's at least one more Boston post to come, but there are pictures to tide you over until then.


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

{Boston} Worth the Wait

After we spent six days in Maine, we drove to Boston. I like to visit big cities. I used to think I wanted to live in one. So whenever I visit one, I am reminded why visiting them and living in small-town American is good for me.

Boston had been on my list of places to visit for awhile now. I still regret not visiting there when Katie lived there. It was a season of transition for Greg and I, having just moved to Murray and started new jobs. Then I was diagnosed with diabetes and later the same year managed to get time off work to go to Greece and Italy with my in-laws.

So Boston had to wait.

I finally made it.

And it was worth the wait.

If you ask my 4-year-old girl about our vacation, she'll start by telling you we stayed on a houseboat in Boston. And it's worth telling. The three nights we spent there were a fun part of the adventure.

It was a houseboat converted to be more a stand-still accommodation in the Charlestown's Shipyard Quarters Marina. It was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom houseboat that had a living/dining/kitchen space and a balcony with some beautiful views of the Charles River and surrounding Boston.

The kids especially loved their bed nooks ..

Oh, and it was decorated with elephants. This was a favorite decoration ...


I've been blogging about our vacation to the Northeast as I have time. You can read about our time in Maine and look at plenty of pictures. There are a couple more Boston posts to come, but there are pictures to tide you over until then.

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