Friday, December 28, 2007

Is That a Toothbrush In Your Ear?

While getting ready for work this morning I glanced at my husband, Al. For a second I thought he was on the phone. No. He was holding a tooth brush to his ear. (To his ear, not in his ear). I was getting ready to call a psychiatrist for him when I realized that he was trying to listen to our six-year olds new toothbrush play the "Star Wars" theme song.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Advent greetings to you! We hope that this finds you well and that you have had a good 2007. The highlight of our year was our tenth anniversary in May. Since we’ve not vacationed much since the kids came along, we celebrated with a weeklong Hawaiian cruise! We went to five ports on four islands and visited landmarks like Volcanoes National Park, Waimea Canyon and Pearl Harbor. We tried every shipboard restaurant and Al snapped over 800 pictures. We were told, “You don’t look old enough to have been married ten years,” which we took as a compliment.

We both continue our work at InterVarsity Press, Al as an acquisitions and development editor, Ellen as rights manager. This month marks Ellen’s tenth year at IVP. We’ve done the usual mix of conferences and travel, including things in California, New England, Atlanta, Madison and Ellen’s fifth trip to Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Al did some speaking around the themes of his book The Suburban Christian, including workshops at the National Pastors Convention and the Willow Creek Group Life Conference. He also spoke at Homecoming at our undergrad alma mater, Crossroads College in Rochester, MN, and we had fun reconnecting with friends and faculty. Al has also been invited to be a regular columnist for Christianity Today in 2008! No, he’s not bumping Chuck Colson or Philip Yancey off of the back page. Al will have a one-year stint with a bimonthly column, “Kingdom Sightings,” with a general theme of looking for signs of the kingdom of God at work in culture and society. Look for his first column in the February 2008 issue.

Ellen started blogging regularly and has claimed our family blog for herself. See for her posts, many of which relate amusing episodes with our kids. She continues to lead and plan worship at our church and now also uses sign language for the lyrics to the weekly liturgical songs. She also coordinated a fair trade Christmas shopping event at Ten Thousand Villages, to provide a living wage and dignity to global artisans. We’ve also gotten into Facebook, Scrabulous and Blokus this year.

Josiah is in kindergarten now, which he enjoys thoroughly. His main hobby this year has been building with LEGOs, especially Star Wars kits. The playroom train table is now covered with minifigures and vehicles galore, from A-wing to X-wing. For his sixth birthday we went to the Star Wars exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Elijah is now two and is a happy and healthy toddler. He loves his Signing Time and Blue’s Clues DVDs. He has a vocabulary of at least a hundred signs and is also starting to vocalize words, including the whole alphabet. His therapists are happy that he is developing well, and he no longer needs physical therapy. Elijah had minor surgery to replace the PE tubes in his ears and to open his tear ducts. We were very pleased that his neurologist gave him a clean bill of health with no ongoing worries or concerns.

On to our annual book recommendations. In fiction: We both appreciated A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was an engaging historical read about life with a traveling circus. Ellen (who has been identified as a “warrior princess”) resonated with the soccer-mom-meets-Lord-of-the-Rings fantasies The Restorer and The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck. She also read several Anita Shreve novels. Al was entranced with the “new” J. R. R. Tolkien book The Children of Hurin and got a kick out of superhero homage novel Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. And of course we were both up into the wee hours of the morning to finish reading J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (A blog post Al wrote about it ran as an article on

In non-fiction: Microtrends by Mark Penn identifies fascinating new subcultures and cultural shifts. Al got into economic issues via The Small-Mart Revolution by Michael Shuman, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli and The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg. The World Without Us by Alan Wiseman explores what the planet would look like if people disappeared. One Red Paperclip is Kyle Macdonald’s amazing journey trading his way up from a paperclip to a house. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath shows why some ideas are sticky and others aren’t. The Myth of the Perfect Mother by Carla Barnhill is a healthy corrective to evangelical assumptions about motherhood, and Gary Thomas’s Sacred Marriage is likewise a helpful resource. Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives is a moving compendium of real-life portraits. And The Making of Star Wars by J. W. Rinzler is a terrific behind-the-scenes look at the original film.

Most notable of this year’s religion books is D. Michael Lindsay’s Faith in the Halls of Power, an amazingly well-researched and comprehensive study of how evangelicals have become influential in elite circles of government, academia, arts/media and business. Kevin Vanhoozer’s Everyday Theology provides an introduction to cultural studies and theology of culture. Hanna Rosin’s God’s Harvard gives an inside look at Patrick Henry College’s conservative Christian subculture. David Kinnaman’s unChristian is a revealing portrait of negative perceptions of evangelical Christians. The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs is a laugh-out-loud funny chronicle of one man’s attempt to follow the Bible as literally as possible. John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion is a pastoral reconsideration of suffering and evil. While not likely to appear on any bestseller lists, Theology and Down Syndrome by Amos Yong is a landmark contribution to disability studies and theology of disability. And two IVP books received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly – Tim Stafford’s Shaking the System on social reform movements and Gerald Sittser’s Water from a Deep Well on the history of Christian spirituality.

Our favorite children’s book this year is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones; it’s a very thoughtful, kid-friendly narrative theology that’s engaging for parents as well. We were happy with Mo Willems’s new Elephant and Piggie series as well as his sequel Knuffle Bunny Too. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental were clever and fun. The Giant Leaf by Davy Liu is a surprising retelling of a familiar Bible narrative. Sometimes Smart Is Good by Dena Luchsinger is a bilingual story of disability and inclusion. And Josiah could not stop laughing when he first read the Sesame Street classic The Monster at the End of This Book.

That’s it for this year. The Lord bless you and keep you and grant you his peace. Shalom!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Josiah's Song

At the end of our advent activity last week, Josiah said he wanted to sing a prayer. Here is the song he sang:

O Jesus you're the best king ever
You're really joyful
Jesus and God are the best ones
We worship them
They're the best glorious people ever
Jesus dies for us to save us
They saved the whole world
And they are really nice
They shine down on us
They have been the nicest guys ever
They are really nice

I imagine God peering down on Josiah with a parent's loving pride, accepting Josiah's song of praise (imperfect theology and all) with a tender smile and, perhaps, a quiet chuckle. Or maybe God shines with glorious pride at such childlike faith, laughing aloud with joy, reveling in our love for him even as we revel in God's love for us.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Identity Crisis

Our family sends a letter with our Christmas cards every year. Al, the published author, writes the letter and I, the stamping enthusiast, hand make the cards. We address the envelopes together. It's a nice system. This year, however, reading the first draft created a minor personal crisis for me. Here is my internal dialogue as I read the letter:

Here's a paragraph about our anniversary trip. Al picked a nice photo. Here's a nice paragraph about Josiah and another about Elijah. Al did a nice job giving them equal space in the letter. Here's another paragraph about Al and me. OK, here's the paragraph about what I did this year. And now there's a long paragraph about all of Al's accomplishments. I'm really proud of Al. I'm glad he put this in the letter. Wait... Only two sentences of "my" paragraph are actually about me. The rest is about "us" again.

Hmmm. That kind-of stinks. I need to ask Al to fill out my paragraph a little. OK, so what did I do this year that other people will actually care about? [long moment of thinking] Hmmmm.... Well, I, that's not important enough to tell everyone about. And I don't think they really care about all of the housecleaning, laundry, therapy and medical stuff I handled this year.
Didn't I do anything significant this year?!

For a brief time, I felt really insignificant. I was tying my self-worth to my personal accomplishments. I didn't do anything particularly exciting this year. But my value and my significance does not come from what I do. My value lies in my identity as a child of God. My significance come from God working within me, even if that work is often done in small, routine things that don't seem all that exciting.

Many things I do may not be exciting enough to mention in our Christmas letter, but that does not mean that I am insignificant. I may not have many accomplishments to report, but that doesn't mean I haven't done anything important. Faithfulness is not always flashy. In fact, faithfulness often requires commitment to tedious, daily tasks that no one cares about unless they are not done (like doing laundry, making meals and, dare I say it, praying). And in the end, I want to be faithful more than I want to be accomplished.

After a little thought and discussion we came up with a few things to add to the letter. They may not seem very exciting, but in one way or another, they are important. I'm still tempted to base my identity on my accomplishments (the things I do), but am trying to remember that God loves me and can do significant things in and through me even if those things are not exciting enough to include in our letter.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ten Thousand Villages Event

A few months ago I read a blog that inspired me to action. My friend, Cory Verner, mentioned that he was helping coordinate an Alternative Christmas Event. The idea was to encourage people to think about global poverty issues by hosting an event where they could purchase fair trade and other Christmas gifts that help the poor in one way or another. Something inside of me lit up and I got a warm sensation in my heart that is often an indication that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me (it's usually that or that I am really embarrassed or nervous about something).

So I contacted Cory for some advice and then asked our vestry if we could host a similar event for Church of the Savior. The vestry was very supportive. Since there is a local Ten Thousand Villages near our church, we called and asked if they would open their store for a couple of hours on a Saturday evening as a special event for our church. They were more than happy to accommodate us.

So this Saturday a little over 30 people from our church slogged through rain and ice to gather at Ten Thousand Villages and do some Christmas shopping. We had apple cider, cookies and other treats. Ten Thousand Villages provided fair trade coffee and chocolate samples. We all milled about selecting gifts for family and friends, chatting with each other and munching goodies. The kids enjoyed playing with the drums, rain sticks and other instruments that were available for sale. And we purchased gifts that will both honor the family and friends who receive them and provide dignity and a living wage to the artisans who crafted them.

I am so glad that everything worked out so well. A number of people mentioned how much they enjoyed the event and some of the children asked their parents if they could visit the store again another time. A friend from work read my Facebook status mentioning the event and wondered aloud if this is something his own church should do next year. All of these things (the idea, the ease of working out the details and the positive responses) make me pretty certain that this was a work of God. I'm just glad he let me participate.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Josiah Thoughts on Santa

Al and I discourage our kids from believing in Santa. As my mom puts it, "If I'm the one giving the presents, I want the credit." This year I had a discussion with Josiah that makes me think he doesn't believe us. So, here is what I imagine Josiah might be thinking this year...

Mommy and Papa think they know everything. They're always telling me what to do and hurting my feelings. Like when they make me stop doing fun things, like jumping on the furniture or when they won't let me watch PBS Kids twelve hours a day. It's just not fair.

Every year they try and convince me that Santa Claus isn't real. I used to believe them, but not anymore. Santa must be real. Everyone talks about Santa and I've seen him at Christmas parties! The presents don't show up under the tree until Christmas Eve... just like magic! None of our Christmas presents say they are from Santa, but I bet Santa puts them there and Mommy and Papa change the labels!

So, if Santa is real, I better be good so I can get a lot of presents. That's why I'm being an extra good helper! I helped Mommy clean the bathtub, wash the mirrors and mop the floors. I tried to help vacuum, but it's really hard work. When Mommy asks me to help clean up toys, I get right to work except sometimes when I'm busy playing or watching PBS Kids. And I'm really good at helping Mommy peal vegetables and bake goodies. It makes me feel frustrated when Mommy forgets that I want to help. Especially when she cracks the eggs when she's baking. That's my job! And I have to do a lot of helping so that Santa knows I am a good boy and brings me Lego Star Wars!

I hope I get to see Santa this year. I don't want to get too close or anything (he's a little scary), but I can point him out to Mommy and Papa and say, "See! I told you he's real!" I like being right (I get that from my Mommy). It will be good to teach Mommy and Papa something they did not know.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On the Bright Side

Here is the bright side of my weekend:
  • Josiah and I enjoyed making chocolate cinnamon bread together and, since no one came to the coffee group I hosted Saturday morning, we have some nice breakfast treats to share with family and friends.
  • I had a relaxing Saturday morning reading a book, drinking coffee and munching on pastries.
  • We have a new, more efficient water heater and Al's comic books didn't get wet when the old water heater decided to spew water out the top.
  • The smoke detector works well.
  • The kitchen sink works again and we didn't have to call the plumber a second time.
  • I had a really nice time visiting with my mom, sister and niece (and there is not even a negative side, implied or otherwise, for this event).
I'm usually a bit of a pessimist, so I'm a little proud of myself for focusing on the good instead of brooding about the not-so-great!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Conversations with a 6-year old

During a recent trip to the store I kept reminding Josiah to stay close or asking him to walk faster. I was frustrated with him for not listening better and he, apparently, was just as frustrated with me. On the way to car, we had the following exchange:

Josiah: "I would like to live in a different house. Not with you."

Me: "Oh? You don't want to live with me anymore? Do you wish you could do whatever you want without Mommy telling you what to do?"

Josiah: "Yes."

Me: "Well, if you lived in your own house, who would cook for you?"

Josiah: "I could make peanut butter sandwiches all the time."

Me: "Who would clean for you?" [Josiah isn't quite big enough to use the vacuum cleaner yet.]

Josiah: "I could use the carpet sweeper."

Me: "Living by yourself is expensive. Who would pay your bills?"

Josiah: "I could sell some stuff."

Later that week we had the following conversation in the car. I have no idea why he was thinking about this.

Josiah: "Wouldn't it be funny if kids got married?"

Me: "Yes, that would be interesting."

Josiah: "We could have babies. I'm glad I don't have to get hurt."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Josiah: "I'm glad I don't have to get hurt having a baby. I'm glad I'm a boy. I won't even eat an egg."

I wasn't quite ready to tackle that subject, so I just smiled and changed the topic.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Last week was Al's birthday. We had a simple family celebration with dinner at a Chinese buffet and a birthday pie. In my family of origin we always celebrated birthdays with a cake. My mom would put candles on the cake and carry it out while we all sang "Happy Birthday." Al's family didn't really do the whole cake thing and he doesn't particularly like cake anyway. It's taken awhile for me to help Al understand how important it is for me to have a cake on my birthday. I've also found that I cannot celebrate Al or the kids' birthdays without a birthday dessert of some sort either. For me not providing a birthday dessert is like saying, "I don't really care about you." So, we compromised with a pie. I stuck a candle in the middle of the pie and brought it out to Al while Josiah and I sang "Happy Birthday."

We planned to go out for a date on Friday night, but Al got pretty sick. So we stayed at home where Al slept and I took care of the kids. My "warrior princess" came out as I set aside my own desires for the weekend to take care of and protect the family. I'm not complaining though. I love taking care of my family, whether "mothering" someone who is sick or looking for ways to make a birthday boy feel loved.

Yesterday was Josiah's birthday. I stayed up late Saturday night wrapping gifts, making a nice "Happy Birthday Josiah!" sign and cleaning up the house. We all slept in (a nice gift from the kids to us, perhaps) and I made apple waffles for breakfast. Josiah opened his presents and then we all went to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Star Wars exhibit. We got to the museum around 11:30, but had to wait until 3:30 to enter the Star Wars exhibit. We all had fun and were pretty tired by the time we left at 5:00. Since Al had to leave for a meeting, we ate birthday cake and ice cream for dinner. Then Josiah started putting together the Lego Stars Wars kit he got for his birthday and Elijah spent some time resting. Later we ate some soup and went to bed.

So I am exhausted, but happy. I also have a bunch of leftover pie and cake in addition to all of the Halloween candy laying around.

P.S. I added some Halloween photos to a previous post.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Warrior Princess

This past weekend I learned that I am a "Warrior Princess." I heard Michele Miller speak at the ECPA Publishing University, an event for Christian publishers with training in different publishing areas. Michele's speciality is marketing to women. My job has nothing to do with marketing to women, but her presentation was incredibly interesting all the same. I love personality inventories and the like and used the information she presented to better understand myself and the world around me. Not what she intended perhaps, but more fun for me!

She made the case that to effectively market your product to women, you need to know a woman's internal motivations, not just her demographic. To help us better understand various types of women, she explored where women receive their energy from (external sources or internal) and how they value time (live in the moment or leave a legacy). Depending on the combination of these factors, she created four types. Here is what I learned about me...

I am an introvert and I want to leave a legacy. That makes me a "warrior princess." According to Michele, a warrior princess is methodical, efficient, logical and far-sighted. We tend to be perfectionists and have a strong sense of right and wrong. That certainly describes me. This helps explain why I enjoyed Sharon Hinck's book The Restorer so much!

The other types are "Regal Queen" (extrovert who lives in the moment), "Sorceress" (introvert who lives in the moment) and "Healer" (extrovert who wants to leave a legacy). To learn more about all four types you'll have to read Michele's new book when it comes out this January (sorry, I can't remember the title).

Friday, November 02, 2007


Highlights from the past week:
  • Splurging on some spa treatments (aromatherapy bath and a massage).
  • Hearing Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil preach at the IVCF Women's Staff Conference
  • Realizing that Elijah is vocalizing at least six to ten different words and phrases. Yay!
  • Dressing the kids up in their Halloween costumes.
  • Seeing the Serbian translation of Wanting to Be Her by Michelle Graham. I really like this book (I can only read the English version, but I'm sure the Serbian is good too).
  • Learning that a friend had her baby.
  • Having Josiah tell me, "Mom, I think its time for me to learn to take care of myself. Can you go inside?" while waiting for the bus (I went to our front steps and not all the way inside, but I was so proud of him).

Things to look foward to next week:
  • Stamping cards with a friend
  • Attending a publishing conference
  • Josiah's first report card
  • Al's birthday
  • Josiah's birthday

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Late-Night Scare

We had a bit of a scare the night I arrived home from Germany. We drove from the airport to church (our church meets on Saturday evenings) and then went to a friend's house for dinner. Since both Al and Josiah our allergic to our friend's cats, they both took some allergy medicine on the way there. Both made through the evening without any allergic reactions and we had a really nice time.

We got home later than usual and since I had been up since the equivalent of 11:00 p.m. the day before, Al put the kids to bed while I got ready for bed myself. I quickly fell asleep. At around 2:00 a.m. I woke up to the sound of Josiah coughing. It sounded like he was getting ready to throw up. So I threw myself out of bed and stumbled (literally) to his room.

"Josiah, are you okay? Are you going to throw up?" I whispered.

"No" Josiah croaked.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know" he managed between hacking coughs.

As I listened to him I realized he was wheezing when he breathed. When he sat up in bed I saw that he was still in the shirts and pants he had worn all day. When we get home late, we sometimes put Josiah to bed without putting his pajamas on, which usually isn't a big deal. The problem was that his clothes were full of cat hair and Josiah was clearly having a serious allergic reaction.

Josiah refused to take his allergy medicine because he doesn't like the taste. I woke Al up, partly so he could help and partly so someone else could worry with me. Josiah was still coughing and wheezing a lot and I was beginning to worry about him. Okay, I woke up worrying about him, but now I was seriously considering taking him to the E.R. What if he was having an asthma attack? He hasn't been diagnosed with asthma, but Elijah had issues with "wheezing" last year and Josiah's coughs sounded similar to when Elijah had difficulty catching his breath.

We changed Josiah into clean pajamas and took the sheets off his bed. Al threw everything into the washing machine while I sat listening to Josiah's breathing. He didn't sound any better so I decided to take him to the emergency room. I quickly changed into jeans and a sweatshirt and told Josiah that he needed to see a doctor. He Josiah fought me all the way downstairs sobbing, "I don't want to go to a doctor in the middle of the night!"

He finally agreed to take some allergy medicine and I agreed to wait and see if his breathing improved. A half hour later he seemed to be okay. We trudged back upstairs and settled Josiah down in a sleeping bag in our bedroom. I put my pajamas back on and slipped into bed. I listened intently to Josiah's breathing, which was beginning to sound normal. When I was satisfied that he was okay I closed my eyes and got some much needed sleep.

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Adventures in Germany

The train workers are on strike today, but it seems that some of the trains are running. We took a taxi to the Book Fair again today, but hope to be able to take a train back to the hotel tonight.

I am extremely tired and find that the clarity of my thoughts and of my speech is declining. I often struggle to remember ordinary words while describing books to publishers. Everyone is tired though and we all extend grace to one another. Yesterday I kept looking to my colleague for help when my words were not working. He was just as tired as I was though and often had as much difficulty as I did.

I am looking forward to being home again tomorrow. I've kept in touch with Al and our kids through phone calls and Facebook messages, but I am eagerly anticipating finding them waiting for me outside the international terminal at the airport and receiving excited hugs and sloppy kisses.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adventures in Germany

I am in Germany attending the Frankfurt Book Fair. I attend the Book Fair every year or two for business. I will spend from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in back-to-back 30 minute meetings with a half hour break for lunch. Today I spent over half of my lunch break in line for the restroom and then wolfed down a small sandwich and a Coke Zero in the remaining ten minutes.

The real fun began when we rushed to catch the train back to our hotel. When we got to the platform we deciphered a German sign informing us that all of the trains were running 50 minutes late. This resulted in a loud crush of people mulling about the train platform, making me feel fairly claustrophobic. After 40 minutes of waiting we caught the S4 train to the next stop, hoping to transfer to the S6 train which would take us to our usual stop. The S6 was not running in the direction we needed (or at least it was very late) so we consulted the train schedule and rushed to another track where a different train would get us the right city, but the wrong stop.

We got off the train in Bad Vilbel, one station past where we needed to be. We debated whether to walk, catch a cab or try a bus. We did not see any cabs and were not certain which bus to take. Since we knew the general direction we needed to take we decided to walk. Before we could get very far a kind German stopped us. He noticed that we were foreigners and that we were a bit uncertain how to get back to the area of the city we needed, so he called a cab company on his cell phone and instructed them to pick two gentlemen and a lady at the north train station. 20 minutes later or so the taxi pulled up and brought us safely back to our hotel. Phew!

And here is the best part – it is rumored that the train workers will go on strike tomorrow or possibly Friday, so things could get much, much worse. We’ve reserved a cab to drive us to the Book Fair tomorrow morning, but are not certain how we will get back to the hotel. There will probably be a very large crowd of folks trying to catch cabs at the end of the day and traffic will likely be congested with the influx of people forced to hire cabs or drive themselves. I am planning to wear a much more comfortable outfit tomorrow and will pack a few extra bags of peanut M & Ms, just in case!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Writing on the Wall

This morning I heard Al walk into the hallway and yell, "Elijah, No!" Elijah had a crayon in hand was preparing the decorate our hallway wall. We sighed, relieved that we had caught him before he was able to begin coloring.

A few minutes later Al came into the bathroom where I was applying my make-up and said, "He already wrote on the wall in the dining room." I walked into the dining room, noted the marks (relatively few) and went to get the Magic Eraser (I love this thing! If you have a toddler, you need a Magic Eraser). I handed the eraser to Elijah and instructed him to get to work cleaning the wall. I needed to finish getting ready for work, so I left Al and Elijah to their cleaning.

As I was walking away Al called me back. "Elijah pointed to the wall and said, 'A' and 'E'!" Apparently he was practicing his writing skills. I suppose this means we should give him more opportunities to draw. He still eats crayons (or writes on inappropriate surfaces), so we're usually hesitant to give them to him. Well, I can read the writing on the wall and it says, "Let this child color (on paper) more often!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

The "Talk"

I heard something on the radio that made me feel a little angry yesterday. A man was talking about the discussion he has with any boy who dates his daughter. You know, where a girl's father sits down with the guy she is dating and has a "talk." In this case, the person speaking said that while his daughter is not a possession, he is to steward her until she becomes an adult. As someone created in God's image, his daughter is someone precious that any guy should feel honored to spend time with, someone who should protected and treated with respect.

I turned the channel fairly quickly. While I agree that all people are made in God's image and, as such, should be treated with dignity and respect, I am annoyed that it is only guys who receive the "talk." As the mother of two sons, I am equally concerned that the girls they date treat them well. Why is it that we only talk with guys? Do girls hold no responsibility for what happens on a date?

When our sons are old enough to date (a long, long time from now), I would like to meet the girls they date and give them my own little talk. I might start with, "I love my son and if you do anything to hurt I will rip out your..."

Well, maybe that's a little extreme. But I would like to talk about dressing modestly and helping our son focus on her inner beauty more than her physical beauty. I would like to tell her that we have taught our son that no means no and we expect her to follow the same rule. I would like to tell her that my son is a wonderful creation of God, just as she herself is, and that they should treat each other with respect and consideration. And I would let her know that they are both mutually responsible for their actions when they are together.

Okay, so my "talk" isn't perfect yet. That's okay. I have many more years to work on it (I hope! Josiah has been talking a little about one of the girls in his kindergarten class).


P.S. During the next two weeks I will be reading a book in our son's kindergarten class, going to our college's homecoming and traveling to Germany for a fun-filled week of meeting with industry colleagues. I probably won't have much time to blog...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sleep vs Soap

I awake to a soft thump the sound of pattering feet. Josiah scampers into our bedroom and announces, "I have to go potty."

"So go" I grumble only half-awake and unwilling to get out of bed unless absolutely necessary.

Josiah wanders into the bathroom. I hear the toilet flush and water running. Good, I think, he remembered to wash his hands. I glance at the clock, curious what hour of the morning it is. 2:30 a.m. ugh. Oh how I long for day when he will figure out that he can go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without waking us up.

The water is still running and I hear a soft thwacking noise. "Josiah, are you okay?" I whisper.

"There's no soap."

"Oh yeah. I need to refill the soap. I'll do it tomorrow."

After a few minutes of quiet I begin to wonder why he isn't going back to bed. I listen a little harder and hear soft sobs followed by a small sniffle. I reluctantly roll out of bed to investigate. I find Josiah standing forlornly near the sink in the dark bathroom, softly crying.

"Josiah? What's wrong? Why aren't you going back to bed?"

"I can't wash my hands. There's not enough soap."

Feeling a bit perplexed and somewhat exasperated by his sudden desire for clean hands, I quietly assure him, "It's okay. Just dry your hands and go back to bed. I'll fix the soap tomorrow. It's 2:30 in the morning and I'm really tired. I'm not going to get more soap right now. Come on."

I help him back into bed and give a soft kiss. He may be a little inconvenient sometimes, but I sure do love him.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Down Syndrome Carnival

I am hosting the fourth edition of the Down Syndrome Carnival this week.

Our church recently decided to teach the nursery kids Scripture verses in sign language. I am so excited because our 2-year old (who has Down Syndrome) loves sign language. This is just one small way that our church makes our family feel welcomed and included regardless of our abilities and disabilities. We also recently purchased Let All the Children Come to Me:A Practical Guide to Including Children with Disabilities in Your Church Ministries for our children's program coordinator. So, I thought that I would highlight some posts dealing with the issue of churches and disabilities. McNair at Disabled Christianity has a post called Child Find that encourages churches to find children and other people with disabilities in order to welcome them into our church families. I also found a great article at the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability website, The Body of Christ has Down's Syndrome: Theological Reflections on vulnerability, disability and Graceful communities by John Swinton. This a theological paper, so it's not exactly light reading, but it is very good.

In addition, here are a couple of other posts that were submitted: The Least of These, where Michelle brings our attention to a news story about 2 dozen Iraqi boys with special needs who were rescued from an orphanage, and Father's Day Reflection: Special Needs, Special Love, an article my husband wrote for, an online outreach to parents who have received a poor or difficult prenatal diagnosis.

I am not certain who will host the next Down Syndrome Carnival. Please send any posts or articles you would like included in the next Down Syndrome Carnival to Leticia .

Friday, September 14, 2007


Elijah is beginning to talk a little bit. He has said "dada" and "papa" and even something that sounded like "Josiah" and "Elijah." He has not, however, said "Mama" yet. He can say "em" when he sees the letter "M," but he refuses to say "Mama."

This morning I was repeating "mama" to Elijah in the hopes that he would imitate the sound. After a while Elijah put his little hands on my cheeks, turned my face towards his, looked me in the eye and said... "dada!" (sigh).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Recent Photos

I feel like I should post something, but I don't have much to say this week. So here are some recent photos of the kids. Enjoy!

Look out! This kid is dangerously fun!

Ready for the first day of kindergarten...

Here we go!

I love this duck! (It sings "Splish, Splash I Was Taking a Bath" while dancing). Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!

Hanging out at the arboretum where some real splishing and splashing is possible.

Riding the tram at the arboretum.

This is so much fun!

Do you like my new jammies and haircut?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Elijah's New Obsession

Elijah has a new obsession. We can't go anywhere or do anything without him displaying this fascination. He can sit still for up to half an hour when we indulge this passion. Elijah has discovered...the alphabet!

I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised given how much time our family spends reading books. Even so, I am absolutely delighted! One of Josiah's kindergarten objectives is to know every letter of the alphabet and the sound each letter makes. So, my 2-year old son (who happens to have Down Syndrome) is working on kindergarten level material! I know other two year olds already know their alphabet, but that doesn't make me any less proud of Elijah.

Anywhere we go Elijah points to the letters and waits for us to identify them. His favorite attraction at the Dupage Children's Museum was their art gallery. He didn't look at the art work though. He stood in front of the large sign and pointed at each letter in the word "Gallery" (the only word that was at his height) over and over and over again. When he sits in a grocery cart he points and the letters on the handle. He screams when it is time to put away his alphabet books. (OK, he actually screams anytime we take a book away from him). Anytime he notices the letter "A" he points and declares "A!" He can also identify the letters "E," "F" and sometimes "M." (Which also shows that his speech is beginning to progress more).

I often sit and write the alphabet for him on a Magna Doodle on letter at a time. He will sit through the entire alphabet and then sign, "more!" On some days I have gone through the entire alphabet three or four times and he still asks for more. Whenever I sing the alphabet song I also sign each letter. Now when he hears me sing the alphabet song he moves his hand around as if he were signing the letters with me. It's so cute!

This is one obsession that Al and I are happy to indulge!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Josiah's First Day of Kindergarten

Well, it's official, Josiah is a kindergartner. We got to school early and I stood around with the other parents while Josiah played with a friend he knows from preschool. I took pictures until the camera battery died. After a few minutes the bell rang, startling all of us a bit. (I'd forgotten about school bells and Josiah has never heard one before.) The kids wandered into two lines, backpacks bumping each other, while the teacher made sure everyone was there and checked how they would be getting home. Then she said, "Okay kids. Smile big, wave to your parents and say 'Kindergarten is great!'" And off they went. A few kids sniffled quietly, but not Josiah. He smiled, waved, said "Kindergarten is great!" and walked into the school without glancing back.

Two and a half hours later I returned to school to pick him up. The kids were playing outside for recess when I arrived. Josiah saw me and waved, but listened very well when the teacher told everyone to line up and go back inside. He chatted cheerfully with a teacher's helper as filed in the door. When he was released a few minutes later I asked him how it went and he said, "It was great!"

Al's mom was waiting for Josiah in the driveway when we got home. Since I had to go back to work I pulled up to the curb and dropped Josiah off. He smiled and waved then looked at his Ama (Grandma) and said, "It's just like a bus!"

I'm very happy that Josiah enjoyed his first day of kindergarten. I hope things continue to go well. My prayers for Josiah these days center around the friendships and character he will form at school. I pray that he will make good friends, that he will be a good influence on others, that he will not be bullied and that he will not be a bully himself. I have a feeling that I will be praying the same thing for the next 13 years or so.

Third Down Syndrome Carnival

The Third Down Syndrome Carnival is up. This week's carnival includes my post on Psalm 139.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Breaking Josiah's Heart

Yesterday I took away Josiah's toy lightsaber. He was hitting things (including me) and when he refused to stop I took it away and put it on top of a high bookshelf. A few minutes later we had the following conversation:

Josiah (looking very sad): Mommy, you made me sad. You broke my heart.

Me: I did?

Josiah (drawing a heart in the air): Yes, my heart that is shaped like this. You broke it.

Me: How did I break your heart?

Josiah: You took my lightsaber away... (dramatic eyes, quivering lip)... If you give it back, my heart will be fixed.

Ellen: You can play with it tomorrow.

Josiah (on the verge of tears): If I have to wait until tomorrow my heart will be broken forever!
At this point I had to try very hard to hide my giggles. He seems to have the guilt trip thing down. When I refused to relent he resorted to threatening me with a ghost, vampire bats and a sheep dog. A sheep dog?! Where does he come up with this stuff?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ready for Kindergarten?

I officially registered Josiah for Kindergarten on Tuesday evening. The experience was completely ordinary and overwhelming at the same time. When I arrived their was a five-year old standing with his arm in blocking the entry. I pretended to poke him and said, "beep." He smiled and let me through. Then I stood in brief line to find out which bus route we are on. The information they provided tells me where the bus stop is, but it doesn't indicate what time they pick up for the pm kindergarten class. Oh well. I think we're going to drive him to and from school anyway.

Next I handed in our fees and general forms. Then I handed in our medical forms. Then I signed up for PTA and spent a few minutes talking with a friend about what to expect. I stopped at the other five tables with information about the SMART$ program, fundraisers, hot lunch, and a bunch of other stuff. At the end of the line of tables was a person who pointed to the twenty or so posters where I could sign up to volunteer for various events. Yikes! I may want to help out eventually, but after the brief time of registering I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I must have looked a little overwhelmed too, because people kept asking if I was a "new mom." I came home with a handful of handouts, instructions and a name tag for Josiah to where the first week.

I had to talk with my PTA friend to figure out what to expect the first day. I was thinking the parents might get to go inside, see the room again and then say good-bye on the first day, but apparently not. We get to park in the bus lane and wait outside with our kids. Then the teacher will come out and help the kids line up and go inside. And me? I guess I just leave. Gulp. And that's just dropping him off. When we pick him up we have to park in the circle drive instead of the bus lane. What?! Why the change? And where exactly is the circle drive? You can't see it from the street... And which door do I wait near?

Why is this so scary to me? I'm not sure. Josiah has attended preschool and other park district activities, so I'm used to him being away for a couple of hours. But at those events I always walked Josiah inside to class and picked him up at the exact same spot. But an outside door versus an inside door isn't all that different. I think part of it just that my memories of school are mixed. I loved the academic part of school, but I remember being picked on too. Will Josiah enjoy school? Will he make good friends? Will he get along with other kids? Will he get along with his teacher? Will she appreciate what an amazing kid he is? Will she understand his goofiness or will it get him in trouble?

So for whatever reason, I am feeling pretty nervous about kindergarten. I'm trying not to let Josiah see how nervous I feel because I want him to excited about school. I think he might really like it. I just kind-of wish I could go with him. But I guess that is part of growing up. He needs to do more stuff on his own and I need to learn how to let go of him a little bit at a time so he has room to grow and mature. But man, if I feel like this with Josiah, I'll probably be a basket-case when Elijah starts school!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Down Syndrome Carnival

Leticia at Cause of Our Joy is hosting a Down Syndrome Carnival. One of my early posts, Elijah's Gift, is included this week. The Down Syndrome Carnival is a weekly collection of stories and blog posts from families who have children with Down Syndrome. Stop by if you are interested in learning more about Down Syndrome or if you would like to read stories from other families.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Josiah's Song

I love to sing and and often make up silly little songs as I go about the day. Josiah has picked up on this and will also make up songs from time to time. This is what he sang for me last night (I wish I could have video-taped it because its even funnier when you hear the tune...)

I love you
You love me
Everybody loves each other...
Except bad guys
This is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth!

Love each other
Don't eat bugs
Don't eat anything alive...

He never really finished the song. I think I distracted him when I shot out of my chair to find a pen and paper. This still makes me chuckle.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Washing Woes

Our washing machine died this week. (A moment of silence, please).

This past Tuesday I went to transfer laundry from the washer to the drier and found the washing machine sitting dormant. Not "all done" dormant, but "not even started" dormant. The towels and t-shirts sat in murky, still water. Uh oh. I thought maybe there was a pause in the cycle and went back to cleaning the kitchen. When I returned half an hour later the machine still sat dormant, the towels and t-shirts occupying the same positions in the still water. I checked the cycle. "Wash." I turned the machine off then on again a few times. I tried moving the dial to the rinse cycle. I unplugged the machine, removed some of the towels, swished things around a bit and turned it back on. All of my attempts to revive the machine were unsuccessful. I finally called Al at work with the bad news, put the wet laundry into the utility sink and then scooped out the full basin of water with a plastic cup.

That evening I came home from work more tired than usual and fighting a headache. I wasn't looking forward to hanging out in a laundromat. So when Al said he would wash the laundry in the bathtub, I was both amused and relieved. After supper I got ready to take Elijah to the supermarket with me while Al and Josiah went downstairs to wash the laundry. This is what I found when I came downstairs.

I think we've used the whirlpool jets in our downstairs bathtub maybe twice in the three years we've lived in our house, but Al had the bright idea to use them to help wash the laundry! Josiah loved it. He was jumping up and down, squealing with delight. Elijah really wanted to help too, but he has a tendency to topple into the bathtub head first. I took a few quick pictures and then left for the store with Elijah. By the time we came home Al and Josiah were putting the washed laundry into the drier. They were both dripping wet, a little worn out and very proud of themselves.

Fortunately, I finished most of this week's laundry before the washing machine died and the new one will be delivered on my usual laundry day next week. As much fun as Al and Josiah had doing laundry in the tub, I don't think they're eager to try this again anytime soon.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Elijah's physical therapist wants Elijah to learn how to jump. During PT sessions she has him stand on a short step and helps him "jump" to the floor. He loves it and asks for more when she stops. He has started imitating us a lot recently, so during our last PT session I stood in front of Elijah while holding his hands and showed him to to jump. I bent my knees, waited for him to do the same, and said "1, 2, 3... Jump!" I jumped and Elijah tried to imitate by straightening his legs quickly.

Yesterday I was playing with Elijah and he started to "jump" by himself. His feet still don't leave the floor, but he bends his knees, smiles and then stands up straight very fast while raising his little arms over his head. "Yay Elijah" I rejoiced with him. Then I said, "Jump!" He did again, said "ump!" and then signed "jump" too! It was wonderful! He's been imitating speech more often, but this is one of his first "clear" words ("clear" meaning I know that he meant to say it and that he knew what he was saying). I am so proud of him!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cute Kid Stuff

Here are some cute things the kids have said and done recently:

  • On Saturday Al took the kids to a picnic while I stayed home. Josiah didn't realize that I was not going with them until we were saying good bye. He looked at me and said, "Mommy, I can't live without you." It was very cute and made me melt a little.

  • Al was talking with Josiah about college and Josiah, hesitant about leaving home, said, "Will you and Mommy come with me?" Al assured him that when it was time for college Josiah would be happy to leave without us. Al mentioned that maybe Josiah would meet a cute girl at college and asked Josiah what color hair the girl might have (don't ask me why Al was talking about this with a five-year old). Josiah said the girl would have blond hair "like Mommy."

  • Last night we read a Bible story from Philippians 2, which led to a talk about temptation and the difference between thinking about doing something bad (temptation) and actually doing it (sin). So, I said something like, "Temptation is like when you think about stealing a cookie when no one is looking. If you don't actually steal the cookie, you haven't actually done anything bad. But if you do steal the cookie, that is bad. Its not always naughty to think about bad things, but you should not do bad things." We talked for awhile about Jesus being tempted and such. After a while I tried to wrap things up and pray, but Josiah said, "Wait, Mom. Let's think about some bad things for awhile." I think this may have been an attempt to delay bedtime, but it left me a little flabbergasted. That's not exactly what I meant to encourage...

  • Elijah has started imitating us a lot. Yesterday he followed me around the kitchen and copied me: open refrigerator, close drawer, dry hands on towel - almost everything I did, he at least tried to do. Later on he even put a bunch of pots up on the kitchen table like he was trying to cook something.

  • For the last few days every time I sneeze at home Elijah "sneezes" too. He even puts his hand over his mouth.

  • Elijah loves getting piggy back rides. If we are sitting on the floor he'll come up behind us and start climbing on our back. Once he is on our back he signs "go" and tries to say the word (although it usually comes out "bu" or something similar). At church this weekend we were standing in line for Eucharist when Elijah leaned forward in Al's arms and tried to climb onto my back for a ride! I'm not sure if anyone else noticed, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tending versus Taming

Carla Barnhill wrote something in The Myth of the Perfect Mother that has stuck with me for the past two weeks:

God has crafted each child with hopes and dreams of her own, with a personality and set of passions that we are to tend, not tame.

If the title of this post didn't give it away, it is the idea of tending our children rather than taming them that has caught my attention. All too often I am tempted to tame our children. Both of our kids have energy and exuberance to spare. I am often tempted to "tame" them into being quiet and obedient. While the obedient part is good, I need to be careful not to expect them to be someone they are not. Maybe God didn't intend for them to be quiet. All the harder for me, perhaps, but how sad would it be to "tame" them so that they lost their joyful exuberance.

For example, I approach Eucharist with a sense of quiet meditation and respect. Josiah, on the other hand, skips forward, pops the bread into his mouth and chugs the juice. My tendency is to put a restraining hand on his shoulder and try to "tame" him into participating in Eucharist the same way I do. A few weeks ago a friend from church told us how much she enjoys watching Josiah take Eucharist. She appreciates his joy. What a good reminder both that Eucharist has multiple layers of meaning, one of which is joy at the resurrection, and also that different people relate to God in different ways, including Josiah. Quiet meditation and joyful exuberance can both be appropriate responses during Eucharist.

I struggle with discerning tending from taming, but Carla's quote was a good reminder for me to be more concerned with tending our kids God-given gifts and passions than with making them polite and well-mannered.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Keeper of the Verses

I recently read Sharon Hinck's book The Restorer. It is a fantasy about a depressed mom searching for purpose who is pulled through a portal into another world where is called to help a struggling nation. Its a good book and I'm looking forward to reading the next volume.

One thing in particular caught my imagine while reading this book. The scriptures in the alternative world are sung and are referred to as verses. Since the verses are sung, musicians are given the role of the "keeper of the verses." They keep the verses alive in the people's memory by singing them in various situations.

If I lived in Sharon Hinck's alternative world, I would want to be a keeper of the verses. I am intrigued by the idea of scripture that is musical in its original form. I also captured by the beauty and wonder of using music to help the people remember and remain faithful to the verses and to the One who gave them. I love God's Word and I love music. What better job could there be than to use music as a tool in service to God's Word, to be daily surrounded by the beauty of both music and scripture. And what would music ministry today look like if more music ministers considered their roles to be that of preserving the truth and beauty of God's word through music?

When God's kingdom breaks through in all of its fullness, I think it would be cool if I could be something similar to the "keeper of the verses," somehow using music to help keep God's word alive in the minds and memories of God's followers. And who knows, maybe God will let me do something similar before then.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Myth of the Perfect Mother

I recently read Carla Barnhill's book The Myth of the Perfect Mother. In the beginning of the book Barnhill argues that evangelicals have uncritically adopted a secular view of women that is unbiblical and creates an unnecessary burden on moms. Here is a part of the book that caught my attention:

It's also a mistake to assume that the "traditional" family model we associate with the '50s had anything to do with conservative Christian values or a generation of people who finally got family "right." In truth, our modern understanding of family owes more to Richard Nixon than to the church.

In an effort to make the American way of life appear superior to Communism, mid-century American political leaders promoted the idea that in America, every family could own its own home, that jobs were so plentiful and lucrative women had the luxury of staying home, that capitalism allowed every family to own a car and a washing machine. The middle-class suburban family was created to make America look good... The same trappings--the house, the yard, the family itself--have been incorporated in the evangelical assumptions about women (and to some degree men...). We have translated the '50s model of the perfect American family to the model of the perfect Christian family. In doing so, we have taken away a women's ability to follow God's leading in her life and replaced it with a kind of bondage to an ideal that isn't consistent with the call of Scripture.
This makes me wonder which ideals of motherhood I hold that may be unbiblical. What assumptions do I make about being a "good" mom that I should examine more closely? How can I honor God in my mothering without allowing the role of motherhood to supersede every other area of my walk with God?

On a related subject: I was thinking more about the tension between taking care of our children and serving God more this week. It occurred to me that in the Old Testament God was known as a god who did not require child sacrifice. While other nations routinely sacrificed their children to their gods, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob despised the idea. God tested Abraham's faith by asking for Isaac, but in the end God stopped Abraham from actually sacrificing Isaac and provided an animal for the sacrifice.

Our children should not be more important to us than obeying God, but I don't think God asks us to sacrifice the lives of our children. This isn't always an easy balance to maintain though, especially in a culture where we work so hard to give our kids every opportunity and advantage. I know I am still working through what this means in our family. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Serving God with Children

I have been bumping up against a common thought recently. It is a subtle theme in some of the books I am reading and was mentioned at an Emergent Gathering I attended last weekend. It is something that I agree with, but find very difficult to practice. Stated very simply, God is more important than my children. Well, duh. Right? But how often do I use the well-being of my kids as an excuse not to serve God?

I'd like to think that I don't use my children as an excuse to avoid doing God's work, but I'm not even sure I can evaluate this area with much objectivity. For example, Josiah has asked us not to lead worship anymore. We have gently, yet firmly explained that we will continue to lead worship. As much as we love Josiah, it is more important to honor God by serving the church with the gifts God has given us than it is to make Josiah feel comfortable every Saturday evening. But we compromise, we don't lead worship all the time. Just sometimes. And our kids are at least part of the reason we limit how often we lead worship.

And that is fairly small thing. What if God asks us to move? The first questions that come to mind concern our kids well-being. What about their education? Will they be safe? What about services for kids with special needs?

At the same time, I don't want to neglect my children for the sake of ministry (note that I said "ministry" not "God"). We can't do everything and it would be unhealthy to try. So how do we decide how best to serve God? How do we balance ministering to people both inside and outside our family? How do we live the tension between verses that emphasize caring for your own family (1 Tim 5:8) and verses that emphasize the cost of following Jesus, including leaving family (Lk 9:57ff)?

I don't know. For now, I am simply noticing the issue. I'm not planning to increase how often we lead worship or make any drastic changes. But when God brings opportunities to serve to my attention, I will try not to immediately dismiss them simply because I have kids.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lost in Translation

I'll be out of town for awhile, but wanted to post a quick tidbit before leaving.

A friend watched our kids for us while we went on a date last night. Elijah uses a lot of sign language and Josiah had to interpret so that our friend would understand what Elijah was saying or asking. At one point in the evening Elijah made a sign and our friend asked Josiah, "What is he saying?" Josiah looked at Elijah and said, "That's the sign for 'time'." Confused our friend wondered why a two-year old would ask for the time and said, "Oh, I'm not wearing a watch."

When she told us about the exchange I explained that Elijah uses the sign for "time" when he wants to watch a Signing Time DVD. I think it's funny that Josiah translated the sign without explaining the meaning.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

His Mother's Eyes

When I am feeling a bit angry or perturbed at someone, I tend to glare at them. My glare is, apparently, striking enough that some friends simply call it "the look." As in, "Oooh, you just got the look from Ellen. She must be mad." I used to be somewhat proud of "the look."

Josiah has my eyes. I am not referring the shape, color or other physical features of his eyes. It appears that "the look" is hereditary and I have become a frequent recipient of it. Even small annoyances or frustrations will prompt our five-year old to turn around and skewer me with "the look."

It's a little scary being on the other end "the look" and this has made me realize that it's not my best feature. In fact, I really don't like "the look" at all and am somewhat appalled that I used to be proud of it. I've been reading Philippians and Ephesians recently and let's just say that my "gentleness" is not evident at all when I use the look. And I am certainly not being humble, gentle, patient, or bearing with the unfortunate recipient of "the look" in love (Eph. 4:2).

So Josiah and I came up with a new look last night. When we are tempted to give each other "the look," we decided to make a silly face instead. I'm not sure if we will use the new look or not. But I hope I will start using "the look" less often and that my eyes will begin to communicate more gentleness and patience.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father's Day

Al wrote a really nice Father's Day article for, an online resource for parents who get prenatal diagnoses of various scary medical conditions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Child After My Own Heart

Elijah fusses less when we let him look at a book during nap time. The other day he fell asleep reading, something I do on a regular basis. Ahhh, it's good to see that he has inherited our love for reading!

Friday, June 08, 2007

While We Were Gone

While we were in Hawaii my parents watched the kids. My mom kept a brief journal of the week for us. Here are some of the funnier things that happened while were gone.

  • My parents came downstairs to find Josiah jumping on the furniture and asked, "Does Mom let you jump on the furniture?" Josiah responded, "Only when she is upstairs."

  • They visited a local children's museum one day. At one point my mom decided it was time to use the restroom. Josiah disagreed. He became very belligerent and insisted, rather loudly, that he did not have to go to the bathroom. Mom eventually convinced him to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later he told my dad, "Grandma was right! I did need to go potty!"

  • My parents learned a bit of sign language during the week. My dad was flabbergasted when Elijah used signs to tell him that the kitchen fan was making him cold. My mom was flabbergasted that my dad understood the signing!
All in all, my parents and the kids seemed to have had a good time together. I'm glad we had a chance to get away for awhile, but I'm equally glad my parents were able to spend some time with our kids.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'm Back

We're back from our trip to Hawaii. The transition from vacation back to "real" life is going well so far. I don't have a lot of time to write today, but here are a few quick things I learned on our cruise:

  1. Don't bring a "gentle exfoliating" facewash on a trip where you a likely to get sunburn.
  2. Shaving your legs in a tiny shower is even harder when you are at sea and the shower is swaying.
  3. Al is not able to view beautiful scenery without taking a photo. He took 826 photos during our 7 day cruise. By the end of the trip I was teasing him, "Look! Water! Quick, take a picture!" I woke up from a bad dream one night to a beautiful view of the full moon reflecting off the ocean. When Al stirred a bit I nudged him and told him to look out the window. He spent the next 15 minutes trying to capture the scene on camera.
  4. I love chocolate souffle. mmmm. I only had it once, but it was delicious!
Here are a few photos from our trip:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bon Voyage!

On May 31, Al & I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary aboard The Pride of America. We fly to Honolulu tomorrow and will spend the next 7 days cruising the Hawaiian islands. Woo hoo!

Al and I will have an entire week to ourselves. We won't have to go to work or think about IVP projects, we won't have to do housework or take the kids to doctor appointments. We can eat dinner without a five-year old interrupting us or a two-year old throwing food on the floor. We can sleep as late as we want and spend our time reading, exploring the islands, playing tennis together, or doing pretty much whatever we want. I am pretty excited. The only trips Al and I have taken together since having our kids have been either been family vacations or business trips. So this will be the first time in five and half years when we can focus completely on each other for more than a few hours.

It's hard to believe we have been married for ten years already. In some ways I feel like I have known Al forever, and yet ten years seems like such a long time. These past ten years have been the best ten years of my life. I love my family and cherish memories of "life before Al," but Al has added so much love and joy to my life that nothing can compare. While I am confident that I could survive without Al, I would never want to live without him. Ephesians 3:20 says that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Al is "immeasurably more" than I could ask or imagine in a husband. I could go on, but I'll spare you any more of the mushy stuff.

So, I probably will not be posting anything new for the next 7 days. The ship has Internet access, but I think you have to pay for it. And, no offense, but I probably won't be thinking about my blog readers much. Al, on the other hand, may not be able to restrain himself. So, if you're hoping for an update on the cruise you can check to see if Al posts anything ;)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Receiving God's Blessings

Recently I have been practicing the discipline of receiving. While this may not sound like much of a discipline, I am finding that it is not always easy. What do I mean by the discipline of receiving? I am being more intentional about looking for ways that God may wants to bless me. It may not sound easy, but it can be. At least, it's often difficult for me because receiving God's blessings often requires relinquishing my own plans and ideas of what is best for me.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about a "health and wealth" type of blessing. It's all too easy for me to accept that kind of blessing. Instead, I often have a difficult time accepting God's grace and peace. I try to do everything on my own and put too much trust in my own accomplishments. At the end of each day I feel best about myself when I can recite a list of things I have accomplished. As in, "Today I worked for four hours at IVP, cleaned the house and took the kids to the park. It was a good day." The underlying assumption to this type of thinking is that my value is directly related to what I do or accomplish each day instead of who I am.

This doesn't leave much room for God's grace or peace. I usually rush through each day and things like playing with my kids and praying become "tasks" I "should" accomplish rather than relational gifts. Instead of experiencing God's grace and peace, I feel stressed and guilty. Instead of receiving God's blessings for me I try and earn his favor. How silly.

One Sunday I was feeling particularly stressed and worn out. "I really need some time to myself today," I thought. "I'll escape into a good book for the afternoon." I'd been reading for all of five minutes when Josiah ran up and declared, "I want to play tennis. Can we go play tennis?" I stopped reading for a moment to consider his request. Maybe Al would be willing to take him. I could stay home and put in a video to keep Elijah occupied. Then I remembered my spiritual director's comment that I look for ways to have more fun, to receive fun as a gift from God. (As a "one" on the enneagram, "fun" is a sign of health for me.)

Hmmm, I thought, maybe God is inviting me to have fun with my family today... So instead of being self-absorbed and clinging to my perceived need to read for awhile, I went out to play tennis with my family. And do you know what? I had fun. I had more fun than I would have had reading my book. The physical activity was good for my physical health, the connection with family was good for my emotional health and my awareness of this simple thing as a gift from God was good for my spiritual health. And by receiving this gift from God I blessed my family. Al and I felt more connected as a couple and as parents and both of our kids had fun.

I think the discipline of receiving is related to God's will, but from a different perspective than I am used to. Instead of asking, "What is God's will for me today? What does God want me to do?" I am asking, "What does God desire for me today and how can I best respond?" The focus shifts from me and what I can do for God to what God wants to do in my life. When I receive and accept God's desire for me, I find that his desire (his "will") often blesses me so that I can bless others. Not every blessing looks like a good gift when it is first offered, but when I decide to accept something as a gift from God it often ends up blessing me in a way I did not expect.

So I am continuing to look for simple ways to receive God's blessings each day. Sometimes that means choosing to have fun instead of completing one more task. Other times it means taking a moment of quiet to connect with God or someone else in the midst of a busy schedule. I am finding that I feel more at peace and less self-reliant and that God's blessings to me often make me a blessing to someone else.

Tag, I'm It

Well, I was going to post about the spiritual discipline of receiving, but Stacey tagged me to share 8 random facts about myself. That's an easier post for a busy week, so here goes:

1) I played Fiona, the female lead, in my high school's production of the musical "Brigadoon." I thought I was really great until I watched the video with Al while we were dating. They taped the worst night of the show and, well, it was painful and embarrassing to watch.

2) I sang "Little Road to Bethlehem" with First Call during a concert they gave with my college. My music professor wouldn't even let me see the video. He said the sound quality was really bad. I suspect I was really bad. My mom was so proud of me. She cried all over Bonnie Keen thanking her for "making my little girl's dream come true!" It was sweet, but really embarrassing too.

3) I travelled with The Continental Singers after my sophomore year of college.

4) I have participated in two pageants: a pre-teen pageant when I was in fifth grade and the Miss MBC pageant when I was a freshman in college. One of the questions at the pre-teen pageant was "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I planned to say that I wanted to be a singer or a cashier (I loved pushing buttons...), but my mom made me say I wanted to be a teacher instead. I didn't win a title in either pageant.

5) I rarely travelled outside of Wisconsin until I went to college. Since then I have travelled to England, Germany, the Dominican Republic, Canada, South Korea and China (in addition to various states in the U.S.). Most of the this travel has been for work. Here's a photo of me sledding down from the Great Wall of China.


7) I have been leading worship in various contexts since I was in high school.

8) I co-directed a children's Christmas pageant, Candy Cane Lane, while in college. At the time I couldn't understand my co-director's insistence on honoring the copyright by not making our own copies of the practice tape. Now that I am the subsidiary rights manager for InterVarsity Press, I am glad she convinced me to do the right thing.

Okay, so I'm supposed to tag eight more people, but I don't really know 8 other bloggers well enough to tag them. I read a lot of blogs, but tend to lurk more often than not. I'm a little shy that way. The three or so people who actually read my blog will just have to be happy with learning a little more useless information about me I guess.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

For Mother's Day this year Josiah made me a card and a ceramic photo ornament at preschool. Inside the card was a drawing of me and the following fill-in-the-blank piece:
My mom is the most wonderful mom in the world!

Her name is Ellen. She's pretty as a rainbow. She is 22 years old. She has blue eyes and blond hair. She weighs 22 pounds and is 20' 22'' tall. Her favorite food is coffee. I think Mom is funny when she is fancy. But I know she she's really angry when I play with my food. I wouldn't trade my mom from "Star Wars". I love me mom because she's beautiful!
I love being a mom! Who else but a five-year old would describe someone as "pretty as a rainbow"? How sweet.

One of the things I asked for as a Mother's Day treat was to sleep in. As in, "Please do not come into my room and jump on me at 6:30 a.m.!" They honored my request. Al got up with Elijah at 6:00 a.m. and Josiah quietly popped in sometime during the morning to leave a "Happy Mother's Day" sign on my bed stand, but other than that I was able to sleep as late as I wanted. The funny thing is that I actually missed having everyone pile into our bed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tooth Torture

I noticed a spot on Josiah's teeth a few weeks ago and set up dentist appointment. Even though Josiah brushes his teeth two or three times a day and eats a limited amount of sweets, he has already had five cavities filled and I was worried this was yet another one. It turns out one of his previous fillings didn't work and the tooth had become infected. So, we were referred to a pediatric dentist who could "fix" his tooth.

Josiah was in a great mood the day of his appointment. He got in the car before I even asked him to and was all smiles and good humor. He was delighted with the Superman pillow they gave him for his feet and was very cooperative while the dentist examined his teeth.

Things took a turn for the worse once the dentist decided she needed to pull the tooth. Do you watch Alias? This morning I had a flashback of watching the tooth extraction and it occurred to me that it was very similar to some of the torture scenes in Alias. The main difference was that instead of holding him down and yelling, "Tell us who you work for!" I was holding Josiah down and saying, "You're okay. You're doing a great job!" For his part, Josiah was writhing in agony and screaming. It was horrible. Like I said, I'm having flashbacks.

Josiah is feeling much better now. I bought him $30 worth of soft foods (applesauce, yogurt, ice cream, Popsicles, etc) and he spent the day watching videos and playing games. The next day he showed his missing tooth to all of his preschool friends and their parents, proudly declaring, "I lost my tooth! The dentist had to take it out. It had a cavity." The small Lego set the "tooth fairy" left under his pillow may have helped cheer him up.

Meanwhile, I am still in mourning for his tooth. This is one of my favorite photos of Josiah (taken before the tooth was pulled). Doesn't he have a handsome smile? It will be another five or six years before his adult tooth comes in (which means we have to go back to the dentist two more times to have a space maintainer fitted and installed). That's okay though. He's starting to lose some of his baby teeth naturally, so he'll be gap-toothed for awhile anyway. And it isn't his teeth that make his smile so wonderful, it's his personality and exuberance.