Monday, November 29, 2010

Save fish. Live better.

I've mentioned before that David is currently obsessed with fish. When David hones in on a new obsession, he goes all out. Fifty-five gallon tank, fish, lobsters, sea snake-ish thingys, fish tank toys . . . the whole nine yards.

Sadly, fish tend to die rather easily, so it's pretty common for the kids to come upstairs with a morning report of who died during the night.

Which is why David buys most of his fish at Walmart. They have a 90-day return policy. That's right. You can return your dead fish.

Last week I was heading to Walmart, which I may have mentioned one or two hundred times is an hour away. To save himself a trip, David asked me to return some fish for him. In case you're wondering where one keeps dead fish, the answer of course is the freezer. At any given time, my freezer contains ice cream, cheese sticks, hamburger meat, a year-old dead grouse (don't ask), and several dead fish. Please come for dinner anytime.

So, David asked me to take his fish back, and I, being the ridiculously great wife I am, agreed. Except that I, being the ridiculously forgetful person I am, sort of forgot.

It's not that I wasn't looking forward to handing the friendly 90-year old greeter man at Walmart four baggies containing dead fish; I was. I just forgot.

Which is why when I discovered them in my van a few days later, I was, for once, very glad that it's been 25 degrees outside.

So, if you see a crazy looking woman carrying ziploc bags of dead fish, and possibly a grouse, into Walmart, please don't identify me when you submit the picture to People of Walmart.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A party for a princess

We had Lauren's birthday party today, so our dining room looked like a pink-and-purple princess bomb had exploded. Which means it looked perfect for a five year-old girl's birthday party. (Wow. Even typing that was difficult. How can Lauren be turning five?)

The party consisted of plenty of laughter, makeup applying, nail painting, jewelry making, cake-eating, and dancing. Lots of dancing.

He couldn't stand to be left out of the fun:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My flickering torch

One of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day of dealing with bickering children is to sit at the piano and play hymns. As I was playing this evening, I turned in my songbook to one of my favorites (I say that about them all, don't I?): "O' Love That Will Not Let Me Go"

(If you aren't familiar with this hymn, the link above is to a version set to a modern tune with vocals by Sandra McCracken, whom I love.)

As with most lasting hymns, there is story behind this one. It was written in 1882 by George Matheson on the eve of his sister's wedding. Apparently, Matheson had gone blind quite a few years prior, and his fiance had left him upon learning that his sight could not be restored. She told him she couldn't bear to go through life with a blind man, and so it was that his sister became his caregiver for most of his life. On the night before her wedding, the rest of his family was gone overnight, and he was left alone, during which time he reported that he was "overcome with some kind of mental anguish" and that this song was "the fruit of that suffering."

The second verse is what struck me tonight:

"O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee. My heart restores its borrowed ray, that in Thy sunshine's blaze its day my brighter, fairer be."

Though it may seem logical that the blind man who wrote this would refer to his own vision as a "flickering torch," it is equally true of mine.

So often I wish God would just give me what I think I want. Let me go where I think I want to go. Do what I think I want to do. I trust wholeheartedly this vision of mine, and despite how often it has led me astray in the past, I cling mightily to it.

How freeing it is to know that there is a Light who follows all my ways and sees the end from the beginning. The path may seem dark and scary sometimes, and I may be left with only shadowy images of what lies along the trail, but I walk with the Light. My own sight may be but a flickering torch, but He is all I need to see.

(The next verse is actually my favorite: "O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.")

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A tutorial

Dear husband,

This is a ladle:

This is a strainer:

When serving SOUP to one's children, the former is the better option.

However, I am thankful that I got to go play bunco while you served the children, so there will be no further remarks about your choice of kitchen utensils.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some Quick Takes


I can't promise there will be seven.


I put my outside Christmas lights up a few days ago. I realize it's not even Thanksgiving yet, so relax; they're not lit up. But, if I've learned anything in my year and a half as a Northerner, it's this: don't turn on your windshield wipers to clear snow until AFTER you close the driver's door.

But of more relevance to this topic: putting up Christmas lights when it's 52 degrees is soooo much better than putting up Christmas lights when it's 22 degrees.

Also, I love staple guns. Another lesson I learned last year: don't put the staples through the wires. Especially not both sides of the staple. David seemed to think that was a big deal.

I must say Pennsylvania has been very educational so far.


Josh is doing cub scouts for the first time this year. I encouraged him to do it because it seemed right up his alley. Hey loves all things boy-ish and outdoorsy. (I can't believe "outdoorsy" doesn't have a squiggly red line under it . . . way to go spellcheck!) So with visions of camping and starting fires without a match and shooting things with a bow-and-arrow and tying cool knots, we signed up for scouting.

So far, it's been mostly work on the part of David and me. Selling popcorn. (me and Josh) Making a rocket for the rocket race. (David) And tonight's endeavor: making a peanut butter-chocolate Christmas tree. (mostly me)

I think I should get a merit badge.


Shadow-the-dog has improves so much lately that he's been allowed to have free reign of the downstairs when we're not home. It's been two weeks now that we've been leaving him loose during the day while we're at work, and so far it's going quite well.

Two curtains torn down in two weeks is not bad, right?


David is obsessed with fish. We added an aquarium to our living room a few months ago, and I think he adds new fish to it every week. (This does not lead to as many fish as one would think when one factors in the purchase-to-death ratio. It seems fish like to eat one another.)

I've always been intrigued by David's ability to enjoy watching a model train travel around a pretend track, and now I'm equally intrigued by his ability to watch little fish swim around a 55-gallon tank.

They're fish. They're swimming. Oh, look . . . now they're swimming the other way.


We are planning to see the movie Unstoppable this weekend. It was filmed in the town next to ours last year, and if you'll recall, I barely missed becoming a Hollywood star. Missed it by thatmuch. I'll try not to be bitter as I look at all the extras who could have been me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just wishing

Every week during our Wednesday night church service, the pastor (who is also David's uncle) calls the children to the front of the sanctuary. He gives them each a piece of candy for coming to church (he knows the way to my kids' heart!) and then asks them Bible trivia questions. If they are the first to answer correctly they get more candy or sometimes a dollar.

The pastor will call on the person who had his/her hand up first, but because has has the heart of teddy bear, he always asks, "Who else knew that?" He gives an extra piece of candy to those who say they knew.

Lauren, who is not an idiot, has figured this out and raises her hand instantly after the question is answered and says, "I knew that!" She gets a lot of candy.

Joshua has been the one to answer correctly once or twice, but more often he, too, gets the "I knew it, too" reward. These usually go to the kids who, like Josh and Lauren, get their hands up within a second or two of the first person. Not only that, but when the pastor asks who else knew, they have to get it up again pretty quickly. Josh and Lauren are good at that.

Ethan, on the other hand, has never gotten a second piece of candy. Ever.

He is extremely intelligent. In fact, I suspect he may be the most smartest of all my children . . . don't tell the others I said so.

But he is not fast. He never has been. He takes a long time to process information, and I often have to remind myself to be patient while he processes my question or my instruction. He takes forever to tell a story because he speaks slowly. He is the last to finish his cake at every birthday party, including all of his own. He takes longer to put on his socks than Josh takes to get dressed, use the bathroom, and brush his teeth.

He is smart; he is just not quick.

So tonight he came back to our pew frustrated and struggling not to cry. He said, "Mom, I never get a second piece, and Lauren got four!" "I know," I whispered, "You just have to get your hand up faster." "I try, but there's always a ton of people with their hands up first," he lamented.

I wish there was something I could tell him that would make it better, but it is just a fact of his life that he is not fast. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and there will always be things at which we don't excel or even succeed. I also know that one day he will struggle and fight for things of much greater significance than a Hershey's miniature.

Today it's just a piece of candy, but I hate it for him.

I realize it's not a big deal, but I want to fix it. I want to hold practice drills after school to train him to get his hand up faster. I want to tell the pastor to change the way he does the questions so that the kids who aren't so fast will have a chance. I want to go up with him and jerk his hand into the air so fast the other kids won't even see it happen. I want all the other kids to come down with a sudden inexplicable illness that causes them not to be able to lift their hands.

Okay, maybe not that last one, but what I really want is just to make the whole world look out for and accommodate this precious little person so that he never feels bad about himself. Ever.

I know it won't happen, but what kind of momma would I be if I didn't wish?

Friday, November 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday


Lauren has been going through a clingy phase recently, not wanting me to go to work. She'll beg and plead and barter for me to stay home and does not believe me when I say I have to go.

Lauren: Who says you have to go to work? Did Ms. J say you have to?
Me: No, she's our secretary. She works for me and daddy. She doesn't say I have to work.
L: Does daddy say you have to?
Me: Well, he is in charge at work, but no, I just have to because there are things I have to get done today. I have to make some phone calls and read things and write some things.
L: So, you can just say you DON'T have to work today.

The other night while I was giving her a bath, I told her that I was working the next day. (I only work three days a week, by the way.) She started again with the "who says?" so I explained that I had to go to court.

Me: I have to go to court. The judge said I have to be there.
Lauren (in a lightbulb-going-off voice): Ooooohh, so the JUDGE says when you have to work!
Me: Yes . . . sometimes.

She's still not convinced I had to go to work the day before because the judge didn't say so. That's her new question now whenever I go to work: "Mommy, did the judge say you have to?"


The kids got school pictures back this week. Pardon the dirt on my scanner.

Joshua, 2nd grade:

Ethan, 1st grade:

Lauren, pre-school:


I had to go to Olean again today, because, well, apparently that's what I do on Fridays. Drive an hour to the dry cleaner and Walmart. And to pick up the glass for our table. Again.

Since the glass is quite big, I had to take all of the seats out of the van except the two front seats. So, now we have just gone all-out redneck and have all the van seats on the porch. Since I can't unload the glass by myself, that's where the seats remain for now.

So if you drive by my house right now, you will see my kids sitting in the van seats on the porch eating pretzels. A sofa on the lawn and we're all set.


I was listening to one of my favorite hymns during the drive - "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken." I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it on here before, but it's worth repeating. One line in particular spoke to me today:

"Soul, then know thy full salvation. Rise o'er sin and fear and care;
Joy to find in every station, something still to do or bear."

All of us understand "doing." We ask God what He wants us to do. We keep busy with what we're currently doing and look to the next thing we have to do. We find our worth in what we do. We feel less significant, less worthy, if we're not doing.

But, sometimes we're not asked to do. We're asked to bear.

Sometimes all we can do is bear.


I've been meaning for quite some time to write a post about music. About the different types of music used in worship and why I find some types more conducive to my own worship than others.

I grew up in a non-denominational charismatic church singing mostly praise choruses. I attended a Baptist church for a few years in upper elementary/junior high school, so of course, that involved only hymns. (In fact, to the best of my recollection, it involved only about a dozen hymns!) In high school and college I was back in a non-denominational church where we sang "contemporary worship songs." These are similar to the choruses of the 80's but usually longer and with more depth. Many, as most newer worship songs do, contained verses and a chorus, rather than just a chorus repeated over and over. and over. and over.

For the last few years of our time in Georgia, we attended a Presbyterian PCA) church where the music was almost exclusively hymns, but they were different hymns from the ones I'd sung in the Baptist church all those years before. They were deep and insightful hymns, rich with meaning. Not only that, but many had been set to newer music to make them more "singable" than the tunes that accompanied them 200, 50, or even 15 years ago.

So, here we are today back in a charismatic church that calls itself non-denominational but is quite heavily Pentacostal. We sing mostly the choruses of the 1960's - 1980's. A few more recent songs, if by recent you mean within the past decade. (And ALL of them are song in a southern-gospel style. How did I manage to move 1,000 miles north and end up in a southern-gospel-singing church?!)

All this is to say, I've spent a lot of time thinking about worship music. I LOVE worship music. I love the old, old hymns; I love the modern worship songs. I listen to worship music when I drive, when I clean, when I work. When I play the piano, I play mostly for worship. I love it. It speaks to my soul.

What I do not love are 12 word choruses. I'm sorry, I just don't.

I've heard them called 7-11 songs, because they have seven words, and you sing them eleven times. I think that's a pretty accurate description.

Here's my issue with them, other than the fact that they are dated and southern-gospel: they don't give your mind anything to focus on.

I find that when I sing the same 10 words over and over, my mind begins to wander. Sure, sometimes I'll feel my spirit moved and be truly, deeply, focused on Christ. But not usually.

The eastern religions use chanting as a way to empty the mind. Repeating the same thing over and over and over empties the mind; it doesn't fill it. Some may say that emptying the mind is good in worship, because then the Holy Spirit can speak to a person more clearly. That may be true, but in my experience, that's not what usually happens. I'm focused on the Holy Spirit for the first two, three, maybe even four repetitions, but at some point, my mind begins to think about how I'm standing, how my shoes feel, whether the kids are behaving, what the singers are wearing, what we're having for lunch, etc.

That is not the case when I sing hymns that are full of thoughtful, intellectual lyrics. God gave us minds to understand the truth of the Gospel, and I find that I can worship Him more fully when my mind has things to grab onto. Like this:

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition! God and heav’n are still mine own.

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue.
And while Thou doest smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, storm and rain!
In Thy service pain is pleasure; with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, “Abba, Father”; I have stayed my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, all must work for good to me.

Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me; heav’n will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation; rise o’er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee; what a Father’s smile is thine;
Think that Jesus died to win thee, child of heav’n, canst thou repine?

Hasten on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heav’n’s eternal days before thee, God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise

Considering how long #5 was, I'll mercifully end now. :)

Head over to Conversion Diary for more!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Like a nocturnal Houdini

Some people play musical chairs. My children play musical beds. Especially Lauren.

She had gotten into a bad habit recently of coming into our room during the night. I perpetuated this bad habit by being too tired to take her back to bed, so I would just give in and let her stay.

Eventually, I grew weary of this arrangement what with all the extra elbows and knees and three inches of bed she would leave for me to slumber in, so I began saying no. When she came in during the night and asked to get in our bed, I would drag myself up and take her back to her own bed.

Seemingly, this would lead to her staying in bed, right?

Not quite.

Apparently, being told "no" did not cause her to stop coming; it just caused her to stop asking. I would awaken at some point during the wee hours of the morning, and there she would be pressed up against me like a magnet. She somehow perfected the quiet, stealth-like climb right over my sleeping body into the middle of our bed. After a few mornings of this, David and I asked each other, "Did you say she could get in here?" Nope, she just sneaked in.

Of course, I told her she needed to stop doing this. No climbing in our bed without permission.

That worked. No more Lauren in the bed come morning. Great, I thought, she's finally sleeping in her own bed all night again.


At 4:00 this morning, Ethan came in my room. "Mom, who put Lauren in my bed?"