Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Year of Lilacs

I got married on May 27, 1995. During all the many preparations, I went to a florist, of course. The florist's name was John Turner-Grey, and that boded well for me because it sounds British and you know I'm all about that. I told him that the wedding was supposed to have sort of a 1920s English garden party feel, in a non-themey sort of way. He was greatly interested (he was a true artist), and we talked about altar flowers and bridesmaid bouquets and boutonnieres until finally he said, "And what about your flowers?" I said, "Well, I just want something small. Maybe a bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley?" "Hmmmm. Pricey, pricey," he answered. (OK, I just picked two big bouquets of them in my yard yesterday, so someday someone will need to explain floral prices to me.) Then he said, "What is your very favorite flower?" "Lilacs," I said without hesitation. "But I'm sure they won't be available this late in May." "You just leave your bouquet to me," he answered.

On the morning of the wedding, I went to the church to get ready. John Turner-Grey was there to meet me. He was very excited. "You've got to see your bouquet," he said. "It's the most beautiful thing I've ever done. I went to the library and researched bouquets from the 1920s and made one for you. It's out in my truck!" Well, I couldn't wait to see it. I opened up the front door of the truck, and there on the front seat were all the bridesmaids' bouquets and mine put together. At least...that's what I thought. "There it is!" he said triumphantly. There it is? Yes. The biggest, hugest, most ginormous bouquet of lilacs you have ever seen was on the front seat. My heart sank. What happened to "I just want a little bouquet"? I couldn't hurt his feelings though; he was so happy and proud. So, I thought, "I'm gonna go for it!" I carried the bouquet. It was indeed gorgeous. And I think it sealed forever in time the fact that my trademark flower is the lilac.

May 27, 1995, was a great day. It was the start of Darren's and my new life together. I look at that picture and think, "Look at those two babies! They have no idea!" and it's true. We have weathered much together since that beautiful spring day thirteen years ago. We have built our home, our faith, our careers, our family together. We have gone through heartache together. We have roadtripped together. We have bought cars together, oh, so many cars together. And three houses too. We have watched countless movies, eaten countless meals, laughed and cried and been bored together. We have fought and fought well together. :-) We have stood by gravesides together and welcomed our two daughters into the world together. Eight long years of praying and pleading with the Lord brought us this:

We of course had to celebrate her first birthday by having her picture taken in the lilacs. (Oh, and don't worry about Elaine. Her lilac time is coming eventually!)

Sometimes I like to look up those anniversary charts and see what gift year it is. No matter what though, I'd usually prefer travel for my gift. I've tried to convince Darren that year 4 is really Hawaiian vacations or I'm prepping him that year 15 is trips to Tuscany. I looked it up this morning and found that year 13 is lace. Unless we're going to Belgium for lace, I'm not that interested.

However, a couple weeks ago for Mother's Day, I come home from shopping for the day and there was my dear husband and two girls waiting for me with these:

I had asked for two lilac bushes, one for each of the girls, but because Darren always goes above and beyond, he bought a third one. He planted them along the fence where I can see them whenever I look out our kitchen window. I'm looking forward to watching them bloom and grow each year. I like to think of one of them for each of the girls and one of them in honor of that lilac bush I carried on our wedding day. Little did I know how that would take root and grow in my life.

Happy 13th anniversary, Babe. I thank God for you. I love you. Thank you for the lilacs!

Oh, and if anyone's wondering why I'm writing my May 27 anniversary post on May 23, it's because....drum roll please....we really ARE going on vacation! Just the two of us. For the first time since 2002. Not Hawaii or Tuscany, but Door County is good enough for me. We have a lot of good memories there together. So, I'll be closing my laptop and leaving it home until my return next Friday. Don't worry (I'm sure you were)--I'll have tons of things to write about when I get back, not the least of which is that Lucy's flower fairy birthday party is the morning after we come home. I like to mix it up like that. I spent the bulk of last evening dissecting silk flowers and twisting pipe cleaners and using my hot glue gun in order to make little flower fairies. There'll be pictures of course, and we're due for a remodelling project update as well. See you then!

Edited to add: I definitely need a break from blogging. The other day, I was sitting at my laptop, wearing a pair of shorts. Elaine accidentally wrote on my leg with marker, then Lucy joined in on purpose, and in a moment of insanity, I let them draw freely on my thigh. They had a great time. I then had some sort of brainwave for a blog post about it and was going to take a picture of it until I realized...hello. I almost took a picture of my thigh and posted it on the Internet. This.must.stop.

A Prayer Request

This has been breaking my heart today. Please pray for this family today and in the days to come.

She doesn't always quite get it right...

Lucy graduated from pre-school yesterday. All the parents were invited to come a little early and watch. Mrs. Hogan read everyone one last story about a teacher with a garden (that is the theme of her room), and then each child got a certificate of completion. She teared up a little and said that she's not supposed to say this, but this year's class was one of her favorites ever. I'm choosing to believe that. She is a phenomenal teacher. The children just love her, and the amount of work she puts in is staggering. Each child brought home a memory book that she had put together for them, filled with photos of their pre-school year. They also brought home their journals they had written in throughout the year, which were a lot of fun to read--Darren and I went through Lucy's last night. Each child got a progress report too. I was happy to read about Lucy that though she had come into the class strong academically, she had dramatically improved in her social skills--especially listening and sharing. That was pretty much the whole reason we put her in pre-school anyway, so that was good to hear. She left her Pre-K4 year learning and growing so much, plus making some wonderful new friends. Here's my girl:

Around about last January, Lucy was sitting at the kitchen island, coloring and told me that she planned to stay in Mrs. Hogan's class forever. I told her that there was a lot of the year left to enjoy, but that next year she was going to kindergarten where she would have a new teacher. Mrs. Hogan would always be her friend, and she would love her new teacher just as much as she loves Mrs. Hogan. (Yeah, that was a little parental fiction on my part since I heartily disliked some of my teachers, but, as my friend Dianne says, let's just give them a happy childhood.) Lucy answered, "Well, if I can't have Mrs. Hogan for kindergarten, then I want Mrs. Blubbers."

"WHO?!" I asked.

"Mrs. Blubbers," she answered, continuing her coloring.

"Lucy, there is no way in the world someone is named 'Mrs. Blubbers.' If in fact that was their name, they would change it."

But she was adamant. She talked for weeks about Mrs. Blubbers, how nice and pretty she is and that's who she wants for kindergarten. Finally I asked my friend Sarah who has a daughter in kindergarten already. I said, "Don't laugh at me. Is there a kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Blubbers?" She laughed at me. "No! Isabella has Mrs. Anderson. But I'll ask around just in case." Then she laughed some more.

Finally I got smart and picked up the school directory, scanning all the kindergarten teachers' names. And no, there isn't a Mrs. Blubbers. There is, however, a Mrs. Blevens. Next time Lucy was extolling the praises of Mrs. Blubbers I said, "I think her name is Mrs. Blevens." "Ohhhhhhh," she said. (She sounded a little disappointed.) But through the rest of the year she has persisted that that is who she wants for her teacher. I told her that I was praying for her, that God would give her the best teacher for her and she would love and be happy with whomever she gets. "Mrs. Blevens," she said.

Somehow, all this has reached the ears of Mrs. Blevens. Yesterday on the way out of school, we passed some of the kindergarten teachers, and we heard a voice say, "Good-bye, Lucy!" (It was her heroine.) "I'll see you next year, OK?" and then she caught my eye and winked at me. We don't find out until August, but I'll keep you all posted. (I'm guessing if she does, they may be working on distinguishing "b" from "v"...)

Later on in the evening, I went upstairs to get the girls ready for bed. I found an empty TicTac box on Elaine's bed (remember "TicTac Time"? That's their cue to get in their beds--then they each get two TicTacs). This had been a brand new box; now it was empty. I guess I'm going to have to find a better hiding place for them.

"Elaine Frances, did you eat a whole box of TicTacs?" I asked. "Yes." "Eee-LAINE!" Lucy shouted righteously, as soon as she saw it. "Do you know what eating a whole box of TicTacs is like?" I asked. Lucy cut in. "It's like eating a whole bowl of soup, Elaine!"

Yes, it is. If the sole ingredient of your soup is CANDY.

This morning Lucy wanted to watch The Waltons before she goes to swimming. She needed Rabbie, but he was in the room where Darren was on a conference call so she was not allowed in. She started to cry (yeah, still working on the self-control thing). "I need Rabbie, Mama. I just can't cooperate without him!" she sobbed.

She's so funny, this little almost-5-year-old. So grown up in some ways, and still my baby in others. I have loved year 4 and all the joy she's brought to us.

Now. What am I going to do with these two home all summer?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sample Mealtime Prayers

Lucy (aka Miss Picky)

"Dear Jesus, thank you for this lovely food. I pray that we would have a good night. Thank you that I like peas. Amen."

Elaine (aka Miss I-Have-My-Priorities-In-Place)

"Dear Jesus, thank you for my food. Thank you for my yogurt. Thank you for my butter. Thank you for my mama. Amen."

A Recent Quote Collection

The setup: Lucy is turning 5 soon (I know, I have no idea how that happened either). We've always had a family party for her, but I explained that certain birthdays are special and when you get to a special birthday, you get a party with your friends, too. Five is one of the special ones (oh, and also because she actually has some friends now).

Lucy: What about when I'm 17?

Me: No, 17 is not that big of a deal (I love to mess with their heads). Maybe when you're 21 you can have another party.

Lucy: When I'm 21, how old will you be, Mom? Will you be 90? (Yeah, I can see I'll never be able to win with this girl.)

The setup: The girls were opening up the art drawer and digging around in it.

Me: Be careful. One of you is going to slam that drawer while the other one's fingers are still in it, and then everybody is going to cry.

Lucy: (in a perfect parody of me) Wow, Mom. I think "cry" is kind of a harsh word there.

The setup: The girls are taking their bath. They like to bring all their Little People in the tub along with some plastic bowls and make swimming pools for their "children." They're at a stage where I can walk around upstairs and fold laundry or whatever while they're bathing. I usually have to intervene only 7 or 8 times.

Elaine screams.

Me: What is going on in here?

Elaine: Lucy bite me!

Me: Did you bite your sister, Lucy?

Lucy: Wellllll, no. My teeth just came on to her skin.


I relayed this story to Darren later, and he said, "What, is she Bill Clinton now?"

In other news, Lucy has a loose tooth and today is the last day of school. I can't even believe it. Everything is going way too quickly for me. Change is just not really my thing. Pretty soon teeth will be flying out, left and right, and she'll be preparing to take the GRE. But I guess I'll be 90 by then, so maybe I won't even care.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Best Sister

Have I mentioned that my girls fight? If not, girls fight. It's not out of control though, and I would be kind of worried if they didn't, actually. Since I don't have a sister, I am really interested in the sister dynamic (hey, if anyone has a good book on sisters, please recommend it!)

The truth is, they're crazy about each other, and they drive each other crazy too. Whenever Lucy goes anywhere Elaine doesn't, she makes sure she brings something home for her. Each Monday when I pick Elaine up from daycare, her teacher tells me, "She's been talking about Lucy all day." And every time I pick her up from anywhere Lucy is not: school, church nursery, whatever, the first thing she says to me is, "Wanna go see Lucy."

Then when they're together they fuss and push and infringe on each other's space and usually both end up in tears. Last night I dropped something off for Darren (he was at our church's pastors' conference) and left the girls in the car for a minute or so (it's safe there, I promise. Some of our friends were out there too. It's not like I left them in the grocery store parking lot!) When I came back, they were both bawling.

"What is up with you two?" I asked. Lucy sobbed, "I told Elaine that it was my turn for Mama Time especially because I haven't seen you all day, and she said, 'No, no, NO, it's MY Mama Time." (I can just hear her saying this too. Or rather, roaring it. Because I hear it several times a day. Oh, and Mama Time is their special individual time to sit on my lap in the rocking chair.)

Then when they got home they fought over the fact that I said they could not have goldfish crackers because they just had dinner--Lucy accepted this; Elaine did not--and that it was Lucy's turn to pick what CD they were going to listen to and Elaine's turn to pick what book we would read. Finally, I made all those decisions. Then, as I do almost every time they fight, I ask them to apologize to each other, give each other a hug, and tell each other "Best sister" (which sounds sort of Japanese now that I think about, like "most honorable sister" or something). Sometimes they say it grudgingly, but they do always say it.

Something happens after I tuck them in bed and close the door, though. All fighting ceases, and they are united in mischief. I give them the same lecture every night. "Lie down in bed, and no getting up. You may whisper quietly. That is all." "OK, Mom!" "Yes, Mama!" Then I go downstairs, and the fun begins. I hear feet pattering around, I hear giggling turn to uproarious laughter, I hear singing and loud talking.

Now I know that, yes, technically, they are not obeying. But, in the words of my mom, sometimes you just pretend you don't know. They're not being destructive, and they're not coming downstairs and bothering me, so it's all good in my book. Plus...they're having some sister time. And really, that's the way it should be.

The other night (after a bedtime filled with much glee) I went in and checked on them around 10:00 p.m. They each have their own beds, but this is what I found...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Two Organizations

This weekend was family weekend at our church. This past year, Lucy has been involved on Wednesday nights in Kids4Truth (or as she calls it, "Kids Club"). It has been such a great experience for her--the kids have been learning doctrine, Bible verses, hymns (and having a lot of fun too!) On Saturday, there was a Kids4Truth training during the day, and then in the evening there was a pizza party for the kids since they had met all their goals for the year. The extra fun part was that Bob Roberts, the founder of Kids4Truth, was going to be there too. I thought he was going to be an older, sort of serious gentleman (because K4T is a pretty in-depth program), so I was surprised to find that he is 35 years old. And hilarious. He describes himself as a "buglight for kids." The kids loved him. He had them learning the Ten Commandments and playing a game called "Sorry, Pig." Some of us parents sitting in the back row were laughing so hard we had to wipe the tears away. He spoke to the adults in Sunday a.m. Sunday School and preached both sermons during the day yesterday too. It is really encouraging especially as a parent to find other people who are on-board in helping us teach our children "the doctrines of our holy faith" as the child dedication service says. If your church is looking for a great kids' program, I highly recommend that one. If your church already has one in place, you should still check out their website because they have wonderful family resources that you can use at home.

Another organization I just heard about for the first time on Friday is Charasia. I was listening to Prime Time America on Moody radio on the way home from work, and the founder, Ralph Borde was speaking. He is an Indian gentleman who was educated in the U.S. and became an engineer for Motorola in Schaumburg, IL. Ralph's uncle still lived in India, and he had started a small Bible institute and a children's home there as well. When he died, Ralph left his job at Motorola, went back to India, and devoted his life to those ministries, which have become Charasia. There are now a larger Bible institute, a youth camp, and at least two orphanages: Grace Children's Home and Faith Children's Home.

Anyone who knows Darren and me knows our two girls are our heart. When I was pregnant with Lucy, I told Darren, "I know this baby is a girl." He said, "That's great. Next time, can you know that it's a boy?" Then when she was about four days old, he was holding her and with tears in his eyes said, "You can always have girls." We also both have always had a heart for international adoption. That is a dream of ours that we hope will one day come true. Right now is not the right time for us, but we're hoping for some day.

Listening to Mr. Borde talk about Charasia's ministry in India really spoke to me. Most places in the world do not place a high value on girls. When I was in grad school, my favorite professor was an Indian woman. One day she came to class but stopped mid-lecture and apologized to us. "I just cannot focus today," she said. "Right before class, my mother called me from India. My cousin, who was pregnant, found out she was having a girl. Her husband requested that she get an abortion. She did, and she died from it."

A colleague of Darren's who was visiting/working here from India for several months visited us last summer. He and his wife have a baby girl and are thrilled, but he said many families there are not. So much so that the government has outlawed sonograms--now you cannot find out the gender of your baby before birth.

This is not just India--this is Africa, China, many, many places in the world. I read an photographic essay several years ago in Marie-Claire magazine. It was taken in a Chinese city. Someone had left a baby girl in the street, and she had died. The photo-essay showed how many hours passed as people walked, rode their bicycles, and drove their cars past that little body without doing anything. Finally someone came along and put her in a trashcan.

I don't know about you, but when I hear things like that, I've got to do something. Charasia has two homes so far for little girls who have been taken out of prostitution--either that, or their mothers who already are prostitutes have placed them their in order to save them from that life. In Asia, little girls as young as 6 are used as prostitutes. (In Africa, even toddlers and sometimes infants are used.) Praise God, there are people and organizations like Charasia who are doing something about it.

The interviewer on PrimeTime America said to Mr. Borde, "The first thing people are going to want to know when they hear you is, 'How can I help?'" He said that the number one help they need is prayer. I encourage everyone to visit their site. They have a wonderful monthly prayer calendar, which has one little girl by name for each day and her specific needs. I'm going to print out that calendar, and Lucy and Elaine and I will be praying for a little girl each night. Of course there are also ways to financially support them--Darren and I are going to be praying about how we can do that. Then, here's something really cool called GoodSearch. You can use this search engine instead of Yahoo or Google, and 50% of the proceeds will go to the charity of your choice--Charasia is one of the choices.

I think every parent spends a good portion of their time thinking about, hoping for, and dreaming dreams for their children. As I said, I'm so thankful for organizations like Kids4Truth that are helping me teach my little girls. But I also want, and I want my daughters to have, a bigger vision for the world. I once heard someone said that the newspaper is "God's global prayer list." I think God gives each of us a burden or a mission--mine is for little girls--that instead of being swept into the gutter like so much garbage, they will know love, and light, and Jesus--that they will be rescued out of darkness and brought into His glorious light.

James 1: 27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Oh, and one more thing. Ralph Borde? Is a Moody grad student. Did you need another reason to support him?! :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Good-bye, National Children's Book Week

Sadly enough, National Children's Book Week is coming to an end. I'll highlight a few more of our favorites here. Also, disclaimer: even if you don't have kids? You should read all the books I've posted about this week. C.S. Lewis said that's the mark of a great children's book--that you like it just as much as an adult. I'm convinced the world would be a much better, happier place if everyone would read the Betsy-Tacy series (can I get an amen, Melanie?). I'm not claiming peace in the Middle East or anything, but people might be just a little more laid back and enjoy their lives. OK, I've dealt with that.

Now, here's a series you absolutely must check out--Sydney Taylor and her lovely semi-fictionalized memoirs of her childhood, the "All-of-a-Kind Family" books. The books take place during turn-of-the-century (the 19th to 20th century that is) lower East side in New York. They tell of a close-knit Orthodox Jewish family with five daughters. Each chapter is a little drama in itself--a lost library book, how Mama makes dusting the front room fun, planning a surprise birthday gift for Papa, how one of the sisters refuses to eat her rice soup at lunch (that's Lucy's favorite chapter), etc.--but throughout Taylor weaves Jewish tradition and religious rituals. Pretty much everything I know about Judaism I learned from these books. This is what motivated our family to start having a Seder every year. You learn about food and customs and traditions, but it's all so skillfully done that you don't even know you're learning. The first book covers Yom Kippur, Sabbath, Succos, and Purim (my favorite chapter!). Also, there are two majorly good happy cry moments near the end.

There are several other books in the series, including "All-of-a-Kind-Family Downtown," "All-of-a-Kind-Family Uptown," "Ella of All-of-a-Kind-Family," and "More-All-of-a-Kind Family." I especially love "More" because a Jewish wedding ceremony is celebrated (oh, there are some good happy cry moments in this one too). The books give a lot of good history of urban life in the U.S. at that time as well. Did you know that at that time when polio was so rampant that parents tied little bags of camphor around their children's necks in order to ward off disease-carrying flies? Yeah, me neither, until I read these books! The audiobooks are read by Suzanne Toren, who does a fantastic job. Lucy began listening to these when she was about 3 1/2. I thought they might be too old for her, but she really took to them. One day she was pretend grocery shopping around the house, and she told me, "I'm back from the store now. I picked up pizza, black olives, and hamen-taschen." Then not long after that we were at Target (in April), and the check-out lady said to her, "Bye-bye, honey," and Lucy replied, "Happy Hannukah!" I read these so many times in grade school I think I must have had one on permanent check-out from the library at any given time.

I can't let Book Week pass now without featuring something from Louisa May Alcott. I realized while being a literature major that people get snobby and sniffy about her. Not me. I applaud that she wrote in order to pay for carpet in the house and food for the table while her father whiled away his time being philosophical and not financially supporting his family. Her books are, as one of my co-workers says, "Literary chicken soup." A few years ago Darren and I went to Concord, MA, and visited the Alcott house. We had this grad student tour guide and a group of people who I don't even know why they were there because they didn't seem to know squat about Louisa or care. The guide was kind of droning on while we were in the living room, and I raised my hand and said, "Would it be OK if I threw myself down on the floor in front of the fireplace and said, 'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents?'" From that point on, he and I were the best of friends, and even though there was a No Touching rule in the house, he let me touch (with one finger) the desk where Louisa wrote. Where she wrote these books I adore so much, internets!! It was such a thrill.

Now of course everyone thinks immediately of "Little Women" or "Little Men" as soon as you say her name, but if you find a true Alcott fan, you'll hear them wax rhapsodic about "Rose in Bloom," "Eight Cousins," "Under the Lilacs," "Jack and Jill," and more. So without further ado, here is my hands-down favorite Alcott. There's something about Polly Milton and her adventures (and travails) within the wealthy Shaw family that keep bringing me back like no other. Alcott always gets preachy in her books, but I never resent her for it--she does it so warmly. Polly learns, among other things, to be true to herself, that money doesn't buy happiness or contentment, respect for the elderly, and the value of true friendship. That sounds so soppy written out, but somehow LMA can package it into a great book. And while I was never one of those people who was outraged that Jo didn't marry Laurie in LW, the ending to An Old-Fashioned Girl is one of the happiest, most satisfying ever. (In fact, I love the little blurb Louisa puts right in the text about how, due to reader outrage over one of her previous books, she nows plans to marry off everyone in sight.) The next time you're in the need of some literary chicken soup, grab this one.

I've had so much fun writing this week. I haven't even scratched the surface of our list of favorites. I didn't mention Laura Ingalls Wilder or L.M. Montgomery (which, quickly...hey, I know most people have read "Anne" but has anyone read "Emily"? Or "Pat"?) Another author I would have loved to highlight is E.L. Konigsburg. I guess there's always next year. I'm sorry our list leans so heavily toward girls' reading, but since I'm a girl and have two girls, that's the way it has to be. I know there are great boys' books out there--anything by Robert McCloskey (including "Homer Price," "Centerburg Tales," any of the "Henry Reed" books) is a sure thing, plus you get the added bonus of his drawings, which make me laugh out loud just to look at.

So, head off to the library, the bookstore, or amazon and pick up something for your child, yourself, or both. I'm sure you'll run into me at any of those three places if you do!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Noel Streatfeild

Noel Streatfeild's "Shoe" books deserve a post of their own. She wrote many, but the only ones currently in print are "Ballet Shoes," "Dancing Shoes," "Theatre Shoes," and just recently (I'm thrilled!) "Party Shoes." I can't even tell you how many times I've read these since I was a child. I credit these books with giving me my love of ballet, theater, and Shakespeare.

Besides writing credibly about the world of children's theater, Streatfeild knows children's personalities as well. These books got a well-deserved shout-out in Tom Hanks' and Meg Ryan's movie, "You've Got Mail." "Ballet Shoes" is about three adopted sisters (with extremely different personalities) who attend theatre and dancing school to become working children in order to earn money for their guardian. "Dancing Shoes" (my personal favorite) is two sisters who, after the death of their mother, are sent to live with their dreadful aunt (who runs a dancing school) and their poisonous show pony of a cousin who makes their lives miserable.

Simply put, they're classics, and if you haven't read them, you've been missing out. I will say that they're geared much more toward girls, but there is a wonderful boy main character, Mark, in "Theatre Shoes." He and his sisters are sent to live with relatives in London during the war because their naval officer father is missing and learn to become singers and actors there (they receive scholarships from the now grown protagonists who appeared in "Ballet Shoes.") However, Mark, though he has a wonderful voice and enjoys acting in plays, really does not have his heart in it. His former boarding school mates hear him singing on the radio and write him a letter likening his voice to "a cat being sick" and claim his awful yowling broke Matron's radio. He is heartened by their disdain and returns to his plans to become an admiral in the Navy.

The common thread in the books is a lack of parents (though the children are not without adult love and care or parental figures) so that they are forced to learn independence and resourcefulness. Another common theme throughout each is personal and financial responsibility.

Ballet/Dancing/Theatre Shoes are also available on audio cassette/CD (some might just be cassette) read by Elizabeth Sastra. They're fantastic! My girls are listening through "Theatre Shoes" at bedtime these last few nights. What I've written above (now that I'm reading over it) is not particularly inspiring or even that descriptive. I can't stress enough how much these books shaped me as a child and my love for the arts that I have to this day. They're wonderfully-told stories with stage life as their backdrop.

Independent of the Shoe books, I've got one more picture book today. This was a new one to me--Lucy brought it home from the school library recently, and we both just loved it. It's called "Click Clack Moo; Cows That Type," by Doreen Cronin. Oh my goodness. It's a hoot. But here is something even more hilarious. Something I love to do in my spare time is go on and read reviews. I look up a book I like and see what other people think. It's always more interesting to click on the 1-star reviews than the 5-star ones. "Click Clack Moo" had very few 1-star reviews, but here was one. It was almost funnier than the book itself: "I thought this would be a wonderful book to read to my children. I can't believe how wrong I was. First of all, Ms. Cronin seems to take her readers for fools, thinking that we'll just nod and look away as she spoon-feeds us... TALKING COWS. I kid you not. And these aren't just any talking cows. They have typing skills and even stage a strike. You can't even be gullible to buy this, you've got to be downright stupid, and even that's a stretch. I would most definitely not recommend this book to any parent, unless for some reason you want your children to grow up believing in talking cows and cow strikes that result in milk shortages and whatnot. Utterly terrible -- pun intended."

The outrage! Is this review a hoax? Is this person yanking my chain? If not, I better get all over that. Absolutely NO TALKING ANIMALS allowed in our books anymore, or my children will grow up to be stupid, gullible fools.

Personally, my life has been a lot richer because of anthropomorphism, but maybe that's just a weird little quirk I have.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Life Application

This afternoon, when I picked Lucy and her friend, Rachel, up from school, their teacher leaned in the car window and said, "Rachel accidentally scratched Lucy on the arm with a stick during playtime today. It's OK, a very small scratch, and Lucy knows Rachel didn't mean to hurt her."

Something we're working on daily with Lucy is self-control. She's a very dramatic little girl, which is a lot of fun when it's time to play and read and be creative and is not fun at all when something disappointing happens or when she stumbles and falls down on the sidewalk. There is something about injuries to her little person that set off some trigger inside her that cues the fire-engine wails. I've had her cry for an hour over a miniscule scrape, only to get hysterical all over again when it's time to take a bath in the evening and expose it to warm water. It' shall I say...not at all pleasant. So, we're working on not completely losing our cool and going shouty crackers over every little bump, bruise, or hangnail. I've actually had to teach her the meaning of the phrase, "Suck it up," and then directed her to do so. It was my last resort.

So, I could tell when the girls got in the car that even though she hadn't disintegrated as is her usual fashion, she still wasn't ready to let this incident go. We got to Rachel's house to drop her off, and both girls got out of the car to play for a little bit with Rachel's brother and sister. Within a few minutes, her older sister ran over and told her mom, "Mom, did you know Rachel scratched Lucy with a stick??" I quickly explained what had happened, but the damage was done. Rachel was hurt and embarrassed that Lucy had told on her.

After we got home, we barely got in the door and Lucy started to cry. "What's the matter?" I asked her--I really had no idea. "Oh, Mom," she sobbed. "When I told Anna and Cade that Rachel scratched me, that made her feel so bad! I'm sorry I made her feel bad!" She cried and cried. I finally said, "Can you think of anything nice you can do for her that would help make her feel better? Maybe you can call her on the phone and tell her you're sorry." "No," she sniffed. "I'd rather get a piece of paper from Daddy's desk and write her a note." (Hmmm. Wonder where she gets this from?!)

She got the paper and told me what she wanted to say, and I dictated all the letters to her. She wrote, "Dear Rachel, I am sorry I told Anna you scratched me and hurt your feelings. I love you. Lucy." Then I got ready to put it in an envelope, and she said, "Wait, I want to draw a picture of me and Rachel on it." She drew two little girls all in yellow, then took her red marker and put a scratch on one of the girl's arms. "That's me," she said, "with my bloody arm." Ooh-kay.

We walked back over to Rachel's house, and she told me, "When we get there, can I ring the doorbell? Then you can wait for me outside, and I'll go in and give her the letter. It's OK, Mom. I can handle it all by myself." (Hello??? When did this happen?) She gave Rachel (a very forgiving, gracious little girl) the letter, Rachel gave her a big hug, and all was well. They ran down the driveway, swinging hands together.

On the way home, I hugged Lucy and told her I was so happy that she had done the right thing. She said, "On the way there, I was so nervous, Mom. But now I feel good!" Then she said, "Is what I did, saying I was sorry, was that pleasing to the Lord? Is Jesus happy with what I did?" I assured her that He was happy with her, and she said, "That's why I wanted to write to Rachel and say I'm sorry. Because that's what the Bible tells us to do!"

It's no secret that we are big fans of James Macdonald and his radio/online program, "Walk in the Word," at our house. My girls love his theme song (and sing it loudly) "To the left, to the right, I will not go...walk, walk in the Word, walk in the Word, it is the Way" (based on Isaiah 30:21). Within the mayhem and the mundane of life, every once in awhile, we parents get to see a glimpse of the Savior working in our children's lives. Today I got to see the humility of one little girl and the grace and forgiveness of another little girl. I got to see my daughter apply the Bible to her life and hear her wonder if the Lord is pleased with her actions. I'm so thankful on a very average Wednesday afternoon that I got to see Lucy walking in the Word. And I hope this mother will be like her daughter in this way too!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Can Somebody Help Me Out Here?

Here is a small fraction of the questions Lucy asked me on the way home from Target (a ten-minute ride) (and in no apparent order or relation to each other):

"Mom, why do you hate red ants and black ants? Are they your fierce enemies?"

"Why can't the sidewalk be the street and the street be the sidewalk? Then we could always walk in the street."

"Are vultures ravens? Are all ravens bad or are some good?"

"When you're dead and someone pulls your hair, does it hurt?"

Picture Books

Today I'll give some recommendations of books Elaine enjoys. It's harder for her to sit still (mostly her personality more than her age, since Lucy would sit and read for hours at 2 1/2). Last night though, we got home and Darren and Lucy weren't here, so we got some quality reading time together.

This is a book by Kristine Franklin, illustrated by Kris Waldherr, that I found through my work. Unfortunately, it's out of print, but you can purchase a used copy (I did). It is nothing less than a treasure. Each illustration is a miniature work of art. It is set in Russia and is the story of a little boy named Pavel, son of a milkman, who finds a lost wolfhound wandering out in the snow and gives her shelter and food in their barn. His father finds the dog and says that only the Tsar keeps wolfhounds, and if it is found that they have this dog, they'll go to prison or worse--get rid of her. Pavel finds a way to both obey his father and save the dog, meeting Tsar Nicholas himself in the process. The end of the book is a lovely surprise. The text is lyrical and interesting and matches the illustrations in beauty. The other day my mom took the girls on a walk, and Elaine came home shouting, "We saw a wolfhound, a wolfhound!" Now every time we go outside, she is certain that we'll see a wolfhound. I love this book so much I want to buy a wolfhound.

Next are the photographic fantasy books by husband and wife team, Carl Sams and Jean Stoick. If you love nature or photography or animals you'll love these. Even if you don't, you'll probably learn to! Elaine owns this one, "Lost in the Woods," and Lucy has "Stranger in the Woods." They just wrote a new one called, "First Snow in the Woods." These books are great ways to show children the beauty of nature, plus the stories the go along with them are fun too. An additional bonus is that the first two have been made into short films. (We own one and check another out of the library.) We had one of the DVDs on to entertain the girls while a group of adults were over, and most of the adults ending up watching because it was so enjoyable. Sams and Stoick also have a cool photography website you can Google.

Thirdly, I recommend any and all books by Bernard Waber (and that is not a paid endorsement from my employer either!) He wrote the Lyle the Crocodile books, which have been favorites of Lucy for several years. She asked my dad to read her the first one, called "The House on East 88th Street," and when he was done he told me, "That was really funny!" To me, a mark of a great kid's book is if I'm enjoying it too. Elaine got "A Lion Named Shirley Williamson" for her birthday this year. It's the story of a bereaved zookeeper named Seymour (whose late wife's name was Shirley) and his friendship with a lion in the zoo who was accidentally named Shirley Williamson. She loves being named Shirley, but the other lions think she should have a name like they do (their names are Goobah, Poobah, and Arubah). Eventually the zoo renames Shirley "Bongo" and fires Seymour. Shirley mourns that the zoo has taken everything from her, "including my good name," but she hunts down Seymour, and things are eventually resolved.

I could go on for a reeeeaaaallly long time about the picture books we love around here. I previously mentioned Cynthia Rylant's books. We of course love Curious George (another non-paid endorsement!) We have a complete set of Beatrix Potter, which we read often. Our favorites are "The Tale of Tom Kitten," and "The Tale of Two Bad Mice."

However, I'll just show one more--our "closer" for most evenings: "Animal Orchestra." It's a little Golden book you could probably pick up for $3.99, but it has probably gotten more reading than any other book in our collection. All the text is written as a poem (which we all know by heart). I'm not sure when exactly it was published, but I think it's pretty old so the illustrations are very retro-cute. It's great to teach children all the different orchestra instruments (and quite a few that you usually don't see in an orchestra!), but the girls' favorite is the conductor, who is a hippo (and wears a tuxedo), because they love to shout the ending lines, "The Hippo was happy on Musical Day because everyone shouted, 'Hip-hippo-ray!'" The text is sing-songy, the colors are bright, and it is perfect for any music-loving toddler *cough*Caleb*cough. :-)

These are just a few of Elaine's favorites. I heard a few years ago that Madonna thought there weren't any good children's books out there, so she decided to write some. Not only did she come up with an inferior product, she is woefully misinformed and ignorant about the children's book world. There are wonderful classics and excellent new material amidst the mediocre and the junky stuff out there. Even if you don't have kids, these are good to own and fun to read (in fact, I bought Darren "Stranger in the Woods" long before Lucy was born, for the cool photographs). Also, these are great ideas for baby shower/birthday/Christmas gifts for any of the kids in your life.


Time this morning the girls were awake, in their dress-up clothes and high heels, and fussing at each other?


Monday, May 12, 2008

It's National Children's Book Week!

This weekend was so wonderful. On Saturday, Darren took care of the girls for the entire day so my friend Becky and I could spend the day shopping. We had lunch and went to all sorts of girly little shops with table accessories and soap dishes and placemats and such with no one to rush us out or say it was boring or alarmingly finger all the breakables. It was great.

Mother's Day itself we spent over at my parents' house. My mom had made all of us a delicious Sunday dinner, which seemed wrong--we should have cooked for her! But...I didn't argue. I printed out the tribute I wrote to her and also to her mom, slipped them in an envelope, and left them on her pillow without mentioning anything to her (oh and my mom does not read my blog, so she'd never seen the tributes before. I give her a hard time about that, but she has dial-up and is not very computer friendly anyway so...) It was really cool because my mom rarely mentions her mother, but after my dad prayed for the food and before we started eating, my mom offered a toast (we always toast before the meal on holidays and birthdays). For the first time ever, she toasted her own mom (and got choked up doing it) and we all raised our glasses to Matie!

We had a great time eating and chatting, and the girls played with all the toys my parents have stored at their house. It was all going well until an un-napped Elaine went Defcon 1 over the appropriate way to put two baby dolls to bed, so we left. If you're anywhere in the Tri-State Area, I'm guessing you heard her screams around 3 p.m. yesterday. She was asleep almost by the time we got to the end of the driveway.

And, as I said in the title, this week is National Children's Book Week, so hopefully I'll try and highlight a number of our favorites over these next few days. Feel free to chime in with any of yours in the comments.

This is the one we're currently reading. (Actually, we have a three-volume Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle treasury.) I read these books in elementary school and absolutely loved them. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the widow of a pirate who lives in an upside-down house. She loves children and knows absolutely everything there is to know about them. Each chapter focuses on a particular child with a particular bad habit. The harried mother first phones her various friends (who have hilarious names such as "Mrs. Broomrack," "Mrs. Moohead," "Mrs. Crankminor," etc.) They advise her to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle who knows everything and will be able to help. (Yes, each chapter is a bit formulaic, but it doesn't detract from the fun. In fact, Lucy loves hearing about the naughty child and then the distressed mother's phone call, and will always chime in, "Call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle!")

All of the books are good, but the first volume is the best. The reason is that the "cures" Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle recommends are simply common sense, while in the later books she employs magic. The first book has chapters such as "The No-Pick-Up-Toys Cure," "The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure," "The Fighter-Quarrelers Cure," "The Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders Cure," etc. For the little boy who never picked up his toys, she recommends that his mother stop cleaning his room and let little Hubert play as much as he wants and never put anything away. He finally has so many toys out that he is unable to get out of his room, and his mother has to send his dinner up on a rake through the window, and his father sends up the garden hose for him to drink from. He finally realizes that the only way to get out of his room and go play with the other kids is to put everything away neatly. Possibly the most hilarious cure is for Patsy, the little girl who never wanted to take a bath. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle recommended that her parents let her get as dirty as she wanted and never bathe. When she had about a quarter inch of topsoil on her, they were to plant radish seeds on her skin while she was asleep. Patsy was so horrified when the radishes sprouted that she spent the rest of the day in the shower.

As I said, the other books are extremely enjoyable too, but the cures involve magic pills and potions instead of simply letting the child reap the fruits of their bad behavior. For the little girls who won't stop whispering, she provides candy sticks that make everything they say inaudible. For the little boy who won't stop showing off, she recommends a powder that makes him invisible every time he starts acting up. Stuff like that.

The illustrations for all the books are done by Hilary Knight, whom I just love (well, his illustrations. I don't know him. And he might be dead for all I know.) Anyway, they're whimsical and add a lot to the stories. Some of the newer editions have different cover art--I don't know why--but it annoys me to no end.

Even though the first book was published in 1947, children still have the same naughty behaviors so they're just as much fun to read. I'm really enjoying going through them again, and I'm loving hearing every evening and off and on during the day too, "Mom, can we sit down and read some more 'Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle'? Pllleeeeasssse?"

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Tribute to my Mom

I cannot let this Mother's Day go by without writing a tribute to my own dear mother. It seems as if whenever you hear a sermon about mothers on Mother's Day or read a Christian tribute to women, the gold standard is Proverbs 31. (For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you can check it out here.) And truly--what woman doesn't want her husband to praise her at the city gates? What mother doesn't want her children to rise up and call her blessed?

I need to let you in on a little secret though. My mom does not like Proverbs 31. In fact, when it's mentioned, she gives a little groan. And it's all because of verse 15 "She rises while it is still dark..." Mom: "Why? Why does she have to rise when it's still dark?" She just doesn't think that is necessary. Not long ago, she ran into a friend who said, "I was out walking at around 6:30 this morning, and I passed your house. It was all dark though." My mom said (afterward, to me), "I don't think people should go around peeking in people's windows to see if they're awake yet, do you?" And I happen to know for a fact that when we were growing up, she would get my dad off to work and us off to school and head back to bed for at least a few moments. (Really though, can you blame her?) I've heard, through the grapevine of course, that in college she used to run down the street on her way to class (late), a piece of toast in one hand and her toothbrush in the other.

Being a late riser aside, I have learned so many valuable lessons from my mom. She might not be the first one out of bed, but she gets more done in a day than most anyone I know. She taught me little sayings (and is now teaching them to my girls) such as, "When a job is once begun, never leave it 'til it's done. Whether the job be great or small, do it well or not at all." (And no, you better not come up with the "not at all" option with my mom.) She also taught me that when you're not feeling so well, just work it off. You'll still feel crummy, but at least your house will be clean, or you'll have that cake for the potluck made, or you'll have clean clothes, or all the Christmas decorations put up.

My mom also taught me never to go anywhere without wearing a little lipstick. That's so ingrained in me, it might even be my life's motto. There's just no reason to go without. Don't be seen out at the grocery store without your lipstick on. At my baby shower for Lucy, after the lunch and before opening the presents I just automatically went to the ladies' room to reapply my lipstick--hey, pictures were going to be taken. Then my mom joined me. All of sudden, people were wondering where the mother-to-be and her mother were. Yup, in the bathroom together, getting their lipstick on.

Another valuable life lesson from my mom: Why use paper when you can use china? We both have some lovely china dishes; why not use them? Everything will look nicer, and people will feel better about eating off them. When Lucy was baptized, I had a big party afterward at our house. I'd never had that many people over before. I got on the phone to my mom for advice and said, "Mom, I think with this many people coming, I'm going to use paper plates." There was a long pause. Then she said brightly, "So! How many place settings of your china do you have?" Mm-hmm. Our guests ate off of china that day.

I could come up with many, many more lessons I've learned from my mom: lessons in working, keeping a home, cooking, marriage, child raising, how to get along with people, how to live a disciplined life; however, there is one life lesson my mom taught me that is most important of all: prayer. As I mentioned in the post about my grandmother, my mom grew up without having a mom. No one to teach her valuable life lessons. No one to give her wise counsel. No one to mother her like she has always mothered me. So, she turned to the only One she could.

Ever since she was a child, she has taken everything to the Lord in prayer. Big things, like when she stepped barefoot on some hay, and a pitchfork went all the way through her foot. She overheard the doctor say, "I think we're going to have to take her foot," and she prayed with all her might. Today she has just the smallest scar where it was. Or when she was at Moody and called in to the Dean's office because her tuition was due, and she had not one bit of it. She'd been walking around downtown Chicago every day, looking for a job, but there was nothing. After her humiliating stop at the Dean's office, she went back to her room to pray and read her Bible. She read Psalm 81:10 "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it." She stood up, set out once again to look for a job, and found the best one she'd ever had--and enough to pay her tuition.

She took it to the Lord in prayer when she went to Grenada all by herself, as a missionary. She took it to the Lord in prayer when she came back to the States and was deciding on a teaching job. She applied in Pennsylvania and Chicago but never heard back from the job in Chicago. She was all set to take the bus to Pennsylvania, when the night before she left, the principal of the school in Chicago called her. She said she could stop by for an interview on her way through to PA. After the interview, she wasn't sure what to do, so she went outside to sit down and pray for awhile. She had to make a quick decision, and she felt the Lord leading her to take the position in Chicago instead. (I'm glad she did too because that principal turned out to be my dad.)

In the 90s, when there was a shooting at my brother's workplace and someone called to tell us to turn on the news right away, I looked around to see what my mom was going to do. First thing she did was hit the floor on her knees. She took it to the Lord in prayer again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through one round of radiation and two rounds of chemo.

She doesn't just pray about the big things either--my mom prays about EVERYTHING. She prays when she gets lost (she and I are both directionally-challenged. I blame my condition on her.) She prays about when she has people over for dinner. She prays for my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, my husband, my daughters, and me daily, I know. If you're my friend and I've mentioned you to her, I can pretty much guarantee she's prayed for you.

I used to kind of inwardly roll my eyes when I would tell her something or ask her advice, and she would say, "Honey, let's take it to the Lord in prayer." But then she would pray with and for me, and I learned from her--when you're a Christ-follower, that's what you do. When I'm frustrated, sad, lonely, unhappy, potty training one of my kids, joyful, needing wisdom, at peace, in turmoil, confused, overwhelmed, planning a dinner party, whenever...I pray. That's what Mom taught me.

My mom is a great lover of hymns, and there is one I've heard her sing many times around the house. Whenever I hear it, I think of her: she doesn't just sing this, she lives it. This has been her legacy to me.

'Tis to sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at his word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to know: thus saith the Lord

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

So, Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I honor you. I would definitely praise your name at the city gates. I'm rising up to call you blessed. I love you so. And you have my permission to sleep as late as you want to!



Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Remodeling Project: Installment 3--The Removal. Oh, and a bunch of other stuff too...

On Tuesday my dad came over for the day, rented a steamer, and removed every bit of the dark brown and green wallpaper from the guestroom. Here's my dad. He's 76. He has about seventy-six times more energy than I do. I came in the room and told him I was taking his picture for my blog--he just snorted and kept on working.

Here's the room with all the wallpaper off. It looks about three times bigger than it used to (well, having removed 3/4 of the furniture helps too). We're going back to the drawing board on the blue paint. We're attempting Wedgwood blue. This around the windowframe is what Darren is calling "Chevy engine blue." Not really the look we're going for.

Here's Darren washing the walls in his shirt I like the least. In fact, I actually don't like it. At all. In fact, I actively dislike it. He bought it at Farm-n-Fleet (surprise). I said, "That's a redneck shirt. Ergo, now I'm a redneck's wife." He didn't seem to see the problem. I'll be working on it, internets. I control the laundry in this house (as much as anyone can control it). That shirt may go the way of many a sock.

Now all we have to do is find the right paint, paint the room, buy fabric and bed linens, put up window treatments, and arrange furniture. I know you'll be waiting.

On a separate note, yesterday was the Mother's Garden Tea at Lucy's school. I live for this stuff. Here's my little girl:

First, the children brought their mothers in, one-by-one, and seated us at tables decorated with potted petunias (they were our gifts. The kids had painted the pots themselves). Then they sang us some songs about moms and how much they love us. I won't say that I teared up or anything silly like that. Especially when they sang, "You Are My Sunshine" and "'ll never know, Mom, how much I love you..."

Then we had pink lemonade and our choice of double fudge bundt cake or almond poppyseed cake (I chose almond poppyseed. Great. Now I have a new dessert addiction.) We talked and laughed, and I got the privilege of sitting next to Lucy's teacher's mom (how sweet is that that she came to the tea?!) whose name was Alice, too. Then we all took pictures under the garden trellis.

And, not to leave her out, here is what my dear little Smoochie made me at daycare. She glued those butterflies on herself (though she might have picked a couple of them off in the car on the way home. And she's a little unclear as to whether she made this for me or for herself).

The whole day was just lovely. (Cue music.) We had a nice afternoon cleaning the car together, the girls ate supper, I gave them their bath...then we were getting ready to go to church in the evening. We were doing a final toy pick-up in the girls' room. Elaine and I were putting away her Little People camping set, and I was bent over her. All of a sudden, she straightened up very quickly. But I didn't. Her (incredibly hard rock-like) skull hit my nose, square on, fast and hard. I just saw black for a second, then oh. Oh, the pain. Then the blood. Let's just use the word "spurting." I raced into the bathroom, and by that time, all three of us girls were crying. Lucy was almost hysterical (but that's not unusual). She kept screaming, "Are you OK, Mommy? Are you OK?" Then she climbed up on the toilet, opened the cabinet, and got me out a Strawberry Shortcake band-aid.

I got everything cleaned up and everyone calmed down and into the car to go. I buckled Elaine in her seat, and she said anxiously, "You OK, Mom?" I felt like a bird who had just flown into a window. When we got home, I took two fast-acting Tylenol and fell into bed.

This morning (at shortly after 6:00), I vaguely heard a rustling noise by my bed (not unusual at all). Then I felt THUNK right on my ear. OK, that woke me up right away. And yeah, my nose doesn't feel much better this morning either, thanks for asking. I heard Lucy bellow from the other room, "Bring me back my wand, Princess!" (now I know what and who thunked me) and then little feet running out of our room. "Here it is!" "Did you cast a spell on her?" "I did it!" "Did you turn her into a statue?" (giggle, giggle, giggle) "Yes!" "Then we will now go see. We will see if she is a statue or if she is still a woman!" (stomp stomp thump thump thump giggle giggle giggle)

I opened my eyes and saw them in their dress-up clothes (did I mention it was not long after 6:00?) "Can we eat now, Mom?" "Eat breffuss! I want yogurt!"

I hauled myself out of bed. Yup. Still a woman. A slightly battered and bruised one though...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Tribute to My Grandmother

The girltalk blog is featuring tributes to grandmothers this week. I’d encourage everyone to drop by and read some of the lovely things written about some wonderful grandmas. Bring your Kleenex! It inspired me to write a tribute about my own grandmother.

My mom’s mother’s name was Matie Basler Huebscher (she was 100% Swiss). When you think of a grandma, maybe you think of someone who dispenses lots of hugs and kisses, calls you “honey,” always has the smell of something baking in her house, can stretch a dollar ten ways, that kind of thing. My grandmother never actually got to be a “grandma.” She died in 1940 when her youngest child, my aunt Marie, was still an infant. In fact, she was probably only slightly older than I am now when she died.

In all honesty, I think I can count on one hand the things I actually know about my grandmother and those, of course, are through hearsay. I don’t know where she was born or what year. I don’t know who else was in her family. I don't know what her favorite flower was, what she liked to eat, what things she thought were funny. I know she married my grandfather when she was young, just a teenager, and he was maybe 21. They lived in the wilderness of upper Wisconsin in the early 20th century and carved out a life for themselves there. They had twelve children—the fourth from the bottom (that’s how you have to describe it when you have so many!) is my mom.

My mom was six years old when her mother died. She remembers that she was a gentle woman. She would never defy my grandfather, but when he insisted that my mother eat even the fat of the meat on her plate (nothing went to waste) Mom remembers my grandmother giving her a soft, sympathetic look. Another of my aunts remembered peeking down from the loft at Christmas Eve, trying to see what her parents were doing and if there were any presents. The Kiwanis Club had donated some presents to their family since my grandparents couldn’t afford to buy them. Part of the present for each child was a silver dollar, and my aunt got tears in her eyes as she talked about her mother going through and removing the coins—money was too scarce to be given as gifts to the children.

After my grandmother’s twelfth child was born, she developed cancer and died. No one is even sure what kind of cancer it was, though they think it might have been uterine. My mom says that after she died, none of them ever talked about her again. They knew that if they talked about her they would cry, and none of them wanted to do that.

That’s about it—the sum total of what I know about Matie Basler Huebscher. She was born, she lived a relatively short life, and she died. Except for one more thing. She had an elementary school education, but she did know how to read. One day, she picked up a Bible. She didn’t know that if you want to hear the good news, you should start at the book of John—no one ever told her that. So, she started in Genesis, at “In the beginning.” She read about creation and the fall. She read about how sin requires a sacrifice, so she had my grandpa go out to the barn and kill some chickens to pay for their sins. She read and read.

Then she got to the New Testament.

And met Jesus.

When my grandmother died, she was the only Christian in her whole family. She died not being able to train up her children in the way they should go. She died probably wondering whether many of them would even remember her. She died not knowing whether she would see any of them in heaven.

I’m guessing that at some point she read these verses in Isaiah 55: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I don’t know whether or not my grandmother held on to the promise in those verses, but she definitely could have, for since her death ten of her twelve children have accepted Christ. I have no idea how many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren she has now (but there are MANY of us!)—and among Matie Basler Huebscher’s descendants are numerous Christ-followers who are pastors; teachers; musicians; college professors, including a New Testament Greek professor; business owners; builders; nurses; missionaries; a soldier in the Air Force; college students; stay-at-home moms; an editor (!); and many I know I’ve missed.

Though she never got to see the fate of her children or meet her grandchildren, her godly influence has trickled down to her future generations. God’s Word did not return empty for her family. She was faithful to Him, and He has been faithful to her. I’m proud to have the blood of this gentle lady who read her Bible and believed it running through me and my two daughters. I’m excited to meet Matie some day in heaven, to throw my arms around her, and call her “Grandma.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another Book-Related Item

Here is an interesting review. (On a sidenote, I aspire to write book reviews like Tim Challies does.) I probably won't read this book, but it's...and I'm looking for another word besides "interesting" and can't come up with one...interesting to know it's out there. Oh, and read the comments, too.

A Bookish Weekend

This weekend, my mom and sister-in-law and I went to the annual AAUW used book sale in our area. (Well, in my sister-in-law's area.) My mom and I live for this day. We missed it last year because we inadvertently went on vacation. We won't make that mistake again. It starts on a Thursday night and goes through Saturday afternoon. There are various strategies to approach the sale. We've gone on Thursday nights before. You have to pay a cover charge, but you get first pick of all the books. I've actually seen someone run in the doors (after getting their hand stamped), rush over to the classics table, and just start randomly sweeping books off the table into a box, without even looking at them. I don't like those people.

Usually though, we go on Saturday (sometimes we've gone both Thursday and Saturday). Saturday is the day you bring your own shopping bag and fill it up--all for $5.00. When my mom and I went to pick up my sister-in-law, she said, "I just made tea, and I've got scones. Do you want to come in and eat?" Normally, that's a no-brainer for us. But...she's fairly new to the sale. We let her know that it starts promptly at 9:00. We had to be there in 7 minutes. What if someone got to our used books before we did? (She just laughs at us.)

I was very selective this year. Sometimes I just grab whatever looks good to me, but my space is getting limited and I just wanted to pick things I really wanted. I did find many of the Mitford series in hardback. I haven't really read those, but I keep hearing and reading about them, so I grabbed what I could find. I sent those home with Mom though. My greatest find was two hardback copies of the books I've lately been raving about by Stephen L. Carter. First I found "New England White." Then oddly enough, I walked past the Romance table (blech) and saw a hardback of "The Emperor of Ocean Park" just sitting there. Maybe someone had picked it up and then decided against it but left it on the Romance table. Who knows. Their loss, my gain.

We finally left with all our bags of books and went back to my sister-in-law's to reheat the tea. It was such a great day.

Lucy and I have been reading a lot too. We finished Rumer Godden's "Little Plum" and have started on the Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant. Ms. Rylant is a wonderful current children's author. Her books have an air of, dare I say, peace and serenity about them that has often gone missing in these days of making children face up to reality as early as possible. One reviewer described them as "Jane Austen for third graders." She writes the Henry and Mudge books, the Mr. Putter and Tabby books (Elaine really likes those), the Cobble Street Cousins, and a number of other series as well. (Her book, "The Cookie Store Cat" has some delicious cookie recipes that we've tried too.) Lucy is loving them--the illustrations are delightful too. If you haven't had a chance to check her out, you really should.

On a final book note, last night was the beginning of "Cranford" by Elizabeth Gaskell on PBS. I'm loving it already. If you didn't catch the first night, you can either watch episodes online or I'm sure they'll rerun the first installment sometime this week. My favorite lines so far are: "My sister does NOT approve of the word 'suck.'" And [with the threat of a railroad being built nearby] "It is unconscionable. To Cranford will come noise and disease and the Irish!"

I think this post broke a personal record for the number of things I've linked to. Lastly, here's what I did yesterday afternoon. These were just growing randomly in my yard. Enjoy!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Worth Watching...

Here is something that is so worth watching. It's about 22 minutes long, so wait until you have the time to view. I watched it the same day I was writing my "All Things" post. I hear that Christians in Kenya greet each other with, "God is good all the time. All the time, God is good." My goal is to be able to say that each day.

Grease is the word...

The other morning Elaine came into our room while I was still sleeping. I have some little decorative boxes on my nightstand that Darren gave me--a bunny for Lucy, a duck for Elaine, and then a heart that says "Mom" on it. Even though they open up, there's nothing inside; however, Elaine thinks there is perfume in them so she comes in to smell them every morning. I heard her rustling around and opening the boxes and sniffing, so I opened one eye. She looked...odd. Her hair looked funny. I said, "What is wrong with your hair?" "Lucy did it," she said, as she kept on sniffing. "Lucy did what?" I asked. "Lucy put lipstick in-a my hair," she replied (sometimes she talks like an Italian).

Now both my eyes were open. She has fine, silky baby hair, but now it was standing up, independently, all over. Things were starting to click into place. The night before I had put some Vaseline on her lips because she said they were hurting. She liked that and said, "Mommy put-ah my lipstick on me." Hmmm. Yes. I had foolishly left the container of Vaseline on the girls' dresser, and Lucy had decided to play salon with it.

Here is what it looked like after two shampoos (and this is dry hair):

In the evening, I gave them both a bath before church. I washed her hair twice with dish soap (I thought that might cut the grease as it claims it can) and once with shampoo. Nope. Still an oil slick. So I asked some friends at church what to do if your child has copious amounts of Vaseline in their hair. I got the recommendation to sprinkle baby powder or cornstarch on her head and comb it through. I was leery; that sounded like a recipe for diaper cream, but I went with it and what do you know? By morning, her hair was probably 80% better. Don't say you never learned anything from this blog.

This week was also the very last Buzz at Lucy's school. The kids had a beach party earlier in the day (even though I had seen snowflakes that very morning), and then the parents came at the last 20 minutes of class to hear some of their new songs and see their latest art projects. They sang a couple of songs in Spanish, a song about some fish teasing Mr. Shark, a splashing song; recited their Bible verse; and showed off their new sign language skills.

Going to the last Buzz made me feel kind of sad--this year has flown by, and I can't believe how tall Lucy has gotten and how much she has learned. I went home and told Darren all about it and showed him the pictures. We sat there, sentimentally looking at our great big grown-up daughter, so proud of her.

Then I said, "How is it that our child knows all her numbers, is becoming bi-lingual, and can sing 'What a Wonderful World,' all three verses, in sign language no less, yet she still thought putting handfuls of Vaseline in her sister's hair would be a great idea?"