Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Few Spring Things

Lots of people have been asking about my mom, so I'll start with that. She has been doing quite well. The medicines she has been taking have been helpful for the pain. She still tires very easily, but she does have more energy. I saw her on Friday, which was the most beautiful spring day we've had all year--in the 80s--and we walked a few blocks together. That's huge. It looks as though we are going to get that window of time where she is feeling a bit better. As well, she routinely gets annoyed with my dad, who she feels is overprotecting her (at the same time of course being thankful for his wonderful care. But still.) It's comforting to me to know that even after 43 years of marriage and being on your way out of this world, you're still going to fight with your husband.

After I saw her on Friday, that evening I lost my voice. That was the harbinger of this dreadful upper respiratory crud that has been lingering on and on for me. Each day I wake up looking and feeling like twelve miles of bad road. Fortunately, it's been cold and rainy since Saturday so I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

This morning I was in the girls' room, making Elaine's bed and barking out orders to both of them, particularly Lucy, who does all her morning responsilibites like she's moving through epoxy.

"Mom," she asked. "Could you please get a little happiness in your heart?"


My highlight over the weekend was changing from my winter purse to my summer purse.

Here's the winter one. Doesn't it look forlorn?

Here is the majority of its contents, sans wallet and glasses (yes, note the Target receipt on top):

Now, here is the interior of my summer purse. It will never look like this again, so it needs to be recorded for posterity:

And here is my dear Japanese bag; ahh, how I've missed you. Welcome back!

In other news, Elaine has a new tradition each morning. She climbs up on the kitchen stool and eats a carton of yogurt. Then she opens up my utensil drawer and plays music on the instruments for about 30 minutes. She takes requests too.

Then she takes out the mushroom brush and brushes her dolls' hair with it.

And in the midst of being sick and taking care of the girls and working around the house and wrapping next month's issue of the magazine and making lots of trips to the library and reading like a madwoman, I got a new freelance venture that is very exciting and I'll tell more about in the weeks to come.

Basically, my life looks like the interior of my purse (the winter one).

Friday, April 24, 2009

We Came, We Saw, We Riverdanced

I'm sorry for the quality of those pictures, but you get the idea. My camera (yes, I'm still using the same one I've been complaining about for at least two years) has the uncanny ability to know when an event is important, meaningful, and once-in-a-lifetime. Then it stubbornly refuses to cooperate. I don't know how many shots I took and every single one was blurry. Yet the day or so before when I stood in the kitchen and took about 17 shots of Henry and Margaret (as we have named our mourning doves) it worked perfectly.

Ah, Riverdance. It was everything we hoped for.

We got to our seats around 7:20 with the show starting at 7:30. Everyone with small children knows how imperative it is to not get to any event too early so that they have to wait. Lucy sat next to me, and Elaine settled herself on my lap (by the way, I love this theater for that. When Darren bought the tickets, they told him he didn't need to buy her one since she could just sit on a lap, which she probably would have done anyway even had we bought her ticket. Not all venues are like that). She turned to me and said, "Are we going to dance, Mom?"

"No," I answered, envisioning the potential if the girls were under the mistaken impression that they were going to dance as well. "We're going to enjoy watching the Riverdancers. And you're also not going to kick the seats in front of us like you do in the car while you listen to the soundtrack."

She silently digested this piece of information. She turned to me and said, "Are we going to dance?" Apparently my original answer was not to her satisfaction.

"No, we're not supposed to dance. We're supposed to watch. I'll bounce you on my lap to the music though, and it will be a lot like dancing."

Are you going to dance, Mom?" she persisted. "Is Daddy going to dance?"

Just then the lights went down.

"Reel Around the Sun" is probably the girls' favorite, and it's the opener. They were absolutely mesmerized. And did not kick, fortunately.

It's been awhile since I've seen this show live, and it just blew me away afresh. The girls loved the fiddler who happened to look a lot like our music minister at church who also plays the violin. Elaine is convinced that that was Mr. Josh up there, moonlighting at Riverdance apparently.

At intermission, I asked our friend Angie, who went with us, "How do you like it?"

"I LOVE it!" she said. "I love everything about it. I saw parts of it on TV, but this is unbelievable!"

"Just wait until the second half," I told her.

"Yeah," said Lucy, "That's when they do 'Trading Taps'!"

During the intermission, Darren took Elaine out for a drink of water. Angie gave Lucy a piece of gum. Darren and Elaine returned, she got back on my lap, and the houselights dimmed again. Then, she smelled a telltale fragrance. And saw Lucy chewing.

"What you got?" she asked in a piercing whisper. "You got gum?"

Lucy nodded, engrossed in the show. This, as my father would say, precipitated a crisis. Elaine could not let that go.

"How did Lucy get gum?" she whispered again. "I want gum. Where's my gum? Can I have some gum?"

She kept this up until I informed her, also in a piercing whisper, that all the gum was gone, there was no more, no one had any more pieces, she was beginning to ruin the show for those around her, and Daddy would need to take her out. Oh, what I would have given for a pack of gum right then. You would think the smart thing to do as a mother would be to always carry gum, correct. It would except that, just as my camera has a sixth sense for me, so my girls have for gum. I can go for months without carrying any, but if I happen to have some, they are up before dawn, rummaging through my purse to ferret out the gum. Then they chew it all.

Then she started to cry. Darren swooped her up and got her out before it reached ambulance siren proportions. I think he got her another drink of water, and then they watched the show in a different part of the theater, away from treacherous gum-chewing sisters.

Everyone was happy, especially me since I got to see my favorite number, "Heartland," in peace. Well, as much peace as you can have standing, clapping, and whooping.

It was such a blast. I have just run out of words for the awesomeness that is that show. Just go to youtube and search for Riverdance videos if you want just a taste of it because there is nothing like seeing and hearing it live.

So there was our Riverdance experience. As we were leaving the theater, Angie said, "I wish we could go again tomorrow night!" I told her, "After we saw it the first time, we bought tickets to see it again on our way out of the theater."

As far as I know, Riverdance is ending now. This is its farewell performance. I know there are a number of Irish dancing shows, but this was the original and there won't be another one like it. I'm so glad we got to experience it with our girls.

And who knows--maybe we'll take in one of those other shows someday. I do know that if we do, I'm bringing gum.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Agent of Change

I don’t want to write anything on this blog that is going to embarrass the girls when they grow up and read it. I don’t want to splash their personal, private moments around the Internet. And some stuff…I just want to save for them and me anyway. At the same time, I don’t want it to seem like we live in an unrealistic perfect, happy-all-the-time little world either.

I must say, we are at a bit of a difficult stage. With both of them. If you asked me how it is going with my parenting right now, I would probably just say wearily, “OK.”

Monday was dreadful. In addition to numerous “WHY?” moments such as we’ve been having lately—1/3rd of a package of brand new table napkins found wadded up and sodden by the downstairs bathroom sink; the emptying of an almost-new bottle of Palmolive in the kitchen sink; and looking into my sink in the bathroom and seeing a murky pool of pink water, the result of squirting out a good portion of a tube of Tinkerbell toothpaste, stopping up the sink, and adding water (all courtesy of Elaine)—we’ve just been having various difficulties with both girls.

The main thing is mouth trouble. The constant noise. It is driving Darren and me mad. We live in a house with hardwood floors. Noise carries. We are not only two quiet people, we both work at home at jobs that require quiet and concentration. We’re awakened each morning by thumping, shrieking, loud atonal singing, fighting, tattling, screaming, and other noise that continues throughout the day. It takes numerous times of calling a child’s name to get her attention. We’re frequently raising our voices to be heard. We’re continually imposing time-outs and separations that don’t work at all. And it seems that our directives are now met with either “But MOM!!!” from Lucy or the simple and direct, “I don’t want to” from Elaine.

Now I understand that they are little kids. There’s a certain amount of noise that goes with the territory. And I want them to have fun, giggle, be silly, and be able to sing and laugh and dance. I am the mom who lets them put on the Riverdance soundtrack and dance around the house. But we have slowly crossed the line to the point of being inconsiderate to others, disrespectful to their parents, and disobedient. That is not acceptable. Consideration, respect, and obedience are some hills I will die on as a parent.

Darren and I had a conversation after the girls went to bed on Monday night about how things just aren’t working around here. It’s frustrating, and it makes us angry and sad. It’s not fun to be a parent or a child when everyone is constantly at odds with each other.

We definitely realized that we need to pray more both with and for our girls. That is key.

Another thing I have revisited is the crucial need of stating expectations before things happen. So now in the morning at the breakfast table before devotions, I state that this is a time to listen. It is not a time to talk unless we’re asking or asked a question. It is not permissible to get up from the table and run around. It is not permissible to interrupt and whine for a glass of milk.

When we went to the library yesterday, I stated before we got in that they are going to use their library voices. They are to walk quietly, not run and skip and swing like wild baboons. They may each check out two DVDs. (No books today because they cannot find their previous library book—lost in all the mass of books they cart around, hide in their covers, or toss behind their bookshelf and under their dresser.)

And a new thing I have instituted: the incentive program. They now each have a small plastic jar with their name on it. Each morning I will put a small amount of change (e.g., ten pennies) in the jar. Throughout the day, if I hear “But MOM!” or “I don’t want to,” incessant moaning like a ghost for no discernible reason, tattling, screaming, arguing, or really anything I deem unacceptable coming from their mouths, they will need to remove a coin from their jar and give it to me. If I have to say each time we get in the car, “Put your seatbelt on” (Those words will be engraved on my tombstone, for real.), I get one of their coins. At the end of the week on Saturday, if they have enough money, they will be able to buy a pack of gum. If not, well, better luck next week.

So, at swimclub yesterday afternoon, because it took me four tries to get Lucy’s attention while she was a mere two inches away from me and then because she was making crazy, hooting, monkey noises at the blowdryers, she now owed two pennies. When Elaine screamed at Lucy in the car because she offered her some hand sanitizer, she now owed me a penny. They each owed a penny this morning because they greeted the day at 6:15 a.m. with a loud song consisting solely of the words, “wow wow wow wow” over and over again while Darren and I were trying to sleep. (After I informed them of that and stumbled back to bed? They were absolutely silent until I went in to get them at the acceptable rising time of 6:50 a.m. Awesome.)

Today, they each get four nickels. Each infraction merits one of their nickels and then we’re back to the pennies. (“They’re going to end up owing us money by the end of the week,” prophesied Darren.) But…they seem to be getting it. It’s obviously a little harder for Elaine, but they are starting to catch themselves.

You might say, isn’t that bribery for good behavior, Alice?

No, not really. Believe me, I’ve bribed for good behavior. I’ve said “If you smile for the camera and don’t wiggle around until we get good pictures, you will get a treat” and the like at various times.

This is a little different. I heard a great sermon a year or so ago from the book of Proverbs. I remember leaving the kitchen (I was listening on my laptop) and pulling down my Bible off the shelf to write notes in it so I would always remember. One point was that I am selfish if I don’t discipline my child. I actually don’t love her if I don’t do it. That is hard for me because I hate to discipline. I much prefer cookie baking, finger painting, singing, reading, playing…anything but disciplining my girls. It hurts me. But if I love them, I will do it.

Here was the main thing though: Discipline is not just talk. It gets to the mind of the child, not just to her will. “Parental training is the artificial application and amplification of wrong choices and consequences.” (James MacDonald)

In other words, my kids aren’t going to stop acting up unless it negatively affects them, not just me. They have to understand it. The greatest treat in the world to my girls right now in their little lives is gum. With this small incentive system, I am hoping that they discover that their actions have consequences to them. If they act badly, it will not go well. If you don’t control your mouth during the week, you won’t get gum on Saturday.

Right now it might seem silly and little. It’s just pocket change. And what I'm really working toward is that they will learn to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing. That is my ultimate goal. But I hope that these small seeds planted at ages 3 and 5 will take root and grow. I hope that by learning to ask politely instead of screaming in frustration, they will learn some problem-solving skills. I hope by learning gracious compliance instead of defiance, they will do well at school and in the workplace. I hope that by learning self-control over their mouth, it will keep them from hurting someone else’s feelings or reputation someday. I hope that by learning to catch themselves and attempting to tame their tongue, it will keep them from damaging a friendship or their marriage someday.

If the cost of a pack of gum can help purchase any of those lessons, it will be priceless.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some New Residents

We were all very excited yesterday to see this at the top of our back porch (yes, it needs painting):

That is a female mourning dove, sitting on her just-made-that-morning nest. The girls were very excited about this new addition to our family. I looked up mourning doves on Cornell's Ornithology site:

"A graceful, slender-tailed, small-headed dove that’s common across the continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America."

Who hunts doves, by the way? And why? I can't imagine that you really get good eating off them.

We were all excited that a nest had been built on our very own porch. New baby birds! Baby bird showers, baby bird birth announcements--the possibilities are endless. We tried to be extra quiet each time we went out the back door in order not to scare our new friend off. However, by the afternoon, she was absent. We didn't see her in the evening either, and when we looked first thing this morning, the nest was empty. So soon after arriving, it appears our back porch roof was not satisfactory. All the baby bird plans crashed down around us.

"You're not crying about it, are you, Mom?" Lucy asked this morning. "'s nice that she left her nest so that we have something to remember her by."

I took her to school and didn't think much more about it. When we got home, Elaine settled herself on the kitchen stool to eat some yogurt. I went into the living room until I heard her shrieking, "Mom! Mommy! Come and see! Those chickens are back!"

Sure enough, both Mrs. and Mr. Mourning Dove were in residence. It appears they plan to stay after all.

Though Darren is a hunter, I can assure you they will be safe under this roof. We can go ahead with our baby bird plans. We have no intention of eating mourning dove here.

I just won't tell him there's a possibility that they're actually chickens.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Jumble of Things

Friday was our parent-teacher conference at Lucy's school. Darren decided he wanted to go too, so that he could ensure that Mrs. Blevins and I would actually talk about Lucy and her progress rather than our shared taste in music, shopping at Ann Taylor, and Door County. I told Lucy that Daddy and I were going to her conference, and she asked, "What are we going to do while you're gone?"

I said, "Well, I think you're old enough to watch your sister at home on your own."

"No, Mama, no!" she started to lose her cool. "We don't want to stay by ourselves!"

"You're almost six, Lucy," I said, "It's time for new responsibilities. And while we're gone, we're going to need you to dust and wash the dishes. You can pretend you're Mary and Laura."

"We can't be Mary and Laura yet, Mom!" she shrieked, "We're not old enough! Please don't leave us!"

"Just kidding," I told her. "Isabella's mom is going to take you to breakfast at the coffee shop."

So we packed them off there and headed to school. Mrs. Blevins said Lucy has had a great year and made wonderful progress. She said she can easily tell how much we work with her at home (slight pat on the back for ourselves). She gave us some great resources to use over the summer--mostly for math since she knows how much we read around here. I asked about Lucy's first grade classroom and which one she thought would be best.

She answered, "You know, Lucy would fit well in any of the classes. Lucy is....LUCY!" She added, "She's very social, too." Really? We never would have guessed. Then she said, "Whoever her new teacher is, we'll make sure she has great hair."

We then went back to the coffee shop to pick the girls up; they had had a glorious time with Sarah. She let them pick whatever they wanted and showed them her cool phone that had a picture of fish swimming on it.

On Saturday there was both a work day at the church and a ladies' lunch. Elaine and Darren went out to breakfast and then to the work day together. Lucy and I went to the ladies' lunch--a luau to be precise. "What's a loo-how?" asked Lucy. Neither of us had ever been to one, but we were pretty sure that this would be appropriate attire:

We weren't completely sure what to bring for luau food, so we decided on Tia's Crema de Fruta recipe.....

We had a great time at the lunch. There was lava flow punch, and those little paper umbrellas everybody loves (we took quite a few home for our Japanese dolls to use). About mid-way through Elaine made her way into the building and arrived at the luau, dressed in a hoodie, muddy jeans, and sporting bedhead.

"I want to eat too," she announced.

When we got home, she changed into this:

That looks fairly normal, correct? Except that "skirt" is actually a blouse. She tucked the sleeves in as pockets (please note the Strawberry Shortcake flip-flops, Ann-Marie! Sorry...)

There are two pictures I didn't take, but if I had they would be titled simply, "Why?"

The first is something I discovered when I walked into our bedroom. Over near the window was a pile of band-aid wrappers. A lot of band-aid wrappers. In fact, an entire boxful of band-aid wrappers.

The second is the dashboard of my car, which has been colored on with a black ball-point pen.

As I said, there's really no other caption I could devise for them other than, "Why?" However, for "Who?" see the picture directly above.

Lastly, the excitement is building to fever pitch here this week.

Here is the reason:

Each day the girls reassure themselves and us that we are indeed going to Riverdance on Thursday. At the luau on Saturday, we saw our friend Angie, who is going to go with us.

"Are you excited about Riverdance?" she asked Lucy.

"YES," Lucy answered. "Our favorite is the blond guy, Michael. He like, FLIES instead of dancing. But he's not going to be in this Riverdance. He has his own show called 'Feet on Fire.'" (Uh, I believe that would be "Feet of Flames.")

So that was our weekend--eclectic to say the least.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Pre-Schoolers Dress Themselves, Part Deux

Here is today's ensemble. Note the recycling of the day before's pants, seeing as I made her change them yesterday to go to the swimclub. She's particularly partial to those. Also, cloppy shoes? Check. I like the nice addition of the robe (her "robey") for an extra little Hugh Hefner touch.

I will say this for her--she's essentially in the same color palette for this outfit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When Pre-Schoolers Dress Themselves

This morning I laid out for Elaine a white t-shirt with a yellow flower on it and matching jeans (also with a yellow flower). She wore this outfit all morning, which is progress. Usually she accidentally on purpose spills something on what I have picked out for her in order to change her clothes to what she really wants to wear. But today she was longsuffering. She made it all the way until after lunch and returning from the library.

She promptly went upstairs, went to the bathroom, and changed into this (note the ubiquitous shirt):

Also, note the shoes...her new favorites aka "my cloppy sandals" regardless of the fact that it is 42 degrees and windy here.

And just to update--here is the new haircut after I actually styled it, less Dutch boy, more pixie.

In case you're wondering, I picked out that dress.

And then she spilled grape juice on it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's Been Awhile Since We've Talked Food

On Friday, we went back to Wheaton for a Good Friday service. Afterward, we took the girls to our favorite Chinese restaurant of all time, Cafe Jasmine. We have lived in a number of cities, and we have never found better Chinese food than CJ. We actually used to drive from our apartment in Chicago out to Wheaton to eat there.

Lucy and Elaine had not had Chinese food before (and Lucy is tres picky), but we thought we'd go for it. They LOVED it. Admittedly, we did stay on the safe side for them. They ate crab rangoon, wonton soup (Elaine had three bowls full), and chicken fried rice. Neither of them was an egg roll fan, but hey, that just left more for us. They loved getting their fortunes too: Lucy's was, "Soon your dearest wish will come true." Elaine's was, "You can make your own luck by keeping money in your bank." Mine was (I promise I'm telling the truth), "Soon you will be met with ingratitude." Wha-huh? That's my fortune??

Darren said, "I think it would be reasonable to drive here, say, every three months or so for Chinese food, right?" Right. As long as I get a better fortune next time.

On Sunday, we went back to Wheaton for church and then for dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's. They bought a new house recently, and we hadn't seen it yet. It was beautiful, and the kitchen was the piece de resistance. I had a pang of envy, but then I figured you probably couldn't cook with cream soups much in that kitchen. It wouldn't do it justice.

The one who does do it justice, however, is my sister-in-law, Rome (Elaine's godmother and both girls' beloved "Tia"). The woman makes and rolls her own sushi. She is the producer of this show (and they've actually shot two episodes in her new kitchen!) I asked if I could bring anything, and fortunately she said no. I can't even tell (or spell) all the things we had. A shrimp and tomato dish. All sorts of roasted vegetables: asparagus, beets, beans, carrots. A Filipino bread--pain de sal (Lucy and Elaine's favorite). Shao mei (spelling uncertain)--pork-filled dumplings. Fruita de crema (also spelling uncertain) and green tea moshi (Japanese ice cream in rice cake) for dessert. Everything tasted phenomenal, and it was all arranged artistically and effortlessly.

"Eating at Tia's is like eating in a magazine!" said Lucy.

Rome had hard-boiled eggs for the girls to decorate (with her professional watercolors!) and she also had candy-filled eggs. Darren and my brother, Chuck, (known as "Tio") hid them outside, and Lucy and Elaine hunted for them after lunch. There were varying moneying denominations on the hard-boiled eggs, so they cleaned up that way too. "Tio is VERY nice and rich," said Lucy, when she saw his big change jar.

Then we watched "Winged Migration" (I highly recommend it) and came home later in the afternoon. All in all, it was a great day, and they invited us to come back soon and stay overnight.

Skip Cafe Jasmine; next time, we'll just eat at Tia and Tio's!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Joy in the Morning!

Since my mom can't be with us on Easter, today we brought Easter over to her. I dressed the girls in their dresses and fixed their hair, and they brought an Easter basket they had made for their Manga. Sweets don't appeal to her anymore, so we filled a basket with moss and put in a tiny bird's nest, some little shells and flowers, and a couple of butterflies. Darren brought his trombone and played "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" for her. We also brought her Kent Hughes' sermon on John 11 so she could listen tomorrow during church time.

There are many days and times I am and can be sad. Tomorrow though is not going to be one of them. Last Friday, I brought Mom a book and CD for Holy Week. I bought us the same one, only a kids' version. The CD was of Holy Week hymns, and the book contained devotionals that went along with each hymn.

One of the devotionals just laid me bare. I hope I'm not violating a ton of copyright laws, but I'm going to share it here because you just have to read it. It's by Joni Eareckson Tada from the book What Wondrous Love Is This: Hymns of Wonder and Worship to Remember His Love (Crossway Books, 2002).

The Heart of the Hymn
by Joni Eareckson Tada

O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
I Corinthians 15:55

I wish you could have been with my mother and me on that lovely late spring evening in June 2001. We were on her porch with the ocean to our backs, its breeze in our face, and watched the sun set over the bay. It was a moment to remember. In fact, it called for a hymn, and so we did what Mom and I always did when watching a lovely sunset. We sang.

Our singing was especially poignant. My mother’s health was failing fast, and we knew we wouldn’t have her much longer. My husband, Ken, came out on the porch to snap a photo of me, Mom, and the sunset. The moment would end up being unforgettable. Two months later, my mother, Lindy Eareckson, went home to be with the Lord Jesus.

My mother’s remaining days were filled with pain and anguish. Old age and mini-strokes were staking their claim on my mother’s bright spirit until finally one afternoon, Mother released a deep sigh and left for Home.

My sisters asked if I would give a short message at our mother’s memorial service back in Maryland. At first I balked, thinking that I’d fall apart halfway through; then I realized it would be a chance to honor her among many extended family and friends. I decided yes and asked Ken and a few close friends to pray that God would give me an extra measure of grace. He did. My short speech about Mother’s life and her love of Christ was indeed a blessing. And I didn’t fall apart.

On our flight back to California, I continued to move through the same covering of grace. By the time we arrived at our house, the hour was late, and Ken and I were exhausted. We dropped our suitcases and took a minute to thumb through mail, noticing what were probably a few sympathy cards. I opened the first one. Something dropped out of the envelope. When I took a closer look, my chest tightened. It was an obituary from The Baltimore Sun. There in print I read: “Margaret J. Eareckson died August 21, 2001.” Hot tears filled my eyes. For the first time, I fell apart. The bare facts in the obituary were as cold and hard as ice.

I shoved the newspaper item aside and bravely opened another card. It was a card of sympathy from my friend Sandy. At least I thought it was a sympathy card. This one, however, looked different. On the front were lilies, and on the inside were the words of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” It was an Easter card. Sandy had written, “Joni, somehow this Easter card expresses more what I want to say. Your lively happy mother is free from pain, and isn’t it good to know that we will all be reunited at the resurrection. I’m so glad He arose.”

The warmth and joy of the resurrection melted the cold-as-ice fact of my mother’s death. Fresh hope and confidence infused me, and in the next moment I almost sang. In fact, I did sing—“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!” Never were there better words of sympathy than this reminder from my friend of the resurrection of Christ. Because Jesus arose, we have the happy assurance that one day we, too, shall rise and be reunited with our Lord and our loved ones. Oh, joy! My mother is safe and secure, all because Christ our Lord is risen!

Sending an Easter card upon hearing of someone’s death? Some might say, “Nah, stick with tradition.” I say that tradition can always use an upgrade. And so, in honor of Lindy, I’m holding on to a few Easter cards…just in case someone grieving needs a little reassurance of the soothing comfort of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high; Alleluia!
Sing ye heav’ns and earth, reply. Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head; Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise; Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies; Alleluia!

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!" Luke 24:4-6

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Bitter Is Mixed With the Sweet

Tonight, Holy Thursday, is one of my favorite nights of the year. It is the night our family celebrates Passover together. We have done it for several years now. Because we are Christians, the ceremony takes a turn at the point where the afikomen is found and where we drink the third cup--because those are the points during Christ's Last Supper with His disciples when He first instituted what we celebrate as Communion.

While we normally hold this celebration at our house, this year we took everything over to my parents'. My dad had done what is normally my mom's job--the laying of the linen cloths and the best goblets, china, and silver. I prepared the Seder plate and the special meal.

We all came to the table, and Darren read some of my favorite words of the ceremony, "All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy, come and celebrate Passover with us. Now we celebrate it here. Next year, may we celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Now we are slaves. next year, may we be truly free."

I listened to my little girls voices chant quietly in the candlelight: "Father, why is this night different from other nights?"

We did all the parts the children enjoy so--hiding and finding the afikomen (and getting a prize!), putting 10 drops of wine on our plates: one drop for each of the plagues, and opening the door for Elijah.

All of us adults explained to them our story, who we are--our God saved the Israelites through Moses, and our God saved us through Jesus.

The theme of the meal is that the bitter is mixed with the sweet. Joy does not come alone. It is mixed with suffering and tears.

This year it was all very bittersweet for me. As far as I know, this is the last Seder meal we will have with my mom. And my parents told us tonight that they will not be able to celebrate Easter with us. My mom cannot do it. She does not have the strength. That was something I had been hanging on to, something I had been praying for--that I would have this last Easter with her, that we would stand in the flower-filled sanctuary together and sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and end with the "Hallelujah Chorus." I have so many good memories of this with her, especially Lucy's first Easter when I slipped out at the end of the sermon and ran back up with my baby so she could hear "Hallelujah" too, and my mom and I held her together and sang our hearts out.

As with so many things, I think, "I wish I had known. I wish I had know that [whatever] was the last time I would do this with her. I would have held on to it more."

The end of the traditional Seder is for all around the table to raise the fourth and final glass and say together, "Next year, in Jerusalem!" As Christians, we raise our glasses and say, "Next year, in the new Jerusalem!"

Normally, since this is a religious ceremony, we don't take pictures during it. But tonight I asked Darren to take a picture at the beginning of the service--this is when the mother lights the Passover candles. This was one of the few times my mom was able to stand this evening:

I will not lie. I am so thankful for all He has done for us. But tonight...tonight was very painful. I want my mom to be there for many years--lighting the candles and helping us tell the story to our children. I hurt to think that next year, I will probably light the candles alone. I will probably have to read the parts of the service that are hers. It seems like just below the hurt? There's just more hurt.

I say with all my heart that I hope we are all together in the new Jerusalem next year.

But even if not...

He is just as good as ever.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Makeover Wednesday

I went to the grocery store yesterday, and on my way out I also added "AndIthinkI'llstopbythemallandseeifIcanfindanEasteroutfit" and ran away. First I went into JCPenney, which had some very cute dresses, but everything was at least six sizes too big for me. Not even workable with a cardigan over them. So I made my way to Ann Taylor Loft, where by fortunate coincidence, there was a dress sale going on. As I was picking up a coral sheath, I heard a voice say, "That would look just darling on you." I turned, and there was Lucy's teacher, Mrs. Blevins. Then she said, "Skip that rack for now, and come with me to the super sale rack."
There she found me:

This....(for $9.98)

This....(for $4.98, that's FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY-EIGHT CENTS)...(She currently had one of these on)...

And, ta da! My Easter dress....for $19.99 (marked down from $79.99)....

I also got a necklace to go with the dress, and everything for under $50.00. When I came home, Lucy was thrilled that Mrs. Blevins helped me pick out my new spring clothes.

Today I took the girls for their spring haircuts aka Elaine's makeover.

"WHOA," said Ms. Robin, when she saw Elaine's hair. "I haven't seen bad breakage like that in a LONG time." She said that most babies lose their hair, but some don't until they're toddlers or even pre-schoolers, and that is what is happening to Elaine. She showed me where the new hair is growing in and said she should probably cut it to that length (actually brevity), so it can grow full.

Elaine accepted it all with equanimity.

Here is the length of the back...

Another ta da: Here is her new look!

She was very pleased with herself and kept smoothing her hair and looking in the mirror. I think it is just too cute.

And...if she looks a tad too much like this:

....we just won't say anything about it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

They just need a little more decoration...

Yesterday, Lucy and Elaine's friend Isabella came over to play. Her mom, my friend Sarah, was happy since she was trying to paint a bedroom. Isabella's two older brothers, who had to help paint the room, were not as happy. "How come Isabella gets to go have fun?" they asked. Sorry, boys. We women servants need a few breaks here and there.

The first thing we did was decorate Easter eggs. Instead of the usual Paas Easter egg dyeing supplies, I splurged and bought the Tinkerbell & the fairies kit instead. In addition to the color tablets, egg stands, dyeing wand, and stickers, there was GLITTER. Because who doesn't want a little glitter with their eggs?

Here the three are, decorating. They especially liked the part where I added the vinegar to the water and dye. "Does your mom make you have vinegar, Isabella?" asked Lucy. "Yes, but not as much anymore," said Isabella. "Our mom does," Lucy went on. "A spoonful, if we're sassy or if we lie to her." With a jolt, I realized that there was a conversation around a kitchen table about a mother and her dastardly methods, and I was that mother. How the mighty have fallen.

Of course the highlight was the glitter. What this picture doesn't show is the thin film of glitter that now covers my entire kitchen. Actually, my whole house because that's its nature. I love glitter. Really, I do.

After the egg-dyeing, the girls all went upstairs to play. It's not easy for three to play together, especially when their ages span from 7 to 3, but they did beautifully. I never heard one cross word or any crying the whole afternoon. Possibly the goody bags filled with candy that Isabella brought helped.

Then it was cookie decorating time. I baked and frosted the cookies and then set out various sprinkles and tubes of decorating gel. I thought the sprinkles would be the big thing, but no, it was the gel. Fortunately, I had eight tubes of it. As soon as they decorated one, they wanted to eat it.

This looks kind of gruesome, actually:

Copious amounts of frosting, gel, sprinkles, and cookies went into little mouths (note the broom in the background. I kept trying to sweep up glitter). I finally told Isabella, "Honey, if you throw up tonight, your mom will never let you play at our house again." (That Coke is not theirs, however. I do have some standards.)

Here is some of the finished product. Mmmmm, don't you want one right now?

This one is Elaine's--she told me that it's a monkey.

When Sarah and Isabella's brothers came to pick her up, I had no idea almost 4 hours had gone past. Both Lucy and Elaine asked, "Can we go over to Isabella's house now? We'll come back in a little while."

Definitely the mark of a great playdate--that they just wanted to keep playing. Of course, the sugar and the glitter helped.

Monday, April 06, 2009

It's the First Official Day of Spring Break, and We Have Some Randomness

Yes, it's Spring Break here. We've got an agenda for this week. We started spring cleaning on Saturday. "I like spring cleaning better than regular cleaning," Lucy said. We're scheduling playdates. We're having our Seder on Thursday. And it's time for haircuts. Lucy got her hair cut at Valentine's Day, but Elaine hasn't had any help other than me trimming her bangs, since Christmas. And the girl needs help. Bad. My three-year-old needs a makeover.

"What is UP with her hair?" asks Darren.

We don't know, we just don't know. "She looks like a lion," he added. "Or a dandelion," I amended. I had this strategy that we should just her hair grow. She really hasn't had any length cut since about last May. This is clearly a plan that is not working. So we're going to see what magic Ms. Robin can work on her hair.

Here she is (don't worry, I still think she is adorable):

Here is a front view (ignore that pink frosting on her chin. She had a doughnut for breakfast. YES, they ate doughnuts. My father-in-law is here, painting our basement. He brought them. I was going to make them oatmeal for breakfast. My kids like my father-in-law.)

So, in keeping with the journalistic quality you've come to know and love at this blog, I'll have during and after pictures of the hair transformation as well.

Here is a sharp change of subject, but I must share something I am thrilled about. A couple months ago, a friend of ours from India sent us a package of gifts. In it was a large package of Brooke Bond Taj Mahal tea--sixty teabags. That tea was phenomenal. I had no self-control. I did not try and eak it out to make it last. I drank and drank of that tea. Then I checked on the Internet to see if I could buy the tea here. Why yes, yes I could. For THIRTY dollars. Are the teabags gold-encrusted?! And that didn't even include shipping. What was I to do?

And then I happened down the international aisle of our local grocery store. They have a pitiful, almost non-existent selection of Indian things. However, they do have some British things, such as Bird's tinned custard and......THIS!

Ahhhhh. It's not quite Taj Mahal, but it's hitting the spot nonetheless. And now, back to regularly scheduled programming, since most people could not care less about tea, let alone what brand I drink.

This is how the girls spent their first night of Spring Break. Darren and I came up to check on them and discovered them thus:

That's their version of a sleepover. It doesn't count that they already sleep in the same room.

And the quote of the week so far is from Lucy: "Mom, why is it that women are always the servants?"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

And then...some other stuff

It's been a week since the dreaded stitches incident, and yesterday was the day Lucy was to get them removed. I had taken her to the doctor on Saturday because he wanted to look at them and see they were not infected. She started to freak out as soon as I told her, but after all he did was brush back her bangs and say, "She looks good. Come back on Wednesday to have them taken out," she believed me that it was no big deal. As we came home she said, "You know, that really didn't cause me much distress."

However, as the stitches-removal loomed closer yesterday, she got concerned again. I told her an almost-lie--that getting stitches removed doesn't hurt at all. When I got mine removed, it hurt like a, well, it hurt a lot if you know what I mean and I think that you do. But there was no way I was going to let her know that. I put several bribes on the table in exchange for calm behavior. The whole thing took about 60 seconds, she cried a little bit and said, "Ow, ow, ow!" but overall, she did a great job and got the marshmallow Easter egg and a trip to Walgreens to buy her own pack of gum as promised.

"It really DID hurt, though," she assured me.

Elaine got to come along for the gum too. On the way home I said, "What will happen if I find chewed gum on my furniture or the rug?"

"It's OVER," Lucy said promptly. "The gum belongs to Mom then." Can you tell this kid has been hanging around me for the past almost-six years?

Here is the brave girl sans stitches:

And a closeup...

As for Elaine, here were her yesterday morning activities. Simply the morning, we haven't even covered the afternoon. Remember the soapdish? My favorite, precious, darling soapdish?

Apparently, it rained, thanks to Elaine. And now it looks more like this. Soap and water: good for washing, not good for decoration. Unfortunately, I was just at the shop that sold the dish and eggs and didn't bother to pick up any more.

After she finished watering the soap eggs, she opened a new box of Glad sandwich bags (300 count, natch) and removed them all.

Then she found a glue stick and decorated the patio door.

Is there someone who can explain the 3-year-old psyche to me? I'm at a loss.

The girls spent the rest of the day getting into their gum packs and trading pieces. Fortunately, I haven't found any chewed gum anywhere. Yet.

When I do, it will definitely cause me much distress.