Monday, November 23, 2009

Scones...a pregnancy craving adventure in cooking

Does that even make any sense? Well, cravings rarely do. I haven't had too many this time around, and they're usually short-lived. Which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. Like, if I crave Doritos, I'm like an ADD kid: "OOOH, I need some Doritos! I need some really BAD! Jon, please go to Red Apple and get me some Dorit....ooh, shiny! I could make a craft out of that!...." etc., etc. That would be a GOOD short-lived craving. A BAD short-lived craving would be the time that I ordered $25 worth of Chinese food (including a tip) for delivery, and by the time it got here less than an hour later I TOTALLY didn't want it. Blech. Gross. Get it away from me. (And for those of you Chinese-food conisseurs in Manteo - Neil, namely - it was from Top China, which is inferior to China King in so many ways.)
Anyway, the longest-lasting craving so far (at nearly a week) was for cranberry-lemon scones. Seriously? Who even craves this stuff? Where does my mind come up with it? But I had to have them, and after having the cranberries and the lemons in my fridge for about 4 days, I finally made them this morning. I figured this crap ought to be documented, so here ya go:

Must...have....coffee.....to start.


Does that look like "coarse crumbs" to you? Works for me.


No buttermilk? (Who ever does?) My mama taught me
to sour milk with a tablespoon or so of vinegar or lemon juice before
you start. Works like a charm.)



I love Pampered Chef. This tool (which was cheap, as far as
PC stuff goes) is a lemon zester/scorer.

Another Pampered Chef favorite; this one gets
nearly daily use: my food chopper makes short work
of the fresh cranberries.

Leftover cranberries; must find a use for
them! The garlic salt has nothing to do with this
recipe, don't worry! :) It just lives on my counter
because it, too, sees nearly daily use.

Add the good stuff.

First taste of fresh cranberries :)


Very sticky.



And messy.
Ready to go in the oven.

Yes, oven is filthy.

Finished product! Yum. Craving satisfied.
Even my picky-butt son liked them.

The End.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A healthy baby...good report!

After we had our ultrasound last month, my doctor sent me for a fetal echocardiogram up in Norfolk. NOT because he thought there was a problem, but because, since I had my last baby, both of my sisters had babies born with congenital heart issues, one benign, one severe. So Dr. Dwyer, even though everything looked OK to him, sent me up to Eastern Virginia Medical School so they could double- and triple-check.
The process is exactly like every other ultrasound I've had (except a bit longer). The pictures looked the same. The technician was very friendly and kept commenting "What a pretty baby!" She was able to confirm that she is DEFINITELY a girl (yay!) and gave us an A+ for everything. No heart issues or other issues that she could see at all. At one point (and I so wish I had a
picture of this), she had her hand up to her head, and it looked like she was swooning like a drama queen. I think she'll take after her sisters, huh?
Here are some pictures:


Profile with her hand by her face. It kept looking like she was going for her thumb. :)

Another profile that shows that she has my nose, for sure.

Girly parts :)

I think she looks an awfully lot like Micah in this one.



Jon says she looks like Micah AND me. Especially in this one because
he says it looks like she is holding a book.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read....

....this is how we approach Christmas in our family. Each kid gets four gifts that meet the above criteria. (I get some little stocking stuffers, too.) I don't want my kids to have a material explosion for Christmas. Usually, I have some pretty good ideas for what to get them. I get suggestions from them for the "something you want" category, of course. I try to accomodate (within reason, as long as it's age-appropriate and not hideously expensive) their requests, even if I think to myself (usually rightly so) "you'll NEVER play with/use that". Whatever. It's "something YOU want", not "something I WANT YOU TO HAVE".
I'm having trouble this year, though. Maybe it's the economy and the scarcity of funds that's making me so Grinchy. But really, when I look at these categories, only the "something you want" category even makes sense to me. Because there's really, really nothing they need. They truly, truly don't need any more clothing. We honestly, honestly, have too many books in this house. They're overrunning our place to keep them. We are expecting a baby in March with all the gack that goes along with that.
Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just in case you missed my Facebook status update...

....another example of "good thing I have thick skin":
Abbie (to me): You look different.
Me: How do I look different?
Abbie: You look like an Oompa-Loompa. I don't like that headband.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's a girl!

Everything looks good; the doctor and technician both said "with 95% certainty" that its' a girl.
No good pictures, either profile or of "the goods", but all is well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A plug for a favorite product, and a self-indulgent prayer request

My absolute favorite place to buy "mama-time" things is The Yum-Yum Shoppe. Talitha is on a message board that I frequent, and her stuff is to die for. Several months ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I switched from using regular facial-cleaning products to using the Oil-Cleansing Method. It seemed counter-intuitive at the time, because I often felt that I had oily skin. It turns out I was CAUSING my oily skin with commercial detergents trying to prevent my adult-onset acne. Good grief. Talitha makes an awesome oil blend that I've been loving for several months. I also use her facial serum for moisturizer. I've now been converted to a devotee of her Lip Butters (I got peppermint and juicy fruit), and they totally rock.
OK, commercial over, but you should seriously check out her website.

And for the self-indulgent prayer request...we are praying for a SHOW-OFFY baby tomorrow for our ultrasound. This is the "big one", where the do the anatomy scan to check that the baby is developing as s/he should. That, of course, is the main thing; that we get a healthy baby report. But selfishly, we'd also like a "boy/girl" report. Please pray that our baby will show us the goods! We'll let you know sometime after 10 AM tomorrow. Probably with pictures, too, if I can get my scanner to work.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy birthday to my awesome Mommy!

She's pretty much the bomb. I've been told (often, actually, and I'm not trying to brag on myself) that I'm some kind of "SuperWoman/SuperMom" thing. (To which I say...yeah, whatever.) The people I hear it from mostly are referring to my ability to seemingly just "roll with it"...that I don't get fazed by much.
Well, in case you're wondering...my mom is where I learned it. Among other things, like how to be a patient mother, a loving and forgiving and interested wife, a creative teacher.
My mediocre housekeeping skills, in case you're wondering....yeah, I got those on my own. Also my sarcastic tongue...not from my mom.
Happy birthday, Mama! I love you so much.



I know I've shared this one before, but that's baby ME in there!

My practically-teenaged parents with me. (No, they weren't really teenagers. Well, Mommy was but I think Daddy was 21.)

Bath in the sink at my Nana's house.


Mommy with Abbie, still in the hospital.


Mommy and I last year.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My "day in the life"

A message board that I frequent does this a few times a year. We take pictures of our day, upload them, caption, and show each other what we do for an entire day. I've not taken part in one before, mostly because I forget, but I gave it a shot this time. Not terribly interesting, but here ya go, if you're interested:
http://picasaweb.google.com/beautifulbeachmusic/GretchenSDITL#

I'd love to see one that you guys do! Send me a link if you end up trying it. It was kind of fun, actually.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I suck at blogging, part fifty-million.

Yeah, it's been more than a month since I updated. It's not that nothing has happened, it's just that I'm lazy. ("It's just the way God made me!" Gwenn and Melody will get that.)
We started school on August 24th. It's been going pretty well, for the most part. It's been a little difficult getting into the swing of things with three kids instead of 2, but they've been great. Abbie is learning to read (!) and is enjoying it a lot. Micah still struggles with writing. I don't think it's the writing, per se, that's hard for him, but the concentration. If I'm not right on top of him, he totally zones out. I'm going to have to find some more challenging ideas for Katie, too. I think she's getting bored.
We had our annual Bender Labor Day Bash again this year. It was great fun; we had nine folks from Creation staying with us (4 in the trailer, 5 inside) and 1 staying with Mom. We went to the beach, had 2 bridge-jumping expeditions (not me!), went shooting, ate lots of good food, and in general just had a great time visiting.
We've had a busy month so far. Katie is playing soccer again, and that's usually 3 times a week. Micah and Abbie are both in gymnastics, which is only once a week, but they're not in the same class anymore, so it's still two trips out there. I'm still with the worship team, of course, and the kids are enjoying Wee Worship (a worship dance group for kids) while I practice with the team.
We've had P.E. with our homeschool group, and we are taking a trip to Williamsburg, VA, this weekend for a fun/educational camping trip with the group. Next weekend, the kids and I are travelling with my dad to NJ for my cousin Johanna's wedding. I am very excited about this, not just because of the wedding, but because I just love seeing my family and letting the kids get to know them. Daddy and I are planning to take them to Three Bridges Church (where I grew up) on Sunday morning. Melody and her girls are coming out, too, so that should be a good time.
In other news, we finally got Abbie in to see an ear, nose and throat specialist yesterday about her tonsils. He confirmed what I suspected, which is that they are abnormally large and definitely are the cause of her snoring, sleep apnea and nasal quality to her voice. So they are coming out next month (October 12th). I've been told it's a pretty miserable recovery, so please pray for us!
Well, I've got to get ready for our trip, and I've got tons of laundry to fold, so that's it for now. I'll try to update more than once a millenium. (OK, month. I've been told I'm prone to hyperbole.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The 10-minute challenge

My mother started using this method a few days ago, and blogged about it here. I decided what the heck, and I tried it yesterday. I LOVE IT. It is so rewarding. I stuck to the ten minutes (more or less), and got the entire house (more or less) presentable in less than 45 minutes. Today I did more. This is truly a great method for someone like me with an instant gratification problem and a short attention span. Also, working with a timer brings out my competitive streak. I think I will get a timer I can carry around with me; the only one I have is on my oven.
Anyway, thanks, Mommy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The great clothing explosion

...also known as "my kids have too damn much clothing". Which kind of makes me sick, actually. And sad, when I stop to think about it. I realized that when all the laundry is clean at the same time (which, truthfully, is hardly ever), we literally cannot fit all their clothing in the drawers. So my goal was to purge whatever doesn't fit. I had kind of a grand idea that they could keep x number of tops, x number of pairs of shorts, but scrapped that idea. The revised goal (which worked since all my laundry was *gasp* clean at the same time) was "You can keep it if it fits in your drawer".
So today I have THREE kitchen-sized trash bags full of clothing to bring to Hotline (our local thrift store).
Next in line: the dreaded toy shelves *insert scary Jaws-like music here*. It's always drama, because something gets unearthed that literally hasn't been seen in six months, and I go to put it in the Hotline bag, and somehow some kid sees it and says, "noooooooo! that's my faaaaaavorite toy! I looooooove that toy and I play with it alllllll the tiiiiiiime!" Another annoying tendency my kids have is to always want to save cardboard boxes or random packing things because "I'm making a house for my guys" or what-have-you. Now, I'm all about creative play. And I love that they can make playthings out of recyclables. But come on, now! We're drowning in old shoe boxes! And no, I'm not saving every scrap of paper you ever took a pen to! (Side note: the pre-school that my kids went to, while great in almost every way, had the horrible habit of sending home at least 3-6 pieces of random "artwork" or "seatwork" EVERY. DAY. You can only keep so much, you know? Like, none.)
Anyway, if I think of it, I'll take before and after pictures. I definitely need to do some work before Baby comes in March. Otherwise we might lose him/her in the clutter.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another kid funny...because my son is hilarious.

Yesterday afternoon, Abbie somehow closed the closet door on her foot. She was (ultimately) fine, but a lot of crying ensued. I gave her an ice pack to put on it. Micah came over and squatted down next to her, and said, "Abbie, can I see it?" Abbie tearfully lifted the ice pack and showed him the red line across her foot. Micah said, "Wow, Abbie, you are really brave. If that happened to ME, I'd be crying like a little schoolgirl."
I'm still laughing out loud about this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breaking my silence...

....I really just haven't had much to say lately. Well, I did have some news, but I don't think there are any people who read this blog who I'm not a) related to b) working with c) live in Manteo or d) Facebook friends with. But for the one of you that might exist....psssst.....the secret's out: I'm pregnant! :) Baby is due in March.
This week has been fun. The kids have had VBS at Mt. Olivet this week and have been having a blast. Melody came down from Pennsylvania with Evie and her brand-new baby, Cana. It's been really neat meeting Cana when she's so teeny...and she is TEENY! I can't get over how little she is; she's way littler than even Abbie was, and she was my smallest.
But my real reason for breaking my blog silence is to tell you that my niece, Evie, is just about the funniest thing ever. Melody and Chris have taught her all kinds of expressions that crack me up. For instance, she's not thirsty, she's "parched". If you say, "Question..." she will come right back with "Yes, Dwight?" Tonight, she was having trouble rolling out the PlayDoh I had taken out for her, and she whined, "I CAN'T DO IT! HELP ME!" I said, "Evie, how do we ask?" Without missing a beat, she said, "Please-most-wonderful-Auntie-Gretchen!"
Sigh. I love that kid.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If your dryer is ever broken.....

....as in, when you attempt to turn the switch to "START", it moans as if it wants to start but just doesn't have the energy (much as I feel most of the time), and you go for four days over the holiday to call your landlord and hang all your clothes including your work clothes out on your handy-dandy clothesline and then forget to take them in and it downpours and you're totally frustrated and fed-up and when you finally call your landlord he says his guy will come "tomorrow or the next day" and now it's the next NEXT day and you're about to scream because it's been a week now, get your husband to check and see if there's a DIME jammed in the door, causing it not to latch correctly.
Because that's probably what's wrong with it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

An auntie again!

My sister Melody and her husband Chris (and their daughter Evie) welcomed Cana Strayer tonight! 6 lbs. 5 oz. of perfect new yumminess.
Thanks for your prayers regarding her could-have-been-but-thanks-be-to-God-wasn't-very tumultuous entrance into this world.
Can't wait to meet you, sweet thing! I love you already!

Monday, June 15, 2009

OK, so the smell thing

Last week, I noticed a vaguely funky odor in my kitchen. I sniffed around. Couldn't find anything. The left side of my kitchen is a possible odor nightmare, as the refrigerator, trash can, washer and dryer are all right in a row. So I don't find anything.
The next day, a bit worse. Smells like musty old man breath. (You KNOW what I mean.) Not like rotting trash, or fruit, or mildewy clothes. Still can't find it.
Third day now horrible. Go through refrigerator, nothing. No dirty/stinky clothes in washer. No not-quite-dry-so-now-musty clothes in dryer. Trash can empty.
Wait. Waaaait just one minute. What's that BEHIND the trash can? Oh, it's the lid to the trash can. (Why do I even keep that? It's NEVER on the trash can. Screw it, I'm going to throw it away.) But as I lift it, yuck, what's that black liquid pooling on it? OH MY GROSS, IT SMELLS SO FOUL! WHAT IS THIS VILE MIASMA OF NASTINESS?????
I look up, to behold a lone potato sitting underneath a bag of onions in the produce basket that hangs from the underside of the cabinet. The onions are fine; the potato, sadly, is not. At arm's length, with a paper-towel-covered hand, I throw the potato in the trash can. Then gag into said trash can. Carry the bag out. Go spray the offending liquid puddle with some strong chemical. Gag again. Almost leave it for Jon to clean up, honestly only because he has a stronger stomach. Soldier on. Have to move refrigerator to get entire puddle. Gag some more. Dry-heave into trash can.
Get the picture? Have I painted it well enough?
In other news, we leave for Creation THE DAY AFTER TOMORROOOOOOW! Woo-hoo!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's the WORST smell you can think of?

Seriously. The worst EVER. (OK, don't get too graphic. I'm not talking dead bodies or anything. Just your average, run-of-the-mill, might-encounter-it-occasionally-or-hopefully-only-this-once-in-your-lifetime smell.)
I'll tell you why later, but I'd be interested in what it is for you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A photo shoot

We took pictures at the Lost Colony park last week. I will post more later, because Israel took the "real" pictures. I haven't sorted through those yet. These are some that I took over his shoulder while he was working. I love them!

She posed herself like this. Princess much?

Ahh, that pensive look she's perfected.

Micah was actually just climbing here, not posing.


Check out the eyes! Love it.

Silly pictures are best.

Again with the pensive.


Easily my favorite of all of them.

Cutie Abbie.

My rugrats.

The whole group.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My smarty kids....

....scored 111/120 (Katie) and 92/100 (Micah) on their standardized tests for this year. This is a great achievement in itself, but to add to that, I test them at one grade level higher than their age. So Katie's pre-school pals are in 1st, but she tested 2nd, Micah's are in K and he tested 1st, clear as mud?
I'm so proud of them! I also did a reading-level assessment and Katie is at a 7th grade reading level, Micah at a high 4th grade.
I love these kids, and I love homeschooling.
That is all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Non-cuss words and "Mother of the Year"

Sunday mornings are madness in my life. Every alternate Sunday, Jon is on duty and can't attend church with us, so I've got the kids to myself. The getting ready part isn't too bad; I've got that down pretty well. However, since I'm one of the worship leaders, I have to be there an hour early for rehearsal. I try to bring stuff for them to do (there's no one in the nursery at that time), like pads and pens and books and small toys and stuff. But here's how it usually goes:
In the car when we're almost there, we have a recitation of "the rules". The rules are, more or less, 1. stay in the front of the church, right where I can see you
2. no running in the sanctuary
3. no crawling under chairs
4. no throwing toys
5. no coming up on stage unless either I call you or someone is direly injured.
6. keep your shoes on unless you're wearing flip-flops
7. when church starts, sit with Nana, Mama Candy, Grandad, or Miss Christina. Pick one of them and stay there.

So, we get there, I go to put my stuff down and turn on my gear, and instantly the shoes are off, the bag of books and pens is opened and stuff is scattered everywhere, and Micah starts flinging a stuffed animal into the air. (I'm thinking he's trying to get it stuck in an overhead light.)
The whole time I'm rehearsing, I'm leaning away from my live microphone and hissing, "STOP THAT! LEAVE HERE ALONE! QUIT THROWING STUFF! DON'T JUMP OFF THE CHAIRS!"

This morning, there is some hostility going on between Katie and Micah. Katie catches my eye (we weren't actually playing yet at this point) and says, "MOMMY! Micah said a BAD WORD! He said the S-WORD!" I about swallowed my tongue in shock. I called Micah up to me and said, "Micah! What did you say?!?!" He mumbled, "I don't want to say it." I said, "Whisper it in my ear." So he leaned over and said, "stupid. I'M SORRY, MAMA!"

It was pretty hard to cover my giggles at that one.

After church, we went to the beach with my girlfriends and their collective kids. It was great fun, but after we returned home, De-Ann and I discovered that we should jointly hold the Mother of the Year Award for Suckiness in Sunscreen Application (kids' body division). I love to use the continous-spray sunscreen, but apparently I didn't take into account the wind in my application of it (either time). So now we all have blotchy red spots, me mostly on my legs and Micah and Abbie on their back. Also, the tops of Abbie's legs and Micah's back at the waistband of his trunks are FRIED. De-Ann uses lotion, and apparently just mixed too much sand in it or something, because her two eldest girls are BRIGHT red on their backs.
So, some aloe spray and some ice cream were in order tonight.

And a cold beer for me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Funny things my kids say, part 538

Micah (after spending the evening with Nanny and Grandad, by himself): Well, Nanny and Grandad were eating dinner, but I already had dinner at home, so I had some of that...what's it called? I think it's called "Christian ice"?" Seconds go by. Then I realize he means "Italian ice". Not sure where that went awry.

Abbie (after having a completely disgusting discussion with me and Katie about snot and phlegm and "loogies", and having been told by me, once again, that eating boogers is nasty): "Well, when I'm FIVE I'll probably stop eating my boogers."

Micah (out of the blue): "Mom, what does 'heartache and misery' mean?" Me: "Where did you hear that?" Micah: "Oh, I just read it somewhere." (One must ask: Does your mother ever check on what you're reading? The answer, embarrassingly, is 'Rarely'. This gem, in particular, happened to come out of the book series "The Spiderwick Chronicles". Which I DID check on.)

Katie: "Kissing is disgusting." Sigh. And so it begins.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Something else my son can do (as of this week)

Today Micah was wearing shorts with a drawstring on them. I said, "Hey, buddy, let me help you." (Meanwhile thinking, "Oh, yeah, I should teach this kid to tie.") He said, "No, I got it." I watched, interested, thinking that surely he was about to tie it into a gnarly knot. To my great surprise, he tied a bow. Not a perfect one, but it was definitely a recognizable bow. Shocked, I said, "How did you learn how to tie? Did Daddy teach you?" He replied, "No. I just taught myself. Popah (Jon's dad) showed me how one time and I just watched him."
Amazing.

A great article about homeschooling and socialization (I HATE that word!)

No Thank You,
We Don't Believe in Socialization!
©2000 Lisa Russell
Used with Permission

I can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we're homeschooling, our kids won't be "socialized." The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning.

The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader.

Having been a "reader" for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I've never known two 6 yr. olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because "We are not here to socialize, young ladies."

Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I've ever had. If we're not there to socialize, then why were we there? I learned to read at home. If I finished my work early (which I always did,) could I have gone home? If I were already familiar with the subject matter, would I have been excused from class that day? If schools weren't made for socializing, then why on earth would anyone assume that homeschoolers were missing out?

As a society full of people whose childhood’s were spent waiting anxiously for recess time, and trying desperately to "socialize" with the kids in class; It is often difficult for people to have an image of a child whose social life is NOT based on school buddies. Do you ever remember sitting in class, and wanting desperately to speak to your friend? It's kind of hard to concentrate on the lessons when you're bouncing around trying not to talk. Have you ever had a teacher who rearranged the seats every now and then, to prevent talking, splitting up friends and "talking corners." Were you ever caught passing notes in class?

Now- flash forward to "real life." Imagine the following scenes:

Your Employer is auditing the Inter-Office Email system and comes across a personal note between you and a coworker. You are required to stand at the podium in the next sales meeting to read it aloud to your coworkers. The Police knock on your door, and announce that because you and your neighbor have gotten so close, they're separating you. You must move your home and your belongings to the other side of town, and you may only meet at public places on weekends.

You're sitting at a booth waiting for a coworker to arrive for a scheduled lunch date. Suddenly a member of upper management sits down across from you and demands your credit cards. When your friend arrives, you just order water and claim you're not hungry, since he stole your lunch money.

You're applying for a job and in an unconventional hiring practice, you are made to line up with other applicants, and wait patiently while representatives from two competing companies take their pick from the lineup.

You're taking your parents out for an anniversary dinner. After you find a table, a waiter tells you that seniors have a separate dining room, lest they "corrupt" the younger members of society.

You go to the grocery store only to find that since you are 32 years old you must shop at the store for 32 year olds. It's 8 miles away and they don't sell meat because the manager is a vegetarian, but your birthday is coming up and soon you'll be able to shop at the store for 33 yr. olds.

You'd like to learn about Aviation History. You go to the library and check out a book on the subject only to be given a list of "other subjects" that you must read about before you are permitted to check out the aviation book.

You're having a hard time finding what you need in the local department store. The saleslady explains that each item is arranged alphabetically in the store, so instead of having a section for shoes, you will find the men's shoes in between the maternity clothes and the mirrors.

Your Cable Company announces that anyone wishing to watch the Superbowl this year must log on a certain number of hours watching the Discovery Channel before they can be permitted to watch the game.

You apply for a job only to be told that this job is for 29 year olds. Since you're 32, you'll have to stay with your level.

In a group project, your boss decides to pair you up with the person you don't "click" with. His hope is that you'll get learn to get along with each other, regardless of how the project turns out.

These absurd examples were created to point out how absolutely ridiculous the idea of "socializing" in schools is. Many people had a friend who they stayed friends with all through grammar school- WHY? Because their names were alphabetically similar, and they always ended up in line with each other. As an adult, have you ever made friends with someone simply because your names were similar? How long would such a friendship last and how meaningful would it be, providing you had nothing else in common?

People often use the bully as an example of why it's so important to let kids "socialize" at school. If that's so important, then the bully needs to go to JAIL after a few months, because self-respecting society simply doesn't put up with that, nor should my 6 yr. old. Sure, there are crappy people in the world, but the world does a much better job of taking care of these things. A bullying brat in the first grade will still be a bullying brat in the 6th grade. He will still be picking on the same kids year after year after year, unless he moves to a new town. How long would the average adult put up with a bully? Personally, as an adult, I have only come across one grown up bully. I choose not to be around this miserable woman. So do many other people. THAT is real life. If she were a coworker, I would find a different job. If she worked at a business I patronized- not only would I refrain from doing business with that company, I would write a letter to the bully, her manager, the owner and the main office. A kid in a classroom has no way to emotionally protect themselves against such a person. I would never expect my kids to put up with bad treatment from a bully in the name of "toughening them up." For what? So they can be submissive wimps when they grow up too? So they can "ignore" their miserable bosses and abusive spouses? In real life, if an employer discovered that an employee was harassing the other staff members, that employee could be fired (pending the 90 day evaluation) or relocated. In real life, if you are so dreadfully harassed by a coworker you can seek legal recourse independently. In a classroom, the teacher and other children are often powerless.

The idea of learning acceptable social skills in a school is as absurd to me as learning nutrition from a grocery store.

As Homeschoolers, the world is our classroom. We interact with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. We talk to and learn from everyone who strikes our interest. We use good manners in our home and I'm always pleased when others comment on the manners my children have picked up. I believe good manners to be an important social skill.

Respecting common areas is also of value to us. We often carry a grocery bag with us on walks, in case we find trash that needs to be discarded. When we're waiting at a bus stop, if there is trash on the ground, we make a point to carry it onto the bus and discard of it properly. Once, while waiting at a bus stop- we saw a grown man drop his popsicle wrapper on the ground. He was 2 feet from a trash can- My daughter looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. I told her (out loud) "It must have blown out of his hand from that little wind, because no-one would throw trash on the ground on purpose. I'm sure when he's done with his popsicle, he will pick it up and throw it away correctly- otherwise, we can take care of it so we don't have an ugly world." He did pick it up, rather sheepishly. I can't imagine expecting my children to have a respect for the cleanliness of common areas in an environment where bathroom walls are covered in graffiti and trees are scratched with symbols of "love" of all things.

Another social skill we strive to teach our children is that all people are created equal. I can't imagine doing that in an environment where physically disadvantaged children are segregated into a "special" classroom. Or even children who speak a different language at home. They are segregated and forced to learn English, while never acknowledging the unique culture they were raised in, and not enabling the other students to learn FROM them. Learning, in school, comes from the books and teachers. We will learn Spanish from a BOOK, not from a Spanish-speaking student; and not until 7th grade.

I have never felt it would be beneficial to stick my 6-yr. old in a room full of other 6-yr. olds. I believe God created a world full of people of all ages and sexes to insure that the younger ones and older ones learn from each other. A few years ago, we were living thousands of miles from any older family members, so I brought my kids (then 5 and 2) to an assisted living facility, so they could interact with the elderly. Staff members told us that many of the older people would wake up every day and ask if we would be visiting soon. We always went on Wednesdays. My daughters learned some old show tunes while one of the men played piano, and the others would sing along. If I didn't have to chase my 2-yr. old around, I would have had plenty of women ready to share the art of crocheting with me (something I've always wanted to learn.) If a friend was too sick to come out of their room during our visit, we would often spend a few minutes in their room. I always let them give the kids whatever cookies they had baked for them, and I ended up cleaning a few of the apartments while we visited, simply because I would have done the same for my own Grandmother. Every room had pictures from my kids posted on their refrigerators. We called this "Visiting the Grandmas and Grandpas" and my daughters both (almost 2 years later) have fond memories of our visits. I'm sure that if we were still visiting there, my unborn child would have a thousand handmade blankets and booties to keep him warm all winter.

I don't remember any such experiences in my entire School life, although I do remember being a bit afraid of old people if they were too wrinkly or weak looking. I never really knew anyone over 60. I never sped down the hall on someone's wheelchair lap, squealing as we popped wheelies and screeched around corners. I never got to hear stories about what life was like before indoor plumbing and electricity, from the point of view of a woman with Alzheimer’s, who might believe she was still 5 years old, talking with my daughter as if she were a friend. I never got to help a 90 yr. old woman keep her arm steady while she painted a picture. And I never watched a room full of "grandma's" waiting for me by the window, because we were 15 minutes late.

On a recent visit to an Art Gallery, we noticed a man walking back and forth, carrying framed artwork from his old pickup truck. I asked my 6 yr. old if she thought he might be the artist. We both agreed that was a possibility, and after a little pep-talk to overcome her stage fright, she approached him and asked. He was the artist, and he was bringing in his work to be evaluated by the curator. We all sat down and he explained some of his techniques and listened to her opinions about which piece she liked best. He told about how he enjoyed art when he was 6 and would "sell" pictures to family and friends. He recounted how he felt while creating a few of the pieces, and how each one has special meaning to him. He even let her know how nervous he was to show them to the curator and how he hoped she found them as interesting as we did. As he was called into the office, a group of thirty-four 3rd graders filed past, ever so quietly, while their teacher explained each piece on the walls. The children were so quiet and well behaved. They didn't seem to mind moving on from one picture to the next (The problem with homeschoolers is they tend to linger on things they enjoy). They didn't seem to have any questions or comments (Maybe they'll discuss that later in class). And they never got a chance to meet the gentleman in the pickup truck.

I hope my kids aren't missing out on any "socialization."

Monday, May 4, 2009

*drum roll please*

Look what my boy can do!

Check back later...

....for exciting video of a skill acquired by my middle child this weekend.
*taps foot impatiently, waiting for Nana to upload the video*

In other news, my eldest has apparently acquired a minute-by-minute countdown of how much time is left in the day today until her first-ever tennis lesson. Jeepers. This day is draggin'.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A new 'do!

Abbie got her first "big girl" haircut today (sniff, sniff). She's been asking and asking, and frankly not only am I sick of her begging, but I'm equally if not more sick of picking food out of her hair. She is seriously the messiest eater I have EVER known. Even if her hair's pulled back (and it usually is), it never fails that she will end up with a gob of peanut butter or a blob of jelly or a smear of ketchup or a filament-thin strand of stretched-out chewing gum in her pretty blond hair. Also, as it's gotten longer, it's strangely prone to breakage and split ends. SO...all that to say that she got about 6-8" hacked off today! I forgot to take my camera to the salon, but y'all remember what she looked like before, right? Here she is this afternoon:


And then, just because it looks hilariously gross, here is Micah, holding up the giant Tootsie Roll that he picked out on the special trip Jessica took downtown to the Stock-Aid with the kiddos:


He thinks it's decidedly un-funny, however, if you call it his "poo candy". Come on, that's COMEDY right there! (*insert eye roll*)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our last day in Jacmel

We won't be flying out of Haiti until Sunday, but we are leaving Jacmel tomorrow (Saturday) to stay overnight in Port-au-Prince. The senate elections are on Sunday, so traffic may be bad getting there. We are staying at a guest house on Saturday night.
The work here has been going SO well. We accomplished more (I think) than we had planned. Gwenn's house is now painted, it's scrubbed, it has a new kitchen counter area, it's been powerwashed, and her stuff is in it. We are going over there again today with Pastor Placide to pray over the whole house. This afternoon, we are going back to the beach with Danny's kids (they're off today because of the elections this weekend). Before we swim, we're going to de-trash the beach as a service project to the community. Tonight, we're going to the English service at the church.
This trip has been exciting and exhausting on so many levels. I miss my family so much. Being here has made it harder, in some ways, to deal with Gwenn and Nick going away. But it's also been incredible to see their new home, to meet their new friends/family (Sandra and Nixon, the parents of the team housing, are AMAZING!), to get to know some of the kids in Danny's family, to go to their new church. Another great thing that's come out of this trip for me is getting to know Kristi, Gwenn's sister-in-law (Kristi's married to Nick's brother). I never really spent any time with her before, and she ROCKS! Seriously, she is the most hard-core lady I've met in a long time.
So I'm sure I'll be posting gobs of pictures when I get back. (Probably not until at least Tuesday, though.)
Pray for us as we travel; for safe flight and for no election-related unrest in the country this weekend. Thanks for your continued prayer and support (and for your *snort* "hedge of protection" around me. I've felt it this week, truly.).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I am HERE!

We got into Port-au-Prince about 2:30 PM yesterday. After the lines through immigration and customs, we piled into 2 different vehicles (Gwenn and Nick's new pickup being one of them! Brand-new, with the plastic still on the seats) and made the 3+ hour journey through some of the windiest, steepest mountain roads I've ever been on. It was scary and exciting all at once. The road drops off on the side to INCREDIBLY steep cliffs. We got into team housing in Jacmel about 6:30 ish. After unloading and a wonderful dinner prepared by LeAnn and Sandra, I CRASHED. In a bed with mosquito netting!
It is hot here but not as hot as I thought it would be. So far, I've not gotten any mosquito bites.
This morning was one of my turns to help with breakfast. I prepared pancakes for 14 people and then washed dishes for said people (there is no hot running water in the house, and the water you do have needs to be conserved, so it was kind of like washing dishes when camping, complete with heating the water on the stove.
After breakfast and a short time of devotions, we went to church. What a great time! It's just up the street from team housing, so we walked. Church was crowded and hot, but FUN. We walked in just as the worship team was starting up. My mom and I got a chance to minister in music (I sang a song, which was meant to have a CD accompaniment, but the CD player didn't work! so I sang it a cappella.) Mom was signing the song for the deaf children who attend from a local deaf school. Interestingly, Haitians use American Sign Language for the deaf here, so although Mom can't speak Kreyol, she CAN communicate quite well with the deaf kids and the adults who sign.
Danny Pye (the house-father for the current HCH kids) was preaching this morning, so it was in English. The church leaders dedicated three babies to the Lord at the end of the service.
After that, it was back to team housing for lunch. I managed to sneak in a quick nap after lunch (I AM TIRED! and we haven't even worked yet!), and then we got to go see Gwenn's new house (where we'll be working for the rest of the week). This part was HARD. I was thrilled to be able to be with Gwenn when she toured her new digs, and with Nia when she picked HER new bedroom. But it just made it all that much more real for me, I think.
I have some pictures to post but may not be able to until I get home.
I miss my Jon. A lot. And my kids. A LOT. But I love this place.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A story about why I should take the time to put tags on my blogs.

If I did that, I could do a search of my own blog and see if I've posted before about how AWESOME my friend Neil is. I know I've told you about him when he re-did my floor. I like to cook with Neil because it's always an event and not just a meal. Also, he's ridiculously helpful.
Yesterday, we had a party for Jon (his birthday's tomorrow! so send him an e-mail to say hey jon.bender@yahoo.com). We had...let's see...12 adults and 9 kids here. We grilled steak and Neil made an incredible dish that he calls "loaded baked-potato salad". It's like potato salad on steroids. Yum. Anyway, he came over about an hour before people got here, helped me finish cleaning up, made said salad, helped with the grilling, then proceeded to serve everyone who was here like I hired him to cater. He ALSO did the dishes and cleaned up my kitchen while I was outside saying good-bye to some folks.
I love this guy. Neil has one of the biggest servant's hearts that I've ever known. I am blessed to count him as one of my best friends.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy birthday to my Gwennie!

I do not remember my life before Gwenn was in it. (Literally!) I was 20 months old when she was born, so she's always been there, in my mind. When we were little, we fought like crazy (sorry, Gwennie), but we also made forts and made up languages and argued over who was going to be Paula/Carol when we played Magic Garden.
This will likely be the last birthday for a while that Gwenn and I will be in the same country. In 25 days, she's moving to Haiti to follow God's call on her and Nick's life to "feed the widows and the orphans". I am so proud of them, and so sad for me. But the proud is DEFINITELY bigger than the sad.
Thank You, Jesus, for my Gwennie.






Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A "hedge of protection"

I totally use this expression, too! I may change that.


In all seriousness, though, please do pray for me and for our team as we travel to Haiti next week. I keep coming back to the scripture "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective". (So all you heathen, don't bother. KIDDING! KIDDING!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Helloo....is this thing on?

Come on, people! I'm not feeling the love! If you don't comment I don't feel validated and I will take my toys and go home! *pouts in the corner*

I'm stealing this from Gwenn's blog...

...because this is just too good not to share. Holy heck, I am laughing out loud here. (I started laughing AFTER I gagged about the idea, by the way. This is a prime example of American excess.)
So...the trouble: Want your male dog/cat/bull/horse to be neutered to eliminate those nasty male-animal habits (roaming, marking, aggressiveness)? (NEWS FLASH TO NEUTICLE INVENTORS: HUMAN MALES DO THAT, TOO.) But what's that you say? You don't want to injure your PET'S SELF-ESTEEM? You don't want your dog to be slapped on the doggie playground and called a eunuch? You want to make sure your "fixed" dog retains those weird dangly testicles? (Ewwwww. So gross.)
Good thing some COMPLETE TOOL invented NEUTICLES! OK, if you can get beyond the name, read on. And ESPECIALLY don't miss the gift shop. (Note to all readers: if anyone buys me Neuticles earrings, I will slap you. But I will totally wear them.)
I can't stop laughing. This is the most hilarious thing I have seen since the Snuggie parody commercial.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My sisters

We are an unruly bunch. We make jokes that not only border on inappropriate, we go screaming OVER the border. We encourage our children to do things that make them look foolish so we can laugh at them. (Also, Gwenn and I are likely to try and compete for the "best fun auntie" title. It's really not fair to do that to a 2o-month old! Even if she's really smart.) (Evie, not Gwenn. Gwenn's smart too, though.)
One of the things about my family that no one else seems to get (ESPECIALLY not my husband) is that we are LOUD. We laugh a lot, we talk over each other (and no one's feelings get hurt because that's just how we are). When all of us are together, Jon will often go hang out on the porch with my Dad or one of the guys because he just can't stand the noise. I honestly don't even notice it anymore.
Gwenn leaves in 34 days to move to Haiti, so this is probably the last time that all the sisters will be together until November. What to do, what to do? I'm going to make a cake for Gwenn's birthday in a few minutes; Mommy made spaghetti for dinner, we're going to wax each other's eyebrows and possibly do our toenails. (But not while we eat spaghetti. That would be gross.)
No other reason for this rambly blog but to ramble and talk about how awesome my family is.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yo mama.

A friend of mine posted this idea on her Facebook...I had to do it!

1. What is something mom always says to you?
Katie- I love you
Micah - I love you
Abbie - that she loves me like crazycakes

2. What makes mom happy?
Katie- folding the laundry (?)
Micah - doing laundry for her (He got it right!)
Abbie - like me doing my work and having friends over

3. What makes mom sad?
Katie - I don't know
Micah - disobeying
Abbie - that you ask her mad things

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Katie - making funny faces
Micah - pooting (*blush*)
Abbie - tickling!

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Katie - I have no clue
Micah - I don't know
Abbie - I don't know; I never seen you when you were a little girl!

6. How old is your mom?
Katie - 33
Micah - 33
Abbie - 33

7. How tall is your mom?
Katie - uhh...I don't know
Micah - uhhh...I don' t know
Abbie, uhh, I don't know - at least taller than me

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Katie - play the piano
Micah - going on sailboats (?)
Abbie - fold laundry

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Katie - clean the house (?)
Micah - have some chill-out time
Abbie - uh, fold laundry

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Katie - playing the piano
Micah - doing her work at Full Moon
Abbie - (doesn't really know what famous is, I don't think)

11. What is your mom really good at?
Katie - playing the piano
Micah - making pancakes
Abbie - playing the piano

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Katie- playing the guitar
Micah - remembering stuff (that's practically slanderous; I have a GREAT memory)
Abbie - I don't know

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Katie- she's a waitress
Micah - work at Full Moon
Abbie - give people food

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
Katie- English muffins
Micah - salad
Abbie - salad

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
Katie - that she's my mom
Micah - Uh, yes, I think something...doing her work
Abbie - I can't think of anything

16. If your mom were on TV, who would she be?
Katie- the singer or something like that
Micah - choir warmer-upper
Abbie - Mommy.... Gretchen

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Katie - have fun
Micah - sometimes go on boats (again with the boats; I think he's got another mother stashed somewhere)
Abbie - fold laundry, watch movies. I can't think of anything else.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Katie - that we're both girls
Micah - we both like sausage
Abbie - we both have eyes

19. How are you and your mom different?
Katie - that I have brown hair and she has red
Micah - you don't like folding laundry and I do
Abbie - because you have red hair and I don't

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Katie - that she does nice things for me
Micah - uh, she tells me
Abbie - because she loves me like crazycakes

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Katie - Busch Gardens (?)
Micah - uh, I think in the snow
Abbie - the mall (Please note: there is no mall within 100 miles of here. Micah, upon overhearing this, said, "What's a mall?")

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Nature abhors a vacuum"

Idiom Definitions for 'Nature abhors a vacuum'


This idiom is used to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics."

Apparently, this holds true for a lot of things. In countries all over the world, if there is an upset in power, different factions rush to fill the void.

However, that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the vacuum effect that occurs in my household when Jon works nights. (I believe I've mentioned before about the brain damage that occurs from this shift in sleep schedule. Search for a previous post about aluminum foil if you don't believe me.)
When Jon works nights, even on his nights off, he (obviously) is up all night. Sometimes he watches movies, or plays poker on Facebook (or in real life with friends), or folds laundry (bwahahaha), or...actually, that's all I think he does. What he doesn't do is come to bed with me. Which is sometimes OK. I really miss him when he's not there, but occasionally it is nice to have the whole bed to myself.
But that's where the vacuum effect comes into play. Jon and I have always welcomed the children into our bed. When they were infants, they slept with us almost exclusively. As they've gotten older, and transitioned to their own beds, they know that they're still welcome to come be there if they're scared, or sick, or whatever. It doesn't happen that often, though. Unless they are ill, I'd estimate that one or another of them crawls into bed with us MAYBE once every 2-3 weeks.
BUT, when Jon's not there, it's like they sense this vacuum. So they rush to fill it. Sometimes I'll find 2 of them in bed with me in the morning, with no recollection of how they got there.
When Jon came home this morning, Abbie was in my bed. (Vaguely recall it happening.) He laughed and said, "Did she wet her bed? (subtext: and you didn't feel like changing it?)". She hadn't, in fact; she just wanted to come lay with me. But the thought that popped into my head was "Nature abhors a vacuum. And so, apparently, do my children."
It's a good thing.

This. is. AWESOME!

I love words. The English language is so bizarre!

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
-- B. Shaw __________________

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I screwed up.

And I accidentally deleted Katie's blog whilst changing the username.
So her blog can be viewed at
Katie's Blog

Invisible Mothers

I VERY rarely (like, once a year rarely) re-post or forward e-mails. This one is another exception. (Sorry about the font; it wouldn't let me change it.)

Invisible Mother......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously
, not.
No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being.
I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England ... Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.
It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

'To Wendy , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'


In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam.
He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Wendy. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction.
But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.
As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Abbie turned FOUR! (I should have posted this yesterday)

How is it possible that my "baby" is four years old? That's just RIDICULOUS.
Short Abbie birthday story: After 2 prior (unplanned) c-sections, we decided to schedule one for Abbie rather than roll the dice again. So we registered to come into the hospital at 5:30 AM on the 16th. All our plans were in place; we had childcare for the bigs lined up and everything. Then, about 4:00 PM on the 15th, I got a call from the OBX Hospital that they were "full". (It doesn't take much; there are only 17 beds in the whole hospital, and 4 of them are labor/delivery rooms.) They told me I'd have to come in the following day. I reluctantly agreed, because, really, what else could I do? I called all the people who needed to know this information and settled in to wait another day.
Abbie, however, had other plans. I was woken up by a STRONG contraction at exactly 5:30 AM on the 16th (right when we'd been scheduled!). I labored all day, and by about 6:30 PM I could no longer talk through them, and Jon made me call the hospital. I remember crying to him, "But they're FULL!" and him replying, "Well, they're going to have to make someone move over."
When I got there, it was controlled chaos. They really WERE full. I was in triage for a little while, with contractions coming about 2 minutes apart. I was REALLY upset because my doctor was not on call that night, nor was ANYONE from my practice. I knew I was having a c-section (I never progressed past 2 cm with any of my kids), and it was going to be performed by someone I'd never met! It ended up being a great experience, though; Dr. Kling was very nice and extremely competent. Abbie was born at 10:30 that night.
Abbie is (as my dad would say) "a pistol". She is funny, and sassy, very bright and loving, and also the one who's going to be TOUGH when she's a teenager! She loves to sing (especially her own songs) and play dress-up. She is 900% girl. She's also messy, klutzy and prone to fits of temper. She's still attached (very much so) to her "bee" (blanket) and sucks her thumb. She just switched to panties at bedtime instead of PullUps (thank you God!) and thinks she can read. When she writes her name, the "i" looks like a big fat lollipop. She told me last night when I was laying with her at bedtime, "Mommy, I just fell in love with you!"
Here are some pictures:

In the triage room, about 2 hours before her birth.

Grandad and Micah, waiting for the announcement!



About 2 minutes old.


Daddy, sharing the news with Katie.


Baby footprints.


Meeting Grammy, 1 day old.


First family picture, one day old.


First smile (I don't care what you say, it was a SMILE!)


The day before we went home.

First birthday cake.


Turning two.


Turning three, with pink-streaked hair.


Funny picture with Nanny's glasses, just because.


Almost four, my little princess!