Christmas slogging

We are sick. Tuan and I have been in and out of bed the last three days. Johnny is snotty and Aubrey is slightly more happy. Tuan has been worst and I've been hovering on the brink. There are no Christmas cards/letters/photos taken, but the tree is up and the housekeeping is in survival mode: essentials only! We may be sending out a New Year's card this year. : ) The really crazy thing is, Tuan and I are leaving for Disney World on Monday--He's got a conference and we're staying a few days after. I've never been to DW, so this is exciting. It didn't occur to me that we'd be going right smack in the middle of Christmas, so that's making things weird and a tricky as far as shopping goes. I have done some Amazon shopping today, but lost the energy to find one more thing and my virtual shopping cart is sitting somewhere in cyberspace, waiting to be purchased . . . .

There was a point to this post, but it went away with the first sentence.


conversations of the married

Lunchtime today. Tuan throws his hamburger in the skillet.

Me, thoroughly enjoying my burger: "What are you doing?"

He: "warming up my burger."

Me:" Tuan, I'd like to introduce you to the microwave."

He: "ha, ha, I wanted my burger to taste good"

I throw my burger down

Me: "Oh Crap!"

He: "what's wrong?"

Me: "my burger doesn't taste good."

He: ha


I was sending some folks this on Facebook and got blocked because I sent too many messages! I feel rebuked--like I was caught doing something wrong!

Our friends the Nasekos are in the process of adopting a thirteen year old girl from the Ukraine. They have gotten their adoption appointment and will be in the Ukraine in early December. They are going on faith as they still need to raise 15,000 to pay for the adoption! Please pray that they can raise the money!

If you are at all interested in helping them out, there is a fund set up at French Camp Presbyterian Church. I think the donations are tax deductible. Checks may be made out to French Camp Presbyterian Church and in the memo line: Karina Adoption Fund.

Their story is really neat and you can read it all on their blog: Storeygraceinperu.blogspot.com. Feel free to pass this on!

French Camp Presbyterian Church
323 School Street
French Camp, MS 39745
Memo Line: Karina Adoption Fund


Musical Discoveries

Tuan and I are both music people. I like playing the piano and guitar, love hymns and listening to music. I remember words forever once I learn them, but I am not big on having music playing in the background and definitely cannot think or carry on a conversation while listening to music.

Tuan loves music as well, loves it in the car, in the background, doesn't mind singing, but his musical memory is short. He has a hard time remembering lyrics. I think this is why he listens to the same stuff over and over. Granted, I have my favorites, but because I don't listen to them as background filler, they stay fresher. This is why I'm still listening to Third Day stuff from the nineties, among other things. : )

The car is typically our battleground and some time back, I just sort of lost it and drew the line: "Tuan, I don't want to hear the voices of Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith, or any other person related to Caedmon's, or Indelible Grace! And for that matter, could we please give up Nickel Creek for a while!!!!!!" Frankly, I had listened to them so many times that it was all grating and annoying--and I do like all of the artists/groups above--that I was really afraid of becoming completely soured and forgetting why I liked them in the first place.

My sweet husband aquiesed and decided to acquire some new music. Okay, "new" to us music. Those of you who read this blog will scoff in wonder and dismay that we are just now listening to Sufjan, Switchfoot, Coldplay, Wendell, the Red Mountain Church stuff and the-guy-from-Switchfoot-who-went-solo or something like that. I feel no guilt--except about Wendell because he's like a brother to me and I should have gotten his stuff way long ago. Frankly, I'm too occupied with other things to stay current and buy CDS, but I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these albums. Wendell's especially is stuck in my head in a good sort of way. It seems that staying current isn't the most important thing: listening to good music is--whether it's today, yesterday or nostalgia. That's why I still love Carole King's Tapestry album, DC Talk, 3rd Day--it's just good music!

So, I would love suggestions for future music. You know, for when I turn to Tuan and say, "I can't stand that Sufjan any longer!"


writer's strike aftershocks

Remember the big hairy tv writer's strike that hit last year? The one that forced Americans without cable into watching re-run after re-run and put Deal or No Deal on TV every night? Oh, yeah, that one . . . . I had forgotten about it until I read a journal entry from last year. While the biggest disappointment with that was The Office being cut short (and missing out on the Christmas episode), I have to say that in our house the advantages have been great. Quite simply, our TV watching dropped. Drastically, in fact. It was so easy to tune into random stuff and now I realize that we rarely watch TV at night. I don't know what we do with that time, but I'm sure it's way more productive!

We now have our one show that everything stops for: The Office; and our own individual shows: the NCIS and sometimes Eli Stone or the Unit for Tuan and the-show-that-shall-not-be-named-because-I-really-don't-want-to-be-that-transparent-on-here that I watch! This spring we'll add LOST to the mix, but that's it. We are way more deliberate about TV now and that's a good thing. Going without for so long just made so many shows less important. Giving up TV altogether--no way, JOSE and I don't care what the preacher says.

I'm joking about the preacher because I and my parents have had friends who have gotten rid of the TV and returned it depending on who their preacher was. Good thing they kept it in the closet during the no TV preacher time. It saves a lot of money when you get a preacher who says its okay.


The Times They are a Changing Again

Sunday night, I sat at a little round table in a Sunday school room at the Mount Olive Church. The table was strewn with booklets and Bibles and cups. Seven rambunctious junior high girls surrounded me. It was chaotic and and wonderful and eye opening. Only one of those girls was a covenant PCA child. Our other covenant girl was out, as well as one of my regulars or I would have had nine. It was amazing.

The beginning.
In our first year of marriage, Tuan and I were looking for a place to live and jobs. Camping, we felt, was his calling, but doors were shutting. On the other hand, Mount Olive was calling. We felt so drawn to the town and church and when Tuan was hired to work as a finish carpenter in Jackson, we quickly found a rental house outside of town and settled in. Some months later, we were asked to work with the kids on Sunday nights and since 2004 we have spent Sunday nights (excepting summer) at the Mount Olive Church teaching, singing and playing. It's been a strange, difficult, yet good ministry. We've taken the kids through Pilgrim's Progress, Genesis, Exodus, some of Lev/Num/Deut, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and now 1 Sam. It's been neat to see some individual growth and to grow close to this church family.

Last year, however, was very discouraging. One of our core families (three kids is a huge chunk out of ten avg!) separated and the parents are going through a sad divorce. The kids were removed from Sunday nights and it left a huge hole. With Aubrey's birth, I spent most nights in the nursery rather than in the room with kids. I felt purposeless (and selfishly wanted to be home sleeping or resting rather than driving 50 minutes to sit in the nursery or spend a few moments with the kids) and was so discouraged without those three beloved kiddos. When we ended for the summer, we had acquired two new girls (sisters) from the community (who we were able to send to camp!), but still things were ___.

Prior to our return, I had heard rumors that our remaining oldest girl was thinking about going somewhere else on Sunday nights because she wanted to be with girls her own age. It was so saddening. She is a wonderful girl and such a blessing to the group. With our pastor, we discussed forming a class for the "older girls" that I would teach. Providentially, Mom and Dad moved back to Mount Olive and wanted to keep the kids on Sunday night. This is where things began to change.

Our first Sunday night, the sisters brought a friend, then, the next Sunday night, I had the original sisters and the friend's sisters. Caught unprepared, I shared my testimony (including a heavy dose of the gospel) and our class was formed. This Sunday night, I had the crew described above, plus a friend and a cousin. Wow.

It's hard to explain how this is all going. Our material is Susan Hunt's True Woman Series. It's great, but the diversity of backgrounds that I'm dealing with makes teaching this material pretty crazy. I've got my two covenant children on one side who go to the Academy and have intact families, and understand a good bit of theology. In the other side of the ring are my mavericks. These seven girls attend the public schools, some are minorities, most are literate in Bible Stories, but not in the gospel or theology, and are from badly broken homes. How can you begin to teach them the Woman's role in the church when the God they know of and the gospel is blurry?!

Pray for me and for them. I am desperately aware of the need the Holy Spirit in this--for words for me and for them to see, hear and understand God's word. To give my faithful readers an example: In the middle of our study about Mary the mother of Jesus, my oldest raised her hand and said: "Miss Paula, did you say Jesus was God? I didn't know Jesus was God" Explaining the Trinity fully prepared is hard enough, but on the spot is even more so! Fortunately, I was able to explain the Trinity somewhat by describing the roles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in salvation.

So there we were. Attention spans drifted, but we had our study, shared prayer requests and prayed for each other, then wrote notes for someone who was sick. I have no idea how long I will have these girls--some of them probably lead very transient lives and I am trying to not take a single hour for granted. I beg of your prayers for me and my girls. God has put together this precious group of little women and I know he has a purpose and reason for this. It's terribly encouraging to not only have this ministry at Mount Olive go in this direction, but to also be thrown own my knees at the craziness of it all and the hope that God will use me. At a later time, I may post brief descriptions of them, but this is enough for any patient person to read through. Thank you all for your prayers!



I have some friends who never seem to have things out of place--their houses are so spotless that I take this sort of naughty delight in seeing dirt and/or dust that has been overlooked. Some of them even have children at home. Other friends have this comfortable mess or clutter and then others fall in between. I fight this battle all the time with my house. Growing up, I always had a messy room and every now and then, I'd take a night and spend hours and hours de-cluttering and organizing and cleaning. I don't know why I lacked that discipline--some of it it personality driven, I'm sure. Lots of times, I just don't notice things. Then, suddenly, I'll realize how bad everything is and get so overwhelmed. My best friend is one of those neat, clean people. I remember staying at her house for sleep-overs and she would meticulously clean up her room and put things away and have everything organized before going to bed. Even her hair would be braided! I wanted to be like that, but it just wasn't me.

I work hard to keep my house from being nasty deep down, but clutter and surface mess is a constant battle. The other day, I was complaining to Tuan about how it seemed I was always cleaning and picking up and straightening. (Yes, complaining) He gingerly suggested that perhaps I was getting too involved in micro projects rather than getting the big stuff done. I wanted to protest, but as I reflected on the day and how dusting led to moving a pumpkin and gourd--thus creating a still life and then taking apart two hurricane votives, emptying them of poporn and cleaning them, then cutting branches from the yard to fill them and then artfully arranging them on the piano with some other things, I thought . . . "yeah." It really hit home that night when I was "straightening" our bedroom and got involved with re-organizing sewing supplies. Tuan walked in and said: "micro project." Gulp. I quickly finished it and tackled the job at hand.

So I am now trying much harder to balance the two. Wednesday, Tuan took the day off and I got some much-needed rest while he tackled an unfinished project. Thursday, we got up early and walked two miles and that just got me going. Everything got picked up and put away and felt good-before lunch, too! So, Thursday afternoon, I had a clean house and time to quilt/watch a netflix and play outside with the kids. Yesterday, I was coasting on the bliss and somehow things stayed clean while Johnny had a playdate and I worked on a Christmas present. During naps, I started painting the bathroom and all was so well. We even had company last night and there was no mad dash to clean up beforehand. All was still well until bed-time when Tuan asked if there was any clean underwear. gulp. I hadn't thought about laundry in days, okay, 24 hours . . . . I opened the closet and it was not a pretty sight.

So, today I am tackling laundry. While the kids nap, I'm watching Jon and Kate and folding clothes. The irony of this is that the other night, I was reading Carolyn Mahaney's GirlTalk blog and the subject was pleasing your husband and how that (whatever it may be) is the first priority of homekeeping. I asked Tuan how I could be a better wife. "Clean underwear" he promptly replied. I can't understand why he doesn't find artfully arranged gourds, pumpkins and branches more important than that, but I will submit.


Candy Corn Cutie

I have been longing to sew some dresses for Aubrey. Beth and Casey have been so inspiring with their sewing projects. A pillowcase dress seemed easy-breezy and it was! I randomly came up with the idea for the candy corn and had a blast making it. I also figured out a super easy way to do armholes without bias tape or an interfacing pattern. There is a whole stack of fabric that I can't wait to tackle now. Aubrey hasn't tried it on, yet, but I'll post a pic when I can get her dressed and photographed.


What don't you like, Kavanaugh?

As we were eating breakfast, I was watching Aubrey grasp Cheerios in her tiny little fingers and place them in her mouth. It gives me such pleasure to watch her--I love those chubby little fingers--so I began mentally compiling a list of things that I really like and enjoy right now. I thought I'd share them with you all (and naturally, the things I don't like).

Things I like (no meaningful order):
1. House Beautiful. The interiors are so gorgeous and inspiring, the food reviews/recipes are so fun; Ina Garten is the food lady for HB and I love the way that Steven Drucker (formerly of MSL) is editing/directing the magazine.

2. Johnny and Aubrey's "Power Breakfast". Mashed bananas, blueberrries, baby oatmeal, flax seed and wheat germ. I feel downright virtuous serving it to them and they devour it! It's quite tasty, but usually gone before I get to it!

3. Jon and Kate Plus Eight. For years I've heard about this show from my mom, MIL, Guitta . . . Everyone said: Jon is just like Tuan. I could never catch it on TLC when I was near cable, but was just thrilled when it came out on DVD--go Netflix! We watched several episodes yesterday and not only was it fun, but Jon is so much like Tuan that I called Mrs. D to see if she was certain she hadn't misplaced a twin upon Tuan's birth.

4. Singing with Johnny. He likes to sing and we've been learning This is the Day, Come Christians Join to Sing and From the Rising of the Son. Sometimes he inserts other lyrics ( I thought I heard something about Thomas train in the middle of This is the Day).

5. Thomas the Tank Engine. We try to be deliberate about what Johnny gets involved with and Thomas is just as enjoyable and tolerable for us as it is him.

Those are the abbreviated likes--for lack of time. What don't I like?

1. Foundation: it makes my face feel dirty and grimy all day long.
2. Sewing with terry cloth--there's a blasted story behind that.
3. Houseflies.
4. Histamines.
5. The state of our bathroom. It needs to be painted, and has a blank wall, but I really have some sewing that should be done first.


Nellie Olsen, eat your heart out.

When I was a little girl, my mom, sister and I often watched Little House on the Prairie before we started homeschool. I always envied Nellie Olsen's large bows. Perhaps the designer of this outfit did also? I thought the outfit cute, but did gasp at the size of the bow. I will say it is a step better than what my mom would do (sorry, Momma). Every Sunday morning, my mom would brush my long straight hair and then attack my bangs with a curling iron. Sprayed and teased to high heaven, even Vanna White would have been envious of those bangs. The juxtaposition of the curly teased bangs with the long straight hair conveyed the same message as a mullet--only this time the party was in the front.


Carbonara Update

So, it's been weighing on my mind this new and wonderful dish." How truly awful is it for you anyway?" I wondered . . . So, today, I ran the numbers and found out. I was actually surprised at how horrible it wasn't! In fact, the biggest surprise was that the worst thing cholesterol-wise were the eggs! Go figure. I may not eat as many eggs now . . .

If you were to eat the entire dish yourself (I did reduce the pasta)
1,622 calories
56 g fat
16.5 g sat fat
517 mg cholesterol (172% dra)
59 g protein

Now,even I can't imagine eating the entire bowl . . . perhaps on a really bad night when Tuan was out of town and there was no ready chocolate. Here's the deal if you eat a serving (1/3 of the recipe)

540 calories
18.6 g fat
5.5 g sat
172.3 mg cholesterol (57.3% dra)
19.6 g protein

That's less than a little burger and small fries from McDonalds, and only a little worse than a snickers and dr. pepper (sorry, Leigh!) I think if you paired it with a good salad or some veggies, you'd have a great meal. Anyway, we made it for lunch today. Johnny devoured it as did Aubrey the last time. Johnny begged for more, but, ahem, we had already scraped the bowl clean! Also, I have to say that I am surprised at the lack of bad-ness that a serving of bacon is. This is off the top of my head, but I believe that a serving of bacon (two slices) is a mere 90 calories and less than 5 mg of cholesterol?

Oh, and here's another recipe. Tuan was dubious when I told him what I was doing, but devoured most of the dish and begged for more. Everyone probably already knows this one, but here goes!

Roasted Baby Carrots
Preheat oven to 450

Place baby carrots in a pan, drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake approximately 40 minutes until carrots are happy and somewhat tender. (a little browing/blackening is okay)

This is an especially guilt free recipe. Johnny likes it as well and he and Tuan vie for the carrots.


Garlic and Sapphires

When we were on vacation, I picked up a book at a thrift store. Garlic and Sapphires. Written by Ruth Reichl, it is a memoir of sorts that covers her time as a New York Times food critic. Although the cover looks a lot like "chick lit," it proved to be quite the opposite. She is a truly gifted writer and her stories are marvelous. Her detailed descriptions of food and restaurants made me want to change the way I dined out. If you like food--do read this book.

An added bonus is the recipes. With most chapters there is a recipe to go along with it. One that was particularly intriguing was for spaghetti carbonara. We made it today--wow. It was wonderful and I thought I'd share the recipe. However, I will preface this by saying that should your cardiologist ever turn to you and say--" [patient] your cholesterol is way too low and I think you should do something about it--oh, and also you could do with a few more carbs in your diet"--then you should cook this recipe often. If, however, your cholesterol is normal to above, it may need to be a sporadic treat, ya know, only twice a week.

Spaghetti Carbonara
(from Ruth Reichl, but paraphrased by me)

1 # Spaghetti or Angel Hair (we used latter)
1/2 # thick cut bacon
3 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly smashed
1/2 c. real parmesan, grated, plus more for the table
2 eggs

Fill a stockpot with water and generously salt. Bring to a boil.

Cut bacon into 1/4 inch pieces, begin cooking. When fat appears (around two minutes), add garlic and continue cooking until bacon is just crispy (not too crispy). Turn off heat and set aside when done. Remove garlic.

In a large bowl, crack the eggs and lavish with fresh ground pepper.

Cook pasta. Immediately, when done drain quickly and place in the egg bowl (a little extra water is okay). Stir the pasta. This will cook the eggs. Add bacon and most of the grease (hard, yes, but oh, so good!), toss, then add the cheese and toss. Voila! Serve immediately. Feeds 3 people well. Lavish with extra parmesan if desired.

This was an amazing dish. I couldn't believe that I had made it. It's absolutely perfect when you need comfort food (or your cardiologist gives you a mandate to up your cholesterol). If anyone cooks it, let me know!


dangerous shopping

In a moment of retail weakness, I almost bought this outfit for Aubrey. Hugs and Hissyfits is this super cute store in Destin that carries clothing waaayyy beyond our price range. Still, a girl can dream, can't she!? The outfit wasn't quite as pricey as the ninety dollar rose bedecked nighty that also caught my eye, but for so brief a season as Christmas . . . Anyway, had they had Aubrey's size, I probably would have caved. Grandmas are you paying attention?


Mystery Magical Morning

This is one of those days when everything seems to be going right. I'm perplexed. For example: I got up after hitting snooze only twice, finished my Bible Study, drank a homemade latte, ate breakfast (not healthy, but high in calcium), rolled my hair (Bobbie Brown frowns upon rolling, but I ask Bobbie: What's a girl to do who can't master the use of "product", a blow dryer, and a round brush?), did makeup, nails, dressed and am ready for Bible Study a good fifteen minutes early. Not only that, but my mom is heading up to keep the kids since they are snotty (not sick, just snotty), and I'm meeting Caroline for lunch! I certainly don't think that God is causing all of this to happen so later on he can smack me upside my joyful, incredulous head, but judging by the patterns of life these last--okay, all of life!--I'm just not myself today. Usually I'm applying makeup in the parking lot at 1st Pres! In fact, Tuan knows there are dire consequences when my makeup bag is taken out of the car. Alrighty, the kids are waking up now (!) gotta run.


real-life decorating

So . . . when I haven't been toying with the look of the blog, I've been working on a project for our room: nightstand/bookcases. For some time we have needed night stands that would function as more than tables. Our old ones were cute, but they were just that: an antique table divided (where the leaf would go) and perched against the wall. They also clashed with the heart pine bed--a sort of orangey color. So . . . we've been searching for either bookcases or dressers, and at Target (of all places!) I found a three shelf bookcase that seemed like it would work. I wanted white which was online only. Several weeks ago, we had the capital to fund the project, but every time I got online to order I couldn't go through with it. The Saturday before last, Tuan and I were at Dirt Cheap in Columbia and found the bookcases for seventy percent off--whoo-hoo! I think bargains swarm to me like so many love bugs around a white car.

The bookcases were a dark "espresso" finish which would never do with heart pine, so I've been painting them. It's taking a while because of limited space and two little ones, but tonight I am actually getting the paint on. We primed them white, and I'm loosely brushing blue on them (what better to go next to orangey heart pine than blue--complementary eh?), then working some cheerful green into the cracks. I guess because I'm too lazy and hurried to pick out a proper paint and go to the store and have it mixed, I am taking some old paint and brushing it roughly onto a brand new surface to give the illusion that I found old bookcases at a thrift store and ran out of steam while sanding the bookcases to paint and just left them like that so I could hurry up and put them in my room. It's rationally ridiculous, but if it looks good . . . There's the rub. It may not even look good and I won't know 'til they're dry and assembled. Then, I really won't want to fix them with a proper coat of paint.

To add to the craziness of it all, in one of those inexplicable moments of slow-motion "oh, noooo"-ing, the green paint somehow flew up in the air and splashed across a good six feet, puddling on the floor and ALL OVER our couch. Children were quickly thrown into their room/bed and spray bottles of 409 and warm soapy water enlisted (along with the shop vac) to get the paint out. To great relief, we got all the paint out. I confess, though, that I thought I might have finally gotten a new couch out of it!

I am on a rabbit trail to who-knows-where, but I want to give a shout-out to Formula 409. This is truly the miracle cleaning solution. It degreases my stove, laundry, removes horrid rug stains, paint from upholstery and love bug gunk. We sprayed it on our cars today and let it soak in before washing. The 409 really made a difference--it was much easier to remove the gunk.

If you're a Jan Karon reader, you may recognize familiar phrases. I read the Mitford books aloud to Tuan in the car whenever we're traveling. So far, in four years, we've read up to In This Mountain. It's been really enjoyable. I enjoy doing character voices (Fancy Skinner is my favorite), and occasionally get too worked up over details of the story. Why, I wonder, do a retired priest and a work-at-home illustrator with no children in a small house, need a woman (Puny) to come in every day and clean/cook for them? Also, Cynthia seems to get very worn out. Maybe she is doing a lot of things in the community while Father Tim is walking Barnabas and eating at the Grill and not getting his hair cut, but Karon certainly isn't letting us in on it. I really love Mitford, but there are days when children are endlessly eating, soiling diapers and strewing toys so that our living room looks like a small day care, that I wish Cynthia would come and see what it is really like to be worn out. Then maybe, just maybe, she would send Puny over to my house for a day or so and I could go and illustrate children's books.

There ya go.


header difficulties

I guess I'm going to blog as I re-decorate! I can't get the header the size I want! This has been a completely blissful use of nap-time today. Not very productive as far as housework and projects go, but utterly fun creatively! Stay tuned for further blog updates.

artistic frustration!

I am trying to make my blog cuter, but my html skills went away as soon as I presented my final project in webdesign! So, please bear with the blah background. I also wanted to say that Aubrey has been saying "mama"! This is very exciting as Johnny said "dada" first. : )


on the lighter side

Lest my readers fear that this blog has taken a turn for the melancholy and pessimistic road, I am posting with the intent of being much more cheerful and sharing some photos! We are doing well these days. The kids and house keep me pretty busy, but I have been working on a quilt for Aubrey that I'm very excited about! It's my second (if you don't include dollhouse quilts!), and I'm having so much fun working on it. We got some Seinfeld seasons from Tuan's folks, so I've been quilting and watching Seinfeld--I never really watched them back in the day, and it's been fun to finally understand all of the Seinfeld references that have entered into popular culture!

Johnny is just growing and blossoming! He's hit the twos emotionally which can be baffling. "Why are you crying, Johnny?" (five minutes later) "Oh, I see, you're crying because you want some soy sauce on your pasta--how silly of us to not know that!" Apart from the emotions, things are pretty smooth. He is taking a cue from Thomas and learning to be "really useful." If you exist in the universe of Sodor and are a train instead of a human, being "Really Useful" is the pinnacle of compliments. Johnny helps me unload the dishwasher, picks up toys so we can vacum (sp?), throws away trash and fetches things. I'm so proud of him! I hope that these will become habits and as he grows he'll just do them when asked.

Aubrey Sue is just eating up a storm and laughing and making us laugh. She LOVES and adores Johnny. Anything he does is funny and worth watching. She actually sleeps better when he is in the room! Aubrey also likes to touch, taste and bite things. She's going to be a very tactile learner, I think. She turned seven months yesterday--it's so hard to believe we've only had her with us seven months! I think back to those hard and uncertain days in the NICU and am so thankful for her health and presence! As hard as it was, it taught me to value my children and not take anything for granted.

I'm posting some pictures via a Facebook link. At some point, I'll label them, but I need to run. Tuan desperately wanted a digital camera so he could take pictures unhindered by film and costs. Let me tell you all that he does! We have hundreds of photos of the kids and they are all cute! One day we'll sort them and get them developed--one day . . . . Enjoy the photos.



One of the most crushing things is when you've poured yourself into a job only to find out that another person thinks you're being underhanded or have wrong motives. It's like a smack in the face with a baseball bat. Particularly when the accusing party has no first-hand knowledge of what's going on. Life and sin stink.


The Times They are a Changing

This has been a year of change. I rarely straddle the fence when it comes to change. I'm either all revved up and excited or adamantly opposed to it. In the past six months, I've gained a daughter, lost my beloved Granny and "retired" from camping. Gaining our sweet, precious Aubrey Sue has been incredible. Losing Granny and "retiring" perhaps not so much.

I was very, very close to my Granny. When I was little, she kept me while Mom worked and even after Mom was at home, I spent heaps of time at her house. We were so close that when as a very little girl Dad threatened to send me to live with Granny (in a moment of disciplinary desperation, I'm sure), I was all for it and started packing my bags! Her house was a treasure trove of wonderful things to look at, and she was always willing to share those treasures and her skills. She taught me how to quilt, to crochet, to "save" things and had such a deep, amazing love for people. Before we moved to TL, we lived a few miles down the road from her, which was really fun. Sometimes, I'd go grocery shopping with Granny and her buddy Ms. Hazel. They'd take hours to get through Wal-mart because walking and talking didn't go together. We'd walk a few steps, stop, talk, walk and repeat! It was very funny.

In the last few years, due to a lot of circumstances, it was really hard to spend time at Granny's house. We still saw a lot of her, but because we couldn't be at "Granny's", a lot of good times were missed, and there was this burden there. Things needed to be done and intervention required that didn't happen. She died this spring very suddenly--for that I am so glad. Granny just got to go. Ten years ago, my Grandfather died suddenly and shockingly and things just seemed so unfinished. Not so with Granny. Her life was full and settled. Grieving over her has been slow, though. Rather than a big flood of grief and tears, there has been this pounding rhythm under the surface of my daily life: "my Granny is gone, my Granny is gone." I'm making a quilt for Aubrey and can't talk to her about it and show her my neat seams. My Granny is gone, my Granny is gone. The usual weekly letter during camp filled with the latest doings in Mt. Olive didn't come this summer. My Granny is gone, my Granny is gone.

She was a constant in my life. No matter what happened, she was there, her name address and phone number were always my "emergency contact info" for forms and such. Now her phone is turned off and 797-3645 will go to someone else. We are going through her house and things and letting that go has been incredibly hard. The thought of someone else living there and changing all the things I hold sacred is very difficult.

This year also marked an end to an eight year run of being on Summer Staff out here. Right now I am glad to be done with camp. It is impossible to do both camp and my primary job (wife/mommy) well. I'll be out here, but not "here." This is a good thing, but I know that it will not be easy. I'm going to miss the feeling of usefulness and being needed and frankly "in charge" and "in the know." I think next summer, I'm going to feel a total loss of a part of my "identity" when camp starts and I'm not running around, planning, making decisions, on the "radio" and working with staff.

Two things have been "constants" in my life for so long: Granny and camp. I use parenthesis because in all truth they never were truly constant. When the storms come and go all that remains is Jesus. Oh, may I be wise and build my "house" on him. May my hope be in the Rock of my Salvation.



Wow. We have been so incredibly busy. This is our third week of camp. (one week of pre-camp program prep, staff training, and now we're into overnight 1)

I'm enjoying some of my first time off. Tuan and I had a date and now we're home with the kids. I'm very tired but so encouraged by camp and the wonderful staff we have. This summer has been interesting. I've struggled with discouragement and frustration--no small irony since we're dealing with Joseph and his journey into the pit and out to Egypt. Despite the difficulties, camp is going so well. Most of my grievances are very petty and I remember from past summers that difficulties and times of trial are usually looked back on as times of great growth--so grow me, Jesus!

There is a lot to say, but I want to take advantage of an early bed-time--after I tell you all a quick story about Johnny. He's been transitioning into his big-boy bed little by little. (He really likes to sneak out of it and play) Being a child after my own heart, Johnny moves his furniture around daily and the other night, Tuan neglected to push his crib away from the big-boy bed and back up against the wall. He later heard Johnny crying, went in and found him in his crib. Johnny had climbed into his crib via the big-boy bed and gotten stuck! It was so funny.


Big Day, Today

It's crazily weird how close camp is. The horses arrived yesterday and we drove over to the barn after church to see them. They were standing in the dark, sleeping and gave us strange looks as we scoped them out. I think there is a pony this year. There is also a white horse. Usually they mean trouble: Do Creme and White Fang ring any bells for you old-timers? I don't know if my beloved horse Gandy (short for Gandalf) is back, though.

The arrival of the horses is big. That means camp is really, truly here. Wranglers arrive this morning and my program posse (Scott and Myles) arrive today. Please pray for us as we make final decisions and plan our training week stuff. Also exciting is this morning: Johnny and Aubrey have check-ups this morning. I've never taken them both together, so we're in for an interesting and new experience at least!

I love this time of year. The air is full of promise, my adrenaline is pumping, so many exciting things are happening at TL and it's still a bit cool outside--oh, and the garden is green! If there is weather in Heaven, I wish it were always spring.


why I am behind on program, housework and life!

Oh, last week was a week! My last post was early Wed. morning. After I finished posting, I got off and it was three am. At four o'clock, I still wasn't asleep, so I ate cereal and watched the Princess Diaries. I eventually fell asleep and got about two hours. WednesDAY (not early morning) I spent the entire day cleaning the house and preparing for Tuan's birthday surprise: baby-sitters and a date! It was marvelous and wonderful--being out in Jackson without small children. Granted, we adore our children, but sometimes a break is nice!

Thursday morning, we got up and I was dragging, but providentially, Johnny and Aubrey and I all went down for three+ hour naps! I woke up disoriented and confused because I was supposed to be in Mt. Olive at the very time I woke up--oops. After a quick lunch, I loaded up my kids and went to Granny's house to help my mom, sister and Aunt continue to clean it out. Mom, Melissa and I worked until 1:30 in the morning. We got so much done! Tuan wanted me to stay at Melissa's instead of driving home. Bad mistake. Johnny woke up in the transitions between Granny's and Melissa's and refused to go to sleep. I think we were up for two hours. He fussed in the pack and play and I was lying in bed groaning and wondering why we didn't just drive on home. We finally fell asleep only to have Aubrey and Johnny wake up at seven. Talk about tired! There's a saying I dispute: "No rest for the wicked and the righteous don't need any." Hmm . . .

Once we got home, I had to finish decorating Johnny's cake and clean the house, then we had the party the next and a wonderful sabbath rest on Sunday. I love Sundays. Tuan lets me take a long nap (until we have to leave for Mt. Olive, but we didn't have to yesterday!). We picnicked and napped and it was altogether wonderful. I actually feel refreshed today which is very good because I have two weeks until staff training starts!

This is a very selfish and self-absorbed post, I know. I'm not sure what I meant by it all only to say that I have to really get cranking on camp in the next two weeks. It's not too bad, although I am usually way ahead of my current state by this time. One more drama must be written and the adventure planned, lots of lists made, props gathered, supplies ordered and hand-outs made. Next week, Scott and Myles are coming out to work which will be so fun as we are going to be able to work on our program videos! I'm finally getting excited--truly excited about camp. I don't have baby-sitters nailed down, yet, but am going to trust that it all works out.

Lastly, I wanted to say how excited I am about my garden. We work on a budget--it's not our yard really--but I'm having some good successes. With very little cost in the three years I've lived in this house, I've gotten the soil in our beds much healthier and richer. Ruth K. and Marion G. have inspired me and given me some plants and this year things are really picking up. We started spring with lots of perennials: Irises, Daffodils, Spider lilies and the like. Now, my chrysanthemums are just going, some miniature roses that we just stuck in the ground are blooming beautifully and our mint and the mystery asian herb that smells like fish have returned. We've also got ginger lilies, cannas, vinca, verbena, gomphrena and aspidistra hanging in there. It's come a long way from when we first moved in and the only thing in our yard was a gardenia and a row of tiny pittosporum. This is by no means Southern Living, but I'm excited that my thumb is beginning to develop a hint of green. If I have time I'll post pictures, but program and housekeeping and children are calling right now.

Hope you all have a great day!


It's dangerous to blog when one can't sleep. In the tiredness of it all thoughts that shouldn't be written can spill out onto the page like so many grains of salt from a defunct salt shaker.

I drank some iced coffee before bed and I've been laying in bed since 10:30 drifting in and out of consciousness, fretfully obsessing over Johnny's birthday cake. His birthday party is this weekend--he's turning two! We are having a Cars themed party. Our boy loves the Pixar movie Cars. I'm glad because we do too! In fact, I downloaded the soundtrack so I could listen to it and thought I would put it onto a CD for Johnny to listen to during play time--bad idea! As soon as he heard Sheryl Crow begin singing "Real Gone" he ran to the TV and perplexedly clamored at it only to retreat in confusion--he could hear Cars, but couldn't see it--what in the world was going on here!?

We avoided videos for as long as possible and still only try to use them infrequently. They surely do come in handy when it's that twilight time of the day: Johnny needs to go to sleep but it's too late for a nap, too early for bed, or I need to cook/care for Aubrey and need him to not be so involved in everything. We did sort of resolve to only give him videos that we like. None of this Barney and Friends, or singing neuter gender rainbow haired people spouting positive self-esteem junk:

"you can do anything that you set your mind to--doobie, doobie, doo--
we're bestest friends, you and me
you are special come on with me
on a magical journey--ooh, ooh, whee--
with your best buddies Adam and Steve!"

So far, we've stuck with the two Charlie Brown Christmas movies, Disney's Robin Hood, an occasional Mary Poppins and Cars. I can handle hearing Vince Guaraldi's jazz or Allan-a-Dale's folk songs over and over. I think we could also go for some Thomas the Tank Engine, but don't yet own any of those.

Johnny's major interests right now are toys with wheels, trains, and animal crackers. He thinks they are cookies. I used to baby-sit for three kids who thought saltine crackers were cookies and felt sorry for them. Now, I see the genius of it all. Johnny also loves to be read to. We have quite a repertoire: Go Dog Go (I am always in suspense as to whether the boy dog will ever like her hat), Tuesday (we add our own sound effects to this mostly picture book), The Little Engine that Could (my childhood favorite), some Thomas books, and SkippyJonJones.

Johnny is a big SkippyJonJones fan thanks to Uncle Sonny. It's about a siamese kitten who thinks he is a chihaua (sp?). When he is sent to his room, his thoughts take him down a long desert road far, far away in old Mexico. . . . there he becomes Skippito the great sword fighter and meets up with Don Diego (the biggest of the small ones) and his gang of Chiahauhas and he conquers the villain who has been stealing their beans. SkippyJonJones is big around our house, we even have a CD of the books being read aloud which Johnny often asks for at Naptime ("JohnJones" he pleads). Sometimes, if the CD player is near the bed, Johnny will repeatedly press play so that it plays over and over and over and he knows how to up the volume. The other day, I was trying to grab a nap while he was in bed and was in that awful state where you are so tired you don't want to deal with the very loud SJJ playing incessantly, but it aggravates you so much you can't sleep. I lay on the couch with my head covered in pillows wishing that Johnny would go onto sleep and the story would stop and finally got so aggravated with it I had to keep myself from rushing into his room and throwing the cd player through the window!

Johnny likes to sit with me during my "quiet" time in the mornings, so I've incorporated him into it. He sits in my lap and we read Proverbs, a Psalm and are working our way through Daniel. He then holds my fingers and we pray together. It's very sweet and I'm glad for that time. He is so funny about prayer. After he gets in trouble, we pray together and after that all is over and well and the sun shines again. Now as soon as he gets a rebuke and before I can remind him of the "why" he grabs my hands and says pleadingly, "pray, pray."

As for Miss Aubrey Sue (I often call her Aubrey Jean, which sounds like "Aubergine") She is just a darling! If she could speak, she would say, "love me, world and I will return the love!" She is such a social butterfly and any bit of attention lavished on her is returned with smiles and coos and adoration. She is ticklish and we love to hear her giggle. She has been a good, content baby so far. We are getting into a routine with her that works well. Aubrey naps around the house in the morning and goes down in the afternoon in her bed. The evenings between seven and nine thirty are her big awake times, which works out perfectly since Johnny goes to bed between seven and seven thirty. She gets a lot of loving and adoration in the evenings, then goes to bed for the night around 9/10 and sleeps until five or six. What she does with her time between that feeding and Johnny's awakening is beyond me as I go back to sleep after that feeding. Now that she's sleeping most of the night, I'm more tired than ever!

And I'm really going to be tired after this post! I'm going to try and grab an hour or two of sleep before Aubrey wakes up. Thanks to all of you who read the blog--it's encouraging to know folks read it even if they don't comment!


World's lies

"still there." I want to instead plunge right in with an epiphany of late. You see, I had fallen for the lies of magazine publishing. Silly as it is, I really sort of subconsciously believed for a while that if I could only get my house clean, pictures hung, and things somewhat decorated I would be like those women in the house magazines who stand in their kitchens next to bowls of fruit and fresh cut flowers from their cutting garden and smile adoringly at little children who are eating fresh baked cookies. Of course I would be wearing capris, clogs and perfect hair.

At the very least, I thought that once my house was cleaned (all at the same time), I could at least do other things and have it stay that way. O, futility! Sometimes when I'm done with a cleaning spree, I sit down or sprawl on the couch/bed and just enjoy the wonder of it all. But then I look and see something out of place and I think: "that little mess is okay, it keeps my house from being too clean, too staged." So, I leave it and next thing you know the whole house has gone to pot; much like the wisteria behind our house. And a cutting garden--ha!

Perhaps one day when my children are older (and there are less interruptions), I'll conquer my own lazy personality and have a house that stays neater. I'm sure it can be done now--but it's so stinking hard! Honestly, although I can't stand nastiness, I often would rather do other things than tackle housework and messes. Or, providence will throw a curve ball and everything gets crazy. Or, just as soon as I get started on things, someone needs to eat, be changed, be loved on, read to, disciplined--and that's okay. These days are short and littles ones are more important than pristine housekeeping. And when Tuan comes home and wants to hang out, who could say no to that?!

So, heres my plan: Quiet time, husband, children, people first. Laundry and camp, next, Housework later--although it must be done. Someday down the road, I'll have household help (in the form of paid legals and children) and of course make some forward progress in discipline. Then, I will stand in the kitchen of my clean, sparkling house with flowers from my cutting garden, fresh baked goods out, an in-progress watercolor of Tuscany nearby (because isn't that what all watercolors should be of?) and small children wearing smocked garments will be next to me. Then, I will smile and wake up.

I have to go. Johnny is using the tub-cleaning sponge to clean his hair and licking the shower curtai


writer's strike

I am on a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I have lots to write about, but my beloved Granny passed away last week. Between grieving, visiting with family and in general catching up from a week of no housework, I am lacking in time. I shall return sometime soon.


Stuff White People Like

Stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com is a funny blog I discovered. (I can't figure out how to link it). Here are two of my favorite quotes:

White people like bicycles: "But there is a special category of bicycles that appeal far more to white women, the European city bike (pictured). White women have a lot of fantasies about idealized lives, and one of them is living in Europe and riding around an old city on one of these bikes. They dream about waking up and riding to a little cafe, then visiting bakeries and cheese shops and finally riding home to prepare a fancy meal for their friends who will all eat under a canopy with white Christmas lights. This information can be used to help gain the trust/admiration of a white woman, especially if you can pull off a lie about how your mother told you about how she used to do all of these things when she was younger."

"White people are under a lot of pressure to like cooking. Everything in their culture tells them that they need to have a nice kitchen and that they need to cook with organic, fresh ingredients to make delicious, complicated food. . . ut, in order for them to truly enter into whitedom, they need to own the holy grail of white kitchens - the kitchen aid stand mixer (right). They will match this mixer to their kitchen’s color scheme and it will make up the focal point. And much like many religious artifacts, it will remain untouched for months and even years, sitting on the counter to be admired as a testament to their lifestyle . . .If you find yourself in a conversation about these things, a good way to say a little but mean a lot is to mention that you “find the consumer models to be poorly built, my friend, a chef, brings me with him to a restaurant supply shop that’s not open to the public. The stuff there is real quality, it’s where I get all of my pans.”
If this is too big of a risk, you should just throw out a combination of these words: “le Creuset, Calphalon, All Clad, Williams Sonoma, and Sur Le Table.” White people go so nuts when they hear these words, you won’t even have to finish your sentence."

Let me know what y'all think! We've been cracking up over this.


Lake House Therapy

Lately, I've been really inspired to re-arrange--mostly because I have space to move furniture around (although I wasn't wholly stopped by that in the old house, it's much easier now). Johnny likes to follow suit--he's always moving his and Aubrey's beds. Lately, House Beautiful, Apartment Therapy and Caroline have been inspiring me. I tackled the "nursery" on Friday and our bedroom on Saturday. It was satisfying and oh, so fun. Re-arranging our bedroom gave me a chance to do some deep cleaning in there of renovation gunk. I posted the photos of the "afters" on Facebook; here's the public link:


I had a lot of fun writing the captions. If you think it's tacky to share what things cost, be prepared to be offended. I love bargains and think it's so fun to share them with others. On our budget, paying full-price is not an option, although I don't think I'd pay full price for anything if it was. Bargains are fun! Tomorrow, we are going to hang "drapes" in the LR in preparation for a properties committee tour.


A day in the life/Revised Expectations

1:30 am Wake up, feed Aubrey
2:00 am Back to bed
5:30 am Wake up, feed Aubrey, try to pray whilst doing so.
6:00 am Back to bed
9:00 am Wake up to vocal children; confused; realize that I overslept. Need to do four things at once, must prioritize. Fix milk for Johnny, bottle for Aubrey, eat a cracker smeared with peanut butter, drink a glass of water. Go into Johnny's room first (Aubrey's quiet). Johnny is standing naked in bed, diaper nowhere to be found, soaked mattress and a turd are to be found. Ugh.
9:10 am Adjust expectations, rearrange priorities. Johnny goes into the tub. Aubrey gets a bottle while I sit on the toilet and watch Johnny.
9:57 am Everyone is fed, diapered, I finish my breakfast and begin housework.
10:30 am Find Johnny putting dishes in toilet. Put Johnny in his room to play, realize filthy linens are still on bed. Stop housework to start laundry.
11:00 am Go into Johnny's room. Oops, I missed some turd. it is all over the floor. Johnny plays in his bed while I scrub the floor, following a trail of turds. Turd covered toys are deposited in bathroom. Johnny and I pick up toys and he goes down for a nap.
11:30 am Kitchen and living room are clean. Aubrey is ready to eat. Feed her, get laundry.
12:00 pm Tuan comes home for lunch. He fends for himself, while I read Valley of Vision, fold laundry and watch the rest of our Netflix.
1:45 pm Finish the bathroom, hallway, our bedroom, run the vacum, check Facebook.
2:00 pm My Grandmother, sister, nieces and nephew arrive! We play, go to the playground, watch a camp movie.
4:30 pm Guests depart, Johnny goes down for some quiet time; Aubrey sleeps. I lounge happily on bed and check e-mail, blogs, etc . . .
5:30 pm We all get up, get bottles/cups ready and head to supper
7:00 pm Home! Johnny and I read books together.
7:30 pm Johnny off to bed, Tuan and I watch online with Aubrey
10:21 pm I look at the time and wonder why I'm blogging when there is bed to be sought--oh, yes, Aubrey is due to eat NOW!
10: 25 pm Off to fix bottle.

God really gave a lot of grace today--I was somehow able to laugh through this mornings trail of turd.


7 Things . . .

Guitta tagged me to list seven random things about me. I've been ruminating over this for several days and must confess that it will be hard to avoid turning this into a confessional of my deepest, darkest secrets. Here goes!

1. My hair has too big an influence on my mood/day. For example: if my hair is dirty or looks oily, I cannot feel good no matter what I'm wearing or what happens. Conversely, if my hair is clean (and especially if it is rolled), I can wear the nastiest clothes and feel absolutely confidently good. I am also extremely fond of Pantene--their conditioner is the best! Oh, and I sleep with my hair wet--using a hair dryer does weird things to my hair.

2. On the subject of hair . . . I cannot touch anything associated with other people's hair/heads. It's just disgusting. I will never rub your scalp (who knows what beasties or ailments lurk beneath?), share my hairbrush, touch your glasses, and in most cases, I don't like to use other people's cell phones. Although that doesn't apply to Tuan, Johnny, and Aubrey, I am glad that Tuan keeps his hair short.

3. When I was little, I liked the number sixteen. My "horse" was named sixteen and I wanted to be sixteen.

4. Once, I almost lost my best friend in a fight over a fur stole. The friendship was saved, however, because I was in possession of a bag of manuscripts. Cryptic, yes?

5. In Comp II, I was so involved in writing my research paper on the Lindbergh kidnapping, that I wrote seven extra pages to satisfy myself. My professor, Mr. Wedgeworth, didn't count off for that, but he did stop reading/grading at page eight. I find personal satisfaction in going beyond what is required on tasks.

6. I don't drink milk out of solid cups or drink coffee made by other people, unless I am certain of the cleanliness of their pot. I also cannot stand dark sheets.

7. I have a lot of fears/paranoias, but I used to have this persistent worry that I was really insane/crazy and everyone around me was in a conspiracy to pretend that I was normal, so I wouldn't feel bad about being crazy. Which makes me sound crazy, but I'm not!

Okay, enough about me. I tag: Sonny, Christy, Mrs. Dorothy, and Beth


Excercises in Futility/AKA dying to self

Today has been the hardest "normal" day so far. It's not so much hard as just sort of a persistent excercise in futility.

In college, I paid my meager way by working as a janitress for a cleaning service who was contracted by our church's private school. Every day from 3:30 until I was done, I cleaned the bathrooms, offices, and glass doors of the Senior High and Elementary schools. Later on, I added dust-mopping and mopping to my repertoire. I got very good at completing my job quickly and well, but my goodness, talk about feeling futility in one's work! Every bright and shining bathroom just reminded me that in a matter of hours it would be used again and messed up again and some stupid teenage boy would leave his sandwich in the urinal--AGAIN. I still bear a grudge against two certain covenant boys who would go behind us and make messes on Wednesday nights. Oddly enough, I caught two of those same boys stealing a golf-cart at Against the Flow . . . and the sons of church officers, no less! But here, discretion is required and names shall not be mentioned.

Newborn days and nights remind me of those times. By the time the baby is fed, I'm bathed, things are picked up, Johnny is asleep, and sleep is possible, I just think, "why bother? She'll be ready to eat again in an hour . . ." There's always a toss-up between staying up and doing something, or going on to sleep in hopes that Aubrey will sleep longer and bonus sleep will be had.

Tuesday, I missed Aubrey's newborn appointment with our pediatrician by 40 + minutes. I didn't estimate the timing right, she was ready to eat when it was time to go . . . we had to reschedule. Today, I busted it to get ready and miraculously had time to get make-up on (first time since Christmas!) and we arrived at the doctors office early only to find out that the re-scheduled appointment was yesterday. Yep, yesterday. We have rescheduled for next Tuesday and the ungodly hour of 8:30 (it is an ungodly hour when you live thirty minutes away, and it takes at least an hour and a half to get everyone fed, ready, clean and in the car).

I was pretty embarrassed and humiliated at that. I hate being late with a passion and twice in one week was just humiliating. The aggravation of a morning of productivity lost didn't help either. The fact that gas was wasted on a fourth trip into town this week got at me. We returned home deflated but mostly over it. Johnny had not had a nap at the sitters which would normally be great, because as soon as Aubrey was fed and they were both down, I could grab a nap. Except company was supposed to arrive at one. I knew they'd be late, but as the minutes rolled by, and I got sleepier, I thought, "well, I'll catnap on the couch and wake up when they get here." The phone rang at two o'clock, with the news that said company was not coming until TOMORROW. Two naps in row wasted, lost, gone.

An overnight guest is supposed to arrive sometime this afternoon, Johnny is finally settled down (again--the camp radio was left on and Warner's voice just scared the living daylights out of us all). I'm contemplating trying once more to try and get a nap in, but Aubrey is already stirring. (Of course, she likes to pretend to wake up, drive me out of bed in a mad rush to get her food ready and avoid the wails, then whilst I'm in the kitchen staggering around she goes right back to sleep)

I'm not complaining--really. It's all rather humorous in a strange way. The house is clean, I actually feel great recovery-wise and have a lot of inspiration for projects. Anything lacking could be cured by a good nap and an iced tea, some quiet time in the Word and a hug from Tuan. I'm going to lie down right away and see if a nap can be got. If not, then a prayer for grace and a cup of tea will suffice. God is using this to make me more like Jesus and I'd take my troubles any day over those my sisters-in-Christ at home and abroad are going through. Finally, brethren, pray for us. (!)


Belated Update

Some of you may have gotten this news a few days ago via e-mail, if not, I just wanted to let y'all know that Aubrey came home Sunday morning! The NICU called and said we could pick her up--we were so thrilled.

We've had a great couple of days. Johnny is adapting well. He's not super interested in her, but will give her a kiss on the head when it's bedtime. He is so old and big all of a sudden. Folks told us this would happen, and I believed them but didn't fully grasp what they were saying. He's been a bit of a stinker, but we can chalk that up to the crazy life he had last week.

Tuan is doing well. He actually slept better when she was in the NICU because he knew she was being monitored and watched. I think he is relaxing a bit more with each day. I'm doing very well. I came off of a big adrenaline rush once she got home and sleep has been deep and blessed. I'm feeling pretty recovered except for some back pain and had a good burst of energy this morning and evening. I've gotten some housework done and finally mopped my kitchen floor. We've been blessed the past two days with large gifts of food, which will be such a blessing--especially for Tuan as he has handled the kitchen end of the deal.

And Aubrey Sue . . . what can I say? We are so smitten. I think she's the most beautiful baby in the whole world. She has been so good natured--she sleeps and scarcely makes a peep. She's got some thrush, but hopefully the medicines our nurse gave us will clear it up. The nursery had her on a four hour schedule and since we were told to increase the volume of her feedings, she's sticking to it. It's strange having so much time between feedings. Johnny never really hit that four hour mark, he stayed at three until around one. I'm enjoying having this quiet "easy" time with her and Johnny.

We're getting into a routine (or rhythm) of sorts and for the first time ever, I feel like my house is capable of being somewhat orderly. Having decent storage space and just space in general is such an amazing blessing. Our house is just the right size--it's easy to clean with one bathroom, little carpet and--gasp!--a washer and dryer inside the house. It's an amazing concept really, you just put your dirty clothes in any time you want to and you don't even have to get dressed, load your kids into the car, and drive to the laundry rooms (only available after 3:30 pm, thank you very much). I am all astonishment.

Finally, I want to give a bit shout-out to my dear husband. Tuan has taken on way more jobs and done far more with the kids and around the house than I can even begin to tell you all. I am so thankful for him--he daily shows Christ to me by his humble attitude and servant heart. His gentleness and patience constantly motivate me to strive in that direction. I can only chalk it up to God's good grace that someone like me could have a guy like him.

With a grateful heart, I bid you all a good night!


out of the valley

I just wanted to update y'all on Aubrey Sue. This will have to be a short post, but I hope to write longer when I have more time on my hands. We induced on Tuesday morning and had a very quick delivery. She was born at 9:52--eight pounds, five ounces--with a huge mop of hair! We saw her once, then they cleaned her up and brought her back to us--Tuan and I were just smitten. She was pretty un-mussed--no cone head or swollen face like dear Johnny.
We kept her with us until around nine and very reluctantly sent her to the nursery so we could get some sleep. She was supposed to come back at eleven to eat, but the nurse woke us up and said that she had spit up some fluid and they were going to watch her overnight. It was worrying, but we went on to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, the nurse practitioner came in and told me something--I was so fuzzy headed from pain medicine I couldn't comprehend it, but they were going to be watching Aubrey. When we woke up, Tuan called and we found out she'd been put in the NICU, was on oxygen and they weren't sure exactly what was wrong, but she wasn't breathing well on her own.
We went to the NICU to visit her--what a beginning to a very difficult time! She was in an incubator, being monitored and had a little oxygen tube in her nose. The neonatologist offered us some reasons why she wasn't doing well, but there was no certain diagnosis. That was hard. Knowing what's wrong is so much easier than not! Later that day, she had to be put on forced oxygen--they had a different kind of tube that was making her lungs expand. As the day wore on, we couldn't stimulate then we couldn't even touch her. It was just one of the hardest times of my life! They gave her a drug to help her lungs mature and did an echo cardiogram, and had her on antibiotics. It was crazy. That night, the nurse began weaning her off of oxygen--so exciting!
Thursday morning, we woke up to hear that she was doing better--still no diagnosis. The doctor did say we could touch her--can't tell you how much that helped. So, we visited the NICU and I was able to sit and hold her hand before we left.
Thursday night, the nurse called and said she was off of oxygen completely!! What joy. They also began feeding her.
This morning, we visited and she was doing very well--no aids, everything looked good. Tonight, we went back and were able to hold her and I got to give her a bottle. This meant so much. We are hoping to bring her home Sunday!
All these details are fuzzy, because I spent most of the time crying uncontrollably while Tuan handled things. Still, we are out of the valley and on our way up the mountain. I am thankful for all who knew about this and prayed for us. We didn't have the internet at the hospital so I couldn't post or e-mail. Y'all please continue to pray for us--and give thanks, too! We are so grateful to God for his grace in all of this. I'll update and let folks know what's going on. It's been a time of growth for sure.


Insomnia, Induction, Inspiration

It's a cheerful four thirty in the morning here in La Land and I'm wide awake. Oh, joy. I'm not anxious, worrried or otherwise plagued, just awake! If I were virtuous, I'd be up baking bread, cleaning, or sewing, etc . . . but I've spent the last hour in bed reading, doing Sudoku (and failing miserably--it is after all way too early in the morning to be awake). The irony is that in a week's time, I'll be up around this time, wishing desperately to be asleep and instead feeding Aubrey. Oh, the strangeness of life!

I had a sonogram yesterday and everything looks good! Aubrey is estimated to be around 7lb 12 oz give or take a pound. Call me crazy, but I'd sooner give a pound than take one! I held a friends tiny, but strangely chubby newborn at Bible study on Wed and it was unsettling. I liked Johnny's nice sturdy 8lb 11 oz self (he actually shrunk to 7lb 13 oz before his amazing charge into his baby sumo physique.

This is Johnny at birth; we thought he looked like a pretty tough bare knuckle fighter:

Then, this is after the weight loss:

This is when he got all healthy and into solid foods. This is him with my Granny:

So anyway, we are scheduled to induce on Tuesday--bright and early check-in at 5:30 am and no eating/drinking after midnight, thank you very much. I think it's funny that in order to prepare for some of the hardest physical exertion of your life, you are not allowed food or drink. I understand why, but it's still funny. We had a very quick delivery with Johnny. He was born just six hours and fifty minutes after check-in. They say your second comes faster, so here we go! Please pray for us with the delivery and also for Johnny as he adjusts to the baby.

I'm trying to get things done around the house and get the nursery ready in preparation for Tuesday. Last night I madly planted all the spring bulbs I hadn't yet put out. I had bought heaps of them on clearance this fall, but we didnt' get into our house until after Thanksgiving, and I had a hard time gettting them into my "perennial bed" due it's awkward accessibility for pregnant women. In desperation, I filled my empty containers and a more accessible bed with probably a hundred bulbs. Johnny helped. Hopefully we'll get some show this spring and when I'm more fit, they can be moved to the intended bed.

Last week I got inspired about baby bedding for the nursery and Wed I went out and purchased the fabric to sew bedding. Yes, you read that right. A week before induction, I have bought fabric to sew bedding. Never mind that I've never done that, never mind that I haven't even started on a smidgen of it (except to somehow wrangle my dear mom into sewing the bumpers). I am persisting in the idea that in the next four days, I'm going to sew a crib skirt, valance and quilt, plus clean the house from top to bottom, finish painting baby beds and of course, have Tuan build shelves and bookcases. Funny how pregnancy brings out an even more determined/stubborn nature. I've been a little bit obsessed with this project, to the point that I dreamt about gingham. That's what I should really be doing between the hours of three and five thirty ("that" referring to sewing, although, I really should be trying to go back to sleep!). Instead I'm uploading photos and rambling on the blog. This won't happen again for about six months, I guarantee you!


farewell to a good friend

We are selling our Jeep today. The fellow buying it is on his way to the bank as I write. Our reasons for selling were sound and practical, but that surely doesn't change the sadness Tuan and I both feel over saying good-bye! It has been such a constant part of our friendship, courtship, engagement and marriage. I told Tuan that as silly as it sounds, I feel as though I'm losing part of him! (Pregnancy hormones are lovely things)

I remember when he first got the Jeep: September of 2000. It was the year that our friendship began to grow beyond mere acquaintances into "really good friends" and the Jeep was always involved. It came with him to Florida to visit me that Christmas when we were still "just friends." Tuan had "Strider" on his tag which was such a metaphor for him. Over the course of time, my dear, faithful (baptist), friend grew into this very dear, godly, (reformed) man who I couldn't picture spending the rest of my life without--my Aragorn! The first time he ever said "I love you" was as he was getting into the Jeep. (Funny story behind that) We drove around Baton Rouge in it, looking for engagement rings, and of course, that was the vehicle of choice the day he proposed and we drove all over Columbia telling everyone our news. (He had driven to Florida in it the day before to ask Dad's permission) The semester before we got married, it was the most exciting feeling to find the Jeep in the driveway on Friday nights, and of course, we left the church in it after our wedding and took it on the honeymoon! Everyone we met in Brevard, NC asked if we were the honeymooners in the Jeep.

The Jeep hauled around our three dogs as we explored the backroads all around Mt. Olive and I drove it endlessly to Hattiesburg and back for work. I actually rescued a girl from the side of the highway with it (she was being assaulted by her ex and thanks to the Jeep's handling, I was able to get away--there's a whole other story for ya there). There were times when I didn't feel the love--no cruise control, getting Johnny in and out of the carseat when our other car had broken down, the wind in one's hair is not always fun--but my goodness, I love that car.

The Car Talk guys say that the extreme devotion that Jeep owner's have for their cars is inexplicable--it is! We will miss it terribly and hopefully one day there will be another Wrangler in our driveway, but the memories are what really counts--good, good memories--they are what lasts.


New Year's Fun

Since Christmas, we've been pretty preoccupied with the house and Tuan's had groups on-site. This meant that our five-year anniversary went largely uncelebrated and New Year's was more afterthought than planned-out party. Our anniversary will be celebrated more properly when we can make it down to Florida. With Tuan's job, the 28th pretty much always involves groups being at Twin Lakes. That's okay, though. I'd rather be here than anywhere else and able to celebrate!

New Year's Eve involved a grocery trip to Wal-mart and dinner at El Ranchito, then homeade chocolate cake and asleep before midnight! New Year's day turned out to be a really fun, productive day, full of good food and beautiful weather.

We made Vietnamese po-boys for lunch. If you've never enjoyed the complete bliss of a Vietnamese-style po-boy, then I invite you all over this week! We skip the pate that the New Orleans bakery includes, but imagine a baguette piled with thinly sliced pork, carrot, cucumber, jalapenos, and cilantro, topped with soy sauce and garlicky-sweet nuoc mam! It's a pretty amazing taste.

Vietnamese Po-boys

Tuan marinates a pork sirloin roast in a marinade of garlic mortared with sugar and salt, then mixed with water overnight. He bakes the pork (in the marinade, covered) at 250 for 3 hrs until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150. He then sprinkled it liberally with sugar and placed it under the broiler to let the sugar carmelize/pork brown. He then sliced it super thin. In fact, everything on the sandwich is very thinly sliced ( a vegetable peeler works great for the carrots). If you are interested in making the nuoc mam, here it is.

Nuoc Mam

3 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp sugar
combine in mortar/pestle until thoroughly smashed (I suspect a food processor would work in a dire pinch).
2/3 c. warm water (add to the garlic mixture to get it out of the bowl)
In a bowl, combine:
Garlic/sugar/water mixture
5 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp lemon/lime juice
To taste: hot pepper paste/thai bird chili sauce

The heat gives it taste, but be conservative! We use a mixture of Tuan's dad's which involves sugar/vinegar/habanero peppers. Yeow! Surprisingly, the sandwhich is not "hot" even with the jalapenos. It's just immensely flavorful.

At lunch, Tuan decided that the baguettes we purchased at Walmart were not good enough and that we should try to make French baguettes. We didn't start until three, which means they are just now in the oven. The above photo is of them on the second rise. I am anxious to see our results! Wish us well. I leave you all with this quote:

Me: (sighing contentedly after lunch) Oh, Johnny, that was so good my mouth is singing. Is your mouth singing?
Johnny; (shaking head) Nooooo

Ps. I'm going to put photos of our kitchen on facebook if anyone is interested. Blogger is too slow.