Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago, at about the same time of day as I am writing this, I was standing in the parking lot of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS crying. My hair was as cute as could be and I was just hours away from marrying the the love of my life, but I had locked my keys, veil, makeup, phone and purse in the car and had NO MONEY. All the bridesmaids and family members were off getting ready and running around and I was all alone.

I went inside the fellowship hall and ran into Marian Griffith (who was doing our decorations). "My keys and everything are locked in my car!" I managed to say this between the sobs and hiccups and general emotion that was consuming me at the time. The LORD knew that Marian was just who I needed at the moment, because there was no hug or sympathy or consolation. She quickly said, "Paula, stop crying right now or you'll have red eyes in your wedding pictures. Do you want your wedding pictures to have red eyes?" No, I did not. Let's just say I pulled myself together and called a locksmith and Mrs. Leslie Fortier to borrow some money to pay the locksmith! Oh, the days before everyone had cellphones!

We were both just twenty two years old and crazy in love. Now we are thirty and still crazy in love. : ) Our wedding day was full of friends and family, our ceremony full of meaning and the reception so fun we stayed until folks made us leave. Really, they did. We really enjoyed our wedding day; in part, because we prioritized things. Some elements of the wedding were very important to us and worth the details and time and some weren't and we left them alone. I remember that I did not want a professional photographer bossing us around the whole time and making sure we got all the right photos at the reception. So, we enlisted a handful of family and friends to take our pictures for us and I still LOVE our photos. Do I have a cake-cutting photo? I have no idea and still don't care. But what I do have are tons of photos of the sweet family and friends who attended and made our day so special!

Here are eight memories of that wonderful day!

1. The decorations. Marian, Anna and I spent hours planning the reception decorations and decorating and she and her sister, Mildred did such a beautiful job finishing everything. It was stunning.

2. The cakes. I hired a girl I went to school with to make our cakes. She worked for well-regarded pastry shop. The armadillo groom's cake was well executed and something else, for sure! The actual wedding cake was a bit funny. I wanted a small, three tiered white cake with lovely berries and fruit garnishes. Southern Living had a great inspiration picture. The actual result was a three-tiered cake with kumquats and grapes (maybe there were some berries) and the weight of fruit sort of tilted the layers. It was very funny looking although no one said it to my face. Fortunately I had ordered a small cake so that we could have assorted layer cakes from Shady Acres to serve. The Italian creme cake (which we ate leftovers of for weeks) rocked our world. One of these anniversaries I need to get one for celebrating.

3. My back ached (probably from the decorating) and I wore those instant, disposable heating pads under my dress!

4. Isotoner ballet slippers instead of wedding shoes.

5. Walking down the aisle to see Tuan for the first time. The sanctuary was empty. Just us. Lovely.

6. The music! Our friend, Michael was a fabulous guitarist and pianist. He did a guitar/vocal solo of O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus before the processional. It was beyond amazing and beautiful. All of the wedding music was just lovely.

7. The Kiss! We saved our first kiss on the lips for our wedding day. For some reason, we did not "plan" it out. I remember when Clint said that Tuan could "kiss the bride" and our lips met for the first time, my over-active brain started panicking. "What if we kiss too long? What if Tuan decides to make our first kiss a French kiss and it is in front of all these people? I cannot handle that." I can get a lot of thinking done in a three second span. In the frenzy of panic, I pulled away, determined to save face before "God and all these witnesses". Tuan must have looked funny, because Clint said something like, "not done yet, Tuan?" He replied in the affirmative and pulled me back for a second, longer smooch in front of a laughing crowd. So much for saving face!

8. Eggrolls. Tuan's dad made over 1100 eggrolls for the wedding and our caterer fried them all afternoon. I think they were the second most important memory of Tuan's day and I would be remiss without mentioning them.

Happy Anniversary, Honey!


On Entertaining . . .

Since we bought a double bed for Miss A, I've felt much more able to invite folks to spend the night with us. Now, we had a fabulous couch, but only one person can sleep on a couch (usually) and it doesn't afford much privacy. I feel very blessed to have Miss A's room available at a moment's notice (sort of) for anyone in need of a place to sleep. It has also spurred some thoughts about hospitality and houseguests especially.

We've had the pleasure of staying with so many wonderful families and friends who have made us feel more than welcome and comfortable and I thought jotting down some things I've observed/am learning/need to do would help me and hopefully someone else. I am, however, slanted in the parental perspective with my kiddos being so young. Here goes!

1. Ample towels. Some people just need two bath towels. It is a nice gesture to provide the towels in cute little bundles or baskets, but do make sure that either you supply plenty per person or let your guests know where the towels are.

2. Soap in the bath as well as access to basic toiletries they may have forgotten, plus a place to stow personal toiletries in the bathroom (if there is room).

3. A lamp in the bedroom! Very, very important. I know some folks are all about harsh overhead lighting, but your guests may have an aversion to the light or be rooming with their children and need some sort of low light in the room if they go to bed after the kids. (No stumbling about in the dark while trying to get ready for bed). A night light is a good thing.

4. Some means of climate control. A fan, encouragement to open a window and access to extra blankets. I have this vague memory of blindly digging through someone's closet in the middle of the night desperate for a blanket to warm my freezing body.

5. A water glass or bottled water for the bedroom. No stumbling around in someone's strange kitchen in the middle of the night.

6. Ample pillows.

7. At the beginning of the visit, let folks know the general schedule of your household. "We usually get up around seven, but you are more than welcome to sleep later." Or, "we sleep in on Saturdays, but if you are up before us, here is the cereal, coffee, etc . . " Make sure your guests know that they are welcome to stay up later than you, etc . . .

8. Particularly with children who are not always adaptable to a new schedule and meal routine, do encourage your guests to help themselves to snacks and beverages. If there are certain things you are saving, say so, but make sure your guests are able to care for their children and selves. I remember staying with some folks who ate breakfast very late in the morning and our kiddos were hungry way before it was even begun. We huddled in our room feeding them peanut butter crackers so they could survive until breakfast.

9. House rules are helpful to know. "We don't eat on the couch" or "no shoes on the carpet" help considerate guests be considerate!

10. Depart when you say you are. (if you are a guest). There is nothing so awkward for a hostess who needs to feed children or put them down for naps and is still entertaining guests who were supposed to leave hours before.

11. Focus on the people. A friend shared this philosophy of entertaining: "I get the house cleaned and neat, enjoy the people while they are here and we can always clean up tomorrow." I like that. Naturally, things have to be done while guests are at your house (especially overnight guests), but the priority should be people.


Christmas Bonus!

We have a new expression around here, it's "CHRISTMAS BONUS!". This does not refer to cash bonuses, although those are certainly lovely when they come. Rather, "CHRISTMAS BONUS!" is one of those pleasant deviations, surprises, unexpected happenings that God sends our way. Here are three of them:

1. I was rushing to clean up the kitchen after supper so that we could do Advent. The sink was full of dishes and I was dreading unloading and then loading the dishwasher. I started to leave them in the sink until after, but decided to go ahead and get it out of the way. When I opened the dishwasher, I was astonished to find it had already been emptied. "CHRISTMAS BONUS!"

2. This morning, I woke up and the sun was shining brightly through our window. Our alarm clock (a.k.a. baby) had not gone off and I popped down stairs without waking anyone and got to have quiet time and coffee in solitude. Sleeping late and being up before everyone is definitely a "CHRISTMAS BONUS". (I did not yell it that time, though!)

3. Tonight, we were planning to do something and I had foolishly/distractedly gotten the dates wrong. Instead we piled into the car and drove an hour north to check out a city with a big courthouse light display. Approaching the Square, we noticed a lot of police cars and people--it was a parade! Although we had to rush, we caught most of it and the kids ate it up, especially the dancing/performing horses! It was a memorable "CHRISTMAS BONUS"!

God is infinite and yet personal. He knows us intimately and lavishes love and grace upon us in so many ways--big and small. What "CHRISTMAS BONUSES" have you experienced lately?


Pumpkin Mousse. Please, make this!

Tuan and I both have been doing the low carb life and it has been so good for us. Being out of town this week and eating more grains, beans and refined "junk" has confirmed for me that this diet has been a good choice for us. In fact, I am ready for a good plate of meat and veggies. I nearly cried when I had a plate of carnitas and guac and pico yesterday. My body was so happy. It's a good feeling to have learned what works best for one's body. I know for some, it's whole grains and low fat or no dairy. For my body, sugar and starches are not my friends (as much as I LOVE them, and I do adore refined foods--they're so, refined). Proteins, fats, nuts, cheeses, veggies and berries are my food allies.

I also love dessert and hate missing out on the fun of fall cooking (pumpkin, anyone?). I was racking my brain for several weeks over something fall-like and pumpkin-y that we could make without falling off the wagon. I realized an egg-based dessert with whipped cream met the criteria and found a recipe for pumpkin mousse on Country Living's website. Y'all, this recipe rocked our world!

Imagine, decadent pumpkin spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg layered with crumbled chocolate, salted ginger pecans and nutmeg whipped cream. Seriously, we could not believe the good fortune of this recipe. It is low in carbs and calories and I have to confess I ate it for breakfast the next day. It filled me up and kept me going with no crashes later.

I calculated the nutrition facts and am including links to the recipes with adjustments I made. This is better than pumpkin pie and I plan to make it again very soon. The only trick with the nutrition facts is I calculated it with less chocolate than I would have used for the whole recipe. Not a huge difference. : )

Nutrition Facts
User Entered Recipe
12 Servings

Amount Per Serving

Calories 344.7
Total Fat 32.1 g
Saturated Fat 11.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat 13.4 g
Cholesterol 140.7 mg

Sodium 291.0 mg

Potassium 196.8 mg

Total Carbohydrate 13.3 g

Dietary Fiber 3.1 g

Sugars 6.7 g

Protein 4.3 g

Vitamin A 124.5 %
Vitamin B-12 3.4 %
Vitamin B-6 4.9 %
Vitamin C 3.3 %
Vitamin D 6.9 %
Vitamin E 8.4 %
Calcium 6.0 %
Copper 14.6 %
Folate 5.1 %
Iron 7.5 %
Magnesium 9.1 %
Manganese 52.2 %
Niacin 2.0 %
Pantothenic Acid 6.1 %
Phosphorus 11.8 %
Riboflavin 7.2 %
Selenium 7.2 %
Thiamin 10.7 %
Zinc 8.2 %

The Pumpkin Mousse:

5 large egg yolks
1 cup(s) sugar (I used 1/3 c. of Palm sugar--you don't need nearly as much)
3 1/2 cup(s) heavy cream
15 ounce(s) canned pumpkin
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon(s) ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
2 tablespoon(s) dark rum (No rum around, just substitute water)
1 teaspoon(s) powdered gelatin
3 ounce(s) shaved dark chocolate (We used semi-sweet baking bars crushed with a cleaver)
Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water and set aside.
Whisk the yolks, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1/3 cup) sugar, and 3/4 cup cream together in a medium saucepan. Heat while stirring continuously with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon over medium-low heat, until thickened and the mixture coats the spatula -- about 10 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set over the ice bath. Stir to cool.
Add pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and salt to the egg mixture. Stir 1 tablespoon rum and 1 teaspoon gelatin together in a small bowl. Heat the remaining tablespoon rum, and stir in to the gelatin mixture until dissolved. Gently whisk into the pumpkin mixture. Beat 1/2 cup cream to stiff peaks, and fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into a shallow dish, cover and chill until cold and thick enough to fall from a spoon in heavy dollops -- about 8 hours or up to overnight.
Beat the remaining cream, liberal quantity of nutmeg and (NO!)sugar to stiff peaks. Alternately layer the pumpkin mousse and whipped cream in a glass serving dish. Sprinkle the chocolate shavings (and pecans!) between top two layers. Serve chilled.

Salted, gingered pecans.
(this was adapted from Bon Appetit)
2 cups pecan halves
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp (give or take) kosher or sea salt
ground ginger

Melt butter, toss pecans in butter, sprinkle with salt and liberally with ginger. Toast at 325 for fifteen minutes or until toasted.

I frequently cook with palm sugar. It can be found in asian markets and is so good. The affect of palm sugar on blood sugar rises and spikes is purported to be much better than white sugar and it has the subtle flavor of candy corn.


We are not alone

Oh, no. We've had a quite a posse accompanying us in our daily grind. I'm not sure how many nor do I have specific names, but I can say that "Johnny's Boys" and "Aubrey's Girls" have been a constant presence in our house for the last few weeks. They play, get lost, need crackers, roam in the woods, follow instruction and generally follow our children's leadership. It's been a lot of fun.

We built a firepit area, got the swing and chairs all ready; had one fire, and then, sadly, the burn ban came along. Mr. J is longing to "burn marshmallows". He has, however, used this time wisely by decorating Miss A's face so she resembles MIchael from Peter Pan. I think it fits in nicely with our unseen boys and girls roaming around.

This is a good, enjoyable season of life. Each child is at a uniquely fun age and we are having a ball. The initial, bleary newborn days of juggling and sleep deprivation are passed and there is some (only some, mind you--wouldn't want too much) order. Mr. J is asking a lot of questions about death and life and I am thankful the Bible has the answers to these questions!

Baby O and I are up earlier than the remaining crew--even Tuan is getting some much needed rest this morning and I am enjoying some much-appreciated quiet time. Now, off to tackle some necessary tasks--in blissful quiet!


A Person is a Person No Matter How Small

Tonight we attended a fund-raising banquet for the local Center for Pregnancy Choices. My heart was so moved by the testimony of a woman who had an abortion as a teenager and found grace and forgiveness as an adult.

Abortion is horrible and unjustifiable and it hurts.

An OB-GYN spoke and shared this one thing that struck me. He said that society has constantly justified atrocities towards different populations by declaring them non-persons. E.g., women were not considered "persons" and thus could not vote or have property rights. Jews were not considered "persons" by the Germans. African-Americans were not considered "persons" and denied constitutional rights and freedom.

By refusing to acknowledge that that baby in the womb--no matter how big or small--is a person, that somehow justifies abortion.

It does not. Abortion is an atrocity against a population that cannot speak for or defend itself.

We fill animal shelters with abandoned pets because we are anti-cruelty and maintain a no-kill policy. Our culture values the lives of animals over people. Unborn sea turtles are protected under the law, but human beings, made in the image of God, are not.

No situation is completely hopeless. God offers hope! God offers grace and forgiveness and can redeem even the worst of situations.

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus


Drumroll please . . .

And the couch we chose was . . . . . Number 2!

And no one guessed correctly, so no one wins the fabulous giveaway I should have hosted in conjunction with the previous post!


Which Did We Buy?

I am not going to post a photo of our new couch--in our living room--just yet! We are still trying to sell the old one and nothing in here has been arranged. So, in the meantime, I ask you to venture a guess at which of the following sofas we chose. Our sofa is below, but know that monitors and colors are not always accurate.
So, dear reader, how predictable are we? Which do you think we chose and why? Which would you have chosen?






"Taking it Easy"

We have had a crazy, crazy week-plus. I do mean crazy! Consider: three at the doctor (at once!), croup+double ear infection, the kids' first football game, out of town two separate nights, a charity banquet, speech therapy, a wedding shower, staying up until three am to get ready for the shower, an awful allergy attack turned sinus infection, on-call for jury duty, a luncheon, Bible Study, Church, 7+ hours on the road . . . . and now a peculiar rash on J that will take us to the pediatrician this afternoon.

Usually three kids is enough busy-ness for us and we do not schedule very much else, so this was unbelievable. I've been "under-the-weather" since Sunday night with one of the worst allergy attacks of my life now turned sinus infection that is just wiping me out. I've been trying to take it easy, but am humored by what that looks like compared to my child-free days.

Sick as a child/teen meant bed/tv/chicken and stars soup with saltines and being tucked in by Mama. (And missing school!)

Sick in college meant missing some school, and toughing it out alone in my dorm/apartment/house with a Pride and Predjudice marathon and most likely minestrone soup. Of course there were times when I still had to work through the blech--no fun.

Sick as a "young married" was probably the nicest circumstances although the worst illness to date (mono/strep for a month). It involved Pride and Prejudice, the Fellowship of the Ring, Mitford Books, baths, a cozy bed and Tuan cooking soups for me. : )

Sick as a Mom . . . . means trying to take it easy but not really because you can't really stop and sleep it away or take a hot bath or watch Pride and Prejudice for hours. Particularly when Tuan cannot get away, I am really on my own.

Sick as a Mom involves coloring at the table for an hour since it involves no movement and keeps the kids occupied. It means laying on the couch like a sack of potatoes while a Barney/Thomas/Backyardigans marathon plays, then falling asleep and suddenly waking up with a toddler "exploring in the kitchen and your four-year old in your face begging for milk. It involves barricading yourself and the kids in one bedroom so you can sleep while they play and bring you "spaghetti" and "coffee". It also means laundry, dishes, diapers, and scraping together meals, while letting other things slide.

I am not complaining (promise!), just contemplating. I am really, really thankful that this is only a mild affliction and I am able to move around and do a little. I am really, really thankful for proper, early bedtimes, a big bathrobe and Netflix in the evenings. And, I am really, really thankful for play-doh which is keeping the kiddos quite occupied and happy!


Airport Extreme

We finally got a decent router that is reliable, fast and of this decade. The implication of this is that our computer that contains our photos is actually compatible with our router and this means I just might begin posting photos. I also just installed photoshop on our desktop which means that at some point the photos will be cleaned up and a bit prettier. For now, be content with these pretty faces!

Here are some of the latest of our kiddos:

I am guilty of taking a curling iron to my daughter's hair. It's an inherited sickness, but don't worry, you won't see us on Toddlers and Tiaras anytime soon!

I love this age and especially Mr. O's sweet smile!

Mr. J is four and so much fun. I absolutely love having a four year old!

Also, after a marvelous vacation and the jubilant consumption of carbs, sugar and I-know-not-while in FL I am back on the low carbohydrate bandwagon. The results have been so encouraging and I am at this sort of milepost that I really want to cross. I am eating a few more carbs just for liveability's (not a real word) sake and while I love the results of this, I truly despise not having certain carbs. It is funny because Tuan and I are sort of opposite in what we miss. But enough of that. I have found a few consolations and one is this weird combination of things in my coffee!

Coconut Milk
Heavy Cream
a wee bit of Palm Sugar

It's almost a meal and is so amazingly good! I am allowing myself Palm Sugar in coffee because coffee without sugar doesn't seem worth the drinking. Coffee with fake sugar is worse than no coffee and life with no coffee is terrible with three under four. Anyway, I highly recommend this combo!


The Dining Room

I took these photos right before Mr. O was born and things have changed a bit, but the Dining Room is my favorite room in the house! In this room we eat, create, school, play music, make messes . . . The photos are dreadful and all had very reddish tints which I tried to fix, but really should have just re-taken them! Our Dining Room is the design jumping off point for the rest of the downstairs which has yet to be reconciled. Enjoy the tour!

This is looking into the dining room from our living room. Our table was rescued from a dumpster! We re-painted it several times (it had a butcher block top) and settled on black. I really like it because it is so sturdy and indestructible!
The chairs we found after quite a search--they are rental/ballroom chairs and we bought them second-hand from a rental company. I love the style and small scale--we can fit more folks around the table! We ended up buying ten chairs for when we have crowds and in case one breaks. The extras are hanging in our storage room. Eventually I'd like to re-cover the cushions. Our piano came from a junk store located between Lookout Mountain and Mentone. We somehow fit it into our LandCruiser! It was maple-ish until we painted it. The "art pieces" are vintage record albums that we switch out occasionally.

This corner borders the living room and kitchen. I am not crazy about the cabinet as it is, but is super useful for storage. Tuan built this out of some louvered doors my dad had leftover from a job and some scrap plywood. Art stuff, sewing supplies, gift wrap and I know not what fill this cabinet. This corner is the only part of the room I am not sure about. I think I'd rather have a desk or something--any suggestions?

My favorite wall! Our other house had so much white in it that we were just craving color! This is a bit more florescent than intended but I LOVE the cheeriness of this wall. We do have a solemn rule that you DO NOT TURN ON THE FLORESCENT light fixture unless a dire need exists because this green does not do well under such scrutiny! The lovely pink (and it is pink) buffett/sideboard was formerly our changing table. Tuan built it (recognize a trend, here?). I keep our homeschooling stuff in here and underneath are three bins (theoretically one for each kid's toys, but that's not always the reality!). My lamps came from Dirt Cheap.

The curtains! We were on a desperate hunt for something affordable to make colorful curtains and ended up in the shower curtain aisle at Target and fell in love with these shower curtains. I lined them and added a white border to the bottom. (Ha! Something I did instead of Tuan) They are hanging on flimsy hardware until Dirt Cheap produces something appropriate.

And last, the inside of the craft cabinet. It's usually more junky than this. Hope you enjoyed our Dining Room tour! I am terrible about photo posting so I hope this makes [Elizabeth] happy!

ps. I hope it is just my monitor, but these photos are ghastly! What better excuse to come by in person!


Puttin' on the [denim] Jumper

Figuratively speaking, of course! Miss A actually has one which I suppose makes us qualify as authentic homeschoolers!

We have begun our home school-preschool this fall. ("Home-school-pre-school has the same syllables as Miley Cyrus' song, "Hoe-down Throw-down" . . . I sense a parody and disclaimer: I only know this song because it is played fifteen times a day at camp)

Did I digress? Oh, yes.

So we began our home schooling journey this year. Although J is only four and A two-and-a-half, I thought that perhaps beginning on a small scale this year would be easier than jumping into it head over heels for Kindergarten or (augh) 1st grade! Three to four mornings a week J, A, and I gather at the table for about an hour's worth of "school." They are loving it and so am I!

I had no expectations--high or low--and am glad we are taking baby-steps, but they come running when I say it is time for school and we have a good time of it.

I polled several folks about their curriculum choices and ended up choosing a mostly free program that my mom already had on hand. It is called Sing, Spell, Read and Write. We are loving SSRW. They like the repetition of it and it has been amazing to see J's progress and ability to absorb things! Ideally, after twenty-six lessons we'll beginning pairing phonics sounds and be on our way to reading. It will be interesting to see if J is ready for that next step or just ready to go back through the alphabet.

We start our time with catechism review, then move onto our A-Z Theology (only word I can think of) book that goes through the different attributes of God. We do whatever letter we are studying that day. The kids are very funny with the catechism. Miss A frequently grabs the book and asks us the "questions" and praises us heartily and in a cheerily chirpy voice when we answer.

We then move onto SSRW. A gets a hand-drawn copy of the main letter page and it's corresponding picture which she works at diligently, then cuts up and glues back together. Consequently at the end of the day when we proudly hang up their schoolwork, J's looks like a respectable first-born four year olds' school work, while A's is more like an abstract, mutilated, multi-coloured, exclamation. J gets a bit put out when she gets started and I just have to remind him that he is a scholar and she is an artist.

While A is creating, Mr. J and I work at our different lesson worksheets. We review the sound of the letter, then there is a page of practice lettering and a multiple-choice cutting/pasting elimination excercise and finally a connect-the-dots. Our last project is piling into the car to listen to the audio cassette of the alphabet song. They love the novelty of getting into the car to finish our day. I think it would be nice to have a tape player inside the house!

It is neat how Miss A is learning by osmosis and how much J can handle. I am so thankful God has given us a good start to our year(s) of school.


Family Date Night!

Every so often Tuan and I will be laying around the house between the hours of four and five. He, just returned from work, and I, zonked out from the day will collapse in the living room with zero motivation for supper or cooking. ( I am blessed to have a husband who cooks, too!) These are the sorts of evenings when we end up going into town for supper and often to run errands--with all the kids.

Dates with the two of us are few and far between, for various reasons, and we treasure them when they come. But, there is a terrific, wonderful refreshing time to be had out on the town with all the kids in tow. A change of pace, a breath of fresh air. Time to talk in the car and not cook or clean up supper. Sometimes it's Mexican and Wal-mart, other times Chik-fil-A and Target. Oh, and Bass Pro at Christmas!

We really enjoy our kids--'specially when we're together! I'm so glad we take them places and do things. It is usually pretty successful and fun. I hope this establishes a pattern of "family time" that continues through adolescence and adulthood.


A Very Great Struggle

We have frequently sung this wonderful hymn: "Father I Know that All my Life" at FPC. I have grown to love this song and one line that our pastor frequently points out is this:

A life of self-renouncing love
is one of liberty.

Yikes. Stab me in the heart there. From the first night we held little J in our arms and continuing onward, I have struggled so hard with selfishness, with giving up my wants, my desires. I remember being awake in the middle of the night--in our hospital room--trying to nurse J and wanting to go to sleep. I looked over at my husband who was peacefully snoring away and I wanted more than anything to KICK him. Yes, it took my all to not kick my sleeping husband.

It was something to grapple with before kids, but on a MUCH lesser scale. Sure, I often had to struggle to put my needs aside for Tuan's or during camp there would be times where I struggled with giving up my wants. On a daily basis, however, I was pretty much on my own and dwelling in comfortable solitude and self-indulgence. Now, hourly I am pulled in many directions. From the moment my eyes open until my head hits the pillow (and often many times after) someone, somewhere in this house is needing me, wanting me, calling me.

Life with three is not as hard as it could be. I am thankful for "schedules" and fairly content children. But it is hard. Housework is unending. Little souls need their love buckets filled, their needs met--and they don't observe the clock. Some days I desperately crave sleep and it doesn't happen. Yesterday was one of them. I had just fallen asleep for that Sacred Sunday nap and J came in our room and woke me up. I was ugly, impatient and sent him back to his room. At that point, sleep was over, but an ill spirit and sinful attitude were just beginning.

Do you ever just want to wallow in your self-pity, anger and sinfulness? I do.

By God's grace, I decided to get up and take J for a walk so Tuan could have some peace and quiet. We went over to camp and played and walked and explored for well over an hour. It was so much fun and refreshing--and he NEEDED that quality time.

A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.

I think this is going to be a life-long lesson--one that constantly unfolds.

When I was a counselor we had one evening off a week. It lasted about four hours and that was our only off-time. When our activity ended and our campers were at the tree house we were free to go. I, however, worked at the ropes course--which never ended on time and I was a tractor driver. I remember one evening I was ferrying kids from the ropes course and literally seeing my off-time dwindle away with each trip. On the way back to ropes I was thinking about how much of MY time was diminishing and like a bolt of lightning it hit me: IT WAS NEVER "MY" TIME IN THE FIRST PLACE. All that I was, all that I possessed belonged to God (including my time). Realizing that was absolutely liberating. I couldn't be selfish with my time because it didn't belong to me to begin with. It belonged to Him.

It is easy to be free with someone else's possessions, money, time because it is not yours. The same thing applies to us. Our talents, time, things all belong to him and realizing that gives great liberty (and great responsibility). That moment changed me and really affected the rest of my summer--for the good.

I have to constantly re-learn these truths. It is not fun, nor easy, but good.

A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty . . .


Best $9.00 I "Ever" Spent

(this image courtesy of Macys.com . I do not go about pouring fancy bottled water upon my mattresses)

When we bought Miss A's new mattress, I went out and bought several bedding items and a cheap waterproof mattress cover was one of them. Many times over I am so thankful I purchased this! Every time a diaper overflows or sippy cup spills and I begin the arduous process of washing bed linens, I am so grateful that I don't have to spend more time deodorizing or cleaning a mattress. If you have wee ones and are upgrading from the conveniently waterproof crib mattress, don't hesitate to buy one! I use a mattress pad over the waterproof cover and it prevents things from being "sweaty", or, "glowy" if you are a southern female.


brick wall/waterfall

Today I was super productive between eight o'clock and ten thirty. Then I hit that brick wall of fatigue and inability to decide what to do next. Rather than taking a permissive, indulgent break, I just sort of puttered all over the place and kept trying to do things ineffectively. But, my freezer is full of barley and chickpeas so that should count for something!


Twisted Sense of Housework

Some people (of a far more sensible head-on-straight breed) mop their floors regularly or before company comes. I, on the other hand, tend to think: Company is coming. Why should I mop the floors when they are just going to get messsy? Silly, but it sure decreases the frequency of mopping! The exception is when my Vietnamese mother-in-law is coming. I just have to mop then!


dare I say it?

You know how sometimes you're afraid to say something for fear of jinxing yourself? Those knock on wood type of things--although rationally you know life doesn't work like that, irrationally you feel otherwise? That's how I am feeling these days.
Since June I've been doing lo-carb, no sugar and have lost twenty pounds, give or take a few. Gulp. There, I've said it. It's been hard, hard, hard to give up sugar, and almost as hard to give up tortilla chips and beans. The results, however are worth it. My weight it less than it was before I had Johnny and I have dropped a pants size and a bit more.
I love carbs and sugar and my body does not do well with them--it has been good to break away and while I will not bid farewell forever to such delights, I hope to one day return to them in a more sensible, less dependent, more infrequent manner.
I don't think those things are evil (why would God have promised a land flowing with milk and honey if they were?), but for right now it is better for my body to abstain.
This week, now that we are recovered from camp and all it's craziness, I am adding in more intentional excercise. Twenty more pounds to go. The additional benefit is that berries have never tasted more amazing--cantelope, too.
Saying it out loud in bloggy-land makes it more real and me more accountable. Would you pray for continued grace to do this?


The days are long . . .

Now that camp is over, I have no idea what to do with the kids all day. I am planning to order some curriculum and start pre-school with them in the fall, but right now, in the transition period, I am wracking my brain over how to fill the hours without destroying the house at the same time. We need a tighter, more planned schedule, but this is still transition time and it would be difficult to start that now. So, here I sit, waiting for special season to end and looking forward to the time when Tuan comes home from work around 4:30/5:00 rather than eight or nine. We've been in camp mode for eleven weeks and while it has been mostly wonderful and good, I am looking forward to a return to the still wonkety, but more predictable normal.


Make this dip!

I swoon over this dip. If you are avoiding gluten or carbs and are a bit fearful of plastic cheeses (aka Velveeta), this is an excellent substitute! I serve with corn chips and have recently used Oopsie Rolls. (Google this!)

I lb. good ground breakfast sausage (get the good stuff!)
2 Blocks Cream Cheese
I can Ro-tel

Brown your sausage and dice it into small pieces, drain excess grease. In a saucepan or mini-crockpot, combine sausage, Ro-tel with juice and cream cheese. Warm until cream cheese is melted.


In Which I Attempt to Sweep

There's this advice column/article circulating around Facebook in which a woman without children gripes about how "busy her stay at home mom friend seems to be and how she never has time for her and what could she possibly do all day?" She said something along the lines of, "I work all day and still manage to clean up my house and take care of things." The columnist responds with a vigorous defense of the SAHM and naturally all the mothers who are reading and circulating this on FB do so with cheering and "hear-hears".

It is hard to explain what we do all day and why we are so tired that a nap is often so necessary. Frankly, there are up days and down days and up hours and down hours. There are times when I can get so much done in an hour that I wonder what I do with my time. Then there are mornings like this.

Today actually started well. The baby woke up and ate a little before seven, I had my quiet time and crashed back in the bed with him beside me so as to not disturb J. When J did wake up at 8:15, we got up, dressed, cleaned his room up, woke up A, cleaned her room, learned about stacking books so you could see the spine, then the baby woke up and I made my bed and we all headed downstairs with a load of laundry. Good start, yes? We ate breakfast, got the living room picked up and vacuumed--by 9:30. At nine thirty, I decided to give the house a good sweeping--this is the kind of sweeping that involves moving chairs around--so I turned on a thirty-minute TV show for the kids, settled O on his playmat and began to sweep--

1. Realized the playmat needed batteries and I had some! Changed batteries.
2. Began stacking chairs to sweep.
3. Started picking up doo-dads in dining room and putting them away.
4. Baby starts crying--time to eat!
5. Stop the show, and hustle kids onto porch so I can feed the baby and keep the kids from using up the TV time.
6. Feed baby, who soon loses interest.
7. Make J clean up his toys he brought outside, bring kids back in, restart movie
8. Spray off table with my helper, A
9. Sweep dining room floor.
10. Baby crying-ready to eat now!
11. Feed baby
12. Change diaper, put him down.
13. Help A use potty, throw away diaper and toss her dirty shorts in laundry.
14. Empty dryer, start a load of wash, realize that I really need to unload/load dishwasher and wipe the counters before I sweep the kitchen
15. J starts crying--he got hurt and needs some cuddling.
16. We cuddle for about five minutes, then realize I need to start another show if I'm ever going to get the floor swept.
17. Realize I'm hungry and eat a piece of brisket.
18. Empty bathroom garbage
19. Load/unload dishwasher
20. Send now stir-crazy kids outside to play
21. Wipe counters
22. Put away junk
23. Sweep the kitchen floors!

One hour and fifteen minutes later, I finished sweeping the floors. I had this great expectation of knocking it all out and we'd go do something fun like pick blueberries this morning. Not so, Joe! Maybe this afternoon, since we all went down for rest/naps an hour and a half earlier than normal!

One last thing. I've been so convicted about balancing the need for housework with taking care of my children and spending time with them. This poem keeps popping up in places and I cry every time I read it! First, because it makes me think of Granny and secondly, because it reminds me how swift these days are flying!

Song for a Fifth Child

By Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.


Vigorous Women

I am a blog junkie. I love looking into the lives of other women and seeing/reading about how their homes are run, what their daily life is like and the choices they make. As a mother of three under four, I am especially encouraged by those women who are a few years ahead of me with children close together like mine. Some days around here are comparatively easy, but many are hard. It gives me hope to see the potential fruit of my labors via their stories. It makes me look forward to each stage encourages me to see their industry and humbles me, too!

Some of these women are so vigorous and industrious. I have pictures in my head of them birthing a baby and then proceeding onward to canning and a quick homeschooling session--in one day. So not real, I'm sure. Right? Please tell me no one is that amazing?!

It's also easy to fall prey to the illusions of blogging. So many times we only see the good and I've always, always struggled with self-comparison. (She's got this, they do that, her way is much better than mine, why can't I have that gift?). I've been very convicted lately about being more concerned about what others think than what the Lord does. Reading through Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Job has reminded me that living a life that pleases Him is much more important than the fear of man.


Happy Fourth of July! (or, pause-hold up! I'm posting a photo!)

I am so terribly lazy about putting up photos on our blog. I never want to take the time and prefer to rapidly type my thoughts out and move on with life. But I do realize that most people prefer pictures over words, so here we are! We took this on vacation in Florida and not one photo had us all looking at the camera and smiling. This confirms my suspicion that we may never do foreign missions as we will never ever be able to take the obligatory missionary photo. As we started to take the picture, Tuan suddenly looked at our clothes and said, "Hey, wait a minute, are we taking a Fourth of July picture?" Yes, dear, you caught me in the act. Happy Fourth, everyone!


Help! I need somebody!

Would someone please come and tell me what is wrong with my house and help me make decisions? I am so all over the place and like too many thing. Do I paint my end tables black or keep some brown in my living room? What do I recover my chair in? Do I really want a sectional? What is my decorating style? Please, someone, help me. (I guess it would help if I posted pictures . . . )


Life in La Land from A-Z

A-My sweet A and I had a girl's day of shopping and running errands. We so rarely have just girl time--it was a fun day!

B-Our first year to have an abundant basil crop! We are enjoying it very much!

C-Camp is just as much a time of growth and challenges and joy as it ever was--and I'm not even on staff!

D-I sure do wish we had a dog. : ( Unfortunately it is against the rules . . .

E-Eggplant, the. That's what we call our oddly-colored Sienna. It does not qualify as a Swagger Waggon

F-Tuan went fishing and caught some bream which he grilled instead of fried. They were some of the best fish I've ever eaten.

G-Giggling over this YouTube video about "Flea Market/Montgomery/It's Just Like a Mini-Mal"l. Watch the video and then go to a furniture store. Kind of like Napoleon Dynamite: you'll laugh later.

H-I'm thankful for the Children's Hospital and the great care baby O received there and even more thankful to not be there!

I-I love pens with thick, flowing ink!

J-Our J turned four in May. He is a delight. This week, we had a babysitter for an afternoon and took him to play at camp with just mommy and daddy. He was so excited and got to do the ropes course for the first time!

K-The Kammers are some of my favorite people! I've gotten to spend time with Christina and Ashleigh these past two weeks--always a treat!

L-the Living Room is the center of my decorating obsession these days . . .

M-My sister Melissa had gallbladder surgery and I'm so glad she is doing well!

N-Netflix Instant Streaming has been so much fun. The astounding number of movies you can watch on it are astounding.

O-Baby O is recovering well and such a fun baby. He blabbers and drools and stares intently at things. We are enjoying him so much.

P-My husband, Kevin and Aubrey have done a fabulous job with the camp program! The lion's den and fiery furnace are unbelievably realistic!

Q-Quiet Time at our house is a blessing, indeed!

R-Ribs are one of the most amazing foods ever and Rind-On bacon is weird. I'll be sure to not buy that next time.

S-Sugar. I'm completely off of sugar and starches indefinitely. It's been a challenge and there have been lots of temptations, but I feel great! (now that I've detoxed)

T-Tomatoes--in season tomatoes are so delectable!

U-"Uh, what!?" my reaction when I awoke during naptime to find one of our neighbor's kids in our hallway.

V-The Victorian Veronica couch by Bernhardt --I think I've found my couch!

W-My brother, Warren is turning sixteen on Monday--I cannot believe he's that old!

X-X-rays are expensive.

Y-Yes to the Dress-I am utterly addicted to that show and have been watching it on Netflix.

Z-Last week during day camp we had a petting Zoo come for a visit! The kids were enchanted with the baby monkey who wore a diaper. I liked the baby yak!


My Place in this World

I keep hoping I'll find some magical resource for being a camp spouse, you know, "confessions of a camp wife" or something like that. This is my twentieth summer of camping--wow--and I find that "the same old struggles that plagued me then are plaguing me still." Where do I fit? What is my role? Why can't I do job x instead of my own? Contentment in what God has called me (not others) to do is an annual struggle.

Last year was a celebration of relief at not having tons of responsibility at camp. I still lived in the "gates" and was mobile with only two toddlers. This year, I'm a bit further from the epicenter of fun and chaos, I have two ramblers and a baby who is most satisfied and happy at home. This year has been harder in terms of not being involved--because I LOVE to be involved. I also have so much camp in my blood that it is absolutely instinctual to see things and want to fix them. So, I'm learning, struggling, grappling with this new role: how do I best serve my husband? what do my kids need most? what should I really be doing? what parts of the day are the best for us to be involved and what parts aren't?

I'm realizing the benefits of being at home during camp and all the possibilities abounding. The kids are sleeping late which gives me quiet time in the morning. There are no meals to cook, so there is a lot less daily work. My kids LOVE to be outside and I can use their outside time to tackle projects and painting. Right now it seems that the evenings may be our best time to be out and about rather than mornings when quiet behavior is required at assemblies. : ) If I can care for the kids, be cheerful for my husband and make home pleasant for him, then I really am being useful and purposeful at camp. The rest is but icing on the cake and I've certainly been blessed with those bonuses, too these past few days. It's been a tough lesson to learn and I'm grateful for the encouragement, wisdom and experience of those gone before me.

Week one is nearly down. Six more to go!


Strange Things are Happening to Me.

In recent times I've noticed that I derive great pleasure from things I NEVER expected to produce such satisfaction. For example, when Mr. O was around three weeks old, I had to wake up around four or five to feed him and afterwards realized that 1. I needed to go to the grocery, 2. going back to bed was fruitless and, 3. I did not want to grocery shop with all three kids. So, at six in the morning, I left the house with Tuan and the kids still asleep and went to Wal-mart, Kroger, and Sams. I used a coupon on groceries and treated myself to coffee. I was able to shop at Sam's in near solitude at 7:20 in the morning with no lines and got home before nine. It was the equivalent of a spa treatment. I was totally refreshed.

Even stranger (for me) is the complete satisfaction derived from having my floors vacuumed/swept and the tables and counters cleared off and sink empty. It makes me sort of delight within. I never think it would happen! Today, for example, our camp sitter took the big kids for two hours and in fifty minutes time I had the downstairs cleaned. The satisfaction of the job completed was marvelous, but more so was the fact that I got to do it alone with NO INTERRUPTIONS and the house was QUIET! It was utterly refreshing and I was totally ready for them to come home and had energy. Crazy.


Dear Mr. Looney Bin director

I will be arriving sooner than expected. I thought my children were going to drive me there, but instead the millipedes will be. Sincerely, me.


A New Way of Looking

Matthew 18:
15"If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

This semester, in my weekly Bible study we studied Biblical Peacemaking. Although I was out for much of it, one aspect of the study really stuck with me. It was on the scripture quoted above. Apparently I'd never read that part very closely because I'd always viewed peacemaking as the responsibility of the offending party and the victim as being passive--just sitting on the tuffet, waiting for reconciliation. Upon reading it, I was struck by the pro-active role the victim/offended should take in resolving the matter. If I've been sinned against, if I've been hurt, I have the responsibility of going to the person who caused the hurt. No sitting around having a pity party if I cannot overlook the sin.

Anecdotally this was brought home as I remembered a situation in my own life. I had a friend in college who I unknowingly offended. We were friends after the fact and I never knew I had hurt her until years later when another friend had just learned about it and told me. It was obvious even years later that she had not forgotten the injury and was still nursing the hurt. I, on the other hand, had gone on about life blissfully unaware that I had wronged her. Although it was unintentional and obviously not realized on my part, had she only told me years ago, I could have explained, we would have been reconciled (Lord-willing ) and she would not have spent the last seven years of so holding onto that grudge.

As I've been mulling over this, I have been doing some self-examination. Have I been hurt or sinned against in a way that I cannot overlook? Do I need to talk to anyone? I almost hesitate to share this for fear of all the folks I've offended coming out of the woodwork to let me know so we can reconcile! I really don't want to confront anyone who may have hurt me--it's so nice and "easy" to feed that demon weed grudge, but my goodness, how different would the church look if we were pro-active (and humbly gracious) about dealing with hurt and sin in this way?


One Of Our New Meals--a Favorite!

No pictures, sadly. The food did not last that long! This was super easy, fast and delicious!

Fried Salmon Croquettes
Wasabi Dipping Sauce (mayo, sour cream. wasabi, soy sauce)
Fresh Avocado
Carrots and purple onions sauteed in coconut oil with a drizzle of sesame oil

My one-handed typing skills are improving. I might even write that book, soon!


Time Was Once a Friend to Me

What is getting done:
baby and childcare
sparse quiet time
our bed made
occasional naps
laundry washed, then washed again because I never put it in the dryer
approximately one chore per day

What needs to be done:
More deliberate quiet time
Hair brushed
Laundry completed and put away
bathrooms cleaned
floor mopped
more time with big kids ("school")
Fridge and freezer cleaned out
Thank you notes

What I Really Want to Do:
Massage/body scrub at Aqua
Baby holding
Read Practical Religion
Sew curtains and Aubrey clothes and cute bibs
Go running
Sleep all night, wake up and go right back to sleep
Breakfast at Broad Street with Tuan
thrift store hopping
Re-arrange furniture
Be Outside
Do "school" with J


Notes on the Pork Belly

Some time back I wrote of Tuan's aspirations for making his own bacon. I am pleased to report success! We watched Alton Brown make bacon, then consulted several sources online. Tuan decided a warm smoking method was what he wanted to use. Using a gift card and some extra funds, we purchased a smoker, then went in pursuit of a source for pork belly.

Fortunately, Crystal Springs has a slaughterhouse/butcher market called Wilson's. It was a fun trip for the boys and I let them go without Aubrey and I. Even a clean butcher shop would have offended my then 35/36 week preggo sensibilities! Over seven days, Tuan carefully rubbed the pork with salt and finally smoked it.

The results: pretty good! It was a bit saltier than we would have chosen, but the saltiness actually keeps us from overindulging. It's a fantastic complement to grits, eggs, pimiento cheese and the like. Knowing that it is free of "other" stuff like sodium nitrate is wonderful! We also had plenty of salt pork and "cracklins" to stock our freezer with. I've been adding the salt pork to the purple hull peas Tuan also picked up at Wilson's and made some cracklin' bread a few times. Also, because the pork was smoked using heat, it is cooked through and I don't have to panic and fastidiously wash my hands when cooking with it. I am OCD about kitchen germs and not much else. : )

We are reading through Little House in the Big Woods and I have to say I felt a certain kinship with the Ingalls family as I read about their own salting and smoking of meat.


Something Tells Me We are Gonna be Friends . . . . (Or, I Wish We Were!)

So . . . these "crazy" newborn days have been very interesting as of late. Not so much the newborn part, but a side effect of having a newborn is that six to eight times a day, I find myself sitting for a good hour, taking care of infant feeding needs. Since much of this time has been in the night, during naptimes or when the two older tots are in the care of others, I have spent a lot of time reading blogs. Not so strange in itself, but I wanted to share how God has used this time to meet two strong needs/longings I've had lately:

1. Although we live at a place where so many go to "retreat", we don't "retreat" here. This is where we live, parent, work--yes, we do LOVE being out here, but it's not the same sort of experience that our guests enjoy. There have been many times when I sort of wistfully gaze at groups (particularly PCA women's groups) and wish that I could go on a "retreat", too! I long for that time away to saturate in the Word, and be encouraged through fellowship.

2. I have also been missing the close mentorship of several friends I've had through the years. You know, those families who you just admire so much and enjoy being with their families and seeing how they do things? I've also been missing the fellowship and wisdom of older women (Titus 2) that I have had in the past. Some time back, I was at Gracie's house for a shindig and her mother and mother-in-law were there. I could have sat for hours and listened to them talk and share about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! I realized then, how hungry I was for that.

So, back to this past week, I somehow stumbled across this blog called, "Preschoolers and Peace" it's a combination blog and ministry of this mother of eight who home schools her kids ages 1-16. She shares their life as well as how she runs her home, teaches her kids, trains them and handles being a mom of eight. I cannot tell you all how encouraging it was to read her blog through the archives (yes, I read almost every post--but I read very, very fast). It was like having that intense time of fellowship and observation I'd been longing for. I wasn't far into her blog before I began to have the inkling that, "these people have got to be Presbyterian/reformed--but not in a crazy way"--and I was right! As I was reading, I found that her dentist-husband has a blog and he is a HOOT to read. Reading them side-by-side has been so fun. His blog is called the Mango Times.

So, I highly recommend these blogs for those of you who are struggling with toddlers and preschoolers or home schooling or in need of a belly laugh (the Husband's blog is cracking me up!) I have been so refreshed and motivated with ideas that I need to implement with Johnny and Aubrey, but I've also been terribly encouraged to spend more time in the word and pursue a gospel-oriented life rather than a lifestyle-motivated one. I so wish these folks lived in Mississippi rather than California, because I would cease to be a blog stalker/lurker and probably show up at their house the next time they had a shindig--I wish we were friends! If you do begin reading it let me know what you think.


Update on Owen

Thank you all so much for your prayers for Owen. We had our appointment with the neurologist yesterday. He said 99.9% of the time this is more of a skeletal issue than a brain issue and is fairly certain that Owen falls into the 99.9%. His particular condition was described as "moderate". While his brain can develop fine with this, he would have an odd-shaped head. This makes the procedure cosmetic, but we feel like proceeding with the surgery is the wise decision, especially with him being a boy and (Lord-willing!) having short hair.

Dr. Hanigan said that the the most common complication with the surgery is blood loss, requiring transfusion, but that recovery was swift. He hopes to do the surgery between 2 and 3 months. We are scheduled to to a CAT scan next Monday and meet with him again the next week. We really like Dr. Hanigan and felt very comfortable talking things over with him. I am nervous about putting our baby under anesthesia, but know that in ALL things God is sovereign--and trustworthy! We'd appreciate your continued prayers as we move forward with this.


quotes to remember

From this article:http://triviumpursuit.com/articles/ten_to_do_before_ten.php

Reading aloud is my favorite part of homeschooling. How many others have had this experience: I am sitting on the couch (a chair would never do) reading a good book, such as Men of Iron by Howard Pyle. One child sits on my right, and one child sits on my left, and one child sits on the back of the couch behind my neck, and one child sits on my lap. The fifth child has to make do. Everyone must to be situated, just so, in order to see all of the pictures — which must be examined minutely before the page is turned. This is one of the ways God taught me patience. Let them look at the pictures and ask their questions. We will eventually find out who wins the joust. Last year, my oldest daughter, Johannah, painted this cosy scene for us, collaging photos from long ago, putting us all into one memorable picture. I was wearing braids and sitting on that old brown couch which long ago met the rubbish pile after much good use. If I could have just an hour of that time again, right now, I would gladly read Corduroy fifteen times in a row and not complain.


In families where peace reigns, we notice that the children have respect for Father and Mother. You can see it in their faces. The children want to please their parents. They know Father is in charge, and they look to him for answers. Father knows what is best. They know that their mother controls the household to serve their father, and they understand that father rules the family to serve the Lord. When children are made to understand the order and purpose of things, and they live out their role in that order and purpose — that is peace. Of course, wise parents rule and control their family and household with kindness and gentleness and tender loving care. They are fallen creatures themselves, and are not always wise. But the more the family matches the ideal, the more peace reigns.

In families where peace does not reign, we notice that the children lack respect for the Father and Mother. They know that their parents are intent on pleasing them, and they use this as a manipulative tool. The household revolves around the child and his likes or dislikes, his moods, his desires. When the child is displeased, uncomfortable, or inconvenienced, the parents consistently go out of their way to please the child. They think their little child is so smart, or cute, or witty. In other words, the order and purpose and roles of this family are inverted, and anything which might resemble peace for a moment is just a temporary lapse in the ongoing war over who is in charge.



Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.

"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth."

The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.


Prayer Request

The neonatologist had some concerns over the shape of Owen's head. He did an x-ray and found that the top plates of his head seem to have fused prematurely in one spot. Obviously, they still need to shift and expand as he grows, so on Monday we are going to see a pediatric neurosurgeon at UMC to do some further tests and see if they are truly fused. If they are, a "minor" surgery will be done and the plates will be separated again. Naturally, we are concerned because no surgery is minor when it involves your baby!

Tuan ran into our friend Jon Davis who is a neurosurgeon and asked him about this. Jon assured Tuan that this really is a simple sort of procedure so we are hopeful either way but would greatly appreciate all of your prayers!

The Birth Story

This is the birth story. I am sharing it with the world, but you know, this is a birth story and birthing babies is not necessarily clean nor pleasant. Read at your own discretion!

My Mama always said, "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." Over the past few days I've been laughing at the way the Lord answers our prayers by giving us what we want and then some.

When I saw Dr. Breeland on Thursday, she checked me and I was still 3cm. "You're not going to go anytime soon" she said, and asked to schedule an induction. I agreed since we'd be past the due date by then. I'd also been feeling very unwell and was feeling quite ready to have the baby. Before Dr. Breeland left the exam room I asked when I should come to the hospital (just in case, ya know). She said to come in at seven minutes apart--"we want you to make it on time and we don't want a Twin Lakes baby." (this is in reference to a baby born in the lodge many years ago on a rainy night during a women's retreat). She also said that she really didn't want my water to break while I was at home.

Off and on for days I'd have some contractions in a row. They were never regular, usually at night and while painful a tolerable pain. Every night I'd get a bit excited and then they'd stop.

Thursday night, we ate at out with Zack and Kristen and they started and stopped. Friday night, Matt and Virginia came over to play Killer Uno while they were hosting. I had several in a row and then they stopped.

Early on Friday I realized that I had lost my mucous plug. I was excited because I'd never had any signs of labor like that, yet I wasn't really hopeful about labor starting, either. We drank coffee that night while playing cards and went to bed wired. I took a bath and then a shower and Tuan and I were just kind of hanging out in the bed reading and talking. When we realized it was 1:40, we quickly turned the lights off and went to sleep. As I was drifting off I had another contraction and grabbed the cell phone so I could time them if they started up.

Around three, I woke up to a rather painful contraction and got up to use the bathroom. I realized I had had another ten minutes earlier and decided to time them. They were five -/+minutes apart then (3:00/3:08/3:12/3:19). Around then, I decided to finish packing the bag "just in case" and then one hit that HURT. I went over to Tuan and woke him up. "I'm having contractions, honey, they are close together, just so ya know." He mumbled and rolled over. I went back into the closet and decided to put some clothes on. Then a second PAINFUL one hit.

"Tuan! I think you need to get dressed, babe!" He jumped up and started dressing. I called my practice and was put on hold. Then one hit and I dropped to the floor by the bed while Tuan took the phone. The fact that I was banging my head against the bed while on all fours convinced him and the on-call nurse that it was indeed time to go.

I was trying to find a jacket before we went downstairs and Tuan was like, "Paula, you don't need your jacket, let's get in the car." Our neighbor Andrew, and Virginia were coming over (thank goodness Virginia was here!). They were around four minutes apart at that point so I had these moments of lucidity and pain free bliss in which I would get distracted. I was using the bathroom, getting water, grabbing a hair brush and lotion all the while Tuan was propelling me out the door.

We got in the car and left TL and they hit four minutes apart. This was around 3:40. Tuan was driving rather speedily and when we hit Florence they were three minutes apart. I learned quickly that the best way to cope with this pain was to scream loudly and primal. You know the "barbaric yawp?" That worked for me.

He ran red lights and hit 90 as we rushed towards the River Oaks. When we pulled into the parking lot around four am, they were at two and a half. We had to stop in the parking lot and I hung onto him for one. Then at the door, he called to be let in while I was wailing and screaming in the background. The security guard got me a wheelchair (God bless him, I couldn't stand up anymore) and Tuan wheeled me upstairs. When we got to the nurses' desk I was in-between contractions so they asked for my card and ID. I gave them my Sam's card in confusion and then one hit and I let out my barbaric yawp. Tuan said all the nurses immediately jumped up and went running.

"We'll check you in later", someone said, and I was being wheeled straight to a room that was quickly filling up with nurses. They got me into a gown and I went to pee. Had two contractions in the bathroom and almost refused to get off the toilet I was in so much pain. They somehow got me to the bed and started all the stuff they needed to do. Contractions were two minutes apart then and I was screaming and asking for an epidural.

"9 cm" no epidural. "Page the doctor right now." As luck would have it, the doctor wasn't there. Seriously!? I needed to push.
They started monitoring and realized that every time I screamed I was taking away oxygen from the baby. "Breathe, Paula, breathe" the chief nurse by the bed was saying. I had cotton mouth, was begging for ice and had a mask on.

In between one of those AWFUL contractions, I said, "I need to push!" The nurse said, "don't push, the doctor's not here." "YOU CAN CATCH A BABY!" I informed them. "Yes, but we're not supposed to, please wait!" (I was pushing a little bit each time--impossible not to)

I have to say in defense of the nurses, they were only covering their bums. I can understand that although they know how to do it all, they probably get grief when the doctor doesn't make it in time. Nevertheless, both they and I know that when your body is telling you to push that you have to push.

The nurse at that point was muttering off to the side, "where is she!? We don't need to know that she's coming, we need to know where she is!" How I heard her was beyond me. My bottom felt like it was on fire, I was trying desperately to breathe and not scream and the nurse told someone to call the ER doc and get him in there. At that point I pretty much rebelled against all rules and regulations and authority. Someone said, "she's in the elevator" and a contraction hit. I pushed as hard as I could and number three plopped out onto the table. Yes, he and I surprised the whole room. 4:41 pm.

The doctor ran into the room pretty much right after that. Providentially, they had not taken the bed apart or Owen would have landed on the floor. "I tried not to push" I said to head nurse. She said she was amazed that I made it that long.

I got pain medicine after it was all over and laying there in post-natural childbirth trauma that I wasn't planning on, they asked if I were getting my tubes tied. "YES, YES!" I wanted to cry out, no more childbirth for me ever! Fortunately Tuan was there to hold me back. : )

I have to say that while I have often (fleetingly) thought about natural childbirth, I'm pretty much an epidural kind of girl. I believe increased pain in childbirth is a result of the fall and that epidurals and pain medicine are truly a grace and a blessing. I had a friend (who'd never had a baby, but worked in the hospital) talk about how much better the "natural" women looked after birthing than the "epidural" women.


This recovery has been a bit more difficult than the first two and I would never choose to go through this again. That said, I'm sure if labor had not come on so quickly that natural childbirth could have been a wonderful and lovely process--for someone else. I will leave picturing the "cervix opening like a flower" to a stronger and braver person.

So that's my long story of a short birth. In all, we started having contractions at 3:00 and he was born at 4:41. If the Lord blesses us with another baby I plan to check into the hospital at 38 weeks and as soon as the first real contraction hits, I will be asking for the epidural.

Our baby boy is beautiful and we are so grateful that he is doing well. I have a prayer request for him, but will share it in another post.


Making Plans and a Call for Ideas

We are scheduled to induce on Tuesday if the baby does not arrive before then! I am having intermittent contractions that never hit sufficiently regularity or last long enough. (Does that wording make sense? I'm having trouble with the English language today.) I've hit this awful drought of energy. After Bible Study on Wednesday, I came home and crashed on the couch while Tuan got lunch together, then crashed in bed during naptime, then called Tuan around five and begged him to come home and take the kids and promptly crashed in bed again. Got up, ate supper (which he cooked) and then after the kids went to bed went back to sleep. Yesterday was a bit better since we had a doctor's appointment, but we ate lunch out, ate supper out and picked up lunch today. If I went to the grocery store, I'd have something easier to prepare than the roasts and frozen chicken and other items I keep neglecting to pull from the freezer in order to thaw, but I am also extremely lacking in energy. Folding up some clothes or running the vacuum is pretty much the exertion of the hour. Our bathroom really needs cleaning, but I keep hoping I'll just go into labor and it will be "magically" cleaned when we return home.

I had a bit of this when pregnant with A and felt so immensely better after she was born that I felt like I could conquer the world or at the very least rearrange furniture. I was still exhausted, but comparatively speaking, I had the energy of an eighteen year old!

So I'm thinking ahead about the post-baby days and need some meal ideas. Tuan is home every day for lunch and supper and I need some very easy suggestions for things to buy and keep that don't require lots of prep/cleanup and are somewhat nutritious. Frugality is out the window (or can be). I think the money saved from not eating out will easily justify boneless skinless chicken and whatnot. Suggestions? I perhaps have a chance to run to Sams and Kroger on Saturday or Monday.


Movie Time!

I wish I could write that we never let our kids watch videos and that they didn't know what a TV was for . . . but that's not realistic and I'm so glad there are some good things out there that they can watch when need need them to be distracted. Currently, these are our favorites that both kids love:

*Milo and Otis
*Toy Story
*Mary Poppins
*Robin Hood
*Berenstain Bears
*Bob the Builder
*Peter Pan
*Thomas the Tank Engine

They like some Veggie Tales and Johnny loves Cars. At Christmas time, Charlie Brown and the Claymation Christmas were huge hits. There are some movies, however, that we have learned they are NOT ready for:

*The Incredibles
*Finding Nemo
(the live version)

I'm sure our choices could have a little more "Focus on the Family" in them, but Milo and Otis, Babe and Berenstain Bears are our top picks right now. Does anyone have suggestions for us?


One Eighty

Well, so much for all of that energy! The energy required for all this super-serious nesting is gone and while the desire is present the actual ability to do it all is gone. I could sleep late, get up, eat breakfast (more like elevenses), if I had my druthers and collapse again after lunch with not a smack of hesitation were it not for, you know--responsibility and little people under my care! I actually did that when pregnant with J, but the times they have a changed. I'm still a bit obsessed with the house, but it's a much slower process. This morning's housework required lots of stops and I was frankly relieved when A needed some rocking and J wanted some story telling!

We bought a van last week and are really enjoying it! Lisa, our camp registrar and all-around-wonderful person is married to Neil who really enjoys detailing cars and does a FABULOUS job. We hired him to detail the van and he totally wowed us. I had this weird aversion to driving the van until the previous owner's "cooties" were gone and now we are enjoying driving not only the newest vehicle we've ever owned, but the cleanest! The kids are learning that mama and daddy are a little bit obsessed about keeping the van clean!

We decided to keep the Land Cruiser and sell the Honda, which I already wrote about and the Honda was detailed by me last week. I don't mind detailing and cleaning my own dirt--just others'!

Tuan has been "nesting" in the yard and is feverishly working towards getting some grass planted. Our side yard has been this muddy bog of "chocolate milk" and he's put so much time and energy into digging and installing a french drain, amending the soil, grading the soil and doing everything in his power to help our yard drain and hopefully grow grass! I'm so proud of him and look forward to dealing with grass stains from our kids forays into the yard rather than caked on clay. : )

I saw the nurse practitioner last Friday since my Ob was on vacation. NPs are the best. They are so much more holistic about care and so personal. I love my Ob, don't get me wrong, but once it's time to deliver who my L&D nurse is is far more important to me. I had the same one with J and A and am praying that she'll be working when this one comes. I digressed a bit, but the whole point of this was that I made NO progress and was still 3 cm. Since then, I've had longer, more intense contractions, but nothing consistent. The NP said that my Ob will probably want to schedule an induction at this week's appointment. I'm okay with that because she induces on Tuesdays, usually, and I'll be past my due date then. Maybe it's an old wives tale, but most folks say that "little white boys" benefit from going full term more than other genders and races. Who knows, but expect number 3 to arrive no later than next Tuesday!

So, the bag is packed, we bought a new camera yesterday and the house is partially clean in some areas (I have this fear of going to the hospital with a messy house and returning home to a messy house). I'm going to keep slogging along this afternoon in hopes that any and all activity is bringing us closer!


The Word of the Day is "Detail" I shall use it in a Sentence.

I am detailing the Honda today and getting it ready to sell. The weather is just perfect out here and the kids have been playing outside the last two hours. I was trying to let A skip her nap, but no such luck. We are taking an inside break and waiting for her to go to sleep so the detailing can continue. I hope I don't run out of steam before we go back out--it's starting to feel that way!


The Wind Out of Our Sails

Yesterday, I was an insane woman stubbornly determined to get 5,000 things done. The motto of the day could have been, "stay out of my way, get with the program, pick up that couch and no one gets hurt"! The living room was re-arranged, a love seat evicted from the house (Tuan was able to reason with me that we could just move it out and that a chain saw, followed by burning the said couch was unnecessary). I organized our armoire full of art and sewing and "school" supplies, made room in our bedroom for the crib and rocker, vacuumed the LR about seven times and after the kids went to bed mopped the floors. It felt so, so good to get all of that done.

Today, however, there is no wind in these sails. There is no organizational gleam in my eye. I woke up early, forced myself to stay awake for quiet time (reading and prayer), blogged and read blogs until the kids woke up. They had PBJs and watched the Berenstain Bears while I organized coupons. A "helped" me and had her own stash of expired coupons to sort. "I playin' the game!" she kept exclaiming. After a trip to Kroger, lunch on the road and a quick toss of the perishables in the fridge, all three of us went down for naps. That and putting away some clean clothes is the sum total of the day. I've been in bed since 1:15 and it is now 4:05. I desperately need to: Finish putting away groceries, locate a USB drive in Tuan's pant pockets so I can wash a load of clothes, put away dishes and empty the dishwasher, clean out a car, pack a hospital bag, put away some linens, get supper ready. Okay, not "desperately", perhaps more obligatorily. It's so much cosier to stay upstairs and pretend that a baby will not be arriving in hopefully a week and a half. Yes, the wind has left the building.

Also: why is it that when I let the kids eat a sandwich in the living room with a movie on that they are so, so much cleaner than at the table? We don't do it often, but its so nice to keep the DR clean for a meal. Shouldn't it be the other way around?


Terribly Awkward

About two weeks ago, Tuan and I made plans to meet another couple, Matt and Sheila for lunch. I had an OB appointment scheduled after lunch, so I drove into town by myself. We'd planned to eat at Aladdin in Fondren, which is one of my favorite places to eat. Arriving early, I decided to go over to the Rainbow co-op to browse and get some tea tree oil. Since the earnest vibe of Fondren usually rubs off on me, I got the bright idea to leave my car parked at Rainbow and walk over to the restaurant. Aladdin's parking is so limited I figured I'd help them out and Tuan could run me back to the car after lunch.

Long boring back story aside, as I'm walking through the parking lot towards Old Canton Road, I realize there is a guy standing on the side of the busy street holding a sign. He was dressed in what looked like blue scrubs and wearing a mask. Since his back was to me, I had no idea what the mask was, but being in Fondren, I thought, "Oh no, this guy is probably an abortion protester and now I, with my huge pregnant belly am going to have to stand beside him and wait to cross this super busy street." I could actually see through the sign and the word choice was visible (albeit backwards). Whether he was protesting for or against abortion, it was just going to be awkward. Nevertheless, I kept walking and thought something along the lines of, "I will stand for truth and life and if he is pro-choice, this will be very interesting."

As I step up onto the sidewalk, I can finally see what the mask is and read the sign. The blue scrubs were a perfect companion to the GENIE mask that the guy waving a sign about making a choice to eat at Aladdin was wearing. It was awkward--just not in an important values kind of way. I had to stand there FOREVER waiting for a chance to cross the street and being Southern, I was compelled to make small talk with the person next to me--no matter how ridiculous the costume or the sign. So, we stood there, the pregnant lady earnestly trying to do the Fondren thing and cross a busy street at lunch, while making chitchat with a masked stranger dressed as a genie and waving a sign. The WALK sign never changed, but I did find a group of brave souls to cross the street with and cross it I did, breathing a sigh of relief and glad for the Genie-free oasis shelter that was waiting.


Thirty Eight Weeks

"Yeah, you're not going to go anytime soon." So said my Ob-Gyn on Thursday. For some reason this was a relief and a an exasperating "throw you hands up in the air" kind of moment. I have lots to do before he-who-is-almost-named arrives and physically feel great. However, at night, I get this kind of excitement and reluctance to go to bed because this could be the night. (!) I was induced with J and A, but with this one I'm not over-eager to induce, at least not early. Give me a week, though, and I may be begging for Pitocin.

J was induced a day after his due date. I wasn't making any progress in labor and had been 3cm for weeks. Since I probably shouldn't write out birth stories in the early hours, I will just say that at 8lb 11 oz, he was ready to arrive. My doctor induced us with A a week or two early because J had been so big and she was worried that A would be, too. A was 8lb 5 oz and arrived like lightning. My body seems to love pitocin and since I never had contractions with either of the first two, I am so, so thankful that option is there and it is a good one for us.

But A's coming quickly and early (even by a week or two), then ending up in the NICU with issues that we never fully figured out except that she "got better", has made me less than eager to induce early. I don't know if the early and quick labor was a factor or not, but I would rather not take the chance. I'm also not worried about having a baby that is "too big" this time around. Sparing the gory details, my nurses told me when A was born that I was "made to birth babies" and when I go into labor and my water breaks with Number 3 to rush to the hospital. Should I have shared that information or kept it to myself? Who knows.

So between those concerns and the personal desire to just "go into labor", I am willing to wait. I've expressed this desire it to my doctor (not very well) and she's been very co-operative about it, but leaving me with the option to schedule an induction after next Friday's appointment.

Now the excitement only grows, because each day is a day closer--two weeks left! Time is flying and we cannot believe it is so soon! Please keep praying for us that we would deliver at the right time and most importantly, have a healthy baby boy in the end. Secondarily, please pray that he comes on his own, but you know, with time to make it to the hospital!


Did ya hear the one about the goat, the wolf and the sack of grain?

Well, that's kind of what we're dealing with right now--except it involves vehicles and carseats and gas mileage. We've been pondering our vehicle situation for a while and if I've ever wanted to conference call with Dave Ramsey and Klick and Klack, this is the time.

Our station wagon gets great gas mileage (20-30 mpg), runs great, I LOVE to drive it (leg room I usually only dream of) and so on and so forth. We tried putting all three carseats in it last night with very dubious results. They fit, but it sure didn't seem comfortable. So . . . the station wagon may be on the way out. : ( This makes me so sad.

Our Land Cruiser can hold the carseats and then some, but it needs some non-mechanical work, lacks the leg room I desire and has terrible gas mileage (16 mpg, I think). When every drive you take is at least twenty miles round-trip and usually more like forty-fifty, you've got a LOT of gas being burned--and we seem to drive a lot. The plusses are that it has four-wheel drive, can tow, can haul and it's such a cool car.

We are committed to being debt free with an emergency fund, which means driving very used vehicles. This also means that it's a good idea to be a two-car family even though Tuan walks or takes the bike/golf-cart to work. Ideally, we'd have a snappy fuel-efficient model and a family car, but if one car breaks down, we need a three carseat vehicle just in case.

So . . . right now, we're thinking sell the Honda Wagon and get a Honda or Toyota van. Better gas mileage, driveability, multiple car seasts and so on. The sale of the wagon would not cover the cost of a new (to us) van, but we can afford to make up the difference. Keeping the Land Cruiser means we have two family vehicles and Tuan can use it for towing, times when we do need a 4x4 and generally making up for the fact that we'd be owning a van and he sold his jeep so long ago. : ) We'd still have to do the superficial repairs the LC needs.

We actually have a buyer for the Land Cruiser, but there's no point in selling it and keeping the wagon and getting a van. Selling the LC would nearly cover the cost of a van, though we'd end up with one car that wasn't useable for all of us.

Why is this so confusing? Why is this so hard? Why is it also so hard to find the type of van we're looking for that is for sale? It's an issue of cost/safety/financial prudence/vehicular reliability/future repairs and cost of running. Crazy stuff. Any input?

Tuan and I are a bit counter-cultural. We are not afraid of good, used high-mileage vehicles. 150,000 miles is cake. We've also found that the cost of the few repairs we've made to our older cars has never exceeded the amount of cost, depreciation, insurance and tags that newer models would have run us. In fact, we've hardly done any work to our older cars apart from batteries and starters. He's also able to do a lot of minor repairs himself and we've found a great mechanic in Graves and Stoddard (HIGHLY RECOMMEND them).

Humbly awaiting advice, input and leads on vans for sale.