December 31, 2009


I did not take a single picture on Christmas morning. Or Christmas Eve. Or the day after Christmas, for that matter. I just didn't feel like it. I did shoot some video of Jack pulling the Wii controller out of the bottom of his stocking, but no photos.

For a while, I felt a bit like I was shirking some sort of parental responsibility for not taking any photos of Ben's first Christmas, but I don't think he cared. And I'm not sure he ever will. I do have some pictures of him from the day before Christmas Eve, so we'll call it good.

I will admit that I would have made the effort to take out the camera and snap a picture of them in their coordinating pajamas had they not BOTH wet through them. I actually might try and take one tomorrow just for posterity's sake.

On Christmas Eve, we went to my Aunt Kathy's house to celebrate with my mom's side of the family and on Christmas day (after some family time and Kyle's amazing crunchy french toast) we went to my mom's house to celebrate with them. On the day after Christmas, we went to Ohio to celebrate with my dad's side of the family. By that time, Jack had been without a nap for three days in a row and anyone around him could tell. I think he through a major temper tantrum within our first 10 minutes there.

On the 28th, we celebrated with Kyle's family and starting the 30th, his dad's side of the family came to the lodge at camp and will be here until January 2.

The boys both received some great gifts, and we are literally overwhelmed with what to do with all of the toys in our house. It's ridiculous. Our house feels so much smaller and for the first time EVER I wondered if we should think about buying a new house. I love our house and pictured us being here for the long haul, but seriously . . . that's how many toys we brought home. And as the boys get older, they're just going to have more and more stuff. Enough to make me want to buy a bigger house. Only in America . . .

Last year, we were able to shove them all in a closet and bring them out one at a time over the course of a few months. But this year Jack remembers each and every thing he opened, so that's not going to happen. At the beginning of this week, I was having panic attacks over the number of tiny pieces and boxes laying all over our house. I still kind of am.

So, that was our Christmas in a nutshell. Happy New Year!

December 27, 2009

I need Africa

My friend, Kristi, left for Africa yesterday and she'll be there for two weeks. I'm committing to pray for her, and her team, every day. Would you consider praying for her too? Here's part of the letter she sent yesterday:

Hello Family & Friends!

I hope that you are all having a joyful holiday season and are finding time amidst the busyness of the season to rest in the peace that Christ offers.

This is my last update to you all before I leave on SATURDAY(!!) for Ethiopia. It's been a crazy and amazing past few months as I've witnessed God work in completely unimaginable ways throughout this preparation time. He's taught me that He provides in perfect timing and perfect ways--even when I doubt. When I was first accepted to join the Mocha Club trip to Ethiopia I remember thinking to myself "If I can just raise $1500 (half of the support I needed), that would be amazing." But how silly was it for me to doubt that God was capable of providing all of the financial support that I would need. Through your prayers and generosity I can thankfully say that I'm fully funded. In addition, many of you have provided other donations via supplies for the children we'll be working with which is just an incredible blessing.

  • Pray that we would all be able to make it to DC without any major issues. We're coming from all over the country and weather is, of course, a bit of concern at this point.
  • Pray that we would have safe travels to and from Ethiopia and that we would be safe traveling around the country.
  • Pray that we would be able to see past cultural differences to see that Christ is Savior for all nations and all people.
  • Pray that even through exhaustion we would be able to love with the love of Christ and to give all that we have.
  • Pray that we would be free from illnesses while we are there and when we return.
  • Pray that this experience would not end after 2 weeks. Pray that when we return we take action from what we have seen and learned.
  • Pray that we are reminded that even though there is injustice around the world, God hates injustice and will one day come to rescue all victims of injustice and redeem this world. (I'll be honest...I think this is the one I probably need most prayers for right now. I've already thought to myself multiple times "How can just 2 weeks possibly make a difference? There is so much injustice all around the world and no matter what I do, it won't be enough." My heart is heavy thinking that even as I type this to you there are children dying from malnutrition and preventable illnesses and there are women giving their bodies to provide for their families. But I know that all will be redeemed and given new life when Christ returns. I pray that my team and I can find peace in knowing this.)
  • Pray that we would stay hopeful and keep our heart and eyes open to the work that God is already doing in Ethiopia and has been doing for many, many years.
  • Pray that we would be able to learn from the people of Ethiopia. I keep thinking about everything we're going to share with the people of Ethiopia when we go, but I have this sneaking suspicion that I have an awful lot to learn from them, too.

If you'd like to be praying for our specific projects, here's the schedule of where we'll be on each day:

Monday 12/28 - Little A Hope in Addis Ababa
Tuesday 12/29 - Women at Risk in Nazareth
Wednesday 12/30 - Women at Risk in Nazareth
Thursday 12/31 - Women at Risk in Nazareth
Friday 1/1 - Travel to Ambo
Saturday 1/2 - School time and activities with children in Ambo
Sunday 1/3 - Church and activities with children in Ambo
Monday 1/4 - School time and activities with children in Ambo
Tuesday 1/5 - Classroom time and activities with street children in Ambo
Wednesday 1/6 - Classroom time with children in Ambo
Thursday 1/7 - Fistula Hospital/Hannah's Orphanage in Addis

Thank you all again for your support and prayers. This Christmas season has been a truly special one for me and I'm thankful that I've been able to share it with you all.

Lots of love,

"I need Africa more than Africa needs me." Learn more about the Mocha Club and how your $7 a month can help people in Africa. Visit

December 26, 2009

New things

Bennett is 3 months old. So why is he wearing 9 - 12 month clothing? I started packing up the 6 month stuff a week or two ago. I don't even want to talk about it.

I think the best "new thing" this month is Ben's laugh. He doesn't belly laugh (yet) like Jack did, but he has this deep, throaty chuckle that cracks me up every time. I'm smiling just sitting here typing this.

And just so his brother doesn't get left out . . . here's a picture of Jack. Looking at this photo, it's hard to believe that this 2 1/2 year old was responsible for the diaper rash cream fiasco. Jack's biggest "new thing" is that he's starting to recognize words. He's constantly asking, "What does this spell" or "What does that say?" And he remembers what we tell him.

When we were in Chicago we passed a billboard and he said, "J for Jack!"

And I said, "Yep, but that doesn't spell Jack."

And he said, "Yeah. J-O-Y. Joy." Caught off guard doesn't adequately describe me at that moment. I'd like to thank Sesame Street and the ornaments on our Christmas tree for taking the time to educate my son.

I'm so grateful for these two boys. I'll post an update on our Christmas soon!

December 25, 2009

Let us hold close one day . . . .

Whatever else be lost among the years
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing:
Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
its poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.

- Grace Noll Crowell

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2009

Dear Ben, Month 3

My sweet Bennett,

You are so much fun to play with. During tummy time, you'll sometimes roll to your back and yesterday morning, I caught you on your side almost all the way back onto your tummy. This new development is making diaper changes more difficult. You won't sit long in your bouncy seat anymore because you prefer sitting. Your bumbo has become a friend, but you spend most of your sitting time propped up with pillows on our bed or on my lap.

Your legs are incredibly strong! You push yourself in circles on your playmat on both your tummy and your back. You can grab onto toys dangling above you and seem to love that activity the most. Tonight, after a diaper change, I leaned down to kiss you and as I lingered there talking to you, you reached up and grabbed a hand full of my hair! And then you wouldn't let go . . . ouch.

For the most part, you've become a GREAT sleeper. We can normally put you in your crib and let you fall to sleep on your own. You're sleeping 8 hour stretches at night, and now that my busy season is over, I can actually enjoy it! Nursing is becoming increasingly difficult because, well, you're HUGE! And also because you want to look at everything in the room while nursing. I often have to turn off the television so that you can focus on the task at hand.

You are now three months old, and a happy 3-month-old at that. You have this deep raspy voice that always makes other people laugh when they hear you "talk." And last week when you started laughing out loud, we couldn't help but laugh along, because it's also deep and husky. You're such a joy to have around.

Many of these new things you're doing are called "milestones." When you're an infant, people will watch very closely to see when you reach them. In fact, that's what most people will ask about. Is he rolling over? Does he sit unsupported? Is he walking?

But the truth is that whether you take your first steps at 9 months or 18 months . . . no one really cares when you're 20. It's kind of like a high school ACT score. People make a big deal over it at the time, but it really doesn't mean much in the long run.

That said, you've begun reaching milestones left and right and I am proud. Yes, I've been through this all before with your brother, but I'm not any less thrilled with your achievement and growth than I was when Jack was your age. It's all brand new because it's YOU doing it! But it's important to me that you know that while these things do hold some importance, they aren't the things that really matter. The age at which you meet milestones means very little to me compared to the kind of person you're becoming.

It's funny to think that a year ago, I was pregnant with you and didn't even know it. I didn't even think it was possible, actually! But here you are and I can't imagine life without you. I don't think it crossed my mind last Christmas that we'd have another little boy to celebrate with next year . . . what a blessing you are.

At the beginning of this month, I was rocking with you in your room and you were startled when we heard Jack run by. Because Jack doesn't walk through the house. He runs. Everywhere. And when he runs, it sounds like a heard of elephants charging. It's a wonder that you sleep at all. But I continued to rock with you and was thinking about how not so long ago, I was doing the same thing with your brother. Rocking that little boy who was now barreling down the hallway in fits of laughter trying to escape your father.

As I was listening to that, and rocking you, I realized that it won't be long before you're running up and down the hallway in fits of laughter. It made me hold you a little bit closer. You're growing so fast and if I could slow you down, I just might. But because I can't, I'm trying to take it all in and enjoy every moment that I can.

I'm so glad that you're here. I love you, Ben. Merry Christmas!


December 22, 2009

I had a rash

Oh, the things I could tell you about life with a 2 1/2 year old right now. Let's just say that there are ups and downs. Good days and bad days. He says so many funny things . . . and does so many frustrating things.

Today, I put Jack down for a nap and sat down to nurse Bennett. As I was nursing him, I was thinking, "Wow . . . that was the easiest naptime ever." I should have known better.

As I was headed to Ben's room to put him down for a nap, I decided to check and make sure Jack was really asleep. It had been quiet in his room for about 20 minutes.

When I opened my door, I gasped audibly. He was laying in bed with his diaper next to him and diaper rash cream from head to toe. COVERED. It was all over his bed, his clothes, and literally covering every inch of his body. His head was the only thing not covered.

I just stared at him in disbelief and finally found it in me to mutter, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

How did he respond?

"I had a rash, mama."

Oh, a rash? My bad . . . carry on.

I put Ben down and picked Jack up and took him right to the bathtub where I proceeded to scrub the cream off of him. I distinctly remember thinking, "There will never be a time that I find this remotely humorous."

Fortunately, I can laugh about it now.

December 15, 2009


Yesterday, Kyle and I celebrated 7 years of marriage. It took two babysitters, but we were able to spend some time sans children yesterday and even got to see a movie.* In an actual movie theater. Wonders never cease . . .

I don't take our marriage for granted. It's a lot of work (probably moreso for Kyle than for me) and it's well worth it. I am a lucky girl.

*If you are going to see a movie in the theater, go see The Blind Side. It does not disappointed. Kyle loved it. I loved it. I've heard it called a "football movie." And it is, kind of. But honestly, no one hates football more than I do and I loved the movie.

December 13, 2009

Catching up.

I had this plan back in September that I was going to have some posts written up and ready to post so that I could have something to share even when I had no time to write anything. But then Bennett was born, and before I knew it, the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year was upon me.

And upon me, it was. The last few weeks have been crazy . . . sometimes good crazy, sometimes bad crazy. I've had some difficult situations in which I was able to refine my customer service skills and some frustrating moments in which I learned to be more concerned about doing what is right than about what people think of me. I have so much I could write about that I wouldn't even know where to begin with all of that. So I'll just let it go.

Our Christmas decorations are up, but quite a few of the decorations that came down to make room for the holiday decorations are still sitting on the floor and against our walls. Needless to say, our house is a mess.

Jack has saying so many funny things that I can't keep up and throwing so many temper tantrums that I sometimes feel like my head might explode. Potty training has its ups and downs, but we did get #2 in the potty twice last week, which was a huge accomplishment. I think it'll go a lot better after the holidays when we have more time to focus on it. Then again, after the holidays we head right into winter retreats and when those are done, we'll be winding up for summer. Ahhh . . . summer. Warmth. I can't wait.

With the exception of a few nights here and there, Ben is a great sleeper! About half of the time, we can put him down awake and he puts himself to sleep. And about 1/4 of the time, he falls asleep with a few minutes of rocking and soothing. He switches between these high pitched squeals and this raspy "ga-ga" gurgle that makes him sound like a smoker. He rolls himself over every so often, but honestly, I don't give him enough tummy time right now to know if he'd do it regularly. He's pretty good at lifting his head up and will push himself up on his hands so that he can look around. He'll bat at his toys like crazy and we've even caught him smiling proudly when he hits them hard. He brings me so much joy. Both of my boys do.

OK, back to work!

December 5, 2009

Dear Jack, Month 30

Dear Jack,

We celebrate Christmas this month and I'm excited that you will get what's going on this year more than you did the last two years. This morning, we were hanging stockings and I asked, "Do you think you'll get any presents in your stocking?" And I wish I would have had a camera to capture the look of confusion mixed with hope on your face when you glanced at me out of the corner of your eye and said, "Presents?"

One side of your mouth curled into a smile (when you do this, it's one of the few times that I think you look more like me than your father) and you started asking questions like, "What will Santa bring?" and "When does Santa come?" Ever since Halloween, you've asked what you get to dress up as for Christmas, and you were no longer disappointed that Christmas doesn't involve costumes. Because THERE WILL BE PRESENTS!

One of my "parenting goals" this month is to teach you how to graciously accept gifts . . . well, as much as a 2 1/2 year old can. By the way, have I mentioned yet that you're two and a half? As of Wednesday, you're closer to 3 years old than you are to 2 years old. Ugh . . . I can't talk about that right now.

Anyway . . .accepting gifts. I'm of the opinion that far too few people can 1) talk naturally about Jesus in their every day lives and 2) accept a gift graciously. I'm sure there are more things on that list, but those are the first two that come to my mind.

When people give us gifts . . . in any way shape or size . . . we are to accept them with gratitude. Not always because we necessarily love what they're giving us, but because they thought enough of us to give us something. It's not about how much they spent. It's not even about how much thought they put into it or the attitude with which they've given it. If someone gives you something, it's reason for gratitude. So, we thank them for it. We comment on how useful it might be, or how it's our favorite color, or how it will come in handy. Non insincere comments . . . honest thoughts of appreciation about the gift. There's always something positive that can be said about a gift.

Over Christmas, you'll be getting quite a few gifts. And at times, they'll come rapidfire . . . one right after another. Too often, we look at our gifts, say "thanks" and move on to the next. I'll be there to encourage you to take your time and show sincere appreciation. I know . . . you're only two. But I can try, right?

You've played with your toy nativity set enough over the last week to know about the basics about the real Christmas story. We've talked about Mary and Joseph . . . the shepherds and the wisemen . . . the angels. I've even tried to tell you about the culture during the time when Jesus was born . . . which was met with blank stares and repeated requests to stack the characters of your wooden nativity set in a tower so that you could knock them down.

I thought about explaining that your book that tells the story of Christmas was lying when it said, "Mary, and her husband Joseph, were expecting a baby" but decided that it might be too soon to unwrap the mystery of the virgin birth. We'll just hold off on that one. You do, however, know that Jesus is God's son and that he came to earth to live among us. You know it, but you don't really understand it . . . and if I'm honest with myself, I guess I don't really understand it either.

You'll get lots of gifts this Christmas, but we both know that the most precious gift was the one we actually celebrate during this time of year . . . Jesus, coming to earth as one of us. Coming to save us. You'll unwrap gifts and empty your stocking, but my hope is that as you grow older, you'll become increasingly overwhelmed with gratitude at the magnitude of that most important gift. May your heart swell every time you hear the story and may you be inspired by the wonder of it all.

Emmanuel. God with us.

I love you, Jack. Merry Christmas.


P.S. My apologies for not having any pictures of you alone this month. I'll do better next month.