Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where all Men are at Home

A few weeks ago I subscribed to a daily poetry website which sends out little gems each day, usually by theme each week. This week's theme should be obvious. Today's poem is by one of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton. If you like poetry like this, you can subscribe at Davey's Daily Poetry. I thought some of you might enjoy this, too.


Christmas Poem
G.K. Chesterton

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule take was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost--how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place then Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.



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Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 2 and Counting

We are waiting. Some folks say that they don't like to rush Christmas because they might miss out on truly enjoying Thanksgiving. But this year I'm trying an experiment in not rushing Christmas by purposefully celebrating Advent. Oh, we won't go so far as to withold decorations until Christmas Eve, especially since we won't even be around to enjoy them! But perhaps I will space things out a bit over the coming weeks. Do a little at a time, room by room, piece by piece. Maybe I will make this part of the 25-day advent calendar I'm setting up for December. And before we even begin really decorating anyway, I'm cleaning house! We're "making room" for Jesus in our lives, in a quite physical and obvious way. I hope.

Today is the second day of Advent and so far we have put up just a small Christmas tree given to us by a relative and have lit one candle on the advent wreath. (If you are not familiar with the liturgical or church calendar and why we celebrate this season of longing and anticipation, there's a good collection of explanations at Go to Bethlehem and See, our favorite advent blog.)

Yesterday, our pastor used the children's moment to light the first advent candle and handed out little toy advent wreaths to all the children, complete with plush candles stuck on with velcro. I was glad that Jacob has something to put in his room as a reminder of this season, but there's just something better about real candles! Yes, even with a one and a three year-old.

The mystery, the twinkle of the light, the darkness that slowly gets pushed back as Christmas day draws nearer...those are the things I love about this season and the gradual lighting of the wreath.

It also helps teach me patience. And apparently advent is a proper lesson in patience for the little ones as well. Yesterday afternoon we read some of the section from Isaiah from The Jesus Storybook Bible as we "lit" the first plush purple candle on Jacob and Ethan's toy advent wreath. We talked about how God had sent his prophets to anticipate the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus, and how now we are waiting to celebrate his birth, just as we wait for His second coming to earth. And I explained that now that we have lit the first candle we have to wait an entire week to light the next one.

A whole week?! That's an eternity in a child's eyes. And sure enough, not only did Jacob want to light the second candle of the Advent wreath TODAY, he also wanted to open his presents (I have some very organized relatives who sent us home from Thanksgiving complete with wrapped gifts!). So, hopefully, each week his anticipation will grow as he awaits the celebration to come. Since he has been denied yet another immediate pleasure, just imagine his joy on Christmas morning as he receives those gifts and relishes in the delight of opening them and celebrating God's greatest gift of His Son.

The following from this Advent devotional is a good reminder of why we give our children gifts at Christmas in the first place. (As are these thoughts on the generosity of the season.) But I think what struck me the most is that I'm reading them at a time when we are finishing up a study of I John, the letter against the Gnostics. May I be reminded that Christ came to demonstrate his love for us in a real, physical way while we were yet sinners, and so we who are in Christ should also demonstrate that love in real ways to our family, our friends, and everyone we encounter this season.


The Advent of Jesus Christ is the most materialistic, the most physical, the most worldly message of the Bible. The Word, who we know is Jesus Christ, became flesh. He became human, a person, a baby, flesh and blood; yes, a real, live, crying, eating, sleeping baby boy. For a period of some thirty plus years, God the Son lived here on planet earth. John says that he and his friends beheld Jesus' glory. Like Bobby squealing with delight over a new bicycle, the disciples experienced the excitement of standing next to Jesus, eating lunch with Jesus, sitting at a lesson listening to Jesus, and watching Jesus teach, preach, and perform miracles.

Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift. But the gift of Christ is not something that we can put into a holy box labeled "Spiritual." Rather, a flesh and blood Christ came into this physical world to save us in the here and now, as well as in eternity. His coming here on earth in the flesh gives us the greatest of reasons to truly enjoy all the physical gifts of God, including bicycles.


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Everybody's Favorite Christmas Mammal

Though there were many more thoughtful or profound moments of Hutchmoot 2009, one of my favorites has to be watching Randall perform this song for the first time without busting out laughing at his own hilarity. He came pretty close. Afterall, silliness is next to godliness, don't ya know? What?! You don't like the "Camel Song"? What's wrong with you?!

If you think I'm crazy, you can listen to the "Camel Song" here. This is also a not-so-subtle reminder to go pre-order the new Slugs and Bugs Christmas CD.



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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Senate Vanity Index

Just in time for election day!

Is it possible to objectively measure a U.S. Senator's egotism based on his office decorations? You be the judge.

I find this oddly fascinating.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

The End of October

It's November already? Really?!



Well, then. Happy All Saints' Day.

Apparently, I've been living in the season of life where I only compose blog posts in my head. Many, many blog posts. But if in this brief moment I can't catch you up with all the things rattling around in my brain, I can at least post some pictures from the last few days.

All Hallow's Eve Eve (Not Redundant)

Our church hosted a fall festival and chili supper on Saturday night, and I rested up all day for the big event. My head had been feeling like it was squeezed between a vice grip and I'd been hacking and dripping and congesting for a few days, but a good long nap and some OTC meds helped me recover enough to tag along, enjoy the fun, and take some pictures. Though we'd planned for Ethan to wear Jacob's giraffe outfit, no amount of cajoling could convince him to wear a costume.

Sad Jacob/Elmo before the church festival. He won't show his face. Or maybe he just likes looking at flowers and pumpkins.



We actually had a blast and I am so glad we all got to attend as a family. Seeing our extended church family was a treat as well, as the place was so packed they had to add extra tables. There were bouncy houses, cotton candy, bubbles, pumpkins to paint and cookies to decorate. What more could any kid want? Oh, yes. Elmo.

Daddy and Ethan hanging out (with "Melmo" in tow.)



Little Elmo, or "Melmo" as Ethan named him, traveled everywhere that Ethan went. Elmo is a new-found love. Besides books (right now the perennial request is "Cookie Book" aka If you Give a Mouse a Cookie) or cars, he'd never specifically requested a toy before. Once Jacob got the costume, however, Elmo is a must-have, even at naptime. At least an Elmo doll is easily replaceable if damaged. (Shhh. Don't tell Ethan!)

Melmo enjoyed the swing.



"Oh, no! Don't drop me! Ahhhh!"



Melmo jumped in the bouncy house.



Big Elmo liked the bouncy house, too! This is the first year Jacob has actually worn a costume for more than 30 seconds, so we were elated. He did change his mind last week and instead of a homemade giraffe he wanted to be the fuzzy friendly red monster from Sesame Street. What can I say? He wants to be popular, apparently.



Jacob's cookie decorating skillz.



Jacob and his friend N--er, Spiderman. Can't reveal his secret identity!



Halloween Parade

On Sunday evening, we participated in our neighborhood's annual Halloween parade. In this tradition, everyone meets at a particular intersection and walks down to the swim/tennis center for a hotdog dinner before trick-or-treating. They even had a sweet lead car. Since this is the first October we've been in our house, we weren't sure what to expect.

We actually walked all the way from our side of the neighborhood, arriving promptly at 5:15 per the e-mail. There were a few families milling about. (Note to self: next year, DRIVE to the start of the parade. Less toll on the parents.) Well, by the official start time of 5:30 there were hundreds of kids and parents filling up the streets! They stop traffic in that part of the neighborhood just for this event! According to some old-timers, this was the largest group they've had in a long time. Jacob seemed a bit overwhelmed by the size of the crowd but enjoyed himself nonetheless.

I was glad to see some familiar faces that we've gotten to know through our playgroup and summer Bible study. Jacob kept running up to kids saying "I know him! Hey, that's not a pirate!" or "Oh, she's a princess!" One little kid we'd never met just wanted to meet "Elmo!" Plus, a family from our church lives on the main drag and we got to go trick-or-treating at their house on the way back. We even got called out by name as we walked by. Seriously, it felt like I was in small-town America again.

Here's E at the start of the parade. Again, you notice that he has no costume. We tried, really, we did. Also, we attempted to substitute Cookie Monster for a (temporarily) missing Elmo, but to no avail. As you can see, he was delegated to the next seat over.



Here's a photo Jacob took from his seat in the stroller. This doesn't even give you a hint at the masses of people since by this time the crowds had thinned out and we were at the back. I thought about taking pictures earlier, but wasn't sure how I would feel about strangers posting pictures of my kids. But here I am putting them up for all the world to see anyway, so I suppose it wouldn't have mattered.



So. tired. Must. finish. hotdog. (He did!)



More swings. We really like swings.



We arrived home just before dark. Daddy finished carving the pumpkin while I took Jacob trick-or-treating next door and across the street. We were the first visitors at all three houses! I guess all the action is at the other end of the neighborhood. More candy for us!

Our snaggly-toothed jack o' lantern.



J and Gaines on the porch with our handily carved pumpkin. Way to go, Daddy!



Me and the boys.



Hope you had a happy Halloween!


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Things Looking Up For the Jackets?

Georgia Tech Defeats Virginia, 33-21

Paul Johnson's squad had a much better showing this weekend than the last. The defense continues to improve, and was actually better than the final score shows, as 7 of the points they allowed came in the waning seconds of the game, much too late to change the outcome. But the real story is that the offense seems to finally be breaking out of its funk. The Jackets put up a record 477 yards on the ground, and Anthony Allen rushed for 195 yards and three scores -- exactly the kind of performance we've been hoping to see from him in the post-Dwyer era.

Some problems linger on, though. In the first half, Tech had several promising drives fizzle deep in Virginia territory, in part due to sloppiness on the pitch. Hopefully the Jackets can tighten things up next weekend against Middle Tennessee State. After that, it's back to the ACC grind. Tech is still in the running to repeat as Coastal Division champs, but there's a long road ahead.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

From the Jaws of Defeat

Georgia Tech Rallies Past Wake Forest in Final Moments, 24-20

I honestly don't know what to make of the Jackets this season. The game against the Demon Deacons was supposed to be a prime opportunity to snap back after our miserable loss to NC State. Yet the first three quarters against Wake were absolutely pathetic. The defense did okay, but the offense just couldn't get things together at all. And then suddenly, Tech delivered a fantastic fourth quarter, largely due to Joshua Nesbitt, and it was enough to scratch out a win. Tech definitely has some problems this year, but we seem to have the solutions, too. We're going to need them pretty soon. The next two weeks should be manageable -- UVA and Middle Tennessee State. After that, Clemson, VA Tech and Miami. Oh boy.

I won't even bother to mention that the Dawgs have lost four straight.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Chunky Chicken and Chutney Pizza



We've been making homemade pizza about once a week. I've been using PW's pizza dough recipe for a few months, but yesterday I was completely out of olive oil. So, instead, I picked up a package of Publix pizza dough, the plain kind, which was on sale for $1.79. If it stays about that price, it is worth it to me to buy it rather than make it. I will gladly pay the dollar for my time! And the flavor was excellent. (They'll never know it wasn't completely from scratch. Unless you tell them.)

For my Chicken and Chutney Pizza, I used this recipe as my inspiration, but then added some twists of my own.

Chunky Chicken and Chutney Pizza

Crust:
Make your own or buy pre-made ball of dough, but treat it like homemade:
1. Put a little olive oil in a large bowl.
2. Put dough in bowl, cover with towel, and let rise 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.

Chicken:
1. In a square or rectangular metal baking pan, add 1 Tbsp EVOO.
2. Coat 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with oil and sprinkle S+P on top.
3. Drizzle with Worchestershire sauce.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 375 degree oven (yours may vary) or until cooked through.
5. Chop chicken into small, bite-size squares.

Chutney:
The "sauce" in this pizza is a homemade chutney. Me like.
1. Dice 2-3 plum tomatoes.
2. Combine with 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove and 1/4 tsp Garam Masala* in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium; cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until thickened.

Other toppings:
Chopped green onions, sharp white cheddar cheese, and fresh diced plum tomatoes work well, as per the original recipe. But you could experiment. I might try chickpeas.

To assemble:
Spread crust onto a pizza stone or baking tray. Use your fingers. Get kids to help.
Bake crust for 3 minutes at 400 degrees to prepare the crust to hold toppings.
Spread the prepared chutney on the crust. Add chicken, onions, tomatoes and cheese.
Bake assembled pizza at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Enjoy! Even the leftovers are delicious.

* Garam Masala is a smoky-sweet blend of Indian spices and I bought it a while back for a curry dish. The original called for Jamaican jerk seasoning, which I don't have, so I opted for this which gave it a nice, mild kick.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank you Mr. Anonymous Cooking.com Warehouse Packager

Someone should write a "Real Men of Genius" song with that title.

A few weeks ago, one Saturday morning, a box arrived at our doorstep. It was filled with goodies from Cooking.com. I ordered about five items using a gift card from some reward points. Included was an OXO mandoline and a new easy-grip peeler, both of which I desperately needed to make my life easier (think: scalloped potatoes). Among the other things I ordered was a single 8x8 square metal baking pan.

When I opened the box, there was actually a separate, smaller box from the manufacturer that listed four new baking pans, straight from the original warehouse. It was still sealed. Sure enough, when I opened it, there were FOUR metal baking pans inside. Sweet! Free baking pans! (16 layer cake, anyone?!)

But, because I'm me, I actually called customer service and asked them what I should do. Part of me thought that if I ran a large warehouse like that, I'd like to know it happened. The other part probably felt guilty and wondered if they would somehow find out and charge me for them. Still, I had a hunch the shipping would not be worth the cost of sending it back. I was right! The lady actually told me, "It's your lucky day!" And it was.

Though I am grateful for the three extra pans, someone in their warehouse department needs to be a bit more careful when filling orders. The box I received clearly said that there were four inside. Since each pan sells for around $8, if a mistake like that happens too often the losses could certainly add up. But hey, I just got $24 worth of free merchandise and so I am not complaining!

The customer service representative actually made a joke about making me send them something baked in the pans to make up for it. Though it was an empty gesture, I might actually get around to making some cookie bars one day and sending them off. I'm that grateful!

By the way, I did receive everything else in my order and it is all excellent. I highly recommend using Cooking.com if you need anything for the kitchen. (They did not pay to say this, with baking pans or otherwise. I just thought I'd give them a plug because they are so nice.)

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Dear Fall,



My calendar says you arrived today, but I just won't believe it until I see you and your bags on my doorstep.

Though we do have quite a bit of leaves in our yard that go crunch, crunch when we walk outside, they are brown and dry. And the 90-degree temperatures do not make us excited about raking them up.

These pictures are from your visit last year. Remember what a good time we had? We hope you get here all dolled up and ready to party, perhaps in something red:



Please come back and visit us soon, won't you?

Sincerely,
Your Favorite Leaf-Pile Jumpers

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Monday, September 20, 2010

A Shaky Win Is Still a Win

Yellow Jackets Top Tar Heels in Wild One, 30-24

All in all, a solid effort, yet plenty of room for improvement. The offense looked good, and had some moments of greatness (see Orwin Smith's 73-yard TD run on the third play of Tech's opening drive). Yet there were some killer mistakes, including a couple of drive-ending flubs on the pitch. Nesbitt completed 75% of his passes -- but he only threw four of them. (Granted, they were for 76 yards and a score.) The defense gave up tons of yards, yet ended up saving the day in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

Up next: at home versus NC State.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Milestones

Yesterday, Ethan went to the potty all by himself without any prompting. We hadn't even been considering potty training, really. We'd just put the little blue potty in the bathroom because he asked for it one day. He's been sitting on it sometimes, usually clothed but sometimes without a diaper, though so far there had been no success. So when I had to change him after lunch yesterday, he just sat himself down on the little seat naked as a jaybird and went tee-tee all on his own. We clapped and cheered and did the potty dance and I think he was as shocked as we were! Nineteen months old, I tell you! I love the thought of having NO kids in diapers...

This morning, as we were getting into the car, Jacob climbed in by himself as always and buckled the top part of his 5-point harness. He's been doing that for a while now and just hadn't been able to manage the two parts of the buckle at his waist. Well, I ran back inside the house to grab a sippy cup and when I came out he said, "Mommy, Mommy! I buckled myself in ALL THE WAY!" And sure enough, I checked it and he had! We are raising some independent kids, I tell you. Three and a half years old. At least he can't UNbuckle himself from his carseat yet. I imagine that could be dangerous right now until he learns a bit more restraint.

Still, I have to admit I am proud of my boys!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Agony of Defeat

Georgia Tech Falls at Kansas, 28-25

Whether Kansas was fired up after their upset loss last week or Tech just got caught looking ahead, the result was four quarters of uninspired football by the Jackets. The offense just wasn't clicking, and the defense needs to get their act together, quick. The dumb mistakes didn't help, either. (Roughing the kicker? Seriously?) Saturday was an epic fail for the ACC, and Tech unfortunately contributed to the mess.

With the loss, Tech tumbles out of the Top 25. There's a lot of work to do to get ready for next weekend's ACC opener at UNC.

But, at least the Bulldogs lost.


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Saturday, September 11, 2010

So Goes Bloglines

As of October 1, Bloglines will be no more.

Most of you are probably saying, "Huh? I have no idea what that is," while the rest are thinking "Why aren't you on Google Reader already?"

Well, now I am. For YEARS, probably since around 2004, I've been using Bloglines to keep up with my favorite blogs by subscribing to their RSS feed. (Gaines got me hooked on it originally, I think.) But now that blogging is dead, so goes the RSS readers, I suppose. I'm hoping Google keeps theirs around for those of us who actually like to organize what we read rather than get it all through Facebook or Twitter. Though I can't say I like the format as much.

Since I never kept up a real blogroll here at Team Redd, my Bloglines list has been the place I've visited daily to keep up with the outside world. I have bookmarked 297 blogs to date. I have categories called "All People We've Met in Real Life" (to keep it at the top of the alphabetical list) and "Theology-Minded Blogs" as well as "Home Decor Ideas" and "Bookish Blogs." Some of my go-to categories are "Musicians," the ever-present and not-as-boring-as-it-sounds "Favorite Blogs," and my latest addition: "Hutchmooters." Of course, I never have time to read the dozens of new posts each day, but it's nice to know they are there if I need them.

All this seems so mundane, and frankly, unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But still, I mourn its passing. The end of a digital era. Just like BASIC and floppy disks. Perhaps a better metaphor would be card catalogs in libraries. Remember those?

However, like many things in life, I choose to view this change with a positive outlook. This is my chance to determine my priorities, clear out the clutter, and knock down my list to a respectable 250. Or not.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

First Day

Wednesday morning was our first day back at Community Bible Study.
This is about the closest we're going to get to a first day of "school" for Jacob anytime soon, so I thought a quick photo would be a good idea.



Until I tried to get Ethan to look at the camera, too. This is the best I could do.



This is our second year as part of our local CBS, thanks to a persistent friend who asked me three years in a row until I finally decided to try it out. I'm so glad I did. Last year, though, I had a baby and a toddler so was not quite self-aware enough to take a picture. I was just lost and running late. This year, however, felt wonderful. I knew where to go and what to expect and was even (almost) on time.

I love our Community Bible Study. I get to venture into the Word with a group of women from various churches (we're study a collection of NT epistles, starting with James) and the boys get to be loved on and taught by Christian ladies. One of Jacob's teachers this year is a good friend of mine so it was great that he already knew someone. I think he knows some of his classmates from last year, as well. He definitely remembers the songs, because he was singing them for me before we even got to the car.

"Where do we go on Wednesday morning? Where do we go on Wednesday morning? Where do we go on Wednesday morning? We go to CBS, yes!

What do we do at CBS? What do we do at CBS? What do we do at CBS?
We learn about Jesus Christ!"

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

And So It Begins

Jackets rout South Carolina State 41-10 in the 2010 season opener

An easy win, but also a showcase of weak spots that Tech needs to remedy, and soon. Like the passing game. And stopping the run. Still, this team has the potential to have a fantastic season.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

RIP, Paste Magazine

Paste Magazine Suspends Print Publication

Local Atlanta coverage here.

They intend to continue their online publication for the foreseeable future. Here's hoping things can pick back up for them soon.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: The Last Word

Another long overdue book review. I finished this in May of 2009. Here's my thoughts from Goodreads that I'd saved as a blog post over a year ago.

Whatever you may think of his works on justification, Wright certainly has written much that benefits believers, including his more popular works such as his For Everyone commentary series. This particular book is about the authority of Scripture and is intended for the non-academic.

The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture by N.T. Wright



Fantastic overview of the place of scripture in the life of the church. Wright examines the phrase "the authority of scripture" and details how it is more about the relationship of the Father as revealed in the Son working through the Spirit to communicate and complete His work in the world than it is about oft misunderstood words like inerrancy and infallibility. Wright touches on recent scholarship as well as plenty of historical context and church history. I learned that to the Reformers, a "literal" reading meant the original literary intent of the text (metaphorical, pastoral, narrative, etc.) rather than what we think of today when we speak of "reading the Bible literally" and all the negative associations. Wright encourages his readers to encounter scripture holistically, in its context and proper framework, by hearing the word proclaimed in and through the church, and encourages liturgical efforts while not downplaying the importance of personal study.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hutchmoot Explained. Mostly.

This past weekend we drove to Nashville for an event called Hutchmoot.

Why? Well, let's flashback a bit. About nine years ago I had the privilege to attend a summer program at St. John's College in Oxford, England. The college just happens to be located across the street from The Eagle and Child (a.k.a. The Bird and Baby), a local pub. If you are a C.S. Lewis fan, you might recognize the name. Lewis and his friends, including J.R.R. Tolkien (a.k.a. The Inklings), would meet weekly in a back room of The Eagle and Child to discuss their writings and shared interests. The room where they met was called The Rabbit Room. (I'm going somewhere with this, trust me.)

Flash forward to the present day. Andrew Peterson, the singer/songwriter/author, has created an online community to discuss art and music and literature. In light of his appreciation for C.S. Lewis, he calls it The Rabbit Room.

A few months ago, Andrew and his brother Pete invited some people to a real-life version of what has become a thriving online community. They called it Hutchmoot -- a hutch being a place where rabbits congregate and moot an Old English word for an assembly. Hence, a gathering of folks associated with The Rabbit Room would be called a Hutchmoot*. Get it? Yeah, it's geeky. But we roll that way.

At Hutchmoot, we had good company and good conversation. We listened to exceptional music and profound thoughts from Andrew Peterson and other Square Pegs familiar 'round these parts, like Eric Peters and Randall Goodgame. We ate excellent food prepared lovingly and with care. We enjoyed humorous LOST references, The Far Side comics, discussions about the nature of art, and we basically walked around in awe all weekend that no one else thought we were in the least bit odd. We most definitely "got our nerd on" and "geeked out" --two phrases we heard oft repeated from the speakers-- over characters like Sam Gamgee and the works of an author named Walter Wangerin, Jr. We got to hear Mr. Wangerin speak. I'm still reeling from that last one.

More to come, more to come, but I need sleep to continue processing.

*A miniature robin told me that Clay Clarkson, the author, is the one who came up with the name Hutchmoot. Not only do I appreciate he and his wife's books on parenting and motherhood, but he just shot up on my coolness meter like a gazillion points. Plus, his daughter Sarah came and spoke at the event. She's a writer and a fellow kindred spirit who is a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables. I liked her already.

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Eight Years Ago Today

We got hitched.



And yes, we really are still that happy.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What We Did This Summer

Travelers and wanderers are we, with little time to reflect. Our summer has been surprisingly busy, but I kind of like it that way. Otherwise, I might get stuck inside, trapped by a heat-induced malaise. This way was much more fun. Here's a quick rundown of some highlights from the last two months.

  • Over Memorial Day weekend, we dogsat for some friends. The boys LOVED playing with Sam, but we realized we are not quite ready for pet ownership yet. Too much maintenance required.



  • One of my good friends and fellow mom of boys, Sindhu Giedd, played a concert of some original songs at a very unique venue. I went with my friend Jessica, who originally introduced me to Sindhu, to hear her play late one Saturday evening. I was transported instantly back to my days of following indie musicians around the Southeast and going to concerts in the most random places, but this one beat them all. On the third floor of a nondescript Dunwoody office building, the owner has created an attic listening space, complete with wood-paneled ceilings, a bar area, silent "phone booths" for checking messages, and an entrance door that looks like you've stumbled upon a London underground pub. And hearing my friend pour her heart out to God through song was a great blessing. The best were her renditions of Psalms and other Scriptures set to her own original music with both classical and Indian indfluences.

    The Three Mom-keteers:



  • Jacob attended VBS for the first time at our church back at the beginning of June. He still requests to play and sing the theme song, "God is my Hero." It's funny, though, when he sings the part that spells out "H-E-R-O," because he says "Itch-E-R-O" which we find hilarious.

    He has worn this VBS shirt at least once a week since he received it:



  • The second weekend of June we traveled to Alabama for Gaines' family reunion. Every year we drive to McCalla and set up a picnic across the road from the family cemetery. I kid you not. Gaines says he and his cousins used to play games among the gravestones. This year I was especially proud because Gaines gave the message during the memorial service. Christ and the Gospel were loudly proclaimed. You can never hear too many talks about grace, I think. (There's a recording of it somewhere, I hope.) :) I was glad his sermon was short and to the point, as well, because it was HOT out there.

    See? H-O-T.



    Ethan armed himself with multiple fluids. Smart boy:



    Gaines and his parents, plus Ethan. Three generations of Redds:



  • June was also a month of birthdays! We celebrated my 30th with a night out to see Toy Story 3 and dinner at a local Cuban place. We went to at least 3 child birthday parties that I remember, just within a week: Annabel Crane, Samuel Suber, and Scarlett Vaughan (If you ask Jacob who his girlfriend is, he answers "Scarlett," though possibly only because she's the "girl" friend we play with most often. We know a lot of boys.)

    We enjoyed much cake:



  • Jacob spent an entire week away from us, first with Gaines' parents and then with mine down in Geneva. I know he had a blast and I'm thankful he had that time with them, but he was sorely missed. I don't know how to be a parent to only one anymore! Ethan and I got some quality time, though. And when we drove to Montgomery to pick up Jacob, my parents took me out for Chinese and Gaines' family surprised me with a cake! And a cookie in a skillet! Yum!

  • In between the travelling, we had playdates and picnics and mornings at various local pools. We have not been idle, though we have enjoyed our share of lazy days spent soaking our feet in a baby pool or running under a sprinkler. It's what summer should be, I think. I plan to enjoy these days as much as I can, despite the 100 degree heat indexes we've been having lately.

    Splashpad! But wait, is that a diaper leak?! This photo cracks me up.



    One of our favorite local parks:



    On a family ice cream date:



    Ethan has become adept at using a spoon:



  • For the fourth of July, we drove down to Montgomery again and watched the fireworks from this Seaside-like place out in the middle of some pasture land near Pike Road. They've created a little town with a post office and a town square and are building a school. It's surreal, set amidst these beautiful lakes. It was a peaceful, perfect evening with family. (I won't mention the experiences we had taking Jacob to go potty. Outside. In the dark.)

    Watching "firecracks" with Uncle Mike.



  • Speaking of potty-going, our one big accomplishment this summer is that Jacob is now potty-trained! Completely! (Insert potty dance!) He stays dry all day in his big-boy underwear (with the rare exception) and refuses to wear a Pull-Up at night -- and he stays dry then, too! Sometimes he gets up in the middle of the night, but usually he sleeps just fine and then goes in the morning.

    We have a big kid now!



  • The boys and I took two short trips without Daddy this past month. We missed him greatly, and look forward to vacationing with him in August. Still, it was great to visit my hometown for a few days and see some old friends. Then, last week, I drove us to Birmingham for two nights to visit with Gaines' grandmother. While there, we also got to see my friend Kami and her boys (before her third arrives!) at the McWane Center. On the way back, we stopped by the home of my college friend Mary Virginia and her adorable kids. If we ever get the chance to live in Birmingham again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It's just the right size.

  • This summer so far has been full of celebrations, but we were sad to say goodbye to some dear friends, the Cranes, who are moving out of the big city into small-town life in the Deeper South. I have more I wish to say devoted just to them, but for now I'll wish them well in their new life in Mississippi, and if they ever want to drop off Annabel to stay with us again, we wouldn't complain. :)

  • We're looking forward to a rare weekend at home and a visit from my mom. August is full of family travels, a trip to the lake, a wedding, and a most anticipated kid-free anniversary adventure in Nashville. Life is good.

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  • Friday, July 23, 2010

    World's Strongest Beer?

    The "End of History" is upon us, and it's inside a stuffed squirrel.

    Perhaps the only good use for a squirrel

    I imagine the creative process went something like this:
    110 proof beer? Check. Taxidermy? Check. Francis Fukuyama reference? Check.

    Be sure to watch this video released by the brewery.

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    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Mystery

    While changing Ethan's diaper tonight we noticed his legs were peeling. I knew he got some sun on Saturday at the waterpark, but surely it wasn't enough to be blistering?! Especially on his legs and nowhere else.

    Upon further inspection, we discovered it was just dried-on Elmer's glue.

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    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Brothers

    Both of my boys are hilarious. I love that they are close enough together to be friends and playmates. It's so funny to see their personalities as they run around and interact with each other.

    Ethan likes to try new things and is never hesitant to dive into an unfamiliar situation (unless it is a strange dog who wants to be petted.) He frequently wanders off the driveway, off the sidewalk at the park toward the woods, and will quickly get away from me in public places. (This is not always a desired trait.) He is not shy, that one. At the same age Jacob was making sure all the cabinet doors were closed when we left the kitchen, Ethan is opening them up to climb inside. He laughs constantly at his older brother's antics and will eat almost anything we put in front of him, except sandwiches. He is not quite verbal yet, but he points and grunts and signs to make his will known. And he usually gets what he wants. Mostly shoes and bananas. And he has started putting his hands together when we pray or say a blessing before meals!

    Jacob, unlike his brother, has a unique way of staying in the lines. He has a routine and a practiced way of doing things. Everything must be done the RIGHT way (which really just means his way). At the park, when Ethan and I will walk across the grass in the most direct route to the swings, Jacob will run "as fast as he can" on the sidewalk, following it as it curves around the playground, taking him a further distance to get to his destination. We have to get him to STOP pressing the blinking light on his toothbrush or he would still be there now, brushing away, just because he likes to brush his teeth. And wash his hands. Repeatedly. He also likes the clean a little too much, so we can't use it as punishment. Somehow, though, all these little rituals translate into an abundant imagination and creativity. At the water park, the joy and abandon he showed when he started playing was delightful! He was literally dancing and skipping through the water and making up his own games. He told me afterward that he was pretending to be a racecar in the water. And at dinner tonight, he brought along his buddies "Maff" and "Daff" (a California raisin and a miniature sock monkey) who we had not met in the flesh until this evening -- I'd always assumed they were purely inivisible friends!

    Though my little guys have their moments (that whole learning to share thing is difficult right now), they can be the sweetest boys at times. When Ethan leans in to give Jacob a big kiss goodnight, or Jacob brings Ethan a diaper or a lost sippy cup or a missing toy, I just want to snatch them both up forever into a giant hug. Two of my favorite brother moments were caught by the camera the last two months, and I wanted to share them here.

    Ethan's first popsicle break one hot afternoon in May:



    Jacob teaching Ethan how to slide at the park on Friday afternoon:



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    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Proofreading

    Motherhood, and parenting in general, I think, is like a series of edits. You revise and reread, and revise again, always trying new tactics, new approaches to a topic. You could keep going on forever, continually revising, seeking perfection. But one day you realize that your time for making changes and forming your words into something meaningful is over. You have to let them go. Your words live on, of course, and sometimes take on a new life of their own in the hands of others. But they are still yours. And always will be.

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    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    The Perfect Park

    For years it has eluded me. The perfect park. To be honest, we do live in an area with an abundance of parks -- we even have one at the swim/tennis center in our neighborhood, plus two that I know of within a few minutes drive. There's a park with lots of activity centers and mazes of slides and climbing structures, all relatively new. One park has a nature-ish area near a river with a small creek, though it has been under construction since last year's floods. Another park within driving distance is right beside an airport runway. Still, I never found one that I wanted to visit every day. Until now.

    A nearby city publishes a weekly paper which keeps me up on happenings in the community. This week there was an article on how some of the former county parks have recently been bought by the city. And they listed a small park that is less than 2 miles away from us that I had never heard about, though I've driven by the street a million times. So, Jacob and Ethan and I went on an adventure on Wednesday and when we discovered it, we had so much fun that we came back today and brought Gaines with us.

    Top Ten Reasons I Love The Perfect Park

    1. It's within a reasonable driving distance. Fairly short, actually. It's even closer to us than our former first choice for a park.
    2. It is SHADY. There are trees all around the playground area, a nice shaded pavilion, and very quick access to a wooded area with some walking trails. Even in the middle of a 90-degree day we never felt like we were in the blazing sun. One metal slide got hot, but the rest were plastic.
    3. Nature abounds. It feels very wooded and there is no artificial ground cover. For me, that used to be a drawback, but now that my two are walking around, I love that they can get dirty and have fun. Plus, we love walking on a well-worn path through residential woods. It's not a strenuous hike, but I feel like we get some exercise and enjoy being outdoors without getting too much sun.
    4. It is in a neighborhood. Even when it was just me, the boys, and a lone tennis player in the middle of the day I didn't feel like I was secluded. There are houses directly across the street and you can see them through the woods. It fits my comfort level, since I can let the boys play without hovering.
    5. It's just the right size, slightly enclosed, but with an open feel. There are only two "stations" and they are close together. Ethan can climb and slide ALL BY HIMSELF on one set and I can see Jacob sliding on the big slide nearby. One of our regular parks is just too spread out -- if one kid wanders off in a different direction I feel like I might lose the other one, especially on crowded park days.
    6. The park is not crowded. The days I've been there this week, we've seen maybe one or two families (some from the neighborhood--who walked there!) but not an entire horde of summer children. The park isn't flashy or well-known enough for that. It's our hidden gem!
    7. One of my favorite things -- it has a zipline! (Ok, well, sort of. It has one of those metal bars that slides across while you hang from it.) Jacob loves it. And so do I! Maybe if I come enough I can get work on my arm muscles. I'm such a weakling I can't even cross the monkey bars anymore.
    8. Stroller access is excellent, but not intrusive. You can bring your stroller close to the action while staying on the sideway and it doesn't get lost admid too many play areas. This is a well-designed small park.
    9. The equipment is decidedly old-school. I love it! The monkey bars are high and there are wooden platforms. It's "dangerous" enough so kids can explore and climb and yet I feel like Jacob is safer there than on some of the newer configurations. Some helicopter mom might deem it unsafe, but it's just the way I like it.
    10. Family friendly. Today, since Gaines had the day off from both work and school, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch near a guy who was working "from home" with a laptop. A dad from the neighborhood walked his two kids to the park while we were there. And when we took our short hike on the nature trail, we left our cooler on the picnic table bench. It was still there when we returned, of course.

    There might be one drawback -- no facilities. The first day we were there we met a mom and her young son leaving for that very reason. (That's not a problem for Jacob, though, apparently, since there are an abundance of trees not far off the wooded path(!), but I can see how if you don't plan well it could be an issue for little girls or pregnant women. Or me, if I drink too much water.)

    One thing I didn't understand, though. Why did the house directly across the street have this giant new modern jungle gym in their backyard that was VISIBLE from the park?! I mean, seriously, is the public park not good enough for your little darlings? They can't cross the street to play? They might get too dirty? Now, I would love to have something like that in my own backyard, of course, but if I lived directly across the street from a place like this? I just don't know. I understand the desire to have a place to play that you can see from the kitchen window and that is completely enclosed and private. Still, I defend "my newly discovered park" as the perfect public play area. And if I lived in that house across the street, (once my kids were old enough) I'd send them across the street to play, invite some neighborhood kids, and watch from my front window. Pretty soon you'll be calling me a "free range parent". Perhaps I'm just an old-fashioned park lover.

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    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Grape Juice

    The following involves frugality, theology, and good music. Not a bad combination, eh?

    My task for today was to buy grape juice for Sunday's communion at church. Communion at our church happens quarterly and monthly (depending on the service), though we wouldn't mind one bit if we celebrated every week. :) Since Gaines' current elder duties include Worship Committee, that means planning for communion, which means checking the supply of bread and wine*, which means buying more, and as the shopper in the household, the task really fell to me. Though you should know by now that I actually had fun.

    *Yeah, yeah, so it's just grape juice. I have no problem with wine, myself. But that's a conversation for another day.

    With a little extra effort on my part, I picked up a 64oz bottle of Welch's for all of nine cents. Here's how I did it:

    1. Check the sale pages. Brand name grape juice 2/$6 at CVS.
    2. Print out a coupon from the Welch's website for $1 off.
    3. Take along 2 kids and 2 Extra Care Bucks (I just happened to have).
    4. Buy grape juice and only grape juice. No snacks, toys, or sunglasses!
    5. Combine coupon and ECB's and pay only 9 cents out of my pocketbook.
    6. Get an extra $1 ECB back because I've been using my Green Bag Tag. Woot!

    The anticipation of the Lord's Supper has gotten me thinking about my favorite songs and hymns concerning the Eucharist. Either these are songs appropriate to sing after partaking (it is a celebration, after all!) or songs perhaps not fit for worship, but the lyrics still speak to some aspect of the supper.

  • Take to the World
    "Go in peace to love and to serve
    Let your ears ring long with what you have heard
    May the bread on your tongue
    Leave a trail of crumbs
    To lead the hungry back to the place that you are from"

  • Arise, My Soul, Arise (Indelible Grace Version)
    "Arise, my soul, arise,
    shake off your guilty fears;
    The bleeding sacrifice,
    in my behalf appears;
    Before the throne my Surety stands,
    Before the throne my Surety stands,
    My name is written on His hands."

  • A New Law
    "I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
    So just bring it down from the mountain to me

    I want a new law
    I want a new law
    Just give me that new law

    And don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
    I prefer a shot of grape juice
    And don’t teach me about loving my enemies
    And don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
    No, just give me a new law."

  • Both of Us'll Feel The Blast
    "I hope we sit together when Jesus serves the wine
    So I can look into your eyes when I taste it the first time
    And I know there's no secrets when you're sitting at that table
    But I believe we'll smile real knowingly when we read the label
    And it says "passion sacrificed to keep from going crazy."
    We'll tip our glasses to the Host who used to look so hazy
    And drink it down all sweet and slow and slip inside His mind
    And realize as it goes down- this is communion wine."


    These are some of my favorites. What are yours?

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  • Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Rayovac Powers Your Summer Promotion

    A childhood friend of mine (who posts hilarious things about her twin girls) is having a contest with a buddy to blog something every day during the summer. Since yesterday was the first day of summer, I sort of missed out on that. But I do like the idea of blogging more regularly, so let's see if I can go most of the summer blogging every day.

    Here's something I learned about this afternoon (again, I'm late to the game): Rayovac has a giveaway for 30 days this summer where you can win great prizes like gift cards and camping gear. Full disclosure: "The first 99 bloggers to promote the Rayovac Powers Your Summer Promotion won a prize package from Rayovac."

    So, I'm going for a prize package. But hey, I figure you, our half-dozen loyal readers might appreciate the chance to enter as well!

    You just visit the Rayovac Powers Your Summer Promotion site each day and answer a question.

    Today's was: "13 millions Americans go camping each year. What is your camping style? Backyard, adventurous, roughing it?"

    The actual entry is limited to 25 words, but I thought I would indulge here and give you a short history of my relationship with camping.

    As a kid, I'm not sure we ever went camping as a family. Fishing, yes. Trips to the beach, yes. There was an old cabin down by the bay where the "boys" used to stay when we went to Phillips Inlet, but I don't remember if I actually spent the night there. The women and we kids would always stay across the water at a condo. (Cheaters!)

    I remember setting up a tent in the backyard once or twice, and I of course had access to woods and a creek behind our house. I might have spent the night in my tree house on one occasion (though I could be making that up). I vaguely remember sleeping in my oversized outdoor dollhouse. But it had electricity and insulation, so that seems like it wouldn't count. (I'll tell you about that someday. It was cool!)

    As a young adult, I still loved the outdoors. In college, I worked at a camp for two summers, but of course the bunks did have electricity and running water. I remember actually going camping once or twice with some friends in places around Birmingham and once out in Texas. Though camping in a field in December in below freezing temperatures was not wise. We should've stayed in the barn.

    Here's proof that I once camped out and slept under the night sky:



    I've often wondered what became of that tent -- it's probably in storage somewhere along with my parents' things.

    Even if I didn't get to go camping often, I always liked the idea. I enjoyed rapelling and hiking whenever I got the chance. When we got married, we registered for a few camping items. We ended up with a lantern, a gas camping stove, and some camping pillows. No sleeping bags. And, like I mentioned before, we had no idea what had happened to my tent. So, our plans languished. We got busy with apartment events and other activities and never made time for the great outdoors. I get jealous reading Kami's posts about their family camping trips.

    Now, though, we have two boys and I would love to take them camping. Gaines was a boy scout, I enjoy being outdoors. This is plausible. We don't have much (read: any) gear, though. I think I sold or gave away the camping pillows a few moves back. I'm selling the camping stove on Craigslist as I type. At least we still have the lantern. So, if we win this contest at least we'll be ahead of the game with some supplies.

    We do have one tent, featurning none other than Lightning McQueen, but so far it has only been set up indoors. I am getting to be really good at setting it up bleary-eyed at 7am, though.



    Remember, you can enter the promotion that inspired my ramblings here: Rayovac Powers Your Summer Promotion

    Faithful readers, what are your camping experiences like? I'm curious!

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    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Thirty Years Ago Today

    I was born.

    Now, birth's always a miracle, but for me it was a special kind of miracle. You see, I was born early. Way early. Which makes it ironic that I am always late to things.

    Here I am as a baby. (I'm not sure when this picture was taken, but since I was alow to crawl compared to normal timelines I'm going to guess about 10 months.)



    I've heard the stories, of course, since even though I lived this miracle I wasn't self aware enough to remember all the details. So if I get some things mixed up, please excuse me. But I am sure of one thing: God has been at work in my life since he knit me together in my mother's womb. And he had tiny knitting needles.

    My mom was put on bed rest about the time most moms find out the sex of the baby, around 20 weeks. Then, after two months of book reading and watching soap operas, her blood pressure suddenly spiked. She was at 28 weeks. Combine the preeclampsia with placenta previa, and off she went to the emergency room. My mom tells a better story of how they rushed her in an ambulance three hours to Birmingham from south Alabama on June 17th. All I know is that the next day, probably very early in the morning, they performed an emergency c-section and I came into the world on Wednesday, June 18, 1980. I was born at UAB hospital weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces and was only eleven inches long, like a hefty sheet of paper.

    My favorite photograph after my birth probably still sits on my dad's desk. It is a picture of his hand (or someone else's, I don't know), holding me, while I was connected to all manner of tubes and machines. My head is cradled in his fingers and my miniscule feet barely grace his wrist. Every time I see it, I'm reminded of the God who holds us in the palm of His hands.

    The doctor who performed the surgery at the moment of my birth didn't believe that I would live. So it amazed him, a week later, when he came by to visit me and I was thriving and off oxygen. My mom still keeps in touch with him. Perhaps it was the first time he'd ever believed in a miracle.

    I am ever grateful for all the things people did and reminded me of throughout my life. The prayers and tiny knitted caps and the doctors and nurses that helped sutain me. They say that the preemie girls are fighters. I know I must've been. Mostly, though, I've realized that it was God's grace that abounded and kept me alive. He upholds all life and His glory is revealed in His good Creation. Especially babies. I know this because now I have two of my own.

    When our friends came to stay in my little hometown on the eve of our wedding, the hotel keeper remarked, "You here for the Miracle Baby's wedding?" Yep, that's me. The Miracle Baby. And I'm proud of it.

    The picture below was taken when I was about four months old. After months in the neonatal unit in Birmingham and then intensive care in Dothan, I had finally come home. I think I weighed about 6 pounds. Maybe I was unhappy because I wanted clothes on.



    Here I am a few years later, no worse for the wear. At that point, I was catching up to my peers. I imagine I was a pretty normal toddler. Don't you see that mischievousness behind the smile? I probably was thinking about how fast I could get that dress off so I could go climb a tree.



    Happy birthday to me. God is good! All the time. And I am grateful.

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    Tuesday, June 08, 2010

    Not-so-mundane moments in May

    May was mostly wet, with splashes of sunshine and a hot day or two reminding us that summer is near. We enjoyed our attic fan. We read stacks of books. Sometimes we went without TV for a day. Gaines finished another semester of graduate school. Hooray! And every now and then I remembered to grab the camera. As you can see, life around here is anything but boring.

  • Enjoying breakfast casserole with Mr. Eric Peters. Our Captain Adorable is his biggest fan in the preschool crowd.




  • Meeting Clifford "The Big Red Dog" at storytime. (Two celebrities in one month! He's going to be star-struck!)



  • Jacob's favorite rainy-day attire. He chose this ensemble himself, right down to the "lellow" boots that matched his "lellow" shirt.



  • While comparing prices for VBS crafts at Michael's, I suddenly discovered a swamp thing in my aisle.



  • Making a wish in the fountain at the Forum on a drizzly day. I hope it came true.



  • Ethan enjoying his first taste of pork ribs. One of our friends from church made some of THE BEST ribs we've ever eaten. Mmmmm. Carnivorous.



  • Jacob being a tiger. WROAR!



  • He went a little overboard with his tiger "costume". I had too many art supplies out in reach this month...



  • Ethan mows the driveway regularly.



  • One of our many tricycle excursions.



  • Front porch sitting is good for the soul. We like to greet EVERYONE who walks by. "Hello! My name is Jacob. I'm three years old!" At least our neigbors are friendly.



    See you real soon! More memorable highlights coming up shortly. Plus, an elusive "book review" post or two are in the works!

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