December 21, 2010

These Days

Well friends, Christmas is almost here. Our month of December has been pretty busy. Here's what has occupied me/ us, in list form:

1. Someone had a birthday...
...and that would be me! Last Thursday I added another year to my age. It was a low-key birthday. I worked during the day and resisted the urge to announce to my bosses that it was my birthday. This seems to baffle people, many of whom told me I should have informed the boys that it was my birthday Really, it's not that easy. Every time I thought about telling them, the voice of reason in my little brain inquired, "Why? What do you want out of the conversation? To make them feel badly for your working on your birthday? To get them to say, 'Happy Birthday'? Is that REALLY going to be satisfying in the least? They might tell you to go home because it's your birthday, and then you'll get to remind them that since you're an hourly employee, going home means losing money that you really need. That will not be good. So what will you really accomplish?" In the end, reason won out, and I kept my mouth shut (for once!). When I got home, Levi probably greeted me with his usual squeal-turned-cry which can be roughly translated as, "You're home! Great! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME ALL DAY AND FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE PICK ME UP!!!" Really, it's precious. After Levi went to bed that evening, Lindon and I went out for a nice dinner and small shopping spree to get me a birthday gift.

After we got home and were preparing for bed, we heard Levi wake and cry...hard. While it's not unusual for him to wake a cry a little bit at night, this was not a little bit. He would not calm down easily and when he did calm down, he did not stay calm. We decided to call the doctor first thing in the morning to figure out what was going on. When I did call, we were told to come in that afternoon, at which time we found out... 

2. Someone had an ear infection.
Poor Levi. His crying was due to his infected ear hurting. Now he's on the mend, and he's feeling much better.

3. Someone(s) installed a new kitchen floor.
These events are not in chronological order, but earlier this month Lindon's dad came out to help with some projects around the house. Lindon and Barry removed the old kitchen floor (which was fine in and of itself, but covered a floor that needed to be leveled), and they installed real tile on the kitchen floor. It looks so great! They also hung new interior doors, which threw the dog and kiddo for a loop. Heretofore, anyone who could not reach a doorknob could open an interior door by pushing on it hard enough. Levi and Nash found this very useful for entering rooms which we did not want them to enter (and sometimes Levi would in turn shut himself in said room, contentedly playing by himself). Now, the doors work the way doors are supposed to work. Nash does not like that he cannot go to bed whenever he wants, but Levi has discovered that banging on the doors with his hands or a wooden block is oh so fun.

4. Someone has been published.
Again, that would be me. I've had a few articles printed since November, and you can read the most widely appealing article here. The other article is a more straightforward, newsy thing that isn't really interesting, so I'm not posting it here. But I am happy to report more articles will be coming out soon, and they are of the widely appealing sort. They are also amazingly fun to research and write, so I am pretty thrilled. 

As for the rest of this month, we will be with family in PA. We leave tomorrow and will return in 2011. I think a nice, long visit with all of the family would do us a world of good right now. Today is my last full day in the office until next year, and the antsy-ness has begun!

Don't expect to hear much from me until the new year. Merry Christmas, all!

December 14, 2010

Songs that Make Me Smile: Christmas Edition

This is a continuation of my last post about why one should sing all the verses of a Christmas hymn. Really, any hymn, but this offense seems especially egregious to me at Christmas. Now, in honor of Christmas and in the spirit of singing all the verses, here are some of my favorite Christmas hymns. If you keep reading, please do me this one favor. Don't sing the words as you read them. It's easy to not think about the words when we're bouncing along to a familiar tune. Just read the text and let the beauty of the images capture you again, just like the beauty of the incarnation.

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of Light;
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb:
Very God, Begotten, not created;

Sing, choirs of angels;
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest;

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning:
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Late in flesh appearing;

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King:
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th'angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King."

Christ, by highest heav'n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Ris'n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear Desire of ev'ry nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

December 7, 2010

A Christmas Lecture

Recently I attended a church Christmas gathering with some very close friends. The event began with a time of Christmas hymn singing, and the leader of the singing announced, "We will be singing verses 1 and 4 of all these songs." Upon hearing this information, the friend sitting next to me whispered (in one of those loud whispers), "I HATE when they do this! Why can't we sing ALL the verses? I'd rather sing LESS songs and sing ALL the verses! The middle ones are the BEST!"

Though I secretly hoped the piano overpowered my friend's rant for those sitting around us, I couldn't disagree with her feelings.  No disrespect to the person who was leading the singing, but if you're going to sing a song, you really should sing ALL the verses. I understand the first and last verses are generally best known and sometimes songs can have a gazillion verses, but it really is important to sing an entire song. Why, you ask? Well, I will give you two reasons.

First, a hymn is a poem set to music. The words to the hymn were crafted to fit in a certain rhyme and meter, and their placement is not haphazard. Since my geek specialty is work geekiness, this really resonates with me. This is word craftsmanship, and to truncate a song is to truncate the art. As one who studied English in college, I can assure you that my professors never, EVER told us, "Read the first, third, and last stanzas of Donne's 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning', and we will discuss it tomorrow." The text tells a story, and cutting out verses cuts out some of the song's breathtaking beauty.

Second, the middle verses articulate fabulous theology. Contrary to popular belief, the original objective of Christmastime hymns was not the production of warm, fuzzy feelings. Really. "Silent Night" was not written so that we could have a song during the candle lighting at the Christmas Eve service. These beloved songs, like every song in the hymnal, were written for corporate worship, and as such, they assist in worship by reiterating (to music) the beliefs we hold to be true. In Christmas hymns, the theme that often comes out is the the incarnation, that Jesus left heaven and became a baby, while all the time retaining his deity. Sometimes this theology kind of slaps you on the side of the head, as in the verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful" that begins, "God of God, Light of Light...Very God, begotten, not created." It's straight from the Nicene Creed, folks! Other times it's more poetic, as in this amazing iteration of John 1 found in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:"

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Those are just two reasons to sing all the verses. Writing them down and publishing them in the blogosphere for my adoring fan base makes me feel a little better. I am sure there are more, and if you have a different reason for wanting to sing all the verses, please feel free to chime in. You can stew on these reasons until next Sunday when you only sing two verses of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and then you can yell at your music director after church.*

*Don't actually do this. Please, don't actually do this.

December 3, 2010

Good Enough

So our Christmas decorations are pretty much up for this season. The tree will have no ornaments this year because the only room in which it will fit is the sunroom/ Levi's play room. The risk of him destroying an ornament (and harming himself in the process) is too great for me. So he will have to just admire the pretty lights and lovely ribbons on the tree (when I get them all up) and...

The train! This train came to us as a hand me down, and Lindon especially loves it. We set it up Thursday night, and while we worked on it, Levi woke up crying, a rarity these days. Since he did not go back to sleep on his own, we got him up to set him see the tree, the lights, and the train. He thought that was fine and good, and then he wanted to go back to bed.

Friday morning was another story. This time Levi had the time and energy to explore all aspects of the train, and that he did. He fiddled with the buttons on the control and discovered how to make the bell ring, and he really enjoyed watching the train go around while Santa waived at him. Sometimes he would just bang on the controls and squeal. We are working on learning "gentle."

My days seem filled with constant reminders of how little I understand about how to properly parent Levi and how poorly I meet his needs. He doesn't want to eat what I want him to eat, and I do not know what he wants to eat. When I say, "Come here," he looks at my blankly; kind of like when I say, "Gentle, Levi. You can't stick your finger in the dog's eye." My attempts to discipline him reap giggles and smiles. Seriously.

But when I watch him stare at the toy train or precariously toddle over to his father, I remember how much he has grown since LAST Christmas. The wonder on his face reminds me that the train very well could get broken this year, especially now that he tries to walk around with the control in his arms. But it's alright. Perfection in parenting and housekeeping are not my goals.

I have more important things to do, like watch the train with Levi.

November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving on the Farm

For the past four years, on or around Thanksgiving we have journeyed to Chester, IL, to spend Thanksgiving on a farm. For three of those years I hoped to return and prepare a reflection blog post about how much I enjoy the farm, the special friendships we have made with people on the farm, and the sense of warmth, acceptance, and belonging we feel when there. 

That post has never happened. Last year, I did not even mention our farm trip on my blog, though I reflected about a new time sucker to my life

This post has never happened in large part because it's difficult to sum up how much we have enjoyed our time at Knapp Centennial Farm. We look forward to this time out in the country, to watching Nash run around and be a farm dog, and to seeing good friends. 

The farm belongs to the Knapp family, and we know a Knapp (now Smith) because Laura is married to Pat, the pastor Lindon worked for in Alabama. Pat and Laura have been really special friends for six years, and they have been tremendous encouragements to us during all kinds of difficult situations. 
So when they insisted we join them for their annual Thanksgiving celebration with Laura's extended family at the farm (which, conveniently, is less than 90 minutes from our house), we thought it would be fun. It is fun, and every year Laura's gregarious family has welcomed us back with increasing levels of enthusiasm. 

This year, while there was no lack of enthusiasm, there was a serious lack of nice weather. It rained all day Thursday, and eventually the rain turned to ice and snow. While we had hoped Levi would get to try out his new walking skills all around the farm, we were stuck indoors all day. Poor Nash had it the worst. We won't go into that. He was very displeased with us. 

Though the weather did not cooperate, we so enjoyed our time with the Knapps (and when I say "Knapp," I mean everyone who was there, whether or not they ever held that last name). It's always fun to hear people "ooh" and "ahh" over your kid, and the Knapps are nothing if not enthusiastic. It made us feel very good! 

And it is always a joy to see Pat and Laura. Laura definitely possesses the Knapp expressiveness, so if you ever have good news you want to share with someone, tell Laura. The result is so gratifying. But don't think she won't tell you the truth straight up when you need to hear it. One of my favorite moments from Thanksgiving was when she came upon a few clueless novices trying to hack through a game of  Scrabble and pronounced, "You've really screwed up this board. This is NOT how it should look at all." She gave them a few pointers, shook her head solemnly, and went on her way. 

And Pat can ask, "How are you doing?" in a way that will bring you to tears, and then he will listen graciously as you pour out your heart to him while he ensures all the leftover turkey meat gets off the carcass and into storage. Then he will offer a bit of encouragement that helps to put things in perspective and remind you of the truths you were about to forget. Not that this happened, mind you...

So despite the wintry mix, we had a nice Thanksgiving. And I got a hat out of the deal. Laura put her fabulous knitting skills to work before Thanksgiving to make a slew of hats for those who would be at the farm. She gave me the very last one. The hats seemed to be a big hit because everywhere you looked, someone's head was topped with a brightly-colored yarn. 

It's a blessing to have friends who will rejoice with you, listen with you, speak the truth to you in love, tell you how beautiful your child is, and keep your head warm. For those kinds of friends, I am incredibly thankful.

November 24, 2010

Why My Husband Amazes Me.

In honor of Thanksgiving and in the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to dedicate this post to celebrating Lindon. When you spend so much time with someone, it's easy to forget how amazing that person really is. I see Lindon so much and experience his strengths so consistently that I am guilty of forgetting just how special he is.

How special is he, you ask? I will give you a short list of reasons why my husband amazes me.

First, Lindon is funny. He makes people laugh and puts people at ease with his humor. This is a wonderful quality and one I often take for granted, but he has a fantastic gift for making people smile. Lindon laughs often and finds humor in everyday, mundane life situations. I need this because (believe it or not) I tend toward the serious end of the disposition spectrum. It's easy for me to take myself too seriously, fret over perceived slights, and stew over pending doom and gloom. Lindon can diffuse my brooding and help me laugh at myself and life. He fills our house with merriment, and I am so thankful for this. Then there are the times when he unwittingly says something absolutely hilarious. These are my favorite moments, when he just shows the inner workings of his brain without realizing it. It's those moments when he's being funny - and in a way, quite vulnerable - that I find so precious.

Something else I love about Lindon: He's so handsome!
Second, Lindon loves and serves our family well. Anyone who spends most of the day at home with a child(ren) knows how exhausting it can be. This exhaustion can be exacerbated when you're looking for the elusive call and waiting to here from search committees. Yet Lindon does not complain (much). Moreover, he quietly serves our family by grocery shopping, cleaning, running the dishwasher a gazillion times each week, and doing it all with a generally good attitude. What makes all of this even more spectacular to me is that sweet Lindon is an extrovert, meaning he is recharged and re-energized by interaction with other people. Yet he gets very little of this in his current situation. But still, he doesn't complain.

Third, Lindon is an amazing father. His zeal for Levi is a joy for me to watch. Hearing Levi's laughter echo through the house as Lindon plays with him is so satisfying. While so many fathers don't seem to know what to do with their children in infancy, Lindon has exuded competence and ease with Levi from day 1. This is a huge relief to me because often my dealings with Levi have been far from easy and competent. I rely heavily on Lindon for confidence in my parenting Levi, and I am so proud of the way he loves his son.

Next, Lindon is a hard worker. Let's just say this now: school is not Lindon's favorite thing in the world. He will be the first to admit that he is not hard-wired to thrive in a classroom setting. Nonetheless, in May, Lindon completed his Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Seminary. With a full course load, this is a four year master's degree. Not only did Lindon complete this difficult program (Anyone else who is not preparing for PhD work learn two languages in their master's program? Anyone?) in four years, but he kept a respectable grade-point average and earned considerable scholarships every year. He studied his butt off for his classes, submitted himself to the shellacking that is my proofreading, and plowed through the mountain of assignments time after time after time. He took good notes, paid attention in class, turned in his assignments on time, and worked HARD.

And during the summer when Lindon had a break from classes, he worked to make our house lovely. In four years, Lindon renovated the sunroom, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. He painted every room in the house, worked on the house's exterior, and added a deck on the back. These projects were very difficult, and some of the stuff Lindon did was new to him. But he undertook every project with great care and attention to detail, and our home now looks amazing because of his hard work. Yes, there are a few things that need to be finished, but that's ok. I know they will get done.

And the last thing I will mention in this ever-growing post is that my sweet husband loves me well. Frankly, I can be a difficult person. I can be moody; I get frustrated easily; I quickly become critical and judgmental of those I love the most; I berate myself for not living up to some unattainable standard. I lack courage and confidence and need help trying new things. Lindon sees all these things (and has helped me see them, too) and persists in loving me anyway. He gives me confidence when I lack it, counters my criticism with grace and truth, helps me relax when I am moody or frustrated, and patiently puts up with me. He helps me laugh at myself and helps me celebrate how God has made me.

So, Lindon Lee, I am thankful for you. You love me well and serve our family so well with your blend of comedy, drama, and fearlessness. Though you are currently underemployed, I believe in your tremendously. Your gifting for ministry is apparent, and I have every confidence you will find a call where you will not only serve well, but thrive. Thank you for loving me and loving Levi and emptying the dishwasher.

November 23, 2010

Not only the gospel of God but our lives as well...

There are several archetypal blog posts that are so cliche I try to avoid them at all costs, but whenever I mention them, it's because I am about to venture into cliche archetypal blogging territory. This time, it's the "don't you wish your friends were as great as mine" blog post. In my hyper-critical opinion, blogging about how you have "the best" friends who "have always been there for me" and "know me like no one else" and "[insert inside joke here]" is really, REALLY lame. Like, I-will-never-read-your-blog-again lame. Also, I need to put down in writing now how much I despise the phrase "I love us!" when used to describe a photo of you and your friends. Now that this pet peeve is public, I expect a family member will use this caption on several photos of me in the next few weeks.

Ok, rant over. Now on to my cliche hypocrisy
On Sunday Lindon and I had lunch at the house of some friends. This was a celebratory lunch, and most of our closest St. Louis friends were there. We celebrated two birthdays and one adult baptism, three fairly big events. The mood was jolly, but there was also lots of poking fun, fervently discussing theology, arguing, and spilling drinks. For his part, Levi made a spectacular swat at a beer that ended up all over the carpet.
Because of the demands of feeding and chasing a near-toddler (for every beverage he swatted there were six more begging to be attacked, not to mention the furniture he sought to damage), I did not get much time to actually visit with my friends. But for not being able to visit much, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the different conversations going on around me. Savoring these interactions and feeling a sense of belonging even when not engaged in conversation made me appreciate these friends all the more.

While I don't want to gush too much here, these friends do know me well and have indeed supported me through some hard, discouraging times. They can speak difficult truths to me without making me feel threatened, and we pray for each other in such a way that makes us deeply invested in one another's lives.

And we all love to sing. So after lunch we opened up the hymnals and sang together. Yes, there were enough hymnals to go around, another reason I love this group. This might sound to you, dear reader, like the cheesiest activity imaginable, but for me it was a precious gift. Doing something you love is a joy. Doing it with people you love is an even greater joy. While choosing songs to sing contributed to its share of debating (my best friends are an opinionated bunch!), it was so lovely to hear our voices raised (a capella and in four-part harmony, no less!) in song. And when someone suggests a song(s) to sing, it says something about him or her, offering a glimpse into what that person holds dear.

The whole afternoon was so sweet. Often I thought of the passage in I Thessalonians where Paul tells the church, "we loved you so much that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."

My St. Louis friends are people with whom I have shared the gospel of God. All of us are in St. Louis to prepare for sharing the gospel of God in various ministry capacities, but along the way we have shared our lives as well. The bonds that have developed are deep and rich. Sharing one's life with others can be frightening, to be sure. Allowing others to see your mess is disconcerting. But it is through friends and in the mess that the gospel of God can sometimes shine brightest.

I am thankful for these wonderful friends with whom we have shared our lives. As Lindon and I wait and hope for a call, it brings me tremendous comfort to know our friends are waiting with us, praying with us, and singing with us.

November 19, 2010

Because he IS his father's son, after all...

Warning: Gratuitous baby story follows.

In the Fowler family, one of the stories that has made it into folk lore (for multiple reasons) is the tale of Lindon aggravating his mother by cracking his knuckles. It goes a little something like this:

Lindon's mother regularly chided her littlest blond child to quit cracking his knuckles. He got his revenge when she visited his second grade class (poetic license there; I don't exactly remember the grade) for parent visitation day. As she sat in the back of the class with the other parents, Lindon turned around, made eye contact with her, and, one by one, cracked his knuckles while she watched helplessly.

Fast forward 25ish years to yesterday. For the past few weeks we have tried to teach Levi to keep his precious little hands off of things that are breakable and/ or dangerous. Mostly the usual electrical outlets, picture frames, computer keyboards, space heaters, etc. Since "Levi, get your hands off of that right now, mister!" is a bit long, we've truncated that rant to "no touch." We probably say it 70 times a day. 

Wednesday I had a writing gig that came up suddenly and had an urgent deadline, which meant I spent concentrated amounts of time on the phone regardless of what Levi was doing. While I did not mind if he squawked in the background while I conducted my interviews, it really did not work for me to keep saying, "Levi, no touch!" while trying to listen and type. Levi must have figured this out because during my last call of the day I spied him out of the corner of my eye lounging in front of the space heater. I turned to him and mouthed the words, "No touch!!" He looked straight at me and smiled. Then, without breaking eye contact, he reached that little hand back and began stroking the space heater. I mouthed more emphatically, "NO TOUCH!!" complete with raised eyebrows and a wagging finger. Levi stopped stroking for just a second. Then he burst out laughing and returned to stroking the space heater.

It's not a great feeling to watch helplessly as your son does something he really ought not do. But it's also hard to be too mad at this little face. At least, it's hard right now. Certainly Levi whittle away at my sympathies over the years, just as his father did for my mother-in-law.

November 13, 2010

Notice anything different?

Ok, ok, ok, there is really nothing much to notice. But I hope there will be soon. Namely, better photos, and maybe more of them. Today I took a quick class on how to take a better picture. My church offered it as part of its annual arts festival. Photography really interests me, but my eye lacks the training to capture a good photo. I hoped that taking a basic class might help me gain some understanding of what makes a good photo and how to take more of them. I definitely left inspired and decided to try out some of my new wisdom on my favorite guinea pig: Levi.

One of my goals for this class was to get some tips to snag better photos of my kiddo. Really, I should spend more time with my camera and manual in order to better understand how the thing works. But the more information I have, the better chance I feel I have for capturing Mr. On The Go. 

The instructor's biggest point - the one prefaced by "If you take nothing else away from this class..." - was to shoot with sidelight rather than front light. So I tried to eschew obvious light sources and go for natural side lighting. It helped that today was a cloudy day, so I was able to snap better photos, even indoors. 

The next concept for better photography was to incorporate texture into one's photos to help the eye differentiate what it sees. Also, the instructor emphasized shooting from lots of different angles, not just shooting at eye level. I love the look on Levi's face here, and the fact that he's sitting on his book. Plus, the carpet texture adds interest. 

There is nothing particularly good about the photo below, but Levi is crinkling his nose and exhaling, a trick he learned from Grandpa when my parents were in town. Levi is now primed and ready to blow his nose next time he gets a cold!

This photo demonstrates why I need to know my camera better. I must snap fast before the little hands get to me.

I like the lines in this photo: the white trim, the coffee table, and the door. Lines are good, as I learned this morning. 

This is a bit of a fail photo.

This shot is closer to what I wanted in the photo above. I hoped to catch Levi sticking his mouth on the edge of the baby gate. Of course this is't a prize winning photo, but I like the contrast in the grid on the gate with the beige background and Levi's blue shirt. Also, his expression kills me. Perhaps I should find a new photography subject who isn't so adorable. Levi clouds my objective opinion of my work.

After the camera again. 

Levi is also cruisin' for a bruisin' with Nash the Wonderdog. Sweet Nash is oh so tolerant of Levi's pounding, pinching, and poking, but I think the poor dog is losing patience. We often find ourselves intervening when Nash lets out a warning growl. I don't think he would actually harm Levi, but we also don't want to find out. 

Such a cute kid! 

Any of you photographers have advice you would like to add? 

November 11, 2010

Thursday Seems Like a Good Enough Time for a Weekend Update...

What a weekend! I still cannot believe my precious child is one year old. My parents came into town to celebrate with us and to celebrate Lindon's birthday, which just happens to be the day after his son's. Poor husband. I hope that throughout the rest of his life he is not the day-after-afterthought birthday.

But back to Levi. He was a sport through the birthday celebration. He enjoyed the attention and loved playing with his gifts almost as much as he enjoyed playing with the wrapping paper and gift bags. The much-anticipated birthday cake moment, however, was quite anti-climactic. Apparently Levi was so tired of eating and being in his high chair by cake time that the cupcake with the candle held no appeal for him. He did not humor us in the slightest. After thrice throwing the cupcake on the ground, Levi finally won, and we let him get down and play with some tissue paper.

Levi's opinion notwithstanding, the pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting were really quite good. I ate far too many of them. At least they were healthy.

Not surprisingly, for the past week I have reminisced a bit about what I was doing one year ago. Throughout the weekend my parents periodically asked me, "One year ago on this day, what were you doing?" I remember most of the week of Levi's birth in tremendous detail.These are not always happy remembrances because going four days past one's due date is not fun. At the time I thought I was fine, and I really did my best to keep a good attitude. But in retrospect, it was a hard week.

Same goes for the few days after Levi was born. I was too determined to not whine about my newborn to admit how difficult those first few days actually were. But they were hard. I really, REALLY am thankful for the difference one year can make. I am also thankful for the amazing support I had during those first few weeks - my parents, my in-laws, friends, and of course my fabulous husband. He has helped me tremendously during the past year, and I am so thankful!

In the aftermath of our celebration weekend, we are back to life as usual. Levi continues to be cute and sweet and active. I work. Lindon seeks a job. We eagerly anticipate Thanksgiving festivities at the Knapp farm for the fourth year in a row. And I eagerly anticipate another chance to make pumpkin spice cupcakes!

November 6, 2010

To my son Levi on his first birthday

Dearest Levi:

One Day
It's hard to overemphasize how dramatically you have changed
One Month
my life. The moment your dad said, "It's a boy!" at 7:00 p.m., on November 6, 2009, and I thought to myself, "This baby has big hands," and the nurse placed you on my chest, is a moment I will never forget. In that instant a new love began coursing through my veins the likes of which I had never known. 

Because of you, I am a momma, and that is a role I cherish, a role you first gave to me. Since that moment you have redefined my life in both big and small ways. My tolerance for pain and grossness has expanded; my ability to function while sleep deprived is way better than a year ago; I have more patience thanks to you, and my life has more joy than I ever could have imagined because you are in it.You continually find new ways to make me laugh and challenge my ideas of how life might look.

Two Months

Three Months
And Levi, on your first birthday, I can say with confidence that I have high hopes for you, dear son. I hope and pray that one day you will claim the promises of Christ that we now claim on your behalf. My hope is that your easy laugh will echo through our home for countless birthdays to come. Despite the fact that my momma instincts want you to never, ever experience a drop of pain or heartache, I know that there is no use wishing these things away from you or trying to create a problem-free existence for you. Instead, I hope that when the ugliness of this world confronts you, you would not flinch, but would look beyond it to the hope that Christ is indeed coming back and will redeem every heartache, disappointment, and grief.

Four Months
Five Months
I hope that you always know that your parents love each other and love you more than words can say. I hope you see your family members as gifts, fallen and broken thought we might be. Son, I must tell you again what I've been telling you since the day you were born. Your mother is deeply flawed and will undoubtedly make horrid mistakes in raising you. Thankfully you will not remember much of your first year because my response to you has not always been loving or pretty. But I hope to get better, and I hope that God will use me and your dad in your life in wonderful ways, despite our sins and failings.
Six Months

Seven Months
Happy birthday, dear son. Thank you for being such a sweet, easy-going, and joyful baby. Thank you for the life and vibrance you have added to our home.

I have high hopes for you. Hopes not based on your inherent goodness or my wonderful mothering skills, but on Christ's love, finished work, and promises.
Eight Months

I love you so much.

Very truly yours,

Nine Months

Ten Months

Eleven Months

November 3, 2010

Finishing Projects

Last week, we began (FINALLY) putting the finishing touches on some things around the house that were years in the making. In the ante-blog era of the Fowler's life, Lindon decided to do some projects around the house. He talked about it for a few months, and I agreed it would be a good way for him to spend his summer (in reality, summers). He wanted to start with our sunroom, which I thought was fine, since we spent so much time in there anyway. Then one day while I was at work I got a phone call. It was Lindon.

"Be careful when you come home," he said. "I tore the walls off in the sunroom."

And with that unceremonious start, our summers of projects began. Most of the projects were completed in the normal course of business, but the sunroom was one project that just seemed to drag on forever.

In good home remodeling fashion, as Lindon renovated, he sometimes created new problems. Case in point: our sunroom flooring issue. When we moved into our house, the sunroom floor was carpet squares. But once Lindon had insulated the room, framed it in, and drywalled, those squares did not quite fit.

Levi and Charlie the Little will serve as our models for this point. Notice that dark line by Levi's right knee? That's a gap between the carpet squares. And guess what curious little boys like to do with those gaps? Play with them.

Charlie the Little was a bit chagrined on Levi's behalf by the gaps in the carpet squares that he observed (like the one behind him on his right in this photo). He found them quite stressful, as did Lindon, who could hardly be in the sunroom without noticing all the gaps.

But now! Now we have new carpet, and it is just lovely.  No gaps here!

While we were making changes to make our lives easier, we decided our loverly sunroom would serve us far better as the office instead of just a nice sitting room. As we prepared for Levi's birth, we just thought we would live in this house until we moved after graduation. We assumed Lindon would have a job waiting for him, and after graduation we would head out of town. That did not happen.

So finally we stopped to reassess Levi's living quarters and how poorly the roomed functioned as a bedroom and office. So the sunroom is now the office, and Levi's bedroom is just a bedroom. More photos will come of this later. 

It amazes me how quickly I become accustomed to a certain set of circumstances and don't stop to reevaluate them. Clutter which starts out as a temporary state easily turns into a regular fixture on the counter because I stop seeing it for what it is. Once Lindon and I shook off the stupor of life as we knew it, we noticed so many possibilities for beauty and order in our house. 

October 27, 2010

Just When I Thought I was Getting Good at This...

Lindon and I are about to reach a new milestone in our lives. We are becoming parents.

Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, Levi is really our child, and no, we are not expecting another. It's just that our roles in relationship to Levi are changing. Allow me to explain.

Until now, it has seemed that our primary goal with Levi has been preventing his untimely demise. We make sure he is fed, clothed, clean, and not putting all manner of dangerous objects in his mouth. This is not glamorous work, nor is it stress free, but we are certainly getting good at it. Each day is an elaborate dance of feeding, entertaining, and rescuing Levi, and then sneaking away unnoticed to get ready for work without Levi deciding my AWOL status is unacceptable.

This aspect of our responsibility to Levi will certainly remain. But we are also getting to the point where we must begin shaping his heart and teaching him acceptable behavior for our house. In short, we must be his parents. This new role has really been our goal all along. Most women do not desire children for the unadulterated joy of wiping a poopy butt.

But after months of concerning myself solely with Levi's physical development, shifting gears to his mental and emotional development is hard for me. My default with Levi has been to consider him an extension of myself, but this is no longer the case. He is his own little person with his own little will. He needs to learn to communicate and how to do so appropriately, and it is my job to help him learn that. He needs to learn to refrain from pelting me with toys, and it is my job to teach him that. He needs to learn how we relate to each other in this family, and that is Lindon's job. Just kidding.

But it's more than just behavior modification and psychological development. His heart that is sensitive. I cannot train him like I trained Nash. The patience, gentleness, and understanding required for this endeavor are exhausting. It's hard to seize the teachable moments and not just enjoy a few seconds without him trying to break something. In many ways the keeping Levi alive part of the job is getting much easier, but this shaping his heart part is harder than I could have imagined.

I am glad that I have Lindon as a partner in this process.

I am also glad Levi will not remember every failure along the way. Because there are many.

October 18, 2010

Post script

I was so enamored with my own thoughts in the previous post that I forgot to explain the post title. It's actually the first line from a song about Florida that I learned in elementary school. Really, it seems that every child in Florida learns this song in elementary school. Here is the entire song as I learned it:

I wanna wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow,
Where the sun comes peepin' into where I'm sleepin'
And the song birds say, "Hello."
I like the fresh air and the sunshine,
It's so good for us, you know.
So I'll make my home in Florida,
Where the orange blossoms grow.

This song has long resided in the echoes of my memory, but it reemerged into my consciousness after Levi was born. Inexplicably, I found myself singing it to my teeny newborn all the time, so much so that Lindon pleaded with me to stop. Apparently it got stuck in his head and began driving him crazy. When I began looking forward to our trip to St. Augustine, it became much harder to suppress the song, so it has to come out in a blog post.

I wanna wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow...

Florida, I love you.

I feel a sense of belonging and familiarity in the Sunshine State that makes me feel alive, more fully myself. For one who has lived in five very different states, that means something. For most of my life I have felt a distinct sense of NOT belonging, being an outsider. In elementary school and junior high, I was one of a very few people in the entire school who was not bilingual. That combined with being a head taller and five shades lighter than everyone else made for difficult assimilation in Miami. Plus, I was socially awkward and a super dork.

In high school and college I felt like a foreigner in Pennsylvania. The small town in which I lived did not mean much to me. While I developed friendships in the area and of course met my husband there, Pennsylvania doesn't feel like home. It lacks that elusive sense of belonging, familiarity, affection, and comfort. Is it pretty? Yes. Do I love seeing my family there and being connected to people? Absolutely. Is it nice to go back and see familiar faces? Sure. But is it home for me? Meh.

Then there was a short stint in Alabama and now Missouri. I like all those places and have fond, fond memories of all of them. Each place I have lived has left an indelible mark on me and can boast eccentricities that give it a special place in my heart.

Pennsylvania has our families.

Mississippi is where I was born.

Alabama has my heritage.

Missouri is where we began our family.

But Florida. There is something about Florida that is so wonderful to me. It's not the beaches or the glitz and glam. It's the rough edges, the wildness, the less-than-lovely aspects of the state that I find so lovable. To me, Florida is not palm trees; it's mangroves and pine trees. It's the Southern tint to the state that one only sees upon turning one's back to the beach and walking inland. It's orange groves and Sonny's barbecue. Cuban crackers in the grocery store. These things and countless others make Florida so special to me.

Perhaps it's just nostalgia, an aching to go back to a time and place to which I cannot return. The strange thing is that I don't particularly want to live in Florida again. Despite my love for the Sunshine State, I love four seasons still more. I just love to visit and let it infiltrate my soul, filling me with reminders of my past and reassuring me that Florida is indeed a place where I belong.

We do not make it back to Florida nearly as often as I would like, but when we do, it's so comforting. In a time of life where so much seems uncertain, Florida brought a sense of peace. No matter how my life situation might change, being a Floridian will always be part of who I am.

October 15, 2010

Since I am Always Looking for New Ways to Control My World...

Lindon acted shocked this week when he heard me describe myself as "uptight."

"I knew you were uptight," he explained. "But I've never heard you say it. I didn't know you realized it."

Nice vote of confidence there, sweetie. Thanks.

The reality is I am pretty much a spazmo.* Try as I might to pretend and fancy I am easy going and free spirited, my neuroses always expose me as a fraud. I like things to be predictable, calm, orderly, and safe. I feel happy and secure when things are this way...until I realize that I have squished my husband and friends into Flat Stanleys that I can cart around in my purse and produce for photos whenever I choose.  

So one of the ways I have learned to cope with my ridiculous need for order, stability, and predictability (which, by the way, one does not come by in bucket-fulls when looking for jobs all over the country) is by creating lists. Lists ease my anxiety and clear my mind. They allow me to sleep at night and not spend time lying awake worrying about remembering all the things I want to get done on my days off. They help me keep track of important things.  In short, I love lists. At work I always have at least two lists running, and they keep me from forgetting something really, REALLY important. But it wasn't until recently that I began making lists of things outside the office (other than grocery lists, of which I have long been a fan). Now I have a book of lists, one where I can keep all of my running lists and admire them and occasionally cross things off of them!

And I also have a new way of indulging my new passion:

Of course, I will add this link to my list of favorite blogs and websites on the right. I am one happy spazmo.

*Has anyone else ever heard the word "spazmo"? I don't know if it's a real word or one my family made up years ago. Your input would be helpful.

October 13, 2010

Today was the Day

The weather was saucy this morning. As Ingrid Michaelson might say, "The sky looks pissed; the wind talks back."

The slate gray clouds made the fiery colors of the leaves really pop. When a gust of wind sent a flock of yellow leaves skittering across the street, something in my leapt. I longed to be outside, to walk the dog or ride my bike on such a day as today. The longing to be doing something other than commuting to work did not surprise me. What surprised me was the intensity of my longing to be part of that fall scene, to let the wind whip my hair and to kick up a gaggle of crunchy leaves. To wrap a scarf around my neck or actually wear a coat.

It was in that moment that my grieving the end of summer began to subside. It still pains me to think that the weather will only get colder. But I am warming to the idea of fall.

Today was the day when I said, "Fall, I am glad you are here."

September 29, 2010

Can't Sit Still

This week has been a restless one for me for many reasons. My mind is wandering, my legs are jittery, and my heart is anxious. The reasons for said anxiousness are both immediately good and good in a delayed, hopeful way.

First, I got a bike Monday night! This has been a pipe dream for months, as I have begun to feel that I would benefit from cycling for exercise and as a way to eventually use my vehicle a bit less. The pragmatic side of me insisted that such an investment really ought to wait until we know more about our future. But thanks to a supportive husband, I squished this sensibility, perused Craigslist religiously, discovered Sheldon Brown, and found a lovely vintage commuter bike. And I also made a Swedish friend in the process. Photos will come soon...of the bike, not the Swede.

As I mentioned before, I hope to one day use the bike for errands. I envision pedaling off to the library and grocery store and then eventually getting a trailer for my mini sidekick. As I told my family, the bike will not need a bell with a little squawker hitched to the back. What larks we will have cycling through quiet neighborhoods, on lovely paths, and around the park! Perhaps I might even attempt a bike commute one day. Frustratingly, since Monday I have not had a chance to really take the bike riding. Life has kept me a little busy lately, which is really a shame because the weather has been unapologetically gorgeous in St. Louis this week. Being cooped up at work on such lovely days always makes me edgy, but now especially so. And it will be over a week before I have a chance to hop on my two-wheeled friend because...

We are going on vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



On Friday, the little Fowler flock is headed to St. Augustine for a week of relaxing and celebrating Lindon's graduation (which was over four months ago, but never mind). One of Lindon's closest friends from seminary lives in St. Augustine, so we will spend lots of time lingering in conversation with Jamie and Julie, exploring St. Augustine parks, crying because we love Florida (OK, that will be me), and introducing Levi to the eastern edge of the continent.

Because we leave Friday, I have rearranged my work schedule a bit to get some work done in advance of the time off, hence my lack of time for cycling. Now that I typically work just three days each week (and only two days in a row), being on a regular person work schedule is hard for me. How did I get so spoiled so quickly? It really makes me feel like a wimp. But next week I will not be anywhere near a legal filing, will not open the mail or pay the bills, and will not have to say, "Good morning, law offices." Until then, however, I feel restless and a little stir crazy.

Another reason for my restlessness is a looming deadline. After a long, long absence from freelancing, I actually am working on a story. It's due this week. Yikes! In reality, the story is pretty much done and is pretty strong writing on my part. I am shaving off words here and there to improve clarity, shoring up my verbs, eliminating unnecessary stuff. It's both exhilarating and terrifying. I love to write, but every time I write I must endure the fear that it won't be good enough, that the editor will tell me I am terrible. It has never happened yet, and in reality I doubt it will ever happen. But it makes me nervous!Once I send my copy away this evening, I will feel better. I think I will celebrate my cleaning my bike.

And finally, but vaguely, we received a "no" from a church this week. OK, it was far more gracious and kind than just "no," but you know what I mean. One less iron in the fire. In my mind, I understand that this church is not saying my husband is not good at ministry, they just do not believe he would be the best fit for what they need. I understand that. But, my husband is awesome and amazing and loves the Lord and is incredibly gifted with people and strong administratively and sweet and likable, and it's hard to not ask WHY?!?!?!

My previous post that touched on this subject was in anticipation of days like today. We have to articulate what we believe on good days in advance of the bad days. My September 20 post is still true today. All the things I believed about God and His goodness then I still believe now. But I am a tad restless, thinking that if I knew the "if" of a job, I could handle waiting for the "when." God is not interested in making such a deal with my unbelief. He wants all or nothing, so I am all in.

And the reality of being all in is that sometimes one must wait. So I wait.

And fidget.

And wait.

"Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart. And wait for the Lord." - Psalm 27:14

September 25, 2010

Clothes Swap

Well, that last post was a little intense, wasn't it? I expect that more child-inspired crisis posts will develop the longer I blog, but it's always good to temper them with something light clothes.

Two weeks ago my friend Courtney invited me to a clothes swap. The general premise was a bunch of women ransacked their own closets, pulled out all the clothing they did not want, and the hosts organized it. Then, said women came and picked through the amazingly organized piles of clothing to take home a few new-to-them treasures. All the leftovers went to a good cause.

The concept sounded good enough, but there were a few things that made it extra awesome. First, far more women donated than could attend. While this was surely disappointing for those who could not be there, for the few of us who could make it, we were delighted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who has just been told by the store owner, "Take anything and everything you want."

Another great part was that most of the women there were mothers like me, and many were current or former seminary wives. As I have learned, having a kid and supporting your husband through graduate school do not always leave lots of money in the budget for shopping trips. What a surprise! And while Lindon is fabulous about encouraging me to enjoy new and new-to-me clothes and I have a few great places for thrifting, I still don't add clothes to my wardrobe that often. Seems like that was a common sentiment at the clothes swap, because no one could stifle the excitement of finding a fabulous pair of pants of a stunning dress. More than once I heard someone say, "Go ahead and take that. It's free, so you have nothing to lose! If you don't like it, just give it away."

This mentality helped me pick up a few pieces that I would never have considered in the a hot pink belt! The skinny belt still had the tags on it, and though it was not a color I typically wear, I decided to go for it. Now that it's in my closet, I love it.

And for me, one of my favorite parts of the entire night was getting to visit with the wonderfully stylish hostesses. Not only were they fun women, but their fashion insight helped me nab a few items that fit me wonderfully. They gave me the thumbs up on a black pencil skirt, denim pencil skirt, and tweed dress. And when one of them tried on a brown cotton dress that did not look quite right on her long waist, the other hostess said, "I bet that would work on Megan's proportions. She has a little shorter waist than you." Turns out, she was right, and that lovely brown dress with the full skirt landed in my take-home haul.

So in all, I took home four dresses, two skirts, a bandana/scarf, and a skinny belt. It was a smashing success, and everyone who I have told about the project since has said, "I would love to go to something like that!" This might be something I do again sometime...soon.

September 20, 2010

High Hopes

Why do we say disappointment is bitter? This is a lame description. It lacks zing. If someone held an open audition for new phrases to describe disappointment, I would submit "burning disappointment." Not burning like a fire, but burning like the chili pepper on the side of the plate at a Chinese restaurant that you should never eat. Yes, this new description is a bit wordy, but it's also more accurate.

My mother-in-law ate this chili once without realizing what it was. As her mouth began to burn, she flagged down the waiter and asked him what it was. His response was an emphatic, "No eat! No eat!" For effect he even added hand gestures. Too late for Karen. As she asked for more water, her niece who was dining with her pointed out that water would only make it worse. The only thing to do is wait for the pain to go away. In the meantime, poor Karen thought she might have to go to the hospital. She did not, and the pain eventually subsided. But she will never, EVER eat a chili from a Chinese restaurant again.

To me, that's how disappointment feels. Having one's hopes dashed sometimes feels unbearable, and there is no remedy for the pain. It's hard to really deal with because there is no one to blame, no tangible reason for the disappointment. You thought life was moving in one direction and realize you were very wrong. You hope events will pan out in a certain way, and they don't. You want very much for some good end to come of a situation, and that does not happen. With no good answers, you must simply wait for the pain to ease. And the experience is so traumatic that it scars; you never, ever want to feel that pain again.

But while some people (like my brother-in-law) build up a tolerance for the heat of even the most scorching chilies,  I don't know anyone who has built up a tolerance for disappointment without becoming hard, cynical.

Facing the burn of disappointment makes me afraid. It scares me to think of hoping again and being disappointed again. After eating one chili, why would you put another in your mouth or even touch it with your fork? So I find myself refusing to hope, not wanting to even risk the remotest possibility of getting burnt.

My two favorite boys
As I watch my son crawl around his playroom and try his hand at standing on his own, my hopes and fears battle each other fiercely. My love for my son prods me to hope for him, to dream big. But the prospect of having those big dreams and big hopes go unfulfilled feels like more than I can bear. I don't want to feel the burn of disappointment, and I have seen others experience it too often.  I am tempted to not let myself imagine all that he could be or do. I trick myself into thinking this is practical and sensible ("One day at a time," as so many people have told me), but the truth is that thinking about the future scares the heck out of me. I start to pray for his life and choices, but then I cut my prayers short, afraid they won't be answered.

And so I refuse to hope for my Levi.

Same thing happens when I think about a job for Lindon. I say that I believe God will provide a position for my husband, but my heart still fears disappointment . I am afraid we will get 99% of the way through the candidating process with a church, only to have the search committee change its mind. It's happened to people before, so I start to worry it will happen to us. Things just won't go smoothly, I tell myself. It can't go smoothly. These wonderful search committees will "take the search in another direction" or "not be at peace about the decision." Not that any decisions have been made yet, mind you. Just worrying about them reneging some time in the future. 

And so I worry and refuse to hope for my family.

Last month one of the men in my office said farewell to his mother. She went home to be with the Lord at age 91.

I never met this incredible woman, but many people have been impacted by her faith and her legacy. In a very roundabout way, I suppose I am among those impacted by her life and legacy. Certainly anyone who ever went here, here, or here has been touched by her life, since her family had a large or small hand in the founding of all these institutions. You can read more about her here.

While leafing through the bulletin from her memorial service, I was struck by a remembrance written by one of her daughters. This daughter recalled once receiving a note from her mother that simply said, "I have high hopes for you, because of Christ. Love, Mother."

This note and its implications have hardly left my mind in the past three weeks. Because if I really believe the Gospel, as I say I do and as Jean Belz did, then it should transform every aspect of my life, including how I hope. If Christ died and was raised again on the third day, and if believing this and trusting in Him for my salvation means I have a restored relationship with God through Christ, and if the God with whom I have a restored relationship is ultimately good, among other things, then why NOT hope? Why NOT dream? God loves me, and He loves my husband, and He loves my son. He has plans for us that do not involve harming us - plans to give us hope.

I believe these things. I really do. Like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, God is not safe, but he's good. As Mr. Beaver said, "He's the King, I tell you."

So now every night after I sing to my Levi, I tell him, "I have high hopes for you, because of Christ." I hold my little one and pray for his life, dreaming big dreams of what he might do and who he might be.

After putting him in his crib I look at his crocheted blanket with lion faces on it and think of the One who is not safe, but who is indeed good. The One who will bring us to a church to serve, who holds our little family in the palm of His hand. The One who will not allow us to suffer the burn of disappointment alone or pointlessly, nor will He ignore our cries and laments.

He is not safe, but He is good.

He's the King, I tell you.

September 15, 2010

New Era

It's Wednesday morning at 10:39, and I am sitting in my sunroom blogging while Levi sleeps.

It's not a holiday, and I am not sick. This is what I do now on Wednesdays. I stay home.

About a month ago I transitioned from full time legal assistant to part time legal assistant. The goal was for me to have more time at home with Levi and to give Lindon a break from being a full-time stay-at-home dad. So I do not go to the office on Wednesdays and Fridays.

One month in, I like this part-time thing (other than the smaller paychecks). Spending more time with Levi has been great, and it's been so fun to have a chance to do the things I had always wanted to do with him, like take him for walks in the stroller and play together. It's also nice to not have to save all my housework for after 7 pm and weekends. Lindon is less stressed, too, since he knows that at least two days each week he can get out of the house without having take bring Levi with him.

This new set up means the days when I do work tend to be more hectic on all fronts. I go in earlier and stay later, leaving a bit less time with Levi, who is usually finished with his dinner and pretty much ready for bed by the time I get home. But it is worth it to have two more days home each week.

We hope this transitional season will be temporary and that soon Lindon will have a full-time ministry job, and I will not HAVE to work. Then I will probably go stir crazy being at home and wonder why I ever thought staying home with my kids was a good idea. But then Lindon will remind me of what a basket case I was while trying to work full time and care for everything.

So for now, this part time thing is pretty good.

And it's time for a nap!

September 13, 2010

One year ago today...

I looked like this:
Yes, it was one year ago today that my dear friends threw me a shower here in St. Louis to celebrate the impending arrival of BF. It's amazing how much changes in one year. Since this photo was snapped I've:

- Become a mom
- Watched Lindon graduate
 - Had my first child baptized by my dad
 - Gained two more nephews
 - Prayed roughly 346,479 prayers for Levi, 37% of which involved asking for him to sleep
 - Laughed a lot.

One of my mom resolutions has been to avoid saying things like, "I can't believe how fast time has gone!" The motivation behind such a resolution is primarily to try enjoying every day (and to avoid the cliche). But a lot has happened since September 13, 2009, and the little monkey Levi that was BF continues to amaze me with his awesomeness. 10 months into it, I definitely like being his mom.

September 8, 2010

More PA Favorites

Long overdue, but oh well.

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures from our time in PA. One of the highlights of the trip was the chance for Levi to meet his great-grandmother, my mom's mother. She is his only surviving great-grandparent, and Levi is her first great-grandchild. 

We took about 50,000 photos of me, my mom, my sister, and the kiddos. It was hard to find the best from those teeny thumbnails in the preview. This one was good enough. And I like Avery's celebratory fist pump.

Grandma and Grandpa with my sweet monkey.

This progression amused me. First, we think about letting go of Dad's hand...

...then, we let go with one hand...

...and then we fall. Repeat, repeat, and repeat.

My parents have this mirror under the plant stand in their foyer, and Levi discovered it about 3 minutes after we arrived. He loved admiring the cute baby who gazed back at him every time he came near the thing. He also drooled on the mirror while attempting to kiss that cute baby. We hope he outgrows this narcissism one day soon.

With my aunt and grandmother. We see them so rarely that it was really fun to get to spend time with them.

September 1, 2010

Mr. Peculiar

Like most almost-10 month olds, Levi is trying his hand at solid foods and finger foods. All of the literature I have read on this subject tells parents to be patient and not worry if a child suddenly refuses to eat a food that was his or her favorite a few days earlier. That's fine. I totally understand if my child wants to eat carrots for a few days and then take a break; if my food selection was as limited as his is right now, I would want a break, too. But what I don't understand is when my child suddenly refuses to eat a food that was his favorite 15 seconds earlier. Here are more peculiar observations about Levi's eating.

The enduring favorite at the table seems to be oatmeal. Levi loves his oatmeal so much that he is willing to tolerate a host of foods he might otherwise reject if they were not cleverly disguised within the gooey goodness. As such, Levi's oatmeal almost always contains generous portions of mashed green peas and sweet potato chunks, but we have also used it to get him to eat cheese, plums, green beans, whole green peas, carrot, and the occasional Cheerio. Since it must accommodate so many other foods, the oatmeal tends to have a pretty unpleasant consistency, so we have stopped calling it oatmeal and started referring to it as "slop." Lovely, no?

String cheese seems to be the food that elicits the strongest reactions from the little eater. Sometimes he will eat an entire stick in the blink of an eye. Other times he will suck down two or three pieces at lightning speed before deciding he hates the blasted thing and wants no part of it. Same thing with plums.  

He loves yogurt, except when he doesn't. Carrots might or might not be acceptable to him. Same for bread, beans, and pretty much every other food...except goldfish crackers. He LOVES these suckers and cannot get enough of them. When we restrict the number that we allow him to eat, he cries.

Much to our chagrin, Levi seems to love green peas. This is an unpleasant reality for us because green peas smell about the same going is as they do coming out. They're gross.

After heavy hinting and suggesting by my parents, Levi had his first scrambled egg yolk at their house two weeks ago. At the time he seemed to like it. I hate cooked eggs and cannot bring myself to eat them if they maintain even the slightest remnant of their original form. The prospect of cooking an egg for my own progeny is more than I can handle. I have done many unenjoyable things for my son thus far, but I might draw the line at cooking eggs. Unfortunately for me, Levi's father is more than willing to do the deed.


Here is Levi with his post-dinner dazed look and beta-carotene shadow. Even when he's picky, finicky, and just plain fussy at mealtimes, he's still pretty cute!