Friday, July 31, 2009

The Miracle of a Lifetime

During Wednesday night church this summer, different church members have taken turns testifying along the theme of "I Once Was Lost, But Now I'm Found." A few weeks ago, something was said during one of these talks that stuck with me. I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like, "Salvation is the miracle of a moment, but sanctification is the miracle of a lifetime." I loved that. Every loss, every struggle, every joy, every experience--God uses everything to refine us, to set us apart, to guide us closer to his holiness. Even when we thrust our hands into the potter's wheel and reshape his work, he stands by. He is always ready to take over when we realize the futility of our efforts. And sometimes God gives us the gift of some perspective. He enables us to see the positive changes he has made in our hearts. We can see that our characters have been molded and that we are more useful to him now than we were a few years ago. Those moments of perspective give me so much hope for the future because I know that His work is continuing in me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jesus Storybook Bible and Starfall

So I think the most wonderful children's book I've ever come across is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It is a children's collection of Bible stories in which each ends by pointing forward or backward to the coming of Jesus. It is so beautifully and refreshingly told that I frequently tear-up when reading it to the boys (and I'm usually reading during breakfast, which is not really a crying time-of-day)!

Though the language and organization of this book is directed toward children, the author's continual reminders that "it is all about Jesus" minister to the adult reader as well. As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly that the past, present and future all revolve around the time Jesus spent here on earth; even so, I am amazed that a children's book is able to express that so effectively. Everything: life, death, beauty, sorrow, joy, friendship, love...all of this has meaning because of God becoming a man. I am so awed and humbled by this truth!

If you have young children and you love the Lord, I highly recommend that you get this book! I give quite a bit of credit for Caleb's understanding of spiritual ideas to the time we've spent reading these Biblical stories. Amazon link to book: (

And while I'm recommending things, I recently explored the coolest website that we recommended to me by a friend. It's called If you have an interested preschooler (or 3), you could spend about 10 minutes a day getting him or her ready to read (and subsequently teaching reading using the next stage of the site). I think you could use this site with a child as young as 24 months, if the child's attention is held by the screen. Caleb and I are using it to learn phonics since he is older and already recognizes his upper and lower case letters. He's catching on to the phonics very quickly, and loves all of the little animations and examples on the website. Ethan, who of course has to be a part of everything, is also parroting the phonetic sounds of the letter. Thanks, Anastasia, for the recommendation!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Medical Residency

The past two weeks, Marcus has really been slammed at the hospital. He normally doesn't work Saturdays, but he was at work all day this Saturday, and will be again next week. In addition, a series of frustrating events has left him feeling very discouraged at work of late. So I've been mulling over the uniqueness of residency as a work environment, and here's what I've come up with:

(1) Residents endure frequent changes in job description. Radiation oncology residents rotate under different attendings (doctors who have completed residency and are employed at a teaching hospital) for periods of 4 months in length. Each attending specializes in a certain type of cancer. While a resident is working with that attending, he is expected to be an expert on that type of cancer. He will be responsible for planning and implementing treatment plans for patients on a daily basis, so his knowledge during those months must have a breadth and depth that enables him to do that well. The pressure is enormous to make no mistakes in word or deed. And then the rotation changes and the resident must adopt an entirely new area of expertise.

(2) Hand-in-hand with changing job descriptions goes multiple bosses. Expectations vary widely between the dozen or so "attendings", who are all direct superiors of each resident. One attending may spend an extensive amount of time with treatment planning. He wants all of the T's crossed this way and the I's dotted this way, and it is the residents job to carefully observe all of the preferences of this attending and then adjust his own habits accordingly. I remember this process very well from when I was working outside the home: know your boss, find out what he expects, and then do it well. But this process is exacerbated by the fact that a resident doesn't have just one boss. Any request made by any attending is a request made by a "boss", but as is easily imagined, these attendings are not communicating with each other about the volume of tasks that are laid on a particular resident, so there are times when residents are completely swamped with things to do. And sadly, nobody even realizes the extraordinary amount of effort being demanded from the resident.

(3) Another difficulty is the inequity between required qualifications to become a resident and the financial compensation that is provided during the years of residency. After completing eight years of fulltime education (undergrad & med school) and acquiring a license to practice medicine, a resident is paid about $11-$15 per hour (before taxes). Residents are paid a standard amount which is determined in the state in which they work, but the hourly amount varies based on how many hours are worked, usually between 60 and 80 per week. This amount is very low compared to the "hourly rate" of almost all other salaried professions. (One exception is some university professors, who are also underpaid for the education required.) But overall, the pressure, time and education requirements on a resident are not adequately compensated.

(4) Maybe the most difficult aspect of being a medical resident is the general lack of respect and appreciation due to the context of residency. A resident is often treated like someone who is hired from a temp agency. Everyone knows that residents are transient, so the general social deferences that are often afforded a longterm employee are often ignored by medical support staff. In addition, residents recieve regular "360-degree reviews." This means that every nurse, tech, therapist and dosimitrist who works with Marcus will regularly review his performance. So in a weird way, he is sort of subordinate to everyone he interacts with and has to be on his toes at all times. Keep in mind there is no recipricol review process for residents to evaluate the other employees. And there is little recourse for a resident to appeal an inaccurate evaluation (even if it was made by a lazy tech who actually got him confused with another doctor.) And on top of everything, a resident cannot (or at least very, very rarely) "quit" his job. So higher-ups need not be overly concerned about morale, though of course it looks bad for the department when a resident has a mental breakdown, so they do try to minimize those occurances.

All in all, residency takes a psychological toll that few people outside the system are aware of. Unfortunately, many doctors become very disillusioned in the process, and some go on to become active perpetuators of this good-old-boy system.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nanna's Here!

My mom flew in yesterday afternoon and the boys and I picked her up at the airport. The boys were so excited to see her, both before and after she arrived. Ethan hasn't seen Nanna in two months, so I'm not sure that he remembered who I was talking about until she arrived. But once she climbed in the car, the smile on his face was just as big as the one on Caleb's.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, my Mom has "silly" down pat. (I'm convinced that "silly" is the secret of all successful clowns, pediatricians, and other kid-centered professionals.) She hops in the car and immediately starts being silly with the boys. Caleb tells her that he is pretending to be a pig today, so she starts making pig noises and both boys crack up. Her repertoire of ridiculous noises and expressions seems never-ending--she's got one for every occasion.

Mom and I decided when we were talking last night that 15-months seems to be the magic age for Ethan to be able to really play with his 3-year-old brother. During this past month (Ethan is almost 16-months now), their play has really blossomed. They run circles together through the kitchen/dining/living rooms. They wrestle and tickle each other all over the play room. They both hold trains and drive them all over the train track together. They race cars across the play room. The hold animals and the animals "fight" and "talk" to each other. Ethan even talks for his animals by himself when Caleb tells him what to say. They take turns hitting the ball off the "T" with their bats, and kick a soccer ball back and forth to each other. Ethan helps Caleb pick up his toys, and Caleb gets things down for Ethan that Ethan can't reach. Sometimes if I can't understand what Ethan is saying, Caleb will tell me. They think the same things are funny (boy humor), so something unexpected will send them into roils of laughter and they will keep each other going, back and forth. Ethan can even help a little when Caleb is building with blocks and tinker toys. Caleb has learned that if he includes Ethan a little by asking him to "hand me that" or "put that in this hole", Ethan is less likely to turn destructive on the project.

I didn't completely realize how much their interactive play had developed recently until Nanna (who hasn't seen them for 2 months), commented a couple of times on how cute it was to see them playing together. It's so nice to have another pair of adult eyes observing and enjoying my little ones :) Welcome back to Alabama, Nanna!

Quaker oatmeal
Rainier cherries
Turkey deli meat
Wheat crackers
Dried fruit bits
Homemade veggie pizza (had to use up the rest of the ingredients from last week's groceries)

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Need Some Grace

On Saturday night, Marcus and I hosted a party for the residents in Marcus's radiation oncology program. Among the seven families that attended, two others had children, making a total of six preschool children there. Now, up until the party, it had been a rather hectic day. Marcus had been at work writing a paper all day (until about 30 minutes before the party), so I had the kids at home while trying to keep the house clean and cook 4 dishes for the party. It didn't help that Caleb wet his pants (first time in weeks!) in the middle of the freshly-mopped kitchen floor about five minutes before the guests began arriving.

Anyway, Caleb started the evening out on the wrong foot because he felt bad about wetting his pants, and his negative feelings intensified when unfamiliar kids descended onto his playroom and began playing with all of his toys. All kids have different ways of coping when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Some cling, some throw fits, and some get physical. Caleb does all of these things at times, but his preferred method of working out that negative energy is to annoy other kids. It sounds weird, but it is absolutely true. When he is out of sorts, he slyly and effectively pushes the buttons of whoever is available. It's usually his little brother, but if we are in a group setting, anyone will do. If two little girls are playing with some animals, he will watch and wait until one pivotal animal is laid down for a moment, and then he will swoop in, snatch the animal, and immediately relocate to another part of the room where he feigns aloofness while the crying ensues. If an adult observes this exchange and questions him, he quickly justifies his own action by saying "I just picked up that animal and they started crying!" This is a very difficult vice to discipline (which is probably the reason he has developed it), because it is all based in his intention. If I don't see what has happened, I just have to make a call on whether or not I think he was trying to upset someone with his action.

Anyway, back to the party. Caleb was out of sorts, and I watched him three different times successfully execute one his little "I-know-how-to-drive-you-crazy" plans. Each time, I sent him to his room for five minutes and talked to him about being kind to others and making guests in our home feel welcome and happy. Each time, he was verbally repentant and determined to "be kind to e'ryone now". After the third strike, which happened to be the unpardonable sin of drinking some water from his cup and then spitting it at a 5-year-old little girl, he was sent to his room for the duration of the party. There are no toys in his bedroom, only books. After he tired of looking at those, he lay on his bed staring at the ceiling for a long time.

About 45 minutes into his room-bound "sentence", I heard him calling to me, so I went upstairs to talk to him. He looked at me very seriously across the gate in his doorway and said, "Mama, I think I need some grace." Now, I have explained to him before that grace is getting something good that you don't deserve instead of the consequence that you do deserve, but he has never before used the word independently, and certainly not to get out of a punishment. I was very impressed. I talked to him a little more and he very sincerely told me that he had been thinking about how God wants him to be kind and he wanted to go downstairs and be kind to his friends. Who could resist this kind of talk from a 3-year-old! So I extended grace to him and let him go downstairs, where he behaved impeccably for the remaining hour of the party. Now, for the sake of honesty, I do have to admit that when I told Marcus the story, he reminded me that the 5-year-old girl who he had so grossly offended was named Grace, so maybe Caleb had said something about her that I misunderstood. While I see that this is possible, I truly think I heard him correctly. Besides, I do not even think that he knew the little girl's name. Either way, his serious manner and subsequent behavior confirmed to me that he'd been doing some serious thinking, and I think some grace was definitely in order :)

Kix cereal
Deli turkey meat
Party fingerfoods for dinner (at the party)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blueberry Picking

I took the boys blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago. Mostly, I picked and they ate. Since they were eating fast and the blueberry pickings were slim, I couldn't keep up. So we didn't take any blueberries home. Oh well, maybe next time :)

Kix cereal
Fresh blueberries
Garlic chicken pasta salad (leftover)
Deli turkey meat
Baked chicken breasts (only enough for us, so kids had fish sticks)
Whole grain pilaf
Corn on the cob

Friday, July 24, 2009

What Is Peace?

Now that I am blogging so much more, I find myself frequently composing blog entries in my head while driving, or sitting outside with the kids, or during other down times. I thought this one up while driving home from the zoo this past Tuesday morning.

Peace is something that people with my temperament enjoy less of than others. My mind will work overtime to produce a never-ending list of things that need to be worked on, talked about, worried over, or planned. I have more energy sleep-deprived than most well-rested people do. Though I may never find out, I'm pretty sure I would have been successful in the business world because I truly love to produce, to accomplish, to complete, etc. All that to say, a peaceful mind and spirit is something that has frequently eluded me. Nevertheless, I have persistently prayed for more peace over many years, and I'm grateful to realize that God has slowly been guiding me along the path to peace.

So now I will answer my own question with some images from my life. To me, peace is waking in the middle of the night and knowing that my husband and children are all sleeping peacefully and safely under the same roof. Peace is feeling a child moving inside my body and knowing that I will never nurture that child more perfectly than I am at that moment. Peace is coming out on the other side of sorrow, and realizing that sorrow will happen again, but that it will not defeat me. Peace is that moment of finally meaning "Not my will, Lord, but Your will." Peace is walking in the woods and feeling that God is so close that all I need do is stretch out a hand and He will fold it into his hand and walk alongside me. Peace is realizing that no matter the differences, the frustrations, the misunderstandings, the selfishness, the four of us are a family and we will not let anything erode our love and acceptance of each other. Most of all, peace is knowing with certainty that God loves me even more than I love my children, and that he will be with me through whatever may come. No matter what atrocities are committed in the world, no matter the personal pain and losses that I will suffer in my life, if I place my hand in the Lord's, He will not allow anything to destroy me. That is the source of my peace.

Quaker oatmeal
Pretzel goldfish
White grapes
Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
Fresh peach slices
Garlic chicken pasta salad (
Strawberry sundaes from McDonald's

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dance City

Almost every day, either just before or just after dinner, Marcus and the boys head up to Marc's office (which doubles as a guest room) and do their music thing. Marcus has an iTunes playlist that is titled "Party", and he just presses play and the boys go to town. The boys dance and bounce on the guest bed while Marcus cheers them on. About once a week, I'll join them (usually I'm preparing dinner or doing the dishes), and it looks like crazy town up there. Marcus and I, not gifted dancers to begin with, but add to that the total abandon that a parent reaches when "performing" for his or her children, and let's just say I wouldn't want to see it on video tape. But the boys LOVE IT! They love seeing us laughing and moving to the beat, and they do their best to imitate every move. It's hilarious to watch Ethan's face as he stares intently at whatever one of us is doing with our arms and then slowly accomplishes the same thing with his. He gets SO excited when he can do it! Anytime Ethan hears music of any kind, including at church, he immediately takes on his dance "stance" and starts doing his moves. Caleb is rarely willing to break it down in public, but at home he really gets into it. He is coordinated enough now to have his arms and legs going at the same time, but when he really gets going, it's his expression that cracks us up: it's an odd mix of self-consciousness, concentration and pride.

For posterity, here is a list of their favorite dance and jump-on-the-bed songs: Y.M.C.A. (Village People), Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice), What is Love (Haddaway), See You Again (Miley Cyrus), William Tell Overture (Rossini), Baby Got Book (Don Smith)

Corn flakes and milk
Fresh blueberries
Mixed dried fruit
Peanut butter on whole wheat crackers
Rainier cherries
Pizza w/ spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives & mozzarella on a homemade wheat crust (again)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping a Budget

Marcus and I have used a money-managing software for the past five years, and it has really been the secret of our success at keeping a budget . It makes budgeting and tracking finances so easy, and does almost all of our record-keeping for us. Every few days, I click one button and download every transaction that has transpired (checks, debit card, deposits, etc.). Then I spend five minutes assigning each item to a budget category using a simple drop-down menu. The most significant aspect of using this type of software with a budget is that NOT ONE DOLLAR is spent outside of the budget. Since every dollar that comes in or out of our accounts is automatically recorded, there is no possibility of overlooked or out-of-budget spending. The first couple of years we were married, we set up a budget and kept track of it loosely, but wondered why we were still spending significantly more than what our budget allowed for. One reason is that there were so many small purchases that didn't easily fit into any budget category, and therefore they don't get included anywhere. These little things can really add up, and soon you find yourself overbudget. (Dave Ramsey's envelope method is another way to avoid this, but we think that it is way too much work, so we prefer our computer program.)

We (I) spend a lot of time bargain shopping for every purchase, using coupons and internet deals, waiting for necessities to go on sale, and simply not buying many things. By watching every dollar like this, we have always lived on a household net income of less than $35,000 (and some years much less than that), without incurring any debt except medical school loans. Marcus and I agree that the most difficult thing about staying committed to our budget is the occasional skepticism of friends and family when we choose not to do something because of the cost. Our first question is not, "Is this activity/trip/purchase worth X amount?" Our first question is "Do we have enough money in the budget for this?" We have passed up very good deals on things just because there was no way we could work it out within the money that have to spend.

I want to end with this: We live very well and neither us nor the kids are wanting for anything. We have a beautiful house, an abundance of food and clothing, a room full of toys, and plenty of extras to share. We are also extremely aware of the spiritual blessings that come from limiting the fulfillment of our desires. We regularly thank God for these years of non-negotiable self-discipline prior to the years of plenty that may come when Marcus's residency is complete.

Golden Grahams & Corn Flakes
Dried fruit bits
Fish sticks
Rice pilaf
Whole grain Fig Newtons
Fresh peaches
Pizza w/ spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives & mozzarella on a homemade wheat crust
A few bites of hot dog (at a baseball game)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Eventful Lunch Date

For the past couple of weeks, Marcus has been working at a satellite cancer clinic that is just 3 miles down the road from our house. Last Friday, I took the kids up to the clinic to meet Marcus for lunch. I picked up McDonald's because the morning had been hectic and I hadn't had time to pack a lunch for the four of us. We had just settled down in the conference room and started eating our food, when Ethan, who was climbing up and down off a 1-foot ledge behind Marcus's chair, let out a scream. Since Marcus and I were looking at each other and talking, neither of us saw the point of impact. Marcus stood up, scooped Ethan up, and held him with Ethan's back against Marcus's chest (Ethan facing out). I blurted out, "He's bleeding!" Marcus said "Where?" Then Marcus saw the blood pouring out of Ethan's mouth, so he cupped his hands to protect the carpet of the conference room. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Marcus's cupped hands quickly filled with blood and the blood was overflowing onto the floor. I grabbed napkins and then a burp-rag from the diaper rag to try to staunch the flow from Ethan's mouth, but he was too writhy and upset for us to figure out where in his mouth to put pressure, so we just kept soaking up the blood. At one point, his mouth filled up with so much blood that he choked on it and it started coming out his nose as well. It bled for a good 10 minutes. When it finally stopped, we did our best to clean the blood from the carpeted floor and from Marcus's white dress shirt and tie, while Caleb contentedly finished off the ice cream sundae that the rest of us had no appetite for.

Ethan wouldn't let us get a good look under his upper lip until the next day. After Marcus examined it, we understood why there had been so much blood. It looks like the impact tore the frenulum of his upper lip, and then some. There was a raw-looking indentation that was large enough that we were immediately concerned that perhaps we had made the wrong call and he should have had stitches. Marcus called his friend who is a pediatrician, and he reassured us that very rarely are stitches done in that area because it heals quickly (due to the increased blood supply) and because there are no cosmetic concerns for an injury inside the mouth.

It's been 3 days now, and his swollen upper lip looks tremendously better. Sorry, no pictures this time. I did have my diaper bag camera, but it was all just too hectic to get it out this time.

Blueberry pancakes (made with wheat flour & fresh blueberries)
Turkey deli meat
Whole wheat crackers
Rainier cherries (fresh)
Homemade lasagna
Green beans sauteed in olive oil

Monday, July 20, 2009


I love Mondays. For me and the boys, Monday is the most relaxed day of the week. I deliberately keep Mondays free of appointments and other plans. The boys are always a little tired and ready to chill after the sleep-deprivation and extra activity of the weekend. We rarely leave the house on Mondays (except for grocery shopping). I usually wear sweats and a T-shirt all day and make-up is definitely optional. We play with toys here at home and enjoy time outside. If the weather is nice, we go for a walk in our neighborhood. I don't have any big household chores planned on Mondays either, because I want to be especially involved with the boys' play and bless them with plenty of undivided attention. Our weekends are usually so full of activity that all three of us really need this unhurried, prolongued connection time.

As I mentioned before, Monday morning is grocery time. I like to go first thing so that there is hardly anyone else in the store. I LOVE cleaning out the fridge and refilling it with fresh fruits, veggies, and whatever meat and pantry items were on sale this week. Caleb helps me put things in the pantry, and he gets as much satisfaction as I do in arranging the new stuff into the existing rows and groups. I always feel so full of gratitude to our Lord when I bring a load of groceries home, and usually say a brief prayer aloud thanking Him for the blessing of another week of healthy, delicious food. Caleb also likes to open the fridge and gaze at all the new food; the neatest part is that he, too, is learning to verbalize his thanks to God for the things that his eyes appreciate.

On a side note, since so much of my time is spent planning, shopping for, preparing and cleaning up our meals, and since this is our family journal, I think I'm going to start including what we ate the previous day in each post. If someone were to ask me, I would say that we eat pretty healthy, but keeping a daily record for a while will tell me for sure. It's also just sort of a cool thing for me to remember...what foods the kids were eating, what I cook frequently, etc. (I'll skip Sundays because we often eat out for lunch and have a potluck dinner with our church small group.)

Golden Grahams
Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
(all-natural peanut butter & all-fruit jelly)
Chicken salad sandwiches (baked chicken, mayo, relish, salt, pepper)
Fresh okra sauteed in olive oil

Friday, July 17, 2009

It All Belongs to God

About six months ago, I had to amp up the instruction about sharing with Caleb and Ethan. I started responding to every "That's mine!" with, "Caleb, it is not yours. Everything we have belongs to God, and he is letting us use it for a time." I went on to explain at different times that God disciplines Mommy when she is selfish and sometimes he takes things away from her so that she can remember who they really belong to, and that it is Mommy's job to discipline her children in the same way, for the same reason. After several of these explanations, Caleb really began to internalize the fact that he can't claim exclusive ownership of anything. When an occasional "That's mine!" is blurted out, I ask Caleb if he needs me to remind him that the item in question belongs to God and not to him. He almost always says "No" and adjusts his stance, though occasionally he digs in his heels and loses the toy. The funny part is that he has taken this little lesson and spread it among all of his friends. On more than one occasion I have heard him shouting to a group of friends (we're working on gentler tones) "That's NOT yours! Everything belongs to GOD!!"

Like many of the simple lessons that I take time to carefully explain to Caleb, I have been particularly convicted by this one. I find myself much quicker to share the best of what I have, and with a greater cheerfulness, now that I am holding the truth that "it all belongs to God" close to my heart.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grilling Out

Marcus and I bought our first grill from Craig's List the day before Memorial Day and grilled out at our party the next day. It looked new (the previous owners said it had been used once) and was only half the retail price because it was used. We've now used it to grill hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak and steak/veggie kabobs, and are well on our way to becoming a grill-loving family. (To be completely honest, the first few times it was really different friends using our grill while we watched and learned). I gave Marcus a set of grilling tools for Father's Day, and I think its hilarious that he cleans them meticulously and carefully puts them away every time he uses them. If only I could get him to care so much about his clothes... :)

Our deck is really ideal for meals outside, and in the fall and spring, we eat outside very regularly. Thankfully, this summer has also been very mild, so we are continuing to eat outside on the cooler evenings. This past Friday we had friends over and grilled steak kabobs together. Its nice that, on the deck, we can let the kids get up and play when they are done and we can finish our meal without tending to them. And the best part about eating outside is that bits of food can be dropped all over the place and the birds and chipmunks will report early the next morning for clean-up duty :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

100th Post

Well this is my 100th post on this blog. I hope I'll get to Post #200 in fewer than the 3 years it took me to get to Post #100, especially since I'm blogging 5-6 days a week right now. In honor of the occasion, I think I will send you all back to something I posted almost two years ago entitled "My Man": Enjoy :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Update

It's been slightly more than a month since we planted our garden. (See original post for a "before" picture: I had to replant a few of the green bean plants because a few seeds didn't germinate, and we may have to replant one of the broccoli plants since it seems to be wilting away, but other than that everything is doing well. Below is a picture of our first bell pepper, which is still only about half of its full size. Several other baby ones are growing, and the first strawberry bloom appeared this morning. All ten green bean plants are growing strong, the okra plant looks great (no blooms yet), the carrot tops look good, and all nine spinach plants are growing, though 1-2 may end up needing replanted. The only thing I have harvested already are leaves from the herb plants, but in another month I'm sure I'll have a list of fruits/veggies we have eaten straight from the garden!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Moss Rock Preserve

We are so fortunate here in Birmingham to have a lot of different ways to enjoy the great outdoors. One of our favorites is Moss Rock Preserve (, a 250-acre nature preserve that is less than 10 minutes from our house. We can park and within a few feet of our car, be on a level hiking trail that even 15-month-old Ethan can handle without being carried. We've been here several times, and haven't even explored half of what is available. What we have seen includes two bridges, a cluster of small caves, a waterfall, and a wide variety of plant life. Both boys love being outside, and Caleb labels himself "Hiking Boy" and takes his role as hike leader very seriously. He looks for snakes and warns us about falling into the stream to the side of the trail. He also loves running over the bridges and pretending there is a troll underneath (from The Three Billy Goats Gruff). Marcus and I just love being outside when it is in the 70's (like it was this morning). After hiking on Saturday morning, the four of us stopped at Toys R Us to return something. Marcus wanted to walk the aisles for a little while, so we did. The contrast between the over-stimulating walls of plastic and paint in Toys R Us and the peaceful conglomerate of natural greens and browns in the woods reinforced in me how important it is to be outside as a family as much as possible. The toy store feeds the lust for more, while nature reminds us that we don't really even need all the stuff that we have.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 4th

A little belated, I know, but a friend gave me some pictures of Ethan from July 4th that are too good not to post. (By the way, these friends have the exact same SLR camera that we do, and their pictures are WAY better than ours, so I am determined to learn some more photography skills and push this Nikon D-80 to its potential!) On the 4th, we spent the day at our friends' place, grilling out and hanging in the back yard. They have triplets who are almost 3, and they pulled out all of their water and yard toys to create a toddler theme park in the huge back yard. We all played outside all day and everyone had a great time. The triplets did give their Daddy the gift of three consecutive poopy swim diapers (, but other than that, the day went off without a hitch. That evening, we went to a July 4th party hosted by another church family and enjoyed more food and fellowship. Everyone was beat by the end of the day, and none of us stayed up late enough for fireworks.

Me with my very good friend, Quenta (a.k.a the triplets' Mommy)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Turning Away

A recent conversation with a friend about the role of "regret" or "sorrow" for sins has spurred me to review some Scriptures that mention repentance. As best as I can understand, repentance begins with a realization that one has commited sins against God, and is primarily a "turning away" from the sins and a change in future choices (Acts 26:20). Sorrow can be the catalyst for this realization (I Corinthians 7:8-10). In addition, God plays a unique role in this process (Acts 5:31), so a cognitive understanding of one's own sinfulness apart from divine conviction will not lead one to repentance. I've known people who acknowledge their need for God, but remain planted in their self-centered life. I don't fully comprehend this dance between the Lord's role and a person's own will in the area of repentance (or any other area), but I believe they are both critically involved.

Here's a few of the passages I found when reviewing this (including the 3 cited above). Look them over yourself...I'd love to hear other thoughts.

I Kings 8:46-48
"When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name."

I Corinthians 7:8-10
"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

Acts 5:31
"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel."

Acts 26:20
"First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Jeremiah 8:6
"I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle."

Ezekiel 14:6
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!

Mark 1:15
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Luke 15:10
"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Luke 17:3-4
"So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

McWane and the Zoo

This post is a photo tribute to our two favorite places to go here in Birmingham. Shortly after we first moved in last summer, Mimi (Marcus's Mom) came to town and signed us up for a one-year membership to the McWane Science Center. We have used that membership so much! (especially during the winter and in the heat of summer) Half of the top floor of McWane is called the Itty Bitty Magic City, and it contains 30 or more stations geared toward toddlers and preschoolers: a wooden block center, a mini-market complete with cash registers, train tables, legos, a ball maze, and a mini-golf course are just a few of our favorites. And that is just half of the top floor! There are three other floors full of stuff to do as well! Two other favorites worth mentioning at McWane are the basement water world full of fresh and salt water creatures and the dinosaur area, complete with a bone excavation pit. I would have thought that during all of our visits, we would have explored every nook and cranny of its four stories, but last time we found yet another area that was new to us! McWane is a place that our boys will not tire of for many years.

The B'ham Zoo is our other favorite place to go. With its primate house, African trail, rhino encounter, sea lion show, splash zone, petting zoo and so much more, we've whiled away many hours there. It is especially fun in the spring and fall because of the lovely, mild weather. Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Baby Einstein

Ethan got his MMR vaccination at his 15-month well visit, so he was sore and cranky when he got up from his afternoon nap. Now, my darling little Ethan has no patience for anything, and unexplainable pain in his leg is no exception, particularly since it is inhibiting his first love: motion. So I decided that today would be a first for him, and I put him down in front of a Baby Einstein video. If there is a screen in motion somewhere, Caleb's eyes will find it, so he naturally plopped down beside Ethan to join in the viewing. The hilarious part of all this is their drastically different TV viewing styles. Ethan has not stopped talking since I pressed play...he wants to know the name of every animal and object the goes across the screen, so he shouts"Dat! Dat!" until somebody labels it for him. If he already knows the name, then he proclaims it loudly several times before the next item comes into view. "Dog! Dog! Dog!" At first, Caleb gave him a few sideways glances that seemed to say "What is wrong with you, dude?", but then he just tuned him out. Ethan doesn't like being tuned out, so he just got louder and even swatted Caleb a time or two to get his attention. Finally, Caleb started filling in the names of everything in response to Ethan's "Dat!" and now they are harmoniously (and loudly) watching Baby Einstein together. It is so cute to see their personalities contrasting, then clashing and then complementing each other!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Deep Dark Hole

This morning ("morning" used loosely) around 2:30 AM, Caleb crawled into our bed whimpering. We tucked him in between us and all went back to sleep. Then around 5:30 AM, he started whimpering again. He kept asking to talk to Daddy, to which I replied, "Daddy is really tired. Tell Mommy what you need." He wouldn't give up, so finally Marcus mumbled, "What's up, Caleb?" Caleb said indignantly, "Daddy, I don't want you to put me in a deep dark hole!" Marcus perked up a bit and began to reassure Caleb that he would never put him in a deep dark hole, and even went into detail about how he would do anything to pull him out of a deep dark hole if he ever got stuck in one. They went on talking and there was some mention of snakes in the hole and fighting them with swords and such. When it seemed Caleb was convinced that it was just a dream and that Daddy had nothing to do with putting him in a hole, I took Caleb downstairs so Marcus could get another 30 minutes of sleep.

A few minutes later, Caleb and I heard Ethan in the baby monitor. Immediately Caleb said, "I need to tell Ethan about my bad dream." Now he has never before felt an urgent need to tell 1-year-old Ethan anything, so I was intrigued to see how this would unfold. I brought Ethan downstairs and told Caleb he could talk to Ethan while I changed Ethan's diaper. Caleb said, "No thank you, I'll wait until he can listen to me." (I assume he meant with undivided attention.) After the diaper change, I sat Ethan down and silently prayed that he would give his brother a moment of attention for this. To my surprise and delight, Ethan must have caught the urgency in Caleb's voice and manner, because he sat there and stared intently at Caleb's face while Caleb relayed the entire story, complete with snakes and swords. Ethan even interjected appropriate affirming sounds like "oh" and "dah" whenever Caleb paused. I would do anything to have it on video tape! Caleb was so serious, like he was telling Ethan the meaning of life, and Ethan was soaking in every word. When Caleb finally stopped talking, Ethan started to get up, but Caleb stopped him with, "Ethan, I need to tell you one more thing." Ethan sat right back down and waited and Caleb said "Daddy didn't put me in that was just a dream." I'm glad he cleared that point up :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Double Date

Last week, Marcus's sister, Wendi, was in town, and she gave us the wonderful gift of babysitting so we could go on a double date with some good friends. It was so nice to go out and eat a leisurely dinner with great company and no feeling of being rushed to get back home. We even went over to our friends' place after dinner to continue hanging out since we knew that Wendi didn't have to wait up for us (since she was staying with us). I don't think that we've had such a fun evening or felt so free and relaxed since before we became parents.

Anyway, after that night, I realized for the first time how stifled our social lives have been by the medical track. Up until this past 12 months (i.e., the previous five years of our marriage), Marcus has had a tight and erratic schedule that made social plans and even date nights very difficult, if not impossible to plan. From the incessant tests and round-the-clock studying of medical school to constantly changing rotations, externships and then the internship year of residency (the toughest year of all), Marc's profession left little time and energy for anything else. He rarely knew when he would be off work until about 30 minutes before he got home (and it could end up being 7:00 or midnight), and some rotations he had to spend every fourth night at the hospital. He usually only got one day off out of seven, and of course most of that day was eaten up by yard work and other necessities, not to mention more studying. I wasn't fully aware of the toll all of this took while we were in the midst of it, but as I revel in all of the friendships and family fun and church involvement and everything we have been so enjoying this year, I marvel at how different things are for us now.

I know this may seem a bit of a slanted picture. It's not that I don't remember having any fun during medical school. I had fun on my own with friends, and then in mommy groups after Caleb was born, but family fun and dates with Marcus were definitely not a common occurance. I guess it is like anything can't appreciate something as fully until you've gone a while without it. And can I ever appreciate it now!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sleep Eating

I don't if it was the chewing or the swallowing, but something knocked Ethan right out mid-bite in the middle of a loud cafeteria. The funny part is that I took the french fry out of his mouth after the picture, and when he woke up fifteen minutes later, he was mad that it wasn't there!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Break

Since I posted the details about my homeschooling routine in May, I feel like I should also let you all know that we have not maintained our schedule at all this summer. I decided in early June to take all of June & July off of our routine, partly due to VBS and vacation, but mostly just because both I and the kids needed a break. Since June 1st, we have been going on play dates and/or outings every morning and then just playing outside after naps. We go to the zoo and the science center every week, and sometimes twice a week. We also go to friend's houses and have friends over here. Both kids are loving all this extra social time, as am I (of course).

I'm really enjoying this change of pace, though I can see that the lack of structure is causing the boys to annoy each other more quickly when we are at home, and I'm regularly frustrated by the fact that "free play" for boys is more often destructive than not. All in all though, I think it is good for them to entertain themselves a little more and to work out some conflict with minimal instruction/interference. Like everything else in life, all things in moderation is the best way to go, and I have no doubt I will dive back into homeschooling with new energy and ideas as soon as August rolls around.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Florida Trip

On Sunday night, we arrived home from our 9-day trip to Florida to visit family and friends. We spent the first half of the week visiting the Wagner side of the family in Melbourne (and attending sister Wendi's graduation from PA school), and then the second half in Orlando vacationing with three other families.

This same group of families (originally friends from Campus Church in Gainesville) have been taking an annual vacation together for five years now. When we started out, there were three toddlers in the group. Now, the kids actually outnumber the adults! This time there were ten children (ages 1-6) and eight adults. To accommodate our crowd, we rented a gorgeous 6-bedroom/4 bath vacation house in a resort (we got a good deal on it). And despite the increasingly challenging ratios, we had a great time together. We enjoyed hours of swimming, watching the kids play together more creatively than every before, and of course lots of late-night visiting. Understandably, we were all exhausted after the fourth night, and ready to head back to our own homes.

Due to some difficulty in nailing down and coordinating plans, we ended up staying the night in four different places for the first four nights of our trip. All that loading and unloading of the car is the main reason why I forgot to take any pictures while we were in Melbourne...the camera just didn't get carried in most of the time. The highlight of our time with the Wagner's was meeting our newest little niece, Madelyn Belle McGough, Traci's firstborn. She was a little over a month old when we were there, and I was especially excited to be able to go with Traci for little Maddie's newborn pictures. We also enjoyed exploring the new addition to the Melbourne Zoo, a really amazing little lagoon and play area that impressed all four of us and delighted the kids. Another highlight for Marcus and Caleb was going to Disney with Uncle Mike and Cousin Chase for a day. They played hard all day (got back to the house after midnight) and the next day, Caleb slept in past 7 am for the first time in his entire life. (Unfortunately for me, Ethan was up at 5:20, so Caleb sleeping in didn't help me very much.)

All in all, our second trip to Florida this year was less challenging than the one we took in January, but I think I speak for all of us that we are very happy to be back home and in our own beds for a while.