Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Woman (by Marcus)

In light of it being Rachel’s 30th B-Day today, I wanted to take the opportunity to be a guest blogger and express why I love this woman so much.

1. Father’s eyes. If any of you out there know the song “Father’s Eyes” by Amy Grant, then you know the woman Rachel is. Where as I have to work up the energy, she gets excited helping and leading others in God’s work. She is compassionate, always taking time to call or prepare meals for individuals or families facing a stressful event in life. She will not hesitate to let someone cry on her shoulder, and knows just what words to say. And she is humble, never wanting to claim credit for her deeds but always hoping that her actions simply reflect God’s love for others.

2. Wonderful mother. Rachel is everything I ever desired in a mother, and more. She was a gifted student and National Merit Scholar, but choose to take the hard road of being a stay-at-home mother. I have absolutely no doubt she could have been brilliant at any profession she put her mind to, but she shares my belief that there’s nothing more valuable in life than time spent with your children. She gracefully maneuvers the hardships in child-rearing making the entire experience look easy (and having spent a weekend or two on my own taking care of Ethan and Caleb I know it is no easy task). She is always organizing educational schedules, optimizing playdates and special outings, and making the best out of the unexpected. She loves my children dearly and would give her life for them without hesitation. I am a very lucky man to have such a caring wife.

3. Cooking. Yeah, so I’m a guy and I like to eat. No surprise. And the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” fits me perfectly. While my mom made many efforts to cook for me and my siblings when we were younger, I never truly appreciated a home-cooked meal until Rachel came around. I still remember the first plate she made me as I packed to leave for Harding University for the summer (home made biscuits with mashed potato and seasoned chicken). The menu has certainly grown since that time (my favorite now is her lasagna or home-made pizza) and I delight in every little (or usually big) bite.

3. Virtuous wife. Yep, I’m talking about Proverbs 31. If there was ever a woman who knew how to stay busy caring for her home and family, it’s Rachel. Unlike myself who will always choose to sit and relax, Rachel is always on the go. Balancing the checkbook and paying bills, cleaning the house, washing laundry…..okay, those tasks can be described briefly but entail hours and hours of weekly toil. And she does it without complaining but rather with a cheerful heart. The extra effort she makes in her work is an excellent example of worshiping God though seemingly meaningless daily tasks. Her example often convicts me of the laziness I’m prone to and both inspires me to get off my rear end and makes me appreciate what a lucky man I am (wow, I’m saying that a lot aren’t I).

4. Laugh. Rachel has a laugh that is pure and sincere and makes happiness bubble up in me where I thought there was none. Her laugh fills up a room and is unique enough to help her friends find her on a train (she’ll have to tell you the story sometime). She’ll tell you she’s embarrassed of how loud it is, but I only wish my laugh could be so inviting. I see her laugh as a simple expression of the sweet girl that resides inside her…

5. Sweet, innocent girl. One of the biggest things that has always attracted me to Rachel is the pureness and innocence of her heart. Her parents did a great job sheltering her from the harsh world and all its vulgarities. Her heart is a representation of how things should be, how the world would be if not corrupted by sin. Sadly I’ve not always been her heart’s greatest protector, but I do my best now because seeing her gives me hope for how things will be when Jesus returns.

So now hopefully some of you have a notion of why I love my wife. She is a wonderful woman and I am blessed to be married to her. She makes me a better man. She is my best friend and I look forward to spending the next 30+ years walking by her side.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Cards

This is the first Christmas season that Caleb has really started to understand the "getting" part of Christmas. He looks through the toy magazines that come in the mail, he answers people when they ask him what he wants for Christmas, and he checks his stocking every day to see if anything is in it. To counteract all this "give me" focused energy, I ask him frequently what he would like to give other people for Christmas, particularly his friends. During one trip to Toys-R-Us, my plan sort of backfired, and he was very disappointed (complete with indignant tears) that I wouldn't buy all of the toys he picked out for his friends. After listening to me tell this story, a friend suggested that I cut out pictures of toys and help Caleb make Christmas cards for his friends. I thought that was a fantastic idea, so that is exactly what we did. Last night, Caleb and I went through a toy magazine and cut out pictures of everything he wanted to give to each one of his friends. Then I wrote "Merry Christmas, _______!" on the front of a vertically-folded piece of construction paper. Then we glued 2 or 3 pictures of toys inside each card and wrote a little note that said "If I could buy you a Christmas present, I would buy these for you!" The cards were completed with Caleb's signature (I helped him a little) and decorative Christmas stickers. Caleb is very proud of his little stack of cards and can't wait to hand them out to friends!

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Hubby the Hero

So we had a little drama during the children's play practice at church on Wednesday night. A little girl named Chloe tripped and busted her forehead open, revealing a frightening amount of her skull. One of the teachers took her to the ladies room to try to stop the blood, but both teacher and child were very shaky. Marcus heard the initial shrieks of the girls' friends, and saw the blood trail to the bathroom, so he ventured into the ladies room to offer some help. He took frightened little Chloe from the teacher, checked out the damage, and then applied firm pressure for a long time, until the bleeding slowed/stopped. Marcus said Chloe was wimpering, but not really crying, so he asked her if she was hurting or mostly scared. "Mostly scared," she said. Chloe's mother joined the scene shortly, and phone calls were made to her Dad about which ER to go to, etc. Like most drama, it was over quickly and left lots of shaky mommies in it's wake.

I found out about the whole thing as I was taking my friend's baby from the ladies' class to the nursery. I ran into Kelly, the teacher who was initially doing Chloe's first aid. She was very flustered and blurted out to me "Rachel, your husband is a hero!" She realized from my confused look that I had no idea what had happened, so she quickly filled me in. I was very proud to be married to the guy who kept his cool and knew exactly what to do in the sight of so much blood. I am definitely NOT that person, so I am grateful to be married to someone who is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Laundry That Never Ends

So before the cooler weather descended a couple of months ago, I was able to do three or four loads of laundry every Friday morning, and that was it. Somehow, the cooler weather has not just doubled, but TRIPLED the laundry I do every week. I'm doing 5-6 loads on laundry day now, and usually 2-3 other loads on other days of the week. I know the kids (and us) are wearing more clothes every day, but I have never noticed in previous years such a drastic difference between summer and winter laundry. I'm sure part of it is probably what a messy eater Ethan is...it seems like even with a bib I have to change his outfit once or twice a day. Whatever the reason, I am really getting burnt-out on carrying laundry baskets up and down stairs, as well as folding and putting away the same clothes multiple times each week.

As a side, here are some pictures of the boys at Harding from our Thanksgiving weekend in Searcy:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Breakfast With Santa

This weekend, our church's children's ministry put on a FANTASTIC pancake breakfast for the kids and parents. Ethan had spiked a fever the day before, so he stayed at home with Marcus, while Caleb and I spent the morning at the church. A good friend of mine (Marcus's coworker's wife), brought her two kids and the five of us had a great time. The morning started at 9:00 am with everyone in the auditorium sitting around 8-top tables, eating pancakes topped with chocolate chips, powdered sugar, and syrup. (I'm not sure Caleb has ever had so many sweets at once.) At 10:00, the kids and parents rotated by groups through five differents stations: visiting with Santa, making handprint aprons, riding a train around the parking lot, and making reindeer snacks, and sharing a Christmas story. Caleb had a great time, and I actually got quite a few pictures since I wasn't chasing Ethan. Ethan and I get one-on-one time every week while Caleb is in school, but Caleb and I are rarely hanging out on our own, so I really enjoyed spending a fun morning with him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Well, Ethan is 20-months-old today. I dislike saying the age 20-months-old, because for some reason, people who don't have little kids always round 20-months up to "almost 2." Why, I don't know, since it is actually closer to 18-months than to 2. The conversation usually goes like this:

"Oh, he's so cute! How old is he?"
"He'll be 20-months-old on Friday."
"Oh, so he's almost two. I have a little niece who is two. She is the sweetest little thing, and so obedient!"
(thinking silently) "That's very nice. Was she sweet and obedient when she was 20-months-old?"

So anyway, Ethan has a new game this month that originated with our November house guest, Aunt Wendi. Not sure exactly how it started, but now it goes like this: Ethan stands still with his shoulders hunched over and his arms dangling close to his body in front of him. Then he cries out with gleeful panic "STUCK IN A BOX!" (His enunciation of this phrase is perfect.) Someone is supposed to run over to him and knock the pretend box away so he can move again. He plays this game every day until no one will knock his box away anymore. It is so extremely cute because he is giddy when someone saves him, and also because he does a superb job of standing still in his imaginary box.

Something else that he has been into a lot, really for a couple of months, is doing Melissa & Doug chunky puzzles. The puzzle pieces are thick and wooden, and there is an identical picture underneath each puzzle piece. So the puzzles are as easy as they could be, but Ethan LOVES them. I think one reason he enjoys them is because they are called puzzles, so he feels like he is doing something big, since Caleb also loves puzzles. He dumps out the 6-9 pieces in each one, and then puts each piece back, chattering all the while. The chattering is always punctuated by intermittent "Mama's!", which mean, of course, that I should turn and say something affirming.

As far as new accomplishments...Ethan can now walk up AND down stairs without holding onto the rail. We do not encourage him to do this, but since our stairs are only six-steps-high and carpeted, we don't discourage him either.

Ethan has continued to be more of a joy than a challenge this month. He loves learning new things, he loves making people happy, and he LOVES to communicate. He's big on reading books right now (which still usually means that he turns the pages and points at things while the "reader" simply labels them). Dancing and watching the Wiggles remain two of his favorite activities. Ranking right up there with them is going to McDonald's. We've been playing at McDonald's play areas quite frequently lately, and now EVERY time we pass the golden arches anywhere, Ethan starts calling out "Mc-don-alds! 'Ease! Mc-don-alds! 'Ease, Mama!" (I do feel bad that my 20-month-old knows the name of a fast food place.)

Here some final thoughts from Daddy about Ethan:

For several months now Ethan has continued to impress me with his ability to talk. He can properly say nearly every common animal name, repeat first time words immediately, and often uses 4-8 word sentences. He also loves to copy words and actions of any older children, especially his brother. My heart has been so warmed seeing them bond over the last few months. Ethan joyfully and shares with Caleb and wants to with him all the time. Recently Caleb was in trouble and wasn't allowed a toy, so Ethan ran over and asked for the toy then immediately gave it to Caleb. Rachel recently blogged about Ethan wanting to share timeout with Caleb. Caleb acts out his love for Ethan by sharing (although not as joyfully as Ethan), and protecting his brother. Just last night we were playing a game where I was an alligator trying to bite people. When I was approaching Ethan, Caleb got a scowl on his face, ran over to me and started pushing and fighting me away to allow time for Ethan to run to safety. Such actions are such a joy to me since I know that so many brothers spend their lives in rivalry. My brother and I have a great relationship and I pray the same for my boys.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving in Searcy

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the four of us spent Thanksgiving weekend in Searcy with the boys' Nanna and Papa (my parents). The boys had so much fun! My parents still live in the same house I grew up in, and I realized on this trip that it was actually a great little neighborhood to grow up in. Their house is one block from an elementary school with a big playground. Just behind the school is the junior high's track and stadium, along with several huge parking lots. My brother and I spent a lot of time on our bikes doing bike tricks in the parking lots, playing around on the football field and in the bleachers, and of course at the elementary school park. One afternoon this weekend when Marcus, Ethan, Nanna and Papa were all taking their afternoon naps, I took Caleb out on a 1.5 hour bike ride. (He has amazing stamina for a 3-year-old, both for biking and hiking.) He was on his 14-inch bike (with training wheels), and I was walking. We went through several of my old neighborhood routes, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my old haunts through my son's eyes.

Another afternoon, my dad, Marcus, the kids and I spent a couple of hours walking around Harding. It was good for Marcus and I to stroll around our alma mater together and reminisce about the years we spent there. It was good to be with my dad, to hear him talk about his love for that school. (He still works in Harding's Advancement Department.) It was good to talk about people I haven't thought about for years...people who played both big and small roles in helping me become the person I am today.

On a different day, Marcus and I took the boys to the playground at Harding Academy and ran into a family reunion of four sisters who I grew up with. They all have four kids each now, and it was very surreal seeing them all with their husbands and their little ones running around. It's an odd aspect of human nature that we unconsciously expect people to remain the way they were when we exited their lives. We of course go through all kinds of changes, but we can't help but be surprised that everyone else does the same.

We ended our time in Searcy by watching the Florida/FSU game on Saturday afternoon. Well, Marcus watched the game while Dad and I took the kids out for one last walk to the park. I had one of the top 10 scares of my life at the elementary school by my house when a car pulled into the paved part of the playground between me and where Ethan was playing. My heart froze for two horrible seconds until the driver spotted him and stopped. It could have been so much worse, but as it was I couldn't stop shaking for several minutes. Anyway, we back to the house and I fed the boys dinner while Marcus and my parents finished watching the game. We had to stay to the very end to watch Tim Tebow make his final lap around The Swamp, so we didn't leave town until after 6:00 pm. Regardless, Marcus made great time and we were at our front door in 5 1/2 hours (a big improvement on our 7-hour trek there). We were also blessed with very tired kids who slept the final four hours, allowing Marcus and I to have the longest uninterrupted conversation we've had in a long time!