November 30, 2010

Today's Toddler-isms

I was busy doing something, sorta tuning out the never ending toddler noise around me, when my ears caught the little girl voice chirping out, "I will jump on your back, Jack! That will feel better, okay?"

Huh? Feel better than what? What's going on!?!


Jack and Ava LOVE the song "Farmer in the Dell," and we were fortunate to acquire Uncle Isaac's old "Farmer in the Dell" book. They both like to page through it and sing. This is what I usually hear,

"Da farmer in da dell. Da farmer in da dell. Hi Ho da derry-o, da farmer in da dell."

"Da farmer takes a life. Da farmer takes a life. Hi Ho da derry-o, da farmer takes a life."

For those unfamiliar with the tune, it's supposed to be "wife" not "life."

Jack: I have a poopy in my diaper!

Ava: I will change your diaper, Jack!

Jack: No, Ava, you're too wittle (little).


I was reading the morning Bible story to Jack and Ava, and this particular morning the story was about Joshua and the Israelites marching around Jericho.

Jack was making spitting sounds throughout the whole story, but since he wasn't actually spitting, I just went with it.

At the end of the story, I asked the kids what they thought Joshua did.

The only reply was Jack's who said, "I spit Jonah out of my mouth!"

*sigh* Close enough.

November 29, 2010

Our Aspiration

"That you aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we have commanded you,

that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing."

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Thinking of how God provides today, how He gives us hands to work, how He gives us work...

And linking up once again to A Holy Experience (wondering why the button won't work again this week) with all the counting others.

Thank you God for:

#51. the tool business You gave us

#52. the tool truck

#53. every single tool on that truck

#54. every single tool that has been sold

#55. every single customer...I pray for them often

#56. the UPS lady, sometimes man, who brings us most of our freight...every single day

#57. nimble fingers

#58. and able bodies

#59. that it's okay to aspire to a quiet life, and even more than okay... it's Biblical

#60. my very own tool man


November 28, 2010

You Know You're Crazy...

...when you can't.stop.taking. pictures of a weed.

A dead weed.

In front of compost.

Because when you've spent weeks trying to achieve that seemingly illusive shallow depth of field, and all you want is a blurry background with focus in the foreground...

and when your camera will only do f/2.8 at wide angle so you're stuck with f/3.5...

and when it hits you that, DUH, just make the "field" deeper because that's how I've done it by accident before with this

and this...

and even when there's nothing really shallow about either one of those...

you'll take what you can get.

Because it was just me, my wheel barrow with the very last of the year for the compost (or at least one can only hope), the sound of the wind in the pines, the distant voices of tots playing in the fence while daddy hung Christmas lights, and it was so quiet that I could hear my camera making the changes I nervously made to aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance while I cupped it in my hands and held my breath.

And that's when one learns what's in a photo...even if you're still unsure about how to take a really good photo. You begin to learn what it means to take meaningful photos of your family and the world around you. You learn to see things differently, to recognize the beauty in things that you've never noticed before. You learn to isolate from the chaos the serene. You learn that your children's fingers are just as photo-worthy as their faces and that it's really not all that important if they're looking at the camera, even if it's great if they do. You learn that even the smallest changes to camera settings affect the overall look and feel of the photos. You learn that it's more than holding the camera and pressing a button.

For me, it starts by spotting something that strikes you...and why it strikes you, you're not sure. But you swing your camera around, raise it to your face, point, and click.

And then you cringe and wonder why the photo looks less then stunning when you know there was something there that caught your eye. I mean, yes, it's just a pile of stuff added to the compost. But there was some beauty admist the frozen pumpkins and half dead allysum (those are some tough flowers) that made me stop. What was it? And more importantly, how can I capture it?

What if I move? What if I change my angle?

No. That's not it either. Hmmmm. But what about that weed...that thistle thing? It's out of focus. And my flexible spot focus is not helping me pick it up.

Ugh. Guess I'll have to use Manual focus. I do everything else manually. Why can't ONE thing be auto?

But there it is...sorta. Except I don't like the angle.

I like that better. And oh glory! My depth of field is about as shallow as I can get it!

And that one's about the same, but I might like the minute change in composition better.

And then I go in for the money shot:

And look! There's ice inside one of the....weed things. This is them in front of half-dead allysum. And then I move, only slightly, and capture them in front of frozen pumpkins.

And I sorta look at the box thing that's called a histogram in the lower right hand corner of my screen for all these photos because even though I don't fully know what it's telling me, I know it means something. And on that thought I remember a friend told me that I tend to underexpose, so I bump down the shutter speed by two little notches and get this:

And I really have no idea if it's better or worse, but at least I know that the histogram could tell me if I knew what it meant.

Now I'm really into this, so I snap some more.

And honestly, I have no clue if these are good or not. I mean, I'm happy with them, but I'm not sure if I thought about everything the way I could have or should have. Lighting? Balancing shutter speed and aperture and ISO? Composition? Rule of Thirds?

I dunno.

I may be crazy, but at least I know it.

November 23, 2010

The Latest Toddler-isms

While I was rocking Ava after naptime, Jack read through almost all of the 26 miniture alphabet books we have - one for each letter. Some of his interpretations were pretty funny to me, so I'm taking a moment to record them:

In the "R" book:
-a sunny picture of a river with trees and a blue sky. Jack's interpretation: "nice out"

-a picture of a radio. Jack's interpretation: "pewter" (computer)

In the "X" book:
-a picture of an x-ray of a hand. Jack's interpretation: "a naughty hand"


During our *somtimes* ( morning Bible story reading along with Streams in the Dessert for kids and My Utmost for His Highest for kids, I was promted by the story to ask Jack and Ava what they thought God wanted.

"A crown," Ava stated with near certainty.

"Yes, a crown," said almost always agreeable Jack.

"God is a King," I reply. "But God really wants something else."

"Oh," says Ava. She's got this figured out now. "Flowers!"

"Yeah," chimes in Jack, "flowers."

"Flowers are nice," I say. "But God really!"

"Oh," was the lack luster reply.

November 22, 2010

Worth the Thanks

What are the things worth being thankful for?

Is it just the big and lofty things? The things that sound more important?

When toddlers teach adults, we big and lofty people learn that the things worth being thankful for are the everthings...

And each morning as we scribble our thanks on silly cut-out turkey feathers, the toddlers always say the same.

"Jack and Ava, what are you thankful for? What would you like to thank God for?"

"Tankful for Mommy! Daddy!"

"I'm tankful for Ava!"

"For Jack!"

"For Nanna........for Uncle Isaac......for Gramma Cinny......for Poppa......for Grandma Jeff."

And every morning I learn that the things to first be thankful for are not the things that can be bought but instead the people around us.

"Jack and Ava, all those people are already on the turkey. What else are you thankful for?"

And what comes next? What comes after people? Our large house? Our vehicles? All our stuff?

No. It's the little things. The everythings. The things that don't seem worthy of a silly cut-out turkey feather. What do those tots do when I ask them again? They look around them. They look to their right and their left and say their thanks for what is right here, right now.





They haven't learned yet that the world is looking for a loftier response. After all, daddy earned money to buy those things, right? Why would we waste morning thanks on little things that can be bought with a few dollars?

In their unknowing, they teach. All these little things are gifts too....things we don't deserve. Because where did Daddy get the money to buy these things? From his job. And where did Daddy get the job that fits him like a glove? Was it just coincidence that made the friend call from Baghdad, which made Daddy look online, which made him stumble across the opening for a tool we already live? No, not coincidence, but providence.

And when the job itself comes from God's hand, don't all the things that result from the job come from God's hand, too?

And I learn. While the lofty things are still worth my thanks - of course they are - I loose sight of the gift in the everything when I go looking only for the lofty.

So I look to my right and my left and impress upon my heart thankfulness for all that is here. And while I know to not only be thankful for the "things," the tangible, I learn that these simple things around me are evidence of grace and blessing.

Today, on my journey to 1000 , I'm thanking God for the little things around me, the things that I could easily take for granted. And I'm linking up to A Holy Experience with all the others.

#41. my Chef's knife, it only adds to the joy of cooking

#42. my camera...even though it took really noisy pictures for today's post (only because I pushed the ISO limits)

#43. this computer

#44. on the counter waiting to be washed

#45. the coffee maker, we're good friends

#46. our dining room table

#47. those dish towels, loving hand decorated by thoughtful elderly family members

#48. the living room furniture

#49.'s the bright spot in every winter

#50. lotion for these dry hands


November 16, 2010

Those October Days

I started this post a few weeks ago, in the early days of November, as a part of my blogging goal to record the happenings of the previous month - even if only vaguely. I need to have goals for everything, it seems! I"m struck by the need to take hold of the legacy passed on to me, to shape the legacy with my own stories, and slowly, piece by piece, pass it on to my children. There is something about writing my stories here that makes me feel as if I am slowly accomplishing that. Now, if only I can actually write these things in a more timely matter! And as you can see from this post and the last, intentionality has been on my heart lately......if not my whole life.


I'm always struck by how time flies and how it it all seems so fleeting without intentionality. Without intentionally planning, intentionally enjoying, intentionally thanking, intentionally celebrating, working, playing, loving...intentionally remembering, our days slip through our fingers and are forgotten.

A friend of mine intentionally sets aside one evening a week, carves out a few hours, for just her family. With life and laundry and kids and school and a husband's insane work schedule, memories would simply pass them by without stopping to wait. A few intentional hours can make the difference and prevent the days from just blending one into the next. To check out a snippet of her life, click HERE.

And here at this household, the hinges on the door of October 2010 have closed completely, never to be re-opened. But I peer through a window to look back and remember........

...the first hike of the fall at the Glacial Lake State Park with Grandma "Cinny" and Uncle "Icass." We hiked around the lake and enjoyed a snack of honeycrisp apples and crackers.

...the first taste of watermelon from our October! Fall food takes on a new meaning.

...another autumn hike with Nanna at Carlos State Park

...standing on the kitchen floor chopping, steaming, cooking while smiling at the sight of Ing and Ping playing barefoot in the fence

...and giving hugs.

...the husband, who - thanks to the Marine Corps - despises hiking, suggesting a fall hike at Barsness Park one beautiful Sunday afternoon. And even when Ava asked to ride on his shoulders and gleefully yelled, "Run Daddy!" only smiles were to be seen on his face.

...the one last trip to the beach, the warm air and the chilly water mingling into fall delight.

...raking leaves one productive fall day, using the leaves to cage and mulch my blueberry plants

And harvest continued around us. The dust hung heavy in our yard and everything felt gritty but without a complaint from us as the farmers seemed so happy to be doing what they love in such perfect weather.

We mowed for the last time and bode farwell to our dear garden for the winter. The husband and I had a date during naptime one afternoon to scrape all the dried grass of the 72 inch mower deck before exchanging the mower for the snow blower - in one afternoon the tractor went from mower of grass to blower of snow.

And harvest soon ended and machinery was tucked away. With freezer and canning shelves and bins in neighbors' yards full to the brim, our hearts filled with thankfulness as the hinges closed on October and we welcomed November.

November 15, 2010

On Holidays and Intentionality

As much as I am a summer girl, I am also a holiday girl. The holidays give me another reason and more motivation to be intentional. In fact, holidays themselves are an exercise of intentionality.

Every day, I feel the need and the call to be intentional - for every word and every movement to count for something - to leave mediocrity behind - to never say, "That's good enough," but to always give it my all. In my heart and in my mind, this is what it means to do it all as unto the Lord.

And if I feel this way every day, I feel it even more so during a holiday. Without being intentional (is there a synonym for this word? Because, I can't think of one, and it's gonna get overused....) about creating meaningful traditions, sticking to those traditions, gathering together, remembering, and capturing the essence of the holiday, the special day becomes nothing more than another day....except with the added stress of food preparation, traveling, many people shuffling around one house, overtired know the scene. But when family, remembering, thanking, celebrating are the cornerstones of the day, when you choose to see it all as a blessing, when you realize you don't deserve any of it, suddenly there is grace galore for every moment of it.

Last Thursday on Veteran's Day I was exceptionally exhausted. I had worked a bit more than usual that week and the week before, I was behind on every household task, and outside of a few minutes in a quick shower, I hadn't had time to myself to read, write, or pray. I was done.

When I had planned meals a week and half prior to this, I had forgotten to take into account Veteran's Day, and when I looked at the weekly menu scribbled on scratch paper, I was dismayed to see that leftover bean soup was all I had planned for the night. It was already 3:00, and any other night leftover homemade soup would have been a treat and I could have curled up on the couch with my kids and some books. My husband expected nothing fancy tonight and had assured me that morning that leftover soup was just fine.

But my heart was not settled with "just fine" for tonight. I want to honor my husband every day, but even more so on Veteran's Day. Few people are willing to sacrifice as much as he did to fight for a cause few believe in anymore. And is it really honoring if I only honor when it's convenient for me? So before I knew it, I found my fingers dialing a number to invite over for supper the brother-in-law and his wife home on leave.

I knew what I had to make for supper that night. It is true that my husband's favorite dish is simply a casserole, but what it so deceiving about it is the length of time that recipe requires. My mind calculated the cooking of nearly 4 pounds of chicken, the de-boning, the mixing of soups and salsa, the cutting of tortillas - all during pirhana hour when everyone wants a piece of mom (the term "pirhana hour" is lovingly borrowed from a Bible study by Linda Anderson)- and deemed the task almost possible. On top of that, I had none of the ingredients in the house, which meant a trip to the grocery store with the kids during the "after work hours" rush. After taking a deep breath and saying a quick prayer, I dove in and soon the hotdish was bubbling away in the oven while I scrubbed the kids down in the bath tub, because yes, it was also bath night.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't exhausting. But is avoiding exhaustion really worth giving up intentional honoring, celebrating, and gathering together? Is my personal comfort more important than teaching my kids by example how to honor someone in authority, more important than showing love and servitude in one of the most universal ways, preparing a meal?

Today I face the repercussions of a busy two weeks and multiple family gatherings with a very untidy house. But as I wash and scrub and fold and cook, I will choose to be intentionally grateful.

Joining in with the Gratitude Community over at A Holy Experience to thank God for:

#31. early family Thanksgiving gatherings

#32. more delicious food than we could all eat

#33. meeting more of Adam's relatives

#34. someone else understanding why I take pictures of tables and table settings from as many different angles as I can.....even though none of them really turn out how I want them to

#35. wandering around the woods with this new friend and distant relative through marriage taking pictures

#36. learning to see the beauty in the small things

#37. so many adoring uncles

#38. a Christmas Ornament tradition started over 35 years ago

#39. that I am now included in this tradition and can watch my children become a part of it as well

#40. generations of family celebrating, thanking, loving, living under one roof

holy experience

November 9, 2010

A Brief Hardstop

Putting a hard stop in right now to be thankful. No time for fancy words and deep musings to reflect all the thoughts and feelings jumbled in my mind and heart this week. Just taking a few seconds for some intentional gratitude, to jot down all that has blessed my heart recently.

In this Veteran's Day week, thanking God for:

#21. my husband's life

#22. my family

#23. every single Marine Corps memory - the good, the bad, the ugly

#24. Adam's brother's safe return from Afganistan

#25. that he and his wife are finally together, soon to close their own Marine Corps chapter

#26. for the smile on his face and the light in his eyes - after a combat deployment he looks good

#27. for the increasing grace that Adam exudes when confronting his Marine Corps past

#28. that after all he did and all he saw he is still one of the most gentle people I know

#29. for all the family getting together to welcome the brother-in-law home last night

#30. that Duty, Honor, Commitment is more than just a motto and creed but is the way in which Adam conducts his life

November 4, 2010

Dusting off the Box

There's a dusty old box in the back of my memory. Sometimes it unpacks itself when I don't expect it; memories triggered by songs, scents, or news. Sometimes I let myself unpack it, but only little bits and pieces, and then it's repacked and the dog-eared lids are folded, one over the other and the box is pushed back into the shadows.

Letting myself unpack most of it today, feeling it all, celebrating the preservation of one life and mourning the loss of other lives.

And all the memories in that box pour out. The airport security guard yelling at me for messing up his line as I force myself not to turn back for one more good bye hug. Every single "All Clear" email informing me of yet another Marine killed in Weapons Company. The first phone call, "I've been injured. I'm going to Baghdad to recover." The second phone call, "I couldn't tell you everthing last night. Baro and Hubbard are dead. Joe was hurt bad. Tage is with me. I've had 1 surgery, maybe 2, I don't know. I'm going to Germany now."

Has it really been 6 years? And yet, it's only been 6 years?

When the words are too few and too much all at the same time, there are the pictures...

When Adam emailed me this photo, I didn't even think it was him, til I recognized his adam's apple. He had never looked this sniper-ish in my presence.

In Ramadi, Iraq. A self portrait that he emailed me. I cried when I saw the pictures of me on the wall.

Another self portrait.

And here they are. Golf Section. From left to right KIA, WIA, WIA, KIA. The two on each end were best friends in highschool, enlisted in the Corps together, somehow made it into 2/5 Weapons Co together, became snipers together, were hand selected by Adam for his sniper team, and died together.

We lived an entire lifetime in the week marking the IED blast to the funeral on Veteran's Day. No thrilling homecoming. No "Ooh Ra!," about face, and a million hugs and kisses. Just hanging on to the cold arm of a Marine limping on a cane, and the wails of fiance never to see her Marine again echoing across the acres of the cemetary. Just the tears I had never seen before streaming down his face as I pop open the bottle and hand him 2 more percocet.

And it's the moments when nothing makes sense, when everything hurts, and when "normal" life seems so distant that faith is seasoned, that the God you've learned about becomes the God you know, and every moment together becomes something to cherish.

Blowing the dust off the box tonight before repacking it again.