Saturday, July 30, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

Ella and I spent Thursday afternoon with some friends from church, playing and taking pictures.  I haven't finished all the shots of the kids yet, but I wanted to put up a few for their mom to see.  They're such a great group of kids, and the best shots by far were not any I tried to pose but when they were just being themselves and doing their thing.

Posed Shot

Doing Their Thing

Much better.  I love that.

Brothers

Posed.  Yet the best smiles came when talking about their favorite sports.

Not Posed but playing with his brother

Friday, July 29, 2011

Teachable Moments

"Mom, why does that truck have a cow on it?"


I didn't see the truck myself, so I said, "I don't know."


"Maybe it has milk in it."

"Yeah, that's possible."


"Or maybe it's carrying cows."


"Maybe," I replied.  "That's a good hypothesis.  Do you know what a hypothesis is?" I asked, trying to make it an educational conversation.


"Yes."


"Oh.  Really?  What is it?" I asked.


"An idea you can test."


It was a way better answer than I was going to give her.  She learned it on Dinosaur Train.  Thank you, PBS.  You have taught my daughter far better than I ever could.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Evening with Tolkien

Of course I haven't really been spending the evening with Tolkien, but I definitely feel like it.  I started reading Tolkien and the Silmarillion late this afternoon and finished it tonight.  Kilby's reminiscing about the first time he met Tolkien and the summer he spent helping him sort through the manuscript of the Silmarillion was completely captivating.   


Would you like to know how he met J.R.R. Tolkien?  He walked up to house and knocked on the door.


"Knowing the reported difficulty of getting inside his house, I asked for help from his personal physician...who then lived...not far from the Tolkien home...I inquired how I might contrive to get into Tolkien's presence.  What I hoped was that Dr. Havard would telephone and introduce me.  Instead he said, 'Just go down there and ring the door-bell.  He isn't doing anything.'"


And how did a professor from Illinois earn the honor of spending a summer with him working on his manuscripts?  After their initial meeting, they exchanged letters from time to time, and Kilby simply wrote him a letter and offered his services for the summer, and Tolkien very graciously accepted.  I thought it was a good reminder to just ask.  You never know what you might receive.  Here are a few quotes from the first chapter that made me smile or laugh or that I just thought were interesting.



  • He then became a bit apologetic and explained that people sometimes regarded him as a man living in a dream world.  This was wholly untrue, he insisted, and described himself as a busy philologist and an ordinary citizen interested in everyday things like anybody else.  As an illustration of his practicality he told me of his keen regret that salaries were raised at his college at Oxford the very day after his retirement.
  • He admitted that the manuscript of The Lord of the Rings was sold through his agent to Marquette University because he needed money, owing to his having been 'retired on a pittance.'  (Later I learned from Marquette that the manuscripts made a stack seven feet high.)
  • He was also aware of an even deeper meaning and origin for his fiction.  [Tolkien] said that a Member of Parliament had stood in the room we were in and declared, 'You did not write The Lord of the Rings,' meaning that it had been given him from God.  It was clear that he favored this remark.
  • As I prepared to leave, he spoke of getting a letter from a man in London whose name was Sam Gamgee.  I asked him what reply he had made and he said he had written that what he really dreaded was getting a communication from S. Gollum.
I think that one of qualities that makes Tolkien's work so great was summed up in a statement C. S. Lewis made:  "...the deeper meaning of a story must rise from the writer's lifetime spiritual roots rather than be consciously inserted."  Tolkien wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but consciously in the revision."

Working hard to consciously add religion and Christian truth to a story usually only ends up sounding preachy to me, but creative story-telling that comes out of a person whose life is founded on truth ends up being beautiful and epic with a million rich and wonderful themes running through its plot.  Speaking of epic, KJ handed me his iPhone when I went out the door for a walk tonight so I could listen to some different music.  Of course he has his favorite soundtrack music on there, and I discovered that a walk around the neighborhood feels like a trek through Middle Earth if you're listening to The Return of the King.  

Who Knew?

Yesterday I shared some resolutions made by Clyde Kilby, who was a professor at Wheaton College.  His words have stayed with me for several years, though I only learned his name yesterday.  


Late yesterday afternoon I was cleaning up our bedroom and straightening up the many Tolkien books on KJ's side of the bed when I glanced down and noticed that one of them was written by...guess who...Clyde S. Kilby, of course!  Not only had he written a book about Tolkien and the Silmarillion, he spent the summer with him helping him put it together.  That's right.  How interesting is that?  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kindergarten

My girl is starting Kindergarten.

Excitement tinged with sadness at the passing of an era fills my heart.

And our pocketbooks are now empty.



A Thought

Several years ago I was reading a book by John Piper (and I can't remember which one now) where he had a list of a man's resolutions made with the aim of remembering what a wondrous thing life really is.  There was one resolution in particular that stuck in my head, and I thought of it again last night as I walked out the doors of the grocery store at dusk.  


Thankfully, through the wondrous invention of search engines and Desiring God's propensity to put everything online, I was able to locate the list I was searching for in a sermon preached by Piper in 1980.  The list was written by one of his literature professor's at Wheaton, Clyde Kilby.  The very first resolution is the one that has stayed with me all these years:


At least once every day I shall look steadily
up at the sky and remember that I, a 
consciousness with a conscience, am on a
planet traveling in space with wonderfully
mysterious things above me and about me.

Do you every stop to remember that you are on a planet traveling through blackest space?  Wow.  Here are a few other of Professor Kilby's resolutions.

  • I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.
  • I shall not turn my life into a thin straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.
  • I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is just now.
I hope you have a great day.  It's not just another "ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Just a Saturday Night






Photo Shoot: Locations 3 and 4

Here are a few more pictures from sweet Hannah's photo shoot last Saturday.  Thank you for your kind comments.  They were much appreciated by the both of us.




Friday, July 22, 2011

A Birthday

Someone in our family has a birthday tomorrow.


Happy Birthday, Katie!

We love you from afar.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Today's Reading

"It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes's requests, for they were always so exceedingly definite, and put forward with such a quiet air of mastery."  - Dr. Watson


"It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles."  - Sherlock Holmes

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Photo Shoot: Locations 1 and 2

Last Saturday I made a trade with a girl in our church:  babysitting services in return for pictures.  Hannah is going to be a senior in high school this year.  She was in my book club when I worked at the church's school, and I will gladly claim that I introduced her to Jane Austen, thereby changing her life forever.


So Saturday afternoon KJ and I had a date to the movies, and when we came home, Hannah and I had an afternoon of taking pictures, changing clothes, and taking more pictures.  It was fun.




We took all of the above in the back of my neighborhood.

When we got in the car to drive to our next destination,
we happened to spot a field of sunflowers, so we took a
little detour that turned out nicely.




There's more to come soon!

An Accomplished Woman

In order to understand my feeling of accomplishment yesterday evening I need to explain my cleaning strategy at home.  A few years ago I was talking to my mom about getting caught up in a book and not doing any housework that day, and she gave me an idea.  When I was caught up in a good book, just set the timer on the microwave for 15 minutes and read, then get up at the beep, reset the timer for 15 minutes, and spend 15 minutes cleaning a specific area or room.  "It's amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes of focused cleaning!" she said.  So I tried it. Pretty soon, it became not just my strategy for when I was having a hard time putting a book down, but just for keeping my whole house in order all of the time in general.  


I'll set the timer and clean the kitchen furiously for 15 minutes.  When the timer beeps, that's it for the kitchen (even if there are still things that could be done) and I'm on to the dining room.  I like this method because it's hard to be focused on something for more than 15 minutes at a time when you have young children anyway, and it takes away the overwhelming feeling of looking at the house and wondering where to start.  It also allows for working on different things every day.  For instance, if I just dusted the den the day before, today after picking up all the clutter, I might dust the baseboards or I might have time to clean the microwave or vacuum my closet.  


It's always been a goal to spend 15 minutes in every single room of my house, but that has never happened.  You know, in between cleaning, I'm fixing juice cups, changing diapers, changing clothes, bathing children, working out, playing games, and running errands, etc.


But yesterday...oh, yesterday, I cleaned every single room of my house.  I include my walk-in closet as a room, so 9 rooms times 15 minutes adds up to 2 hours and 15 minutes of cleaning, plus a few 15-minute rounds doing laundry.  How was I able to achieve this?  This girl:



While in the midst of playing computer games, she saw me dusting in the den and offered to help.  She likes dusting.  She helps around the house frequently but usually fades out and into her room playing after a little while.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday Ella was motivated to help me get as much as possible done before James woke up from his nap.  Here are all the things she did all by herself: made my bed, put away toys, cleaned the bathroom sinks, gathered laundry, put away folded clothes, and dusted.  She was a cleaning wonder.  I was so proud of her.  We were on such a cleaning frenzy, we even decided to go outside and cut the grass to surprise KJ.  He was out late at the county jail (preaching, that is).

I have NEVER cut the grass in all my life.  Never.  And I've still never cranked up a lawn mower, because this is what we have:


KJ enjoyed a good laugh at my expense when he drove up to find me thus.  No, my job wasn't perfect but it was just a trim, I explained.  He cut the grass on Thursday, but with all the rain we've had it's been growing quickly.  So, maybe it wasn't perfect, but it was a lot of fun.  I love that little lawn mower.

And that my friends, the story of my day off accomplishments.  It falls a little short from this list:
"No one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not 
greatly surpass what is usually met with.  A woman must have 
thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, 
and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, 
she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, 
the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, 
or the word will be but half deserved."
- Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"We don't have a farm!"

This morning I was lamenting to KJ that life couldn't be like it was back in the day on the prairie.  "I just want to stay together!" I moaned.  


"You could work in the field, and I could make butter and feed the chickens and teach the kids at home, and we could always be together."  


Ella happened to be listening in for this little conversation, and injected, "We don't have a farm! Let Dad go to work, Mom."


Okay.  Never mind.

Summer Fun

At the end of VBS last week Ella got to pick out a prize for bringing visitors.  She was unsure of what to pick off of the stage so I went up to help her, and because of my own fond childhood memories, picked out a Slip N' Slide.  No summer is complete without one, right?


Yesterday morning we all donned our bathing suits and went outside to set it up in the backyard.  Ella couldn't wait to get sliding. 





I don't want to go overboard with pictures this morning, but here's a sequence of Ella running and sliding.






And then, my personal favorite, a collection of Ella's jumps:


And though he's not pictured much, James had a really fun time, too.  He played in the water at the bottom of the slide and then walked up and down it with Ella, rolling his car in the water.  He's precious.  He also lost his big toenail yesterday for some mysterious reason.  He has a new one growing in now, and curiously, he's also about to lose one of his fingernails.  We can't remember a time he sustained any serious injuries.  It's a mystery.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mind Renewal in the Morning

Ever since KJ went to Cuba in May I've been waking up early every morning.  In some ways I've enjoyed it.  I like being up while the house is quiet (it's the only quiet until around 8:45 tonight!) and having a chance to come slowly out of my sleepy fog while drinking my Diet Mountain Dew.  There are other times when I resent being awakened early, especially when I know my body needs more sleep.  KJ would tell me I should just roll back over, but I'm not a roll-back-over kind of person. I'm a, "It's morning!  There's so much to do today!" kind of a person.


This morning has been full of reminders of what a precious blessing I've been given in my children.  It's filled me with a desire to serve them joyfully, not worrying about what I "give up."  I read the best article written by a mother of five that several of my other young-mom friends recommended.



"So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.
Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back."
"Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone."


Learning to die to your own selfish desires is such a gradual process.  If only it could happen all at once!  But this morning I felt my love grow a little more and felt it a little easier to really believe all that everyone who has been there says:  These precious little children are only little once.  Child-rearing is such a fleeting season.  I know it's true.  Where did my own childhood go?  And right now, I'm still the most important person in their world, wielding (almost) the most influence.  


So this morning I'm desiring grace to love Ella and James more than myself and to put their needs before mine and already beginning to feel the freedom that comes with doing that.  Though I must admit, I'm also laughing to myself and wondering what petty annoyance will rise up that will make this difficult?  Will James dump the trash all over the floor?  Will Ella have a melodramatic melt-down if I make her wear shorts and not a dress?  Probably.  Here's to a grace-filled day for us all.


"...He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple."
Isaiah 50:4

Friday, July 15, 2011

In the Morning

I made Ella come outside on the patio this morning so I could take her picture.  Pajamas and all she came.  I only requested that she brush her hair.  She's just so lovely in the morning.


The Girl I Adore

It was my turn to take Ella to Vacation Bible School last night, and I was really glad I got to see her dance and sing firsthand.  I love her enthusiasm and total lack of inhibition.  The quality of the video is not as good as it could be.  When I first uploaded it, it was skipping around, so I converted it to another format, but apparently it was unnecessary because there's no skipping now; it just looks a little pixelated to me.  But maybe that's just YouTube?  I've been spending so much time learning about the picture-taking side of my camera I haven't spent any time learning about the video.  Regardless of poor quality, I think you will still enjoy Ella's performance.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fireworks

I thought I would share some of my apocalyptic fireworks pictures from the Fourth.  


That's pretty cool looking, right?  Or at least, it's interesting.  KJ says "interesting" is the word you use when you don't really know what else to say.  Perhaps he is right.  But, I kind of like this one.  I wasn't expecting lens flare from fireworks.  Incidentally, I think I may have to change my blog's layout.  I'm getting tired of things on the side ruining the scope of my pictures.  




I really love the Atlanta skyline in these pictures, too.



This one wasn't apocalyptic.

I just picked it out as one of the 500 pictures I snapped
of fireworks that was worthy to be kept.

It survived the purge.

A Busy Week

It has been a very busy week around our house.  Our church has been having Vacation Bible School at night, so that has kept Ella and at least one adult out until Ella's bedtime.  On top of that, KJ was out of town for a meeting all day yesterday, Ella had a tea party with her Cubbies class, and we have a play date this morning.  It is much more social activity in a three-day time span than we are used to, but it has been fun.  


This is Ella's first time to attend VBS, and she is having the time of her life.  She loves being with her friends and can hardly stand the wait until 6 p.m. every night.  I wasn't able to go with her last night, but I'm told I missed an amazing performance.  She got to go up on the platform and help perform the motions to the songs during the opening gathering.  She was so excited about doing it, and I got a call from Big Daddy afterward about the emotion and expression she put into it.  If you've ever seen Ella dance in our living room you can imagine.  I would say her biggest influences have been Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple.



I don't think there are any boys in our 4 and 5-year-old group at church, so that has made Cubbies all girls lately, too.  This has its advantages.  They all met at T's house yesterday morning for a tea party where they learned about table manners, how to set the table, and said their Bible verses.  They really are a precious group of girls.


And I would love to write more, but Ella has put in a second request for Lucky Charms.  A very good day to you all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today

I feel the need/desire to blog, but I don't have much time to think of something really interesting to write.  Sooo....  Here are some random tidbits from our day.



  • I pressed on with my workout even though I had to stop and separate my screaming children just after I started.
  • I scrap-booked with Ella this afternoon.  
  • I took the kids to Wal-Mart at Ella's request so she could spend the rest of "her" money.  She dumped her piggy bank last week and decided to spend the $14 she found therein.  I've been dumping change in there randomly for the past 4+ years.  She also had some money saved from grandparents.  When we went to the store last week, she only spent half, but today decided she better go spend the rest of it.  Now she's broke.  (I also had her take out a tithe of her money to put in the offering plate.  I thought that was a good lesson to learn.)
  • I found out that it's really not a good idea to take James down the toy aisle at Wal-Mart.  "Car!  Car!  Car!  Car!  Carrrr!!!!"  I'm a cool mom, so I got him a little matchbox car from Cars 2.  He couldn't rest until the package was opened and the car was in his hands.  He was content until he spotted a bigger car on the next aisle, and then we had to scoot out of there fast.  He was then happy until he spotted a balloon on the scrapbooking aisle.  I probably shouldn't take him to the store or I'll be broke.
  • I'm taking Ella to VBS tonight.  It's her first Bible School.  I think I'll take pictures.
  • And that's all, folks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moments to Remember

I'm getting to spend time alone with James this afternoon.  It's so nice and easy and reminds me of the days I had alone with Ella.  It's pretty quiet around here, and I took a nap.  I feel like a new woman.  I guess those things are worth remembering, too, but what I wanted to remember was James and I back in his room reading.  I was attempting to take advantage of the one-on-one time by reading a couple of books about colors and numbers.  The page for red had a picture of a firetruck on it, and the page for blue had a police car.  James kept pointing at the cars and was becoming increasingly frustrated.  I finally noticed that his little fingers were trying desperately to pick the cars up off the page.  He just couldn't understand why he couldn't pick up those cars and play with them.  Maybe I should just start using his trucks to teach him colors.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fly Girl

Ella flying in an airplane at Six Flags

She waved at me of her own accord.

She's really great like that.


Friday, July 8, 2011

My Native Land

Last night I spent some time looking through a friend's pictures from their trip to the United Kingdom and Paris.  Have I mentioned I'm going there?  I'm going.  At every amazing glimpse of Scottish countryside, Parisian architecture, and famous London landmark, I became more and more excited, entering into a state of complete unbelief that I am REALLY going.  Really.  At least, the plane tickets have been purchased.  So, as far as I know, I'm going.


And although I know I will look every bit the tourist, gasping and exclaiming at every new wonder, taking thousands upon thousands of pictures, I'm not going to really FEEL like a tourist.    I'm going to feel like I've come home.  I have been to these places in my imagination and in my heart over and over again since the time I was a little girl.  


I explored manor houses and the moor and learned about a Yorkshire accent with Mary Lennox.  I walked the foggy streets of London with poor Sara Crewe.  I learned from Edmund Pevensie that Brits call a flashlight a "torch."


As a teenager I learned about good King Richard and Prince John in Ivanhoe, I was shocked to find that Sherlock Holmes used cocaine, and I stood beneath the Tower of London with Charles Darnay.  I learned what a dangerous thing it can be to stay at a manor house over the weekend, unless you're Hercule Poirot of course.  I solved mysteries with Miss Marple and reveled in the story of David Copperfield.  


In my first year of marriage I visited Derbyshire and the Peaks and learned all about entailment.  I finally understood that Colonel Brandon was a much more worthy hero than the scoundrel, Willoughby, and learned all about the coastal towns of Ramsgate, Brighton, and Lyme.  I rejoiced when Heathcliff was finally dead and couldn't torment people anymore.  I was infuriated by the unfair treatment of poor Jane Eyre and fell in love with her Mr. Rochester right along with her.  I walked the Dales with James Herriot and laughed over those Yorkshire farmers.  


In short, there's not many places in the United Kingdom that don't bring to my mind a cast of characters, stories, and emotions.  Those three paragraphs are but the tip of the iceberg, and they don't even touch the historical references.  Oh, England, how I love thee.  I can't believe my feel will finally stand on your soil.  


What are your favorite British characters and places???

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Mother/Daughter Adventure

Ella and I left home early Sunday evening and spent the night with Uncle Jesse and Aunt Sandy.  We were up early Monday morning for the first full day of our adventure.  We drove to Atlanta where we met up with my parents and Josh and Nicole, who had just completed the Peachtree Road Race.  After they got cleaned up, Ella, Mom, and I went to an afternoon movie.





We thoroughly enjoyed Cars 2.  It was fun listening to Ella's carefree laughter, and it was nice to be able to fully focus on just spending time with her with no other distractions.  After the movie we went back to the hotel for a little down time before leaving for a Braves game.  We hadn't driven a quarter mile down the road before the heavens opened up, and rain poured down.  We made a brief stop at a Kroger to pick up ponchos and an umbrella.  Thankfully, the rain slowed down and stopped and didn't start again until the 8th inning.



Ella had a really great time at the game.  It was so fun watching her cheer and clap and learn the tomahawk chop.  It brought back a lot of my own childhood memories.



After the game, there was a fantastic fireworks show, and then we walked back to the car in the pouring rain.  Uncle Judson got a good bicep workout by carrying Ella all the way.  Sweet Ella sacked out in the car at 10:30 p.m. on the way back to the hotel and barely woke up when I carried her inside and put her to bed.  






Tuesday morning all the siblings headed to Six Flags.  It was my first trip there in several years.  Ella and I split up from the others to ride the "kid" rides.  We had such a good time.  Now that I'm a parent, I really appreciate the things amusement parks do to make time there fun and relaxing for younger children.  Bugs Bunny World was a big hit in Ella's book.  She had a blast, and Jesse made sure I got in a couple of thrills before we left.  Sandy sat with Ella while he and I rode Batman and Goliath. 

Swinging

Truck-driving

After Bugs Bunny World we did a few rides for slightly bigger kids and then headed to Skull Island, which was FANTASTIC.  On those terribly hot summer days amusement parks can be so draining on kids, and this was such a fun place to cool off and run around.  To my surprise, it wasn't just for little kids, but there were big water slides for teenagers and parents to enjoy, too.

This is right before she screamed out, 
"Best!  Day!  Ever!!!"  :)
She said it just like that, too.



It's nice to have a friend bigger than you are
at the end of a long day.