Music Play

***Note to anyone who comes by here to listen to the music ...You will now have to scroll down to the player on the right side and press play yourself. This is to accommodate those who only come to read and are distracted by the music;}

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once upon a Thursday...

...I have had the pleasure of some one-on-one dates with my beloved son, JJ, on Thursday mornings. At this age when Susie is taking a nice morning nap, Jared is able to take her along for his staff meeting. They get a little bit of bonding time and she can sleep at our director's house for most of the regular meeting time and then this frees me up to have some "focus time" with JJ.

These dates have truly been a gift and I am appreciating so much being able to focus on JJ which it feels like so long since I was physically able (i.e. not pregnant) and not toting a baby around or giving him half my attention while trying to multi-task when said baby is sleeping. I just don't want to take this gift for granted and hope to keep making the most of it:)

These Thursday dates so far have been courtesy of my dear friend Anita who is so great and finding cool, FREE things to do around the city.

The first date was to a puppet show at an Information Center downtown and it was really well done and JJ was really into it. It was the story of "Bunny" (she might have had a last name?) who was feeling kind of down one morning and was trying to feel better (about herself). So, first she sees squirrels who are happy and she thinks if she has a squirrel tail she'll be happy. Then when that doesn't make her happy, she runs into a dog and thinks that if she "wuff wuff's" like him she'll be happy. When that doesn't work, along comes a raccoon and she thinks if just gets some raccoon eyes she'll feel better. That still doesn't work and then she (without realizing it is herself) sees a bunny in the mirror and sees how wonderful the ears and voice and color and well, everything is. She realizes it is herself and learns a powerful lesson about loving who she is.

(The collages are in sequential order, left to right-top to bottom, of the show)

I was able to go through this with JJ and sum it up that we can love exactly how God uniquely made us and thank Him for how He loves us as His special creation in His image:)
Right outside the info center--it was cold, but we still thought Brandon and Abby might jump in!The JJ's at the puppet show...our JJ is "Big JJ" and Anita's is "Little JJ" and our JJ really does love him but has gotten in the bad habit of shoving him (not maliciously, but still not acceptable) when he wants him to do things, or just because he is little. This has led to many "talks" and times I get discouraged, but our JJ is always quick to apologize and does have a tender, loving heart as you find if you're around him at all, but I would still appreciate your prayers that he will grow past this soon (he has done the same thing with other little playmates--anyone have similar experience and/or suggestions on handling it? I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM!)
This picture is encouraging and sweet:)
The last date (this past Thursday) was definitely the coolest, FREE thing I have been to as a parent. It was a "Potty Party" put on by Huggies' Pull-ups. You may have gotten the DVD in the mail...I know I did even before the party. It was at the Central Florida Zoo in their all-purpose room and was just SO MUCH FUN. We danced all morning and "Ralph's World" who are grammy-nominated artists gave a live concert which include the Potty Dance song.

There were free snacks and drinks (all you wanted), face painting (which JJ wanted nothing to do with!) and caricature drawings (which he did sit for IN MY LAP) and hats and bow ties for the boys (again JJ wanted nothing to do with this, but Brandon has his on below) and tutu's and wands for the girls (which Abby is sporting).

Dancing to Ralph's World and wearing the ensembles below
Notice the wand "streaks" in the middle as Abby is moving it back and forth.

And after this we got a free admission to the zoo!
We saw our old friends Maude and Mary, the elephants. It was amazing how much bigger everyone was than when I was here almost a year ago.
JJ loved the petting zoo area and petted the goats and fed them a little (then got scared? I guess, because he didn't want to do it any more) and loved the cebu's and sheep/ram and finally the Llama (Marisa was her name).
Here we are trying to get JJ, Anita's three and her friend Alison's twin girls to pose for a picture--HAHA! Watching Alison trying to get her twins to pose together made me think of what my mom must have gone through!

Enjoyed the Olympics...

...they have always been "big" in my family and make me feel closer to them, especially my mother as the last Winter Olympics I watched (Salt Lake City 2002) we watched together in the last months of her life. I've been enjoying them during my normal "blog time". So that is one of the reasons I have not posted (but will be catching you all up in the next couple of days) and we also have had a very busy couple of weeks.

Hope you all enjoyed some of the Olympics...I cried at several points, the Georgian luger dying (unbelievably sad...) and Joannie Rochet skating after her mother's sudden death...full of tears I was...there is something about the pursuit of an Olympic dream--all of the sacrifices and discipline in training--that challenges me as to what I am willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom dream, the holy pursuit of the eternal reality that can become more and more mine as I claim it by faith.

Observing Lent...Second Week


Second Week of Lent

An excerpt from With Burning Hearts, Henri J.M. Nouwen

Discerning the Presence

The Gospels are filled with examples of God's presence in the word. Personally, I am always touched by the story of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. There he read from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
for he has anointed me
to bring good news to the afflicted.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.
(Luke 4:18-19)

After having read these words, Jesus said, "This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening." Suddenly, it becomes clear that the afflicted, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed are not people somewhere outside of the synagogue who, someday, will be liberated; they are the people who are listening. And it is in the listening that God becomes present and heals.

The Word of God is not a word to apply in our daily lives at some later date; it is a word to heal us through, and in, our listening here and now.

The questions therefore are: How does God come to me as I listen to the word? Where do I discern the healing hand of God touching me through the word? How are my sadness, my grief, and my mourning being transformed at this very moment? Do I sense the fire of God's love purifying my heart and giving me new life? These questions lead me to the sacrament of the word, the sacred place of God's real presence.

Once again found this challenging as I seek to create some space to hear from God and faithfully open His blessed to know He will answer and that HE IS WORKING...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Observing Lent...

First Week of Lent

Called to Life, Called to Love, Henri J. M. Nouwen

Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and the familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love. The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore is not just an historical event that took place a long time ago, but an inner event that takes place in our heart when we are willing to be attentive to it....

Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a gentle but also demanding time. It is a time of solitude but also community, it is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people's needs. It is a time to continuously make the passage to new inner life as well as to life with those around us.

When we live Lent attentively and gently, then Easter can truly be a celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest place of our being.

I definitely didn't grow up observing the liturgical year, but as I went to college and "out on my own", I would say it's become an increasingly important part of my yearly spiritual "rhythm".

I figure, if nothing else, Lent should and can be a time to reflect, which, whenever we take the time to do that in our busy, fragmented and scattered lives, we are most certainly going to reap benefits.

This year, I would say that the Lord has been preparing me to be ready to reflect upon my life--its comforts, securities and to choose the "better part".

This is corresponding well with our renewed commitment to our budget (always in the back of my/our mind, but how "strict" are we with ourselves?) I am honestly just so sick of the STUFF! I just am so rich in material things and comforts--I don't need to compare myself with family, neighbors, co-workers to see if I am "relatively poor", because in the global scheme I am absurdly rich. Because things are accessible, I am choosing them and as long as I am called to stay in this country the "temptation" to choose so many wants over needs will be right there. So I am being called to renew my commitment to the simple--not legalistically, but because it truly is the "better part". Living simply provides the space to appreciate beauty in such a free-er way and to explore creativity where comfort has replaced it. These are most definitely the Depression-era roots of my grandparents.

So practically I am taking a challenge that my sister Kristen's friend, Cindy, suggested to her during Lent. Work through your pantry--don't just go and get more groceries, but instead be creative with what you have in your pantry/freezer, etc. So far this has produced homemade pizza, chicken divan, meatball sandwiches using frozen hamburger buns and potato dinner rolls, pudding pie on a broken graham cracker crust and once again the great appreciation for a husband who is so "easy to please" when it comes to his stomach. It's been lots of "fun" and I highly recommend has also been a good deal freeing. My goal would be to reduce and simplify my "stores" of reserve and also, amazingly, if I could be under-budget this month in groceries, to give that away to somewhere in the world that it would be of great use.

Hopefully, this would jump start this practice at different points all throughout the year--to help stay in budget and be able to free up money to give away.

I am also going to be going through all of the "reserve" things that I have "around" and give/clear as much as I can...I really will need help with my "pack rat" tendencies that come to me courtesy of my beloved, sentimental mother.

Finally, I am going to be looking at how I spend the money I have on what I consider necessities and ask the hard questions about why I think I need these things and be willing to "surrender" whatever I may be called to.

The sermon this morning was from Isaiah 58 about "true fasting". This passage has been special to me ever since a season of revival/renewal that swept through many Christian colleges during the spring of my junior year. It has been beloved ever since and has inspired many a vision of the Life I would like to live...of the things I would like to be about. I am so delighted to find that the ministry we are a part of and the opportunities we have speak to "loose-ing the chords of injustice" and "breaking every yoke." However, I was incredibly challenged by what more it can mean in these days. What religious things, ways of living a so-called Christian life, do I cling to that have nothing to do with this "true fast?" I felt and knew deep within that calling toward 'greater things'...toward choosing the 'better part' and something deep in my soul was stirred than has been in quite a while...

While the Lenten season leads to the observance of Christ's crucifixion and death, and culminates in the celebration of His victory in resurrection, I believe the whole season is a calling to our own death--the things we live for that mean nothing for eternity. This is what we are 'daily' called to as Christ-followers, but I am thankful to observe the 'heart of Lent' and to bring this call to sacrifice, self-denial to the forefront of my reflection IN ORDER TO MAKE ROOM FOR NEW LIFE, LOVE, OPPORTUNITY TO PROCLAIM HIM--the higher and better and more blessed that I might have missed otherwise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day at Sea World

Jared and I spent a very SWEET:) afternoon of Valentine's Day going around to all of the things we haven't gotten to see with the kids. It really is an easy place to take kids, but it was fun to just be "us" look at the map and scope out places and wait in lines with no "inconvenience" or keeping kids entertained, just the joy of more "connect time" and conversations amongst adults. And not only adults--husband and wife:) And as I reflected later that night, I thought how dear, sweet and true it is that I am married to my best friend. That's not easy for a "twin" to say as we are so close, but she and I both know and embrace how our husbands truly ARE and ARE SUPPOSED TO BE our best friends.
(Jared...the following is a special message for you:)
Jared, there is truly no one else that I could picture journeying this life with--no better father or husband for me and to me. I love continuing to learn about you and have become more and more humbled at the great privilege of being chosen to walk alongside, support and encourage YOU. You know I have many moments of doubting myself and feeling like I "give so little and receive so much"...I will probably always feel that way because you are just that special...but I do promise to be open to the Lord to grow me more and more as your wife and the mother of our children and because of WHO HE IS am confident that "He will finish the good work He has begun in us", our marriage, our family...and because of that I look forward to all that the future holds:) I LOVE YOU!!!

This was a beautiful little garden on the way to the "shark encounter".

These were all taken from the Sky Tower which goes 300 ft. up and we can and will take the kids next was a little bit of a wait, but not bad.
Come visit us and go to Sea can ride "Kracken" see Shamu, ride "Manta" and so much more!

This was in "Wild Artic" and the top 2 pictures are of the Polar Bear who was sleeping. Jared read that they can get up to 9 and 1/2 feet when "standing" on their hind legs! Yikes! And they prey on seals:( (that shattered my fluffy white huggable image of them).
The bottom row are of the walrus...oh my! AMAZING! He was HUGE! and you can't really see too much, but in the bottom picture on the left was after he had just turned and shown us his was magnificent...I really was amazed that such a beast is real and so BIG and, if he could speak, I'm sure he'd be funny and wise:)

These pictures are all from various points along the "Shark Encounter". There were some really neat tanks of quite exotic fish...certainly ones I hadn't seen. Then in the "shark tunnel" where you walk under and they are swimming all around (there's 50 kinds of sharks! but not huge like JAWS which I was scared to death would be) and "saw heads"...really amazing!
Listed outside was how this Sea World has the largest collection of "predator fish" (something like this) IN THE WORLD! I didn't know if I should be AMAZED or TERRIFIED!

The dolphins...these animals are the closest things to "talking Narnians" (from C.S. Lewis' chronicles) that we have, in my opinion. They are so friendly and beautiful and special. This area is amazing because you can go and put your hand on the water and they come right up (often)... the one picture it looks like I am touching one of the dolphins...I didn't get to touch it, but oh so close...that's ok I WILL because we'll be back!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

oops...I didn't even answer my own game right!

The third Veggie Tale I listed was listed incorrectly in the answers! I changed it and it's correct of 2:20 on Wednesday. I'll chalk it up to late night blogging and mommy MUSH brain!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ok, I changed my mind...

To all of my extremely snow-bound northern friends: Regarding a few posts ago "Out of Sync" I WOULD like to be snowed in a day, but I think I would be going quite STIR-CRAZY with all of the snow...not to mention having a busy toddler! Hang in there! Can't wait to hear the stories!!!

Play-doh Fun (Name the characters game)

One of the rainy days a couple of days ago found me getting creative passing the time before Daddy would get home and wrestle with JJ. So I pulled out the play-doh we just got from Jamie.
Here's the quiz: Can you name (left to right) the Veggie Tales characters in the first row and the Thomas characters in the second row?
(*answers at the bottom of the post)
Jared thought that I did a good job...I wasn't so impressed--I definitely need some black play-doh to make them all better, especially the Thomas trains.
So JJ hasn't been the easiest to get good pictures of and now, well, he's driving me crazy because he's "discovered" the camera. As soon as I get it out he wants to look at the "picture" on the back and NOT stay where I can GET a picture of here he is complaining about not seeing the "picture" and me telling him that he can see a "great picture of JJ" if he will just stay there and smile! Oh my!
Same thing! now he's not even looking!
I am really NOT TRYING to favor Susie with my pics, but she's definitely easier to get!

Scoring Grid:
7--great job, dad, mom, grandma, grandpa--you are very much in tune with some of your child's favorite television friends!
6--good job! you are quite in tune, but do fold laundry, make dinner, etc. a little when your kid is in front of the TV
5--pretty good job! same as a above except a little more...
4--You know Thomas, but need to learn about the Veggie Tales!
3--You know the Veggie Tales, but are sorely remiss when it comes to Thomas!
2,1,0--Needs improvement--either you have not wisened up that videos are good for your kids OR you are so busy you never chill to catch some funny stories--time to stick in the video and "veg out" with your kids!:)

(* Top left to right: Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber and Gerry Gourd. Bottom left to right: James, Thomas, Percy and Gordon)

A Special Visit

It was really special to have Jared's aunt Darlene (his mom's sister) and uncle Jim and their son, Larry and his wife Beth come for dinner last week. They have a time share and came here from Pennsylvania and California/Texas respectively to spend the week together. I am glad that Darlene and Jim got home ok on Saturday (unfortunately their bag didn't make it right away:() with ALL of the snow you all are having up north.

As you can see Susie LOVED Jim...he said it was his "funny bald head"...I think there must be something to it as she loves my Dad's bald head too:)

Now he must have something important to say because she is looking quite intent.

Love the thumb and fist (above). She was content to eat these as it was way past her bedtime and instead of getting upset, she just chewed on her one point I thought she was going to "konk" out, but she perked back up when I gave her back to Darlene.
JJ also loved this visit and the GREAT GIFT he got of a pack of little Tonka trucks, cars, etc. Jim was going through all of them with him and he really liked "Uncle Jim" and was talking about him the next morning.

It was GREAT having you! Can't wait until you can come again!

Daddy and His Girl

This is the sweetest thing for me to see how Jared "comes to life" with his baby girl...I'm glad that I don't really get jealous, because there could be good reason to;)
I've had to "tell" Susie that I'm Daddy's #1 female, and she usually laughs and smiles like "Oh, you think so:)"
It does bring back memories and makes me think what it must have been like for my mom to see me with my Dad as I was definitely the "Daddy's girl" of all of us. I think she must have been happy too, but when she was frustrated with him, I remember she didn't like that I could "see no wrong" in him...Needless to say, I see a pretty sweet thing between these two!

Susie saying "hi" and telling MiMi a story

I hope you like this and it makes you all feel even closer to our darling Susie:) MiMi, make sure you listen for when I ask Susie if she's "telling MiMi a story".

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This is a sweater that my mom's dear friend, Phyllis, knit for Susie. She had knit one for JJ too and I just love them both so much, so I had to get some pictures of her in it as it will quickly be too small and warm to wear it.
I had to include this picture because it looks like a "Little House on the Prairie" bonnet, like Ma used to put on little Grace

This is her favorite place to be and she likes to look in the mirror...uh oh

My full fledged thumb sucker! I love it! She rarely cries when I put her down to sleep...she just goes for that thumb...


I think she's worried about something, but what does a baby have to worry about??
I have to get the pictures of JJ in this jumper at the same age as I think they will be quite the fluffy hair! I think I had just given her a bath.
"hubba hubba, what a figure...two more legs and look like Trigger"
no idea what this means, but my mom always used to say it to chubby babies...Trigger was someone's horse? Oh dear Susie, you will ONLY hear this as an adorable chubby baby:)

Love the eyes, don't you?
This was a full layette outfit in six months--didn't know that they made them that big, but I exchanged for the bigger size instead of getting something else as it was a gift...pretty funny altogether though:)

Susie-Q...we just can't get enough of you! I just want to hug you all the time and you bring such comfort and joy, my cuddle bug. I know so soon you will no longer be this cuddly baby, so I am going to drink it in and praise God for a healthy baby who WILL GROW up (rightly so) and I pray so soon you will know Jesus in your heart...along with big brother.

You are straight from Heaven, little one...may you ALWAYS know how dearly you are loved!