25 December 2009

the truth about Christmas

God so loved us that for our sakes he,
through whom time was made, was made in time;
older by eternity than the world itself,
he became younger in age than many of his servants in the world;
God, who made man, was made man;
he was given existence by a mother
whom he brought into existence;
he was carried in hands which he formed;
he was nursed at breasts which he filled;
he cried like a baby in the manger in speechless infancy-
this Word
without which human eloquence is speechless.


24 December 2009

the best birthday gift

So we picked out our birthday gifts for Jesus last night, and it was great to talk with the kids about why Jesus came and what kind of gifts he would like. They insisted that he would really want a picture, so they're drawing pictures to put under our tree of the gifts we're giving.

But just a few minutes ago I realized that at midnight last night, as I watched our dear friends exit the airport terminal with their two new beautiful daughters, I witnessed one of the best gifts anyone could ever give Jesus. What a privilege for Peter and I to be present for the homecoming of two girls who will know the love and care of a family this Christmas and forever. I'm feeling a little teary and overwhelmed by it right now (and I'm sure sleep deprivation plays in a bit), but I just know that Jesus is seriously enjoying his birthday present.

23 December 2009

Honoring Christmas: gifts for the birthday boy

As mentioned in my previous post, we want our kids to understand that Christmas is about Jesus. It's his birthday. Kids may not have the capacity to fully understand the implications of Christ's birth, but they definitely understand birthdays. Yummy food, lots of fun, and... gifts!

I don't know why I never thought of this before, but I was reading a blog about another family's Christmas traditions this week and adjusted their ideas to suit our situation. So tonight after dinner we're going to pick a gift for baby Jesus. We're going to talk about what Jesus would really want for Christmas and then pick a gift that we can put under the Christmas tree for him. We could summarize by saying that Jesus would want world peace (along with every stereotyped beauty contest competitor), but that's not in our budget. Instead we're going to try to come up with a gift that encapsulates one piece of his love for the world and the reason he was born. Maybe we'll show love to an orphan living with HIV. Maybe we'll help a Worldlink missionary share God's love or send a homeless kid to camp. Maybe we'll fund an orphan's education for a month. Maybe we'll bless a family in Asia with warm blankets or an animal that will give them new opportunities. Maybe we'll give the gift of clean water. Or maybe our kids will have an even better plan. Once we all agree on a gift, we'll take something that represents it and wrap it up together.

Our family has already chosen to give in different ways throughout the year and this Christmas season, but I think choosing a gift for Jesus and symbolically placing it under the tree is an incredible way to honor his birthday. At this point in the season, it would be easy to say that we don't have time to research another project or money to buy something else, but then I look around at the time and money we have spent on gifts for our families and celebratory food and festive decorations and think, does it make any sense to say I can't do one small thing for the guest of honor at this week's party?

I don't know if this idea will excite any of you the way it did me, but I figured it was worth sharing. Better late than never, right?

Our Christmas festivities start tomorrow, but I've already scheduled several random posts to go up over the next few days. Then sometime after the weekend I'm going to post a final post for this series and share what worked well for us and what didn't this year. I hope you'll come back for the conclusion.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series
Honoring Christmas: the hard work
Honoring Christmas: advent
Honoring Christmas: giving better gifts
Honoring Christmas: the cards are coming
Honoring Christmas: a baby is born

21 December 2009

Honoring Christmas: a baby is born

So this is it. It's Christmas week. All the shopping and baking and singing and partying and wrapping are because of this week. And this week is about one tiny baby. Except many times Christmas week doesn't feel like it's really about that baby. It's an incredibly fun week, and we're thankful he was born so we can enjoy it. But he's not really a big part of our activities except for the hour or so many of us spend at church on Christmas Eve.

We've made a big deal with our kids about Christmas being Jesus' birthday. We have a nativity set that doesn't have Jesus attached to the manger, and we don't put Jesus in when we set it up. The kids know it's because he won't be born until Christmas. As Christmas morning gets closer, they check the manger for him (while I remind myself where I hid him). After they are in bed on Christmas Eve, Jesus is miraculously born and laid in the manger. So far he has been the first thing they look for every Christmas morning. I don't know about you, but I personally prefer to have my kids running downstairs to look for baby Jesus than running to see all the stuff that's under the tree.

The other way we've honored Jesus' birthday is by singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus at Christmas breakfast. We put a candle in whatever we're eating... a muffin, a sticky bun... and we sing. Then everyone blows out the candle on Jesus' behalf. It's fun, and it reminds us all why we're celebrating.

But my absolute favorite way to celebrate Jesus' birthday is something we've never done before. In fact, I just read about the idea tonight, and we've already decided to do it this year because it's such a great idea. So tomorrow I'll share with you our very exciting new family tradition that allows us to honor the baby born to change the world.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series
Honoring Christmas: the hard work
Honoring Christmas: advent
Honoring Christmas: giving better gifts
Honoring Christmas: the cards are coming

20 December 2009

this time I mean it

OK, so I way overestimated myself last Sunday when I said I'd be back to blogging. I was in a fog most of the past week, as life has been quite a roller coaster lately. I'm hoping that you'll forgive me for my absence if I post a few pictures of our cute kids playing in the snow, and then we'll try again tomorrow. Really. I promise. And it will be good because I'm going to tell you about some of our favorite parts of our Christmas celebration.

13 December 2009

an unplanned blogging break

My blog counter tells me that some of you were expecting some blog posts this past week. I was expecting to write some posts this past week, but life doesn't always work the way we expect. On Tuesday I finally succumbed to the illness that had been trying to take hold, and I had a few unpleasant days. It's mostly over, though my voice hasn't returned yet. Peter's grandmother was admitted to the hospital this week, which means he has spent quite a few hours driving to and from the hospital and visiting her. We'd appreciate your prayers for her, as it looks like she's unlikely to make it home before Christmas. Between hospital trips and putting in a 12 hour day Saturday for Worldlink, I've been feeling the stress of being home with 3 kids who are "in a stage." Throw a few more unexpected thing in the mix, and the week was over. But tomorrow's a new day. One in which I plan to get back on track with much of my life, including blogging. I won't promise, because that's a dangerous thing to do, but I am hopeful.

06 December 2009

alternative gift market

Tomorrow we will be at the Alternative Gift Market at the Plymouth Meeting Mall from 4:30-7:30pm. If you're in the area, please consider coming out to support this great event in its first year. There will be cookies and shopping and kids' crafts and coffee and 5 Bowersoxes who would love to see you.

03 December 2009

Honoring Christmas: the cards are coming

We received our first 2 Christmas cards in the mail today, so I thought tonight would be a good time to change my intended order of posts and share a Christmas tradition we started 2 years ago.

Those of you who send Christmas cards know it can be time consuming to send out a stack of cards, even if all you do is sign your name or write the address. If you compose a family newsletter or write personal notes, it's a huge task. The year our kids came home, I was so frazzled that I was barely even looking at the cards as they came in. It bothered me that I wasn't acknowledging the effort and expense that went into each greeting, so Peter and I figured out a new plan that we really like.

When we get a card or letter, we set it aside. After dinner each night we sit around the table and read the ones that have come in. Then we take time to pray for the people who sent them. If we know specific needs, we pray specifically. If we don't, we just pray a general blessing. Later the photos go on the fridge and all other cards are hung in the living room to beautify our Christmas season.

The whole process only adds a few minutes to our dinner time, but it's good to read the cards and talk about our friends and family together. And we're assuming no one minds being prayed for.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series
Honoring Christmas: the hard work
Honoring Christmas: advent
Honoring Christmas: giving better gifts

01 December 2009

Honoring Christmas: giving better gifts

I'm back, and I'm certain some of you are wondering why I didn't post about gift giving before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The answer is simple: I was busy with Thanksgiving family fun, and I'm not that organized. Until such a time as I get paid to blog, please keep your expectations very low.

But Advent has started, and Christmas has now captured the attention of nearly everyone. We have 24 days to finish getting ready, and I'm guessing that gift shopping is high on the to do list for many of us. As for me, I'm a fan of giving and receiving Christmas gifts. There are those people that are difficult to buy for, and I'm not so fond of that part, but I like Christmas gifts as a general rule. I know people who no longer exchange gifts and generously donate all the money they would have spent to worthy causes. We've talked about becoming those people, but we've decided not to go that route. Instead we have a modest Christmas budget with defined spending limits, and we try to give the best gifts we can with the money we have available.

I realize that every family is very different in their approach to gift giving. I'm sure that some of our favorite gift giving options would never fly in your family and vice versa, but I'm sharing some of what we like to do in hope that it will help us all to think creatively about giving better gifts. Please comment and share your ideas as well. I love getting new inspiration and new options to check out.

So without further ado, here are some ideas we love for giving better gifts.

1. Give gift certificates for interesting things to do. They never add clutter or end up stuffed under the bed or break after 3 days, and they allow people to spend time making happy memories. Find interesting restaurants the gift recipient would enjoy. Send someone to the spa for pampering. Check out local arboretums, historical attractions, theaters, bowling alleys, zoos, gardens, museums, etc. If you're willing to spend more, consider buying a membership for a full year worth of fun. Since our kids came home, we've enjoyed numerous trips to the children's museum, McDonald's, the children's garden, and the zoo that were all gifts. We love these gifts and look forward to using them. This year we added two new things to the wish list we gave our family: tickets to The Crayola Factory and gift certificates to attend workshops at ACPPA, the community art center 2 blocks from our house. Some people feel that a gift certificate isn't a "real" gift, but we think enjoying special activities is one of the best gifts.

2. Give gifts with purpose. If you know someone who loves coffee, buy some high quality fair trade coffee that also supports a great cause. If you don't already have a favorite organization that sells coffee, we'd recommend Gobena Coffee. Everyone wins: the gift recipient, the coffee farmers, and the organization receiving the profits. Find out if your favorite charitable organization is selling anything as a fundraiser. For Mother's Day Peter made a donation to an organization I love and received my favorite necklace in return. If you want to buy home decor for someone, buy it from a fair trade store or online retailer so you're supporting artisans around the world. Ten Thousand Villages has very cool stuff in a wide variety of price ranges. Thanks to the internet, it doesn't take long to find oodles of purposeful gift giving options.

3. Give previously loved gifts. I know some of you will think the idea of giving used gifts is terrible. I've struggled with it, too. A few years ago Peter found a used high end drill on craigslist. He knew my brother would love it. All the siblings had a debate about whether he would be OK with a used gift, and I was the most hesitant. We finally decided to go in together and take the risk. Phil was so surprised to get such a great drill. He didn't care a bit that it was used because he knew he would have never gotten one new. This year I decided to make a quick stop at the Thrift Store to see if Garty's desired Bob the Builder movie was there. Sure enough, I found it for $1. By the time Garty is old enough to understand that I bought him a used VHS tape instead of a new DVD, he'll be years past his Bob the Builder phase. Giving previously loved gifts obviously isn't always a good choice, but when it works well, it frees up money for other useful purposes.

4. Give alternative gifts. Most of us really don't need a lot more stuff to put in our house, so consider making donations to charities that the gift recipient will appreciate. There's a non-profit organization for almost any interest your friends and family members may have.

If you really want to give a "real" gift, make a donation and then give something related to the donation. Since our kids came home, an animal has been donated on behalf of our family to another family in need each Christmas. The gift we open is a note explaining the gift and then one these handmade ornaments. This weekend when we decorate our tree with the kids, we'll talk about the goat and pig we received. We'll wonder what the families who received the real animals are doing now. We'll be thankful that they are benefitting from our gift. It will be a good memory, and our tree will look cool. I realize that this kind of crafty creativity isn't for everyone. You won't find me trying to fashion a cute little animal out of modeling clay, but I could order Beatrice's Goat for a family to read to understand the significance of a goat I donated on their behalf.

If I still haven't convinced you, consider buying a "real" gift and then making a very small donation on behalf of each gift recipient. An alternative gift market is a great place to do this, as gifts often start as low as a few dollars. You can buy as many little gifts as you want, but you only have to make one payment at the end. Search for one in your area or come to the alternative gift market at the Plymouth Meeting Mall on Dec 7. Peter and I will be there representing Worldlink and 2 other organizations we support. You can stop to say hi as you check out more than 20 great organizations, nibble a few cookies, and sip some tasty coffee.

I'm sure there are other great ideas I've missed, but I need to stop and get this posted. I hope to hear about all the great gift ideas you have so I can add them to my list for next year.

Next up: making the most of family traditions.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series
Honoring Christmas: the hard work
Honoring Christmas: advent

29 November 2009

first Sunday of Advent: hope

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:7-8)

25 November 2009

Honoring Christmas: advent

Growing up in a church that didn't make much of Advent, I pretty much assumed that Advent was a fancy word for the Christmas season and sometimes included a fun Advent calendar that helped with the Christmas countdown. It's only been in the past few years that I've come to appreciate Advent for what it really is: the time of expectation and waiting for the birth of Christ. Nothing helps me to honor Christmas more than observing Advent in our home. When I have weekly and daily reminders of the reason behind the shopping and baking and partying, my heart is full and excited for Christmas when it comes. We're still making adjustments from year to year on the way we observe Advent, especially with the addition of 3 kids, but we're slowly finding practices that work for us. If you're not in the habit of celebrating Advent in your home, I'll share some ideas, and you can surf the web looking for more if you don't like mine.

One of the simplest ways to start is to use an Advent wreath. I always throw mine together last minute because I don't prepare before Thanksgiving, and the first Sunday of Advent catches me by surprise. (Not this year though. Writing this post reminded me that we need to pick up candles when we're out today.) In our family we don't particularly care if we we use the traditional color candles. We just make a ring of 4 candles with a white candle in the middle that is reserved for lighting at Christmas breakfast. We put the wreath in the middle of our dinner table. Each Sunday of Advent we do a short reading, pray, and light a new candle after we eat dinner. On subsequent days of the week we relight the candles before we sit down to eat. (We learned the hard way that thin taper candles won't last all the way through Advent if you light them every day, so plan accordingly.) We enjoy watching our Advent wreath and considering the significance of each candle as Christmas nears. Our only complaint is that we've had trouble finding kid-friendly readings and prayers we really like. We still haven't chosen ones to try this year, so I'll have to do some searching over the next few days. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

We have tried to find daily kid-friendly readings in addition to the weekly candle lighting service. So far we've been disappointed with our choices 2 years in a row, so this year we're going to try a Jesse Tree. We know many people who use a Jesse Tree, and there are a variety of ways to do it. The name comes from Jesus being the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1-2 ("A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him..."). The daily readings take you all the way back to Genesis and trace the way the entire story of the Bible is really about the coming of Jesus. If you search online, you'll find all kinds of Jesse Tree resources and ideas for making your own Jesse Tree ornaments. Last week I went wild and purchased a widely recommended ebook by Ann Voskamp that includes readings for each day and printable ornaments that I can just laminate. I don't do crafts, so it was money well spent. I've skimmed the readings, and I like them pretty well. We'll see how the kids respond.

Peter and I have also come to appreciate liturgical readings and structured prayers as a powerful way to prepare our own hearts during Advent. I realize that some of you had your share of liturgy in the past and have developed negative associations with it, but neither of us were even exposed to it as kids. If structured readings don't work for you, you could probably find some less "churchy" daily readings that you prefer. For us, we've found that liturgical readings help us to focus on the coming of Christ in deep and powerful ways. This year we'll be using Phyllis Tickle's Advent prayers on a daily basis. Sometimes we read them together at night after the kids are in bed, but that's a matter of personal preference. We've also been blessed last year and this one to be part of a small group that enjoys doing a weekly Advent service that Peter arranges from the Book of Common Prayer. (If you're interested in seeing or using the services, Peter would be happy to send them to you.)

There are countless ways to observe Advent. Finding ones that connect for you or your family may take some experimentation, but the work is well worth it. Bringing focus to the Christmas chaos allows all of us to move from mere celebrating to honoring Christmas in significant ways.

Up next in our series: giving better gifts.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series
Honoring Christmas: the hard work

24 November 2009

did he read my mind?

As I was reorganizing my desk and trying to figure out how I can get even close to finishing my tasks for the day, I opened a random book in the pile and read:

We have hints that there is way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power. If only we could slip over into that center!

(Thomas Kelly)

What an appealing and un-American concept. If only I understood how to live it out.

23 November 2009

an important tip

Every year the kindergarten class at our elementary school compiles a Thanksgiving booklet. All the teachers ask the kids how to cook a turkey, and they record the kids' responses word for word. This is what Patience told her teacher:

Hunt for the turkey at the turkey store. Take it home. Put it in a pot. Put peppers, onions, and strawberries all over it. Cook it for 31 hours at 36 degrees. When it is done, put it on the table. Eat it with cookies and milk.

I hope this helps you all as you prepare for your upcoming holiday dinner.

18 November 2009

Honoring Christmas: the hard work

Some of the feedback I've received since I started this series a few days ago has gotten me really excited about upcoming posts. This post, however, isn't one that's exciting to write. I'd love to skip over the tedious hard stuff and go straight to fun stuff. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. Christmas doesn't either.

The truth is that deciding in our hearts to honor Christmas and to make the most of it is one thing. Living out that decision is another. No matter where our hearts are, Christmas still brings lots of busyness that most of us can't escape. We have places to go. We have gifts to buy and wrap. We have food to make. We have decorating and cleaning to do. And if you manage a lot of these tasks at your house, the Christmas season can be a stressful time.

The year our kids came home I made the decision to finish all my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. I figured that I'd be able to relax and celebrate Christmas with my family much easier when such a time consuming (and sometimes stressful) task could be crossed off my list. It really did help. In fact, the experiment was so successful that they were kicking me out of the stores at 11pm on Thanksgiving Eve the following year as I finished off my last few purchases.

Unfortunately, finishing the shopping didn't erase the rest of the busyness. I was still pulling late nights baking and sending Christmas cards and decorating and cleaning. As much as I love many aspects of the Christmas chaos, it's much harder to focus on honoring Christmas when I'm looking at my to do list after only a few hours of sleep.

So this year I committed to working harder before Thanksgiving so I can relax and honor Christmas in December. I'm a procrastinator by nature, but I know that every task I force myself to do now will free me up to enjoy the season later. One resource that has helped me to stay on track has been Simple Mom's 12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas. I realize it's a bit unfair to introduce you to it with less than 6 weeks to go, but you could pull an all nighter to catch up or do 2 assignments each week from now until Christmas. Better yet, you could read it, find a few ideas that will help you, and start small this year. Trying to change everything at once may create more stress than it alleviates anyway.

The most important thing is to consider for yourself what holiday tasks distract you most from honoring Christmas and take action to minimize the distractions. Focus on working ahead and simplifying the work. As we all prioritize these 2 goals, we will be more free to enjoy the season in significant ways.

In my next post I'll start sharing some specific ways we honor Christmas in our family. I hope you'll check back and add your input to the conversation.

Previous Posts
Honoring Christmas: a series

17 November 2009

quote of the day

I just overheard Garty saying to Peter, "Daddy, my belly hurts. Can you tickle it?"

16 November 2009

first gift update

For those who donated $10 on Friday toward the first gift campaign, I wanted to let you know that in 24 hours, over $10,000 was raised! Isn't it amazing what happens when many who have much make small sacrifices for those who have little?

I'm reentering family life after a weekend women's retreat. I'll be back tomorrow or Wednesday with the next post in our Honoring Christmas series.

13 November 2009

Honoring Christmas: a series

I don't want to freak anyone out, but Christmas is exactly 6 weeks away. It's hard to believe. Since our kids came home in 2007 I've given a lot of thought to Christmas. I love the hype. Buying gifts. Party hopping. Decorating. Listening to incessant Christmas music. Baking. Driving around to see Christmas lights. But an American Christmas was new to our kids, and I wanted them to understand the true focus of Christmas and not miss it in the wonderfully fun busyness. So we made a choice to become more intentional about our Christmas season. It's been good for the kids... and for us as well.

Over the next few weeks, we're going to do a series of blog posts entitled Honoring Christmas. Most of us enjoy celebrating Christmas, but honoring it requires focusing on the purpose of the celebrating. I don't know about you, but I've spent a lot more Christmas seasons celebrating that I have honoring.

Not everything our family does will work for you, but I hope something will. And I hope that as I share our family's Christmas traditions, you will leave comments and share yours.

If you want to set your heart on honoring Christmas this year, please consider giving your first gift of the season TODAY.
Water for Christmas is a campaign that started in 2008. It grew out of the heart of a mommy like me who has beautiful African children. Little did she know that her campaign would grow into a huge movement. So today Water for Christmas is kicking off the 2009 campaign by asking everyone to donate $10 as the first gift you give this Christmas season. Just $10. Some of us will spend that much to eat out today. Or to pay gas and tolls for your commute. Or to pick up an armful of necessities at the supermarket. But the $10 you donate will provide clean life-saving water to one person in Africa for 10 years. That amazes me every time I think about it. Today you can make a secure, tax deductible donation through an established and reputable organization that will save lives. I can't think of many better ways to set our hearts on honoring Christmas this year than to start the season by giving a truly significant gift. I know you're intrigued, so go read more about today's first gift campaign and consider making a donation.

Beyond believing in the power of the Water for Christmas campaign, I am personally biased toward it because the wells they're currently digging are all in Liberia. It makes me sentimental and teary eyed to think that one or more of the wells could save the life of our kids' father or sibling or aunt or uncle. That's powerful for me. It means that our $10 donation allows us to honor Christmas and our children at the same time.

In just a minute I'm going to click over to make our own donation. Then I'm going to sketch out a schedule for the rest of our Honoring Christmas series. I hope you'll check back and help me to think through ways to be more intentional about our Christmases. Let's not spend the next 6 weeks running around missing the point.

11 November 2009

sweet boy

Garty just climbed up behind me on my desk chair and said, "Mommy, your buddy's behind you." Then he proceeded to rub my back. I'm thankful that little things can momentarily erase my memory of last night's constant bickering, whining, and obnoxious behavior from 3 little people.

05 November 2009

our kids and food

Joshua just asked what we're having for dinner. When he heard chicken and broccoli alfredo, he screamed a loud and enthusiastic, "Yay!!" Then a pause. Then he asked, "Did we have that before?"

It shouldn't amuse me any more when the kids act that way about food. It's definitely not the first time I've had a similar conversation. We just love food around here, whether we remember the last time we had it or not!

31 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

We're not big Halloween fans, but the kids sure are cute. This year we had a chef, a "fixer" (a.k.a. builder), and a clown.

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18 October 2009

weekend getaway

We had a great weekend at Three Springs Farm with most of my family. We were all excited to see my brother and family in their new home, and there's no better place in Pennsylvania to hang out than Three Springs. Plenty of fun pictures are waiting for you, so follow the link to check them out.

08 October 2009

it's about time

I've been blogging since 2006, so tonight I decided it was time to make our blog a little prettier. It was a good night to do it. I had a very tough day, my to do list is quite long, and I'm exhausted. What better time to sit around and decorate a blog?

first day

In the stress of the past month or two, I've neglected to share some of Patience's big moments with all of you. Here she is on her first day of elementary school ready to go. She did so well!

After school she enjoyed her first day of kindergarten water ice and told us all about her big day.

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30 September 2009

when it rains, it pours

We must really like drama because we tend to clump all our crises together. The past month has been absolutely exhausting for us. Both big kids settled into school well. After the tough time Joshua had starting kindergarten 2 years ago, we were shocked at how easily Patience adjusted. Garty transitioned well to being home alone with Mommy. It looked like it was shaping up to be an easy fall, when...

Everything started going wrong in our house. The old drain in the corner of the basement that used to help rid us of the water that pours in when it rains decided to start giving water back-- dark, smelly, disturbing "water." When a plumber we know told Peter how to plug the old pipe up, the "water" started coming up through cracks in the floor instead. To add to the problem, every time it rained more water would pour in from the back side of the house. Without anywhere to go, a polluted lake was taking over the basement. As a result, Peter regularly puts on a mask, sucks up the lake with a shop vac, and carries it out in buckets. The 2nd plumber told us we just need a sump pump. Peter was pretty sure that was only a temporary bandaid on the problem. Today's plumber actually thinks our pipes are all fine and the actual problem might be in the other half of our twin. He's our favorite plumber ever! If he's right, we probably have a long road ahead because the landlord next door isn't terribly helpful, but at least it won't be our expense. In the meantime, we're burning candles to mask the scents rising from below.

The basement lake moved the roofing problem to the top of the list. In an effort to try to stop the flood that pours in every time it rains, Peter spent Monday hanging off the side of the roof removing the old gutters and boards. This morning the roofing company came and did the rebuilding. They claim they've got us covered now for the long haul. We're anxious for rain to see what happens downstairs.

Oh, and the roaches heard about all the great water in the basement and came back. We've been on maintenance with the exterminator since we got roaches 2 years ago or so. No problems at all during that time. Then we threw a roach party in the basement. They couldn't resist.

While poor Peter has been dealing with the house, we've also been dealing with Joshua. He's been having a tough time recently with his attitude and behavior. It's very unlike him, and it's exhausting for us when he has a bad day. It seriously impacts all 5 of us. We're getting some help and are optimistic that this will be a short phase of life. We have to be optimistic or we'd just sit down in our smelly lake and cry.

So if you're wondering why I haven't posted about back to school or Patience's birthday or happenings in our ministry or all the cute things our kids say and do every day, it's because we're just a tad bit overwhelmed. But God will sustain us as he always does, and we'll be back soon.

Last night's story from the Jesus Storybook Bible was well-timed:

"Little flock," Jesus said, "you are more important that birds! More important than flowers! The birds and the flowers don't sit and worry about things. And God doesn't want his children to worry either. God loves to look after the birds and the flowers. And he loves to look after you, too." ...

Even though people had forgotten, the birds and the flowers hadn't forgotten - they still knew their song. It was the song all God's creation had sung to him from the very beginning. It was the song people's hearts were made to sing: "God made us. He loves us. He is very pleased with us."

23 September 2009

biblical literacy

Garty has his little blue Bible open. He's been using it to sing songs about "God and Jesus." A minute ago he told me, "It says Joshua knocked the wall down." I was excited that he remembered a Bible story, so I said, "Did they walk around the city until it fell down?" Garty hastily agreed but then added, "The wall fell in Joshua's eye, but it didn't fall in Patience's eye." In that moment I realized that Garty doesn't remember the Bible story at all. He's talking about when Peter let them take a hammers to the walls in the 3rd floor hallway a few weeks ago. I guess it's back to square one for biblical literacy, but at least he has good memories of the remodeling project.

03 September 2009

how could I refuse?

A 3 year old's request from the back seat after a stop at Trader Joe's: "Can you please open all the windows because my balloon wants to dance."

31 August 2009

quite a weekend

We had a very fun weekend, so I thought I'd share some pictures. Pictures are always fun, especially when there are lots of cute kids.

Saturday we had our annual Grove City College pool party. Every year a group of us coordinate calendars to gather for a relaxed day of food, swimming, and catching up on each others' lives. This year the weather threatened to wreck some of the fun, but we had a dry stretch in the afternoon when most of the kids and half of the adults enjoyed the pool.

Sunday we had a combined birthday party for Joshua and Patience. They wanted to invite friends, so I agreed to a few local friends in addition to the grandparents and one aunt. We had a cooking party in honor of our family's obsession with food. I had a very stressful day getting ready for the party (on account of being gone partying all of Sat), but all the pain was totally worth it when I saw the kids making their own dinners.

Now we're trying to refocus because school starts first thing tomorrow morning for our kindergartner and our 2nd grader!

28 August 2009

working hard

I've been trying to get some work done around here this week, so the kids have been creating their own work. There were some big fires, and here are the firefighters fully decked out in their winter boots on a very warm day.

Meanwhile Garty was knocking down the walls. (Maybe you can guess what Peter was doing in the third floor hallway last week.) And in case you're wondering, his pajama shirt is definitely on backwards. He dressed himself.
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25 August 2009

disturbing imaginations

While I was sorting laundry a few minutes ago, I heard Joshua and Patience playing. They were pretending their stuffed animals were a family of lions. The kid lions asked if they could go to the playground. The response was, "You are old enough to go to the playground by yourself. Just..." I was expecting some typical parental advice like "be careful" or "don't talk to strangers." Instead the end of the sentence was "eat anybody who is mean to you."

23 August 2009

Sunday report

Peter's sermon went well today. The room didn't burst into chatter the moment the service ended like it usually does. I think everyone was feeling contemplative. However, sometimes it's good to talk about hard things so we handle them better when they come, which was exactly the point of the sermon. Thanks to any who prayed!

22 August 2009


If you read this post in the near future, we'd appreciate your prayers for Peter as he preaches tomorrow. His sermon title is "When it's OK to not be OK." He's preaching from Job about dealing with loss and grief whether we're experiencing it or supporting others who are. I just finished reading the final version. It's really good, but it's not an easy sermon to preach or hear. Pray that God will use it to comfort or challenge people as needed. I'll let you know how it goes.

15 August 2009

an 8 year old? say it isn't so

Joshua claims he turned 8 today, but we're not convinced that we're old enough to have an 8 year old. I tried to talk him into turning 4, but he wasn't interested in Mommy's crazy ideas. So despite our best efforts, we decided to go ahead and celebrate our boy. Here are a few pictures from the evening...

Joshua was very specific about his dinner requests: honey baked chicken, rice, green beans with nuts, and roasted eggplant and tomato salad.

His cake was the same request as last year. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake.

We gave him a rocket that was assembled tonight and should take flight for the first time tomorrow.

We also enjoyed moving our soon-to-be butterflies to their new home. Gram and Grandpa Bobby stopped by earlier in the week with this very cool birthday gift. In 7-10 days we should have 5 painted lady butterflies!

Before bed we read Joshua's new book, A is for Africa. And the fun's not over yet. We still have a small joint birthday party for Joshua and Patience on August 30th where they'll both be spoiled with lots of fun and more cool gifts.

14 August 2009

cousin love

One of my very favorite things is to watch our kids play with their cousins. Cousin love is a beautiful thing. Sadly, our only 2 local cousins moved away today. Now seeing any of the 6 (soon to be 7!) cousins will be a special occasion. We miss them when they're gone, but we're so thankful for the times when we're together.

11 August 2009

water fight

Can someone offer these kids some tactical advice on waging a good water battle? You shouldn't need to study the video too long to figure out where they went wrong.

08 August 2009


The summer is flying by. We're having lots of fun. There's just not enough energy left at the end of the day to tell you about it, so I thought I'd take some time today to share the fun with lots of pictures. Click on all the links to see a small portion of the tremendous collection of pictures we took in July. I even took time to add a few captions for you, which is pretty impressive for me these days.

We kicked things off with a fun 4th of July with friends and family. The next weekend I ran away for a wonderfully relaxing scrapbooking weekend on Long Beach Island thanks to my friend's parents who vacated their condo. The following weekend we all headed to Ocean City, NJ where Peter shared about Worldlink at CCO's Beach Project while the rest of us took advantage of a free trip to the shore. Our official vacation was 4 days in Baltimore and Leesburg enjoying the sights and visiting Arlan, Marcy, and Ari. Then with the little bit of energy we had left we went to Camden one evening to visit the Children's Garden, play in the fountains, and have a wonderful dinner with Gabes and Daria. When we weren't out of town, we were taking swimming lessons, visiting the library, going on picnics, meeting our new nephew, picking blueberries, and learning to do cartwheels (not the kids... Peter).

06 August 2009

tonight's fun

From Peter...

Post dinner game of hide and seek:

1. Joshua counts upstairs while Patience and Garty run downstairs to hide. 2. Patience calls (not quietly) for Garty to come hide in the mud room. 3. Garty pounds across the bare floor and says (again, not quietly), "Where? In the back?" He proceeds to hide. 4. Joshua walks down the back stairs, immediately steps into the mudroom, and the round is over. How did he know?

20 July 2009

welcome to the world

Meet our newest nephew. "Baby Grant" was born on Friday morning. The 5 of us met him Sunday afternoon. He's a cutie, and the kids were all quite taken with him. We're up to 6 nieces and nephews, and we love it. There's nothing more fun to watch than all the cousins playing together, although it may be a while until Grant is ready to take on our 3.
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29 June 2009

where are the pictures of the kids?

I know many of you read our blog because our kids are cute, but this time you'll have to endure pictures of us without the kids. Friday was our 10th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated in style with a trip to Newport, RI. My parents and sister agreed to keep the kids for 3 days and 2 nights, so we dropped them off on the way north. We weren't sure if a 2 night getaway was worth driving so far, but we were pleased to discover that it definitely was. Even with some uncooperative weather, we had a wonderful time. We walked by the ocean, ate delicious food, walked around town, toured 2 mansions, ate more delicious food, read a novel together, and walked some more. It was the most relaxed we've felt since we became parents, and we loved it. The kids did better than anyone anticipated, and we were all happy to see each other again last night. If you'd like to see more pictures from our trip, you can visit my album.

23 June 2009

what a night

After my second rough afternoon in a row with the kids, we decided it was time for some serious family bonding tonight. I threw a quick picnic dinner together, and we hopped in the van to drive the 7 blocks to the park. (Yes, we should have walked there, but we didn't want to waste time or wear the kids out too early.)

When we got out of the van, Patience inquired about something on the ground which was the cause for great jubilation on my part. We were surrounded by mulberry trees! There was even a white mulberry tree. I haven't eaten a white mulberry since we left Illinois when I was 12. I have so many happy memories of the 3 mulberry trees in our yard during those 6 years of my young life.

After we all ate a few and Peter assured me that no one would pick them all while we were in the park, we headed over the bridge only to discover perfect ripe raspberries growing on the other side.

A little further down the path we came across a deer who didn't seem too concerned that we were gawking at her. We spent a few minute hanging out there before an adorable spotted fawn joined the first. We scared the baby away pretty quickly though.

When we finally settled in to eat, Joshua spotted this. We're still not sure what it is, so please let us know if you can identify it.
We played in the creek for a while after dinner. Then we headed out to pick berries. Deep in the weeds (where the best raspberries were hiding), I found a perfect snake skin that everyone enjoyed touching. Then we ended our outing with some serious mulberry picking.
After everyone was changed for bed (but before brushing teeth) we all enjoyed some vanilla ice cream that we made on Father's Day with some fresh berries on top. It was a nearly perfect ending to a very exciting evening. Who would have thought that so much of God's amazing creation was available right in Norristown?


I just came over here to post and realized that I never posted when the baby was born! Oddly, I remember doing it. I must really be losing my mind. Don't worry though. Mattu has not been in labor for the past 13 days. Baby Abraham entered the world on June 11. He's absolutely beautiful. The first time I held him I felt as close as I've ever felt to wanting to make one of our own. Of course, we wouldn't be able to make one with gorgeous brown skin and tons of dark curls, but you know what I mean. The family seems to be adjusting to the change pretty smoothly. Sorry to leave you hanging for so long.

10 June 2009

the baby is coming

Tonight we're having a baby! NOT ME! Our 16 year old Liberian girl has gone into labor. However, I feel that "we" are having a baby since her family has been such a huge part of my past four months. We'd appreciate prayer for Mattu and her little boy. He's coming six week early, and there are some other big concerns as well. I'll let you know when we officially have eleven Liberian neighbors.

03 June 2009

our baby is 3

For the past week or two, Garty has been telling everyone that his birthday is "June ferd." And today June ferd finally arrived. We had a family birthday party Sunday and then opened presents and celebrated again over dinner tonight. Nothing monumental on the party front, but Garty enjoyed it all, especially the coconut cake and strawberry pie. Here are a few pictures of our boy from our two celebrations.




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