Archive for July, 2008

It was a little over a year ago that I was sitting on Heather’s couch watching the clock’s hand move from double digits to single digits. We had returned to her home that evening from our two-day trek across the dessert and desolate wasteland that separates St. Louis from Southern New Mexico. My cousin and her husband along with the four girls were sleeping upstairs while I waited to be reunited with my husband. I divided my solitude intermittently between inhaling paragraph’s of Carolyn Custis James’ Lost Women of the Bible and exhaling long gazes at this painting that hung between the two windows that would announce Nate’s arrival.

Earlier that year, Heather had played Doula for her dear neighbor. The husband painted Heather this picture to thank her for her role in ushering in the life of their first child.

To some it may appear odd that they would chose a painting of a coming storm to commemorate the birth of a new baby girl.

The longer I gazed at this painting the more it appeared to be an allegory of childbirth. The first spasms that send their spidery fingers across a women’s belly are the dark clouds on the horizon hinting at the turbulence to come. The winds blow harder and harder moving the darkness closer. The body responds in fits and shudders, contractions growing stronger with each flex. Soon the spasms are rolling one top of the other like a whipping wind leaving the woman breathless and afraid.

And when it seems as though the darkness is swallowing the world, the storm breaks open pouring out it’s furry, pushing down flashes of fierce light and screaming out peals of thunder. The ground is soaked; the limbs are ravished.

Then there in the storm’s wake is a new sky, a new babe, drenched from the storm, but completely new. The sun peaks through the haze shining its rays on the bright, unseen skin. And as bright beams of colors cast their prism across the sky the now-distant storm fades away into the horizon. It dissipates until the awful memory is merely the frame the surrounds the light of the new birth.

The more I stared at painting the more it appeared to be in motion. The clouds were rolling, rolling towards me. Cerulean and cobalt. Graphite and grey. The melancholic hues were tumbling beyond the frameless borders until I could smell the haze in my nostrils.

That night I knew there was a storm rumbling within me, but I didn’t know what it was. The pains that I had felt peeling across my abdomen were growing in intensity, but I was ignorant to their cause. And here it was in front of me. The ominous clouds weighted with sorrow, shrouding the sun. And a white cloud, light with promise, kicking out its feet.

In the morning the dreaded clouds broke over my head. Drops of red would signal the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy. In the week to follow, we would learn the hard and holy details that give us cause to say, “Three in heaven, one on earth.”

Many days in the past year, I have closed my eyes and seen this image. The dark clouds rolling, coming with an unstoppable force. There is no shelter in the picture. There is no place to hide. There is no Savior holding out his mighty hands and declaring, “Storm be still.” The storm is coming. It is going to hit.

The storm did come. And I got very, very wet. Drenched in fact.

And while the darkness was severe, it was not consuming. Because there was a Savior holding my hand saying, “See those white clouds peaking out? See the band of blue on the horizon? That’s from me. I am the Light, walk with me.”

A very wise woman prayed for me several months earlier when we heard that our second child’s heart would stop beating. She prayed, “Lord let her hope be in you, not in doctors or medicine or this baby or future babies, but in you. Let her hope be in you and you alone.”

With that prayer she tethered me to a rock that that would not be swept away in the storm. The rains came down and the floods came up, but I was tied to a rock that stood firm.

Being bound to a rock kept me from drowning, but it didn’t keep me dry. I felt the wind upon my face and my skin soaked in the rain. These storms in our lives are powerfully painful and it is easy to confuse this pain with defeat. It is easy to close our eyes in the darkness and fail to see the flickers of light.

But there is hope beyond these shadows. This painting is redemptive. Like childbirth, on the other side of these contractions is life.

For me, it is an impenetrable union with Jesus and a faith that cries, “You, Christ, are my rock. I was not washed away.”

I know that that this is not the last storm in my life. And I know that as I write this there are many who find themselves drenched in a downpour and others who see cloudy days on the horizon.

Even now I stand on the edges and pray as the dark clouds gather ominously over my friend’s womb, where her baby’s heart beats too rapidly. I pray as the showers pour down on my young cousin whose organs have been devastated by E Coli. I pray that they would be healed, that they would comforted, that they would be filled with peace, but most of all I pray that their hope would in Christ.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation….Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is out refuge. Selah

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Tonight little Stellan, the not yet born son of my college roommate, is fighting for his life. His little heart is beating so fast and so irregularly that it can’t survive. He needs a miracle. We are praying that the Great Physician will touch little Stellan’s heart and save him.

If you would like to join the Around The Clock Prayer Vigil For Stellan, please go here.

After visiting Stellan’s mama at the hospital tonight, Ava heard that she had received more bad news and was upset.

“Mama, is Baby Stellan’s Mama crying?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Is it the crying in her heart or the crying down her face?”

“Both, sweetie. We need to pray for her.”

“And for Baby Stellan.”

Please join us in praying for this sweet babe and his lovely mama. It is our deepest hope that we will meet little Stellan on this side of Heaven.

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If you give a daddy a mouse play ticket, he’ll probably drive you to the theater. When he gets there he’ll see all the other mice and want you to look like a mouse too. So he’ll paint some whiskers on your face and help you make some ears.

If you glue fur on the ears, he’ll notice that you got some glue on your hands.

He won’t want that glue to end up on his cloths so he’ll send you to the bathroom to wash them.

If you come back out to find him, he’ll notice everyone else is walking in. He’ll want to get in line too, so he’ll ask to see the ticket. If you show him the ticket, he’ll help you find your seat.

If the lights go dark, he’ll probably whisper, “Ava’s, it’s about to begin.” He might even think that he will take a quick nap, because after all it’s a mouse play for children.

But if the mouse gets his foot stuck in the bucket and then tries to use a mop to pry it out and then the bucket flies off the mouse and traps the boy’s head, he’ll laugh until it tickles your ears. He may even laugh so loud that you want to cover them with the furry mouse ears, especially if the mouse then gets both feet stuck in the bucket while unknowingly knocking the boy in the head with the mop.

If the mouse is chased by giant hairballs or his tail is sucked up by a crazy vacuum, he’ll let you sit on his lap and hide. But it will be a bouncy lap because he is still laughing out loud.

And when the mouse gets his last cookie, daddy will remember that he is also very hungry. If you’re all done with the mouse play, he’ll probably drive you to a café.

After all, he is always a hungry daddy.

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It should be apparent by this point in the life of this blog that safety is not high on the list of traits packed into one man known as HungryMan.

Whether it is sledding, log riding or jumping on a trampoline flinging his three-year-old girl like a ragdoll with a spring coil neck, my husband likes to push the bounds and limits of safety.

The whole “Fred-drives-HungryMan’s-car-home-and-back-again” scenario worked great except for one glitch: how do we reunite in Iowa. Heather’s wonder-van with doors that open and close at a push of button and DVD-player that operates from the front dash does has its limitations.

Namely, seven seats with seven seatbelts. Heather and her girls take up five of those seatbelts leaving our family two.

Now a sensible person would look that this situation and conclude that if there is only two seats for three people than one of those persons must find alternate transportation.

And clearly in the company of seven women, HungryMan is the odd man out.

Now he was not a man without options. We have another car, and we had two sets of neighbors that were driving to the same lake that very same evening. With five extra seatbelts between the pair, he could have found seat among them.

“I’ll just ride on the floor,” he announced the night before we were going to leave.

“What? No.”

I dismissed the comment as ludicrouse. Who in 2008 would ride in a motor vehicle on the highway without being properly restrained to the seat.

As the evening wore on it became increasingly apparent that he truly did intend to ride on the floor.

“Dude, no. This is ridiculous. You can’t possibly ride on the floor.”

We began a three-way debate and I was in the losing corner.

“Rachel, it’s not that big of a deal,” Heather said, revealing the subtle shades of her rebel nature. Well, sure it’s not that big of a deal for you. It’s not your husband.

“It’s…Against the law,” I declared throwing down my trump card.

HungryMan grinned at me as he pulled out the laptop and looked it up. Even the State of Minnesota wouldn’t back me up. Apparently, it’s not against the law to ride unrestrained in a van if there isn’t enough seatbelts to go around.

Twenty-four hours later, I was buckled in along with ever other female in our entourage, while my six-foot-two husband was making a bed for himself in the narrow passage from the backseat bench to the front center console.

For the next three hours he played steward passing out pretzels and juice boxes while adjusting air vents and fluffing pillows, all the while ignoring the frequent gasps and sighs from the front right corner of the van.

We all arrived at our destination with the proper number of appendages, much to the delight of HungryMan. Though my neck remained locked and in the upright position for the remainder of the night.

Now I know that HungryMan is crazy, which was confirmed the next morning when he announced that he wanted to swing tarzan-style thirty feet from the second story deck into the lake.

The lake that is only about three feet deep at the beginning of the dock.

And Heather, as the daughter of the javalina hunter, has a high tolerance for risk, but come on, there has to be one sane person in my family. Not one person at the cabin was the least bit surprised or even concerned that HungryMan had traveled unbuckled across two states. Not one.

Seriously people, did anyone out there see the crash test dummies? Am I the only one that believes in seatbelts?

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summer love

I love summer.

I LOVE summer.


Did I mention that I love summer?

Because I do.

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I love this picture. It captures so much of our summer so far: life at the lake; the game that has consumed my family; Ava with her cousins; children imitating their parents. I love that the bean bag is mid-flight between Ava’s hand and the board. Both girl’s stand tranfixed by it’s flight. Will it go in the hole? Will Ava be able to pump her arms in the air and holler like her uncles? Or will it bounce unmercifully off the board and land in the grass?

The only trouble with this picture is that with my current track record, it will never see life past a screen.

Back when I was a working girl, I was also a 35mm girl. My office was one skyway away from a film processing center. As soon as a roll was in the can, I would drop off the film on my way to work and then hurry down at lunch time to see the pictures. I was generally so eager to see how the prints had turned out that I would leaf through the entire stack before I had finished paying. Capture to print to album was a seamless and nearly effortless process.

Then the fall before Ava was born, I was given my long wished-for “chh-chh-chh” camera, a digital SLR that took loads of brilliant and vivid pictures. I could snap away until I captured the picture that I wanted. While I gained the instant gratification of seeing my pictures immediately, I lost the urgency to print them.

Plus submitting digital files to print is not as simple as dropping off a roll of film. There is cropping and editing and enhancing involved. And of course, there is no longer a processing center between my bedroom and my lunchroom. In the past five years, I have yet to find a printing system that works. Therefore nearly all of our photos are hanging mid-flight between capture and album.

I want to change. I want to actually print pictures and put them in albums. I need your help.

How do you do it? What is your process? Do you use online printing services? Which ones? Do you like their print quality? Do you bring them into a service center? Do you make prints and put them in albums or do you make print them as pre-made albums?

What is your process?

Or are you like me, albums of beautiful pictures that you need a screen to view?

Send your advice. Help me pick these pictures off the grass and toss them to the printers.

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A few weeks ago, Shanel’s mom was in town for the weekend. Back in our college days, Shanel, our roommates, and I would head down to her parent’s place in search of fresh cookies, a healthy dose of mothering and maybe some free laundry.

We’d haul baskets of dirty clothes down into the basement and let them twirl and tumble as we rolled out cookies and answered Candy’s unlimited supply of questions. With the rest of our mothers out of state, Candy’s interest in our lives reminded us that every detail of our life mattered and we still had moms back home to answer to.

She was the hug that was missing from long-distance calls home. And we were the sporadic surges in their water bill.

Last summer Candy and Dave sold the house he had built when Shanel was three and headed to a place that knows no winter. So when I heard she was coming to town, I put in my request for an outing with Candy and geared up for the question marathon.

On the morning of our date, I told Ava that we were going to have brunch with Shanel and her mama. She flew around the house like a debutant at the prospect of her first soirée. Oh, she wanted to wear a twirling skirt. A pink one. A pink one with polka-dots.

When I pulled out her adorable white shirt that Shanel had given her for her birthday to match the very twirling, very pink, very polka-dotted skirt, she came down for a crash landing.

“But Mama, it’s just white. White is so boring. I can’t just wear white to the brunch!”

That is what she said. And then she flung herself on her bed.

Trying to convince her that the shiny silver stripes gave the white shirt all the shimmer it needed was about as effective as swapping a diamond for a cubic zirconium.

Rarely do I go head-to-head in the wardrobe wars. In the year since she has generated an opinion about how she is attired, we have struck a finely balanced truce called, “I decide what goes in her closet; she decides what comes out.”

Not only had I crossed the line and stepped into her precious territory, but then I pulled out the Mama ammo.

“Ava, if you want to go to the brunch with Shanel and her mama, this is what you are wearing. You can wear a necklace over the shirt, if you like.”

I walked out of her room, pleased with my efficiency and surprised by the mysterious lack of protesting behind me. Oh, I was naïve.

Victory is in the mind of the wearer. A necklace in the hands of Ava quickly transformed into ALL her necklaces. She sauntered into the living room with no less than a dozen beaded necklaces, two purple gloves, a velvet purse, and a pair of wings to balance it out. Forget brunch, she was heading to a casting call for Fancy Nancy.

If she was going to wear white, she was wearing it with every possible adornment in her reach. I buckled Nancy’s fancy cousin in the backseat of my car and chauffeured her to the brunch.

Ava and her over-accessorized attire were greeted with all the admiration that a four-year-old aspires to.

After many hugs and kisses, Ava received her first question of the brunch:

“What would you like to order?”

“Oh, French Toast, I want French Toast. No. Pancakes. Strawberry Pancakes. No. French Toast. Um, Pancakes.”

Ava, honey, you’d better tighten up your responses or the question and answer time is going to be of the extended kind.

Candy, being the surrogate mother that she is, brought her own contribution to the closet-o’-Ava.

And what do you give fanciest four-year-old this side of the picture book?

Why sparkle flip-flops, of course. And two pairs no less.

She tried on the pink ones and twirled. She tried on the purple ones and twirled. And then she put on one of each and twirled.

Between the varying flip-flop combinations and mouthfuls of French Toast, Ava was not available for further inquiry.

Eventually the weight of vanity grew too great and Ava deposited her acrylic gems on the table. Switching roles as quickly as her costume change, Ava went from waited-on to waitress.

While we were engrossed in the conversation that comes from so many good and thought-provoking questions, Ava disappeared from our table. We spotted her rounding the corner at the other end of the restaurant carrying four cups of water.

She eagerly passed out her plastic wrapped gifts, careful not to spill a drop. Candy was quite delighted with this sweet offering of water.

Of course, it wasn’t quite as much water as I consumed washing the college grit out of my jeans. But we do what we can, one cup at a time.

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Oops! If you are coming for the WFMW post about Cherry Pitters, click here. If you are interested in Aprons, well then read on.

What works for me?


Seriously, now. Don’t give me that look.

If your vision of aprons looks anything like this or this, than let me introduce you to a whole new crop of clothes savers.

Hello friend, will you stop this evening’s marinara from bubbling up on my clothes?

And you girl, will you keep the soapy suds from dripping on me?

Hi there pal, will you come in bathroom with me? We have some scrubbing to do.

I used to store my aprons in a drawer behind the dish towels. Surprisingly they didn’t serve much kitchen time. Last fall, I installed a hook near the entry ways to my kitchen and hung some sassy aprons up there. It  single-handedly stopped the steady stream of staining to my clothing.

I love to cook, but I am clumsy and messy. It’s true. I splatter. I splash. I kind of resemble the toddlers in the kiddie pool. And my methods of cleaning aren’t much cleaner.

After years of having to change my clothes before the guests arrived, I remembered that my grandmas used this handy thing called an apron for that very purpose. Wow, they were smart.

And look at how cute aprons are!

Really, it’s time to bring back the apron. What do you have to lose? Stains, perhaps?

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Goodbye Online Dating. Hello Online Play Groups.

After months of reading about sweet Julia and thinking, “Oh, that sounds just like Ava” or writing an Ava-antic and receiving a comment about how “Julia does the same thing,” the pint-sized virtual friends met.

My pal MckMama and her sister threw an all-out birthday bash inviting seasoned friends and blogger friends to The Meadows, an enchanted piece of this earth that she calls home.

The men threw their weight around the lake on two supercharged jetskis, churning up enough water to make the neighbors peer out their bay windows to see if a seaplane landing strip had been redirected to their wake-free lake.

HungryMan challenged his long-time water rival Johnny to Interstate Tubing, pulling him white knuckled across the lakes at speeds that exceed highway limits.

The girls huddled around the dock stupified at Johnny’s ability to withstand severe water torture and horrified at HungryMan’s utter disregard for life. Surprisingly, there were no other takers for tube ride pulled by Hungryman. Even Ava refused to ride on the jetski with her daddy. Shocking, I know.

I spent the afternoon catching up with dear college friends and former roommates,

(back: Kristi, MckMama, Me, Yvette. front: Shanel, Becky)

and meeting blogger friends that I have only read about.

(Hilary, Angela, MckMama, Me, Tiffany, Kristi, Yvette & Cosette)

While I was being kindly chastised for taking “too many breaks,” Ava and Julia were forming a friendship that hitherto had only existed in the comment section of their mamas’ blogs. I found these two skipping down the stony path while comparing swimming suit stripes. They were both eagerly awaiting a piece of the princess birthday cake. It was clear that the two were quickly united in their keen sense of summer fashion and sugar-laden sweets.

Ava didn’t want to leave all her newly acquired friends until she heard she was going to ride in Shanel’s car.

“I have always wanted to ride in your car!” she squealed as she grabbed Shanel’s hand.

Shanel opened the rear door and Ava peered in, announcing, “It’s not dirty at all!”

Thank, Ava. Really, it’s not my fault that you insist on carrying out two purses full of crayons, polly pockets, notepads, flash cards, chapsticks and who-knows-what each time we go out to the car. I cannot be held responsible for all the treasures you store in the creases of the back seat.

As we pulled away, Ava stared up at stylishly streamlined dash that makes a VW so hip and said, “Oh Shanel, your car is so beautiful!”

Apparently her good taste extends beyond new friends. Here’s to beautiful friendships and many more parties at The Meadows.

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Ava’s room has reached an all-time low.

Four days with four little girls sandwiched by two extended weekend trips have done things to Ava’s room that would cause mice to relocate.

To make matters worse, Ava carries the strong conviction that clothes are to be changed every three hours. I’m all for creativity and expression, but not when the discarded outfits become a free form art project on the floor.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the sun keeps shining–sending us day after day of glorious summer weather. Who wants to sit in a rocking chair delegating clean-up tasks, when there is a whole, big, non-frozen world to explore?

That was my position on Monday and then again on Tuesday. Today the mess had consumed all three pairs of flip-flops and both swimsuits. It was clearly time to put my foot down.

I sent Ava into her room to begin sorting through the mess or to at least find those items necessary for her swimming lessons. I returned to find her, megaphone in hand, ordering about invisible servants.

“Servants! I said, Ser-Vants! Clean up this mess, right now!”

As you can see they weren’t making much progress.

With a bit of digging and shoving, and not the least assistance from said servants, we recovered one swimsuit, one swim cover, a pair of watermelon flip-flops, and one sun hat from the wreckage and headed off once more for the beach.

Ava commanded her work force to take care of the mess while we were away, but I assure you they did not.

I am anxious to share stories from our north and south adventures, but as you can see, we are up to our ankles in size four sundresses.

If you know any visible maids, feel free to send them our way.

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