November 27, 2010

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

I would tell any new parent that any good parenting strategy begins with a good home-library.  Everything from the Holy Book itself, to What to Expect When You're Expecting, to The Little Bear Treasury.  Fill your shelves with Dr. Dobson, Beatrix Potter, and A.A. Milne.  Read to understand.  Read to laugh, read to cry, read to be brought into the deeper things of life.  Read to your kids.

And this Christmas, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and re-read Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  I did, just now, on the couch in my pajamas while Brave took his morning nap and Daniel was away with the big boys teaching Sunday school.  I read it to screen it for its 5-year-old appropriateness, and I ended up laughing out loud for 2 hours and then collapsing into a blubbering heap (seriously) as I finished the last page.  I cried because G0D so loved the world that he sent his only son - to a barn in the middle of the night - to save dirty sinners like Imogene Herdman...and me.

Oh that I would live my life shouting roughly and with a raw heart, "Hey!  Unto you a child is born!"

November 26, 2010

because we have to have a real "tree"

When you have to go to a place like this to buy a potted evergreen because you are a purist and you have to have a real tree in a land that does not celebrate Christmas...
...and because of the drought (best we can figure) there are no evergreens being sold for landscaping purposes this year, you are forced to bring home a cone-shaped shrub.
They don't seem to mind.
After all, when hung with colored lights and our homemade paper-chain and our treasured family ornaments, any old green plant will do.  So much for being purists.  Bonus: I won't be wiping sap from every bulb this year.

November 25, 2010

Thanks for nothing

What is Thanksgiving?  I'll tell you what it is not.  It is not trying to convince a 1-year-old that he should be wearing a paper Indian headdress.
It is not 45 minutes EACH WAY in a taxi with tired kids, in order to get to the store on the north side of the city where one can buy fresh, American-style parsley for the Thanksgiving stuffing.
It is not the FIVE DAYS of taking care of a batch of sourdough starter in order to make sourdough bread for the stuffing.
It is not the homemade pork sausage (for the same stuffing) that started as a slab of pig flesh on a board in the open-air market.
It is not forcing the kids to wear shirts with buttons so we can wrangle them into the couch for a (not very successful) holiday family photo.
It is not even this...
Thanksgiving is the phone call from my mother-in-law who is eating turkey and mashed potatoes at the cafeteria of Little Rock Childrens' Hospital with Kerry, Philip and Eliana, while Glory gets fed something (certainly not turkey) through a feeding tube in the Intensive Care Unit. Thanksgiving is my parents eating their pumpkin pie in a quiet house because their grandkids are at their mother's today, on account of the divorce that Jack and Denise are going through.

One might think that our families don't have much to be thankful for this year.   Does my family thank G0D for vows not kept - for the tears of their grandchildren?  Does Daniel's family thank G0D for giving them a child with broken organs?  Do they thank him for the 4 1/2 months away from home, wondering which kiss planted on Glory's cheek will be her last?  Do they thank him for the first of many, many Thanksgivings without Sue Sue and her cooking tips shouted from her mauve recliner?  Do they thank him for calling Daniel and I and our kids to the other side of the world where we are spending our third Thanksgiving in a row away from them?  Most people would expect our family members to say this year, "Thanks for nothing."  No one would blame them if they did.

But not OUR families.  Our families know something that too many families don't:  this life is not all there is, and THANK G0D for that.  Kerry told me the other day that the families at LRCH who don't have this hope, act completely different than those who do.  They are absolutely desperate, she says, at any and all costs to the child, to keep their child "alive," while those who know the truth are at peace, though broken, and are not afraid to watch their children slip away into the arms of the One who created them.

No, our families are not saying, "Thanks for nothing."  They are thanking G0D for the 4 months they have had with the tough and smiling Glory Danielle, and the 65 years that Shari had with her mother by her side, and the kind nurses at Little Rock Childrens' Hospital, and the cooks who are working on Thanksgiving to give these heroic families a holiday meal.  My parents are thanking G0D for the nice girl who came with Jack to Thanksgiving dinner.  They are thanking him for blessing their daughter, Kayla, with a husband who seeks G0D with all of his heart and who is helping her to raise Bright, Zion, and Brave to do the same.  Most of all, though, our families, myself included, are thanking G0D for defeating death three days after Calvary and for giving us hope in the everlasting.

When marriage certificates are burned and children live with one toe in the grave and the long-able bodies of our mothers finally expire, we despair not - for we have a G0D that does not change and a future with him that does not have an end.

That is something to be thankful for.

November 22, 2010

Zion's world

Zion's future, through his eyes, is a life as a seaplane pilot in Michigan with a wife named Naomi.  There is no end to the imagination of that kid.  Behind his pallid blue eyes lies a whole other world.

November 20, 2010

Jerry Rademaker

This one's for you, Dad.

Jerry Rademaker is a great man.  If his mother hadn't named him Gerald Edward, we would have certainly named one of our sons after him.  He is kind.  He works hard.  He is the most peculiar combination of smart and goofy, surprising and predictable, gentle and impatient.  He is good with a spatula and a shaker of seasoning.  He retains gobs of useless information (with a whole lot of useful stuff thrown in).  He is good with babies and son-in-laws and strangers on the street.  He brushes his teeth for an insane amount of minutes every morning, and reads the entire paper on the john while draining two giant mugs of black coffee.  My mom says, "Your father has two speeds: 1,000,000 miles per hour, and asleep."
My dad took me camping every summer as a kid.  He taught me how to put up a tent, and how to take a fish off the hook.  He was home every night for dinner, and every night my brothers and I would run to greet him like we were running to greet the ice cream truck.  Many evenings, while Mom scraped the dishes, I would stand behind him at his place at the head of the table and comb his thick, wavy hair into silly styles that made me laugh.  He used to pay me a nickle a minute (or was it a dime?) to give him a back rub on the couch during the evening news.  Every morning he stands up from the bed and tucks a collared shirt into a pair of pants with a belt, sliding into a pair of navy blue socks with brown loafers, and stuffing his pockets with his billfold, money clip, hankie, hair comb, roll of breathmints, and loose change.  He drives like he has a laboring woman in the backseat who is about to give birth on the floorboard, all the while blaring The Eagles or Hal Ketchum or C.C.R.  He can tell any dumb joke in such a way that has the whole room rolling, and he can look you in the eye in such a way that puts you at ease.
My dad with his sister, Jan, and his brother, Dick
My dad set the standard for me.  I knew that I could never settle for a man who didn't put his family first, who didn't admit when he was wrong, and who quit when the going got tough.  I knew I could not live with a man who didn't laugh, who didn't value children, and who wasn't a good listener.  Jerry Rademaker is a great man.  I love you, Daddy.

November 19, 2010

Update on Glory Girl

There is REAL cause to rejoice, and cause to thank you all for your "chorus of prayers" as my mom described what she felt like she was joining at 8:45 a.m. on the 17th. In Kerry's words, "Still waiting to see how Glory recovers from her surgery...prayers for her kidneys and bleeding were answered...her main issue at this point is her left lung, which collapses and causes her oxygen to drop among other things. They are keeping her completely sedated for a few more days thinking she may need more time to heal..."

Let not the prayers drop off now, my friends. We are watching a miracle take place. Kerry wrote in an email last week, "I will tell you this, the other night I had a dream. It was not a vivid dream set in our reality; it was more like an idea placed in my head. Someone was pulling me out of the way, out of the way of something big. Whoever or whatever was pulling me out of the way was communicating to me that I needed to 'Move out of the way…God is getting ready to do something big.'"

November 18, 2010

First meeting Lily Todd

Our friends, Sonya and Travis, meeting their daughter Lily for the first time this week. I CAN'T BELIEVE this is going to happen to us. This video made my heart literally want to burst.

November 17, 2010


Keep praying

"In the room with Glory...she is ok but has a long recovery ahead. The next 48 hours will be critical for her...thank you for all of your prayers...please pray that her bleeding subsides and that her kidneys are minimally affected by being on bypass..." (Kerry)

November 16, 2010

Pray for Glory

Glory has a very major surgery on Wednesday, November 17, during which time she will be put on the bypass machine. Please pray for the doctors and for Kerry and Philip and Shari, and for Glory herself to be strong and resilient.

This surgery was not in the plans. They have recently found that "her pulmonary artery did not grow after her first heart surgery the way that it was supposed to. In addition, her left lung is very weak and underdeveloped and her left bronchial tube is completely collapsed when she exhales. These two new findings are very serious, and they are complicated further by her existing esophagus issue. After much discussion amongst Glory’s doctors, they believe the best next step for her is to do another heart surgery" (Kerry Morton).

Kerry wrote in an email yesterday, "Do you know what scare[s] me? Not that her years might be cut short here on this earth, but my overwhelming love for her. I admitted to myself that I was in love with her. It scared me beyond belief to be so in love with someone and also not know how much time I would get to spend with her."

Kerry's email went on to say that some of the best advice she has received is from another Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome mom named Sarah who's son, Bowen, has the same heart condition as Glory. Her advice was to "hold on loosely." What great advice! We should all love that way: completely, wholeheartedly, but with the understanding that our loved one does not belong in our tight grasp (nor is it even possible to contain her there).

Join with Daniel and I today (and the rest of Van Buren, Arkansas) in praying for Glory. Pray that the surgery will go well. Pray that she will recover quickly and impressively. Pray that her little body will endure this first year and all of the surgeries that she needs. Pray, as I have been, for a 20th birthday.

November 15, 2010

rag top

You know those times when you embark on something completely worthless just for the fun of it?  That was me last night.  Daniel was finally organizing his closet office.  I could have read from the 4th THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY book, but then my cute husband and I could not have visited.  Instead, I sat on the futon among the power cords and sawdust, and cut up an old pair of pajama pants into strips and then proceeded to wrap my long, straight hair around the strips and tie them in knots at the top.  I had seen it done before in a movie or something and it sounded like a rather interesting way to spend two hours.
Please pardon the closeup.  My arm is not very long.
The morning result. 
I think it turned out ok, though I look a little silly in my house clothes with costume-worthy hair.  Next time I have an entire evening free (i.e. when I am in my 50's) I might just try rag curls again.

She taught me

Mom, if you're reading this, grab your tissues.  Sorry.
My Mom had a hard go of it when I was growing up.  Plenty of tears were shed inside the walls of 44 W. 34th Street, mine and hers, mostly, since girls tend to cry more than boys.  The five of us have come a long way since then, and we are proud of what our family has become.  There were good times, though, even back then, and certain things will trigger memories that make me feel good all over.  Like the smells of chlorine, cut grass, sunscreen, pot roast, clean sheets, burning wood, tent fabric, fall leaves, snow melts, old lipstick, and Snickerdoodles.  The tinny, haunting sound of Dwight Yoakam's voice.  The feel of a cold wood floor underneath my bare feet.  Birds' nests.  Playground children chirping outdoors on a bright May day.

And there are things that I am now that I would not be without the days of my childhood; without my Mom.  My loving daddy, with his big, scarred belly and his beard the color of chocolate, helped to shape me as well (that's another blog post, Dad, and don't worry, I will point out that your belly is no longer big).  Nobody, however, leaves a more lasting impression on a girl than her mama.

She taught me to cook.  She did not actually instruct me in cooking, but she taught me that preparing a good meal for my family is one of the most honorable ways to spend my time.  She never said so in words, of course.  Her Turkey Pot Pie spoke for itself.
She taught me to clean.  I don't pretend to be a neat-freak, and I wouldn't want to be, but my mom never let dust accumulate on her end tables and I don't intend to, either.  One thing I never was as a child was ashamed to bring anyone over to my mother's house.

She taught me to think about the needs of others.  One Christmas, for example, we received a trip to Disney World rather than hoards of toys.  On our way south from Michigan we handed out cute bundles of homemade Christmas cookies to the gas station attendants who were working on Christmas Day.  It was my mother's idea.  "Do something nice for someone, it will cheer you up," she would tell me when I was having a bad day.  Now I tell my children the same thing. 
She taught me that there is always something to laugh about, something to be thankful for, something to hope in, and no matter how bleak things might look, there is always something for dinner.

November 14, 2010

Pretty much

If you've ever wondered about us over here, think of us doing pretty much the same things you are doing.

Taping 44 red and green strips of paper into a countdown chain for the kids' room.

Driving around town.
We outgrew the 3-wheeler and opted for his and hers.  I figured hey, if I'm going to have a motorbike, I'm going to go hot pink!
Going out to lunch after Sunday meeting.

Spending time with friends.

Building forts.

Goofing off.
Looking out the window.
Enjoying warm banana bread (with a burned corner, on account of me not hearing the timer because I was too busy enjoying my three little boys).

People are people, and lives are lives, all over the world.  Our restaurants only have three walls and our kids hang on to our coat pockets in the wind rather than watch movies in the back of a Toyota Highlander, but details aside, we are pretty much the same as anybody else:)

November 13, 2010


Making me feel quite old seasoned, I now have a child who has had his passport long enough for the thing to expire, or at least it will be expired before we need to use it again.  Apparently, they can no longer see the resemblance.
So, yesterday we dumped our two youngest on poor Alisa and Kate (thanks for your servants' hearts, girls), and boarded a plane with one child for the first time in 3 1/2 years.  My how EASY it is to travel with only one kid in tow, especially if that kid is potty-trained, meal-trained, manners-trained, and can occupy himself with the flight safety manual for the entire hour that it takes to reach the nearest U.S. Consulate.  We ate lunch at a recommended spot, The Sultan, where we thoroughly enjoyed a plate of Musaka that reminded us of the Sudanese food our refugee neighbors in Memphis had made for us in payment for pouring them a new front walk back in 2005.  Consequently, Bright's new passport, when it arrives, will bear the image of him chewing a bite of Turkish Naan.  At least he was chewing with his mouth closed (good boy!)
Our trip to the U.S. Consulate, per Daniel's genius suggestion, doubled as Bright's November field trip.  Two birds with one stone is a favorite idiom of mine these days, particularly when it comes to outings with small children in foreign countries.  We observed our surroundings, talked about the purpose of passports, and practiced reverent behavior and patience while waiting in lines.  Most importantly, we discussed what it means to be an American.

To pass the time in the waiting room, and because I was tired of looking at the images of Obama and Oprah that were framed on the walls and embossed on the covers in the magazine rack,  I picked up a local newspaper that was printed in English.  The cover story was about the guy who brought the tainted milk scandal to light.  He was a national hero at the time, at least among the people, because his picketing and speaking out saved countless children worldwide from being harmed by the tainted milk products, even if it was too late for his own child.  Now, however, he is being thrown in jail for 2 1/2 years for "disrupting the peace."  On his way out of the courtroom, he was hollering that he had done nothing wrong, that he was not being treated fairly.  Of course he had done nothing wrong, and of course he was not being treated fairly; he lives in a nation where people have no rights.  This man's fate is a warning to others who might be considering speaking out against injustice. 

At one point during our wait in line, we looked down together, Bright and I, at the tiled floor beneath our feet, and honored a moment of thankfulness for our having American feet that are welcome on the tile of American floors.  Then, as I squatted beside him, we looked across the quiet room to the Eagle on the top of the of the American flag. 
"The Bald Eagle is our national bird," I told him, "because it is free and has no predators."
"Do you remember The Pledge of Allegiance?"  I asked him.
He put his pudgy right hand over his heart and we recited the words together.  I got through the whole thing without crying until we came to the end...

"with liberty and justice for all."

November 09, 2010


We were studying news broadcasting last week (sort of a kindergarten version of Communication 101) and we acted out a television news cast.  Zion chose to wear the clip-on tie and the polyester suit, and he made a fine anchorman!

November 06, 2010

Windowpane Wisdom

Condensation doesn't last.  Bright realized this the other day, and cried for 10 minutes at its passing.  He had been enjoying it so much.  He had stood on his school table, at the far end of his bedroom, swiping his warm finger over the cold glass, making shapes and swirls and letters, stretching his firm little body as far as he could on the tips of his tip-toes to make the most of this wonderful new medium.  But the course of time caught up with him.  The morning sun rose above the building to the east and its heat caused streaks of water to roll down over Bright's shapes and swirls and letters until the window began to look more and more like a plain piece of glass.

Bright learned a tough lesson at mid-morning on that day, a lesson that he will be learning for the rest of his life.  It will take many forms.  This week for him, at 5 1/2 years old, it was a windowpane.  Next year, at 6 1/2 years old, it might be a friendship.  At 16 1/2 years old, it might be a girl.  At 26 1/2 years old, it might be a child born with half a chance.  The lesson begs a question, one without a definitive answer: Do we grab hold of the fleeting and pour ourselves into it, risking the pain of watching it fade, or break, or disappear altogether, or do we learn that it is best to leave the windowpane alone?

I hope that the next time my son sees condensation, he will again climb up on the table and create beauty, even though he knows it will not last.  What I hope for all of my children, and for myself as well, is a real understanding that nothing lasts - not like we would like it to - but that all good things are worth everything we've got.

November 05, 2010

Boys can color, too.

Sonlight homeschool curriculum is not very - shall we say - crafty. Learning through the absorption of outstanding literature is more the focus, which is why this English-major mom chose to go with it. Craftiness has to happen though, so we make our own. Bright initiated this turtle puppet project on our last day off, and while I was busy around the house, hollering, "I'll be right there" over and over, he decided he would create a turtle puppet all on his own. And he did. Completely on his own. From the materials, to the design, to cutting out the tiny turtle legs. I was more than impressed with this artistic deviation from his usual engineering prowess. He named the puppet Sea Horse, of course (broken hearts never forget).  Way to go, Bright the...artist?
And for your viewing enjoyment, Brave's first creation. Good job, Berve! He also said "Uv Ooo" the other day (Nov. 4 to be exact), and OF COURSE he said it to Daddy. Brave is our first daddy's boy.

November 03, 2010

Boating in the city

The other day there was a break in the ever-present clouds, and it just so happened to be Daniel's day off!  I quickly grabbed the picnic basket and started making peanut butter sandwiches, as if in a race against the rain.  The drear held off though, all day long, and we enjoyed a lazy boat ride on Green Lake, complete with take-out gyros and thermoses of hot tea for the adults, and thick brownie wedges for the kids.
The view from the boat.
The kids' "auntie," who is our house-helper/family-member came along, too. It wouldn't have been a family outing without her.
We got home just in time to put everyone down for a nap.  This is the stuff memories are made of.


They clean up nicely.