Friday, October 31, 2008

"All the very nice people leave their porch lights on."

Norah dressed up as a butterfly this Halloween. But, her butterfly costume looked suspiciously like a house fly to us, so Dwayne thought about making and carrying around a huge flyswatter as a prop. But, we didn't have time to make it and we weren't sure whether our neighbors would think it was as funny as we would.

We've taken a lap around our block the past three years now, visiting our neighbors, some of whom are elderly, but still manage to be generous and get up as often as the door bell rings. We always save our closest neighbors for the end of the route. The fireman next door just pours candy into Norah's canvas bag and the couple across the street, Norah's "grandneighbors" as they call themselves, made a paper bag with Norah's name on it and stocked it with special things for her this year.

After we gather what we can on that one block, we come home, turn on our porch light and give away candy to the kids who are still coming. Norah gave out the suckers this year, with a little help from me when she may have been moving too slow. Her dad made a fire and we all ate some of the candy while we rested on the couch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I painted this while I was in college studying to be a teacher, dreaming about being a mother. It hung in Norah's room for years and will hang in our new nursery for Avril.

Lord, let mine be
a common place
while here.
His was a common one;
He seems so near
when I am working
at some ordinary task.
Lord, let mine be
a common one, I ask.
Give me the things to do
that others shun,
I am not so gifted and so poised,
Lord, as some.
I am best fitted
for the common things,
and I am happy so.
It always brings
a sense of fellowship
with Him who learned
to do lowly things
that others spurned:
to wear the simple clothes,
the common dress,
to gather in his arms
and gently bless
(and He was busy, too)
a little child,
to lay his hand upon
the one defiled,
to walk with sinners
down some narrow street,
to kneel Himself
and wash men's dusty feet.
To ride a common foal,
to work with wood,
to dwell with common folk,
eat common food;
and then upon the city dump
to die for me

Lord, common things
are all I ask
of Thee.

- Ruth Bell Graham

This is one of my favorite poems by Ruth Bell Graham, the late wife of the world famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham. She and Billy were separated for months at a time through the bulk of their marriage. One of their daughters commented that she doesn't think her mother could have handled the separations from her husband and their father so well, unless she knew that people were being brought to eternal salvation through Christ. Because her husband's career in ministry was so extensive, so successful, for so long, Ruth had to raise their five children alone, basically.

I've often wondered if Ruth struggled with feeling inferior, being married to a man who was so famous, so successful, by the world's standards. I think any person would, even if only in passing. She was home doing dishes and changing diapers in relative solitude, while her husband was welcomed and celebrated by world leaders and millions of people at his crusades here in the US and abroad. If she did struggle with envy or doubts about the value of the work she was doing, she defeated them and found comfort and fellowship knowing that God is close to us and doesn't overlook anything we do, no matter how common it seems.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dwayne let me sleep in yesterday and while he was watching Norah, she drew this picture of me on the dry erase side of her easel. Notice my round belly and the other little person inside it. She can't wait to be a big sister.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I put a block of cheddar cheese in the bottom kitchen drawer a few days ago. I found it there around lunch time the next day when I was going to get some crackers.

You know what makes this worse?

The night before, when I was cleaning up after dinner, I remember catching myself as I was putting that same block of cheese into the kitchen cabinet. I laughed at my near-mistake and rolled my eyes. But, I think I must have just turned around only to put the cheese into the drawer instead of the fridge.

I thought that was an isolated incident.

But, Dwayne decided to meet us for lunch today. We were out separately to do different errands. We were supposed to meet at Nardelli's, a popular sandwich place here in Waterbury. I got there, parked the car, got out, got Norah out, walked all the way to the door. This is when, through the glass, I notice a man looking at me funny from the other side of the counter. (The look on his face was only my first clue that something may be wrong). I go again to open the door. (But he's still looking at me that way). So, I back up and look around, back up even more and look around, get all the way to the curb of the sidewalk I'm on and look up at the sign on the building. I wasn't at Nardelli's. I was about to go into some random foreign food market.

That's when I looked all the way down the street to see Dwayne a few hundred yards away. He's peeking over cars parked along the road, waving. He was polite and laughed about it, but I think he's worried about me. I'm worried about me! It's got to be "the hormonies" to quote Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This pregnancy must be clouding my head.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Jane Austin.

After seeing a movie based on the novel, I was inspired to read Persuasion. I read it several years ago, but had forgotten most of the details. I finished it today and a few of the quotes struck me, got me to thinking and even laughing.

There is hardly any personal defect which an agreeable manner might not eventually reconcile one to.

This makes me chuckle. My translation: If you don't want to marry a guy with bad teeth, don't date a guy with bad teeth. You are bound to find plenty of things that you like about him and begin overlooking the teeth.
No. Really. If we like someone enough, physical "defects" don't matter a bit. And, if someone else is offensive enough, their good looks don't amount to a thing.
How often have women dated jerks to end up surprised to find themselves married to a jerk? In our culture, at least, it is very unlikely that any woman would have to marry a man she doesn't love. And it is even less likely that a woman would fall in love with a man she hasn't spent a good amount of time with...
I'm not dating, obviously, but this principle did apply to me once and could apply still. My husband was not my ideal in looks. (He's heard this before and just rolls his eyes). But, as soon as I knew his character, my heart was his and I wanted nothing but to be close to him. I thought I was more attracted to other men, to begin with, but then they'd open their mouths and that was usually the beginning of the end of it. And, realizing now that I am married, I will most likely never cheat on my husband or even be tempted to if I don't have friendships with other men, I maintain very guarded relationships with members of the opposite sex. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude how “these things” happen, you know.

A persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favor of happiness as a very resolute character.

This quotation comforted me and mended my still-wounded spirit over an unhealthy friendship from my past. A person I loved treated me with contempt for being a “push over,” considering me “weak” because I was “too easily persuaded.” But, at the very same time, on different subjects, that person also considered me “too narrow minded” or “legalistic.” I was never able to reconcile how the same person could have such conflicting opinions about my character. But, elsewhere in the book, there was another quote that helped answer this for me.

One man's way of doing things may be as good as another, but one always prefers his way best.

It's trite, but that friend of mine should have just “agreed to let me to disagree.” But, since I didn't have the freedom to differ in anything, really, I realize now that person just resorted to spirit-crushing tactics and pure meanness.
It is best not to think too highly of ourselves. And we should hold most of our own opinions far enough away to review them from all sides. I try to grant my friends the freedom to do things their way, without condemning them for, in one thing, staying aligned with me, while in something else, after genuine thought and with clear conviction, changing their minds and holding a different opinion, even taking a different course of action.
Sometimes, though, it is just practical, if not absolutely critical, to agree, especially in relationships that require intimacy, constant cooperation and unity, like marriage, for example. "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" after all.

Austin uses the entire novel Persuasion, appropriately named, to explore the idea that people shouldn't be too weak in their convictions that they are swayed by just anyone nor too obstinate and proud to ever change their minds. Real virtue and wisdom are always found somewhere in between.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This activity in today's lesson was a real hit. I prepared a large construction paper page of dotted numbers using a black sharpie, poured a bowl of finger paints and helped Norah put on her plastic smock. Norah followed along with her teacher on the DVD to practice the formation of each number 1-10 using her paints. Of course, what preceded this "review" were at least nine other individual lessons on how to form each number. I recommend this activity highly, once your little ones have had a basic introduction on how to form their numbers.

A good friend of mine gave me a tip for dealing with kids and the natural law that moves them to need you as soon as you get on the telephone.

She trains her three children to squeeze her free hand or to squeeze the arm she's not using while she's on the telephone. This is a silent signal between the two of them that they need her. They continue to stand next to her quietly until she has a chance to ask the person she is talking to for a break.

I've been on the phone with this lady several times and I rarely ever hear her kids in the background. But, without fail, she will have to ask me, "Will you hold on for a second?" and I am always surprised to hear one of her children standing right by the phone who I didn't even know was in the same room with her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

We're back from Vegas. I had fun, but missed Norah much more than I expected I would. I was surprised to see more families with kids in our hotel than I imagined, but MGM Grand proved to be one of the classiest hotels among those we walked through. Norah, on the other hand, didn't seem to miss me at all. I called her daily, but she was often too busy to talk. She actually wanted to cry when she had to leave her aunt's house. I hope this says more about her love for her aunt, uncle and cousins and less about her lack of affection for her mom and dad.
We saw part of the Grand Canyon and Mississippi River from the plane. During some of the evenings, we walked the strip to see the lights of Vegas, the fountain at Bellagio and Bodies: The Exhibition at the Luxor. We even considered renewing our vows, but couldn't find a sleazy enough chapel to make it fun enough to be worth our while. Most of the hotels had wedding chapels, but none of them had Elvis or Marilyn on staff. They were all very classy, not at all what you see on the movies. So, I guess there are sober people who actually plan to get married in Vegas... Who knew?!
I spent my mornings having breakfast in our king size bed, watching the cable television and my afternoons laying by the pools, trying to get a tan. Dwayne's conference finished early on Friday, so we were able to spend some time that day together and we cruised the hotel's lazy river. Ruthlessly, he'd push my raft under the waterfalls and into the sprinklers, but that ended up being some of the most fun I had all week. I didn't read The Shack, like I planned. I was doing last minute shopping before the trip and found Beverly Lewis's new book The Longing had been released, so I purchased that and read it during my free time instead.
I am thankful for the break, but vacations always seem to end up reminding me how much I enjoy my every day life. It sounds sappy, but:

All the room service in Vegas can't beat eggs and toast with Norah Elaine in the morning.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just one more post today. That's it. I swear.

Can you see the marker on Norah's forehead in this picture?

She ran into the living room and tackled me on the sofa where I was sitting. When I was finally able to rearrange her on my lap and see her smiling face, I gasped, "Norah! What are you thinking, marking on your face?!" She said in a matter-of-fact tone, "I wanted to decorate my head."
Norah brought this adorable picture into the kitchen to show me this morning. She'd been playing with her stash of blank drawing paper and crayons before we got started on her lessons. She ran in and yelled, "Mom! I drew an Indian! He's a chief (pointing her finger at his head dress for proof). Do you know what his name is?!" I said, "No. What is it?" "Chief Massasoit," she said, with perfect pronunciation.
I'm telling you, basically any monkey could home school their kids. It just works.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dwayne made an apple pie after dinner last night and we all enjoyed a slice (or two) with vanilla ice cream while we watched the second presidential debate. The man can bake.

Monday, October 6, 2008

We are using Bob Jones' K4 Distance Learning Program for Norah's homeschool right now. Norah's teacher on the DVD shared the plan of salvation using a wordless book today. The pages had no text, but they were different colors: black, red, white and yellow... Each color represented something Jesus did for us.

When the teacher said, "Jesus washes our hearts clean and they become as white as snow," showing the white page, Norah corrected her with some disdain, "No! Our hearts are red!" Of course, the teacher couldn't hear this, but I did and it made me laugh to myself.

So, with that, the effect of the story about what Jesus had done for our hearts was totally ruined on her. I admit, I didn't even try to explain. I might have missed a teachable moment, but when Norah turned to give me a look equivalent to rolling her eyes at her teacher (on the TV screen over her shoulder), I just shrugged my shoulders.

I think it is important that I try and cover that one with her later, when I stop laughing about it.

Norah can be a real handful.

Another teacher at church told me about something she did last Sunday. While telling the story of the creation, the teacher said, "And God saw everything that He had made and it was good." Norah immediately expressed her doubts. "Even bees?" the teacher said she asked through squinted eyes. "Well..." the teacher said, "Yes." "No." Norah said, "Cause they sting me."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

White Chili in the Crock Pot

Drain, rinse and add to crock pot 1 can of cannellini beans, 1 can pinto beans and 1 can black-eyed peas.

Chop up and add two cooked chicken breasts, half a large white onion, one seeded green, red, or yellow pepper and one or two seeded jalapeno peppers.

Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. oregano.

Pour in 2 cans chicken broth.

Cook on the crock pot on high for four hours.

Serve the chili over white rice. Top with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, broken tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream. Salt and pepper to taste.

After breakfast this morning, we went apple picking in a nearby orchard. It's becoming a fall tradition now that we've settled into New England. We picked a bag full of golden delicious apples to use for baking and another bag of gala apples to eat fresh. I think I've eaten more apples these past three months of my pregnancy than I have in my whole life until now! Norah always likes to sample the produce while we walk around the orchard. Below are some pictures from our trip to the same orchard last year. My parents were staying with us in '07, so Norah's Grandpa Evans came along last year and they walked around together. You can see a little of how Norah has changed in a year.

-Check out and read the book An Apple Tree Through the Year by Claudia Schnieper with your kids this time of year. Like the title suggests, this book follows an apple tree through an entire year. The text is simple and the detailed photos and diagrams show how the buds turn into flowers that then grow into apples, how growers will care for the trees through different seasons, how certain birds and insects use (or damage) the apples, etc. Includes several relevant vocabulary words for older children throughout the book and the definitions are collected in a glossary. This book is a useful tool for families who would like to turn the activity of apple picking into a more formal lesson without using a dull textbook.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I caught Norah lying in a sunbeam this morning and snapped a picture of her.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

It's usually considered an insult to live in someone else's shadow, but I am not sure I ever want to be far enough away from God to cast my own image onto the earth. The first, if not the only, place Norah goes to when she feels threatened is the back of my legs, wrapping her arms around one or both of my thighs, getting as close to my side as she can, often succeeding in getting nearly underneath me. I imagine that if I ever had to act out on her behalf, fight someone who attacked her or something like that, she would be safest there while I handled the threat. So, this is where we get to stay if we live with God, right up next to Him or at least, always safely within the reach of his mighty, protective, capable hands.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We are reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud to Norah. The book was the base of the popular television series "Little House on the Prairie." One of my best friend's bought the series of books for Norah's fourth birthday.

The story starts as the family prepares for a long winter. I am already fascinated with what I've learned about the ways settlers preserved their meat and stored their food. They'd wait to slaughter their pigs, for example, until the ground was cold enough to keep the meat frozen. They'd make a smoker or "smoke house" out of a hollow log with a roof and door, slowly burning wood chips inside to smoke their meats dry. They'd also hang their spiced hams, dried herbs and vegetables in the attic, which happened to fill their homes with all sorts of pleasing scents. I am convinced this is why we still associate the smell of strong spices with Autumn. I'll have to resort to using Glade Plug Ins to get the same effect in my house this holiday season. The book has helped me recognize more of the origins of our traditions and realize how much farther removed we are from the way things began.