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Preview: Running the Race

Running the Race

"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Acts 20:24

Updated: 2018-03-06T03:38:36.025-06:00


Tips on Fun Hiking with Kids


Really, you ask yourself, is hiking with kids even possible to be fun?  You picture your child whining and complaining for miles, or having to drag/carry 40 pounds of deadweight kid all the way back to the car, and realize that you would rather see every sight from your car for the next 10 years or even go without coffee for two weeks rather than attempt a hike with children.It doesn't have to be this way.  You can tackle real trails and even some distances with your family - you just have to know how to go about it.  Hiking together can be the highlight of your next family vacation.Do I have any credentials for writing a post like this?  Yes.  I recently completed a 12.5 mile day hike up a mountain in bear country with my 9-year-old, and it was a joy.  She never complained and was tougher than I was.  My 4-year-old hikes 3 miles with ease and 4-5 miles with encouragement and games, most recently finishing 4.5 miles in the rain.  This is not because I carry her.  I confess I am weak and lazy, so my children have been hoofing it on their own since they could walk.  You, too, can train your children to do this.First, the basics: Put your children in proper shoes.  I hate passing children in flip-flops on trails.  Make sure they are dressed right for the weather and have sunscreen and mosquito spray as needed.   Pack snacks and water, and don't plan a hike during naptime.  Next, the distractions: Talk about everything you see as you trudge along.  Is a bird making a funny noise?  Are there deer tracks in the mud?  Is the sun reflecting off the lake in a beautiful way?  Add in theoretical distractions when these run out: Does your child think there will be a bear over the next hill?  How many streams will cross the path in the next mile?  What would we do if a chipmunk followed us back to the tent?  Discussions like these can take you a quarter-mile without even realizing it.Pass out some snacks.  Trail mix or granola bars lend a quick burst of energy.  Sucking on fruit snacks makes them last longer.  My children take forever to eat an apple that has not been cut up for them, and are so distracted by it that they forget they are still hiking.Take turns being the leader.  A new family member setting the pace and breaking the trail adds variety, and children usually get an extra burst of energy when it is their turn.When your child begins to flag, break out one or more of these strategies:Fly like an airplane as you walk.  Seriously.  Toddlers love it.  So do any hikers you pass going the other way. Play hide-and-go-seek (on safe trails only).  If you can see ahead of you on the path, allow your child to run ahead of you and hide.  Of course, it doesn't matter if your child simply sits on the side and covers her eyes.  The fun of the game is you walking along behind, wondering where your child could have gone and hoping aloud that they are up ahead somewhere. Compete with each other.  On the way back, send the slowest hiker ahead with an adult while the others keep exploring the destination.  Set incremental goals to reach before the others catch up: Can we make it to the big rock?  The berry bushes?  The waterfall?  My youngest and I recently beat the others 1.5 miles back to the car using this strategy, and we had fun the whole way. Try a story hike.  Walk in a single file line.  Whoever is in front must begin telling a story.  After a sentence or two, they fade to the end of the line, and the new leader must continue the story.  When this gets boring, stop taking turns.  Let whoever wants race to the front to be the next storyteller.  Sing songs.  "The Ants Go Marching One by One" takes forever and sets a nice pace.  (Singing is also helpful when you need to make constant noise to scare away wild animals.) Pre[...]

Back to Work!


Our family is making some big changes this fall: Amelie is going to all-day preschool and I'm going back to work full-time!  We are all very excited about this.  For those of you who are interested, I will share all the details and the many ways we have seen God working in this change - that was by far the most exciting part.  If you're not interested, that's the main idea. :)  You can stop reading if you want!I have stayed at home since Elizabeth was born 8 years ago.  I went back to work part-time to open a preschool and teach for a year and half when Elizabeth was old enough for preschool, then quit again when Amelie was born.  For the past almost 2 years, I have cared for a little boy in our home during the week.  As fall neared, I started feeling led by God to look for a preschool teaching position.  Because of His provision, I was able to be picky and only accept a perfect spot.  What a privilege to look for a job when you don't desperately need it!  Isaac and I prayed hard about it, and set some guidelines for what we felt would be worth me returning to work full-time.  The most important of these was that Amelie would be able to come with me.The first day I looked for jobs, I found that my old job at Children's House Montessori was hiring!  It seemed perfect and familiar, and would be a wonderful experience for Amelie.  I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job.  However, its salary (minus tuition for Amelie) did not meet the guidelines we felt God had given us for the job.  With prayer and some regret, I declined the position.  I am willing to do whatever God is calling me to, but I do not want to do anything - especially a change as big as this - if He is not leading me.  Although in a practical sense, this position was perfect, I felt peace that turning it down was right.  Less than two weeks later, I saw a job opening at Elim Preschool, a church preschool in Northeast Minneapolis, that looked like a possibility.  I sent in my resume, and an hour later I got an email from the director describing the position and asking me to come in for an interview.  Her description of the position was amazing - its requirements matched my experience and passions perfectly.  The job would be mostly teaching preschool, but included daily time to prep for my classes and help prepare the preschool for a voluntary NAEYC accreditation that is more stringent and demanding than the regular licensing rules.  Details and planning like that are right up my alley!I researched the preschool, church, and NAEYC standards that evening, and became even more excited.  The next morning, I went in for an interview.  I got there early enough to sit in the car and pray and worship before going in.  I felt peace and confidence and God's presence.  (Later, in the director's office, a song that I had sung in the car was playing quietly in the background.)Meeting the director and touring the facilities felt like coming home.  The building and resources are amazing!  I have one of the three classrooms.  My classes will be small enough that I don't need an aide.  There are also a lunchroom, a kitchen for cooking activities, an indoor space for riding trikes, a separate nap room, a huge indoor playground with large motor activities, and a gorgeous park and playground right across the street.  Elim is truly a community preschool, drawing diverse students from the neighborhood.  Many of its families speak Spanish or other languages, and many of them do not have churches of their own.  This is the preschool I tried to open through our church but didn't have the infrastructure or the size to support.  This is my preschool dream.  It is not just a job, but a ministry and a calling.  I was offered the job on the spot, and accepted it only hours later after praying more and talking with Isaac.  It was 24 hours from seeing the job [...]

No Small Ambitions


When Elizabeth grows up, she plans to be a teacher, a President, a writer, an Olympian, and a reader.  She wants to teach first grade, but she doesn't know if she will go to the Olympics as a runner, swimmer, or tennis player.

Amelie will "be a grown-up and have kids and be a teacher and a draw-er and teach a Sunday School."

I'm going to have some busy daughters, but I think I'll be proud no matter what!

Adult Fiction Book Recommendations


I'm embarrassed by how long it has been since my last post.  However, no use bemoaning my fickleness - might as well move on and pretend I wasn't so unfaithful in my blogging.   So.  Moving right along.I have been asked for more book recommendations, and have prepared a list of my favorite adult fiction reads over the past half-year or so.  I gave all of these a 5/5.Bohjalian, Chris. The Law of Similars. A prosecutor finds himself tangled in a relationship with a homeopath he is supposed to prosecute. I love the characters and ethical situations in Bohjalian's novels.Castillo, Linda. Sworn to Silence. An Amish police chief investigates a serial killer that intersects with a crime in her past. A little gruesome, if you like that sort of thing, but interesting insights into Amish culture. The next book featuring this protagonist is also very good. Child, Lee. The Affair. Jack Reacher's final case before leaving the army. Everyone should read the Reacher books – Rosnay, Tatiana. Sarah's Key. A young girl's experience with the French Vel' d'Hiv' Jewish round-up is interwoven with the journalistic investigation of an American woman living in France. Sad.Groff, Lauren. Arcadia. A sensitive boy is raised in a hippie commune. Lyrical and sparse, told from the boy's point of view as he ages. Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants. Romance at a circus in the 1920s. I put off reading this popular book because it didn't sound interesting, but it was wonderful.Haigh, Jennifer. Faith. A novel in which the family of a priest accused of child abuse reacts to and investigates the charges. Authentic characters and fair treatment of all sides. Halverson, Sere Prince. The Underside of Joy. A stepmother is suddenly widowed and fights the birthmother for custody of her children. Beautiful writing with good characterization. Portrays both sides of the story well. Harrington, Laura. Alice Bliss. A young girl and her family continue life after her father is deployed to Iraq. Jordan, Hillary. When She Woke. A re-telling of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter set in the future, when criminals are turned red and shamed. (You don't have to know or love classic literature to like this book.)Kent, Kathleen. The Heretic's Daughter. In this novel set near Salem during the Puritan witch trials and smallpox plague, a family lives under increasing suspicion and must make difficult choices. Based on a true story and written by a direct descendant of the character Martha Carrier. Kraus, Nicola and Emma McLoughlin. Dedication. The high school girlfriend of a now-famous recording artist plots her revenge and has the opportunity to get back together with him. Satisfying ending. Lupton, Rosamund. Sister. An American woman returns to England to investigate her sister's murder. Told in police interviews with a surprise ending.  I do love a good surprise ending.MacDonald, Patricia. Missing Child. A 6-year-old boy is kidnapped after his stepmother drops him off at school, and the family is suspected. Maynard, Joyce. The Good Daughters. Two “birthday sisters” grow up and experience life, discovering how their families are connected. McGhee, Alison. Shadow Baby. A precocious child attaches herself to an older immigrant as she seeks her family's history. It was fun to read this adult novel from a beloved children's author.Min, Anchee. Pearl of China. Willow, a Chinese girl, grows up with missionary child Pearl (later Pearl S. Buck) and defends her through adulthood to communist China (a novel based on a true story). Parkhurst, Carolyn. The Nobodies Album. An author reunites with her estranged rockstar son after he is accused of murder. Fascinating connections between author's life and text. Patchett, Ann. State of Wonder. A medical researcher travels to the Amazon to find her missing co-worker and discovers his work and love for the natives. Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. A rural priest looks for his son in Johannesburg; a hopeful book abo[...]

Sometimes You Like Being Little


As I cuddled with Amelie after she woke up from nap, I said, "You're my bunny rabbit."

She giggled. "No!"

"You're my baby duck."


Switching into embarrassing, high-pitched baby talk, I said, "You're my boo-boo-doo-boo-baby."

Amelie's face lit up with joy. "Yes! That's what I am!"

In Desperate Need of Adult Conversation


This morning, I ran to the Como Zoo with Amelie and Grant in the double stroller. It's a nice, short run - only about 3.5 miles roundtrip - and very hilly. For your reading pleasure, I have copied down an actual excerpt of my conversation during that run. If it's late at night, you may want to save it until morning; it's pretty scintillating.

Me: "Ooh, look at the fire truck... Yes, school bus... Mm-hmm, a black puppy... Honey, I have to slow down, it's a really big hill... I'll wipe your nose as soon as we get there... An excavator!... I don't know why... About one more mile... See the big truck?..."

Yep, that's my life. Add some panting, sweating, and a few runny noses, and you can feel like you're right there.

No wonder I've been going through the Bible and my to-read list so quickly. I am in desperate need of words with more than two syllables.

P.S. Don't take this post to mean that I don't enjoy kid conversation. In fact, the highlight of my morning was when I asked Grant what the tiger says. Without missing a beat, he said, "Hi!"

New Fears


Amelie is working through a host of new fears. Usually pretty fearless (except when it comes to separating from Mommy at church), this is unusual for her even though it's a common stage at her age.

It started a few nights ago when she and Elizabeth and my mom were playing "Rain," one of Elizabeth's favorite games from years ago. In it, Elizabeth and my mom act out a real storm they got caught in while on a walk. Elizabeth was having a fantastic time replaying it, but Amelie (who at age 3 1/2 probably doesn't even remember a real storm) was too scared to enjoy it. Discussing it later, Mom and I remembered that Elizabeth originally begged to act it out over and over again to work through her own fears of that night.

Then today, we ran into new fear after new fear. At the library today, the loudspeaker announced that the library would close in half an hour. Amelie freaked out, sobbing wildly, petrified that we would be stuck in the library.

While reading about the Easter story this afternoon, we had talked about the earthquake that rocked Jerusalem when Jesus died. Amelie remembered that at bedtime, and I had to reassure her that there are no earthquakes in Minnesota.

Then (while she was supposed to be sleeping) she looked out the window and saw a bug and got all upset. I went in to kill the bug, and found it was on the other side of the glass.

And yet, this fearful child is my fearless girl who shoots down twisty slides at the park, balances precariously on walls and furniture, runs headlong down hills, and laughs when hit in the face with a ball.

It's an interesting age.

I wonder how many things I waste time and energy worrying about when the whole time, God knows that they won't hurt me and will never happen. May I be as patient with Amelie's fears as He is with mine.

Amelie Joy and Not-So-Joy


We've had lots of good Amelie stories this week.

Setting: the neighborhood library
Amelie: "Is it okay to sing at the library?"
Me: "Very quietly, yes."
Amelie: "Very loud?"

I pointed out the school where I used to teach.
Amelie: "Was I a little baby?"
Me: "No, you weren't born yet."
Amelie: "Was I in your tummy?"
Me: "Nope, it was way before you were born."
Amelie: "Was God still building me?"

I read to Amelie while Isaac went in another room and read A Christmas Carol with Elizabeth. When Amelie and I finished our book, she said, "Now I want to go sing Christmas carols with Wizabeth and Daddy!" So we interrupted them and we all sang "Away in a Manger" - in March.

And finally, for those of you who didn't see it on Facebook, we have a not-so-good Amelie story as well. At naptime today, she got into the diaper cream and smeared it all over her face, lips, and hair, and got it on the carpet, blankets, and Elizabeth's bedspread and pillow pet. Desitin is so hard to get off! At least it doesn't stain, but we had to shampoo her hair about 5 times and even use Goo Gone to get it out.

(image) Here is a picture of Her Naughty Highness.

Random Pictures


Goofy Amelie and I did a project where we dumped baking soda on a plate, dyed vinegar with food coloring, then dropped the vinegar with an eyedropper onto the baking soda to see it fizz and change colors. It was very fun, and educational at the same time. And cheap!

(image) Elizabeth finished her read-a-thon for school. She wasn't as motivated as last year, but she still managed 35 hours in 11 days.


Monkey see, monkey do. Amelie needed her picture taken with books too, so she picked out some of her current favorites.

(image) Elizabeth has lost her second front tooth (4th total) and for a few days could stick it in front of her lip like a snaggle-tooth. It was cooler in person, but its still kind of funny.

Breezy Point Pictures


Only a month late, here are some pictures from our trip to Breezy Point. Amelie polished off half the Mercy Watson series (short chapter books with lots of pictures). She was obsessed.

(image) We made Elizabeth do lots of math practicing. It ws hard to tear her away from her cousin Sydney, although it helped that Sydney needed to take occasional homework breaks too! The two girls couldn't get enough of each other. Every waking moment was not sufficient.

(image) Most of our time was spent out of the cabin, however. It was the nicest weather we remember in years - too bad there was so little snow.

(image) Ice skating is always a hit, and this year we put Amelie on skates for the first time. She was a natural and didn't even need to hold a hand. In fact, she climbed up and down stairs wearing her skates (when I wasn't looking!).

(image) We went sledding twice, taking advantage of the two inches of snow. Sometimes we took breaks from sledding to jump off walls.

I didn't bring my camera swimming, but the pool is pretty much where we spent all the rest of our time - at least, the time that wasn't spent playing Bingo or eating Maija's delicious homemade pizza. Or eating caramel rolls. Or pigging out on snacks. Okay, a significant time was spent on food, too!

The Dirty Spoon


I left a dirty spoon on the dresser. (Don't ask. I was clearing it to the kitchen, got distracted by something, and there it was.)

Amelie found it first.

Now, if I had noticed it first, I would have cleared it to the kitchen immediately. Isaac probably would have cleared it eventually after passing it a few times. Elizabeth would probably point out how silly it was to have a spoon on the dresser, then would clear it when asked.

But Amelie found the dirty spoon first. With delight, she cried, "A poon!" Then she grabbed it emphatically, popped it in her mouth, and licked it clean.

I love that girl.

More Funny Things Kids Say


Elizabeth recently tried to compliment her science teacher by telling him he reminded her of her grandpa. While I am glad she is encouraging her teacher, I had to explain that sometimes people don't want to be compared to a grandpa and that she should only do that to people who have white hair or that she knows is already a grandparent.

She took the lesson that people don't always want to seem older to heart. A few days later, she complimented me: "Mommy, those jeans make you look young!"

Now I'm not sure if my usual jeans are mommy jeans, or if those jeans are glaringly young for my advancing age, or if she simply liked my jeans!

In Amelie news, we played a family game where we got to draw cards out of a bucket. I let Amelie go first. She chose a card, then ran over to her art table to "draw it."

Amelie calls cucumbers "coon-peppers" and kiwis "too-whees." I want to serve them for every meal just so I can her her say it.

And finally, in my Sunday School class this morning, I asked my kindergartners, "Who are some people who love you?" One little girl answered, "Everyone who knows me." Love the confidence!

Super Bowl Kids


I asked my Sunday School class of kindergartners if they were going to watch the Super Bowl.

Child A: "No. We watch hockey."

Child B: "I'm going to a Sugar Bowl party!"

Child C: "Go, Vikings!"

I love kids.

A Day in Our Life


Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd give you a snapshot of today, a pretty typical day in our life.

Isaac had an early morning Bible Study and is now at work. He'll be there until late tonight. Work is going well for him, and he has been extremely busy lately. Luckily, he can survive on much less sleep than I can.

Elizabeth is at school. She will come home at 3:15 and do her homework, practice piano, and read. We're in the middle of her school's read-a-thon fundraiser (the only one we participate in!) and she loves it. For some reason, she's on a classics kick and has polished off A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Dr. Dolittle this week. She's currently reading Caddie Woodlawn. She enjoyed getting to ride her bike during the last couple days of crazy weather.

Amelie is on a dollhouse kick, which is nice because she usually isn't big on playing independently. I have her shut away in her bedroom with the dollhouse so that Grant (the little boy I watch) doesn't get it. When she comes out to go to the bathroom, she says, "I just have to go potty, dollhouse people. I'm coming right back!" I went in earlier and watched her rock the mother and baby in the rocking chair and sing "I love You, Lord Jesus." Moments like that help make up for the last 4 days of whining, crankiness, and refusal to nap!


Grant mostly walks around the house driving cars on every surface and chuckling. He is a jolly, funny, independent 15-month-old, except when he and Amelie want the same toy. I am lucky to have him!


And then me - do I have a typical day? I suppose so. I folded laundry and tidied the house this morning. I have bread rising to bake for lunch (but not the healthy kind - the yummy kind). I've read a couple board books, sung a few songs, and handed out toys as needed. After making and cleaning up lunch, I get to have my prayer and Bible study time while the little ones nap. Then my friend and her baby will come over, Elizabeth will have a piano lesson, we'll do homework and eat dinner, and after bedtime, I'll meet and pray with a young woman I'm discipling. Not a bad day!



Sometimes (okay, frequently) I notice a disconnect between who I want to be and who I really am. I want to be a kind, patient, loving, disciplined athlete with a perfectly clean house who invests daily in her children, husband, and friends. Somehow, that doesn't seem to happen.

I want to patiently teach and instruct my children, providing educational activities at home with Amelie, coaching Elizabeth to be a respectful and caring leader at school, and enjoying special family time every day. Then I get sidetracked by things on my to-do list and silly children and just plowing through homework and forget to be purposeful in my real goals.

I picture myself as a runner, and get great pleasure reading Runner's World and thinking about running down the sidewalk in every kind of weather. Then I check the temperature outside, and decide hunkering down might be more comfortable, and pretty soon, my mileage log doesn't reflect the runner I want to be.

I want to be a wise steward of the house God has given us, and keep it shining clean and in perfect order. After all, if I can't keep a house this size well, how can I hope for a bigger one? Then I feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with the daily chores and don't even attempt the basement, or the nasty corners, or the smudges on the walls.

I desire to pray faithfully for my friends and the people God calls me to, serving them and being involved in their daily lives, available whenever they need someone. Yet I can barely keep up with them on Facebook, no less have meaningful conversations with each of them weekly.

And so on and so on.

In the face of this disconnect, I am so grateful for grace. I am so thankful that "it is God who works in me to will and to act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13) and that "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). There is no way I could do it on my own - but God knew that and He provided for that. How lucky am I to have a God like that?

My role is to be faithful to God, to seek Him first and let Him put everything else in my life into place as I am obedient to what He asks me to do. What simple pleasures and what rich promises await as I do that! I love letting Him order my days and my priorities, and trusting Him to bring the most important ones to fruition in alignment with His will. I love resting in His promise that He will be faithful to complete the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6).

So what to do with the disconnect? I will persevere in God, not in myself. My goal is to "proclaim Him... struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:28, 29). Gotta love the journey!

Children's Museum Excursion


We were given a membership to the Children's Museum for Christmas! Everyone was pretty excited. On the second Saturday of each month, you can bus free to the museum. So even though Saturday was brisk and snowy, we took my mom and walked to the bus stop. Seriously - how can you turn down a free ride on public transportation?

(image) Even though I missed our stop and made us all walk several extra blocks, my mom eventually forgave me and we had a great time at the museum. Elizabeth and Amelie dressed up like ants and had a blast.

(image) Looking at the ages of the other kids there, I think Elizabeth might only have a couple more years left to really enjoy it. It will be sad when she grows out of it.

Elizabeth's Poetry


Classes at Elizabeth's school have an artist-in-residence, which means a working artist who came in and taught them every day for a week. In kindergarten, it was Charlie MacGuire, a folksinger who wrote a lot of songs with Woody Guthrie. Each class wrote and performed a unique song with his help (Elizabeth's class wrote about what they were studying: the value of each coin!).In first grade, Elizabeth's artist-in-resident was the poet John Minczeski. That was extra-special because Elizabeth and I had attended a poetry workshop that he taught through the public library a few months earlier! He helped each child write tons of poems, which is right up Elizabeth's alley.A few months later, we got a letter in the mail saying Mr. Minczeski had chosen one of Elizabeth's poems to be published in an anthology. In December, we attended a reception at the Landmark Center and Elizabeth got to read her poem aloud.The best part was that Mr. Minczeski and Charlie MacGuire (and lots of other artists-in-residence) were there to hear it! Here is Elizabeth with Mr. Minzieski. He was extremely encouraging to her, in addition to teaching her a lot. I have a feeling she'll always remember him, especially if she continues writing as she does now. After all the children had read, Elizabeth got to accept an award onstage. She looked awfully little up there. We were very proud of her, and enjoyed the entire experience. Elizabeth loves the opportunity to speak in public. Here is her published poem, "Instructions for a Mouse."Be sneaky.Creep so quietly no one can hear you.Be like a harp sealSliding gracefully across the ice.Even though it is rough,Make it look smooth as a ceiling,As a skateboard.Be the stealer of the cheese,The robber of the cracker.Look out the window,As big as a room to you.Taste the cheese with a sour face.Smell the lonely, dark page of midnight.Ask the sun to turn to a fresh, bright page.Scamper hurriedly into your mousehole,Eager to spend the dayWith a ticket of laughter.My favorite of her poems, though, is "The King's Arrival."The grass bows, the wheat bendsAs the King comes riding swiftly through the field.His name is...The wind.And one more, just so we include one with rhymes: "Meadow Monarch."His wings as bright as fair Moonlight,His veins as dark as dirt.And if some danger was ahead,His eyes would shine, "Alert!"[...]

Fun in a Box




If I tallied up the sheer number of children who played in this box during the month we had it, it would be in the double digits. Too bad I didn't take pictures of all of them. It was hours of fun.

That being said, I am so glad it is out of my living room!

Best Books of 2011


In late summer of this year, I decided to start being more purposeful about what I read. I have long maintained a list of books I want to read, but I tend to devour them and then forget. I started writing down the books I read along with a short summary, and then rating them on a scale of 1-5. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are my fives. Brooks, Max. World War Z. Investigative report about the zombie wars of the world. Excellent and funny, as it includes false footnotes. Burke, John. Soul Revolution. Describes how God takes imperfect people and transforms them to become more like Him through intimate connection with God. Very challenging, and taught me to pray much more constantly.Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. Earth uses war games to train children and find a commander who can protect them from a world of bugs.Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Shadow. The story of Bean, Ender's back-up. Ender's Game from another point of view.Chevalier, Tracy. The Girl with the Pearl Earring. A young maid in 17th century Holland serves the painter Vermeer and struggles to maintain her ethics.Cloud, Henry and Thompson. Boundaries with Kids. Excellent book on establishing boundaries for yourself and your Rosnay, Tatiana. Sarah's Key. A young girl's experience with the French Vel' d'Hiv' Jewish round-up is interwoven with the journalistic investigation of an American woman living in France.Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Describes scientific studies about motivation and compares fixed mindsets to growth mindsets. Will definitely affect how you view life and what you want to teach your children.Fey, Tina. Bossypants. A very funny memoir on Tina Fey's life and entrance into comedy.Forstchen, William R. One Second After. A small town survives after America is hit by an electromagnetic pulse bomb that wipes out all computers.Lupton, Rosamund. Sister. An American woman returns to England to investigate her sister's murder. Told in police interviews with a surprise ending.O'Brien, Caragh. Birthmarked. Prized. First two books in a trilogy. Set near the unlake Superior in the 24th century, a teenage midwife must save her parents from the Enclave. In Prized, Gaia chooses between suitors and meets the people of the Sylum.Patchett, Ann. State of Wonder. A medical researcher travels to the Amazon to find her missing co-worker and discovers his work and love for the natives.Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. A rural priest looks for his son in Johannesburg; a hopeful book about apartheid in South Africa. Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Describes how the gospel has been watered down by culture and how to return to a Biblical and authentic faith. Life-changing.Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. A laborer in 1930's California protects his gentle giant friend.Watson, S.J. Before I Go to Sleep. A woman with amnesia keeps a journal of what little she remembers and discovers things are not what she has been told. Excellent psychological suspense.Willett, Jincy. The Writing Class. One member of a college writing class torments the others; the teacher and class must determine whom it is; very snarky and satiric about authors and writing. On the opposite end, if you're curious, here are my ones and twos. Avoid these books! Adams, Douglas. Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. A man is saved by aliens right before earth is destroyed and goes on a tour of the alien world. 2/5.Atkinson, Kate. Started Early, Took My Dog. Not recommended. I gave up after the second chapter of unrelated characters and very little plot. 1[...]

I Think I'm Falling Behind


I planned to post about pictorial evidence of winter.

(image) Now I look out my window and see grass everywhere. I'm pretty sure Isaac went to work without his jacket today.

I guess I'm too late to post about the signs of winter.

(image) I suppose I'll get another chance eventually.

Family Night


(image) I recently set out uncooked spaghetti noodles and mini-marshmallows and we all went to town creating sculptures. Elizabeth had gotten the idea from her school's second-grade science night, and we'd been meaning to try it ever since. It was very fun, and more difficult than it sounds. Here is Isaac with his masterpiece: the San Francisco bridge.

(image) By the way, two weeks and two vacuumings later, I am still finding broken bits of spaghetti hiding in the cracks of our wood floors. Amelie took care of all the marshmallows, though.

Fussy Baby Jesus


(image) At the rehearsal for the children's Christmas program at church next week, Amelie sang loudly and one line behind everyone else for the first song. Then, during Away in the Manger, when all the other children were gently rocking their babies, Amelie's baby Jesus apparently became fussy. She stepped off the stage and bounced him and whispered to him.

It should be an interesting program next week! Anyone want to come watch?

Christmas Carol Sing


Our annual family carol sing was as wonderful as it always is. I seriously have been blessed with the best family in the world. Everyone is genuinely kind and loving and caring. They're funny and fun to be with. They make incredible food - even the 8-year-olds (go, Sydney!). And they all love God. Hmm, I wonder if that's just a coincidence... :)

Here everyone is gathered trying to help Grandma Mahle figure out Skype on her computer so that she and Grandpa could "join" us. Can you believe that picture isn't even posed?(image) Elizabeth looked forward to playing the piano at the carol sing all month, and she was thrilled to be able to play for Grandma. Sydney sang a solo and Jordan rapped for us.

(image) As usual, the kids enjoyed singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" the most. I'm pretty sure we sany that 3 times.

My favorite part of this picture is how clear it is that Amelie is yelling/singing different words than everyone else.

Aren't they lovely?

(image) I love how everyone in our family participates in everything. We all sing, even those of us who have never been asked to sing in a wedding. We all want to hear about each other's lives. We all gladly don towels on our heads to be shepherds when asked. We all order pretend food from the pretend diner. I think we should get together more often. Especially if we get together with artichoke dip, fresh fruit, fudge, mascarpone caramel dip, and Chex mix.

Lots to Write About Nothing New Here


There's not really anything new going on here, but in my efforts to keep posting for my in-laws I thought I'd try!

We spent a nice Thanksgiving Day at Isaac's aunt and uncle's house. What a blessing to be served a Thanksgiving meal and not have to cook it yourself! I think I thought that at least 10 times that morning.

Before the big meal, Isaac and I took turns going out for runs. We've found we feel much better about ourselves that evening when we take a nice long run beforehand. Too bad we haven't made this a habit on more days than just Thanksgiving! Then we took the girls out for a 1/2 mile Gobble Run around the neighborhood, gobbling at the top of our lungs. Amelie, in particular, excelled at this.

On our way to Thanksgiving, we talked about what we were thankful for. When I was growing up and we did this, I used to get frustrated with the people who said "God." I felt it was a Sunday School answer and obligatory and didn't reveal anything about their lives. Boy, was I wrong. That was much more revelatory about my own relationship with God at the time. This year, Isaac and I both answered with different aspects of God's character that have meant the most to us lately - and meant it.

We're learning about what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We feel good about ourselves when we get to be the giving, helpful part of the body. It's uncomfortable for our pride to be on the receiving end, but good for us in the long run. We are very grateful for our friends who are growing with us and caring for us as part of the body.

In other news: We managed to take apart the one window in our house that we have never figured out how to take down and clean - whew! We set up our Christmas decorations. We successfully hosted a dinner party for 10 members of Isaac's team at work, and learned that wild rice soup was the favorite of the four soups I made. Elizabeth is playing Christmas songs on the piano every chance she gets. Amelie refuses to practice the songs for the kids' Christmas program at church, so I sing "Away in the Manger" by myself every chance I get in hopes of her learning it anyway. Amelie had no sooner recovered from an ugly rugburn on her chin than she got sidewalk burn on her little nose and lips. Elizabeth is happy because her favorite Christmas shirt from last year still fits. Misty is excited about the ornaments on the Christmas tree. I am excited to roast the 25 pound turkey I bought before Thanksgiving.

Apparently, I had more to say than I thought. My husband would probably testify that this is a regular occurrence!

The Scent of Chocolate


Amelie caught me munching on some Reese's Pieces. In order to appease her and keep eating, I let her choose two while I ate the rest. When she left the room to go wake her prairie dog up from its nap, I dug into the peanut M&Ms. (I ran this morning. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.)

Amelie used her candy sensors and flew into my lap. "I mell chocolate."

Me, bending the truth slightly: "Yes. You smell the Reese's Pieces I shared with you. Remember?"

Amelie, looking at me with suspicion: "Then I mell your tummy!"

As I laughed, she carried on with her prattling life: "Mama, will you make me some lunch? Is it a dessert day? And I want to go to the zoo today. I called the zoo and they wanted us to come to the zoo because it's open. Can we go to the zoo today?"

I better save the rest of the M&Ms for naptime and get on with our day!