Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sixteen Tidbits About Me

My friend Melissa at Until the Jasper Walls invited her readers to share little-known facts about themselves. Let's see what I can come up with.

1) I enjoy doing laundry. Really, I do. I love creating order out of chaos, and returning every piece to its rightful place.

2) I despise mopping the floor.

3) I love making homemade cleaners from vinegar, baking soda, etc. It's a bit of an obsession.

4) I once won second place in a math team contest in junior high. But it was for calculator use, which hardly counts!

5) I still remember how to do algebra, and I love tutoring my friends and family. Let's see if I still love it when it's time to help Ethan.

6) I used to own a Chevron convenience store with my ex-husband. It was the most difficult year of my life. Being your own boss is definitely overrated.

7) By age 30, I'd held thirteen jobs! But I've been at my current job for nearly nine years.

8) I have a vague fear of swimming pool drains and those flapping filter thingys on the side of the pool. I once nearly drowned trying to avoid a filter--while I was taking swimming lessons at age 4.

9) I don't know how to dive.

10) I'm really into cloth diapers, though I didn't discover them till Allyson was nearly two. Now she only wears them at bedtime.

11) I'm not a baby person. I love my own babies, of course, but I'm not one of the girls who stand in line saying, "Let me hold the baby!"

12) I used to play the viola. I played it from fourth grade to eighth grade. Do you even know what a viola is?? It looks just like a violin, but it plays lower notes. Violas get all the boring harmony parts.

13) I know how to program in BASIC--the same language I learned in junior high. I love writing programs even more than my real job, which is training development.

14) I hated all fruit until my early thirties, when I gradually started learning to like and eventually love many different kinds of fruit. This was thanks to my mother-in-law.

15) I think I'm becoming a crappy driver. I used to be a good driver, but now I find myself making stupid mistakes. I'm too easily distracted.

16) I love breakfast. I usually fall asleep thinking about what I will eat in the morning: Banana oatmeal? Blueberry pancakes? Fiber One with pomegranate seeds? Peanut butter bagel with banana slices? Mmm!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Such Luck

You may recall that Allyson and Bill suffered a stomach virus about a week ago, which is how I learned that you should NEVER leave your purse unzipped. Up until this weekend, I was feeling so, so lucky that all I got out of that experience was a valuable lesson about purses and a renewed appreciation for Bill's saintliness. No such luck!

On Saturday night, I was watching a movie with Ethan when I felt the first twinges of an upset tummy. "It's probably nothing," I thought, since I frequently have a sore stomach. It never crossed my mind that it could be a stomach virus since it had been a full week since Bill came down with it.

By midnight, I knew this was no minor case of indigestion. I was up until 2:30, when it finally hit in full force. As I was kneeling on the bathroom floor, feeling sorry for my cold, stiff knees on the hard, frigid floor, I thought about the unfairness of it all:
  • I got sick AFTER I spent the entire evening making shrimp potato soup, which was to be served the next day at home group meeting at our house, for which Bill had just spent the entire day cleaning (I conveniently had other plans--a service project and a baby shower).
  • Now the soup would almost certainly need to be thrown away, which seemed almost as awful as being sick in the first place.
  • How could I get a stomach virus after a whole week? Isn't that a cruel joke?
  • What if it was a different bug? What if Allyson gets sick again?
  • How can two-year-old Allyson be so relaxed and resigned about barfing, yet no matter how hard I try to give in and not fight it, I always cry when I'm throwing up?
The worst disappointment--which isn't really related--was that I had ruined the stove making the soup that probably has to be thrown away. I used a metal simmering plate, which is supposed to distribute the heat evenly. Apparently I put it on upside down, and it transferred so much heat toward the cooking surface that it melted right through the ceramic top and made a big dent in the glass. It's utterly ruined. And we've had the stove for maybe six months. I cried the next morning when Bill took the simmering plate off and told me about it (which was pretty risky since any unnecessary movement could send me racing to the bathroom).

Oh well. At least Bill got to go to his hockey game before I got sick. It would have been really awful for him to miss two weeks in a row (since he was sick for the last one). At least I got sick on the weekend, when Bill could take care of everything without having to miss any work. At least our hardwood floor is so shiny you can see yourself in it, even if we didn't host the home group meeting. At least I was able to sleep (off and on) for over 24 hours. I'm feeling so rested today.

Now we have to decide whether to throw away that soup. If you know me at all, you know how much I hate to waste food. Either it was the shrimp that made me sick, or a stomach virus; if it was a stomach virus, I handled everything that went into the soup. But the soup did boil for quite awhile. What to do, what to do? Bill decided to take some soup for lunch and see what happened. He's OK so far (and he said the soup was fabulous), but I don't know...

What would you do? Take the poll at the top right corner of the page and/or leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Message in a Volvo Plant

I've been pretty shaken over the impending failure of GM and most of the auto industry. Of course, the consequences for our nation and even the world would likely be catastrophic. But I have a more selfish reason for concern. I have a friend whose husband works at GM. And Bill and I work for a company that serves the auto industry. If the industry should collapse, there's a very real possibility that both of us could be out of work in the near future.

Now I have a vague understanding of how all these economic problems came to roost in our country. I know that we have been greedy and irresponsible with credit. I know that some would say we are getting what we deserve. I also know that maybe our country needs to go through this calamity to help us remember what is really important in life--and to turn us to God, who has all the answers.

I know all this, and it sounds good in the hypothetical. But that doesn't mean I feel good about the prospect of personally suffering hardship. So I've been doing what I always do in situations like this: I've been worrying myself silly. But I've also been doing some praying, which is a good thing.

Last night, I fell asleep praying, and I woke up praying this morning. The first thing that came to my mind this morning was an experience I had when I was newly pregnant with Allyson. While I was on a work trip in Virginia, I was worried about all kinds of things: whether I could afford to stay home with my baby, how we would survive, whether I'd have a healthy baby, how a baby would affect our marriage, etc.

The following is an excerpt from my journal in 2005, but I think the message applies even more today....

Monday, October 17, 2005
The best thing happened at the Volvo heavy truck plant. We had a fascinating tour, and my mouth was agape at the giant "dinosaur" robots, the automated cab retrieval system, etc. I walked slowly, turning to look in all directions.

I was walking down a hallway with Angela, and we were lagging behind the group. I suddenly turned on my heel when I spotted a piece of paper on the side of a red tool bin. I wanted to read it.

Surprisingly, it was a notebook paper full of Bible verses on worry. The verses were hand written in the King James Version, which reminded me of my childhood. The first was, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?"

Angela and I read all the verses. I tried to remember the scripture reference, but all I could remember was "Matthew...26." I later read all of Matthew 26 and then all the 26th verses in Matthew until I found the passage:

Matthew 6:25-34
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


  1. Matthew 6:27 Or single cubit to his height
I was so amazed to find those verses in a factory. Who wrote them? Was it a person like me, a person who struggles with worry? Did that person have any idea that those carefully copied verses would minister to a stranger?

The passage was just what I needed. I had been doing a lot of worrying about the future, wondering how long I'll stay home with the baby, and how much I'll get done before I go on leave.

I feel much more at peace now. I know God has a plan for me, and I can trust him to take care of me and my family.

Thank you for that unexpected message, Lord! Please plant it in my heart, and let your Word change me. Please bless the person who copied those verses.

Three Years Later
These scriptures bring such comfort to me today. Just reading them isn't enough. I need to meditate on them and PRAY them until the reality of those promises takes root. And I need God to change my heart to help me seek his kingdom first instead of worrying about my own little kingdom.

I think I've just found my next memory passage.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who Needs Gold-Edged Pillows?

When Allyson was four months old and Ethan was nine, we went on a rather ill-conceived vacation to Destin, Florida. We were pretty broke, so we decided to do one of those resort tours where you get the free hotel stay. It was a long drive for a short stay, and the tour was a beating. Still, we managed to have a little fun along the way. Here are some excerpts from Ethan's journal.

Day Two, Saturday 10/7/06
Naturally, Allyson was none too pleased about getting back in her carseat, and you got pretty frustrated when you couldn't get her to take her pacifier. So we traded places. I guess I should mention that our little Sentra
was absolutely crammed full of luggage, snacks, and baby paraphernalia. Allyson's bulky car seat was in the middle of the backseat, and the entire left side was filled with the diaper bag, nursing pillow, snacks, books, DVDs, bottle cooler, breast pump, and a big sun hat.

Your space--actually my space most of the time--was the narrow spot between the car seat and the right door. When you were in the backseat, all of your floor space was taken up with your bulging backpack. You didn't seem to mind as long as you could adjust the sun shades to block out the warm sunlight.

The trunk was ridiculously full. Bill managed to fit the big suitcase, a backpack of toiletries, the Pack & Play playpen, the stroller, and a bunch of shoes in there with a lot of rough shoving and a minimum of cursing....

Day Three, Sunday 10/8/06

We could only stay at the beach for about an hour and a half because we had an appointment to tour the Fairfield Resort at 1:00....

We warned you NOT TO GET WET, but of course you were drenched in under five minutes. You said the waves were huge, and you hadn't meant to let them overtake you. Even after you were supposedly wiser, you still kept "accidentally" getting wet.

The water was so beautiful, and I could see why they call this the Emerald Coast. The water was aqua near the beach, and a much deeper blue farther out. The sand was white and powdery and felt wonderful on our feet. There was a cool breeze that made me thankful for my sweater, but the sun was warm and soothing. The water was really cold, and no one was swimming, only wading.

Enduring the Resort Tour
The resort tour was just as we'd expected, and Bill was about as grumpy about it as you were. We listened to a sales presentation for over an hour, and then we toured a couple of condos. They were very, very nice, but we knew that we were not ready to commit to any sort of monthly payment for a timeshare.

Bill and I both said no to three different salespeople, and then we finally collected our hotel, gas, and restaurant vouchers and left. By then it was too late to catch our sunset cruise; the tour was not 90 minutes as we'd been told....

At sunset, everyone stood on the pier and counted down as the huge orange sun slipped into the water. On "one," the restaurant fired a cannon that made us all jump. The food was very good. Even you ate most of your burger and fries. [Ethan eats almost nothing on vacations. The excitement is too much for him.]

After dinner, we went into a couple of shops on the Boardwalk. You admired the shells, T-shirts, and sharks' jawbones and finally settled on a small alligator head (real - yuck!). It was only $13, so I gave in. We also had some gelato, a type of Italian ice cream. It was light and tasty....

Back at the hotel, we went out to the allegedly heated pool and the hot tub. The hot tub was great, but the pool was icy. You started by jumping into the pool, and then you got into the hot tub, your entire body steaming. There were two kids from Alabama, and the three of you kept egging each other on as you continually jumped into the pool, the hot tub, and the pool again.

Our Humble Room

I fed Allyson, and then she lay on the bed between you and me. At one point, she pulled my shirt way out and seemed to be looking inside. You and I both thought that was funny, and we got pretty silly.

"What's on the menu?" I asked in a high-pitched voice.

"Milk, milk, and a side of milk," you replied.

"And the prices? All free!"

"It's a buffet!" you cried. "All you can eat."

"Eat until you puke!" I choked out. And we both dissolved into giggles while Allyson looked on. When Bill came out of the bathroom, we tried to explain it, but it wasn't as funny in the retelling.

It had been a long day, and we were all in bed by just after 10:00. You fell asleep instantly, and Bill and I lay whispering for a minute or two. At the resort, they'd gone on about how awful it is to share a simple hotel room, and how it's so much nicer to have two or more bedrooms in a condo, each with its own TV. But I told Bill this was the kind of vacation I liked, with all my family near me, all in the same room.

Bill agreed, but he did complain about the skinny pillows. "If we were at the Fairfield Resort," he said, "we'd have fluffy pillows--lots of them--outlined in gold." No matter. We had everything we needed.

Day Four, Monday 10/9/06
While Bill finished his cereal, you kept Allyson entertained with a colorful bouquet of silk flowers. You leaned the vase toward her, and she could just brush the leaves with her fingertips. She found this very amusing, and she cooed her appreciation....

At last we made it to Henderson State Park, where we set up a little lounging area on the sugar sand. You ran straight for the water while Bill struggled to set up the beach umbrella in the wind. He also spread out two bamboo mats that I had surreptitiously rescued from a trash bin the day before. They were a little tattered on the edges, but they worked well at protecting our towels from the sand.

You came running back to report that you'd seen a jellyfish. I rather doubted your story, but when we finally made it to the shoreline, we saw lots of dead jellyfish, of many sizes, floating in the surf. They were really neat and rather pretty when they were floating, but on the sand they were a mass of clear... jelly, I suppose. One woman was scooping up jellyfish in a yellow net and pushing them across the sand. She reminded me of Spongebob Squarepants, who loves to collect jellyfish with his little net. I half expected her to jerk with a jolt of electricity--zzt!--like on the cartoon.

Allyson watched the waves intently, but she was quite sober, so we couldn't tell if she liked it.... We put her in her stroller, where she could enjoy the breeze and be shaded from the sun. She cried and cried, but Bill finally soothed her to sleep. I thought it was funny that she was sleeping to the sound of real ocean waves, just like on her noisemaker at home....

There were Monarch butterflies everywhere. They were beautiful, but they were almost pesty when they flew right past our faces. When we drove away, we were afraid they would splat against the windshield, but they somehow avoided that fate.

Sunset Tour
At 4:30, we went on the Olin Marler's Sunset Dolphin Tour. We cruised around the bay and the gulf for two hours while the captain pointed out various historic sites, restaurants, and celebrity homes.

Shortly before sunset, we saw a large group of dolphins. They swam right past the boat in pairs, threes, and fours. I couldn't catch them on our slow digital camera, but I did capture them with the video camera. We caught our breath when they leapt and dove in tight arcs. They were amazing!

And so was the sunset, which we viewed over a ridge of rocks. I was taking endless pictures, and Bill finally told me to put the camera down and just look. I was glad I did. So beautiful!

Day Five, Tuesday 10/10/06
Since you were now the primary front-seat passenger, you took on the role of navigator. Bill told you what to look for in the big yellow atlas, and you gave estimates of the distances. It was good to see you putting your map skills to work in a real-life setting....

The gift of being young is that you can sleep anywhere, through anything. Bill and I, however, did not fare so well on Tuesday night.

We arrived at our LaQuinta in Monroe, Louisiana, around 6:00 PM. Upon opening the door, we were assaulted with a strong odor of mildew and mothballs. There was a different smell in the bathroom, sort of like rust. And there were hairs all over the bathtub.... I suppose we should have asked for another room, but neither Bill nor I enjoy conflict. Besides, who knew whether another room would be better? And we had already unloaded the bulging car....

No matter, you fell right to sleep after I had smoothed cool lotion on your stinging sunburn. You fell asleep before anyone else. You slept soundly through 30 minutes of Allyson's sleepy fussing. You slept through the loud farts that kept waking me--mine! You slept through Allyson's repeated choking and coughing. [She had an awful cold.] And you slept through train after deafening train on the track that was within sight of our room.

In the morning, your only complaint was your tender sunburn. Bill and I, though, had seen better days. Bill said emphatically that we would not be coming back here again.

So, this wasn't our favorite vacation ever, but we still found lots of fun and laughter along the way. I'd do it again... maybe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Riding the Roller Coaster

Bill and I met and fell in love in Chicago. He lived in Vancouver at the time, and it seemed an impossible dream that we could ever be together. We corresponded by email at first, and then by phone.

We talked on the phone for an hour or more every night, and I loved every minute of it. I've since learned that Bill doesn't even like to talk on the phone!

First Date - July 28, 2000

After about four months, we had our first monthly visit. Bill flew to Chicago, where I was once again getting some training, and we had our first date. We had a steak dinner at some mediocre restaurant. What I remember about that dinner is that we were so enthralled in our conversation that we didn't hear the hostess announce our table. After about an hour, we finally thought to check on it, and they were able to seat us. I was so excited to be sitting across the table from Bill that I could scarcely eat.

The next day, we spent the day at my favorite museum in the world: The Museum of Science and Industry. They had the Titanic exhibit, which was incredible. I think we must have been the most obnoxious couple; we stopped and smooched every few feet, and we laughed uproariously over nothing.

It was the most amazing weekend of my life. I had never realized I was capable of such emotions. I felt like the Queen of the World (to paraphrase Leonardo DiCaprio in The Titanic).

Coming Down Hard

Bill's flight was heading out on Monday afternoon, but I had to stay another week. He met me for lunch, and we said goodbye in his rental car. Nothing could have prepared me for the sorrow of that parting, which I was destined to repeat about 12 more times. I returned to my class with swollen, red eyes and blotchy cheeks, but I really didn't care what anyone thought.

As Bill put it in his letter after that first visit, "I am back in my home with all my stuff and the familiar surroundings, but my heart is with you in Chicago.... Where you are is where I belong and my home is by your side."

Bill Comes to Texas - August, 2000
Bill flew down to see me and meet my family the next month. Three-year-old Ethan climbed right into his lap, and they've been buddies ever since. The rest of my family loved Bill as well. The highlights of his visit were:
  • Washing dishes together at Mom and Dad's house, our hands brushing in the warm, soapy water
  • Going to church together
  • Bill's first taste of homemade ice cream, my mom's specialty
  • Lying on my living room floor watching a Winnie the Pooh video with Bill, Ethan, my sister Emily, and my two nieces
When we finished that video, I was surprised to see that Bill had tears in his eyes. Had he been so moved by the positive message of the Pooh story? No. He was just overjoyed to be experiencing a moment in my everyday life. Emily, three-year-old Hillary, and one-year-old Savannah lived with me and Ethan in my two-bedroom house at the time, and Bill was used to hearing the craziness of our life over the phone: "No, Sissy! Don't put the toothbrush in the toilet! No, Sissy, don't color on the wall!" Now he was experiencing it all first hand, if only for a short time.

Bill happened to be there for one of the hottest days on record, when it was 111 degrees! I was stunned to learn that he was enjoying the heat. In Vancouver, it rains a lot, even in the summer, and he was really relishing the dry heat. I told him to try living with 100+ temperatures for over 50 days and then tell me whether he liked it!

When I dropped Bill at the airport the next day, both of us cried when we heard "Last call for Vancouver!"

The Roller Coaster
Over the next 13 months, we alternated flying back and forth to Vancouver and Texas, with an occasional rendezvous in Chicago. Our emotions followed the same crazy but predictable cycle each month. After a visit, we'd be depressed for several days, then we'd resign ourselves to being apart. I'd receive Bill's pictures after a week or so, almost always accompanied by a romantic letter on cologne-scented notebook paper. This would lift my spirits immensely.

By the middle of the month, we'd start counting down the days, and anticipation would build to a fever pitch. On the last day, usually a Friday, we'd email back and forth the number of hours left.

At last, one of us would be on the four-hour flight and the other would be preparing. For me, that meant shaving my legs for the first time in a month (seriously!), removing my toenail polish from the last visit, and applying a fresh coat of paint to fingernails and toenails. For Bill, it usually meant making the two-hour drive to Seattle (because it was cheaper to fly to and from there than Vancouver).

The most delicious moment of all was watching the passengers emerge from the jetway, straining to spot Bill. (This was before September 11th.) Our eyes would meet, and our faces would light up with a huge smile. We would hold each other so tightly that we could barely breathe, and we would sway back and forth. Then we would cover each other's faces in soft kisses.

We savored our walk to baggage claim, our fingers entwined, hands swinging, walking so close that we bumped each other and had to regain our balance.

Of course, the three days--or even the ten days at Christmas--always passed with dizzying speed, and then we were back to the agony of separation. This pattern never got easier. It seemed that the lows got lower and lower. In the end, we were running out of money and vacation time, and we didn't know what would happen if Bill's L-1 Visa didn't get approved. But that's another story.

Although I would never want to go back to that year of long-distance love, it definitely had its advantages.
  • It was wildly romantic.
  • I felt like a princess whenever we were together.
  • There were stacks of love letters and love songs on CDs.
  • I got to enjoy some really beautiful terrain: mountains and rain forest and lush flowers.
Most importantly, the situation gave me time to be alone and find my own way after my divorce. I think our relationship is much stronger than it might have been if we had had a "normal" dating relationship at the start.

Eight Years Later It's funny how fondly I look back on those days even though I was so desperate for the separation to end. Little did I know how hard the adjustment would be when we became just an everyday, ordinary couple. This is so much better, though, ordinariness and all. We know each other so much more deeply now, and we have grown together through life's changes. The love letters have all but stopped, but we still write romantic notes in each other's greeting cards. And Bill did make "Sarah Songs 8" not so long ago!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NEVER Leave Your Purse Unzipped

For years, people have been reminding me to zip my purse. The dire consequences they predicted (important stuff falling out to be lost forever, strangers grabbing my wallet while I was distracted, etc.) seemed pretty scary but failed to make a lasting impact.

About ten days ago, I had breakfast with my friend Marie, who recounted a story of throwing up into her mother's purse (as a child, of course). I laughed with her over it and thought, "Well, that's a good reason to zip up your purse!" Alas, I was still incapable of learning from someone else's experience.

What Are the Odds?
Last night, I was working on my new recipe blog when Allyson walked up beside me and mumbled something about having a headache. "A headache?" I asked absently.

"Blaahhhhh!" she answered, spewing vomit right into my open purse. I realized what was happening but was so shocked that I couldn't react quickly enough to spare it from the second onslaught.

As I was leading her toward the bathroom to clean up, she threw up all over the hall floor as well. Ethan looked on from the safety of his room and fired questions at me. "What's wrong? Is it a stomach virus? Will I catch it? Did you clean it up yet? How are you going to clean it?"

"I don't know," I replied, trying to simultaneously control my exasperation and my gag reflex while I wrapped Allyson in a towel and caught three more eruptions.

As luck would have it, Bill happened to be at the gym. "I think you should call Bill," Ethan advised forcefully. "Tell him he needs to come home. He'll know how to clean it up."

"I'm not calling Bill home early. Let him finish his workout. I can figure this out on my own," I asserted with a false bravado. Inwardly, I was pleading, "Come home, Bill! Please come home!"

Clean Up! Clean Up!
Once Allyson seemed stable and somewhat clean--at least for the moment--I wiped down my beloved leather purse and started gingerly picking out putrid objects. I rinsed everything rinseable in the sink and then sprayed it all down with Lysol. I wiped down the inside lining with a wet cloth, but the smell is still unbearable. [I really don't know what else to do besides spraying it with some Febreeze when we get some. If anyone has any suggestions, please comment!]

Next, I drug the shop vac up the stairs and vacuumed up the solid bits while monitoring Allyson for signs of imminent yakking.

Meanwhile, Allyson asked several times, "Where's my daddy? I want Daddy."

"We all want Daddy, honey."

"Hold me!" she said pitifully, and I felt so insensitive for having to be asked! I sat cross-legged on the floor and sat her on my lap, a towel draped over us. That's how we were sitting when Bill came home.

Bill Saves the Day
Bill swooped in and, in the space of ten minutes, threw the soiled towels in the washer, scrubbed the carpet with Resolve, and washed out the shop vac with the hose. Then he noticed that I was looking a little green, and he took Allyson from me and told me to "go take a drive or something."

I felt bad about handing her off to him, but he reassured me that he really doesn't get nauseated the way I do. From that point, all that was left for me to do was wash my hands compulsively and try to convince Ethan that everything would be okay, and yes he did have to go to school in the morning. I have to mention that he was pacing back and forth in his room with socks on his hands--because I'd told him that keeping your hands clean is the best way to avoid getting sick.

Bill sat on the couch with Allyson and calmly wiped up each new mess. They looked so cute that I couldn't resist snapping a picture. Seeing Bill caring for Allyson so lovingly made me melt. It reminded me of another time when he tenderly cared for a vomiting toddler. But that's another story.

Bill slept with Allyson on the couch in the TV room, and I went on to bed around midnight. My stomach felt a little queasy, and I slept fitfully.

Allyson woke up several times during the night, and I could hear her pleading, "I need water! In my sippy cup! In my sippy cup!" She repeated this over and over, and I knew Bill must be offering her ice chips.

Thankfully, by morning she was feeling dramatically better. Bill went on to work--on perhaps five hours of interrupted sleep. Allyson and I have had a wonderful time reading and playing games together.

Final Reminder
So, as I remonstrated at the beginning of this post, NEVER leave your purse unzipped! I'm really hoping I can remember this lesson myself.

He's the One

When did you realize you wanted to spend the rest of your life with your spouse? Was it a dramatic moment, or a gradual realization? Was it incredibly romantic?

The moment I knew I wanted to be with Bill for ever was definitely not romantic in the usual sense. It was on Easter Sunday of 2001, and Bill was visiting from Canada. We had just enjoyed lunch at a wonderful, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, where we ate with my sister Emily and her daughters Hillary and Savannah. I noticed that Ethan, who was nearly four, didn't eat much; I just figured he was being picky as usual.

We were on the way back to the airport when Ethan started to complain that his tummy felt funny. "You'll be okay, little guy," Bill said while I concentrated on navigating the tight circles in the parking garage.

As we were walking to the check-in counter, Ethan suddenly emptied his stomach all over the carpet and my arm. I froze, holding my dripping arm out in front of me. Bill sprang into action. He scooped up Ethan and carried him to the restroom, where he washed him up and dressed him in a clean white T-shirt from his suitcase.

He then looked after my sobbing boy while I pulled the car around. He gave Ethan a big hug and a kiss(!) and then settled him gently into the backseat. I couldn't believe his kindness.

At that moment, I just knew that we had to be together forever. "God, I love this man!" I thought.

Since then, he's surprised me over and over with his gentle manner and unfailing thoughtfulness. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to learn from the parenting skills that come so naturally to him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Enjoying Halloween Traditions

Honestly, I've never much liked Halloween, other than the scads of candy. I guess it's the scary costumes and haunted houses that bother me. What I do love about Halloween--at least since Bill has been in my life--is our Halloween traditions. Every year, we visit a pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins, go trick-or-treating, and hand out candy to neighborhood kids.

Playing at the Pumpkin Patch
This year, we drove quite a ways to a different pumpkin patch out in the country. It took so long to get there that we only had 20 minutes or so before darkness fell. Still, we had fun on the hayride, bounce houses, bouncy slide, mini Ferris wheel, and Allyson's pony ride.

It was funny taking a hay ride with only one other family, but the kids still loved it.

Although it's hard to tell due to the cheap throwaway camera we used, Allyson wore a huge grin for the entire three minutes of her pony ride. She wasn't at all afraid, even when the pony jumped because of the camera flash.

Allyson wanted to take all the pumpkins, especially the smallest ones. At home, she carried the two tiny pumpkins we bought everywhere. (Last year she even took a bath with one.) She proudly decorated her mini pumpkin with a dry erase marker.

The kids patiently posed for a lengthy photo shoot with the pumpkins. These were our favorites.

Carving the Jack-O-Lanterns

Both kids thoroughly enjoyed the pumpkin carving, though Allyson wished she could wield the knife. Allyson got to help design the face for the smaller pumpkin, and Ethan designed and cut the larger one (with a bit of help from Bill).

Superheros and Villains

As soon as we saw this year's Party City flyer, Allyson set her heart on being Spider-Man, whom she calls Syer-Man. She kept saying, "Take me to Halloween!" We couldn't make her understand that Halloween is a time, not a place!

We looked but couldn't find a costume in her size. So we got her the next best thing, Super Girl. She was skeptical until she tried it on, and then she loved it. She saw another, older girl in the same costume, and she was delighted. "Just like me!" she crowed.

Ethan chose the ghost from Scream, complete with fake blood that cycled through the mask. I wasn't overly fond of the somewhat scary costume, but now that he's 11, he refuses to wear superhero costumes any longer.

Allyson wasn't afraid of the costume, surprisingly, though she was terrified of a teenager in a gorilla suit when he came to our door for candy. She jumped back and climbed onto a chair, and the boy felt really bad for scaring her.

Enjoying Allyson's Candy
It was a lot of fun this year. My only regret is that we have already eaten all of Allyson's good candies. Now she's down to Sweet Tarts and Starburst. (Ethan left his candy at his dad's house.) Well, there's always next year.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Least of These

I've been troubled for several days over something that happened last weekend in Chicago. When Angela and I were waiting for the subway, a man approached us and asked if we could help him (i.e. give him some money).

This is not the first time such a thing has happened to me, but there was something different about this man. He had a genteel, respectful manner. He stood a few feet away and, in a soft-spoken voice, told us that he had fallen on hard times and had been living in the subway a few weeks.

He said something like, "I know I look dirty and I probably smell, but I haven't had a way to take a shower down here. I don't want to make you feel threatened, so I'll stand back here away from you. You look like nice ladies, and I can see that you are traveling. If there's any way that you could help me, I'd be really grateful."

I hesitated for a moment. I really, really wanted to help him, but I looked sorrowfully in his eyes and said, "I had a dollar bill, but I just gave it to that man playing the guitar." That was true in a sense, but really it was a lie. The truth is, I also had a five dollar bill that I could have easily spared. So it wasn't the money. It also wasn't that I thought he was lying and didn't need the money; maybe he was lying, but he really seemed genuine. Besides, whenever I've felt prompted to give money to people, I've never worried over what they would do with the money. I always feel that I'm giving the money to God, and once I've been obedient, it really doesn't matter what happens next.

No, in this case, the truth was that I was afraid. I remembered all the times I'd been told not to give money to people on the street--that when you open your purse or your wallet, the person might grab it and run away. Worse yet, he might grab you and hurt you. In my gut, I didn't feel he was a threat, and I really wanted to help him. But I just couldn't take the risk.

He hung his head and walked away, and in a moment we boarded the train. I asked Angela what she'd thought of his story, and she said she had not been able to hear what he was saying. With all our stress over making it to the airport on time, I quickly forgot the incident.

Two days later, at Bible study, we talked about our mission as Christians. We studied Matthew 25, in which Jesus says that when we don't help the needy, it's like we've turned our back on Jesus himself:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

I immediately thought of my encounter with the man in the subway, and my heart was pierced. Here was an opportunity to show love to a stranger, and I'd missed it! Since then, I've thought of that man often. I wish I could go back and do it again. I'd like to hand him the $5, or even the whole $25 if God so prompted me, and say, "God loves you, and so do I."

Now, all I can do is pray for him, and ask God to help me do better the next time. I want to be able to hear God's voice clearly and respond; when God tells me to do something, I know I can trust that he will take care of me.


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