Friday, December 24, 2010

Your Dreams Come True

For the week leading up to Allyson's Christmas dance recital, we made her practice every evening to a video I had made at one of her class sessions. The tap routine, Let it Snow, was the hardest. After watching her struggle with the choreography, I decided to study the steps and tutor her at home. How hard could it be?

On our first evening rehearsal, I found out it's a lot harder than it looks. "Front-front, side-side, back-back, STOMP!" I hollered, but our feet weren't listening, and we kept stumbling over each other. Ethan rewound the video for us over and over, and gave us pointers as to what we were doing wrong. "Hey, it's a lot harder than it looks," I whined. "Why don't you try it?"

"Nah," he said.

"Mama, how can you help me if I'm better than you?" Allyson asked.

"That's a good question, baby. Just keep practicing."

She moaned and griped, and did very little actual practicing, but when the day of the recital arrived, some sort of Christmas miracle occurred. Maybe it was the glittery tutu or the feather boa. Anyway, Allyson became a ballerina. You could see it in her eyes; she believed.

She Flourished That Boa Around the House for Days

Her first dance was When You Wish Upon a Star, which couldn't have been more appropriate. Right there before our eyes, Allyson's Dreams Came True. My eyes filled with tears as I saw her sheer joy, but then I laughed when I saw her little "Hi, Mom!" wave. (Or maybe she was waving at Grandma, who happens to be her biggest fan.)

Later in the show came the dreaded tap number, and of course it all came out just fine. She wasn't perfect, but she had fun, even with the brush step--remember how she asked Jesus to help her with that one? And she NAILED the tough part that Ethan had helped us with. I was bursting with pride, and so was he when he watched the video a few days later.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the video Bill made. I tried to cut some of the ballet song, but I just couldn't; it was all too precious. See for yourself....

Did you see how perfect her third position was at the end of the first song? (Or maybe it was second position. Or maybe fourth. Anyway, wasn't she graceful?)

When the recital was over, she changed back into the regular Allyson:

Yep, that's our little ballerina.

Merry Christmas to you, and may all your dreams come true.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

That's Ethan On the Cymbals!

We attended our third Christmas band concert the week before last, and it was the best one yet. It's amazing to see how the kids have progressed--and how they've grown. Just look at Ethan, who has morphed into a young man while I wasn't looking.

Here he is with his dad after the concert:

and with Grandma, his biggest fan other than Allyson:

Ethan plays percussion in the honors band, and he's quite talented. But he wasn't too enthused about this concert, where he'd be playing "only the bells and the wood block."

He didn't mention that he'd be starting out the first song with a solo on the bells, or that he'd end the second song with two triumphant clashes on the cymbals. I listened breathlessly, almost biting my nails. Would he make a mistake? Was he as nervous as I was?

I needn't have worried; he was cool as a cucumber.

Here are a few snippets. On the first clip, part of "Snow Day Celebration," listen for the tinkly bells at the very beginning (punctuated by a baby's shrill scream). On the second clip, from "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch," watch his precision on the syncopated rhythms of the wood block. And then listen for Allyson's proud realization that her brother was playing the cymbals. Her "Woo-hoo, Ethan!" was even louder than mine.

All the way home, Allyson gushed about how much she loved the Mr. Grinch song, and how the cymbals were the best part. "I'm gonna play the cymbals when I grow up," she said. "And then I can bang them next to Ethan's ears and wake him up in the morning." (Not a bad idea, by the way.)

He pretended to shrug off her praise, but I could see his grin in the rear view mirror. When we got home, he surprised me by asking to watch the video of Allyson's Christmas dance recital (video forthcoming, I promise), which he had missed because he was at his dad's. His praise was just as glowing as Allyson's had been, and soon my heart was glowing as well. Though it's hard to tell sometimes, they really do love each other!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa is Sure on the Ball

You know those crazy product caution labels you see sometimes, like this one on a stroller: "Remove child before folding"? You have to assume there is some rational reason for those words of caution, but usually it's pretty hard to imagine.

Well, at my family's Christmas celebration on Saturday, we came across a label we had no problem understanding. From Aunt Emily's family, Allyson got a "Fur Real" pet that loosely resembles a bunny, makes crazy noises, and zips across the floor like a mouse.
See Her Pretty Nails? Daddy Painted Them!

Ethan found a red sticker on the box that made me laugh out loud: "Caution: Keep away from children's hair!"  I wanted to take a picture of the sticker, but Bill threw the box away already. (He has a compulsion with scurrying around behind us and tidying up.)

There's also a permanent warning on the bottom of the bunny, but we didn't really need all that explanation.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a clue.

Anyway, Allyson has been giving that bunny's wheels a wide berth--but having SO much fun with it that she's all but forgotten her original Fur Real Pet, her beloved Allum. I'm sure they'll be best buddies again as soon as little Lulu's batteries wear out.

And In Other Allyson News...
Here is Allyson's latest craft project, which she thought up and executed entirely on her own while I was making dinner. After studying one of Ethan's early-reader science discovery books, she made a model of the solar system out of Bendaroos, complete with the sun and nine planets of varying sizes. (Is it supposed to be only eight planets now? I didn't have the heart to tell her.)

I remember making a model of the solar system in grade school, but not by choice. I bet the rest of my family remembers it too. It was a family project, which might have been fun if we weren't so frantic to finish it by the next morning.

I have a feeling the solar system project will be a lot easier with Allyson.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The One He Loves

A few of weeks ago, I started thinking about starting a new memory passage. It's always hard to let go of the old one, even though I know I'll keep reviewing it forever. I think my main hesitation is trying to discern what the next passage should be. There's always that niggling fear that this time God won't confirm my choice--this despite the fact that He has confirmed all ten of my previous passages, usually more than once.

Anyway, I've been leaning toward a passage in Ephesians:

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 
I feel most drawn to the verse about being rooted and established in the love of Christ; this is my prayer for myself and my children and my friends.

So this morning I reminded God that I was still waiting for my confirmation. "Is this the right passage, or do you want me to learn another one?... I really love this one! But I'm getting a little frustrated. Hasn't it been over a week since I asked you about it?" [Because a week is SUCH a long time, I know!]

Feeling a little pouty, I sat down with my stack of memory cards and quoted them, one by one. As the scriptures flowed off my lips, I kept sensing connections with the Ephesians passage. When I read about Jesus humbling himself and becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)--I was in awe of how much he loves me. "Oh, Jesus," I breathed. "You know how I have feared death in the past, and if I could get out of dying I would. Yet you took on human form, subjecting yourself to death, on purpose! And you did it because you loved us so. Help me grasp that love, Jesus!" Immediately, I thought of being rooted and established in his love, and grasping how long and high and deep is his love.

Then there was Psalm 103:11: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him." Again I thought of the Ephesians passage.

Isaiah 43 reminded me that he has summoned me by name, for I am his; I am precious and honored in his sight, and he loves me.

Next was John 15: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.... Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

I paused after Romans 8:39: "...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Again I prayed, "Jesus, help me really understand this love. Let it get down deep inside me and change me forever.... I need to be rooted and established in your love, don't I? Is this you talking to me, God??"

I wasn't expecting anything from Isaiah 61, but verse 3 brought a thrill of recognition. "...They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." I closed my eyes and imagined the oak tree in our front yard, which isn't huge, but is growing so slowly and steadily. "Oh, Lord, make me strong like a mighty oak. I want to display your splendor." My thoughts turned to the oak tree's roots, spreading out and reaching down, down to the life-giving water. "I need to be ROOTED and established in your love," I repeated.

I smiled as I restacked the cards, keeping the current passage on top and scrambling the rest. "Lord, did you just confirm my passage through all my other passages? Or am I just imagining all these connections?"

I thought back to Bible study the day before, and I remembered something I had said during our discussion. I  asked whether Jesus had a special love for certain people, like his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the apostle John. "After all, doesn't John refer to himself over and over as 'the disciple Jesus loved'?" I asked. We talked it over and decided that Jesus did have a special love for John, maybe because of the relationship that John cultivated with him. Still, we agreed that Jesus didn't love everyone else any less because of it. For the first time, I passed from having a teeny bit of resentment for John's apparent arrogance to wanting to emulate him. "I think it would be good if all of us could be like John," I said. "I want to be able to say, 'I'm Sarah, the woman Jesus loves. I want that assurance to be at the core of me, what defines me.'"

When that conversation came back to me this morning, I recognized my own words as one more confirmation of my choice. "That's cool," I thought. "God has never used ME to confirm a memory passage before." But do you know what I said next? Maybe you know me well enough to guess.

"God, I feel pretty sure you've confirmed my passage, but in the past you've always confirmed it externally somehow. How do I know you've really been talking to me, and it's not just random thoughts? Could you please confirm the passage for me one more time?" I almost cringed at my own lack of faith. I felt like Thomas, who said he'd have to touch Jesus's scars before he could believe he had risen.

Well, I don't think God was mad at me. He might have been disappointed, but I'm sure he wasn't surprised. After all, he knows everything I'm going to say before a word is on my tongue (Psalm 139:4). In fact, He was already at work fulfilling my request, though I wouldn't know it for a couple of hours.

At the start of my 10:30 Pilates class, Karen led us through several pliƩs and lunges, showing us exactly how to stand. "Make sure your foot is deeply rooted," she said, and I was so shocked I almost lost my balance.

"Was that my sign, God?" I thought. Immediately the other voice spoke in my ear. "It's a coincidence. She's just giving instructions." But thinking back over six years of practicing Pilates, I couldn't think of a single time an instructor had used those words. "It's NOT a coincidence," I told myself, and I smiled all through Pilates, even through some pretty intense exertion.

After class, I hung around and told Karen about my morning, and how her words had confirmed what God was speaking to me. Her grin was even wider than mine. "Ephesians 3, right?" She explained that God had led her to that passage this morning while she was praying for a friend who was donating a kidney to his son today. "I prayed that the kidney would be deeply rooted and established, and that the family would be grounded in God's love today."

I stomped my foot in triumph. "I knew I felt something spiritual when you said, 'deeply rooted'! So that passage was for your friend, but maybe it was for me too."

"Oh, I'm sure it was," she agreed. "You need to start believing that God speaks to you."

Now I ask you, how does God do this? I don't know. All I know is, I'm Sarah, the woman Jesus loves.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Mama is a Tightwad!

On Friday we went to the most anticipated social event of Allyson's season: her friend Olivia's birthday party. It was held at an indoor inflatables place with giant, very unique bounce houses. There was one that looked like a pirate ship with a huge squid on top and a steep slide that ran straight down the middle. There was a bouncy basketball court and an obstacle course with a 12-foot Batman guarding the entrance. And there was a little Sesame Street  "neighborhood" for the small kids.

All the kids and a few of the parents came in their pajamas, and Allyson wore a brand-new set that we'd bought for the occasion. With all that running and jumping, she got really sweaty in those fleece jammies, but do you think she minded?

Here are all the guests posing with Batman's knees:

Not pictured are Ethan and his friend David, who were skulking around trying to escape notice at the "five-year-old birthday party." 

After the hour of jumping was up, we all trooped to the Blue Room for pizza, cupcakes, and ice cream. Actually, I turned down the cupcakes and ice cream but then drooled over Allyson's, which she barely touched. Man, that frosting smelled good!

In the party room, there was an inflatable throne where the birthday girl sat with each of her friends. Here she is with Allyson. See their matching rosy cheeks, and the way their hair styles are almost identical? (We sometimes get them confused when we see them from the back.)
Allyson, Olivia
After Allyson posed with Olivia, Bill nudged Ethan. "Why don't you and David go get your pictures made? We can upload them to Facebook and tell all your friends you were at the five-year-old birthday party."

"I don't care," Ethan said around a bite of fluffy purple frosting. "It was fun. They'd all wish they were here." But David sank lower into his seat.

When it was time for gifts, I thought back to the last few parties, at which Allyson practically sat in the laps of the birthday kids and even helped unwrap the paper in some instances. I pulled her into my lap and whispered in her ear, "Now give Olivia some space. Don't sit too close, and let her open her own presents, okay?"

"Can I get kind of close?" she whispered.

"Kind of," I said.

When Olivia got started, I was too busy chatting with my friend Carla to see if Allyson was following my instructions, and it's a good thing. I would have been MORTIFIED.

On the way home, I asked Bill how she did.

"Pretty well," he said. "She stayed back with the other kids. But did you hear what she said when Olivia opened her first present?"


"She yelled, 'Ooh! We saw that at the store. But Mama said it was too much!'"

"No! She didn't! Did anyone hear?"

"Well, maybe no one was paying attention."

What Allyson didn't explain was that we had been shopping for a $5 fill-in gift; we had already picked out a lovely illustrated story book for Olivia. Thank goodness I was oblivious to the whole thing.

After the gifts came the goody bags. Since there were several extra, Olivia's sister asked Ethan if he wanted one. Sensing the possibility of candy, he said, "Sure." He grabbed a balloon too, while he was at it.

When she offered a goody bag to David, he ducked his head and said, "No!" But then Ethan whispered, "Want me to get one for you?", and he nodded sheepishly.

Back at the car, Ethan stuffed his balloon into the trunk. For some reason, Bill found it hilarious that he'd taken a balloon. All the way home, he threatened to pop the trunk and let it float away. "No!" Ethan shrieked over and over.

"You better hope we don't hit a red light," Bill warned.

In our driveway, Bill put the car in Park and said, "Ready, set, go!" Ethan threw open his door just as he hit the trunk release button. Ethan dove into the trunk and rescued his balloon, but then the trunk came down on his shoulders.

All of us laughed hysterically. He wasn't hurt--much. His relief at saving the balloon probably overshadowed the pain.

I'm glad Ethan isn't too cool to play with balloons and jump in bounce houses. That time will come soon enough, I'm sure. In the meantime, I'm loving times like these.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

He Longs, Too

In just two weeks I'll be finished with my Bible study on the book of John, Called More Than This. I've so enjoyed this study, just as I knew I would. Shortly before I found out we'd be studying the book of John, I posted an entry about the amazing revelation in the first chapter of John: that Jesus is the Word, the same Word that created the entire universe, and when we meditate on the Word we can access the very power and authority of Jesus Christ.

When I posted that entry, my Aunt Carol sent me an email about it that so moved me. She shared the story of her own revelation through the book of John, which occurred decades ago when she read the entire book in one sitting. She said: 
It was like a personal revelation from God just for me.  He loved me! Everything I read had new meaning.  I would read and pray, read and pray and I could feel the power of God spiritually and physically. It colored all my life. This mountain top experience lasted not hours, not days or weeks but months. I can't think about it now without weeping.  But what I want to say was that John's revelation of Jesus as the Word of God, present from the beginning, the Creator of all things took on new meaning.  The Bible is the Word of God, Jesus.  And as I read the Gospel of John, it was so exciting.  John's teachings that Jesus is the Word, Jesus is the Bread of life and Jesus is the Vine are all related and intertwined.
After I read her message, I decided to read the book of John again. I couldn't manage to read it all in one sitting, but I read it quickly, as I would read a fascinating novel. I remember distinctly the day when I read John 17. In it, Jesus prayed first for himself, that He would bring glory to God by completing the work He was sent to do (to die on the cross for our salvation). Next he prayed for his disciples, that God would protect them by the power of His name, and that he would set them apart by the truth of God's Word. As I read Jesus's prayer for his disciples, I wished that I could have been one of them, listening as Jesus prayed over me.

And then I came to Jesus's third prayer. Guess who he prayed for? Me!! Here's what He said:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
   24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
   25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[e] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 17:20-26 (emphasis added)
I can't express how thrilled I was that Jesus looked down through generations of believers to all who would believe in him, and prayed for us. At the moment when I read this, I could feel the unity with Jesus and the Father and all believers. It was glorious.

Chapter 17 was just as thrilling four months later, when we covered this chapter at Bible study last night. But this time something different captured my heart. At the end of the evening, we watched a segment of the movie The Gospel of John, a word for word enactment of all 21 chapters. I've been enthralled each week as I've watched the story come to life. But until last night, I could never really imagine that I was watching JESUS. It was just a movie.

I'm not sure what was different last night; probably it was the power of Jesus's words. Anyway, I forgot I was watching a movie. I heard Jesus praying for me and all the women around me, praying for our unity. When He said, "I want those you have given me to be where I am, and to see my glory," tears of wonder slipped down my cheeks.

For the first time, I realized that Jesus longs to be face to face with me just as much (more!) than I long to see his face. Of course, He can see me already, inside and out. He knows my very thoughts before I think them (Psalm 139:2, 4). But it's clear that He is longing for our reunion, and I think the reason for that is that He wants to watch as I behold his glory for the first time. Can you imagine?

When the movie clip ended, I didn't want to return to my puny "reality." I wanted to hear it again, and I will. I'm going to buy the movie and watch it with my family during this blessed Christmas season, when we celebrate our Savior's birth.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

He's a Strange, Strange Man (And I Love Him)

Are you one of those fearless shoppers who venture out at 3:00 in the morning on Black Friday for all the doorbuster deals? Well, we're not that brave. In fact, until this year we had never even considered going out on Black Friday--especially Bill, since he doesn't enjoy crowds. But there's a first time for everything.

Several months ago, our big screen projection TV (only about five years old, I must mention) abruptly shut itself off and wouldn't come back on again. Bill researched the symptoms on the Internet and figured he could fix it with a $35 part. The only catch was the danger of electrocution from opening the set. We weighed the options and decided it wasn't worth the risk. It was the worst possible timing as we had just committed to our new budget, but I figured Bill would consider this a true emergency, and that we'd break into the sacred Emergency Fund.

Even after ten years, he can still surprise me. He made no mention of buying a new set, just moved his ancient 13-inch TV/VCR combo into the TV room. It looked so ridiculous sitting on Allyson's play table in front of our broken 47-inch set.

Bump-Bumpity-Bump... Down to the Garage

After a few days Bill commandeered Ethan's 30-something-inch set, a hand-me-down from my sister Amy. "Hey!" Ethan protested, but then he watched the 13-inch set without any complaints.

All was good until a few weeks ago, when the picture on the replacement TV started blacking out periodically. A firm stomp on the TV room floor brought it back each time, but it was rather jarring to hear all that stomping going on upstairs. The intervals gradually got closer and closer together, and soon we had to start rapping the TV smartly on the side or top. Still, Bill didn't say a word about buying a new TV.

I started thinking about how compliant he had been with the budget--my idea, by the way--and how he'd never once gone over, though he does occasionally mix some of the envelopes together, which drives me nuts. Then I started thinking about all the sales going on after Thanksgiving, and how it would be smarter to buy a TV now if we're going to buy one soon anyway.

So one night last week I surprised Bill by casually suggesting that we buy a TV on Black Friday. He immediately launched into hours of research into the different brands, prices, and technologies. This went on for over a week, and then he made his final decision on Thanksgiving evening: a Vizio LCD flat screen. The cheapest price was at Walmart, of course, and he grimaced at the thought of braving the crowds in the chain where people have literally been trampled to death on a Black Friday in the not-too-distant past (not in OUR store, thankfully).

"The sales last all weekend," I said. "You don't necessarily have to go out on Friday."

"We'll see," he said.

He did go out around noon yesterday, hours after the serious shoppers hit the stores. An hour later, I heard the garage door opening as he backed his truck up the driveway. "I think we have a new TV, Allyson!" I said, an unexpected grin stretching across my face.

Bill was smiling too when he walked in from the garage. "What did you get?" I asked eagerly.

"A TV stand," he said.

"You went out on Black Friday to get a TV STAND??"

"Well, it was a good price. And I need to get the TV room organized and move out the old shelves before I can bring in a new TV," he explained.

This made perfect sense, but still.... How could he go without a big-screen TV for this many months and then come back with just a TV stand? I shook my head in wonder. "You are a very unusual man," I said. He just smiled.

He worked on the new setup for hours, clearing out old CDs and DVDs and rearranging the ones he meant to keep, stringing wires, and hanging the speakers that used to sit on the shelves. It reminded me of an expectant mother in the nesting phase, lovingly making a place for her new arrival.

When everything was in place we all sat on the couch admiring his handiwork. "It looks great!" I said. "And doesn't our little TV look snazzy on that big new stand?"

Bill's Black Friday Find

He gave me a sidelong glance. "You do realize I'm probably going to sneak out and head to Walmart around midnight?"

"I wouldn't be surprised, Bill."

He didn't make a midnight Walmart run after all (due to his poor, aching back after all that work). But he was up this morning just as the weak morning light began filtering through the heavy curtains. I squinted up at him and strained to see the clock over Allyson, who had crept into our bed in the wee hours of the morning. "What time is it?" I mouthed, gesturing at the clock that was still out of view.

"Seven forty-five," he replied without making a sound. He held his arms out in front of him and pantomimed turning a giant steering wheel. "I'm going to the store."

A knowing smile pulled at my lips. He was like a kid on Christmas morning! I traced a large rectangle with my hands. "You're getting the TV?" I mouthed. He grinned sheepishly and waved on his way out the bedroom door.

Three hours later, after visiting two Walmart stores, he returned with the Vizio. I have to admit it looked pretty darn good on our Black Friday TV stand. Can you guess what we watched first? Allyson's "Noggin" preschool channel, of course! Wow, Dora and Swiper look awesome in high definition.

When Allyson had moved on to other things, and Bill was contentedly adjusting all the settings while watching a football game, I said, "Are you happy, husband?"

He nodded and gave me a quick peck on the lips. "Happy early Christmas," I said. And it did feel like Christmas.

That's Better!

One More Bill Story
Last night Bill and I spent a half hour finishing the latest chapter in the marriage study that we're doing with our home group from church. We snuggled on the couch and answered questions about how well he makes me feel loved and how well I make him feel respected. For him, it probably ranked right up there with getting his teeth cleaned, but it made me feel very loved (ka-ching!) to know that he would do the study with me.

The last question asked us to evaluate the current state of our marriage. I answered first. "It's good," I said, and we both laughed at the unaccustomed brevity of my answer.

" 'sgood," he echoed, mimicking Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.

"But what do you think about our marriage?" I pressed.

"It's better than I could have imagined," he said with a cocky grin and a tongue-in-cheek tone.

I pursed my lips and lowered my brows in mock disapproval.

He went on in a very serious tone. "I love you. I've always loved you. I always will love you."

My heart begin to pitter-patter. "Oh, Bill..." Then I saw that he was chuckling.

"Braveheart," he said, and I stared at him blankly. "It's a line from Mel Gibson in Braveheart."

"Say it again," I demanded. "I don't care where it came from."

"It would be better in a thick Scottish brogue," he protested.

"Just say it."

He looked in my eyes. "I love you. I've always loved you. I always will love you."

I kissed him, wincing when his bristly chin scratched my lips.

"I'm writing this down in the study book," I said.

"Of course you are."

"And I'm going to read it out loud at the home group meeting."

He rolled his eyes. I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just Don't Cuddle With Dora

As you may recall from previous posts, I tend to hit my afternoon slump around 3:00 most days. This past Tuesday was no exception. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I drove home from my parents' house, but luckily Allyson was there to help. After I confessed that I was sleepy, she screamed "Ai-yah! Ai-yah! Ai-yah!" over and over. It was quite effective.

Back at the house, I immediately collapsed into a heap on my favorite green chair and ottoman. Allyson snuggled with me for about 30 seconds and then hurried upstairs to seek out some mischief while my eyes were closed. Just as I was sinking into blissful oblivion, I heard Allyson's Dora the Explorer toy singing a familiar tune: "See everyone can dance, dance. Yeah, everyone can dance, dance!" I smiled drowsily, relieved that she had found a tame way to entertain herself.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but it felt like only a moment later when Allyson's plaintive cries penetrated my dreams. "Help me, Mama. I can't get Dora out of my hair!"

I rubbed my eyes and laboriously brought her into focus. Her 18-inch Dora doll dangled from her hair, about six inches from her scalp. I rubbed my eyes again and pulled her onto the chair with me for a closer look. An inch-wide strand was wrapped around one of the plastic wheels on the bottom of the doll.

I rolled the wheel first one way, then the other. Dora ascended and descended the strand. I was able to roll out two or three inches of hair, but then the wheel wouldn't budge.

"Oh, Allyson," I said, breaking into snickers. "How did you... manage to... get Dora stuck in your hair??" Tears rolled down my cheeks. "I'm sorry, honey. I know it's not funny, but..."

Ethan, paused from his daily drum pad practice. He didn't even try to restrain his laughter. "Yes, it is funny!"

"Get it out!" Allyson pleaded.

"I don't know if I can, sweetie. I hope we won't have to cut it; it would be pretty short." I futilely continued to roll the wheel back and forth. I glanced at the clock and realized Bill should be on the way home from work by now. "I know, let's call Daddy. He'll know what to do."

Ethan brought me the phone, and I managed to get the story out without laughing, a challenge with Bill  laughing so hard on the other end of the line.

"Maybe you can take Dora apart when you get here."

"No, don't hurt Dora!" Allyson interjected.

Bill said he'd be home in about 15 more minutes. "That's a long time," Allyson whined.

"I really need to start on dinner," I said, and Allyson's mouth drooped. "Why don't you and Dora lie on the couch and wait for Daddy?"

A few minutes later, the front door opened and in came Bill, singing cheerfully, "Doo-d-d-d-d-Dora! Doo-d-d-d-d-Dora!"

"Daddeeee!" Allyson wailed, smiling in spite of herself.

Bill settled onto the couch next to her. "Now let's see what you've done to your hair."

I hovered over him. "Can you take it apart?"

"No. It's all one piece." He rolled Dora up and down the strand, just as I had done.

I watched with a sinking feeling. "Maybe we'll have to cut her hair." I wondered if this was my punishment for vanity over her gorgeous golden tresses.

"Or maybe..." said Bill, as Allyson let out a little shriek like Lola does when you step on her tail, "I'll just reef it out."

Allyson rubbed her temple ruefully. "That hurt, Daddy!"

"Yes, but it's all over now. And we didn't have to break Dora."

That evening Allyson asked if she could watch a little Noggin before bedtime. "Didn't you watch TV this afternoon?" I asked suspiciously. "No, wait a minute. I guess you were lying on the couch with Dora while I was making dinner."

Bill turned the channel for her, and she sighed with contentment as she sprawled out on the couch, covering herself with a fleece blanket. "Just don't do any more cuddling with Dora," Bill warned.

Allyson giggled. "Oh, Daddy! I won't."

One More Allyson Story
Today Allyson told Bill to sit very still while she drew his picture. He obediently held his pose, and his silly smile, for five minutes while she sketched away. She handed the finished portrait over with a flourish.

"It's a great picture!" I said. And it was. She had captured a fair likeness of Bill's black spiky hair and his cute little ears. There was only one problem.

"Why are my teeth green?" Bill asked.

"Because I couldn't find the yellow crayon," Allyson explained.

"But aren't my teeth actually white?"

"Well, sort of."

Must be time to schedule another cleaning!

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Will Get a Sentimental Feelin'

For about three weeks now, Allyson has been impatiently awaiting her big moment: practicing for the upcoming children's Christmas choir (or Christmas "require" as she calls it). I can only imagine how ecstatic she'll be about the actual concert.

Yesterday she came home from Sunday school with a lyric sheet and a practice CD. She practiced her two songs about six times as soon as we got home from church, and four more times this evening after she got home from the babysitter. (No, I'm not exaggerating.) She's still struggling with the words and the very rapid tempo, but she's holding her own with the dance steps. I suspect that she's thrown in a few tap dancing steps that might not be part of the choreography, but it all works.

See for yourself...

I tried to put in a caption but couldn't make it work.... Toward the end of the video, Allyson makes an aside. She's saying, "I'm 'tending I'm puttin' up holly."

Did you giggle at the "ooh-ooh-ooh" part at the end? Bill and I have to avoid eye contact then to keep from laughing.

Is she not the cutest little performer?

Note: If you're reading this via email or Facebook, you'll need to click the link to the original post to play the video. The link appears at the very bottom of the window.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fairy Tale Wedding

Oh, I've missed you. I've been terribly busy lately and also was in Portland all this week for work (more on that later, probably). I haven't posted in awhile, and my mind is overflowing with stories. Since I'm already so far behind anyway, I think I'll go way back and share another chapter in my love story with Bill.

On March 8, 2003, Bill and I set off for the airport with five-year-old Ethan and both of my parents.

See Ethan's Eye Patch?

We flew to Vancouver that morning, and the next day our two families took a ferry to lovely Vancouver Island.

Ethan and His (Soon to Be) Nana
We toured Victoria and shared a delicious dinner that evening. I remember it as a very jovial meal, a great time for our families to get acquainted. The best part was ordering one of everything on the dessert menu and passing it all around the table.

After a soak in the hot tub, and a flawless manicure from my future sister-in-law Sheryl, I retired to the room that Ethan and I shared with my parents. They fell asleep immediately, but I lay awake for a very, very long time, assuring myself I was really ready for this.

On my wedding day, I was so nervous I could barely eat. All I remember doing is getting my hair and makeup done, alongside my mother. We headed over to the gorgeous seaside hotel, Sooke Harbor House, with plenty of time to spare before the twilight ceremony.

 The package we'd ordered came with a bouquet, a cake, and a gourmet dinner for two in the hotel restaurant, which was rated the third best restaurant in British Columbia at the time. Everything was perfect, and I didn't have to agonize over any of the choices!

Nephew Kurtis With Bouquet
The Cake Tasted Even Better Than it Looked

Since the hotel was surrounded by rain forest and it was early spring, we weren't sure until the last minute whether we'd be able to get married by the ocean. When the time came, the sky was dramatically overcast, and there was a bite to the air. My ethereal gown no longer seemed like such a good idea.

I tried to convince Bill to get married inside, in front of the fireplace, but he insisted that a wedding by the ocean would be much more romantic. Although I shivered through the very brief ceremony and all the pictures, now I know he was right. The pictures--a gift from Bill's sister Lisa, who was shooting her very first wedding!--were so beautiful.

The only guests besides my family were Bill's parents, his brother and sister and their families, and his grandmother. They all gathered around us, sitting on benches in the garden. We could hear the gentle sound of the surf down below.

I've always wondered what the minister was saying when Lisa took this shot:

Can We Think About It First?
Oh, What the Heck. Why Not?
When the ceremony was over, we walked down the "aisle" to the imagined strains of the wedding march. An extra member of the procession trailed along behind us.

Nephew Travis Tags Along

Inside, we climbed the stairs to our room for some pictures on the balcony. When the guests in the lobby caught sight of a bride and groom heading upstairs, they broke into raucous laughter and catcalls. I could feel my face turning crimson, but all that attention was pretty fun.

Catch, Sheryl!

When we came back down just five minutes later, the people in the lobby laughed even harder, and so did we. Next, we went back into the chilly evening air for lots of pictures. Here are my favorites, both candids that Lisa managed to capture between shots of all the family.

Keep Me Warm, Bill!

Sweet Nothings
Meanwhile, Ethan and his new cousin Kurtis had a blast playing together.

After 20 minutes or so, Lisa's other son Travis decided enough was enough; he wanted his mommy. So Lisa took a picture of him:

Next came the best part. We all sat down around a long table in the cozy dining room, next to the fireplace I'd been fantasizing about. Even the minister joined us for an incredible meal, artfully presented on plate after plate. My dad remarked that it was the best meal he'd ever eaten, and I had to agree.

Me and Daddy

The funny thing is, I can't remember what we ate. What I do remember is the hum of conversation all around me as I sat and watched the people I loved most in the world having a great time together.

See My Satin Cape?

At last it was time for everyone else to go away on their separate vacation, on another part of the beautiful island. Ethan was very anxious about separating from us, but Bill was able to comfort him.

Bill and I stayed three more days in this gorgeous room, which came with a jetted soaker tub and no TV.

Each morning we woke to the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below, and this was the view we contemplated as we ate pastries so delicate they melted in our mouths. 

During the day we enjoyed massages, picnics, and long walks through scenes that belonged on a cheesy corporate inspirational poster.

The only thing that tempered the perfection was the fact that it rained every single day. I wasn't too disappointed, though, because Bill had prepared me. And didn't he look dashing in his raincoat? I thought so, anyway.

There was one more problem: we wanted to stay much longer! But we had to return to real life. We took the ferry back over to Bill's parents' house, where Ethan greeted us ecstatically. On our last day there, Bill's extended family and many family friends came to the house for lovely reception.

Everything about our wedding trip was exactly the sort of fairy tale I'd been afraid to hope for. I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Snow White and the Scary Guy

Hard to believe another Halloween has passed. It seems like yesterday when Ethan and Allyson looked like this:
Age 4 (2001)

Age 6 Months (2006)

On Wednesday, Bill and the kids carved pumpkins.

Ethan carved his own again this year, which always reminds me of the story about Bill's sister Lisa almost cutting her finger off when she carved a pumpkin as a kid. To make matters worse this year, Ethan and Allyson actually joked about someone cutting off a finger. "Stop it! That's not funny," I scolded. But Allyson kept bringing it up again every few minutes.
Doesn't This Look Like the Shower Scene from Psycho?

No One Lost Any Digits

Ethan's Pumpkin is on Far Right

After the kids went to bed, Bill carved one more pumpkin for a contest at work. Can you believe he didn't win first place?

Last night we took Allyson trick-or-treating in her Snow White costume. Ethan missed it this year because he was at his dad's, but he was back in time to help eat Allyson's candy.

She wore white tights, sport socks, and her tennis shoes under the costume, but in her mind she was a BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS. It was probably the gold fabric crown that sealed the illusion for her. 
We walked around the neighborhood with Jacob, a second-grader from across the street. He wore the same "Scream" costume that Ethan wore two years ago:

Ethan in 2008 (age 11)
At one house, I overheard this conversation:

Woman: Oh, are you Snow White?

Allyson: Yes, and also a beautiful princess. 

Woman: Yes, you are beautiful!

Allyson (gesturing to Jacob): And he's a Scary Guy. (Cups hand around mouth and continues in a stage whisper.) I just call him Scary Guy because I don't know what his costume is really called. 

Woman: Works for me! 

Oh, and Trick or Treat!
We coached Allyson over and over on what to say: first "Trick or Treat!" and then "thank you." 

The good thing is that she almost always remembered to say thank you. But she couldn't seem to remember the Trick or Treat part. It usually went something like this: 
  1. Collect candy. Mumble a thank you.
  2. Run back down walk, candy bag dragging.
  3. Holler "Have a happy Halloween!" 
  4. Back at the sidewalk, yell, "Trick or Treat!" 

Oh well. She must have done something right given the size of her haul--in her words, it was the size of "a small elephant." 

Good thing Ethan will eat most of it.


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