Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good Books

I love reading books. A number of years ago I was in a book club - well, maybe I should call it a book duo since it was just my friend Jen and I, but I digress - and I invariably found myself especially drawn to novels that were historical and took place in foreign lands and cultures.

Anyhow, lately I've been reading a rash of books that seem to take place in Islamic culture. Perhaps my interest is due to all the news out there related to this topic. But it has been fascinating and informative to learn more about how people, particularly women, live in other parts of the world. Wow, are we "western" women fortunate. We don't even know how absolutely fortunate and blessed we are to live in a free and relatively "equal" society. For example, in the US, I can get a free basic education. There are resources for me to attend college. I can choose my marriage partner (and expect them to be a partner, not my master). If that spouse is abusive, I can call the police and expect some protection. I can leave an abusive situation if I choose to, without permission from anyone else. I can work to support myself and my family. I can think for myself. I can drive a car. I can leave my house on my own, without a husband or male family member to escort me. I have equal protection under law. My testimony in court has the same weight as that of a man. . . I could go on and on.

So, if you are a reader and, like me, enjoy other cultures, here are the books I've read and enjoyed lately.

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
This is a true story of a young woman who was imprisoned in Iran (in the era of the Ayatollah Khomeini) for questioning the government. She escaped the firing squad at the final moment and later was forced into marriage by one of her captors. This was my favorite book of the three listed.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Again, a true story written by an African woman who escaped a forced marriage and the "imprisonment" of Islam. It describes her life journey from childhood up through the point of her becoming a Dutch parliament member and surviving numerous serious death threats by Muslims for her stand on their treatment of women.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (also wrote The Kite Runner, another great book)
A fictional book about Afghanistan before, during, and after the Taliban. It chronicles the life of two women living through this period of time. This book draws you in. I read it in about 4 days (which is probably a record for me since having kids!)

Enjoy the books and again, thank the Lord for the blessing of being a free woman in this world!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Audrey loves to ask questions.

Some days the sheer volume of questions is staggering. One day I thought I would write them all down so that later, when Audrey got older, we could look back on them and have a laugh. Then I realized that the baby would never get changed, errands would never get run, laundry would never get folded, and no one would eat all day if I took on that task. So I gave it up after about five minutes.

Her favorite question by far is "Why?"

Before I had children, I believed that I would patiently answer all my children's questions. I would not be a mom who said "because I said so." I would encourage this mentally stimulating exercise because after all, 'no question is a silly question'.

Whoever said that obviously never raised a preschooler full-time.

The majority of questions asked by small children have no clear answers. Example. Today we are driving to the store for groceries. I say, to make converation, "I think it's supposed to rain later on." First, I hear from the back seat "WHAT???" at full blast. So I repeat my comment, a little more loudly this time. Audrey says "But why is it going to rain?" At this point, I used to dive into a little explanation of water being trapped in clouds until it overflows, and rain comes down. After being met with a blank expression multiple times in regards to this type of answer, today I simply cut to the chase: "It's going to rain, because it just is." A minute goes by. Then Audrey asks, "why does Kmart start with a K?" It just does, Audrey. "Why is that car blue?" Because it's painted that way. "But why did they paint it blue and not red, red is my favorite color." Because maybe blue is that man's favorite color. On and on my day goes.

I wonder if she will ever outgrow the 'why' phase. Of course, I do want her to continue to be inquisitive and curious and thoughtful, and some day I know she will ask really good 'why' questions, as she sometimes does now. This is what keeps me from getting too impatient with all the 'whys.' I don't really want to squelch her growing interest and curiosity about the world around her. But truly some days . . .

However, if we're honest with ourselves, we never truly grow out of our desire to know 'why', do we?

A few years ago, shortly after moving about 1000 miles across the country, I miscarried our second baby. I was absolutely devastated. And angry. And boy, did I want to know why. Of all babies in the world to die, why mine? Why, God, does a crack addict in Philly with no husband, money, family, etc. carry a child to term, while I - a healthy woman with a stable and relatively dysfunction-free home - lose mine? Why did you let this happen to me when I feel so vulnerable and alone? I realize that I was like my daughter - asking a question to which there was no clear answer.

Why did it happen? Well, as I say to Audrey, it just did. I honestly don't think I will ever have a full understanding here on earth of why I lost this baby. Even the doctors couldn't say why. Some things are a mystery. I realize now, that once I let go of wanting to know why and accepted that this was part of God's plan, I could start moving on and live my life, not just look backwards and wonder what went wrong.

What I DO know is this: That God created and loved that little life, even more than I did. Yet for some reason, He was more glorified by bringing that little one to His side right away. And once I trusted in the Lord's goodness, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

I look forward to meeting with Jesus some day in Heaven. I have a lot of questions for Him! And like my daughter, a lot of them will start with 'why.' :) Meanwhile, I will have to learn to be content and know that for now, here on earth, the answer from God will often be "because I said so." Being okay with that answer is really the heart of learning to trust Him.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tis a gift to be simple

Audrey has a new obsession: wrapping presents.

For the past few months Audrey has been pestering me morning, noon and night for scotch tape and wrapping paper and ribbons "to wrap presents." So jokingly I said to her one day, "Audrey, I'm getting you tape for your birthday." Well, apparently she took me seriously, because when my mom asked her a few weeks later what she wanted for her birthday, she said without hesitation - "Tape!" So . . . for her birthday . . . you guessed it. . . she got 4 rolls of scotch tape.

So, she is currently in scotch tape heaven, especially since I also bought her her own roll of wrapping paper at the dollar store! For her afternoon rest time, I send her to her room with these treasured items and she spends the next hour quietly wrapping all kinds of little trinkets. When rest time is over, she presents me with these little gifts (each hermetically sealed with about half a roll of tape each) and we pretend to be surprised about what is inside each one. Usually it's a marker or shell or some small toy that she has lying around. I never knew that the secret to some peace and quiet around here could be found at Staples. So let me tell you - I'm loving it.

Sidenote: I'm not quite sure what to do about Christmas. How do you wrap wrapping paper?? Do we even bother buying presents or should we just let her collect all the leftovers and have a heyday wrapping stuff?

It does give me pause, however. For her birthday this year, she received a two-wheeler bike, a bunch of Littlest Pet Shop toys, some books, some Polly Pockets. And by far her most played with present is the scotch tape!

Simple pleasures. Sometimes we as parents get caught up in buying our kids things that WE think will make them happy. We may bend over backwards looking for the new "hot" toy for Christmas. We may get them something we would have liked as little girls. We sometimes, if we are honest, try to keep up with the Joneses. And for what? If we ask them, what do THEY want? Usually it's something simple - a lollipop, a trip to the park, a chance to lick the bowl of frosting . . .

Then again, all they may want . . . is just a little scotch tape. One of the beauties of having children is that they help us to look at the world with new and less complicated eyes. So may we all find such joy in the simple things of life. I can't say that I am able to do this every day. But I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I recently read a quote that said that we should not pray and ask God to give us patience, but we should ask Him to help us learn patience.

Well, I sure am sorry I prayed that prayer ... because God sure is answering in the form of one certain 4 year old cutie that lives under our roof!

This kid should be a trial attorney. She will argue her points to the death, and has quite a long memory for the one time there was an exception to the rule ("but remember that time you DID let me eat two candies after dinner? why can't I have two now???")

I can just hear her in twenty-five years - "But Your Honor, in article XYZ of legal code I4GET it says blah blah blah, and besides, last year you let Person A off the hook for the same infraction. . ." (Although if the judge says 'no', I'm hoping she will have grown out of that "throw yourself on the floor if you don't get your way" stage . . .) But really, what is it about kids that they can remember the most minute detail when it benefits them but somehow forget the warning you gave them 30 seconds ago? Aargh . . .

The other area of patience with this unnamed family member is in listening to her stories (which at least do not involve bad behavior!) If this kid isn't an attorney, she will be a novelist because pretty much every story she tells lasts about 2 weeks. And listening for her requires eye contact. So if you aren't looking, she just may start over, which - let me tell you from experience - you DON'T want to happen :)

Most days I do not feel very patient. In fact, every morning I pray that I will be more patient, then every evening I ask for forgiveness because once again, I have lacked patience. However, I must be at least gaining in the patience department because others will sometimes say to me "wow, you seem so patient with your kids. Don't you ever yell? I can't picture you yelling." And my response is "ummm, well, I don't yell at the baby . . ." Of course I yell, folks! All moms do sometimes, if they're honest!

But for me, learning patience isn't really a matter of yelling or not (because generally, I'm not a big yeller); for me, it's the spirit in which I deal with my kids. Am I annoyed by one more request for juice and snacks? Am I complaining about my lack of sleep because of a teething baby? Am I frustrated when my little ones don't do things MY way? For me, this is the daily battle, it isn't just a matter of action, but a matter of the heart.

So ... I will continue to pray that I will learn patience. Not just for the sake of my children, but for the sake of my growth. I sure have a long way to go, but I'm learning . . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Fun

Last week Chad took Friday afternoon off and we went to Linvilla Orchards for apple picking and to visit "Pumpkinland". Both kids really enjoyed it.

Carter is wondering if he can fit the little pumpkin in his mouth.

Audrey tried to convince us to adopt half the pumpkins off the lot!

Hanging out in the wagon

Getting a boost from Daddy

Even Carter did a little sampling of the apples!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Happy Boy

Just posting a picture of our happy boy Carter. He is 8 months old now! No crawling yet but he sits up well and plays with his toys. His current faves are spitting (aka blowing raspberries, just ends up with a lot of slobber everywhere!), playing in the bathtub, clapping his hands, and feeding himself puffs. We have finally reached the milestone of sleeping all the way through the night without an early morning meal! Woo hoo! (Of course, now a tooth is about to come in so that has thrown the sleep thing off a little bit ...)

But we are so thankful for our happy, chubby, cheeky & smiley little blue-eyed boy.