Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our Christmas celebration in pictures

Here are some pictures of our wonderful Christmas celebrations here at home in Birmingham with my parents and in North Carolina with Rhett's family.

Swinging with Pa Pa a few days before Christmas

Our family on the way to church on Christmas Eve. Claire did pretty well being in "big church" but Mr. Ford had depleted all the snacks and diversions I had planned before the service started. I took him out not long into the service. Luckily our church is so family friendly and they have a huge over flow area just outside the seating area but still in the worship room with lots of chairs, TVs with the service and most importantly in this case - a lot of roaming room for the little guy. I laughed when I got back there because there were 5 little boys between the ages of 11 months and 2 years already there. I walked up and asked "Is this the toddler boy section?" before I joined them. We all laughed and enjoyed chasing them around while enjoying the service too. I made the most wonderful Christmas feast (if I do say so myself!). We had a standing rib roast compliments of a Paula Deen recipe that is so delicious my mom said it was the best thing she had ever put in her mouth, sweet potato casserole - with pecan praline topping (of course), my favorite cornbread casserole, green beans almondine and banana pudding for dessert. The best thing about doing a holiday dinner is you get to plan the menu and only make things you like. It was fun to make it and I enjoyed one of my two visits a year with my fine china. Here are a sweet brother and sister on Christmas eve (in case you are wondering, yes, they are always this cute and loving ;)

Ford trying out Mac's new big wheel - he's still got some growing room - Claire is upset and wanting a turn. See above comment on how cute and loving they always are with each other.

It really wasn't that cold outside but Claire's new hat was so cute that she wanted to wear it.

Claire and her Daddy - this is a new favorite photo for me - it makes my heart swell with love for both of them.

Our little Mountain Man
Gamma, Chrissie, Jo Jo, Claire, Ford and Doc

One last picture of Christmas this year and we look forward to next year's celebration - there will be a new person in next year's picture and quite a different background in the photo. We anxiously await both the new baby and our new home. I hope you had very Merry Christmas celebration too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Confusion

Ahhh, Christmas. What a wonderful time of the year. I was trying to think of all the things that might come to mind when someone is asked about Christmas: Christmas trees, family time, food, outdoor lights, wreaths, shopping, Santa Claus, mistletoe, holiday parties, Christmas cards, Christmas carols, giving gifts . . . getting gifts, giving to charity, busyness, vacation, memories, ornaments and oh yeah - Jesus - of course. So as I look at this list I just came up with it is just kind of confusing. I mean, is Christmas a religious holiday or a cultural celebration? Is it a little of both or just somewhere in between? I don't think that I'm the only one confused. I hear a lot of people shouting about keeping Christ in Christmas and making a big deal about sales people saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" but beyond the lipspeak they are giving the Christ part of Christmas their holiday celebration really doesn't look very different from anyone elses. It seems as though everyone is just kind of morphing all different kinds of cultural celebrations and putting them under the umbrella of "Christmas". So my question would be is this a bad thing or does it really matter?

I guess I've been thinking about this a lot for the last several years and just kind of noting what I see. As we enter the "holiday season" everyone starts talking about the hustle bustle and the count down to Christmas. Lots of excitement! Soon all the holiday cheer and enthusiasm starts to dwindle and people start cutting people off and stealing parking spots again as usual. Everyone seems really worn out and put out by all of the busyness associated with this season. So much to do, so many celebrations, so much shopping . . . After a while it doesn't seem like anyone is having too much fun. Except the kids who are super-hyped up for weeks leading up to Christmas . . . which eventually leads to an over stimulated exhaustion that climaxes on Christmas morning as they walk away from a pile of new toys somehow expecting something more or something a little better.

What does this all mean to Christians? Isn't this a religious holiday? I have a few questions about that. What do any of our cultural Christmas traditions really have to do with the birth of Jesus? I've heard people be really creative in answering this question. But honestly it all sounds a bit silly and a bit stretched. In reality most of our current secular Christmas traditions were born in the previous two centuries with the introduction of two things 1. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and 2. A certain poem called 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Take these two cultural influences and a couple of brilliant 20th century marketing executives and modern Christmas as we know it was born. It gets complicated very quickly because of one thing - family traditions. As soon as the first generation was taken in by all of these new ideas of how to celebrate Christmas they became a family tradition and family traditions are tough to look at critically not to mention break.

So now a days just about everyone celebrates "Christmas". Even the Jewish family down the street and the agnostic at work. Everyone celebrates Christmas. But not everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. So this is my thing - I don't have a problem with Joe Schmoe celebrating his brand of Christmas in this post-Modern America. Bring on the egg nog and Santa Claus. I do think it is a bit strange for someone who believes in the God of the Bible to celebrate the same brand of Christmas as Joe Schmoe. I think it is, well, confusing. I think everyone is confused - most of all our children. Even the Christians fighting the fight to keep the Christmas trees up at the mall are confused. What? Who cares if there is a Christmas tree up at the mall or if the check out girls says Merry Christmas? It does not effect the way I celebrate Christmas at all. My Christmas isn't about trees or a certain greeting. Are they trying to get a message out about Jesus? I think it would be a lot more effective to spend all the time and effort spent on the "keep Christ in Christmas" bumper stickers and do something that Jesus actually commanded us to do - like take care of people in need in a radical way - wouldn't that bring a lot more attention to Christmas?

So then there are the people who have the point of view that we should be able to celebrate both. What harm is there really? It's all in good fun and as long as we go to church and talk about baby Jesus all of our bases are covered. This is really what I have thought about a lot the past few years. This is my conclusion (need I say for this my personal conclusion and that of our family?): As a professing Christian and follower of Christ this day of "Christmas" has a very real significance to me. It is a day to truly celebrate what God did by sending his son to be born and begin the process of redemption and reconciliaton with him. Big deal. Huge. Not a bigger deal out there really. So if I take this holy day of celebration and start to add things to it I am taking the glory away from Him and putting it on things of this world. God has really laid a few things on my heart as I tried to sift through this and find the truth in it. The first are examples found in Luke 9 and Luke 15 that point to the clear supreme love that Christ demands of his followers. Nothing less is acceptable. Supremacy. Christ is clear about this and I don't see how this is different when it comes to Christmas. He wants all of our affection to be focused on him and not split with things of this world. 2. In Luke 19 when Jesus gets seriously fired up when he goes to the temple and sees the people selling things there. He wasn't too happy about people commercializing a holy place. Ouch. The commercialization part sound familiar?

So what do we do? I love all of the American Christmas traditions just as much as the next girl - I just wish we didn't celebrate them on a day that is supposed to celebrate Jesus. How can Christians reclaim Christmas and "keep Christ in Christmas" - well dare I say don't celebrate the commercial Christmas we are sold. I wonder what would happen if, instead of sitting around on Christmas morning giving gifts to people who have just as much as we do (in the spirit of giving of course), we actually gave away to people who don't have anything. I don't just mean an Angel Tree kid or throwing coins in a red bucket but giving to the least of these - people who have no hope, no food and no idea that there is a loving God who created them and wants to have a relationship with them. That is Christmas.

I will tell you that since I wrapped my heart and mind around all of these things this year it has absolutely been the best Christmas season ever. Everything was focused on Jesus. Anticipation and excitement have built over the past few weeks. It has honestly been fun! Everything has been worshipful and a joy. I haven't felt over stretched or over obligated. If it didn't feel right or fit in with a Christ centered Christmas celebration it wasn't on my radar. I've had lots of time to talk to out kids and get them excited and focused on Jesus' birthday. Believe it or not - they too were really excited about Christmas in a very pure and innocent way. It has been fantastic to see Claire light up and be thrilled about our family celebrations.

Everyone has to kind of wade through these tough issues in today's culture and I'm happy to say I really feel a tremendous amount of peace in this area. I have a peace that I have really sought God in this and wanted to do the thing that most glorified Him and I am thankful He has been faithful and shown me the way. So Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or what ever is appropriate in your particular home. I am comfortable with the fact that we are celebrating Christmas at our house this year.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A few of my favorite things

I've had a running list of some of my most favorite things lately and I thought I'd share them with you. The first one is this book (it is actually a series of 4 books) by Ella K. Lindvall called Read-Aloud Bible Stories. They are FANTASTIC! They have received many awards and I must say I can see why. Any mom who has spent a lot of time reading Bible stories to their kids knows the drill. I think the same person illustrates every book and the words are usually dumbed down short sentences that in an attempt to simplify a biblical truth end up making it kind of boring and uninteresting (at least after you have read them fifty times!). These books have really cool art work that is interesting and engaging (even for adults). The stories are told in a way that conveys the truth and is really understandable to a child without being insulting to their intelligence! At the end of each story there are a few questions about what you learned in the story. It really pulls it all together and helps with understanding the sometimes difficult concepts presented. Claire reads these at school and was thrilled when she saw that I had it at home. These are hard back books that will last through many children. They will be making the trip to Peru and beyond with us despite their hardback weight -they are worth it!

This handy dandy little gadget is affectionatley known as "The Lady" around here. My Dad received two as retirement (his most recent retirement, that is) gifts so he kindly passed one on to us. It has revolutionized my world. I have to tell you I am always lost. I always get confused and can't even tell what direction is where at sunset. My Dad was a pilot so he is always giving directions like "turn east" or "go north" and I look at him like he is speaking Japanese. Seriously, east and north? Now that I have the lady I always know where I am and can just punch in where I want to go and the Lady takes me right there. She is a good woman to me. She even tells me what restaurants are nearby. This is extremely hand on road trips. I just think I would like a strawberry limeade from Sonic punch an few buttons and the Lady takes me to the nearest Sonic. No more stopping at Wendy's when there is a Chic-fil-a at the next exit. She has helped me find post offices, museums and countless other locations. Thank you Lady. You are wonderful to me. My friends should be thankful for the Lady too (especially Stephanie) because without her I would still be trying to find your house.

This is a fun stationery company who does all kinds of fantastic announcements and cards. I got my Christmas cards here this year and I think they turned out wonderful! Of course they have lots of cool modern designs that still have a traditional edge to them but they made my favorites list for 2 other reasons. The first is when you are working on the page layout of your Christmas card there is a kind little reminder that an " 's " denotes possession so just adding an "s" to your last name is grammatically appropriate. Can I get an Amen? This is my biggest grammatical pet peeve (my other one is "alot" instead of "a lot") and I am so thankful for the people at Tiny Prints for taking a stand against the apostrophe! Thank you, thank you!
The second reason they made my list is well lets just pretend you are pregnant and are trying to decide on a baby name. You just need to see it and kind of try it on before you commit. Go to Tiny Prints. Pick out a lovely birth announcement and proceed to personalize it. In a few short seconds you are looking at a perfectly hypothetical birth announcement for your baby and you can see the name and feel it out. First of all how much fun! Second of all - very handy when you are trying to decide on a baby name. Very fun.


OK, I stole this from my sister-in-law. If you have a little boy this will be the cutest, most functional, best investment piece of clothing you can buy. These green corduroy longalls are just about the most perfect thing for a little boy and I'll tell you why. First you find pair like these pictured above on my little cutie (who loves to brush his hair). They are by Little English in a wonderful mossy green color that works great with lots of colors. The key is the tone on tone monogram that adds that cute personalized touch but doesn't hem you in on what shirts coordinate. You start as soon as it is "corduroy weather" maybe late September in these parts. You pair them with a short sleeve shirt in either white or navy blue you can go with this until October when you switch to an orange shirt which is perfect for a trip to the pumpkin patch. You can wear this through November (you can throw a white shirt or navy shirt in the mix too in the mean time) then in December you switch to a red shirt for instant holiday cheer. From January through then end of cord season you can go back to white and navy. I love look of the navy shirt with the green corduroy and blue saddle oxfords - precious! I hate that the only picture I have of them is with the white because it is the plainest of all the combinations but it is still cute. Use your imagination for the other colors . . .

I've mentioned Community Bible Study on my blog before but it deserves a spot on my favorites list. The only thing I don't like about CBS is the fact that I've only done it for 2 years! If you have never done a Bible study (or never studied the Bible at all for that matter) this is a wonderful place to start. I have made some precious friends and have just so enjoyed the time I have spent investing in the study and the ministry.

The time is divided each week (2 hours) between an opening that includes singing and a short talk or testimony by someone then you go to your small group where you have wonderful fellowship and discussion of the questions/lesson from that week. Then you go back to the big gathering of everyone for a lecture on that week's lesson. During the week you have a daily lesson that consists of questions on that week's scripture. They have devised a wonderful system of study so that you go through the material 4 different times and ways which is really effective. Last year we did Genesis (which was amazing) and this year we have done Job, Galatians and just started Hebrews. You can check on their website to see if a CBS meets in your area. They are a non-denomenational ministry that meets at local churches but is not affiliated with them.

The shining star of CBS is the incredible children's ministry. It is just fantastic and one of the things I will miss the most for my kids when we are overseas. They have a wonderful curriculum that is the most effective at teaching young kids the Bible that I have ever seen. One reason for this is that they start with "Baby CBS" at one year old and go from there. It is fantastic and the kids really, really learn. It is amazing. I have a song list that they use that is so wonderful! I'm going to try to get it up here one day to share because it will bless you like it has me and my family.

Well, I'm sure I have lots of other favorite things but these are just a few I hope you enjoy as much as I do!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Last week Rhett and I took our very first "Mommy & Daddy" trip and went to New Orleans for a few days. It was fantastically wonderful. We didn't even turn the radio on for the 5 hour drive from Birmingham. We just talked and talked about politics, theology, the kids . . . you name it. We basically just caught up. It was really nice. We did learn that if you stop to eat in Mississippi and you want to eat in a non-smoking section you have to ask for really non-smoking in order to actually not be seating in an area where you choke on smoke (that is what the hostess at Cracker Barrel told us as she lead us to a really non-smoking table). The other interesting thing on the way down there was the FEMA trailer graveyard somewhere outside of New Orleans. There were THOUSANDS of those white trailers parked on the side of the interstate. It looked like Talladega race weekend times a thousand. I would hate to be the person who had to clean those things out. Anyway, we finally got there and saw this . . .

A beautiful drive across the bridge to the city. We settled into our hotel, The Monteleone, and got ready for a quick glance around the French Quarter and our first of many awesome meals. It was so easy just getting myself ready for a change. I took a really, really long bath and took a really deep breath that has been three years in the making. Ahhh. Relaxation. We went to dinner at a place that was recommended to us by several people who are from or live in New Orleans . . .
From the outside you would think this was a meat and three type establishment but as soon as you walk in you can just tell by the understated elegance that this place is going to be good. We knew when we saw James Carville sitting by the front door when we walked in that we were in a good spot and it did not disappoint. I had lobster and mushroom risotto that was off the charts. Rhett had trout that he said ranked in his top three meals of all time. Can you tell we liked it? We topped everything off with a slice of frozen lemon ice box pie.
Rhett and I love history and interesting tourist destinations. We have learned that when you are in a new place for a very limited amount of time it is usually better to do a tour than just walk around and try to manage on your own. We did not sign up for a bus tour and follow around some lady holding an umbrella but we did find some cool walking tours that we took advantage of. One was of the Garden District and one of the cemeteries. It was lead by a cultural anthropologist who knew so much about the rich history of the area. We really enjoyed it. The houses were beautiful but I really enjoyed the cemetery part of the tour. I've wanted to go on one since I saw Double Jeopardy a long time ago. It turns out that scene in the movie was filmed in this very cemetery! There was a huge infectious disease component to the history of the city. Rhett and I both thought it was interesting to hear about that. Lesson learned: yellow fever . . . very bad. Not a way I'd choose to go.

Anyway, after a street car ride down St. Charles Ave. our day was complete and we got ready for our next big meal at a French restaurant called Restaurant August. It was very fancy and very French. We enjoyed being somewhere that was so outside of our normal life. I thought it was funny when as we sit in this fancy-smancy French resturant munching on freshly baked bread Rhett looked at me and said, "What does it say about me that the best bread I've had this week was at the Olive Garden?". (You have to admit those freshly defrosted breadsticks are yummy!). The thing with French restaurants is when reading the menu they will have me except for one ingredient that I'm just not sure about. Like it all sounds good except for the goose liver or braised pork belly or roasted marrow. Not exactly the type of establishment where you can ask to leave things off (wouldn't want to offend the chef) so you just have to go with it and not think about it. I had speckled trout prepared three different ways that was fantastic and Rhett had lamb. It was a fun night for us.
The next morning we went to Cafe du Monde and had bingets, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee for Rhett and hot chocolate for me. YUM! A great substitute for Krispy Kreme! I loved sitting outside and sipping my hot chocolate watching the sights of the city around us. We then went on a walking tour of the French Quarter. A lovely older French woman lead the tour (just us and a lady from Ireland) her accent really added to the ambiance of walking through the quarter and stopping in the beautiful courtyards. We grabbed a po boy for a late lunch and then hit the road back to Birmingham.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first day in 3 years that I haven't changed a diaper and all of the uninterrupted adult conversations that Rhett and I were able to have. It was a great belated celebration of our first 5 years of marriage. We are looking forward to another trip to New Orleans sooner rather than later. I really fell in love with the city - the culture, food and history. It is a real gem. I was reminded of Haiti several times with the architecture in the French quarter. It felt familiar. This may be the last time we have Mommy/Daddy time for a while so it was really special.
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Thanksgiving in Pictures

Claire and Ford with Ama and Pa Pa in Athens before our yummy meal at the Georgia Club!
Ford checking out new cousin Graham. He was quite interested in him until he saw his Momma holding him - after that he didn't think he was that cool.
Claire and Mac playing in the woods in Dalton.
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Friday, December 05, 2008

excuses, excuses

There has been a lot going on lately and I've composed no less than three blog posts (in my mind anyway) since Thanksgiving week and have not managed to get a single one published. Various reasons - techical difficulties (a missing cord) and a busy travel schedule between visits to Athens and Dalton for Thanksgiving and then an immediate turn around for our trip to New Orleans. But more than anything else here is why I haven't gotten caught up yet . . .
This is what I found when I returned from the basement this morning (where I was starting #1 out of 8 loads of laundry I plan to wash today). My precious little boy has discovered how to open drawers and remove all clothing after which he carefully closes each drawer. You can see the damage done in 10 minutes. So little clean up jobs like these have taken away any "extra" time I might have to get all of those fun posts done. As I speak he is walking (yes walking!) into the kitchen emptying my purse one item at a time into the trash can. He just walked in with a $5 bill - gotta go!
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The recipients of kindess and generosity

This is our new playset!! Some new friends in our small group at church offered this playset to anyone who wanted it (they needed to make room for a trampoline for their girls) so we said we would take it and it is ours! How nice is that? It is only a couple of years old and in perfect condition. They could have made a nice little chunk on Craig's List to put towards that trampoline but instead offered it up for free. It is so amazing to see they way God provides. This is not something we could afford but oh how wonderful it is to see our kids enjoying it so much.
This is one happy swing-a-holic. Claire LOVES to swing. That is all we do when we go to the park. It is all she wants to do on any playground. I guess it soothes her soul. I am happy that she can indulge herself whenever she wants to now and I don't have to make a big trip to the park (especially once Little Baby gets here). She was beside herself with glee today and stayed outside so long her hands were frozen and finally when it got dark we had to turn the flood lights on so she could keep on playing.
We will have to swap out one of the swings for a baby swing for Ford so for now he was content with flying down the big slide with Mommy's help and climbing up on the slide from the bottom, standing up and clapping for himself. Too cute.
He rolled around in leaves, fell on the grass and got really dirty - he loved every minute of it. I almost tossed this faded old popcorn car the other day (I got it at a consignment sale a few years ago when it looked brand new for $5 so I thought I had gotten my investment out of it). I'm glad I didn't! Ford became fascinated with the seat and stood there like this for a good long while opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing it with this very serious expression on his face.

It was a great day and now we have something else to be thankful for on this upcoming holiday! More than just the playset but for a loving God who cares about us and provides for us in special and unexpected ways sometimes. If you would have asked me if we needed a playset I would have said no that we had a slide and some other toys that were fine. But it turns out this playset is totally opening up our outside world and I am so excited to have an outlet for our growing children to be outside and relish some of the joys of childhood. If you need us we will be outside.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You little turkey!

Today was the Thanksgiving celebration at Covenant Day School! The Kindergarteners anchored the program with a play and each other grade sang special songs of thanks throughout the program. It was fantastic and so much fun to see our little turkey up there!
I was up in the balcony and I could hear Claire singing all the way up there! I was so proud of her. She takes everything very seriously and her performance today was no different. I was a little surprised when I got there 30 minutes before the program started and there was no parking and very few seats. I thought I would look over eager getting there half an hour early! These parents don't mess around. It was quite a scene. I even saw several parents carrying bouquets of flowers to give to their children after the performance. I mean this was turkeys, pilgrams and indians. They did a great job but it wasn't a Broadway debut. I think this must be an example of the "self-esteem movement" that I've read about in the news lately. Apparently telling children how special they are makes actually believe that they are more special than everyone else and that translates into pretty lame adults. That is why I am all about keeping score at little league games. It is important to learn what it feels like to loose for a lot of reasons but one of them being if you want to win then you have to work harder next time. Anyway, this was a little bit of a tangent but I've read a few blogs about it today and it's on the brain. I digress . . .
Here she is enjoying her Thanksgiving feast with her classmates. I was surprised to see her eating a turkey sandwich. She hardly ever eats meat and the last time I offered her lunch meat was more than a year ago when she ate some and said "No like turkey" and threw it all up. Anyway, apparently she likes turkey sandwiches now so she will find one on her plate soon!
She was so excited to have Mommy and Daddy at school with her. It is always so much fun to see her be such a big girl at school with her friends. They asked each child what they were thankful for and wrote it on a leaf that hung from a tree. I was happy to see her answer had been "Mommy and Daddy". We are so thankful for her too!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's a baby in my tummy.

A conversation from this morning:

C: Mommy! There is a baby in my tummy! (poking her tummy out)
M: Really?
C: Yes. She is little right now but she will get big today and then be born.
M: Really?
C: Yes. She is going to be born at Costco. I was born in China.
M: Really??

Monday, November 17, 2008

Paper chase

I've missed my blogging lately. At first my excuse was how crummy I was feeling and now that I'm starting to feel better (praise the Lord!) I'm trying to catch up on all of those things that I haven't done over the past 14 or so weeks since I started living in perpetual sea sickness. I still haven't made much progress on that list of things to do - some of which are pretty important - but I'm trying. But I figured I'd give myself a break today and ignore all the things on my list so I can blog a little bit. Ahhh. I feel better already.

I did run into a small problem. I haven't snapped a single picture in November. Pictureless blog posts are always less enticing so I try to always have some sort of visual even if it is random. So for today I decided to go back to November of 2006 since my November of 2008 folder is empty. One day I will think - what in the world happened in November of 2008?? So this is from our first little family vacation to San Diego when Claire was almost 11 months old. This is the first time she saw the ocean and stuck her little feet in the sand at La Jolla cove. She wasn't a fan. She still isn't a fan. Some things never change. What a wonderful trip that was . . .

So last week I decided I HAD to tackle one of the more pressing issues on my list and that is getting passports for the kids for our upcoming travels. This officially went on my list in early September when I actually got their passport pictures taken but the ball stopped rolling then and now here we are staring at December with no passports in hand. The problem is in addition to the pictures and the application in order to get passports for children both parents have to appear in person with the children with various forms of identification and documents. Scheduling has been difficult because true to government form the passport office is open M-F from 10-3 with lunch from 12-1. That would be challenging for most people but add into account that my husband has a job that requires him to actually be at work during the day and two small children who nap at 1pm and it seemed impossible. Finally Rhett had a hole in his clinic schedule last week and we were going to meet him to get this all settled.

I got out the applications and started assembling the documents (all my friends who are adopting are either laughing or rolling their eyes at all of this considering their definition of a paper chase). I went to my filing cabinet and pulled out folder clearly labeled "Claire's Documents" and voila! there is her birth certificate, SS card, immunization form and every single update from each pediatrician appt. since she was 2 weeks old. Nice work. Everything I need in one place. I love when I do that. Next I look for Ford's folder. And look and look and look. Nowhere. I turn the office upside down then every other random place I could think of in our house where I might have stashed his folder. Gone. So now I have to tell Rhett that our plans are off because I can't find the documents that I need. He was a little frustrated considering this was the first day in months he had been able to work out for this to happen but his frustration added to my frustration equaled me in tears feeling like failure and Claire asking why I was so sad. Bad day. We regrouped and I just planned on replacing everything I needed as fast as I could and just doing the best with rescheduling.

The first chance I had to do all of these paper chasing errand was a random Tuesday in November (better known as Veteran's Day when all the places I need to go were closed). Ugh. Thank you Veterans (Dad) but I really need to get this done! It ended up being a good thing that I waited for a Golden Wednesday (the only day that both of my kids are in school and I have 4 hours all by myself) because this was not the kind of a day when kids could have kept up. First place I needed to go: Jefferson County Health Department to the Vital Records office to replace his original birth certificate. I despise the Health Department. When I had a positive PPD (TB exposure) a few years ago I had to go there to get a chest X-ray and monthly for my treatment. It is a yucky governmental place and I do not like it there. The marquee out front said "Syphillis Outbreak in Jefferson County! Have you been tested?". This just reminded me that Rhett has STD clinic there and gave me the willies. I waited for 10 minutes for a parking spot in the deck then went to get my birth certificate. The woman said it should take 15-20 minutes. Great. I had an appt. to get a flu shot just down the street in an hour. There were 2 other people in the waiting area when I got there. 40 minutes later we were all still there and had been joined by about 10 others. Finally about 50 minutes into my 15-20 minute wait I got my copies and got out of there. Good riddens! I barely got to my OB in time for another 20 minute wait for my flu shot.

Now I'm pushing it to get my last errand done before I have to pick up my two kids at two different places by 1pm. I type in the address of the Social Security office into my handy dandy GPS and it sent me on my way through downtown Birmingham. Through the medical district, into the financial district, past some familiar museums and then into the rougher outskirts. I hadn't been in this part of town before and the numbering of the streets confuses me so I was glad I had my little guide. Like I said it is a little rougher area with mostly abandoned houses and a few small businesses then I see it, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the biggest, brightest, newest buildings in all of Birmingham. Surely that can't be it? Please tell me the government did not spend upteen millions building that magnificent structure to give money away in. I mean seriously ya'll it is ridiculous. But they had a free parking deck (thanks Uncle Sam) so I parked and went in. First stop security. I place my mom purse in the x-ray machine and head through the metal detector. The security guard standing by the entrance of the x-ray machine pushed my purse through the machine and out the other side. I retrieve it. Apparently Casper the invisible security guard was manning the screen that ACTUALLY SHOWS WHAT IS INSIDE! Typical. I feel safer already. I follow some signs and end up in what I think is the correct place. I stop at a desk and finally find an application for a social security card in English and fill it out. I get a numbered waiting ticket and round the corner to the waiting area. There is a HUGE waiting room filled with rows and rows of chairs filled with people. Seriously probably about 200 people. I haven't come this far to give up so I find one of the last empty chairs and sit down. Babies are screaming, people are hacking and hobbling around on walkers. I looked at the lady next to me and said "This is quite an operation they have here" she just kind of half smiled at me. I guess she had been waiting a while. There are huge signs prohibiting any cell phone use or picture taking. Otherwise I would have taken a picture with my phone of this scene. Maybe that's why they don't want you to take pictures. They don't want bloggers to disuade people from making the trip down. Anyway, I wait for them to call my number so I can go to one of the 30 or so windows that encircle this mass waiting area. It seems like they are calling a number every minute or two so I start thinking that it might actually happen!

I think I only waited for about 30 minutes when they finally called my number but just as they did someone behind me started hacking and I couldn't hear the window number I was supposed to report to! What? Say it again!! Help! What if I loose my turn? A lot of the windows were covered by partitions so I couldn't see which ones were open. OH NO! Finally someone pointed me to a window they thought was correct and lo and behold it was! I sit down at a desk about 6 feet across from a lady and a computer. She says "May I help you?" without looking up or taking a break from typing. I explain I need a replacement SS card and hand her my application and all of the documentation I need for that. She looks at my paperwork and keeps typing - kind of like those people who work at the airport counter who just type and type and type and can never really help you. Anyway, she is looking at my Driver's license and typing in the information as my proof of ID. I see her get to the expiration date and I kind of cringe because it expired in May. It's one of those important things I haven't managed to get done. She looked up at me for the first time and said "I can't use this it is expired." I quickly replied that I realized that so I had brought my passport along as a back up just in case and I slide it the 6 feet across the desk to her. She looked at me and said in a nasty tone "So you aren't driving anymore?" and this point I'm afraid she is apart of Obama's new civilian protection force or whatever he calls it and is going to turn me in the the real police for driving on an expired license. I just smiled and told her I was on my way there next. I finally get out of there with my son's social security number and the promise of a new card in 2 weeks and somehow made it to get my children from school in time. Not a fun day. I did feel like I was doing some sort of penance for loosing all of Ford's stuff. I now have his folder carefully arranged and once we get the passports I will make copies of those, birth certificates and SS cards and send one to each set of grandparents for safe keeping. I can't imagine what I would do if we lost all these documents when we were overseas. At least I'll know where two sets are if that happens.

So the story has a happy ending. We went to the post office today and got the applications turned in and hopefully we should have their passports in 3 weeks. It did cost us $170 and they are only good for 5 years so that isn't so happy but we will get what we need to travel and will be on our way in a few short months. By the way, if anyone has any tips for traveling internationally with children I'm all ears. I'm most concerned with how I am going to keep a very busy 15 month old little boy on my lap during the 9 hours of flight time that we have. Yes, I know about Benadryl. I've given it to him a few times as an antihistamine and he has had a difficult time with it (as in reverse reaction -NOT drowsy) so that is on the shelf for now. Luckily Rhett and I have traveled overseas quite a bit and are familiar with the drill but since we are going to be gone for 9 weeks we are going to have a whole lotta stuff and two small kids and a preggo mommy. Sounds like fun doesn't it?? I told Rhett about my anxiety about Ford on the flight and his response was classic "Megan, it is just going to be a really, really long day and then it will be over". Maybe I should have that printed on cards to be handed out to everyone sitting around us. So my question is if we take a car seat on board for Claire to sit in would the flight attendants let us kind of swap the kids in and out of the car seat? Claire would be fine to snuggle in our laps and take a nap but Ford not so much. If he could snooze in the car seat that would be great. I'm wondering if they would be sticklers about who was in the car seat during the cruising part of the flight? Just one of the bazillion questions I have but we will start there . . .

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My favorite moments this week . . .

My first favorite moment this week was hearing a very strong healthy heartbeat at my Doctor's appointment on Monday. Even though I'm throwing up everywhere and my tummy is already growing that moment of waiting to find that little heartbeat is gut wrenching. But, praise God, Little Baby was healthy and that little heart was just a beating!
My second favorite moment this week was when Claire and I were grabbing a quick shower and I looked down to find her on her knees, hands clasped and head bowed saying, "Dear Jesus, thank you for this shower. I love you Jesus. Amen." First of all, I was happy to see her praying all on her own and secondly, I was happy that she was expressing thanks for something that most people take for granted. Then I started thinking about it and kind of chuckled because I thought she doesn't know how thankful she should be for this warm, never-ending shower because very soon this will not be something that we enjoy every day. I kind of filed that away as something I wanted to blog about so I could remember that glimpse into her sweet thankful spirit. Then . . .

The next day I was checking a blog that I read of someone who lives in one of the places that is on our short list of places to move next year. I started reading how they are experiencing an extreme water shortage. Some parts of the compound were completely out of water and others had crucial levels available. There were strict restriction in place regarding water usage one of them being 2 minute limits on showers (when you HAVE to take one that is). I thought that it was "interesting" that Claire was on her knees thanking Jesus for our shower when the people we may call friends in a place we may call home are dealing with this problem right now. Another one of the ways our life will change in a short time . . . I have to admit I linger a little longer in the shower (when I can) just knowing that this luxury is fading!

Monday, November 03, 2008

And then there were five . . .

Five total that is (three littles)! Yep, little #3 is growing fast and working on his/her May 16th arrival date! In case you are counting, yes, that is 3 under 3 1/2 years. In case you are wondering if we have lost our minds, well, no we haven't we just really like kids and are so thankful for each and every one of them. While we knew we would have been thrilled to have another child it was a little complicated considering we are spending 10 weeks this spring in Peru and leaving at some point next summer to live overseas for 2 years. We had discussed the possible risks and decided that it we would be fine with welcoming a baby overseas but God's timing was even more perfect and our littlest little will be joining us on American soil before starting this wonderful adventure with our family just a few months later.
The past 8 weeks (I'm 12 weeks now) have been really tough since I have been quite baby-sick and tired. I am starting to see the possibility of a light at the end of this tunnel so I feel a little bit of hope that one day I won't feel like I live on a very rocky boat. I spend a lot of time just praying that God will give me what I need to make it through each day as a good mom and wife.
One fun thing is that we aren't going to find out the sex of this little one! Everyone says it is so much fun to find out at the birth so we are going to go for it with this one. This is probably our last pregnancy (but don't worry not our last child) so we are going to go all out and do it the old fashioned way! It is already quite exciting wondering if we are adding another precious boy or girl to our family.
Claire thinks it is a sister and has named her "Emily Elizabeth". I keep trying to prepare her that it could be a brother and she said "I already have a brother - she is a sister". She told Rhett that she had 5 baby sisters in her tummy! She is so sweet about "Little Baby" and says sweet things like "Little baby, quit making Mommy so sick!" and loves to rub my tummy and talk to Little Baby already and plan for when he/she "gets big and comes out". Of course precious little Ford has no clue and probably won't until we bring the little bundle home from the hospital since they will only be 19 months apart. Whew.
Looking back I have been continuously pregnant or breastfeeding since April of 2005 with no end in sight. So if you run into me and think "Man, she has really let herself go" please take everything in context. I'll be back one day (I find myself reminding Rhett of this rather regularly). There will be a day I am not in maternity clothes or "big girl" clothes and there may actually be a day I don't wear a nursing bra (they still make those non-nursing bras don't they?). Anyway, I'm savoring each nauseating moment of making this baby and watching my other two grow so quickly my head spins just thankful to God for these children and the privilege of being their mother.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Date Night

A few weeks ago I saw a commercial for "Disney on Ice" coming to Birmingham. I commented to Rhett how much Claire would enjoy going to something like that and he said "well, lets go". I asked him if he wanted me to take Claire and he stay home with Ford, if we should all go as a family or if he wanted to take Claire on a date. He said rather quickly "Yeah, I want to take her on a date!!". So the next day he came home and said "I bought the tickets for Disney on Ice. I had to buy the $55/each tickets." What??? I'm thinking they must have been sold out or something. Nope. Turns out he just wanted to make sure his little Princess could see really well. Hmmm. I don't quite remember the last time we went out on the town and spent that kind of money on a date for us! I could see where this was headed.

Ever since then Claire has be talking about her "date with Daddy". My parents asked her if she wanted to go back to Disney World and she said "No. I want to go on a date with my Daddy". She would look at me at random times and say things like "Mommy, when I go on my date with Daddy I want to wear curls". We talked about what she would wear all the way down to her panties! She wanted to wear her Cinderella dress - fitting for a Princess! She decided on pancakes for the dinner portion of their date - her personal favorite. We waited with much anticipation for date night to come and she got all dressed up and waited for Daddy.
It was a little reminicent of prom night with all of the excitement and picture taking!
This is the one date where lots of kissing is OK!
So off they went. I have no pictures from the actual date since I wasn't there to take them :) But the report was that they had a wonderful time. They were right on the ice and Claire was captivated by all of the characters the whole time. More importantly Rhett planted some very special seeds in her heart. He is teaching her the standard by which she will judge all other boys. She will remember how special these early dates with her Daddy were and how special they made her feel and not accept anything less. He is teaching her how she is valuable and a treasure and should be treated that way in every circumstance. Rhett was pretty choked up by the whole experience. He loved every minute with his little girl. The next day he said "Claire we had a great time on our date last night didn't we?" and she said "Yeah, you are my Prince". Enough said.
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3rd Annual Costume Parade

Here is Dorothy, Toto and the Lion all ready for the costume parade!

The little Lion on the prowl!
The very long parade line at Homewood Park!
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