Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Runnning

Like most of the Pacific Northwest, we have snow on the ground right now. Mountain Home gets snow every winter, but never more than a few inches or maybe a foot at most. It's very, very dry snow that doesn't stick together. Great for driving, horrible for snowball fights and snowmen!
I can't be stuck in the house for more than 48 hours, so we bundled up this morning and went for a snow run. It's actually quite exhilarating knowing that you're probably the only person besides the construction guys to be outside for miles. Jack is laughing at my face mask that makes me look like Darth Vadar in this one.

Don't worry, Mother, Jack has about 10 layers on underneath his snowsuit, and he also sucks on his pacifier to warm that part of his face. Plus, the windshield helps a lot. He's usually asleep within minutes.

So, everybody, your instructions for today are these: go for a run in the snow!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Baby's 1st Painting

Does anyone see any genius in it? I'm so proud! :-)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Book Review

I am in the process of becoming a Compassion Advocate. Compassion International is one of the world's largest child-focused relief organizations, sponsoring hundreds of thousands of children all over the globe. An advocate is a volunteer who works to generate new sponsorships of impoverished children and raise awareness in their region.

As part of the training process, CI sent me a book written by their president and CEO, Wes Stafford. I have long known about and admired Compassion's work (my parents sponsor 2 Compassion children, while Jonathan has one and so do Nick and I), but this book really blew me away and changed some of my views on children.

It's called, "Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most." Drawing largely on his experiences as an MK in the Ivory Coast, Stafford discusses why children's ministries should be on the forefront of the church's minds, budgets, efforts and hearts. I've always been a big supporter of children (nearly all of my volunteer work and many jobs have centered on them), but this book really makes you think about why we do what we do.

I nearly cried in so many places I lost count, and for those of you who know me well, that's saying something. Stafford went to a horrific boarding school and suffered many, many abuses along with his classmates at the hands of people who were supposed to love and care for them in the place of their missionary parents. That's the gist of his personal childhood story, but that's not the point of the book. His suffering really catapulted him onto a lifelong path of advocating for children, and he boldly encourages all Christians to follow him in what I thought was a very thought-provoking, non-salesman way.

TSTI isn't an advertisement for CI at all; rather, it is all about the children and why they should be put first in EVERY aspect of life. I'm going to have all my Sunday School workers read it together. I highly encourage you to get yourselves a copy! And then let me know what you think.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jack's 1st Birthday

Here is my precious little boy on his 1st birthday. It was a football theme (I went into labor during a Duck game), and so those marks on his cheeks are supposed to be imitating a football player's.
Jack and our Compassion child Barbie have the same birthday. Hence the Barbie, and no, it's not mine. Happy Birthday Jack & Barbie!

When I sent out invitations, I never imagined that EVERYONE would RSVP yes! There were 27 people in our house. 8 babies and kids, 19 adults. It was the party of the century in Mountain Home.
Here is my amazing friend Amber and her adorable son Tristan. When we went to Tristan's first birthday in April, I was blown away by the awesome cake she made. So I told her in no uncertain terms that she had to make Jack's. And because she's so great, and despite the fact that she's pregnant, has extreme morning sickness and her husband is deployed to Afghanistan, she spent 3 hours making my son not one but TWO cakes. Here's the results:

The big cake for all of us. She did alternating colored stars, the yard lines and everything!

And then a miniature bash-cake for Jack's stuffing pleasure.

Jack absolutely loved the attention! He is so dang social it cracks me up.

Give me the cake, Dad!

As you can see, it took him a minute, but in the end, he ate the ENTIRE football on top!

My good friend Kasey's daughter Chloe with Jack.
And this was him at the end!

He did us proud.

He really enjoyed pulling tissue paper out of the sacks and ripping the paper, too!

I know most mothers say "I can't believe how fast my baby has grown up!" Well, I can, but really what amazes me is how much change one year can hold. I think back to where I was last year -- where Nick and I were as a couple and as individuals -- and I just can't believe how much Jack has changed us. I really feel our marriage has become stronger through our parenting. Jack is such a wonderful, happy, handsome little boy, and I am so excited to see him grow and mature into the person God has planned. So happy birthday, son, and I thank God every day for you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chocolate Caramel Apples

Here's a yummy recipe for one of my favorite desserts on earth: chocolate caramel apples. I absolutely LOVE chocolate, caramel, and apples, so this is pretty much my nirvana. Unless someone was playing with my hair and put on an Andrea Bocelli CD at the same time. One of the best parts? It only makes 4 servings, so you don't have to throw any away.

Chocolate Caramel Apples
4 medium apples
4 popsicle sticks
36 Riesen's chewy chocolate-covered caramels
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Wash and dry apples; remove stems. Insert sticks into apples. Place on a buttered baking sheet; set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt caramels and cream over low heat until smooth, stirring occasionally. Place peanuts in shallow dish; set aside.

Working quickly, dip each apple into hot caramel mixture to completely coat, then dip bottom and sides into peanuts. Place on prepared pan; let stand until set.

It came with the nutritional info, but I will not ruin your delight by disclosing it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Corn Maze (In the Rain) Fun

But before I get to the corn maze, feast your eyes on my adorable son in his 1st Halloween glory. Aren't his little bat pajamas the cutest?

Last night, Nick and I decided to bundle up Jack and trample through a corn maze with some friends. We had to drive a ways to get there, and I drove right by the entrance the first time. Hey, when you're in the middle of nowhere, it's not hard to do. The big cornfield surrounded by sage brush kind of gave it away.

After going through a corn maze cut out in the shape of Idaho, complete with little signs telling about each major city (all 10), the boys scrambled up the haybale pyramid while Jennifer, Jack and I hopped in a trough filled with corn kernels. It had been raining the entire time, so we were kind of wet. It was the first time Jack has ever worn his raincoat that he's had since he was born. It doesn't rain a lot over here.

Despite the fact that we were all soaked, Jennifer still managed to look cute. Don't you hate girls like that? ;-)

Jack absolutely LOVED playing in the corn. He rarely plays with a toy on his own for more than 17 seconds, but he played quietly for a solid 20 minutes with all the little kernels. Which we are still finding all over the house, by the way.

Mitch joined us in the tub. He's 19 and like my little Mountain Home brother. He's going to college in Florida soon and I'm sad.

After some teasing from the farmer who owned the corn maze about being a city slicker, Nick hopped in to play with Jack. He has a a perfect smile all the time, which also kind of disgusts me. Notice how wet Nick's sweatshirt is?

Finally, here we all are in the tub. This is definitely a picture I never imagined would happen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Question for My Married Readers

I was recently asked what do I think is the biggest challenge facing married couples today. I was stumped. And while that was a few days ago, and I now have some ideas, I would like to know what you think. What do YOU think is the biggest challenge facing married couples today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He's Home!

So really, a military homecoming is one of the best experiences ever. On Monday, October 6th, Jack and I got as dressed up as much as an infant and harried mother can and hightailed it to the flightline. As we got closer, I saw the airplane land and I knew my man was inside. It's a fantastic feeling knowing the deployment is thisclose to ending!

The TV cameras were rolling as women dressed like skanks (hey, wives who have been separated for half a year or longer from their husbands loosen their standards of modesty for homecomings!), babies dressed in puked-on finest, and toddlers waving American flags ran away yelling "Daddy!" until we wanted them to shut up all mingled together. The excitement was probably near the levels of Elvis visiting Mac Court in the 70s.
And then, off the first bus, there he was. Everyone else was standing behind this arbitrary line, but I've never been much for those. I hurled myself past it and into his arms. Jack survived.

So my best friend is home, and Jack and I couldn't be happier. Well, maybe if I got a book deal. But we're pretty dang happy!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Crazy(er) Woman

One accomplishment in life I'm quite proud of is the 2007 Eugene Marathon. I got pregnant in March (the middle of training), but kept going despite puking on the side of the road during my 20-milers and generally feeling nauseous no matter what in the weeks leading up to the race. I ran the marathon 10 weeks pregnant. When I tell people this, they usually say something like, "Are you nuts?" or "You did WHAT?" It makes me laugh.

But what I did was no match for what Sue Olsen of Burnsville, Minn. did. I read about her in the latest issue of Runner's World. She ran the 1995 Grandma's Marathon eight MONTHS pregnant. Not 8 weeks, but 8 months! She and her 13-year-old son John ran the same race together this year for fun.

And you thought I was crazy???

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Young, Single & Sterilized

A friend recently pointed out an interesting article published in a popular British women's magazine. In it, several women in their 20s discuss their reasons for getting sterilized at such a young age. The most popular? They didn't want to be bothered with the responsibility of children.

The most popular place to get sterilized in Britain is the Marie Stopes International clinic, named for a Nazi eugenicist who believed in forced abortions and sterilization for non-whites and those of "bad character."

Read the full article here: http://freespeech.vo.llnwd.net/o25/pub/pp/images/september2008/sterilise.pdf

Anyways, this article stirred up a lot of feelings in me. The women interviewed said they never wanted to be a mom, even when they were little.Neither did I. I always played secretary, or outside, or anything to do with a job and career. I hated playing house when forced, and even when I grew older, I never had an overwhelming desire to have children. I can understand a little of what these girls are thinking.

But the similarities end there. The girls talk of children as if they were parasites or a disease. What cracks me up is how they thought they knew at 18 exactly what they were going to want for the rest of their lives.

I know not everyone wants children, and I think that is perfectly okay. I don't think every woman was made to be a mother. What bothers me is the general disdain this article has for life, as if hooking up with good-looking strangers (prevalent in modern British culture) is all there is to it, and how dare any innocent baby stand in the way of wild and strings-free sex.

I had huge plans before I had Jack, and I still do. He has definitely changed them, but I have GROWN so much since becoming a mother. My focus has shifted away from me and onto someone else. Motherhood is the most selfless adventure I've ever undertaken.

How sad that a few British women can influence other young girls around them to view that selflessness as a weakening, a thing to be avoided at all costs, and put the idol of self-love in its place.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Help me understand

All right, people. I need some help from you. In this election, I've heard from Christians who are voting for McCain. I know Christians who are voting for Obama. And I need genuine help understanding something.

Here's my conundrum: I have a professor from Northwest whom I love dearly. She is a fit, petite, Jazzercise-loving southerner who really changed my life when I was in Seattle. She is a liberal Democrat and she loves Jesus, and she's not afraid to boldy proclaim her radically different beliefs to anyone who will listen. She is a die-hard feminist and Bush-hater. She is single and likes it that way. She has a huge heart and challenged me and my writing, and I think I am a better person for knowing her.

The problem? I don't understand how she can rail against Sarah Palin and John McCain like she does. She says that if God triumphs, Obama will win. She says that Republicans don't practice what they preach, and Jesus reigns when Obama is up in the polls.

And it's not just her. I know women -- Christian women -- who love Obama. But I truly, genuinely want to know, how can they vote for someone who voted against a law giving aborted babies medical care when they're born alive? I'm not being sarcastic at all. I want to know, how can they vote for a man who questions the validity of certain books of the Bible, and mocks certain verses as not having relevance for today? How can they justify putting someone in office who sees no problem with meeting with terrorists? I don't get it.

Since only family reads this blog, does anyone have any ideas? I don't love McCain, but I truly want to hear from Christians who are voting for Obama and why. Do you guys have any input?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jets and Me

Today was the big bi-annual air show at the base. It was fun seeing all the jets up close, especially the ones Nick works on. It's always been a life goal of mine to get my private pilot's license, and now I am so freshly motivated! I totally want to do it. I even went in an F-15 simulator. Bring on the MIGs, baby! Ok, maybe not...
Jack and I went with my friends Kasey and Josh and their twins Chloe and Isabelle and 4-week-old Tyce. Don't worry, all parties involved had plenty of ear protection.
Here we are in the general's private jet. Izzy said to smile big, so we obliged.

Jack's thinking, "I could get used to this."

Izzy and Jack. The twins are quite the baby commandeers.

Kasey is a lot of fun. Her husband Josh served as my bellhop all day, pushing not one but TWO strollers and carrying whatever baby happened to be closest. Thanks, Josh. :-)

Jack climbed his first cargo net inside a C-130 named Christine. The crew chief was eyeing me warily the whole time.

For all you civilians out there, F-15s and 22 Raptors and all the other jets are REALLY REALLY LOUD when they fly by. Check out Jack's stylish ear protection.

As you can tell, those balls of wax work really well. Jack was out after the first couple of passes!

Here's a not-the-best video of a simulated battle. They did a couple of strafing runs, which you can see. The whole time, as they were explaining the capabilities of the jets, I kept thinking how glad I would be if I were Army or Marine and looked up in the sky to see these guys. It's incredible what these planes and pilots can do -- they are SO well trained, and I know how complicated the parts that Nick works on are.

I felt so proud to be an Air Force wife, and so proud of what Nick does. Yes, he's in Guam, not Iraq. And I know these piddly 4.5 months are nothing compared to what Army and MC wives go through. But they're HARD. I've given up a lot of wonderful things -- anniversaries, time with Nick and Jack as a family, companionship, physical help and a mechanical brain, etc. -- when Nick deploys. And I know he's just a little cog in the giant AF wheel. But maybe as a wife, I've given up my husband for a little bit so some other wife on the other side of the world can enjoy her husband for a lifetime.

And I feel better, and stronger, and prouder of my life than I've ever been.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Us Vs. Them

While Nick and I have had trouble getting anything to grow in Idaho, we've been very successful with certain plants and trees. Maybe a little too successful.

Feast your eyes on the willow tree that I arrived home to on Monday night. The branches swept the grass, making mowing a near-impossible scenario (sorry, Mom!). Kinda reminds you of an overgrown Oscar the Grouch, huh?

We did trim it down, and now it looks like a gangly teenager who got his haircut by his cheapskate of a mother.
Then, we headed to the backyard. Our home's back fence borders open desert. We love it for chucking Christmas trees over, but it does carry a price. Six feet tall prices, actually.

Yes, folks, tumbleweeds in their finest, watered form. They had a splendid summer drinking of our refined sprinkler city water, but the party's over, buster. Move on out.

Except they wouldn't go easily. Some of the roots were as thick as our wrists. Now, I realize Mom and I are kind of petite women, but still! So we resorted to the 2-person tag team weeding patrol. As in, we both pulled at the same time, were grunting like Monica Seles, and were often sent flying as the shoots held and we didn't.

But as you can see, we women triumphed o'er the scourges of Adam, er Idaho. My yard is now free of tumbleweeds, and my heart is filled with gratitude for my wonderful mother who did not mind helping me rid my yard of unsavory, never-say-die-without-swallowing-small-creatures, desert plants.

It was Us vs. Them. We are the champions, my friend. And I will only keep on fighting to the summer of 2009 when we move home to tumbleweed-free Oregon. So fight the power, my friends. Fight the power!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Elsa turns 5

Announcing Princess Elsa!

My niece Elsa Grace turned a whopping 5 years old yesterday. I remember the day she was born -- I was just about ready to leave for college and was so excited. Here are some party guests! Tobin and Daphne...

James and Ruby...

Olivia and Mallory...
Whoa! What an astounding Easy Bake Oven!
And Stefanie and Ruby in their matching Hannah Andersen dresses.
All in all, it was a lovely party for one of my favorite girls. Happy Birthday, Elsa!