Friday, November 23, 2012


It's official: Austin is big.

At least he thinks he is.  Just one of the guys.

Bryan used to rate the kids based on what he called their "cuteness factor." Dancing to music, for example, has a high cuteness factor; screaming in the supermarket, a very low cuteness factor.  Austin's cuteness factor is very high right now.  One of the main variables in this rating is that he is really sooo little!  He's smaller than any of the other boys were at his age, and yet, he acts like he's the biggest in the bunch.

He loves to go outside and just do whatever the older kids are doing.

Of course, when you have five older brothers, you sometimes get squashed.

He doesn't let that slow him down for even a minute.

Austin is quite a talker too.  Of course, none of us speak Austinian, so we can't understand him, but he gives whole speeches in his own little language.  The only English he speaks is "uh-oh" and "go!"

And go he does.  He never stops moving.  He even lends a hand with Lego building. 

And the big kids help him out too.   (Blurry pics, I know.  Just trying to stay far enough away to not interrupt the brother dynamic.)

But being big is hard work.  Wears a little guy out!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"When upon life's billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged,
Thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings,
Name them one by one
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done."

During this season, we pause and give thanks.  We go back over the year and think of all the things we have to be thankful for: homes, family, friends.

Having a heart of gratitude is important in every season, not just during Thanksgiving, of course.  And, during the difficult seasons of life, when we're caught in the tempest, remembering the things we're thankful for becomes an exercise of vital importance.  Giving thanks keeps us grounded.  It keeps us focused on the good things.  It rescues us from the overwhelming blackness of the bad.

But it's hard.

When the going gets tough- really tough- it's hard to be thankful.  It's far easier to become bitter, to curse our fate, than it is train our minds to look at the blessings in our lives.  In moments like these, we learn the meaning of a sacrifice of praise.  A sacrifice requires us to lay something down on the altar.  During the days of trial, in order to offer up praise, we have to lay down our disappointments and discouragements, our very right to complain and whine.

So do we have to say "thank you" for everything that happens?  Do we have to be grateful for the hardships of life?

I believe the answer, much to my relief, is no.  Though it is God's will for us to give thanks IN everything that happens (1 Thess. 5:18), we're not required to give thanks FOR everything that happens.  We live in a fallen world.  A lot of what happens is, well, terrible.  But if we can see God's hand of blessing in the midst of terrible times, we can rise above them (eventually.)

For me personally, learning to be thankful in my present time of darkness, has required me to be thankful for very small things.  From my very limited mortal perspective, it's easy to feel like God dropped the ball on the big things.  (Even though I know that He is always in control, and has never dropped a single ball- or allowed a sparrow to fall unnoticed.)  Because of that, I have to really zero in on the little blessings that the Lord sends each day.  Thank You for the sale on apples, the parking space, the missing shoe that was found.    Each seemingly inconsequential event that allows me to give thanks slowly works to change my heart.  I find my spirit lifted as I see His hand in the details of life.

So, as you gather for Thanksgiving, if your heart is overflowing with gratitude and praise, then rejoice.  You are richly blessed.  But if it's not- if your life right now is tough- look for the little blessings.  Be thankful for those, and trust that there are better days appointed for you around the next bend in the road.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

South State

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write a post about Megan's South State gymnastics meet!  

She was very excited to qualify, and she had high hopes for this meet.  It ended up being a really good experience, plus it provided the chance for Megan and me (and Austin Baby and the stowaway dog) to have a little time together.

So... here are the grand results:

Megan took 2nd place on floor, 3rd place on bars, and 5th all around.  A very good meet indeed!  (Thanks, Coach Bobby, for the picture.)

Congratulations, Megan!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



The very sound of the word carries a promise of peace, of refreshing.

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." 
 Psalm 37:7

"Be still and know that I am God."  
Psalm 46:10

"Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people." 
1 Kings 8:56

The Bible is filled with references to rest, times of quiet.  The Lord rested on the seventh day and established the Sabbath.  He ordered seasons of rest for the land.  His cycles always include both activity and calm.

One of the cycles, though, for which I am most thankful is simply nighttime.    God could, I suppose, have created a world in which day ran endlessly.  There might be a world of never-ending sun.  Such a place would hold no appeal for me, at least not in this life.

At the end of a long day, full of hard work and difficulty, God gives us the blessing of rest- sleep.  And in that time of respite, we can find the strength we need to get up and face another day.

Now, I'm not quite sure how much sleep we really need.  I certainly can't claim to get the requisite eight hours each night.  (Who came up with that number?  I could google it, but I won't.)  I haven't had an uninterrupted night of sleep in a very long time.  (Such is the reality of motherhood.)

I still appreciate the sleep that I do get, even if it might be a couple of three hour stretches.  There is a brilliance in God's simple plan of "evening and morning." Each night of sleep carries the promise of a new day- a fresh start.

I would guess that most of us appreciate sleep and rest.  So why is it that we are so often sleep-deprived?  What keeps us from just...well, going to bed at night?

Worry keeps many awake.  Stressful days can be difficult to put behind us.  Perhaps we've drained our minds to the point of exhaustion but our sedentary lifestyles haven't worn out our bodies.

Or, maybe it's those TV reruns and Facebook.  Zoning out with technology isn't the same as seeking calm at the end of the day.

And, we might just be busy.  Too busy.  I've never been one to stay up till two in the morning finishing a project.  I've always felt that depriving myself of sleep cuts down my overall productivity so much that what little time I may have gained is lost in the end anyway.  And it makes me grouchy.  It's awfully hard to be a patient mom (or a patient anything else) if I'm tired.

So, I enjoy seeing the cycle of light and dark as God's divine directive.  As the sun sets and the darkness takes over, the Lord is saying,  "Come to Me, all you who are weary...and I will give you rest."  And then, casting all my cares upon Him, I take advantage of the blessing of sleep.

"For [the Lord] grants sleep 
to the ones He loves."
Psalm 127:2

Saturday, November 10, 2012


As I said earlier this week, Carsten turned FIVE.  This birthday was a big one for him.  Carsten is very serious and circumspect.  He spent weeks and weeks deliberating every facet of his birthday, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each decision.

First, he had to decide what to ask for.  (He finally settled on a Lego Hero Factory and a Webkinz stuffed animal.)

Then, he had to decide what theme he would choose.  The main problem with this decision was his struggle with two different interests: elephants and airplanes.  How to choose?  I finally suggested an airplane cake with an elephant pilot.  That seemed good enough.  (This cake never made it into production.  More on that later.)

And what about candles?  One candle that says 5 or five separate candles?  Lots of deliberation here.  The 5 candle won out because of concern that he might not succeed in blowing all 5 smaller candles out in one breath.

And, the morning of his party, he had one final decision to make:  Should he or should he not let people sing "Happy Birthday" to him?  Carsten is mortified when anyone makes a fuss over him.  "Mommy, I hate it when they sing to me."  "I know.  It's your birthday.  We don't have to sing if you don't want us to."  "But maybe I should let them sing."  We finally did a "trial run" of singing to him and letting him blow out a candle.  Okay.  That wasn't so bad.  We were good to go on the singing thing.

We had a very busy week, so I was falling behind on birthday preparations.  I had thought we might just celebrate with a couple of families at the zoo (elephants) to keep it simple and low-key.  That came together despite very last minute planning, but the cake wasn't fairing as well.  SOMEONE ate all my vegan marshmallows (which I use to make the fondant and the rice krispie parts of the cakes) and I just didn't have the time to make a Whole Foods run.

I had a great idea:  Let's just stick little Matchbox airplanes on top of cupcakes! Cake, theme, take-home gift- done.  So we set off to Wal-Mart.

Major failure.  Apparently, Carsten is the only child in the greater San Antonio area who wants to be a pilot when he grows up!  There wasn't a single airplane anything anywhere.  How weird is that?  Since it was now less than 24 hours till his party, I just let Carsten pick whatever he wanted.  We ended up with Lego Star Wars plates and napkins with little animals to go on top of the cupcakes.  All his careful planning, ruined.  He took it pretty well, though.  Bryan always said that being in our family was good for Carsten.  He is learning flexibility.

The kids ran around and explored the park.  (Thank you, Abbie, for taking the pictures!)

The singing and the candle blowing out went well.

The kids had a great time in the zoo too.  We were that group that no one wants to be behind.  The one with all the excited, shrieking children who block the exhibits.

And, most importantly, Carsten got to see elephants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Okay, so I have a word of advice:  Never, ever, ever blog about not sweating the small stuff.  Why?  Because you might have a flood of small stuff pop up just to test your theory.  After all, one snowflake is no big deal but millions of them make an avalanche, and avalanches bury people.

Here are a few of the small things that made up last week:

First of all, I was sick.  I ran a fever all week long.  Apparently, the dog bite I got a few weeks ago wasn't just going to go away quietly.  Antibiotics seem to be clearing that up now, but the fever and chills, and pain in my leg (and everywhere else) made for a tough backdrop to everything else.

We put our house on the market and had all the fun of getting the house ready for showings, plus leaving it perfect (that's a relative term) every time we go somewhere.  And there's always something that comes up with that.  "Who spilled the glass of orange juice in the pantry?  Never mind, just bring me the mop..." right as we're headed out the door, and so on.

I drove the van off the edge of a steep driveway and damaged something underneath.  It's making a terrible grinding sound and I'm going to have to take it in to get it repaired this week.

 We waited for just over an hour to vote on Friday.  The election judge and everyone in line was kind enough to let me wait off to the side with the kids and then just jump in when my turn came.  (I think they were terrified when they saw me walk in with seven energetic little people.)  All the kids were really good and patient, though they did threaten to start chanting, "Mitt!  Mitt!  Mitt!"  (They've seen the rallies on TV and had been longing to go to one just so that they can chant along.  Maybe in 2016.)

And, then, there was our trip to Houston.  Megan competed in the South State Championships this weekend!  (That deserves its own post.)  The five older boys stayed with friends and Megan and Austin and I headed to Houston.

It is very challenging to get all of us ready to go anywhere.  It's even more challenging to get all of us going in opposite directions.  The boys had to have their church clothes and AWANA stuff; Megan had to have stuff for her meet; Austin needed stuff; and we all needed just our normal stuff.  It was a lot of stuff to keep track of.  Plus, we had people coming to see the house Sunday while we were gone, so it had to be show ready before we left. 

All packing and cleaning done, we headed over to our friends' house.  As I was getting the boys settled, Megan and a friend entertained Austin in the car.  Then we punched in our hotel's address into the Garmin, and we set off- about three hours later than I had hoped.

Austin was happy, so we pressed ahead as far as we could.  We were about ninety miles outside of Houston when we stopped for dinner.  I got in the back of the car to get Austin out and what do you think I found in the back row seat of my van?

A dog.

A real live dog.

It was my friend's dachshund.  Sitting in Justin's empty booster seat.  200 miles.  Not a single bark.  Not a single whine.  She was shaking like a leaf.

"Really?!"  That was my only thought.  And then we went on the hunt for a kennel, leash, dog dish, food, and all those little things we'd need to keep the dog alive and contained for the next 24 hours.  Two Wal-Marts and a grocery store later, we had everything together, and we collapsed in our hotel around 10.

Megan's meet went well (another post- I promise) and we headed back home.  After dropping off the dog, we went straight to church for AWANA.  All the volunteers had everything running beautifully, as usual.  As soon as it was over, I was ready to pack up the kids and go home just as quickly as our van could take us.

Except... I hit the unlock button on the van one too many times, and... it went into security mode.  It wouldn't start.

Deep breath.  This just meant that we would have to stick the key in the ignition and wait thirty minutes.  That would get it out of security mode and we could go home.  Just thirty more minutes.

But then, the last little snowflake came drifting down.  Apparently, our van has one more security feature:  If you leave the key in the ignition with the doors shut, they lock.  Yes, lock.  With the keys in the car.

The snowflake hit the ground and BAM! down came the avalanche.  At least that's what it felt like.

But there were some St. Bernard's around to dig us out.  (It might not be the best thing to compare our dear friends to a breed of dog, but dogs were getting kind of a bad rap in this post so far.)  Sidney and Kelly and their family hung out with us just in case we couldn't get into the car.  And Phil, faithful as always, was able to round up a mechanic who got us back into the car.  Finally, of course, there was the friend who let me vent on the phone when I got home.

So, don't sweat the small stuff, but try not to let it pile up either.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Don't sweat the small stuff.  (And it's all small stuff.)

Have you seen that on a bumper sticker?  Maybe on an office plaque somewhere?  Perhaps it's popular because there's wisdom in it.

I'm finding myself fretting less about the small things.  Those little bumps along the road of life seem far less troublesome when I think about the canyon I've had to cross.  It's as if, when I weigh a problem or hardship against Bryan's death, it naturally can't come anywhere close to matching the magnitude of that.  "Well, it's certainly not the worst thing that's ever happened to me," I think to myself.  When I realize this, I let the problem go , assigning it its proper place among the other "small stuff."  And you know what?  Things usually work themselves out.  This change in perspective is something that I really don't want to lose as life moves on.

I suppose we all have scales on which we weigh our problems.  Each person probably has a unique weight he assigns to his own hurts and frustrations.  And everyone reacts differently to the weight.  One person wails and storms when faced with a ten-pounder, while another's fifty-pounder gets no mention at all.  (And sometimes those two people get married, much to the amusement of their friends.)  We're all different.

Jesus knew, as always, of our tendency to "sweat the small stuff."  But when I really spent some time thinking about it, I was surprised by how high He set the bar for what qualified as "big."

"Do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink; 
or about your body, 
what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food,
and the body more than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air,
they do not toil or reap...
and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself."
From Matthew 6

So what are the small things?  What we will eat and what we will wear.  Now, Jesus isn't talking about struggling with a dinner menu or going through our overstuffed closet to find something flattering.  He was addressing a crowd with legitimate survival needs.  "What will we eat?" to many of them meant, "Are we going to starve or live another day?"

And yet, He tells them that's a small thing.  Not worth worrying about.  There are things, He says, that are more important than even our basic needs.  Life, for example.  Did you wake up today?  Did those you love wake up too?  Then it's a good day, period.  God has promised to take care of the little details.  Our job is to keep our eyes focused on  Life with a heart of thankfulness.

In my own life, the things I "sweat" the most, those things that I obsess over, allowing circumstances to rob me of joy, don't really even qualify as small things.  If I were honest, I'd know they were minutiae.  Teeny, tiny aggravations, situations that aren't going my way- now, those can cause all kinds of trouble.  I recognize them as minutiae, largely because I never even remember them later.  They're just that unimportant.  If they leave any lasting impact, it's only because my over-reaction caused fallout for the people around me.  That's never fully forgotten!

I hope the lesson of keeping the minutiae in perspective stays with me.  The end result is peace.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Carsten was born five years ago!  It's almost impossible to believe.  He was our biggest baby: 9 lbs 3 oz.

He was born on his due date, which only makes sense, because Carsten likes things done properly.  And, Bryan and I were the only ones in the room when he was born.  (After much exhaustive work, I made the midwives leave us alone.  Carsten was born just a few minutes later.)  That makes sense too.  He hates being the center of attention.

From the time he was little, he was very suspicious of anyone not living in our home.  I remember when he got his first haircut.  The stylist tried to give him a lollipop.  He looked at her with clear distrust.  He didn't say a word, but his eyes said it all, "Who are you and why are you trying to give me candy?" He wouldn't take it.

He is a man of few words, especially with those outside the family.  A friend once asked him, after having watched him on many occasions, "Carsten, do you talk?"  His response?  "Yes."  Enough said.

Bryan said that there was something about Carsten that just melted his heart.  He was a little man from the time he was born.  Bryan said that when you saw Carsten, you knew just what he'd be like at twenty, and thirty, and fifty.  He's a grounded little guy.

Love you, Carsten!