Kitchen Helpers

They say you can’t get good help these days. Well, I have found some! Ordinarily, the children all love to help me in the kitchen. One of their favorite jobs is snapping green beans in two after I cut the little ends off. But since all three can snap, the chore usually goes way too fast for their liking. So, today I decided I’d give them more of the job to do themselves.

I gave the 6 and 4 year old a quick lesson in proper bean cutting (didn’t think I should let the 3 year old try cutting yet, although many of you may gasp when you see the other two wielding knives!). While they cut, the 3 year old snapped fast enough to keep up with both of them. In preparation for supper for company tonight, the children cut and snapped all 2 1/2 pounds of beans entirely on their own. And they did a wonderful job. And were finished way before I would have expected. Not only are they great help, they’re cute too!

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Irish Ditty

Does anyone remember the lyrics to that Bennigan’s radio commercial that played a few years ago? It was an Irish sounding guy singing something like: “I found 10 bucks in the pocket of my jeans…”. Very catchy tune, but I can’t recall how it goes.

Well, yesterday I put on a pair of jeans shorts that I haven’t worn since my last pregnancy (3 years ago) and I put my hand into one of the pockets only to pull out…..you guessed it: $10!!! As these jeans were washed before being put away, but likely hung to dry (you don’t want any more shrinkage than is absolutely necessary with maternity wear!), the ten dollar bill was crisp and clean, but a little wrinkled. Still perfectly good, though. Now, what shall I do with my newfound treasure??

Nicolas Moves Upstairs

Last night marked a turning point in our youngest’s life. Nicolas finally moved out of the nursery, after almost 3 years in his crib. Truthfully, he’s been sleeping with the bar down in the crib for many months now, so perhaps it was more like a toddler bed, but nonetheless, he sensed the importance of his transition to a real bed, perhaps even more so because it means he now gets to share a room with his big brother.

IMG_5323_small.JPGJonathan was only too thrilled to make room for Nicolas, and both boys shouted and danced and basically carried on with much craziness last night as Jay assembled the bed frame, moved furniture around, etc.

Here is the result: two happy little boys ensconced on their matching beds, with many an admonition to wake up quietly in the morning, and sit in bed to read their books rather than arouse the other from his sleep.

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They did very well for their first night together and it is fun to see them enjoying one another so much! And now our nursery is practically ready for its newest occupant, to hopefully take up residence in another few months.

A Berry Fun Day

This morning the children and I headed north on our very first berry-picking expedition to the little town of Sadler. We visited Bailey’s Berry Patch, a wonderful place that grows blueberries, blackberries, and muscadine grapes (grapes aren’t in season yet!). I didn’t know exactly how this little adventure would play out, given that two of my children don’t even care for blueberries!!

But, I needn’t have worried. The thrill of picking berries seems to have overshadowed their particular tastes, and all three worked very hard for two hours in the HOT HOT Texas sun, filling their little buckets with blueberries. We had a really fun time picking alongside our buddies and then took a break for lunch and a bit of a rest. After lunch, we determined we would attempt to finish filling our bucket (which, we’d learned, held 5 quarts of the tiny berries when filled to the brim). Jonathan was tired of picking berries by this time, but both Abigail and Nicolas attacked the bushes with renewed interest.

I’ve decided my two year old has an incredible work ethic for someone of his age. He was quite tenacious about his berry-picking, and I think viewed his contributions to the large family bucket I was holding as most important – which of course, they were! Some of the comments from him throughout the day were especially cute (esp to his Mommy!):

“Mom, I pick some berries for you. You like these?”

“Here are some more berries…see? I put them in your bucket.”

“You forgot to say thank you.”

“I’m not done yet, I’ll be done on Tuesday.”

We did indeed manage to fill our bucket, much to our delight, but Nicolas was undeterred from his mission to keep filling his tiny tin pail, and as we tried to get him to quit he exclaimed in frustration, “I not finished yet! My bucket is not full!”

After we managed to tear him away from the berry bushes, we all got to watch as the people who own the patch processed our little crop of berries for taking home. We also purchased some locally-grown tomatoes and cucumbers to enjoy.

This was a lovely way to spend the day, and after naps on the trip home, a big bathtub full of water, and lots of soap, my children were feeling quite themselves again. Here is a picture of them showing off the fruits of their labors: almost all five quarts (we snacked on them a bit!).
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10th Anniversary Road Trip

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we headed to San Antonio for 3 whole days and nights of relaxation and hanging about together. It was wonderful. We traded in some of Jay’s airline miles for a completely free hotel stay (if you don’t count the parking fees!) at the Marriott, which is probably one of the very best locations available on the RiverWalk. On top of the free lodging and breakfasts, they upgraded us to a riverview room so we had this great view from our balcony:

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We could walk to pretty much everything we wanted to see within the downtown area, and so walk we did. We enjoyed the lovely paths along the riverwalk (can you find the bird in the picture?),

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took in La Villita and some local art, the pretty homes in the King William Historic District, and the original Pioneer Flour Factory and Guenther House. We spent lots of time in old and new bookstores and came home with some lovely treasures for the kids, including 2 beautifully illustrated, like-new volumes of poetry I got for a song at a used bookstore (I’ve recently gotten into children’s poetry, more on that in another entry). Saw a movie, shopped together at our leisure, read a ton, ate whatever we wanted, slept late everyday, and just had a fantastic time.

One highlight of our trip that we have to share with you is our discovery of an amazing little Greek restaurant, Mina and Dimi’s. It has got to be one of the very coolest places we have ever eaten. To say it is unassuming from the outside is an understatement; indeed, we were hesitant to venture inside due to its location in a rather rundown-looking strip mall area.

But once inside, the atmosphere is just amazing and it gets 5 stars from us all around. We were immediately greeted by the sound of Mediterranean music, and the entertainment of a belly dancer. No joke. The waitstaff is among the most friendly we’ve encountered anywhere we’ve been, extremely attentive and helpful, and the food, while quite reasonably-priced, is absolutely divine. We enjoyed Flaming Saganaki, Dolmades, Kalamarakia, and shared the Rack of Lamb. We even sampled a new wine to us, Kouros Patras, which we enjoyed very much, and will try and find locally. If you ever find yourself in San Antonio, you MUST try this amazing little piece of Greece tucked into the northwest side of the city. Here we are enjoying ourselves there:

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All in all, it was a great trip and we are so grateful we could enjoy a few days away. What a blessing to be able to celebrate 10 years of marriage together. Many, many thanks to our terrific, and very capable babysitters who cared lovingly for our sweet children while we were away.

Culinary Treat

I commented earlier on all the wonderful help we have received since our car accident and especially as we recover from injuries sustained. Last evening we enjoyed a unique and sweet expression of care from one of Jay’s co-workers whose wife evidently is a phenomenal Vietnamese cook.

Jay’s friend at work told him yesterday morning that in light of what had happened with the wreck, they wanted to do something for us and that if Jay was willing to drop by their house on the way home, his wife would have freshly made egg rolls waiting for him to take home to all of us for supper. Wow! As promised, Jay arrived here a little after 6pm with a huge pan of crispy, just-cooked egg rolls which we proceeded to dig into heartily. They were SO DELICIOUS! What a fantastic treat. Even the kids (well, two of them) enjoyed this meal, and we had fun using all different sorts of dipping sauces to eat our egg rolls. We had our fill, and there were even some left-overs to enjoy at a later time.

We continue to be truly touched by all the different outpourings of care and help we receive from so many different people.

A Word from the Lady of the House

It would appear Jay has largely been keeping our family blog going (as he has been largely keeping alot of other things going around our household since the wreck and my injuries). But since I can type, I figure I should pitch in and and offer something to our faithful readers too!

It is not enough to write it here, but I would like to also publicly thank the multitude of people who have given of their time, energies and hearts to aid us in this rather challenging episode of our lives. I cannot believe we are still receiving meals regularly, having people care for our kids, grocery shop for us, drive our kids to school, and even stop in to do dishes and laundry and such. It is truly humbling to see the outpourings of love and deeds just continue. And, believe me: it is so encouraging to us, as we are not yet able to do on our own all that we would “normally” do to care for ourselves and our children.

I echo Jay in the thought that this past week and a half has been stunningly hard, and each day seems to bring another hardship, on top of the obvious “recovering from a car wreck” physical and emotional and logistical challenges. Jay continued to get sicker over the weekend and Monday morning saw him at the doc’s, where he was diagnosed with a whopper of a sinus infection on top of tummy issues. I seem to have succumbed to the Nicolas tummy bug on Sunday, so for the past two days I have dealt with that, and tried to cope with hardly any food intake, while being pregnant (not a good combination!).

This evening when Jay called home to tell me he was coming down with a bad migraine, it felt like the last straw. He has bravely worked through illness, and utter exhaustion, and done remarkably – I am so thankful and proud of him for the way he has cared for all of us – but there is no working through a migraine. And with all that has fallen upon his shoulders of late, I felt so distressed that he must bear yet one more burden. On top of this, he is still the main care-giver in the evenings due to some of my physical limitations, so having him out of commission for the night raised a whole host of issues: how would the children get bathed? the dishwasher emptied? everyone to bed? Stuff that normally I would just do on my own is not an option right now, and so it brought yet another hurdle to overcome, and it just felt like too much.

I fell apart emotionally, wondering why all of this has to happen just now. Well, within half an hour I had two sweet angels of mercy whom I will just call Jamie and Steph, on my doorstep to help. They fed my children dinner, emptied my washer, cleaned my kitchen, bathed my kids, helped me put them to bed, including songs and stories, and then proceeded to wash and fold more laundry. And aside from all their physical help, their presence was such a comfort to me, and to Jay. I heartily thank them for giving us their evening, for ministering to us so willingly. And I am so grateful for friends who love us enough to be here at a moment’s notice to care for our physical needs. Thank you!!

All this week while Jay’s Mom is out of town (she has continued to help us tirelessly every day through all the sickness, esp taking care of little Nicolas – thank you to her and to Dad, John for all the time she’s spent on our behalf!!) we have different friends who are hosting Nicolas for the day, to help care for him since I cannot yet lift him, drive, or bend, etc. He has had a great week thus far with all these fun and loving folks, and we are glad for their help too. There are also many friends helping with Abigail and Jonathan, taking them to parks, ponds, lunch, having them to their homes to play, and just generally helping them to enjoy being kids even if Mommy is not yet up to playing and keeping up with them as much as she’d like.

It is very late and I must get to bed, but I do so this evening with a heart full of thankfulness for all the blessings we have received and continue to witness as a result of the Body of Christ loving us and caring for us. God has continued, even with everything that has gone on, to provide for our every need, not always in the way we might have hoped or planned, but often in an even better way. Thank you to everyone who is a part of that provision – we love you and are grateful for you!

When it rains, it pours

The rain has turned into a deluge, in two senses. First, our situation has seemingly gotten worse, not better, as we’ve dealt with significant illness this past week. Jonathan developed some sort of horrific cough and a fever this past weekend, which lingered for several days. Then on Monday, Nicolas spiked a fever, threw up, and started having horrible diarrhea. Though he only threw up a couple more times (Tuesday night), he continued with the overall problems for a few days. Now I seem to have gotten quite sick… not good.

In this downpour of discouragement, we have seen grace abound, raining down on us in equal measure. We continue to receive wonderful meals from folks at both our church and Abigail’s school, our children are being driven to and from school each class day by others, and we continue to receive much kind concern from all those with whom we interact.

Idolater = corpse?

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group at church on Psalm 115. As an interesting aside, the invitation came about three days prior to the car crash, and I was specifically asked to focus on verses 9 to 11 and the idea of God as our shield. My preparation was greatly disrupted in one sense, yet in a way I was far better prepared than I could have achieved through mere study.

Anyway, while doing the actual talk I noticed a feature of the text that I had previously missed. Here’s a brief outline of sorts I had drawn up.

A Psalm 115:1-3 — God’s glory challenged/answered
B Psalm 115:4-8 — idolaters like idols (inert, unfruitful)
C Psalm 115:9-11 — Trust in the Lord (he is your shield)
B’ Psalm 115:12-16 — God blesses, all is fruitful
A’ Psalm 115:17-18 — those who praise the Lord, those who don’t

So who are the dead that don’t praise the Lord (Psalm 115:17)? I’d originally thought this referred to those who had actually died, fitting in with some of the general statements earlier in the Old Testament prior to a more specific doctrine of life after death and resurrection becoming normative.

But that seems to miss the point of the psalm. Who challenges God’s glory at the start of the psalm? Idolaters. And how does the psalm describe idolaters? As dead people. If you read Psalm 115:5-7 as a riddle to someone, they would probably think you were talking about a corpse, and Psalm 115:8 declares that idolaters become like their corpse-idols.

Such a reading firms up the chiastic structure and helps us read verses 12-16 in their proper context: as an answer to the lifelessness/fruitlessness of idol worshippers. What a great summary of creation and redemption! All creation is created for life, for fruitfulness, for people. Think of Genesis 1 and the creation mandate. And this purpose is found in redemption, through the trust of God and the scorning of idols. God is life, and in him we have our life.

This approach to Psalm 115 also seems to lend some nice detail to Jesus’ call to those who have ears to hear, tieing in with Isaiah 6.