Tuesday, December 22, 2015


A friend is coming over this morning.
M: Should we clean the bathroom, or just pray she doesn't need to use it?
N: I'll clean it.
S: I'll pray.

Monday, December 21, 2015

They do care

Last night we were all downstairs, and Noah and I were having a balance challenge to see who could stay on the fitness ball the longest. We've done this many, many times without incident, but this time I fell off my ball backwards and crashed my head on the basement floor.  Very painful. That's the bad part.

The good part is that all three of them rushed right over (having heard the thud of my skull on the concrete) and helped me up the stairs and put me in bed.  Noah brought me an ice pack and offered me food and water and aspirin.  Sarah brought me her Ramona Quimby book in case I wanted to read.  She also brought her white board in, and she wrote my pertinent information on it.

I didn't realize they were paying that close attention when we visited my dad in the hospital last month, but they must have been, because they remembered a lot of details from the board in his room.  The drawings on the right are to tell if I wear glasses, hearing aid, or false teeth.  On my dad's board, it said his name was Richard, but in the important information section, it said "call me Dick".  Every person that came in the room ignored his board and called him Richard.  Sarah wrote that my name is Mommy, Noah wrote "Call me Mom" in the important info.  Then he drew a stick figure saying, "Hi, Mommy!"

I know they love me, but it's sometimes a little less obvious in the teen years, so it was nice to see their concern. 

Teen book club

Noah read this book and went to the meeting to discuss it.  He was the only one who showed up.  The leader said he could leave if he wanted to or else he could just discuss the book with her.  He chose to stay, and they had a nice discussion.  It was a proud moment for me, as a mom and as a book lover. 

Christmas Revelation

Something awesome has been impressed on me this advent season that I want to write down, but I'm not sure I can express it well.  It started at a women's tea I went to on December 5 at Harvest Bible Chapel. The speaker, Jen Wilken, said something that certainly made me sit up and take notice: "We are all, in one sense, pregnant."

During those turbulent years of trying to get pregnant, I harbored a secret anger and jealousy for Mary.  Even the virgin could get pregnant when she wasn't even trying!  I was thankful for Jesus and his birth, but I was not fond of that pregnant virgin.  Infertility (and the fertility drugs I was taking) made me mad, in both senses of the word.

As I got older (and went off the drugs), the fury against pregnant women in general and the virgin in particular lessened, but a twinge of jealousy remained. So when this woman said I got to be pregnant too, I hungered to hear how that was possible.

This is the part that's hard to explain.  Her message was basically that we are born again in Christ and then in some sense, just as it was true of Mary, Christ is born again in us. His image is formed in us. Our bodies are the temple of His Holy Spirit. I'm harboring Life in my body!  I knew this, of course, but it just hit me right then.  I get to be pregnant too!  And it satisfied that longing I've had for 20 years to be pregnant and give birth.  I get to birth the image of Christ in the way I live my life, although I'm not doing a good job of it.  It's the highest honor and privilege, and it's the wonder of Christmas.  Now instead of despising that pregnant virgin, I feel that she is my sister.

So that was December 5.  A couple weeks later I was alone in the car (a very rare occurrence) and I heard a song that I've heard before and always liked, but this time I really heard it, in a way that made me pull over on the side of the road and just worship in tears.  I never told anyone this because it's so personal between me and God, but I'm writing it down now because I don't want to forget how He has ministered the wonder of Christmas to me this year like never before.  The song was Francesca Battistelli's "Be Born in Me", which is a beautiful song. The part that made me pull over was, "Make my heart Your Bethlehem. Be born in me."  I had been ruminating on that Dec. 5 talk in the back of my mind, and it all came together for me right there on the side of the road.

Fast forward to yesterday in church.  We were having a table discussion about our favorite Christmas miracle.  And this year's Christmas revelation came right to my mind. It's a miracle to me that I don't yearn with my whole being to be pregnant with a physical child anymore but am satisfied by God.  But how do you explain that to a table full of women who have all given birth, a single man, an old man and a really old man?  I didn't explain it well, and I'm sure they didn't understand, as no man or fertile woman truly can.

And finally, last night when I couldn't sleep, the words that came to my mind were the beginning of the first verse of Isaiah 54: "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy!"

Friday, December 18, 2015

Vile apple pie

Mike was telling Noah about "the Theismann" (Joe Theismann's famous horrible football injury back in the 80's).  He said, "My friends and I made popcorn and watched it over and over." 
Noah said, "You are a vile man, Dad." 
When we laughed, he said, "Was that not the right word?" 
I said, "No, it was apropos." 
He said, "What does apple pie have to do with anything?" 

Bad date

I decided to take my 14-year-old on a date to his favorite lunch place and Christmas shopping for his sister.  On the way, I tried to talk to him.  He was unresponsive.  I looked over and noticed his ever-present headphones covering his ears.  Sometimes he's listening to something and actually can't hear what's going on outside of them, but other times I suspect he's pretending to be unavailable but is listening to everything.  I knocked on his headphones and signaled that I would like to make contact.

He inched one headphone forward an inch so he could at least partially hear.  I asked if he could take them off long enough for me to tell him a quick story.  He shrugged and complied.  I said, "I went out with a guy one time who turned on the radio in his car immediately after he started the car.  It was our first (and, as it turns out, last) date, so I thought we would be talking, getting to know each other.  That's the point of dating, after all.  But there was no conversation possible with the loud heavy metal music blaring throughout the car.  After several minutes, he turned the volume down enough to say, "You're pretty quiet" and turn it right back up before I could even respond.  That's the only thing I remember about that date and about him.  I don't even remember his name.  Don't grow up to be that guy."

He looked unimpressed and put his headphones back over his ears.  I hope he noted it on some level. It's hard to relate to him lately.  When he was younger and people saw me genuinely enjoying him, they would caution, "Oh, just wait till he's a teenager!"  I really believed that the fun, happy, kid with the great sense of humor and unflappable joy would never become a sullen, self-absorbed, angry, moody teenager.  I thought something must have gone wrong with those other kids, and it wouldn't happen to ours. I miss my sweet little boy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


We've been studying World War II and the Holocaust. Today we were reading about the Trail of Tears, and Noah said, "How is what we did to the Indians any different than what the Nazis did to the Jews?"  Insightful observation.  Then Sarah said, "WE didn't do anything to anyone. We're Asian."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sarah's first gymnastics meet!

Sarah's first competition was with Gym Corner's Silver Senior Excel team.  It was the Justin Spring Invitational in Champaign, IL.  She was very happy and excited to compete. 
Her scores:
vault: 8.6
bars: 9.2
beam: 9.15 (5th place)
floor: 8.75
Before we left home. Hair done, all the proper clothes on, bag packed.  

Her winning beam routine

on the podium, collecting her 5th place medal

Noah was less than thrilled to be forced to attend, but he did it.  We sat through five hours of gymnastics and a three hour car ride to see Sarah perform for a total of five minutes. 

The team placed first overall! L to R: Meghan, Lauren, Brooke, Grace, Brooklyn, Sarah, Kaitlyn (coach Krista)
Sarah ended up 6th overall, and she qualified for the state meet.  She chattered excitedly all the way home.  It was close to midnight when we got home, and she slept till almost noon today.  We did an abbreviated school day and were thankful for the flexibility of homeschooling.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Monopolized. Again.

Breakfast was over. Devotions and reading done. We were about to start math when Sarah asked if we could play just one little game of Monopoly. By this point in my career, I should realize that there is no such thing as a "quick", "short", or "little" game of Monopoly.  I wanted to say no, but somehow what came out of my mouth was yes. 

Three hours later, I said, "Whoever is winning at 1:30 shall be declared the winner."  Sarah  played a smarter game than usual and hung in there a long time. Noah was playing his usual super-high-risk game, and I thought surely I would win. 

By this point in my career, I should realize this fact: Noah ALWAYS wins at Monopoly. But I started a little confident trash talking when things were rolling my way.  Sarah, who recognizes the aforementioned fact, cautioned me: "Don't break out the eggnog just yet, Mom."  

Noah landed on my railroad and was $10 short on what he owed me.  He gave me all his money and said, "I'll ride in the coal car."  Later, after the tide had turned, I landed on his hotel and couldn't quite pay all I owed.  I gave him all my money and said, "I'll stay in the room right next to the elevator." 

In the end, he owned absolutely everything and was filthy rich.  How does he always win?!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Old time blinkers

My left turn signal burned out, so instead of making the dangerous left into Kuk Sool, I went around the block, making all right turns, and came in the back way.  Noah suggested I just stick my arm out the window and make hand signals.  
M: I don't even know the proper signal for "I'm making a left turn".  
N: Didn't they teach you the standard signals in driver's ed?
M: No. We used electronic turn signals.

S (incredulously): They had electronic turn signals way back when you were in driver's ed???

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Second-tier birthday wishes

I asked Noah if he wanted to go with me on a trip to deliver cupcakes for our friend's birthday.  He's deep into his Minecraft, so he said no.  I said, "Do you just want me to give her your best wishes?"  He said, "No, just give her my second-tier wishes.  I'm saving the best ones in case I need them later." 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Decorating for Christmas

Tonight we had soup and turned on Christmas music and did our annual post-Thanksgiving decorating.
 Mike and Noah dragged the tree up from the basement.
 Noah got a fire going.
 Noah hung the cross on the porch. This is the only decoration we've ever put on the outside of our house, and it's the one we've had the longest, even longer than we've had the kids.  It's my favorite Christmas decoration. A simple cross. That's what it's all about.
 Sarah putting the star on top of the tree,
 and hanging the stockings.
 Setting up the nativity scene.

 Noah's broken truck parts that have graced our tree for about 10-12 years now. He's always happy to see them again.

 Shadow got in the empty tree bin and chewed on what he could find.
 Marty is always in the spirit.
Shiloh presided from the new perch this year.

Black Friday

Sarah loves to shop. I don't. Black Friday really excites her.  It scares me.  Last year I took her to Walmart in Morton on Black Friday and gave her a little taste of the craziness (I wouldn't even think of going to Peoria).  Instead of scaring her, it thrilled her enough to beg to go again this year.  I took her to Kmart in Morton this time, which was still a challenge for me, but not as bad as Walmart. 
 She was so excited to check out after waiting in line for 30 minutes.
She conquered it, and she's wearing her new shirt to prove it.
 Noah pretended to conquer it, but in reality...
This is what he and Mike were doing while we were shopping.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


 We made a Happy Thanksgiving banner.
 This is the first year that I haven't cooked the turkey.  We bought a hickory smoked turkey from Yordy Farms. It was the tastiest bird I've ever eaten.
 Noah peeled almost ten pounds of potatoes in fifteen minutes. He's been peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes since he was about three years old.
 My dad carving the bird in his new man apron.

There we all are, enjoying the all the delicious food.
 After the meal, the men talked to their dads,

 the women washed dishes,
 the boys got crazy in the basement,
 and Aunt Amy spent some girl time with Sarah.
 The weather was perfect, so Jeff & Amy and Mom & I went for a walk. When we got back, it was time to transition into the next holiday: Noah's birthday.

 It was a really nice Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Chicken ranch wraps

 This is one of our current favorites.  I marinate chicken breasts, bake and slice them, put them on a wrap with cheese, and heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds.
 Then add toppings of choice.  Sarah eats hers with just ranch dressing.  The rest of us like them fully loaded: lettuce, tomato, green onion, cucumber, garlic salt, pepper. Bacon would be delicious,but I didn't have any.
Wrap it up and eat. Cheap, easy, good, healthy.

Noah's birthday

Noah turned 14 today.  This is the first time he's woken up to snow on his birthday.  It was the first snow of the season, and it was coming down softly in big flakes all morning.  He got up early and opened his presents.  Sarah gave him gum and a Google Play gift card.  She also wrote him a sweet letter with the timeline of his life: past, present, and future.  He opened the box that Aunt Kathy and Uncle Matt had sent and was happy to find headphones and putty.

Then he went on a treasure hunt and found money all over the house.  The clues took him up and down the stairs and in and out of the garage several times. Each clue had a few dollars with it. He's saving money to buy computer parts to build his own computer.  He went to Eli's for coffee and came home to play Minecraft with his friends.

I made lunch and salted caramel lava cakes. We sang to him, and he blew out his one candle. Nana & Papa came over in the afternoon and brought him a card and money. Then we went to Pekin for a night of fun.
 Gondola at Avanti's. The server heard us talking about his birthday and brought him a piece of cake!
 We reserved laser tag at Sunset Lanes, but they messed up the reservation so he and Mike got to bowl a free game while we waited. Sarah and I went to the arcade.
Laser tag was fun and tiring.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Growing up

I was talking to Noah about his birthday and what he really wants.  He said, "I don't really care about cake and presents and parties and balloons and all that.  All I really want is just love and attention.  I think that's what everybody wants."

Scary Reindeer

When Noah was little, he used to sing, "Feliz Navidaddy" instead of Feliz Navidad.  He would always want to call Daddy and sing it to him, since he thought it was his own special Christmas song.  So every time we heard it on the radio, we would stop what we were doing, call Daddy, and sing and dance wildly.  He remembered it every year and got Sarah in on the action when she came along.  Somehow we're STILL doing this every year. 

Yesterday I had the TV on the station that plays Christmas music.  Sarah and I were listening while we were playing a game.  Feliz Navidad came on, and she ran to the basement to get Mike and Noah, yelling that our song was on. They ran upstairs, and I cranked up the volume, and we danced around the bedroom.  Then I turned off the TV, and we all went back to our regular lives.

I had recorded the news and sat down to watch it a little after 11:00 p.m.  When I turned on the TV, it was still on the Christmas station, and it was still super loud, so "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" came blasting through the house.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mike loves Janel

An advertisement arrived in the mail last week, trying to guilt Mike into buying me a customized piece of jewelry declaring his love for me. 
 I thought it was funny, so I cut it out and put it on the fridge.

Then I cut out all the examples of this imaginary piece of jewelry that I'll never own (and wouldn't want to) and gave them to Mike. He looked at me like, "What am I supposed to do with these little scraps?" so I told him something like, "Put those somewhere where I'll find them."  I thought they would find their way to the garbage can.  

Several days went by, and I never gave them another thought.  I hadn't given exercise any thought either, so I went downstairs to do an exercise video.  I was dreading it, as always, but when I went to hit the power button, there was this:
It made me so ridiculously happy that I squealed and cried.

Today I took the kids to church for a funeral.  On the way back home, it was raining, and I was feeling tired and sad.  As I turned onto our street, I reached up to get ready to push the garage door opener button, and there was another little picture of the jewelry.  I said to the kids (as I drove right past our driveway), "Aw, look! Your daddy loves me!"  I showed it to them, and Sarah said, "Where did he get that?"  I told her that I had cut them out and given them to him with instructions to give them to me.  I told her something I hope she'll remember when she gets older: "Sometimes men need a little help knowing how to love us."  

A couple hours later, it was quiet time, and I opened my book to read.  Next to my bookmark was this:

Later I was making soup for dinner. I opened the cabinet where I keep the spices and found this:
Each time I found one, I felt so loved!  Not only did he not throw them away, he took the time to think about where to hide them so that I would be sure to find them at different times.