Wednesday, February 27, 2008

International Phone Calls and Birthday Signs

We were specially blessed today by two special voices at the other end of cell phone connections; one was from a base in northern Iraq, and the other was from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Uncle Shane is doing well, though apparently recovering from feeling a little under the weather. We were able to confirm that he was involved in this exchange, and thankfully is no worse for physical wear. Apparently, he and his vehicle were the first to arrive on the scene as the firefight ensued. So it is only natural that he deserves all the peanut butter cookies that this lady and her Kitchen Aid can whip up. If you're interested in helping me drown Uncle Shane in cookies, let me know!

Aunt Sarah is thrilling to the culture and people of Ethiopia, soaking up the energy of people who walk in a miraculous faith, watching Jesus convert Ethiopians by appearing to them in visions, healing them from stroke-related paralysis and teaching the soccer coaches between her Amheric lessons (the national language). And if that summation seems a little dramatic to you, believe me, it's tame compared to the actual stories coming out of that place. God is moving in a mighty way there, and she feels so blessed to be a part of it. Incidentally, it was her 25th birthday today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Too Much Cute for One Night

Up we go for bathtime. "I will help Calen go upstairs."

Here's how we started; baby girl hasn't been in the big tub yet.

...But she is getting bigger, crawling and all... "Don't worry Penelope, I'll wash your hair!"

So she got to bathe (PLAY) in the big tub with the "big kids." They stayed in the tub till the water was cold.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jumping Jacks, Tablesettings, and Future Percussionists

Since our last installment, the Family Joy has collectively put up a valiant, if doomed, fight against the flu. One by one, our troops were felled by the fever-chilled-nightsweating-generally achey enemy. Our fearless leader was the first to fall, and it was his defeat that let this grimey villain infiltrate our castle. Annabella was next, then myself. We washed hands, avoided touching faces or each other at all, bleached everything in sight, cleaned doorknobs, didn't share pillows... to no avail. The baby finally came down with it. I feel like I didn't actually leave the house for three weeks. I did get groceries, and we did go to church, albeit in waves. Daddy would stay home with whomever was too sick for the nursery. Or Mommy would.

Now that we're back on our feet, I am trying to go here at least weekly. My father and his wife sent us the very generous and creative family gift of an annual membership, and boy are we going to use it. I-5 has a room that was recently created under a grant that works to expose preschool children to different scientific concepts. The practical application of this is a super-duper fun room that feels a little like an indoor playground, a little like a playhouse. There's even a play area for infants,which captivates Penelope, and the whole place is presided over by the newly christened International Breastfeeding Symbol. Here are some highlights:


A room full of interactive lessons on simple machines--hence the pulley chairs.

Archaeology station where you can "unearth" dinosaur eggs and fossils.

Lessons on mouths, skulls and teeth, including toothbrushing.

A mock emergency room, complete with (deactivated, but real) defibrilltor.

A human heart maze with corridors, valves, and directions to the lungs, etc.

There were so many amazing things to see and do, this was only a small sampling. But let me not forget, the final highlight was that my wonderful husband was just as handsome as usual. :)

Big decisions are on the horizon here, as we are seriously considering enrolling Annabella in half-day pre-K next year at a local Montessori school. This makes me feel desperately immature and fifteen years older all at once; I suppose I imagined I wouldn't be figuring out schooling options for such a long time. Now that it's here, I can hardly believe it. And it's not as if I haven't given it OODLES of thought, especially recently. I don't know, maybe I just thought that this would be a decision that was kept in committee indefinitely... Silly Mommy.

Penelope is figuring out the finer points of crawling, even as I write. She's crawling a foot or two on her own, but as yet, she has not realized her new found mobility and freedom. I anticipate the house going on full alert any minute now when it occurs to her that she can really motor. Another amazing ability that she's exhibited in recent weeks is her impeccable sense of rhythm, if not discriminating taste in music. We took Annabella to Preschool Skate at the local skating rink--a perfect introduction to rollerskating for little ones. Penelope rode on my back in the Ergo carrier, and I kept my feet shod with tennis shoes, and carefully escorted Annabella and her skates around and around the rink.

There are many things roller rinks are: dark with neon geometric shapes in the indoor/outdoor carpet; the perfect place to find any manner of food that is deep-fried; a good place to start a bruise collection; an excellent place to have one's wallet stolen. What they are NOT is a haven of quality musical fare. So when "Who Let the Dogs Out" started pounding and resounding across the rink, I wasn't surprised. What did surprise me was that Penelope INSTANTLY starting bouncing up and down in the carrier exactly in rhythm with the base line and loud barking noises. I assumed it would stop soon, but she didn't give up until the song finished. Other parents (whose children had been attending Preschool Skate for longer than we had) passed us, pointed and laughed with disbelief. The other song that brough her newly-found talent to the forefront was "The Hampster Dance." If you haven't listened to this song, please take this opportunity. You'll be amazed. Since then, any time music comes on, my Little Bouncer starts bobbing up and down, exactly in time with the music. Chorale pieces, rap, worship music, children's songs. I haven't let her listen to either of those songs since, just incase she was trying to make them favorites. I told Jake we may have a little drummer or bassist on our hands. (Insert gratuitous naked baby photo here.)

In regard to Annabella's latest pursuits, several times a day I hear the following in our house:

"Rocket Ship, Regular Girl, Rocket Ship, Regular Girl, Rocket Ship, Regular Girl. . . "
(Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp)

This little pattern was the mantra Jake concocted to teach Annabella the (apparently very difficult) task of learning jumping jacks. So far, it's been the most effective teaching method. Lots of rocket ships and regular girls around here.

She's become my little domestic domesticant--helping with all things related to the kitchen. Cooking can obviously be fun, but she's now responsible for emptying the dishwasher (with my help for high, heavy and breakable things), and setting the table for meals. Placemats, flatware, drinking glasses, the whole caboodle. It's honestly a great help to me, and she takes a lot of pride in her jobs. This week, we're learning the correct way to set each placesetting. She set a beautiful table for dinner tonight.

Jake informed me that if we get five more inches of snow in February, it will be a record-breaking February for snowfall. It's completely possible that we'll get that much in the next week and a half. I love the snow, but now the ice and being kept indoors is getting to me, especially when there are only so many ballet solos and Rocket Ship, Regular Girls that a Mommy and a soon to be four year old girl can take. Outdoor energy doesn't just go away when a child is kept indoors. Unfortunately. And I don't think my van has quite forgiven me for getting it stuck in ice and snow divots in the road right in front of my driveway last week. Twice. Once I managed to wiggle out, take a ride around the block and try again. But once, Jake had to put boards under the tires and push the van out of the divots. I can't wait for my beautiful, lush neighborhood to bloom and smell green again.

Sarah, my little sister, is currently serving with MAI in Ethiopia and has been there for a month. Two more to go. My brother-in-law, Shane, is currently in Iraq, working for him until June 2009. We would appreciate all your prayers for them while they are far from us.

The girls and I are looking forward to a visit with Aunt Rachel, Cousin Calen and BabyInTheBelly this weekend. I'm hoping their presence can help Annabella deal with the lack of outside.

May your remaining winter be short, and may a joyful heart keep you warm!