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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family photo efforts

Before we left our Thanksgiving camp, we tried to get a nice group shot. (We missed having the Totta family with us this year. Their absence meant the average height of our group was about a foot shorter... and you can see the back row is missing some folks!)

Anyway, here are some of the shots...

Wait a minute!



Rayna, put your shirt down!
Colsen, take your finger out of your nose!


Much better.

But, wait now -- STRI-DER!!!
Why is it just my family who is not-so-photogenic?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Other Franksgiving activities

Some of the other fun things we enjoyed during our trip...

--Hiking

--Visiting the horses
--Our now-traditional cousin scavenger hunt (everyone divided into teams of 2)
Team Erik-and-Rayna
Team David-and-Colsen
--Some court sports
--My impromptu beauty parlor... all of us girls got all curled up. And Nate was next in line...
--and, The Zip Line!

Nah, not really...too cold. :)

And when we weren't doing any of the above activities, we were seranaded by the sounds these little people running around like crazy!

It certainly was not a quiet trip... but it was definitely fun!

Franksgiving, NC-style

For Thanksgiving this year, Pete's ever-adventurous family decided to meet in the mountains of North Carolina at a camp. Windy Gap ended up being a beautiful destination; we all agreed it was a fantastic place to spend a few days together.We all had much to be thankful for this year, and our annual go-around-the-table-and-share-what-your-thankful-for was lively as usual. The table time in general was a highlight -- the food was "good-lickin'" as Pete's grandmother apparently used to say. Everyone pitched in with their special dishes.

Getting ready to sit down:

Cole and Sam took notes on how to carve the turkey:

We actually saw some wild turkeys on the property...

...but when they heard what we were having for dinner, they didn't stick around to chat!
Other highlights, besides the turkey dinner, from this trip included:
walks around the property, many, many visits to the gameroom (air hockey, ping pong and foosball tournaments!), multiple sports/games (football, basketball, soccer, tennis), indoor crafts and sing-alongs, and family games. "Three on a couch" was a big hit (girls rule, guys drool!), as was the ever-popular Bowl game and Imaginiff.

One of the not-so-high-lights for Pete and me, though, was the fact that Miles refused to sleep at this place, unless he was being held, and even then it was iffy. We asked him if his teeth hurt, or his ear hurt, or what. He didn't answer us, though.. When Colsen popped in 4 or 5 times to our Full-size bed, the 4 of us all "enjoyed" some cozy, albeit mostly sleepless time.

Oh well, the days were fun anyway!

(Thanks to Al for all the photos from this trip! Forgot my camera)

Advent links

My friend Kerry has published her collection of Advent posts, contributed by several people around the country. Check it out for some good thoughts and suggestions for Advent!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving warm-up

In preparation for our upcoming celebration, we put a big piece of paper up on the door for everyone to record what they're thankful for.... It wasn't hard to do -- we've been so richly blessed!

One of the first things I put on the list was EXTRA FISH. This has nothing to do with our big, anticipated dinner, but I do think it's a good Thanksgiving story anyway.

I was reading in John 21 about Jesus' encounter with His disciples after He came back to life. While the guys were out fishing all night, and not catching anything, Jesus came to the shore near where they were (He loves suprise parties), and they noticed him, but didn't know it was HIM. I can just picture Him chuckling as He tells them to put their nets back in on the right side (as if they hadn't already tried that a bunch of times!).

And then maybe He laughed full out when He saw their faces as their catch was so big they couldn't even haul the net in. The disciples had not been in danger of starving -- in fact there was already some other fish cooking for them on the beach by the time they got in. And they certainly didn't need all 153 fish. But I think God just gets a kick out of over-blessing us sometimes.

That's how I feel this Thanksgiving. Not only has He given me fish when I've needed it, but so many times He's also given me an extra 152 fish -- just because His love and His generosity are SO BIG.

I'm thankful to serve this kind of God.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Journey to Advent


Somehow while I was growing up I concluded that liturgy = boring. I also figured that any “man-made” traditions (i.e., anything not specifically mentioned by name in the Bible), such as Advent, Lent, etc., were only for people whose faith was dead.

Then, during the summer I lived in Oxford, England, I attended an Anglican church (seemed to be the appropriate thing to do!), and discovered something weird: the Spirit was actually very much alive in this church, despite – or perhaps in accordance with? – the liturgical style of the services! It was a very eye-opening experience for me.

A few years later, after Pete and I were married, we attended a couple of different Episcopal-now-Anglican churches, and experienced the same phenomenon – the liturgy and traditions of the worship services were beautiful, alive, and in fact very meaningful. Church tradition became very intriguing and attractive to us; it was both comforting and exciting to think that we were saying the same words, and doing some of the same things that had been said and done for centuries. In this time where new churches are springing up all over the place, with new philosophies, styles, perspectives, etc., it was refreshing to find a bedrock of thought that had stood the tests of time and place.

Soon thereafter we discovered the joy of celebrating seasons such as Advent and Lent, of marking our days and weeks according to the Church calendar. For us, it has helped to sharpen the focus of our family on the Truths beyond what our culture teaches. Marking certain seasons like this, setting apart those weeks as special and different, has allowed me to personally realign and re-set. And by doing special activities with the kids during these seasons, they begin to see more about how significant the Events we’re celebrating are.

Advent, especially, the time of Waiting for the Coming (both for Christ as a baby, and also His second coming), is an exciting time to share as a family. Each year we’ve added to and/or changed how we celebrate this season, but here are a few of our favorite things we’ve done so far:

1.) Make an advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent. We go to our local Christmas tree seller and ask if we can just have some of the scrap branches, and they always give them to us for free. We put them on our foam ring, add candles, and voila – a beautiful-smelling wreath. Throughout the season we then light the appropriate candles at dinner, and try to have extra family times on Sundays to talk about each theme for the week.

2.) Make 2 Advent paper chains. Each day the kids can take a ring off each of the chains. One has a particular person or family to pray for that day, and the other has a Scripture passage we read together during our dinner/wreath time, which coincides with that week’s theme.

3.) Watch Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem: For the younger kids especially, it’s been fun for them to try and find Mary and Joseph each morning as they make their way around our house, headed towards to the Nativity scene we’ve set up. (We hide them each night after the kids go to bed… if we remember!) Then after Christmas, the Wise Men begin their trek, to end on Epiphany.

4.) Celebrate St. Nicholas Day. This has become one of our family’s favorite holidays. In the past we’ve had friends over, had a Moroccan meal, decorated Gingerbread men, and then hung out the kids’ stockings after they go to bed. This year we’re planning on doing more St. Nick-type activities as we try to do some anonymous things for people in need. One of our plans involves some “candy-caning” of peoples’ yards… the kids think anything that involves sneaking around in the dark is FUN!

There are, of course, many other opportunities to do things outside the home – so many concerts, celebrations, etc. – but these are just a few of the things we do within our family, to commemorate this Season of Hope!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Multitasking Muddle

I read an article recently about multitasking. The author’s main point was that multitasking is not actually more efficient, much as we’d like to believe so, because in reality our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. So when we think we are multitasking, we are actually switch-tasking, albeit very rapidly. But every time we switch tasks, different neurons in our brains have to fire up or fire down, so we actually lose small bits of time with every switch.

In addition to this alarming piece of information, the author also presented this nice tidbit: the more we multitask, the more our brains actually change shape physically… and it was insinuated that this change was not one for the better. Therefore, he very evenly and rationally proposed, we would be much benefited if we simply just did one thing at a time, focusing solely on it until its completion.

As I read this, alarm bells started going off in my head as I recognized the effects of this phenomenon in my own life. My thoughts/words were something like:

“DING! DING! That’s just what – Rayna, stop pushing him – my problem – Colsen you can’t put that on your face! – is when I – DING! DING! What? I mean when I multi – Shoot, Strider can you pull that off the stove before it boils over? – DING! Is that the microwave? Or the washing machine? What was I doing here in this room?”

Eventually, though, I had enough pieces of thoughts to finally string them together into one coherent conclusion: THANKS A LOT BUDDY. I believe your hypothesis – that my neurons are exhausted with all their constant firing up and firing down as I switch from one thing to the next (times a million). And while that does give me some explanation for why they are all sweaty and complaining all the time (and are they setting up sleeping bags under my eyes to rest? That would explain THAT issue as well), it also plunges me into despair, because I cannot hope to attain the solution: focusing on one thing at a time.

The chipper author matter-of-factly just set about his day, from thence forth, striving to do one thing at a time. He ate his breakfast, drank his coffee, turned on his computer, did some writing, read the newspaper, etc… all in a nice peaceful succession.

If I tried doing just one thing at once, one or more members of this family would be in great peril, something we were planning to eat would burn, we would completely run out of clothes to wear, AND my children would be illiterate forever, among about 782 other negative outcomes. Moms have no choice; we must switch-task at the approximate rate of 37 things/second, or bad things happen.

I can’t even load the dishwasher after a meal from start to finish anymore. In the 6 minutes it takes to put the dishes in, I have to stop about 3 times to move Miles away from the dishwasher as he tries to put the dirty knives in his mouth, twice to call Strider to come play with Miles in another room, once to go help Colsen in the bathroom, once to answer the phone, and 16 times to tell kids to stop doing something. Not only are my neurons getting a workout, but my hands are dried to the texture of leather by the time I finish re-washing them 22 times in that span of 6 minutes.

Even my simple skincare routine is not possible in my current state of life. According to this “routine” I am supposed to put one potion on my face in the morning, let it dry, then put another lotion on. In the span of 2 minutes that it takes for the first to dry, it is very likely that I will have had to: start a load of laundry, wash the hardened toothpaste off the kids’ sink, make 2 beds, start breakfast, get 2 people dressed, and checked my email. Needless to say, that 2nd step gets forgotten about 80% of the time. So now I’m walking around without sunscreen!

My neurons are exhausted, my hands are leathery, my face will soon be leathery, and my brain is now incapable of composing and expressing a complete thought all in a row. And they say motherhood isn’t glamorous?

I guess it’s good to know what the diagnosis is anyway, even if I can’t do anything about my multitasking inefficiency. And the other good news is that even though I don’t have time to give my body a workout these days, at least my neurons are getting a massive one. If it doesn’t kill them, that is. I need to go get some Neuron Gatorade.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A good day for a Mai-Tai.

Pete's been out of town, and when I woke up this morning after the 7 hours I attempted to sleep, during which I was awakened FIVE times by 3 different children, I thought that this could be an interesting day.

And then when Miles pulled a pile of large serving bowls out of the cabinet and dropped them on the floor so that 3 of them broke, before I had even made breakfast, I thought, "Lord, I am pretty sure I am going to need YOUR strength today."

And, yes it was an interesting day, and yes, I did need the Lord's strength.

For example, I sent the kids out in the backyard this afternoon, and 20 minutes later I heard them all troop back in, and the first words out of Strider's mouth was, "We're all going up for showers, Mom." I didn't even want to look.... I knew my next hour had just been spoken for. And I was right!

Later in the afternoon I walked in to find this scene:

Hmmmm... I was trying to think about how I could make the most of this, but then of course before I could even turn around, here was how it looked:

One of the bright spots of the day, though, was a fun visit with Katie and Titus. Poor little Titus woke up when he arrived here and found all 4 kids, and me, staring at him... I love his little face in this picture!
And although I didn't get any alcoholic drinks to help me through the day, I did get a Mai-Tai... or should I say, a "MI-TI:"

(Miles on the left and Titus on the right!).

So all is good.

P.S. I was just telling Pete on the phone that Titus is getting so big -- even though he's 5 months younger than Miles, he seems like he's almost as tall. Pete's reply was, "No way -- Miles could kick his butt." Nice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Smiles of Miles

Miles has been a lot of fun lately -- and definitely full of smiles.

And he also has some fun little quirky things he does -- like crawling over to us and then sticking his butt up in the air as a "sign" that he wants to picked up. He also does a funny little hand-sign when he wants to eat - -purely instinctual, not learned. (It's interesting to me, though, because it's the same sign I've taught the other kids in previous years. It must be a universal instinct!)

And his latest little habit is wanting to engage people in conversation, unbothered by the fact that he only knows one word: "AAAA." That is what he's saying in these pictures:

He likes to have this conversation with anyone he can make eye contact with... needless to say, he was a little loud during church on Sunday.

His favorite "comfort" these days is sucking his thumb while holding onto my shirt (or occasionally, Pete's shirt). I love it, of course. I feel a little guilty, though, when I have to get something else done, like make lunch, and he's crying for me to pick him up. He'll eventually get to the point that he's satisfied with just holding my pant leg while sucking his thumb! Strider tried to get a picture of that this morning, but Miles got distracted by the camera. ..

Here's a little video showing both of these little mannerisms:


video


Sometimes he can be serious or pensive...



...but most of the time he is miles of smiles!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All-night "Open House"

I usually write about the events of our days, but in truth sometimes our nights are only slightly less eventful. So I thought I’d jot down a summary of our nights these days, for future reference. Years (or months) from now when I’m looking back and wondering “Why were Pete and I always walking around looking like brainless zombies?” this will help provide some explanation.

Miles has always been our good sleeper… until the past month or 2. Now he likes to wake up everyday between 5 and 6:30, and sometimes a few times during the night as well. Usually he just wants hugs, so it’s hard to get angry, and we usually end up bringing him into bed with us, which he greatly enjoys.

And often Colsen comes in at some point of the wee hours to announce he’s either a.) cold, b.) hungry, or c.) thirsty. We can usually just persuade him to lie back down – but usually he insists he must stay with us, too.

On the nights when Pete and I are both squished in with 2 children laying either on top of each of us, or between us, we start whispering about how it might be nice after all to have a king-sized bed. One morning recently I woke up to find that Pete was gone (having long since surrendered any hope of sleep), and Miles, Colsen and Rayna were all sleeping next to me.

Rayna spends many nights on our floor. Sometime after midnight she must trudge in with her pillow and blanket, or sometimes without them, and lies face-down on our floor just inside our door. We’ve had to be careful to not trip over her when we’re going to rescue a screaming Miles.

Strider, thankfully, does not awaken us during the night much anymore (although now that I just wrote that, I’m pretty sure he will tonight), but he does plague us with his hyper-ness until sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 every night. That boy does not need much sleep.

But I do. And somehow I keep acting like an idiot night after night. It is some sort of unhealthy feedback loop wherein I am so tired I do not think straight, so every evening I want to stay up late! I can rarely physically make myself lie down before 11 pm, and on weekends Pete will almost always hear me whine, “But you can’t go to sleep at 10:00! It’s the weekend for crying out loud!” -- as if my children actually slept in on the weekend.

So we are foolish, sleep-deprived managers of this household… But we should get positive points, at least, for having an “open door” policy, even at night. I distinctly remember hearing in my business classes that that was a good thing for managers to have. Of course those excellent managers probably were able to go home and shut the door for some sleep at night…. Unless they had kids, too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend

Today Strider's football team (the Packers) stunned everyone by advancing to the championship round of his league's playoffs! They had had a losing record this season, but during the single-elimination tournament today, they ended up winning 2 games in a row... and were so close to being the league's "Soar Bowl" champions. It was fun to watch these underdogs play so well. Strider scored as many points today as he has all season: 8 points as a running back today, and he also threw for a touchdown when he played quarterback. They lost the last game by just one touchdown -- it was very suspenseful!

Since his games went from 8:30 am until 2 pm, our day was pretty much sucked up by the tournament. So, my house continues to be uncleaned and my life continues to be unorganized.... but it was a relaxing day anyway. :) Dan, Amy, Kai and Addie came for part of the marathon tourney and the cousins got to play together for a bit.
Yesterday was nice as well. The whole family attended Classical Conversations since it was our turn to present during the opening assembly. Strider wrote an interesting story/skit about how a flower, a dragon, and a baby all learned that the King had created them all with special gifts and purposes -- with someone going to jail at one point, as must happen in all of his stories --and our family acted it out (costumes and everything!).
Then, we had an outing with some of the other CC families to a ceramics place where the kids got to paint some ornaments.
When we got home last evening, these were the scenes in our front and back yards...

What a beautiful weekend!! As Colsen says, "Thank you God for making these beautiful leaves for us!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Songs of the Lord

The name Rayna means "song of the Lord" and we're so happy that, 7 years after we were blessed with our special gift from God, He has sent a new Song to the wonderful Hines family: Rayna Faith!

We were thrilled to meet the new precious little one yesterday-- she is soooo beautiful and sweet. True to my constant absent-minded state, I completely forgot to bring my camera, but Melissa captured the meeting of the Rayna's with her's.... Her post is here.

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing." - Zeph 3:17

We pray that both little girls will be blessed by the Lord's delight and love, and we are so thankful that God is singing through their lives!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun Fall Project

I read about making waxed leaves on a web site last week, and we decided to give it a try! Turns out dipping stuff in wax is fun for everyone -- even me.

The process:


And the results:



We even went back outside and got some more items... flowers, herbs, broken sticks, rocks... anything we could dip!

And here was my favorite thing -- now preserved forever in wax.



We ended up making some fall decorations out of the leaves...


So it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.... although trying to scrape all the dried wax droplets off the stovetop the next afternoon was not as much of a fun time. Live and learn I guess!