Friday, December 28, 2007

Hospitality 101

I know this is a little late in posting, but my laptop has gone kaPUT and it doesn't look like it'll be back online any time soon. So I've converted to using Jon's laptop and Jon's camera. So here it is, passed New Year's but I'm posting about some pre-Christmas what-nots. Here goes!

In early December, my friend Zandrah had a cookie exchange at her house and invited many friends from church.The night was so warm and cozy! Zandrah did so much to make the night special - I was so impressed by her hospitality. Ethan and dad were there to hang up coats, the cookies were so festively arranged, and we gabbed and gabbed for hours while listening to Christmas music. She had even arranged cute little bags to take the cookies home in including a burned CD of the music we had been enjoying. She thought of everything! (Here's a picture of a few of Abi's beaus from church playing in the living room while the moms ate!!)

It made me think of something we'd been talking about in MOPS. Hospitality can be such a gift we can give. Almost everyone has a home, and sharing it with others can bless in ways that we wouldn't expect. It does take energy to clean the house and think of meals and get the kids to be on their best behavior, but it's probably one of the easiest ways to bless others without really leaving our homes. And no home is too small, too cluttered, or too out-of-the-way. That's been my excuse for the past few years; our little apartment can't hold a lot of people, and I've let that hold me back. There's still boxes in the corner because there's no room to unpack them. But if I'm not using the space I'm given for the glory of God, why would he bless me with more? Zandrah obviously put a lot of thought into making her guests feel welcome. And I'm sure it took a lot of work to get everything cleaned, the food cooked, and the boys ready for company. But I know God will bless her for it, and God will bless her home for ministering her gift of hospitality to others. Thank you Zandrah, for being an example of hospitality to me and bringing some joy and relaxation into a hectic schedule!

Abigail's First Snow

So just after Thanksgiving there was a big snowstorm around here. While those inches were piling up, we were inside watching the big, fluffy flakes fall from our big bay window. Jon and I were both thinking the same thing: this was Abi's first snow!! And what do Minnesotans do in the snow? We romp! We play! And we subject our children to freezing temperatures at a frighteningly young age so they may love romping and playing as well! So we bundled her in the little snowsuit we got from the neighbors (yes, little girls may wear blue!) and spent a few minutes in the snow!!Here's Abigail just outside of our apartment building taking in the new scenery...
This is Abigail's CUTE butt-print in the snow :-)
Abi with a little snow on her nose! She's trying to look at it and perhaps lick it.
This is a baby snow angel. Her first!
A family snow picture!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Four Months and Going Strong!

Abigail is 4 months old today! (December 11) We're celebrating by throwing up a handful of snow and yelling "whoopee!" as it rains down on our heads. There will be a more substantial celebration when she reaches 12 months. You can see what Abigail thought of our celebration idea on the photo on the left. Among many things, she inherited my crazy long tongue. Scary.

We took her to the pediatrician for her 4-month check-up (aka SHOTS). The timing was perfect because I was on the verge of bringing her in. Abi has a bad case of eczema on her face, especially her forehead and left cheek by the ear. I try to keep her fingernails clipped regularly but she still manages to scratch into the little red rashy patches. Poor girl! Eczema runs in my family, in fact my sister (who had it pretty bad as a child) still has it as a young adult. So we prayed for her as we took her in for her check up. As it turns out (by MERE coincidence, I'm sure...thanks God!) our pediatrician is an "expert" on treating eczema since both of her children have it pretty bad. So she's given us some creams and salves to put on it and we'll see if it works. We are praying that it doesn't travel to other parts of the body and that it would clear up if not soon, then in her preschool years.

They were very impressed with her sweet demeanor and strong upper body (she can hold her head up so well as you can see!) They mentioned that we can start solid foods whenever we feel she's ready...I don't think she's ready yet. Can it be that she's already so big? I think I'll wait a month or two!! Right now I'm content knowing that I get to hold her all snuggly 7 times a day!

Now for the stats: Abigail weighed in at 14 lbs and 7 oz, putting her in the 71% for weight. She's 24 1/2 inches long, which puts her in the 63% for length. She's still following her "curve" in her growth chart well, so we're pretty happy for such a joyful, healthy baby!

Go Abi!!

(by the way, our friend Marie McKowen took Abi's "3-month" photos last week. We have some great ones! Just look at this little sweetheart!)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Brian, The Star-Bellied Sneech

Here's a YouTube video of Brian in the Macy's Great American Band in case you missed it! He came back with great stories and friends from all over the country. I'm so glad he had this opportunity. Way to go the shmoe!

Monday, November 19, 2007


I just heard from my Mom that the Macy's parade will be shown at 9am nationwide on NBC. Apparently they are going to tape it and start it at 9 everywhere. Just to be safe, I'm going to check at 8 since I'll be up anyway. But go ahead and sleep in an extra hour ;)

Brian and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade!

This past fall has been a remarkable one for my brother Brian. He just turned 18 on November 16th and has been filling out college applications like mad! But the biggest reason I'm writing this blog is to urge everyone to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday! Now if you're like me, you usually end up turning it on when you wake up around 10, not really caring that you missed half the parade. Well this year there is cause to set your alarms and wake up early, cuz at 8am Central Time Brian will be marching in the Macy's Great American Marching Band as one of the representatives from Minnesota. There are reps from all 50 states and the District of Columbia marching in this band and they'll be kicking off the parade! You probably won't be able to recognize him because he'll be in the Macy's uniform and not his own. But if you are clever and use your wits you just might be able to spot him! He'll be playing baritone (a marching baritone, so it looks like a cross between a mini-tuba and a trumpet) and he'll be lean. You can also watch for his chin, which juts out just a tad :)

I've also included some pics of Brian's accomplishments so far this fall. This first one is of him as drum major of the Pipestone Area Marching Band. He conducted the 90-member band through 7 or 8 competitions where they were almost always a shoo-in to win their class, countless football games and many parades. Brian would like to double major in Music and Anthropology.
Here's a picture of Brian and his family at his Eagle Scout induction ceremony. Yup, he's an eagle scout, too. He's just a stud-and-a-half, I tell ya!
Here's Brian and Mom and Dad when Brian was part of the Homecoming court. Apparently being in band and Boy Scouts does not make you as geeky as one would think...
Brian has exhibited amazing leadership qualities at such an early age. I'm so proud of him! I can't believe that my little brother grew to be someone so talented and mature!

Friday, October 26, 2007

NEW Adventures in the Life of Brenda #7: I Won Second Prize in a Contest!

WOW! Ok so this NEVER happens to me! Most of you don't know it, but I entered a contest shortly after Abigail was born. I was on the Explore Minnesota webpage and saw they were letting people post lists of their favorite things to do in Minnesota. You could list your favorite fishing spots, your favorite places to shop, your favorite local festivals, etc. Well, I thought it was such a great idea! I mean how cool to get a Minnesotan's opinion and inside scoop on the best of the best of our state! Since I LOVE our state and everything it has to offer and I love making lists, I thought it would be fun to enter a list of my own!

I had to figure out what I would make a list about. I decided on the topic I know best: inexpensive dates! So I started writing down all the places Jon and I love to go that is either super cheap or free! You can see my list at Click on "Romantic Getaways" and pick my list (Brenda's 10 Favorite Twin Cities Dates on a Shoestring).

After I was finished making my list I noticed there was a contest going on for the best list! I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said, "Meh." I mean who wins those things anyway? There were already like a hundred lists up by the time I put mine up and thus I forgot all about it.

Well out of the blue last week I got an email from Explore Minnesota congradulating me for winning Second Prize in the Create-a-List contest! Here's the irony: I wrote a list for cheap dates and the prize was a whole bunch of coupons, gift cards, and free passes to see stuff in the city!!! Let me write down all the neat places Jon and I will get to see/stay at/eat!!!

* 2 FREE admissions to the Mill City Museum (the COOLEST museum in the TC!! Definitely a place to take your kids!)
* $100 certificate for Chambers Hotel or Chambers Kitchen Restaurant (luxury hotel in downtown!)
* $100 certificate for Palomino or Kincaid's Restaurant (SUPER upscale!)
* 2 FREE gallery admissions at teh Walker Art Center & Guide Book
* Graves 601 Hotel Gift Card for a 2-Night stay (another luxury hotel in downtown!)
* $100 Macy's Gift Card
* $125 Gift Certificate for Premier Salon's at Macy's!!!!!!
* Certificate for a backstage tour of the new Guthrie Theater and 2 performance tickets to the performance of our choice!!!
* 2 Mall of America Coupons Books

LOOK AT ALL THE FREE DATES JON AND I GET TO ENJOY AT SUPER UPSCALE EXPENSIVE PLACES IN THE CITY!!!!! I can't believe it!! We love going out, and before Abi was born we went on a date as often as we could! When I worked at Our Lady of Grace, God blessed me with a lot of favor from the parents of the kids I taught and I got lots of gifts in the form of gift cards that enabled us to try new restaurants and go out together for free or for cheap! Well, I don't work there anymore, and so I thought we'd be on our own to create inexpensive dates. Here's the best present from God! This will allow us maybe a year's worth of super hot dates! (2 nights in a luxury hotel?! BRING IT ON! Who wants to babysit?!)

I went online to check out what the Grand Prize and 1st Place winners received and they were packaged deals, like a weekend stay at a resort. You know what? I'm so glad we got 2nd place! That would only be one super date! This way we get to enjoy a ton of dates - I'm so excited I just can't hide it! I'm about to lose control and I think I like it! (ok sorry for that lapse into the 90s. I really didn't mean to!) So look up my place in Minnesota tourism history :-)

OH! I almost forgot! These MOA coupon books are WAY more than we could ever afford to spend. The Christmas season is coming up! Does anyone need some coupons to their favorite MOA store??? Let me know! I can hook you up ;-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The World According to Americans

This is so funny it's sad (or so sad it's funny...whichever). Hey, where'd Africa go?!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NEW Adventures in the Life of Brenda #6: An Impounding Headache

I've managed to live in the City parking on the street a year and a half and avoided getting my car towed. I've survived every snow emergency and every stinking leaf removal. But every streak needs to be squashed by a big tow truck.

I was running down the stairs with Abi, the diaper bag, my teaching supplies, and a cassarole dish full of BBQ meatballs bearly on time for my tutoring lesson. ONLY TO FIND...nothing. No car. No happy little Dynasaur waiting for me vroom-vrooming. Then, like in the movies, scenes flashed before my eyes of a sign I'd seen posted the day before: "Remove vehicles from street Tuesday, October 23, 7am - 10pm for leaf removal. HELP KEEP OUR LAKES AND RIVERS CLEAN!" Unfortunately for the lakes and rivers, I opted to forget about the sign and leave my poor Dynasaur on the street for the big street sweeper to gulp up. So instead of spending an extra hour of his "I skipped my classes so I could do my Mid-term projects day" actually working on his Mid-term projects, my husband had to drive me to the impound lot. This meant I had to cancel my tutoring lesson and Jon had to be late for work. Of course I was crying and ashamed. I was feeling totally irresponsible and angry at myself. We were going to have to pay for the towing and the ticket when our budget was already tight. If the roles had been reversed, I would have been furious with Jon, I know I would have. But his reaction was completely full of faith. He told me that it had happened to him a couple times before and that it was an honest mistake. He prayed for God to help us and even cracked a joke about our leaf-removal towing tickets were the city's way of paying for leaf-removal. He didn't even complain about the traffic. I was completely blown away by how he took this in stride and blessed me with his favor. I'm so honored that I'm married to such a man!!

The impound lot is definitely a place I wouldn't want to visit after dark or by myself. There was even a newspaper blowing down a darkened alley with a cat screeching in the shadows (no joke, kinda). We were in good company, however. It seems the leaf-removal caught many a city-dweller offguard including Jon's old Gunny. They do not let babies into the lot, however. Maybe they are afraid of the babies sneaking in a crowbar and peeling out with a stolen car. I guess I could see that. Abi did have a sneaky gleam in her eye. Oh that same sneaky gleam she gave me before she blew out her Sunday dress in the middle of communion. The same sneaky gleam she gave before she raked all our leaves into the street, snubbing her nose to the LAKES AND RIVERS.

Well, I suppose my already tarnished record couldn't stay semi-blemished for long. I always knew I couldn't be an above-average leadfoot. Not with the way I drive. I guess the impound lot taught me to get my head out of the clouds and realize that I am one of the millions in this country that define the term "average motorist."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Two Months of Abigail: The Illustrated Version

Here's some recent shots of Abigail. I know I haven't been good about getting pictures of her up on the blog. I'll try to do better!!

Here's that sweet little face!

Look how long I am Momma! I'm in the 91st percentile!!

Abi is trying REALLY hard to make her hand hit that blue moon!! She concentrated all morning and finally hit him once on purpose!

Gee, Mom. I think I need more toys.

Now she's smilin'!!!

Scary is right!!!

I love my Abi-kins!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NEW Adventures in the Life of Brenda #5: Autumn has Arrived

Fall is my favorite time of year. There are many reasons why I like fall above all other seasons. This morning was one of those reasons. It was the type of crisp morning where one fires up a hot pot of coffee, warms up some oatmeal, and slips into some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Abi had just gone down for her morning nap and Jon had just finished his homework for later that day. He and I snuggled on the couch with our warm beverages and before you knew it we were giggling and guffawing at nothing in particular. It was just a fine fall morning and we had each other to laugh with. Jon ended up missing the bus this morning and he had to take the car to the University and pay $12 for parking. But it's been a long time since we just relaxed and enjoyed each other. As I kissed him good-bye, I felt confident that I had just spent $12 the best way I knew how :)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Two Months of Abigail

After 8 blissful weeks (2 months) of Abigail, I have to say I am completely addicted to being a mommy! Abigail makes being a mom very easy. She now takes her last feeding at 10pm and will wake between 4:30 and 5:30 am (6-7 hours of sleep!). That time will slowly (as the weeks progress and her tummy gets bigger) stretch to 7am. Hooray! She's on a nice flexible 3 hour schedule which makes planning the day easy and hassle-free (for the most part). She has also learned how to will her hand to her mouth (as the picture dictates!) so she can suck her thumb and soothe herself back to sleep when the firetrucks leave the station nextdoor :)

Abigail is right-handed as you can see! Jon tried to get her to suck on her left fist and she did for a moment. Then, sneakily, oh so sneakily, her right fist made its move toward her mouth. Then, with both fists side by side, Abi made the switch and dropped the left fist. HA! I laughed so hard. She has also made friends with her stuffed Tigger and her musical octapus (both of which have faces). She loves to smile at them and wave at them. Knocking Tigger over gives her an extra special thrill ;)

She will also lie on her back and take unaimed and uncoordinated swings at hanging toys. She gets so excited she makes noises, which also amuses her. What was that I just did? she wonders. Did I just coo? Whatever I did, it made all the big people laugh and clap! She's on her way to a down-right giggle!

Her two-month check-up was today, which means Abi received her first set of shots. I had to pray for strength and courage for Abi, but really I was saying, "God, give ME strength to hold my daughter as she gets pricked with 3 big needles!!!" And I did cry silently as I sang Jesus Loves Me to her. She gave 5 big, red-faced wails and then went to sleep. Oh that sweet little Abigail!

Now for the interesting stuff! She weighed in at 12 lbs 5 oz (89 percentile) and was 23 1/2 inches long (91 percentile). My baby is BIG! Her baby acne is clearing up but her cradle cap (baby dandruff) has just begun. Yuck.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Unexpected Non-Visitor

A friend of mine has a quote on her Facebook profile that goes:

Trust in God, but tie your camel.

Last night, that quote bounced around in my head as I laid fearfully wide awake in bed. It was 3:30am and I was enjoying a nice dream about a mean cheerleader who was knocking over my neatly stacked drinking glasses as I kicked her out of my party. Then I heard 3 loud buzzes. Wait! I knew those buzzes! Groggily I turned in bed and shook Jon. "Jon, wake up. Our buzzy thing is buzzing!" That was sleepy-talk for "Our buzzy thing is buzzing." (you know...the buzzy thing that tells you when someone is at the door and wants to be "buzzed" in!) Jon stumbled toward the door (anyone who has ever woken Jon from a sound sleep knows that he does not WALK he STUMBLES around) and spoke into the mic, "Hullo...?"
No answer. He stumbled back to bed.
"Probably just a homeless person or a drunk," he assumed.
"Is the door locked?" I asked.
Jon got back up and stumbled toward the door again, this time staring long and hard at the unlocked door before sliding the dead-bolt in place. "Why is the door unlocked?" he called into the bedroom.
"Because every time we come home we're carrying 17 million things with Abi." I replied.
"Maybe someone was going around checking the doors and found ours was unlocked and so they buzzed us to wake us up."
He came back to bed and we both laid there for a good 10 minutes. I could tell he wasn't sleeping because I couldn't hear him quasi-snoring. I knew his mind was racing just as fast as mine was. Who would buzz our door at 3:30 in the morning? Was someone really checking our door? And if so, how creepy is that?! How are we to know if they didn't actually come into our apartment?? I had heard of people whose houses were robbed say that it was an eerie feeling knowing that someone had been in their home. I suddenly knew how they felt, only 10x worse. What if someone had been in my home WHILE I WAS IN IT SLEEPING? Suddenly our charming little neighborhood was a sinister extension of the inner city and our building full of little old ladies was full of crazy ex-cons. I got up from bed and peeked into Abi's crib. She was sleeping soundly. I crawled back to bed and Jon whispered he had been thinking the same thing.
"Would you feel better if you checked out the apartment?" I asked.
"Then go do it."
Jon got up and stealthily maneuvered around the apartment. (Notice, he was no longer STUMBLING.) A series of lights went on and off, and he returned without a robber in a neckhold. Now we knew there was nothing to fear. No one was in the apartment, nothing had been taken, we were safe. But there was still this creepy crawly feeling hanging over us, and we knew what we needed to do. We prayed and thanked God for His protection and asked for His peace. We prayed against any spirits of fear or violence that were in our room, and we prayed that they would not torment Abi's dreams. We know that God does not want us to live in fear, but to live with a sound mind.

Were we being paranoid? Shouldn't we be trusting God to protect us? Do I believe God can protect us? Absolutely! But why tempt disaster? As I previously stated, "Trust in God, but tie your camel." Or maybe I should say, "Trust in God, but lock your doors."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wook at dat Wittle Face!!!

I just thought everyone needed the opportunity to fall in love with this face. Look at this picture and tell me you are not overcome with a desire to kiss that face a hundred times!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Ode to the Apostrophes Abuse

Im saddened when people use the wrong punctuation mark's in their sentences'. I have seen an alarming amount of apostrophe's being used in the wrong place's. Likewise, some people forget to use the apostrophe altogether and put a nothing in the apostrophes place. The apostrophe has' several purpose's and plurazing a noun is not one of them. Thats the truth! It seem's too many high school's are forgetting how to teach grammar properly. Its a horrible fact that a student who pass's high school English still can not master the many beautiful function's of the apostrophes repitoire. Conjunctions', the deletion of letters, and possession are the grand use's for the apostrophe. If there is a question in your mind about whether or not to use an apostrophe, ask yourself these three question's, "Does something belong to the noun I just apostrophized?" "Is there suppos'ed to be a letter where the apostrophe lie's?" "Does the word I apostrophized contain two words' that still make sense in the sentence if I separate them?" If the answer is "no" to all these questions' then remove the apostrophe or apos'trophe's. If you have a plural noun that pos'sess's something, then add an apostrophe to the end of the word. Good punctuation bless's reader's many times' over. Too many apos'trophe's confu'ses' the readers minds'. Its a shame that peoples writing misu'se's one little mark so badly. Bles'sing's to the soul's who's pen master's it's master.

Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone??

Billboards like this have been popping up all over the U.S. put up by the United States Army. Their purpose is to recruit Arabic-speaking Americans to be translators in the Arab world, specifically Iraq. I saw a story on this on the news last night. Since my husband is an ex-Marine, a linguistic major, and a student of Arabic, I found the topic intriguing! So I watched the story. They interviewed the average "Joe-on-the-street" about their reaction to these signs. Now, I admit I was taken by surprise a little by the army's in-your-face tactics for this recruiting, since most Americans think of the Arab/Army relationship negatively. I expected these interviews to either reveal a populus of Arab-phobes or vice-versa people preaching tolerance and not really tackling the topic accurately. What resulted was a surprise to me! What resulted was absoulte IGNORANCE! One lady said, "I can't even read that! Who are they trying to reach?" That roused a chuckle out of me. Oh you simpleton. Go on to the next interviewee... Little did I know the next guy was going to be even worse! "What is that up there?" He says. "Is that Hebrew? Latin? I can't read it."

Latin? LATIN?!?!
Does that man even KNOW where his English alphabet even COMES FROM??? I was incredulous.

Please, someone tell me that there are intelligent people in America and that intelligent conversations still exist. I don't care if the billboard bothers you, just tell me that you recognized the language!!! In a country that's absorbed with a war in the Middle East and images from Iraq are plastered everywhere, how could one NOT recognize this language? Maybe I'm too quick to judge, but with the whole "Miss South Carolina" thing so fresh in my memory, I am quickly losing faith in the intelligence of our nation!

For the scoop on the Miss South Carolina thing...gah.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A very purple autumn

I am DEFINITELY ready to move out of summer. I'm sure it wasn't nearly as miserable as I remember, but I was pregnant and VERY pregnant through the hottest parts. Yes, there is a difference between pregnant and VERY pregnant! It happens sometime after stretch marks and before swollen ankles. I'm not a big fan of summer anyway. It's my 3rd favorite season after autumn and winter (Minnesota springs don't even place. There are only 3 Minnesota seasons worth mentioning.) So now, with much pomp and circumstance, DUH-DUH-DUH!!! Fall has arrived! And what helps welcome in the autumn more than the football season opener?! Oh bliss - potato chips, taco dip, and pizza rolls! Oh joy - bobbled punt returns, game-winning field goals, and 60-yard touchdown passes! So of course, Jon, Abigail, and I dressed in our family uniforms and high-tailed it out of church to attempt to make the Viking kick-off against the Michael Vick tarnished Falcons.

We watched the game with our dear friends the Charlebois' on HDTV. Abigail went on her first social outing, visiting her little friend Israel. We got some really cute pictures of the two of them in their Viking gear being little fans! Abi definitely "cheered" her lungs out throughout the course of the afternoon ;) We look forward to a great season and as always, we hold out crazy hope for the playoffs!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Tribute to My Love

I was going through some of my old blog postings from Xanga and I came across this post about Jon while he was in Iraq. I've decided to repost it in honor of him being a wondeful father, an amazing husband, and the manliest man I know :) Here's to MY HERO, the love of my life!! You're my best friend and I will always, always believe in you!!

November 6, 2005

Song stuck in my head…Holding out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler. Most people probably remember this song from the memorable, heart-racing, action-packed “Storming the Castle” scene from Shrek 2. Others recall the 80s pop sensation Bonnie Tyler. Me, I think of a Stetson’s cologne commercial back when I was 8 or 10. I remember hearing this song and having this image burned into my heart of what a real man looks like. It was more than just the open shirt with the broad chest and blazing eyes and the sexy five-o’clock shadow peppering a chiseled jawline (although…oh la la). It was the actions of these men. The cowboy (probably wearing a Stetson cowboy hat) heaving bails of hay off a trailer under the unrelenting sun, the lawyer with gleaming eyes attacking the courtroom, a man in tattered denim (it was the early 90s remember) standing by a motorcycle with the woman wrapped in his arms, and might I add a man in uniform standing in honor and unflinching duty, clutching his rifle. They’re living with PASSION! A man WORKS, he PROVIDES, he PROTECTS, and he’s supposed to be DANGEROUS!
The song starts out with, “Where have all the good men gone?” Where indeed are all the real men? Yet, as I search, I’m finding more and more rising out of the ashes like a phoenix, eyes flashing and ready for a fight. I’m finding more men of faith who are busting out of their grandmother’s religion to find Truth at its source, to seek out Jesus the Christ with all of their hearts! These are men who will fight for the Kingdom of God; they’ll fight for the nations, for the tearing down of strongholds, for salvation among the lost, for the restoration of broken souls. And they will be VICTORIOUS! Women are hungry for these kind of men! We are hungry for men who mimic the attitude and the spirit of Jesus, our hero! Because we need a hero! And we’re willing to wait until the morning light! “He’s gotta be strong, he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight!!” This is a dedication to THOSE men, specifically to MY man, who is a phoenix and a warrior, he is a hero to this maiden.

Jon being promoted to Corporal

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Abi the Wonderful

I have decided I am going to be a spoiled mama with this little baby!!! God has given me a baby that doesn't cry...yet. Oh sure she cries when she takes a bath and she's all cold. And she cries when something is wrong: "I'm too hot!" "I'm too cold!" "I'm hungry!" "I'm wet!" "I have a poopy diaper!" "I have gas!" But as soon as you rectify the situation, she stops crying. Immediately. For example: We're in the basement organizing our storage locker and Abigail is in her car seat sleeping soundly with a blanket on her. Well, it was rather stuffy down there and about 30 minutes into our cleaning, she starts fussing and wailing. I look at her and she's red and just looks hot. So I took the blanket off her and she stopped wailing, mid-wail, and continued sleeping. And it's not really crying either! It's more like a loud fussing. Now this could all be due to the fact that she's only a week old and hasn't truly found her lung power yet. Or it could be that God has given us the best baby to learn how to be parents!!

More about Abi!! She was born with lots of hair, not as much as mommy when she was born, but a fair amount! She also has mom's "chipmunk cheeks" which are these little fat pouches up by her eyes, in addition to her big fat cheeks! Other traits in common with me are her hairline that touches her eyebrows, her forehead, her long fingers, her monkey toes, her complexion, and her pug nose :) Traits she gets from dad are her little ears and perhaps her mouth. We are still hoping she has Jon's eyes. It's kind of hard to tell at this point - they're always closed! She definitely has Jon's expressions! It's cute to watch her make the same faces he does when he stretches in the morning :) And they're both just as difficult to wake from a sound sleep.

Would you like to hear a funny story?
Jon (to Abigail): "Are you daddy's little girl?"
Abigail: **toot**
Jon: "Yes you are!!!"

And as dreamy as Abi is, she has "baptized" the dresser at the end of the changing table with carefully aimed projectile poo. I couldn't stop laughing!!! She is just the delight of our hearts!!! Life will never be the same, but I don't think we would want it to be.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Abigail Carin Gill!!!

Just a quick note about our little daughter Abigail!!!

She was born at 7:26pm on August 11th after 32 hours of continuous labor and 41 hours of labor altogether...with no meds except some morphine after about 25 hours just so I could get some sleep!!

Little girl was 8 lbs 11 oz, and 21 1/2 inches long :) She has beautiful dark hair like momma and long beautiful fingers and toes!!!

Her name Abigail means "My father's joy" and her middle name Carin is Greek for "favored and given grace."

Well, I am pooped. I'll be writing more later when I'm not writing from the hospital.

Friday, August 10, 2007 I in labor or what?!

39 weeks and 2 days...5 days until "D-Day"

Last night I went to sleep like most people do at the end of the day when the sun goes down and they're tired. And I slept like most people do when they sleep...with my eyes shut, breathing in and out, dreaming about living on a farm as a fox, surrounded in a sea of pillows. At 2:47 am I woke up feeling REALLY uncomfortable. I couldn't even get up to go to the bathroom. So I laid there as this discomfort coursed through my abdomen. Then it occurred to me...IS THIS A CONTRACTION?! OH MY GOSHNESS!!!! After it passed I shifted around and noticed my back was aching a lot more than usual. OOO! I thought to myself. I remember reading about back pain as a sign of the early phase of labor!! So of course I started to get all giddy and I reached inside the bedstand to get out a notepad and pen and I nerdily, geekily, dorkily, excitedly started recording when the contractions started happening and counting how long they endured. I say nerdily, geekily, dorkily because all reason told me to try to go back to sleep because if this WAS labor, I was going to need all the sleep I could get! But no way! I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! The baby was moving so much between contractions I thought it was practicing the disco in there. In reality, baby was dropping lower and lower and stretching himself out longer in my abdomen.

After a while of thrashing around in the bed, I decided to get up and eat an english muffin. I was hungry and I didn't want to wake Jon up from all my movement. It was almost 4:00 am at this point. I ate my delicious muffin and reread the chapter on labor and delivery in What to Expect when You're Expecting. Then I resolved myself to try to get some more sleep. The contractions were getting more regular now! Maybe 10 minutes apart and lasting for 30 seconds! I held off on waking Jon until a more godly hour, hoping that at least HE could get some sleep. So around 5:00 am I went back to bed and continued to take notice of my contractions. But then I noticed it would be maybe 15 and even 20 minutes between contractions and they were losing intensity and only lasting 15 seconds or so. I got really disappointed and almost started to cry. Was this all a false alarm? Was I going to be able to meet my baby today or would it still be weeks away??? Come back contractions!! I silently prayed. I'm sorry if you didn't like the english muffin, I was just hungry!! But my pleas were to no avail. It was 6:00 am. I couldn't stand laying there anymore because I wasn't tired. So I got up and took a shower. Then I thought to myself If baby DOES come today, I'll at least have the dishes done. So I tackled our mountain of dishes. 8:00 am. I laid back down and fell asleep until Jon finally woke me up around 10.


He noticed I had changed clothes, that I had laid down some towels on the bed (in case my water broke), and...

"I saw your notepad!!! Why didn't you wake me?!?!" He scolded.
"I wanted you to get some good sleep, and besides...they went away."
"I know, but you should have woken me up! I've been looking forward to this, too!"
After some back and forth, I finally promised that I wouldn't let him sleep through my contractions again, no matter how irregular they were. He shared in my grief that my contractions had slowed down or maybe even stopped altogether. After a call to the nurse-line at the hospital and some advice to "stay a little active, but don't go too far from home" I did what any lady who wanted to jumpstart her labor would do: I went to Ikea. Jon and I returned some shelves and bought a little office organizer on castors!! That's where we'll put our scotch tape and rubber bands and paper clips. I'm glad. While we were there I started getting those old familiar feelings and even enjoyed a contraction while Jon pushed me in the parking lot on the little rolly cart.

At 12:45pm Jon reluctantly left for work, but gave me strict instructions about when to call him, how to call him, etc. And now at 1:30, I am seeing the contractions coming back...10 - 20 minutes apart but lasting 30 - 40 seconds. So what I want to know is...AM I IN LABOR OR WHAT?!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Norbert" Update: The Beginning of The End

Well as of yesterday, July 18th, we are only 4 weeks away from meeting our baby! I met with our midwife yesterday and we talked about labor, delivery, and "drugs" (which Jon and I are going to try to avoid as much as possible, but we're leaving the door open!). Hehehe...I just read that last sentence, and yes, Jon is also going to try to avoid using any sort of drugs while I'm in labor...! TRY!

Baby's head is already facing down and is locked into my pelvic bone (which makes for uncomfortable movement of...anything). And I'm one cm dialated (which isn't much, but I'll take what I can get!) The midwife guess-timated that "Norbert" is a little small and is probably somewhere between 5 and 5 1/2 pounds at this point, putting "him" between 7 and 7 1/2 pounds at birth.

In the meantime we just finished our "birthing classes" and we learned a great deal! But ever since then, Jon has been watching me like a ticking time bomb. Which I am, I guess. Really, baby could come at any time!! We learned that very soon before the baby comes, mom goes through a "nesting" phase where she feels a large urge to clean and organize etc. Believe me, my "to do" list keeps getting longer! But what I didn't figure in was that Jon would go through a "nesting" phase, too! I came home from grocery shopping yesterday to find our bedroom all flipped around to accommodate a "nursery corner" where my art studio used to be! (bye bye art studio...see you again when we have more space!) He even set up one of my poseable art figures to look like it was carrying a baby :) HE EVEN VACUUMED! What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man!

Well, that's my update. I do have a prayer request if you wouldn't mind bowing your heads for a minute today. I left my job at the beginning of June and so my insurance provider will be changing. However, we are waiting for our application to go through, and as you can imagine, time is running short! Jon and I have done everything we can, and so we are waiting on the Lord. God is teaching me to "be still and know that He is God" or better yet "be still and LET HIM BE GOD." I have really let go of control in this situation because there is nothing I can do to speed up the process. Please just pray with us that the application goes through and that it does so in time for the delivery! We have faith that God will come through for us!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Adventures in the Life of Brenda #4: God Likes to be Asked

So today Jon and I started our "express birthing classes" at the hospital where we'll deliver. This means that last night I was tearing through the office looking for the workbook and paperwork that they sent us to bring to the class. Getting frustrated with myself for once again misplacing something of importance, I chastised myself and said to God, "You must just shake your head at me with a grin on your face, huh? Will she ever learn to put things away???" It occurred to me to pray that God would help me find the workbook, but I dismissed it saying to myself, "This is my problem, and I need to take the responsibility for it." After a few more minutes of fruitless searching, I bit my lip and stuffed my pride. "I don't suppose God, that you would help me find it." I picked up my calendar and placed it in the file where it belonged; then an item behind it caught my eye. I swear I had looked over that file a thousand times but I recognized that item only after uttering that prayer not even 5 seconds before hand. Of course it was the workbook. I might have been able to dismiss it as coincidence (as I am wont to do too often, I'm sorry to say) except that I was almost STILL SAYING THE PRAYER as I found it in that file. It was like God had interrupted me and handed me the workbook! I laughed outloud and probably laughed for a good minute! It was as if God was playing a joke on me, and I felt joy and complete companionship with God as opposed to being chastised or scolded for misplacing yet ANOTHER item. I could almost hear Him say to me, "I get a kick out of you Brenda!" Can you imagine God laughing with his eyes twinkling as a Father's eyes would twinkle with his daughter?

This reminded me of C. S. Lewis's book The Magician's Nephew. Near the end of the story Aslan the Lion tells Digory to find a magic tree. On his journey Digory and his companion Jill become very hungry and they have nothing for supper. Their faithful steed Fledge the talking horse hunkers down for some grass. This is their conversation:

Polly and Digory started at one another in dismay. "Well I DO think that someone might have arranged about our meals," said Digory. "I'm sure Alsan would have, if you'd asked him." said Fledge. "Wouldn't he know without being asked?" said Polly. "I've no doubt he would," said the horse (still with his mouth full). "But I've a sort of idea that he likes to be asked."

Of course God knows our needs before we ask them. But in asking for them, we are admitting that we can't get it on our own. We are admitting that we need him. And it's his absolute delight to meet our needs and prove himself as our provider, time and time again. He met me on a small scale with that workbook. I have faith He will meet me on larger issues looming ahead of me. It's his delight to do it. I am waiting for that "big fish" to come in, and when it does, I will be posting it. It's for His own glory that He answers prayer, and so it's for his glory that I share how He has heard my cry, no matter how small and insignificant!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

There and Back Again: A Belly's Tale

Also known as our vacation through the Great Lakes and to New York City

From June 12 through the 29th, Jon and I ventured across the upper quarter of the United States in search of all things interesting (I'll mention here that we drove through Ohio doing 80 and only stopped for potty breaks).

Our tour began in Duluth along Lake Superior where we did the usual "Duluth stuff" (watching the lift bridge lift all the way for an ore shipper was pretty cool, and visiting the Army Corps of Engineers Maritime Museum).

Then, following Superior's south shore, we camped on Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, taking the ferry to Madeline Island. I impressed with the stark difference of the North Shore with the South Shore. The south shore is much sandier (no cliffs) although the sand was red from the iron deposits. From there we cut through UP Michigan and camped on the Mackinac Straits where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Mackinac Island was a bustling town void of "horseless carriages" and full of 19th Century charm. If you were to paint a picture of what you thought a bed and breakfast in a Victorian mansion with 100-year-old lilac TREES in the front yard looked like, you'd be looking down the streets of Mackinac. And fudge shoppes galore (to the exquisite delight of this pregnant lady!)

I'll take this moment to mention that even though we camped for about half the trip, the baby and I did very well! I was surprised how comfortable the air mattress was. For all you camping buffs out there, yes, we DID bring an air mattress and inflated it in our tent. But I don't want to hear any guff from you. Let's see how well YOU do sleeping on the ground with a 5 lb baby swimming inside of your belly! And a special "Thank You" to our friends the Charlebois-es who lent us those very camping chairs you see in the picture! Without them, I would have had a butt full of sand.

From Mackinac we followed the south shore of Huron and camped another night at Bay City, MI. We had interesting (and very talkative) neighbors at this site. I hope we were able to leave them with the hope and love of Jesus! Then we crossed over into Canada (where I was brutally attacked by a kamikaze butterfly who dive-bombed in through my open car window). We hid the apples and oranges under the trail mix and Tostidos and off we drove to Toronto where Jon received a wonderful first father's day present from God!! Upon arriving at our hotel, we noticed that our hotel was not next to, but ATTACHED and A PART OF the Skydome, excuse me, Roger's Stadium. The front desk lady asked if we had tickets for the Blue Jays game that evening. "No," we replied. "Well, I'll just upgrade your room so you can see the game, no extra charge!" Wait a minute...see the game? What was she talking about? Well, if you know your baseball stadiums, you would know that the Skydome has hotel rooms that look out over Center Field!! AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAD! A room that looked over Center Field! So we watched the Blue Jays play that night for free! (who cares if they played the boring Nationals...!) Here's Jon enjoying the game from our field-view balcony!!

We could see most of Ontario (and almost to Niagara Falls) from the top of the CN Tower, and we also visited China Town in Toronto. After only one day in Canada we left for Niagara Falls! This is probably one of my favorite sights of the trip! Sure, when you think of Niagara Falls you think of a beautiful waterfall where everyone gets married or takes their honeymoon. Well, there's a reason for that! Seeing and FEELING Niagara Falls was amazingly powerful and you can't help but be in awe of our great God for such a creation!! We walked over into Canada and ate lunch at a revolving restaurant which towered over both American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. We definitely splurged on that meal!!! And those silly Canadians made us pay 50 cents each to get through the turnstile to leave Canada. Good thing we didn't blow ALL of our Canadian money on that $4 icecream bar...

Then we plunged down into upstate New York where we camped 2 nights near Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame! We spent the better part of a day slowly meandering our way through the hall, but only after we had fulfilled my intense craving for donuts. Mmm...donuts...

From there we drove into the City of New York. We went over the directions about a hundred times and although Jon looked and acted comletely calm as he drove through Manhatten, Queens, and finally Brooklyn (where our friends live) he confessed later that he felt white-knuckled and pushed around...not unlike what he felt as he crossed into Iraq. Ah, I'm glad NYC could bring Jon back to his fond memories of Iraq. We stayed with long-time friends Barbara and Chad Lawson in Brooklyn and met their rambunctious doggie Charlie. That first day in the city was Jon's birthday. After Barbi cooked us delicious ribs and corn bread with chocolate/caramel cake for his birthday dinner, we took them out to a Mets game. And WHO were the Mets playing on Jon's birthday you ask???? THE MINNESOTA TWINS!!!! We got all dressed up in our Twins garb and took the metro to Shea Stadium. And as a birthday present, Santana pitched a shutout and the Twins won 9-0!! We were stoked! New York was a blur of amazing sights, like the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met), and very, very swollen feet :) We even got to spend an evening with our good friend Mike Kurland who is going to school in New Jersey. To cap off the City, Barbi and Chad took us out to an Italian place that only the locals know (so it was affordable!) where we enjoyed a delightful, relaxing candle-lit meal! We were very impressed with New York and especially with New Yorkers! The Mets fans were gracious, transit-riders ALWAYS gave up their seat for my belly, and everyone was willing to help you if you had a question! People even asked if they could take a picture for us and didn't steal our camera! We were quite blessed :)
After New York brought a guy peeing on the New Jersey turnpike...that's all we had hoped for from New Jersey anyway. We saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (a beautiful city) and ate Philli Cheesesteaks for lunch. We didn't get to see the inside of Independance Hall, but we are already planning a trip back to Phili with our kids when we see Washington DC. Pennsylvania brought us to Gettysburg (where we camped again) and the next day we camped on the very edge of the border at Raccoon Creek State Park...known for its raccoons aparently. We didn't know, although the name should have given it away. It was there that our garbage bag was stolen and the bandit that thiefed it made off into the woods, only to be heard fighting with other furry friends over its contents. Too funny :)

On the return trip we stayed with my half-brother and his family in Indianapolis. It was great seeing their boys, especially since I hadn't met their youngest. We loved spending the day with them, seeing Connor Prairie (a working prairie town where Jenny works part-time) and playing with the boys. We both feel a little more ready for kids after spending a few days with them!

We saw my dearest friend Emily Lloyd up in northern Indiana (Amish country, donchaknow) before driving onto Chicago. We saw Chicago in one about exhausting!!! We went up in the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier, Norbert beat Jon and I at Mini Golf, then we walked through Grant's Park on our way to the Field's Museum (where we spent almost the entire time in the ancient americas FASCINATING!) and the Aquarium (where we swooned over the Balugas! Baby Baluga in the deep blue sea...swims so wild and he swims so free!) From there we sought out some Chicago-style pizza. We just happened to stumble on the best pizza in the City, Giorgiano's just down the street from the Sears Tower. We ate until cheese dripped down our chins!!! Then we topped off the evening with a view of the night-time skyline from the Sears Tower. It was definitely a packed day!

We drove through Wisconsin and cheered when we reached the Minnesota border! We took 61 up through Redwing where we stopped for lunch and the waitress asked us if we wanted any "tooooooooooooooast" with our "dinner." YES! It feels so good to be home :)