December 28, 2008

Cookie time

One thing I remember from my childhood is that Christmas means cookies--at least seven or eight different kinds. Sometimes we gave a bunch away, sometimes we had cookies until Valentine's Day. Regardless of how many or how few cookies were made, invariably, two weeks or so before Christmas, my mom started making cookies and didn't stop until Christmas. I also try to make a lot of cookies with the purpose of giving most of them away as gifts so that we only have a week's worth left over at Christmas time. This year, I asked my dh and kids what cookies they wanted for Christmas. Our list this year was star spritz, Christmas tree spritz, toffee bars, gingerbread cutout cookies, sugar cookies and homemade caramels. Yesterday, thanks to a friend and her daughters, we finished decorating all the cutout cookies. I have been sampling them and I realize that I much prefer the spicy goodness of gingerbread over the bland sweetness of sugar cookies. In my effort to become more blog-proficient, I decided to try to post a poll to see what cookie everyone else prefers. The poll closes January 4th.

December 27, 2008

Tribute to my mom

Today, I was involved in praying for a woman who had just lost her mom rather unexpectedly, even though her mom was at an advanced age. While we were praying, she confessed that she had always looked down on her mother because her mother hadn't seemed to accomplish anything "important" in her life. However, at the funeral, based on all the compliments people gave her about how her mom had helped them, she realized that her mother had chosen "the most excellent way" and that she had a quietly helped people without trying to get the glory for helping them. I echoed her confession and realized that, for too long, I have also not given my mom the praise that is due her.

My mom has demonstrated that even though hugs can't solve the problem, they make you feel good enough to face the problem. At one place where she worked, she was known as "the hug lady" and it was meant as a compliment. She may not be able to solve word problems, but she has an intuitive or maybe an emotional intelligence that allows her to solve life problems. She has a sunny smile and is quick to laugh and quick to cry. I always knew where I stood with her because she either is unable to hide her feelings or unwilling.

Above all, my mom has a servant's heart. Now that might not sound glamorous or glorious, but I know that in Jesus' eyes, the One who came down 2000+ years ago to serve mankind, that is high praise indeed. Being a servant is much more than just putting others needs above your own. It sometimes means shutting your mouth when you want to defend yourself. It means letting others take the spotlight when you have done the work. In her case, it also means picking a husband on the basis of how good a father he will be to her daughter as well as how he treats her. She isn't necessarily the perfect servant, but she is perfectly wonderful.

Proverbs 31: 25-29 describes her well:
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

Thanks to my blessed mom! I love you.

December 26, 2008

Christmas pictures

Because our extended families live so far away, I thought I would post pictures of our Christmas. Our Christmas tradition involves everyone getting dressed before coming downstairs to see what Santa delivered in their stocking. The story goes that when Elizabeth was born, Santa asked us what type of presents we wanted him to give to the kids. We told him that filling the stockings was enough. We wanted to be the ones to give the really cool gifts. Then we made sure the kids got big enough stockings. Thanks Nana Lambert and Grandma Sue for providing stockings that only Paul Bunyan would be able to wear. At this point, bread for sticky buns in in the process of rising. The kids aren't hungry anyway. They are too preoccupied with figuring out what Santa gave them.

This year, we took turns opening presents for six rounds, letting a different person go first each time. All the kids took turns passing out presents too. It was nice being able to ooh and aahhh over each gift. While each child was waiting for someone else to unwrap their presents, some of them got creative. Isn't she lovely? BTW, can you tell what she likes best next to gymnastics and dressing up?

It was a Lego Christmas this year, with each child getting at least one Lego. Interestingly enough, four or five adults (including Santa) were involved in choosing different lego kits for each child and we didn't have one duplicate! Thank you, God! Of course, now our basement floor is littered with little lego pieces. This afternoon, the kids ran out of space and started putting together a big lego set in front of the stairs before my dh and I made them move the 10,000 pieces to another area. It will take weeks to pick up the basement again.

The kids were excited to get rocket kits from Grandma and Grandpa K. We started rocketry last summer, after Daddy got a rocket kit for Christmas. We had successfully launched and retrieved his rocket four or five times until he decided that he wanted more power! He bought bigger rockets and instantaneously lost his rocket and Elizabeth's brand new gold rocket.

After roughly eight years of waiting, Daddy got what he really wanted for Christmas--a train set to put up under the Christmas tree. When our oldest was a baby, he talked about getting a set. At the time, I reminded him that between the baby and the cat, the train wouldn't last long. The cat is long gone and we finally do not have a baby around at Christmas. So the kids and I pooled our resources to get him a train kit. I wrapped each component separately, so he would be able to unwrap several presents, instead of just one or two.

These are some new ornaments we got for our tree. Nana bought an ornament for each person in our family and Grandma K. cross stitched an ornament and finished it (the big square one). I put them all together so that we could take one picture showing them off. Grandma K has more ornaments stashed away somewhere until she has the time to finish them. We love new ornaments.

What a MESS! We spent the rest of the day putting together legos, napping, eating and watching a movie or two. It was a complete and total day of rest. Beds were not even made. However, the next day, we decided to spend fifteen minutes or so picking up until... looked like this again! The basement, however, is still littered with legos, as it will be until all lego kits have been totally assembled.

Merry Christmas everyone. We missed seeing you! We love you.

December 25, 2008

Another tribute--My Two Dads

My apologies...
Okay, I missed writing yesterday. Please forgive me. I was a little busy getting ready for some holiday celebrating the birth of a baby who would grow up to die ignomiously on a cross after spending three years teaching with authority and doing miracle after miracle after miracle which all testified to the fact that he was, indeed the Son of God. The really good news, which I will talk about at another time, is that he didn't stay dead. It wasn't that he was "mostly dead" and was revived by Miracle Max to live happily ever after with Mary Magdelene. He was really truly, all dead. But that story will have to wait.

Moving on...
In the late 1980's, there was a TV sitcom series that ran for three years called "My Two Dads" starring a future has-been, Greg Evigan, formerly of "BJ and the Bear" fame and a future star, Paul Reisner, who would become the leading man in the sitcom "Mad About You." The basic plot is that a mother of a tween dies and leaves her in the custody of two men, either of which, could have been the father (because, apparently, paternity tests weren't available until sometime in the 1990's?). So this girl moves in with two total strangers, who haven't shown enough maturity at this point to take care of pets or maintain a long term relationship. Sounds funny doesn't it? (written with extreme sarcasm). This is NOT my story. My mom has been married twice. I was the product of her first marriage, which ended in divorce when I was still a baby. She re-married when I was four.

My first dad, Dennis, was a remarkable guy, though I really didn't know he existed until I was nine (my oldest daughter's age). How I found out about him is a funny story that will have to wait. My mom moved 1800 miles away from him when she initiated the divorce, which meant that he couldn't really visit me very often, if at all. He has admitted to me many times that he was in a very messed up state, even before the divorce, and he only got worse. And yet, in spite of his brokenness, he was able to do a very generous, self-sacrificing act of chivalry: he gave up his rights as my father so that I could be raised by one man, without divided loyalties wreaking havoc on my emotional stability. That single act of sacrifice has had a huge contribution to the person I am today.

My second dad, Bill, married my mom after a whirlwind courtship. However, he chose to adopt me as his own daughter. He didn't have to adopt me, but he did. And he was able to adopt me because my birth father. The court date to finalize my adoption happened on my fifth birthday. He is the one whom I have called "daddy" or "dad" ever since. Because he raised me, of course, he has had a tremendous influence in my life. You experience his influence every time you read phrases from me such as "die ignomiously". He always told me that using big words properly was a mark of intelligence. Unfortunately, these days, it might make me more unintelligible (hard to understand). He also has high standards of workmanship which translated into high expectations in any task I was assigned, whether it was schoolwork, housework or any project.

Dennis and Bill, thank you for your influence! Merry Christmas with much love,

December 23, 2008

New beginnings--tributes

I am ending this year and starting the new year with random tributes to the various people in my life who, I believe, are making a positive contribution in my life. I am doing this because I don't want to save it for their funeral. I am not writing in order of importance, just as my mind latches onto something. I will try to do one a day, but there are no guarantees. Such is the life of a random thinker. Deal with it and remember my dear husband has to deal with it on a daily basis.

For my first tribute, I would like to thank Kathy Overtoom, my step-mother-in-law, for giving me a new "inner voice". This afternoon, as I was looking at the decorated green blobs on the cookie sheet that should have been crisply baked and crisply outlined spritz Christmas trees, I had two "tracks" playing in my head: one saying "you doofus, can't you count how much flour you put in?" and the other, Kathy's track, which says "Oh well!" I chose her track and added my own variation, "They will probably taste fine anyway and most people who will receive them will know what they are supposed to be anyway because they get these cookies from us every year."

In the past, I would have been very upset, berating myself, and getting ready to make another batch of "perfect" spritz Christmas trees to give to friends, keeping the other 150 or so cookies for my family to eat. But because of this new "inner voice", I can still enjoy the holiday and move on to making star spritz cookies.

Thank you, Kathy! And Merry Christmas!

With much love,

December 22, 2008

Breaking News...

John is potty training and he is doing a great job! We started last week, when he started getting a rash from eating something that his body did not like. We are suspecting that he might be developing lactose intolerance, which is a condition his brother developed at three also. The first day we started, he had a couple accidents. At this point, he has not had a liquid accident for three days and today, he found that he could put his solid waste into the potty without a problem. I am hoping that the rest of the potty training experience will be as much of a dream as the first week. I think it helps that he has five people cheering him on every time he goes potty. The other kids are also hoping it will take a short time because as soon as he is completely potty trained, we will be getting a dog as a pet. Way to go John!

December 20, 2008

Something you don't hear very often

Today, we are in a frenzy of cleaning, trying to get ready for Christmas and just attacking the clutter and dust that has been silently driving both Eric and I bonkers for some time. Earlier in the day, when asked to do additional work, John said, "No thank you, Mom." I just as politely replied that this wasn't an option. Much later, when I interrupted John's work in creating some space object out of Duplos to do yet another task, he said, "Thanks, Mom, for letting me do work." It is a phrase I don't expect to hear often. Now it is time for me to continue cleaning! Thanks, God, for letting me do work!

December 18, 2008

A variation of the Christmas Story.

It has now been over a year since our original pastor (he was the founding pastor of our church) has left. And while I can praise God because He has not left our church as orphans, giving us a wonderful interim pastor to lead us through the pain of separation and to help our church heal, I want to honor our former pastor for all the wonderful ways he made God's word real and relevant to us. In his honor, I would like to offer a version of the Christmas story if it had happened in America this year, rather than two thousand years ago in Isreal.

If the Christmas story took place now instead of 2,000 years ago, Joseph, a carpenter, would have been out of work for a while because the construction business is so bad. He and his fiancee, Mary, who was pregnant, would have been kicked out of their house which was in foreclosure because he could no longer meet his mortgage payments. Because Mary is pregnant, though she vowed it was God's doing and not a result of fooling around too soon, neither Mary nor Joe's parents are speaking to them. After all, they lost standing in their church because of the embarrasement of an unplanned pregnancy. Therefore, the young couple have no where to go for shelter. As the time comes for Mary to give birth, Joseph searches all the homeless shelters in the area hoping to provide at least a warm place for Mary to give birth. Finally, as her labor pains worsen, they go to the emergency room, where the baby is born in a hallway because all the rooms are filled with poor people without insurance who need medical attention. A doctor is there, briefly, to make sure the baby comes out all right, but he has many other patients to see and soon, the young family is alone in the hallway, except for the rest of the overflow patients. Mary and the baby sleep. Joseph thanks God for His provision.

A few miles away, a bunch of divorce and malpractice suit lawyers, insurance salesmen and web spammers are in a bar, celebrating the cold, snowy weather because it usually means more business for them. Suddenly the roof of the bar is lifted up and a huge creature flowing with light enters. Most of them drop their drinks and wet their pants, thinking that the latest horror movie, "Freddy vs. Predator" is coming true. Instead, the creature speaks gently to them of peace and joy and hope that God has planned for all men and tells them of a baby born in a hospital nearby. Suddenly, the bar is filled and even overflowing with heavenly creatures all singing God's praises. Angels as far and as high as they can see singing such heavenly music that their hearts grow three sizes that day. When the angels finish singing the song, they suddenly vanish, putting the roof back in its place. The entire bar population stares in slack-jawed wonder as their eyes adjust to the darkness and, as one, rush out into the night to search for their new friends. The only testimony of the angel's presence is a brilliant star that outshines the city lights. They all pull out their organizers to find the location of the hospital and rush off, trying to be the first one to see this new baby. All thoughts of business have been replaced by the hope of finding peace.

Meanwhile, in smoke filled government offices, several men take a break from making political deals and happen to look outside the window. They notice a single, solitary star, overwhelming the bright lights of flashing billboards, skyscrapers and spotlights beckoning people to stores with the promise of fulfilling their desires. The "break out group" suddenly rush out of the room, certain that the star will fulfill the promise that the man-made lights cannot. They stop at home briefly enough to search out and bring with them their most precious possessions as an offering of joy. They are soon joined by former political rivals and disgraced political leaders on both sides of the political fight--Rod Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, George Ryan, Elliot Spitzer, to name a few. They walk, keeping the star in sight, until they see its light touching a broken down hospital. They stand for a moment, wondering what makes this place so special. Suddenly, a rush of well dressed men and women pour out of the building, each taking the hand of the huddle of men and women, saying "The real leader is inside. He will be the one who gives us peace. He is the hope of the world! Inside, you will find a mother and her child. That child is the King of Kings and he is the one who can make us right with God. " They then scatter, shouting the good news to anyone who will listen, pointing to the hospital. The political lackeys waste no time in seeking the baby. They suddenly realize the futility of all their planning and their quest for power. When they see the baby, they are overwhelmed with awe. Somehow, the child simultaneously appears totally pure, totally helpless, and yet imbued with power and wisdom. As each man and woman lays down his or her gift, they suddenly remember all the wrong things they have down in their power-hungry madness, all the family problems they could have mended, all the friends they have abandoned. They weep as they kneel before the baby, knowing that they are totally and completely incapable of serving this new little king. The baby smiles and reaches out to them, and suddenly, they look up in wonder and joy, feeling the weight of their sins lifting off their shoulders. Power struggles forgotten, they walk out prepared to serve Immanuel.

This is not necessarily a new idea, so my apologies for anyone I have inadvertently plagerized. It is a melding of sermons from my former pastor, skits performed in our church, sermons I hear on WMBI. It also was initiated by a short video I am including in this blog.

This particular story idea was the result of my thought regarding the most recent spate of political scandals, economic distress, and crime that try to overwhelm the God's promise of hope offered during the Christmas season.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Isreal

December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I have many favorite Christmas carols. My favorite hymn is "O Come O Come Emmanuel". I like it because it lists a lot of Jesus' nicknames and the reason for Christ coming to earth.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransome captive Isreal
That mourns in lonely exile here.
Until the Son of God is here
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

What a great promise! Yet the promise is also yet to come, too.

But for getting kids excited, nothing is better than Miss Piggy's version of "Christmas is Coming".
Christmas is coming.
The geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny in an old man's hat.
If you have no penny, a ha' penny will do.
If you have no ha' penny then God Bless You!

The concept that a half penny (ha' penny) could actually buy something at one point in time is amazing, considering the cheapest candy you can buy today might be five cents, but is typically more like a quarter or more.

Here is another thing I like about Christmas:

JESUS & SANTA CHRISTMAS VIDEO from Barton Damer on Vimeo.


December 12, 2008

Long term effects of a one time Senator from Illinois

Both Abraham Lincoln and Peter Fitzgerald served one term in Washington representing Illinois. Lincoln served in the House of Representatives in 1846 and Peter Fitzgerald served one term in the Senate in 1999. Lincoln's term in the House was relatively unremarkable, though it may have fueled his ambitions for higher office. However, it eventually led to more than one term as President at which time he ended slavery and kept the country from splitting. He is considered one of our greatest presidents. I would say that Peter Fitzgerald has also had a huge impact on our country by one little recommendation: nominating Patrick Fitzgerald (who is not related) as U.S. Attorney General for the Northern District of Illinois. Why might you ask? Four cases:

1. He had former Illinois Governor George Ryan convicted of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, attempted extortion, and money laundering.

2. He gave Mayor Richard Daley a piece of humble pie indicting mayoral aids of mail fraud and uncovering the Chicago City Clerk taking bribes.

3. He had Lord Conrad Black (media mogul) convicted of criminal fraud.

4. He brought indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, in the Plame CIA leak case. Mr. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in the Plame case.

4. His most recent case involves charges of Governor Rod Blagojevich (pronounced
Blah GOY ah vich for those of you not from Illinois) in soliciting bribes and mail fraud.

As an aside, which may or may not be sour grapes, here is some additional information: Barak Obama and Blagojevich rose through the ranks of the Chicago political machine fairly quickly. Barack Obama, worked with Blagojevich at some level to get him elected as governor in 2002. He must have worked with the governor one or two times while he was state senator and Rod Blagojevich was governor. Yet despite the fact that Barack Obama rose up from the Chicago "Boss" system and Illinois political system which recently has been described recently as "possibly the most corrupt state in the Union", he still managed to have a squeaky clean image during the Presidential campaign. I wonder how that happened?

I, for one, am glad that we had Peter Fitzgerald represent us as a senator, be it ever so brief. He, like Lincoln had a huge impact, at least on our state because he nominated Patrick Fitzgerald, who is trying to clean up the Illinois political system.

December 6, 2008

A new fast food

For the past 30 days, God has had me embarking on a new eating lifestyle that would be considered severely vegan. I thought I would get a reprieve for Thanksgiving, but, after my SIL suggested that I pray more about it, I realized that, while God would probably allow it, what He really wants me to be is thankful no matter what kind of food I am eating. So I made it through the holiday eating no meat, dairy, leavened products and very little sugar. Thankfully, God provided a recipe for sweet potatoes that was very yummy without all the brown sugar and full of protein to help me be satisfied and thankful. I have realized three things in the past thirty days: there are so many delicious foods that do not involve meat, dairy and unleavened bread that I could be happy leading a mostly vegan lifestyle; I have been feeling much better since eating vegan diets; vegan food can be prepared pretty quickly. The last concept has surprised me the most.

When I started out, I thought that I would be having to spend a lot of time preparing the foods I was to eat. However, lunch can be as simple as grabbing some nuts and cold veggies and dipping them in hummus or spreading hummus on a wasa cracker and adding cucumbers and salt. Prep time is minimal. Making tabouleh is pretty simple too. Pour boiling water over bulgur, add mint and parsely and wait ten minutes, add some chopped tomatoes and green onions and pour a dressing of olive oil, pepper, and lemon juice. TLT's (tofu, lettuce and tomatoes) on crackers takes ten minutes to fry the tofu in oil and soy sauce (thanks Dad J. and Momma K. for that recipe). There are no worries about undercooking anything because you won't get sick from undercooking it, it might merely be extra crunchy or less flavorful. I found a wonderful blog site this week called Vegan Footprints that had a yummy recipe for Gana rice and beans. I have added it to my list of blogs that I am following.

I must confess that there are times when I really want the grilled cheese sandwhiches everyone is eating or the roasted chicken the rest of my family had tonight. However, I am not dying or starving and I made it through the Thanksgiving holiday without gaining weight, which is a MAJOR breakthrough. At this point, I have ten more days until I feel God is releasing me from the fast, unless something happens along the way. It means I will be able to eat Christmas cookies and monkey bread and other holiday treats. However, I am planning to make vegan meals more of a staple in our family's diet. My DH approves of this plan. And I am hoping that God has used this time to help break my addiction to sweets and rich foods in general.

"'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial. "'Everything is permissable'--but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12-13)