He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Sunday, January 27, 2013

40 favorite memories/moments with my man...

...in honor of his 40th birthday!  (just a few days late)

That dreaded age!  Ok, not dreaded by him, but dreaded by me, because him turning 40 means I am THAT much closer myself.  I still refuse to be "almost 40".  I am quite comfortably at the end of my mid 30s.  I suppose once I hit 39, I will have to embrace "almost 40" but not a day before!  I mean truly it feels like yesterday that I was ducking my head in embarrassment as my dad dropped me off at White Station Junior High with a massive sign taped to the back of his car that read, 

"Lawdy, lawdy Charles is 40"

or something like that.  

Yesterday, I tell you!  

But then I look around me and realize that I have 4 kids, the oldest of whom is 13 (!!), increasingly grey hair, etc etc.  I don't FEEL that old.  I still picture myself as fairly young.  And then I hang around a group of college students.  



Yeah, I'm old.  Or at least oldER than I feel.  

And since I started writing this post a week ago, I have been asked while out with a group of ladies if I was the MOTHER of one of the lovely ladies who happens to be about 5 years younger than me!  

Well that's humbling.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to lament about my age but to share 40 favorite memories in honor of my man.  

Here they are in no particular order...

40.  The day we met.  Sunday, August 30, 1992.  I introduced myself to him after church (my grandparents worked with his family in Africa)!  So against my sort of shy nature I introduced myself and we walked to the MC (Mississippi College) cafeteria together and had fried chicken.  (I'm lying, I don't know that it was fried chicken, but it's a very safe guess...)

39.  Finding out we were pregnant for the first time on his 26th birthday!  For that matter, finding out we were pregnant for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th times also.   You're not miscounting, I had a miscarriage.

38.  The time he put a handful of LIVE crickets down the back of my 1 piece swimming suit down by the lake at Hot Springs causing me to have to RUN all the way back up to the house where I could strip down in the bathroom to remove said crickets.  Ok, so this MAY not be one of my favorite memories but he definitely likes to laugh about it.  I like the fact that it gets me out of EVER having to put a cricket on another fishing line EVER again.  I like fishing.  I HATE crickets.  I CAN put one on a line but this creates a reason to never have to...

37. Sunday and/or Saturday morning crepes with Jason as the master chef.  It's no secret in our house, that despite my love of cooking, I cannot for the life of me make crepes look pretty, and Jason has it down to an art.  The girls love our crepe mornings!

36.  Taking donuts to the security guard in charge of the door to the girls' dorm at MC when we were out after curfew so he would let me in.  Yes, girls had curfew, guys didn't...

35.  Playing tennis at 6 AM during our first year of dating, just to have another reason to be together.  

34.  First road trip with my family to St. Louis for a Cardinals game.  Poor Jason sweated to death in the back of the mini-van but was too unfamiliar with our crazy, dysfunctional (aren't all families dysfunctional?!) family to know he should speak up!

33.  Honeymoon in a hurricane.  Quite literally.  Hurricane Aaron of August 1995 to be exact.  Our Carnival Cruise skipped most of the ports and spent the majority of the 4 days trying to stay out of the eye of said hurricane.  Waves were splashing up over the deck of 10th floor of the boat, we were riding 40 foot waves and they literally had barf bags set out in every window.  For a few days around 50 or so of the 2700 people on the boat showed up for meals.  All shows were cancelled, but hey, our "friendly cruise director Larry" came on the intercom about every hour to give a weather update and they had the movie "Field of Dreams" on a continual loop since all the shows were cancelled.  They offered us a $50 discount on another cruise if we would take it within the next 6 months.  Thanks a lot, Carnival!  These poor college students about broke the bank paying for the first one!  

32.  My first overseas Christmas.  In Kandern, Germany in 1994 after we got engaged.  So many fun memories!  Rook games, yummy Christmas treats, hikes in the Black Forest, overnight trip to Paris, listening to the Carpenters over and over AND OVER.  

31.  Skiing in the French Alps during overseas Christmas with Cox family.  More card games, getting snowed in our little cabin, Jason almost breaking his leg sledding down a staircase, Kimberly skiing backwards into a tree, me falling off the ski lift.  

30.  Going to Williamsburg, VA with the Cameron family while waiting on our French visas to go overseas.  Most Cameron family trips involve memories of my dad's fantastic driving skills.  This trip was no exception.  Love you dad!

29.  First time fly fishing on the Little Red River in Arkansas for our 3 year anniversary.  Getting up at 5 AM, apricot/pecan muffins and thermoses of coffee, the beauty of God's creation and the quiet whisper of the river, and our own fly fishing guide.  All for free because the guide who also owned the bed and breakfast we stayed in took pity on our poor selves and did it all on the house!

28.  Holding hands on our first date after renting Cape Fear.  He swears it wasn't planned!

27.  Being a groupie and going to all his band concerts in college.  Loved listening to everyone talk about how incredibly he sang (sings) and knowing that was MY GUY!  Too bad American Idol came around just a few years too late.

26.  For that matter, hearing him sing anytime, anywhere- church, weddings (there were quite a few!), concerts etc. etc.  Favorite time that stands out in my mind is when he sang Praise the Lord by Russ Taff after his chemo treatments in March 2000.  The link to this song is here.  Look out it's an oldie but a goodie and I can't not cry when I think about bald Jason singing this song at this time in our lives just after completing chemo.  

25.  Speaking of chemo, that actually makes the list as a favorite memory.  Strange?  Maybe.  But it was a precious time of refining and God taught us so much through it.  Together.  Might not make Jason's favorite list as he was actually the one with the cell killing drugs coursing through his veins...

24.    Cox family day trips to Little River Canyon- picnics, happy cousins, babies swimming in diapers, wading, splashing, laughing...

23.  Going fishing at the lake with my Granddaddy in Hernando, MS.  This was something I had been doing since I was little with Memommy and Granddaddy and is an absolute favorite childhood memory.  Grandaddy actually took Jason, and his dad and brother there when they were kids too, long before Jason and I ever met, so when we got to go TOGETHER with Grandaddy, it was extra special.  

22.  Going with all the other soccer girlfriends to the track around the soccer field and watching our guys practice while we walked around the track.  

21.  The way he loves to surprise the girls with their favorite things- ice cream bars, trips to S'bucks for suckers and more recently frappaccinos.  (I give up, my spell check has rejected everything I've tried...)

20.  Our family vacation to Scotland with Jeremy and Kimberly and family after our first summer in the Middle East.  It was amazing to be somewhere so GREEN.  Abbey and Maddie ran barefoot through the parks and rolled all around in the grass.  

19.  The births of our 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th daughters.  Each one precious and each one amazingly unique.  With Abbey his hand was sore from my squeezing so hard during the worst part of my labor, with Maddie, well, he almost delivered her himself, with Naomi he was kind enough to trip over my IV line and pull it out after they started me on pitocin against my wishes, and with Anabelle he was my rock during the craziness of an emergency c-section.  

20.  Spending 4 months in Montpellier, France for his IMBA internship.  Amazing!   Sitting at cafes, wandering through quaint little streets, playing gin rummy for hours on end because there were no movies in English, no DVDs to rent and our dial-up internet left a little to be desired, and finishing off the time with renting a car and driving through the Loire Valley visiting Chateaus the week before Christmas- magical!

19.  Family Christmas in the mountains in Faraya, Lebanon.  Playing games around the fire, sledding, taking the girls skiing for the first time.  Enjoying lazy days of no commitments.  

18.  Living in Paris with our 4 and 2 year olds and getting a year membership to Euro Disney and seeing their joy in watching the Princess Parade whenever we could get there.  Oh, and using our MASSIVE double stroller on the Paris metro so we could: walk around Luxembourg gardens, shop in the market at Sacre Couer, picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, sit at a cafe outside Notre Dame just by the Latin Quarter, introduce our girls to the culinary wonder that is a crepe, but fresh baked baguettes daily from the boulangerie just outside our door.  

17.  Laughing 'til it hurts about funny things that the girls say- too numerous to count!!

16.  Summer trips to Hot Springs with the Cox family, spending hours on the boat learning to ski, and hours learning NOT to slalom,  relaxing over cards, games and ice cream.  

15.  Sitting in Jason's hospital room the day of his first major cancer surgery, 2 days after finding out he had cancer and surprising our parents with the news that we were pregnant with Maddie.  We had planned on waiting until Thanksgiving to share the news, but given the circumstances it was the perfect joyful news to share. 

14.  Traveling to visit Jeremy and Kimberly and Shelby in the south of France, and, seasoned travelers that we are, planning and taking a trip to Switzerland and ALL forgetting our passports thus getting turned away at the border.  We salvaged the trip and spent an amazing few days near Albertville in the French Alps.  We still laugh about it and I'm pretty sure they've figured out a way to blame me...

13.  October 8, 1994, the day we got engaged.  Dinner in downtown Memphis, dessert at Cafe Expresso in the Peabody and a proposal on the roof of the Peabody in the rain.  He had it all planned and I thought he was crazy for wanting to go out on the roof in the rain!

12. Sunday afternoon family drives to discover new things about wherever we may be living.   This started in Lebanon- you could get so quickly from the sea up to the beautiful mountains so it became a favorite tradition- especially when ice cream was involved on the way back down the mountain!  

11. First kiss in the top of the magnolia tree outside the student center on MC campus.   

10.  Late night Krispy Kreme runs in his pick-up with about 15 of our best friends piled in the back under blankets.  (need I clarify that this was in college?)

9. Watching Band of Brothers, the HBO documentary about the 101st airborne division during WW2 together during my fall break from studying French in Paris then renting a car to drive to Normandy to see where everything happened.  

8.  Sneaking into the cheerleaders gym on MC campus after hours to jump on the massive trampolines. Yes, there was a gym just for cheerleaders.  That seems weird now.  Is that weird?  

7.  Watching him walk around our apartment in his baby blue flannel pajama pants with skiing penguins on them that the girls got him for Christmas.  

6.  Cameron family trip to some friends vacation home on the Little Red River in Arkansas- wading in the frigid water, teaching the kids to fly fish, Christmas brunch and early family Christmas, roasting s'mores and hot dogs by the fire, snake in the wood pile

5.  When Jason literally started pulling his hair out after chemo.  I'm sure his mom does not remember it very fondly, but it still makes us laugh.  She was staying with us helping with Abbey, who was around 15 months old at the time.  Jason had been in the back of the house taking a shower, and he came out where the rest of us where and said, "hey, watch this!".  He then reached up and pulled out 2 huge handfulls of hair!  Needless to say, that day we headed over to some of our best friends' house so he could help Jason shave his head!

4. Family day trips to Byblos, Lebanon by ourselves, with our girls, with friends or with either of our parents.  Shopping, rock climbing by the Med, exploring old ruins, eating amazing food.  Always will be a favorite place! 

3.  Yesterday

2.  Today

1.  Tomorrow

from our wedding program...

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They are brought  to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm."
Psalm 20:7-8

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Got kids? 

 We have 4.  Four little amazing people who each in their own unique and awesome way have totally changed our lives for the better.  

And they are not appendages, excess baggage or unwanted clutter.  They are very much a part of who we are as a family- each one playing a part in defining, well, us.

If you DO have kids, hopefully at this point you are saying, "well, YEAH, duh".  Sounds like common sense, right?  

Maybe.  But, then again, maybe not.  

I'm afraid I might be guilty of erring on the maybe not side more often than not.  

Don't hear me wrong.  I do NOT see my kids as clutter or excess baggage.  No matter how many times people have seemed surprised that we actually DO take them overseas, that mindset has not yet rubbed off on me.  I'm not even kidding.  I can't count the number of times I have been asked the question, "Oh you live overseas?  Do your kids go with you?"  Umm, did you catch the part where I said I LIVE overseas.  I mean, seriously, being asked that question once would make me just think that person was being silly, but being asked countless times in all sorts of settings, makes me think, well I don't know really what it makes me think besides that people vastly misunderstand what I mean when I say "LIVE OVERSEAS".   Anyway.  

All that to say, MAYBE I have NOT seen my kids the way God intends me to when  I am looking at my life.  

Example?  Ok.   Have you ever been asked to do something, big or small, that you had a feeling might be from the Lord, but in making your decision you thought things like:

"well, in spite of the fact that I have (however many) kids, God can provide the strength and energy I would need to do that"


"in spite of the strain this (could, might) put on my family, I know God will enable, provide etc"  

or even

"God, I'm not sure that you really know what you're asking of me here, but I'll be obedient in spite of the fact that I have (however many) kids and this is going to be super challenging."  

Yeah, I confess I have thought all of those things and then some.  As if the Creator of the universe, the Giver of life is not already fully aware of our current family dynamics!  

This is something God has gradually been teaching me for months, and I finally had my "aha" moment a few days ago.  Time and again over the past few months he has brought me to the same passage.  Not an unfamiliar one at all.  I actually referenced the first part of the passage (verses 1-2 of the same chapter below) a few days ago when I wrote about my current state of sleep deprivation. (side note- we have had 2 full nights of sleep IN A ROW!  WHOOO HOOO!)

Here's where I've been in the Word:

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
Psalm 127:3-5  ESV

Maybe this is not a familiar passage to you, but it's one I've heard at least bits and pieces of for years.  The whole children are a heritage from the Lord,  arrows in the hand of a warrior, blessed is the man with a full quiver etc etc.  Familiar stuff.  Often quoted in various ways.  Here's the part that I've really been thinking on that I've never really thought about that much before.  Arrows are weapons.  USED in battle.  They don't just sit in the quiver looking pretty, they are USED.   They enable the described man in the psalm not to be put to shame when he contends with (NIV translation) his enemies at the gate.  They (our children) are part of the spiritual battles that we as believers fight on a daily basis.  And according to this passage, they make us more equipped to fight!  

This has been such a refreshing perspective for me!  When God calls me to a task, he doesn't enable me to complete it, IN SPITE OF the fact that my quiver is full, but often he might call me to that very task BECAUSE of my precious children.  

And you better believe this makes me, more than ever, want to be sure I am doing my job of discipling and equipping my kids.  Just a few weeks ago, I posted about being entrusted with their little lives and how overwhelming that is.  Of course still overwhelming at times because that's just how I roll, but  also so refreshing to think of the strength that God places in families.   

The things God places before us as a family are not jobs to be done IN SPITE OF the little members of our household, but BECAUSE OF.  Thank you Lord for our family that you have created very much on purpose and for the tasks you set before us each day.  May we be ever aware of your purposes and may we keep our focus on you!   

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sleep training and some unexpected lessons along the way...

I must tell you that has someone who is pretty strict about establishing healthy sleep patterns and routines for my itty bitty babies, that I have seriously fallen off the schedule wagon when it comes to a certain toddler...

Who me?

To warn you, this is a long post so if you're not interested in baby sleep training or a family member who reads everything I write despite if you actually find it interesting or not :), you might want to skip this post.  I'm hoping that maybe there's someone out there who can be encouraged by our (lack of) sleep journey and know that there is an end in sight.  And if I can say that when sleep has not even fully returned, well, just be encouraged!  God is in the details, friend!  Even the detail of providing much needed rest!  

I discovered the Babywise books before AJ was born and LOVED the concept.  To clarify I am not turning this into a Babywise debate kind of post.  I know it is controversial.  I know that there are people who hate it and think it's of the devil.  I know there have since been other sleep training books and methods that have been written that are just as, if not more effective.  I am just telling you that in 1999, when I was pregnant with my first child, that system is what I discovered, and my orderly, nursing (both in the breastfeeding sense and the profession sense), in much need of sleep brain, loved it, and that's what we did.   I modified the concepts to best suite our family, and controversial or not, it worked.  Feel free to air your complaints with it.  I'm just saying it worked for us.  

AJ slept all night starting around 8 weeks (and then we took her to London for Christmas at 12 weeks and jet lag totally blew that out of the water but she re-adjusted quickly when we returned).   Maddie slept all night starting around 5-6 weeks, Naomi around 7 weeks and Anabelle around 6-7 weeks.  All of them had the ability to be put in their crib and go to sleep on their own from around 6-7 weeks with very minimal crying.  They all napped well and woke up from naps and in the morning happy.  Except for Maddie (whose chubby little milk needs I could not keep up with), I nursed them all for a year.  Even with breastfeeding, by the time they were a year old, they could sleep 11-12 hours at night and each got 4 nursings along with other scheduled meals during the day.   I am not telling you this to toot my own horn.  Maybe a little I'm giving a plug for Babywise since it helped us so much and it bugs me when I hear such negative things about it, but more than that, I'm telling you about my orderly scheduled self when it comes to babies so that you can see how far I've fallen over the past year as we've struggled with Anabelle's sleep!  

I have definitely learned my lesson as far as being a wee bit judgy when it comes to what people will do to get their babies to sleep.  I mean, until miss Anabelle, I never really had to do those things.  Sleep came easy in our house, thank the Lord, because this house is home to a certain mom who desperately needs regular sleep to stay sane!  

As I said, Anabelle started off as a super great sleeper.  I think the good Lord knew I needed that with all the transition in our lives shortly after her birth.  We moved to a new country, a new home, lots of changes taking place.  I remember a few weeks after arriving back home, when we were all STILL jet-lagged, commenting that my 3 month old was steadily sleeping all night long while my 12 and 10 year olds kept us up all night.  Not only did she sleep well at night, but when it was nap time, she would nap.  Even if we were out and about...

This wonderful pattern continued through lots of traveling and a move across town.   Then January and her first ear infection hit...
(poor baby!)

I'm not gonna lie.  The next 4 months were immensely difficult.  I can probably count on one hand the number of full nights sleep she and I got in that time period.  We went from one antibiotic to another.  One long continuous ear infection that WOULD NOT GO AWAY.  Even during the days in between antibiotics when she seemed to be recovering, she still had fluid on her ears which kept her uncomfortable.  

Thankfully, by the end of April, the ear infections went away and stayed away.  We traveled a lot last summer and thankfully, she slept well and stayed well through all the traveling.  Wasn't even too phased by jet lag (except for maybe one difficult night) when we went back and forth to America.  

We returned to the Middle East, the girls started back to school, and the ear infections returned.  Between September and the end of November, she was on 5 rounds of antibiotics and again, the fluid never left.  She slept ok during all that, but sometime in there, we started giving her a milk cup in the middle of the night because she would take it and go right back to sleep.  

By early December, we had an ENT referral and within days we were scheduled to have tubes put in.

I confess that in my head, getting tubes was going to solve all of our sleep problems.  She was immediately going to be pain free and return to her wonderful pattern of sleeping 11-12 hours a night without interruption.  


Several factors were in play here.  First, she had developed some patterns of waking in the night and expecting certain things to happen before she went back to sleep.  Those things included me or Jason going in, soothing her, giving her her lovey, getting a cup of milk, sometimes staying in the room if she was super fussy until she settled down.  Also, the COLD has hit Amman.  Sadly, Anabelle and Abbey's room is the coldest in the house, and despite the multiple layers that she sleeps in , I couldn't leave her to "cry it out" without knowing that she was adequately covered when she went back to sleep.  Finally, between Jason and I getting up with her at different times during the night to get her back to sleep without necessarily knowing when the other had been up with her, we have been giving her up to 3-4 cups of milk at night!  Not good patterns!  And despite the fact that I KNOW these things are not good patterns, I did them anyway, because they all earned, AT THAT TIME, another few precious moments of sleep.  So there you have it.  (WOW!  The application to real life here...  The quick fixes are not necessarily the best answers to long term problems!)

Let me just tell you that I have been absolutely at the end of my strength.  Completely frustrated that tubes were not the magic fix to our sleeping woes, and honestly not really sure if there was anything left that I could DO to fix the problem.  And for someone who desperately needs sleep to function well,  and who kinda sorta also likes to be in control, that was not a good place to be.  Combine my frustration with the fact that I hadn't had a full night sleep in over 2 months- lethal combinaton!  

Well, my sweet husband, recognizing my "end-of-my-rope-ness" treated me to an afternoon of "me time" at Starbucks.  A much needed and desired treat!  (despite the fact that even though they are still adverstising toffee nut lattee on every sign in their store, they no longer have it and if you know me well, you know I don't drink coffee unless it has enough cream, sugar and flavoring to not taste like coffee, and I also do not apparently deal well with disappointment so I am currently holding a grudge against Starbucks...)  Disappointed taste buds aside, the "me time" was much needed.  

And a funny thing happened...

I was reading various passages in the Bible, journaling thoughts mostly "start of the new year" kind of thoughts and just thoroughly enjoying my time.  I don't always know how exactly I get to certain passages.  Sometimes it's one passage referencing another, sometimes I remember something from a recent sermon.  I don't really remember how I got here on this particular day but I know exactly what I had just prayed.  I was praying for our family.  Praying for God to give us focus in the midst of chaotic times.  Praying for God to help us "re-calibrate" our family goals and visions to best fit the times we live in.  Asking God what I need to change, focus more on, focus less on, you get the idea.  In the midst of praying, I basically told God that in order to enable the things I was feeling convicted about changing, I desperately needed to fix the sleep deficiency currently plaguing our house.  

So, anyway, the passage I read.  Here it is....

"Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves."  
Psalm 127: 1-2

I now have to confess my first reaction after reading this.  It was not one of relief to know that the God who loves me would grant me sleep.  Oh no.  I was ticked.  Angry.  Frustrated.  WHY AM I NOT SLEEPING!?!?!   etc. etc. etc.  Thankfully, God can handle my emotion and has many times before.  As I've prayed through this passage, he has gently reminded me that as the Controller of all things (Him NOT me), He wanted me to commit even my toddlers sleep into His hands and quit randomly hacking at the problem with bandaids that would not ultimately solve anything.  In reading several commentaries on this passage and several different translations, He impressed on my heart again and again the concept that He desires to give sleep, rest, rejuvenation to His children.  

Again, my frustration grew...  If He DESIRES this, WHY oh WHY is He not GIVING it!!??  

Well, the answer was quite simply actually.  I hadn't asked.


Yeah, sometimes in the midst of praying for the really big things, I forget that God is in the details.  And yeah, sleep is a pretty big thing, but I had not been giving it the prayer attention it needed.  

So, let me tell you, I hit my knees!  

God didn't answer this particular prayer by waving His magic God wand over Anabelle and causing her to sleep again each night.  He did however, provide me with some much needed resources that are working.  First, we have solved (ish) the "too cold" problem.  We invested in a small electric heater that regulates itself and sits right beside Anabelles' crib thus warming her space and hopefully not shooting our electric bill through the roof.  Second, we have solved the ear problem.  Her tubes are working well and she has not been sick in a month!  Yay!   That leave only the problem of no longer being able to self soothe and too much milk at night...

In talking to a good friend who also happens to be an MD, she agreed that Anabelle has just developed the habit of waking at night.  She knew that I was familiar with Babywise, but she suggested trying a book that describes what has become known as the Ferber method (named after the author).

In skimming through the chapters that I knew were relevant to our situation, I quickly discovered some tangible steps I could take to fixing our problem, and I was reminded of many things that I already know as a nurse.  Things like nighttime milk disrupting sleep patterns by waking up a digestive system that has been trained to be at rest (and a long list of other problems with the amount of milk she was getting at night!).  Things like Anabelle having re-adjusted her expectations to what would happen to get her back to sleep when she woke up at night (mine or Jason's presence).  Where she used to briefly wake up and go right back to sleep on her own, she now expected, no demanded one of us to be there. This wonderful little book offers gradual charts on decreasing the amount of nighttime feedings (essentially what we were doing) and increasing the amount of time between parent intervention when she wakes up and cries at night.  Please don't read that as "letting my baby scream for hours on end".  We are not having to do that with this gradual method and it's working!

I'm keeping this little chart under my pillow so I can jot down at night when she's waking up and how long I let her fuss before I go in and soothe.  We are down to one time waking up at night with only a few minutes of fussing.  

Last night we made the big jump from giving her 1/4 cup of milk (down from a whole cup) when she woke up, to just giving her a cup of water.  That didn't go so well and we had a night of increased fussiness, but she did eventually settle back down and then slept until almost 9!  Hallelujah!  I still don't feel like a new woman as I am still waking up several times a night as we sort this through, but I at least feel like a woman in control (or I should say like a woman serving a God who is in control) which is a much better place to be, than hopelessly wondering what in the world is ever going to make this better!   

Believe me, there have been days throughout this process that I've wanted to throw up my arms in frustration...

But I am so thankful that we are moving in the right direction!  I know that a rested Anabelle= a happy Anabelle and that' so important to me- to all of us!

I love this little lady so much despite the countless hours of sleep I've lost over the last year. 

 I count my many blessings for my happy, mostly healthy children.  There are so many out there who's children struggle with illnesses far beyond anything we've ever had to experience and my sleepless nights are but a drop in the pond compared to what some have to walk through.

I am thankful for a God who cares about the details and who uses things like my toddlers sleep (or lack thereof) to remind me of His love.

20 months

20 months old!  How time flies.  I haven't really been consistently doing milestone posts for Anabelle, just because I know me and I know it's not something I will keep up with.  I would rather just throw them in randomly every so often.  Besides, at what point do you stop?  I mean it's not really fair to Naomi, for example, who will be 83 months old next week...

Something I like to do every so often is play the comparison game and look at pictures of the other girls at Anabelle's age.  Of course, with 4 daughters, we get the constant commentary from others of who looks like who.  General consensus is that Abbey and Maddie look alike with their dark complexions and dark hair.  Naomi brings in my mom's side of the family and looks nothing like her sisters (in my opinion).  Jury's still out on Anabelle.  People most often say that she looks like Maddie (although at the same age, she's a good 10 pounds lighter I'm pretty sure).  When we had our christmas stuff out this year, I was looking at a santa picture of Abbey at the same age and I think she looks the most like Abbey.  Her little voice even sounds just like Abbey's did.  Naomi- well, sweet Naomi in my opinion has her own look and definitely her own person (at least within our family).  She looks identical to two of her cousins on opposite sides of the family (my brother's daughter and Jason's brother's daughter- go figure!).  

Anyway, here are my other cuties at around 20 months...
AJ (this is more like16 months- don't have many digital pics of Abbey as a baby...)

(Makes me laugh out loud!)


Love these girls oh so much!

So, now that Miss Anabelle has hit the 20 month mark she is just as busy as ever.  We had tubes put in her ears last month and thankfully she has not been sick since.  I confess that I was hoping for a miracle turn around in her horrible sleep patterns and that did not happen.  We are currently sleep re-training but  that is a subject for another post.  You can find it here.   Praising God for a month of no antibiotics though, even if we are still way sleep deprived!  

I'm not TOO worried about her hearing considering she talks non-stop.  She ADORES her big sisters and begins the roll call as soon as I get her up each morning- ABBEY, MADDIE, NOMI!!  She's just begun putting sentences together and is so expressive.  Here are some of her favorite things to say:
(put a normal amount of expression into each phrase and then at least triple it and that's probably about how she sounds...)
"OH, there she is, (insert name)" (whenever someone new walks into the room including Mia the dog)
"Anabelle, that's not nice" (very helpful about correcting herself!
"I la loo!  Hug! Kiss!"  
"Maddie, (or Abbey or Nomi) GET UP" (the girls are on winter break and have been sleeping in)
"I sorry"
"I gon get you!"

So many more things that she says but drawing a complete blank at the moment!  She loves Max and Ruby (the cartoon) and Veggie Tales.   Her favorite song is the Gaither classic, "Something about that Name" - here is the full story on WHY that is her have!   And I promise I've been trying to get a video of her singing said song since early November when I first posted about it and it has become a joke.  Not gonna happen.  She takes one 2-3 hour nap and nighttime sleep is a huge challenge right now that we are in the middle of fixing.  (hopefully, will keep you posted...) She loves to "play" especially with her big sisters.  She loves it when they build her tents and read books with her.  And "hide/seek" is her all time favorite game.  She still thinks hiding is to press herself against the nearest wall and close her eyes (somehow I don't have a picture of that!).  

So two days ago when I started this post, I tried just about all day to get a "normal" picture of my 20 month old looking at and preferably smiling at the camera.  The picture of her at the top of the post is a recycled one of all the girls in front of the Christmas tree and I just zoomed in on Anabelle.  Here is the result of trying to get a normal picture of my little messpot...

Yeah, maybe we'll have a normal family picture again around 2020...

Happy 20 months Anabelle, we love the fun you add to our fam!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our Jesse Tree

Several years ago before we moved overseas, my dear friend gave me a Jesse Tree devotional book.  I was completely unfamiliar with the concept, but I quickly fell in love with it as a perfect Advent devotion.  It's based on the concept of the Branch of Jesse from Isaiah 15 and traces the story of Jesus beginning with creation and ending with His birth.  As a family, you go through devotions every day in December tracing the story of Christ throughout scripture.  You make ornaments to go along with each story and you hang it on you"Jesse tree" each day during the month.  I've since discovered that there are MANY resources out there for an Advent Jesse Tree.   Search for Jesse Tree on Pinterest and you will see what I mean.  In the past, I've used a mini Christmas tree and done a random collection of homemade or toy-like ornaments (for example a play apple for the story of Adam and Eve, a drawing of Noah's ark).  I describe it here.  This year, mainly because I looked at pinterest, I decided I wanted to do it differently and have some ornaments that would be a little more durable. 

We also changed up our devotions a bit and didn't just use the one book that we've used in the past.  With the age range of our girls, family devotion time can be challenging as we want to engage the teen/tweenager and the school ager and toddler.  Ann Voscamp has a downloadable devotional book on her blog that you can find here.  It also includes printables for the ornaments if you don't want to make your own.  We used a combination of Ann's devotions and The Jesus Storybook Bible which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  If you're unfamiliar with it, this link describes it and how it can be used as an advent devotional guide.  

As I have mentioned many times before, I am somewhat crafting impaired.  I am also not so great with follow through.  I get really excited about ideas and concepts, but often don't carry them through the way I intend to.  Case in point.  Christmas stockings.  Y'all.  Our Christmas stockings are PA-THE-TIC.  They don't match, they are random sizes, I think one or two of them came from the dollar store and Anabelle doesn't even have one.  So.  I decided this was the year that I would make Christmas stockings.  I went with some friends down to the downtown shopping area here which is quite an experience in itself.  Street vendors, shops of knick-knacks, produce, anything and everything you want, including material.  So I bought some material in kind of fun, Middle Eastern type patterns and had it all planned out.  Making the stockings that is.  Here is the fabric I bought, with contrasting colors for the lining and cuff and gold thread to stitch our names....

AAANNDDD. The fabric is still in that bag.  Just like that.  Great IDEA, right?  In my defense, I got my sewing machine down out of the closet for the first time in our 10 years overseas.  I've somehow become scared of it over the years.  I promise I used to sew.  Back in the days of 2 kids and living in America, I actually sewed clothes for my girls.  I hand smocked dresses and sewed them on my sewing machine.  I made the bumper pad cover and curtains for Abbey's baby nursery.  I sewed stuff!  See, here's proof.  Me with my two babies wearing dresses that I smocked and sewed...
(how precious are they?!)

Sorry for that little rant.  I started Arabic classes again this week and I've discovered that doing so puts me in a constant state of needing to prove my intelligence and my abilities to anyone and everyone around me.  When you feel SO dumb, you just want to prove that you can do SOMETHING.  When my teacher looks at me with that look of "what planet are you from?", I just want to say, "I KNOW STUFF!  I'M SMART"...  Sorry, I digress, that might should be a subject for another post.  

So, back to my sewing maching.   It has been in a closet in 3 different overseas homes and traveled in an open bed truck across Syria with the rest of our belongings last year, so I don't know why in the world I wasn't more surprised when a pretty important part was completely missing and I couldn't get the thing to work to save my life.  A friend did offer to let me borrow hers, but in the craziness of the Christmas season, it just didn't happen.  But I didn't pack the material up and maybe I'll get to them before NEXT Christmas.  

Ok, back to the Jesse Tree.  If I'm being totally honest, I don't know that we have EVER actually completed all 25 days of our Jesse tree devotions.  So there.  However, this was the year that all that was going to change!  So I knew I needed to plan well in advance.  With the stockings being a complete and total bust, I was determined to carry this project through.  I had Jason's mom bring me a few packs of felt because after consulting pinterest, I knew a felt tree and ornaments was the way I wanted to go.  I thought I would be able to find large pieces of felt here, but sadly, that didn't happen in time.  Thankfully, Jason visited some of our friends in a neighboring country and she is like crafting queen.  The amount of crafting ability I have in my entire self, she has in her pinky.  I promise this is not a lie.  She also has an amazing stash of crafting supplies.  So I called her while Jason was still there to see if she had some extra felt sitting around in large pieces that she could send me.  Sure enough- she even had green!  Yay!  

So we made the background for our tree.  (which I will actually probably change next year because the black wasn't quite big enough and I want to make a place to hang each ornament below the tree (like this) or maybe even put numbers on the back of them and just stick them below the tree (like this).  (I'm telling you, TONS of ideas out there!).  I loved the idea of hanging the ornaments using buttons sewed on to the felt and next year I'm going to try to get my hands on some jingle bells to add to it.  I looked at several different options for felt ornaments and ultimately I liked the idea of all round ornaments finished off around the edge with a blanket stitch in a complimenting color from the ornament.  

Here's the finished product!

And a close up of our ornaments...

 Some of them I may need to re-do next year like the poor camel.  I couldn't find my brown felt at the time, so I colored white felt with a brown marker.  Poor camel...

Overall we were so pleased with the results!  The girls loved helping me create the ornaments and really did anticipate each night what the story would be.

This has been a great way to keep the true meaning in Christmas!  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Least of These

A few months ago, I wrote about the Syrian refugee crisis in our country and surrounding countries here.  I urge you to take a look and then take some time to familiarize yourself with this humanitarian crisis.  I am happy to point you in the right direction as far as information on how to pray and how to give to support these hurting people.   

I don't want to repeat what I already said but today, as I sit in my home and hear the sleet and hail pelting the windows, and feel the wind blow through from not so great insulation in a still very new building, I cannot get these people off of my heart and out of my prayers.  And I don't want you to be able to either.  I want the desperation of their need to invade your being today so that you cannot help but cry out to our heavenly Father.  Because these people are experiencing the same rain and biting wind, the hail, the sleet that we are experiencing right now.  They are expecting the snow at the end of the week.  But their children are not anticipating the snow with excitement.  They are fearful for their very lives.

We are excited about cozy days roasting marshmallows around our space heater.

They are hoping their tents don't float away.  

These are the conditions in Zaatari camp in Jordan as the rains have invaded our country this week.  This is how thousands upon thousands of people are living today.  This moment.  Please let your heart break for them!  Cry out to a God who knows their spiritual and physical needs.  

He is working amongst these people and calling them to Himself. 

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
Matthew 25:37-40

Leaving Impaired

In exasperation, my sweet husband called me this the other day- leaving impaired that is.  I pretended to be quite offended while knowing deep down inside how very ridiculously true this statement is.  It was in the midst of (or towards the end of as we were actually walking out the door at the time) a typical last minute rush around to leave for our weekly fellowship.

Diapers were flying through the air to pack the diaper bag, doors being slammed to close off the area for Mia.  Everyone talking at once.  Were you a fly on the wall, you would hear..

 "who's got the sippy cup"  "does anyone have Lovey?"  "girls, don't forget your Bibles!"  "did anyone feed the dog?"  "Naomi did you get your Bible coloring book?" "WHY OH WHY are the wipes NEVER in the same place?" "WHO TOOK MY HAIRBRUSH AGAIN?!!?"  "Maddie, you DO realize we are walking out the door?" "People, PLEASE turn out the lights, every light in this house is on...."  and on and on in goes.  Finally, we step out the door and onto the elevator, everyone mostly in one piece, and Jason looks at me and with all the tact in the world says,

"YOU are leaving impaired"

And I'm pretty sure he didn't mean it as a compliment...

(and can I mention here that it didn't help my case at all when we got downstairs and I had to run back up to get my phone I'd forgotten- typical....)

It is almost physically impossible for me to get to any given event on time.  Something about the planning of how much time it's going to take to get our crew out the door and the estimation of how much time we should allow- something about that calculation just really never works for me.

I try.  TRULY I do.  Sad part is, it doesn't make it much better to say how much I try to respect my husband's desire to be on time when I seem to fail so miserably at it every time!  

WHY is this so difficult for me? (and many other members of the female race I might add...) I KNOW I'm not the only one out there who struggles with this!  Anybody have any tips for how to get better?  

I must add that this is not a new thing for me though.  It's been a struggle my whole life.  I was actually suspended in high school for tardies- HA!   My home room teacher lost count after 46 and decided she couldn't overlook it anymore.  Bless her heart, she must have been a kindred leaving impaired soul and was trying to show me a little love!)

And poor Jason.  It's not just me.  He has 5 females in our house who have to get ready.  Despite our best efforts, it just never all seems to come together.  The girls and I often share sheepish glances while apologizing profusely to Daddy that we are once again late.  This is one (of many I'm sure) area in which I am a horrible role model to our girls.  So girls, do as Daddy says, not as Mommy does-


To hear him tell it, he's been fighting this battle his entire life.  We are actually not allowed to say "coming" when he asks if we're almost ready thanks to one of his younger sisters, who apparently was always "coming" as they were heading out the door but never seemed to actual come...  

(funny side note, Anabelle has started saying "coming" whenever we call her.  She'll stop what she's doing and say "coming" and come running.  I guess it's ok for her though (at least for now) since she actually does come)

I'm thankful for my man who has likely given up on this battle but after 20 year together has not given up on me.  

Keep fighting, honey.  We may just get it together one of these days, and what a happy day it would be!  Please know that we are trying!  (even if knowing that actually makes it worse...)

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Did you have a Merry Christmas?  Ours was nice.  Not really the Christmas of my dreams, but nice still.  And I didn't really mean to take a 3 week break from blogging- just kind of happened.  There's been a lot going on that I wanted to record, to better remember, to process, but in the midst of the holiday craziness, sitting down in my cozy recliner with my computer for even 20 minutes of typing never really made it to the top of the priority list...

I don't know why this year was more emotionally difficult for me than other overseas Christmases but it was for sure.   I said when we were in the states 2 years ago at Christmas, that I missed my slower  paced Middle Eastern Christmas, and while that is still true, it's still oh so hard to be away from extended family at this time of year.  Yes, skype is wonderful and has transformed the way we are able to communicate with our loved ones, but the fact still remains, especially at holidays, that they are on THAT side of the screen and we are on THIS side.  Sigh.

In trying to prepare and make the holidays special for the girls, I asked them to tell me about their ideal Christmas.  Duh.  Not sure why I didn't think through the fact that it would involve being with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that I couldn't just magically transfer to our house for Christmas.  So there were tears then.  (from me, not them....  To be clear family that might be reading this and feeling sad, the girls had a great Christmas.  Of course, they always miss family and its' always in their minds to be together, but it was me that had the emotional difficulty this year!).

Like I said there have been plenty of things floating around in my head that I've wanted to write about...  I'm excited to share with you about our Jesse Tree that I FINALLY fully followed through with.  If you know me at all, you know I'm great at coming up with ideas and concepts, but follow through- not so much...  I have attempted the whole Jesse Tree devotional in years past  and always end up skipping random days, needing to make up 5 days in 1 night, forgetting this or that ornament.  But this year we managed the whole thing!  Well, let's be real.  We didn't do the last devotion.  ooops.  The one where Jesus is born.  Yeah, oops.  We did read the Christmas story numerous times and talked about the real meaning of the season etc etc.  Just didn't actually do that devotion and put that ornament on the tree.  But don't worry, when I get around to taking a picture so I can blog about it(probably before I take it down tomorrow), I'll put that last ornament on the tree...   I also had a fun post planned about some random Christmas tree ornaments that we have but it seems somewhat silly now that the season has past.  Maybe next year.  And of course there are always many, many random thoughts on this or that subject that God has me mulling over.

For now, here's a glimpse at what our family Christmas was like this year.   Sadly, we at some point or another during the Christmas week had some version of a nasty stomach thing so we didn't get very far from the house at any given point.

We did lots and lots of baking...

(I'll devote another post to some of the new things we tried but here is the link to the above cake)

We worked several puzzles
(which becomes interesting when our only puzzle working space is a very low coffee table with full access to the 19 month old- we need a card table!)

We had Christmas programs...

We watched some beautiful sunsets (usually while baking...)

And most importantly we celebrated the birth of our Saviour with lots of family together time during our Christmas week.  We do have stockings and gifts on Christmas morning, but we've tried to emphasize giving with the girls and I love the way our girls have embraced the excitement of GIVING to each other (almost) as much as the receiving (just being real here, they ARE still kids...  :)).

We seemed to kind of have themes this year as far as the receiving of gifts.

AJ was Hunger Games...

Naomi continued in her Toy Story tradition with Lotso Bear and Bo Peep's sheep (thank you e-bay!!)

Maddie remains our crafty girl that I managed to not get a picture of  and Anabelle got a fun kitchen, Veggie Tales classics and a LIttle People Zoo

(I think she was a bit puzzled by all the activity!)

Mainly we enjoyed being together- playing games, watching movies etc etc

From our family to yours hoping you had a blessed Christmas and are enjoying a wonderful New Year.  

My wonderful husband allowed me some hours alone at Starbucks this afternoon to reflect, blog, gather thoughts etc.  As much as I've enjoyed our family together time, it was a needed break to soak in some quiet and not have to be "on call" to answer questions, solve conflicts etc for a few hours.  The words in my Experiencing God Day by Day devotion by Henry Blackaby were exactly what my heart needed to hear for the start of a new year.  

"Would you dare to believe that God, who called you to Himself and equipped you with His Spirit, could work mightily through you?  Have you made the connection between the time and place in which you live and God's call upon you?  World events never catch God by surprise.  He placed you precisely where you are for a purpose....
Are you allowing your surroundings to determine how you invest your live?  Or are you letting God use you to make a difference in your generation?  Ask God to reveal His purposes for you and His will for your life today."

After a "pour me" holiday season of wishing I was closer (proximity wise) to my family, I needed the fresh reminder that I/we are exactly where God wants us.  As it says in Acts 17: 26-27, God knows in advance exactly where we will live and why.  How refreshing!

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should  inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."
Acts 17:26-27