Friday, December 31, 2010

Bathtime Simplicity

People often joke that when you give a child some fancy, expensive toy that he ends up playing more with the box.  Or that the only thing kids need to entertain themselves are some pots and pans and a wooden spoon.  I believe it.

Cooper loves taking a bath.  He loves, loves, loves it.  At night, when we're in the bathroom taking his clothes off, he starts kicking his feet in excitement.  He pulls himself up on the side of the tub to watch the water go in.  When his diaper comes off, a huge smile floats across his face.  His feet hit the water, and he's a maniac.  I've given up on trying to get him to sit on his bath seat; now I wash him as he zips around the tub.  It's terrifying trying to hold onto this squirmy, wet body.  (We do have a strict no-standing-up rule which was implemented once Cooper learned to pull up.)

My mom pulled out my niece and nephew's tub toys from when they were little.  Now Cooper has all kinds of things to play with...a floating whale, a stand with wheels that turn when the water goes through, a plastic watering can and various toys that float and spin.

You know Cooper's favorite?  His washcloth and the plastic cup I use to rinse him.  He by-passes his gallery of tub toys every time and goes straight for those two things.

Simplicity.  Beautiful simplicity.  We really do make life more complicated than it has to be.

Two Things Thursday

Cheryl was counting the days till Christmas on her FB page... even when she got down past 20 days, it didn't really feel like Christmas.  There was lots of running around... Jaime didn't even put up her giant tree due to Heidi's curiosity and there wasn't the all-nighter weekend after Thanksgiving to decorate The Lodge.  Sasha usually doesn't decorate until much later in December.  I listened to some Christmas music.
But then it started to crazy snow.  And then it felt like Christmas.

Our T3 this week is the Tale of Two Christmases...

Like most families, we get to split up the holidays.  Thanksgiving is always in St. Louis and most recently Helen & Len have been hosting the clan.  For Christmas, our Pack of Three spend it with Suzi's family.  The Czechs do all their Kris Kringle stuff on the Eve, replete with fish soup and potato salad.  That leaves Christmas Day for my side.  The St. Louis clan all bundle up and roll north into the country for a late lunch, some gift hurling 'round the tree and then pack up in the early evening to head home.

This year was much of the same.  Last year we were in Jordan, hosting Christmas at the Fellowship House for a myriad of nationalities.  It was Christmassy and stuff.  And there was some craziness that comes with a church full of personalities.  So, it was nice this year to just be able to hang out with very little over our heads.  Christmas Eve was fun with Cooper going nutso on the presents.  He likes nothing more than ripping up stuff, so opening gifts came second-nature to him.  We usually take a Christmas shot together as a family.  Jan was always the trigger-man and, while not much was said, he's a big presence to be missed.

One of the big successes for Christmas Day had to be dinner prep for me.  Normally, we're racing around like nuts trying to get everything in play before the Clan arrives.  Anyone who's tried to get a turkey, pork loin, several casseroles and the rolls(!) all done at once knows the craziness I'm talkin' about.  It can get ugly.  Ted, the Parents and us kids sat down to strategize the day, complete with time-lines.  We got a late start but made up for it and were in pretty good shape by the time the doorbell rang.  Happiness prevailed!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Two Things Thursday

So, on the week of Christmas, our T3 starts with an interesting convo I had during a recent church dinner. 

We're blessed to have Doris Tallman, the Food Service Director at Westran School District, as a long-time pillar of our assembly.  Periodically, I pick her brain on the food industry and she passes on anecdotes on the adventures of filling hundreds of bellies at one sitting.  Doris takes great pride (as well she should) in her department's performance, both in efficiency and nutrition.  She made the following comment and it struck me so, I asked her if I could quote it:

"Not every child can play an instrument or football or sing in the choir, but they can all eat."

Her point? Food is the only place where every child is equal.  What an absolute.  It's where we all sit down, regardless of quality or character and do something the exact same way... and get the same basic result.  It brought to mind an NPR piece I heard on Food Deserts.  It's a concept that's been around for years regarding the lack of healthy food in rural or low income urban areas.  The idea is that the small mom & pop groceries have faded away and the big box food retailers have followed the suburban migration.  This leaves a particular population group with no convenient access to quality food since many do not have personal vehicles or public transportation to locations that would stock it.  Sure, there are gas stations and fast food, but these generally don't provide fresh, healthy, low-calorie food.  This then snowballs into the urban sprawl, obesity and diabetic debate.

On the same urban desert theme, I've been past Northwest Plaza in St. Louis several times over the past few months.  This is an abandoned mall that in its hey-day was once a premier shopping destination complete with Famous Barr (and its distinctive white rotunda), Dillard's, Penney's, etc.  When it opened in 1963, it was reportedly the world's largest mall.  It's now what's called a dead mall, meaning the anchor stores are gone and the smaller retailers have no access to the traffic once generated.  Soon, these stores also close and the place goes vacant.  Now, this is fascinating to me, mainly because I'm somewhat of an urbex.  These vast buildings are just laying out there in the sun, with nothing happening besides decay and vandalism.  Eventually, they become blighted and the owner razes the place and it goes greyfield.
One success story of a resurrected dead mall is Parkade Center in Columbia, MO.  The management reoriented themselves from a retail focus to a service and business park.  Instead of filling the place with knock-offs or novelty stores, it became an office park with everything from ACORN to USDA.  Moberly Area Community College recently became one of the largest tenants, locating their Columbia campus on site.

And that's your T3, with enough links to keep you reading thru the weekend...!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Night for Missions

A couple of nights ago we made a run to St Louis to hang out with two different missionary trail blazers.  Our first stop was Margie McFarland.  An amazing women, who's tough as nails and a pitch-perfect example of Christ-like compassion.  Those of you who know her, understand when I say she holds nothing back, no matter who you are or what you do!
When they lived in Jerusalem in the late 50s to early 60s, she was in the same Damascus gate markets I've recently trod, running circles round those merchants in street-cred Arabic.  She once told a soldier during a squabble over ground beef that she may be American but her heart was Palestinian.  She recently returned to the Old City with her now-grown son.  He dropped her off at Jaffa Gate and before she got into the souk, a carpet dealer called her by name.  While there a young boy came in, his father requesting her presence at another shop.  The word spread quickly.  Forty years had passed, but 8 hours later she still had a line waiting to greet "Mother."
My mom worked as her husband's executive secretary when he was General Secretary at WEC in the mid-70's.  One Christmas, Sis. McFarland bought a Louis Marx train set to go around the tree (a purchase Bro. McFarland seriously questioned at the time, she told us). When my parents stopped by to say hello, my two-year old curiosity derailed the set and she was smitten.  I still have the train Margie McFarland gave me.  Before we left, a little reindeer mysteriously appeared in Cooper's hands as a memento to his meeting this great woman of God.  He may not remember the simple blessing she prayed over our family, but we'll cherish it always.
For dinner, we met Roger & Becky Buckland.  Having ministered in the States for many years, they moved their family to the Philippines and saw amazing things through Bible Schools and pastoral work.  In 1993, without knowing the language or anyone in the country, they moved to Prague, Czech Republic to start a brand new work.  Today, they are opening Bible Schools all over Eastern Europe and we're honored to be one of the Furlough Replacements for them during 2011.  Cooper was totally taken by Bro. Buckland, to the point he nearly finished off a jar of bananas for him (I can't get Cooper to eat very often much less a total stranger!).  We wish the Bucklands a blessed year as they hit the road to reconnect with supporters and share their vision of an enormous burden they carry for the region.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Things Thursday

You've got a week & two days left.

Have you finished shopping?  Better yet, have you considered the whole reason this whole Thing is going on?  Hint: It ain't about the tree or stuff under it...

So, happy Thursday... for those attending Festive Work Gatherings, I give you iStockphoto's Corporate Holiday Announcements.  A little parody for the soul... I think my fave might be the fine print at the bottom of the Dharma Poster.

And since we're all in the Christmas spirit here's Sasha trimmin' the tree and, um... other signs of the impending season that's upon us.  Anyone else wanna get zipped up in a sleeping bag with arms and legs?  Cooper's look there can be translated as follows:

"I'm a broken man... resigned to the fate that dogs my path.  Not only must I wear clothes, but I must wear ridiculous outerwear, as well, not to mention the Seat of Torment every time we leave the house."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SUZI: A Little More Perspective

My mom bought Cooper a cute little book called "The Car Trip" by Helen Oxenbury.  It's a tale about a young boy and his parents.  And you guessed it...they're going on a trip in the car.  The pictures do a great job showing both the boy's and the parents' perspective. While the boy is growling like a lion and making faces at the passing cars, his parents are a bit annoyed and trying to concentrate on driving; the boy's asking for candy while the dad tries to pay for gas; the boy goes to the bathroom while the mom stands with him on the side of the road amidst trash and thorns while the wind from passing semis blows her hair everywhere.  
 Then the boy gets sick in the car and the vehicle breaks down while it is raining and has to be towed back home.  You can imagine the parents' weariness from the long day.  But the boy announces to his friends that "today was the best car trip ever!"  
Perspective, folks.  It's all about perspective.  The next time you're out with your kids and you have to fetch their lost balloon from that tree or you have to drive around three more times because you're lost or you have to fish that dropped quarter out of some crevice, remember that they could just be having the time of their lives.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Things... Um... Sunday?

Yep... the first time T3 totally slipped through the cracks and we got busted!  Happy Howdies to Maya who was the first to remind us from her spot on the other side of the globe... she'll be getting a little treat sometime soon for catching us with our keyboards empty!

So, to catch us up... let's do something culinary for the Columbia crowd...
The Pack of Three hit up Bandanna's on Friday at their new location on Clark Lane.  No noticeable changes; that bread's just as good for you as ever!  It seemed the door count wasn't hurting... the place was pretty full.  ALSO... Five Guys is finally making an appearance in CoMo!  I don't know that I've ever had them, but saw a White House clip on Obama making a 5 Guys run and have wanted some ever since... Here's a clipping from the Tribune's Street Talk section:

Fans of Five Guys Burgers and Fries will have to wait until February or March.
Jeff Offutt, owner of the local Subway sandwich shops, said two Columbia locations have been selected for new Five Guys restaurants: one in the Broadway Shops, in the former Hollywood Video location, and the other in the Stadium Shoppes, near Pet-Smart.
Originally, Offutt hoped to have a Five Guys restaurant open in the Broadway Bluffs — next to Starbucks — by this fall. Offutt made that announcement in anticipation corporate officers would sign off on the project.
Instead, they preferred the Hollywood Video location, which closed this summer and has excellent visibility.
“They basically told me to hold off on the first location,” he said. “I want to open as soon as I can. Whenever we open, it’s going to be good.” 

Number Dos...
The Lodge was abuzz as we did a full day of photoshoots!  We covered the gamut, from Halloween costumes to family portraits.  It's what Jaime and I have done for years, but never quite on this level for our own brood. I'll leave you with the following teaser... we caught a Growley Bear in the Pumpkin Patch, but we'll post the rest next week after Lightroom has had its fun!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who ya' callin' Towheaded?"

From Yahoo Answers:

In colonial times, families grew their own flax to make into fabric for clothing. Transforming the flax into thread was a complicated, involved process with many time-consuming steps. After the flax was harvested, it was soaked in water for several days to soften it so the inner fibers could be removed from the stalk. To separate the long, thin fibers from the shorter, coarser ones, the flax was pulled through a bed of nails or combed in a process called "towing." The shorter fibers that were extricated were of a lesser quality and were called "tow." This led to the term "towheads" to describe people, particularly children, whose hair resembled these strands.
Our favorite online dictionary,, provided further support and evidence for this explanation. The definition for towhead reads: 
Pronunciation: 'tO-"hed (noun) 
Date: 1829 
a head of hair resembling tow especially in being flaxen or tousled; also: a person having such a head of hair

 The dictionary dates "tow" to the 14th century and states that its origin is "Middle English, from Old English tow-spinning."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

SUZI: Skateboard Psychology

A few weeks ago, I was taking a walk with Cooper.  I saw something that has stuck in my head.  It was our normal route; we were weaving our way through the streets near our house.  We passed a group of probably middle school aged kids.  From the way they were interacting, I could tell that this group gathered on this street regularly.  "Where have you been?  I beat you walking here today and you're on your bike," I heard one of the kids mouth to another.  There was a comfort amongst the group, yet a lot of one-ups-man-ship was going on. 

I passed them and when I was a few houses down, I saw another boy, seemingly the same age, exit his house.  He jumped on his skateboard and headed in the opposite direction of the group.  There was no glance toward the group.  No acknowledgment from him or them.  He clearly wasn't a part of the group.  A few houses down, he hit a bump and tumbled off his skateboard.  I mean, he rolled and then smacked the ground.  His skateboard went flying across the street where I would be in a just a few seconds.  What do I do?  The kid immediately got up, but it had to hurt and he was probably embarrassed.  I quickly debated whether I should say anything.  I didn't want him to think he was invisible, but did he really want some "old" lady with a baby checking on him?  I only had a moment to figure out what to do.  When he reached my side of the street to retrieve his skateboard, I simply said, "You ok?" He muttered a "yeah" and then headed on his way.

I had several things running through my mind after seeing this incident:

1.  I'm so thankful that I'm not in middle school anymore.  I know there are people who would give anything to relive their youth.  My word...I am not one of them.  Once was enough.

2.  Cooper is going to be in middle school one day. Is he going to be ok? And who will his friends be? And will people treat him well? And how can we make sure he gets a good education? And blah, blah, blah.  I could actually feel my heart beating faster at the thought of it all.  I comforted myself in knowing that for now my sweet baby boys loves his parents best of all and decided to ignore all irrational fears about the future.

3.  Why couldn't the boy on the skateboard be friends with "The Group?"  Why did we all have these stupid delinations about who we're friends with and who we're not?  Why do these things have to be such a big deal when you're young and do we actually ever outgrow these barriers that keep us from connecting with people who aren't like us?  Then I decided that that sounded like I was living in a rose-colored world. 

We headed home, and I still wasn't quite sure what to think of what I had just seen.  I still don't.  Maybe the lesson is just that we should all be nice to each other.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Today, it's all about the kids... Wednesday Cooper spent the day with Heidi, out of necessity since Mom & Dad were in St. Louis for a funeral.  They played and laughed and took each others toys away and took semi-long naps.  It was a grand ol' time.  I particularly love this shot of them digging through Grammie's toy chest.

And second, but certainly not least of all, Cooper got a shot at a real banana.  We've been slowly inching him toward a big kid menu.  Emphasis on the slowly.  Heidi seemed to make that jump pretty quickly.  Cooper not as much.  In fact, today he tried out crackers for the first time.  This is a kid who will stick everything into his mouth... he took the cracker, laughed and proceeded to crush it.  Pieces went everywhere but in his mouth!  A repeat performance later confirmed his response: Crackers are for fun, not for fuel.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Snow and other rabbit trails

I'm in the midst of downloading CS5 right now... and I anted for Lightroom 3 since there were these great deals going on... which I thought I'd missed and proceeded to have a mini-hissy, but then I decided to throw it into the cart to see what happened and viola! the sale ended at 11.29PM PST and that made me a very happy Adobe shopper... and helped out some poor coder's 401k. 
Speaking of LightRoom, I hung out over Nathan's shoulder while in Amman and was really impressed with the ease-of-use LR provided.  The quickie presets... the comfy layout... I'm really looking forward to it.  But that'll have to wait, oh, ELEVEN HOURS while the rest of the downloads hit my router.

OK, ENOUGH about my newest acquisition and more about the fact that it SNOWED in Moberly today! 

I woke up early and popped open the shutters to see what was aflutter. 
And what to my wondering eyes should appear but white flakes so light, flitting about without fear!

(Wow... I should blog more often at 1AM.  I get all poetic and stuff.)

It was Cooper's first snow, which meant that he had to get all bundled up and that can only equal glad tidings of great screaming, mitten throwing and arched-backed feelings of "I'm not putting on another layer!"  But we managed to get a family shot on the back deck.  The first of which we realized Cooper's hat was down over his nose.  Seems we're such good parents... all focused on the comfort and security of our baby and not at all on documenting those memory moments in frigid temperatures.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was fun and full of poultry.  We did the St Louis run and had a great time in O'Fallon with all that crew.  Since the Czechs didn't land on Plymouth Rock, we celebrate with Suzi's family on Saturday in Columbia with the Schrader bunch... it's a good enough reason to have turkey again.  I talked to a guy this week who was doing four T-days in a row.  That's an awful lot of family time.  He said that his grandmas used to coordinate their two feasts.  One would have ham and the other, turkey.  The following year they'd swap.  Then one of the grandmothers passed away and an aunt took over the hosting, but she doesn't do a check-in and there's some serious stuffing burn-out potential in the offing as a result.

I personally can't get enough of Aunt Helen's smoked pork loin.  My left-overs got smothered in Jim Benner's secret BBQ sauce.  There may have been some words tween the two of us near the fridge when it came down to the last piece.


(Not sure why the two grandma story up there, but I just liked the image of the two of 'em on the phone chattering about what they'd be serving the kiddos this year.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sunday After Thanksgiving

This morning a long-time member of our church passed away. 

At church.

She suffered for many years from a long list of physical ailments.  Cancer, diabetes, various amputations as a result of infection.  How many times did I hear her requesting prayer on my dad's voice mail?  Most recently, she had broken her foot and there was an issue with pooling blood around the wound.  I'm not going to go into long detail, but one of the men in the church and I were asked to help her to a waiting vehicle as service was wrapping up.  She'd been sick in the bathroom for a good part of the service, feeling nauseous, she said.

As we walked alongside her, supporting her as she leaned on her walker, it was obvious she was in terrible pain and quickly she began to sink.  We called for a chair as we reached the front doors, but she was already gone.  I held her head and looked into her eyes as the life we know flowed from her body.  I called 911 and a nurse and former EMT in the church started CPR.  The ambulance arrived, but there was little to be done.  Her husband watched as they worked on her, laying halfway out the front doors of the church.

One of the last services Catherine Claggett was in, she testified about meeting a perfect stranger in a gas station in Oklahoma and praying for that person's need.  She had a crackling voice that would slowly turn to an echoing boom as she would exhort and call our church to gratefulness or greater service.  Her life was one of constant pain and seemingly unlimited suffering on this earth, yet she never lost sight of her eternal goal.

Tonight, she doesn't need the walker or giant, orthopedic shoes any longer.  I'm grateful for her... and not a little humbled to have been by the side of a saint passing from this world to the next.  I have to admit there weren't a million things running through my mind.  I did manage to keep from taking pictures (purely tacky) and I learned a valuable lesson about calling 911 from a county address (always stay on the line even if they say they're on the way... a physical address, detailed driving instructions & a cell number don't always guarantee delivery of emergency services).  As the pastor mentioned later, I was proud of the health-care professionals we have at our church who were able to assess and give assistance.  When the police arrived first, they simply looked over the situation and said, "Keep going."

I was also struck by the thought of the spouse.  What do you as a husband of 42 years say at that moment in time?  What do you think?  How does it feel?  One of the guys in the church rode with him as he drove to the hospital.  Some of us and his family came to the ER.  But then he went home.  Alone.  I went home to Suzi to tell her I loved her again.  And again. 

May God extend His Amazing Grace to each of us when that time comes.  

We'll need it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Bought a Gun

A few years ago, I started whining about my 2nd Amendment rights and how I wasn't upholding my end of the Constitutional bargain.  I was a little taken aback when Suzi agreed with me.  Now, don't go all NRA-Crazy on us.  I'm not some "check yer weapons at tha' door" type.  I do believe that gun ownership is an option that we as Americans have built into the accessory list that comes with our citizenship.  You know, floor mats, alloy wheels, pursuits of happiness and such.  When Suzi's dad immigrated to America just as the Iron Curtain came crashing down, one of his early purchases was a small revolver.  Why?  Because it was something his previous government prohibited.  In this era of "enhanced pat-downs," we, as Americans, take for granted the freedoms we hold in comparison to the rest of the world.
OK, so now I'll reach under my soapbox and pull out my gun 'cause I know some of ya'll out there wanna  see it.  I had always expected to buy something tactical, with a laser and a Surefire light-up-your-world cannon attached.  Something black and spec-ops.  I figured on a 9mm for ease of access and relatively inexpensive ammo.  But when my "buyer" called one Saturday morning and said he'd found something I might like, I had no idea I'd fall for a Cold War relic.
Relic.  That's a strong term.  "It's got wood grips!" was my first thought.  This is NOT what I had in mind.  But after I hefted its all-steel frame and felt the satisfying whump of its decently balanced recoil, I was sold.
Just like that, at 36 years old, after a late night transaction in a remote, dimly lit, Taco Bell parking lot, my first gun was Hungarian Hi-Power clone: the FEG PJK-9HP.  The seller even threw in a couple of boxes of ammo.  And that, I think, has been the most interesting part of this whole exercise.  I was amazed at how cheap and how easy it is to pick up a gun.  I simply put the word out that I was interested and scoped a few shops.  When dealing with individuals, there's no government intervention.  It's like shopping for an extra Snoopy sippy cup at a garage sale.  If it looks clean, take it home.
Since then, I've picked up a few extra mags off Gunbroker and a paddle holster from Target Masters.  I've read a year's worth of Guns & Ammo and gone out a few times to a range near us to blown stuff up.  All that's made me the same guy I was pre-gun; I now just know some range etiquette and the difference between a .22LR and a .22Magnum.
There are folks on both coasts and quite a few through the middle of this great country who shake their heads and think, "What pitiful stuff... a waste."  But I'm not carrying the piece to the Mall or keeping it hidden 'neath my pillow in case some black-hat traipses through the door with nefarious deeds in mind.  It is what it is: an intricate example of mechanics, an interesting sidelight on a Saturday afternoon, another piece of gear... That makes a very loud boom and pretty little groups at 25 yards.
Anybody wanna throw some lead downrange this weekend?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SUZI: Shopping with a Tired Baby

I bought a shirt not long ago...nothing fancy but one I needed to work as a layer.  Cooper was with me when I bought it.  He was pretty much done with all things pertaining to shopping by the time I was trying it on, so I somehow didn't notice that the hem along the back wasn't straight across.  Once I was home I discovered that it curved across the bottom in a half-moon shape.  It's not like this was some accident; the shirt was designed that way.  This perhaps wouldn't be a big deal, but for some reason it really bothered me.  It was an odd length because of the curve. 

I had already worn the shirt a couple of time, telling myself the whole time that I really wasn't bothered by the hem.  But I was.  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix it so it would go straight across like I had imagined my layering shirt to be.  This should have been a quick fix.  I'm not a master seamstress, but I certainly have sewn enough things that this little project would be a no-brainer.  Right.  I have found that anytime I think no-brainer about a project, I should be prepared for some sort of impending doom. 

I cut the shirt straight across (no problem yet) and proceeded to sew (no problem yet).  Once I put the shirt on to eye my successful fix, I realized that the material was all stretched out in a weird way where I had just sewn it.  It was all fluttery across the bottom (problems begin).  And the seam where the new stitches were kind of flipped out.  The material was all wompy-jawed.  Clearly it was not meant to be cut and re-hemmed.   

Hmmmm...not at all what I had in mind.  And I had used Cooper's nap time to "fix" the shirt, so now I was running out of time.  I decided the only thing to do was to take my stitches out and see what I could do with it.  Upon doing so, I ripped a hole in the shirt.  Yeah.  Then I proceeded to cut just above my seam line to get rid of the wompy jawed part with the hole.  I figured I could at least wear the shirt to sleep in if nothing else.  

Except now, as I sit here wearing the shirt, the seamless bottom edge is rolling up on its own accord making the shirt shorter than I want, and it is driving me crazy.

Moral of the story?  Don't go shopping with a tired baby.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two Things Thursday

I suppose it's still Thursday in Hawaii... so here we go...


A couple of blogs we keep track of are doing some amazing stuff.  When she's not snarkily sharing the latest crisis in her family of six, Kristen over at RageAgainsttheMinivan hosts a regular series called What I Want You to Know.  It's a forum for her readers to share things in their lives that others may not know, care to ask about or understand.  Topics have ranged from autism to homeschooling to the death of a child.  I highly recommend Kristen's blog anyway, but this just adds a whole 'nother wonderful layer to it.
I'm also dropping in on RoJo's Story Year.  Robert's an amazing talent in all things visual and an MK to boot.  Somehow we're connected through a ton of folks, but have only briefly met once.  Writing nearly every day in 2010, he's challenging, brutally honest and transparent in a way that leaves me a bit slack-jawed...

Cooper hit the 7th month mark this week... He's crawling like nuts, pulling himself up on anything that'll stand still (and some things that won't) and is desperate to chew on every cord in the county.  What is it with babies and electrical cords?  He can't get enough of them and it doesn't matter how many times we redirect or distract him, given a bit of downtime, he'll make a quick turn and head off like lightning!  Some of you aren't on Facebook (stay strong!) and so I've posted some clips to our website to keep you entertained on those long winter nights that are sure to be right around the corner.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bullets & Waffles

This is not a commentary on mass consumerism... it's a simple portrait of what one encounters checking out at (*cough*) Wal-Mart.  Shoe inserts, ammo, a food processor and what seems to be THREE cartons of Edy's.  Seems the list was a bit eclectic this evening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This just can't end well #104

You are now free to move around the tarmac... as long as you're followed by a contingent of firefighting apparatus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Weekend

Good times over the weekend... Saturday we went to Flipz Gym in Columbia for Maddy's birthday party.  Liam hosted his party there this year as well and for obvious reasons!  Who wouldn't want to go free-wheelin' nuts in gymnastics heaven?  They've got a good thing going at Flipz... You get an hour of floor play and 30 minutes of party time in balcony.  It's bring-your-own-cake & punch, but who has all this stuff in their backyard?  After two shots at this place, I don't know what's more fun, playing tag with fleet-footed 10-year olds or hurling myself off the climbing wall into a pool of foam blocks.  There's even a climbing rope for those who just didn't get enough in junior high PE.

And for a little added coolness factor... Suzi's cousin, Jan, was in town and dropped by to add his vibe to the party.  We couldn't convince him to get out on the springboards or trampolines, but it was great to see him.  While he was in Moberly, he and Cooper got to eye each other from across the room... and then both took the plunge for some contact...

Friday, November 12, 2010

SUZI: Short-term Single Parenting

Scott and I are used to being apart.  Several months after we got married, we relocated to Chicago.  Because I was finishing my Master's classwork, I stayed in Columbia and Scott went ahead to settle our new home.  We saw each other every other weekend or so; this lasted for six months.  Scott also traveled quite a bit for the various positions he had at USCC.  It was common for him to be gone for a couple weeks at a time.  He's even traveled overseas without me.  I always miss him, but I survive and hold down the fort when he's gone.

Scott's recent trip to Jordan was a little different for me.  I missed crazy.  The days seemed to drag by.  It felt like he was gone for months instead of just two weeks.  I felt the responsibility of being Cooper's sole parent here.  My mom helped me with Cooper as she could, but at the end of the day, it was up to me to make sure he had what he needed.  Scott just couldn't get home fast enough.

For those two weeks I kept thinking about people who are single parents because of divorce, death of a spouse or military service.  I've always figured it was hard to be a single parent, but I have never given enough credit to people who have had to do it.  If you are a single parent (or ever have been), my hat's off to you.  You deserve a big hug.  And a quiet evening to yourself.  And some chocolate.

I am blessed...Scott returned safe and sound, and Cooper's tired face turned into a huge grin when he saw his daddy.  I was a bit misty-eyed, and immediately warned Scott that I might be a bit clingy.  It's funny what adding another human being into the mix does to you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Suzi counts down to Item Uno for T3:

As adults we learn fairly early that filters are important for social activities.  We learn what to discuss in certain settings and what to leave off the table.  The fact that these filters are firmly in place for much of American culture makes it rather jarring when someone overseas congratulates you for gaining weight (that's a sign of prosperity for them) or pries noticeably into your financial status.

Of course, all bets are off when we encounter an infant under the age of three.  Thankfully, their little psychological make-up or comprehension isn't in place yet!  So, for your Thursday enjoyment, Cooper's Top Ten Body Commentary:

1. Your feet look like Incredible Hulk!
2. You weigh how much?
3. What a chunky monkey!
4. Look at those thighs!
5. Where are your shoes?
6. Where are your socks?
7. Did you just make that sound?
8. How is it possible for that little body to produce that (smell or, uh, deposit)?
9. "Smell him... I think he stinks."
10. " do stink." 

Scott shoots for Two:

When we left for Jordan in 2008, we either sold off or stored up everything we own.  We've got a storage unit, and crates in basements at both sets of inlaws.  When we're in the States, we bounce between our parent's houses.  This time around, we're at Sasha's house (Suzi's mom).  When I sit down to work, I need a minimum space of 3'x3'... and a comfy chair.  Out come the hard drives, mice, books... I'm not kidding, I spread out.  
Before I left for Jordan last time, I'd been camped out in my parent's basement.  All my gear is stored there in nice, neat racks so it's convenient down there...and I love the space.  But, it meant I was here while Suz and Cooper were over there.  It just wasn't working and people kept giving me grief about not being a husband, father, decent human, yada yada yada.
So, when I returned last week, I started digging around Sasha's trying to carve out a space for me to work.  Last night, I finally worked out something on the front porch that's simple & works.  Of course, this morning about 9AM, the sun cleared that white house across the street and blinded me, which lead to even more shuffling about.  I can't describe the deep-seated need I have for someplace to put my stuff.  I never need much, just somewhere my gear can rest between running.  It makes me happy AND productive... which, in turn, makes Suzi pleased as punch.  And that makes us a Pleasant Pack o' 3.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Check Ups = BBQ, kinda...

Friday, Cooper had his 6 month checkup with Dr. Misra and a quick cocktail poke from Nurse Jaci.  He's running a few ounces over 23 lbs and is 28.25 inches long.  All signs point to a very healthy, active kiddo!  And Cooper did great with his shot!  No prolonged, open-mouthed, silent screaming this time... for which we celebrated at Buckingham's by sitting down, ordering and then taking turns standing and rocking a wiped-out Cooper.  
Once we'd both tasted our food in its warm, natural state, Cooper decided he'd had enough of all things public and started yelling about injustices and unfairness in pediatrics world-wide or maybe the lack of clean diapers in some far-away place... we couldn't tell for sure since his diatribe was mainly in the form of industrial-scale raspberries.  Just before things went south we managed a quick shot (below) after which the socks came off... and we all know what happens then... Bill the Cat would be proud.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo Books Reviewed

Christmas is coming and we've got photo books on the brain.  These are great gift items for recent or far off events that need a little more than just a table-top frame.  We've got friends who annually do one of these professionally printed photo albums to chronicle the year.  I think it's ironic that we've come full circle on photo storage and display.  Back in the day you had a small selection of bound, three ring binders and archival quality plastic sheets.  Then came scrap-booking and the myriad of punches and colored paper options at Michael's.  Some of us skipped the scrap book and went straight to online albums... categorizing our lives in little boxes of 10-99 shots with a few "Mobile Uploads" thrown in to spice things up.
Now, we've come all the way back to albums, except they're hard bound with 115lb, lay flat paper and titling across the spine.  We can pick from leather, linen or soft copy.  It's a cornucopia of creativity out there in the digital frontier!  Anyone can whip off their trip to Cancun to the publisher, throw it on the coffee table 5-10 working days later and look like they just waltzed out of Borders!
So where to start?  What site gets your money shots with a wide variety of cover options? Lucy uses Shutterfly.  Jan used Winkflash, I think.  And Jaime uses My Publisher, plus there's a gizmo thru iPhoto that Apple gives you...  I know, I know!  My mind's spinning off its axis at the moment, too, but thankfully I've got Google and Google's got ZDNET and over there they've got a link to a dude named Jason who's done all the heavy lifting for us.  God Bless the boy... this Canadian had a bad bout of booking binding and decided to put out the goods on, count 'em, a dozen different online print houses.  Normally, I just breeze through reviews and am on my merry shopping way, but this one... THIS one... is worth talking about.  And not just  because he mentions Mpix... yes, the MPix of 10 billboards on eastbound I-70 Mpix.  He really did a dozen photo books of his son's birth.  It's well worth the read (he says it's 15,000 words) just for the effort he put in.  Don't want to wade through all that prose?  His summary is perfect.
So, my choice?  The jury's out, but I gotta move quick here... Christmas is coming!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Wow!  How is it time for T3 again!?

OK, Firstly, for those who live in STL or Columbia, Alpine Shop's got a sale going on and I'm always one to shop if it's cheap.  Click the coupon over there to print your own.  I'm such a sucker for clearance racks there.  Anytime I'm rolling through Broadway, it's like a siren call between them, Slackers and El Rancho.  Why not make it a threesome?  A trio of absolute auditory, culinary & geared out bliss.  BTW, my personal fave @ El Rancho is the Chicken Nachos... big enough to take some home.

Oooo... Second, I'm HOME!  Suz, Cooper & Jaime met me at the airport on Monday night to drag my grateful, and seriously beat, body back home.  It was more than 24 hours from door-to-door, but a totally uneventful trip.  I did get to see Ramona & Beezus on the plane and have to admit to tearing up when the family thought they were losing their house.  I am that parent now.
It also seems I have become that parent who can't wait to get back to see his kid.  I've traveled an awful lot in past years by myself, but never have I been so happy to get back home to see Cooper.  He started crawling and broke out his first tooth while I was gone to Jordan!
And in Cooper new... He's getting his food critic groove on... It seems rice cereal has fallen out of favor and carrots are currently overshadowing sweet potatoes by a shutter, gasp and immediate grab for the next spoonful!  Our baby boy is growing up!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flat Stanley Project

Earlier this year, I got a curious request from the daughter of a friend of ours.  Her class was reading Flat Stanley and wanted to send him to me.  I first had to Google the guy to see what I was getting into and then quickly agreed to one of the coolest projects I’ve done recently.
See, Stanley got, um, flattened by a falling bulletin board.  This new identity lets him slide under, over and through tight spaces, including being mailed to new places.  The children's book, written in 1964, became an international phenom in the mid 90’s when a third grade teacher in Canada created a pen-pal project to allow school kids to practice literacy and track Stanley’s travels.
Abriah sent us her personalized Flat Stanley, along with a list of questions and a Flat Stanley to decorate.  We answered her questions and then took Flat Stanley out on the streets of Amman for a meet and greet.  The response was better than I could have anticipated.  Young and old were intrigued and excited about getting their picture with Stanley!
After an afternoon of touring, we dropped the two Stanleys, along with some brochures about Jordan, at the Post Office and wished them luck.  Abriah’s teacher got them in good form and they proved to be a hit at school!  We got a full description of Stanley's adventure from Abriah when we had dinner with her family recently and got to see our Stanley again... Drop by Flat Stanley's album to see his tour!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Wow... crazy run-around... that's usually the pace in Jordan and this trip's been no different.  I'm rooming with Nathan, who has been an ideal roomie... perfectly happy to hang out in his space with his Mac and me in mine.  And he makes a mean banana bread or chicken fried rice.  Definitely a domesticated dude.  So, knowing that I haven't put in my time in Petra quite yet (insert heavy irony here), I offered to play guide and introduce him to the Rose Red City.  
This was to be, I believe, my sixth time to venture through the hallowed walls of the siq and stand before the majestic Treasury.  We kicked off at an ungodly 7.30AM and were on Abdullah's camels by 11AM (yep, I've got a Bedouin guy on speed-dial).  It was a GORGEOUS day with blue skies, cool breezes.  We explored up the mountain behind the buffet restaurant, rode the donkeys up to the Monastery and even got some time in on the Urn Tomb.  I'd not been up on that side of the park before and was amazed at the size of the rooms.  We were back in Amman by 9PM and gratefully collapsed into bed.

And Second:
So, the whole reason it's been crazy run-around is that our national conference wrapped up on Monday night.  This year we had services in Amman, Husn and Marka.  This required some schlepping of gear from one location to another, but overall seemed much less harried than previous years.  (This  is heavily influenced by the fact I arrived two days prior and thus had very little to do with the prep work).  Brad Reed did a fantastic job in pulpit and we had great services all around.  For an added bonus,  Adam came in to visit for a few days in the midst of it all.  I was especially happy with the turnout for Husn, which was held at the YWCA in town.  Four were baptized after that service.

This week I've been prepping to leave, cleaning out closets and running errands.  I went with Mylen and Nathan to OWWA (the Filipino woman's shelter) and had the opportunity to speak to them.  It was beautiful to see over 50 ladies worshiping the Lord.  There's over 120 ladies living in a 4-story building, with more coming every day.  The employees requested us to pray that they would have favor with the government to stop the illegal trafficking of domestic workers into the country.  It's a massive problem all over the globe.
I'll be preaching in Friday and Sunday's services, so I appreciate your prayers.  God's doing awesome things in the Middle East!

Friday, October 22, 2010

SUZI: Punctuality is the Art of Kings

My dad not only expected punctuality, he demanded it.  If he said we were leaving the house at 6 a.m. for a vacation, we had better have been in the car at 5:55 a.m. because at 6 (if not before) we were pulling out of the driveway.  No questions asked.

It takes great discipline to be on time; you have to quit what you're doing to move yourself along.  It takes planning; you must schedule your day well and include enough time for the travel to get to where you need to go.  It shows respect to those who are waiting for you; their time is as valuable as yours so you won't keep them waiting.  A Czech proverb says, "Punctuality is the art of kings."  Being on time is a noble habit.

Normally, I'm a pretty punctual person.  At least I was as of six months ago.  Some how, though, I've found myself running late more than I ever have in my life since Cooper has arrived.  It's normally based on one of the follow things:

1)  Cooper is asleep.  Who in their right mind would wake this child when he finally fell asleep?

2)  Cooper has just filled a clean diaper.  Again.

3)  When Cooper filled that diaper for the second or third time, he managed to get it on his clothes.  Or mine.  This requires an outfit change for at least one of us.

4)  Cooper has spit up some doughy, curdled milk concoction that can't be simply wiped off.  Another costume change.

These are merely the primary reasons among many, many subsequent ones.

Recently as I was running late (I believe reason #3 was the culprit that day), I felt such a sweet presence of the Lord.  The thought of His love for me was so overwhelming.  He loves me whether I'm late or on time.  There's nothing I can do to change His love for me.  I can't ever be perfect enough to make Him love me more.  He loves me even when I'm late.

It's so easy to say the words "the Lord loves me unconditionally."  But somehow in that moment, the reality of that statement took hold more than ever before.  I realized that I do things trying to ensure His love.  The fact is, I don't have to.

Of course, it doesn't mean that He's pleased with everything we do or that He accepts things against His Word.  But He's certainly not standing over us with a lightening bold ready to zap us.  I'm so thankful to know such a kind God.

Does all of this mean that I'm going to quit trying to be a punctual person?  Absolutely not!  That noble habit is still what I'm aiming for - some days its just pushed aside while I change a diaper or two.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Item Uno

So, I'm back in Amman and to add to the fun, I've got Adam Hunley to run around with... it's just a very good day.  I got in just fine and blew thru immigration using my residency card from last time I was here.  I then waited for mine to show up till after every other bag was off the plane.  It's always nice to roll into a city and feel comfortable enough to stop by and grab groceries on the way home.  We spent the today roaming around downtown with Nathan, who hadn't seen much of the area there.  That jaunt's not complete without some mansaf at Cairo restaurant which just put a pretty li'l bow on the afternoon.  We prepped tonight and will hit the day running tomorrow for the first day of conference services.

Item Dos

It's 3AM.  I'm wide awake.  WHY?  You may ask?  Well, it's the beauty of that tiny, internal clock that runs around with you and, when it winds down, causes you to *yawn* and drop dreamily into cozy-land.  It takes longer to adjust than you think you need, and when you swap sides of the world, as I just did, it thinks, "Oh, it's still Missouri time, let's go out and play!"  When your mind is saying, "About the time Brad gets up to preach tomorrow, I'm gonna fall outta my chair in a sleep-deprived stupor!"

Fun times with the jet-lag, ladies & gents. Fun times...

So, do you have a fave way of dealing with time-zone changes?  Post 'em up and let's compare notes!