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.)