Prayer, Part 2: Pursuit and a Pen

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via Google

via Google

Prayer is such a simple thing, isn’t it? Pooka, who is five years old, likes to pray with us. We give her pictures of people to pray for, and she prays her sweet, simple prayers: “Dear God, thank You for Auntie Laura as she lives in–Spain and thank you for the Campbells as they live in–Peru.” If she draws the card with her own picture on it, she prays, “Thank You for myself.” I have to say that’s not anything I can ever remember praying.

I can remember as a very young child praying with my parents at bedtime, thanking God for a good day. One day my sister piped up that she hadn’t had a good day, so after that for a long time I prayed, “Thank You for giving us a pretty good day.”

My point is, prayer isn’t complicated. But sometimes it feels that way, and our emotions are very hard to overcome. And sometimes it seems very overwhelming. It was that overwhelmingness that kept me from a meaningful prayer life for such a long time. I mean, if I commit to pray daily then I need to pray for myself, my husband, our marriage, all three of my kids, our family, our extended family, our friends, our church people, the missionaries, all the people I know who are sick or who have sick children or sick grandmas or sick dogs, the kids who come to our children’s ministries, our neighbors, the people on my message board who post prayer requests, the country, the President, the government, my enemies, Israel, military personnel, victims of human trafficking, victims of AIDS, orphans, widows, starving children . . . I mean, face it– that’s a really long list. Especially if you want your prayers to have depth and meaning beyond, “Pray for so and so, and such and such, and this and that and the other thing and inJesus’nameamen.” Especially early in the morning or late at night, when my house may actually be quiet.

So I fought God about this prayer thing. I had so many excuses. But He wasn’t going to let me slide on this. He pursued me with love and grace, just like He pursues you. Because God wants us to open our hearts to Him– not because He doesn’t know what’s happening in our hearts, but because relationships require communication. Because intimacy requires honesty and openness. Because He has the answers for our hearts’ cries– He is the answer. And until we open our hearts before Him, we never really can understand that.

Someone suggested that I journal my prayers. Maybe more than one person. I fought this. I wanted an idealized prayer life– head bowed, hands folded, eyes closed. I have arthritic hands and have been prone to writer’s cramp for as long as I can remember. How could I write out whole prayers? It would take me ten times as long to write my prayers out as just to say them. Remember that long list? I’d spend my whole day writing in my journal. I’d have to get up insanely early. And did I mention the writer’s cramp?

Nevertheless, on February 17th, after yet another day of attempting silent prayer at 6:30 AM and falling asleep and drooling onto my open Bible page, I decided to try it.

Oh Lord, time and again through this [Bible] study You have brought home to me the importance of prayer and the necessity of it in my life. Your Spirit has pressed it upon me with more and more force and I have steadfastly ignored it. All these years Your child, and still I run away from You. And You still pursue me. . . .

Give me strength to get out of my bed and out of my chair if needed to do battle on my knees for the hearts of those I love. Make me a prayer warrior. . . . I offer You a willing heart, oh God. You know my weaknesses. May Your strength show itself perfect in them. I have failed at this my whole life. Make now the time that I am changed. Fulfill Your purpose in me.

That was 3 1/2 months ago. In that time I have filled up four whole journals with my thoughts and my prayers. I’m not saying this because I want you to think, “Whoa– what a holy person.” I’m saying this because God has answered that first journaled prayer, and so many others, and He has met me every morning and we have had sweet communion and it has changed me.

I’m not saying that everyone should journal their prayers. I’m saying that if you don’t spend time with your Father each morning, you are missing out, my friend. Because He is always there and the more I write my messy thoughts and confess my messy sins and pray about my messy life, the more I see Him in the middle of all of it. Journaling works for me, and the very thing I thought I would hate– the time it takes to write my thoughts down– has turned into the greatest blessing. Taking the time to write each request out gives God the time to answer my prayers, and for me to recognize the answers. Let me tell you something– if you pray that God will search your heart and reveal sin to you, He will. But if you are rushing through, you might not hear that still, small voice.

Sometimes I have sensed God leading me to pray for a specific thing. Sometimes I have prayed for wisdom and God has given it to me even as my pen wrote the words. I have prayed for courage and walked away with a sense of soul fortification that I didn’t have before I prayed. For me, taking the time to journal is what slows me down so that I can be still and wait for His answers. Often it’s just a reminder of a verse I have memorized from His Word. I pray Scripture every day.

Of course it hasn’t all been easy answers. As I said in my post last week, I have done battle with God and have cried before Him. I have struggled to get up early enough to have time. But I am seeing changes that I didn’t even believe I could see in my life– and in my children’s lives, and in the lives of others I pray for. This is because God loves to answer our requests.

I have more to say, so I guess I’m going to continue this series– hopefully tomorrow. But I want to say a few things before I go. First, I have really resisted writing these blog posts because I don’t want anyone to think I have it all figured out. I hope yesterday’s post made it clear that I am a big old mess and that the only good in me is Jesus. I am writing this because I believe God wants me to, and so I need to obey Him. But if I have given any sort of impression of super-Christianness, or super-momness, or super-anything-other-than-messiness, then I apologize. I am a mess held together by God’s grace, and He deserves all the glory for any kind of change in my life.

Second, I believe it is never to late to have a real, deep, meaningful relationship with God through prayer. That is why I need to share this. I had pretty much given up on myself, but God never did. He pursued me and He is pursuing you. He is a God who changes even the most hopeless heart. He loves you beyond your ability to understand or imagine, even though He can see even the most closely guarded secrets of your heart.

This is my story. God is writing it right now for everyone to see– He is love, grace, mercy, and an ever-present Help in times of trouble.

Prayer, Part 1: The Struggle

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from google

from google

Can we talk about prayer today? I have struggled with prayer my whole life, and have never found a way to keep a habit of prayer going for more than a few weeks. Let’s keep it real: silent prayer makes me sleepy. Silent prayer at 6am after several rounds of Midnight Mothering is pretty much impossible. For awhile, before my husband became the pastor of Tiny Town Baptist, I would pray out loud in the mornings while he was at work. Once we moved here, though, his schedule changed and suddenly here we both were, in the same space, every morning. Praying out loud became a bit of a problem, and so I quit.

Ironic, huh? Becoming a pastor’s wife damaged my prayer life. Not exactly what most people would predict, I assume. I mean, aren’t pastor’s wives extra super holy? Don’t we just kind of walk around in a glowy state of prayerfulness all the time, whilst answering our children’s questions about the nature of the Godhead and whipping up meals to send to all the shut-ins and proofreading her husband’s sermons and leading fifteen different Bible studies each day? I mean, if a homeschooling pastor’s wife has any struggles at all in her day, they undoubtedly center around which denim jumper to wear or which book of the Bible to memorize next. (Hmmmm . . . Leviticus? Or Revelation? Tough choice!) Not prayer.

Prayer is such a basic part of a believer’s life. We teach our kids that song– read your Bible; pray every day, and you’ll grow– grow– GROW!!!! and we know it’s true. I mean, the two most basic parts of the faith I grew up with are God’s Word and prayer. We are to pray for wisdom, pray in thankfulness, pray for strength, pray for the missionaries, pray for our husband and our children and our church and our country and the Peace Of Jerusalem. We tell others we’ll pray for them, and maybe we even usually mean it when we say it. But if you’re anything like me, then you fail pretty often at that list.

My prayer life, aside from a few really great months here and there, has basically consisted of prayers at church in prayer meeting, dinnertime prayers, and desperate prayers for help when my car was sliding on the ice or someone had just wet their pants again or I couldn’t figure out how to teach my kid long division or my computer crashed in the middle of something Important. And I knew this wasn’t sufficient. Don’t get me wrong; I believe God wants us to turn to Him in our emergencies, but I believe He has so much more for us that we don’t discover until we set aside real time to pray.

God loves us and meets our needs when all we send up are panic prayers, but He longs to have a relationship with us. Relationships require communication and openness on both sides. God opens up His heart to us in His Word, and we open our hearts to Him in prayer. Without regular, persistent, honest, sometimes gut-wrenching times of prayer, we never reach the intimacy God desires for us and that our souls were made for.

I have spent literal years under conviction for my sad excuse for a prayer life. I have made excuses and I have ignored God’s direction and I have muddled through experiences that He longed to meet me in because I was too proud or ashamed or busy or stupid to pray. I am thankful for a God who pursues me, even when I’m thick-skulled and ridiculously stubborn.

Can I be honest with you? I mean, I have been honest with you already about my prayer life and the general lameness of it for the last thirty years. But I need to be honest about something else. All that stuff about pastors’ wives is baloney. Or bologna. Choose your favorite spelling. If you’re one of my kids who shall remain nameless you might go with “dulonee.” Ahem.

The truth is that I’ve only been a pastor’s wife for two years, and nothing about our family magically changed when we moved from seminary and suburbia to the pastorate and the pasturelands (see what I did there?). I do not walk around in a state of glowy prayerfulness. I mostly walk around in a state of stretchy-pantsed ponytailedness. My kids seldom ask questions about the nature of the Godhead, but they are very intrigued by bodily functions and the smells associated with them. I don’t whip up many meals for the shut-ins, but I do whip up a mean Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. I don’t proofread my husband’s sermons, but I do critique his grammar and spelling on his Facebook updates. I currently do not lead any Bible studies, although I am super good at leading the pack with chatting during Bible study time and forgetting to do my lesson until the last minute.

My point is, I’m just a regular person. A mom. The fact that my husband is a pastor doesn’t really change any of that, except to make me more neurotic about it. And one thing that becoming a pastor’s wife did not change was my prayer life. Do you know what changed my prayer life? Choosing to have one. Just a choice. A choice to do it even when it felt awkward. A choice to find a way to make it work for me– in my schedule, with my life, with my personality.

I want to tell you about it, about what works for me, about what God has done in me because of it. Because I had no idea what I was missing in my spiritual walk, in my relationship with my Lord, until I began to spend time regularly in prayer before Him. No idea. And I expect that if you struggle in the same way, you probably have no idea either. And I want you to know, my friend, because God desires to have this precious relationship with you, and He created you to need it, and I believe that it is only found in its fullness by those who make the choice to set aside the excuses and take up the beautiful blessing of prayer.

Tomorrow I will (hopefully) be back to tell you all about what God has been teaching me in recent months in regards to prayer. He and I have fought some pretty fierce battles together. He has met me in my times of deepest need and walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death. He will do the same for you, my friend.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow.

Where I’ve Been

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IMG_1335      I spend a lot of time composing words that never make it into the blog or into any tangible form whatever. Life is busy and complicated and distracting. There are always so many things that need doing, and not so many people to do them. I sometimes wish I could directly dump my brain into my blog, but then, well, that probably wouldn’t be such a good idea either.

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We have had a good year of school. We had a lot of struggles in the first half of the year, but the second half was better. God always gives wisdom when we ask for it, and when I finally swallowed my pride and got down on my knees in prayer for my struggling learner, He showed me what to do and how to help him. It’s likely it will always be a struggle. We will struggle together, knowing that God made him exactly right for the job God has for him and the grand adventure God is preparing him for.

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The struggle is tiring, which is why the last day of school was in a lot of ways like taking off a huge backpack after wearing it for a few months with little break. I still have all these things to do, but I don’t have to wear the backpack for awhile and that is good. I feel a little bit lighter and kind of like singing a lot. So I’ve been singing a lot, because if you feel like singing you should go with it. At least that’s my opinion. I’m not sure the kids always agree with me.

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I’ve been reading a lot of books this year and I am loving that. Art got me a Kindle for Christmas and I have put it to good use, although I have read a good share of paperbacks and even one or two hardbacks as well. I read a little of everything, but my new love is history. Teaching the boys the history of the Renaissance and Reformation has inspired this love for me. It seems like there was so much missing from my knowledge of the world, and all of a sudden I can’t stop reading books to fill in the gaps. I’ve read a good share of fiction, too, and some parenting books and books on Christian topics. I so appreciate the men and women whom God has gifted with the ability to communicate the truths of Scripture in a way that I can understand and put into practice.

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I have been deep in the muddy trenches of my own spiritual warfare and have tested God and resisted Him and accused Him and He has answered and proved Himself faithful. He has renewed in my heart a desire to serve Him and to please Him with every part of myself, and He has shown me just how sufficient He really is. He has worked in my heart and given me a new, deep love for Him and brought me so much closer to His heart. I am so grateful for mercies new every morning, and for the privilege to drink at the spring of living water each day and find not only eternal life but abundant life.

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I have neglected my exercise routine and outgrown my skinny jeans. I have watched the snow fall outside my window and watched the trees I can see from my chair as they burst forth in a celebration of the seasons. I have decorated the house in all pink and gone a little crazy with the presents as my princess turned five– can you believe it? I have spent far too much time on Facebook and not nearly enough time cleaning my floors. I have cried through the death of a friend and I have rejoiced in the end of her suffering. I have played the piano, washed the dishes, taught spelling, clipped fingernails, and drunk a whole lot of coffee. I’ve laughed at my kids and I’ve yelled at my kids and I’ve been Supermom patient with my kids and Bad Mom impatient with them.

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I’ve been busy. God’s been busy in me. And now, Lord willing, I’m back to blogging, at least while my backpack is off. So if you want, you can join me on this little journey. You know I’d love to have you along.

All pictures taken by my talented husband at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.

All pictures taken by my talented husband at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.

Last Night We Carved Soap.

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Pooka and Art are gone at her tumbling class when I open a package of cheap paring knives and hand each boy a bar of soap. Our studies of the Renaissance have brought us up to Michelangelo, and since we don’t have any large chunks of marble lying around we’re going to practice our sculpting skills on these white blocks of Ivory instead.

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We’re using a lesson I found online, so we follow the instructions to trace the shape of a basic fish on the side of the soap. Before we start hacking away, I have each boy raise his right hand and repeat after me: “I [state your name] do solemnly swear that no matter what happens to my fish I will not cry. I am learning a new skill. I do not have to be perfect. This is just fun anyway.” By the end both boys are cracking up at their not-funny manglings of my solemn vow.

We are sitting on the back step with our blocks of soap and our toothpicks and paring knives. The sun is setting on the front side of the house, so we are comfortable in the shade. The dryer vents near the back door, so the smell of Blue Sparkle Snuggle dryer sheets occasionally wafts over us and overpowers the soapy smell that surrounds us as we cut and peel and shave our bars.

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I shave carefully at my fish. DP has his own method that endangers his fingers and makes me nervous. I try not to be Overprotective Mom. When he jumps and flails and nearly cuts off my finger I am forced to remind him that the object he is holding is, in fact, sharp. “I know but I got a breeze of GARBAGE!” he moans melodramatically. Angry Ranger and I both catch the same wind just then, and AR pretends to faint. The garbage can is also at the back of the house, and tomorrow is garbage day so it’s full of a week’s worth of ew.

Our fish are taking shape in spite of the garbage smell and the near-death-from-dull-paring-knives experiences we are all having. One of the boys toots and they both fall over laughing. I roll my eyes. Mothering boys when they were little seemed to pretty much revolve around their bodily functions. Sometimes I am reminded that though they are taller, things haven’t really changed much.

“GARBAGE WIND!!!!” I yell, and we all get the giggles again.

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With our fish about as fishy as they’re ever going to get, the boys ask for a new bar of soap and I pass them out. I tell them they can make whatever they want. We joke about making soap-sized replicas of Michelangelo’s David but decide not to. I say that’s probably good since none of us knows how to make a loincloth, and if ever someone needed a loincloth, poor David does. We spend a few minutes bashing Renaissance artists who made everybody naked.

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I decide to trace a heart onto my soap, which I do with my toothpick as the boys experience another exciting moment when someone toots just as the garbage breeze blows over us. Angry Ranger announces his intention to create an irregular blob, and I am inspired to compose a song with that title. It is brilliant in the way that things are brilliant when you’re a little tired and possibly had more sugar than was healthy.

Darth Piggy still can’t decide what to carve in his soap. I suggest he carve a pretty girl, but he starts to make a heart. AR, done with his irregular blob, starts drawing faces into his leftover chunks with his toothpick. I tease him about all the various pretty girls they might be. DP adds a few suggestions of his own, which he thinks is funny until the tables are turned and we offer a few ideas of pretty girls that he could carve.

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We’re all collapsed in laughter over our own brilliance and the long gust of garbage breeze that has just washed over us when the garage door opens, bringing Art and Pooka back to us. We try to explain but of course they don’t understand. That’s okay.

Sometimes the best memories are impossible to explain.

In Praise of Cheese

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So yesterday, Angry Ranger had to write a poem for one of his school classes. Proving that he does, indeed, belong to this particular gene pool, he decided to write a poem about cheese. This got us chatting around the dinner table– and laughing around the dinner table– about how we could do a production based entirely on cheese.

And then, because it was the Friday night of a long week in which all of us had been to the dentist and one of us had had to learn how to give herself injections of a new medication and several of us had spent significant amounts of time coughing and sneezing and generally failing, we decided to actually do it.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride and joy that I present to you the Elephants in Bloom production, In Praise of Cheese.

(P.S. If there were ever any doubt that we were a homeschooling family, this should erase that.)

Hi, I’m Erin, and I’m Not a Juggler

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I promised myself I’d write more in the new year. I know. Didn’t I just post a few days ago about how I hate the new year? Yeah, well, my hatred of it doesn’t seem to stop me from making promises to myself, which is different from resolutions because I said it is. Anyway, I did promise myself I’d write more in the new year, and that I would read more books that I haven’t read before (I have this habit of reading the same books over and over again until they’re falling apart; I’m not saying that’s a bad habit, really, just that I am trying to broaden my horizons a bit). Also it wasn’t so much a promise to myself as a reality that I absolutely had to buckle back down on things like housework, homeschooling, and serious regular exercise, all of which kind of slacked off before Christmas in favor of Baking Good Things and Running To And Fro and Spending Too Much Money, and which continued their demise after Christmas in favor of Naps and Pajamas All Day and also Donkey Kong Country Returns. This is our first week back at it, and it’s rough. Full-on school days, homeschool co-op, church activities, regular exercise, the housework planner, a schedule. Oh, and then I’m supposed to be reading and writing more. I’m not supermom and it’s not really going well. It really would go okay if long division wasn’t so difficult, and if my daughter didn’t require quite so much attention at all moments of the day, and if memorizing the 8 times table was a whole lot easier. Also if I didn’t need sleep. That would be good. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. This is life, and we’re all living it. Busy seasons– and they keep getting busier. I resist it but it’s just reality. In the middle of it, I desperately want to write. Sometimes when I’m doing housework or schoolwork or a workout I simultaneously compose amazing blog entries and poems and short stories, but by the time I sit down and open my laptop and find a place with a blinking cursor all that’s left of the words is “wow, I’m tired.” So when I say I’m hoping to blog more, well, I hope you realize that for me, more is a very relative term. I want to write, but I need to spend time with my husband, take care of my family, watch out for my health (spiritual, physical, mental), keep my house reasonably clean, teach my children, feed all of us, minister to my church, get enough sleep, keep in touch with my loved ones, and occasionally play Donkey Kong Country. It’s a lot of balls to keep in the air, and I’m not much of a juggler. I trust you’ll forgive me if the ball I most often drop is this blog. Better that than my kids, don’t you think? ;)

2013 In Review– Squeezy Edition

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All the following precious memories come from facebook.

January 1 Trying on her new princess dress-up clothes. I told her to look fabulous and this is how she posed.
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January 4 This morning, at about 12:30, Squeezy’s crying woke me up. When I went in and asked her what was wrong, her reply was, “I’m afraid of my arm.” Sorry, kiddo. I have no idea how to help you with that one.

January 18
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January 22 Tonight, while I was combing Squeezy’s hair after her bath: “MOMMY!!! Don’t pull my hair all out! God made my hair!!!”

January 23 Squeezy: OW OW OW!!!! OW OW OW OW OWWWWWW!
Me: Oh dear. What happened!
Squeezy: (whimper-whining) I got HURT!
Me: You did? Are you going to be okay?
Squeezy: (suddenly perfectly fine) Yes. God heals me.

Squeezy: DADDY! I didn’t wear any panties to JOY Club tonight!
Art: You didn’t?
Squeezy: No! I took them off!
Art: When did you take them off?
Squeezy: A month ago.

February 4
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February 7 “And one day Jesus was up in heaven, because that’s where He lives, and I just was breakin’ out my crock pot because I had to buy a new one because my brown one broke, so I had to buy a new pink crock pot, and I had to buy some new knives because my other ones broke because sometimes things break. So one day before Meeny-Mo was born, well, Auntie Laura took good care of her and she was very boring and she didn’t get all better. But Auntie Laura took good care of her because she was sick, so God prayed for her so she can get healed all better. Jesus is gonna make her all better so that she can be all better cuz she’s a little girl.”

February 8 “Peacock, peacock, what do you see? I see a . . . um . . . purple thing looking at me!!!”

February 11 Squeezy is curled up in a chair with a hymnbook, making up songs to sing. In falsetto.

February 22 Our neighbor is out plowing the sidewalk, and Squeezy got all excited. “Oh look! He’s vacuuming the snow!!!”

February 28 Squeezy, screaming at the top of her very angry lungs: DON’T SAY I’M NAUGHTY!!!! I’M NICE!!! I’M NICE!!!!!

March 4 “Mommy, when I was a baby I was scared to go in the carwash and I stuck my fingers in my ears and closed my eyes and put a blanket on my head and I cried. Awwwww. Isn’t that sad?”
“Squeezy, that happened three minutes ago.”
“Oh.”

March 6 “Oh, Mommy, this is just such hard work for me!” –SQUEEZY, who is currently LYING on the couch, shaking the Wii Remote so that her Mii will run on the Wii Fit. (As I was typing this, she added “My arm hurts!”)

Squeezy has had a very adventuresome evening. For dinner she had a hot dog, a chocolate chip pancake, some broccoli cheese rice, and some grapes. And then at JOY Club she had Daniel thrown into the dentist.

March 8 Squeezy just told me that she learned about Zeus at story time at the library. That would be Doctor Seuss.

March 9 Squeezy: Excuse me, I burped.
Me: You’re excused.
Squeezy: That’s what you think.

March 11 “Mommy, I have underpants but it’s not the boys’ business.”

“Mommy, what do octagons taste like?”
“Um . . . ?”
“Do octagons taste like cucumbers? Or peppers?”

March 21 Gracie has started telling everyone in our family that they smell like Boba Fett. This seems like a good time for some hashtags. #nerdfamilyinsults #suchasweetchild #ineveractuallyusetwitter

March 22 “Mommy! Tomorrow Erika is coming over to babysit! And I’m going to bring my babies down from my room so she can sit on them!”

March 30
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April 7 “Mommy, we’re both princesses. I’m Cinderella and you’re Darth Vader.”

April 17 Squeezy is playing a recognizable tune on the piano. She’s a genius, I tell you.

April 19 Squeezy just Febreezed the walls in her bedroom. It’s kind of one of those days.

April 23
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April 24 Squeezy (for the twentieth time in five minutes): Mr. Hamilton said that if I jump over the track he will spank my butt.
Me: Okay. Please stop saying that.
Squeezy: Can I say “gutterball”?
Me: Um, yes?
Squeezy: Mr. Hamilton is going to spank my gutterball if I jump over the track.

April 26
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May 2 “Look, Mommy! It’s Cinderella! She’s a beautiful princess!”
“Are you a beautiful princess?”
“Yes!”
“Is Mommy a beautiful princess?”
“No, you’re a baboon bottom.” (thank you, older brothers, for teaching her THIS delightful concept)
“Gracie, that isn’t a nice thing to say. You need to say kind words.”
“Oh.” (thinks for a moment) “Mommy, you’re a tower. A tower is a nice thing, right? A tower is a kind word!”

May 4 “Hethaly Father, I’m sorry my tummy hurts. I hope it doesn’t hurt soon. I love Mommy and Daddy and they take good care of me. In Jesus name, Amen.”

May 22 “Mommy, I’m not going to be nice to my friends.”
“You’re not?”
“No! I don’t want to be nice to them.”
“Where are you going to see friends?”
“In America.”

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May 25 You may be a little girl with big brothers if, at age 4, you know the difference between R2D2 and R3D5.

June 1 “You know what? I have some exciting news. God is HERE!!!” –Squeezy, explaining why we don’t have to be afraid of lightning and thunder

June 5 The later it gets, and the more tired she gets, the louder and weirder Squeezy becomes. Which is why tonight, as we were driving home from Omaha about an hour after her normal bedtime, she yelled to me “MOMMY IS BABY JESUS A HIM OR A SHE?”

June 11 Squeezy just told me that the sunshine is cute.

So my mom was explaining to Squeezy about the difference between sunrise and sunset. And she explained that sunrise is when the sun comes up. At which point, this is what Squeezy said: “But sometimes the sun doesn’t come up. It just stays in the ground. And sometimes there are butterflies! And a big doggie opened his mouth right up and CHOMP he ate a butterfly!”

June 15 Squeezy, holding her waffle in front of her and shaking it back and forth: “Mommy! Look! My waffle is exercising!”

June 18 Squeezy, sticking her fingers in the eyes of her doll: “Mommy, Polly doesn’t have nice eyes. She has finger eyes.”

June 21 “Mommy, even if it’s right-side-up it’ll still be upside-down.”

June 28
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July 2 “Mommy, I only have four pairs of socks on.”

July 4
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This picture pretty much sums up how Gracie felt about the fireworks tonight.
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July 6 “Mommy! I’m sitting in front of the vent! This heater is so cold! Brrrrr!”

July 7 Squeezy is doing a special interpretive dance to Tenth Avenue North’s song “Worn,” which she refers to as the “YASHES” song.

July 16 Today DP and Squeezy made aliens out of egg carton cups. Squeezy named her girl alien “Olivia Olydia” and her boy alien “Diowa Iowa.”

July 21 I was helping Squeezy get dressed, and I accidentally scratched her leg.
Squeezy: Owie Mommy! Now I’m going to get a big red scratch!
Me: I’m so very sorry. Are you going to be okay?
Squeezy: No, I don’t think so.
Me: Oh. Well, should I cut your leg off?
Squeezy: No! Because then I wouldn’t be able to wear my pants!
Me: Oh dear, how embarrassing! And how would you wear your underwear?
Squeezy: I’d just have to wear them on my head!

July 25 Things I never thought I’d say to my daughter: “Please do not pretend the Bible is a bomb.” She’s pretending to be Agent 99.

July 28 Today Squeezy asked for something “Pretty please with cream and sugar.” #welovecoffeeinourhouse #girlknowshowtogetwhatshewants

July 30
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August 1 Squeezy just came in and said “Mommy, it’s starting to sprinkle” and then she put on her life jacket. She’s ready for anything, my girl is.\

August 9 Squeezy is working on her tumbling passes. Currently they involve yelling “THREE TWO ONE GO!!!” then bouncing three times in place and going into a very fast somersault. She only learned to do the somersaults yesterday and she’s already really good and fast at them.

August 14 Squeezy just asked me to empty her memory card, and I found a bunch of pictures she took while she was supposed to be taking a nap . . .
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August 15 “If you’re happy in your nose, clap your hands . . .”

August 17
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August 22
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August 29 Squeezy just spun around until she was dizzy and then said, “WHOA! The room is wiggling me up!”

September 4 DP is currently studying castles, and now Squeezy is obsessed with castle toilets and bathroom habits during the middle ages. Lovely. She’s such a princess.

“MOMMY! This is a CASTLE and it’s HUGE. It’s as big as a PLANET. It’s even bigger than a GIGANTIC M&M!!!!”

September 14 “It was just, like, so funny.” –Squeezy, age 4 going on 14-year-old valley girl, apparently.

September 15 Squeezy just paused from pounding on the piano to instruct me, “Mommy, after I play, you clap.” yes, ma’am.

September 18 Squeezy has been singing “Jingle Bells” a lot lately, only she doesn’t know the words to the verses so she just sings “Dashes through the snow, dashes through the snow, dashes through the snow . . .” And all I can think of is, WHY dashes? Why not other punctuation marks, like semicolons or ellipses or even quotation marks? Why do the dashes get all the fun?

September 22 Squeezy is sitting on the couch cuddling and rocking her dolly Jayna and also a pumpkin.

September 27 Somebody in our house tooted loudly, and Squeezy declared that it was “awesome.” #youmighthavebigbrothersif

October 8 We’re watching Despicable Me and Squeezy keeps calling the minions “unions.”

October 14 Yesterday in church, while the rest of us sang “In My Heart there Rings a Melody,” Squeezy sang “In My Heart There Rings a Meeny-Mo” in honor of her cousin.

October 19
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October 21
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October 27 “Mommy, when I tripped over my knees, I did a handstand.”

October 30 Squeezy just had her half birthday, and now I keep hearing things like, “Mommy, since I’m 4 1/2 now I can do THIS,” followed by some random tumbling move or other acrobatic feat. Just now she told me that since she’s 4 1/2 she’s not in preschool anymore; she’s in fifth grade.

October 31
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October 31 So I halfheartedly dressed up as a cowgirl today, but Squeezy kept calling me a “girl cowboy.” This really bugged the boys, who kept correcting her, at which point she started calling me a “girlboy.” Thanks for that, my sons. That’s way better.

November 1 Mr. Incredible: Every Super has a secret identity; I don’t know a single one who doesn’t. I mean, who wants the pressure of being super all the time?
Squeezy: I do!!!

November 3 Squeezy is sitting in a laundry basket singing the Hallelujah chorus at the top of her lungs.

November 7
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November 11 Squeezy is singing a Christmas carol: “oh comma, let us store him.”

November 16 Interesting factoid: the more Squeezy compliments my cooking, the less she actually likes what she’s eating.

November 17 Squeezy, singing Christmas carols again: “Deck the halls with boughs and bellies!”

November 23 a little girl in a pumpkin princess dress has been chattering at me nonstop about the intricacies of all her UNO cards for the last fifteen minutes.

November 24 “Mommy! Guess what! I drawed an ostrich!”
“You didi? Can I see it?”
“Well, it looks kind of like a cow.”

November 25 My genius daughter has taught herself how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano.

December 1 “We wish you were merry, Christmas!” or “We wish you were Merry Christmas!” –not sure whether the comma should be there or not, but this is Squeezy’s carol of the day.

December 4 “Did you toot, [brother who shall remain nameless]? Now it doesn’t smell like brownies anymore!”

December 7 Squeezy’s been taking tumbling classes for about five months. When she started trying to do backbends, she could barely get her bottom off the floor. Now check her out!
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December 13 Squeezy was “helping” me in the fitting room tonight and was fascinated by my belly. After three babies and a big weight loss, it’s definitely not supermodel material! But she was very sweet and serious when she said, “When I’m a big grown-up, then I can have a tummy like that.” I wish I could accept my imperfections the same way she does! Having a daughter sure does teach me a lot.

December 15

December 16 Me, yelling up the stairs: Squeezy, why are you crying?
Squeezy: I’m not!
DP: She’s just pretending to be a Wookiee!!

December 20
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December 22 Squeezy’s new favorite thing is telling the boys that she got them princess underwear for Christmas.

December 23
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December 24 one of our children was quite unhappy about having to clean on Christmas Eve (as opposed to schlumping aimlessly around the house out of boredom, causing problems with his siblings), and Squeezy told him, “Don’t be sad! It’s Christmas Eve! It’s a JOYFUL DAY!”

From a hyperactive preschooler jumping on the couch: “TOMORROW IS CHRISTMAS DAY!!! I’M SO EXCITING!!! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!” We’ll either have peace on earth or the apocalypse. Not sure which.

December 25
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December 29 “Mommy, when I’m a hundred will somebody eat me?”
#wheredoesshecomeupwiththisstuff #mykidiscrazy #motherhood #ineedmoresleep

2013 Year in Review– Darth Piggy Edition

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January 8 A “big, mysterious package” just arrived. I told the boys they have to finish their schoolwork before we show them what’s inside. This has ALMOST caused Darth Piggy to work diligently, but not quite.

January 29 Nothing quite as funny as getting knocked down by a giant pendulum, right? That seems to be DP’s opinion, anyway.

February 4
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March 4 Here we all are at the Prairie Rose State Park yesterday! It was a bit chilly for a hike, but we did it anyway. Word of advice, if you ever want to go out in the woods and see wildlife, don’t take DP with you. He made more noise then a tank brigade…but the kid seriously loves nature! He was laughing, running, splashing through half melted snow, tromping through sticky mud.
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March 11 Me: I used to be able to get those Jiffy muffin mixes for 3/$1 pretty much all the time.
Squeezy: But that was before you were born.
Me: um . . .
Squeezy: No. Actually, all of us were born but Daddy wasn’t born.
Me: Was he hatched?
Art: I was grown in a laboratory.
Darth Piggy: You were born in a lavatory?

March 30
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April 22
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April 24 Squeezy and Darth Piggy both brought home trophies tonight from our JOY Club’s pinewood derby.
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May 10
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May 16 Me: Number four is “laying.” We saw a chicken laying in the road.
DP: I think that would actually be “lying,” Mom.

May 25 My middle child is being baptized tomorrow evening. I have stocked up on kleenex.

May 26
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June 11 DP found a substitute for Angry Ranger, who is away at camp. I can hardly tell the difference.
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June 28 DP spent a lot of time [at Lake Michigan] throwing sticks in the water and just ind of chilling on his own. I think a week of no personal space has worn on him just a bit!
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July 3 Getting messy with the chalk pastels this morning!
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July 4 So fun! I’m not sure the boys agreed, though. Thankfully we made it back to the ground without any actual puke, though Darth Piggy was pretty pale by the time the ride ended.
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July 15
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July 19 Me: We shouldn’t ever make fun of someone because they’re different from us or have a hard time doing things that we can do easily. God makes each of us exactly the way He wants us to be.
Darth Piggy: Yeah! So if He wants someone to be stupid, He just makes them stupid!!

August 12 DP is taller than four chickens and therefore could not ride the tractor.
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August 22
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October 7 This is a child who is just a tiny bit excited about his birthday.
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October 20 For some reason, my 9-year-old has decided that the best thing in the whole world is to read stories to Squeezy, replacing about half the words with the word “brick.” Alas.

October 21 That’s DP way up there!
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October 31 Darth Piggy was a pretty fierce Jedi and had some fabulous lightsaber moves.
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December 20
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December 23
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December 24
the Ghost of Christmas Future just showed Scrooge the Cratchetts crying about Tiny Tim, and one of those big fierce boys of mine may be crying.
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December 25
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Confessions of a New Year Hater

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I confess. I hate the New Year. I know. I mean, plenty of people hate Christmas for whatever reason– bad memories, family drama, too much commercialism, loneliness– and even those of us who love Christmas can kind of understand it. I mean, who of us hasn’t secretly felt a bit of sympathy for Ebenezer Scrooge before he is visited by the three ghosts, or for the Grinch before he falls into the clutches of a cute little Who named Cindy Lou? (side note: Today Squeezy informed me that she wants to grow her hair down to her legs so that we can style it like Cindy Lou Who’s hair. Heh.) Anyway, my point is, that most of us can at least sort of understand people who aren’t crazy about Christmas, but who hates New Year? Who even has an emotional response to it?

I’ll tell you who. It’s me. I. Whatever. English is a twit language.

I have been thinking about this the last few days and trying to figure it out, and I think I have. The New Year is a calendar of blank squares– a whole blank book of white pages waiting to be written over. And I am a coward. I am afraid of messing it up. I would rather not start at all than start and make a mistake and fail and have a mess in my blank book of pretty white pages.

When I was a young girl, a friend of my mom’s gave me a blank book. Not a notebook, but a real book with a binding and a hard cover and hundreds of pure white pages. I loved it but it terrified me. It literally took me years to write anything in it. I was afraid I would ruin it. I have dishes I have been saving for “the opportune moment” and clothes that my children only wore once and then outgrew because I was “saving” them and food that I have had to throw away because I was holding onto it for a special meal, and I wear my favorite t-shirt the least often and my least favorite the most often and all of it because I’m afraid of ruining things.

Things do get ruined. I mean, Squeezy had this adorable pair of striped pants this past fall that I loved, and the second time she wore them she played in the dirt and stained the backside and then the fifth time she wore them she somehow got a huge rip in them and then I had to throw them away. So I use this kind of example as a reason to not let her wear half her cute clothes or to keep that pretty-smelling candle in the cupboard and not burn the darn thing. I know I’m not alone in this. But it took me 36 New Years to figure out that this is the same reason why I really kind of hate the New Year.

It always seems that everyone knows exactly what they want to do with themselves in the new year– lose weight or be more frugal or be more generous or read more books or cook more food from scratch or learn a new skill or whatever. And then there’s me. January 1st comes along and I just really want to sleep in and maybe have some pie. I don’t want to make a million resolutions I know I’ll break, and I don’t want to think about all the ways I am likely to fail during the next year.

I don’t want to be the one to write “failure” in thick sharpie letters on every page of my blank book. So I ignore the fact that I’ve been handed this empty year as a gift. I put it on the shelf and eye it warily and occasionally take it out and flip through it, maybe even hold a pencil over its first page, and then I panic and put it back on the shelf and walk away. If I write “pray more often” or “be a better friend” on that page, and then tomorrow I forget (again) to pray and I am insensitive to a person I love, well, I might as well as scribble failure on every page, right? Better to just leave it blank.

The trouble is that it doesn’t really work that way. The book won’t stay blank even if I don’t write it in. The New Year has begun, and whether or not I decide to seize the opportunity of a blank slate and fill it up with words and dreams, it will tell a story on December 31st. Most of the parts of that story are still a complete mystery to me, no matter what I write on my calendar.

I have goals for this year, but I haven’t sat down and written out resolutions. I probably won’t. Last year I made several and as far as I can remember I didn’t keep a single one of them. The one thing I did succeed at was losing weight, but that was not a New Year’s Resolution; it was a random decision I made on a Wednesday night after kids’ club. I’m not convinced of the power of resolutions that are made just because it’s the thing to do.

This morning I was reading in Kay Arthur’s book Lord, Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days about what it means to hallow God’s name. To hallow means to set apart as holy or special, and when we hallow God’s name we are setting it apart as something precious. Kay gives a list of the names of God and their meanings, and it resonated with me. What if I were to hallow– to set apart– one special name of God to ponder and study and meditate on this year? What if, instead of focusing on my bad habits or my own failures, I asked God to meet me as Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Who Provides, or El Roi, the God Who Sees?

What if, instead of me, I made 2014 about Him?

It seems to me that regardless of what is written on the blank pages of Erin, 2014 Edition, it would be hard to go wrong that way. Because with Him as my focus, when I look back at the book of my year, I will see His hand on all the pages.

And maybe next year I’ll be brave and actually resolve to do something. :)

2013 Year in Review– Angry Ranger Edition

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January 22
Me: Hey, boys, it looks like [your cousin who was in the hospital] gets to come home today! Yay!
Squeezy: He’s coming to our house?
Me: No, he’s going to his house in Spain.
Squeezy: Grandma and Grandpa live in Spain.
Me: No, Grandma and Grandpa live in Omaha. Spain is very far away.
Squeezy: Where is Spain?
Angry Ranger: It’s on the Iberian Peninsula.

January 23 I found this picture on AR’s memory card. It makes me smile, and also made me realize that maybe Art and I take too many pictures from this angle.
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February 4
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February 24 The boys are playing table tennis on the Wii.
DP: I’m going to serve funny. Watch this.
AR: I’m not watching! (DP serves; AR doesn’t hit it) HEY! I wasn’t ready!!!

March 20 Today I got to pull out my mad Writing Center skills on my son’s paper. My son is in fourth grade and typed a three-page paper on Thomas Edison that is better than MANY I have had to deal with in the writing center. I am proud. And also slightly disgusted.

March 30 Notice the careful way he put his eggs in there in a pattern.
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March 31 Together Family men. You can dress ‘em up but you can’t take ‘em out! (I think this might be my new favorite picture. I love it!)
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April 2 Indoctrinating my fourth grader with the necessity of the Oxford Comma. He’ll thank me later.

April 19 Today, Squeezy told me a story in which God married a beautiful princess. And then Angry Ranger piped up and said, “Well, Mom, you can just say that the princess is the Church.” #whenpreschoolersandfourthgraderscollide #theologicalawesomeness #sometimesicanthelpbutusehashtagsfornoreason

April 24 Squeezy and Darth Piggy both brought home trophies tonight from our JOY Club’s pinewood derby. And I just have to say that my boy Angry Ranger, who didn’t win a trophy, was SO grown up about it and made me so proud.

May 10
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May 12 This conversation happened this morning.
Me: Well, I guess I’d better go up and make myself beautiful.
Angry Ranger: Mom, you’re always beautiful.

June 10 Sent one very excited 10-year-old boy off to camp this morning!

June 13 With AR gone at camp this week, it is very easy to tell who usually comes up with “what we’re going to do today” ideas. #twoboredchildrenfloppingonthecouch #hemaybebossybutatleastheentertainshissiblings #imissmyoldestkid #becauseeverythingisbetterwithrandompointlesshashtags

June 15 Today Angry Ranger is coming home, and I am going to clean out the fridge. One of these things fills me with a lot more happiness than the other one does.

Look who’s home! It’s unfortunate that you can’t really see how very sunburned the kiddo is in this picture.
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Listening to my ten-year-old play “I’m in the Lord’s Army” in a minor key on the piano. It really takes it to a whole new level.

Selfie, in the bathroom mirror, with someone else’s water bottle. Why? Because he’s Angry Ranger, that’s why.
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June 26 Angry Ranger and his good pal Thomas Edison. AR studied Edison this past year and wrote a five-page typed paper about him.
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June 28
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July 11 AR is the budgie whisperer. He got like four different parakeets to sit on his stick o’ seeds.r90

July 12 Things that are way more complicated than you realize: getting pictures off a memory card and onto the interwebs. I just tried to teach Angry Ranger the process. Ack.

July 27 Me: Art, can you get me something?
Art: No, I’m busy doing the Lord’s Work (i.e. he doesn’t want to stand up)
Angry Ranger: But Dad, serving your wife IS your Lord’s work, remember?
Me: Ha! Someone was listening to your sermon last week.
Art: Finally. Of all the things he remembers, it’s that one…
Angry Ranger: (Apologetically): Sorry, I had to listen because I didn’t bring anything else to do!

July 30 You might be raising a four-year-old girl if you pull a two loaves of bread out of the oven and she says, “Ooh! A Mommy bread and a baby bread!”
You might be raising a ten-year-old boy if he responds, “How could the mom and the baby be born at the same time?”
You might be raising a family of geeks if your answer of “time travel” is considered acceptable.

August 12
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August 22
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September 13 AR: Mom, how do you spell “dizzying?”
DP: What are you writing?
Me: A story about me. The sentence is, “My mom’s beauty is truly dizzying.”
#mykidsdontreallyappreciatehowfunnyiam #butijustkeepsoldieringon

September 27 A soundbite from our homeschool this morning: “Sixty-three . . . sniff . . . snort . . . divided by . . . cough . . . hack hack hack . . . seven . . . sneeze . . . sniffle snarfle snuff . . . is . . . cough cough moan . . . sneeze . . . nine? cough hack sniff . . . sorry.”

October 4 I just showed the boys a joint on my foot that is all swollen up, and based on his reaction I’m thinking Angry Ranger does not have a promising future as a rheumatologist.

October 19
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October 31 Angry Ranger’s costume was the talk of the town. It looked even better once it started getting dark, because he actually lights up!
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November 1 Angry Ranger started singing a Christmas carol at breakfast this morning. Art told him to stop because, though he didn’t mind, he knows I’m not ready to hear it yet. So then Ryan said, “Sorry Dad, it just slipped out the wrong end.”

December 12
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December 16
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December 20
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December 23
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December 25
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December 27 Just had to shop for shoes for Ryan in the men’s department. I think an “alas” is in order here. Alas.

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