Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

I was thinking back to my time working in the day care, and I remembered an incident that made me both reflect and laugh out loud all at once.

I with two other adults was supervising about fifty elementary age kids on the day care playground one day. Suddenly, three girls came running up to me, all upset. After about five or ten minutes, I was able to sort out that someone was hit by someone else's shoe. One girl was angry because she thought a friend threw a shoe at her. Another girl was hurt because she said she didn't throw it, it fell off when she was on the swings. Other girls gathered around and took sides. A few girls chimed in who didn't even see the incident. They "cliqued up" as naturally as breathing. It literally became sister against sister, friend against friend.

After about fifteen minutes or so of trying to sort this out, two boys ran by and this conversation took place:

Boy 1: "He hit me!"

Me: "Say you're sorry!"

Boy 2: "Sorry!"

That was it. They didn't even slow down from running.

After that, I probably spent another five minutes or so working with the girls before they were satisfied.

So what does this mean about the difference between boys and girls? I'm not sure. Maybe boys of that age let things roll off their back. Maybe they put having fun and friendship before their feelings. Maybe girls care so much about friendship that they will defend each other over the simplest offense. Maybe girls thrive on drama and boys don't. Maybe it's an isolated incident and doesn't mean anything about little boys and girls.

I just hope one day I'm blessed enough to raise both.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Penelope Rose

Yesterday was my daughter's first birthday.

She may not be here on Earth to celebrate with, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate.

In the morning, my mother and I took a fruit basket to the NICU nurses at Winnie Palmer. They were the ones who took care of her when I couldn't, and it seemed appropriate to thank them on her birthday. We hadn't been to that hospital since last year, and it was a bit of a memory shock. More for my mom than me, I think, because my time there had nothing to do with the daily walk from the parking garage to the NICU and signing in and washing hands. I mostly saw my hospital room. I remember the single room in the NICU where Penny was baptized and passed on. Either way, I'm glad that we could honor her short time here with them.

After work, Charlie and I met at Penny's gravesite. It was important to me to be with her on her birthday. We hadn't been back since Mother's Day, so it was time. After a prayer, we ate a picnic dinner in the park adjacent to the cemetery. She couldn't have the usual first birthday "smash cake" but we did share a cupcake in her honor.

A friendly cat came over when we were eating and sat on Charlie's lap.
I'm thankful to all the people who called, messaged, or texted us yesterday. Her life may have been short, but she was so important to us. I'm glad our friends remember her as well.
A gift from the family I nanny for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



She is the woman operating the ultrasound machine, looking concerned for the images she sees of my tiny unborn child.

She is the doctor telling me that something is wrong, handing me a box of tissues with a sympathetic smile.

She is the specialist, checking and re-checking, diagnosing and analyzing, advising and learning.

She is my mother, paining a yellow and green bedroom and listening to my worries.

She is the emergency room nurse, telling me that my Preeclampsia had progressed too far and it was time to deliver.

She is my surgeon, cutting the tiny baby from my womb and closing my sterile and empty stomach with care.

She is the WICU nurse, waking me and asking me to breathe when my medications make me sleep too deeply.

She is the NICU nurse, caring for my daughter as I wish I could.

She is the case worker, handing me a photograph of my little girl when I am too weak to spend all my hours at her side.

She is Penelope, born into a dark and silent world, too small and sensitive to cuddle.

She is my baby girl, taken to the Lord far too soon.

For all the women who cared for and loved me and my daughter one year ago. Thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Five Minute Friday
Today, I'm joining up with Lisa Jo Baker's "Five Minute Friday" movement. Every Friday, people join together to write for five minutes about the same topic. Here's my thought on this week's topic.


A year ago I was wishing to be ordinary. Our lives had been turned upside down by my husband's health issues and my pregnancy. At this point last year we were waiting for the birth of our daughter, followed by her uncertain passing and certain physical and mental challenges.

Now, I can say I got my wish. Day to day I can say that I do "more of the same" and only have to worry about work, dinner, house cleaning. My family has had time to stabilize. We've had time to regroup and enjoy the day to day living we missed last year between countless doctor appointments.

Thanks be to God. Thanks for the ordinary, normal days.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Forever Parents

Let me tell you about a little girl I knew when I worked in after-school care. For the sake of confidentiality, I'll call her K. Her mom loved her very much, but she also loved the men in her life. Her mother had been divorced twice and had brought several boyfriends into her daughter's life. Every time she'd gotten serious with a man, K had been taught to call that man "daddy." Eventually, she'd had a second daughter, K's half-sister.

One day, a man came into the after-care room. I knew this man was K's half-sister's biological dad. K jumped up, calling "Daddy!" as she had been taught to. He ignored her. His eyes skimmed the room for his biological daughter and he picked up the younger girl. K pranced around his feet, trying to get his attention. He wouldn't give it. He was in a hurry to leave.

As he walked down the hall, carrying his daughter, the girl who called him "Daddy" was left to watch him leave without a goodbye.

It broke my heart to watch this little girl see her family leave. I have never forgotten it and I never will....

Let me tell you about my grandfather. When he married my grandmother, my dad was already three years old. I didn't learn that he wasn't my biological grandpa until I was in middle school. It didn't matter. He was my grandpa. In my dad's eyes, he had always been his father.

Grandpa passed away last month. My dad is turning fifty-eight this month. Grandpa never once backed away from his fatherly role in over half a century. My dad respected his father, and knew him to be "Dad" from his actions, not just because his mom told him that the man was his new daddy.

The world is not perfect. It is broken and messy. Relationships are hard, and emotions and egos are fragile.

Parents need to be the stability of a child's life. Parents feed a child's self-worth, and provide a safe springboard to grow and learn.

For K, the last time I saw her she was hungry for male attention, and growing up far too fast for her eight years of age. For my dad, he grew up confident in who he was and where he came from.

A family doesn't have to be blood. It can be blended, adopted, traditional, generational, or what have you. It just needs to be a forever family, full of love and forgiveness, as Christ loves and forgives us.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride

About a month ago I read this article written by a mom who one day had her eyes opened to the damage she was doing to her precious "stop-and-smell-the-roses type of child" with two small words: hurry up.

Wow. This beautifully written, love-inspired article made me realize how often I used the same words with one of the boys I nanny.

I love that all the boys I take care of are so different. The eldest loves structure, learning, leading, and reading. The youngest is a great communicator, even at five months old. The middle brother is silly, tends to float slowly from activity to activity, and often exists in his own little dress-up world.

The problem occurs when I'm watching the clock because in the next five minutes we need to finish eating lunch, use the bathroom, get on our shoes, get buckled into the car, and go so that we can meet his mom for the baby's lunch and then immediately go pick up big brother from school; but the middle child is lazily munching his carrots, making them talk and dance, and telling jokes at the pace of half a bite per minute.

This is where my sin comes into the foreground. I am a person who thrives in routine, and being on time is my platform for that. Being a nanny, though, isn't about me. It is so beautiful that this family can have such different personalities. It's great that this boy can be so stress-free and enjoy his time as a child. Who am I to put my need to be punctual before his need to be himself?

Now that the eldest is in school most mornings, I have been able to rearrange our daily schedule to accommodate his individual pace. We forgo the morning snack and instead eat lunch earlier. Instead of structured activities in the morning, he can free play at his own pace or create a craft from his own imagination. Instead of planning little lessons, I take his teachable moments as they come. We save the structured learning and activities for when all three boys are home together. He still gets the same amount of attention, learning, and variety of activities, but he also doesn't have to hear me nag at him to be faster.

I'm not perfect at it, and sometimes I do still need to tell him to hurry and put on his shoes. I've realized that it shouldn't be my my sinfulness admonishing him, though. Sometimes God puts certain children in our lives so that they can teach us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Birthday Wishes Revisited

Last year, I wrote a post about what I wanted for my birthday. We were in the thick of my husband's health issues and waiting with uncertainty for Penny to be born. In my anguish, all I really wanted was health for my family.

God loves to give His children good gifts. (Matthew 7:9-11)

Looking back, I really can say that God has granted my birthday wishes. Yes, both. Not in the way I wanted, but in the way that was best.

Celebrating five years since our first date.

My husband has been feeling great for a long time, and it is thanks to a simple, mild medication. He can go weeks without feeling bad at all. 

What I wanted was for Penny to be something she wasn't. God made her down to her very chromosomes, and she was given to us for a few special days. The doctors couldn't guarantee us even a few minutes, but God blessed us with days. He may not have given me a healthy daughter, but He gave me time. And now she is perfect and healthy and loved with Him.

Instead of sharing birthday wishes this year, I'm sharing birthday praises. I'm so thankful for the answers to prayer that I have been given over the last year. Hallelujah. God is good all the time. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Write

Five Minute Friday

Today, I'm joining up with Lisa Jo Baker's "Five Minute Friday" movement. Every Friday, people join together to write for five minutes about the same topic. Here's my thought on this week's topic.


I've always been told I was a good writer. From the time I started writing paragraphs for FCAT practice, to essays in high school, I have been encouraged to write by teachers.

Now that I'm an adult it seems like I hardly ever make the time to write. Or, is it that I'm too bogged down to write? I worry that I have nothing interesting to say. I'm afraid of sounding judgmental if I do have something to say. If I sit down with an idea for a novel, I'm concerned about what people will think, and God forbid if it reads like a dime store romance novel!

I love to read. I love to create art. But it takes bravery to write.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cereal Treats

Earlier this week I made this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Buddies. Me and my husband have been munching on it all week! But I had some of the ingredients left over.

Then I remembered we were meeting with our church's Life Group this week, and I said "SCORE! I'll make snack!"

Now, I know a Bible study isn't the best place for muddy buddies. The powdered sugar gets on everything, and the layers of white chocolate and powdered sugar give everyone a sugar high late at night. So, I decided to modify.

As I've had to remind my friends before, Rice Krispie Treats can be made with other cereals too. My husband likes when I make them out of leftover corn flakes. So for this snack I took the main ingredients from the Pumpkin Spice Buddies (the Cinnamon Chex, roasted pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries), combined them with melted marshmallows, and turned it into a finger-friendly Life Group snack! My friends said it tasted like fall.

1 box Cinnamon Chex
1 (generous) cup dried cranberries
1 (generous) cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
1 10.5 oz bag of marshmallows
2-4 TBS butter
1 (generous) TBS pumpkin pie spice

1. Combine Chex, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.
2. Melt 2 TBS butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add marshmallows to saucepan and stir until melted and smooth. If needed, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of butter. Do not let the marshmallows burn.
3. Remove saucepan from heat. Add the Chex mixture to the melted marshmallows and stir until well coated.
4. Press the Chex and marshmallow mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.
5. Sprinkle with pumpkin spice.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
1. Experiment with the amount of cranberries and pumpkin seeds you want to use. I think I actually doubled the amount of pumpkin seeds I used. This is not a science! Do what tastes good to you.
2. Instead of sprinkling the pumpkin spice on top in step 5, you could combine it with the whole mixture in step 3.
3. Another choice of topping is to melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips and stir in 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top.

Let me know if you make your own!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Things Kids Say

I nanny three great boys. I love being able to say that I love my job! And the two oldest are so funny! (I'm sure the baby has a great sense of humor, too, he just can't talk yet. The best he gets is comedic timing of laughter and toots.) The three-year-old loves making people laugh and is a natural class clown. The four-year-old is more serious, so I find he is his funniest when he doesn't try. Both will say outlandish things sometimes that make me laugh out loud.

Here are some of my favorites from the oldest:

Me: "What's your favorite Chinese food?"
Him: "Peanut butter and jelly"

"Do you know what makes you stand up? Dirt."

"This is a fweezer, and this is a fridgerfridger."

"This water is too soggy."

Listing family pets:
Me: "Moxie the cat, the fish, the hamster..."
Him: "Don't forget baby Jonah!"
Me: "Your brother is not a pet!"

"Before Captain Hook got his hook, his name was Pirate Hook."

"We don't want to fall and break our noggiums!"

Me: "That's our president now. His name is Barak Obama."
Him: "That's a funny name, it doesn't even make SENSE!"

We've been listening to a children's version of the Wizard of Oz, and he pointed something out to me:
"How is Dorothy going to get her house back?"
I didn't know either! 

And the best quotes from the youngest:

Me: "Do you need a tissue?"
Him: SNIFFFF "No, I suckin' it."

Him: "I'm a hungry tiger!"
Me: "What do you want to eat?" 
Him: "Meat."
Me: "What kind if meat?"
Him: "Chocolate meat!"

Him: "What color should I use?"
Me: "How about purple?"
Him: " about you decide black?"

"When you go through the window (of a car) that's doin' it 'Nascar Style'!"

Him: "We've had special training so we can go in space!"
Me: "What kind of training?"
Him: "Hmm... Potty training!"

I just heard him sing the alphabet "...Eucharist, T U V..."

What is growing up to a two year old?
"I'm going to get the BIGGEST pants, and wear them, and they'll STAY!"

Me: "What's your phone number?"
Him: "Number 6."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

San Francisco: the Food

I am not one of those people who Instagram their every meal. But goodness people, the food we ate in San Francisco was something else!

Shall we do dessert first?

Schoggi is a chocolate shop we stopped at on our way to Yerba Buena. I'd heard about it from a food blog I read, and it didn't disappoint. It offers plenty of the standard chocolates and truffles, and some odd ducks as well. I tried a curry flavored chocolate and was pleasantly surprised!

Smittens is an ice cream shop my brother-in-law insisted we had to try. It was so good, we went twice!
This is not a fancy place. They have a few narrow benches, inside the small patio and waiting area of the converted box container. They are all about the dessert, without the bells and whistles. They use liquid nitrogen to freeze their ice cream without large ice crystals.
The result is some of the creamiest, most delicious ice cream I've ever had from a restaurant. They only offer three or four flavors at a time, but they do it very, very well.

Right across the street from Smittens is Miette, a French-style sweet shop. I'd heard about this one from a food blog I follow, and I'm glad I went!
They have chocolate, cupcakes, hard candy, cookies, cakes, and some of the best macarons I've had in my life.

If you have a sweet tooth, Miette and Smittens are the place to indulge. Oh, yes.

Roam Burger is an artisan restaurant, as are many in San Francisco. Sorry I don't have pics for this part. I was busy chowing down! Their menu reminds me of Chipotle's, in that you choose a meat, and then a style to assemble your burger. It's certainly enough food! My brother-in-law recommended the Truffle Parmesan Fries. Also, you're not limited to beef or turkey burgers. They also offer organic veggie burgers and bison, of all things. If you're craving a burger, this is the place to go.

We went to many other restaurants, all wonderful, but these are the ones that stood out to me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

San Francisco: Napa, Silicon Valley, & Muir Woods

All together now: Awwwww :)
My brother-in-law and his wife took us to a Wine Tasting in Napa. We got to tour the facilities, and we were lucky enough to be visiting just weeks before the grape harvest. We got to try some right off the vine!

Fresh sparkling wine grapes.

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but the experience was so much fun. I learned a lot about how wine is made and bottled. I didn't realize that getting the yeast sediment out was such an involved process!

Our guide. 
Some rose sparkling wine

Muir Woods was another fun outing we did as a family. After watching Ken Burns' National Parks documentary, we were especially interested to see the park named after outdoorsman and national park advocate John Muir.
Redwoods and Sequoias. 

These twins are tall... but not as tall as these ancient skyscrapers!

I might not be outdoorsy or a huge fan of hiking, but even I can understand how blessed we were to be in such a beautiful place.

We took a day to drive to Silicon Valley, which as my husband the software engineer says is his "Mecca".

We visited the Intel Museum, which was neat for him to see in person how their processors have developed over the last thirty years. It was a small exhibit, but also free.
Name... that... technology!
We drove through the Googleplex.
There it is!

There it goes! Oops!
We also tried to see the Computer History Museum, but unfortunately it was closed. Since when are museums closed on Tuesdays?

I'd heard of the Winchester Mystery House before, so I'm glad we got to go see it. Back in the late 19th century, the wife to a Winchester Rifle Company president allegedly was convinced by a medium that she was being haunted by those people who were killed by Winchester rifles. So what should she do? Why, buy an unfinished house and continue to build on in until the day she dies. Duh. The result was a maze of rooms, stairs to nowhere, doors that drop down two stories, a chimney that ends before reaching the roof, twisting staircases, and one confused house staff. Today it is a museum offering tours of the home and garden. We walked a full mile in that house and didn't see the same room twice!

Monday, August 26, 2013

San Francisco: the Sights

The Bridge from a lookout in Presidio National Park
It turns out that to see the Golden Gate Bridge the best place actually isn't Golden Gate Park (which would have been my guess). The better view (besides physically crossing the Bridge) is in the Presidio. FYI. Because who knew?

The Presidio is home to several small museums, including a Walt Disney museum, and a fort. When we went there seemed to be some construction going on, and I had not worn the right shoes for a hike, so we didn't get to see as much as I would have liked.

In Golden Gate Park there is a museum called the California Academy of Sciences. It was so cool! My husband and I spent most of an afternoon there and we didn't regret it. It has an awesome aquarium, an earthquake simulator, a three story rainforest exhibit, an African wing, and more. I'd never seen an albino alligator before, but they had one of those too.

At the Pier, we got the full tourist blast. It wasn't really our thing, especially since we live in Orlando and we can go to CityWalk or Downtown Disney anytime and get the same over-commercialization and crowds.
That's Alcatraz. Waaaaaay over there.

However, it was neat to see Alcatraz from the Pier. Ticket were sold out three weeks ahead of time. Yikes! So we didn't get the tour, just a distant pic.
Can you see those seals? There were tons hanging out on the Pier.

The Aquarium at the Pier was neat, but not as neat as the one at the Academy of Sciences. It has more sharks, and some otters, but otherwise it offers less variety, space, maintenance and cleanliness. Go if you won't get to Golden Gate Park, but if it's a choice between the two I'd suggest the Academy of Sciences.
I did get some awesome pics of jellyfish...

...and starfish.

Chinatown was neat to walk through. If you're interested in Chinese-American culture or food it's worth the visit. I mostly wanted to see the gate and window shop.
There's the gate to Chinatown.

For a quieter moment, Yerba Buena was a nice park to hang out in. There's plenty to do in a short walk of the park, including a contemporary Jewish museum, but the park itself is a pretty place to relax.
A neat visual juxtaposition near Yerba Buena

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Visiting San Francisco

Guess where we went
This past week we got to visit the City by the Bay, San Francisco. We went mostly to visit my brother-in-law and his wife (and their two kittens), but we also needed a vacation. My husband has one last very busy semester of grad school and we wanted to have a little break before he jumped in.
My loving husband with "nephews" Oliver and Argo.

I'd never been to California before, and it was quite an adventure.

For one thing, there is a lot of walking. I made sure I brought comfortable shoes, but it turns out boots are not comfortable enough! Sneakers are the way to go.

The weather is something else, too. It's pretty much 60 degrees all the time. Foggy every day until about 1 pm, then it's perfect walking weather, with a jacket. I got to wear some of my scarves that have been in the bottom of a drawer since March. Nice!
The Golden Gate Bridge, seen from Presidio National Park.
We got to do so much while we were there, that I'm going to split this into several parts. If you're planning a visit, maybe you'll get some ideas of things to do. If you've been, can you think of anything we missed that we should get around to if we go again?