Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cousin Pieta!

Arrived this morning and greeted happily by three excited girls.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Flip Flap Farm

Just saw this new Usborne title and am really excited about it!

"Follow this farm through the year, milking cows, shearing sheep and harvesting wheat along the way. This delightful flap book is perfect for little fingers and inquisitive minds."

It has loads of features on each double page spread including:
  • double and triple flaps (flaps hiding under flaps)
  • REAL information about farm animals (like names and descriptions of different species of pigs)
  • a book within a book at the end, a fun surprise
  • appealing to ages 2,3,4,5,6,7,8...even me (at a young 34!)
Find it at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Card for You

In lieu of mailing cards and a picture this year, we are happy to share our highlights of 2008 the virtual way.

We are thankful for:
  • Vacation adventures (trips to Devil's Lake Campground and Breezy Point resort; Maddie to People of Praise Servant Camp for one week)
  • A rich life in our neighborhood (including welcoming our new goddaughter and next door neighbor, Audrey Lee)
  • Business ventures (Lucy, a new consultant with Usborne Books; Ben, planning his BAC Cycling company - so far, an idea; maybe a reality in the future)
  • Family milestones (mom running for state office; a new niece/nephew on the Cunningham side, arriving soon!)
  • Celebrating life (Grandma Claire passed away in November)
  • Growing and loving as a family (with 3 year old Izzy, 1st grader Kate, and 3rd grader Maddie)
  • 10 years of sweet married life!
In addition, we'd love your prayers of support for:
  • Tim, who is serving in Iraq and will be back in the U.S. this summer
  • Healing of dad's lymphoma
  • Our Spring time basement renovation project
May the miracle of the Incarnation dwell in your heart and home today and always.

Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year!

Ben, Lucy, Maddie, Kate and Isabel


It occurred to me while transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer that the issue of Wants vs. Needs can be sticky. Putting the words together I came up with "weeds". I don't know why the thought began in the laundry room!

I think it surfaced partially because this is a time of gift buying, but also because in raising children I am very aware that the behavior I model is what will be handed down to the next generation. My attitudes, my actions, my spending, my saving, my worries, etc. are all part of the package that communicates to my daughters the value I place on things.

So, what are our needs? What are our wants? Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish them or put something into one category or another. And just because I want something does not mean it is bad or not okay to have. As a mom though, on a budget, it is also tempting to only acquire the real "needs" for my family since I am the one who actually makes a lot of the purchases. It is easy for me to think that since an item is not an immediate need it is not worth buying. Even in this category, I can reason myself out of what I originally thought was a "need" and determine that in fact it is not necessary, at least not now. Flavored/good coffee falls into this category, for example!

"Wants" become more apparent at this time when we think about and list our desires for gifts. But, are these just for Christmas time and birthday time? What happens when we have a surplus at the end of a month or a week? What happens when the girls earn their own money (from birthdays, others' generosity, etc.)? Great questions for parents and us to ponder.

Also, are we at all responsible for others' "needs" or "wants"? When do we extend ourselves and give to the point where we satisfy the needs of others and really stretch ourselves? What is greed? How does it manifest itself in society and in our home?

If we don't have these conversations and communicate well with our children, they'll grow into adulthood wandering through very tall and messy Weeds.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

And He Shall Reign Forever and Ever...

Home from the Trinity Concert/People of Praise meeting. The Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Orchestra and Wind Ensemble performed and three people offered reflections on the Gospel stories of the birth of Christ. It was a truly beautiful and talent filled service. The auditorium was packed and the music filled the large open space.

I am always blown away by the lyrics of Handel's Messiah and today was no exception. Christ is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, forever and ever. These words are powerful, true and light the way for us as we meander and charge through our days. Joel's words echo in my mind too. Jesus was born a humble, good guy. When did God become a judge only concerned with our sin? Jesus is our friend and wants us to know him beyond this season. He gives us our hope, our peace, our courage, and our energy.

Praise God for the Body of Christ which born out of our commitment to Jesus and each other sustains and builds our faith. It propels us into living out a tough but doable Gospel message: See and love this world. Love who's in it. Give your life for it. It is worth it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving says Ben

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Usborne Book of the Week: Detective's Handbook

Even Izzy loves this one, though it is meant for older kids. Our girls are learning all the tricks of the trade with this guide including, searching for clues at a crime scene, identifying fingerprints, etc. I like this book because it teaches the reader how to pay close attention to details and to think logically and intuitively.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More than Macy's

I admit I like to shop at Macy's and I enjoy sitting on the street curb and watching a good parade. I love my mom's gravy soaking the turkey and potatoes and I think it's a good idea to look back over the last year and list the things one is thankful for.

In addition to all this though, I think it is right to understand and remember the significance of the first "Thanksgiving". Through kids' books mostly, especially lately, I have come to appreciate the truly grueling and sacrificial nature of the Pilgrims and Native Americans way back in the 1600's; so far back that it really takes a lot of effort to try to re-create in my mind exactly how it must have looked, felt, smelled and tasted at that first feast.

One book we have titled The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George has some excerpts that give a glimpse of what the Pilgrim/Native reality may have been. "Food supplies dwindled. The Pilgrim men killed a few fowl and dug clams and mussels. But they were townspeople, they knew little about hunting and fishing....Disease followed hunger, and death followed disease. Eight Pilgrims dies in January, seventeen in February, and thirteen in March. The dead were buried in the darkness of night. The Pilgrims did not want the 'savages' to know how many had died for fear of attack. They marked their graves only with prayer."

Later, on the Mayflower's return to England..."On a cool April day, hungry and thin, their clothes threadbare, the citizens of Plymouth watched the Mayflower set sail for England. Not one person asked to return."

Several pages are then devoted to Squanto's dedication to the Pilgrims in teaching basic survival skills in this new place.

Then, after the winter was over, "For three days the Pilgrims and Indians feasted, played games, and shot guns and arrows. This was not a day of Pilgrim thanksgiving, which was every Thursday from dawn to dusk. This was pure celebration...The Pilgrims called the celebration a Harvest Feast. The Indians thought of it as a Green Corn Dance. It was both and more than both."

I just marvel at many things about this story, but mostly again at the strength of a tired, worn out, yet courageous people who entered a strange place and in humility and trust were trained and taught to use the knowledge of people who didn't have to spend one minute with them. Of course, I don't know all the details of their interactions. I know it's not just that simple. But courage, fortitude and just plain compassion were certainly present a this time.

Also, I am still convinced that sharing a meal is more than just eating together and tasting good food. Something happens to unite a people when they break bread together. Our common need to eat turns into a blessed time. We gather together around one table (getting rarer these days among families), we physically sit close together, pass common bowls and platters around, help each other serve, and just talk.

Maybe at this first feast there were still tensions, questions about how they would survive the 2nd winter, doubt that this was the right thing to do, and fear that anyone involved (Pilgrim or Indian) would be giving up their own traditions, health, well being, etc. But, thanks be to God for a few people, new to the land and those already well versed in it, who sacrificed much, without the least knowledge of where it would lead or what would come of it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Usborne Book of the Week

Starting a new Advent tradition:

We'll open the Advent season this year with this book (and re-use it year after year.)

We'll make our own Nativity scene and bring the Christmas story to life with this charming and original book. Now it's just a matter of which child will get to choose from the 25 cardboard figures to pop out each day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I spy 9 turkeys making a break for it

So Izzy and I are reading on the couch two weeks ago and out of the corner of my eye what should I spy? Walking across our front lawn and moving on to the neighbors...nine plump and beautiful turkeys. I think they were trying to get a head start before Thursday arrives!

Beauty of the Iowa farm

...And where my Grandma lived and loved her last years.

Hand written "wish lists"

Since Isabel was up all night with the flu, we stayed home today and spent some quality time together. We slept in, disinfected surfaces and knobs, played Sequence, watched the Vikings game, read Thanksgiving themed books, and the two older gals, who can write, made Christmas wish lists. Here they are verbatim:

Kate the Great
  1. I want the mini Kit
  2. I want thick mittens
  3. I want ballat chos
  4. I want the game jumping monkeys
  5. I want a coat adn a skarff
  6. I want Kit close
  7. I want to be able to do cartwheels
  8. I want a picture
  9. I want to selbrate Jesus' birthdaye
  10. I want a stuff animal and it will be a cat
  11. I want to be flid with joy
  12. I want a sled
  13. I want a caping wisl (
Maddie Boo
  1. I want the Molly's outfit or the miny Ruthie is someone gets me Ruthie I would like Ruthie's close
  2. I want the game Bockish
  3. I want a small notebook
  4. I want the Dolly Dressing dolls book
  5. I want a few more Madilene movies.

Isabel's list (as of today) would probably be something like this
  1. A normal appetite so I can finish the PBJ sandwich mom made me for lunch
  2. My normal clean bed sheets and "fan" pillowcase
  3. More snuggle time with mom and/or dad
  4. Maddie reading more Farm Yard Tales to me
  5. General health and happiness by Tuesday so I can enjoy pre-school in our living room with my five friends
  6. A solid night's sleep

So here we are gathered around our basement computer desk checking out this new blog thing...Kate is trying out the treadmill for the first time. Ben is getting his evening walk in most days to condition for the Winter Camping trip.

Other tasks tonight will include:
  1. Encouraging Maddie to complete her writing assignment on the first six chapters of "The Prince and the Pauper".
  2. Last two loads of weekly laundry
  3. Making Izzy's bed (see her wish list)
  4. Mental preparation for a new week, and a holiday one at that!