Monday, August 31, 2009

Fast Learner

Kate is learning new skills at an incredible rate!

Here is a video of her practicing pulling up, but only to her knees:

and just a few days later, all the way up to her feet with much less assistance!

What a big girl! We're so proud of her!!!

Swing Swing

I took Kate to the park on Saturday, something I'd been wanting to do for a while. There is a really nice playground there, with slides and equipment for big kids and little kids, plus regular swings and baby swings. Especially given that Kate's swing at home isn't a normal swing, but a "soothing center" I was eager to see how she would enjoy a real, back-and-forth swing.

She seemed to enjoy it, giggling as I kissed her knees or tapped her nose when she came forward.
What a great way to spend a late summer day!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Power Chick

Remember a couple years ago when every network had a show about powerful corporate women? There was "Lipstick Jungle," "Cashmere Mafia," and--the marker of any legitimate trend--an SNL spoof sketch called "Lady Business." Matt had a term for the leading characters of those shows: "Power Chicks." (Actually, I think it was Power-something else, but fortunately, this is the name that has stuck.)

Ever since then, "Power Chick" is Matt's term of endearment for my work persona. When I emerge from the bedroom in the morning dressed in a professional outfit, he says, "Look, Kate--Mommy's a Power Chick," and he encourages Kate that she can be anything she wants to be, including a "Power Chick like Mommy."

When, at two months postpartum, I started feeling really down and anxious about returning to work, I looked on Amazon for books about working motherhood. Amidst the titles for the working mothers themselves was a children's book called Mommy's High Heel Shoes. It's about a little girl playing in her mommy's closet after Mommy leaves for work, and thinking about all the different shoes Mommy wears for all the different things mommies do: going to work, making breakfast, working in the garden, walking the dog, going grocery shopping, going out with Daddy, etc.

Since discovering that book, Matt and I have referred to it often when discussing my working motherhood and our childcare arrangements. For my birthday, Matt even bought me a high heel shoe charm for my Pandora bracelet. I'm sure the charm is mainly intended for ladies with a shoe fetish, of which I am not one, but upon opening the box, I immediately knew the meaning of the gift from my wonderful, supportive husband.

I didn't buy the book right away, since $16.99 seemed like a lot to spend on a children's book, but once I'd earned enough swagbucks to get a couple Amazon gift cards, I ordered it recently, and Kate and I have enjoyed reading it. As the author intended, my hope is that it will help Kate understand why Mommy goes off to work every day, and that "Power Chick" is just one of the hats (or shoes) that women can wear.

Judging from her playtime the next day, I think she gets it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We've been gradually babyproofing for the last month or so--putting plug protectors in our unused outlets, installing cabinet "locks," adhering corner pads to the edges of our coffee table, etc. I also carefully draped several thick blankets over our brick hearth, so that at least a bump against it wouldn't result in a trip to the emergency room.

A concern we'd been discussing for a long time, however, was the tangle of cords under our TV table, which posed a major strangulation hazard. Matt bought zip ties to loop the cords up and hold them in place, but there was still the problem of the Internet router and other things that wouldn't fit in the shelf. As Kate started creeping and--like every child--was drawn to things she shouldn't touch, we found the under-the-TV area would definitely be a problem.

Add that problem to my desire for a less cluttered room and Matt's desire to upgrade our television, which was starting to develop a dark cloud near the top of the screen, the solution that emerged was.... flat screen TV!!

I know it sounds like an elaborate excuse, but seriously, there are many benefits to this plan. Personally, I think it was worth the price of the TV to take the arrangement of our den from this:

to this:

Even with the books, mugs, and gadgets still covering every other surface in the room, I love how much more open and less cluttered the room looks. (and yes, Matt loves the TV and put The Godfather in the DVD player immediately) And most importantly, Kate will be safer with the TV table and mess of cords gone and the bookshelf tethered to the wall to prevent tipping when she starts climbing. Woo hoo for babyproofing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stories of Origin

Matt and I met six years ago today. I wrote the story of our meeting on this anniversary last year, so I won't repeat all the details. Matt and I were reminiscing last night about the story of our meeting--how we met the day I moved to Nashville, how we met playing People Bingo at orientation, how he saw me across the room, and how I played stand-off-ish because I could tell he was interested.

We often reflect on the stories of our origin, telling each other the stories we already know so well. About our first date at the Opryland Hotel, how we had to wait for a table and how it was sitting on that bench, waiting and talking, that we learned how much we had in common. We talk about how we stopped dating for a time, how I briefly dated someone else in that time, and how we became best friends and fell in love during that time apart. We especially love the part in the story when Matt and I and the guy I was dating were all hanging out at another couple's house. Off in a back hallway by the bathroom, Matt lamented to our hostess how much he cared for me, and how he feared he'd lost me forever. She told him that it would all work out, and that we would one day tell our grandchildren the story of how we got back together. Little did they realize, I was in the bathroom by which they were talking, and heard everything. That just makes the story we'll tell our grandchildren even better.

We'll tell Kate the story of her birth--how it was 65 degrees in January on her due date but how she waited until it snowed! I even tell Charlotte (yes, the cat) the story of how she and I "fell in love," how one kitty in the kennel was too shy, and another too wild, but then I saw her and she cautiously came down from her perch and we bonded for life.

Yesterday, Matt began a sermon series called "Living the Story," in which he'll preach on the key episodes in the biblical narrative. He began, of course, "In the Beginning," and demonstrated the way in which humanity's stories of origin were perpetuated through the centuries.

Q: Father, how did we get here?
A: Well, my son, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...

Q: Father, why do we marry?
A: Well, my son, God said it was not good for man to be alone...

Q: Father, why is there pain and suffering?
A: Well, my son, there was this one tree...

These stories orient us to life and the world. Even when we've heard them a thousand times, even when we all know the story, we tell these stories to remind us who we are and what is important. That is why we pass them on.

"Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise..." (Deuteronomy 6:7)

For Matt and I, our stories of origin remind us of the connection that first brought us together and the friendship that kept us together. For Israel and for all people of faith today, our stories of origin remind us of the great big God that started it all and has interacted with people throughout the millenia. Stories of origin ground us with the essential truths of our existence and our relationships to God and one another. They provide the root when the branches are blowing wildly in the breeze.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nine Baby Essentials

I don't really do product reviews on this blog, but in honor of our pregnant friends (who are probably still out shopping for baby clothes right now, having just found out the gender this afternoon!) I wanted to give a list of the baby items that we really love and would recommend to others.

1. The Soothing Center
Matt fell in love with the Graco Sweetpeace Soothing Center from the moment he saw it had an iPod dock. Yes, alongside womb sounds (what we use most often) and two musical styles, there is a setting for iPod, and you can hook up your own playlist to this Cadillac of baby swings. Rather than swinging front to back, it swings in an arc, meant to replicate the motion of a parent's body, swiveling at the hips as they rock the baby in their arms. The toys attached are simple and neutral in color, so (as some reviewers complain) it is not a swing for fun and stimulation, but that's the point--it's a soothing center, and we use it all the time when Kate is fussy or is fighting sleep at naptime. It puts her right to sleep.

2. The "iPod"
Speaking of iPods, Kate adores her Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, which we call her "iPod." Someone gave this to my mom at the "grandma shower" her friends threw for her, and now she has decided to buy one for every baby shower she ever attends in the future. Kate loves this thing. Matt's brother, Andrew, started calling it "baby crack" when he and Alexis babysat Kate one day. Literally, she can be crying hysterically, but press that big button (which plays a variety of classical pieces on rotation) and Kate will be entranced by the music and the lights that flash in rhythm with the music.

This website offers a big first-time-user discount, so you've probably seen that advertised in parenting magazines or online somewhere. (Trust me, the big discount only works the first time. Oh well.) But still, this site is the best for ordering your diapers, wipes, and other baby products. Before Kate was born, I priced diapers, wipes, baby food, etc. at Sam's, Kroger, and Target, and determined that Sam's had the best prices. is maybe one dollar more expensive than Sam's, but with free shipping on any order over $49, it is totally worth it. As a working mother, I don't have time to be running here, there, and everywhere, and love getting whatever I need delivered right to my door. They even include virtual coupons to match whatever may be going around in newspapers.

4. Pampers
And, speaking of diapers, I love Pampers. Like Jessica Turner (my favorite blogger), I am a "Pampers Snob." I am seriously shocked that other brands don't even try to imitate them. You know those fancy paper napkins, where you think "hmm, is this fabric or paper?"--Pampers are like those, whereas all other diapers feel like cardboard in comparison. We've tried others, whether received as gifts or bought in emergencies at drug stores, and they're fine, but once you go Pampers, you can't go back. And the wetness indicator line on the newborn Swaddlers?--perfect for an anosmic like me. It took a while after moving to size ones to be able to tell by sight whether she needed changing or not.

5. The jogging strollerWe don't jog. I hate to run. But, we wanted a jogging stroller because they're sporty and fun, and while that may sound silly and self-consciously trendy, I'm glad we got one. We chose the Baby Trend Expedition LX completely because it was the only jogger that works as a travel system, with the car seat that snaps into it. The car seat isn't the most user-friendly, with a buckle and handle that cause parental and grandparental angst now and again, but the stroller is awesome. It has cupholders for both parent and baby, and the turning radius is incredible. You could do wheelchair ballroom dancing with this thing--it literally spins in a circle. So even if you never jog or even ever take it out on the street, it maneuvers through the racks at Gymboree far better than a standard four-wheeled stroller. Trust me.

6. eBay

I talked about my eBay obsession here, but it really is an essential baby tool for me. Through eBay and local consignment stores and sales, I have saved untold amounts of money on Kate's clothes and other baby gear. I don't dare buy clothes for myself on there, not being able to try them on or return them, but for a baby whose sizing system is quite simple, eBay is fabulous. I get Gymboree and Baby Gap items that retail for $25-$35 for as little as $.99. If it's something I really like, I'll bid up to $12 or so. I recently got a lot (a "lot" is a group of items sold together) of five fall outfits--dresses, leggings, jumpers, tops, etc., including two pairs of shoes--which would have retailed for over $200, for $26, plus $10 shipping. Amazing deal. You couldn't even get that many items of clothing at Walmart for under $60, I'm sure. Plus, it's more fun this way!

7. BumpyName LabelsI have a thing about stickers and tags. They kind of gross me out, especially when they're half-peeling off, or wet...I'm a freak. Anyway... when I saw an ad for "BumpyName Labels," I knew that was the option for me, when it came to labeling Kate's things for day care and all. Essentially like a Livestrong bracelet, these rubber bands with your child's name imprinted on them just stretch and snap around bottles, sippycups, etc. No nasty peeling or falling off, they stay put.

8. LilyPadz
Lack of sleep, total lifestyle change, and breastfeeding troubles aside, what really drove me nuts those first few weeks postpartum was having to sleep in a bra lined with nursing pads. It just drove home the feeling of "Why bother going to bed? I'll just be up in three hours, anyway, and I can't even wear a normal nightgown." I finally started to feel human again when I discovered LilyPadz. They are silicon pads that adhere to your breasts like suction cups, preventing leakage. They are, admittedly, an expense--$20 a pair, and they last about six weeks before losing the tackiness that makes them stick. I wore my first pair all the time, and they wore out after about three weeks. After that, I just wore them at night, when I really need their benefits, and they last 6-8 weeks. Compare this to disposable nursing pads--$7-10 for 60 (a month's worth) and they are a bit pricey, but they are well worth it for feeling like myself at night!

This post was almost "Eight Baby Essentials" until I realized I needed to pump before posting this and heading to bed. Where would I be without my trusty Medela breast pump? Our unit assistant at work advised me to get a Medela when I first announced I was pregnant, and I heard the same recommendation from other sources. Some people urged me to hold off on buying a breast pump until I knew breastfeeding would work out for us, in case I didn't end up needing one. Now, as an exclusive pumper for 6 1/2 months and counting, I can't imagine life without my pump! I haven't used any other brand, so I don't know how they compare, but Medela is a great brand, and as everyone else says--if you're pumping at work or on any kind of a regular basis, get a double electric like the Pump In Style.
So, those are my recommendations. If you disagree, feel free to say so, but I hope this list is helpful for any moms-to-be out there, or any other parents of small children. What other essentials would you add?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time Management Audit

Every so often, I do what I call a "time management audit" on myself, where I write down what I'm doing and for how long each day for one week. "8:10-8:25 read and respond to e-mails," for example. I just do this at work, but it could also be helpful at home, I imagine, either for stay-at-home moms or days, or work-at-home moms or dads, or even to assess how one spends their evenings for working parents.

The main idea is to really see where my time goes each day. I am a big multitasker, switching rapidly between tasks as another "thing to do" pops into my mind. For example, in the middle of a couple hours editing a chapter, I remember an e-mail I need to write, and I immediately shift gears to do that. (That's being generous, though, since I typically shift gears to do at least five other smaller tasks over the course of one larger task.) However, I once read that multitasking actually is not a time saver, and it is more efficient to focus on just one thing for a solid chunk of time. So, when looking over my "audit" for the day or week, I take note of the 10-15 minute blocks where I've shifted focus. This isn't necessarily bad, as sometimes I need a shift in focus to boost my energy or clear my head when I've hit a mental block, but overall these short periods of time reveal when my mind has been scattered and I'm having difficulty focusing.

The audit also reveals my true priorities. I (or my job description) may say that such-and-such is the primary purpose of my job, but looking over what I've actually done in a week shows how often the urgent takes precedence over the important. Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, avid blogger and media guru) had two really relevant posts during the week of my most recent audit. One talked about "priority management," and Michael stated his six priorities in life and how he keeps them in order. The other was on "master tasking"--keeping focus on what you were hired to do, the things that are important but not necessarily urgent. Commenting for the first time on Michael's blog, I pointed out that this is rather difficult for those of us who don't have subordinates on which to dump the things that are urgent but not important. Difficult as it may be, however, we must try as best we can to give those "master tasks" at least a portion of the time they deserve.

The time management audit brings into stark relief the things that are getting shortchanged. ("Wait a second--have I really only spent 40 minutes on that all week??") Looking over the course of the whole week's time tallies, I found that one of my "master tasks" that is important but not urgent only got 6% of my time that week. Other high priorities that were both important and urgent got 23% and 24% of my time, respectively, so I'm not a total failure, but the lesson remains clear that I need to be intentional about making time for the important even when it is not urgent.

I know not everyone is so Type-A as me, and not everyone lives and dies by their to-do list, but I really do recommend doing a time audit on yourself. If you often find yourself saying (even jokingly), "where does the time go?" then find out! And in the meantime, tell me: how do you prioritize the important and the urgent in your life?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Makes Me Laugh

Kate is at such a fun age right now. She's laughing a lot, and we are laughing right along with her. She can be quite a character. Even in her less active days, we knew she was going to be a pistol--sassy and animated.

Here are a few of my favorite things that she does right now:

blowing raspberries, especially with food in her mouth

throwing her head back when she laughs, or just for the heck of it

making a low, hoarse sound that sounds like a cross between Gollum and a candidate for a double lung transplant. Given her nickname, we call it "the Katemonster Growl."

her imitation game, in which she makes a brief noise and we imitate it. She smiles, pauses as if thinking of another sound, then making another noise for us to imitate.

how she jumps so energetically in her doorway jumper that she flies off the ground, surprising herself

beating her hands on whatever is in front of her--in perfect rhythm! She's going to be a percussionist one day, I think.

sticking her fingers in her mouth after every bite of solid food, so that half of the bite drips out on her hand, which she proceeds to stick behind her head, getting food in her hair and on the cushion of her eat-seat.

...okay, well, that last one's not exactly a "favorite," but it is kind of cute, in that annoying one-day-we'll-look-back-and-smile sort of way. She's entering the get-into-everything stage of life (which lasts years, so I hear) and I know we'll have our hands full, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Will Remember You

Though I typically disparage "proof texting," the truth is that we all have verses of scripture that we emphasize more than others and make more central to our value systems. For me, one of these verses that I take very seriously is Jesus' command in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain to "give to all who ask of you." (Matthew 5:42/Luke 6:30).

I don't apply this so literally as to donate to every cause that calls me during dinnertime, but I do always try to give what I can to homeless persons on the streets of Nashville. There was one man I remember seeing many times. His name was John, and he had a tattoo of blue teardrops falling from one eye. He was pretty old--though probably not as old as he looked, given the hardships of life on the street. I would always give him some money, and (in some ways more importantly) some eye contact and and a handshake, trying to offer some semblance of the dignity and humanity the homeless are often denied. John had a diseased thumb and forefinger on one of his hands. Those digits were swollen to a disgusting proportion, and the last time I saw him, he told me he would be getting them amputated soon. I never saw John again after he was to have the surgery on his hand.

One day, I was stopped at an intersection where homeless men often stand with cardboard signs, asking for money and help. There was an old man there, and as I rolled toward the red light, I thought it might be John. When the car came to a stop right near the man, I saw that it was not him. Even if I didn't remember John's face perfectly, I noticed the man did not have John's signature teadrop tattoo. I rolled down the window, pressed a bill into his hand, and held his hand for a moment.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I will remember you."

I was struck, and as the light turned green and I drove away, words from Scripture rang in my head.

"...Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

"Then [the first criminal] said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" (Luke 23:42-43)

I saw God that day, in the eyes of a homeless man begging for change. And I will always remember him too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I've always been big on nicknames. My first couple boyfriends I had specific nicknames for, and rarely called them anything else. For Matt, I have many terms of endearment, but often complain that we never call one another by our given names. Sometimes I have noticed that Matt only calls me "Jessica" when he is frustrated with me, and that makes me sad. Matt, on the other hand, complains that he gets hand-me-down nicknames from the cat. I can't deny that, though honestly, those names have faded from memory now that Kate is in the picture.

Kate has many, many nicknames.

Kate earned the name "Littlefoot" when in utero, because rather than sharp kicks, she would stretch her legs out so that I could feel her little foot pressing out of my belly. (I, apparently, was a kicker as a fetus, because my in utero nickname was "Spunky," so says my baby book from 1981.) I also occasionally called her "Wonky," because when she would stretch or roll over late in my pregnancy, she would make my belly go from visibly round to visibly, well, wonky--lopsided and oddly shaped.

We've also called her "Katemonster" from the time we knew she was a girl. We had decided on the name Kate, and had recently discovered the musical Avenue Q (also known as the adult muppet musical), the main character of which is a muppet named Kate Monster. This name has stuck. (I saw a pink monster Halloween costume on eBay--do you think I should get it?) We hope that referring to her as our little monster will help her not be afraid of monsters under the bed and such when she gets older.

I received The Essential Baby Organizer: Birth to One Year (complimentary edition) for free in a order when Kate was a few weeks old, and among the notebook's weekly fill-in-the-blanks like "learned..." and "did these funny things..." is "was given these nicknames..." It's kind of interesting, because I imagine most families do not give a child a new nickname every week, but I have a pretty good track record in that area. Beyond her in utero nicknames, we have added:

Lil Bit
Sweet Pea
Les Enfant

... and more. Some are contextual, depending on her latest mood or skill:

Fussy Pants
Squeaky McGee
Smiley Joe

When she started to outgrow one of her first sleepers--a white polka-dotted fleece sleeper with a bear on the chest and little bear feet--I felt sad, and started calling her "Baby Bear." That has stuck, and Matt and I have even become Daddy Bear and Mommy Bear. She has had several other bear-themed sleepers (all coincidental, as they were all gifts), but just outgrew the last one (see Wordless Wednesday tomorrow for my sentimental "ode to the pink bear sleeper and cap"). The "Bear" nickname has been combined now with Boo for "Boo Bear" and Kate for "Kate Bear" (also a nice homonym with Kate Barry..."Bear-y"... get it?)

I worry that with all these nicknames, Kate won't learn her name. Just as the cat is called "Charlotte," "MowMow," "Kitty," and "NoNoBadCat," and Kate may never know her "big sister's" real or scientific name, she may not distinguish "Kate" as any more official a name as "Baboo" or "Baby Bear."

Since Kate has started solids in the past couple weeks, she has developed the odd habit of tucking her chin down inside her rubber bib, getting food down inside the bib and on her clothes. We call this annoying habit "turtleing," and I told her, "Kate, stop it. You're not a turtle. You're a bear."

She's going to be so confused.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Rebecca, one of the posters at Deep South Moms, had a piece recently on "I Swore I'd Never...". She talks about the things she swore she'd never do as a mom, and how she'd done every one of them. For her, it's mainly about being a stickler about bedtimes and sleep habits.

Me? I've already broken my "no day care" conviction, and frankly, I'm glad. "School" is working out very well for Kate and for us as a family. I'm still glad we're able to do just three days a week, though.

Another big "I swore I'd never..." remains to be seen for me, though. Picky eating is one of my pet peeves, and I swear I will never give into cries of "cut off the crust!" My kids will learn to either eat the crust or cut it off themselves. Or eat rolled up pieces of lunch meat, dipped in mustard, like I did.

I swear.

We'll see if I stick to it.

What did you/do you swear you'll never do as a parent?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

It IS More Fun When You Win It!

Shortly after Kate was born, I started shopping for baby clothes on eBay, and quickly got addicted. I found amazing deals on name-brand clothes that another baby had barely worn (EUC=excellent used condition) or sometimed hadn't worn at all (NWT=new with tags)!

I enjoy bargain-hunting for Kate's clothes at consignment sales, too, but there's something about estimating your maximum bid, holding off on bidding until time is almost up so you won't get outbid, etc. that makes it so much fun. Like eBay's cheesy ads say, it really is "more fun when you win it!"

The deals quickly became a source of pride for me, as I love telling people who compliment Kate on her outfits how I got her adorable outfits for a fraction of their retail value. Like this navy Gymboree number for $1.99 (plus shipping) and Kate's smocked, Baby Gap Easter dress for $.99 (plus shipping)!

I soon won/bought so many things that I had to cut myself off for the spring and summer.

Last night, however, I decided it was time to start shopping for fall. With six months of baby-dressing experience under my belt now, I aimed for more practical items than the pretty church dresses I bought last winter and spring. I love dresses, but I realized I need to go for the knit dresses that will be more comfortable for crawling around and playing in.

Anyway, last night I won these
and this

Can you tell I love chocolate brown and polka dots?
I've also bid on this

and this

among other things.

If you're interested in consignment shopping while sitting on your duff in your pjs, drinking wine (that's pretty much what it is), here are a few tips I've picked up:

1. There are millions of items listed, so drill down not just by category (clothing/infants and toddlers) but by size and garment type (dresses, outfits, etc.). There are thousands of items even in that sub-sub-sub-category, so even then, type in a search term like a certain brand or style feature you like.

2. Be sure to add in the shipping cost when comparing prices. Some people may list different shipping costs even for a comparable item. If you're really only looking for the deepest discounts, sort the list by "price + shipping: lowest first." Then you can stop scrolling through the pages when the price gets too high.

3. Be discerning. I learned from my previous eBay spree what fifteen years of mall-shopping somehow still did not: no matter how good a deal it is, if you don't need it or don't love it, it's not really a bargain!

Now, if I were a really popular mommy blogger, I would probably have a nice gift card to give away at this point. But, I'm not and I don't. So I hope these tidbits of advice are worth something on their own. Happy bidding!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Take a Bite of Bible (or Two!)

The first day back at work after a vacation (even a two-day one) is always extremely busy. I've been reading and answering e-mails, putting out fires (metaphorically, though the office fire alarm did go off twice this morning), and otherwise running around like a chicken with my head cut off (sorry, overused metaphor) all day. But, I love it.

In any case, I had to spread the word about two books I edited that officially released this past weekend. Both involve reading the New Testament "again for the first time" (sorry, another cliche phrase. I'm just full of them--or it--take your pick.)

Wasabi Gospel, by Shawn Wood (Experiences Pastor at Seacoast Church), does a double-take at some of the most well-known and taken-for-granted sayings in the Bible. The title metaphor, explained in the introduction (and in cartoon form here), comes from Shawn's first experience eating sushi, when he spread the whole dollop of what he presumed to be benign "Japanese butter" on his shrimp roll and inadvertently set his mouth on fire.

Shawn explains how Jesus' words can be the same way--seeming sweet and benign but really packing a dangerous punch. Take "love your enemies," for instance. Jesus sounds pretty sappy there, in a "can't we all just get along?" sort of way, but when you consider that this command doesn't just refer to the friend who broke your trust or the sports rival who beat you, but to Osama bin Laden and other mass-murderers too! The first chapter and table of contents are available at the book's page on

Or, if you're in the mood to go deeper into just one book, The Jesus Revolution, by Leith Anderson (President of the National Association of Evangelicals and Lead Pastor at Wooddale Church in Minneapolis) takes readers on a journey through the book of Acts, exploring how those first disciples lived and spread their faith.

Each chapter looks closely at a particular incident in the book of Acts and the lessons modern-day Christians can learn from the trials of the fledgling band of Jesus-followers, from choosing Judas' replacement to dealing with the insincerity of Ananias and Sapphira.

Both of these books have reflection/discussion questions at the end of each chapter, so they are excellent for small group or Sunday school discussion, or just for personal reading, challenging yourself to take a fresh look at scripture.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Big Head

I won't accuse Kate of having a big head metaphorically (though she would come by it honestly--Matt and I both struggle with the sins of pride and self-righteousness) but physically, she does have a really big head!

Once again, at our regular doctor appointments, we've found that the percentile for her head circumfrence was much higher than her height and weight. 95th percentile, in fact, as compared to 50th for height and weight. My third-degree episiotomy should come as no surprise to anyone!

Kate weighs 15 lbs, 8 oz now, and is 26 inches long. The doctor said she is just great--very healthy and hitting all her milestones.

*PS, I hope it's obvious that the photo above is in a wonky perspective. Her head is big, but she's not an alien!

Chattanooga Fun

We just got back from our first family vacation--a few wonderful days in Chattanooga! Kate's first vacation, theoretically (other than visits to grandparents' houses) was to the cabins in June, but since Matt was unable to join us due to VBS and Annual Conference, this was our first trip with the three of us. Chattanooga is a great town for kids and families--lots of fun things to do, free shuttle between the major attractions, and a very walkable, stroller-friendly downtown.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, headed straight for the zoo. The forecast called for thunderstorms all weekend, so we figured it might be our only clear day to be outside. The Chattanooga zoo is small and cheap (only $6 for adults) but plenty entertaining for a short excursion. We only had 45 minutes there, since we had a little trouble finding it (vague map and poor signage) but while we could have easily spent a couple hours, 45 minutes was enough time to see everything.

Here's Kate enthusiastically enjoying the camels ("like Suzette," we kept saying, referring to the floral, stuffed camel on Kate's dresser, which she splattered with the famous "shotgun $hit" of her first week home.) The chimps were the zoo's big draw. They really celebrate "Hank," their oldest chimp, who turned the big 4-0 last year.

We ate dinner at Big River downtown, where the waiter was thoughful enough to ask if we'd like some hot water with which to heat Kate's bottle! (We don't do that, but I thought it was very impressive of a young, single guy to ask!) Then we went for a dip in the hotel pool before bed. Kate loved splashing, and would even kick her legs and wave one arm when we glided her on her belly across the surface of the water.

To save a little money, we stayed at a hotel just outside of downtown, and as I'd hoped, we were able to walk the one mile from the hotel to the riverfront area. We could have taken the free shuttle most of that distance, but we figured that folding up the stroller and lugging it aboard might be more hassle than it was worth, and we really enjoyed the walk. That was actually the only time it rained (at least during the day) during our visit, but it was still a lovely walk, leisurely strolling through the steady sprinkle. We put Kate forward-facing in her stroller for the first time so that she would be able to see the fishies at the aquarium better, and generally, that worked fine, except when she fell asleep and her head didn't stay in the headrest.
Chattanooga is known for its aquarium, and it really was great. There is a nice plaza area connecting the two aquarium buildings ("River Journey" and "Ocean Journey") and the visitor's center, and the structures--not to mention the marine life--are beautiful. One of the coolest things we saw, actually, were these fish that swim vertically, nose down, in very tight schools. They honestly looked like bunches of leaves being dangled from strings, the way they quivered together in that perfectly vertical arrangement.
Here are Kate and I "inside" a tank with the clownfish. "Look, it's Nemo!"

Returning to the hotel in the late afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the fluffy white, king-size comforter to do a little photo shoot of Kate. She's taken to blinking when the flash goes off, but I got several really good shots. Look for more where this came from on Wordless Wednesday this week!
This being our first vacation with a child on board, we knew evenings would be a little different, trading nights on the town for nights in the hotel room, while Little Bit snoozed in the Pack&Play. We brought wine and a Netflix movie ("Rachel Getting Married"--good) and turned in early.
This morning, we went swimming again before packing up and checking out.
"Don't forget my iPod!" Before leaving town, though, we went to see the iconic "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." The station is also a hotel, featuring numerous shops and restaurants. It is essentially Chattanooga's equivalent of the Opryland Hotel. Pretty neat.
Our 48-hour/three-day getaway was pretty quick, but lots of fun, and a great time just to focus on each other and spend quality time as a family. It was also a good introduction to the new experience of Vacationing With Small Children (VWSC), which we will be enjoying for the next decade or so.
What locations have you found best for VWSC? Do you have any tips for making it safe and enjoyable for kids and parents alike?


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