Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Takes Me Back

Our office coffeemaker stopped working this morning. This really is a near-crisis, given how many times a day we refill the 12-cup pot and how the moment we hear the beeps indicating the new pot has finished brewing, my coworkers and I descend upon it like a pride of lions all sharing one gazelle. If you’re not there within two-and-a-half minutes, you miss out, and may be stuck with the task of preparing the next pot.

Fortunately, since we never throw anything away, there were two extra coffeemakers in the cabinet. One was missing its pot, either because it was broken some time ago or because someone is using it as a watering can for their office fichus. The other—which we are now using--is a tiny, four-cup pot like one finds in a hotel room.

I had a coffeemaker just like this one in the little two-room apartment where I lived for most of grad school. I guess it was really three rooms, since the bathroom did have a door, but calling it two rooms always brings to mind Tom Petty’s “The Apartment Song”: I used to live in a two-room apartment / neighbors knockin’ on my wall / times were hard, I don’t wanna knock it / I don’t miss it much at all.

I was just starting to make regular coffee (as opposed to sugary lattes) a habit, and Matt gave me the little appliance when he bought the nice big “Barista” brand coffeemaker we still have in our kitchen. Seeing this little pot takes me back to that little apartment and to that time of my life. It was the first—and only—place I ever lived alone. It is where Charlotte and I bonded for life and where Matt proposed. It was always too hot or too cold, and the tub drain frequently got clogged. My window was at eye-level with a swanky upstairs bar across the street where the staff would blast music as they cleaned up in the wee hours. One time, they got a trash bag stuck in a tree just outside the bar’s windows. The eye-sore bothered me so much that one night, after enjoying an appletini or two there, I leaned out the window, yanked the bag out of the tree, and gave it to the bartender to throw away. Half a block down was another bar that attracted a lot of bikers who would rev their engines at a maddening volume.

I remember getting up on Saturday mornings and making coffee. I would sit on the couch (from which I could reach the TV, the kitchen table, and my desk) and read or watch CNN. It feels like fall. Dressed in a sweater and jeans, I would walk the block over to Starbucks or the library at school. Matt and I would get together at some point in the day--though we had previously spent most of our time at his place on 18th Ave., once I got Charlotte we hung out at my place more, so as to not abandon the kitty! It was also in this era that Matt and I each had "our night" to cook for the both of us, and I recall having "Mexican night" and "Greek night" back in those days when fixing dinner for two was a big deal.

It was a special time. I wouldn't trade our present state as a family of three (even up here in Clarksville!) for anything, but I still get sentimental thinking about Matt and my dating days. It was the beginning of our life together, and will forever be part of our story.

(You can't see much of the apartment here, but here's Charlotte and I in early 2005, Check back tomorrow for a Wordless Wednesday of "old" pics, i.e. the earliest digital pics I have, from 2004 and 2005.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

100 Days of Holidays

Back before Kate was born, around the beginning of the year, I debated whether to tackle a cool memory-documenting concept called Project 365. It's a scrapbooking thing in which you take a picture a day all year, essentially documenting a "year in the life" of your family. Since Kate would be born in January, it seemed like a good thing to try, to document our first year of parenthood. Alas, it seemed too daunting. I figured I wouldn't stick with it, and the fancy "Project 365" album and kit were sold out anyway.

My "scrapbooking guru," Jessica Turner, from whom I learned of Project 365, also did something last year called Daily December, in which one takes a photo every day of December to document the fun holiday festivities leading up to Christmas. That sounded much more do-able, and I planned to do it this year for Kate's first Christmas.

THEN, I signed up for an e-newsletter through Parents magazine called "100 Days of Holidays." Each day between Sept. 24 and Jan. 1 (100 days) Parents sends a message with fun ideas to celebrate the holidays--Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It's not a scrapbooking thing, but since I love fall and life is pretty much one big festival from here through New Year's, I decided I would try the picture-a-day thing to document Kate's first fall holidays and Christmas season. That's still 27% of the way-too-daunting 365, but I'm going to tackle it anyway. I don't know what I'll do with these pics scrapbook-wise, but for now I'll post them to the blog on a weekly basis!

(1) Thursday 9/24. Granna gave Kate this fun set of first-holiday bibs--what a perfect way to kick off 100 Days of Holidays! (You can also see the shininess below Kate's nose--she had a runny nose.)
(2) Friday 9/25. I came home from work early to relieve a sick Matt in his caring for a sick Kate. She had fun taking all the diapers out of her diaper bag and playing with them.
(3) Saturday 9/26. Kate had her first finger foods (other than puffs). I don't think she got any of the banana pieces into her mouth, but she can pick them up and she can eat them if I put them in her mouth--it's just getting them from her own hand into her mouth that's the problem!
(4) Sunday 9/27. NaLa and Popi came down to visit so they could see Kate before they leave for Ireland later this week. They arrived just in time for church and left early Monday morning.
(5) Monday, 9/28. Kate is 8 months old today! That means it's time for her monthly Marcel photo!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Summer Scrappin'

I went through a scrapbooking lull in the late spring, and then took half the summer to finally do my Easter and Kate's Baptism pages, with which I am still not all that happy. In the past few weeks, though, I have had a slight resurgence in creativity, and have made some fun pages with pics from our 15-week photo shoot back in May with our friend, Maria.

First, "tiny," with little frames showcasing Kate's tiny baby parts--her fingers and toes, eyes and ears. I arranged the twelve pictures into a 5 x 7 mosaic on Kodakgallery and then cut the delivered print into strips. The polka-dot parts of this page are actually from a Graco ad I cut out months ago.
"You" is my record of what Kate was doing at three months--sleeping through the night, cooing like crazy, sucking her fingers (like in the picture!) The big letters are chipboard, covered in paper and sanded down.
"Family." Maria got so many great shots of the three of us. I love the birds on this paper--it's Stampin Up!, like most of the papers in these layouts.
In the middle of the photo shoot, I was holding Kate and took a little hop down from a short rock wall, jostling her head against my shoulder, and she flipped out. She's normally a pretty chill, happy baby, but when she does cry, she makes a huge show of it, crumpling her face and throwing her arms out wide like "why, God, why?!?" She kept this up for a while, and as we tried to console her, we had to laugh at what a "drama queen" she was being!
This last one is comprised of my own photography skills, if they can be called that! "Half Year Half Pint" is my record of what Kate was up to at six months--creeping, sitting up (though not on her own, yet) and otherwise becoming such a big girl!
It's hard to believe it's been almost two months since those shots were taken on our trip to Chattanooga. I may have "scrapbookers block" now and again, but I love recording our memories and these precious moments that fly by so quickly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Growth

The church I grew up in--Middletown Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, KY--has doubled in size since my time there in the 80s and 90s. I'm not great at estimating numbers, but I would say there were 500-750 members fifteen years ago, and maybe 1000-1500 today (?) They just launched a second campus by adopting and revitalizing a struggling congregation in another area of town (similar to Ginghamsburg Church's model of doing multi-site) and are really thriving, changing lives and the community.

When I visit MCC now (not as often as I would like!) it bears very little physical resemblance to the church I loved in my youth. It has a new building in a new location, and a new pastor as well. I still see our old family friends, but I also see many, many people I don't know. A good friend with whom I grew up at MCC is still active there, with her parents and now her husband and son, and even she says that there are many, many people that she doesn't know.

But, you know, it's okay that we don't know everyone or recognize every face. Sure, it was nice knowing most people--the more active members, anyway--as I was growing up there. But knowing everybody is not what church is about. The church is not there to serve its own members or to perpetuate itself as a social club. Fellowship and study groups are nice, and serve a valuable purpose, but if those gatherings are ends unto themselves, then we have very much missed the point. We are called to serve, to reach out, to include.

There is an article I'll be including in an upcoming issue of Circuit Rider called "Incentives to Decline." It explains why some churches, even if they say they want to grow, really would prefer to stay the same, because growth would mean sacrificing some comfort, some intimacy, even some power. Bringing more people into the fold would mean they might not get as much say in decision-making. They might not like some of the physical and organizational changes that growth requires. They might not recognize every face or know every person by name.

Sure, it's a little uncomfortable to return to my home church and not feel quite as "at home" as I might if I knew every person's name or knew where every room was located, or if I could return to the exact places where special memories were made. But that feeling pales in comparison to the excitement of seeing this congregation that is so close to my heart grow and thrive and make a huge difference for the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -- Day Care

(we miss you, Miss Jen!)

Count Your Blessings

When I leave work each day, I cut through the Frist/Union Station Hotel parking lot, and turn left on Broadway across from the Lifeway store. This afternoon, after stopping at the post office to ship two pairs of shoes to some lucky eBay bidders (the first items I've sold on eBay!) I pulled up and waited for the light to turn green.

I spotted a beige hearse parked outside Lifeway, and thought about how if I used twitpic, I could tweet this funny sight, perhaps with a caption like "Lifeway: Biblical Solutions for Life... and Death."

The light turned green. I pressed the gas and lurched forward about six feet before seeing a maroon sedan zooming into the intersection. Fortunately, since I was starting from a dead stop, I was able to brake and quickly stop, and the sedan swerved around the nose of my car. The driver was apparently trying to beat the light, and missed big time.

My heart raced as I continued through the intersection and headed home, thinking about how close I'd come to having my evening ruined and my almost-paid-off car totalled, if not something worse. I drove cautiously, my usual eagerness to get home to see Kate quickly tempered by my desire to get home to see her at all. Times like these are great for counting your blessings.

Maybe I'm the only one, but too often, I find myself dwelling on the negatives in life, the things that aren't exactly as I would wish them to be. I wallow. I complain. This makes my dear husband feel guilty and frustrated, and only serves to ruin both our moods. Then I berate myself for throwing a complaint-fest, which just brings me down further.

There are so many positives in my life, it is a shame that they don't mold my attitude near so much as the negatives. I know I don't express gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life nearly often enough.

Like my precious daughter. I have never known this kind of love. Holy cats, she's amazing! When I look at her, I feel like the Grinch, whose heart swelled to ten times its normal size.

Like my incredible husband. He is far better to me than I deserve. When I behave terribly, he responds in love. He is so sweet to me, and I can only try to be as loving toward him as he is to me. He is an amazing father, partner, pastor, and friend.

Like my wonderful parents. We talk almost every day, and I can always count on their support. I always wanted a sibling, but I think being an only child has made us closer. My in-laws are incredibly generous and loving as well, and all our parents are terrific grandparents to Kate.

Like a roof over my head. The distance of this abode from my work and most of our friends is chief among my complaints in life, but we are incredibly lucky to have such a house, and especially to have it free of charge (as a parsonage). A home is such a basic thing, and yet should never be taken for granted. There are too many that go without it.

I could go on and on, of course--giving thanks for our jobs, for our health, for food to eat and clothes to wear. For the silly little things that bring joy to everyday life--reruns of Friends and good songs on the radio. I am so blessed, and I so often take it all for granted.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Most Important Space in the Church

Kate and I had a rough time in church yesterday. She was just more fussy in general this weekend, and naps did not really help relieve the crankiness, as they usually would. I'm not sure if it's the teething, or what, but she hasn't been taking her bottles very well lately--taking a few gulps, then just playing with it, gnawing on the nipple (good thing I'm not nursing, I guess!), turning around, wanting to stand up, and fussing if I try to keep her from doing so... it's crazy. Not a huge deal, but feedings can take longer and take a lot more patience. It can a bit frustrating, but we generally deal with it just fine.

In church, though, this rigamarole gets really frustrating, because (obviously) there are other people around trying to listen, pray, and otherwise concentrate on worship, and I am stuck playing the "Should I Take Her Out?" game. The game involves questions like:
  1. How loud is the noise?
  2. Is the noise positive or negative? (cooing and laughing seem more tolerable than crying or screaming)
  3. How important is the element of worship the child is distrupting? (this one, especially, is highly subjective)
  4. Is the noise likely to cease in the next 30 seconds?
  5. How annoyed are the people around you? (I always sit up front, so I am terrible with this question; I can't see people turning around to glare at me or whatnot.)
  6. If I take her out, should I take all our gear? Where should I go? If she quiets down (which Kate usually does the moment I stand up to leave) how long should I stay out?
Needless to say, this "game" is no fun. It is stressful and makes it essentially impossible to concentrate on worship. Kate fussing and having to be taken out of church is nothing new, but for whatever reason, yesterday I lost it (the game, at least, if not my sanity). After milling around the hallway with her for most of Sunday school, we started out in worship and made it maybe through announcements and an opening hymn. She fussed during the children's sermon and the affirmation, but I let it be (see point 3 above--sorry to anyone who loves those parts). Finally, when she was making it difficult for people to hear the day's scripture being read, I had to take her out, and stayed out for the whole sermon. I tried to come back for prayer time, but didn't last too long, and was out again. Finally, I dashed back in during the offering, gathered our "luggage" and left.

Kate is a good, happy baby--even good, happy babies cry sometimes!--and I really wasn't frustrated with her, just with the situation. I felt like "why should I even come if I spend the whole time out in the hallway or narthex?" This is exactly why a church nursery (and/or a cry room) are so essential.
Due to the fire, our church is in an interim location right now, so this is not a commentary on what we had before or what we will have in the future. I do hope that any other churches' pastors or decision-makers reading this, however, will think about the experience of parents attending your church and how much of a difference a good, staffed, functional nursery and/or cry room can make. I'm the pastor's wife, so I have some incentive to go to church despite knowing that I will hardly experience any of it, but I can only imagine how a family just visiting a church, or trying to get back into the habit of going would feel it's just not worth it.

I recently received a copy of The Most Important Space in the Church: The Nursery, by Rita Hays (who, incidentally, was on staff for many years at Matt's parents' church). I actually hadn't started reading it until Sunday afternoon, after getting all worked up about this issue, but as I suspected, it is a valuable look at the significant role of the nursery--not just practically, but theologically--to a church. I recommend it to anyone with a role in children's ministry or in building-planning.

More concerned about the practical aspect at the moment, I am reminded of some research I read a while back that said the two most important things a church must have to attract and retain visitors are a) a good, clean, well-staffed nursery, and b) an adequately-sized, easily-navigated parking lot. Amenities like these seem much less significant than things like worship music, preaching, or the friendliness of the people, but for people who are not already invested in your church, it's those little things that make their visit go a little more smoothly that can make or break their decision to stick around and experience God with your congregation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Matt on Mentoring

Matt was asked to contribute a chapter to a book published by the United Methodist General Board on Higher Education and Ministry, Beyond the Burning Bush: Hearing & Answering God's Call, about his calling story. His chapter talks about his youth pastor, Will Penner, who gave him leadership opportunities and nurtured his potential for ministry.

You can learn the "doing" of ministry from books and classes, Matt says, but learning the "being" of ministry takes the care and nurture of a trusted mentor to help one see and understand the calling and gifts God has placed on one's life.

Matt is truly called and gifted for ministry. It's all guts and no glory, and he does it all for love of God and love of people in the name of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two Toofies

Kate has shown signs of teething for a while, and a couple weeks ago, I was sure I saw an incisor poking through, on the side where she had been concentrating most of her gnawing/comforting efforts. On Labor Day last week, her bottom middle two appeared--and suddenly I can't see the other one anymore! I don't know if it was a canker sore, or what. (Anyone have any idea?)

Nonetheless, her two little "toofies" are definitely here, and for the first time today--visible to the camera! She's eating around 15-18 different foods--pureed fruits and veggies and several kinds of cereal. She's even starting to get the hang of finger foods of the dissolving sort--rice puffs and such--but with these teeth, she'll be eating table food in no time!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fix

Partially because I post a lot early in the week and rarely on Thursdays or Fridays...

and partially because I miss Kate so much some days, especially on Fridays when I'm excited to get home and spend a fun weekend with her...

I (and maybe you) need a KATE FIX!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kate is Cruisin

Kate is making tremendous progress! She pulls up on anything she can find and is learning to balance for a few seconds with no support before she falls on her butt.

She is also "cruising", where she steps from side to side while holding on to something. It's so amazing to watch each stage of development.

All this at only 7 1/2 months old! It won't be long before she's walking!!!

On her own two feet

Kate has been pulling up for two or three weeks, and she is just developing like crazy! She started pulling up to her knees using a kitchen chair less than three weeks ago (a couple days shy of seven months), then within a few days after that, was pulling up to her feet. We lowered her crib to the middle level then, knowing she would be standing up in the crib soon.

Sure enough, when we were in Louisville for Labor Day, she stood up in the crib in an act of protest against taking a nap. (BTW, that was my crib when I was a baby.)That night, she did it in her own crib too, and we promptly lowered the mattress to the very lowest level. It's practically to the floor, and that is where it will remain when it becomes a toddler bed, until she's ready to move to a "big girl bed"!
Nonetheless, she can still peer over the edge, and may one day learn to crawl out!
She is now able to cruise around the coffee table, pulling up with greater and greater ease and slowly taking careful steps as she hangs on to the table or the couch. She's so determined--grunting and huffing and puffing when she can't seem to summit a particular mountain. She's a go-getter, and we're so proud of our girl!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grandparents' Day

Hello--Katemonster here!

For those of you without the official calendar of Hallmark holidays, yesterday was Grandparents' Day. I got creative and made cards for my grandparents featuring my handprints with ten fingers outstetched and a tagline saying "You're a Perfect Ten!" Too bad Mommy forgot to take pictures of the cards before sealing the envelopes. She was too busy trying to clean the green ink off my hands--I looked like the Incredible Hulk!

I am lucky to have four perfect grandparents. Let me introduce you to them.
This is Popi. He's semi-retired, but still works on his computer a lot, even when he comes down to stay with me. Popi loves to take me on walks and hikes and bought me a llama puppet last week named Obama-Llama. Popi is a Republican, but we trust he doesn't mean any offense to Mr. Obama. Mommy says she would trust Obama to carry her and her supplies through the Andes, so it's all good!
This is NaLa. That's short for Nana Laura, which was supposed to be her grandparent name until she decided it would get confusing with her own mommy, who is called Nana. NaLa likes to come stay with me and then spend all her time cleaning things. When you can get her to stop and sit down, though, she likes to read to me, take walks, and play with me! This is Opa. They call him "the Baby Whisperer." I will fall asleep on his shoulder and nap there for hours (when ordinarily I just want to be left alone when I'm tired!) Opa loves Ben & Jerry's and can't wait to feed me ice cream as soon as Mommy and Daddy will let him. He got me a cool cow bib and tie-dyed onesie at the Ben & Jerry's factory when he went to Vermont on business recently (he's semi-retired too).
Last but certainly not least, this is Granna. She loves to take pictures of me, which is why Mommy doesn't have a picture of her with me since my baptism half my life ago. Granna's always behind the camera! Granna likes to buy me pretty clothes and says we're going to have fun tea parties when I get bigger. I can't wait!

I am clearly a very lucky girl, to have such loving, wonderful grandparents. I love you all!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Partying in Louisville

After church on Sunday, we drove up to Louisville for a dinner party/shower for my cousin Lindsay and her fiance Andrew. They live in the D.C. area, and my aunt and uncle and younger cousins live in New Orleans, so everyone converged on the Miller homeland to celebrate with the extended family.

The happy couple
Younger adult tableThe groom, father-of-the-bride, bride, mother-of-the-bride, my mom, and brother of the bride
Kate got to come too, and it was actually the first time she had met some of the Miller family. Here she is with Nala (my mom--short for Nana Laura) and maid of honor/sister-of-the-bride Layne.
Kate apparently shakes hands with her feet. Fittingly, she's going to be a monkey for Halloween! I can't believe the summer is almost over! I love fall, so I'm very excited about taking Kate to fall festivals, dressing her up in her costume, taking walks in the crisp fall air. I have a couple business trips coming up this fall, and of course our trip to New Orleans for the wedding! Congrats to the happy couple! We're so excited about your big day!


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