Chi-Town, Here We Come!

The past month has been a blur. As a result, I’ve made plans for this trip to Chicago with Maddie, but haven’t engaged the process very well. I made appropriate reservations and such, but haven’t thought much beyond just that.

Today, I mapped out everywhere we will go and printed off directions both for walking and for public transit (thank you, Google Maps for providing the public transit directions). I’m starting to get both excited and a little freaked out. I’m not used to being the Adult-In-Charge whenever I go somewhere because I don’t usually go on trips without Craig.

This time tomorrow night we’ll probably be watching some random movie on cable TV (we loves us some hotel with cable TV!). We’ll be resting and relaxing and enjoying. Craig offered to let me take his laptop on the trip and I was tempted. But you know, I need the three days without it. Maddie needs the three days with me without it.

We’ll take lots of photos and compose lots of stories in our minds. Maybe some of them will get transferred back here on Sunday. Or maybe not. Either way, the trip will be memorable and, I hope, honoring to Maddie and the girl she is and growing into.

Good-bye for now.

The Wardrobe

Something scary happened tonight. I asked the girls to go upstairs and put away all the laundry I folded today. There was a lot of it. Katie needed hangers and I had a bunch hanging in the wardrobe in our room. The wardrobe is old and is made up of three pieces stacked together.
Katie didn’t realize this, and when she couldn’t reach the hangers, she climbed up inside the wardrobe to reach. She lost her balance and fell, holding on to the middle frame, pulling the top two parts of the wardrobe down on top of her.

I was downstairs at the time, trying to convince Millie to help pick up the living room. We heard a crash and then we heard a scream. And then we kept hearing a scream. It sounded like a scary movie scream that kept going and going and going.

I’m not one to normally overreact when my kids get hurt. I’ve always thought if you stay calm, it helps them stay calm, and usually it’s not that big of a deal. The scream flipped a switch inside me tonight, though, and I ran up the stairs as fast as I could. Craig was already in the room and had already lifted the wardrobe off of Katie.

She’s fine, by the way. Perfectly fine. And the scream wasn’t coming from her; it was coming from Maddie. Maddie was in the room with her, had asked her to get the hangers, saw her climb up into the wardrobe,vwatched her fall, and witnessed the wardrobe coming down on top of her,
powerless to do anything about it other than scream.

She was scared. She thought Katie had been seriously hurt, maybe even the unthinkable. She blamed herself because she had asked for the hangers.

Gravity sunk in when Craig informed me that Millie had been sitting directly in the path of the wardrobe only minutes before. Whereas Katie was inside it when it came down and thus didn’t bear the weight of it when it fell, Millie would have been crushed had she still been where she
was.

It’s easy to play the “what if” game with scenarios like this. What if I had put the laundry away myself after folding it? What if Maddie had retrieved her own hangers? What if Katie had stuck with folding rags instead of anything else? What if Millie had stayed in that spot?

Fact is, “what if” doesn’t do anybody any good. It wasn’t anyone’s fault and the unthinkable didn’t happen. And if it did, it still wouldn’t have been anybody’s fault. But it’s scary to think about and sometimes the weight of it doesn’t hit you for several hours.

The weight of it hit Katie right away (both literally and figuratively). After she calmed down (she wasn’t screaming, but she was definitely crying), she found me and said, “I could have died tonight if the wardrobe hit me somewhere else, couldn’t I have?” I stared at her for a second and then slowly began to nod. She then said, “But I didn’t because God protected me and saved me, so I’m okay and don’t even have a scratch or a broken bone.” I stared again and again nodded.

The simplicity of that understanding was all she needed. She was fine, she wasn’t really hurt, and she believed with all her heart that God saved her life tonight. She will remember this for a long time, maybe even forever.

And for me? I hope I remember it forever, too. I’m more apt to want to get rid of the wardrobe or punish myself for not being present in the room when it happened. Facts remain: it wasn’t anyone’s fault and the Lord did spare her life. That needs to be enough. For now. For forever.

Thanks, God, for protecting my family tonight.

The Chaos Experiment is Fully Under Way

Ricky

Meet Ricky, one of three pets of the feline persuasion to join in on our chaos experiment known as the Dunham family. The other two are Lucy and Ethel. We have yet to meet Lucy because she’s been hiding in the basement ever since she arrived. Ethel is a bit on the cold side (as in she’s been rather mean), but we hope that will change as we win her over with our charming, gentle, cat-loving ways.

The girls are pretty excited, at least about Ricky. They are rather scared of Ethel because she growls (and I mean growls as in like a dog or bear growls) whenever one of us walks by her. Craig is in the basement right this second with a flashlight trying to find Lucy. I’m hoping that’s all he finds because you know how we have a propensity for being surprised by cats and all.

Now then, the obvious question here is why? Our pet excuse for so long was that the girls were too young. After that we rented for three years, which became our excuse. Now the girls are older, we own a house again (as trying as that has been), and they’ve been begging for a pet since July. Thus, we gave in.

We tend to think of ourselves more as dog people, but not the kind of dogs that make better footballs than pets. Big dogs. Unfortunately, we don’t have a fence, so we can’t exactly get a big dog right now.

However, a teacher at Craig’s school is moving to Colorado soon and can’t take her furry friends with her, so she gave them to us under the condition they stay together. So there you have it: the story of how the Dunham family grew by three in one short day.

Here’s hoping none of them find our tents.

All I Want for Christmas is…

Two Front Teeth

This poor gal has had the misfortune to have lost a total of three teeth in the last month. If you’ll recall, this hasn’t been one of the easiest months of the Dunham household, so the tooth fairy, shall we say, has been a bit on the MIA side of things.

The only saving grace we have here is that, like Santa, our kids are in on the whole “tooth fairy” thing and play along, knowing full well that it’s us. The bad side of that, though, is that when the tooth fairy forgets, well, everyone knows whose fault it is: mine.

Katie has been wiggling this last front tooth for the past two weeks. It finally came out today. She glanced in my direction and I solemnly swore I would not forget this time. Tooth Fairy Mama’s honor.

I just went up and slid the expected dollar under the pillow with a note. Tomorrow she shall not be disappointed.

One out of three isn’t so bad, right?

Root Deer

December 24

Meet Dasher and Dancer, root deer at the ready. Comet and Cupid are on the other side. They will soon be placed in four specific stockings. I saw this on someone’s blog earlier in the week and for the life of me can’t remember who or where. I thought it was pretty cute, though, so had to replicate it.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

2008 Booklist

Another year, another list. It's always nice to have a couple I started last year to give me a jump-start on this year!

January

Light from Heaven (The Mitford Years, Book 9) by Jan Karon
– Officially the last book of the Mitford series, though not the last of the Father Tim stories (I'm told). I began the series when I was pregnant with M9 and they have been enjoyable books over the past nine years. Karon is a good writer and the Christian story comes out naturally through Father Tim. It isn't forced or uncomfortable. I like these.

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney
– This was very good, and I'm thinking about re-reading it with a friend here in town. I'm also thinking about posting thoughts from it, by chapter, on my blog. If anyone would be interested in reading it with me, let me know. Maybe we can get the author to come over and give some additional input, who knows?

Cutting Your Family's Hair by Gloria Handel and Mickey Baskett – I know. You don't really read this book, but I've had it for a while and actually used it last night to give the girls haircuts. I've cut their hair before, but I've never really liked what I've done. I was pleased with how their cuts turned out last night, though, and I attribute the simple changes I made to the book, which paid for itself last night (four kids' cuts locally would cost $32 at a cheap place). A good investment.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle – It's hard to beat Madeleine L'Engle. Truthfully, I liked Meet the Austins better, but I don't know. I don't really know much about L'Engle's worldview. I presume she was writing from a Christian one, as there is much biblical truth within the text, but there were some troubling allusions to universalism within the text as well. Still a good story, and good writing. The girls clapped at the end (which didn't help the going-to-bed part). We'll read more.

Moon by Night (Austin Family) by Madeleine L'Engle – Ummm, can anyone say "teenage romance?" I had no idea! I didn't exactly finish it (I was reading it to my girls and didn't think it was quite appropriate at their ages). Maybe I should go back and finish it completely, but it's steered me away from L'Engle for quite a while. So much for the Austins. Disappointed.

Playing For Pizza: A Novel by John Grisham – I've always been a Grisham junkie. Loved all his lawyer stuff. Really liked Skipping Christmas. This one, though? Yawn.

Katharina Von Bora: A Reformation Life by Rudolf K. Markwald
– Biography of the wife of Martin Luther. I'd not known too much about the wife of the reformer. From page 89:

"Considering Luther and Kate's strong personalities and the challenges of serving an unending line of uprooted people with limited resources, the Luthers at times had strong disagreements. On occasion, Luther was uneasy with Kate's authority in the household…At one particular lowpoint in their finances, Martin had to turn down a friend who wanted to hold a wedding reception at Lutherhaus. Luther exclaimed, 'If I were to court a girl again, I would chisel myself an obedient wife from a rock.'"

It appears some marriage issues do not change with even 500 years between them. I may very well be the Katharina Von Bora to Craig's Martin Luther. God help us.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg – Another bedtime read-aloud. I'm not sure how I ended up with a copy of this, but I'm glad I did. This 1967 Newberry award winner about two siblings who run away from home and spend a week in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was a cute read and the writing was great. There were plenty of things to discuss with the girls from the book (namely, please don't ever run away from home!), but also Michaelangelo, art museums in general, and the value of the dollar and how it has changed in 40+ years. Fun story.

March

A Pagan's Nightmare: A Novel by Ray Blackston
– A fast read that fulfilled my desire for the easy and mindless. I've read Blackston's other books which are in the same genre: Christian Chick Lit for Everyone. His first book was his best, the other two in that triliogy were so-so and this one was, well, it was what I expected, so I shouldn't be disappointed. It pokes fun at the Christiany sub-culture and poses the idea of what if the world were made up of only cheesy Christians with just a few non-Christians left? It would be their worst nightmare. Really? It would also be mine. The writing is funny, and the idea was intriguing enough to keep me reading, but it never really went anywhere. Keep trying, Ray.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
– A prequel of sorts to the classic story of Peter Pan. For some reason I didn't realize this before beginning it – had simply fixated on "Dave Barry" and "Children's Book" and popped it into my paperbackswap queue. It was an enjoyable read and we'll probably tackle the second book sometime, but we're taking a break from it because it was quite long.

Yep. Not a lot of reading going on for me these days. I blame it on all the sewing. But now that I've slowed down on the sewing I've got to find something else to blame it on. The laundry, maybe?

April

Breathing Lessons: A Novel by Anne Tyler
– Anne writes an amazing story. They are so sad but so good. She makes you believe the people she's writing about could very well be some neighbors down your street. This one was no different – heartbreaking, but true-to-life, good storytelling.

The Enchanted Castle (Puffin Classics) by E. Nesbitt
– Sort of a "Five Children and It" with different children and different magical consequences. Still, good story and the girls enjoyed it.

May

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
– I read this several years ago, but think this needs to go on my rotating list of rereads. Enger's wordcrafting is untouchable and his storytelling brings tears. Beautiful, heartbreaking, powerful. One of my favorite books.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeannie Birdsall
– Jeannie does it again. She has quickly moved into a top position for the Dunham Family's favorite children's authors ever. We're all impatient that we have to wait for her to write her next one. Snap to it, please!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
– An interesting story, well-written, well-told. It had a Tim Burtonish feel to it and was a bit on the creepy side, but not so much that the girls couldn't sleep afterwards. I heard there's a movie being made, so that will be fun to see after reading this.

Wow, I really stopped reading this year. For shame! I'm trying to remember what I did actually read from June-December and I'm having a hard time figuring it out. I'll try to remember what they were right now:

June-December:

Some Sonlight books here:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elisabeth George Speare


Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes


Walk the World's Rim by Betty Baker


This Heavy Silence by Nicole Mazzarella
– I was predictably skeptical of this work of "Christian" fiction, but it was very different from what most would consider to be "Christian" fiction and therefore I liked it. That sounds sad, but the stereotype exists for a reason, you know what I'm saying? I should have written this mini-review right away for I can't remember specifics here. I do remember thinking some of the story was forced, a bit of it was less than believable, but overall, it was well done and I'll read more by her in the future.

So Brave, Young and Handsome: A Novel by Leif Enger
– This was certainly no Peace Like a River, but it was still very good writing. It took me forever to finish this book which is more of a commentary on how goofy our summer was and less about the captivating quality of the book. Enger is a rare breed. I look forward to reading more.

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel –
Excellent book. I've had it on the shelf for four years now and needed the incentive of the class to read it, but I'm so glad I did. Great book, well-written, worth your time.

Instructing a Child's Heart by Ted and Margy Tripp – More of the same. Don't anybody shoot me here, but I remember really liking Shepherding a Child's Heart when I read it many years ago. I thought I'd like this one too, but reading it immediatly after reading Kimmel's book was tough. And the writing just wasn't that great.

There you have it.
A very dismal 22 books this year. Maybe 2009 will be better for reading?

Crafty Angel

In keeping with all the December crafting photos I’ve been posting this month, I couldn’t help but take a picture of a Christmas ornament I saw on my parent’s tree yesterday. Made by yours truly…in 1988:

December 22

Here’s this beautiful creation from the backside:

December 22

Craig said it appears I’ve come a long way in 20 years. Boy, aren’t we all glad? And my heartfelt apologies to both my sister and Christy who were recipients of many such handmade “goodness” by me during these years I was figuring out the beginnings of what now is a fun and productive skill. I sent Michelle a lot of crafty goodness when she was in college (and I had a strong affinity for plastic canvas and yarn – ugg!) and remember making Christy random things like a fabric holder for her glasses and a misshapen pillow or two.

Gals, neither of you ever made me feel silly for bringing you those things, so thanks for that. It’s okay now; it’s been 20 years. Go ahead and laugh with me.

Happy Christmas Eve Eve Everyone!

On Christmas Break

No photos today. I no longer have a laptop and didn’t bother bringing the camera cord, so no photos. Sorry.

We’re in Oklahoma, having pulled in at 8:00 tonight. As we were leaving today, I happened to run down to the basement and opened the freezer door. I have no idea why I did this because we were packed and ready to go. I wasn’t planning to cook anything in the remaining 2 minutes we had left; nevertheless, I opened the freezer. There I discovered that all of the grass-fed beef I had in the door of the freezer and on the top shelf were completely thawed out. Then I cried.

It’s only the 20th, but December won and we’re wiped out. We desperately need a break and are hoping to get one soon after Christmas. I told Craig today that for Christmas this year I did not want to paint the living room. 1984 is growing on me a little (okay, maybe not), but I want Craig to be able to relax the one week he has with no traveling before classes resume on the 5th.

To that end, I’m giving him a one-month subscription to Blockbuster, with Lost Season 4 already on the way, followed by the Godfather Trilogy. All we need next week are the movies and endless supplies of popcorn and Coke Zero. Sounds like a perfect way to regain some sense of who we are (movie zombies – that’s who we really are).

Hoping some sleep restores us tonight. Hoping the time with our families is sweet. Hoping the girls don’t get too strung out by the routine shift.

Hoping. Hoping is something. It’s a better place to be than I’ve been.