Wednesday, December 29, 2010

John's Frist Christmas: Spoiling on a Budget

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and felt hope and encouragement from the true meaning of the holiday.

"You mean these are all for me?!?"

Baby John celebrated his first Christmas. I think some of the holy and glorious truths of the season escaped him. But he did get lots of presents. Unfortunately, I think the enjoyment of his gifts also escaped him because it seems that he was most enthralled with scraps of wrapping paper.

Opening presents from Grandparents Ness.
(Thank you Grandma and Grandpa Ness!)

"The bear is cute and all, but really, what can compete with this scrap of paper?"

John has been accused of being a "spoiled kid" who has lots of stuff. Much preferring fresh, crunchy children, we are actively trying to prevent the spoilage of our baby. But it's true that he does have lots of stuff, as you can see from the photos. Regarding that, I would like to say that if we are spoiling, we are doing it on a budget. I bought all of his Christmas presents at a garage sale for under $30! I do so love a bargain! And it brings me joy to buy him gifts even though I know that he would be just as satisfied with the tupperware in the kitchen cabinets.

This is not exactly a teething toy. But soon enough he'll figure it out.

I can't wait until he can begin to comprehend the reason for the season.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Something Greater

Merry Christmas!

Today you may be celebrating Christmas with gifts, family, friends, and a plethora of edible delicacies. All good things which I, myself, enjoy.

But there is something greater. Don't be satisfied with the temporal delights provided by savory ham, sweet desserts, warm friendships and a new iPhone (especially not the iPhone because you know there will be an updated one out in about 5 minutes).

There is a much more glorious story at work. A "true myth," as C.S. Lewis said, because it's so fantastical it seems like the stuff of fiction. But it's true. There is a God. The God of the Universe who confined himself to human flesh. 2,000 years ago fully human and fully God, Christ was delivered to Mary and Joseph in all the gruesomeness and beauty of birth in a stable full of animal excrement. The maker of the universe received no glorious welcome that day.

But that is only the beginning of the story.

He came to live a sinless life so that one day He could take on the sins of mankind, and suffer the punishment that we deserved. Satisfying the justice and demonstrating the mercy of God so that we all may partake in His reward. That is what He did when he was crucified.

But that's not the end of the story.

He rose again. And that is the reason for our hope. He destroyed death and gave life to men! And He will come again to finish His work. May you celebrate His birth today and everyday!

I love this song "Labor of Love" from Andrew Peterson's CD Behold the Lamb of God:

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Would you look at this?!

Would you look at what my baby did today:

He did this by himself with no assistance from me. He was wobblier than a jello mold but managed to hold this pose long enough for me to get the camera out and take a picture. This was a huge surprise. I don't know what this means for my life as I know it. But I'm sure it will be fun finding out. :o)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

7 Months!

Monday John turned 7 months! I am a little late announcing this news to the world.

To celebrate the momentous occasion we fed him some green beans in addition to his gruel (gruel being the term we now use to describe his rice cereal. Because, really, if that isn't gruel, what is?). It was entirely unsuccessful! He actually gagged the green beans up. Which I really didn't expect. I thought if he didn't like what we were feeding him, he might just spit it out. But he really made his revulsion clear with all of his coughing and horrified faces. We'll keep trying! I've read that it might take many trials before a food is accepted. You're not done with green beans yet, Johnny boy! Don't worry, I will keep you updated on all of John's gastronomic developments!

We also went for a run:

Which tuckered him out:

I love my baby boy. I'm so happy to have him!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Better than I could say it...

It is the advent season and I have been wanting to write something about what this season means to me but I haven't been inspired to be able to put those thoughts into words. All I seem to have churning around in my mind to write is pointless drivel about Clorox and Charles Dickens. Thankfully there are people who have captured my thoughts better than even I could! I follow the blog of Christine Hoover who I met in college. She was the college pastor's wife. She wrote the posts below which I thought were excellent! Give them a read!

The Perfect Gift

Blue Christmas

The holidays are an unusual time in some ways. To borrow a quote from A Christmas Carol: "it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices." The contrasts are stark. Compared to the charitable feelings and thankfulness that Christmas time kindles in many, others who are bearing grief during these times struggle deeply. Sorrows being rendered darker in contrast to the bright ambiance of the season. If you are struggling, it's not gifts, hot chocolate, cookies or even family gatherings that will give you ultimate solace. But you can have ultimate solace. There is One who gives it and He was born on the first Christmas over 2,000 years ago.

A friend of ours wrote this poignant poem about a grief that she is enduring and the hope that sustains her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not just something people say

I called my mom this week to tell her that John had cut a tooth. To which she adamantly, repeatedly replied "that's impossible! That is impossible!" It seems impossible, it seems like he just got here! What business does he have doing all of this grown up, teeth growing?!? But it's true. There is a tiny sliver of tooth peeking out of his tender little gum.

I'm hoping that the tooth is the reason for his fussiness for the past few weeks. Overall, I'd still say he's a happy, easy-going boy. But when it's just the two of us at home I think he gets bored and succumbs more easily to minor discomforts such that a tooth breaking through a gum might cause. He has had some fussy moments recently (and I have had a few fussy moments myself)! I thought I felt a lump under his gum which could be a tooth but I wasn't sure. I was racking my brain trying to make sure there wasn't something else making him upset. Is he hungry? Tired? Sick? Upset about the state of the economy? But when I felt that little sliver, I knew that a tooth had been working its way up.

As cute as teeth are, I was hoping he wouldn't get any until around 11 months. I'm nursing him. I'll still continue nursing him as he gets teeth but I'm a little nervous about a bite. Anyways, the point is, the time goes fast. It really does. Even though some days seem never-ending the passage of time seems to be going at a breakneck pace that only quickens as I get older. The time passes quickly, it's not just something that people say. That's one reason that I'm thankful Peter is willing to work to support my lifestyle while I sit at home and eat bon bons with my baby. I don't want to miss anything. One day he's sitting, the next day he's crawling, one day he's toothless, the next day he's not!

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of said tooth. In the first place, it's very difficult to see since it is only a small sliver. Secondly, he much prefers I not look at it and lets me know this by thrashing his head about violently every time I try to pin him down and get a glimpse. It can't hide forever!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Dirty Little Secret

Okay, I'll just out with it. I love bleach. Clorox. I can't get enough of it. It smells so horrible but it makes my 40 year old counters and sinks sparkle more brightly than Elvis in Vegas.

To clarify why this is a dirty little secret, let me back up. For a few years I've been using only "chemical free" products to clean my house. "Chemical free" is certainly a misnomer because even air and water are technically chemicals. But I've steered clear of harsh chemicals or things with added colors or fragrances. I've mostly used various concoctions of vinegar, baking soda, soap (mostly Dr. Bronner's all purpose soap. Love it!) and water. These products do a decent job in regular cleaning to maintain cleanliness. They don't necessarily do as well if you've got a horrible mess that's been neglected for years. Like the shower in our house was when we moved in. The hard water stains are well beyond the powers of vinegar.

I adopted this more "natural" cleaning philosophy because I think it's better for the environment and also for my family's health. I don't necessarily have any hard evidence to support my thoughts, but I personally don't think that standing in your shower inhaling Comet as you scrub can be good for anyone. Now that I have a baby, I do not want him crawling all over the floor (and partaking of the buffet of who knows what that he finds thereon) ingesting Mop and Glo.

But this commitment to more "natural" products wavered when we moved into our house. It was built in 1968. I think all the fixtures (sinks, counters, showers, toilets etc...) are original. I don't think it had been thoroughly cleaned since 1985. It doesn't bother me in and of itself that the house and fixtures are old. But it is discouraging when you scrub and scrub and the stains remain. Nothing ever looks clean. That is until I broke down, bought a bottle of bleach and began indiscriminately pouring it over every surface that would contain it. Suddenly my toilets and sinks were whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm and my refrigerator shelves sparkled like the above mentioned Elvis reference.

But it's more than that. I like to believe that I am sanitizing. I don't know for sure that I'm actually killing germs. I don't dig out my microscope and verify that all of the staphylococci are dead. But that's what the bleach-makers claim is happening. And, I have come to associate that awful bleach smell with cleanliness, which even makes me kind of like it. In fact, I think my love for bleach may be more in my mind. Meaning, I don't know if my counter tops are truly glistening or if I'm just seeing them with eyes that believe that they are glisteningly ( I might have made the previous word up) clean. Even if some stains remain (which they do) I've got that noisome smell to tell me that they are rendered powerless because the germs are dead!

My concern is for the baby seals. When Peter and I are being environmentally insensitive, like when one of us forgets to recycle, or forgets to take our canvas grocery bags to the store, we accuse each other (lightheartedly) of killing all the baby seals. I don't know if bleach is horrible for me and the environment or if it is innocuous. In a housekeeping book, and on the Clorox website, I read that when mixed with water, bleach must be used rather quickly because it readily dissociates into a salt and water. A salt and water mixture doesn't sound dangerous for baby seals to swim in, or to have as a residue on every surface in my house. But I don't know. I have traditionally believed that bleach was the antithesis of life. The Beelzebub of harsh chemicals- a notion supported by all the "green clean" people. It seems to kill everything that it touches and stain your clothes to boot. So, I wanted nothing to do with it. But now I'm addicted. And I feel guilty for cheating on all of my "green clean" products!

What is a reformed slob to do? I'll tell you another reason why I love bleach so much is that I am a reformed slob. I think there is no one who appreciates clean more than a person who at one time had zero cleaning skills so she had to pull herself up the housekeeping ladder by her fingernails. It has been painful at times but I'm on my way to the clean freak rung! Though, I'm going to try not to take that too far, fall off the ladder and drown in my own Clorox. Extremity too far in either direction, slovenliness or cleanliness, will probably make for a miserable household. I've been working on a post about my metamorphoses from a grubby, dirt-dwelling caterpillar into a glorious bleached-out butterfly who picks up after herself but I haven't yet finished it (the post or the transformation).

I hope that the baby seals can be safe and my house can be clean at the same time. I believe that some day soon I'm going to get a handle on this never-ending merry-go-round of housekeeping. (I think I'm on the brink of a break through in mopping!) For now it's a work in progress. And I'm actually enjoying it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas Tree

This year we did something that we've never done before. The weekend after Thanksgiving Peter had a day off. So we initiated the Christmas season by cutting down our own tree. We drove to a Christmas tree farm near Magnolia, about an hour drive from us. Along the way we read the first chapter of the Christmas Carol. It was festive, indeed. There was even a chill in the air! (Is it just me or does cold weather help to get you in the holiday mood?)

Peter did most, actually all, of the cutting (the farm provided the saw) while John and I stood by for moral support. This place wasn't just a Christmas tree farm. They had a petting zoo, barbecue and train rides. I can't wait until John gets older and can appreciate all of this. (But in a way I can wait because I want him to always be my baby boy!)

A John-sized tree:

All trimmed:

Real Christmas trees smell so delicious!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Getting acquainted with Charles

Peter and I have a tradition of reading the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens out loud every year during the Christmas season. It is a jewel of a story. You should read it if you haven't! It is clever, lively and so, so charming. But the nicest thing is that it is short (ours is less than 80 pages) so you can get through it relatively quickly. I hope to write more about family traditions sometime soon because I've been thinking a lot about ones that I'd like for us to have.

Anyways, obviously we're including John in our tradition as well. He was introduced to Charles during last year's reading- he was present in utero. We've only read one chapter this year when we were on a car trip recently. John was awake and not crying so I assume he was absorbed in the story.

At this point you might think this post is about books or reading. How wrong you are! It's actually about how we drove down to Galveston on Saturday to go to Dickens on The Strand. An annual Christmas festival in the town. Since he is a favorite author and we are enjoying one of his stories now we thought it would be only fitting to go. It was a fun day but, you know, everything at festivals is exorbitantly priced so the only the we could afford was the $7 Kettle corn. Yes, $7. I didn't see anyone playing the character of Charles Dickens himself but we did meet:

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Not St. Nick, mind you, because he does look like St. Nick but he is not.) and a Victorian lady.

Some other Victorian people and...

Queen Victoria herself! And Prince Albert!

It was great fun. Since the Renaissance Festival is big around here, it seems that Shakespeare gets all the glory. I'm glad Dickens has his day in the sun too. (Though, I speculate that many of the people there had not even read A Christmas Carol because I heard them referring to The Ghost of Christmas Present as Santa Claus! Both are large and jolly so I can see how the mistake might be made. But that is a poor excuse for a true Dickens fan!). Now what we really need in the area is a Jane Austen festival. Am I right?

We said that we wanted to go to Dickens on the Strand at least once while we still live in the area. I don't know if we'll go again. But wouldn't it be so cute if we went next year and I dressed John up as Tiny Tim?!? Though, I don't know. He's not so tiny. Something might be lost if Tiny Tim were the size of a linebacker.

(Side note: When I commented that we need a Jane Austen festival in Houston it made me wonder if there is one. I consulted Google and found that there is a Jane Austen society! They hold English country dances near us twice per month. I informed Peter of this and that we should go! He responded as if I'd just told him that I was going to boil him alive in some Christmas pudding. He'll come around. He loves the movie Pride and Prejudice (the 6 hour A&E version, naturally). He even watched it of his own accord before we started dating. And I'm glad he did because that was one of my conditions for marriage. ;o) )

Saturday, December 04, 2010

These Arms were Made for Scooting

I think today is the day that John has started to crawl. I say "I think" because he didn't use a proper hands and knees gait, it was more like an army crawl. His arms pulled him forward on his belly while his legs dangled behind. But today he definitely put forth a coordinated effort to get half way across the room in pursuit of something he wanted. Naturally, he was going after things that I didn't want him to have- a dirty diaper and the camera. He gets up on his hands and knees and rocks back and forth. I don't know how long it will be before he adopts a more traditional, more efficient hands and knees crawl. It may take another month or two or it may be tomorrow, or maybe he never will. He might continue army crawling until he can pull up, some babies do. But two things are certain: He's got places to be and he's going to get there!

(Nearly) Naked babies are the cutest are they not? Behold:

"I'm ready for my close up."

Fat rolls within fat rolls! Succulent little butterball!

Random aside: Peter does bath time, and I'm really thankful he does. Bath time is cute and all but washing under all of those rolls is daunting for me. And then once you've gotten the soap in all those folds of skin it's nearly impossible for me to get it washed out. Thank you for doing bath time, Da Da!

Another random aside: Notice John's long, luxurious locks are returning. They are lighter than they were when he was a newborn but he is indeed becoming less bald! He likes to feel the wind blowing through his hair (which is usually me blowing on his head, which he finds quite amusing).