Blog Moved

For those who subscribe to this blog, I have moved my blog to a hosted domain: www.kerenthrelfall.com. I’ve done this for a variety of reasons, but I know I’ve also called this blog (and others) a variety of names. Since my personal name shouldn’t change under ordinary circumstances, I’ve decided to simply buy a domain name under my own name rather than titling it something that could change over the next few years.

Visiting my old blog should automatically direct you to my new site, but I don’t think that the feed has been redirected. So, if you’ve gotten bored, tired, or annoyed with subscribing to my blog, now’s your time to declutter your blog subscriptions with at least one less blog. If you still wish to subscribe to my blog, the new feed is here.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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Reading Goals for 2012 and First 10 Books for the New Year

This past year (2011), my book average came to about 1 book per week, at 53 books for the year. (This doesn’t count books I’ve read to our girls or children’s books, of course.)  For 2012, my goal is 75 books for the year, but I’m secretly (:)) aiming for 100. Not sure if either will happen, since about halfway through the year my life should change in a very special way. (And I hear that adding a third child is when you realize you’re completely overwhelmed…)

So, what do I plan to read? I’m not mapping out an entire list, but I am planning to start with these 10 sometime at the first part of the year (listed in no particular order, to be read in no particular order):

1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (unabridged) (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

(note: This book is currently free for Kindle via Amazon.)

2. The Hunger Games (Suzeanne Collins)

3. Evil and the Justice of God (N.T. Wright)

4. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (James Loewen)

5. Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson)

6. Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful (Louise Bates Ames)

7. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (Tony Hsieh)

8. Families Where Grace Is in Place (Jeff VanVonderen)

9. Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt (Leslie Leyland Fields)

10. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Gretchen Rubin)

Of course, depending what format these are read in, there will likely be several other books read before or in between some of these.

How I Choose What to Read

In general, I try to read books from a variety of genres, topics, and studies. (I have a rather odd diversity of interests, as reflected that while earning a degree in Biology I enjoyed squeezing in courses in Greek, Psychology, Theology, Basic Harmony, and Parasitology while still wishing I could also be taking courses in Graphic Design, Photography, and Philosophy. Regretfully, at that time in my life academics didn’t have priority over student involvement opportunities, but that’s another story.)

Within certain limitations, I try to read books that are popular (thus, bestsellers and new releases) and/or well-recognized within their genres. By doing this I am reading what a large chunk of the rest of the nation (at least, the literati) is reading. That benefits me by 1) knowing what ideas and books shape the thinking of the general literary world and by 2) knowing what topics are of interest to the rest of the world/nation. I also try to read books that aren’t popular.

I attempt to cycle through these categories each month (or several months):

  • Christian (including theology, Christian living, familial interaction, commentaries; I try to read books both from those who I would consider to be more conservative than me and those who are to the left of where I am.)
  • Bestsellers and New Releases (both fiction and non-fiction)
  • Human Interest and Psychology
  • History and Biographies
  • Productivity and Organization
  • Culture and Anthropology
  • Education and Learning (from child-development to curriculum choices to my own personal fields of learning)

Mapping it out

I definitely don’t start with a specific t0-read list of 75 books for the year. Rather, I prefer to have my list evolve. (Although I currently have around 400 options on my Amazon wish-list in case other sources run dry. ;)) I love hearing book recommendations from others, and I’ve found that books themselves contain a good number of recommendations and references to other books. New books come out and others rise to the bestseller lists. (My husband occasionally reviews pre-releases and new releases for his work, so I sometimes hear about new books that way, too.) Sometimes I’ll find I really love the way a certain author writes (or what s/he writes about), and so I’ll hunt for more books by that author. Other times are more random: Amazon will make suggestions for similar books based on what I buy or add to my wish-list, I’ll find recommendations on blogs, magazines, or articles I read, I’ll see it in someone’s Facebook feed, or it’s offered for free download via Kindle.

I also joined Goodreads last Spring, though I’ve not been very active in using it over the past year. There, you can follow what your friends are reading or see people with similar interests are reading–a good sort of social network for readers. I’m hoping to use it as a better means of keeping track of what I read over the course of the coming year.

If you have a booklist for this year or even just a couple of book recommendations, I would LOVE to hear them! Please share! 🙂

Later on, I also plan to share my December 2011 reading and my favorite books from this year.

Advent at Home 2011: Glimpses of Our Second Year

This year was our second year to celebrate Advent at home, using the symbols corresponding Scripture passages that go with the Jesse Tree. (Last year’s preparations here.)

What We Did

Instead of hanging the Jesse Tree ornaments on our regular Christmas tree like we did last year, we chose a special branch that we’ll use for years to come. It was an exciting field trip for our girls to go the the woods (or “the forest,” as Hana Kate refers to it) with Daddy and pick out and cut a large branch to use as our Jesse Tree Branch. My original plan was to sand, polish, and paint it, but we chose to stick with the somewhat rustic look. (Daniel carved off the extra bark and growth and sanded it lightly.) I had considered adding some screw hooks to this and hanging it from our ceiling, but it worked better to place it over two bookshelves, and in between we put a table with our Advent spiral.

We used the printable Jesse Tree ornaments that are still available for free via my friend Ashlyn’s company, Print Candee. (There are also boxes for the ornaments, but they have dates on them and the Advent start date changes each year.) I printed the ornaments and boxes on cardstock at our UPS store for less than $10 (under $1 if you only print the pages with the ornaments), and we made our ornaments very similarly to the tutorial here.

Our Routine

Hana Kate absolutely loved Advent last year, so we were surprised at how much more excited she was about it this year. Each night would would follow a similar routine:

    1. We would get everything ready after supper. Hana Kate loved cleaning up the living room and making sure the candles were organized and ready to go. I would prepare a special drink for the girls to drink during the devotional (“fizzy” = yummy sparkling apple cider), and make sure the ornament and candy (chocolate “world coins” from Trader Joe’s) were in the little box. If Hana Kate had already finished cleaning the room, she’d beg to help me with this.
    2. We would all sit on the couch and read the devotional. I wrote a brief devotional (for most nights) to go along with the ornament symbol and corresponding passage, and used the Jesse tree clipart here at the top of each page. If the story/passage corresponded to a Bible story included in The Big Picture Story Bible, we would follow along with it (or read directly from it). (Usually Daniel would paraphrase the longer passages, as well.) We usually closed in prayer, often a short prayer I wrote to correspond with the night’s specific theme.
    3. We would next open the Advent box, which contained a piece of candy for each of the girls and the ornament for the evening. This was so exciting for both girls, and they took turns for who opened the box each night. Eden would look for the candy first, and Hana Kate would look for the ornament first. By the end, Hana Kate’s excitement about the ornament finally rubbed off on Eden, and she occasionally began to get excited about the ornament before the candy. 😉 But it was always Hana Kate’s job to hang the ornament (not that Eden minded, she was busily eating her candy).
    4. Then we hung the ornament on the Jesse Tree branch and lit the candle for our Advent spiral.  
    5. We closed by singing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, a traditional Advent song, and usually by request we would sing additional Christmas songs. Daniel played the guitar and sang from our Merry Christmas Songbook (a special gift from his parents and something he grew up singing Christmas songs from).
    6. Technically, we closed by having the girls blow out the candles. 🙂 As the number of candles grew, the diplomatic Hana Kate divided sides between herself and Eden, and they each blew out their respective sides (with occasional help). Amazingly no one’s hair caught on fire for the entire season of Advent and no one was seriously injured or otherwise maimed by the hot candle wax. 

The Final Candle, The Final Ornament

On Christmas morning, we read the final (Christmas) story, opened the final ornament, and lit the final candle. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that this time of waiting was over, and ending the cherished evenings spent together celebrating Advent and learning about how God’s people had waited for thousands of years for the promised “branch of Jesse” to arrive. And an interesting additional symbol for us: we had celebrated Advent each night in the darkness of our living room (a room with not so great lighting), but come Christmas morning it was nice to finally have some daylight! (Reminding us of part of the passage we’d read a few nights previously “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”)

The Advent and Jesse Tree Traditions

Advent can be celebrated in a variety of ways, from a national holiday tradition (such as in Germany) to a liturgically based celebration, to everything in between and including both. Our Advent celebration at home is a sort of combination of the two. Like the holiday tradition, we use it as a daily countdown that follows the Jesse Tree readings. We try to begin on the date Advent begins on the liturgical calendar (not just 25 days of counting down from December 1; there are more than 25 symbols), and try to keep the significance of each special Sunday’s candle-lighting meaning. (What we haven’t done yet is to use the specific colored candle for each Sunday; this is often done using an Advent wreath, rather than our Advent spiral.) Each day, we light one more candle, and focus more on the meaning of each daily Jesse tree ornament/symbol. That way, we celebrate each day individually rather than weekly.

The Jesse Tree’s significance comes from the prophecy found in Isaiah 11: ” A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit,” which incidentally is the first symbol (a stump and a branch) and passage  (Isaiah 11:1-2) for the Jesse tree. Some churches do incorporate the Jesse tree and its symbols into their Advent celebrations, as well.

Overall, Advent is a season intended to help us think on the longing and waiting for Christ. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes it, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

July to October 2011 Reading

From July to October, life was full of many changes. Finding and buying a house, moving into that house, learning we were expecting a new baby, going through a rough morning sickness stage of early pregnancy, and a few business and family trips were just a few of the things added to our normal routine. I still read some during those months, but recording what I read was another story. So, here’s my list of books read during July to October:

Slave: My True Story (Mende Nazer, Damien Lewis)

Slave is the true story of Mende Nazer, a Sudanese woman whose childhood ended when she was captured and enslaved around age 12. One thing that made Mende’s story particularly stand out to me is that we are about the same age. Her slavery did not take place in the huts and villages of Sudan, but in the relatively modern city of Khartoum, where her well-to-do captors had most of the modern conveniences that we do (electricity, washer/dryer, stove/oven, etc).

In this book, Mende recounts the story through her own eyes with the help of author Damien Lewis. Because of the oral-tradition culture in which Mende grew up, she was able to remember and retell many vivid details and facts of the life she knew during her childhood and  the life she later came to know as a slave in a bustling modern city. The first portion of the book recounts Mende’s childhood growing up in the Nuba mountains, a life full of familial love and enjoyment of life, with a few accounts that convey disdain for some of the difficult ways and traditions of that life (e.g., female genital mutilation/circumcision). I was touched by the recounting of her parent’s love and gentleness with her, loving her always, and sometimes with firmness, but without physical force—something that became routine in her days of enslavement. The next portion describes her capture, abuse, and rape, and then her being sold as a slave to a respected family in Sudan’s capital. There she worked for seven years, suffering physical, verbal, and emotional abuse before being sold to her “master’s” relatives, who ironically worked for the Sudanese embassy in London. London is where Mende escaped to freedom, but even there such an escape was an unlikely possibility.

Sadly, most stories that start like Mende’s do not end as Mende’s did, and few of the victims of human trafficking ever have a voice of their own. Yet, Mende’s voice is one that is strong and powerful—a voice for those who cannot speak out about their suffering and enslavement.

Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (Carolyn Custis James)

James’ book, Half the Church, puts a helpful perspective on Kristoff and WuDunn’s Half the Sky. The title, as a well as the book as a whole, emphasizes that we need to remember that half the church is made up of women. James also emphasizes the ezer theme in God’s vision for women. (This concept is explained in more detail in her book, The Gospel of Ruth). A helpful perspective from this book is that we often view Biblical womanhood from an isolated, insulated, prosperous American view.  In reality, however, American Christianity is fleshed out in a culture that compared to the rest of the world is one of the furthest removed from the way of life and culture depicted throughout Scripture. (Yet we still think we have a monopoly on explaining what Biblical womanhood looks like?). If you are a women or know any women, I highly recommend reading this book. 🙂

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide  (Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn)

This eye-opening book by husband-and-wife-team Kristof and WuDunn presents the plight that many women face, including forced sex trafficking, maternal mortality, sexual violence, and female education. Along with presenting the dark side of life for women around the globe, the authors also share some ways in which women can be helped, some ways that perceived help can actually be harmful, and a list of organizations and companies with which readers can partner to offer help or learn ideas. Several of the women’s stories are quite graphic, and parts of the book can therefore be difficult to work through. I also felt some of the proposed solutions held difficult moral issues, but it is nonetheless helpful to see how alternative choices do not make life easier either. This is a moving and important book and would be helpful reading, particularly for those who interact with other cultures.

Related: World’s Most Dangerous Countries for Women

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

Having read Slavery by Another Name earlier this year, I held a grim historical context through which to view the way of life for many African Americans in the post-Civil War South. In this novel, Kathryn Stockett shares the story of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, as their lives intersect in surprising ways. Skeeter is an aspiring author, and Aibileen and Minny are middle-aged African American women who work as “help” to young white women, raising their children, cleaning and caring for their homes, and essentially taking on the bulk of the home-based responsibilities for a very minimal wage and very definite unequal treatment. (All the while, they also have their own children, families, and homes to care for.) They realize that friendship is deeper than skin color when they eventually join together with Skeeter to share their stories in writing. Each woman must contradict long-held traditions, break unspoken rules, and cross social barriers. I enjoyed the book for the most part, yet I know that much of this painted a much rosier picture than reality. I also know that I’m writing this from the perspective of a white woman who has only recently become acquainted with the racial injustices of the South and our nation in general; and even then, I have lived through and observed very few myself. (Here’s a perspective of an African American woman on viewing the film. Her article also links to several other perspectives.)

I also saw this movie in the theater. (Incidentally, only my second time to see a movie in the theatre, but that’s another story.) Like most books made into movies, I think the book is better. Still, I do appreciate some of the different endings in the movie. From the perspective of anthropological observation, it was also interesting to see what social sectors made up the movie’s attendance. Most people there were white, middle-class, average age of 50’s. I saw the movie in South Carolina, where my town’s high school mascot is “The Rebels,” and where many denizens still fly Confederate flags from their front porches. I sat on the same row as the only four African American adults who were seeing the movie at that time. It was interesting to watch them react differently, and to laugh at different times than the white audience laughed. When the movie ended, we all exited quietly, no one really knowing what to say. There were a lot of sniffling sounds. It would have been fascinating to go around the country, see who attended, and watch reactions. I have a suspicion that race, age, and geographic location would play a large role in the various reactions.

A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

This book was neither short, nor was it a history of nearly everything. Instead, it’s more about the history of science and about some interesting people who made some interesting discoveries and observations. Still, it’s a helpful and interesting book, if not mildly boring at some parts.

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson)

Give Them Grace seems to be making waves as the latest, greatest book on parenting in the conservative evangelical world. It is certainly paradigm-shifting, turning from moralistic parenting to more application and displaying of grace over law in the way we interact with our children. Overall, it was a helpful book. I am immensely thankful for the shift in teaching that I perceive to be more aligned with Scripture than some pretty much all of the other parenting books written for this particular audience. I benefited personally from the emphasis and fleshing out of God’s grace displayed to both me and my children. (The forward, written by Tullian Tchividjian, is worth the price of the book!) Nonetheless, I feel the book at times presents a schizophrenic view of grace. The examples of practical application are a bit superfluous and superficial, and some examples have potential to be borderline spiritually abusive (well, only one example that seemed blatantly so). I was also a bit bothered by the euphemistic use of the word “discipline” to refer to spanking, as well as the implication that spanking is the only tool with which to manage very young children (although the authors state they do not believe the Bible commands spanking). (See here for a practical example of teaching babies to sit still; some would say this could only be taught by spanking or swatting. This is just one of many areas where it is assumed hitting/spanking is the only way to teach at these ages. But now we’re bordering rabbit trail territory.)

Even authors who are pro-spanking have in their books delineated that discipline is more than just punishment and/or spanking. I find this very confusing when the words are used interchangeably, because they are not the same. My husband and I will likely write a more in-depth review on this book, so I will not prolong this discussion here.

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Scot McKnight)

Don’t let the title fool you. Scot McKnight is not asking that we question what the original good news (gospel) was. Instead, he is asking that we reevaluate what our American modern-day portrayal of the gospel has become. If you’ve had concerns that the gospel is being presented as a quick Ray Comfort-style of evangelism or know the “3 ABC’s of the gospel and you’re saved,” but couldn’t put your finger on exactly what’s going wrong, you’ll likely find this book a very helpful read. While there have been some concerns coming from voices within conservative evangelicalism that McKnight is drawing a dichotomy, I think that is a misperception. What I definitely see McKnight doing in this book is making a distinction. The ABC’s of the gospel and similar 1-5 minutes presentations aimed at making an immediate conversion likely do include part of the gospel. But it is not the fulness of the gospel, and we do much damage to the cause of Christ by proclaiming that it is. He labels these techniques and beliefs as a salvation culture, vs. the gospel culture that he espouses and explains in the book.

In the preface, a statement is made that while reading this book you will likely find something on which to disagree with McKnight. That is true (as it is with any human author), but I believe this book is a necessary critique of our modern evangelical culture. (Of the 100+ books my husband has read so far this year, he has listed this book as one of his top 10 for his 2011 reading. I’m not yet sure if it will be on my top 10 list, but it is on my list of must-reads!)

The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

This novel depicts life in war-torn Afghanistan through the friendship of Amir and Hassan. Amir is the son of a wealthy businessman and Hassan is the son of the family servant who lives at the back of Amir’s family’s compound. The two boys have an inseparable friendship, but Hassan is part of a despised minority people group that makes him a target for hatred and mistreatment. One of the highlights of the Afghan boys’ year is the kite-cutting contest, in which both Amir and Hassan are very skilled. Their friendship takes a dramatic turn when Amir observes brutality and cruelty towards Hassan, but does nothing, assuming Hassan is unaware of his observance. When war comes to Kabul, Amir and his father leave the country, losing contact with Hassan. In the end, Amir lives with many secrets and sorrows. When an old family friend mysteriously presents him with an opportunity to make things right, he returns to Kabul in an attempt to do so.

The book is certainly a literary masterpiece, and though the story is fiction, it carries a heavy weight of the realities and brutalities of life in Afghanistan. Hosseini’s family made a journey similar to his character, Amir’s, and it is evident that he weaves in many of his life observations and experiences into this story. Brilliant, powerful. Please read.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)

This novel follows Hosseini’s best-selling The Kite Runner, though they are two entirely different stories. Some say that this book is a thousand times more splendid than The Kite Runner, while others maintain that The Kite Runner remains as Hosseini’s masterpiece. Regardless, the author’s literary genius once again shines through in this captivating novel. Similar to The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the lives of two unlikely companions, one from the lower class and the other from a more privileged class. This time, the main subjects are women and the end is simultaneously happy and sad. (I prefer the ending of this book over the other.) And again, the author also calls his readers to be disturbed and to become enraged at the injustices the Afghan people faced, particularly women.

Autism: A Very Short Introduction (Uta Frith)

This book is a very short introduction to autism. This book explains some of the various ways in which autism can be present in an individual, as well as helpful facts about autism. There are likely more up-to-date resources, though.

The Gospel of Ruth:  Loving God Enough to Break the Rules (Carolyn Custis James)

The Gospel of Ruth reads like a simple commentary-devotional through the book of Ruth. James works through the book, and attempts to show how many of our perceptions of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz are stereotypes (for example, writing off Naomi as a bitter old woman). Particularly helpful to me was seeing the how the religious conventions were broken, so that the Gospel could be lived out through the lives of the main characters:  the wealthy helping the poor, the strong helping the weak, and loyalty from people who needed to show none. In some respects, though, I do believe assumptions were made as to the lives of the characters in the story, and then conclusions and application drawn from those assumptions. While I do not believe the applications and conclusions to be unbiblical, I just don’t know if they can all be drawn out from this particular story.

I believe women can come away from this book empowered and encouraged to live a life of faith, seeking to fulfill the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. Notably, Carolyn Custis James is not your average women’s Christian living author.  I found her writing full of deep theology, in-depth exegesis, and without the fluff that often accompanies books written for an audience of Christian women.

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church (David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen)

This book was personally very helpful and healing. However, its application and writing deals with more than just spiritual abuse. I fear that some types of people will be turned away from the title:  1)people who don’t believe there is such a thing as “spiritual abuse,” 2) people who believe spiritual abuse exists, but don’t think they’re in a context where it would come up, and 3) people who may think this is only a book written only for lay people. Realistically, though, this is a helpful read for anyone who is involved with churches, and it can be an encouragement both to those in the ministry who endure spiritual abuse from their congregation and to people in the church who endure this trial at the hand of those in leadership. The authors look carefully at some of the dynamics that are often common in legalistic, conscience-binding situations that can turn into being spiritually abuse. Also helpful is the pointing out of how it is easy to fall into perpetuating such situations without realizing what one is doing.

My husband read this book this past April, and I concur with his assessment: “This is one of the best books that I’ve ever read in its class. Perhaps that’s just because it was personally therapeutic, or maybe it’s because it’s an exposé of the widespread tendency toward abuse among conservative and very conservative Christian subcultures.”

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Lynn Vincent and Todd Burpo)

This book has been on Amazon’s bestseller list for most of the year. That’s the main reason I read it. Todd Burpo recounts his life story leading up to his son’s near-death (or real death) experience. Soon after his medical operation, his son began to share about his trip to heaven, in which he allegedly recounts details that he could not have known without having actually been there. The Burpo family has definitely had their share of trials, that is one thing that is certain from reading this book. What is not so certain is whether or not his account is genuine. The basic facts do not seem to contradict Scripture’s basic view of heaven, but it does seem like a rather Sunday-School, fairy-tale-like account of heaven. I fear Tim Challies took it a step too far by telling his readers not to read this book, whereas I believe a charitable review like the one Randy Alcorn gave is a more mature, and realistic way to encounter books and stories of this nature. Or in the words of my husband upon reading the book, “I want to be gracious, which is not to say that I will be gullible.”

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Timothy Ferriss)

This is a very helpful book for anyone interested in entrepreneurism. While I found some of his ideas borderline unethical, this book is filled with many practical tools and ideas for moving to the goal of working for one’s self. The book is filled with websites, links, contacts, and helpful tools in launching a home business or simply working less, from home, from a corporation (though that’s not Ferriss’ ideal).

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Timothy Keller)

I read this book for the second time this year. I already wrote briefly about it here.

For the entire month of November (and part of October), I took a break from reading books. For one, I was emotionally exhausted from some of the topics I’ve been researching, both from my book reading and online and offline article reading. For another reason, I wanted to focus on preparing for the holiday season and knew that meant taking a break from reading (for me). Not to mention throwing up, and sleeping way more than normal. 🙂 Thankfully, the latter two have passed and I am once again delving into a few more books before the year 2011 ends.

Dinosaur and Trampoline

I took this video for the primary purpose of capturing Eden saying “dinosaur” and “trampoline.” Only for her, they come out as “dine-do-duh” and “fram-ee-ee.”

Ever since listening to Laurie Berkner’s We Are the Dinosaurs (thanks, Kim! ;)), the girls have been fascinated with dinosaurs. (I know, they’ve lived a sheltered life just now finding out they exist.) Hana Kate once asked if there are “bad dinosaurs,” and ever since Eden will occasionally tell us that she’s a bad dinosaur. Of course, if Hana Kate is around, there can only be “good dinosaurs” or “nice dinosaurs,” but every once in a while Eden will say she’s a bad one, in which case she usually likes to go around “roaring.”

Happy Sounds: Hearing the Heartbeat for the First Time

Today has been a full day full of happy sounds: enjoying time with a friend who Hana Kate also happens to adore (Eden professes similar adoration, but prefers to observe from within a 1-foot-radius of her mommy’s arms.), preparing and making food (which HK also happens to adore), and getting to Skype with one of my best friends and one of Hana Kate’s best friends (who Eden also happens to adore). 🙂 And rounding out the day, we also got to hear the heartbeat of our baby for the first time: a very happy sound!

I recorded this video with my phone, mostly so I could record the audio. (I believe there are actually less complicated ways to do this. 🙂 ) I didn’t think of the fact that I was recording my feet instead of the faces of the rest of my family. 🙂 Hearing a baby’s heartbeat for the first time is a beautiful sound, and it’s also reassuring to me that the weeks of morning sickness I’ve experienced aren’t just a placebo effect from seeing a positive pregnancy test.

And some other happy sounds for the day: HK read several words (“cat,” “dad,” “mom,” and “hat”) to our friend Leah!

Happy Birthday, Eden!


Happy Birthday to our sweet little Eden.

Life is so much fun at 2. Your world still new and you can finally explore it.

Look carefully: if she’s not wearing a huge grin, Eden usually has a smile hidden in her eyes and the corners of her mouth.


These girls can definitely make each other laugh.

We are so grateful to see one of God’s good gifts to us in allowing Eden to be part of our family. The last 2 years of our life have certainly turned out differently than we viewed our anticipated life when Eden arrived 2 years ago, but we wouldn’t trade them. And we’re certainly glad to have had the happiness and laughter that both Eden and Hana Kate have brought to us over the past few years. I don’t think a single day has gone by in the last 2 years without the girls making us laugh…hard.

Eden usually gently falls asleep with me, but two nights ago she asked if I could rock her in the rocking chair that we were recently given. It was a precious time, and she fell asleep in my arms within a couple of minutes. But I was reminded at how quickly her early childhood days are passing, and how I’ll never have that moment back again.

I’ve also loved watching Hana Kate and Eden spend much more time playing together. It has been a sort of sudden change in the last few months, but they now keep each other entertained for long chunks of time. (And Hana Kate is faithful about reporting Eden “doing bad things” or “playing with bad things.” Since she’s usually right, I rush right away to intercept disaster. :))

Eden loves singing and listening Jesus Loves Me. (The song often gets its own arrangement as “Jesus loves me soo soo much!”) In fact, when we took a road trip to FL the other week she wanted us to repeat the song over. and over. and over again. And would cry if any other song played. Let’s just say she has a patient big sister, too. 🙂 She also loves “Night-night Moon!” (otherwise known as Goodnight Moon). Her favorite parts are “night-night buddy (nobody)” and “night-night old lady…shh!!,” and she laughs at those pages every time. She and I read it together every night before she falls asleep. Sometimes I’ll pause and she’ll fill in the rest of the words or the page. I’m pretty sure she has the whole book memorized.

Another favorite activity for Eden is shopping. Grocery shopping. Especially at Publix. The girls both love it so much, and Daniel and I LOVE being able to take them shopping. (He took over for a few weeks when I was at my peak pregnancy sickness.) They are so funny when in the special car-cart together, and if you are in the same store as us you might get to hear them singing happy made-up songs as they enjoy their shopping. 😉 Most of the places we go grocery shopping have snack or treats for kids, so I’m sure that only adds to the excitement. Eden loves this activity so much that almost every single day she can be found pushing around her toy car (well, technically, it was Grandma and Grandpa’s gift to Hana Kate) and saying. “I going to Pubbux.” When I ask her what she’s going to buy, she usually answers “cookies. And chocut. And tandy.” And usually she adds, “My monk-gey come, too!”

I’d forgotten how much I love this age. There is so much exploring, so much laughter, and so much talking. For Eden, we have hit the narrate-every-detail-of-your-life stage. It is so funny to hear. “I stepped. I stepped. I downstairs. Me walking. My monk-gey came down-airs wif me. Where my drink?” Eden certainly falls into the more of the two-year -old characteristics than Hana Kate did, but I think she’s reached a point of equilibrium for now. 🙂

The other day, Hana Kate was quizzing Eden over letters and what sounds they make. This is what I overheard:

Hana Kate: “Eden, what sound does ‘a’ say?”
Eden: “Aa-a-a”
HK: “Eden, what does ‘d’ say?”
Eden: “D-d-d”
HK: “What does…pool say?”
Eden: “Swimming!”

Eden also asked her first “why” question the other day. I didn’t realize until a few minutes after she had asked…and now I can’t remember exactly what she asked, except it started, “Why you have that…?”

Happy Birthday, Eden!