On Saturday, Mom and I braved the crowds and made a few returns/exchanges, but mainly we talked and talked and talked. And slid and slid and slid through the snow. We finished our day with wonderfully warm chips and queso at a Mexican restaurant.

On Sunday, Jeremy and I caught up with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Teresa and their grandkids, Elizabeth and Andrew, who are extremely adorable. Andrew immediately decided he and I were best friends and he stayed in my lap to entertain me most of the time.

On Monday, my sister Faith and I went shopping together -- searching for the perfect pair of snow boots for her. Liberty and Mercy came along to help decide, and Liberty's shopping skills came out en masse. She tried on every shoe in the store, and even draped a few around her neck using the connecting string that stores put on their pairs of shoes. At one point, she had three glittery pairs around her neck and one pair of green frog rain boots on her feet, and several fellow-shoppers stopped to comment on her lovely accessories. On the way home, the weather was bad enough that we needed to avoid some of the back country roads, so we chose a few that neither of us were familiar with in the name of Adventure. Whenever we came to a crossroad, we asked, "Do you know where that direction will take us?" Whichever way we were most unfamiliar with is the way that we chose, and we made guesses ahead of time as to where we thought that road would put us. A few times we had to backtrack to get back onto unfamiliar territory. We had a lot of fun laughing our way home, and once we arrived, we parked in the garage with the heater running and talked for hours. The two little girls fell asleep in the backseat, so we carried them in and tucked them into bed. Then we started exploring the internet for colleges! Can you believe it? Colleges for my baby sister! This is not right.

Yesterday morning, we visited Great Grandma and Great Grandpa, who oohed and ahhed over the grandkids and dished all the family gossip. And BONUS! Great Uncle Jerry happened to be at their house, too!

Then last night, Dad and I watched McLintock! a John Wayne comedy. (I didn't know he made those.) Yes, I laughed in parts, but only because it was so ridiculous, and I'll tell you, if Dad hadn't been there, I would have changed the channel very quickly -- to something on HGTV!) But Dad and I had a lot of fun laughing at the movie, and Mom and I had a lot of fun when the DVR'd film abruptly shut off about ten minutes from the end of the show. Dad's outraged cries of "WHAT? WHAT? HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO ME?!" and then his frantic mathematical figuring of the time limits and the settings on the DVR sent us into gales of laughter. Frankly, slightly relieved laughter that the movie had ended, I must admit, but the truth is, I had fun watching with Dad, and just the memory of the unexpected end is causing me to laugh right now.

This morning, Mom and I played Wii Sports (and I beat her at archery! But she insists that I tell you she beat me at the airplane Dogfight. So, yes, she beat me. No biggie...I'll get her in the rematch, you know.) Then we planned the New Year's Eve party together. Everyone attending will be divided into two teams, and we've got the Newspaper Game, a vigorous round of kid's Memory, Four On A Couch and several other specific games waiting in the wings. We'll keep score throughout the night, and finish off with some Wii challenges.

It's going to be a PAR-TAY! I can't wait.

Mainly because my Jeremy's coming back!!!! Hurry, Jeremy, hurry! Your girls miss you!

I was going to close this post there, but Dad just walked up and asked me to hand him his stocking which was sitting on the other side of the computer desk. "Be careful," he warned, "it's heavy."

"Oh, man!" I joked after lifting it. "Are you keeping tools in here?"

He grinned and set it down on the desk in front of me, then proceeded to remove items: a small toolbox, a set of allan wrenches, another set of allan wrenches...

Only my Dad! :-)
I am blogging to you from my parents' EXTREMELY SLOW dial-up connection. We drove to their home in Illinois on Christmas Eve, and we've been here ever since, enjoying the fun and relaxation.

I have BEATEN, CREAMED, PULVERIZED anyone who has dared to play against me in Scotland Yard. TWICE. Poor Jeremy just can't stand it. He's now creating excuses for why I have won.


Since Jeremy has to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he and my youngest brother Pete drove back to Indiana in a snowstorm on Sunday. They're planning to return here on New Years Eve.

Last night at the supper table we all conspired to keep Uncle Zach from getting any food. He requested the large bowl of Taco Salad, and we passed it to him. He reached for the serving spoon just as Aunt Faith slipped the bowl and spoon out from under his hands and innocently served herself from it. The surprised look on Uncle Zach's face almost made my disinterested mask slip, and Mom snorted briefly then smothered it. Dad's eyes crinkled at the corners, and Liberty asked, "WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT HAPPENED?" She didn't want to be left out of the merriment.

Zach waited patiently until Faith served herself, then she slid the bowl over to him. I waited until his arms were extended before I pulled the bowl towards me, neatly avoiding his grasp. "Here you go, Liberty. Want some supper?" I said as I scooped salad onto her plate. Zach made a small choking sound in his throat. "Hey, what's going on here?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" Mom questioned innocently, but the laughter behind her voice gave her away. "Did you want some salad, Zach?"

"Yes," he stated with suspicion in his voice, "but every time I reach for the bowl someone else grabs it."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Zach, I didn't realize," I said as I pushed the bowl towards him. He reached for it a third time, and then I remembered that I had not put anything on my plate, yet. I pulled it back towards me, evading his reach once again. "Oh! I forgot to get any for myself. Hold on a minute," I said sweetly. By this time, everyone at the table had failed to keep their laughter to themselves. Mom struggled to breathe; Dad chuckled, Faith squeaked, and Liberty kept questioning loudly, "What happened? What happened? What happened? What happened?"

Zach folded his arms and said, "Yeah, you're ALL turds, I hope you know."

Right now, Uncle Zach is playing hide-and-seek with Liberty and making thumping noises so that she can find his hiding spot. Unfortunately, those thumping noises have scared her, and she came running to me, "I hear something, Mommy!" I had to explain to her that Uncle Zach was probably making those noises, and she took off excitedly again in the direction of the sounds.

I think she just now found him! I can hear deep ROARS and high-pitched, laughing screams from the dining room.

It's good to be home.
Last week, Santa came to storytime at the library, and Liberty has not stopped telling people about it yet. This is funny to me, since we haven't made a big deal out of him before this, but even funnier is the story of our time spent with him.

Picture, if you will, a tall, slender man with a badly-positioned, flat pillow shoved down the front of his Santa suit. The suit was obviously created for a more rotund figure than his, and he held the back of his pants up as he walked into the room.

"HO! HO! HO!" his deep bass voice boomed.

The kids went crazy! "SANTA'S HERE! SANTA'S HERE!"

Even Liberty jumped up and down. (Well, it doesn't take much for that to happen, I suppose.)

Santa sat down on a tiny plastic chair next to a bucket full of candy canes. "Who wants to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they want for Christmas?" he boomed.

Everyone but Liberty hesitated. She RAN from the far side of the room, took a flying leap and landed her bony rear onto his equally bony thigh. Even beneath the flowing beard his wince was detectable, and I winced along with him, knowing full well how those bones feel at that velocity.

"HOOOOOO, ho, ho," he groaned out, and some quiet laughter rippled through the moms present.

Liberty beamed at him. "HI! WHAT'S YOUR NAME?"

"Uh, I'm Santa Claus," Mr. Claus regained his composure. "What's your name?"

"I'M SIX!"

He looked confused, "You're six?" He glanced at me for confirmation. I shook my head. "She's three. She gets her numbers mixed up."

"Oh, you're three?"

She nodded.

"And what's your name, little girl."

"I'M YIBBY GACE, AND SHE'S A SISTER. SHE'S MEECEE DANE," she pointed back at Mercy.

Santa looked at me again. "Liberty Grace," I interpreted quietly.

"Liberty," he boomed, "tell Santa what you want for Christmas."

"A CANDY CANE!" she beamed up at him.

"A candy cane?" he repeated. "Is that all you want?"


"What else do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?" he tried again.

She pointed emphatically to the bucket of candy canes sitting next to his chair. "A CANDY CANE, PLEASE!"

"Well, here, what if I give you one right now?" he said as he handed one to her.

"OH! SANK YOU VEE MUSS!" she exclaimed in wonder. (Thank you very much.)

"Now," Santa adjusted her on his lap, "what would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas, Liberty Grace?"

She paused and looked at his face, apparently weighing his offer. Finally, she decided he could bear the weight of her request, and she announced happily, "TWO CANDY CANES!"

Laughter rippled again. Try as he might, Santa could get no other requests from her lips. He handed her two candy canes and decided he'd fulfilled his duty. The rest of the children were not so easily satisfied. One little girl even requested a puppy. (This girl happened to be his daughter, and he groaned before trying to talk her out of it. "Don't you want something else?" But she remained adamant.)

When all the children had finished sitting on his lap, the librarian handed him Twas The Night Before Christmas and informed us in an excited voice that Santa was going to read to us. Obviously, Santa had not realized ahead of time that this was part of the deal, and his "HO! HO! HO!" as he accepted the book was not so merry. In fact, it conveyed apprehension.

I was amused. I sat on the floor, smiling to myself, but the situation got even better.

Santa struggled to read the words. He read along just fine until he got to a word that he didn't recognize, and then he made something up. I wish, OH HOW I WISH, I could remember all of the substitute words, but the one that stuck with me the most is this line,

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
And Mama in her kitchen, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap

Frankly, I think it's more realistic, don't you? I know I'm always in the kitchen preparing for the holidays when everyone else is in bed.


Having completed his duties, Santa gave a cheerful "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" to the room and stood to his feet. He unfolded his long, lanky frame from the tiny plastic chair and waved a white-gloved hand high in the air over his head. His red, velvety pants slipped down around his ankles, the pillow slipped out from under his shirt and hit the floor, and a collective sigh from the Mommas passed into the room.

"Whoops!" the librarian laughed as she collected the pillow and helped Santa pull up his pants. "Looks like Santa needs lots of cookies this Christmas, kids! Make sure you tell your mom and dad to let you leave plenty of cookies for Santa. He really needs them!"

We all laughed as Santa tightly gripped the waistband on his slacks, tucked the pillow under his arm, and headed for the door. "That darn Mrs. Claus," he muttered. "Always onto me about what I eat." He exited amid much applause.

Later he joined us (as a dad, not Santa Claus) and we learned that he had left his glasses behind since they didn't fit the theme of the costume.

That's why I still talk about the Santa visit, but Liberty just tells how she got TWO candy canes from Santa Claus.
I have a magically self-destructing house. Yes, I know there are little helpers named Liberty and Mercy who aid in the destruction, but there's more going on here than the usual messiness of a normal dwelling place.

For example: I did dishes just yesterday. Two dishwasher loads and one in-the-sink-by-hand load. Today? Magically, the sink and counter are over-flowing, and that's after the dishwasher load this morning.

The table? Yes, I vaccumed underneath it this morning after breakfast. I wiped it's surface down with a Clorox wipe. It sat beautifully waiting for the next meal to be served. And now? Now, spaghetti noodles litter the floor under and around it. Noodles that cannot simply be vaccumed away. Noodles that cling and require hands and knees on the floor and fingers to pry them loose from the carpet fibers they have been reuinited with after twenty years of laborious and determined searching.

My laundry hampers mock me. Overflowing with dirty clothes, even though I have washed and dried five loads in the past two days. It has to be magic, because I only wear one set of clothes each day. Jeremy only wears two sets of clothes each day. Mercy wears maybe three, and Liberty only twelve per day, so really, do the math. It's magic.

I'm ready to find a house that contains the opposite magic. One that resists stains even if your three-year-old purposely pours grape juice onto the beige carpeting. One that sanitizes dishes even as you are eating from them. One that washes, dries, irons and PUTS AWAY clothing immediately after the clothing is removed from a body.

Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.
Liberty has had only ONE accident all day today!


Did you hear me?

Angels are singing. Oh wait, that may just be the Christmas song on the radio.

Either way, it's great with me!
Whew! I'm sitting at the computer surrounded by a destructed house, but it's a good destruction. Liberty woke up this morning at seven o'clock. I don't like those numbers. I tried to get her to go back to sleep until 8:30 which is our normal (somewhat) getting out of bed time, but she would have none of it. She was awake. She was hungry. She wanted an o-ola bar.

So I dragged myself out from under my cuddly comforter and away from my softly-sinking pillow. We got an o-ola bar (granola bar), and I explained to her how important today is.

Today is the day I have determined she WILL be potty-trained. (We've been trying for over a year, now.) Today is the day that I have in my possession Big Girl Panties which she will wear all day long. She picked out the most beautiful pair in the package of ten, and we started our journey. She confidently told me over and over that she would not potty in them. She would keep them dry. She would only potty in the toilet. She knew how to take care of them because she was a Big Girl.

The first spot appeared behind the rocking chair in the living room. New panties. The next spot appeared on the far side of the rocking chair. New panties. The third spot appeared IN MY BED and you know it was on my side, not Daddy's. New panties. The fourth spot showed up on the couch cushion. New panties. The fifth spot came during lunch. She crouched on her chair and told me urgently, "Mommy! I have to go to the bathroom! Uh-oh!" At least that one puddled in the wooden chair and was easily cleaned up. New panties.

And by the way, I counted that one as progress because she notified me. Don't you agree?

But, the day has actually been pleasant and fun. Mercy, Liberty and I had a tea party with their new dishes. Then we dressed up in fancy dresses and danced to Christmas music on the radio. After that, Liberty helped me put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher and she helped me dry and put away the dishes from the sink that I hand-washed. Then we stacked up the couch cushions and jumped off of the back of the rocking chair onto the pile. Both girls helped me put a load of laundry into the washing machine. I clipped forty finger-nails and toe-nails and painted thirty of them hot pink. (Mercy was too wiggly for me to paint them all.) While their nails dried, Liberty and Mercy sat at the dining room table and colored while I worked on laundry again. We ate apples, peanut butter, cinnamon graham crackers and milk for lunch, and then Mercy picked up ALL BY HERSELF WITH NO PROMPTING FROM ME each of the 48 color crayons that she had tossed from the table to the carpeting. We read books before nap time. Mercy requested AGAIN her favorite Elmo puppet book that Grandpa and Nonna gave her. My throat is not liking Elmo's voice and my carpel tunnel is flaring up from all the contortions that horrid puppet likes to put my fingers through. (He's a very active little guy.) But all in all, a wonderful, busy morning.

Now the girls are taking a nap, and I am staring at the mess in my living room. I could clean it all up and feel productive and peaceful, or I could sit and blog and preserve the memory of today.

I think I'll sit and blog. Preserving memories sounds like a noble cause, doesn't it?

And now I've come to the end, *sigh* so I guess I have to clean after all.
More wafts from our bathroom than just odorous molecules. Liberty is potty-training, and she takes a l-o-n-g t-i-m-e when she's sitting on her throne. However, she believes her verbal skills need practicing, so she faithfully practices every moment that she is awake, including the moments spent on the toilet.

I have heard more than one entertaining story shouted from the bathroom into the kitchen or living room where I am working, and I have been required to laugh, agree with and otherwise validate the long-distance storyteller.

But this morning's drifted words topped them all.

"Mommy!" came the expected little voice.

"What, honey?" I responded.

"I'm having stinks."


"I'm having a little stink for Mercy Jane."

I smothered a chuckle. "I'm sure Mercy Jane would appreciate that, Liberty Grace."



"Okay," she narrated a few moments later. "And I'm having a big stink, too."

I did not answer as I chased Mercy Jane and wrestled a sock onto her foot.

"This big stink is for you, Mommy!" She sounded pleased with herself.

How can I ever thank her?
Around 1:30 in the morning, after finishing last night's post, I climbed under my down comforter in the frozen tundra formerly known as my bedroom. I slipped a pair of knit gloves on so that I could hold my Bible without fear of frostbite, and I read the first part of Isaiah 49. The words spoke Truth directly to my heart; I took notes and everything, but my eyes kept crossing from exhaustion, so I put the Bible down and snuggled happily into my pillow.

This morning, I read the passage in Isaiah again just because it had spoken so eloquently to me the night before, and I was surprised and amused to discover that what I got out of it last night is not at all what the Bible actually says. I had transposed two words in my reading that completely change the meaning of the passage, so the notes that I had written in ink in my margins do not even make sense with the verses they are next to! I considered using white-out on my notes, but I'm going to leave them there. They don't contradict Scripture, and they'll be a great memorial for me when I pass this way again. Also, they make me laugh!

In other news, writing yesterday's post helped me define some items that are bothering me, and I realized something. This apartment is not too small for a Christmas tree. Almost everyone else in this complex has one. OUR STUFF is too cluttered.

So I made a drastic and risky move. I put the girls into the bathtub with their new dish set and deeper-than-usual water -- creating novelty, hoping to keep them occupied and unaware of my tactics. Then I silently crept to the living/dining room and picked up the entire full toy box, carried it to my closet and hid it in the far corner. I did not sort through it for popular versus unpopular toys *gasp.* Next, I grabbed the Big Wheel tricycle and several other large toys and took them to my closet as well. There was a close call on one trip when Mercy noticed a reflection of my armful of toys in the bathroom mirror as I passed. She stood up in the tub and whimpered to alert the troops, but Liberty poured some water on her head, and I was in the clear. The only items left in the living/dining room are their kitchen set, grocery cart, two cars and two small doll houses. The grocery cart basket holds a cloth bag with a few "food" items. Another cloth bag hangs from the closet door handle and contains their new play dishes. Two dress-up dresses also hang from the closet door knob. Even at their messiest, these toys won't be able take over my rooms.

Until I let the girls out of the tub.
So here's the deal.

I've been struggling with contentment, with patience, with joy (or the lack thereof). This vague uneasiness in my spirit creeps up on me, and I have very little time alone to sit and talk it out with God. That right there is probably my main problem!

1. People who are part of my heart are making decisions that they will eventually regret, and everything in me wants to step in and rescue. But I can't. I hate that.

2. God has put Jeremy and I at a place in life where we need to make some choices, but we're not sure what those choices should be. As a result, we stand here evaluating. I despise evaluating. ACTION! FORWARD! MOVE! (I truly am thankful that God has given Jeremy incredible wisdom and a talent for evaluation, but at times even that gift annoys me. LET'S GO, ALREADY!)

3. I'm sick of having my stuff in storage. We have no Christmas tree, no decorations, no stockings. Even if we did, we have no place to put them in this tiny, cramped apartment full of large toys. (Again, don't misunderstand. I'm thankful for the large toys that keep my children from climbing up the walls...most of the time.) And you know what discussion I had with myself yesterday? Why am I even complaining about this apartment. We have a place to live. It's perfectly fine. Many people don't, and I'm not wanting to trade places with them. In fact, if I did, I bet I'd be super-de-duper thankful for this place...and Barney intrudes on my thought-processes again!

4. Every fiber of my being cringes when I hear my husband second-guessing our decision to move. That, more than any other item, makes me want to scream in frustration. But even there I am thankful, because I have a husband who discusses his heart with me. I have a husband who values my opinion. We work together to make our decisions, and he trusts me with all of his thoughts and feelings just like I know I can trust him. That right there is enough to make me jump up and down with happiness. Ain't God good?

Are you feeling my mix of emotions? I'm happy; I'm impatient; I'm loved; I'm frustrated...I'm slightly pathetic.

I talked to God (briefly before all the interrupters caught up with me), and begged for help. Saturday night, He sent me this post to read. Sunday morning, He asked our Sunday School teacher to discuss Joy.

And here's what I have learned: I have to let go of my own expectations and trust God to do things His way in His time with His outcomes.

1. I expect my heart's people to do what is best for themselves, but when they make bad decisions that I cannot control, I have to trust God to love on them and reach their hearts -- no matter how long that process may take.

2. I expect to make good decisions myself easily and to keep moving, but when my forward momentum grinds to a halt because of life's situations and I have no idea which way to go, I have to trust that God will eventually open a pathway -- no matter how long that waiting period may be or what direction that pathway leads.

3. I expect my dwelling place to radiate coziness and good cheer, but when Christmas arrives, and we have no decorations and no place for decorations...seriously, is that the point of Christmas?

4. I expect Jeremy to be constantly strong and fearless, but that cannot be a realistic expectation. When doubt and fears assail...wait, there's a song for that.

"Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God."

And by helping me write this post, God has shown me something else. MY FOCUS IS COMPLETELY WRONG. It's all on me. Poor, whiny me. Hey, I sense another song coming on..."poor, poor, pitiful me."

Wow, I just googled the lyrics to that song. Somebody had some problems!

Thankfully, it's not me!
Instead of leaving her bedroom after Night-Night Time, Liberty politely knocks on the inside of her door when she wants to get our attention. About an hour ago, I heard a quiet knock and then a tiny voice calmly but pitifully announced, "Mommy, I had a bad dweam. Please pray about it." My delay in responding prompted a second lady-like plea through the closed door, "Mommy, I need you to talk to God about bears and monsters, please."

My heart smiled.

I entered the room, and we prayed together. We prayed for safety and for restful sleep. We prayed for Liberty to understand that God is always with her, that He loves her incredibly (even more than Mommy does, and that is a LOT), and that she will know that she can always rely on Him for more than just bad dreams. I tucked her in, and went back to reading blogs. My relaxation time.

Just a few minutes ago, I heard a second knock and a request through the door. "Mommy, I need a bandaid. I have blood." She had picked a sore on her finger. She did not have blood, but I gave her a bandaid anyway and a good night kiss and a final tuck-in. "Liberty," I gently warned her, recognizing the bandaid ploy for what it was, "I'm not going to come in here again. If you knock on your door, I'm not going to answer. You need to sleep."

"Don't worry, Mommy," she confidently stated, "If I have a bad dweam, I will talk to God by myself. He can hear me." Then she smiled contentedly up at me and airily blew a kiss my direction.

Ninety-nine-point-eight percent of me is humbled and thankful that she and God can talk on their own, but a teeny, tiny part of me feels nostalgic for the time when Mommy was everything.

(Not "everything" as in midnight and three AM feedings, just so we're clear. I don't miss those days.)

We have a lot happening in our family life right now, and I would love to share the details. In fact, it would help me to get it all into print where it would march along in an orderly fashion so that I could pick out the brilliant thoughts from the erroneous ones. But I also value our privacy, so you, my dear internet, will be deprived of your reading privileges until we make some decisions. Sigh. I hope we make them soon. Patience is NOT one of my strong points.

So now that I have decided what I will not share, let me dig under my uppermost layer of thoughts to find something that I will share.

Oh! I know!

This morning, I declared today to be Ice Day, and it will forevermore and henceforth be a day of celebration in our household. Because I, the Vice President and Co-Founder of our household declare it so.

Our Mud Puddle has iced over! I took one look outside this morning and groaned internally. I dislike cold, although I like snow. I dislike being cooped up in this tiny apartment for the winter, although I enjoy coziness. I have not been looking forward to the seasonal change this year, although variety energizes me. I discussed this conundrum with myself as I stared at the frozen mud, and I made a decision. I WILL CELEBRATE!

I will celebrate it all. Everything that I love. Everything that I'm not so sure of. Everything that I dislike. We're gonna party this winter, the girls and I.

So I grabbed Liberty's and Mercy's hands and we danced in a circle singing, "It's Ice Day! It's Ice Day!" I put on some Christmas music, and we drank hot (warm) chocolate and popped buttery microwave popcorn. We sat in a cozy little circle on the kitchen linoleum to consume our Ice Day snack, and we laughed and tickled and spilled our way through it.

Happy Ice Day to you all!
We STILL have colds. What is with this bug?

Also, we are searching for a good house to rent.

And I'm tired.
1. House (almost) cleaned prior to Thanksgiving trip.
2. Dr. appointment for Mercy made (to see if she has an ear infection) prior to Thanksgiving trip.
3. Christmas presents wrapped (we're also celebrating Christmas during our Thanksgiving trip.)
4. Van needs to be emptied and vacuumed prior to Thanksgiving trip.
5. Laundry (almost) finished prior to Thanksgiving trip.
6. Suitcases need to be packed prior to Thanksgiving trip.
7. Give away leftovers in refrigerator prior to Thanksgiving trip.
8. Pack snacks for the car ride prior to Thanksgiving trip.

Jeremy arrived home from work early today with a Man Cold. His pall-bearers deposited him neatly into bed where he barely groaned out his last meal request: spaghetti.

I'll add it to my list.
So it has come to this. I never thought I'd say the word hate and library in the same sentence, but this past Thursday during storytime, Liberty's class learned how to make stone soup, a mixture of water, a stone and various donated ingredients. Miss Bobbie read the story while cooking the ingredients that we had brought from home, and she stressed the idea that ANYTHING can be included in stone soup. That's what makes it so much fun.

We moms had been instructed ahead of time to bring a half cup of any chopped vegetable that we had on hand. I thought about bringing carrots, but since I don't like cooked carrots much, I nixed that idea. Then I decided to bring an onion. I reached into the bag and touched something slimy. The bag and all of its contents quickly hit the bottom of the garbage can, and Liberty brought chopped potatoes -- as did most of her classmates. Thankfully, we also had celery, corn and macaroni in the pot. And the stone. It all tasted lovely!

Three days have now passed since our trip to the library. My plastic bowl cabinet is empty. My carpets are drenched. My stuff is missing.

Anything and everything has become an ingredient in Liberty's Homemade Stone Soup. Her latest batch included a medium-sized stone from outside, two beaded necklaces from Grandpa and Nonna, a plastic measuring cup (I reclaimed it), a fuzzy pom-pom, my hair clip, Kimmie's miniature barbie from McDonald's, two of my good silverware spoons (reclaimed), a plastic chain link, particles of what used to be a square of clean toilet paper, four animal crackers (I stopped her just before those met their watery demise) and Mercy's foot.

Mercy was not pleased.

But, it has kept Liberty quiet and busy for DAYS. That's where my love part comes in.
Only five more days til we see Grandpa and Nonna for Thanksgiving, and guess who's complaining about their ears hurting? Liberty AND Mercy.

We're eating oranges for supper tonight, and I might even buy some lavender oil.

Can you tell the packing is looming? My posts keep getting shorter and shorter.
That's from Goonies, right? I can't quite remember. UPDATED: My sister Charity has informed me in a slightly incredulous comment that the quote is actually from Star Wars.
Our pen-pal process is officially progressing! Lisa and I have typed several little notes back and forth, and we are now FRIENDS!!!


PS> Liberty pulled out my Bible a few minutes ago and started "reading" it out loud. I asked her, "What do you know about Jesus, Liberty?" And she said, "He forgives me. A LOT."

Me too! Yay for us!
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I know what you're thinking. Missy is becoming a pen-pal? Missy???? The one who never mails anything??? I feel sorry for whoever is on the other end of this deal.

Normally, that thought process would be correct, but this time, I've got a twist up my sleeve. (Did I just mix a couple metaphors?) I can't quite picture a twist in my sleeve. I pictured a slice of lemon or lime maybe. Then I pictured a corkscrew in my sleeve. Now, my sleeve is all tangled, and none of those convey the element of surprise and glee that I was hoping for. Although a slice of lime sliding down my arm would be a surprise and possibly gleeful depending on how hungry I was at the time.


On my hall in my apartment building, there are four apartments, one is ours, one is vacant (ooh, that word sends shivers) one belongs to Mandy and one belongs to Gary and Lisa (who my brain constantly tries to rename Larry and Nancy, figure that one out - cuz I sure can't! It's frustrating, is what it is. I always have to pause for an internal correction before I say hi.)

Mandy and Lisa both stay home all day like I do. Mandy just had back surgery and cannot leave her apartment much anymore, and Lisa has something wrong with her leg. She, too, rarely leaves her apartment. I visit Mandy on occasion, but her apartment is crowded with valuable glass objects and two small dogs that don't mix well with my toddlers. Lisa told me a while ago that she would love to have visitors, but she has a psychotic dog that forbids it.

So here we live, three women who would enjoy each other's company if it were possible. And I got a "bee-dea" as Liberty says. That's big and idea mixed together. WE CAN BE PEN-PALS!

I lay in wait for Larry as he passed my apartment door at lunchtime. Correction: Gary. See? I didn't type Larry on purpose. He just looks like a Larry. Strongly.

Pause. "Gary!" I called out, two smiling girls peered from between my legs, and L- Gary grinned at them. His one gold tooth reminded me of the fake policeman at the beginning of Home Alone. "Do you think Lisa would like a pen-pal?" I inquired eagerly.

Perhaps too eagerly. He looked suspicious. "What do you have up your sleeve, now, little girl?" he questioned me with a twinkle in his eye. (Gary's the one who I abruptly announced our cheese mishap to several months ago. Oh, maybe I never told that story on this blog. I'll have to remember to spin that tale for you another time.)

(And by the way, what is it with my sleeves today? They must look freshly stocked or something.)

I explained my bee-dea of taping notes to each other's front doors every day, and he laughed.

I do need to inform you that it gets tiring having one's ideas laughed at on a regular basis. I understand that some of the ideas that strike me are not done regularly by most people. I understand that the kinks of those ideas have been worked out in my brain before I present the finished product to others, and that they may not realize the kinks are solve-able. I understand that I've had a lot longer to dwell on the practicality of said ideas. But it sure would be nice to have someone enthusiastically shout, "YES! GREAT IDEA!" and then sit down to figure out how it could be most practically carried out, instead of laughing at me, and leaving me to sound slightly rushed and earnestly defensive when I explain why it really could work.


Gary then suggested that we email each other instead of writing and taping written notes. He struck disappointment into my soul with such a cold suggestion. I should have just gone with Plan A which was to introduce my bee-dea to Lisa by leaving a taped note to her front door. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm got the best of me again, and I couldn't hold the idea in long enough to carry out that plan. I just had to share it with Gary since I saw him walking into the building.

I protested, albeit very minimally because I realized he was actually taking my suggestion fairly seriously, and I liked the idea that he was contributing, too. Also, I couldn't figure out how to explain to him how cold his idea sounded to me without looking very silly. Finally, I said, "Well, talk to Lisa, and see what she thinks about it all," hoping that her imagination, too, would be caught by the fun side of taping written notes. He agreed, and continued on his way home for his lunch.

About ten minutes later, Gary knocked on my door holding a sheet of notebook paper. My heart skipped a beat! My first note from my new pen-pal!

Gary teased Mercy a little bit to see her smile before he said to me, "Lisa wrote down her email address for you."


The bittersweet feeling of a messed-with bee-dea come to fruition in all it's cold, corporate spontaneity.

I sent off my first email a few minutes ago!
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Rainy afternoons. It sounds like a song title, doesn't it? I can just hear the melody.
Rainy afternoons, cozy living rooms.
Sleepy little girls, tiny golden curls.
Waking from their nap, asking for a snack.
"Mommy, let's play Ball & Catch," turns into "Mercy, fetch!"

Um, I ran out of lyrics. You can finish it off for me if you want.
1. I usually ignore all of the quizzes on Facebook, but my sister sent one called "What Is Your Native American Indian Name?" Mine turns out to be "Sunny Stream - You are content and happy. Like a leaf that floats on the water, going wherever it may take you." I like the sound of that!

2. Jeremy and I were on the phone with my mom around midnight last night, and apparently I fell asleep. Today, Jeremy informed me that in my sleep, I told my mom she could have some apples if she wanted. After more questioning, I told her that she could not have any grapes because we're all out. At least I was accurate in my sleep: we ate the last of the grapes for supper yesterday.

3. I walked silently into the kitchen a while ago and found Liberty standing in front of the open fridge, deciding. I made a small noise with my throat, and in one smooth motion, she slammed the door shut and whirled to face me, an innocent smile decorated her features. "Hi, Mommy. It's nice to meet you," she politely said. Then she shook my hand and left the kitchen.

4. My daughters are growing up, but that was not in our original contract. I pulled it out this afternoon and examined it with my magnifying glass. It explicitly states that any children born to Missy and Jeremy are to start out at six months of age and/or able to feed themselves and sleep through the night, and to perpetually use cute baby-ized English and thought processes. They are not to grow more than two feet tall or be able to open doors, think for themselves, or tell me "Nussin'" when I ask what they've just been doing.

5. I just returned from Liberty's room where she has tied her new helium balloon from the dollar store to a wooden spoon to weight it down and then planted it on the floor of her carpeted bedroom. What a great idea! Except that she also watered it so it would grow.
Inhale deeply. Savor the aromas.

That's right, I just baked chocolate chip cookies. Ah, the heavenly smell.

Before that I gave the girls a bath and shampooed their hair. Nothing smells as wonderful as freshly washed baby hair. Unless it's a just-baked chocolate chip cookie.

Before that I made egg salad sandwiches for lunch (thus creating the need for baths). Mmm, the aroma of boiled eggs, still slightly warm, mixed with mayo and mustard and piled onto freshly toasted bread makes my mouth water every time. Nothing smells as wonderful as warm egg salad sandwiches. Unless it's freshly washed baby hair. Or just-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Before that I opened the patio door and crisp fall air rushed into the room. Crunched leaves, distant wood fire, cold. They all combine to make a uniquely FALL smell. Nothing smells as wonderful as Fall. Unless it's a warm egg salad sandwich, or freshly washed baby hair, or just-baked chocolate chip cookies. (Or Spring!)

Before that I changed Mercy's stinky diaper.

Oops, you inhaled a little too deeply.
I have been pondering Christmas presents for my beloved husband for several months now, about eleven to be exact, and it wasn't until thirty seconds ago that inspiration struck after I read this post by my friend Beth.

I know the PERFECT gift, and I CANNOT WAIT to give it to him!!!!

Let the Christmas count-down begin!

PS> It's top secret, so don't even think you'll get it out of me. You'll just have to be surprised like he will be.

PPS> Ooooh! I'm excited!

From two beautiful girls!
I am sitting in front of the computer right now when I should not be. There is too much to do, and I'm not doing it. On the other hand, if I don't Stop. Right. Now. I will lose my mind, and that would not be pretty. So maybe I should be sitting at the computer right now.

I can justify with the best.


Where do I start?

Yesterday, Liberty woke up whining (I love her). We rushed out the door to get to Mercy's story time at the library on time. Mercy dirtied her diaper on the way there, and I discovered her diaper bag had run out of spares. I almost had a car accident on the way. I pulled out in front of another car and never even saw it. Thankfully, that driver slammed on her brakes and pounded her horn.

Liberty stopped to collect dead leaves on the way into the library and refused to leave them at the door. I pretended I couldn't smell Mercy's diaper throughout story time. Liberty scattered her leaves all over the story time room and refused to pick them up. When we returned home, Liberty brought more leaves into our house. She then proceeded to rip them into tiny pieces and bury them between the fibers of the carpet. The chunks that she chose not to bury were spread all over the living room floor.


When Jeremy came home from work, we rushed out the door to get to the drivers license place in time. They asked for twelve kinds of ID (no, I never exaggerate), and one of mine is packed and in storage. I could not get a license. My car is not completely paid for, so they had to fax a title request to the place in Iowa that holds it. I could not get license plates. Jeremy missed one sign question too many on his drivers test. He could not get a license. We drove to the drivers license place in my car, so his VIN number was not able to be checked. He could not get license plates. We wasted our evening. I wanted to cry.

But you know what? My awesome husband took me to Cracker Barrel instead of back home for supper. (Maybe he sensed we could all die if I was required to go back home and face the mess that used to be called our living room.) And you know something even more amazing? While we were eating, someone from the next table came over and told us how well behaved our children were and what a great job we were doing.

Her seeing-eye dog helped interpret the sign-language she used to communicate.

I collapsed into bed around nine pm, an unheard of bedtime for me, and Jeremy rubbed my back until I fell asleep.

I woke this morning with a renewed vibrancy. Ready to tackle the day with joy. I even had a chance to spend some time with God this morning before the girls woke up, and I just knew life would be grand.

Liberty smiled when she saw me. We ate breakfast together. Mercy slept in. Yes, a wonderful day.

We dropped the car off at the shop for an oil change and a strange-behavior diagnosis, and Mrs. Sue gave us a ride home. (Her husband owns the shop.) We chatted pleasantly, getting to know one another, but Liberty decided it wasn't enough. She waited for a break in the conversation, then she said, "Mrs. Sue, this is Mommy," with her hand she formally indicated me.

Mrs. Sue bemusedly asked me, "Is she introducing us?"

I've been through this before with Liberty, so I smiled and nodded.

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Mommy!" Mrs. Sue played along happily.

Liberty nodded solemnly, "Yes, and this is me," she pointed to herself. "I'm Yibby Gace."

Mrs. Sue shook her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Liberty Grace."

"And this is Meecee Dane. She's a sister."

Now, see? It's a good thing I took this computer break because I've made myself smile.

Maybe I shouldn't finish telling you about the rest of this morning that involved a video from the library getting stuck in the VCR and Liberty stringing the tape that used to reside inside the video all over the living room, Mercy having diarrhea in the bathtub and stopping up the drain, orange juice creating a sticky mess all over the kitchen floor, finding out that we are out of laundry detergent on a morning when Jeremy informs me that he is completely out of clean clothes for work and I have no car to pick up some more.

In fact, I won't tell you about it. I'm ready to get back into cleaning it all up. Send chocolate!
Liberty ran today. She RAN! This is the first full-out, long-distance run that I have witnessed since that virus attacked her in early September. She RUNS!!!

This morning, she told me she was a bunny rabbit, and she hopped all over the living room and hallway for the better part of an hour. I turned my back to work on something, (will I never learn???) and I heard the slap of bare hands and feet on the kitchen linoleum. The seal on the refrigerator door made a sucking sound, and I turned to see my bunny rabbit perusing the merchandise.

"Are you hungry, Liberty Grace?" I inquired, using her full name as she now insists.

"I not Yibby Gace," she rather indignantly informed me, "I'm a bunny wabbit." She waited for my apology.

"Oh. Are you hungry, Bunny Rabbit?"

"Yes, I need some cawwots."

"How does a nice bunny rabbit talk?" I prompted feeling slightly silly.

"May I need some cawwots, PLEASE!"

Good enough. "Be careful not to spill them," I said as I handed the package to her.

"I'm going to spill them onto my plate," she reassured me. She chose a green plate to simulate grass and poured a multitude of carrots onto it. I eyed the pile, decided that Chomper would love to finish off the Bunny Rabbit's leftovers and said nothing.

The little hopster is now on her third plate of carrots.

That's a lot of roughage.

I'm just sayin'.
Earlier this month, I put a pink streak and a blond streak into my naturally brown hair. I very much enjoy my new look; it's quite fun, and today, at the request of a couple long-distance friends, I decided to take a picture.

Three year old Liberty was in the midst of her afternoon siesta. One year old Mercy still kept me company, but she is the "easy" one -- quiet, compliant -- at least until she turns two. The timing seemed right, so my one year old and I headed into the bathroom together where I took this picture.

Note to self: Next time, clean toothpaste off of bathroom mirror before taking photos for the blogosphere.

Second note to self: Figure out how to work your camera settings.

Right about this time, I began to congratulate myself on a picture well-taken when I heard a splash from the toilet region.

So much for that "easy" label.
This morning, Liberty woke Mercy before light arrived in the world, and they decided to join me in my big bed. I hoped they would fall asleep again so that I could get just a tad more rest. Instead, they shared the pillow next to mine and wrestled playfully. Occasionally, an arm or leg would jab my side or abruptly smack into my face, ensuring that my dozing was fitful at best.

I finally gave up dozing and rolled to my side facing them. Mercy's head had landed near Liberty's feet, and her feet rested on the pillow next to Liberty's face. Liberty threw her arms around Mercy's foot and began petting it. "Aw, my doggy," she cooed. She touched a ticklish spot, and Mercy giggled. "Such a nice doggy, right Mommy?"

I nodded barely. One of my eyes remained shut.

Liberty continued hugging Mercy's foot to her cheek and caressing it. Then she connected her gaze with mine and proclaimed, "I love my doggy so much, I'm going to name it Mommy."

I have a foot named after me.


Should I be proud, or humbled?
Two little girls sit happily side by side on the living room floor. Two little heads, one light and one dark, bend over a plastic spoon and a Capri Sun straw, stirring something imaginary. Two little voices meld harmoniously together, discussing their project.

I open the shades on the patio doors, allowing morning sunshine to stream into the room. Suddenly, a noxious odor assaults my nostrils, and I wrinkle my nose unpleasantly. "Whew!" I say out loud, examining the two cute daughters sitting innocently before me. "Something stinks!"

One dark-haired little girl suppresses a giggle and takes off at a dead run, careening drunkenly through the living room.

Potatoes bake in the oven. Pork chops simmer in their gravy on the stove. The washer beats a down-home rhythm while the dryer sends forth a wonderful, warm, clean-laundry smell that mixes homogeneously with all the others. Willie Nelson lazily croons "Old Buttermilk Sky" in the background, and Liberty proudly shouts, "Mommy, yook! I'm upside down!"

From my living room vantage point -- sitting in the old, soft, rocking chair my mother bought for me when Liberty was born -- a content powder blue sky and wispy puffs of clouds beckon me through the glass patio doors. The leaves of two trees meet up across the way, splashing gold-red and yellow-green together. The sun creates a perfect shadowy pattern on the wall of the apartment building across from ours.

Willie starts in on "Moon River." I glance towards my feet where Mercy grins up at me, the edge of a plastic five from the refrigerator door peeks between her lips. I fish it from her mouth and blow a quick raspberry onto her chubby right cheek. She giggles and then claps when she sees Liberty's somersault.

The cream and pumpkin neighborhood cat, Tommy, peers in our screen door and mrrows plaintively, willing us to feed him again. The girls both meow back at him and rush to the screen calling "Sitty!" They scare him and disappointedly call, "Come back, sitty! Come back!"

Willie switches to "To Each His Own," and my thoughts turn to my Own. I smile, remembering a conversation we had last night and begin day-dreaming.

Daddy will be home any minute.
Our library has a storytime hour every Thursday morning for Liberty's age group. (Storytime for Mercy's age group happens on Tuesday mornings.) Yesterday, our group met at the fire station instead of the library, and this is what Liberty learned. **Mercy is the child roaming the room wearing pink and a hood.
Yesterday morning, the girls and I drove to our new friends' house.

Well, I drove.

Liberty and Emma played dress up in "real pincess cose, Mommy!" [insert huge three-year-old grin here] while Amy and I took turns rescuing Mercy from the staircase and pulling her out of the lovely fall wreath that Amy had on a stand in her living room, and talking. Lots of talking.

Then Emma and Liberty decided to play the piano, and all talking ceased. No, that's not exactly accurate. All hearing ceased. The talking gave a determined effort at continuing. Until we saw Mercy dancing to the piano "music" and Liberty and Emma singing along with their pounding.

That's when the laughing started.
After all the traveling we did last month, I took a break from the blog to get my mind and my house back in order. Actually, the rainy weather and the tiresome schedule I had been keeping combined to put me into a slump. I woke up every morning and took care of the girls all day, but the get-up-and-go in me had got up and left.

I had a talk with God about this slump and my desire to get out of it, and He sent me a pilates video in the mail by way of my friend Brenda. Last night, I sat down with my dayplanner to figure out how my days should be organized in order to fit that workout into my daily schedule. Because I'm easy-going and flexible like that.

Speaking of flexible, I just finished my first session of basic pilates about fifteen minutes ago, and I now know that I will need to rearrange my schedule. The workout will have to take place DURING naptime instead of after. I thought it would be great for the kids to wake up from their nap and stretch and workout with me, but I didn't realize that Mommy on the floor equals children on my tummy.

They thought it was playtime, and boy, were they excited! Mercy squealed and lunged onto my tummy before I understood her intent, and Liberty followed closely behind. My instructor Mari on the video had told me to imagine her hand pressing on my belly button taking it to my spine, but I didn't need to imagine anything. The real thing had been forced upon me in my living room.

The good news is, I feel invigorated and healthy. You know, after that one session and all.

Oh well, I suppose it's all in the mind anyway!
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I had such high hopes for that laptop, but alas, finding a wi-fi connection can be harder than I expected. Let me sum up.

I spent a few days at home with my family in Illinois, left the girls, and drove to my house in Iowa to meet the movers and close up shop. A crazy two days kept me busier than I expected. I met with some friends and had to cancel fun times with other friends, but I was able to accomplish the necessary tasks. I had some fun posts ready in my head, but everytime I sat down to blog them, my laptop refused to connect to the internet. This is sad because those posts were really funny. (I can say that because without reading them, you won't be able to contradict me.)

I arrived back in Illinois around midnight on Friday and have enjoyed hanging with my brothers and sister and parents. Mom and I recorded specific designing shows on HGTV and watched them together every night. I'm going to miss that a lot.

Pete and I are preparing to leave in the morning with the girls. The van is packed except for the playpen Mercy is sleeping in right now, my wall charger which is plugged in and a few odds and ends that need to wait until morning to be packed. We're meeting Jeremy at our apartment in Indiana and restocking the refrigerator for him in preparation for next week. Then we will all drive to Ohio to meet up with my whole family and Suzy's whole family for a joint birthday party for Liberty and Abraham. (Suzy is my brother Nate's wife and Abraham is their son.)

We'll spend the weekend there, and then the girls and I will travel back to Mom and Dad's once more. I have to make another trip to Iowa while Jeremy stays behind in Indiana, but after that week is over, we will finally be a family again. Happy all together, as Liberty says.

And now if you'll excuse me, Liberty is trying to listen to my heartbeat with Grandpa's tape measure. "Mommy! Turn around; I need to see your beat-beat."

PS> To everyone who has been calling and emailing about Liberty's health condition: thank you for loving us! She is doing great. Her spots are almost all gone; her fever has been gone for over a week now, and other than a slight tenderness in her knees and ankles and a reluctance to climb or run too fast, she is back to normal. Isn't God kind? :-)
My parent's house in the middle of Illinois cornfields holds such strong feelings for me. Last Thanksgiving, I wrote this post, and this morning that same peacefulness washed over my heart as I pulled back the crimson sheers covering each of the living room windows to let in the beautiful morning light.

I sat on the wide front porch and watched my children enjoy the sunshine, the tire swing, the trampoline, the apple trees, the sweet, corn-scented country air. Sturdy porch boards under my feet and thick rafters and beams overhead surrounded me with my dad's handiwork and symbolized the love and protection always available to me.

I thought back to the previous day's journey. The girls and I had encountered no less than seven road construction and painting crews between Inna-inna and Illinois. At one point, the traffic had crept along at a 10 mile per hour pace for three miles before we encountered a flagger holding a "SLOW" sign. I wondered if I should go even slower as I passed her.

We stopped three times in the first hour to change a diaper, to pick up a fallen baby doll and to rescue a very important blanket. Rather than risking getting lost, I chose to pull off to the side of the road instead of taking exit ramps and finding parking spots. During our twelfth pullover, a kind man knocked on our window and asked if we needed help. I held up a stinky diaper and said, "Not unless you want to dispose of this for me!" He laughed, shook his head, and beat a hasty retreat.

I took a wrong turn once and stopped for directions once. All in all, not too bad. The worst element of our journey was my full bladder. It wasn't until about three hours into our trip that I realized I hadn't made a plan for my own bathroom needs. I pondered my predicament for the next five hours sometimes more urgently than at other times.

But sitting on the front porch, enjoying Liberty's and Mercy's glee, the song of birds, the sound of corn rustling and leaves dancing, the easy breeze, and knowing the laughter and camaraderie of family was only an arm's reach away, I decided without hesitation that the full bladder, and the longer than necessary journey was definitely worth it.

The only thing missing is my Jeremy, and he'll join us here on Friday!
On Wednesday mid morning, Liberty sat down on the picnic table bench next to me at the park and put her thumb into her mouth. My friend Calle and our four remaining little girls continued the high-pitched shrieks that only the joyfullest of little girls on a beautiful sunshiny day are capable of reaching. (For the record, Calle wasn't shrieking.) I glanced at Liberty beside me on the bench and frowned. "Are you okay, HoneyBunny?" I asked.

She popped her thumb from between her lips just long enough to whisper, "Yet's go home, Mommy, I'm cold."

"You mean, you're hot?" I smiled down at her.

"I'm cold," she whispered and continued staring off into the distance.

Tiny alarm bells sounded in my head, and I decided it might be important to return to our apartment where Liberty could sit out of the sun and have a cool drink. The mid-eighties temperature and non-shaded park underscored my decision. We picked up our sand toys, and Liberty hopped off the bench to help. Then we walked home and gave out juice boxes to each girl. It wasn't until I had served a plate of lunch to the girls that I realized Liberty was missing. With her plate in my hand, I looked around and found her sitting quietly in her rocking chair.

"Lib? Are you ready to come eat?"

She just looked at me.

Calle and I exchanged a something's-not-quite-right glance, and I remembered the park incident. I set the plate down and crossed the room, confirming immediately the presence of a fever. Liberty's underarm temp proved to be 101.8. I gave her Motrin and tucked her into bed.

Six hours later, Liberty quietly walked into the living room, her hair dripping with sweat and impossibly curly. I had checked on her several times throughout her nap and chosen to let sleep do its best to heal. She sat and watched a twenty-five cent garage sale "Tummy-tummies" (Teletubbies) video with her daddy and refused any sustenance.

Thursday morning, both of my girls greeted me with smiles and good mornings when I stepped into their bedroom. I lifted Mercy from her crib and turned towards the kitchen. "Wait! Mommy, help me please. May you please help me please?" Liberty's voice entreated.

I smiled at her politeness and stopped at her bedside. "What do you need?"

"Help me get out of bed."

"Help you get out of bed?" I repeated, unsure of her purpose for asking. "Can't you do it yourself?" I teased.

She quietly but pleasantly said, "No."

I lifted her from her blankets and gently set her feet on the floor. She let out a small whimper and landed on her bottom. Puzzled, I looked down at her. She didn't move from her position and did not look up. "What's going on, Liberty?" I asked.

"Help me please, Mommy."

I placed my hands underneath her armpits and gently raised her to a standing position, but when I began to release her weight onto her feet, she urgently grabbed my shirt and held tightly. The first stab of genuine fear found its way into my heart. After much questioning and experimenting, I realized her legs would not hold her weight. I carried her into the dining room and placed her at the breakfast table. She wasn't hungry and her temperature registered at 102.7.

The rest of the day continued according to the pattern established in the morning, broken into cycles of Motrin and Tylenol doses.

On Friday morning, Liberty struggled to sit up in her bed and asked for help again. Her underarm temp was 103.2. When I placed her into the bathtub and began running water, she cried out in pain, "The water hurts me, Mommy!" She struggled pitifully in the water, unable to move her legs effectively, and my heart broke inside my chest. I looked at my daughter who at least twice each day happily tells me, "Bye, Mommy. I have to RUN!" and then proceeds to run 20 or 30 laps up and down the 100 foot sidewalk in front of our building.

I called the doctor.

When I explained Liberty's symptoms to the nurse who came to the phone and requested an appointment "as soon as possible," she set one up for one thirty that afternoon. Someone from church came to watch Mercy since I knew I would have my hands full carrying Liberty.

At 1:30 PM on Friday, I carried my almost three year old daughter into the doctor's office. She hunched in my arms, very protective of her legs. Her knees were drawn up almost to her chest, and her back arched in a permanently rigid, painful looking posture. Both feet seemed frozen in an overly stretched position. It made me wonder if her feet were cramping into that pose. Looking at her scared me.

Apparently, it scared the family doctor, too. He diagnosed her fever and the spots that had broken out all over her body about ten minutes before we started for his office as just a virus, but her uncomfortable and twisted posture he referred to an orthopedic specialist who "happened" to be in town at 2:00 that day. He called the specialist, and an immediate place on the schedule magically opened for us.

The specialist turned out to be a very nice man. He joked with Liberty and quickly put her at ease. He attempted to massage, squeeze, pull, push, bend and stretch Liberty's little body, but he did it so gently and so comically that Liberty spent most of her time giggling at him and thinking he was tickling her. She only displayed tears when he touched her calves and when he attempted to straighten her legs, and even then she bravely smiled at him through her tears. "I want to be happy, Mommy," she said to me with a smile on her face and a voice tight with tears.

Oh, Liberty, I want you to, too!

The specialist conferred with our family doctor, and they decided to run some tests. Liberty gamely painted imaginary pictures on the examining table with an imaginary paint brush while we waited our way through each test and the arrival of each team of testers.

Strep was eliminated early on, and I was told that polio and rickets were never even considered. (The only ones that I could think of.) Meningitis was on the "short list," but farther down. Blood tests were ordered, and we were sent to a pediatric specialist for a new examination. By this time, we had been at the hospital for six hours, and I was starting to feel thirsty and dizzy. Liberty probably was too. I lifted her once again and attempted not to jostle her painfully cramped body as we left the blood suckers and headed for the pediatrician. Her skin felt hot, and red encircled the skin around her eyes. When we arrived and before I filled out another form, I firmly but nicely requested from the receptionist that Liberty's temperature be taken, a drink be given to both her and me, and if the thermometer confirmed what I suspected then a dose of Tylenol be given to my daughter right away.

A nurse hurried out to us and took Liberty's temperature, bringing with her a glass of water. She ducked out of the room to retrieve some Tylenol and quickly returned with the tiny dosage cup. Slightly relieved, I began again to fill out forms, but was interrupted when a different nurse spotted us in the waiting room. "Are you Dr. _____'s patient?" she asked, naming our family doctor.

I looked up. "Yes."

"I thought so," her eyes indicated Liberty's bent form. "Come in right away; we don't need those papers."

As we passed a group of people in scrubs, I overheard their conversation. They were discussing Liberty's condition and exchanging possibilities. Two people studied files in their hand, and one person stood near a fax machine reading papers as they came through. One person called out, "Did Dr. ________ order a Strep test?" Several papers rustled as the answer was searched for.

"He did," I said as I passed them, carrying Liberty towards the examining room, "It came back negative."

The group hushed, but I did not stop to chat or see their faces. Then I heard someone say, "That's Liberty." By this time, my back was to them and Liberty's face over my shoulder smiled at them. (She only stopped smiling when her blood was taken, and even then, her smile jumped back up when she got a balloon "Bubboon.") Someone made a sympathetic "Mmmm" sound.

We waited in the examining room. Practice makes perfect, you know. We played with her bubboon, and her laughter slowly grew stronger sounding as the Tylenol began working. The newest doctor and her nurse practitioner examined Liberty and commented that she did not seem like a little girl in pain. I sighed inwardly and tried to explain, "She never does. Her pain tolerance frightens me sometimes."

The doctor decided that Liberty was probably fine. She asked us if we would like to wait there another hour or so for the blood work to be finished, or if we would like to return home and wait for a phone call. She explained that there was a possibility that the blood work results would require Liberty to be admitted to the hospital, but we could easily return if that was the case. I voted for going home and eating and having a chance to pack our bags in the case of a hospital stay.

An hour and a half later, the phone call came. Blood work shows a virus that has probably settled in her spine or leg joints causing the severe cramping and pain. The only treatment necessary is Ibuprofen every six hours until the virus runs its course.

Thank you, Jesus! I will get to see Liberty running again.

Liberty has had a fever of about 102 for two days and nights -- not too high, nothing to worry about --but she's complaining of pain in both shins and calves and struggles to walk. I've never seen anything like that before. If she still has a fever tomorrow morning, I'm going to take her to the doctor.
Yahoo! Wonderfulness has been poured on me, and I don't have the time or the attention-span to blog it all.

1. Grandpa and Nonna came to visit over the weekend. That single sentence will have to contain it's own joy for now. I will probably post bits and pieces of the visit as they come to my mind over the next little while.

2. Jeremy gave me a few hours of alone time a couple weeks ago, and I spent it at a local coffee shop. I'll have to tell you the funniness later.

3. Our house has passed most of the hurdles prior to our closing date, and I get to go to Iowa next week! Jeremy said I could take his laptop, so I'll be able to blog along the way.

4. God has changed my hurting heart. I'll give you more details on that later, too.
Another important occurrence during my rain-induced blogging break was the sale of our home. Yes, I did just blandly throw that sentence out with no exclamation points or signs of excitement. How is that possible?

We're supposed to close September 23rd. Since it has not officially happened yet, I'm not allowing myself to rejoice yet. We have to pass a home inspection (which should not be a problem); we have to pass an appraisal (which I don't think is a problem, but with this strange economy, I'm not sure), and we have to find someone who will loan us enough money to cover our loss (amazingly, Jeremy's new company has offered to split the loss with us, so we only need to get a loan for half of our loss!)

Yes, we are thankful to be in the process of selling, but we were hoping to break even or only lose a little. According to our realtor, we have accepted an unbelievably great offer. I'm sure she knows what she is talking about.

I suppose what I'm struggling the most with is saying goodbye to our first home. I love that house. The wonderful kitchen, the lovely fireplace, the red walls. I know, I can paint the walls of our next home, but stop being so practical, okay. I'm trying to grieve here.

And WHY am I trying to grieve, anyway???? We were asking God to sell our house, and He did! Yay for God!

Except it's not official yet, so... small smile for God. ;-)
Rain clouds have forced our wi-fi connection to be sporadic this past week. A lot of important things have happened while I was disconnected, and I have decided to post the one closest to my heart first: Liberty conversations! You know, before I forget them.

LC number one:

Liberty donned a pair of glittery, gauzy wings and fluttered past me. She made a swooping turn and stopped at my feet. "Yook at me, Mommy. Dess what I am."

"Um, are you a butterfly?"


"Are you a fairy?"


"Well, what are you then?"

"I'm a fly. Better dit a spyspotter, Mommy, and smash me!"

LC number two:

"Yook at me, Mommy. I'm a froggy."

"Oh! Now, how did this froggy get into our house?"

"Uh-oh. Better put me outside, Mommy."

LC number three:

Liberty and I had played several rounds of hide and seek, and I finally found a great spot to hide on the side of my bed farthest from the door. It took about five minutes for her to find me which is about three minutes longer than it usually takes. When she finally discovered my hiding place she cuddled my hand against her heart and gazed at me tragically.

"Mommy, I was never going to be happy again."

"What? Why not?"

"Because I need you to stay home with me always."
Two of our closest friends from college, Rodney and Alicia, came to visit over the weekend. They left yesterday afternoon. Alicia and I were roommates during our first two years of college, and we all easily fell back into the pattern of late nights full of fun and days filled with wonderful conversation.

We taught them to play Settlers of Catan, and they taught us to play XMachina where we had to invent a way to travel in time.

Next time that request is made, I will know an easy way to accomplish it: just invite Rodney and Alicia over. Time moves backwards without anyone realizing it.

Unfortunately, it somehow moves forward by the time morning rolls around. I'll have to make a few minor tweaks to this invention.
I wrote about a strong hurt earlier, and someone sent me this email (and gave me permission to copy it here):

I read your blog today and I wanted to say that I totally relate to what you said. I’ve been hurt badly by people that were closest to my heart and I found myself withdrawing not only from them, but also from others. If people I care about most hurt me, than other people are sure to hurt me right?

We have very few friends at all due to this and even find that we’re distancing ourselves from family members. I’m not sure how to reverse this. Every time I allow someone to get close the first time they make the slightest wrong move I am retreating again. I know in my head that it is unreasonable to expect people to be perfect, but my heart likes to run and hide.

The struggle to move forward.

Truthfully, I don't know how to do it either. This is a subject that Jeremy and I discussed in depth a few days ago. I don't know what to do, what to let go of, what kind of expectations to have for myself or for relationships, how to get past my own wall. It's frustrating because I see myself eventually turning into a lonely, bitter person and that is exactly what I would NEVER want to be.

I begged God a few days ago to show me what He wants. I know He doesn't want my current state to be my perpetual state. In my meandering through the Bible, which I have mentioned before, my devotions that night were in Isaiah, and God showed me this verse.

Isaiah 30:15 - "This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'"

Hmm, maybe all I need to do is nothing. I've faced my heart; I'm asking God to help me change; now, I just need to let His Spirit do the changing. I'm sure at some point that will require action from me, but right now, I'm supposed to repent, rest, be quiet and trust.

Surprisingly, I have found that hard to do. Letting God DO without me doing? Apparently, I'm not even very trusting of Him! :-)
I feel so smug. The girls and I ran errands all morning, our first morning-full-o'-errands since arriving in Inni-inna. AND these errands were all accomplished before their expiration dates. Can you say WOO-HOOO? I may be getting the hang of this.

We stopped at the new doctor's office with signed transfer paperwork. (Yes, this would be paperwork that I mentioned needed doing in a post a few weeks ago, what of it?) We stopped at the bank to deposit a check (and BONUS - got our address changed and successfully said no repeatedly during a meeting with the bank's pushy sales rep [the noes were directed at the sales guy, not my daughters - DOUBLE BONUS!]) We stopped to balance along the tops of several concrete bumpers in every parking lot. We stopped for obedience lessons, and Liberty continually made some very good choices mixed with a couple bad choices, but overall -- GOOD! We stopped to learn the first line of the pledge of allegiance (every. single. time. we. saw. a. flag.) And let me tell you, this is a patriotic town! We stopped to pick up mid-week supplies at Walmart. Liberty learned the "No-Suching-Innyting" rule. (No Touching Anything -- It's a very important rule.) We stopped to buy Swiss Rolls because I couldn't help myself. They had them lined up at the entrance. Evil Walmart people.

We did not stop to pick up a potty training book with my new library card that arrived in the mail yesterday, but there's always tomorrow!
My blog has remained silent for a while, not because I have nothing to post, on the contrary, posts seem to be bubbling up within me. But every time I concentrate enough to type, the one post that I do NOT want to write is the only one sitting at the tips of my fingers.

So here goes.

It is possible that just typing it will be enough for me. Maybe after I write it out I will be able to delete it and move on. Or maybe it will have to be published. I'm hoping that I can delete it.

For several years, Jeremy and I have struggled with a certain situation about which I want to remain vague. This struggle has shredded our hearts, leaving mangled pieces dangling, exposed to pain whenever the wind picks up. The struggle is now over, but somehow, during those years and especially during the extreme last few months, I erected a protective barrier in front of my heart.

The barrier was never intended to keep people out, just pain. It was a coping mechanism, to borrow a popular phrase; I thought it helped me stay close to the people while keeping the pain-level lower. I think I was wrong.

The only way to minimize pain is to hold the pain-causer at a distance. It's a bit like hugging a hand-grenade, knowing it will explode on you at any second. Minimizing the effects of the blast can only be achieved by running away before the explosion.

But what if -- and here's where the analogy doesn't work very well -- what if you love the hand-grenade? Running away from it is not an option. That dangerous explosion hurts not only you; it destroys the grenade. Jeremy and I would do anything to prevent the destruction of the grenade. Alright, enough with the analogy that no longer works!

All of that was really background information anyway. The point of this post, the subject I intended to address is this. God has brought Jeremy and I into a time of rest. He moved us to a land without connections, without expectations, without a past.

At first, neither of us realized how handicapped we had become. We continued to live inside shells without even knowing it, but slowly we began to see ourselves, to see some of the emotional withering and its affects. I, for example, no longer quickly develop relationships. I laugh at my daughter, Liberty, who stands on our patio and shouts, "HI, FRIEND! WANNA PLAY WITH ME?" to anyone passing, but the truth is, until a year ago, I used to be the one shouting and making immediate friends. Now, I meet people; I chat politely; I long for real friendship, but I hold myself at a distance. It's not fun being burned, and how can I tell who will burn me?

God knew how fragile our souls have become. He knew where we needed to be in order to begin healing. He moved us.

He moved us to a church that I cannot find words to describe. The people love. That is all that can be said. They reach out. They don't believe in just Sunday relationships. At this time when I am unable to reach out, God knew I needed someone who would reach out to me. So He brought us here.

Jeremy is hurting also, and his armor shows up in other areas of his life. Without going into any detail, I will let you know that God has also put him in the specific right spot to recover.

When I say recover, I do not mean that we will revert to the innocence of the way we lived before. No, we hope to grow, accepting the stains, still loving the reasons for the stains, but becoming more mature in our walk with God because of the stains. We do not want to remain in our protective armor. We want to have soft hearts. Hearts that know hurt is possible but that reach out and hug anyway.

It will take time, but our God is good. And He created time.
Last week, the loneliness bug bit me, and I begged God to send me someone to talk with. Someone to be a real friend. He has introduced several people to me as little pick-me-ups, but I'm looking for someone long term and like-minded to share my heart. I specifically have been asking for a lady who has kids right around my girls' ages. I want a friend who will encourage me, but also someone whom I can encourage. I want a friend who will laugh with me until some sort of beverage shoots from her nostrils. And then laugh some more. I want a friend who is up for any kind of adventure, and loves to talk long into the night. I want a friend who loves God with all of her heart and keeps her relationship with Him as her top priority. I want a friend who loves her husband and family and keeps that relationship as her next priority.

I've had a few good friends like that in my life, and I've been separated from them for several years now. Jennifer, Melody, Alicia and Jackie are still my wonderful friends, but distance creates a barrier to daily interaction and adventures.

I read some of the literature that our new church sent us, and I noticed a little paragraph about a MOPS group (Mothers Of Preschoolers) that meets regularly. My eyes brightened, and my heart tingled, that's how God's going to introduce me to my new friend! I just KNEW it!

When Dian (without an e) and I got together on Friday, I asked her about the group. Her kids are now in their twenties, so she has stopped keeping tabs on the MOPS group. "I don't think they are still meeting," she told me. "There was a logistical problem that they were working on, and I think they quit meeting last month."

"Oh," I smiled unconcernedly at her while my heart crumbled. "That's too bad."

The following day, since Jeremy went to Chicago with the guys from church, I had another time slot to fill up. I strapped the girls into the van and drove around town.

Guess what?


I immediately drove home to gather the necessary piece of mail with my name and address on it in order to obtain a library card. Did you know that in two weeks, I have not received any mail? Or if I have it has my old address on it. How frustrating.

So, I gathered several pieces of mail. One with Jeremy's name and the new address, one with Liberty's name and the new address, one with Jeremy's and my names together and the old address and my old drivers license, and I prayed all the way there.

The librarian's name was Anne. I would guess she was in her late forties, maybe early fifties. She had dark brown hair and a gentle face, but the most amazing part of her was the fact that being around her felt comfortable and easy. I felt loved and cared about immediately. She quickly joined Evelyn from my old church on my List of Women Whom I Would Like To Be Like Someday.

She bent the rules on documentation in order to give me a library card, and she asked a strange question without any context at all: "Would you mind terribly if I gave your name and phone number to another lady who has children right about your girls' ages?"

I stared at her for a second, wondering if I were understanding her intent correctly. "Wh-what do you mean?" I finally stammered.

"Well, I can see that you are new in town, and I'm sure you will be needing some friends. There are a few moms who like to get together every so often..." her voice trailed off, then she clarified, "I would like to give your contact information to one of the ladies, but I certainly would not do so if you would rather that I didn't."

I blinked to dry up the tiny moisture springing to my eyes. There was more moisture there than I expected. I laughed and fanned my face with a nearby brochure, "This is ridiculous!" I told her.

Anne smiled in understanding. "It's okay," she reassured me with a hand on my arm. "I've been new before, too."

Liberty selected a book from a nearby shelf and flopped to her tummy in front of the desk to read it out loud. Anne and I laughed together, she recommended a book to me and then she told me about the story time sign up sheet for preschoolers. I signed up for a Tuesday morning time and a Thursday morning time.

We took two Curious George books, a novel by Roxanne Henke called Learning to Fly and a mended heart home with us.

It felt wonderful!
Moving is highly over-rated. Adventure, new scenery, new friends; sure, it all sounds wonderful. But like those "Go West, Young Man" campaigns back when the West was still frontier land, you never get told of all the hard work and possible death ahead until after you get there.

No, I'm not prone to exaggeration. Why do you ask?

When I started this week, I had a list of relocation-related things to accomplish. I efficiently wrote them in my day-planner, and began immediately. By immediately, I mean after diaper changes, mess clean-ups, breakfast, breakfast clean up, story time, whining interpretation, more mess clean-ups (did I mention we have the flu?), more diaper changes, Mercy's naptime...that's when out of desperation, I inserted Liberty's favorite movie of all time, Disney's Yady and Da Tamp into the DVD player.

Ah, peace.

I looked at my list
1. Email the church for their statement of faith.
2. Find out why Jeremy's new insurance cards do not have the rest of us listed on them.
3. Clarify two different items about our insurance coverage.
4. Find a doctor and schedule Mercy's one year checkup and immunizations.
5. Call the hospital in Illinois where Jeremy was diagnosed with a hernia, and give them our new insurance number.
6. Correct Jeremy's 401(k) contribution at his new company before the wrong amount gets taken out of his paycheck.
7. Get new drivers licenses.
8. Get new license plates.
9. Etcetera

The list was quite a bit longer, but I have to stop typing it before my brain explodes inside my head and begins oozing out of my ears. I happen to like the shirt I am wearing right now.

With Liberty occupied and believing her name to be Yady, I knew it would be safe to focus on my tasks.
1. I emailed the pastor, check.
2. I called the insurance company about the cards, check.

Mercy woke up with a mess in her bed. Bath time came first -- which Yady decided could not be conducted without her in the tub, too -- new sheets and blankets in the crib, lots of whining (I really can’t blame them; they felt miserable), and finally both girls settled on the living room floor each with a bowl and a blanket (although, why I bother to give Mercy a bowl, I really don't know. It's the principle, mainly, and a wild delusion that she may choose to imitate Liberty at some point.)

Yady began barking for some yunch.

Yunch? You can't be serious.

"Do you realize that you are sick?" I asked her. "If I feed you lunch, you're just going to speet up again."

Yady insisted her hunger pangs were real.

Mommy insisted her hunger pangs could be cured by bread and water.

Thirty minutes later, Mommy cleaned up the hunger pang solution, and wondered if bread and water really was a good idea after all.

The day deteriorated from there.

On Tuesday, I awoke with renewed determination to accomplish my relocation-related tasks.

I began immediately. And you know what that means.

3. I called the insurance company to clarify two benefits while Liberty and Mercy alternately talked to me and cried to me. The woman on the phone spoke in the quietest possible monotone voice, obviously reading a script. She stopped for nothing and repeated nothing. I believe I understand our benefits now? Check.

The girls went down for a nap, and I took a quick blogging break. Then back to work again.

4. I printed off the list of eligible doctors from our insurance website, then I spoke with three different people here: my neighbor, Mandy; my friend from church, Dian; our realtor, Bill; they each gave me a few recommendations and a few stay-away-froms. With three doctors on my list, I pondered the best way to narrow them down. I printed a list of interview questions from the internet, and I began making phone calls. That's when I found out that none of the doctors will give Mercy any immunizations without first having her prior immunization record from our old doctor. That makes perfect sense, and I'm glad they are being thorough with my baby, but I don't really want to have records sent until I know which doctor I want them sent to. Sigh. So I picked a doctor, sight unseen, and am sending him Mercy's records. Then I have to go to his office and fill out new patient paperwork, and only after the records are received may I make an appointment. I set the doctor visit task aside to handle another day when the flu wasn’t weighing us down.

5. I called the hospital in Illinois to give them our insurance number. They don't want it read to them over the phone. They want it faxed. Well, La-De-Dah. So I set the insurance card aside into a pile for Jeremy to handle tomorrow.

6. I found the website for Jeremy’s 401(k) but realized I did not have the necessary user name and password. I set that aside for Jeremy to handle tomorrow.

The girls woke up, life picked up speed, and soon it was bedtime.

On Wednesday, I was hit HARD with the flu and did nothing but clean up after the girls and sit in a chair wishing I were dead. Oh, yes, and attempt to explain to my vomitous children why they really did NOT want breakfast, snacks, lunch and supper. Traumatic.

On Thursday, my determination returned, along with the fragile health of my children. They remained symptom-free all day, although lethargy and general tummy rumbliness kept them relatively uncomfortable.

7. I called the drivers license place. They informed me that I needed Indiana car insurance before they would even talk to me.
a. I flipped through the phone book, prayed, and picked a number. They told me that they would process my insurance immediately, but it would not be effective until August 7th.
b. I called the DL place again. They told me I would have to purchase a 30 day permit until my insurance kicked in. After my insurance was in place, I needed to bring it, along with four documents proving I am me (because one or two just isn’t good enough) and money, and THEN they would give me a drivers license.

8. I asked about license plates and was told that I had to bring in the title for Jeremy’s vehicle, his new (still non-existent) drivers license and insurance. For my vehicle, I had to provide the bank contact information along with my non-existent drivers license and insurance. At that point, they would still not issue license plates to me, but they would create a file for me in their office. Then they would contact my bank in Iowa and request a copy of our title. After that is in place, they will call me to have me return to their office so that they can give me a plate. All of this could take much longer than thirty days, and I may have to purchase a second thirty day permit, if it does take longer.

I sighed. All of these roadblocks, all of my hard work, all of the misery of the past week caught up with me, and I wanted to be grumpy. I thought of the friends I left in Iowa. I thought of the lack of friends Indiana. I tried very hard to be discontent, to grouch at my kids. But God kept stopping me. He reminded me of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom who chose to be thankful for the flea infestation in their concentration camp barracks. Hm, that sounds like the glad game, I thought and immediately perked up. This could be fun!

Here is my list:

1. I am thankful for the flu because a sick Liberty is a cuddly Liberty (an extremely rare species, rumored to be mythical).
2. I am thankful for the insurance run-around because it helped to forge a new friendship with a lady named Julie. We laughed and discussed our children and politics while we waited for her crashing computer to process our insurance request. Odd as it sounds, we really did become friends during that time. She did some major encouraging of me over the phone while we discussed our children, and I am so glad.
3. I am thankful for the ants visiting our apartment because it forces me to vacuum every night. Thus, ensuring that my carpet is REALLY clean. It’s a good feeling. I am also thankful for the ants because they introduced me to one of our maintenance men, Johnny, who has turned out to be a really wonderful and impressive guy.
4. I am thankful that I had to clean up the flu-induced messes because it means that I am actually HOME to clean them up, which means that I am with my girls!

Yay for me! :-)