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.

Smirk.

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?"

"A CANDY CANE."

"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.

BUT WAIT, IT GETS BETTER!

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!

ONE!

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."

"Good!"

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

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

*Grunt*

*Grunt*

"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.