Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Video Viewing Pleasure... the Eowyn Channel

There will be photos and text coming soon... must go feed the munchkin now. :)

In the meantime, here are photos from Facebook. This baby thinks flashes are a part of life...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home... as "Mommy" Forever

As I sit in our familiar blue recliner, where just nights ago I was sitting to ease labor, I'm listening to my newborn daughter's beautiful squeaky cry as her daddy changes her (very poopy) diaper.

So beautiful. (by the way, she's totally a drama queen and just stopped crying as quickly as she started).

Ryan took to being a father immediately. He's wonderful at holding her-- she calms down so quickly when he picks her up. He's working on getting his diaper-changing time down, and his swaddle perfected. He was there at every stage of our daughter's journey into our side of the womb and even got to pull her out into it.

So much has changed since I left home 3 days ago. My belly is MUCH smaller... my body is totally weird-feeling... but the biggest change is at the very level of my identity. After 2 days of labor, and 45 minutes of pushing, the former Christina T., SHS IB program graduate and Furman alumna, became a mother. The thought of it brings tears to my eyes every time. When we brought Éowyn in the door, and Ryan put her into my arms, I just cried and cried. It's so overwhelming-- the thought of having her to hold now, to stare at for the next weeks, to raise for the years to come, and to treasure for ever. My recent birth experience reminded me of just how deep the mother-daughter bond goes. When contractions would get really painful, several times I cried out "Mom!" When I'm sick or in pain, my first impulse is still to cry out for my mother, no matter where I am or how old I am. To think that I'm the only mom Éowyn has. That I'm the one she will know as her Mommy... the one who will get up with her at nights, fix 99% of her meals for the first half of her life, who will kiss her boo-boos, discipline her disobedience, teach her to read, sing to her, make cookies and dance around the kitchen... the one she will likely both resent and adore at various points... the example she will always be watching, like it or not... the woman who will help define her view of woman and how wives relate to their husbands... the feminine example of living out the Gospel before her eyes. Wow.

The permanence is staggering. The impact I will have on this soul is eternal. Knowing myself, my first instinct is to cry out "Oh wretched woman that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death!?" And my hope as a mother is the same hope that has sustained me as wife, daughter, student, teacher and friend: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25)

Friday, September 25, 2009

She's Here!

"Daddy Delivering"
(our awesome midwife Beth Bary is there in the background, helping Daddy out)

"First Sight- 9.25.09, 12:09 p.m."
Ryan says this reminds him of Genesis 1-2, when God breathed life into a clay statue and he became a living soul

Healthy Big Girl; 8lbs, 10 1/2 oz. 21" long (just like Mommy).

"10 Minutes Old"

"21 Inches... Adorable From Head to Toe"

"One Day Old"


"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love; for His marvelous works to the children of man!" Psalm 107:8

"What do you have that you did not receive?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

"And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.[...F]rom His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:14, 16

We could not be more awed, more thankful, more pleased. She truly has been well-named:Éowyn for all the hopes we have for her, Grace for the only way she'll attain any of them.
~Ryan & Christina Szrama, aka
Éowyn's Daddy & Mommy

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still No Baby

Well folks, I'm not exactly sure what Éowyn is wanting.

I labored at home until around 3 am. Mom & Ryan helped me through each one, and between each one. We got into a pretty good routine of me walking through the contractions with Ryan, then me sitting on the birthing ball with Mom rubbing my feet or back, with a hot water bottle pressed against my back. The contractions were pretty intense, and I was getting so I was uncomfortable between them, too. 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, we headed to the hospital.

Once I got there, labor slowed down a little, which is considered normal. They trussed me up in triage, measuring the contractions, my heartrate & Éowyn's, my blood pressure, etc. I hated lying back on the bed in there- it made it harder to handle the labor, I felt. Then my midwife came and did an internal exam, and I really didn't like that. After that, the contractions seemed to be tapering away. We were offered a room in L & D, but I decided that if being at the hospital, with the internal exam, had stalled labor, then going on to get a hep lock in my arm (which I didn't want) and having to rely on liquids for nourishment instead of being able to eat (and I was already hungry) would probably make things even worse. And Mom & Ryan were falling asleep standing up-- at home they'd be able to get some sleep, and maybe I would too. So, at 6 am, we were back in the car headed home, with me still having regular contractions, but less intense and shorter than before.

We came home, Mom refilled my hot water bottle, I ate a little bit, and we all tried to rest. We all fell asleep, and now I'm awake again (4 1/2 hours later), feeling very sore, and contractions seem to be coming back... but so far nothing like what I had, and I don't know how regular because I'm not timing them or anything. I'm not sure what's going on, but the cynic in me isn't surprised-- didn't I say it felt like she'd never be born? lol Hopefully labor will pick back up soon. In the meantime, I'm trying to nurse my body into some semblance of normalcy, and be content in the Lord.

Guess I'll go and work on that choir stuff... :)

We'll keep ya updated. Man, I REALLY want to hold my baby after all of this!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Hannah

I can't believe you're a big FOUR year old today! Uncle Ryan & I hope you get better soon and that God lets Baby Eowyn be your birthday buddy! =D We sure love you!

--Aunt Christina, Uncle Ryan & Eowyn

Yes, she & her entire family are down for the count. :( Poor Val doesn't get sick days. My favorite Hannah quote of the day: "Mommy, is watching a lot of TV how we get un-sick?"

As far as hopes for our own daughter's birth-day...

Mom & I just got to peek at her via ultrasound-- she's got cute chubby cheeks! Everything looks great-- plenty of amniotic fluid, great heartrate & movement, placenta still quite "adequate." As far as readiness to be born, she's just sittin' on "go." 4 cm dialated, 90% effaced, head at station 0. No idea what she's waiting for. Maybe the weather to change? It is sorta rainy and dreary...
But we're still hoping she'll come today and be Hannah's birthday buddy!
**Edit: so we are working through intense contractions over here... 6-8 minutes apart. Our bags are packed & we're ready to go. Once they hit 5 minutes apart we are making like a baby and heading OUT! hehehehe :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Word on Loving Our Husbands

My Mom emailed me this excerpt from Moments with You, by Dennis & Barbara Rainey. I thought it was really good, so here I am passing it on! =D

"The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands." Proverbs 14:1

I often give three pieces of advice to young women before their wedding day. But because these remain just as important as we go through marriage and because they are fashioned by the Scriptures and proven by experience, I share them with you today—at whatever stage you find yourself in marriage:

- Believe in your husband. This is the most valuable gift Dennis says I’ve given him. You know your husband better than anyone. To see his faults and weaknesses and yet to believe in your husband’s God-given potential as a man and his leadership of your home does more than you can imagine for his spiritual growth.

- Be willing to confront your husband in love. Too many wives mistakenly believe they are following the biblical pattern of submission by ignoring or denying deficits in their husband’s life. But being submissive does not mean being silent. It simply means being wise and loving in how you approach him, treating him with kindness and respect. Say to your husband, “Could I talk to you about something?” Asking permission to broach a difficult subject may make it easier to get your message across. He is far less threatened and insecure this way.

- Pursue intimacy with him on every level. Most men consider physical intimacy the most important part of marriage. I’ve come to learn that it is central to my husband’s manhood. It’s the way God made him, and it is good. So rather than resenting it, learn to appreciate this aspect of your marriage as God’s design. And be willing to learn and grow, becoming God’s woman for your man. It’s not always easy, but with God, nothing is impossible.

A Few of My Favorite Things

...a few of my favorite of EOWYN's things, that is!

Besides the necessities and sweet things we've got ready for her, like carseat, crib, stroller, etc., we've got quite a collection of nifty, rather unique things too!
(clockwise from left):
pink doggy carseat neck support from Edwards family; Swaddler from Stephen & Jacqui (I have gotten several of these, as I hear they are GOLD); the Rockin' Ride Pony from the Ross family (it sings and moves its mouth!!); Paladin blanket made by me; pink hand-crocheted blanket from Grandma P's friend Mrs. Weaver; hand-knit (?) multicolored blanket by Aunt Kendi; security blanket with lots of silky "tags" (genius, huh?); canvas bow-holder made by Sarah Bebee (coworker); pink sweater hand-knitted by my parents' neighbor Nina; bib with detachable washcloth from Mrs. Lawson & Tekoah Lawson (my boss & a friend/coworker); hand-knit "lovey" from Tia Nicole (my sister); two boo-boo soothers-- one is a bunny called the Boo-Boo Bunny (from Mrs. Lawson again), one is a bear called the Feel-Better Bear (from my Mom)-- they have freezable plastic cubes in them to put on bumps & bruises! I've already used them on me, with great success! =D
In center: wooden ABC blocks from Dole family; baby's first bookmark (fabric, so it's chewable & washable!) from Mrs. Lawson & Tekoah (they picked really fun gifts)

And her mommy's favorite bits of gear: all FOUR of her carriers!
clockwise from bottom: the organic cotton Hugamonkey sling, which was so graciously given us by the creators themselves!; the infantino "Sling Rider" infant carrier (with straps to secure little bitty ones); the Ergo carrier, complete with a sleep hood; and an awesome 15-foot long wrap made by Aunt Kendi (with a little help from Uncle Greg =D)! I can't wait to start baby-wearing! We'll post pictures of both Ryan AND I modeling these very soon, never fear.

See what you can play with if you just come out, Baby Girl?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mom's Visit So Far

The sunset out Mom's plane window on the flight here

Mom & I walking down by the Ohio River at Waterfront Park

Posing with some Louisvillian Chickens

Ain't she cute!? = D

Me cooling off at our Splash Park during one of our walks down Waterfront Park

Out to dinner Friday night at Kashmir, our favorite Indian restaurant

Down at Waterfront Park again on Saturday for a Jug Band/Bluegrass festival

Our good friend Hayley came over Sunday evening to finish watching Lord of the Rings 3- the Return of the King... finally we've gotten through the whole series!!

Not Just Twiddling Our Thumbs

Today Mom & I got all my pre-k craft supplies shopping/pricing done, met with my choir replacement (well, I did that), baked a GF loaf, made a bunch of GF applesauce waffles (now frozen), made a giant broccoli salad, talked, baked 2 GF pizzas completely from scratch--including the tomato sauce, using garden tomatoes-- (again, one is awaiting consumption post-baby), did some other errands, and talked. Not bad, huh?

My two most recently completed projects:

1) A pillowcase for my body pillow (a wonderful gift from Ryan... I think he took pity on my sleeplessness. Except sometimes I get up at night, and come back to find that someone has stolen it...)

I really like how the buttons from my randomly assorted collection tie it together with the other colors in the bedspread.

2) A baby blanket for Eowyn, out of a giant Furman t-shirt I had laying around the house. The piping is from one of Ashlea D's old shirts. She's going to feel so comfortable in our home, with everything I've made from her cast off clothing, lol!!

Close-up of the quilting I did in the letters. Gotta have gear for her first Paladin game (whenever that might be...)!

Now I'm working on pillows from old towels for my pre-k classroom, and finishing up a parent resource packet for Choir... oh yeah, and finishing a French recording project for a textbook company. I guess it's a good thing Eowyn's giving me all this time to finish these things, huh? =D

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ok, Ok we'll go for the full 42 weeks

I felt this defined my life right now: "It can be very normal to start early labor, have it stop, and then have it start again in about 48 hours."

Guess we're right in the middle of that 48 hr window! :) Since about 10 am yesterday, I've felt quite back to my old self; meaning no labor signs at all. I'm trying to pretend I'm 36 weeks along again, and just enjoy time with my Mamita. We've gotten to go on walks down the riverfront (even stopped by a bluegrass jug band festival for an hour or so), Bardstown Rd., and around Shelby Park; we've done sewing projects, cooked, gardened, and of course TALKED. Yesterday she totally dismantled my kitchen & gave it the most thorough mopping it has seen in months. I took a nap. I asked her if SHE was having a nesting instinct, lol!

I slept great last night (well, great comparitively), and was awakened at 5:30 to the sound of gentle rain by a hungry baby. I think I may as well start getting ready for church... guess I'll go make some eggs or something more substantial. This banana isn't cutting it. =D

Maybe the Lord is trying to refocus my attention on HIM and His Kingdom. Fascinating as a new baby's coming is, it isn't the be-all or end-all of my existence; not now, not ever.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


unpredictable, yet unflappable.

A good word for me right now. =D

"What do you mean by the providence of God? (Question 27)

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” --the Heidelburg again

What Day Will Her Birthday Be?

"My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:15-16

It's kinda crazy to think that God already knows Éowyn's birthday (took us forever to figure out her name, and He already had that picked out, too, lol).

And then to think that WE will celebrate some unknown-for-now day for the rest of our daughter's life as THE Birthday. Kinda weird to think about.

I think the not knowing is the hardest part for me. It's a day I'm REALLY looking forward to, a day that will change my whole life... and I can't even count down to it! At least with my wedding day, I could. You can even do that with a vacation start day, or back-to-school, or whatever big day you're looking forward to. Not with this one. God is reminding me that HE knows what is best, and that I need to stay concerned with the Big Picture, and not just my personal desires & comfort level.

It's been a full week of difficult nights, with the past 2 being exceptionally hard. I have no idea if any of our efforts to jump-start labor worked (eating at Kashmir- our favorite Indian place- lots of walking), but I DID have contractions all night (even in my sleep-- DON'T WORRY ANNIE I WAS TRYING TO SLEEP =D). Every time I woke up at night, I was still having them, even this morning. They seem to have paused now, between the shower & breakfast... we'll see if they start back up. I was half hoping they'd stop, because they were the painful kind, but I also want her to come, so I was hoping they wouldn't stop, meaning they're finally "the real deal." Not sure how much more of this noncomittal (though painful & tiring) "pre-labor" I can take... I think I'll go clean something... =D

Thanks for keeping updated and for praying! One friend told me she'd been praying all night for me, and I'm guessing that's the only reason I did finally fall asleep last night, and sleep quite soundly despite the ongoing contractions. We'll let ya know if today is D-Day!

PS- today is her actual "due date" by my calculations. My midwife's was the 17th.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sweet to the Believing Heart!

How are you righteous before God? (Question 60)

“Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.”- The Heidelberg Catechism

Still Within

Éowyn Grace is still keepin' us waiting. Praise the Lord, I am sleeping better at night, which means I can bear the waiting better.

I'm running out of projects, though, lol. I guess I might make some pillows for my pre-K classroom, and then there's that French narration I need to do... And maybe going ahead and buying/mailing for all the birthdays in September & October. Mom & I are about to head out to Kohl's, the mall & Stein Mart. Anyone who wants to tag along, give me a call!

I have a lot of thoughts to blog, mostly coming from Care Group. They revolve around these 7 songs, as a sneek peek. =D These songs are so beautifully done that it's hard to only use their words, when the music makes the points as much as the bare text... if you have time and desire, I recommend listening to them. They are each so beautiful, powerful, and poignant.

1. I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow, John Newton (Indelible Grace 4)
2. The Silence of God, Andrew Peterson (Love & Thunder)
3. Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart, Gadsby (Red Mountain Church the Gadsby Project)
4. Cave of Adullum, Sara Groves (Conversations)
5. Holy is the Lord, Andrew Peterson (City on a Hill 3; The Gathering)
6. Kingdom Comes, Sara Groves (Add to the Beauty)
7. Lover, Derek Webb (She Must & Shall Go Free)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

40 Weeks! (tomorrow)

My Mom flew in last night, and we saw the midwife this morning, so as far as I'm concerned, Éowyn can come any time she likes now! I've declined any internal exams up until this point, because they really don't mean anything (you can go into labor whether you're dialated or not, and likewise can walk around several centimeters dialated for weeks sans baby), but since it is so close to her due date, I figured I'd rather know something than nothing... even though the "something" means nothing, lol.

So the results? I've lost all the weight I gained last week, which means my midwife was right in thinking most of it was water retention. I think not being on my feet teaching has had a lot to do with it, as well as our cooling temps here. Belly is still the same size, with the little Miss' heartrate strong & steady. She is definitely getting more cramped in there, and I can feel EVERY jab and poke whenever she so much as wriggles a finger. I don't mind, though-- it assures me she's ok. Her head is firmly lodged in my pelvis-- station -1 almost 0 for those of you who know/care what that means. =D It means she's really low. I'm 80% effaced, 2-3 cm dialated... which at least did tell me that all those nights & days of contractions (the past 3 have been especially fierce) have been doing their work.

I'm praying she comes today, I won't deny it. =D I want to meet her and hold her and kiss her and hear her crying. It wouldn't be so hard to stay this big & pregnant if it weren't for the rough nights. Every night contractions start just as I try to sleep, and I'm up about every hour. I figured out that if I sit up in our glider for a while, though, and breathe really deeply, they tend to stop and then I'm exausted enough to sleep (usually this happens around 4 am). So I'm doing ok energy-wise during the days, so long as I rest in the afternoons. Now that my mom is here, I expect it will be easier to do that, since she's always so eager to do chores for me. =D

All righty, that's it! We're basically ready & waiting for her to appear! Feel free to pray she'll come today or tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"North! or Be Eaten!" Blogtour...

Ryan & I LOVE Andrew Peterson's music.

We also love children's books. Especially children's fantasy.

So when we found out that we could get both Andy P & Fantasy in one package, we were eager to try it out. Andrew Peterson has recently begun to try his hand at another form of word-art. Not only is he still writing songs; he's now also writing a children's fantasy/adventure series called The Wingfeather Saga. Ryan & I read Book 1 (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness) aloud to each other in the first year of our marriage, and lent our copy out to as many folks as we could. Book 2 came out ON our second wedding anniversary (August 18th '09), so of course we planned to order and enjoy our own copy. Imagine our excitement when we got a chance to participate in the North! Or Be Eaten blogtour! Basically, we got our own free copy of the book, and then "have to" write up a blogpost on it during this week. Oh, please don't throw me in the briar patch! =D (Although it does sort of feel like I'm back in school with book reports due, lol.)

This series traces the adventures of the 3 Igiby children; Janner, "Tink" (Kalmar), and Leeli. They live, like everyone else in their land (Skree), under the opression of the cruel, venomous lizard-like Fangs of Dang. Their land is also populated by hilarious and fantastic creatures such as sea dragons, bumpy digtoads, horned hounds, and the notoriously awful toothy cows of Skree. While never truly free, at least the children had a loving home in Glipwood Township with their mother Nia and their ex-pirate grandfather, Podo Helmer... until the day when Leeli's faithful little dog Nugget angered a Fang, and everything went downhill from there. Through a series of wonderfully crazy events, the Igiby family routed & killed a whole horde of the evil Fangs, escaped with their lives, and caused the entire town of Glipwood to flee to nearby Dugtown to escape the wrath of the Fangs. They also discovered that they themselves are the hidden, surviving royal children of the lost kingdom of Anniera, a fabled beautiful Isle across the sea. Called the "Jewels of Anniera," they are sought after by Gnag the Nameless, and his plans to seize them are growing increasingly ruthless. Thus the stage is set for this second installment of the saga.

While I heartily recommend the first book to any & all adventure-lovers, this second one is even better! The characters are deepening, the story is widening, and the author seems to be settling into his stride as a writer. While the last book's humor tended to be bold-faced and silly -- at times a bit over the top, in my opinion,-- this book's hilarity is more subtle; interwoven into the descriptions & dialogue more than in (admittedly funny) footnotes-- though fear not, the footnotes are still there! =D One of my favorite of A.P's little tricks is slipping an incongruous adjective into a list of expected synonyms, with very humorous effect; such as the time Grandfather Podo is said to walk away from kissing the crone Nurgabob (his former sweetheart) with a look of mingled "fondness, sadness, and nausea."

Plot Summary
The chronicle opens with the Igiby family in hiding in the monster-infested Glipwood Forest. They've taken refuge in the treehouse castle (my dream as a child!) of the half-mad "Peet the Sock Man," who they now know and love as their very own uncle, Artham P. Wingfeather-- brother to their late father, Esben the King, and the last Throne Warden of Anniera. He is an amazing fighter, devoted to the children, and his spells of insanity seem to be lessening, though he still refuses to explain how he came to have talons instead of hands, and what broke his mind...

Their refuge soon discovered, they are pursued by Fangs, and must make for the Ice Prairies in the far north, where their reptilian opressors cannot survive, much less fight. There is a rumored gathering of resisters up there, and the family aims to join them, with their old friend Oskar N. Reteep, the book-seller, in tow. Their way is frought with dangers, of course, from the army of pursuing Fangs, and the monsters of the Forest itself. However, this book grows up a bit, with the worst dangers no longer being monsters, but rather the twisted of our own kind: people. First, there are the theiving Stranders, who would sooner kill and rob you than ask your name; later, there are parents so desperate that they try to steal any child for the Fangs in the hope of receiving back their own children-- two replacements for every child they have lost; and still later, there are children who have been so abused and downtrodden that all they want to do is ensure that others, too, merely see themselves as "Tools." The Igibys must also confront the mixed motives and fear in their own hearts which threatens to tear the family apart. Most horifically, we learn that the Fangs themselves- and the newer, hardier Grey Fangs, who CAN survive in the Ice Prairies,- are actually creatures to be pitied. (I won't say more on that for fear of ruining the story-- because I want you to go and read this book!)

So, besides the good story, why should you read this book, or give it to your 9 year old son to read? There are so many life-lessons packed in amongst the creatures, adventure, and humor. The foremeost themes which I noticed are: that of "Names-" duty & identity; family; honesty, guilt & acceptance; and true living (the search for a home). Let me very briefly take each in turn. Again, I don't want to say TOO much, so that you want to go get the book yourself! :)

Names- from the very first chapters, I noticed an emphasis on people's true names. Nia insists on using Peet's real name-- Artham. At first, each instance triggers an insanity attack, but as time goes on his eyes remain clear and he actually seems to be growing back into his formidable self-- the warrior prince, devoted to his brother the King, whom every maiden dreamed of marrying.

Names are tied up with our truest selves; with our responsibilities, our duties, and our identities. Janner, as the eldest Prince of Anniera, faces the task of defending his younger brother, who will be King, and caring for his sister, mother, and even grandfather (though the latter is far from a helpless old man!). Throughout the book, he wrestles with anger and hopelessness over this responsibility. It's a huge part of his character's growth. "Protect. Protect. Protect. Janner was no longer just Janner Igiby of Glipwood Township. He was Janner Wingfeather, Throne Warden of Anniera, protector of the throne, and protector of those he loved. [...] Artham reminded him that royal blood pumped through his veins, royal not just because of ancestry but because of the love of those who had gone before him and laid down their lives for him." (p. 54) During his captivity in the Fork! Factory, what keeps Janner sane and committed to escape is the remembrance of his name. He refuses to think of himself as "A Tool," but reminds himself of his name, and of the responsibility that goes with it: he must get back to his family, especially his brother. This sense of identity & duty not only leads him to escape, but to aim to rescue others, and in the end, to be responsible for his brother Tink's return to his own sense of self.

In contrast to Janner, Tink runs away, resisting the responsibility of being King, and tries to join the Stranders, whose clan leaders are quite UNresponsible. "A clan leader ain't in charge of anything. He does what he pleases, and the rest of the clan has to do what he pleases, too. Bein' a clan leader ain't about having responsibility-- it's about havin' none at all." (p. 116) Tink's flight from his name & duty very nearly leads to the utter loss of his identity; transformed by the enemy, he doesn't know his own name, his own family, or remember his own history. The tale's greatest moment of triumph, in my mind, comes at the end, as one brother's sacrificial love- as he clings to his duty despite all -saves the other, and brings him back to his own name and acceptance of his own place. I love that in this book "being true to oneself" has nothing to do with selfish self-fulfillment at all. It's all about self-lessly serving others, as your identity demands.

Family- This could go without saying, since the main characters are all members of one family. However, it goes deeper than that. The opression of the land of Skree by the Fangs has led to the degredation of the family, and we see that on so many more levels in this book than in the previous. Families are ripped apart as Fangs steal children in the night, never to be seen again. The desperation of the parents of Dugtown is one of the saddest, most touching aspects of the book. The most depraved group, said to be even worse than the Fangs, is the Stranders. These men are lawless, shirking every duty, and one of the things the children notice is a complete lack of family structure. Strander children fear Strander adults, the clan leader turns on his own mother, and there appears to be no difference between men & women.

Honesty, guilt & acceptance- Two characters have pasts from which they are running: Podo and Peet (Artham). Both have to face their guilt and failings, confess them to their loved ones, and both are shocked to find freedom from their guilt in that confession. "[Podo] moved through the days in peace and wonder, for his whole story had been told for the first time, and he found that he was still loved." (p. 321) There is mercy mixed with justice. Artham is completely freed from his insanity once he confronts his failings, faces them, and embraces his responsibility in the here and now. He is actually transformed into a magnificent, powerful warrior... it's a pretty cool scene.

True Living/The Search for "Home"- Throughout the book, Janner wonders where 'home' is now. They can't go back to Glipwood, they are on the run, and even the Ice Prairies hold no safety. He finally decides that the only home left to him & his family is the one where their kingship lies: the Shining Isle of Anniera. Various members of the family- Tink especially- grumble about wanting to go back to Glipwood, to the way things were, and Podo points out repeatedly that they didn't have a truely free life even then. They were always under the fear and opression of the Fangs. This realization spurs the Igibys on to try to free ALL of Skree from Fang control, as they know that without putting up a fight, no one will ever truly live free. Is it coincidence that 'Skree' rhymes with 'free'?

So there you have it-- my synopsis and mini-analysis of the book. I do hope it made you want to read it. :) It's an enjoyable adventure, and well worth the time. There are wonderful snippets of poetic prose as well as outright poetry. Parts are funny, parts make you think, and as always, the creatures are quite something else. This book is more serious in some ways than its predecessor: the children face real losses -even death- and must deal with them; they must wrestle with dangers from within as well as from without; and we see deep consequences for each person's choices. "Don't just follow your heart," Podo warns them, "your heart will betray you." (p. 51)

Me with Andrew Peterson at his most recent Louisville concert

Monday, September 14, 2009

I've been "gettin' stuff done!"

These 3 quilts were intended as graduation gifts for my two sisters upon their high school graduations, and a similar gift for my honorary little sister, Lena. Let's just say that Nicole is graduating from COLLEGE in December, and Anna & Lena are both starting out their junior years at Clemson University this fall.

With Baby on her way, I've been feeling the urge to finish any outlying projects (partly because that's just my personality, and partly because who knows WHEN I'll have time to do them once she's here!). The past two years, with me working full-time (and usually overtime), I've barely had time to maintain-- between daily life, VBS coordination in the summer, weekly times at church, and writing curricula. For the first year of our marriage, I didn't have ROOM for big sewing projects, anyway. Ryan & I have both been motivated to work on our home-- to fix things that sort of annoy us, and to generally make it a pleasant, ordered place to be. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy sewing and general "craftsy-ness." I doubt I will go this long without at least some sewing projects again! One other impetus for the project completion has been the drive for storage space. These projects, brought with me from Greenville, have just been sitting there in my limited shelf space, doing nobody any good. Yuck! Who wants useless clutter? So... here we go!

The idea was to get t-shirts from each girl which captured their high/middle school careers. You know how you get so many t-shirts in high school, and you sort of want to keep them because they have all these great memories attached, but you also know you won't really wear them much? Here is the solution! (that website suggests using iron-on interfacing to keep the t-shirt squares from stretching. I didn't use it, but it probably WOULD be helpful)

#1- Lena's Quilt

Lena's was the first quilt I did. I'd actually pieced the top 2 years ago, when I first moved up here and was still living with the Moores. I borrowed Sarah Hedrick's machine... then I moved into my own home and everything was boxed until we finished the floors a year later...

Back of Lena's quilt-- I managed to include her soccer jersey. Not easy to sew.

Lena origally started at Furman (my alma mater), so I had chosen purple (Furman's color) & blue (Eastside, her high school) for the dominant shades. You can tell she was into soccer and involved on campus & our church. GBC-ers may recognize VBS t-shirts, mission trip shirts & church retreats (every winter over New Year's we used to have "The Gathering" in NC).

#2- Anna's Quilt

Anna was really involved at Southside Christian, her high school, so her shirts are nearly 100% school-related. Even the "I heart NY" tourist-trap shirts are from her senior trip. Anna likes to be well put-together, precise, and well, let's face it, perfectionistic. =D (I used to get such a kick from going into her room & setting her pictures on the wall just the tinyest bit off... oh, sisters...) So she gave me shirts that easily matched, and I found a pretty girly-girl green (her favorite color) polka dot cotton that tied it all together really nicely.

The back of Anna's quilt-- I began to experiment with using the BACKS (and sleeves) of the t-shirts for the backing. Waste not, want not, right? It makes for a really cuddly, soft back... and what else was I going to do with all those t-shirt remnants?

#3-- Nicole's Quilt

Hers was just finished on Friday, and I was so proud of it! I made hers biggest (16 squares), so I finished it differently. With the other 2, as with Éowyn's crib quilt, I had sewn the backing & quilt top together on the machine, with the filling sandwiched between. Then all I had to do was turn them inside-out, and then hand-quilt. But this one would have been too bulky & heavy to do that way, so I did it the old-fashioned way and pinned it all together unfinished, quilted it, THEN bound it all together (as you can see on the back).

Nicole was really into cars in high school, thence the camaro print. =D This quilt captures her JROTC career, her summer jobs as a lifeguard & Camp Spearhead counselor, her involvement at Southside High (including the homecoming t-shirt she designed!), her middle-school summer in France, and her love for the youth at Grace Baptist Church. She also has a t-shirt from one of our favorite family vacations in there: a beach condo rented at Emerald Isle, NC with Tia Olga, Andrew, Tia Virginia & Uncle Alan, my cousin Courtney, and our adopted brother, Kyle. I brought him home for Sunday lunch one time and he never left... lol.

Nicole's quilt back

I was SO excited about this: I did it entirely with t-shirt remnants-- sleeves, backs, pieces of fronts. I LOVE using all of something. I always wanted to be a pioneer, as you know... and their life mottos was pretty much "Waste Not, Want Not." My sisters used to call me "mrs. savey-save" & my husband wants to give me a "The Planet Loves You" award for recycling... I think my second motto after Waste not... is "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." =D Quilting has always appealed to me because (originally anyway) it was a way to get yet more mileage out of scraps or worn-out clothes. I always laugh at myself when I go BUY yardage solely to cut up and then sew together into a big piece again (aka quilting as it's done today). I'd rather use what I already have... like the curtain scrap that became the blue in Nicole's quilt, or the small squares on Anna's quilt from a shirt someone gave me that was WAY too big (but was fun & crisp 100% cotton)... or the pyjama pants that were partially ruined with bleach which are the vertical purple pieces in Lena's quilt.

My current sewing projects are a baby blanket from a HUGE Furman t-shirt & one of my friend Ashlea's shirts, and a pillow case for my body pillow!! =D I think I'll have them done before Éowyn arrives. I have to put my feet up often anyway, so I just turn on an Audiobook or sermon, and sew away! =D I like this whole "nesting" urge!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When to Have a Baby?

I just got pointed to a blog based on a book that looks quite good-- Start Your Family.

This article in particular was really good.

One of my favorite paragraphs was this one:

"Babies shape our souls
Babies require great care—especially as they emerge into toddlers, kids and then teenagers. The parenting enterprise is not for the faint of heart. It is grueling at many levels. This can be intimidating for many couples who don’t feel very mature yet. But it’s in committing to the needs of a new life that couples are stretched into greater maturity. Children shape our souls like few other things in life, conditioning us to be more other-centered and to take a longer view of life. The demands of children that frighten so many would-be parents provide the crucible that is most likely to bring out the person God designed them to be."
I thought this quote was a good commentary on our societal state, too:

"One of the welcome side effects of the recent economic crunch is that people have been forced to look beyond their wallets in order to experience the truly good things in life. After getting the message for so long that babies stand in the way of exotic vacations and a catalog house filled with cool gadgets, many couples are finding that it’s those (often disappointing) pursuits that stand in the way of experiencing the joys of children."

Baby Shower 3

Corrie Ann, Me, Sarah & baby Brooklyn

Two of my co-workers at DSCS (my school)-- Corrie Ann & Sarah-- and a former co-worker, Suzanne, threw a baby shower for Ryan, Eowyn & I at the school last weekend. Grandpa & Grandma Presley drove over from Abingdon, VA, and Ryan's mom & step-dad drove up from Atlanta, GA in time to be there with us. That made an already encouraging shower extra-special!

A very excited Daddy

Opening gifts

Me 'n' Jenna-- one of my favorite 5-year-olds =D

Race, John, Morgan & Ellie eyeing the chocolate fountain.

The girls did an amazing job with the food, making it all gluten & soy-free (so I could enjoy it all), and super delicious!!

Besides our family, several of my fellow teachers stopped by, and so did my boss, which of course made me behave. =D lol actually it made it really special. A lot of "my" moms from last year came, along with several of my preschoolers from last year (such as Jenna & Ellie) and several of my choir students from last year. It was really fun to see them all, because now that I leave in the middle of the day I just don't see as many of them anymore! I did make it down during lunch last week, just to say hi to 'em and see how they're liking high school. =D My little kiddos growing up so fast!!

We have gotten some really unique & fun gifts, a lot at this particular shower. My personal favorites include a large bib with a washcloth that attaches for easy clean-up; a chewable, washable book mark; ABC wooden blocks (blocks are one of the very few MUST-have toys in my opinion); a security blankie with lots of silky tags all around it; the hand-painted name letters Sina did (see post below); a carseat pillow that looks like a little teddy bear and will keep her neck from giving out on long car trips; and an awesome singing rocking pony. Ryan's favorite is the "techie" gift of a crib-side gizmo that projects underwater scenes on the baby's wall or ceiling. heheh I have a feeling I'll find it on in OUR room.

What made this shower so special, though, wasn't the fun gifts, but rather the way our guests got the chance to "shower" Ryan & I with encouragement & advice. Guests were encouraged to write down 1) parenting advice, 2) memory-making or tradition tips, and/or 3) encouragements as to what character traits they see in us which will help us be better parents. It was really encouraging & convicting to me to hear things that experienced parents know matter, and to be reminded that this is NOT the time to spiritually slack off at all. Even if my circumstances are happier than ever, making it tempting to live very much in the surface-level of this present world (which for me is currently very pleasant), instead of continuing to invest in eternity, and the eternal souls around me. The advice was really good to hear, too. I'm glad they wrote it all down so I can refer to it later!! The memories that the kids picked out to share were fun to hear, too. If anyone's an expert on what is memorable to a child, they are!!

Some advice we received:
- Pray hard.
- Fix your eyes on JESUS!
- Give yourself grace. It's ok if you don't have a by-the-book baby.
- Treasure every moment & take lots of pictures!
- Rock & hold your baby whenever you want.
- Love & show mercy as you have been Loved & shown Mercy
- Don't take your child's sin & poor choices personally. We're called to teach them faithfully, not to make sure they turn out right.
- When Eowyn's big enough, make sure you teach her how to mattress surf. Take her old mattress & slide down a flight of steps into a bean bag. (OH YES!!! I'll call Tias Nicole & Anna in for this one!)
- Remember Advent.
- Listen twice as much as you speak, especially as they get older.
- Follow grandparents' advice on all things child-related (hmmm... wonder who put THAT one in, lol) =D
THANK YOU, Sarah, Suzanne & Corrie Ann, for such a blessing!

Ryan caught a couple pictures of me talking (not hard to do).

Brooklyn... one of THE cutest babies I know!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

39 weeks and Counting

Well, here I've made through 9 months. :) Quite a feat, if you ask me! =D People ask me all the time if I'm "ready" to "be a mom, and then whether I'm scared or not. Yes, I am more than ready to meet my daughter- to see who she looks like and figure out what all those long limbs that have been poking me look like in the light of day. And, no, I'm not scared. =D I figure I'm about as prepared for motherhood as I can be (which is to say-- still lacking a LOT). Labor will be painful, but it will eventually be over, and I just can't wait to look into her eyes, and know it was all worth it-- the heartburn, the swelling, the straining muscles, the giving tendons & joints, the stretching skin, even 5 months of vomiting... not to mention however many hours of contractions it takes to move her into our world. =D I think (in my ignorant state) that it will probably be like the distance runs I used to do: "I am going to die" for seemingly ages, then the adrenaline rush of the sprint to the finish, exhaustion & euphoria-- "I did it! That wasn't so bad..."

News this week?

Eowyn's still growing and moving lots. Very active, this kid. She really went ballistic during Transformers 2, which we saw in the dollar theater last week. It felt like I'd swallowed a windmill! She is nicely positioned; head-down and with her face towards my back (means less back labor if she stays like that). 4 more lbs gained last week... that makes 8 in the past 2 weeks. Part of that is water-- I've started swelling in my hands & feet-- at least it's not beset me until this, the very end. And it doesn't hurt; my feet just feel strange and don't look at all like my feet to me. My friend Jenny gave me a pedicure yesterday, which was heavenly. Now THAT's a friend for you. When I can see them, my cute toes make me smile.

Last night, Eowyn suddenly plunged even lower than before, meaning that I didn't get much sleep last night, between her hiccuuping, her moving, contractions, and endless trips to the bathroom. I think she was using my bladder as her pillow. I had to laugh when I came back to bed once, and Ryan had stolen my body pillow. I poked him to get him to move, and he looked around (still asleep, of course), utterly confused as to why he was laying horizontally across the bed. He then promptly laid almost completely on "my" side of the bed and went back into REM. I laughed to myself and pushed him over as best I could... I take up a lot of room these days. Anyway, it won't be long now. I'm cleaning and organizing like a mad woman, finishing projects left and right (more on that later), even tackling things like the closets and basement!

The only thing keeping me back from trying all sorts of tricks to induce labor is that my mom still isn't here: she's flying in on Tuesday; then all bets are off, and Eowyn may arrive at any hour she so chooses, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, Daddy has been coaching her to come during the DAY rather than night. We'll see how that goes.

I really enjoyed my 2 weeks of teaching, though not so much the early wake-up times to get there by 7:40 am (30 minutes across town, driving carpool w/ 2 other families...). The kids are precious and fun, and I'll sure miss 'em. I'm glad that I don't have to be on my feet like that anymore, though. It was really draining and my feet would get so swollen so quickly. My co-workers at school threw me a baby shower last week, and I'll post about that, too-- it was so encouraging and really fun. People at DSCS are soooo generous!

Ryan's side of our family was here, too-- Grandma & Grandpa Presley, and Mom & Dad Elder-- we got lots of projects done (by we I mean they =D), especially concerning the nursery, of course!! Mom & Dad gave us our crib, and Grandpa & Grandma contributed the mattress. It's all coming together so well!
Isn't it beautiful?

Diaper cake that is doubling as a decoration until we need the diapers-- a gift from my DSCS friends, Sarah, Corrie Ann & Suzanne

More decor on one of the shelves-- one of my favorite presents is the set of ABC blocks Eowyn just received from one of my students' families

Letters of her name done by Sina Shuey-- aren't they wonderful??

Shelf above her dresser filling up with books, frames & her crib quilt.