Friday, May 29, 2009

Back Home, While Mama Was Away...

Ryan had his stepfather over to play...

Well, work is more like it. They DID celebrate by watching two movies in one day, but that was after painting 2 entire rooms, priming and taping a third and getting that last room partly done. Ryan promises to finish when he gets home from HIS trip this week, to Chicago. Yes, we've been quite the traveling pair this week. Since I had the camera with me, he resorted to using a camera phone to send me evidence of his progress. Here are some pictures so you can see what our house is lookin' like!! (The living room & three walls in our one-day-dining room are now tan, and one wall in the dining room is red. The kitchen will eventually be two tones of green. The guys couldn't get a ladder tall enough to reach above the picture rail, but now a friend's lent us his, so that should be painted soon!)

Wonderful Bean Soup Recipe

We had this for Val's birthday lunch yesterday, and though it was a bit to "hot" for the kiddos, we all enjoyed it. If you have little ones, maybe serve their portions out before you add the pepper, and then load theirs up with sour cream. I think Val got the recipe from Being Frugal. com, and it is REALLY good!

TGIF’s Black Bean Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup diced onion — white onion
3/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups dried black beans (can used canned, too- we did this time)
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
shredded cheddar cheese – for accompaniment
sour cream — for garnish

Rinse dry beans and discard any rocks. Soak beans all day the day before you want to make your soup. Put them in the crockpot on low with enough water to cover them before you go to bed, and let them cook all night.

In the morning, drain beans and remove from the crockpot. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium/low heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to the oil and simmer slowly for 15 minutes or until the onions are practically clear. Keep the heat low enough that the veggies don’t brown and be careful not to burn the garlic or it will be bitter. While you cook the veggies, measure 3 cups of the beans into a food processor with 1 cup of chicken stock. Puree on high speed until smooth. (Val did it with a hand-held blender instead)

When the veggies are ready, pour the pureed beans, the whole beans, the rest of the chicken stock, and every other ingredient in the list, into the pot.* Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until soup has thickened and all the ingredients are tender. Serve topped with the cheese and a generous dollop of sour cream.

We served this soup with tortilla chips and a salad and called it dinner. What could be easier than that?

*If I’m going to be warming this in the crockpot all day, I add all the ingredients except for the whole beans to the crockpot at this time. I add the whole beans an hour or two before dinner, so they don’t get too mushy.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Holding Abby

I never have been so amazed at how much I can love a person before... with absolutely no effort on her part, I am completely entranced after 52 hours in her company. I just hold her and watch her sleep, marveling at her expressions, wondering what she is thinking, or if she's even able to think at all. She makes the funniest faces, moves her tiny limbs in the most natural ways, and I know it's all completely unconscious. AMAZING. Babies really are just amazing. I love her smell, sweet and clean and totally baby. I love her soft new skin, her downy skin, her rosebud lips. I took the night shift on Tuesday and even in my sleepy state at 3:30 am, I was just amazed at how precious she is. What a gift!

I remember how much I loved Hannah when she was born, 3 years ago. I missed most of Noah's babyhood (he was born 2 months after I got married), but fell in love with him when he greeted me at the airport. Now I'm in love with the newest Powell-- the one currently sleeping draped over the belly housing my own daughter... it's so true that your heart never runs out of love; you just are given more and more to share! This is especially true for believers, who are "dipping" out of the love of Christ in God!

What keeps blowing my mind is that in 3 1/2 months, I will be doing this all- the holding, the staring in amazement, the late night feedings, the spit-up drenchings, the diaper changing- again (and again, and again and again and...) with my OWN baby girl. Sometimes I go by a mirror holding Abigail, and I get caught off guard: "this will be ME in a few months." On the one hand, it just looks totally natural to me. I've always felt most happy with a child in my arms. But on the other hand, just thinking of the permanence of the situation makes me wonder "Do I look old enough to be a mother!?" Because, ready or not, here she comes!

I can't wait to meet you, Éowyn... can't wait to see whose hair you got and what your toes look like. I can't wait to breathe in your smell, and hold you as much as I can. I have a feeling I will be a "baby-wearer" to the core. :)

-- Mama Szrama

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Mom's Pictures from Toronto

You can see more pictures here!

Enjoying Toronto... the official sights to see

Backing up to the white cliffs (like in Dover)-- Hannah & me with matching bellies (Eowyn), "Mr. Karina", Noah

Betcha didn't know Toronto had gorgeous beaches, didya!? (Lake Ontario) Hannah (3 1/2), Me, Mom & Noah (18 mos).

I Miss My Ryan... this guy's (they're all over Toronto) not the same, despite the crazy headgear... ;)

On the way to the CN Tower (Chris pushing two babies, Val w/ Hannah)

At the top of the CN Tower (the second-largest freestanding structure in the world). My Mom was too freaked out to stand on the glass floor. After a little coaxing, Hannah wasn't scared!


Chris, Noah, me & Hannah at the top of the tower (downtown Toronto)-- Val stayed below to nurse Abby

Enjoying Toronto... the lesser-publicized delights

and the sights I love the most! :)
Parks! I'd never see these if I were on a Michelin Guidebook tour!

Hannah & Aunt Christina (when she says it, it sounds like "Ana Scrina")

And again! Slides really are fun!! :)

We had a little photo op...


Hannah, looking sooo sweet.

Me holding Abby (3 weeks old)... I'm so tired I look like I just delivered, lol

The happiest little man on the planet... when eating M & Ms or sliding backwards down the stairs!

Holding Abby-- this baby gets put down as little as I can help it-- between Mom & Val & I, that's not too often. I just have to put her down when my own baby gets too heavy... which is more often now, as I'm stretching faster & faster!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another little math visual

for those of us struggling with abstract proportion visualization... this time regarding the national debt:

thanks again for the tip, Jeannette!


Éowyn Rose (?) Szrama,
in the flesh... well... sort of :)
in the sonic image skeletal flesh, finally digitized for her far-away devotees.

My favorite shot-- look at that tiny nose! I love her little profile, down to the mini ears.

Tiny feet! I love 'em!! I FEEL them all the time now- usually on the left side, and especially whenever I hold another child against my belly. She kicks them off...not that they ever care enough to move.

With an open mouth, you can really see her jawbone, and it makes her look kind of creepy! But a mother can still love this face.

Now you can finally see what we've seen. Three weeks later I still forget she's there sometimes, then I'll get a nudge from within and it just makes me grin. I love carrying her! She's getting bigger and stronger, and different people-- my mom, my Aunt Robin, even "my" little Hannah, and certainly her Daddy-- have gotten to feel her kick 'em. She especially kicks if I'm holding something/someone against my belly or if I'm crunched over. Then she reminds me that I am not permitted to cramp her style. I'm still hoping she has her Daddy's temperament, but I'm not counting on it... the way she kicks, especially.

Here's a picture of me at 21 weeks (2 weeks ago) so you can verify that my belly actually IS growing.

Well, I'm here in Toronto with my Powells, eating up the new baby, Abby. I can't believe we'll get out very own in 4 months! She is a beautiful, sweet baby, and I couldn't be happier than with my arms full of her soft warmth, and my nose full of her sweet baby smell. Pictures to come. Noah is an absolute doll. He laughs uproariously at the drop of a hat, which is SO fun! He doesn't talk at all (well, unless you count "DaDaDaDaDa") but he chirps and grunts at different pitches-- he has a special one for his baby sister-- and points and grins at whatever he wants. Hannah has a dimple and curls, a literary bent and an extensive vocabulary. What more could I ask? Val & Chris are such wonderful friends, and I refuse to think about leaving them in 13 days ("all ten fingers, plus three of your toes" as I told Hannah). And to top it all off, my MOM is here in Toronto with me!

I've got places to go, people to see, babies to kiss-- three of them, actually! :)
--one Éowyn's wannabe heir, and another one's Mama

Friday, May 15, 2009

Southern Comfort Food

In honor of my planned gardening weekend (starting tomorrow), I indulged in a new favorite: fried green tomatos with garlic mayo. It's a bit insane that GREEN (unripe) tomatos cost more than red ones, so I have never bought them before... I mean, it's sort of dumb when you HAVE a garden full of them, but since I don't (yet), I indulged. :) Ryan doesn't like them too much, and I am NOT trying to convince him otherwise. I enjoy them far too much. Here's a re-posting of my gluten-free version:

Fried Green Tomatoes, Gluten-Free Version quick and easy!
1. Cut 6 large green tomatoes crosswise into 1/2" slices.
2. Combine 1/2 c rice flour, 2 c cornmeal, dried or fresh parsley, dried or fresh thyme, paprika, ground pepper and sea salt to taste.
TIP: scoop 1/2 of the mix into a baggie. If you need more, use it, but if not, you have the breading mix pre-mixed and ready to fry! (this recipe makes too much breading, which has to be thrown away if not used).
3. Dip slices 1 at a time into 1/2 c milk, then coat both sides with the cornmeal mixture.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet until it's hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Add as many tomatoes as will fit into a single layer. Fry until golden and crisp, turning once. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes, adding oil as needed.
5. Serve immediately with garlic mayonnaise. ENJOY!! The garlic mayo makes it. Crush a clove into 2 T of mayo (safflower for me), more or less depending on how strong you want it.
Powdered garlic works just fine, too. It's less strong, meaning my baby tolerates it. =D

One more new Szrama favorite, courtesy of my friend Jean, gluten-free chef extraordinaire!

1 T butter
1 t olive oil
3 T. onion or green onion, minced
3 T celery, minced (or 1 t celery seed)
1 clove garlic or 2 T garlic chives*, minced
1 lb ground chuck or beef
1/3 lb pork sausage (or ground beef with about 1 t sage)
2 T. tomato paste
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground sunflower seed (grind in coffee mill)-- or use ground flax seed
1-2 t ground flax seed
1 t Dijon mustard
1 T fresh parsley, minced (or 1 t dried)
3/4 t salt
1/8 t unflavored gelatin
pinch white pepper

Melt butter and olive oil together. Add onion, celery, and garlic chives; saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

In large mixing bowl, combine ground chuck and pork sausage with the sauteed onion, celery, and garlic chives. Add all the other ingredients. Mix with meat fork until all the ingredients are well distributed and mixed together, but don't pack it all together. Keep it loose but well mixed.

On a shallow pan with sides, form into a round or oblong loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour. Top with glaze and finish cooking for 10 minutes at 450 degrees (move to lower rack at this point).

GLAZE (make double or triple this amount. This is almost like catsup but way better.)

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar, to taste
1/16 tsp. ground cloves
1/16 tsp. ground coriander
1/16 salt

In small saucepan, whisk all ingredients together. Cook over low heat until slightly thickened. Coat the top and sides of the meat loaf evenly with the glaze.

We have enjoyed the meatloaf with brown rice-- it's simple and relatively bland, so the meatloaf takes center stage. You could also serve it with homemade bread. Oh yes and of course a green salad.

Ok... back to my fried green tomatos... oh they are driving me to worship the Creator right now! :)


I finally bit the bullet and spent the morning uploading, editing and posting pictures online. I had to for school-- we had a Mother's Day Tea in my preschool classes, and part of that entails taking digital pictures of each kid w/ his/her Mommy. They get a copy of the picture as part of their gift, to go in the frame which their child has made for them (they turned out SO cute!). Anyway, since I had to do that anyway, I did the whole load and put a bunch on Facebook for your viewing pleasure. Our Spring Time album has pictures from our April trip to Abingdon, VA (Presley side of the family- Ryan's Mom's surprise 50th birthday party); Easter here in Louisville with my mamita; DSCS happenin's; and my weekend trip down to Plain Dealing & Ruston, LA for my great- grandmother's funeral (the Thompson-Hillier side of the family). I got to see all of my cousins, which is a treat for me. Andy, Riley & Conner are getting so big, and are just such wonderful boys. I love watching them take care of the younger boys in our family- Luke (3 1/2), Collin (5), and Ross (2). I briefly got to see Luke's siblings, Caroline (5) & Baby Jack (15 mos) on my way back through Nashville, too, making it ALL my Thompson cousins... always so fun.

Oh yes, and photodocumentary evidence of the spoiling our daughter is receiving in utero. :) She's already got so much adorable stuff!! We can't wait to have her out here with us to enjoy them all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Really Should Read This Book

...another great Tim Keller quote:

“The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fearful need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father. . . . Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant (Philippians 2). He laid aside the infinities and the immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 86-87.

What Is Your Only Comfort in Life & Death?

Sorry for the lack of internet presence lately. On Friday evening I received word that my great-grandmother "Mama Blanche," had passed into eternity around 7 pm the previous evening. So I spent 12 hours traveling to Plain Dealing on Saturday, one day in Louisiana with my family (a bittersweet, wonderful first Mother's Day for me), and then another 14 hours traveling back on Monday... and up bright & early to teach this morning (Tuesday). It's so strange to think that on Thursday night, while I was eating frozen yogurt out with some girlfriends, Mama Blanche was drawing her last breath... after 96 years, her heart finally had enough of beating. 96 years. That's a long time. She remembered so much, down to the date, day of week, and time of day. She was my dad's mom's mom, from Plain Dealing, LA, a farm wife and home maker all her life.

A lot of people just assume that since it was an old person who died, the death was not such a big deal, and in some ways, they're right. Mama Blanche's death still felt sudden, I mean, there's always one second difference between life and death, and it's a short second... but it wasn't unexpected. Mama Blanche's body has been giving out for years, her mind lately too. When a very old person dies, it's somehow more like... fading... like we've slowly been losing her for years, I guess. She became less & less of an active part of everyone's daily life-- my grandparents went to visit and care for her every single day--such an example of faithful honoring of a parent--, and we all wrote & visited as often as we could, but she was less & less active in our lives, you know?

But death is just the crossing of a threshold into eternity. This life is just a warm-up, in some ways. How did Gladiator put it? "What we do here echoes into eternity"? Looked at in that light, 96 years doesn't seem so long. Either you spent good time getting ready, or you put in lots of years wasting time. The Bible calls it "heaping up judgement on yourself." It isn't a nice thought to think of anyone, much less someone you love, fading away into a rude awakening of torment, with God citing 96 years of spurned chances and delayed judgement now ready to fall in full. So, what sort of comfort do I-- does my family-- draw in this sort of situation? A "good life"? No. Not enough. Jesus said, "Many will say to Me 'Lord, Lord!' ... and I will say 'Depart from Me, I never knew you.'" A lifetime of church membership? Daily Bible reading? Favorite hymns? Active membership in WMA? No, none of these. The Pharisees (the religious Jewish leaders who plotted Jesus' crucifixion) had all that and more, and yet their hearts were as full of sin as any; particularly self-righteousness, selfishness, hatred, and utter disbelief in their own need for a Savior. Anyone can think he's headed to Heaven, and if he is trusting in his own merit, he's headed to Hell. So... what comfort is there?

The Heidelberg Catechism asks "What is your only comfort in life and death?" The answer is "That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him. " The comfort I want most to have in anyone's death is the comfort of knowing that that was their confession, their creed-- that everything they trusted in came from Christ. Was that there in my great-grandmother's life?

It's hard to tell, honestly. My great-grandmother came from that generation and region for whom Christianity was expected, accepted as a cultural way of life, and even lived out in a sense, but the emotional seat, the deep feelings, the warm affection for a Savior, were usually kept as personal. That generation didn't talk much about their feelings. They talked about crops, about the wars, about loyalty to family & country, and about honoring their place in their corner of the world... but they didn't talk much about themselves. It's hard to tell what was just cultural Christianity, and what really could have been genuine, totally-surrendered, abiding faith in the only Savior of sinners. All the Bible reading, the Christian jargon, the church attendance, those don't comfort me in the least. My great-grandmother lived a hard life-- farming in the river bottoms during the Depression and the World Wars; doing everything yourself, wasting nothing and going without. She wasn't the type of person who radiated tenderness or kindness to everyone. She spoke her mind, and it wasn't always sweet. But she did do right by people, and oh, she loved her family-- me-- deeply. She saved for every Christmas and Birthday for as long as she could, and sent us cards with money faithfully... she managed to spoil us all with the gum jar she kept stocked, with bacon and eggs and jelly buscuits, and the best pies and pork chops you ever had. My grandmother told me she cried when she thought she'd lost her wedding ring. She shone with pride and bragged on us, accepted us all unconditionally... there was no question at all that she loved us. Is that my comfort in her death? No... natural family affection is no sign of salvation-- it's just "natural." Salvation comes with a supernaturally changed heart.

There are a few comforting signs; the first that she did not fear death at all; she never had. She joked about wanting to make it to 100, and she certainly clung to life for a very long time, but she never showed a fear of dying. She talked about her funeral all the time. But the "clincher" for me, I guess you could say, came about 5 years ago (I think), though, when she had taken a turn for the worse and was hospitalized. My immediate family was there to visit, and we took turns singing for her. My dad was the last one to sing that evening, and he sang her favorite hymn, "Because He Lives." The last verse and chorus are: "And then one day I'll cross the river,/ I'll fight life's final war with pain. /And then as death gives way to victory,/ I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.// Because He lives, I can face tomorrow./ Because He lives, All fear is gone! /Because I know He holds the future/ And life is worth the living just because He lives!" She grabbed my dad's hand after he finished, and whispered, "Because He lives... yes, I know He does. And I just wish I could make sure everyone knew that He does." We all were so encouraged to hear her say that. (Another favorite hymn of hers was "Standing On the Promises") There was unsolicited conviction when she said those words, a total reliance on another... I wonder if she loved the words of that song because there were mornings when she really didn't know how else she was going to face that day, except by knowing that He lives.

The other two things that give me comfort are the efficacy of the simple Gospel, and the mercy of our Savior. My great-grandmother did hear and read God's word for 96 years. She read her Bible & the devotional "Our Daily Bread" daily, along with hundreds of Christian books & magazines. She heard countless sermons, and I know that in at least SOME of them if not all, the Gospel was presented. I put my faith in the power of that Word to save. Faith comes by hearing, we are told, and I know she heard a lot. I hope and prayed that her hearing had borne the fruit of faith. I also trust in the mercy of my Jesus, that even if Mama Blanche (or anyone else) didn't have every theological i dotted and t crossed, but still clung to a simple trust in a Savior for sinners, which she knew herself to be, then she could be saved. "I know My own, and My own know Me," the Good Shepherd said (Jn 10:14). I trust that if my great-grandmother was indeed one of His own, He and she knew one another and are even now communing in glory, along with my great-grandfather and countless other saints gone before. God is the righteous Judge of all the earth; will He not do right? I am at peace. It's not my job to judge-- that's His, and I leave it in His good hands.

I know this has gone on a bit, but these are the thoughts I have been (and I suspect at least some of my family has been) wrestling through. I am so incredibly thankful that the testimony of my parents, and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins is so unquestioned; that I will never sit at one of their funerals, listening to the minister reassuring us all that so-and-so is "joyfully at the feet of Jesus, at peace and in glory," and wonder- just a little bit. No, I know that I'll be able to write, like Margaret Paton did of her own recently-deceased mother, "even yet, she is now with her Lord, to whom her whole soul was so devoted." (Letters from the South Seas, p. 155), of each of them-- and I rejoice! I myself am resolved, by the grace of God, to live the kind of life which will leave my children confidently rejoicing in my Home-going (or sadly shaking their heads at my delusions if they themselves are not Believers). I urge you, readers, to take this to heart, and ask yourselves: "Am I living out the kind of life which will leave my children with no doubt of my devotion to my Savior, and my utter trust in HIS righteousness-- HIS goodness-- for my own salvation?

Well, all that traveling on top of the normal pregnancy wear is taking its toll on me. I can scarcely keep my eyes open right now. I am going to bed! Baby Girl is well and kicking, hard enough that others can feel it if they put a hand on my tummy. My Mom got to feel on Mother's Day- how cool is that? I'm really popping out, all of a sudden, according to several people from school. My ligaments pull and stretch and hurt so much these days. I guess she's just growing-- and I am so glad! Keep it up, Baby Girl; your mommy & daddy want to meet you!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


...Baby GIRL Szrama!

We had the privilege of seeing her kick and turn and move all over my uterus yesterday afternoon, and everything looks perfect! She's active, right on target size-wise, with all 10 toes (I couldn't count fingers, but I saw two little fists clenching and unclenching!!) It was amazing that they could go right down and see her diaphragm, liver, kidneys, bladder, stomach, spine and each little rib. My favorite was seeing each ventricle of her heart contract and relax. It was awesome! She's already inheriting her mommy's low resting heart rate, I guess-- for all that activity she gave us, it was still 145 bpm.

I'll somehow get the pictures on here for you adoring fans. Her little profile is precious, and I was shocked at how much she looks like baby pictures of myself- the way she pooches out her little lips, and the shape of her nose and chin. Crazy! I'm still praying she gets her daddy's curls- lots of them. I was bald until about 18 months... so... yeah. As far as names go, we're quite undecided. Now Ryan HAS to start thinking of girl names for real, lol. I'm requesting lots of baby name books from the library... my middle school boys recommended Spencer, Bertha, and Faith Joy. Hmmmm....

Everything looks on track for a September baby. The due date window is Sept 17th-26th, so maybe I'll get my birthday buddy after all (Sept. 28th). We went to Outback (Ryan, his buddy Rob, and my father-in-law Bill) to celebrate baby's first picture, and then the guys were good sports and trailed me to Babies R Us, where I registered for a few (pre-selected!! We were very quick in there!) items. The rest is at Wal-Mart or various online vendors...and so much we have already been given!! Daddy's job is setting up our own registry page at stay tuned!

We're having a baby girl, WOOOHOOO!!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Two More Days of Wondering...

On Monday, Lord Willing, we find out whether we are proud parents of a baby boy or a girl! I can hardly wait to see our munchkin on the screen!! Ryan's parents are coming up to be there for the big moment!! We'll let you all know, of course, and will find some way to post our baby's first pictures on here.

My best friend Val is going to be induced on Tuesday, so we keep joking that she'll find out just how big her baby is on the day after we find out WHAT our baby is. I can't wait to see baby Abigail Elizabeth... and in just 3 little weeks I'll get to hold her in my arms, and my Hannah (3) & Noah (18 mos)! I am SO ready for school to be done, just so I can go be with them (up in Toronto)!

Poor Ryan has the virus I had that started the whole sinus-infection-cough-cold-flu thing. :( He's been bed-ridden and feverish, and I'm just glad I'm well enough to get up and take care of him now! Hopefully since he isn't pregnant and so doesn't have extra estrogen flooding his mucus membranes, he'll skip the sinus infection part!

EDIT: Abigail Elizabeth Powell was born on May 5th, at 11:57 AM (2 weeks early, and still get this next part) weighing 9 lbs 14 oz.
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Mommy & Baby, both looking good after quite the fast arrival!

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Noah & Hannah meeting their baby sister. Hannah's asking to hold Abby.

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I love this one of her with her big sister, Hannah. Look at that cheesy grin! I can't wait to hold them both in 2 weeks!

Library Catalogued!

Well, I felt 1/2 way decent for the first time yesterday... well enough to want to stay standing long enough to vacuum or do laundry or dishes, or even dusting! I still can't do much for long, so I worked in spurts to tidy up first the living room, then the library, and the kitchen intermittently. I still haven't tackled any hard cleaning-- not quite ready to handle the chemicals, I don't think, but it's a start! The perfect "go-to" for me was our bookshelves, because in between standing-up-chores, I could sit down and work with our books. Ryan & I love books. We've already got a two-bookshelf library started for our children, and they don't even have working lungs yet!

So, what did I do, you may ask? Ryan had gotten a slew of books as part of his work for Zondervan (they were VERY generous!!), and the time to proudly display them (on our floor) was past. Care Group had sufficiently oohed and aahed over them. He's also aquired several tomes through his class at seminary, and I've procured books here and there for Book Club, or just whatever. It was time to re-organize. I had to re-do some of the displays to make room for everything new, and found to my chagrin, that I couldn't remember all my categories! I also did NOT want to commit the egregious sin of putting one of Ryan's books somewhere he might not be able to quickly find... so... a little fiddling with a database program, and...

TA-DA: the Complete Electronic Szrama Library Catalogue!! We now can access books by authorial name, by title, by keyword, by category, even binding type if we feel so inclined. There's a little spot telling me where each book is (ex. "Coffee Table" or "Binder Shelf," or the more boring "Literary Classics"...quite a few have people's names by them, showing we've lent them out) and how many copies we have. Can you tell I'm a little proud of my work? It was so fun handling each volume-- like visiting with old friends. I've been motivated to re-read or finish several books now, such as Margaret Paton's Letters from the South Seas (so good!!!).

So why am I blogging about this? Because I've been reminded of how helpful and delightful so many of these books have been to us, and would be to most anyone. So I came up with a "If you liked ___, then you'll love ____" mini-list for you. Feel free to comment or email me with your own additions.

To help with categories, I gave one mainstream book of the same catalogue, sort of by way of comparison:

How does this list work again? If you liked ___ (and/or found it lacking), then read:
- _____:

1. Parenting-If you liked Growing Kids God's Way, Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo (and/or found it lacking), then read:
-Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)... I just re-read this before lending it out, and want to give it to every parent at my school!

2. Marriage: not really sure of a "mainstream" marriage book... :) So many of them have their place and their own helpful niche... but the best I've read so far is:
- When Sinners Say 'I Do' (Dave Harvey)

3. Church: If you liked The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren (and/or found it lacking), then read:
- Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Mark Dever) or
- The Enduring Community (Brian Habig/ Les Newsom)

4. Life Motivation: If you liked The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren (and/or found it lacking), then read:
- Don't Waste Your Life (John Piper) or
- The Cross-Centered Life (C.J. Maheney)

5. Revalation Fiction: If you liked The Left Behind Series, Tim LaHaye (and/or found it lacking), then read:
- The Last Disciple Series (Hank Hanegraaf w/ Sigmund Brouwer)

6. Fighting Lust: If you liked Every Man's Battle, Steven Arterburn (and/or found it lacking), then read:
- Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) (Joshua Harris)