my sweet boy is one!  james' birthday was last weekend, celebrated in hotel rooms and banquet halls as i attended the relevant conference.

not being home, he got a little bit of a raw deal in that there was no official party, but truthfully, we're not much for those around here anyway.

i have photos of j eating his first cupcake and opening presents, but our camera is being uncooperative, so you'll just have to take my word for it that cake was had, and james enjoyed every chocolaty bite:)

my parents came to relevant for two nights to spend time with james, so even though we weren't home, he got lots of wonderful face time with grandma and grandpa.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.  -James 1:17-18
james, sweet boy, you are a precious gift.  your joy and energy bless our home.  you love to play (even independently!) and you are so good with your hands.  you love your big sister, and i am so thankful for how you and dylan play together.
  How good and pleasant it is
       when brothers live together in unity!   It is like precious oil poured on the head,
       running down on the beard,
       running down on Aaron's beard,
       down upon the collar of his robes.

  It is as if the dew of Hermon
       were falling on Mount Zion.
       For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
       even life forevermore.  --Psalm 133
at one, you say mama and dada and a variation of both dylan and stinky;)  you stand with confidence, cruise like a champ, and can take up to four steps.  i think you'll be running after dylan any day now.  you love playing with the kitchen and cars, and you hold up one finger when we ask you how old you are.

one year with james has gone so much faster than dylan's first year.  i'm glad that james is still nursing, so he can be my baby a while longer:)

happy birthday, sweet boy.  we are so thankful that God blessed our family with you.


the only Word that matters

sometimes, it's just good to get away.

after several weeks of parenting challenges, including vampire-babes, sickness, and a few days i longed to wash away, i was beyond happy for a break.

i got one, in the form of Relevant, the blogging conference that wasn't.

what i mean is that it wasn't really about blogging.  not exactly.  i didn't learn any technical tricks or secrets for growing an audience.

i learned much about writing for an Audience of One.  

about blogging-as-ministry:  a platform for telling God's story, his work in my life.

of writing as a gift from God, offered to God.

it was a different sort of blogging conference, and for that i am so thankful.

to hear from godly women was a gift: ann from holy experience, kristen from we are THAT family, jen from balancing beauty and bedlam, courtney from women living wellsally clarkson from and crystal paine shared much wisdom on parenting young children and prioritizing God and family.

it's probably the only blogging conference ever to encourage bloggers to spend less time online, and it was exactly what i needed.

it was fun to meet women who share my faith and love of the written word.  i am grateful for the generous support of my parents, in-laws, and a kind friend who made my attending the relevant conference financially and logistically possible.  you are blessings, all!

the conference closed saturday night with a time of singing.  i love my traditional, liturgical church, but my spirit misses the music that makes me raise hands in praise.  it was good and fitting to worship together, we sisters and members of the [little-c] catholic [big-C] Church.

i hadn't been on a retreat that i hadn't led since college, and relevant felt like one in many ways.  i needed to hear godly teaching, to be challenged and encouraged.  to meet with God.  to enjoy a sabbath from dishes and distraction.

it was restful, even with my nursing baby along for the ride and a busy schedule of seminars.  God always provides, and this weekend he gave me the time, space, and encouragement my heart needed.

  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
       my hope comes from him.

  He alone is my rock and my salvation;
       he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

  My salvation and my honor depend on God;
       he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

  Trust in him at all times, O people;
       pour out your hearts to him,
       for God is our refuge. 
-Psalm 66:5-8


that your soul may live

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
       come to the waters;
       and you who have no money,
       come, buy and eat!
       Come, buy wine and milk
       without money and without cost.

 Why spend money on what is not bread,
       and your labor on what does not satisfy?
       Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
       and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 

  Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
       I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
       my faithful love promised to David. 

  See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
       a leader and commander of the peoples. 

  Surely you will summon nations you know not,
       and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
       because of the LORD your God,
       the Holy One of Israel,
       for he has endowed you with splendor." 

  Seek the LORD while he may be found;
       call on him while he is near. 

Let the wicked forsake his way
       and the evil man his thoughts.
  Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
       and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 

  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,"
       declares the LORD. 

  "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

  As the rain and the snow
       come down from heaven,
       and do not return to it
       without watering the earth
       and making it bud and flourish,
       so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 

  so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
       It will not return to me empty,
       but will accomplish what I desire
       and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 

  You will go out in joy
       and be led forth in peace;
       the mountains and hills
       will burst into song before you,
       and all the trees of the field
       will clap their hands. 

  Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
       and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
       This will be for the LORD's renown,
       for an everlasting sign,
       which will not be destroyed."  --Isaiah 55


on books and boa constrictors

although her birthday isn't until next month, the librarians kindly made a place for dylan in their three-five year-old story hour class.  parents don't attend this "big" kid class, and my independent girl loves every minute.

i love that she loves it.  library was always my favorite "special" in school.

(i never was the cool kid, which pretty much goes without saying.)

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Washi love a canvas bag, heavy with books, and taking the kids to the library each week is a treat--possibly more for me than for them.  last week, we picked up The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash, the tale of a class trip to a farm gone awry.  it was a favorite of my first grade class, and i remember reading  it often, twenty-some years ago.  the story and illustrations are silly and fun, and dylan enjoyed it too as we snuggled together one afternoon before her nap.

after jim and dylan dropped james and me at the wonderful Relevant conference in hershey [which i will share about but am still processing], they continued on together for a daddy/daughter weekend in brooklyn.

as they crossed the verrazano bridge, dylan called out to jim [often called jimmy] from the back seat, her eyes twinkling:
"daddy, i'm sorry you lost your boa constrictor at the farm."
she is not even three and is making literary jokes.  my heart might burst.


and the world spins madly on

it's been a bit of a rough season.  summers are stressful with the hours jim works, but life after camp has been a harder transition for the kids than i'd anticipated.  clearly, as it's been two months and we're still working through this.

summer was lonely as life and relationships got swallowed up and time with jim was never enough, but camp did provide consistent structure for the kids.  meals at camp were times we could see jim, however briefly, and they anchored our days.  believe me, i am thankful to be preparing meals again and not to be tethered here at 12:30 and 5:30 every day, but our routine has suffered.

i added back the activities and relationships that were sorely lacking from our summer, and the kids in turn subtracted sleep.  and how!

you know how it goes.  you're out during naptime and your child is too tired to sleep later, ensuring bedtime will require the kind of military precision that is just not possible without, well, a military.  the sleep deficit balloons over days weeks months, kids get sick, and pretty soon you're up from 3-5AM with an exhausted, screaming baby who is nursed and changed and somehow still too tired to sleep.

i can count one one hand the moments both children have napped at the same time in the past two months, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to make a phone call.  or finish the dishes.  or write a blog post.  or take a shower. 

my kids are not-yet-one and not-yet-three.  they need naps.  i need them to nap.

a wicked stomach bug took all four of us down this past weekend, exacerbating our collective sleep woes.  we're healthy now but even more exhausted.

i'm taking the baby to the relevant conference for christian bloggers this weekend.  i'm nervous about it, what with his vampire-like sleep habits, but excited, too.  my parents are meeting me there to help with james.

and i will have some real grown-up time.  with other writers.  women who love Jesus.

and the one upside of all that hoarking last weekend is that i may just fit into a decent outfit or two. 

would you pray for us this weekend, for safe travels and soul rest?  what about you?  may i pray anything on your behalf?  hopefully not in the middle of the night, but between the perfectly prayer-worthy hours of 7AM-11PM.  does that sound good?  great:) 

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter 
and your lips with shouts of joy"  (Job 8:21).


recovering. with tri-cornered hats.

jim got back in the wee hours of tuesday morning after building a playground in costa rica for seven days.  they had a great trip, and we are so thankful to have him back.  really, really thankful.

i haven't written much partly because i didn't want to advertise that we were home alone, but more than that, i just couldn't put together any words.

to be honest, it was exceedingly difficult to function at all.

the kids slept like vampires.  not nocturnal, sleep-all-day vampires but the broody, never-sleep-at-all Cullen-variety vampires.  yes, i read all the twilight books.  stop judging.

in all seven days, there was only one 45 minute window in which i managed to get them to nap at the same time.  i still haven't bounced back.  especially since last night, dylan had some sort of awful bug and vomited through EIGHT CHANGES OF PAJAMAS.

all i can say is, praise the sweet Lord Jesus that jim was home for that particular catastrophe because that would have put me waaaaaay over the edge last week.  (d has been hoark-free since 8 am today, and so far things are looking up.)

there were grace-filled moments, too, during my marathon solo parenting gig.  a friend came by to play with the kids and another helped with bedtime on an especially difficult night.  we had two playdates here which brightened a rainy week.  friends whose husband/dad was also on the costa rica trip  had us over for dinner twice.  not hearing from jim at all was tough, but we weren't lonely.

plus, we got to hang out with one hundred thousand of our closest friends at Fort Ligonier Days, the three day festival in which our little town resembles Mecca during the Hajj.  or first century Bethlehem during the census, as our priest likes to say every christmas. 

are those comparisons not helpful?  how 'bout five overlapping dave matthews band festival shows with about 99% fewer frat boys and 100% more french and indian war reenactors, shriners, kettlecorn, and crafts?

i went to college at william and mary.  seriously, i cannot get away from colonials. 

also, this is the first time in over a month blogger actually allowed me to upload a photo from my computer.  feeling a little bummed i wasted this opportunity on all the kings' men instead of say, our vacation photos, but whatever.  (anyone else on blogger having trouble with uploading pics since it changed things?)

iight, i am exhausted and barely coherent.  have a lovely weekend, friends.

and to all a good night!



steam rise
water scald
skin pink

hot enough to burn away
the whining?
the crying?
the yelling?

i close my eyes and breathe in deeply

inhale quiet

wash away the sick and sleepless yesterdays
will heaviness and anger down the drain

say a prayer
turn off the water
and dripping,
re-enter the fray


the chemical component: cosmetics, cleaners, and cancer

Write pink

I don't know why my sister Tiffany got breast cancer at the age of 36.  I don't know why anyone does or what the likelihood is that I could get it, too.

It's scary feeling at-risk.

Eating well and exercising are important for breast health and good health overall, but isn't there anything else we can do for cancer prevention?  When the research and advice can be confusing [soy! no soy!], what do we know?

I know that we interact with hundreds of chemicals everyday, and the FDA does not require health studies or safety testing for ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

No one is regulating the chemicals we lather onto our bodies or the manner in which they interact.  Is it possible that our cosmetics could be causing some cancers and other health problems?

Click here to read the rest of my post.

I am guest posting today at This Heavenly LifeI hope you'll click through and and stay to check out Sarah's great site, too.


in it to win it: fight breast cancer with action

october is breast cancer awareness month, which will be hard to miss in the media blitz of the next few weeks.

but aren't we aware already?  do your self-exams, mammograms after 40, race for the cure, wear pink for support, etc.

breast cancer is personal for far too many, but there is still much work to do:

200,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.  1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime and we still don't know why.

genetics play a part.  but some people with the gene remain healthy while others get sick.

lifestyle plays a part.  we're instructed to stay active, eat well, breastfeed, not smoke, drink in moderation, and limit exposure to estrogen, but a healthy lifestyle is hardly a get-out-of-jail-free-card when it comes to cancer.

my sister [who finishes radiation treatment this month!] is fit and the only person in the family to be diagnosed.   an acquaintance of mine, also in her 30s, had a mastectomy last week, and she is a triathlete.  my uncle beat breast cancer last year and he's a man.  obviously.

we all want to reduce our risk, but the reality is that breast cancer doesn't always play according to the odds, and it can strike people indiscriminately.

how can we prevent something we don't yet understand?

that is where the Army of Women comes into play--an exciting initiative that allows us the opportunity to do something in the fight against breast cancer.
The Love/Avon Army of Women (AOW) is a unique program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit breast cancer research organization. The program is funded through a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women.  The AOW provides an opportunity for men and women to take part in breast cancer research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer – and how to prevent it. The AOW is a groundbreaking initiative that connects breast cancer researchers via the internet with women who are willing to participate in a wide variety of research studies.  The goal of the Army of Women is to recruit ONE MILLION MEN AND WOMEN of all ages and ethnicities, including breast cancer survivors and those who have never had breast cancer.
the Army of Women research studies are prevention based--not clinical trials.  anyone can become a volunteer, all studies are voluntary and completely free, and you can pick which studies interest you.  here's a list of current open studies.

the more people sign up, the greater the research pool, and the closer we are to unlocking the secret that kicks breast cancer to the curb.

wearing pink is great, but this october, would you join me in doing something more to fight breast cancer?  join the Army of Women.  let's make this fight personal.

sign up and then spread the word!  share about the Army of Women with your friends using this email form, post about it on facebook, or tweet using the hashtag #WritePink.

also, check out the bigger picture blogs all month long for more about breast cancer education, prevention, support, and survival, as well as a chance to win some prizes.

oh yeah, and this:
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