Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sweet as pink sugar frosting, Grace said last night getting ready for bed, "Mama, I love you. I'm never gonna let you go. Don't ever let me go, Mama."

Moments like this make it all worthwhile~
Special thanks to Sarah for this great cake face photo during our visit. AND a happy CONGRATULATIONS on your own little cupcake in the oven! We love you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

First things first~

Look at me...I am all about Christmas & didn't even post my Thanksgiving Smilebox & memories yet.

We are indeed thankful for many things...foremost in our hearts this season is Nicki's recovery, healing & restoration. How wonderful to sit & laugh with this guy who was near death just over 5 weeks ago. Thanks to you who prayed with us, for us and believed for a miracle on his behalf! Check out that smiley guy on the cover page of my Counting My Blessings smilebox~
Click to play Counting our blessings~
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Also really thankful for a great time at Tracy & Dave's house with Dad, Russ and the kids. Bring on the Rumicub & something new, but not so speedy...Monopoly Electronic Banking edition. Hmmm....let's play with the money folks, but we still had a great time. Something about those dice sure made for lots of laughs. :o) We've got to find that coconut cream pie recipie~ Sweet visit with Aunt Helen & Bill...thanks for the under the tree surprises~ AND we took a drive to visit our most loved Grandma-Aunt Jean. The kids cooked her up a birthday cake and seranaded the lovely as she donned the "Birthday Cape". Fun! Lots of giggles from Bob & Angie. Sad we are so far with visits so few between. I don't know...with a promise to dazzle Grace for an overnight visit...I might just make my way down there really soon.

Discovering Christmas

Click to play Christmas Firsts
Let's just say we've made some discoveries the last few days. A couple of weeks ago, crazy us braved the weather, the train and the crowds to particpate in that silly world record breaking Christmas caroling group. Yes, we did & had fun doing it! Here we are singing with 12,000+ other voices. Directly in front of the WLS booth, if you look reallllllly close, maybe you can see us! Yes, that's us right beside fellow CLCers Stacy & Caitlyn. Fancy seeing someone we know rightwhere we landed the stroller. Oh what fun....

Anyway, so we made history with that big sing along. THEN finally, the Magnificent Mile Festival of Lights began with none other than Mickey Mouse himself leading the parade. Minnie Mouse came along later. Thankfully, Grace caught a glimpse of a few princess-ish ladies. No matter it was not Cinderella or Belle as she hoped. The no show was Tigger. Interestingly, he was also absent at the Winnie the Pooh & Friends production earlier in the day. If you recall, that bouncy guy was no where around at the zoo with the other Pooh friends. I digress.... Rounding out the evening downtown, Santa Claus rode in on his sleigh accompanied by a blizzard of paper snow. Delight-FULL!

Now we've discovered Christmas parades and Santa. We are sure we like decorating gingerbread houses and singing Jingle Bells with a frenzy of other people. Forward to Thanksgiving Day and the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. THAT is a parade! Gracie just so happened in the room when Island Princess made her debut; singing, swirling & twirling, capturing my Gracie's heart. Now we've discovered Barbie & just how lovely she is with her blue gown and feathers behind her head. Couple this wide eyed princess wonder with a cousin who has a Christmas wish list....viola! Now we've got a letter to Santa with wishes of our own.

Over the last few weeks, we've happily watched the scary lawn ornaments turn festive with Christmas cheer...snowmen & Santa, to the messiah in the manger. Gracie wants to decorate for Christmas. She wants to have a Christmas tree. In efforts to appease the little miss without totally losing my senses after driving 6 hours in the rain from St Louis back to Chi-town, I pull out her little baby tree. Moments later, she's adorning her little EVERgreen with unbreakable pretties; ever so carefully placing this one & that in her cozy "teddy bear" jammies, as papa called them. She's happy now...but not for long. Come tomorrow evening, we will put up our big tree, twinkle lights and all.

I'm happy to have one so delighted in helping me adorn the tree with memories from here to China; from pewter Edelweiss to blown glass from Lake Como to Baby's 1st Christmas rocking horse. It's the most wonderful time of the year indeed! Hope you enjoyed this Smilebox of Christmas discoveries & firsts for the growing up Grace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Like family~

Gracie, Papa Jerry & Grandma Chris

Gracie had special visitors at preschool yesterday for Grandparent's Day. My long time, but certainly not old, pastors, Jerry & Chris McQuay, accompanied her to this special celebration of folks we love. It was really special to have them there given my family lives so far away. No doubt Gracie was delighted to have the undivided attention of not one, but two play partners...she told stories all the way home about pink cupcakes, birthday parties and building barns with legos...who was who while playing house and who did what. She's all into role play, "Now, I'm the mom/princess/teacherl, etc and you're the....daughter, dog, doctor, etc." I think Grace enjoyed most being chased around by Papa Jerry and she said she hopes they come again tomorrow. Sweet!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Happy Childhood

"Walk in the rain, jump in mud puddles, collect rocks, rainbows and roses, smell flowers, blow bubbles, stop along the way, build sandcastles, say hello to everyone, go barefoot, go on adventures, act silly, fly kites, have a merry heart, talk with animals, sing in the shower, read childrens' books, take bubble baths, get new sneakers, hold hands and hug and kiss, dance, laugh and cry for the health of it, wonder and wander around, feel happy and precious and innocent, feel scared, feel sad, feel mad, give up worry and guilt and shame, say yes, say no, say the magic words, ask lots of questions, ride bicycles, draw and paint, see things differently, fall down and get up again, look at the sky, watch the sun rise and sun set, watch clouds and name their shapes, watch the moon and stars come out, trust the universe, stay up late, climb trees, daydream, do nothing and do it very well, learn new stuff, be excited about everything, be a clown, enjoy having a body, listen to music, find out how things work, make up new rules, tell stories, save the world, make friends with the other kids on the block, and do anything else that brings more happiness, celebration, health, love, joy, creativity, pleasure, abundance, grace, self-esteem, courage, balance, spontaneity, passion, beauty, peace, relaxation, communication and life energy to...all living beings on this planet"
Bruce Williamson, It's Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood, 1987

Missing mom-being a mom: part 2

In the spirit of missing mom, I began to bake assisted by my sous-chef, Grace. Sous-chef: 2nd in kitchen command. Sous-chef- we learned that from Ratatouille, the movie. According to Gusteau, "Anyone can cook!" I don't quite have the French accent down, but...May I say this about Ms. Grace: she is quite the egg breaker now, without much mess outside the bowl. She really tries to refrain from putting her licked finger back into the bowl when there's something tasty in there-now she washes first. :o) She's learning some things might look tasty, but really aren't that yummy. The girl fearlessly holds the mixer now & actually keeps it in the bowl. This is good! She loves to measure and at this point believes every recipe calls for one cup of water. Ha! I love it! It is really a cooperative effort now in the kitchen & I am delighted! Mom would be delighted as well!

So now we have bannan nut bread using mom's recipe with just a pinch of nutmeg added. We have chocolate chip cookies- not her recipe but mom would have loved them, do doubt. What else....oh & 2 scrumptious pumpkin rolls. This was typically my official contribution to the holiday fare but I haven't made one in YEARS! I threw in some walnuts on one of the rolls & I must say-what a treat! It was all I could do not to slice that baby up! We only ate the ends cut off to make the roll pretty & presentable.

Also, following the likeness of my mom...we are sharing our creations with others...well, maybe not the cookies. Banana bread will go to Grandparent Day. Pumpkin will be frozen for Thanksgiving & the other, maybe I'll send that for Grandparent Day as well. We'll see~

Cooking is a sweet way to remember mom & accumulate experiences with Grace. This is how we pass tradition from one generation to the next~ I have a feeling Grace will be baker & love to share it with others.
Busy weekend...if we stay healthy, in Jesus name. German kindergartden this morning then we are headed downtown!!! It's the annual festival of lights kicking off the holiday season. We plan to join thousands of other carolers in attempts to break the world record for largest holiday caroling group! Whooo hoooo! There are a ton of activities before hand...Christmas Around the World and the Holiday Mitten Tree. After the caroling, we will enjoy the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade with Mickey & Friends. We are all about the princesses-Cinderella, Jasmin, Snow hoping we get to see those friends! Yeah!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Missing mom...being a mom

I miss my mom today. Today is not unlike the others...just can't stop the tears today. Maybe it's the holiday season approaching...maybe it's the effortless way she prepared for and received us home at Thanksgiving. Maybe it's the thoughtful and scrumptious trays of cookies & candy she prepared for...seems like everyone we knew-teachers, pastors, the clerk at the thrift store. She was thoughtful though I didn't always appreciate it. Thoughtful~

Gracie has a special program next week for Grandparents...she's been singing a little ditty 'round the house celebrating those precious folks. Wish mom could be here and she would be here, no doubt. She loved that sort of thing. I'm thankful that God places the lonely in families. I'm thankful for those that make loving deposits in my heart and, even more, in the heart of my Grace. Thankful~

I have a prayer posted by my computer that I found somewhere, personalizing it Grace's name. I don't remember where I found it, but it's a prayer based on Ephesians 6:4 and Proverbs 22:6...I think with the Amplified twist. I look at it everyday...remind myself everyday that this is my calling now: to rear Grace with a knowledge, example and love of the Lord, herself and others. No easy task. I know that now. God help me as I try every day to be more like Him so she desires Him.

I will not provoke, irritate or fret my Gracie. I will not be hard on her or harass her or cause her to become discouraged, sullen or morose, or to feel inferior & frustrated.

I will not break or wound her spirit. I will rear her tenderly in the training, discipline, counsel & admonistion of you, Lord.

I will train her in the way she should go (and in keeping with her individual gift or bent) & when she is old, she will not depart from it.

The duties of children and parents
from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience
includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age prosperity
has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents.

The duty of parents:
Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with
children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason. Bring them up
well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the
duty God requires.

Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many
set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children's
disobedience, though it may be awfully occasion it. God alone can change the
heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents,
and answers their prayers. But those, whose chief anxiety is that their children
should be rich and accomplished, whatever becomes of their souls, must not look for the blessing of God. (Eph 6:5-9)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So, mountain, who do you think you are?

Zech 4:6-10 Message translation~

Then he said, "This is God's Message to Zerubbabel: 'You can't force these things. They only come about through my Spirit,' says God-of-the-Angel-Armies. 'So, big mountain, who do you think you are? Next to Zerubbabel you're nothing but a molehill. He'll proceed to set the Cornerstone in place, accompanied by cheers: Grace! Grace! or Yes! Yes! Do it!'"

8-10 After that, the Word of God came to me: "Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you. Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They'll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!"

Blessed God, You have drawn me to Yourself and have sheltered my life in the impenetrable stronghold of Your grace. Forgive me for drifting back into trusting in my works or abilities. Lord, I believe in Your grace! I shout "Grace, grace!" to the mountains that stand before me! In Jesus' name!

Plansee - one of my most favorite spots for a daytrip while living in Germany...a little lake surrounded by majestic mountains~

Jeremiah 29:11-14 The Message (MSG)
10-11 This is God's Word on the subject: "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 12"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. 13-14"When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." God's Decree. "I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you"—God's Decree—"bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.

Elberfelder (ELB)
11 Denn ich kenne ja die Gedanken, die ich über euch denke, spricht der HERR, Gedanken des Friedens und nicht zum Unheil, um euch Zukunft und Hoffnung zu gewähren.
12 Ruft ihr mich an, geht ihr hin und betet zu mir, dann werde ich auf euch hören.
13 Und sucht ihr mich, so werdet ihr [mich] finden, ja, fragt ihr mit eurem ganzen Herzen nach mir,
14 so werde ich mich von euch finden lassen, spricht der HERR. Und ich werde euer Geschick wenden und euch sammeln aus allen Nationen und aus allen Orten, wohin ich euch vertrieben habe, spricht der HERR. Und ich werde euch an den Ort zurückbringen, von dem ich euch gefangen weggeführt habe.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Walking through the past & working through the wounds

"God's forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking." ~ H. Nouwen

"Sons and daughters of the Father are called to a higher law, in order to resemble the forgiving Father....only the experience of being forgiven makes it possible for us to forgive....grace alone melts the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith... I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am...though wrong does not disappear when I forgive, it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God, who knows what to do." ~ P. Yancey

Extending grace to one another is believing in His sovereignty which is big enough to cover all our sins.

"The Lord! the Lord! a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth!" Ex 34:6

We need to all spend less time scrutinizing one another, and look toward Him.

I'm really having a hard time lately in this area. I have some memories; pictures in my head of actual events that are very painful. I just don't know what to do with them. Actually, they weren't offense to me but I saw wounding of others I love. Not just words but, raised voices & raised hands that should have held & comforted. I just can't shake the memories. I asked God this week...what do I do with these short video clips that play & replay in my mind. There's guilt that I can't shake. I should have done something. I should have done more. What's my role now? Maybe He's answering me a bit this morning.

My xanga friend had just what the doctor ordered this morning...thought I'd share just a bit. What's your take? What's your suggestion? My heart longs to be free. What's your advice?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Welcome Alivia

Hi, my neice had her baby this past week, Alivi Grace Chander. What a cutie! Here's her 1st smilebox. They print out so beautifully. So mom has some memories she didn' have to work hard to share...unless you count the last nine months. Happy day to you~

Alivia Grace Chandler
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Love compels giving...generous, lavish giving. Giving of your time, attention & resources. Where your heart is, there is also your treasure.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More fall fun!

We had a delightful time dressing up for all the fall festivities. So many parties! So many costumes. The girl loves to dress up~ None of which was the horse costume we purchased this year. After trying on the step-in, strap-on horse, Grace quipped "My feet are supposed to go in the stirrups, but they are way up here. This isn't right." And there you go...don't horse around when it comes to the girl's equine interests. So, she picked the pumpkin from last year for the zoo and Deutsche Kindergarten party and Belle from her play closet for her ballet class debut & fall parties on halloween night. What fun!

AND...Grace's Pumpkin patch pics were featured as the Smilebox of the Week. Yeah!! Sweetness to share~ PS: my dear friend, Melanie, is having heart surgery today, replacing a valve. Please lift Mel up in your prayers today. Thanks so much!

Click to play Fall fun!
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Smilebox of the Week

Smilebox of the Week

Follow the adventures of adorable three-year-old Grace, as she visits picturesque Butterprint Farm. Mom Carmen told us "Thank you, Smilebox, for helping this busy single mom organize, preserve & share these experiences with our loved ones so far away via email & blog." Thank you, Carmen - we couldn't have said it any better.
Happy Halloween - It's easy to share the Halloween fun and festivities with this fresh, colorful scrapbook.

If you would like to see your Smilebox creation here, please send it to
Our design team will review it and select one to feature each week.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Praise report update with good news & singing God's praises!

My dad called last night reporting that Nicki opened his eyes, trying to speak & moving all around as if he had just woke up from a nap instead of 3 weeks. When asked if he wanted a kiss from his mom, he puckered right up. We know he is cognitively in good shape considering the news earlier this week.

I just can't express my gratitude to those of you who have prayed, messaged, called, consoled, emailed, believed and been there through this. Heartfelt thanks from me & my family. I fully embrace the scriptures where two or three agree as well as my favorite, two are better than one.

Blessings to you & yours tonight. I'm sleeping better tonight for sure!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A me reminder

This is the premise & foundation of my life's list, 2007 manifesto by Mark Batterson, author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

  • Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
  • Set God-sized goals.
  • Pursue God-ordained passions.
  • Grab life by the mane.
  • Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.
  • Keep asking questions.
  • Keep making mistakes.
  • Keep seeking God.
  • Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution.
  • Stop repeating the past and start creating the future.
  • Stop playing it safe and start taking risks.
  • Expand your horizons.
  • Accumulate experiences.
  • Consider the lilies.
  • Enjoy the journey.
  • Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can.
  • Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.
  • Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God.
  • Burn sinful bridges.
  • Blaze a new trail.
  • Criticize by creating.
  • Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks.
  • Don't try to be who you're not.
  • Be yourself.
  • Laugh at yourself.
  • Quit holding out.
  • Quit holding back.
  • Quit running away.
  • Chase the lion!

2 Sa 23:20

Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.

2007 Manifesto for the congregation of Mark Batterson, author of "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day".

It's too good not to share. Read it slowly; enjoy it thoroughly; live it courageously per pastor Jerry, inspired by Batterson's book.