Monday, June 29, 2009

Dear, Darling Babies

I have the best job in the whole world!

Well, truth be told, it doesn't always feel that way. Sometimes, as I drag myself out of bed and head off into a cold night at 2 am it doesn't quite feel that way. Or sometimes when the fourth pregnant lady calls in one day wanting to ask me about her urinary tract infection or tell me about her baby's hiccups, I wish I could just turn off my phone for an hour. Don't get me wrong - I want them to call if there is anything going on. But sometimes it would be nice to work a shift and then go home and leave someone else to worry about the pregnant ladies til I was scheduled to be at least partially responsible again. I don't know if things will be easier or harder once I'm "on my own" after I get certified. I guess I'll just take it one day at a time and one pregnant lady and baby at a time! :)

I'm at home, pretty much by myself for the week. My family is off on the yearly trek north to see all the relatives.

And me? Well, the usual story -- babies are due. I'm stuck pretty close to home.
I had already asked my preceptor for 4 days off next month before this family trip was planned, and I really can't leave her without help too often!

That's okay. Probably actually providential because of the enormous amount of studying I left to do before I take my national board exam in August.

So, this quiet week at home was supposed to be for studying. But pregnant ladies called today and needed packets mailed and charts updated and questions answered. And babies needed to be weighed and measured. And pregnant ladies need to be seen tomorrow and more appointments need to be made....

So, do I really have the best job in the world?
I think it's pretty close (being a mother would outrank it, I'd have to admit)...

If I ever forget how blessed I am to be holding mothers' hands while they push their babies out and to catch little naked babies and listen to them cry for the first time, all I have to do is kiss a few of those babies again.... :)

A few recent babies:

Anessa Marie came during the worst ice storm...

Since William Locksley decided to make his appearance on the last day of the Missouri legislative session, I spent the wee hours of the morning heading south from the Capitol as fast as I could safely go!

Athanasius arranged his arrival so conveniently for both my preceptor and I on a beautiful May evening...

Yep, my job is pretty grand. It's not all warm fuzzies - that's for sure. In fact, those are kind of few and far between. But it's deep, it's meaningful... and it leaves me in awe of God every time!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Summer Party - in Pictures!

Our family started a tradition several years ago - hosting an annual New Year's Eve party at our house. It's not always on that evening, but sometime in January we invite dozens and dozens of young people over for an evening party. We play games and talk and eat and catch up on each others' lives. We make it our goal to make it more than a party. We want people to go away having done more than just play games and laugh (though we also make it a goal to make it one of the funnest parties they've ever attended!). We want them to go away spiritually encouraged and challenged. So, we try to have a mix of fun and seriousness. We try to keep the topics of discussion and games intriguing and interesting. And you know what, people seem to like it... a lot! At least, they usually come back, and many of them drive several hours to come. Maybe they're just trying to be nice to us. :)

We had so many requests for another party after our January one that we decided to do a summer party as well. It was great, other than being a warm, sticky day in June. Since we don't have air-conditioning and the people would have been pretty tightly packed in our rather small house, we decided to do nearly everything on the lawn. All in all, it was a great evening!

Chatting on the lawn... waiting for games to begin.

Supper was buffet-style inside, but everyone came back out to the lawn to eat.

After-dinner conversation

The challenge was for each team to tape "their" person more securely to the side of the shed, using only a roll of duct tape. Above: the girls are unrolling and tearing tape as quickly as possible!

Almost ready to see if he'll really stay up there.
He didn't - he fell down as soon as we pulled the bucket out from under his feet!

But Donnie stayed on the wall for almost a full minute!
His team must have placed their tape more strategically!

Everyone was hot and sweaty...
Why not bring out the water balloons?

Trying to make it through the gauntlet dry.... not a chance!

Quick! Quick! More water balloons needed!


Then the real fun begins...
We try to do new and original games at every party, but this one (How Well Can You Think Together?) was such a hit several years ago, that we decided enough time had elapsed and we'd do it again, with a new twist to it. :) We split the young people into four teams, trying to divide them up equally between ages, introverts and extroverts, etc.

Above: A panel of judges was chosen - some parents and a couple of the guys who like this kind of thing (i.e. Joshua the law student). It was up to them to judge each part of the game. The first part involved a series of questions that had to be answered on paper in 3-6 minutes each by each team. Each team received the same question at the same time. It was then up to the teams to run to their own little corner and corporately think and write fast and rush the answer back to the judges.

Team Four - What should you do about your church if is falling apart because of a general spirit of pride, selfishness and gossip? Explain in 5 minutes...

Deliberating on who wrote the most complete, accurate, creative and helpful answer.
We wait to hear the verdict!

Team Two thinking fast: Question: Explain in less than 5 minutes why Amendment 2 was adopted by the majority of Missouri voters in 2006 and what it does to change our constitution and laws that are made today.

After the time limit expired, the teams raced their answers back to the judges who had four minutes to decide on the best answer and the second-best answer.
Teams scored points for each winning answer.

Part II -

The next part of the game was the debate.
Each team chose one team member to compete in a mini-debate.
Each of the four selected had one minute to make a convincing argument for whatever topic the judges assigned to them. In this case, it was health food and spending a lot of time on a healthy lifestyle. Two were told to argue in favor, and two against. Each of the four separately presented their case, then the judges voted for the two best cases made.

The two who the judges chose then debated one another - once again on the health food topic. This time they (Rob - left and Erik - right) had to switch sides and argue for the other.

Rob argued for living your life enjoyably, not wasting time on health food crazes or worrying about a "few extra pounds, since you can't take them to heaven with you anyway.."

Erik argued for healthy living, citing God's reasons for giving healthful Old Testament laws of eating and living... and told Rob that he should take note that God didn't put a McDonalds in the Garden of Eden.

Rob ultimately won the debate (though the judges had a hard time deciding once again), laughing off the notion that McDonalds argument was a valid point. As Rob said, "Who says McDonalds is the pinacle of enjoyment, anyway, for those who live to enjoy life? Maybe I like fruit or chocolate!"

The rest of us gathered to listen to the debate - it was hilarious - some of the best entertainment of the evening as twilight settled over the yard.

Part III

Each team was given a 10 pound bag of ice to melt without using a stove. Matches, candles, small lighters and other creative methods were allowed. All the water from the ice had to be saved. The team to melt theirs first received more points toward the total winning score.

Creative methods = why not try the muffler? It actually worked pretty well!

Or simply try body heat...
Can anybody say C-O-L-D after rubbing all those ice cubes in their hands?!

After the ice had been melted using hot water, salt, hands, mufflers, motors, candles, matches, standing in the bathtub with the ice, everyone filed inside for the ice cream feeding contest.
Yes, you read that right. It was ice cream feeding, not just ice cream eating!

Each person chooses a partner and they are both blindfolded, sitting opposite each other.

Each team of two is handed one cup of ice cream with two spoons in it. The goal is to finish the cup of ice cream before any of the other teams. There are only a couple of rules:
1. You may not put any ice cream in your own mouth, only your partner's mouth.
2. It may not be fed with hands, it must be fed with the spoon!

Dad and Mom decided to get in on the fun!

Ice cream feeding over... time to relax, visit and unwind!

There are ALWAYS some people who want to play spoons til well past midnight!

Abby and Sarah decided that we had to see "Meet Captain Ahab." Unfortunately, most of their "victims" weren't drama queens so it wasn't as funny as usual, they said.

Late night chatting, laughing, stories....

Sad goodbyes.... but we had so much fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lord, If It Pleases You, It Pleases Me

My friend, Jessica, has shared some lovely thoughts (from Nancy Leigh DeMoss) on meekness over on her blog.
Definitely worth the read!
"...Meekness says, 'Lord if it pleases You, it pleases me. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to agree. But I accept; I receive the choices that You have brought into my life.' "

Read the rest on Jessica's blog:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Favorite Summer Pie

Pineapple Pie

This pie is a light, cool and absolutely delicious treat on a hot summer day.
You can even feel pretty good about eating it since it's made mostly from fruit juice!

~ Pre-baked 8" pie shell (we usually make one from scratch, using coconut oil)

~3 c. pineapple juice, divided
~1/3 c. orange juice concentrate
~1/2 c. honey
~3 T. lemon juice
~pinch of salt
~3 T. instant milk powder
~1/2 c. cornstarch

Combine 2 cups of the pineapple juice with all other ingredients, except the cornstarch.
Combine 1/2 c. cornstarch with 1 c. pineapple juice in a separate container.
Bring the first mixture (orange concentrate, etc) to a boil over medium heat.
Add cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly til thickened.
Pour into pre-baked pie shell or graham cracker crust.
Immediately cover with plastic wrap (if you wait til it cools, the plastic wrap won't come off) and chill. Slice and serve.
I promise... if you like pineapple, you will LOVE this pie! Our dear friend and neighbor, Debbie G, had several of us girls over and taught us how to make all kinds of pies many years ago. This is Debbie's recipe, but we've been making it ever since! :)

Dinnertime Conversation About Cow Tails

The conversation at our house is nearly always amusing, whether or not it was intended to be funny.

Jemima randomly remarked to me over supper tonight, "Mare, if you ever think you're having a bad day, and just need someone to thump you on the head, go milk the Holstein cow. I'm always sitting there peacefully milking when 'WHAP!' this hairless stubby tail hits me on the head.
She never fails to do that - every milking. It's almost as though she thinks I need it!"

I thought all of the cows had fairly long, hairy tails (you can tell how much time I spend out in the barn!), so I asked, "Hairless stubby tail? Doesn't she have a nice long, tassel at the end of her tail?"

Jemima started laughing and nearly choked on her water, obviously picturing something funny.

"What?" I asked innocently. "What happened to her tail?"

"Well," she began. "Remember the day that you stayed home and supervised Steve and Noah milking all the cows when I was in Oklahoma? Apparently Noah did something to it that day. You know, I came back from Oklahoma and the next morning, I headed out to milk like usual. I finished milking the Jersey and let her out of the barn. Then, I let the Holstein in like usual. Except something was weird. Her tail looked funny. Once I got her head in the stanchion, I just stared at her tail. There wasn't any hair hanging off of it anymore. It just ended in a hairless way... It looked like she had donated it to 'Locks of Love' or something. So, I got up and looked around the barn for the rest of her tail. And then I saw it - laying out in the barnyard, thrown against the fence! It was just laying there, all nice - like a hair donation."

By now I was laughing so hard, I couldn't finish my supper.

"So... you think Noah cut it off and threw it out there?!"

"Yes, I'm sure he did!" Jemima started recounting her imagination. "I bet he was sitting there on the little milking stool when she smacked him right in the face. I can just see him pulling out his pocket knife and getting up and saying, 'I'll fix you!' and cutting off all the hair and throwing it out there!"

Me: "You didn't ask him about it?"

Jemima: "No, I didn't ask. I didn't bring it up with him. I figured I'd better not. He probably already felt like a saint for milking my cows while I was on a trip, and then they treat him like that... Besides, she kind of deserved it. I was kind of secretly pleased and hoped she'd stop the tail smacking. But it hasn't helped a bit."

Added Joanna, "Except for the big dirty hairy part isn't long enough anymore to drag across your face when you're sitting there milking."

Concluded Jemima: "So, you just get smacked on the side of the head while you milk."

And then supper went on...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discerning Idolatry in Desire

A great article by John Piper...
I'm so glad I follow him on Twitter - he Twitters a lot of great links!

Discerning Idolatry In Desire

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Than You Ever Wanted to Pay


Will take you farther than you ever wanted to go,

Keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay,

And cost you far more than you ever wanted to pay.

- Unknown

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trifles Along Life's Pathway

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.
They are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life's
pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
- Joseph Addison

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is Independence All It's Cracked Up to Be?

When I said that I had some interesting reading on women and marriage to share I was serious. I'm starting with the mild books for you, my readers. :) I'm sharing the following quote, well, because it so well sums up what I see happening all around me. Agree or disagree, discussion is a good thing! :)

From Danielle Crittenden's book, "What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Evades the Modern Woman," Chapter Two, "About Love"...

Our grandmothers, we are told, took husbands the way we might choose our first apartment. There was a scheduled viewing, a quick turn about the interior, a glance inside the closets, a nervous intake of breath as one read the terms of the lease, and then the signing - or not. You either felt a man's charms right away or you didn't. If you didn't, you entertained a few more prospects until you found one who better suited you. If you loved him, really loved him, all the better. But you also expected to make compromises: The view may not be great, but it's sunny and spacious (translation: he's not that handsome, but he's sweet natured and will be a good provider). Whether you accepted or rejected him, however, you didn't dawdle. My late mother-in-law, who married at twenty, told me that in her college circles in the mid-1950s, a man who took a woman out for more than three dates without intending marriage was considered a cad. Today, the man who considered marriage so rashly would be thought a fool. Likewise, a woman.

Instead, like lords and sailors of yore, a young woman is encouraged to embark upon the world, seek her fortune and sow her oats, and only much later - closer to thirty than twenty - consider the possibility of settling down. Even the religious conservatives, who disapprove of sex outside of marriage, accept the now-common wisdom that it is better to put off marriage than to do it too early...
In 1965, nearly 90 percent of womena aged twenty-five to twenty-nine were married; by 1996, only 56 percent of women in this age group were, according to the Population Reference Bureau in its 1996 survey, "The United States at Mid-Decade." Indeed, the more educated and ambitious a woman is the more likely she is to delay marriage and children, the Census Bureau reports. And if she doesn't - if such a young woman decides to get married, say, before she is twenty-five - she risks being regarded by her friends as a tragic figure, spoken of the way wartime generations once mourned the young men killed in battle: "How unfortunate, with all that promise, to be cut down so early in life!"

.... In this sense, we lead lives that are exactly the inverse of our grandmothers'. If previous generations of women were raised to believe that they could only realize themselves within the roles of wife and mother, now the opposite is thought true: It's only outside these roles that we are able to realize our full potential and worth as human beings. A twenty-year-old bride is considered as pitiable as a thirty-year-old spinster used to be. Once a husband and children were thought to be essential to a woman's identity, the sources of purpose in her life; today, they are seen as peripherals, accessories that we attach only after our full identities are up and running.... Not until we've reached full maturity - towards the close of our third decade of life - is it considered safe for a woman to take on the added responsibility of marriage and family without having to pay the price her grandmother did for domestic security, by surrendering her dreams to soap powders, screaming infants, and frying pans.

.... But there is a price to be paid for postponing commitment, too... It is a price that is rarely stated honestly, not the least because the women who are paying it don't realize how onerous it will be until it's too late.

.... the truth is, once you have ceased being single, you suddenly discover that all that energy you spent propelling yourself toward an independent existence was only going to be useful if you were planning to spend the rest of your life s a nun or a philosopher on a mountaintop or maybe a Hollywood-style adventuress, who winds up starting into her empty bourbon glass forty years later wondering if it was all **** worth it. In preparation for a life spent with someone else, however, it was not going to be helpful.

And this is the revelation that greats the woman who has made almost a religion out of her personal autonomy. She finds out, on the cusp of thirty, that independence is not all it's cracked up to be.

.... Unfortunately, this is a bit of wisdom that almost always arrives too late. The drawbacks of the independent life, which dawned on Roiphe [author of the Esquire article: "The Independent Woman (and Other Lies)"] in her late twenties, are not so readily apparent to a woman in her early twenties. And how can they be? When a woman in young and reasonably attractive, men will pass through her life with the regularity of subway trains; even when the platform is empty, she'll expect another to be coming along soon. No woman in her right mind would want to commit herself to marriage so early. Time stretches luxuriously out before her. Her body is still silent on the question of children. She'll be aware, too, of the risk of divorce today, and may tell herself how important is is to be exposed to a wide variety of men before deciding upon just one. When dating a man, she'll be constantly alert to the possibilities of others. Even if she falls in love with someone, she may ultimately put him off because she feels "too young" for anything "serious." Mentally, she has postponed all of these critical questions to some arbitrary, older age.

But if a woman remains single until her age creeps up past thirty, she may find herself tapping at her watch and starting down the now mysteriously empty tunnel, wondering if there hasn't been a derailment or accident somewhere along the line. When a train does finally pull in, it is filled with misfits and crazy men - like a New York City subway car after hours: immature, elusive Peter Pans who won't commit themselves to a second cup of coffee, let alone a second date; neurotic bachelors with strange habits; sexual predators who hit on every woman they meet; newly divorced men taking pleasure wherever they can; embittered, scored men who still feel vengeful toward their last girlfriend; men who are too preoccupied with their careers to think about anyone else from one week to the next; men who are simply too weak, too odd, to have attracted any woman's interest. The sensible, decent, not-bad-looking men a woman rejected at twenty-four because she wasn't ready to settle down all seem to have gotten off at other stations.

.... It's in the act of taking up the roles we've been taught to avoid or postpone - wife, husband, mother, father - that we build our identities, expand our lives, and achieve the fullness of character that we desire.

Still, critics may argue that the old way was no better; that the risk of loss women assume by delaying marriage and motherhood overbalances the certain loss we'd suffer by marrying too early. The habit of viewing marriage as a raw deal for women is now so entrenched, even among women who don't call themselves feminists, that I've seen brides who otherwise appear completely happy apologize to their wedding guests for their surrender to convention, as if a part of them still feels there is something embarrassing and weak about an intelligent and ambitious woman consenting to marry. But is this true? Or it is just an alibi we've been handed by the previous generation of women in order to justify the sad, lonely outcomes of so many lives?

What we rarely hear - or perhaps are too fearful to admit - is how liberating marriage can actually be. As nerve-racking as making the decision can be, it is also an enormous relief once it is made. The moment we say, "I do," we have answered one of the great, crucial questions of our lives: We now know with whom we will be spending the rest of our years, who will be the father of our children, who will be our family.

That our marriages may not work, that we will have to accommodate ourselves to the habits and personality of someone else - these are, and always have been, the risks of commitment, of love itself. What is important is that our lives have been thrust forward. The negative - that we are no longer able to live entirely for ourselves - is also the positive: We no longer have to live entirely for ourselves! We may go on to do any number of interesting things, but we are free of the gnawing wonder of with whom we will do them. We have ceased to look down the tunnel, waiting for the train.

.... The fear of losing oneself can, in the end, simply become an excuse for not giving any of oneself away. Generations of women may have had no choice but to commit themselves to marriage early and then to feel imprisoned by their lifelong domesticity. So many of our generation have decided to put it off until it is too late, not foreseeing that lifelong independence can be its own kind of prison, too.

The Very Best Pound Cake

I've always loved pound cake, but this recipe just outdoes any other I've tried!

It comes from our neighbor, Julianna, who used to work in fancy, super expensive bakery in Long Island, New York. Nothing holds a candle to her cheesecakes and pound cakes... so I asked her for the recipe and have been having fun with it.
Since I like the crispy edges of pound cake, I tried it in mini-muffin pans last time and it was absolutely amazing! We had our little bite sized pound cakes with a generous scoop of fresh chopped strawberries and a dollop of homemade whipped cream on top. Talk about what you really shouldn't serve! :)

6 eggs, separated
3 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c. Crisco or coconut oil, softened
3 c. sugar
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 325.
Beat butter, Crisco or coconut oil and sugar till fluffy. Add yolks one at a time. Add extracts. Combine baking powder and salt with flour. Beat whites till stiff peaks form. Add milk and flour mixture alternately to butter mixture. Gently fold in egg whites.
To make it a lemon pound cake, use 2 tsp. lemon extract and and add the grated peel of one fresh lemon.
Pour into a greased a floured bundt pan, or a 9x13 pan, or several loaf pans, or 2 9" round pans, or mini muffin pans.
For a bundt cake, bake approx. 1 hr, 15 min.
A 9x13 pan, approx. 50-60 min.
Loaf pans - about 1 hr.
Round pans - approx. 35 min.
Mini-muffin pans - approx. 15 min.
(All till a toothpick comes out clean and cake springs back lightly when touched.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009, Serial Killers Picking Up Trash?

The "little" girls (Ruth and Joanna, who really are completely adult-sized but haven't shed their title from years gone by) and I hit the road early this morning.

They were going to catch a ride with another family from church to a Revival Conference in Oklahoma this morning, so we got going bright and early. I also had milk deliveries to make in Springfield to our milk customers. Anyway, the girls finished packing their clothes and I packed the coolers of milk and we headed off to Springfield.

We had been driving for nearly an hour, uneventfully, singing along with songs, talking, laughing... all the usual stuff we do during car rides. Joanna was staring out the window at a crew of guys in orange reflective vests cleaning up the side of the highway. You know, picking up trash, trimming bushes... nothing too out of the ordinary.

The silence was broken.

"Mare?" she began.


"Those guys cleaning up the roadside... did you say that they're prisoners or something?"

"Uh, yeah... They are. I mean, they're probably on a work-release program or something. I mean, they're the kind of not-so-bad guys who have been behaving themselves in prison, so they get taken out to clean up the roads... At least I think that's how it works..."

Joanna stared thoughtfully as we passed another one who stole a glance at the passing car.
"So, um... they're not like, um... serial killers or anything, right?"

"I don't think so. But you know, I never asked."
Maybe the guy wielding the weed-eater was indeed just that...?

Come to think of it, did you ever ask? Maybe if even the worst guy is really good in prison, they let him go clean up the roads?

Just a question Joanna was wondering...

And I've been chuckling about ever since.
It never crossed my mind to worry about that.