Two, Five, Eight

Summer in our family means birthdays!  We start with me in mid-June, Charlotte at the end of the month, and J in July, and we end the stretch with F in late August.  Whew!

Charlotte turned two this year!  Amazing, funny, wonderful two.  Forget the so-called “terrible twos.”  I absolutely adore this incredible period of language development and emergence of her sweet, hilarious personality.  We began Charlotte’s day with Grandma Renee’s pancakes, and we wrapped it all up with blueberry banana cake from Soulemama.  (Click it!  It’s a great recipe!)  Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake were able to celebrate with us.

J turned five this year!  Five feels like a very important milestone.  He becomes more articulate and ever-practical with each passing day.  We spent his actual birth enjoying a nearby park and getting totally soaked in the stream.  Then late in July, we had a combined party (Knights and Ladies theme) for our new two year old and five year old.  It was a lot of fun!

And finally, our big boy turned eight.  Eight?  Too big, simply too big.  We celebrated with a “planet party” of his own invention.  On his real birthday, we made a much anticipated trip to Red Lobster for his favorite food: shrimp!  My eight year old is growing in so many ways.  He seems taller and smarter and more inquisitive every day.  I can’t wait to see what this third grade year has in store for him.

Here are some images of our summer of birthdays.

Charlottepancake blueberrycakeDSC_0060Jfive

hatsandshoes swingstreamknightladycastlecake DSC_0201DSC_0206DSC_0225 DSC_0236DSC_0226

Home Again

I’m pretty sure I used this title in a previous post, but I never meant it quite the way I’m using it now.

We have moved back to our home state.  After less than two years in the south, my husband has accepted a job at a small university only 30 minutes from the college where we met and fell in love.  I feel like we’ve come full circle as we begin the search for a home so close to the place where our lives together began.  To some blog readers, this might seem sudden, and…well…it kind of is.

Cory first heard about this particular opening last summer.  The university officially opened the job search in early fall.  Cory applied, even though we both felt happy and comfortable in our community.  The prospect of a tenure-track professorship closer to home sounded promising.  It couldn’t hurt to apply, right?

And then silence.  We heard nothing.  The potential job was no longer on my mind.  Cory continued working hard in his position.  He connected with interesting and challenging students.  He enjoyed his relationships with the faculty and staff, and I deepened my friendships in our church and homeschool communities.  We were not thinking about jobs or moving. We were largely satisfied and thankful for the life we were building.

I try to avoid clichés, but “out of the blue” is exactly where the news came from. In mid April, a voicemail message told me that the committee wanted to talk to Cory about “the faculty position.” A few days passed before Cory was able to talk to a real person and find out what that really meant.  We were nervous! Perhaps for different reasons. Yes, I wanted to be near family badly, but did I want to start over again? We would be near family, but we wouldn’t be neighbors! We would still need to take that emotional leap of making new friends, finding a new church, and hunting for a new homeschool group. Could I do that again? That’s tough stuff for an introvert. And I was sad to leave our pretty house. Cory saw all the practical benefits: the better insurance coverage, the potential pay, the college opportunities for our children. After much prayer, thought, and pros & cons analysis (a funny sort of back and forth dance), we knew even before the job offer that we would accept the job if it was offered. And it was. In mid-May, we had the news that we were saying good-bye, moving north, and starting a new segment in our family’s story.

We returned to our home state about two weeks later with as many of our belongings as we could possibly tow.  We enjoyed our vacation and a few other planned activities.  During the first week of July, we headed back to Florida again to do the final pack-up and clean-up.  Whoa…that was hard work.  We returned home again with more of our belongings (I wish I could say all.) and a spirit of readiness–ready to find our new normal, ready to settle down and breathe, ready to start over.

I will never regret those two years in Florida.  It hurts to say good-bye to some very special friends.  In Florida, I finally answered the call to homeschool.  In Florida, I  reaffirmed my convictions in parenting and had the room to work out some kinks.  In Florida, I figured out a little bit more of how to live out my faith in my household and in my community.  I learned that I can reach out to make friends.  I learned how to accept help, to say yes to the kindness of others, to receive with grace instead of rely on an “I can do it” attitude.  These were all great lessons to learn, and I worry that I won’t stay on these positive paths when I am back in my old environment.  Will I fall into old habits when I’m too comfortable?

For now, I only have to watch my children giggle and explore and sing in the presence of their grandparents to know that we’ve made the right choice.  All of their faces tell me so.

Gram and C

What we’re up to…

Blog posts are few and far between these days.  I get the bug to write, well, always, but the desire and the time don’t always hit at the same instant.  Know what I mean?  My laptop died, and that is where my photo software is, so for now, photographs aren’t as easy to share.  Also, if you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that when I have big things on my mind, I can’t always articulate them.  Until I’m ready to sort out those things and write about them on my blog, let me share some of the things we’ve been up to:

:: Baseball and more baseball.  We have one child on a “pitcher machine” Little League team, and his brother is on a 4-year-old t-ball team.  The little guy reminds me frequently that it is T-ball, not baseball.  It’s all baseball to me.  I’m tired  of washing uniforms (including those strange, itchy long black socks), sitting on bleachers, trying to make an almost two year old sit on bleachers (FAIL), explaining why we cannot eat the vast majority of things offered in the concession stand, and trying to keep everyone happy at games that run far too close to bedtime.  BUT baseball brings good things to us.  Baseball has helped our big boy overcome a fear and realize that sometimes it feels good to push yourself.  Baseball brought us some new friends and a chance to deepen our friendships with a family from our church.  Baseball brought the fun of winning.  I’m not much of an athlete myself, and I’ve never been part of a winning team.  I played softball for a short time and tennis throughout high school, but they were totally for fun only.  I wasn’t competitive.  I adore Taekwondo, and I still practice it when I can, but tournaments were always secondary and only for the experience.  My boy, on the other hand, is really enjoying being part of a division-winning baseball team.  He and his teammates are so proud to be beginning their play-off run tomorrow!

:: Preschool has ended!  My little guy finished his VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) program.  He insists that he learned nothing except on Polar Ice Day (funny!), but from the look of his letters, numbers, and drawings, he has come far.  The graduation ceremony and program were precious!  It was a joyful day as we celebrated his accomplishment and looked forward to having the whole troop home for learning as of NOW.  Yay!  We made it!

:: Musical time!  Our first-born is part of a wonderful youth choir in our church.  They put on a full musical production every Mothers Day–complete with sets, costumes, and music.  This year, they performed Oh, Jonah!, and it was delightful.  They truly rose to the occasion.  A few of our homeschool friends were in the play as well (including the lead), and we loved watching these children that we’ve come to love strut their stuff on stage.  Such a blessing!  Our little sailor was nervous, but he did a wonderful job.  I could see him relax and begin to really enjoy himself.

That’s the scoop for now.

Being a Mom to a “Big” Kid

My oldest son is seeming far too big lately.  He is seven.  Eight in August.  He does many things with grand independence.  He is brave and curious and funny.  He asks great questions, and he doesn’t seem phased when he stumps me.  He accepts my returned questions, my “hmm…we’ll have to look that up” with interest and enthusiasm.  He’s been this way practically since birth, so I can’t say that these traits necessarily indicate growing up, but there is a subtle difference.  His questions and his observations are tied to past knowledge now.  He is building that spider’s web of information that we all carry around in our brains.  The web is strong, yet flexible.  It adjusts to incorporate new pieces and grows wider with time and effort.


I think it is important to keep some of the harsher truths of the world away from the eyes and ears of small children.  I’m not saying that we should lie to the young people in our lives.  Oh no.  But they should not have to carry the full weight of evil and grief and darkness yet.  They can take in the truth in manageable bites that ultimately carry the same big message: you are safe, and you are loved.  Based upon that notion (and a general lack of interest), we don’t watch television news.  Independently, my husband and I look at the news online.  I usually turn to MSN or CNN for a quick update, and we both like to read the good old Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

So…given the fact that my kids rarely see or hear the news, I was really surprised that my boy knew so much about the Boston bombing this week.  We were driving to our homeschool co-op, and I decided to tell him some of the story because I wanted to talk about how God works through tragedy and how people around the site of the bombing jumped in to help.  I began by sharing the circumstances of the event, and he interrupted to provide many of the details–from the few details that were available only a day after the bombing.  At first I was surprised, but then I realized that Cory and I had been talking about the bombing on Monday evening.  Even though our kids weren’t in the room, apparently they were in hearing distance, and this kid of mine took in what we were saying.  Mental Note to a Mom of a Big Kid (all kids, actually): He is listening!

But here is what stopped me in my tracks.  He made a connection between this event and the theater shooting during the Batman movie last year (July 2012).  His web of knowledge is growing.  There was a time when “last year” was too long ago for him to actively recall, and now he can play connect-the-dot with two headline-grabbing, heart-breaking events.  Two horrifying tragedies.  My heart sinks as I write this because he is building a timeline of terror, a list that all of us have.

My first memory of national mourning was the Challenger explosion.  I was five and a half years old, a kindergartener.  I remember my grandparents picking me up at school because one day per week my mom helped the treasurer at our church count the weekly offering.  Grandma and Papa took me and my little sister to lunch at the Five & Ten, a practice I remember fondly.  I always ordered grilled cheese and chocolate milk.  Papa would share bites of his coconut cream pie.  That day, the small restaurant was buzzing with anxious conversation.  People were excited.  I saw the footage of the explosion later, and when I was in first grade, we read about the accident in our Weekly Reader.  For years, I thought of those astronauts every time I said the pledge of allegiance or heard the national anthem.  I’m not sure why the pledge and The Star Spangled Banner were so closely tied to the Challenger in my mind, but I connected the event with heroism and patriotism–maybe because for elementary children of that time, the telling of the story hinged on the bravery of school teacher, Christa McAullife.  I held on to that story.  In ninth grade American Cultures, I wrote a report about McAullife, and she still comes to mind from time to time.  I think of what teachers will do to catch the interest of their students and how they model a love for learning.

What will my son take away from the scary events that are coming into his awareness now?  The two tragedies in his immediate memory were not accidents.  They don’t carry patriotism as their major theme.  They were acts of terror, of evil.  I’m the mom of a big kid now.  It is up to me and to Cory to frame this in a way that conveys truth and hope in the same breath. It’s terrifying, but I’m grateful to be in this position with a smart young man who wants to think things through.

I read the following article this morning, and it inspired some of my thinking today.  I am a huge Mr. Rogers fan, and this piece brought me to tears.  Of every celebrity in all of time, Fred Rogers is the one I wish I could have met.

Looking Back at Easter

I’ve been thinking about home and family quite a bit lately.  Homesickness hit me hard this winter and into these early weeks of spring.  I’ve felt that tug more lately than I have since the first days of our southern adventure.  Since Christmas, my family in the north has been experiencing some hard times, and I feel the distance between us more fiercely than ever.  I want to be there with my loved ones, going through the trials with them instead of hearing about this and that over the phone and doing my best to be present through sympathy and prayer.  That’s tough.

I know that here is my home.  This is my family.  But my history is somewhere else, and a huge slice of my heart lingers there.  On some days, the missing piece leaves an awful emptiness.  Yet, spring brings the promise of a summer trip in the near future, and for weeks, we have been anticipating some April company!

We had a lovely Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  How nice to have Grandma and Papa in our home for eight busy days!  Here are some shots from our time together.

dock lake windblown withPapa

eggs eggs2 eggs3



beach beach2 beach3

Photography Class. Eek!

I didn’t know if I would blog about my photography class. I’m a little embarrassed. Why would I take a photography class?  I don’t want people to think that I think I’m some kind of photographic whiz kid.  I have no illusions of being a professional photographer or some kind of artist or anything.  I just want to have pretty pictures of my pretty kids–photographs that are good enough to frame on my own walls and maybe pass to a grandparent.  Nothing more.  Oh…and maybe spruce up my blog a little bit.

As a sort of Valentine present, my hubby gifted me with the opportunity to take an online photography class with the photographer and teacher, Nick Kelsh.  The course began on March 4th, and it runs into mid-April.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I’m pretty comfy with how to operate my camera already, but I’m learning plenty on how to look for good, natural lighting.  Here are a few shots that I’ve taken for class:






A Special Find

A few housekeeping items before the post:

  1. My Lenten Tree post was mentioned on another blog!  How exciting.  Please take a look at “A Time to Take Root” over at Christian Ed. at Holy Family.  The post title is hyperlinked (This new font doesn’t seem to show the links very well.).  The blog has a number of great resources for Lent.
  2. I loved the feedback I received on Monday’s post.  I heard from a number of you on Facebook, here on the blog, and even in person.  Thanks!  I feel I need to clarify a few of things.  First, I’m not running off to Uganda or some other far off place!  Not any time soon.  My home is my mission field.  I remind myself of that frequently, and I take joy in it.  I’ve been given this time and this place to use my skills and my energy to glorify God here–right where I am planted.   I mean to focus on study, prayer, and advocacy in quiet ways–not some dramatic mission!  Secondly, I did write a note of encouragement to the mom that I mentioned.  Monday’s post kind of sounds like I stopped myself from encouraging her when I actually did write the message.  Finally, whether my post said it or not, I do believe that God gives us different seasons for different actions.  I, in no way, meant to imply that a person who doesn’t serve outside of the home or the mom who feels too overwhelmed to put on matching socks let alone head a committee or fly to Africa is wrong or bad or missing God’s call.  Nope.  Not at all.  We are each given different, worthy tasks, and I feel called to greater study and prayer at this time.  Maybe that seems selfish.  After all, it’s not very outwardly focused.  I just know that I’ve been ignoring it for far too long.

Okay!  On with the post…

I bought a little bag of bouncy balls at Target.  I am sharing this fact with you at great risk of public embarrassment.  My hubby really made fun of me–in the kindest of ways, of course.


When I saw this little bag with its cheerful colors peeking through the mesh, I was hit by a wave of happy nostalgia.  I grabbed them immediately and tossed them in the cart, hoping the kids wouldn’t notice.

“What’s that,” F immediately asked.  So much for my stealthy moves.

“They’re for me,” I replied with an unintended territorial edge.

Not giving up, he asked, “Well, what are they?”

“Just some bouncy balls,” I said.

But they aren’t just some bouncy balls.  They are a fun, sweet part of my childhood–a part that I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  I guess you could say that my sister and I had imagination to spare.  We collected rubber balls and played with them like someone might care for pet rocks.  We actually gave them names.  I kept mine in a coffee can under my bed.  I know how silly this sounds, but it is a warm memory for me (and probably my sister if she isn’t ready to kill me for posting this! 🙂 ).  I’ve come across bouncy balls many times in the last decade, but I think I had an immediate emotional reaction to the bouncy ball sighting at Target because these were THEE balls.  The world is full of little rubber balls, but these ones are sort of translucent.  Their color is half-half like the “fancy” Easter eggs we try to dye each year.  They have a slightly rough exterior unlike glossy jacks balls.  They are smaller than most super balls, and they feel great in my hand.  Rolling them around in my palm, even making a mental note of their particular smell and weight, I feel like my old self.  Making my way to the check-out line, I smiled inside and out–even as I missed my sister almost too much to bear.

Funny Girl

Our Charlotte is growing and growing in so many ways.  She brings joy, humor, and of course challenge to our life.


Doesn’t she look ready to join the Pittsburgh Steelers?  She is one tough cookie.


Charlotte is so tender with her brothers though.  We spent Sunday afternoon at a local garden, and J was sad because he had broken a “favorite” stick.  Charlotte would not leave him alone until she got a smile out of him.


It took some effort, but in no time, J was giggling and romping, too.  Sorry, Steelers!  This girl might be a wrestler.

January to February: Resolution or Revolution?

Several years ago, I heard a psychologist on the radio suggest that instead of trying to jump-start a New Year’s resolution or major life change on January 1st–right in the midst of the hustle of the holiday season–why not use January as a month for reflection and planning so that FEBRUARY can be the month for a new start?  I liked that suggestion.


I came into the month of January with a lot of ideas about the goals I would set for 2013.  I already knew that I would work on focus.  I knew that I needed deliberate practice in being mentally present in my day-to-day life.  Maybe you are like me.  I do a lot of daydreaming, a lot of planning for the future.  I can get stuck in a week’s worth of daydreams just because I found a hypothetical something that tickled my imagination.  I am easily distracted from NOW because I’m thinking about later.  Partly, I think I’m like this because I’ve been a student from the time I was four until I left my PhD program about a month before my thirty-first birthday (more about that here).  As a student, especially a graduate student, you are kind of living for the future.  There is always a goal to reach, a step to take, an accomplishment to check off the list.  All of these things hold the promise of something better later.  Graduate school is a great exercise in delayed gratification.  You live like a pauper hoping that someday you won’t have to!

I digress.  (Ironic!)

So in the midst of planning to focus, I started planning a lot of other goals.  I was going to commit to keeping a journal, and then I decided that I needed two journals–one for practical matters and one for fun, artistic stuff.  Then I decided that I also would need a prayer journal.  So much for being focused, huh?  I set some goals about organizing my home.  I set a goal about money management and keeping my e-mail inbox clean.  I set exercising goals and made a plan to read more, take more pictures, and be in more pictures.  Sigh.  I’m really bad at being focused.

Then, right at the end of the month, everything became clear in a three part mini act of God.  First, one of my favorite blogs featured a post that looked a little like mine.  A sweet, godly mom was reflecting on how she had been in survival mode rather than growing in her faith journey.  I quickly wrote to defend her, but I realized that I am doing the same thing, and in writing to support her, I was sort of telling myself that “I’m okay” when maybe I am not.  Secondly, my husband realized that we had drifted pretty far in our financial giving to others and to our church.  In the past, we have seen how much we are blessed by giving, and we want to be generous even in our own struggles.  Very hard, and we totally fail…often.  It was not some sort of legalistic You-Must-Give-Everything-You-Own-Or Else moment; rather it was just a self-assessment of where we once were compared to where we are now.  I, too, had felt that we’ve been living for us instead of truly living for others as we’ve been called to do.  I began to reconsider my New Year’s resolutions at that point.

At the start of the final week of January, I volunteered to teach our Sunday School class on February 3rd.  The people in the class take turns leading it, and I was just in the mood to take a Sunday.  During the service, I decided to sneak a look at the passage that I would be teaching:  Hebrews 5.  Ugh.  That’s a tough one.  And here is where my attention was truly grabbed:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

While I’m busy caring for kids, tending to a home, messing around on Facebook, folding laundry and neglecting to put it away, driving to and fro, glancing longingly at other people’s lives on cute blogs, reading this and that, sweeping up endless amounts of dry cereal, and doing more laundry, I’m not always growing in the ways that are important–to me or to God.  I am not complaining about my current season of life at all.  I actually love this time in my life with all its messes and demands.  I wouldn’t trade all the cereal for even the biggest paycheck.  Nonetheless, I’ve been in a funk, and I knew I wanted to stop moving through this comfortable but very safe life and instead feel what it is like to have nothing holding me up but God’s will.  Does that make sense?


I used to be on a major spiritual growth spurt.  During college, I was on fire!  I was reading my Bible and building a healthy prayer life.  It was a great time.  But it was also a time of personal struggle for a lot of reasons, and those dark moments fueled my hunger for God.  I wanted to feel Him and know Him better.  I guess I got too comfy in recent years because the hunger has changed.  I still long for God’s presence and His care, but I seem to want to meet that need in ways that don’t require my work or my time.  Hmmm…not good.  I’ve had “the milk” many times over, but I have to wonder: am I ready for the solid food?  Am I going to just remain satisfied to sip at the sweet but simple parts of the gospel or chomp on the hard stuff?  The real question though: am I going to live it or just think about it.  Some more.  Again.

If you made it to the end of this very long post, here is the conclusion that I’ve reached:

I can set a New Year’s resolution.  It would fine if I worked on the goal to keep my laundry washed and my bedroom floor clear of clutter.  Those are good things.  It would be okay to commit to exercising five days per week or eating more veggies.  But I decided that I don’t need another resolution.  I need a revolution.  I apologize for the corny play on words, but maybe it will stick in your head the way it has in mine.  I need to turn back to the things that matter beyond my day-to-day.  It does begin with focus as I said in the beginning, and the follow-through is a big dose of study and prayer, two things that have moved to the periphery as I unconsciously decided that my house and homeschooling and money (or lack of it) and many other things were more important.

I have no idea if this blog matters in big ways or even small ones, but since it is an extension of me, Warm as Pie is going to change, too.  If you’ve been here before, I’m sure you noticed the new look.  The menu across the top has an addition that I hope you will explore, and the “About” section has been updated as well.  I’ve added a few things to the “Places I Love” page, too.  Each month, I’ll be highlighting different blogs, websites, and even family interviews.  I cannot wait to introduce you to my first family!  But if you’re not really a fan of change, don’t worry.  Most of my blog content will be pretty much the same.  Just me thinking about stuff, taking pictures, and sweeping cereal.

Christmas 2012

I have discovered a hidden blessing of moving far away.  Christmas has acquired a special magic.  I have always loved Christmas, but since most of my family lived close by for most of my life, the idea of “being together with family” for the holidays was basically lost on me.  I was always with family.  During my childhood, my mom’s side got together for a huge meal and fun together every single Sunday afternoon.  Christmas was like a Sunday with gifts and extra cookies added in.  But now.  Wow.  What a difference.  I anticipated the time we would spend with family like I used to wait for the arrival of Santa.  I had butterflies in my stomach as we made the drive north.  I couldn’t sleep.

What’s more, now that I have children who are at the age when the story of the Christ child can really mean something to them, I feel more pressure to capture those good teaching moment and less pressure to live up to the worldly expectations that can weigh Christmas down.  It’s a wonderful balance to navigate.  I baked just one batch of cookies from pre-made dough.  My Christmas cards are still sitting in a box waiting to go out into the world.  I’m totally okay with the incomplete to-do list.  I’m just happy.

Our Christmas celebration had some particularly memorable moments.  During our Christmas Eve time with my husband’s side of the family, the electricity went out during our gift exchange time.  Out came the candles and a sweet little oil lamp that gave our evening a beautiful glow.


Christmas morning was its usual mix of happy chaos and poignancy.  Little moments of joy and surprise will stick with me all year.  Our boys received beautiful nutcrackers, a special wish that our oldest has carried for three Christmases!  He is fascinated by soldiers and anything related to swords, so I guess–for him–the nutcracker is the ultimate Christmas soldier.  His reaction was so honest and precious.



For me, the ultimate moment was when Aunt Kristy revealed her homemade gifts.  As you may have seen in earlier posts, Kristy’s handmade capes are an important part of my kids’ wardrobes.  Well, one cape was tragically lost on our return trip home in the summer.  We were heartbroken, but Aunt Kristy saved the day in true super hero style by creating a new cape for Christmas.  All is right in our small world once again.  And guess what! Little Charlotte has joined the ranks.


J still has a cape, so Aunt Kristy created an adorable apron for my boy who loves to be my kitchen helper.  Although I didn’t have time for nearly as many homemade gifts as I would like, I knitted cowls for Kristy and my mom.  I also tried a pair of fingerless mittens for my sister-in-law.  All three worked well, and I hope they will bring some cuddly warmth to the winter for three special ladies.

Happy New Year, friends!