Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Preschool decisions

We're in the middle of a difficult decision regarding Hannah's preschool for next year ('07-'08). Due to the lovely road construction and freeway closure thrust upon us by the lovely state of Missouri, what was a 25-30 minute drive has become a 40-50 minute drive (one way). So all-told, it takes me at least an hour and a half in the morning and almost two hours in the afternoon to do the whole trip. This quarter, Don has Tuesday afternoons off, so he does the Tuesday pick up. This is a huge blessing to me - in fact, he's gone right now picking her up. Elizabeth is sleeping, and I'm blogging. Nice.

Next year when she is at school three days a week, I think it would just drive me absolutely crazy to be in the car that often for that long. So we are looking at about 5 LCMS preschools that are anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes away. I'll go visit a couple this week and a couple others are having open houses in February. We're praying that God leads us to a school that will be perfect for her spiritually, academically, and socially; that will be closer to our home; and affordable with the help of financial aid. So for all you prayer warriors out there, we'd love to have you praying right along with us.

The girls and I saw the new Veggie Tales movie last weekend. It was Hannah's first movie in a theater and she did pretty well. I could tell she got kind of restless and spent some time standing up rather than sitting on the hard booster seat, but overall she enjoyed it. I thought it was great. It had such a wonderful message for the Christian life. Without giving too much away, it was a reminder that Jesus is coming back someday and we a) have to be ready and b) have work to do. It's not enough just to sit around and while the days away. God intends for us to put Christ's love into action: helping people, doing God's will, spreading the Gospel, and being in the Word. So the Pirates learn that by doing the right thing (i.e. God's will), they become the heroes they never thought they could be. I highly recommend it.

Let's see...what else? Elizabeth is scootching all around the house. She's just barely getting up on her toes and elbows and doing pushups or sometimes getting up onto her knees and doing that classic baby rock. But she's not actually crawling yet. Oh - our friends next door were given some toys from someone at their field work church. Their daughter is a little too old for the toys, so Hannah was the blessed recipient of tons of new Dora the Explorer toys. She got Dora's talking house and lots of dolls and accessories. If you have any idea how much Hannah loves Dora, you'll know that she's in heaven. It's so fun to see her having a ball with her new toys. And a total blessing that these toys (that we can't afford) were a gift from God. What a cool reminder that He loves each of us so much that even a 3-year-old's Dora obsession does not go unnoticed.

And finally, here's a Christmas picture of both of them. Those of you who are parents of 2 or more kids know the frustration I have recently discovered trying to get a decent picture of both of them at the same time! And remarkably, most of the "good" photos are of Elizabeth. Hannah is the one who is usually making faces, fidgeting, showing her underwear, looking at her sister, getting up and running away, etc. I get so frustrated trying to get the "perfect" picture and Don ends up reminding me that the "perfect" picture is near impossible and to just let it go. So I guess I'll either learn to do that or else learn how to PhotoShop two photos together...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Our Favorite Salad (otherwise known as "Even Hannah will eat it")

Thought I'd do a posting looking at the lighter side of life this evening. I made our family's favorite salad tonight. I got it from my WarmLine cookbook - it's called "Patty's Famous Garlic Salad," from Patty Reis, a good friend and mentor from Bakersfield. It couldn't be easier, I usually have the ingredients on hand, and (gasp!) even 3-year-old Hannah will eat it. (This is especially a big deal, because pretty much the only thing she won't eat is any other kind of salad. This one - she asks for second and third helpings!) Here goes:

Finely mince 4 cloves of garlic (I use my Pampered Chef chopper). Put them in the bottom of your salad bowl and add 4 tablespoons olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Use a fork to mash them all together as best you can. Add a whole head of romaine (clean, dry, and torn into pieces). Mix it all up with your hands, kind of smushing it all together as you go. Shake on a few ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese (2-4?) remix, and serve. That's it! Between the 3 of us, we easily finished the entire salad tonight with our stabecki spaghetti. Of course, you have to be willing to smell like garlic, but hey, garlic is good for you right?

In other light news, both Don and I have joined Facebook. It's been fun to reconnect with college and high school friends, see pictures, and find out what people have been up to. So if you're on Facebook and haven't found us yet, we'd love to have you look us up and connect!

Let's see...Elizabeth has 8 teeth now and is working on her first molar. Her 9-month doctor appointment was Monday. She's 28" long and weighs 20 pounds. She's in the 75th percentile for everything. She got one shot and seems to be doing okay. The erupting molar seems to be causing the most problems at the moment. Today her lunch was cut up canned sweet potatoes and finely chopped chicken breast. She ate the whole thing and I happened to look up at her and see her grinning broadly and signing "more"! It was her first totally self-fed meal. Definitely a milestone.

Hannah is getting more verbal and expressive. She loves telling us about her dreams in the morning. It's hard to tell whether these are real dreams or just things she imagines while awake. The other morning she said that she was playing a game with her friends at school and some of the friends sneezed and their faces got stuck together. She thought this was pretty hilarious. Also, we've recently learned from Hannah that armpits are a delicacy in California; they’re served in fancy restaurants for $13 and are served with marshmallows. When Hannah hears Elizabeth crying through the baby “remonitor” she often begins singing “Jesus Loves Me” to Bethie – through the “wrong” side of the monitor. (I've tried to explain that it doesn't go both ways and that Bethie can't hear her, but she persists.) She sometimes asks for the “humidityfier” to be placed in her room and she likes playing with magnets to see what things in the house are "magdedified." Another time, she graced us with this important command:
H (eating peppermints and interrupting): Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.
D: Hannah, I’m talking to Mommy. Is it something you need now?
H: Yeah.
D: Okay, what is it?
H: Smell my mouth.

And on that note, I think I'll call it a night. God bless!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Life, leadership, love, and leaves

Life is good. We have not been without our challenges (I am taking Hebrew, which has been harder than Greek was for me, and all four of us got sick at different times over the Christmas break), but overall we are very blessed. For one, it's my birthday today and thanks to the support of friends and family (some of whom are babysitting for us), Stacye and I are going on a date tonight! :-)

And then it's back to work, and the main reason we came to St. Louis in the first place... We begin the home stretch of the winter quarter tomorrow, and I have begun to get more involved in our field work congregation, St. John in Ellisville, MO.

I have been asked and accepted the invitation to serve as the "Traditions Venue Leader," beginning in part this year and then in full next year and beyond. Traditions is St. John's Saturday evening service, and is a bit more...well...traditional in its worship style than the Sunday Praise (blended and contemporary) or Warehouse (very contemporary) services. As the venue leader, I will have the responsibility to lead worship and/or preach most weekends at that particular service.

There are typically about 125-150 souls who regularly attend the Saturday evening service each weekend; a fraction of the 2,300 who attend St. John's eight weekly services, but not much smaller than the average-sized 200-member church in America. I am humbled they have asked me to serve, and am excited and grateful to have the opportunity to gain so much practical leadership experience so quickly in this "church within a church."

I also taught bible study at St. John for the first time today; Romans, chapters 7-8...a theologically loaded section of the Bible that is "shallow enough for a child to wade in, and deep enough for theologian to drown." I think the "youngest Christian" among those in attendance at the class this morning has been a follower of Christ for longer than I have been alive, and the eldest has been a Christian for nearly 90 years! I estimate there was over 500 years of collective Christian life experience in that room today, not including myself. And I was supposed to teach them something! Humbling to say the least.

We really enjoyed our time spent together in God's Word today. What wonderful saints they are. Praise God for their years of commitment and faithful service to the Lord; our church would not be here today were it not for the sacrifices they've been making for the better part of the last 100 years.

I thought I would close my note to you today with some pictures I took of Hannah yesterday afternoon. When we came back from running some errands we noticed a bunch of old fall leaves that had piled up in front of our apartment. Who could resist!? A 3 1/2 year old girl with some energy to burn and her silly daddy with a camera in hand certainly couldn't, that's for sure. So enjoy...here's Hannah romping around in some St. Louis leaves.

(our closing comments follow the pictures)

We love you. We encourage you to allow God to bless you in a special way today. He loves you so much.
-Don (& the Ray ladies)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


"Everyone who is born of God conquers the world; and this is the victory which has conquered the world--our faith." -1 John 5:4