Friday, February 27, 2009

Sapient Septemviri

I mentioned in Addison's birthday post that he has begun memorizing Latin. Since before he was even born, Trey plotted it. I can remember back in Aberdeen him pulling some of his children's Latin workbooks off the shelf and reading to Addison about Quintus. In so many ways, Addison is his father's child eagerly absorbing all the things Trey exposes him to whether they be archaic animation from long before I was even alive or ancient musical forms from the '70s and '80s. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point. And then, of course, there is no short supply of ridiculous nicknames, goofy songs, and silly sayings, such as the other day when Addison came up to me and informed me, per Daddy's prompting, "Chocolate is a powerful motivator." In case you hadn't guessed, he's also inherited his sweet tooth.

In addition to his rare book collecting, Trey has added historic prints and etchings to the list. We are slowly amassing a unique array of obscure European engravings, depicting many of the historical figures he has been researching. One such print is called The Sapient Septemviri or Seven Wise Men. It hangs on our bedroom wall and satirizes the seven men who opposed the merging of Marischal College and King's College into one institution back in the late 18th century. If you were to ask Addison the name of the picture, he wouldn't miss a beat in telling you its title. I am amazed at his capacity for memorization. He can tell you which prints on our walls are Andrew Melville, John Knox, and King James VI of Scotland, a feat I would struggle to perform.

I'm not sure whether to be delighted or terrified.

Intimation of Intention

I don't know why this makes me laugh so, but it does. Trey has recently become acquainted with a little form they have at the University called the Intimation of Intention to Submit a Thesis for a Higher Degree. Intimation of Intention? Why not just say Intention of Intention? Could you put it any more tentatively? The island's quirkiness still tickles me. Needless to say, our dear scholar could use your prayers right now. If I had to use a birthing analogy, since that seems aptly appropriate right now, he is in transitional labor and the baby is crowning, no intimation about it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Calling All Readers

I need your help. With the baby's arrival imminent, it's time for me to compile a reading list. After I had Davis, I read voraciously while nursing, a much better way to pass the time than watching television and more realistic than attempting to knit around a baby. Here are a couple of guidelines to help you:

- I need to be able to read it in 30 minute increments without having difficulty remembering where I left off. In other words, don't suggest Ulysses.

- I prefer fiction, unless it's something totally riveting like Helter Skelter. (Yes, I am a fan of the bizarre and even criminal, for reading not practice.)

- Nothing too depressing, please. Remember I will be post-partum.

Right now I have two books on my list, Gilead and The Secret Life of Bees. Any thoughts on these by folks who have read them would also be greatly appreciated.

Your grateful, part-time reading friend,

Every Story Whispers His Name

If I had to pick the one thing most frequently missed in even the most theologically sound sermons, it is Christ and Him crucified. Sadly, the preaching that emanates from many evangelical pulpits today boils down to personal moralism, and I fear we begin this misguided trajectory at a very young age with our children. Pick up any Bible storybook and you will see countless examples of what I mean. The story of Cain and Abel is about being kind to your siblings. The story of David and Goliath is about trusting God against even seemingly insurmountable odds. Daniel in the lions' den? Standing firm on what you believe. All important lessons, to be sure. However, the good news of the gospel is so much bigger than injunctions towards personal piety and begs the ultimate question WHY. Why should we then live a godly life? The simple, and yet not so simple answer, because we have been bought with a price.

A friend of ours and former fellow Westminster seminarian of Trey's, Kyuboem Lee, wrote a review on his blog in November of a new Bible storybook for children which was published last March by Zondervan, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. As I read his description and particularly the tagline of the book, I was intrigued by the concept, a children's book which attempted to trace the Jesus story arc through all the lessons of Scripture, presenting it at a level even the youngest heart could grasp. Unfortunately, I let months elapse before purchasing it, but we are now well into the book and it is truly remarkable. I could hardly get through the end of the story of Adam and Eve without choking back my own emotion:

"Well, in another story, it would all be over and that would have been...THE END...But not in this Story...You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children -- with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God's children would miss him always, and long for him -- lost children yearning for their home. Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve; 'It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you!...I'm coming back for you!' And he would. One day. God himself would come."

Wow. And every story is like that, breathing the name of Jesus across each page, pointing ahead to that great sacrifice of love on Calvary, our hope which lies in the shadow of the cross and the light of the empty tomb.

Both boys have been captivated by the relatable narrative style and the colorful illustrations, which blessedly reflect a more accurate depiction of Middle Eastern culture and not the silly, Europeanized figures we're all so used to. If you are looking for something to really get your children thinking about the things of God, drinking deeply from his Word, beginning to understand that this story, which begins so sadly in the Garden of Eden but ends in hope and joy in another, Gethsemene, is not a string of moralistic pearls but a great love story from God to His people, look no further.

There is a quote at the beginning of the book from a hymn by Josiah Conder, a hymn I knew well as a child but had forgotten in the intervening years, one which summarizes it all so beautifully:

"'Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me...

My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alphabet Blanket

Yesterday I finished the blanket I've been working on since last June for the new baby. That's right. Even before we knew we were actually expecting another one, I had started it. One of my favorite shops in Aberdeen, John Lewis, was holding their annual yarn sale, and I just couldn't help myself. I got a great deal on this orange sherbet-colored 100% organic cotton. The color is so cheerful and completely gender-neutral, but not what you typically think of in that sometimes bland category. Ever since I first started knitting with Davis's blanket back in January 2007, I've had this goal to make each of our children a special blanket all their own. I still owe Addison one, which I will someday make. The reason this one took so long to complete is that I took a lengthy break through most of the fall and didn't really work on it in earnest until right around the first of the year.

The pattern comes from the new Rowan Milk Cotton Baby Collection book from which I made the boys' Christmas vests. It's an alphabet blanket composed of letter squares and double seed stitch squares sewn together and then finished with a double seed stitch border.

To my chagrin when I first started the blanket, I didn't realize that the book didn't include a detailed diagram for each letter block. It included A, B, and an apple (for the 27th letter square), leaving the rest up to the individual knitter's ingenuity. Needless to say, diagramming each letter was an added challenge.

The texture of the double seed stitch squares reminds me of a strawberry or raspberry. It's a really beautiful stitch combination.

The completed blanket just waiting for our baby girl to arrive.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Pop Shop

This past Saturday we were invited to a birthday party breakfast for Addison's twin Abigail. They were born at exactly the same minute (10:51pm) on the same day (February 22nd) in 2005. The odds of that occurring to two families in the same church boggles the mind, but these two kids are living proof that sometimes strange things do happen.

The party was held at The Pop Shop in Collingswood, a nearby town experiencing something of a restaurant renaissance. This particular eatery is a cross between a Jersey diner and a classic 1950s soda fountain. The interior is bathed in calming pastels, pink, yellow, and aqua, accented with the flash of chrome bar stools and a giant mirror behind the counter. Every Saturday children who come to breakfast in their pajamas eat free (with purchase of a full-priced adult meal), a creative way to draw families in on a weekend morning. The breakfast menu, which is served all day, is a dream come true for those, like me, who glory in that early meal of the day. Pancakes, waffles, stuffed french toast, name it, they've got it with every combination, variation, and topping imaginable. Besides breakfast, of course they have a full dinner menu replete with 1/2 lb. Angus burgers and 31 varieties of grilled cheese , another reason I can't wait to go back, alongside such Philadelphia classics as the cheesesteak and crab fries. Their dessert and soda fountain menu is impressive and packs on the pounds at a mere glance.

Davis patiently waiting for his Betty dots, kid-sized pancakes. The full-sized Bettys are nearly 8" in diameter.

As you can imagine, a happening place like the Pop Shop and Addison are a match made in heaven.

The sweet birthday girl.

The twins sharing a seat together.

Not meant as an obnoxious epithet but the term for the clerk who works the soda fountain "jerk" behind the counter. You can actually apply to be the "Jerk of the Month" at the Pop Shop and such a distinction includes free dinner, the chance to jerk sodas for 5 of your friends, hat and t-shirt, and your picture forever memorialized on the restaurant's website.

One other note of interest, The Pop Shop was featured last January on Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. The plat du jour? Grilled cheese, of course!

Monday, February 23, 2009

4th Birthday Party

We celebrated Addison's birthday much the way we did Davis's, low-key, mainly family. After church, Addison opened his presents and then we sang Happy Birthday. Addison had requested a Cranky cake, which initially left me stymied. How in the world was I going to pull this one off? Then I had the brilliant idea to recreate Brendam Docks where Cranky works and purchase an actual Cranky to add to his ever-expanding collection of Thomas trains as the centerpiece of the cake. Once he saw me put Cranky on top Saturday while I was decorating the cake, I swear he asked me 5,000 times when he could play with him. I'm not sure if he thought by asking me yet one more time I'd take Cranky off, but I remained unrelenting.

Tearing off the wrapping paper with gusto.

Red, the sensitive fire engine, from Cars. Now the squabbling over Davis's Sheriff can stop.

The Cranky cake complete with railway cars loaded with jelly bean "coal".

Davis admiring the cake with Aunt Joanna, my brother Nate's fiancee.


Enjoying his new big wheel from Nana and Papa and singing Happy Birthday. He got a $5 bill in one of his birthday cards and clutched it like Ebeneezer Scrooge until Trey finally put it in his money box for safe keeping.

4 Years Young

Yesterday Addison turned 4. I have spent a lot of time the past couple of days pondering the four years that Addison has been with us. I can remember the day he was born like it happened yesterday, and yet somehow I don't know when my tiny baby became such a tall, strapping young boy. Addison is one of those children you don't easily forget. He has an infectious personality. He is intense and passionate, feeling things so deeply, both good and bad. He thinks about subjects beyond his years and embraces life with an enthusiasm that could instruct us all. He is gentle and sweet, intuitive and perceptive.

I giggle that he makes up his own numbers when counting during hide-and-seek, gunchteen and funteen. I marvel that he asked Trey the other day, "Daddy, what is the Holy Spirit?" I love that he willingly clears his plate after a meal and puts his dirty laundry in the basket. I wonder at his capacity for memorizing Latin already (stay tuned for the Sapient Septemviri). I still melt at those pools of blue fringed with the longest lashes you've ever seen.

He is a complicated, emotional boy from whom Trey and I continue to learn patience and self-sacrifice, and although his and my personalities clash at times, I also see how much alike we are. I know how hard it is to be the first child, the guinea pig, the one who experiences things before the others, the one with a great burden of responsibility for those who follow, and I feel a deep connection and bond to him. I have no doubt he will do unforgettable things one day, write the great American novel, cure cancer, or become the President. He has that kind of charisma and drive. But more than anything I want him to become a man of God, a follower of Christ, a disciple of the Most High. I see his love for our Lord already, and his capacity for understanding the profound and yet simple truths of God's Word takes my breath away.

Party pictures from yesterday to follow!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

March 11th

We have a date. At my pre-natal appointment yesterday, my doctor (the kind who helps people, haha, see post below) scheduled my induction for Wednesday, March 11th. Barring an unforeseen, early arrival, we should meet our little girl 3 weeks from yesterday. It's such a departure for me to know EXACTLY when we will be having this baby and has provided me with a great deal of psychological strength to get through these last few weeks with the aches and pains and restless nights. To know at the very least I don't have to go late, unlike with my two boys, and even better I get to go 5 days early seems so luxurious. When the receptionist called the hospital to put me on the schedule and asked for the medical indication necessitating the induction, her eyes got really big when my doctor said, "Previous home delivery." It's funny to watch people's different reactions to the news. Yesterday my doctor told me that in all his years as an OB he has never attended to an emergency delivery in public like that. He sounded almost disappointed having apparently toted around an emergency delivery kit in his car for years on the off chance that he would stumble upon a woman delivering a baby in the middle of Wal-mart. Poor guy. Maybe someday he'll get his wish. I, on the other hand, one of the unlucky 1-2% of women who experience precipitous labor, am hoping to avoid a repeat living room scenario and scheduling the induction brought us one step closer to that.

The Usefulness of a PhD

Conversation two days ago between Trey and Addison:

Trey: Is Daddy a fireman?
Addison: No.
Trey: Is Daddy a policeman?
Addison: No.
Trey: Is Daddy a doctor?
Addison: No.
Trey: What do you mean?
Addison: You're not a doctor who helps people.

Thanks, kiddo. They have such a way of cutting to the chase.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kim Jong-il

I found out an amusing, albeit slightly disturbing, fact yesterday. My sweet Davis shares his birthday with none other than the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, quite a departure from Addison who shares his birthday, February 22nd, with George Washington. Like I've said before, Davis is his own man. Apparently, the day is a sacred holiday in North Korea, and it makes me giggle inside to know that while we celebrate his birthday over here in modest style, an entire country is celebrating a world away. I'll just pretend in my own mind it's actually for our little guy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Addison Granite

Addison Black - Thermaled

It has struck me for a while now as an odd coincidence that the daughter of a granite family should spend two years of her life in the Granite City, Aberdeen. My maiden name is Fletcher, and I am the great great granddaughter of the man who started the Fletcher Granite company in Chelmsford, MA in 1881, H.E. Fletcher. Although the history of the company does not particularly interest me, what did catch my eye the other day was a swatch booklet, for lack of a better term, that one of my dad's cousins had sent him. As I flipped through and examined the various types of granite quarried by the company, I stumbled upon the Addison line. What a serendipitous discovery!

Addison Black - Polished

Monday, February 16, 2009

Party Time

The gift he discovered before it was wrapped, a talking-driving Sheriff from Cars, which consequently had to be opened before Daddy was even out of bed Sunday morning.

After 1st year birthday blowouts, we tend to keep it low-key for the next one, especially this year with the impending birth of #3. Not sure how we managed this, but all three of our children will have birthdays within three weeks of each other, which makes for a hectic, though festive, time of year. Nevertheless, we had a great deal of fun yesterday celebrating Davis's 2nd birthday (one day early, of course). We chose to celebrate Sunday because most of the family comes over then anyway after church.

Festivities really began the night before when we got Davis a bunch of balloons, one of which was a huge, practically life-sized mylar Spiderman balloon. Then Sunday morning after breakfast, Davis opened his gifts all of which were covered in Spiderman paper. Following lunch we sang Happy Birthday and the boys noshed on Spiderman cupcakes. Oh, did I forget to mention the theme? It was Batman.

Here are a few photos from the day the rest of which are in Davis's 2nd Birthday album one column over.

The new tricycle, a Radio Flyer, from Nana and Papa. It has all the old-fashioned goodness of a steel frame with all the new-fangled delight of a Vespa-like body and working blinkers, horn, and radio. What will they come up with next?

Obviously, this is not the proper posture for the trike. Did I mention he's fearless?

Addison was more than happy to assist Davis in ripping the paper off the presents. Thankfully, as a second child, Davis is laid back and just goes with it.

Trey and I gave Davis a pop-up play tent with canopy. This has been a big hit!

The tent is actually supposed to be a barn.

The Spiderman cupcakes. The inspiration came from this site, and I used Paula Deen's red velvet cupcake recipe. For those of you, like me, who have never tried or even heard of red velvet cake, it is an absolute must and one of the most delicious culinary contributions of the South!

Davis about to blow out his candle. If you look closely around my neck, you will see my Valentine's gift from Saturday. Trey got me a beautiful amethyst pendant with three little diamonds on top. I told him my Valentine's gift was in my belly.

Enjoying his cake.


Here are a few clips from the day.

Two Years Ago Today

A photo I've thus far been too shy to post, taken just moments after Davis's birth. I am still on my knees.

For as long as I live I will never forget the drama of this day, February 16, 2007. If you're not familiar with the story, you can read the full account here. From the moment he entered this world, Davis has held a very special place in my heart. He has always been his own little man, unlike what I expected, an Addison carbon. He is both cautious and fearless, gentle and boisterous, tiny and overpowering, theatrical and shy, a mass of contradictions which I never tire of getting to know. In his two short years of life I feel as if I have learned more about dying to myself and trusting in my Savior from my wee half-pint than I think I had in the 26 years leading up to his birth. I have worried, prayed, and cried over him, laughed and cheered with him. I love how he shoves an entire peppermint patty into his mouth in one go and can hear the sonic vibrations of an airplane from miles away. I love to watch him play with his brother, lost in a world of childhood imagination, and how he growls with such guttural fierceness you might mistake him for a bobcat instead of a little boy. He says thank you almost every single time without reminder and relishes a lusty "Amen" at the end of a prayer. His twinkling eyes are unrivaled, his coy smile could melt the hardest heart, and his booming voice is a joy to hear throughout our house. With all our hearts Trey and I pray that he grows to be a great man of faith who loves our Lord and serves Him all his days, and in the meantime we are humbled to be the vessels used by God to love and nurture him and point him to our Lord Jesus.

Birthday party photos from yesterday to follow! Here are a few of Davis from the Holloway archives over the past two years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

The other night while watching President Obama's press conference, I was shocked to learn from a reporter's question that Alex Rodriguez had just admitted to using steroids during his time with the Texas Rangers. It shouldn't surprise me, I guess, and yet I'm still the eternal optimist looking for untarnished heroes in a game full of cheats. The only reason I mention it here is that back on August 8, 2007 I wrote a blog entitled *756 lamenting the illegitimate new home run record Barry Bonds had created surpassing Hank Aaron. In that entry I said: "My only condition is that records be broken fairly, and so on this sad, sad day in baseball, I find consolation in knowing that A-Rod is hard on Bonds's heals having just broken the 500 mark at 32 years old, the youngest player in baseball ever to do so, and when he breaks that record, I will be cheering."

Not so fast. I won't be cheering actually because by his own admission for three years during the height of his success (2001-2003) he used a combination of anabolic steroids, testosterone, and Primobolan. I want my money back MLB. Seriously. You turned a blind eye to what was going on during the early 2000s making money off a sham. It was smoke and mirrors, not grit and hard work. This blot on baseball, the Steroids Era, has only further elevated the accomplishments of past heroes, like Hank Aaron, a skinny kid from Mobile, Alabama, who achieved greatness not through the trainer's needle but through incredible discipline and sheer talent. Wish I could've paid to see him play.

Diagnosis: Strep Throat

I finally have an answer to why I've been in such agony. No, it's not the burgeoning belly keeping me up at night. It's been my throat. The cold I got from the boys last week has ballooned into strep throat. In desperation this morning I had Trey call the OB's office, because I'm barely audible over the phone these days, to see if they could squeeze me in as an emergency. I just knew something was seriously wrong with my throat. The doctor took one look at it and said, "Yup, that's strep. There's been a lot of it going around," inflamed with white patches.

Yesterday morning, I felt like I had gotten to the end of my rope. It's practically impossible to parent children with no voice, and between the frustration of not being heard and the level of discomfort I was suffering, I had a little meltdown right before lunch. Pain can be isolating and lonely. Addison saw me crying and came over with worried concern in his saucer-sized eyes. "Mommy, what's the matter? Why are you crying?" For a moment he broke out of the childish self-focus that was contributing to my fragile state and touched me with the grown-up concern of someone who can see past themselves to another in need. Through my tears I said, "Mommy's sad and doesn't feel well. I just need a hug." And that's what he did. Held me close. I vividly remember the painful, isolating moments of late pregnancy with Davis, and I marvel at the maturity difference between parenting a then 2 year old and a now 4 year old. Granted, I have one more child this time around to contribute to the chaos, but it actually seems easier. I am so proud of the helpful, compassionate little boy Addison is. When I just can't climb the stairs one more time to get that forgotten item or I don't have the strength to bend over and reach the sock I've dropped, Addison is a willing helper happy to assist me, and in moments of pain or sadness he has a tender heart eager to love.

My Heart's in the Highlands

This year for Christmas my family did its normal pollyanna gift exchange with a little twist to the rules. Instead of assigning a dollar limit, we stipulated that the gift needed to be "homemade." Several members of the family balked at this, but, in the end, just about everybody complied and, through a little ingenuity and creativity, was able to come up with something truly special for their intended.

My sister, Sarah, drew my name out of the hat and worked diligently to come up with a gift that she knew would really touch me. She couldn't have succeeded more. With the help of one of my good friends from back in Aberdeen, Kate Ellis, and Trey, Sarah set about compiling a Scottish memory box, a treasure trove of things that would remind me of that Granite City we called home for two years. She knows how much I miss Aberdeen and that my heart and thoughts are never far from her, and she wanted to give me a tangible reminder of what only lived in my mind.

Using decoupage she decorated a wood box with photographs we had taken around Aberdeen and scraps of blue tissue paper, blue being the color of Scotland, of course. Inside the box she tucked a small, magnetic digital picture frame with photos from our time in Aberdeen, a tote bag from the University of Aberdeen (bag for life), handmade soap from the Shetlands, a few granite rocks from the beach, and a sleeve of chocolate covered digestive biscuits from Morrisons. The crowning glory at the top of the box was the Robert Burns poem, "My Heart's in the Highlands," which she had superimposed over a picture of Dunnottar Castle and then laminated. I seriously wept as I read it aloud:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover'd with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forrests and wild-hanging woods;
Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, whereever I go.

I had no idea when we moved to Aberdeen how indelibly marked it would leave me. To be sure, I remember the hard things well, the dark winters, the cold, rainy summers, the inconvenience, the limited choices, the acceptance and resignation, but that is not what impacted me most profoundly. When I think back on our time, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of the people, the gentle pace of life, and the incredible natural beauty. In a place where my greatest fear was loneliness and isolation, I had more fellowship and communion than at any other time in my life, thus the tears for a time now gone yet held so dear.

An added bonus to the box was that it provides a safe place to store some of the sentimental trinkets, like my cherished bus ticket, which I otherwise would stash in a drawer somewhere and would, in time, eventually throw away. I also included a set of Doric coasters (with words like blether and its definition) which our landlords gave us as a parting gift, my Bank of Scotland cheque book, a cross stitch sampler I did of St. Machar's Cathedral back when I was pregnant with Davis, and all the sweet farewell cards from friends we received right before leaving.

Top of the box. A picture Sarah took this past summer of the four of us exploring the beach. I love this photo so much, most especially for its unplanned, uncanny resemblance to the Abbey Road album cover.

Picture of the Crown Tower from the inner quad at King's.

Dunnottar Castle.

King's College.

A view of Union Terrace Gardens from above the park.