On These Pages Are The Stories Of Our Family We Go Together ! Welcome To The World As Viewed Through Our Eyes
Lynette .......... Caedmon .......... Libby .......... Tom

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CHRISTmas Celebrations

I had grand aspirations of doing all kinds of great activities to help C-boy know the REAL reason for Christmas. I received emails about Jesse Trees and all kinds of other fun ideas. I was remembering some things that we did as children and also, some ideas that were shared at my MOPS group last year. However, being out of the country for the first week of December and then having house guests for most of the second week, I just couldn't find the time to get everything done this year. I did make a concerted effort to talk a lot about Jesus's birth, read stories that centered on that and slip in a few of my activity ideas. I plan to create my Jesse Tree ornaments before the Christmas decorations are taken down so that they can be packed away and ready for next season.

There were two specific things we did this year. First, on Christmas morning, I made sure that the prettiest package under the tree was a box that had "Baby Jesus" from our nativity in it. That was one of the first things that Caedmon opened. When he opened, we talked about how Jesus is the best gift and then we placed him in the manger of our creche.

The other thing we did was have a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day. Since Tom was working on Christmas, that was really our only Christmas-y thing we did on the 25th. Caedmon always associates cake with birthdays so it seemed fitting that we'd celebrate Jesus's birthday with a cake. In the future, I'd like to let Caedmon & Libby help me make the cake too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Christmas Present

My husband is always so sweet and creative when it comes to giving gifts...and he loves a good surprise! On Monday night, we were wrapping all of the kids' gifts to prepare for an early Christmas (since we celebrated on Christmas eve morning). We were just finishing up around 8:45 PM when he suddenly appeared in the study donning his coat and announcing that he had to "go to the store." I found it extremely strange, especially since he is more of an early morning shopper than a late night shopper. He's been known to ask if stores even stay open past dark. About 40 minutes later, he called me and told me to look for a card in the Christmas tree. The card announced what my Christmas present was...He flew my sister here to celebrate Christmas with us and to serve as babysitter so Tom & I could enjoy two date nights. I was VERY pleasantly surprised. Tom & I have only had a few nights out without the kids since Libby was born. The only two I can distinctly remember were in Greece with my dad acting as babysitter...although we may have snuck away for a grocery shopping trip or an errand while other family was visiting. It was also a huge blessing because Tom worked 24 hours on Christmas Day. We were invited to a friend's house for lunch but there is nothing more special than spending holidays with family, especially since we don't get to do that very often.

On Tuesday, Tom and I went out for sushi and enjoyed a nice evening together. On Wednesday, we planned to go for pizza at a fun shopping area. However, we didn't take into consideration that being Christmas Eve, none of the smaller restaurants would be open. After trying at least 3 local restaurants, which were all closed, Tom told me that he was certain the Chinese restaurants were all opened. I wasn't so sure but we made the drive to Richardson to our favorite dumpling restaurant. Turns out he was absolutely right - every restaurant in "China Town" was packed. Although Chinese food wasn't my first choice, it was a fun night out together...with a fun story of the search for an open restaurant. Here's a picture of us dolled up to go out for sushi (Caedmon decided he needed to be in the picture too):

And here's Aunt Heather with the kids:
Thank you, Tom, for a wonderful Christmas gift...and thank you, Aunt H, for helping to make it all happen!
...I also got a very cool new kitchen gadget - Beaba Babycook. It steams and blends food to make homemade baby food. One of my friends who has a baby the same age as Libby told me about it. I mentioned it to Tom but figured it probably wasn't worth it since we already have a steamer pot and a Cuisinart Mini-prep. However, it arrived on Christmas Eve and I am loving it! Now, I have definite incentive to skip buying store-bought baby food for Libby. I started out strong with Caedmon but he ended up eating mostly Earth's Best jarred food by the end of his baby food experience.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Revolutionary Parenting - a Book Report

I used to read a lot... that is, until marriage and children came along! In the past, even when I was busy and tired from work, I would at least be able to read a book or two while on vacation. Now it seems all but an impossibility. However, a few months ago, Lynette read George Barna's "Revolutionary Parenting". She encouraged me to read it. Now 2 months later, in the hospital on-call on Christmas day, I have finally gotten to it. I was actually first introduced to George Barna's writing by my friend and neighbor, Ashley http://stewardshipmandate.blogspot.com/. He had given me one of Barna's books last year called "Revolution" - this book was quite interesting as it described a growing trend in America in which people were redefining and identifying their Christian life not so much with "going to church", but rather in "being the church" in their daily and community lives. The message had sparked something within me that was missing that I wished for in my own life. But sadly to say, the message for me was like some of the seed sown in the Parable of the Sower- "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature (Luke 8: 13,14)." I do hope that God will bring about in me a strong desire to radically change the way I live my life, and that for me life would be my church.

Back to talking about reading... the book "Revolutionary Parenting" is not a how-to recipe guide for parenting, but rather, Barna has through his research identified some trends in what it takes to raise a spiritual champion. Much of what I gleaned and follows in this post is directly copied and/or paraphrased from the book. His data were drawn from a series of national public-opinion surveys among parents, reviewing the literature on parenting practices, interviews of people in their 20's living transformed lives and then got permission to speak with their parents. Barna's goal was to identify some common factors that were pertinent to the child-rearing efforts of parents who successfully raise spiritual champions.

Most American parents conclude they are doing "ok" because the are basing their measure of "ok" on what our society deems to be normal and significant. Raising children who are healthy, doing well in school, have a good home environment with parents, involved in church, has good friends, not on drugs, not sexually active, etc is fine but these are our measures... not God's. All these things do not produce the final result God seeks.We miss the bigger picture - that is to raise children who will love, serve, and obey Him for the rest of their lives. As Barna reminds us, they are molded in God's image, not ours. We ought not to try to clone ourselves or make them into something other than what we we felt were our own shortcomings. Children are a gift and our blessing. We are given the responsibility of raising them for God's purposes, not ours.

Barna says that part of successful parenting is being a great coach to your children - he cites five conditions :
1) Your impact on your children's lives is proportional to the depth of the relationship you have fostered with them.
2) You must wholeheartedly embrace the outcomes you are pushing your child to achieve.
3) Impact is derived from "coaching in the moment".
4) Great coaches are great communicators (and listeners).
5) The coach must have a comprehensive plan for reaching the "promised land."

Interesting, there are also some family conditions that Barna's data drew out:
1) Family size - the fewer the children, the more likely a family is able to produce spiritual champions. This is felt in part to be due to the amount of time devoted to hands-on parenting and access to parental resources. Consequently, single parents have a more difficult time raising spiritual champions.
2) Birth Order - The firstborn child is most likely to become a spiritual champion. (again due to the reasons cited above.)
3) Family Characteristics - No correlation between socioeconomic status and spiritual development of a child.

Also, he notes that the most successful parents embraced parenting as their primary job in life.
Revolutionary parents are more likely to:
1) Be single income households.
2) Schedule a much greater amount of time to spend with their children each day.
3) Intentionally identify their children as their main earthly focus in life during their parenting years.

Our modern-day psychology has misled us that it is quality, not quantity that counts. We must be willing to invest substantial amounts of time and energy in child-rearing. Barna says that the willingness of Revolutionary Parents to make raising their children a paramount DAILY priority is based on their Christian faith as the pivot point in ALL their decisions - God wins first place. Two themes emerge when looking at these families in growing together spiritually:
1) family conversations that bring biblical views into their shared lives, and
2) efforts to regularly engage in faith activities (Bible study, worship, prayer) that model integration of faith into their lives.
These practices are even an aberration in most so-called Christian families.

These parents held some common key qualities:
1) They got in the game early - they started their revolutionary parenting when their children were very young and were relentlessly diligent from that point on. They worked together as a team, even tag-teaming it when one parent was tired.
2) They planned, measured, and revised their strategies and goals for their children.
3) They realized that one size does not fit all. Each child is unique and deserved different yet consistent ways of parenting.
4) They did not push their children to grow up before they were ready. God's timing, not theirs.
5) They focused on developing godly character (rather than achievements).
6) They tried to be the best parent, not their best friend.
7) They translated the notion of parenting as their highest calling into investing substantial amounts of time and energy into their relationship with their children and the activities they engage in.
8) They provided structure, consistency, and stability - in their marriage, household rules, moral expectations, financial priorities, discipline, kept their promises, and provided a worldview that the children could predict and find soothing.

(I particularly liked the part in the book where one mother writes as she recalled the behavior of her son who was always trying to impress his folks with his grades and sports feats, "We kept coming back to how he treated people and what he did with his money and what kind of stories he'd tell his friends. We tried to affirm his accomplishments, but we worked at keeping those things in their proper place. He was sick of hearing me tell him that I'd rather have an honest boy than a smart one, and that God was more excited about a servant than a superstar. It took him a long time to get that message. None of his friends were being given the message, his teachers did not give him that message, his coaches did not give him that message; it was only dorky Mom and Dad who kept harping on that theme. But as he grew older and began to see, and sometimes suffer from, the absence of character among his friends, he latched onto the idea that character matters more than achievements.")

(Also interesting was a section regarding education in the book. Barna talks about how exemplary parents expected their children to perform at or above their competence level while in elementary and secondary school. But when it came to college, some were indifferent if their children even chose to apply, while others went all out to get their children into the best ones. Others fought with their children over it. Regardless of whether they went to college or not, every one of the children in question became a spiritual champion. The conflict was perhaps more of a growth moment for their parents rather than their young adults, he writes. "To be honest, it broke my heart that Brandon refused to go to college. He was not the most academic of students, but he was certainly bright enough and could have done well in college, if he'd given it a try," rued a mother, forlorn over her son's decision to join the workforce directly out of high school. "But the Lord has taught me that Brandon's worth is not in the kind of job he has but in the character he demonstrates and in his love for God," she continued. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about my dreams for him and God's dreams for him. I've concluded that if God's will is to be done in Brandon's life, the most important thing is not whether he has a college degree, but whether he serves God. I've come to appreciate the fact - and to thank God for it - that Brandon is a committed follower of Christ and lives in ways that are consistent with our beliefs. I know that pleases God. Having a college degree would have pleased me, but it's more important that he honor the Lord. I've made my peace with this, and now I simply appreciate Brandon's heart for God. I prayed for that for years. When God answered that promise, I just wasn't ready for the way He answered it.") ... Wow - this would be a tough one for me personally.

These parents saw themselves as the primary person blessed with the responsibility of the spiritual upbringing of their children. They did not try to outsource Christian education to the church. They saw the church as a support system, not as the place that was responsible for the child's spiritual growth. They expect to know what the youth leaders of the church teach, what they expect of their students, how they conduct the experience, and how they want to interact with the parents. It is not enough to just drop off their kids at church and pick them up later.

Some common chief rules these parents relied upon:
1) Always tell the truth, regardless of circumstances or consequences.
2) Never cheat or steal.
3) Always show respect to others, no matter how you feel about them.
4) Help others - we are servants.
5) Control your tongue.
6) Don't judge other's motives. Only judge their behavior as it affects you or other family members.
7) Take good care of your body - hygiene/exercise.
8) Be active in the pursuit of your faith.
9) Work hard in school.
10) Household chores.
11) Make sure at least one parent knows where you are at all times.
12) Accept the penalties for inappropriate behavior.
Other things identified were that these parents enforced a curfew, cautiously (and quietly) influenced their children's choice of friends, and established limits on media.

For these parents, Faith is the foundation. They:
1) showed genuine love for God.
2) prayed daily, regularly, openly, and faithfully.
3) worshipped regularly.
4) read the Bible habitually for personal development.
5) participated in the life of their spiritual community.
6) applied their resources, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities frequently to influencing lives.
The Bible is their guide. Their purpose for studying the Bible with their children were:
1) to teach their children that the best place to search for life's answers is in God's instructions to us.
2) by turning to the Bible consistently, they hoped that their children would adopt the idea that there are truth principles that must be integrated into life.
3) modeling the value of studying Scripture in the company of others and benefiting from the group's wisdom.
4) the hope that regular exposure to God's principles would build a worldview for their children that they can have for the rest of their lives.

Reading this book has definitely opened my eyes into what I should be doing right now, and working more towards in the future, and how as a team I should be supporting Lynette who spends everyday non-stop with our children while I am at work. We prayed for God to grant us the blessing of children when we married. He has graciously answered those prayers with Caedmon and Libby. As a father, and the wage earner, I need to make sure my priorities are correct. Their little hearts, minds, and souls are at stake. It is a responsibility from God I must not take lightly. Barna writes, "Parenting is hard work with no guarantees.The most unnerving reality is that even when a parent does everything right, there is still no guarantee that the result will be an adult who honors God with all his heart, mind, strength, and soul. (Though daunting) we may give Him and our children our best effort and confidently leave the results to Him. We need to be obedient to God's calling and principles and allow Him to produce the outcomes according to His perfect will."

Christmas Letter 2008

As usual, our year was full! Last Christmas, we surprised our families by making a road trip and showing up on their doorsteps to celebrate. This year, we had plenty of visitors. Lynette’s family made several visits and Tom’s mom came every other month helping and teaching Caedmon more of the Chinese language. All the grandparents were here to celebrate Caedmon's 2nd birthday and then returned a few weeks later to celebrate the arrival of our beautiful daughter, Libby. Life has certainly changed as we now juggle the responsibilities and blessings that come from having two little ones in the house.

We resumed our travels in October, relaxing on the seashores of Kauai. This time Tom’s mom came with us and it was truly a blessing to have an extra pair of hands… and also to share the joy of her first real vacation. In November we celebrated Lynette’s Gram’s 90th birthday in Pennsylvania, and also visited with lots of family and friends. Tom’s Grandma also turned 90 the same month. We are so thankful for the blessing of their long lives! In December, Lynette’s dad joined us as we explored the ancient archeological sites of Athens, Greece… Opa! Lastly, our travels concluded with a visit to Tom’s good friends in the Pacific Northwest.

When we’re not on one of our adventures, life is fairly routine. Tom continues to keep busy with his medical practice. Lynette balances daily life with two children under the age of 3. She is active in a local Mother of Preschoolers (MOPS) group. Caedmon continues to take swimming lessons and his skills have improved a lot over the year – he is now swimming the length of the pool underwater! This year he also took music class and is in a mommy-led art group with some of his toddler friends. Libby tags along to all of Caedmon's activities, but in January, she’ll start her own swimming lessons.

Our Christmas tree was put up in early November due to travel plans. Thus, Caedmon has been asking about Christmas from early on. It’s hard to believe that last year he was just speaking his first sentence, because this year he’s talking in full paragraphs and asking tons of questions. We’ve been trying very hard to point all Christmas queries back to Jesus and the TRUE reason we celebrate. Lynette took the kids to get their pictures taken and the photographer gave Caedmon a Christmas book to use as a prop. When she asked him who was on the page (Santa), he answered Jesus! She asked again and his second try was “God.” While it made us giggle, it also encouraged us that perhaps we are having at least a little success in our teaching. It is a battle that we will continue to fight and prayerfully win…not only for Caedmon and Libby, but also for us. So, as we celebrate this Christmas season, we look back on the year with thankfulness for our growing family and the many things in our lives that remind us of what Jesus has done.

Tom, Lynette, Caedmon & Libby~ Christmas 2008

"...So close your eyes and share the dream. Let everyone on earth believe, the Child was born, the stars shown bright and Love came down at Christmas time..."
~Point Of Grace, "When Love Came Down"~

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Morning

Since Tom is working all day tomorrow, we decided to celebrate Christmas today - on Christmas Eve morning. Here are some pictures of today's festivities:

Gingerbread Cookies

A few months ago, we read Caedmon the story of the Gingerbread Man for the first time. Ever since then, I promised him that someday we would make gingerbread cookies. I finally fulfilled my promise as part of our Christmas preparations. He helped me make the dough, pouring in the flour and other ingredients after I had measured them. After we had the dough made, I realized that of all my Christmas cookie cutters, I had no gingerbread man - good planning, huh? The next day, I was able to run to the store for a nice cookie cutter and after nap time, Caedmon helped to roll the dough and cut out the gingerbread men. He watched as I pressed M&Ms into the baked cookies and even got to eat an M&M or two. We had a lot of fun making the cookies...and Caedmon especially enjoyed eating them. Fortunately for us, our gingerbread men did not "run, run as fast as they could."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sitting Pretty...

Just yesterday I was watching a few of Libby's "friends," both older and younger, sitting up on their own, unsupported. Today, she joined the club. Here's our girl "sitting pretty."

Anesthesiologist On-Call

What is being on-call as an anesthesiologist like?. I thought I would try to journal a bit of a 24 hour call shift for me. Sometimes I get to do my own cases, but a large part of my practice is coordinating the operating room and medically directing certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Well, here is this day, albeit, a somewhat slow day for me compared to my usual call days/night...

0435 : Wake up, shower, eat bowl of cereal.

0500 : Out the door.

0550 : In hospital (10-15 min added to drive due to icy roads. Usually my drive into Dallas takes me about 35 minutes.), make coffee in office.

0600 : In OR, check entire OR schedule, readjust anesthesia MD & CRNA line-ups for the day.

0610 : Start interviewing & examining patients, filling out chart paperwork for my supervised CRNA cases. I am supervising 4-5 CRNAs at a time today.

0650-0942 : 45 year old female with fibroids & menorrhagia for vaginal hysterectomy.

(As each case is subsequently started, I go and begin the process of interviewing and examining the next set of patients. I also deal with any OR issues, move OR cases around to facilitate flow of cases for the day, deal with surgeon complaints, help my fellow anesthesiologists if they need an extra pair of hands with their patients, keep track of my partners who are doing cases at other hospitals/offices to make sure they are going to be back at our main hospital in time for cases later on in the day, deal with emergencies around the hospital, deal with office issues, etc.)

0752-1118 : 41 y/o male who had a kidney transplant whose original non-working kidney now was found to have a mass in it, patient also has hepatitis C. The original non-working kidney is removed without complications.

0955-1304 : 61 y/o male with end stage renal disease (ESRD) requiring placement of a dialysis access graft in the arm and also placement of a central venous catheter (Permacath) in the chest. During placement of the Permacath, the patient develops a rapid heart rhythm (Supraventricular tachycardia) which is refractory to medical treatment, he stays in it for the remainder of the case. All attempts to treat it fail. At the end of the case, the patient is woken up, his breathing tube is removed, and after a few minutes suddenly his heart stops (asystole). Resuscitative drugs are given and before CPR can be instituted, his heart rhythm comes back. He is stabilized in the OR, and after consultation with a cardiologist he is taken to the ICU for further management. Whew!

1025-1546 : 74 y/o male who is otherwise healthy is found to have colon cancer and goes in the OR for colon resection. He has no family and a young female friend is the only person who comes with him to the hospital. She tells me he has no one to be here with him during this time in his life.

1045-1254 : 39 y/o male otherwise healthy for laparoscopic cholecystectomy

1247-1820 : 65 y/o female with history of diabletes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease for repair of a shoulder and hip fracture sustained from a fall.When she is already under general anesthersia and, positioned for surgery, her blood pressure falls to 50 and her poorly working IV is accidentally disloged. She has no ther good veins to place a peripheral IV. She is quickly repositioned supine and a central venous line is emergently placed into her chest by me for IV access and her blood pressure is returned to normal with drugs. The case is done without any complications.

1305-1536 : 46 y/o male with history of morbid obesity and HYPOtension goes for a dialysis access graft placement in the leg.

1538-1750 : 58 y/o male with history of diabetes and HYPERtension goes for a dialysis access graft in the arm.

(~1500 : I sneak up to office for lunch. It is a special occasion as the office orders lunch in honor of my birthday tomorrow. Usually I don't have a chance to eat lunch at all. Because I'm coordinating the OR and supervising the CRNAs, most of my partners have already eaten while I have been working.)

(From here on I release my partner physicians as they wind up the cases for the day. The only people left eventually are the 2 other call team MDs who are doing their own cases.)

1815-2003 : 55 y/o female for removal of a malfunctioning Peritoneal Dialysis catheter and placement of a Permacath.

(The last call team MD leaves and now I am left covering the OR and Labor & Delivery, and basically the rest of the hospital if any patient requires any emergency airway intervention.)

2005-2137 : the 46 y/o male with morbid obesity and HYPOtension history who had the dialysis acess graft placed in the leg earlier is brought back emergently for post-op bleeding. His operative site is re-opened and explored, his femoral artery is found to be bleeding and require repair.

1850-2025 : 44 y/o female with multiple psych issues for percutaneouls removal of kidney stone.

2050-2234 : 29 y/o female in labor all of a sudden has fetal distress. She has an emergency Cesarean Section.

2138-0016 : A 37 y/o female with a life-threatening abnormality of the placenta (placenta accreta), who 1 day prior had a Cesarean Section successfully and was being cared for in the ICU, suddenly begins to hemorrhage to near death. She is brought emergently to the OR for a hysterectomy. I begin the process of placing the hospital on divert for any trauma cases since this type of case requires massive manpower and support during the daylight hours - now, at night as the sole anesthesiologist with a CRNA, this is even more challenging. I activate the hospital's massive transfusion protocol. 3 OR nuring teams/scrub techs and an anesthesia tech are required and directed by me to somewhat stabilize the patient before the operation can begin. The patient had lost 2/3 of her blood volume already and already in hemorrhagic shock. She is dying in front of our eyes basically. Her systolic blood pressure was 50 and falling, heart rate in the 150's, she felt cold, could barely speak, and did not have the strength/awareness to open her eyes any longer. IV tubing from a rapid transfusion machine is connected to her and blood transfusion is begun. During the case the surgeons note that the placental abnormality was even more severe (placenta percreta). Because of the great efforts by the entire OR team, the patient is saved and taken back to the intensive care unit on a mecanical ventilator. Yay team!

(0030 : I zip back up to a now empty office and microwave some left over food from the lunch the office ordered earlier. This is my dinner for today or was that yesterday?)

As I sit and write this, I realize that the midnight hour has passed several hours ago and I have now turned another year older. It is my 41st birthday today. I actually asked for this call shift so that I can be home all day when I leave at 0700. When I walk out the hospital I will have been up for over 26.5 hours and I'll then have to drive home without falling asleep at the wheel. I'll get to spend the day with Lynette, Caedmon, and Libby. If I can stay awake this morning, I'll go to Caedmon's swim class to watch my little boy swim. In this busy practice that I am a part of, many times I go to work and feel like the work is such a chore and a burden. It is just a job. I can't wait to get done and go home to Lynette, Caedmon, and Libby. I can't wait to eat a whole meal. I can't wait to put my feet up and veg in front of the tv and not have to think. I can't wait to just lay down and sleep. Yet it is cases like these today that remind me of why I so much enjoy what I do. Life and death in the balance at any given moment in the OR. It is a great privilege to take care of patients and keep them safe and alive during these most scary and difficult times in their lives. They don't always live, sometimes they die. I'm used to it. Sometimes too used to it. Today there were a few bumps but no one died. Every morning before I leave for work, Lynette wakes back up and says a prayer for me. In her prayers she prays for the Godly things I should be thinking of and the Godly actions I should be doing in order that I may shine the light of Jesus and that others may be encouraged. In the midst of the busyness, I must admit that I don't much think of God, nor do I often see God in my work. My actions, thoughts, and words are not Godly at times... many times they are not. I act like sinful man. However, I realize that it is only through Him that I am able to do what I do. He has given me the ability to be a physician. I am only an instrument through which He operates. The art and practice of Medicine is not just a job, it is so much more. I am good at what I do. However, my family is still my priority. At the end of the day, I so look forward to being greeted by my wife and children when I pull into the garage and walk through the doors. I can't wait to enjoy a homecooked meal when the day is done. I await a well deserved rest and mindless veg'ing time in front of the tv. Today is my birthday and I will be tired, but that's ok. May God continue to use me to help those in need. And... may He mold me into the Godly husband and father that I want to be and should be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A New Holiday Tradition

I really enjoy entertaining but I don't get to do it as often as I'd like. Well, if you count the play group and art group that I host once a month or so, I guess it's more often...but that's not really entertaining in the true sense of the word. A few years ago, I was invited to a Christmas pajama party with a mommy/baby exercise group of which I was a part. It was kind of a fun concept since we all just rolled out of bed and showed up at my friend's house to play and eat. Ever since, I have wanted to host my own pj party, but I never followed through. Finally, this Christmas season, I decided that the whole concept of it was supposed to be low-key. The idea was to get together with friends without the stress of getting dressed up or preparing some fancy dish. With that in mind, I sent out an Evite to almost 30 friends plus their children. About 15 friends and their kiddos (18 or 19 kids) came and we all thoroughly enjoyed a morning of talking, laughing and eating...and the kids loved playing together. From an outsider's perspective it probably looked like chaos, but I felt more joyful and blessed than anything. It was such a treat to look around the room and see how abundantly God has blessed me with dear friends who share in this journey of life as we seek to walk with Jesus and raise kids who will choose to be His servants as well. So even though it took me a few years to have my first Christmas pajama party, I think it will become one of our yearly traditions...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Toddler Sayings...

Tom & I are constantly laughing over something Caedm0n says. His views of the world and grasp of language often result in very humorous conversations. Here a few...

-Tom says in the midst of a conversations, "Caedmon is a Texan." Caedmon quickly corrects him, "No, silly Daddy, I'm a preschooler!"

-Lynette makes scones for breakfast. Caedmon gets confused and asks for "skull and bones." He has a t-shirt with a skull and crossbones on it thus the reason for the confusion.

-While in Greece, we saw a skeleton, whose teeth were quite decayed, and Tom used it as a teachable moment to reinforce the importance of brushing one's teeth. Last week after I complimented Caedmon on his good teeth brushing, he replied, "Why didn't that man brush his teeth? He didn't obey his mommy and daddy."

I made chicken pecan quiche for dinner tonight. Caedmon was particularly fond of the pecans, which he called "batons." I continually pronounced it correctly and occasionally he would call it a "bah kon" (emphasis on bah) but he always returned to calling them batons.

Tom says, "Caedmon, you did a great job playing by yourself today."
Lynette says, "Yes, Caedmon, you did do a super job."
Caedmon replies, "Thank you, Daddy. Thank you, Mommy."

Libby: 5 1/2 Months

Tom says I blog too much about Caedmon and not enough about Libby. It's probably true...only because Caedmon says something funny at least once a day...if not more like once an hour. On the other hand, Libby's personality is starting to peek through more and more but there's just not as much fodder for writing. I'm sure that will change in no time. However, sweet Libby does deserve some blog time now so I thought I'd share some pictures and a bit of insight into our growing gal.

It's hard to believe that our baby girl will be 6 months old soon. She is changing every day and really becoming a little person. She continues to love to be around people and to experience the world around her. She is very observant. She just looks and looks at new people and places. I think she may be a bit of an extrovert. She gets fussy if we're in the house for too much of the day, but as soon as we take her outside or to visit someone or run an errand, she is all smiles. Because she's such a social butterfly, she does not sleep well when we're on the go. This is such a change for me since Caedmon would sleep anywhere. Libby may fall asleep in the car but as soon as I turn off the engine, her eyes are wide open and she's looking to see what will happen next.

Despite her inability to sleep in public places, she is a great sleeper! She has a fairly well-established nap routine - taking a short nap in the morning and a solid 2 to 3 hour nap each afternoon. She also has a very predictable nighttime routine. Once the 5 o'clock hour hits, she is winding down and by 6 o'clock she is ready to sleep. I usually nurse her again before we go to bed and then she will sleep anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. It is such a blessing to me that both of my kids are good sleepers, because I LOVE my sleep, too!

In the past month, we noticed that our little lady has shown more and more interest in food and eating. Whenever anyone is eating something, she watches intently, tracking the route of the food from our hand or fork to our mouth, all the while her little tongue wiggling in her mouth. Last week, we decided to let her try some rice cereal. The first two attempts were rather futile as I think she swallowed once on each attempt. However, by the third day she had it figured out and now eats quite a bit. She has tried rice cereal, oatmeal cereal and just today we moved on to avocado, which was, by far, her favorite!

Libby is also quite active. She has been rolling over for quite some time and for at least a month now, has realized that it's quite a great means of mobility. She rolls all around the living room and even seems to pick a destination sometimes (i.e., a toy that she'd like to look at). She's also showing more and more interest in toys. She loves to chew on things or to figure out how to make them make noise. Her favorite things are the exersaucer and her play mat. Occasionally, she'll go after one of Caedmon's toys that's lying around as well.

She loves her big brother. Caedmon is the height of entertainment for her. She watches him and laughs at him. He loves her too. In fact, sometimes he wants to love a little too much. He smothers her with kisses and wants to touch her all the time. She's starting to figure out how to push his hand away when she's had enough.

We're trying to train our little girl to be the traveler that her big brother is. She has now been to Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Greece and most recently, Seattle. In Seattle, she got her first snow experience. Of course, she had no idea that it was such an event but she looked awfully cute all bundled up!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Busy Morning

Some days we're in our pjs until noon...and other days, it feels as though we fit a week's worth of activity into one morning. Today was the latter type of day. Our exterminator arrived at 8:45 to do our quarterly anti-bug treatment (much to Tom's delight!). As soon as she left, we jumped in the car and headed to art group. Art group is a weekly toddler art gathering that one of my friends' dreamed up. There are 5 of us who rotate houses and whoever hosts also plans the art activities. I wasn't sure about the whole idea when we started but it has turned into one of the highlights of our week. Art projects with a 2 year old can be intimidating so it's nice to have moral support. Caedmon thoroughly enjoyed painting his Christmas ornaments...so much so that he threw a tantrum when I dragged him away from the table to head to the next event on the day's agenda - a swim lesson. Swim lessons are usually on Wednesdays but this week we scheduled a private lesson to make up for the week we missed while in Greece. Caedmon is a fantastic swimmer but he's been struggling the past few weeks. We weren't sure exactly what the issue was but as I suspected, it seems to be a 2 year old emotional thing - trying to control the situation - and not really a skill issue. I thought it was going to be a 30 minute lesson but his teacher spent closer to an hour with him. By the time we were back in the car, it was noon so I ordered takeout from a nearby cafe. After grabbing our lunch and piling back into the car, I realized that there was a good chance Caedmon would not stay awake on the car ride home so I decided to give him his grilled cheese sandwich. I thought this would keep him awake for the 5 minute drive home...but as you can see from the picture, my little man was worn out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa Claus Success

I've been wanting to take the kids to get their picture with Santa. It was a tradition in my family to get the Santa picture every year and it was always fun to look back on those pictures and see how everyone changed...as well as enjoy the funny (or terrified or grumpy) expressions on our faces. For the past two years, I've taken Caedmon to the mall in our town but Tom was not impressed by the looks of that Santa so this year we ventured to a different mall, 45 minutes away. Caedmon was totally into the idea. He asked a billion questions about Santa on the way there and then walked right up and started talking to him once we arrived. Much to my pleasure, Libby was completely cooperative also. I'm thinking I should have skipped the whole Portrait Innovations thing and jumped straight to Santa. Here's the happy result:

(for the record, Tom thinks this Santa looks exactly the same...could it be that there really is a Santa Claus?)

Saturday, December 6, 2008


There are many places we still want to visit. But for us,with kids in tow, the challenge for a December trip was to find a place that has mild weather...and my one request was that the time change not be too terrible. We considered but ruled out several countries when Tom came across reasonably priced tickets to Athens, Greece. While it was never one of the top cities on our list, the weather is mild this time of year and once we considered it, we decided it might be quite fun. My dad agreed to join us. He was in the military for 31 years and traveled extensively during that time. However, he hasn't traveled out of the country in the 6 years he has been retired and he had never been to Athens. Those two reasons plus a week with the grandkids were more than enough of an enticement.

Tom is always the consummate planner so those rare free minutes he could find at work or at home, he scoured the Internet for travel information on Greece. He came across an excellent website(s) which helped us to plan as well as provided great resource while we were there - Matt Barrett's Guides to Greece: www.greecetravel.com and www.athensguide.com One of the pieces of advice that Matt Barrett gives is to pack light...in fact, don't even check in any luggage if possible. If you've read about our Hawaii trip, you already know that it is always Tom's goal to pack light (I think Seinfeld could have made an episode out of my Packing Nazi), but this time we were put to the ultimate test - Pack two adults and two kids into two small knapsacks for a whole week. Yes, you read that right: TWO SMALL KNAPSACKS (not hiking backpacks)!, our Mountain Buggy stroller, and a frame carrier (the Sherpani Light) for Caedmon in order to explore archaeologic sites where stroller access is not possible. We did not put these restrictions on my dad, but when he arrived at our house, he decided to take the challenge and he also packed his belongings into one knapsack as well as another small bag with food and travel entertainment for Caedmon (disclaimer: if you like to look like you walked out of a magazine when you are on vacation, this is not the way to go...on the other hand, if you want to try to travel like this, feel free to ask me about it...I may be able to share some of our successes and pitfalls).

Normally, I LOVE to travel and I enjoy reading about the places we are heading and planning the itineraries. However, I have to admit that I just couldn't get excited about this trip. In fact, I told a friend that I needed a vacation and when she pointed out that this one was around the corner, I quickly said that it was not a vacation. I know that it is a vacation in every sense of the word...except for the fact that a mommy never really gets a vacation. The Hawaii time change was really difficult at 5 hours behind and this was going to be 8 hours ahead so my expectations for a good time were quite low. As the time got closer, I really tried to muster up some enthusiasm.

My dad arrived from Pennsylvania  the morning we were to leave and we all packed up and headed to the airport in the early evening of November 28. The first leg of our journey was from Dallas to London Heathrow. We were hopeful that since it was an overnight flight there would be lots of sleeping! Caedmon pulled through and slept for most of the flight...in fact, we could barely wake him when we landed at Heathrow. Libby had a considerably harder time. She has never been a "sleep anywhere" baby...and thus, my greatest fears of traveling with a baby were realized. She had quite an inconsolable crying spell before she finally fell asleep in the sling. After the big tantrum, she slept most of the time but did make an occasional fuss. Half way through the flight, I was again wondering why I agreed to this trip, but by the time we made it to Heathrow, I was glad to be through the long part of the flight and feeling a little better about the days ahead. We had a two hour layover at Heathrow and Tom was expecting that we'd have some time to wander around and grab some coffee. However, security is so tight there that we had just enough time to get to our gate before they called early boarding for families with small children (yes, these courtesies do still exist elsewhere in the world). We flew British Airways from London to Athens. If you are disgusted with the American airline industry, try flying a European carrier. Your faith in customer service will be renewed. They were so nice and the amenities flow - gifts for the kids, free wine, etc. We wish we never had to fly American carriers again!

We arrived in Greece in the early evening around 6 pm but it was already pitch dark. Taking advice from Matt Barrett, we had prearranged a private airport transfer through "George the Famous Taxi Driver of Greece." George's son Billy met us in a private15 passenger Mercedes van with car seats. We had to install the car seats ourselves and they were not what I would have chosen (front facing for Libby and a booster for Caedmon) but I kept reminding myself that it was better than our trip to Peru (where I had to hold Caedmon as the taxi driver brought us close to death several times). Billy must have sensed my worry because he drove extremely slow the whole way to the hotel. While it cost a little bit more to have this personalized service, it was worth it to have driver(s) we would get to know better through the week on personalized excursions around the city.

Tom searched high and low on the Internet to find a reasonably priced room that would accommodate the 5 of us, provide some privacy for my dad, and have a good location. He finally came across the AVA Hotel which was nicely located near the Plaka (the touristy, old city area). It was really hard to find a place that would take 5 people and we were excited to be able to book the AVA for a party of 5. However, when we arrived, they were surprised to see 5 of us and for a split second we thought we would end up on the street (the hotel only received a reservation for 4). Fortunately, they agreed to let us all stay and found a cot for Caedmon. After settling in, we decided to take a quick look around the Plaka and possibly find a restaurant at which to eat. Caedmon had fallen asleep on the drive from the airport so we thought we might be able to have dinner hopes were shattered and instead we grabbed some gyros from a take-out place and ate at the hotel - the best option with two tired, cranky children. We got our first taste of jet lag as Caedmon could not settle down. He had several crying spells and was up until 3 or 4 am talking. Just when I would fall asleep, Caedmon would appear in my face with some random comment such as "I was driving in the car with my snowman." Libby also struggled to sleep because any noise that Caedmon made inevitably woke her and started her crying.

It was a long, exhausting night but we slept in on Sunday and awoke ready for a day of new adventures. Once we finally awoke, Tom and Dad went in search of breakfast while I fed Libby and then got Caedmon dressed. They returned with coffee and pastries. The coffee was not quite lukewarm but the pastries filled our empty stomachs. Billy, our taxi driver, had told us about the changing of the guards ceremony that only occurs on Sunday morning so that was the first thing on our agenda for the day. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the five minute walk to Syntagma Square and the Parliament Building. One thing we noticed is that there are ruins scattered randomly around Athens. If they excavate a site and decide to leave it intact, they build the city around it. We were able to see the Temple of Zeus and a few other antiquities as we made our way to the square. Another interesting thing about Athens is they actually seem to enjoy pigeons and encourage them by feeding them! In Syntagma Square, you can buy birdseed from the "bird men" and feed the birds. I guess it was kind of Mary Poppinesque but really it was more annoying because every picture we took had tons of pigeons in it. The Changing of the Guards ceremony was neat. The costumes were very interesting, not what we would typically think of as a military uniform. It was also fun because it starts with a parade, complete with a marching band. We later found out that we must have been there on a special day because there was a second marching band and ceremony after the first. We asked our taxi driver about it and he was not sure but was guessing that it was a special presentation for a visiting foreign dignitary. After watching the parade, we decided to walk to the Monastiraki area of Athens, where there is a large Sunday flea market. On the way there, we saw lots of street performers - musicians, statues, etc. There were also some interesting things for sale...one of Caedmon's favorite were these rubber person-shaped things that "climbed" down the wall after they were flung on it. He called them "the climbing men" and would have stood all day watching them had we not eventually moved him on. After walking through the flea market, we found a fruit stand and bought some fresh bananas and oranges and also a type of sesame seed bread from a vendor. By that time the jet lag had caught up with all of us so we headed back for naps. Once we were feeling a bit more rested, we headed to the National Gardens to enjoy a walk and let Caedmon play on the playground. We had read that the Greek LOVE children and we truly experienced that. We were frequently stopped by someone showing interest in one or both of the two kids. It truly is a kid-friendly place. We spent our early evening walking around the Plaka, eating a Greek meal at Vizantino (another recommendation of our taxi driver). Both children went to sleep rather easily but struggled to sleep through the night. Jet lag is certainly a challenge with little ones. Caedmon was up until 2:30 am...once again, sharing random thoughts with us - "I saw Mr. Goofy playing the piano."

On Monday, we were up and out the door by 8 am. Dennis (George the Famous Taxi Driver of Greece's other son) met us in his limo and whisked us away to Delfi. Tom's one pre-existing knowledge for Delphi was that in the Bible, "there used to be an oracle at Delphi"... haha! We were hoping to get a caffeine jolt but there were no beverages allowed in the car. We drove through a nice bit of morning rush hour and finally out into the countryside. It was almost a 3 hour drive. We stopped 40 minutes before Delfi and had coffee and cheese pie. The coffee was good but the cheese pie was not to our taste. It was feta cheese with a filo crust. We went on to Delfi and met Georgia, our tour guide. She took us on a two hour tour of the museum and ruins. Caedmon was rather bored with it all and Libby chose to be quite fussy through the parts in which she did not sleep. The ruins were quite interesting, though. It's amazing to see the details and creativity of the ancient Greeks. The artistry is beautiful. And, it was interesting to hear about all of that "useless school learning" - Ionic columns, Hellenistic period, gods and goddesses. I think Georgia wasn't quite sure what to do with our two kiddos between Caedmon queries about being done and Libby's frequent crying spells. I'm sure most people want to wonder around the site and ask questions but we were ready to move on by the time the tour was over.

Dennis took us to a restaurant for lunch which happened to be "closed" on Mondays. I don't think they were really closed per se since they seated us and took at least two more tables while we were there, but they apparently had a limited menu on Mondays and we were told that they would find us something to eat. Well, it was quite a feast. We thought we ordered a small appetizer plate, a main dish and a salad. However, we had at least twice as much food as we expected, courtesy of Dennis wanting to make sure we got a taste of some authentic Greek food - spanakopita, roast beef with rice, fried zucchini, fried cheese, bread, spinach pie, horta, and Greek salad. We could not even eat it all. We politely declined dessert when Dennis offered it, but the restaurant owners decided to give it to us "on the house." Somehow we found room for some delicious baklava and another yummy creamy dessert. Everyone but my dad slept most of the way home. We arrived back by 4 pm but were worn out from the day of travel so we stayed in for the evening. Tom passed out early (knotted up shoulder, neck, and calves) after carrying Caedmon on the backpack carrier climbing through the Delphi ruins.

After yet another sleep deprived night as Caedmon was up till 3AM, we ended up sleeping in till almost 930AM on Tuesday. Our late start was worth it as on our morning breakfast run, we found Starbucks - Dad's lack of recent travel experience showed as he was excited to see a Starbucks and wanted to take a picture of it. The Acropolis did not disappoint! Caedmon was more fascinated by the construction trucks doing renovation than the actual ruins. Libby, in the Ergo, got lots of attention from worldwide visitors. After climbing back down we ate a late lunch and learned the differences of ordering a lamb souvlaki vs a gyro. Caedmon was hoping for some hummus (which he normally gets when we go eat at our local Greek restaurant back in Texas). Unfortunately for him, we discovered that hummus is actually Middle Eastern, not Greek. However, he did finally eat a decent lunch of lamb souvlaki and french fries (only when your child is having a self-imposed fast does one claim french fries as part of a decent meal). My dad and I headed out for a walk while everyone else napped. We finally located an open pharmacy and replenished our much needed diaper supply. My dad also purchased his first souvenir - a Greece ball cap - for his local coffee shop owner's son. I guess free coffee is more important than a gift for my mom! We stopped at a local wine store,"Brettos", and tasted some Ouzo. After that enjoyable experience, we returned to the hotel and I took Tom back to Brettos so he could try it. We all ended up with a souvenir bottle to take home. After putting the kids to bed, my dad gave Tom and I a chance to enjoy a date night. However all thoughts of a nice dinner out were foiled by our late lunch so we just walked around the city and took some pictures. Since it was our first true date since before Libby was born, we were just thankful for the time together.

By Wednesday, we begrudgingly accepted the fact that the battle with Caedmon's jet lag would not be easily fought. Caedmon continued to have his midnight party from about 10 PM until 2 or 3 AM. Amazingly, we survived with little sleep and even no tantrums. Tom and I headed out before 8 to find some breakfast. We walked to the area near Acropolis metro station and found a bakery that had some yummy treats. However, we opted to go to Starbucks for the coffee since our other Greek coffee experiences have been met with weak, lukewarm coffee. We arrived at Starbucks a little after 8 only to find that it doesn't open until 8:30 on weekdays (and even later on weekends)! We sent Dad back at 8:30 and he was met with a less than chipper barista. Apparently, no one arrives at opening time. The barista girl asked him, "Why you here so early?" In fact, Billy (our driver) later informed us that this is the norm for Greece. In fact, even at government offices you shouldn't expect workers to work until at least 30 minutes to an hour after official opening time - they use up the 1st hour having coffee instead of working. After enjoying our breakfast of pastries and Starbucks, we met up with Billy and he took us south along the coast to Cape Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon. The drive there was beautiful, especially after we got out of the city. The road winds along the water and we passed several small villages with whitewashed houses and cute little churches. The water of the Aegean Sea really is as blue as the pictures look. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we were able to capture it on film since the day was a little overcast. The Temple of Poseidon was definitely worth the drive. It's perched high on a cliff at the southernmost tip of the Greek mainland. The ruins look like most other I suppose but the location is simply beautiful! Except for one other tourist from Brooklyn, NY and a camera crew (filming something - a movie, commercial?) we were the only ones there so it was easy to get pictures devoid of other tourists, which is always a treat. We stopped for lunch just outside of Athens. Unfortunately, the restaurant at which Billy intended for us to eat wasn't open yet but we did enjoy some really yummy gyros. According to Billy, they were authentic - not from a tourist hot spot - and the taste proved it. Both kiddos fell asleep on the way home and Caedmon had a good nap after we returned. Dad, Libby and I went back to the Plaka for a walk and some souvenir shopping. Dad was able to make some nice purchases for my mom and sisters. The weather is so beautiful that it was just nice to walk. When we returned, Caedmon was awake but Tom was still asleep so Dad and I packed up the kids and headed to the National Gardens. This time we found the "zoo" - roosters, peacocks, bunnies, donkeys, goats, etc. in cages - as well as a different playground. This playground was much more suited to Caedmon and he enjoyed 30 minutes of running, climbing, sliding and meeting local children. We found Tom awake when we returned so we all went out to find some dinner. Caedmon has not been the best eater on this trip so we decided to try for one of his favorites - noodles! We had seen an Asian noodle restaurant on one of our walks so we went there and had decent success in getting Caedmon to eat.

Wednesday night, Caedmon finally had a good night of sleep, which meant that the rest of us did as well. We started our morning with Starbucks. Starbucks has been a rather interesting experience here. The baristas are less than friendly. In fact, this morning one barista was so intent on completing her task of sweeping the leaves off the patio that she came and asked us to move. Fortunately, we were headed out anyway. After being engerized with our coffee (and for Caedmon, an apple cinnamon muffin), we walked over to the Acropoli Metro station. We rode it just one stop to Syntagma Square but that was quite a highlight of Caedmon's trip! For us, it was neat to see the artifacts that they have scattered throughout the stations. It's like a little museum in each metro station. We walked back to the Plaka area with plans to take Caedmon to the Greek Children's Museum but it was full of school children on field trips so we opted to spend the morning at the National Gardens instead. We made a quick detour to the Temple of Zeus. Originally, we were thinking of skipping it since you can see it so well from the road, but we decided we had the tickets already (from the Acropolis) so we might as well use them. It was worth it for the photo opportunities. We tired Caedmon out by walking around the National Gardens and going to the two playgrounds there as well as another walk by the "zoo." Libby was fading by the time we made it to the second playground so we left my Dad and Caedmon to play and Tom, Libby and I headed back to the hotel. We made a stop in the Plaka to buy some souvenirs first. Caedmon and my Dad grabbed a lunch of souvlaki pita before returning to the hotel. Once both kids were down for naps, Tom & I left for our "date afternoon." It has been quite some time since we've had so many opportunities to get out alone. Both Billy and Dennis (the taxi drivers) had recommended a restaurant called Psaras so we decided to try it. We were not disappointed! The location was neat as it was on a hillside at the base of the Acropolis. If the weather was warmer we could have sat outside with a view of the Acropolis but it was quite breezy and cool so we went inside. The ambience was nice and the view was not too bad either since we were on the hillside. We had delicious meal of olives, mussels, fried calamari, Greek salad, rolls with yummy garlic spread, lamb chops and red wine. We were more than full but they brought us complimentary flan so we had to try that as well. It was so good that Tom considered taking my dad back for dinner, but we were too full to even eat dinner! Instead, Caedmon, Dad and I took a walk and returned to the Noodle Bar since we knew that was something Caedmon would eat.

On Friday, we began our homeward travels early in the morning Greece time and didn't arrive home until evening Texas time. It was a long day but we survived. It is a blessing that looking back on such travel days they do not seem as painful and uncomfortable as they feel when you are in the midst of them. Our only snafu was that our stroller did not arrive with the rest of our belongings, but fortunately, the airlines knew where it was and promised to deliver it the next day. We all thoroughly enjoyed our Grecian adventure but as always, it is good to be home again!
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