Sunday, January 31, 2010

I need a weekend to recover from my weekend

  • Cleaned master bedroom closets
  • Cleaned off night stands, dressers and desk
  • Replaced one sink
  • Re-caulked one sink
  • Replaced hardware on both sinks (in progress)
  • Replaced light fixture in downstairs bathroom
  • Did laundry
  • Went grocery shopping (sort of)
  • Flushed Jeep radiator and changed fluid
  • Took a load to Goodwill
We are tired!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Belated Post: Our Anniversary Celebration

We finally made it to the Broadmoor Sunday Brunch to celebrate our sixth anniversary. Sooooo glad we made the effort to go back after things didn't work out the first time. First of all, I loooove the Broadmoor, because it's so beautiful. And second, well, all of the food was amazing. And there was a LOT of food.

This was just my first trip to the buffet. I wish I could describe how much good food there was...fruits, cold meats, hot carved meats, breads, traditional breakfast foods, salads, desserts (bananas foster crepes....mmmmm!), smoothies, fresh squeezed juice. If it wouldn't have been tacky, I would have spent the whole lunch taking pictures of the food. As it was, we just snapped a couple with the point and shoot. But oh how much fun it would have been with the SLR.

Yummy coffee.

Happy anniversary to us!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Godspeed, Mutiso!

We recently received a letter from Compassion International letting us know that our sponsored child, Mutiso, is no longer a part of the Compassion project he had attended in Kenya. Thankfully, this was good news. Mutiso, who is just about to turn 11, departed from the program because his family's situation has improved to the point where he no longer qualifies for assistance through Compassion. In his life, Compassion's goal ("breaking the cycle of poverty") has been accomplished. I am so thankful that we got to be a part of that over the past six years!

So last week, I wrote a final letter to Mutiso. It was kind of poignant, writing to a kid I never meet--and probably never will meet on this earth. I'd written to him many times before, but thinking of what to say in a parting letter made me pause. I told him I hope that he grows to know God and God's deep love for Him. I told him that I will see him in heaven someday. I was also glad for the opportunity to send him a picture of Lorien, since I hadn't done that yet. (He prayed for her, and in his last letter to us, he reminded us that she is his "sister.") And that's it. The end of our contact with him. Now we leave him in God's hands and pray for God's further blessings on him and his family.

What's Next?

I have been thinking for a while that it would be really cool to sponsor a Compassion kid with the same exact birthday as Lorien. So when I talked to the phone rep there about how to contact Mutiso a final time, I asked about that. As it turns out, they don't take kids into the program until they're about 3 or 4 years old, so we'll have to wait a while on that. So for now, we chose another kid. His name is Daniel and he is also from Kenya. Actually, he's not really a kid: He's 17. Understandably, it's hard for Compassion to get sponsors for their older students, because everyone sees the cute little ones and wants to choose them. The oldest Daniel can be and remain in the program is 22 (and many students leave before that age), so we have decided to finish out his time and then try to find a little girl with a birthday to match Lorien's.

So here's a thought: if you have been considering sponsoring a child, but you aren't sure you can make a long term commitment, why not pick a kid who only has a few years left in the program? The maximum age varies from country to country, and a Compassion rep can give you the specifics about whatever country interests you. (Their number is 800-336-7676.)

Every Sponsor Should Watch This

Finally, just thought I'd share one of the coolest videos I've seen lately, since it's on topic. (I posted it on Facebook a while back, so forgive me for repeating myself if you saw it there.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Big Day

We got new windows installed! One step closer to selling well, we hope.

The downstairs window is old and the upstairs window is new. Much better, don't you think? (We replaced the slider back in 2006 after it had a little run-in with a rock thrown by the weed eater.)

And...drumroll please...

Lorien got her first taste of rice cereal today. As we expected, not much actually made it into her belly, but it was a great photo-op.

All ready for my big dietary adventure.

I've been soooo curious about big people food for weeks now, but I'm not sure I like it.

Hey, what are you guys doing to me?

Mmmmmm....rice drool!

We switched to using mom's finger instead of the spoon. I liked that a little better, but I still didn't swallow much.

Friday, January 8, 2010

How Not to Talk to Your Kids

I mentioned before that one reason I wanted to start this blog is that I really need an outlet for processing what I'm reading/thinking/discussing with friends and students, etc. I also know that that kind of post takes more time and effort than a baby update, so I'm really going to have to discipline myself to sit down and write them. I have 3 in the queue already that I would like to write, but realistically, only one of those is going to happen tonight. Here goes..

One of my former students recently shared an interesting article titled "How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise" written by Po Bronson in New York Magazine. Bronson basically says that indiscriminately praising kids to make them feel good about themselves actually backfires more often than it succeeds. I don't agree with all of her conclusions (or, more precisely, her applications), but I do like her discussion of the research on the topic. And don't worry—the article's not preachy. In fact, Bronson herself bristled at the idea at first, and her article reads like a ideological travelogue: She walks her readers through her own learning process. The thing's about 4000 words long, but it's worth the read.

My thoughts, not organized in any kind of linear fashion:

- Huge point: though the studies discussed in this article suggest that vague, perpetual and insincere praise can actually be damaging to kids, Bronson doesn't say that parents should stop praising their kids. (Whew!) Rather, kids need sincere, specific praise for actions they have control over. In other words, telling a kid "you're really smart" may not be helpful (you'll have to read the article to find out why, because I can't do it justice in a bullet point), but saying, "You worked really hard at that logic puzzle" is very encouraging and helpful because the kid knows what he or she did right, and it's something that can be repeated if the kid wants to.

- Contrary to self-esteem movement ideology, kids can smell a phony from a mile away. I was fascinated by the assertion that the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all— that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.

In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further. [bottom of p. 3 of the article]

This is not a new idea. Proverbs 27:6 lets us know that honest criticism communicated in a loving way is much better than insincere compliments.

- Kids already know they're not perfect. They just need help responding well to their own imperfections. Bronson seems to be saying that a kid who is always told, "You're great. You're great. You're great" will learn to put up a front of perfection. Reading between the lines here: I think this is because the child has an innate sense of his or her own fallibility. When the adults in his or her world pretend like the child has no weaknesses, the kid thinks, "Gosh, I need to keep up this ruse," and you end up with kids who are scared to death to show any weakness in public. How much healthier for adults to acknowledge weakness and failure like they're normal parts of life (they are!) and help the child 1) humbly accept his or her weaknesses and 2) improve in those areas.

- I love the author’s closing thought that the brain is like a muscle that becomes stronger when it gets to think about hard things. And I love the thought of teaching that to kids.

Needless to say, these concepts fascinate me both as an educator and as a parent. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

I love to learn new things. Not just for the sake of knowing something new, but also because I love the learning process itself. All except one aspect of it.

When I am learning something new--particularly if the learning experience is an intense one--it tends to interrupt my sleep. Case in point: sight reading sheet music is really hard for me. It takes every ounce of concentration I have to read a vocal line. (That's why my brother Doug is the musical prodigy in the family and I'm not.) Anyhow, in high school when we were learning new music, I would get so wrapped up in the process that I would be sight reading in my sleep. Which didn't make for very good rest.

Needless to say, then, this new mommy thing has made for some rough nights. First off, you have the issue of a newborn needing to eat every 2-3 hours. Thank goodness Lorien is way past that stage and she sleeps through the night regularly, but still. For a while there I felt like Desmond pushing the button every 108 minutes so that the world wouldn't blow up.

But nighttime feedings weren't the worst sleep problem I had with a newborn. I had serious self-induced insomnia, simply because of the intense learning curve of being a new parent. I just couldn't turn my brain off and sleep. For a month or so (back in October and November) I thought I was going to die if I didn't start sleeping better soon. Finally, I think I'm over that hump and I am returning to my normal self--the self who is able to sleep anywhere at any time. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there.

The funny thing is, I think Lorien must take after me. From the time she was two weeks old, we noticed that whenever she was making some developmental leap, she would take awful naps. Today was such a day. All of a sudden, she was doing three new things at once. First, she was awfully fascinated with touching my face today. Then, she was doing the bridge--like in gymnastics, where you lie on your back and then arch so that you make a bridge, with just your head, shoulders and heels touching the ground. She napped very poorly all day. (Except the nap she took in her carseat at church while I was in a meeting. Then she slept soundly for an hour and a half while three adults talked right over her head. Go figure.)

The late afternoon nap was the worst. She fussed on and off for half an hour until she was really crying hard. She never actually fell asleep (even though she needed it badly). But when I went in to get her, she had learned how to smack her lips. I swear I had never seen her do that before I laid her down for that nap. But she can do it now. What a crazy kid.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Anniversary Brunch Fail

Today Josh and I are celebrating six years of marriage. It's been a big year--kind of a crazy thing when you get to see your spouse become a parent for the first time. Josh is a GREAT dad. I knew he would be, and he keeps telling me I'm doing all right at this mom thing too.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend at church asked how things were going with a new baby in the house. He framed the question a bit differently than most people do: "Do you still feel married?" Good question, Joe. (He's got three little ones, so he knows how it is.) The good news is, yes, we still feel married. But we also understand that we will need to get a little more couple time back in our schedule in the near future. Thankfully, we have no lack of folks who have volunteered to
hang out with Lorien once we reinstate date night. Now we just need to take them up on their offers.

This year, it was my turn to make plans for the anniversary celebration. (Side note: our first year of marriage, a friend shared that she and her husband would trade off planning their anniversary and Valentine's Day each year. We adopted that plan too and it works quite well. That way, we both get to be creative, and we both get to be surprised each year.)

For a long time, I have wanted to go to the famous Sunday Brunch at the Broadmoor Hotel. Since our anniversary fell on a Sunday this year, I decided it was a great occasion to do just that.

So here we are at the Broadmoor. We stayed here on our wedding night, so it's a fun part of the anniversary story.

Good news: The Broadmoor still has all of its cool Christmas decorations up, so we got to enjoy those, including this amazing edible creation. (It's not an amazing photograph though, so in case you can't tell, it's a giant gingerbread village.)

Bad news: Sunday Brunch is by reservation only. Oops! Didn't do my research very well when I made those plans. Not wanting to wait an hour and a half for a table, we decided to grab a cheap lunch at Panera and try again next Sunday. So I guess we'll be stretching the celebration out for a whole week.

So glad for marriage in general: that God created it to bring so many good things in our lives. (Yes, even the good things that are also hard.) And glad for our marriage in particular. It is amazing to think of all the ways we have learned from one another and grown together in just six years. Josh's prayer at lunch was that we would learn to take care of each other even more in the next year. Wonder how God will bring that about.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Recap

I've been working on this blog over the past few days
instead of writing a Christmas letter, so I thought I would include a recap of our last year for those who are interested.

After a 2008 that included a lot of waiting, 2009 kicked off in high gear.
Josh had started his job as a security officer on executive
protection detail at Focus on the Family just before the new year rolled around, but he hadn't yet finished his documentary work with Backroads Producers. He spent January doing doubletime to keep up with both responsibilities. Within a few weeks, the Bomber's Moon documentary was completed, and it aired on Rocky Mountain PBS in late January. Since then, he has continued to volunteer with Backroads Producers and their non-profit, From Mists of Time, to record interviews with WWII veterans. What an honor to talk with these great folks. We won't have them around forever, and it is a privilege for him to be a part of capturing their stories.

Josh's work at Focus on the Family has taken him to California, Virginia, Georgia, Washington D.C., Alabama, Missouri and Texas, traveling primarily with Dr. and Mrs. Dobson. One of his more interesting assignments was to accompany them as Dr. Dobson gave the driver's chapel message and the invocation at a NASCAR race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dr. Dobson will be retiring from the Focus on the Family daily radio broadcast in February 2010, and it remains to be seen what Josh's job will look like after that. We would appreciate your prayers for this upcoming transition.

January also brought our fifth wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with an overnight at the Taharaa Mountain Lodge in Estes Park, Co. It's a beautiful B&B where we stayed on our honeymoon, and we definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Rocky Mountain National Park.

I have continued my work at the Focus on the Family Institute, which has been in the process this year of changing its name to the Focus Leadership Institute. I still love working with college students and walking with them through one of the most formative times in their lives. My official responsibility is to serve the graduates of the Institute as Alumni Coordinator. I have been in a season of laying groundwork, both philosophically and technologically, and I am excited to see what comes next. I am growing a big vision for helping our graduates to network
with each other, to continue sharpening their minds as thinking Christians.

In March, we traveled to Indiana for Josh's Grandma Keffer's 90th birthday. All of her kids and grandkids were in attendance--probably the first time in 15 years that everyone had been together. What fun!

The big news of our year, of course, was the birth of Lorien Grace on July 19th. She weighed in at 9 lbs. 6 oz. and was 20.5 inches long. AND she was nearly a week overdue. I've told her many times since then that if she was going to wait that long, I'm glad she picked a meaningful day to arrive as 7/19 is my parents' anniversary and the birthday of our friend Elena and Josh's cousin Angela. Her name comes from the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien, and we chose it because it means "a place of light in a dark world."

It's absolutely impossible to describe the blessing and the joy Lorien has brought to us (not to mention a measure of change and sleep deprivation we never thought possible). One of the most meaningful moments I had in her very-newborn days happened in the middle of the night. She had had quite a bit of fluid in her lungs and stomach at birth, and subsequently had some gagging, gurgling moments that definitely scared us as new parents. One night as I worried about this, the Lord gently reminded me that I am not the one who keeps her little heart beating and her little lungs breathing, and I couldn't if I tried. He is the one who will sustain her throughout her life. Josh and I are just stewards whom He has entrusted with her care for a time. What a humbling, comforting moment for a new mommy!

This fall has been a time of adjusting to our "new normal." And it's been a time of joy as we have introduced Lorien to our friends and family. We have made two trips to Ohio, and we just spent Christmas with the whole Keffer family here in Colorado. Lorien was so blessed to be able to meet three great grandmothers on our travels. Not too many kids have that privilege. We also got to visit Taylor University for my 10-year reunion, and we saw Uncle Doug while he was in the U.S. for just a few days (he teaches at the American Embassy School in New Dehli India.)

As far as work goes, I took six full weeks off after Lorien was born, and then went back to work part time in September. I will use up the last of my maternity leave this week, and return to work full time. I am thankful to have a leadership team that is allowing me to work from home two days a week. On the three days each week when I'm in the office, Lorien is hanging out with Grammie Keffer--an arragement they both enjoy very much. (And Grandpa too, when he's not at work.)

For those keeping track, yes, we were trying to sell our townhome last Christmas, and no, we were not able to sell it. We took it off the market a few weeks before Lorien was born. We thought it might be a little crazy to try to sell with a brand new baby in the house. Now that things have settled down a bit (and it seems that just maybe the market is looking up a little), we are hoping to put it back up for sale in the next few months.

Well, that's the condensed version of our last year. We'd love to hear about yours. And may God bless you and your family richly in 2010.

With love,

Lindy, Josh and Lorien

Go Bucks!

Just spent a fun afternoon with my cousin Dan and his family watching the Buckeyes win the Rose Bowl!

Lorien has recently decided that being on her belly isn't the WORST possible place to be.
Now she tolerates it for a few minutes at a time and occasionally enjoys it.

Drew introduced her to his Duplo blocks.

About this Blog

I came up with the title at about 4:30 a.m. after being awakened by my baby girl, who occasionally decides she needs to tell herself a story in the middle of the night. Here are the thoughts behind it:

Foremost, I'm a follower of Jesus, and I want my life to be the good soil he spoke of in his parable in Matthew 13.

I'm also farm kid from southwest Ohio. I love to grow things ... so much so that my husband and I installed some good sized flower beds in the back yard of our townhome, even though said yard is about the size of a postage stamp. So, this blog will be about the things I love to do, including playing in the dirt.

Third, whenever my dad has an opportunity to engage in some good philosophical or theological conversation, he calls it "sniffing deep dirt." This blog will have some of that, too.

Finally, the most important thing I'm "growing" right now is a little girl named Lorien Grace. You'll get to watch her grow here.

Happy reading.

It is time.

I tried my hand at blogging back in 2006 and failed rather miserably due to major inconsistency at posting. But over the past few years a couple of things have changed:

1) While I still do an occasional freelance writing job, I lost my venue for regularly writing articles about philosophical, worldview and discipleship stuff when ceased to exist. (Now it's been reincarnated as a video series using the same title, but it is not the same thing. And I do not contribute content anymore.) When I am challenged by some good reading or good conversation, I don't have a place to process it in writing, and I miss that. Since no one seems to want to pay me to process anymore, I figure a blog is a good place to at least get the ideas out.

2) I have a handful of blogs that I regularly read now, and they inspire me.

3) Most importantly, I have a beautiful 5-month-old. And even though my life isn't eventful enough to warrant frequent updates, hers is, so that should give me enough material to make this interesting. Plus, we have dear ones scattered all over the world who could use a regular Lorien fix, so this is a good way to keep in touch.

So, here we go... I'm starting 2010 by starting a blog. Let's hope I can stick with it.