Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday -- Hosting this week and sharing books no child should miss

I am delighted to be the guest host for my college friend Janna over at The Adventure of Motherhood, while she takes a break for one more week of Feed Me Books Friday!  I decided to share a couple of books that have risen to the tip-top of my daughter Susie's book choices lately.  Granted, at age 14 months, she is not the most discerning reader, but at the same time, children do know what they like and what they don't.  Here are a couple of books that Susie has consistently been bringing to Mommy and Daddy (saying "iss iss iss!!") and asking to read over and over.  You probably know these, but no child should miss out on them!

Reading with Daddy
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone -- this is a book I had as a kid, and years ago found it to be still widely enjoyed by a variety of ages.  It is a classic read-aloud featuring Lovable, Furry Old Grover from Sesame Street begging the reader not to turn any more pages because he is frightened of the monster that will be at the end of the book.  Of course HE is the monster, and at the end is relieved to discover that his fear was for nothing, but throughout the pages are opportunities for the reader to border on hysterics acting out the range of Grover's emotions.  This is probably why I like reading the book -- because it's fun to be dramatic.  And that is probably why my baby likes us to read it to her.  She likes to see her parents being dramatic!  I'm such a sucker for Golden Books, which have stood the test of time offering decent books at a low price to millions of children through the generations.  How can you say no to spending $3.99 on a book your child will want to read again and again?  I know I can't!  Of course, I'm sure your library will have this book as well.

Mommy and Susie reading Brown Bear
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. -- ok, true confession time.  I never used to like this book.  I like the illustrations, but I didn't think the words were interesting.  But I knew that kids like it, and when a sweet friend gave me this board book at a baby shower,  I knew, of course, that I would read it to my baby.  When Susie was really tiny, she would quickly become uninterested in looking at the pictures, so I kept setting it aside.  In the last few months, however, she has picked this book to read perhaps a thousand times!  If there is another child around, they will stop to listen.  Last weekend my sister in law was reading it out loud to 4 or 5 kiddos (mainly babies) at once, who were listening with rapt attention.  My nephew Max, who is now almost 3, had a "Brown Bear" themed first birthday party a couple of years ago.  It was his favorite book to say the least!  I think the style and rhythm of the book has become ingrained in his mind because the other day in the car I overheard him softly chanting to himself  "Susie, Susie, what do you see?  I see Maxy looking at me" and other variations based on the riders in our car.  Precious.  This is what a good book does.  It becomes part of the way you talk and think about the world.

I'm so glad you came by this week!  Please share what you and your children are reading -- or if you're like me and you read stacks of children's books long before you ever had a child of your own, please share a favorite by linking up below!  I'd love to come by and check out your recommendations.

The Turbulent Year Eleven -- Chapter 8 in My Life Story

As young as I was at nine and ten, somehow when I hit eleven, I decided I was pretty darn big for my britches.  I'm not sure what all was the reason for this, other than the fact that I always liked attention and maybe just being older dawned on me as being super cool.  Mainly it was just my sin nature driving me to lie to my parents, have a bad attitude at church and do other things I thought teenagers did.

I remember friends that I really loved from that age -- Charity and Tina were sisters and had been my friends for years.  They are sort of the bright part of that era.  I remember being with them and discovering all kinds of cute actors (Charles in Charge in anyone?) from movies and TV shows.  Since they were somewhat older than me, I still deemed them cool.  Unfortunately, I went through a pretty horrible phase where I was not kind to my little sister and my younger friends -- like my dear sweet friend Vanessa who had been a best bud for a long time, despite being 4 years my junior!  They just weren't cool enough for me.

I got a perm at age eleven -- right after my birthday, I believe.  So many people told me I had pretty hair, and let me tell you, I hardly needed help building up my pride!  I look back at that age with such grief, knowing that I really wasted a precious year of my childhood.  It grieves me to remember my sin and pride.  I'm sure it grieved my parents.  I recall one time when my sister told me I looked pretty and I answered "I know" really quickly just because I wanted to go on doing whatever it was I was doing.  Mom rebuked me for my arrogance -- obviously it made an impression on me since I still remember it!

In the spring of 1990, my parents told us we were moving again -- this time to Billings, Montana.  My dad had gotten another promotion and would be the president of the division of that SuperValu office.  I DID NOT want to move.  My parents flew to Billings a few times to look for houses and things, but I didn't want to go along.  My sister Anna went with them one time -- she was excited about it, I remember -- and came back filling me in on everything.  Our new house had a pool, and at the church my parents were visiting the pastor had 3 daughters and they were our age and they had Anna over to their house even.  

My interest started to build, somewhat.  I think I was kind of making myself miserable in my sinfulness, and even at eleven years old, moving to a new area, with new friends seemed like a good way to sort of start over.  Built in friends already waiting there for me!  

I remember flying into Billings for the first time so well.  I remember thinking the air smelled like the beach -- kind of dry and salty or something.  We celebrated Emily's first birthday in a hotel, once again waiting for our boxes to come on the moving truck all the way to Montana.  It was a gorgeous huge hotel built with all the rooms around an 8 story atrium, and had a glass elevator, which we enjoyed riding all the way to the top.  The swimming pool had a waterfall in it!  I noticed things in Montana were built using local resources, so many buildings had lots of rocks, sandstone and wood in or on them -- it made everything seem very western to me!

If the hotel was great, our house was even better.  Very airy and open and western feeling to me, built into the side of a hill in "Emerald Hills" (the only thing green was the trees!).  It had a gorgeous pool and we put in a hot tub, and 2 levels of decks. Anna's room was in the "exercise room" -- we knew it was that because it had a whole wall that was just mirrors and had a sauna off of it (we used the sauna to store our stuffed animals and dolls which made them smell like cedar).  I got my own room, with my own desk (it was really exciting to me!) and my own phone!  Looking back at how good my parents were to me, how they blessed me with love and trust after all the grief I brought them, I see how they painted for me such a good picture of God, who loves unconditionally and gives grace and healing.

It started slowly, but as I ended my eleventh year, I was able to see my rebellious attitude for what it was, and reconcile myself to my mom and dad.  Night after night I'd lie awake, ridden with guilt and afraid of God's judgment.  I'd rise from my bed, go find my parents and confess whatever sin was heavy on my heart.  At the time I was so frightened of not really being a Christian, but now, looking back, I believe that I was so miserable with my sin because I was truly a believer.  I would pray for forgiveness almost every night, but it took a while before I could begin to rest and trust that God wasn't angry with me.  Again, I think it was my parents' love and forgiveness that enabled me to understand God's love and forgiveness.  I remember Mom crying and praying for me at my bedside -- it brings tears to my eyes to think how she must have wrestled for my soul! 

I am so very very thankful that I can look back and see the conclusion of this difficult year in the light of forgiveness and a new beginning!

Me, Nathan and his friend Jimmy in the pool
And those new friends Anna had promised?  Right away, Rachel, Jessie and Esther Miller became our best friends.  Summer lay in front of us, full of promise with a big gorgeous pool to play in all summer long.  I got to recapture a bit more of childhood with those girls and my sister that summer.  We played mermaids, lifeguards, swam races, made up swimming/diving contests, etc.  Life was fresh and new, and growing up didn't need to happen too quickly.

This is chapter 8 in the story of my youth -- I'm linking up to Mommy's Piggy Tales.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Best News Our Mother Could Have Told Us -- Chapter 7 in My Life Story

When I was a kid, I went to bed pretty early.  Eight-o-clock was our bedtime, every night.  When we turned ten (double digits -- WOO HOO!), we got a new bedtime -- 8:30!  I remember when Nate turned ten, he would smirk gloatingly as Anna and I traipsed off to bed, while he got the extra half hour of freedom.  So when it was my turn, I thought it would be just great to have that extra time up, but more times than not, I felt bad for my sister, and I would end up going to bed before 8:30!  My parents were pretty easy on us staying up and talking (we shared a room for the most part) since we went to bed so early, so bedtime was totally playtime.  Around my tenth birthday, Anna got her own room (formerly Mom's sewing room/our play room).  We still chose to sleep in the same room -- some nights her room, some nights mine.  We made up songs or skits or (our fave) commercials and then performed them for Mom or Dad when they came up to "tuck us in".  Anna and I each had a stuffed tiger (from our stays in the hospital) that we loved to play with and pretend they were our children.  My room had a large mirror on the wall directly across from the bed, so we would watch ourselves in the mirror.  At one point I invented the best and most scary face imaginable, and we would sit up making the face at ourselves in the mirror until we shivered with fear.  When we slept in Anna's room, she had a night light that cast our big shadows up on the wall, so we would perform commercials or skits and watch our shadows.

We had just gone to bed in Anna's room one night, when my parents called us, so we got back up.  Mom put a little picture on the table and asked us if we knew what it was.  It was just sort of black and white lumpy looking, and we didn't know what it was.  Nathan pointed out that it said Mom's name at the top, so it had to do with her.  "Yes!" she told us "you're putting it together!  See, this is the head, this is the feet. . . "

"A BABY?!!!!!!!!!!!"  You cannot imagine our shrieks of delight.  Mom and Dad confirmed that, indeed, we would have a new brother or sister at the end of May.

We were wild with excitement.  I don't really think my parents expected us to settle down and sleep anytime really soon after that news!  Anna and I bounced on her bed, chattering excitedly about the baby that was coming.

In the following months, Mom was given baby showers (she hadn't had a baby in 9 years, so more than one group of people decided to bless her this way) and craved bean burritos from Taco Bell.  Anna's room was turned into a nursery, and she moved back into sharing my room -- something we didn't seem to mind a bit.  The nursery was the best room in the house.  Anna and I would go in there and quietly organize and reorganize the bottles of lotion and power, baby clothes (there weren't many since ultrasounds in 1989 weren't great at predicting gender) and tiny diapers (Mom used disposable diapers this time around -- I remember her buying Luvs).

On May 11th, the 3 of us were taking standardized tests at home (Mom didn't much care for those, but had us take them now and then anyway), when we could tell something was going on.  Mom would disappear from time to time, and we overheard her on the phone.  There was nothing standardized about the tests we were taking at that point!  Later, Mom found out that we scored terrible marks on our tests, but it's hard to blame us!  We were sooooo distracted, knowing our teacher was in labor!  We drove to the doctor, and he sent Mom away for a bit.  He told us to run an errand and come to the hospital in a couple hours.  I remember we went to the store and bought baby blankets.  I was very anxious to get Mom back to that hospital!!  When she was finally allowed to check in, the 3 of us settled down for a wait in the waiting room.  I can't imagine most people leaving their 3 children to wait by themselves while their mother has a baby, but Dad checked in on us from time to time, and we would have flipped if we had to stay home or something.  Mom packed us presents to open periodically.  After a half hour, we opened our first presents -- books to read while we waited.  The next hour, and we opened sour straws candy.  At some point Dad came to take us to eat in the cafeteria (we thought it was delicious!), and we all made our predictions what time the baby would be born -- Dad wrote down our predictions and stored them in his shirt pocket.

A baby girl was born after 8:00pm!  We were ushered in to see the baby in the delivery room.  I remember holding my little sister before she was bathed or anything -- just wiped off a bit and wrapped up.  Her hair looked black and we all agreed which name she should be called (my parents had 2 options in mind) -- Abigail!  A little later that night after she was washed, her hair looked much lighter and we all suddenly changed our minds -- she looked more like an Emily to us!  So that's what she was called.

We all tossed around middle name suggestions, but my parents couldn't make up their minds.  I remember before my mom was going to be discharged, a nurse came in with the birth certificate and asked if they'd decided on the name.  Mom told Dad just to pick, so he named her Emily Susan Benzing.  My mom's middle name was Sue, and that was the name she went by, so Emily's middle name was after Mom. 

Me bringing Susie home -- this was Emily's sweater
The next day Dad took us shopping, and let each of us choose a dress for the baby.  I remember that department store with all the fluffy little dresses (it was the late '80s!) that were wider than they were long.  We all picked 0-3 months.  Mine was blue with pink flowers embroidered on it, and I thought it was so so pretty.  

Emily wore a baby nightgown with colorful stars on it for her trip home (gender neutral, remember), along with a yellow hand-knit sweater that someone gave to my mom for one of her baby showers.  When I was pregnant, Mom gave this sweater to me, and MY baby Susie wore it home from the hospital, too! 

Emily with Grandpa Benzing at about 4 months old

I turned eleven not long after Emily was born, but the best thing about being ten turned out to be something much better than staying up a half hour longer at bedtime.  I am linking up to Mommy's Piggy Tales where we are telling the stories of our youth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What my daughter is teaching me about contentment

Josh often says to Susie "Don't be a piggy!"  It's gentle teasing because we think she's so cute when she attempts to cram 75 Cheerios into her mouth at once.  It's like she thinks they taste best only if they are falling out of her mouth while she tries to chew.  Lately I've been noticing the way she asks for things, and in particular the way she asks for food or snacks.  She LOVES these little Annie's Bunny Crackers, but since they are a little bigger than Cheerios, I only give her one or two at a time.  She'll snatch that bunny up off her high chair tray , and the second she pops it into her mouth, she thrusts her chubby little hand out, pointing at the crackers and saying "MO, MO" (around the whole one in her mouth).  I say "try to chew it up first!" and think "wow, she's not even enjoying the one she has because she's just worried about getting the next one!"

Bingo.  And that's me.  I've got a whole bunny cracker in my mouth, but already I'm reaching for something else -- the next blessing, whatever it is.  It's like I don't trust the Lord to give me another one in His timing, so I start asking for it before I've even taken the time to relish and be thankful for what I do have.

Are you like me?  Not satisfied with the paycheck you have, or the children you have, or this good day right now that you have, or even the memories that you have, you can only think forward, ready to get the next thing.  

When will we be satisfied?  When the whole box of bunny crackers is dumped out on our high chair tray?  No, then we'll see bananas and start asking for those.  

Silly, I know, but the point is, we will never be satisfied.  Let's ask the Lord for grace to be content with what he has given!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gretchen is an American Girl -- Chapter 6 in my life story

Have I mentioned I love to read?  My current appetite for books was nothing like it was when I was a child.  Probably due to reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, I adored reading about the pioneer days.  Here is a picture of my sister Anna and me putting on a play from On the Banks of Plum Creek for our grandmother.  I think you can tell who played Laura, and who played Nellie Olsen!  

At some point in 3rd or 4th grade I began to "write my novel", as I called it.  This story spared no dramatic element.  I wouldn't let anyone read it because I knew it was pretty shoddy, but that didn't stop my love for writing it.  One time Anna and I acted part of it out for my mom.  Not surprisingly, it featured sisters who were traveling west in a covered wagon, and encountered every conceivable mishap.

After a short business trip with my dad, my mom brought home some books that are incredibly well-known now, but brand-new and unheard of in 1986.  She gave me the book Meet Kirsten and my sister Anna Meet Samantha.  "There are dolls, too!" Mom told us, and we tore out the little card in the back of our books and sent it in to request a catalog.  These books and dolls were of course, the American Girl Collection.  At that time, there were only 3 girls: Kirsten, Samantha and Molly.  For Christmas Mom gave us the rest of the books -- at that time, only 3 books per girl -- including all the Molly books.  These books were hot off the press!  This was long before the American Girl doll empire owned by Mattel, these were owned by Pleasant Company in Wisconsin, and the dolls could only be seen in the catalog.  Oh, Anna and I would look at our catalogs for ages.  I remember how shiny Kirsten's golden braid loops looked on the page, and how perfect her Pioneer dress was.   The catalog eventually featured dresses for the girls, as well, and I just loved those perfectly gorgeous dresses (I never got one of those dresses, though, in case you think that is the end of the story).

I did, however, receive my very own Kirsten doll for my 9th birthday.  Back then, the dolls were made in West Germany, not China, but other than that, she looked pretty much exactly like the Kirsten dolls made 20 years later.  I remember thinking that getting my doll for my 9th birthday was just perfect because the girls in the stories were 9 years old, too!  In retrospect, I see how young I was at 9 (and glad to be so!), because many girls now buy their first American Girl doll at 5, 4 or even 3 years old!  But I can't imagine loving or longing for a doll quite like I did unless you'd read the books first!  Eventually we read all the American Girl books as they came out (with Felicity next, then Addy. . . ).  These books were rather below my reading level from the start, but it didn't matter to me because the stories were so good.  And as I grew older, I continued to enjoy them.

I also can't help but think of the modern push for 9 year old girls to be "tweens" -- and more interested in makeup, cell phones and boys than they are playing with dolls and pretending.  It makes me appreciate so much how my parents sheltered me from that push (which was not nearly as strong in that era).  I truly indulged my imagination found hours upon hours of play in my own world.  I am already thinking toward the future for my daughter, and introducing her to excellent books and toys (like American Girl -- I wholeheartedly love it still) that allow a girl to enjoy life and adventure in girlhood.

This is my 6th post for Mommy's Piggy Tales, where we're retelling stories of our childhood.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I Am a Bunny

I love it when I find a classic book that is also fun and age-appropriate for a baby.  I Am a Bunny, illustrated by Richard Scarry, is just such a book!

Susie already loves this book.  It's sturdy, colorful, and a great tall size (the shape reminds me of another favorite -- Babies by Gyo Fujikawa).  Though the pictures have great detail and command attention, each page has a fairly short and simple phrase or sentence, which is ideal when reading to a squirmy baby!  

Recently Susie has started bringing me books to read her.  She'll whip one out of her basket and tell me "dat" (meaning "read that", I guess).  Usually after about 4 or 5 pages, she whips out another and tells me "dat".  Every once in a while, she likes to hear the whole thing and sometimes she hands it back to me and tells me "dat" again because she wants to hear it a second time!  That's really exciting to me!  The other day she started fussing when I started to stand up and I realized she was trying to hand me Brown Bear Brown Bear to read again.  You better bet I reread her those bookies just as many times as she'd like! 

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Big Adventure at Age 8 with a few too many details -- Chapter 5 in My Life Story

The first summer we lived in Green Bay was blissful.  I spent my 8th  birthday at Bay Beach (tiny old fashioned amusement park on the bay), and got an E Z Bake Oven.  We ran wild in the woods that summer, swinging on the grapevines, following the deer trails through the woods, and of course, letting Mom search our scalps at the end of the day for ticks.  We didn't have air conditioning, but we didn't need it.  Several times we felt really hot, but mostly we stayed nice and cool in the woods (or the sprinkler. . . or the slip 'n' slide).  We had friends, of course, but they lived somewhat far away, so on regular days, we just played with our siblings.  We didn't get children for neighbors for another couple of years.

Fall came, and my dad was about to turn 40.  Mom made elaborate plans for a big fun party for him -- a reunion with some of our extended family members and lots of people from church.  When Grandma and Grandpa came up for the party, we spent the day sight seeing in Door County, the gorgeous peninsula of Wisconsin (much like New England -- it has lovely rocky beaches and lighthouses).  I do not remember any of the pretty things we saw that day, though.  I just remember being miserable with my cough.  I had been hacking ever since the weather turned cooler and all the cough syrup in the world wasn't doing me a lick of good.  I coughed constantly and I remember my shoulder hurting from tensing up so much.  The day after our trip to Door County, Mom took me to the doctor.  They gave me several breathing treatments (my nose ran under the mask, but I wasn't allowed to take it off to wipe it -- torture, I tell you!), and then put me right in the hospital.  I had asthma, and pneumonia!  

I was not afraid of anything in the hospital -- I sort of thought it was a big adventure, but I do remember being so sad to miss my dad's big birthday party.  It was the very next day.  After I got all settled into my hospital room, my parents left me for the evening, and I remember not being one whit scared to be alone (though it tore my poor mother up to leave me!).  I sat there a little while, flipped through the television choices and promptly rang the nurse.  "I'm bored" I unashamedly told the poor nurse who surely had more important things to worry about.  "Do you need help with the TV?" she asked.  "No, there's nothing on" I replied (this kid was used to being able to play outside or read stacks of books . . . television held little interest for me).  The nurse offered to take me down to the recreation room where I could color in a coloring book.  I was hooked to an IV, so she walked me down and someone walked me back later.  The next day I slept in the hospital during the big 40th birthday party for my dad.  I'm sure my family all felt terrible for partying while I was in the hospital, but I never thought anything of it, other than wishing I could go to the party, of course.  Afterward, my family came by to visit me (the photo above was taken then) and Aunt Pat brought me lots of books (including Gulliver's Travels -- that book still reminds me of being in the hospital).  My Sunday School teacher brought me the stuffed tiger.  I recall generally feeling pretty weird and off because of the medication and coughing.  I had a horrible taste in my mouth because I had to keep spitting out the phlegm (sorry -- that's gross, I know), and I couldn't keep food down because of the meds.  I can still list for you the worst things to throw up (came in handy later on when I had morning sickness -- I KNEW to avoid orange juice).  I loved it when they told me I was getting a liquid diet, because that meant jello and Sprite, and that sounded like a good supper to me!  I stayed in the hospital a week and I went back and forth between being hyper from the steroid to totally lethargic.  I dreaded the times when nurses came in to test my lung capacity and I had to blow on the little tube to see how much power I could muster.  I felt like some nurses wouldn't believe me even when I tried my hardest!  I loved some nurses, though.  I remember one of them rushing in to me in the middle of the night when I was throwing up into the plastic kidney shaped barf pan.  She patted me on the back and got me a new barf pan when I filled that one up.  I was so grateful for her kindness. 

Here are two very specific memories I had of my hospital stay:  First, for some reason, I called my IV stand "My George".  He went everywhere with me, of course, to the bathroom, stood outside my shower, and walking down the hall.  Once when my mom was busy talking to the doctor, I saw a frightening part of a movie about George Washington that gave me bad dreams.  Mom told me she was so sorry for letting me see it (it wasn't anything too bad, but it scared me nonetheless).  When I told Mom about my bad dream (someone chasing me, I'm sure), she suggested that I just jump on my George and ride down the hall away from the bad person.  I found this incredibly funny and helpful!  When I finally had the IV removed the day I left to go home, my hand felt so strange and floppy and light without the tape, and it was sore where my needle had been.  The other thing I remember was how I'd get so hungry for REAL food.  When food commercials came on TV, I could hardly bear to watch!  Jello doesn't keep you full for long!  I imagined all the delicious foods Mom made for us at home and could not wait to go home to eat them again.  Mom let me pick what I wanted to eat when I left the hospital and I wanted PIZZA and SPAGHETTI!  We went to Rocky Rococos for lunch straight from the hospital (it was so yummy and salty and good!) and Mom made spaghetti at home for supper.  

Anna had her tonsils out a few months before I had my bad spell with asthma, and Dad had taken her to Toys R Us to pick out something (she picked a My Child doll).  So the pattern had been set, and I knew I'd get a special toy, too.  Dad offered to take me to Toys R Us after I got out of the hospital, or let him go choose something for me while I was still in there.  I weighed my options.  Getting my doll now (I knew I wanted a Cabbage Patch CornSilk doll) or getting to walk the aisles of the toy store with my dad picking whatever I wanted. . . such a tough one.  In the end, my impatience won out, and I told my dad to pick for me.  He brought me just what I wanted: a red haired CornSilk doll! (No picture to show, but my original Cabbage Patch doll is on the bed with me in the hospital picture above).

And that was the big adventure at age 8.  I'm linking up here to Mommy's Piggy Tales where we're telling stories from our youth.

Monday, July 05, 2010

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew

I recently listened to another excellent audio book --  God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  I had heard of Brother Andrew, but was not really familiar with his story of smuggling Bibles behind the iron curtain during the Soviet rule over much of eastern Europe.  I am probably only 30 years behind, but his story was absolutely breathtaking and inspiring.

Perhaps you know all about Brother Andrew's daring adventures -- stuffing his little Volkswagen with Bibles in Russian, German, Czech, and other languages and driving from Holland into these restricted nations right under the noses of the Communist police.  Perhaps you already were blessed by stories of tiny churches struggling to exist under such oppression and the value the Christians placed on God's Word, so hungry to hear it, so eager to read it, and delighted beyond measure when Brother Andrew GAVE them copies of the Bible to keep for their very own! 

It is quite an exciting story.  This book would make an incredible read-aloud for a family to share together (parents who are my age and older can teach their children about "our generation" when the Communist government held Europe in a tight grip).  I'd also heartily recommend the audio book version!  It's nice to listen to the reader pronounce all the names and cities with a flourish.  The first couple of chapters before Andrew is converted to share some somewhat disturbing aspects for the very young (such as the time when he was in the military), so you might want to read/listen with discretion.

The chief reason I was so inspired by God's Smuggler, though, did not have much to do with the adventure of his travels, but rather by the way Andrew and his family and companions relied on the Lord's provision for them.  They purposed not to make their needs known to other people, but always to pray and trust God to provide for them, as the King would provide for His children.  The answers to these specific prayers are similar to the famous stories of George Mueller, who would pray for breakfast for the children in the orphanage, only to have a milk truck break down outside their door, and give them all free milk.  Time after time, Brother Andrew would have his need met at the exact moment he needed it -- a car, a home, money for printing pocket Bibles, etc.  He was not officially supported by any organization or church, but the Lord provided for every need he had, both personal and for his work around the world.  I was so challenged as I listened that I do not automatically think to turn to the King with my needs, but instead begin to think of how I can "make it happen" to provide for myself.  It can be a hard balance in living modestly and trying to be thrifty, and also trusting God to be the one who supplies my needs.  Sometimes when I'm getting good deals on what we need, or learning to make my own yogurt or baby wipes, I can mentally sort of transfer my trust from the Almighty God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, to my little penny-pinching self.  Saving money and living within your means is good -- but relying on your own efforts to provide for your needs is dangerous.  God save me from trusting myself!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gretchen's 7th Birthday Party and Going Through "Culture Shock" -- Chapter 4 in My Life Story

Me (left) with a handful of guests
My 7th birthday party was far and away the largest party I ever had.  Mom invited just about every little girl I knew, even if they were somewhat older or younger than I was, for a dress-up tea party.  Mom decorated straw hats for Anna and I to wear with our dresses -- mine was navy with pink roses, I believe.  And no cheaply made store-bought princess costumes for us, no, Mom gave us REAL grown up dresses to wear.  Mine had skinny straps that she tied up to make it fit better, and a little short jacket to help hold everything in place.  I felt so pretty and so grown up.  One day we were at a store getting some things for the party, and we happened upon these high-heel clogs (you may remember these from the '80s, very popular) that came in pretty small ladies sizes.  Mom got some for each of us to wear, and I remember saying "These FIT me!" (they didn't really, of course, but with no backs, it seemed like they did).  Looking back, it was pretty generous of Mom to go all out for those dress up outfits for us!  At home we put on our heels and hats with our summer shorts outfits and clunked around the house.  "We look like the girls on Hee Haw!" I said.  Of course, in my mind, those girls were pretty.

The day of the party was just so fun.  Lots of girls came with their hats and gloves and baby dolls in strollers.  Mom took my picture with each girl with the polaroid camera -- and each girl got to keep her picture.  We sipped Tang from Mom's wedding china teacups and ate little sandwiches and cookies (must have taken Mom forever to make all that food and wash all those dishes!  There were tables of girls everywhere).  I remember distinctly that I made the effort to wipe my mouth the way I had seen grown-ups do, using both hands and going around the mouth.  It seems silly to remember that, but my Uncle Ron later asked me about my party and if I remembered to be dainty.  He said "Did you wipe your mouth like THIS?" and demonstrated prissily dabbing his mouth, "Or did you wipe it like THIS?" and he scrubbed his mouth wildly.  "Neither one!" I told him, and showed him my very grown up method.  He was probably cracking up at me.  I certainly took myself seriously.
That night, after the party was over, my family went out to eat with Uncle Ron and his family at a restaurant in Cincinnati that my siblings and I dubbed "The Round and Round Restaurant".  It was at the top of a hotel by the Ohio river, and the floor of the dining room did in fact, slowly turn the whole time you ate, to give the diners a view of the skyline and river.  I could not believe my incredible good fortune to be able to EAT at this EXCITING restaurant on MY birthday!!  I was more than on top of the hotel, I was on top of the world!

Less than 2 months later, my family said goodbye to our relatives who lived near us in Cincinnati, and boarded an airplane -- we were moving to Green Bay Wisconsin.  I was not sad at all.  It seemed like a wonderful adventure, but I remember people crying as we left.  Little did I know that this move would involve quite a bit of culture shock for us!
On a Sunday in Green Bay
Our family loved football, and had been Bengals fans, but became Packer fans right away after we moved (even though they were TERRIBLE).  The Wisconsin fall became wintry much quicker than it had in Cincinnati, and the signs in the small city of Green Bay were green and gold, like their football team.  But the biggest adjustment for us was a language adjustment.  The people we met in Green Bay referred to us as "from the south" (if you are truly from the south, you will laugh reading this!), and for some reason could NOT understand us very well when we spoke!  It was mutual, there were many things that my Sunday School teachers or the other children at church said that we couldn't make heads or tails of.  Once I asked where the drinking fountain was.  No one had a clue what I meant (later I heard someone call it the "bubbler" in a strong northern accent).  Someone kindly told Anna and me "I like your "bar-ETTE" and we were puzzled.  Sounded like barrette, but we had ponytails with hair ribbons -- soon we discovered that anything you wore in your hair was referred to as "bar-ETTE".  It went on, we called soft drinks "pop" and everyone there called it "SOE-dah", my sister was called "AH-nna", they had "malk" fresh from the "coes", at the grocery you put your things in a "baig".  These regional differences made the three of us a bit shy at first.  Nathan and I hesitated in making friends, and I remember Mom praying with us that we would each find a friend.  Anna, being younger and in a different Sunday School class, came home saying she made a friend the very first week."

We stayed in a hotel for a while after the move while our house got ready, and that is my first memory of sitting and doing paper and pencil schoolwork.  I was in second grade and Nathan was in third, and we found the work quite doable.  With three kids and our cat Peaches with us in those little hotel rooms, Mom was probably trying to keep us from going crazy, but I thought staying in the hotel was just part of the adventure.  Once Peaches got out of the room and made a beeline for the pool area (all the rooms surrounded the atrium).  Catching her was SO exciting!  For years we would mention "remember when Peaches got out of our hotel room?!"

Before too long, we moved into our house.  It felt HUGE to us, and was out in the country, surrounded by cornfields, acres of woods and bordered by a small river (which froze and we could ice skate on it!).  To our delight, the house was carpeted with bright orange and lime green carpeting.  We thought it was glorious -- obviously our parents did not concur, and it was replaced quickly.  Anna and I sat between the living room and family room the day before it was going to be torn out, and sang "Orange, orange, orange orange!"  Mom was kind not to snap at us, I'm sure it was pretty annoying, but we loved the orange.
With Angel in our Osh Kosh outfits
I have vivid memories of that first winter in Wisconsin.  The snow fell so deep and thick and there was no end to playing in it!  Grammy and Grandad flew up to spend Thanksgiving with us and brought one of our friends from Cincinnati, Angel.  We took them to see the wildlife sanctuary, where you could feed the hungry Canada Geese, bought real Osh Kosh clothing from the Osh Kosh outlet and went sledding.  One time in the dead of winter, our friend's father drove me and Anna out onto the Bay for the first time.  "Know where we are?  We are driving on the water!" he told us.  We could NOT believe it.  As far as our eyes could see was the frozen Bay, dotted with ice fishing huts.  It was a slightly queasy feeling, but he assured us it was safe.  Of course, there were many other vehicles out on the Bay as well.  Once time, driving home from church, our minivan could just not go any farther in the deep drifted snow on our road.  We all got out of the van, and followed my Dad through the waist-deep drifts.  Anna and I wore snowsuits over top of our Sunday dresses every week, and boots over our dressy tights.  It was common to bring your dress shoes with you in a bag, and change into them once you arrived.  So wading through the snowdrifts after Sunday church, we were properly dressed for the elements.

I adjusted to the "culture shock" we initially experienced moving just 9 hours north, and quickly made friends, and found all the fun things to do both at home and around us in Green Bay.  For several years, that was my childhood home, and I remember that lovely house so fondly.  We read Little House in the Big Woods after moving to Wisconsin, and felt very much that we lived right where Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa lived in the woods.  Thankfully, we did not need to worry about panthers and bears, but other than that, we totally related with those stories.  I'm sorry for the lack of photos in this post -- I just don't have access to all the old family photos.  I'm linking up at Mommy's Piggy Tales, where we're writing the stories of our youth.