Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mr. Knightly

My Toyota Tundra was a wonderful truck and I was not in excessive favor of selling it, but it became daily apparent that we were quickly outgrowing it. I could barely squeeze the boys into the carseats in the backseat and I knew that once Lochlan was in the bigger carseat I would have a whole different challenge - putting him in the bed of the truck just didn't seem like a reasonable option. So... we sold my truck on Saturday and by the grace of God, found this lovely beast on Sunday. We drove ALL THE WAY TO GEORGIA (a 10 hour round trip drive) with our little pack and picked it up. It is a dream come true! We got great deals on both ends (selling and buying) and really feel blessed! Mr. Knightly (so named because it's black as night and all the girls love it) has room for 7 with the third row seating, plenty of space for my baby gear (stroller, backpack, diaper bags, etc.), horse blankets and groceries. It drives like a dream. And best of all, it has an engine big enough to still pull my horse trailer. Awesome. What do the boys think of it? "Paugie, you need to put your seatbelt on because we're going to go chase some trains with Mommy's new truck." Madigan's explanation for why Declan should let Mommy put him into his carseat without going into a fit of despondency. I never saw chasing trains in my future, but there it is!

It's maple syrup time again!

Madigan has taken charge of gathering maple sap from our trees this winter. We have had a bumper "crop", thanks to his diligence. He reminds me every day to check the trees and enthusiastically helps me bring in the full bottles of sap to boil down into delicious yumminess. We have gotten over 1.5 gallons of syrup (that's a WHOLE LOT OF TREE SAP, friends) and it is so good on waffles! I'm very proud of my Tiger for his perseverance on this project.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Story Begins (3)

The 3 in the "Big 3" conversations began only a few weeks later. I felt that we had done a pretty good job keeping our interactions with one another to a minimum. We had seen each other often around campus, since we had both adopted the same group of wonderful friends (including Bethany, who is now our sister-in-law!). I looked forward to seeing him every day, even just briefly, but I also respected the fact that we were deliberately trying to keep our distance from one another. I considered him a trusted friend and the more I got to know about him the more I grew to care about him deeply as a trusted friend. 

One evening, as I was coming out of class, Kris waltzed up and asked if I had time to talk. I wasn't concerned about needing to study, since it was a Friday evening, so I happily agreed. It had been a few weeks since our previous long conversation, so I was excited to have another chance to talk with him in more depth.

We sat across from each other in the "fish bowl", an aptly named room, as it was in the center of the main building on campus. Kris pulled out some 3x5 cards, which were filled with hand written notes on them. I was a little surprised and wondered if I was to hear a lecture or the practice for an upcoming presentation. Kris said, "I've been wanting to talk with you because I have thought more seriously about you these past several weeks and decided that I want to pursue you for marriage." I do remember being speechless. Then, he said, "I spent the past few days writing out pros and cons (as I see them from my limited perspective) to us pursuing marriage to one another." I don't remember a lot of the detailed pros and cons, but a few I do recall were:

  • I want to reach people, care about people and touch their lives through my home. You are naturally inclined toward hosting people and opening up 'your space' to them. I think you would help them feel welcomed into our home.
  • I am not a particularly social person and find it difficult to connect with people, but you seem to connect easily with people.
  • I have a LOT of graduate work ahead of me. That means no stability for many years ahead and no guarantees of anything even once I finish my PhD. It will be tough for both of us.
  • Given the path ahead of me, you will most likely have to live away from your sister (Krista and I were roommates, and pretty much inseparable - he knew all too well how difficult that idea would be for both of us) for a good many years.
There were so many things on that list, but they were all well thought out and though I didn't agree with all of them it was obvious to me that he had put a great deal of time and effort into his consideration. He had approached the whole notion as one would totally expect from a scientist. After what seemed like a very long time, he paused for a while and said, "What do you think? You haven't said much." I chuckled. Then told him that I was probably going to need some time to mull over all of this. I told him I was honored by it all, but definitely overwhelmed. He said, "Oh, of course, take all the time you need. I just wanted to make sure you knew clearly where I am coming from. I don't think it's fair to you for me to be spending time with you, stalking your friends for information and not telling you that I am intentionally pursuing you, (if you agree, of course)." I asked him if I could give him an answer after our Christmas break, as I knew that would give me 2 months or so to get away, "clear my head", talk with my family and create my own set of pros and cons to the whole matter. That night I told my 3 closest friends (Krista, Bethany and Laura) and watched them go from shock (maybe horror?) to excitement. We all agreed to pray A LOT. Going home, that Christmas, I was filled with trepidation (Was I ready, AGAIN?) and hope. This felt like the decision of a lifetime... and it was.  


My dear wife is a talented and entertaining writer, so if you have enjoyed this post so far, you should probably stop now. My writing is torturous and tedious by contrast and far less informative.  Every time I and my siblings or father get together or talk by phone, Eryn asks me how they doing afterward and I never know since we spent the entire time engaged in abstract discussion (really enjoyed your last visit Lisa!).  So, you've been warned, don't blame me if you keep reading! In particular, skip the following post on my blog which includes a rant Eryn didn't want cluttering up her post: Marriage theory soapbox

Having worked out my own analytic angst about marriage and taken a prior dip in the mud puddle of romantically driven relational entanglement, I set to work creating a heuristic algorithm for choosing a mate that would complement my role in God's grand trajectory (at least I knew better than trying to find an equation with a formal proof) and where my strengths would serve as a complement to her role.  As noted in previous posts my preliminary reconnaissance and analysis had identified Eryn as potentially complementing my cerebral analysis with people-oriented focus. But it was time to put it all down on paper, or, more precisely, 4x6 card stock (not 3x5, as has often been rumored). After only two conversations, I did not expect Eryn to be particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of marrying me, but I thought it important to let her know that my interest was beyond Platonic. What is the ideal form of a marriage proposal anyway? 

The Fishbowl, as the main entrance to the main building was called, just happened to be a convenient, public place to converse. Retrospectively, Eryn was obviously squirming a bit about the combination of subject and location, since we had friends drifting by, but I was pretty oblivious.  Doesn't everyone take an objective, detached approach to decisions as important as marriage?

Although I was definitely interested in Eryn, it was not yet a particularly strong emotional attachment, so I didn't feel like I had a lot to lose from laying it all on the line.  Quite the opposite, I wanted her to evaluate the prospect of marriage objectively and commit to a serious pursuit of making an definitive decision, which my previous love interest had long avoided.  Since I was looking for a life partner, I laid out the pros and cons as best I could. By that time, I had a pretty good idea of the likely trajectory of my life calling, so my goal was to ensure that we focused on how our complementary strengths would help us pursue a shared vision of our kingdom service together, rather than win her heart. I was actually trying to scare her off a bit (just not too much :-), since I wanted a wife that was willing to pursue life purpose over material goals.  As an academic, my income is never going to be great.  

Eryn's phenomenal hospitality and ability to connect was just what I was looking for to balance out my Asperger-like tendencies (BTW, I'm sorry if I've ever offended you, it *probably* wasn't on purpose). My abstract theological focus needed grounding so that it could be of use to anyone and I had long believed that this would be best pursued in home bible studies (and now a house church). Eryn's welcoming ways ensured that her dorm room was packed full on a regular basis, so I knew she could help make others comfortable (and leave the opposite to me :-).  On the other hand, it was clear from our earlier conversations that my analytic abilities might further her role as a peer counseler, which others frequently sought. Eryn was far more interested in helping others work through things productively than just giving an indulgent listening ear.

During a move a couple years ago, We found those cards and decided that my pros/cons were not that far off. Since my professional career is all about making accurate predictions, it was satisfying to see it work in real life too. The happiest couples I have known pursue Kingdom work together and value each other's contribution to their fulfillment of their own life role. Unfortunately, outside of the life callings of pastors/missionaries and their spouses, churches don't provide much of a cultural pattern for couples to consider as they seek God's Kingdom together. I hope that will change! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

(McGary) Family Circus

"Mommy, Mommy, I found it!"
"What did you find?"
"I found my booger!"
"Oh, honey, that's great! Where did you put it?"
"Right here, on the window!"

I had finished reading through one of the books with Paugie tonight and he, of course, wanted to read it again. I casually flipped directly to the middle of the book to start there and before I could turn the page, he listed which animal we were to expect on the next page. He had remembered! He has a memory like an elephant and since he's my brooder, that does not bode well for any of us!

Lochlan the Lion was "asleep" during his afternoon nap, when I sneaked into his room to grab the laundry basket (alas, my unending war on laundry still rages on...). I heard a little giggle and turned around to see him propped up on his elbows, smiling at me from ear to ear. So much for stealth! The nap may have been cut short, but it was definitely worth it.

The Tiger has been experimenting with places to potty, lately. I'm not sure when he assigned himself this particular mission, but it has been a productive, often entertaining, and (for Mommy) highly annoying one. Two days ago I walked into the bathroom to find him "spraying it down, Honey" to get it clean. I reminded him that we use ONLY water for such cleaning activities in this household. Today, I found him "filling the nasal flush bottle". Wow.

Pauge could not sleep tonight, so I got him up to get a little one-on-one hang out time with Mommy and Daddy. We chased him around the living room, taking turns "scaring" him and tickling him and in between each turn about the room, he would run over to the salad bowl on the counter and say (in Paugie speak): "Blueberry, please." We started counting them as we handed him each one, starting with several series of 1,2,3. Then we continued to 4, 5... He filled in "6". Mommy, "7". Pauge, "8". He was was counting all the way to 10, and didn't miss a beat.

I am delighted to announce that Lochlan's blue eyes are staying blue! When he wears something blue, those little beauties light up! Of course, it doesn't take much to get that boy to light up... he's the happiest thing since Christmas and is not afraid to let everyone know.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pack of delights

Madigan was telling me his memory verse, but only got part way through it. Daddy decided to fill in where he left off with, "for..." Madigan confidently exclaimed: "5!"

I love that the boys enjoy having company over as much as we do. I can't tell them we're having company until just before the company arrives because, as with all things Tiger, the exuberance of excitement leads to laps around the kitchen to the detriment of anything/everything that might get in the way, including Paugie. This morning, Madigan decided we needed to broaden our general sphere of influence and announced that we should have the police car (and officer, I suppose) come for waffles. When it went cruising on by our house, sirens blaring, he wailed despairingly for me to stop the police car and give it waffles. So, now I guess my next task is to befriend a police officer and see if I can bribe him to make a friendly stop in the neighborhood for waffles. 

"Hold you, Please". I don't know if it's the honey colored curls, or those dreamy eyes looking up at me, but when Pauge says those three words, it's not hard to stop whatever I'm doing to oblige.

This morning, I woke up to the little brown bear saying: "Mommmmmmmmmmmmmy, where are you? Where are you? (and then wishfully), There you are!" Squeal of delight and then, repeat.

When "those big brothers" come running up to give Lochlan a face-full kiss, he coos his approval with a big smile. He's so tolerant of their antics... clearly the third born!

As we were were driving away from the house, Lochlan was vehemently wailing protests. Tiger looked at him sternly and said, "Baby Lochlan, quiet. Don't wake the neighbors." Kills me!

Our family moto: "It's always a good time to cuddle forever" (inspired by our little brown bear).

And our latest gardening experiment (thank you, Tiger): Gravel "seeds" in the garden. We'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kefir Bear

Before Christmas, we found out that Madison has bladder cancer. Obviously the prognosis of cancer is NEVER good, and in the case of a 9 year old dog, our hopes were dashed. However, we decided to see if we could "buy her more time" in a less conventional way (i.e no chemotherapy, etc.) and put her on a daily dose of milk kefir. Within 2 days, there was a noticeable difference... our bouncy bear was back!

She's got pep back in her step! And the crazy part is that on days when she hasn't gotten her kefir, we can tell. Not sure why or how it works, but we've got one little bear that would do a little dance just to prove that it does!

Here's to our "Kefir Bear"!

PS We make our own kefir by adding 1 quart plain kefir to 1 gallon raw organic milk. Let it sit out, lightly covered, for 3 days in room temperature. For the next batch, use 1 quart of what you have left from first batch. It is important to make sure you store the kefir in glass, with no metal contact.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Our definition of normal

"Madigan, please don't put the chicken in your hair."
"Pauge, let's not play in the toilet water because that's what Sabina drinks." (What???)
"Here, Pauge, get your waffle off the floor before Sabina gets it. I'm sure it's cooled off enough now."
"Madigan, potty right here by the truck."
"Madigan, please don't knock over Paugie when you run by. He's getting tired of it."
"You can run, but you can't hide!" (OK, Mommy, feel free to traumatize the poor darlings.)
"Madigan, Valiant, let's go outside and go potty." (Poor Daddy, he gets so confused.)
"Daddy, I'm cold. I need you to roll the window down. I'm so freezing cold."
"Madigan, do you need to potty?" "No, it's gone."
George: "Babe, why is the cheese sitting in the sink with the cheese grater?" Thank you Paugie for helping keep this place tidied up. Many helpful hands make life merrier (and interesting).
Oh, and tigers sound different than dogs when they're lying on the floor lapping up water from the water bowl (the one in the kitchen, just to clarify). Now you know. 

Monday, February 04, 2013


Well, it's the time of the year that (this) mother dreads - when I am reminded that time is marching past far too quickly and each day is all too happily yielding to the next. More emphatically, however, it is that day when we celebrate the life of the Tiger who came pouncing in 3 years ago and made us his biggest fans. He's got a lot of roar, a little bite, and the spirit of a giant. Like any Tiger, you're much better off stepping back to observe him and see what he will astound you with, than to try to tame him.

One thing I love about Madigan, though, is that he is also a "Bundle". A Bundle of love, compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness, adoration (for his brothers), generosity and creativity. He is the one who climbs into my lap, grabs a blanket to put over both of us and snuggles tightly up against me, waiting for me to read story after story out of his favorite books.

Though I have never found any other season of life to be more challenging, I have also never found life to be so full of delight. Every day I catch myself staring at the little people who surround me, wondering how it is possible that they can teach me so much - about themselves, about people (human nature), about God, about myself, about what we do with what we're given.

Three years and three little men. Someone asked me, "Did you ever worry that you might not be able to love them all enough?" I totally worried about that. What I didn't realize is that you love each one of them with your whole heart. It's that simple. 

Lochlan the Lion - 3 months old

Declan, the Brown Bear - 3 months old

Madigan, the Tiger - 3 months old

Saturday, February 02, 2013

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

I handed Madigan a cup of tea yesterday and his response? "Oh thank you, Honey. That was so nice of you." I think I choked on my tea after that.

As I was dressing Declan, Madigan looked over and said, "Honey, whatcha doin' to my Paugie Boy?" Where does this kid get this stuff?!

He was "helping" me get a tree picture painted on the wall in his bedroom, yesterday. Today, while he was busy keeping Daddy entertained, I added the tree trunk and branches to the picture, unbeknownst to him. When he went into his room, he did a double take and then shouted: "Oh, you painted it again! Oh mommy that is a fun tree! Mommy, that is a REALLLLLLLY fun tree!" Mission accomplished.

And amidst the bedtime blues, one can often hear a general theme being rehearsed.... "I Neeeeeeeeeeeeeed a cookie!" Of course you do... sugar before bed is a sure fix for insomnia.