Friday Favorites

It’s fall, I’m in a sweater, and it’s Friday, so I thought I’d share five things I’m loving right now (inspired by Hannah at The Art In Life).

#1: These BabyLit books. The girls love the Sherlock Holmes sounds primer, and now say, “ding, dong, ding, dong,” when they see a clock or my watch. We also love Pride and Prejudice, because of the sisters, of course.


#2 Is this amazing, amazing chocolate. I got it as a gift, but I’d buy it again; it’s so worth the splurge if you savor it. Sweet & salty, crunchy, and bittersweet, it’s the perfect thing at the end of a long day.

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#3 Is this book of Dorothy Sayers’ short stories. Her Peter Wimsey stories are the best. He and his valet Bunter are a more intelligent and charming Jeeves & Wooster, solving more sinister crimes. I’ve been staying up way too late these days reading “just one more” of her short stories, and now that I’ve finished those, it’s on to another Peter Wimsey novel.

Here’s a little snippet from Murder Must Advertise (set in an advertising agency):

“They won’t let Mr. Bredon [Wimsey] out of this department for a bit,” said Miss Meteyard. “They’re all up in the air about his Whifflets stunt. Everybody always hoped Dean would do better somewhere else. He was like a favourite book—you liked him so well that you were always yearning to lend him to somebody else.”

“What a savage woman you are,” observed Ingleby, coolly amused. “It’s that kind of remark that gets the university woman a bad name.”

He glanced at Willis, who said:“It isn’t the savagery. It’s the fact that there’s no animosity behind it. You are all like that.”

“You agree with Shaw—whenever you beat your child, be sure that you do it in anger.”

“Shaw’s Irish,” said Bredon. “Willis has put his finger on the real offensiveness of the educated Englishman—that he will not even trouble to be angry.”

“That’s right,” said Willis. “It’s that awful, bleak, blank—” he waved his hands helplessly—“the façade.”

“Meaning Bredon’s face?” suggested Ingleby, mischievously.

“Icily regular, splendidly null,” said Bredon, squinting into Miss Rossiter’s mirror. “Strange, to think that a whole Whifflets campaign seethes and burgeons behind this solid ivory brow.”

“Mixed metaphor,” said Miss Meteyard. “Pots seethe, plants burgeon.”

“Of course; it is a flower of rhetoric culled from the kitchen-garden.”

#4: My Mei Tai baby carrier. We have three sets of stairs between us and our car, so getting the girls out the door safely is so much easier when I can wear them. I wear them almost every day, often at the same time, for quick errands or places where the stroller will be in the way. It’s amazingly easy to get a toddler onto my back in the Mei Tai, and the straps are low-profile enough that they don’t interfere with the Ergo I wear on the front. I just love it so much.


A happy girl in the Mei Tai (which you can’t see)

#5: My crock pot. They’re anyone’s best kitchen friend, but especially moms of busy toddlers. This morning I threw a beef roast, a jar of pepperoncinis and some garlic in there, and tonight for dinner we had Italian beef sandwiches. There’s nothing better on the days I’ve got two clingy, teething toddlers on my lap at 4:45p.m. than knowing I can stay there as long as they need me because dinner’s cooking itself.

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The grand Target double cart fail

Strangers often ask how I go shopping with the girls, which always baffles me, since they’re usually sitting (relatively) happy in their stroller, which has a big enough basket for the essentials.

Well, the question baffled me til we tried using a cart– and I realized the people asking are actually experienced parents who suffered through using carts with their kids. Here’s my PSA: Just don’t do it. Stick with the stroller. Trust me.


The other day while we were out running errands, I forgot the stroller and had already tackled Trader Joe’s while tandem wearing the girls.  So when we got to Target I thought I’d give their massive two-child cart thing a try. The girls sat right down and let me buckle them in, and they loved it. They bounced, squealed and asked me to move every time I stopped for something.

For the first five minutes.

Now that they think of themselves as Big Girls, they love pushing the cart. The cart handle was in front of them, but too far to reach for their little arms– everything about these carts is definitely made for bigger kids.

So in the middle of the clothes section, after asking them about 10 times each to sit back down, I finally said in my sternest voice, “Sit on your buns right now!” Each time I got one buckled, the other would extricate herself and go for the handle again. They didn’t believe me that they couldn’t actually reach it without falling.

After Lucy tried to bite me to keep me from buckling her again, I tried to put her in the Mei Tai on my back, but ended up chasing her through the clothes while Catalina stood on the cart.

Finally, with Lucy on my back and Catalina still standing, a woman came over and said, “Can I help you?” Yes, I thought, if you’re Cinderella’s fairy godmother and can wave your want and make my children stay seated! 

Most of the time I appreciate people’s offers of help, but it was clear that what she really meant was, “Maybe if I come calmly over and offer help you’ll calm down and stop struggling with your children! I’m sure it’s really easy to get toddlers to sit down if you’re nice about it.”

I thanked her anyway and managed to keep Catalina from falling off the cart seat for the rest of our shopping adventure. Another stranger very nicely tried to help sit her down, which terrified her into sitting for about five minutes while I grabbed the last things on our list. Now that’s how to be helpful.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to leave Target! It’ll be another year or three before we try that innocent-looking double cart again.

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Last year at this time: sovereign grace behind the scenes

The babies will be 11 months old this weekend, and the closer their birthday gets, the more I have flashbacks to this time last year, my last (huge!) month of pregnancy and the girls’ birth.


And a funny thing has been happening– such a thing of grace. The babies’ birth wasn’t exactly a sweet and simple process. The first two weeks were perhaps the hardest weeks of my life, and for a long time, just the thought of a hospital room made my stomach ball up in knots. But recently, I’ve looked back on those days with a tenderness and thankfulness that could only come from God.

At the time, those days felt endless. I functioned on less sleep than I thought was possible, and shuffled painfully down the long hallway between mine and Catalina’s room in the postpartum wing and Lucy’s little NICU room more times than I could count.  This was not how I had expected things to go, and not how I thought a NICU stay would feel. We were separated, I was pumping for Lucy and struggling to nurse Catalina, and no one could offer a timeline for when we’d be home together.

I knew in my head that God’s will is always perfect and that He was lovingly sovereign over our situation, but I felt distant from Him, and even that took me by surprise. There were many moments of deepest joy– I had my babies, after all! I soaked in every new baby smell and grunt and cuddle. My family was there, and friends were eager to help us.  But I was often sad, exhausted, and a little ashamed of not being more cheery. I wished I was peacefully waiting on the Lord and enjoying my babies, NICU or no NICU. I wished I felt like He was working out everything for our good, but I was seeing the short-term and I couldn’t stretch my gaze any further.

But now when I look back, I see how the Lord’s steadfast love was covering us as He promised. Unlike so many NICU babies, Lucy was just a “feeder and grower,” and I could leave her room expecting her to be safe and healthy when I came back. There were so many fun and sweet family moments, and I’m so thankful Catalina was with me and not with her sister. And only a miracle could have kept me going on two 45-minute snatches of sleep every night! We made it out of there in less than two weeks and began life at home as a family of four.

As Lucy and Catalina’s birthday approaches, I’m celebrating more than just their first year of life. I’m celebrating things my hugely pregnant self didn’t dream I’d learn soon. A kind of trust that comes only from experience. I may not have been worshiping then, but every time I look back now, I can’t help but praise God from whom all those blessings flowed, even when I couldn’t yet see them.

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be the change (giveaway: the locust effect).

Michal Conger:

“The Locust Effect is not for the faint of heart– but it is for the hopeful of heart.” Reblogging these beautiful words from a fellow Locust Effect launch team member. Thank you, Cara!

Originally posted on be, mama. be (cara meredith):

I’ve perused my fair share of required texts in my lifetime: an English major in college (and later English teacher in life), and then a theology major in grad school, let’s just say I never lacked for want of a book to read.  And now that school isn’t a part of my everyday, when I pick up a book, I don’t necessarily want my brain to hurt.  I want my eyes to relax in wonder at the words before them, and I want to give my imagination time and space to soar.  

So, for the most part, I delight in the fancies of fiction; I become enveloped in the stories of that delightful Anne of Green Gables, and I wonder bemusedly at the lives of Sue Monk Kidd’s created characters in The Invention of Wings.  My fingers leap over the pages of various memoir writers, and I…

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The Locust Effect– and a Giveaway!

This is a little longer than usual, but bear with me– I promise it’s worth it. And there’s a giveaway at the end!

At a rock quarry near Chennai, India a few years ago, a man named Gopinath and his wife spent long days breaking boulders into gravel, working desperately to pay off a “debt” to the owner of the quarry. But no matter how hard they worked, they could never earn enough back from him to pay off their debt. Most of their money went to buying food from him, and they weren’t allowed to leave the quarry– not to get food, not to make more money. Gopinath and his wife eventually learned they were, in fact, actual modern-day slaves.

Nearby was a subsidized school where Gopinath’s children were never allowed to go, and a hospital set up to treat poor families like his, that he and his wife weren’t allowed to go to. As for going to the police, another rock quarry slave put it this way:

“We don’t have to go to the police. The owner pays the police to come to us– to beat us.”

I don’t write much about work, so you may not know that I’ve written pretty often about international aid. Our government pours billions of dollars each year into every kind of program imaginable– schools, wells, crop programs, trainings for farmers, even programs to increase citizen involvement in local and regional government. All really good ideas. And so often, they don’t work.

I don’t mean that as a political statement. I really wish that money worked the way it was intended to. But report after report and anecdote after anecdote shows much of the time, there’s a hitch in the program. The story of the slaves in India is just one example of this, but it is a powerful illustration of why our aid money is not getting at the root of the problem of poverty and injustice. As I cover stories like these, it breaks my heart.

You probably do know my love for International Justice Mission and their work of bringing rescue, justice and restoration to the oppressed and enslaved– often the very people these aid programs are supposed to help.

A new book (it came out today!!) by IJM President Gary Haugen and federal prosecutor Victor Boutros so powerfully addresses this gap between aid money and actual change that has been weighing on my heart since I first started writing about the topic.

The book is called The Locust Effect, named after the biggest plague of locusts in American history, which in 1875 destroyed the livelihoods of the families who had settled the midwest. They ate all the crops– even ate the wool off of sheep as they went. The “plague of everyday violence,” Haugen and Boutros argue, is much like that swarm of locusts: no matter how hard a family has worked or how much aid has been poured into their village, it can’t stop the violence that takes all of that away, often irreparably.

Much of the book is heartbreaking. The bottom line: Justice systems in the developing world are paid by the rich to protect the rich and ignore the poor. Protection by police and judges costs more than the poor have. As a result, bonded labor (modern slavery), police brutality, unjust imprisonment, land seizure, sex trafficking and sexual violence rob them of their livelihoods without anyone to answer a 9-1-1 phone call. And 4 billion people in the world live under these broken and corrupt justice systems.

These are heavy stories. They can be crushing. In so many, there is no happy ending. It’s not an easy read.

But near the end, hope comes in. They talk about how it is possible to build better justice systems that protect their people instead of oppressing them — and it has been done. One example is in Cebu, Philippines, where after four years of IJM partnering with local law enforcement to fix a broken justice system, the availability of children sold for sex dropped 79%. That is real hope.

If this tugs at your heart in any way, I so encourage you to read the book. It needs to get out there. We need to change how we do aid and justice so that we get at the root of the problem and actually save the poor from their poverty.

The giveaway: The awesome part of that? IJM has allowed me to give a copy of the book away to one commenter at random. Leave a comment below and at the end of the week, I will choose someone to receive a copy of The Locust Effect. No strings attached; you don’t have to write about it or anything, although I’d love if you chose to. Just read it and allow these stories to stir your soul.

During this week, the book’s launch week, a generous friend of IJM will give $20 to IJM for every copy of the book sold. So spending $20 on the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is equivalent to giving $20 directly to IJM to help fight violence against the poor.

This would fund eight IJM rescue operations and rescue hundreds.

All author royalties go to IJM’s work as well.

Amazon is already temporarily sold out (wohoo!), so try Barnes and Noble. They are carrying the book in many of their actual stores, so if you’re near one, you can get it there or online.

As long as this blog post is, I only just gave you a snippet of the book. There’s more here.

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