Thursday, December 8, 2011

Overheard in our Abode

Big Brother: "When Santa comes, I'm gonna go hide in my room because he's pretty scary to me."

We've also heard him say "When Santa says, 'Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas' I'm gonna hide in my room!'"

#1 Concern about Santa - How does he get down the chimney?

#2 Concern about Santa - Why does he need to eat our cookies?

#3 Concern about Santa - Will he leave the reindeer on the roof or bring them in our house?

To all of these questions our most popular response has been 'well buddy, what do YOU think will happen?' It's so fun to let him 'problem solve' all of these questions and here his active imagination at work.  I'm not 'pushing' the Santa thing but I do think it's fun to play along with him - what a 'new normal' this whole 'Santa' thing has been for us this year.

My Mantra

My mantra (a statement or slogan repeated frequently) this holiday season is: "Emily, this is the ONLY Christmas season you get with a 3.5 year old Big Brother and a 3 month old Little Brother - enjoy it!"

Today, while baking 2 batches of Christmas cookies with my 3.5 year old baking assistant who turned our baking into 'the baking show', I chanted my mantra as a row of my pretty cookies slid off the cookie sheet into the oven and then again as I burned the top of my hand on the inside of the stove all while he was some what whiningly insistent that I come and play with him in his train room.  (While the mixing part of baking is fun, the whole "Mom has to now scoop cookies onto the baking sheets and cook the cookies" part of baking is not so fun for a 3.5 year old.)

While doing our Truth and Tinsel Advent Crafts each day, I am trying to enjoy the brief moments of creativity my son has instead of 'fixing' his 'designs' or making him sit for longer than he is willing.  I probably should just make my own craft along side of him - they're just that fun (Admittedly, I have a perfectionist side that wants to make everything look exactly like that picture :))!

For any of you who contribute anything to the Sunday morning service, you understand that Christmas and Easter are 'high expectation' times of the year.  Being the worship leader at any church means you need to be communicating with more people, involving more musicians, including everyone's favorite Christmas hymns/songs, all while honoring Jesus and keeping the service length reasonable.  Try planning those services with a beautiful baby boy calling for you and a busy 3.5 year old tugging on you ... my shoulders are a little bit tense right now.   However, I'm trying to keep my mantra in mind which means I need to/want to be as present as possible with my kids.  So, I'm trying to 'work' either late at night or when Ross is at home (insert mantra).

Yesterday I took a  road trip to toy store about 45 minutes away with both kids in tow even though the 'secret' toy pick up I needed to do for my parents was for the big kid in the car.  Such is life these days!  We made the pick up and while were waiting in the toy store for this awesome gift to make it's way to us from the back of the store, Big Brother was running in circles chanting "I'm hungry in my belly" and I was running my mantra silently through my head (while missing my Mom!).  We survived a lunch out directly after picking up the toy (which BB wanted to immediately play with and wasn't entirely grasping the concept of waiting until Christmas) and I enjoyed some time out of the house with my boys (even though immediately upon entering the restaurant, BB declared he had to pee and it was an emergency and LB let me and everyone else nearby know he needed to eat so ... I did what I had to do - yes - in the bathroom - and then we got back in line to order - crises adverted - shew!).

I know I need to work on having more patience and self-control in my life and I can especially sense this during the slightly elevated stress level the 'holidays' bring to me.  Unfortunately, my kids and kind, loving husband are the ones who bare the brunt of my lack of patience and/or self control so I'm openly confessing my issues and admitting that the mantra needs to be even more front and center so that my family can experience the love of Jesus through me this season.

As we prepare to head out on a road trip to spend some time with family and celebrate Christmas together, I'm sure my mantra will come in handy a few times but I'm hoping it can sink down into my heart and soul and not just be something on 'repeat' in my brain. I'm praying for an abundance of peace and joy, presence and memory making - after all - this is the only Christmas I get to share with a 3.5 year old Big Brother and a 3 month old Little Brother.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Tomorrow begins the tradition of doing an advent (Advent means arrival) calendar in our family.  My Mom hand-made us a felt Advent calendar that resembles the one I grew up with and it's all set to go.  I love pulling out the little felt pieces and sharing the readings that point us to the Christmas story in the Bible.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an ebook called Truth in Tinsel which gives you ideas of crafts, Bible verses and discussion questions to complete with your kids (specifically ages 2-5) for each day of Advent.  The book was a great deal and I took the boys out to invest in our craft supplies yesterday so that Big Brother and I can spend some time bonding around the Christmas story in a way that (hopefully) touches his heart over the next 24 days.

Our church is an advent acknowledging place (thankfully!) so we started our series this past weekend.  Pastor Bob reminded us that Jesus didn't ever instruct us to remember his birth, but to remember his death and resurrection - so to be mindful of his birth this season, but also to keep our eyes fixed on the truth that Jesus WILL come again.  As a community, we have been really challenged by our pastors to be sharing the gospel truth with the people in our lives.  I was telling Ross how I often feel convicted by the fact that I don't have many people in my life who don't know Jesus.  Even in my growing piano studio, every family attends a church and has talked with me about Jesus/church/etc. to some extent!  That's over 15 families and 21 kids - amazing!!

Yesterday, as I was reflecting on the sermon and preparing to do these Advent activities with BB it hit me in the face that right now, two of the most important people I need to be telling about Jesus are my boys. Needless to say, I'm really excited to dig into this season of Advent, sharing the truth about the importance of Jesus' arrival with Big Brother and developing some 'new normal' traditions!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tis the Season

A few 'new' normals from my family over the Thanksgiving week ...

We celebrated and offered thanks to God with our church family on Wednesday night.  Since Big Brother is almost 3.5 we invited him to participate if he felt up to it and he decided he wanted to come back into 'big church' for the sharing time.  We talked about what he would share and when the time came, he stuck up his little hand, Pastor Bob brought over the microphone and Big Brother let everyone know he is thankful for his puppy.  His puppy is 'the' stuffed animal he has to have at night.  My sister gave it to him when he was a wee-thing and it is still a cozy favorite.

Thanksgiving was different this year with my parents being in NJ.  However, this is a holiday I have not always spent with them, so it was okay and I am very thankful to have an in-law family only minutes away who we spent most of the day with ... my sister-in-law outdid herself preparing an absolutely delicious feast (thank you Food Network Magazine for inspiring her dishes!) and we shared the meal with 4 Chinese exchange students which reminded me of back in the day when Mom and Dad would often host 'extras' - International students from NYC, etc.  It was also incredibly gorgeous here in MN, so after we ate, Ross, Chad, me and all the kids walked over to my in-laws (a little over 2 miles?)  and we enjoyed playing in their front yard, eating pie and being together as a family.

We purchased our live Frasier Fir Christmas tree on Black Friday (that was really the only shopping we did) and we decorated it on Saturday.  It was fun to have Big Brother say 'wow' to just about every ornament we showed him.  Everything was 'wow' or 'that is beautiful'!  It was adorable and it was fun to see the decorations through his eyes.  This year the 'new' thing is turning the tree lights on and off, off and on - he really paid little attention to any of that last Christmas so we'll see how it goes.  Little Brother was present through it all - he fixed his eyes on the tree, starring at the pretty lights.  It definitely took quite awhile to get everything on the tree this year since my little helper was involved - in fact - I still have to finish the ribbon.  Having 2 kids is definitely different (and fun) when it comes to getting things done in a timely manner.  I'm trying to just take a deep breath and enjoy the process because I know this is the only Christmas Big Brother will be 3.5 and Little Brother will be 3 months old, so I'm reminding myself to just enjoy it and hug them a little tighter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Counting Down at the Beach House

Yesterday morning, Big Brother's first words to greet me were, "Mama, can I ask you something?"  He proceeded to ask me if it was Thanksgiving yet and I told him it was Thanksgiving week and we were scheduled to have a fun play date to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends.  After contemplating this, he held up his little hand and clarified while counting on his fingers, 'so this is Halloween (on his pinky finger), this is Thanksgiving (ring finger), this is Christmas (middle finger) and THIS is Grandma Ridder's in NJ (pointer finger)?'  It was so completely adorable.  Apparently we've entered into the 'count down' phase of life with Big Brother.  He is very much looking forward to Thanksgiving in MN spent with his Manders' cousins and family, Christmas - not so much because of Santa, gifts, or any of that, but because he can't wait to be with our family and see his Grandparents and aunts and uncles that live far away (especially Grandpa Dave!) and I'm pretty sure he's pumped about NJ because he'll get to see all of his "Grandma's house" toys again and he's very curious about NJ house.  I only hope we can continue to develop the importance of being with family on the holidays versus the crazy materialism of certain events.  It will be fun to count down in special ways with him to our big celebrations and fun adventures.

Another 'new normal' occurring in our home has to do with 'sound'.  This past weekend, we moved Little Brother into his bedroom to sleep at night.  Up until then, he had been sleeping in a baby chair that kept him a little more upright to help with his spitty nature.  I was beginning to sense that Big Brother was waking up Little Brother too often during the day (since we were allowing Little B to sleep wherever as long as he was near us) and I was starting to feel the need to put him down for naps in a quieter place.  So, Ross and I looked at each other last weekend and decided it was time to try him in his room for naps and overnight.  Our 10.5 week old guy was a champ!  He fussed for his usual 2 or 3 minutes and fell right asleep, sleeping normally, getting up to nurse as usual and going right back to sleep.  So, Saturday, we took a family trip to Target and purchased (with gift cards - yay!) a Spa Sound Machine for his room.  The new normal sounds you now can hear in the middle of the night sound like a rain storm (Little B's room) at the ocean (Big B's room).  It's quite peaceful, calming and funny.  I kind of like our MN beach house! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Unexpected Answer

I don't know why this answer to our prayer seems unexpected.  Perhaps because it's not the answer I was praying for or expecting. Hmph.  It just goes to show how little of the big picture I understand.

For some time, we have continued to ask for God to provide a class for Ross to teach at Bethel.  Until the department head changed last year, he had been graciously provided with one Introduction to the Bible class to teach each semester (and even one J-term).  This gift of a class made a big difference in our finances and the extra income was really helpful.  Add to that the joy he received from teaching this class and the opportunities he had to get to know students (many of whom became leaders working closely with him in Campus Ministries - one even marrying my brother ;)) and having that class to teach was a huge blessing in all of our lives.

For over a year now, Ross has not been invited to teach this class.  I'm not going to lie - I've been mad and harboring some slightly bitter feelings about this for several reasons which I won't go into but I will say, I believe in Ross, his teaching style, his impact on students lives and his desire for students to understand the whole story of God's redemptive plan.  I have continued to pray, in faith, for a class for him to teach.   It's been a long season of no teaching for Ross and there is no class in sight, but I still have prayed and asked others to pray.

Today I was feeling conflicted.  Last year I only taught 2 full nights on Monday and Tuesday, squeezing in two more lessons on Wednesdays before heading down to church to accompany the choir rehearsal.  So I basically worked three nights a week and Thursday night was our 'family' night.  As of today, I will be adding 5 students to my roster on Thursday nights (I was already planning on 3 of those students).  I was feeling guilty for not having a 'week' night dinner time with my family and I was talking with the Lord about this decision to open up Thursday nights for students when I believe the Holy Spirit  whispered to my soul - "Emily, do you not see?  Do you not understand?  I am providing for your family through these new students."  Hmm ... yep.  God sure is providing for us and this income will help make up some of the difference of Ross not having a class.  On top of that, our kids do not have to go to day care - one of their parents is with them at all times (during a normal week of work for Ross and me).  While I wish for dinners at home with my boys, for now, in this season, I am blessed to be employed by many wonderful families (hopefully) teaching kids the love of music through piano lessons.  It also makes me cherish our weekends together and it causes me to pay attention and be more present in the time we do have together as a family of four.  I believe our prayers have been answered through these new students and I believe God knows the desire of my heart to some day be at home with my family during the afternoon/dinner hour ... but until something major changes in our life, I am very satisfied in the work He has provided for my hands to do and I am thankful for answered prayers.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I love how God's WORD can speak into our lives - even when we proof text verses (pulling one verse out of the original context and reading meaning into it that perhaps isn't there when you understand the full context of the passage).   I was finishing up a book before bed (House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson) when these verses jumped out at me. 

Isaiah 43:  

18 “Forget the former things; 
   do not dwell on the past. 
19 See, I am doing a new thing! 
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 

It reminded me that God is in the business of doing 'new' things in our lives. In this season of change in our family, I need to keep my eyes fixed on him - not dwelling on what 'has been' in an unhealthy way - or wishing for things to be like they 'used to be'. Instead, I should be actively watching for and acknowledging what He is currently doing in my life.  I think the purpose of this blog will help me stay grounded in watching for the 'new thing' in this season of life.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pay Back

Little brother definitely is a projectile spitter.   I think he could win competitions for how far he can spit.  At times, it is humorous to literally hear it go 'splat' as it hits our wood floors.  Having long hair and a projectile spitter is not a great combination.  Tonight I went to move my hair off of my shoulder and my hand came away covered in spit that had been hiding in my hair (don't worry - it had only been there for a few minutes - it was still wet). I frequently have to change shirts, pants, everything I'm wearing because of his spit up.  Thank goodness our washing machine got fixed this week!  This is a new adventure to me because Big Brother was not a projectile spitter AND I had short hair when he was this little.  If I'm ever out in public and you see me with spit up down my back that perhaps I have not noticed please feel free to alert me.  I've started carrying an extra shirt for ME in the diaper bag.  I was a projectile spitter, so I'm pretty sure my parents are thinking 'pay back!' whenever I have a story for them about Little Brother's spit up mishaps.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big Brother Brilliance

Overheard around our home over the past week or so ... (as seen on facebook):

I had just exited the shower and I was getting ready for the day in my bathroom.  Big Brother entered and sweetly asked, 'Mama, can I watch T.V. while you finish getting pretty?'  Well when you put it that way ... Yep.  He was allowed to watch PBS Kids while I finished getting ready.

Big Brother and I rarely have knock down arguments about anything (typically not his temperament) but yesterday, we did.  It was partly (mostly) my fault - he was tired, probably on the verge of hungry and being his 3.5 year old self.  I was hurrying to get everything together (meal for a friend, piano teaching bag, purse, diaper bag, Little Brother, etc.) and out the door in 10 minutes or less and I asked him to help put on his jeans (still working on getting dressed by himself) and his shoes (since the addition of a chart with rewards this week, he's been magically getting those shoes on with very little assistance).  He was dragging himself, laying down, across the floor instead of even finding his jeans (which he had chucked into the living room while not happy with my request) and then he was walking around in my sneakers instead of putting on his shoes (while cute when not in a rush - oh my blood was boiling because he knew he was pushing my buttons at this point).  I was feeling-less-than-patient and dumped him into the van while he was screaming for his shoes which I brought but I had stopped talking to him at this point so he didn't know they were in the car and he was just pitching a fit.  After a few minutes of driving, him calming down and deep breathing on my part, I attempted a conversation about all of the behavior that had just happened and I was asking him why he thought I was mad and he chirped, 'but I'm really great at apologizing'.  OH BOY!  I swallowed back a laugh and a smile and was thankful he couldn't entirely see my face since I was driving.  I did continue the conversation because it was important for him to understand his lack of obedience but that little 'chirp' was sure a memorable moment.  AND sure enough, within about 5 minutes of me being done talking to him, he was sound asleep.  Sigh.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Why not?"

The question, 'why not?' has been stumping me today.  Big Brother has been weekly rotating some challenging words into his vocabulary.  2 weeks ago the favored phrase was 'I can't' and I am learning to respond to that with 'I would like you to try' - that seems to be working or at least deflecting some of the annoyance of those words for me.  Today, his new 'saying' is 'why not' (we've been through just 'why' but this is different). He does not always use it in the right context so it leads to ridiculous conversations.  The washing machine repair man was here today and Big Brother asked me 'why not was he fixing the machine' - hmm - and then he asked 'why not was he wearing a hat' - he wasn't wearing a hat so if he had flipped a few words around it would have worked but ... :) Oh the challenges of the English language.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


What does your typical Sunday look like? 

As I was thinking about my 'new normal' Sunday 'routine', it got me thinking about how I have spent many Sundays in my life. 

Church has always been a part of my Sunday morning for as long as I have been alive! :) After church, though, has varied throughout my life. 

During the 'early years' of growing up, I remember coming home after church and eating lunch together as a family.  After lunch, I know Dad often took a nap.  I have memories of going to Oxford Valley Mall with my Mom on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  I also remember playing outside in the neighborhood, finishing up homework projects, riding bikes around town, and reading favorite books.  We always headed back to church on Sunday nights and usually this included some sort of music rehearsal - like the PB&J choir (kids choir) with Mrs. Dow - and some sort of kids programming - like Fun Foundations with Jeff and Ginny (if I'm remembering correctly!).  There were some killer games of 'free ball' that happened in the gym and lots of giggling and running around the church - I'm sure there was also educational stuff going on but I mostly remember the 'fun' of being back at church with my friends and their families.  

Fast forward to about 9th grade on and after church, I was a part of the Bucks County Youth Orchestra and our rehearsals were on Sunday afternoons.  I played french horn in the wind symphony and the orchestra.  It was (mostly) fun, it helped keep my 'lip' in shape, and I had friends in the BCYO program and in the horn section so I'm sure at times I had more fun than our directors appreciated.  :) When not rehearsing for the BCYO, I know I enjoyed Sunday afternoon siestas and I'm sure I was also cramming to get homework done before leaving for girls choir and Throneroom rehearsals (youth group worship team) which happened before our leadership team meetings (before y.g. we met with our youth pastor and the adult leaders to get ready to 'lead' our peers), then there was typically a run to 7-11 or Starbucks or somewhere to grab something caffeinated/something to eat (like we needed the energy - ha!) before attending the leadership team stuff and then ultimately ending the night with youth group.  (I LOVED having youth group on Sunday nights - I'm not kidding - it was awesome.) 

Once I hit the college years, I'm pretty sure Sunday afternoons went something like this:  eat brunch in the DC after church,  enjoy a nice nap, get ready for the week ahead of class, practice the piano (I loved the quiet of Carolyn's studio on a Sunday afternoon) and call home to chat with my family in PA.  During my first two years, I also regularly attended Bethel's Vespers student led worship service at 10 p.m.  and by my senior year, I was the leader of a Vespers team, so from about 6 p.m.-midnight I was heavily involved in leading my team and community in worship - such great memories!  

Early married life found me usually enjoying lunch with Ross and looking forward to a nap after an early morning start, getting up and out to lead worship at Salem Baptist (this was the only day I really had to get up and out for awhile because my jobs were really flexible).  Back in the day, those naps could be anywhere from 2 to 3 to 4 hours if I wanted!  Crazy to think about!  Sometimes, our small group would meet on Sunday afternoons or evenings - a cherished time with our married couple friends.  Ross and I would usually end our Sundays in front of the TV (or with me in front of the TV and Ross finishing up homework for his graduate program).  Ross rarely waitered at DP's on Sundays so that was a sacred day for us.  

As jobs have changed and children have been added to our family, our weekends remain precious time for us to be together as a family.  Music ministry continues to play a huge part of our Sunday morning routine since I am currently leading worship at a church in a neighboring city every week and Ross is leading worship one Sunday a month at another church.  After church, we usually make something for lunch as a family and then it's often sports watching time for Big Brother and Dad - Little B. usually hangs out with them, too.  While that is going on, part of my 'new normal' routine is that I have been escaping to our local Aldi to stock up on groceries for the week.  If I am feeling up to it, I will invite Big Brother to come with as it's good one on one time for the two of us.  Shopping with a list and in a smaller grocery store makes the grocery buying process so much faster and I can usually get out of there under 40 dollars in 30 minutes.  Amazing!  We usually try to incorporate a Sunday afternoon nap into our 'routine' and a walk to the park, a skype chat with family if possible, followed by dinner, he bed time routine for the boys and TV watching for the parents.  Ross and I have also been trying to intentionally talk through our upcoming week to make sure we're on the same page as much as possible before we dive into another week.  

In writing this post, it was interesting for me to realize how much the role of music and worship in the church has a played a part of my Sundays from the time I was a little girl through the present day. It's also neat to see how important being with family in one form or another has been to my Sunday routine.  Even with lots 'new normals' developing in my life, it's good to recognize the constants!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sick Day

100.   I think I washed my hands at least 100 times today.  Going between the two boys meant extra hand sanitizer and washes to attempt to prevent Little Brother from being infected - that is a 'new normal' during germ season 2011/2012.

10.  I am pretty sure Ethan filled the puke bucket at least 10 times today.  10 is also the amount of hours Krista Gleason spent with me and the boys, helping out with Luke and watching them while I went to the dentist.  SO blessed to have her with me today - it really helped a not so fun day be much more bearable and actually enjoyable.

6.  Yes, I allowed Ethan to lay on the couch and watch about 6 hours of TV today (2 of them were filled with Praise Baby DVDs so he was infused with worship tunes for 2 hours).

5. The number of saltine crackers I allowed him to snack on when he said he was hungry and the amount that reappeared within a half hour of consuming them.

4.  Ethan is currently in his fourth pair of pajamas.

2. The amount of hours we played at an indoor playground yesterday where I am sure he contracted these germs.

1 three year old, who I love very much, and I pray healing over him while he sleeps tonight.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Super Mom

I suppose while raising kids life will always feel like we're adjusting to a 'new normal'.  As soon as we think we have a pattern of behavior figured out, it changes.  Can I get an 'AMEN' from any parents out there??

Take, for example, Big Brother's favorite saying (LAST week): "I can't!"  I was brainstorming with my Mom different ways to respond to this saying because it had me stumped.  So, she asked me yesterday, "How's Big Brother doing with 'I can't'?" I thought about it for a second and realized we weren't battling that 'saying' this week.  Huh.  This week I'm pretty sure we're back to the not-so-innocent question 'whhhyy?' and I've got to be honest, I don't always have the greatest attitude or patience when answering that question.  Something about how I have to really engage my reasoning and logic when interacting with Big Brother really wears me out some days!

With Little Brother, I'm constantly trying to figure out his feedings - timing them, why he gets mad during some of them and not during others, if something I am eating causes him digestion issues,  when I should pump to make sure I have enough supply on hand for when I'm teaching, etc. etc.  AND once again, he stumps me time after time.  Being up multiple times a night, even when these interruptions in my sleep fall into patterns, is still tiring.

So - I guess part of my new normal is learning how to function on less sleep (for L.B.) with GREATER brain capacity to 'parent' Big Brother.  Hmm ... sounds a little bit like I need to put on my super mom cape.  Now if only I could fly ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Eyeballs Say "Thank you!"

Short post here ... but my main point is that in this 'new normal' state, I am thankful for all of our friends who are willing to help watch our kids.  I have always been very aware of and thankful for their loyal friendship and willingness to do anything to help support our family, but as I adjust to life without Mom around to watch the kids during the day whenever I have a doctor's appointment, hair cut or something of the 'I need to be without kids for a bit' nature, I know I have friends I can call on to help take care of my kids.  

Thank you for today, Stephanie!  My eyeballs are thankful, too, because I am wearing my last pair of contacts and my eyes are definitely ready for a fresh pair which should arrive in the next few days thanks to my very helpful eye doctor.  We are very blessed to have really special friends who live close by and who love our kids.  

(Random side note ... in the past couple of weeks, as I have gone back to work and Ross and I spend less time in the house at the same time with me going back to teaching piano at night, the dishes have been sitting clean in the dishwasher and re-washed due to a lack of communication ... need to figure out a better way to communicate with my husband that 'I had to take one dish out before I left for work, but the dishwasher is CLEAN' ... I find the dishwasher issue receiving less priority over other things I absolutely MUST communicate to him like Luke's feeding schedule when I have minimal conversation with him during the day ... hmmmm ... post-it note time?! :)) 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Food for thought ...

When I was in elementary school, playing Oregon Trail on an Apple computer in the school's computer lab was a real treat.  I learned how to answer the family phone with a polite "Hello, Ridder's - this is Emily" which became more important as all of our voices (even Josh's for a bit) sounded very similar (minus Dad's voice which was pretty distinct :)).  I remember running to the answering machine after being out for awhile to see if there were any messages and I remember taking down those messages to pass along.

When I was in Junior High, my parents purchased dial-up 'minutes' through AOL and every time one of us (EMRID) logged onto the World Wide Web, the minutes were being deducted from the family account (whoops - I know I cost my parents some money back in the day for going 'over' our minutes - sorry Mom and Dad!).  My time on the computer was limited by those bills and I didn't know any different.

In high school, it was a requirement that we type up our papers, but most of my work in class was done by hand and only final drafts submitted in type.  I also communicated over telephone land-lines (968-0592 any one?!) and hand written notes passed in the hallways with my friends.  The occasional AIM chat definitely happened but the majority of my communication with friends and people did NOT happen over the computer (yet).  I had several friends' home phone numbers memorized at any given time as well as the family calling card number (purchased from Sam's Club).  It was a huge deal when I was given my own 'land line' (which I would pay for monthly) in my bedroom downstairs - the number is escaping me right now.  My parents purchased a 'car phone' (cell phone) to be used ONLY in the car in case of an emergency (or in my case, when I was running late and wouldn't make my curfew).  It was large and in charge ... my mom still has that number though!  When I graduated from high school, my mom encouraged me to use some of my graduation money to purchase a nice canon camera.  She told me I wouldn't regret having a good camera to capture the memories to come - she was totally right!

College for me was still fairly technologically void (compared to life today).   I was persuaded to get a desk top because thefts of lap tops were too risky and there was no real way to secure a lap top when out of the dorm (HA!).  I had voice mail and a phone number but they were connected to my dorm room phone, not a cell phone.  AIM conversations continued and became more prevalent as I was away from many of my high school friends - it was a good way to keep in touch.  I still received snail mail, hand written letters and care packages regularly at my P.O. Box (1777).  Email became more prominent as a communication tool during my college years but don't worry ...  (gasp) Facebook was still not in existence!  I turned my camera film into the school book store to get it developed and always anticipated picking up the envelope to see what images turned out and would be treasured.  I did purchase my first cell phone through TMobile when my parents gifted me a car to have  at college and I still have that same phone number.  The cell phone's main purpose was for emergencies when driving still, very little other communication happened on it besides calls to home because I don't think I had an unlimited national calling plan at the time.  As a graduation gift from college, my parents bought me my first digital camera to capture events such as my wedding, honeymoon and other great 'firsts' of married life during the summer of 2004.

I joined facebook back in 2005 when you had to have a current .edu address to gain access to the (what we now call) 'social media network'.  Since then, social media has literally exploded (in an almost atomic bomb like way) and changed the way I relate to people, connect with people and it's even developed a unique vocabulary.  Skype, chat, 'I'll message you' ... we've turned nouns into verbs and words into abbreviations (LOL or brb?!).  My cell phone is now my primary phone.  We don't have a land line (although that could change as our kids get older).  I text more often than I call.  I email and type more often than I hand write anything.  I rarely use a stamp to send something other than a bill in the mail and I know even that is old fashioned but I still really like writing out checks.  I can video call you and most computers now come with a built-in webcam (no longer something to be purchased separately and installed).  So much has changed from video/file sharing to privacy laws always needing to be reviewed.  Keeping up with the latest models of each new gadget can be mind-numbing.  I now read 50% of my books on my NookColor (and honestly I love it).  Blogging is a word that means something to many of us.  We are in the dark ages and don't have cable OR smart phones and I know how rare that is these days.  The neck breaking pace at which technology is constantly changing makes me a little dizzy at times.

HOWEVER ... in our 'new normal' state, I am so very thankful for the invention of things like Skype and Facebook and email and texting and unlimited long distance calling plans.  I take comfort in these communication tools because even though many of our loved ones are miles away, they can be welcomed into our kitchen to chat with my almost naked 3 year old before he goes to bed or while he's eating his grilled cheese lunch.  How amazing that my grandparents, sister, bro-in-law, dad, kg in MI and friend in Portugal 'met' Luke over Skype!  I can share pictures and status updates that give a peek into our lives with the many many friends and family who care about us and pray for us often.  I can text a question to a friend and know they will respond as soon as they are able.  I can take 1000s of pictures and not have to worry about the cost of developing them.    While I know technology use still needs to be kept in balance with the rest of life and we are constantly discussing appropriate 'screen time' amounts in our home, there are definite advantages to our technology advances and I am thankful for how technology helps the miles not feel so far on days when I'm adjusting to my 'new normal' and would just really like a back scratch from my Mom or a hug from my Dad.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"New Normal"

Well hello there.  Welcome to my new 'journaling' home.

For some time, I have been tossing around the idea of starting another blog.  For those of you who followed my gratitude journaling over about the course of a year, you know I have been rather silent in the blogging world as of late.  I will readily admit, I miss it.  However, I have been feeling the push to start something new, something different.  It has taken me a good length of time to decide to push the 'create a new blog' button and I'll blame it on my slower processing due to sleep deprivation, but I have decided it's time.  After all, so much of my life 'as I knew it' has changed in the past month alone, it only seems appropriate to begin a new blog with a new 'theme' and a new purpose.

So, welcome to my 'new normal'.  The theme of 'new normal' comes from a conversation with my Mom.  We were both trying to wrap our minds around everything happening around us while staying on top of the ever changing details and emotions and she said something along the lines of, "Em, it's okay, it's going to take some time for you to adjust to your new normal".  Talk about nailing it on the head for me in a time of high emotion and feeling somewhat overwhelmed.  Oh the wisdom of mother's!

September 2011 will forever be remembered by me as a really amazing ride on a pretty steep roller coaster of change.  Here is a fairly brief summary of the vast amount of change that has occurred in my life in the past month.    The month began with a great amount of anticipation and wonder.

I was:

-Anticipating the birth of my second son, wondering about how "Little Brother's" birth and arrival would occur and what the shift in our family dynamics would be like

-Wondering how the move of my parents to New Jersey after almost 4 beautiful years of living 3.8 miles from each other would impact me

-Anticipating my 30th birthday and entering a new decade of life while anticipating celebrating the gift of life over and over (because September is birthday month on the "Ridder" side of the family),

-Wondering how our past year of working through our BGC church planter's assessment center recommendations will play out in the coming year

Honestly, the list goes on but those are some of the major life events that were taking place all at the same time.   Throw in many visitors, gifts, and meals to welcome Little Brother into the world and my Mom always managing to bring something else over to my house every time she packed a new box - all blessings -  but my physical house was/is also experiencing a very much 'in the process of recovery' new normal.  With everything (my emotions, home, and family) in a state of upheaval, the month ended with many tears, goodbyes and prayers for my Ridder family as we bid my parents a safe journey to New Jersey and I was left with a lot to process and many adjustments to make in how we do 'normal' around here.

So, as I process our 'new normal' this is the place where I will share the latest 'Big Brother' tidbits (you won't want to miss them as 3 year old logic is astounding at times), I will update you on the 'Little Brother' and how he is growing and never ceasing to amaze us.  I will also chronicle our family's spiritual journey as we process how our family is growing, how God is growing us as parents, kids and kingdom people.  I will attempt to be real and candid about our new reality and the challenges and joys presented to us in our 'new normal'.  As you follow our/my journey, I would love for any of you readers to weigh in about 'new normals' in your life or times when you have experienced lots of these kinds of moments.

Amid all of these changes, the one thing that has been a constant, never-changing comfort to me when I'm up with Little Brother and processing life in the quietness of the night, is God's faithfulness.  It is His faithfulness that has seen me through transitions in my life before and I know He will be faithful to provide for our needs during this time.  I also take great comfort in knowing that I am never alone, He goes before and behind me and will never let me walk alone.  Here are a few lyrics from my 'anthem' for this season, Never Once (Matt Redman):

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing every victory 
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful!