Monday, April 30, 2007

Invisible Children

There once were these two cute little kids who did occasional work with a theatre where I was an associate guest artist. day they grew up. They fell in love. Jason went to film school and Danica kept performing and teaching. They graduated, started planning their wedding.

Then they decided to change the world.

Invisible Children: The Feature Film Teaser

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dance Like No One's Watching

Ok...I tried to sneak up on them with my small camera but obviously it didn't work. Still cute though...singing and dancing in their sleep-shirts...practicing for those teenage slumber parties, I guess.


My son, Landen, is getting baptized tomorrow night!

Five Things I Know About Myself

This is a question my husband (whose 'love language' is quality time with the subheading 'quality conversation') came up with. This is not to include personality traits or likes and dislikes per se. He loves to come up with questions that spur conversations into deeper waters.

  1. I like to have a plan. (disclaimer: This does not mean I have to religiously adhere to the plan. It simply means I will go crazy much faster if I have nothing to look forward to or have no idea what may be coming next. I absolutely can not handle sitting around trying to decide what to do. I would rather change a plan.)
  2. I should NEVER (I repeat, NEVER) volunteer for children's ministry, no matter how guilty I feel. (the consequences that would follow would be devastating for all involved)

So...there's the start of my you have some? Tell me about 'em!!!!!!

Friday, April 27, 2007


I suppose there is much I could write about but frankly, I feel dry. So...instead of drawing my web community into the dregs of my wallowing, I will instead share this precious photo of my girls...Yes...they are actually not fighting or pestering one another...or messing up the room...or their bedroom. They are making brownies!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why I love my teenage son...

I promised this post a little while back... I now have an additional "proud parent moment" to add... the photo of Landen was posted on his myspace account yesterday (yes, I allow my son to participate on myspace...I have an account as well and I monitor his) along with a bulletin requesting prayer and a moment of silence for those involved in the Virginia Tech tragedy.

But back to the original reason for this post:
Landen wrote a piece for his non-fiction class (he just turned 13 and is in 7th grade). Even with the rolling of the eyes, the sighs when asked to do any chore, the arguments over computer time... I am happy to report that my son gets it. He gets the gospel. Take a look:

Big Hope, Small Packages
I closed my eyes, trying desperately to get some sleep. The entire plane was silent. Shades were pulled over the windows. My parents told me, "The stewardesses do that to 'create the illusion' that it is night." You see, the plane was chasing daylight. Everything behind us on this 12 hour flight was experiencing dusk, but the plane was still seeing day. So, I order for people to fall asleep, they made the plane darker on from the inside.

After what felt like a lifetime, the two-story plane landed in Tokyo, Japan. From there, we got on yet another four hour flight. Our destination: Beijing, China; my first mission trip. We got our luggage and met up with Rob Foster, the missionary supported by our church. He introduced himself and we all got on a bus, headed for the hotel.

I sat with my parents instead of with my friends. On the Tokyo-to-Beijing flight, I had gotten 45 minutes of sleep. That's it. For the entire trip there. I was in no condition to socialize.

As we drove by them, my parents pointed out various points of interest: Starbucks (boy, were my parents excited), McDonalds (the golden arch had a weird, motorcycle-like symbol around it), and more. And, although I didn't see it until much later, the streets were littered with many homeless parents, clutching their dirty children tightly in their arms.

Finally, we got to the hotel. Mr. Foster told everyone to keep their eyes peeled for cockroaches. As soon as he left, I went to bed and fell asleep.

The next day, according to my mom, started with a "devotions and silent time". I do not remember this, so it is safe to assume that I was asleep.

Afterwards, my parents woke me up and everyone ate a delicious assortment of Chinese pastries. Along with this, we got an awesome brand of coffee. This kind of coffee was sweeter than any other I had ever tasted.

After the satisfying breakfast, we all got back on the bus. As Mr. Foster explained what the day's activities were, I was off in my own world. I was entranced by the busy streets of Beijing. A lot of people were riding bikes. But the think I found myself staring at the most was the homeless people. Clothed in dirty, torn, raggedy clothes, they sat against walls, still holding on to their children. Never letting go.

The rest of the day went on. Poor, dirty people crowded us, the "rich Americans", trying to sell us various items. "Booya Seasea," we told them, using the only Mandarin phrase we knew. The vendors annoyed me, but I couldn't help but pity them. They seemed desperate. We stopped at the so-called "Temple of Heaven". It pained me, personally, to see so many people, sending their prayers to lifeless statues.

The next day, after a feet-killing trek along the Great Wall, we got back on the bus for our next activity. A family in our group was adopting their fourth kid from China. Their sixth kid, total! They brought everyone to the foster home they were adopting from. The moment we walked in, we saw the hallway flooded with toddlers. Being the "toddler-magnet" I was, I instantly started to play with them.

While my mom was holding and playing "peek-a-boo" with an infant, my friend and I went up to this toddler girl, temporarily named Cindy, who was alone in a small ball pit. She enjoyed throwing balls at us and laughing at our "pain" when we flinched.

Our group stayed at the foster home for a while. All the adorable toddlers we saw put a smile on our faces. Yet, something was bothering me. Beneath all the happiness, I had a knot in my stomach. Like when you are nervous when you know something is wrong.

We left the orphanage. On the bus ride to the hotel, I realized what was nagging at the back of my conscience. None of these kids had a family. Yeah, I knew that already, but it hit closer to home this time. All these cute, lovable toddlers had no one to care for them but a nanny or nurse.

You see, China had a law that made it mandatory to only have one child. No more. If one, who lived in China, happened to have a second, or more, child, they would dump it off on the streets. Here, if he or she was lucky, they would be found by an orphanage or foster home.

The rest of the trip was life-altering. But nothing could be more humbling than finding yourself in a country, altered by poverty, seeking help from statues, and home to over 2 million orphans. Being in a room and thinking, "Wow, none of these kids have families.." Then, remembering that the orphans you were looking at were only a small number of the total. Nothing else makes you feel so small, yet so loved.

This trip reminded me to wake up and smell the coffee. It inspired me to get more involved in church. It let me know that I am truly blessed. And that I have the blessing so others may have it as well.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nineteen Minutes in Real Life

If any of you read my blog a few days ago about "Nineteen Minutes", the new novel by Jodi Picoult, you will understand why this tragedy at Virgina Tech is just blowing my mind today.

Please keep the families and wounded in your prayers.


Do you remember your childhood best friend? My family moved often so my best friends are split up and I've lost touch with many of them. I always longed for that "one best friend" know, the one you had known since you were little and no matter how long you were apart, you could still come together and be what you always were to one another.

My daughter, Emma, has a best friend here in Indiana (Madeline, pictured on the right... Emma's on the left). They are two peas in a pod...loving horses, country music and boys. In all the time they've known each other, I don't think they've ever fought. They just seem to belong.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Return To Me

Our church just began a series of sermons today on the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. The focus was on the church in Ephesus and "returning to our first love"... in particular, how we spend so much time trying to look like "good Christians" that we neglect our relationship with the One it is all about. One of the "responses" that our Pastor encouraged us to pursue was to take some time in the next 24 hours to reflect on when our faith first came alive and write about it.

As I was thinking through this exercise, I had some trouble identifying a specific time period or age when this occurred for me. Being brought up in a Christian home and identifying myself as a Christian for my entire life has put me in the position (sometimes awkward in church circles) of not having a "conversion date" (or "spiritual birthday" as those who trumpet their own like to call it). My relationship with Christ has all been a journey and not always linear.

I did find, however, that even though I couldn't point to a conversion experience, I could clearly recall moments where grace sneaked into my life and invaded my space...changing forever the way I viewed God, myself and the world around me and marking that instant of time as life altering kairos.

I experienced one of these moments in November of 1997.

The months, even years, leading up to this particular winter were some of the most difficult of my life and definitely the most difficult in our marriage. We had been dealing with everything from secondary infertility to finishing a master's degree, raising the most precocious toddler on earth and watching our marriage fall apart. Both wounded, angry and tired, we had committed to being obedient...despite how we "felt"...and staying in and working on our marriage. During the worst months of our marriage and the first couple months of our decision to love each other "no matter what", we had put our plans for expanding our family on hold... no fertility treatments, no talks about adoption... not right now.

On November 10th, I received a call from an adoption facilitator, Sarah, who we had met through a crisis pregnancy center. She informed me that she was in contact with several birth moms who were looking specifically for Christian families for their babies. Sarah liked to give the birth moms information on several families so that they could make the best decision about placing their children. At this particular time, she felt she didn't have enough families that fit these requests to give the girls real options. In addition, one had already given birth and a couple others were due any day. Time was of the essence. She asked me if Larry and I would consider submitting a "birth mother" letter for her to offer along with the few other families she currently had on file.

Larry and I were overwhelmed with every emotion imaginable...excitement, fear, apprehension. We knew we were not even out of the pit our marriage had fallen into...would this even be wise? We prayed about it together that night and talked to our parents and some trusted people at church. Then, believing that God had His hand on this and had confirmed it, we wrote the letter and on the 12th I drove it up to Sarah's office.

On Friday, the 14th, I received a page from Sarah (the days of the ever present cell phone had not yet arrived). I returned her call and she reminded me to make copies of the letter so that she could present them to the birth mothers. I assured her that I would get them done and deliver them later that day. Not half an hour later, my phone rang. I answered and Sarah said, "You know, Melissa, don't bother making copies of that letter." My immediate panicked thought was, "What could she have found out about us?" She followed up immediately with, "I read your letter to a birth mom over the phone and she picked your family! The baby is five months old already and you can meet him on Sunday." WHAT??????!!!!!!!!

I'm sure I don't need to go into the details of our crazy weekend. I can share that another time. Suffice it to say that we met Desiree and our sweet Isaac on Sunday, November 16th and Monday, November 17th he was in our home. A true miracle.

With no time to prepare, we ended up setting up a Pack 'n Play in our bedroom next to our bed for him to sleep in. He slept through the first night but the second night he woke up whimpering. I leaned over, still in compete amazement over this gift with which God had astonished us. I gently lifted him into bed and placed him between me and Larry. He continued to whimper and reached about with his little hand until he found my face in the dark. He placed his little palm on my cheek and immediately stopped crying... falling asleep with his hand still on my face. Tears streamed down my face and soaked my pillow and his little hand. Larry whispered, "Are you okay?" All I could say was, "I don't deserve this."

THAT is grace. God had given us a gift in Isaac. He had shown us that He believed in our family...that He would sustain our marriage. Grace had invaded my space.

These are the moments I need to remember... what God has done for me, the chief of sinners. I need to keep that wonder... return to that wonder...the wonder of His grace.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Menus for Moms

Some of you have asked about the menus that I've started using during the week. I have placed a link to the right. You receive an e-mail with the menu that includes links to a shopping list and recipes. I usually adjust it for our family, leaving out things I know my kids won't eat or changing the days to fit our schedule. All in all, the recipes are pretty kid friendly.

The biggest thing is the focus it's given me. I never really cooked before...didn't like to. Give me a box of Hamburger Helper and I'm good to go. But this has changed. The shopping list keeps me focused and more budget minded. My family has good food for dinner every night of the week and most of the recipes are easy enough for even me.

There's my plug...try it yourself!


One of the blogs I love to read is "The Pile I'm Standing In" by Jen Zug. I've never met Jen but she attends a sister church to the one Larry and I helped my brother, Matt, plant in San Diego. she posted a lovely photo of her daughter lying in spring-time green grass. My thoughts went immediately to the grocery shopping trip from which I had just returned.
You see, it's 36 degrees right now with 18 mph winds that make it feel like 25 degrees. After shopping for 1 1/2 hours in our super Walmart with a three year old, I sprinted to the car pushing the overflowing cart ahead of me to shield me from the wind. I grabbed my keys in my frostbitten fingers and unlocked the car. Hoisting Maddie from the cart, I flung open the back door and threw her into her seat. Once she was sufficiently strapped down, I opened the back and started shoving groceries in and amongst the various items that have been living and growing in the back of my car. Satisfied that nothing would fall when I opened the back up again at home (at least nothing that would require a hazmat clean up), I slammed the door and manuevered myself into the driver's seat. Reaching for my purse I realized my keys were gone. Now, I knew I had them when I tossed Maddie in the car so they weren't back at the store. I spent the next 15 minutes searching frantically through each and every shopping bag, under every seat, toy, item of clothing, old lunch bag and smashed book that my kids had left in the car. Finally, at just the moment that I felt compelled to dial 911, I found them hiding at the bottom of one of the bags, right under my tampon box. (Did I mention PMS?) worries...I will only need to have two or three or eight fingers amputated for frost bite.

Where is my lovely spring green grass???????? This is what Easter looked like at the Baldwin Bungalow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Nineteen Minutes

Some of you know that I am a voracious reader. I read everything I can get my hands on...except for bad "Christian" fiction...ok...well...sometimes even that (when I need something that will numb my brain enough for me to fall asleep at night).

I will try to be faithful to updating my "what I'm reading" list which you can find on the right-hand side of my blog site. You might notice that my fiction titles change more frequently than my non-fiction titles. This is simply because I will devour fiction form of an eating escape, sanctuary, alone time. It's been this way since I hid myself away as a child, pre-teen and teenager in the imaginary worlds of Mrs. Piggle-wiggle, Encyclopedia Brown, then Narnia, then anything by Madeleine L'engle, Judy Blume (who didn't hide Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret or Forever or Deenie under your pillows so mom wouldn't find out you were reading about s-e-x?), and a short foray into Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins (just to see what the fuss was all about...verdict: not worth the fuss...therefore, no links!). With non-fiction, I tend to chew longer, only swallowing after I've tasted each idea and decided whether to spit it out or ingest it.

Right now I am in the midst of "Nineteen Minutes", the new novel by Jodi Picoult (prounounced "pee-ko"). Here is a brief synopsis:

"In this emotionally charged novel, Jodi Picoult delves beneath the surface of a small town to explore what it means to be different in our society.
In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling’s residents.
Even those who were not inside the school that morning find their lives in an upheaval, including Alex Cormier. The superior court judge assigned to the Houghton case, Alex—whose daughter, Josie, witnessed the events that unfolded—must decide whether or not to step down. She’s torn between presiding over the biggest case of her career and knowing that doing so will cause an even wider chasm in her relationship with her emotionally fragile daughter. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can’t remember what happened in the last fatal minutes of Peter’s rampage. Or can she? And Peter’s parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton, ceaselessly examine the past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes. Nineteen Minutes also features the return of two of Jodi Picoult’s characters—defense attorney Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls, and Patrick DuCharme, the intrepid detective introduced in Perfect Match.
Rich with psychological and social insight, Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that has at its center a haunting question. Do we ever really know someone?"

I am intrigued by the ability Ms. Picoult has for exploring every facet of an issue. I always find myself rethinking how I judge an issue or a character and then clarifying my own value system based on my new perspective. Whether I change my opinion or not, I am always left with a stronger sense of why I believe what I believe. (This is the same reason I love Madeleine L'engle and Anne Lamott.)

I am finding myself reliving parts of growing up that I would rather forget. But, frankly, I probably need to relive them again now that I am mother to a teenager. I need to remember the perspective, the emotions, what I thought was important, what I felt made me different. This book is reminding me.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this book...I'm almost done but not quite so if don't spoil any endings for me!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Maddie's Serenade

Maddie loves it when people have birthdays. Here she is this morning as we celebrated Larry's!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Buffalo Wings and Beer Tsunamis

We are not big “sports” people. Never really have been. The exception is baseball. Larry and I love to go to games, visit ballparks…experiencing the sights, architecture, hotdogs and beer in each locale…we also love to watch our beloved Padres on TV when we can’t attend…we create our own little home ballpark…he in his chair, me on the floor by the coffee table…load up on tortilla chips smothered in melted sharp cheddar cheese, homemade guacamole (I have a “secret” ingredient), and beer (Sam Adams for Lar, Killians Irish Red for moi)…and enjoy the game.

That being said, we have friends (yes, it’s true…we have friends)…we have friends who enjoy various sports. There’s Rick who sprinkles each sermon with St. Louis Cardinal references. There’s Tim and Dana (with whom we share our Padres Season tickets) and who love football so much they names their youngest son Peyton. And there’s Tony, who loves a good wager.

So, with Tony and Callie in town visiting, how could we not do something for the last game of the Final Four?

We started the evening by leaving the kids in the able hands of Grandma Andrea and Landen then cruised to a nearby pub for a pre-dinner/ pre-game drink. Right before the game started we pulled into the local Buffalo Wild Wings and secured our spot before the big screen, eagerly waiting to see how much money we would win (or in my case, lose).

When it came time to order Larry just could not resist ordering the blazing sauce for his wrap. Now, he’s done this before. It’s not as if he went into this situation ignorant or na├»ve. He knows the consequences that come with making this choice. Nevertheless, he was compelled by something I will never comprehend. He turned his back on wisdom and experience and spit in the face of danger.

I will never know the pain or agony that comes from choosing “blazing” over the wiser, more delicious choice of “parmesean garlic” but I can say that I did have the privilege of sharing in the cost of such reckless behavior. For as Larry’s eyes welled up with tears, his nose began to run, smoke started pouring from his eyes, he delirious reached for his IPA (Indiana Pale Ale) to subdue the raging fire in his mouth. His senses entirely consumed with survival, it is no wonder that his desperation and fervor caused the glass to tip precariously, drenching the table in a wondrous display of a beer tsunami. For the rest of the evening I had to walk in a slighting sideways, surreptitious fashion as the evidence the beer tsunami left on me resembled a stain of incontinence.

Good times. Good times.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Too much to catch up on...

There is SO much I need to get down. So over the next week or more I will be posting things as I get them out of my head and onto paper. Look forward to some of these things that have been swimming around inside my cerebral soup (there may even be accompanying visuals!):
  • Buffalo Wings and Beer Tsunamis: Adventures with Larry
  • Thoughts on "The Born" (or "The First Time I Got Pissed At Anne Lamott EVER And How I Got Past It)
  • Rage and the Waterlogged Brain (or "Weaning Yourself From Anti-depressants")...sounds exciting, huh?
  • He Gets the Gospel (or "Why I Love My Teenage Son")
  • Why I Hate Chicago Drivers (actually...that won't be a post...I just needed to get that out)

Meet y'all back here on the blogosphere soon.