Sunday, September 30, 2007

Girls' Day Out

Emma (my 8-almost-9 yr old) is best friends with Madeline ...the daughter of my best friend here in Granger, Kristine. When we started planning our move back to San Diego, the girls hatched a brilliant plan that would make their separation more bearable. They decided that the four of us (mommies and daughters) should go to Chicago and visit the American Girl Place where they would pick out "Looks Like Me" dolls and then exchange them so Emma would have a doll that looked like Madeline and Madeline, one that looked like Emma. Kristine and I thought it was ingenious idea, so yesterday we gathered up our toll money, piled into the car and made the journey to the Windy City. We had a long, wonderful day. Our first stop was the American Girl Place and then we had lunch together at the Cheesecake Factory. The rest of the day involved a visit to the Hershey Store, walking, stopping to go potty at Borders, more walking, petting the horses waiting to pull carriage rides, walking again, buying Kristine cute maternity clothes on sale at The Gap, MORE walking, buying a "short attention span" onesie for "The Boy" (how we are currently referring to the growing male within Kristine's womb), walking (sort of) a little more, throwing pennies in a wishing fountain, limping, stopping get me a Diet Pepsi fix, and then some staggering to our parking garage! It really was so fun to watch the girls just enjoy everything.


I answered a call from a fellow Writer Mama for a piece she was writing for Washington Parent. Check it out!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Theatrical News...

Marcel Marceau, the silent man who brought mime to the general public, died Saturday. He was 84.

...I guess that's one box he won't be getting out of anytime soon.

(Did I mention that mimes scare me?)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Steps for Quick Cleaning Before A Showing...

1. Tie kids to the patio railing to eliminate the need to return to a room more than once and clean again
2. Move mice and stinky cat litter than you've been too busy to change into the garage
3. Grab some Grands Cinnabon rolls and put them on foil covered cookie tray (no washing later) into preheated oven for that "homey" smell
4. Remind self that "NOTHING tastes as good as THIN feels" (even Grands Cinnabon rolls)
5. Start on top story, visiting each room to make sure lights are on, blinds are open, beds are made and nothing has died in the closet, toy box or under the bed
6. During said rounds, sniff repeatedly, making sure the dog hasn't done any business where he shouldn't
7. Invest in Windex wipes and Clorox wipes for quick easy cleaning of toothpaste spatters on sink and counters and spit spots on mirrors
8. Move to main floor, picking up littered Barbie dolls en route
9. Resist urge to throw said Barbie dolls in trash and place them instead in covered toy recepticle sitting in what should be a dining room but has defaulted into a playroom
10. Grab generic Magic Eraser from under kitchen sink to clean up dry erase marker that you spotted on the office wall as you were making your way to the living room to vacuum
11. Return to kitchen to grab Resolve Pet carpet cleaner to clean up cat vomit you found when you entered the office to clean up previously mentioned dry erase marker
12. Quick vacuum on main floor
13. Fluff pillows, turn on lights, take out Cinnabons
14. Carefully replace contents of pantry that have scattered on the floor in your attempt to resist the Cinnabons and desperately search for something non-fat and low calorie that doesn't taste like cardboard
15. Untie kids
16. Move everyone to car (including dog) and leave, praying the people don't notice the new stains on the car from preschooler spilling juice as she escaped from the garage and ran back into the house to grab aforementioned Barbies for the car ride.

Disclaimer: No children, animals or Barbies were hurt (or tied to the patio railings) in the cleaning of this house although I was sorely tempted on a few occasions.

And now for your listening and viewing pleasure: Madeleine Yan Baldwin composing a song to her Barbies about our dirty house...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When I grow up...

…I want to be Berette.

Last week, before our house went on the market officially, I received a phone call in the late afternoon from our broker. She has a potential buyer who would be in town the next morning and wanted to see the house. Larry was thousands of feet in the air traveling back from San Diego and my house was a complete disaster. So, having much faith and discipline, I knelt down and prayed for overwhelming peace and energy and dug in…NOT! I panicked! My first instinct was to grab the phone and call the most resourceful person I know who has had experience with showing houses with a house full of children…Berette.

Me (hyperventilating): “So, I’m in a panic…(I explain the dilemma)…what is the least I need to do to get the house ready to show? What should I do?”

Berette (completely calm but decidedly perky): “Ok…(side note: this is not the first time I have heard this next phrase come from Berette’s mouth)…here’s what you do! I will be over in about an hour, pick up your kids, pick up some pizza, take them back to my house at which point Jeff (her husband) will be home. I will leave all the kids there, pack up my cleaning supplies and be back over. Then we will clean your house till it shines! How does that sound?”

Me (feeling guilty…this is not what I meant when I asked, “what should I do”): “uhhhhh…”

Berette (firmly, yet STILL perky): “This is where you say, ‘sounds good, Berette. See you in a little bit.'”

Me (thankful for this lifeline and the fact that Berette is not allowing me to turn away help which I am VERY adept at doing): “Ok…thank you. I will see you in a little bit.”

Let me just say that this chick knows how to clean and how to do it quickly! What an amazing woman but really this story only scratches the surface of how God has blessed me through her.

I met Berette a couple of years ago when I was working at our Father’s Heart display at church (Father’s Heart is the orphan ministry that Larry and I oversee). She was visiting River Valley with her family and immediately expressed her delight in seeing us promoting adoption through the foster care system (it was our emphasis that week). She and her husband, Jeff, are former foster parents and have adopted all four of their children AND she has a rainbow family like us! I was so encouraged just in the span of our 5 minute chat because she absolutely radiated contagious enthusiasm (those who know her, can I hear an “amen”?).

Her family started attending the church but with three services and seven (now eight!) kids between us I didn’t have any opportunity to touch base with her again. However, several months later, she showed up on the list of people who had signed up to bring us meals after we brought Maddie home from China and she had volunteered to bring us dinner on CHRISTMAS DAY! I called her and told her that mom would be in town and she really needn’t go through the trouble. I have since learned that when Berette decides to serve, there is no dissuading her! She brought us a lovely dinner and the most amazing caramel-y apple dessert.

Since that time, I have had the pleasure of calling Berette my friend. I feel authentically loved by her. I have learned that when I have a genuine need, I can call her. She must have the spiritual gift of service because she is readily available to pitch in wherever a need exists. I had the distinct honor several months ago of accompanying her to her “swearing in” by the juvenile court judge as she was commissioned as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and prayed for her as she tackles her first couple cases. I am proud of her, blessed by her, appreciative of her tenacity and spirit and will miss her immensely. But I also know Berette and so I know that our lives will intersect again and again.

BTW- I just got home from picking up my dog at her house. She volunteered to watch him while we had a showing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Someone you need to get to know... 13 year old. I've talked about my (teenage!) son before. (That's him on the far right in the "Vote For Pedro" shirt, along with his friends, Holden and Sean.) He's pretty amazing if I do say so myself. Yes, there's the sighs, the rolling of the eyes, the things one would expect from a teenager but there's also something different. I'd like you to experience what I mean for yourself. I am reposting (with his permission) a blog entry that he wrote last night about his experience last weekend at Fall Forward, a retreat our church has for 8th graders to equip them for leadership. As a parent, I was a (sometimes) writer, I was drawn a Christ follower, I was moved.

Fall Forward: The Retreat that Changed My Life Forever
Current mood: reflective
Category: reflective Religion and Philosophy

Well...Fall Forward. What an experience. It all started Friday: the 14th, at River Valley Church. Right across from Penn. A bunch of eighth graders packed their things into a trailer and got in two separate vans to head to the retreat!

Before I go any further, let me explain what Fall Forward is. It is a retreat for 8th graders. It was for them to discover who they are in Christ and learn to become leaders among the Jr. High.

So, when we arrived at the lakehouse (the one that belongs to the Ryans), we all unpacked our things and the guys went downstairs, while the girls went upstairs. (The guys weren't allowed in the upper room, and the girls weren't allowed downstairs, while the main floor was "neutral". A few girls did not obey this rule. But all the boys did. haha.)

Anyway...the rest of the night was spent playing outside and watching football (a little bit). We swam in the lake for a while, and I realized after getting out that I had not packed a towel. After funtime was over, it was time for our group meeting, which was basically the only religious thing we did while at the lakehouse. That night's lesson: Giving what you have to God's will, and to others who need it most. The lesson was pretty solemn. Two girls began crying halfway through because guilt was dawning on them. Yeah, the lesson my uncle (the pastor for Jr. High) had prepared was that powerful. As we closed our eyes, and my uncle led us in personal prayer, a lady came in (unbeknownst to us) wearing mime paint and hobo clothes and carrying a bag containing bread, a candle, a little grape juice, and matches to light the candle with. As my uncle slowly asked us to open our friends and I jumped back and began laughing. Even through our laughter though, the mime lady kept a straight face and performed her pantomime skit. The hobo-lady put down the bag slowly, and lit the candle. Even through my friends' and my constant snickering, something was itching at the back of my conscience. The lady took out her tiny bits of bread she had to eat, mimed a prayer over it, and brought it to her mouth. But she stopped before she took a bite and looked around, gazing at each of us in turn. I couldn't help but joke around, even with my uneasy feeling. But my amusement towards the skit quickly faded away as she turned to each one of us, again in turn, and gave us each a piece of bread. She smiled kindly at us as she did this, and it made me feel sorta guilty for goofing off, so i stopped. Next, the lady brought out the grape juice, mimed a prayer over it, and stopped before she took a sip. She again turned her head to look at each of us, and let us each dip our bread in the bowl of grape juice. like a mini-communion. But communion was not where this skit was going. The lady again sat up and prayed, right there in the middle of our group circle, and then slowly came up to each and everyone of us. She began wiping taking facepaint from her own face, and smearing a little bit on each of us. Before turning to the next person, she would pat us each one the back and give us each a gentle smile.

It was when she did this that I realized what was going. It dawned on me what this lesson was really about. And as my uncle had us bow our heads, he explained to us what it was: To give everything you may have to others, so that they may see God and so His will be carried out. This hit tremendously close to home for me. Since I found out I will move, I have been saying things like, "My church in San Diego doesn't have a youth group!" or "It can never teach me what I have learned here at River Valley!" and stuff like that. Yet, that night, I realized that that was the reason I had to move. The reason I was called to move. I had been moved to Indiana in the first place to meet all my great friends, and get to know God to an even deeper level than I couldn't have possibly imagined. And now, I was being drawn to San Diego to use that to bring others to Him. Even if it meant leaving everything behind. And that was what "Fall Forward" meant; at a spiritual level. It was not just learning to move forward at the beginning of Fall. But it literally meant what it says: "Fall Forward, and God will catch you". Pretty much. That was what was taught the next day.

The next day, we went to a Bible camp further into Michigan. There, we played games. Games that challenged our thinking skills, motor skills, and were just plain fun. But by the end of almost each game, each and every one of us in my group found a spiritual or deeper meaning into these games. And after lunch, they took us to the very thing my Uncle Paul had warned us about. The thing would challenge the very core of our bravery. The thing that may push us farther than we ever thought. The High Ropes Course. Basically, we were harnessed to a steel wire above us, a good distance above the ground, with a bunch of obstacles we were to traverse. The very first part, and the part that was the most nerve-wracking was climbing up a ladder, with your harnessed attached to a knot that on each step you had to move above your head, and then climbing up a pole with a few metal bars for steps. I made it up there. Then I looked down. It had seemed a little lower from the ground. It had seemed easier on the ground, too. I went to the first obstacle. I couldn't do it. I just stood there, at the first step of the first obstacle (we had a few paths to choose from), and I just couldn't do it. For some reason, I could not trust the harness to hold (although it was ensured to be perfectly safe). I ended up zip-lining down to the ground, having absolutely no self-respect for myself in me. I walked back towards the group of people who had had their turn before me, hoping they would not ask me the question I did not want to be asked "Why'd You stop?" Of course, many people asked me anyways. I was on the verge of tears. Yes, I was that ashamed of myself. But I held them in.

When the group was finished, they had a discussion of the spiritual meaning behind all this. And yes, this where they brought in the "Fall Forward" concept. They were talking about how the harness was like God. And how trusting in the harness to keep you safe was like trusting God. Being able to "Fall Forward" and he will catch you. Of course, my case was different than everyone else's. I hadn't been able to do it. And there was a reason for that...which i just realized today. (Two days after that Saturday). Being not able to trust in the harness perfectly portrayed how I did not trust in God. It showed me exactly how I had been in a direct application to the situation. The reason I had no faith to trust the harness, was to show me that I had had no faith to trust in God.

Later that day, we got to learn about spiritual gifts. Although I had already read about these before, my Uncle handed out a test, after the lesson. It showed us supposedly which gift we most likely had. My highest scores: Teaching and knowledge. Of course, I expected this. Not because I was full of myself, but because I, for the past year or so, had been reading the Bible for fun, taking deep and richer meaning in what I read. I had gotten involved in reading about apologetics, which is the process of proving through logical, scientific, and any other means, that the Bible is not false...or even to the extent that it is definitely true(once you prove to them it is not false), to non-believers. I had gotten into scientific analysis of the Bible. Risky territory, for it is easy to get too entangled in mixing up God's Word, but he kept me very alert and cautious through it., i expected to get knowledge at least. But teaching was one of the things I didn't really expect. Sometimes, when I speak on stuff like that, it is hard for me to choose the right words to say to people. Yet, it came through as my other highest score (equal to knowledge). And again, it all connected to moving. It showed me that I have a gift. And that I needed to use that gift for the Lord. I needed to share the gift with others, like the mime-hobo-lady had done with her things. I needed to let go of the harness and use my gift wherever even if it is dangerous for me, because, like the harness, God will catch me when I choose to "Fall Forward". Everything tied in. Everything made sense.

Although the very next day was uneventful (spending it mostly sleeping and watching TV), It gave me time to think over the significance of the weekend. Fall Forward had been exactly what I needed to get through my pain and sadness at the exact right time I needed it. I got encouraged to move, so I did not have to live in constant fear when I moved To San Diego until I learned all this by myself. He allowed me to go on this retreat so that I may not be afraid to do all that I have written about today.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Saw What I Saw...

My friend, Shelley, posted this on her blog earlier today. I just had to pass it along. I am wrestling right now with what I have always felt I needed to have to be a successful person and parent. I'm not sure why but it is hard for me to let go of owning a home and I don't like myself much for feeling so attached to this perception of success. I am torn between this part of me and this growing desire to simplify and be in a position to be more generous...with my time, my space and my money. I know that I've seen what I've seen and it has been changing me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tonight's Plans

Sit down on the couch in my clean house and watch the season premiere of The Biggest Loser ...probably with some baked Tostito chips and salsa... while I pray for inspiration!

You've not been prayed over...

until my dear friend, Tori Yoder, has prayed over you! Tori is the very picture of Christ to me. She has a beautifully, sweet spirit and when she prays I feel as if I am standing under a downpour of the Holy Spirit. She has the heart of a servant and the humility of my savior and she has the ability to bring the gospel to life for me. I absolutely love to lead worship with her. Her face shines with her love of Jesus and compels you to join in. I am so very privileged to call her friend. She even gives my love of the dramatic a boost by calling me her "edgy friend"! :-) I have never met someone so wholly beautiful and I adore her. I wish a Tori into your will never be the same!

Thank you, Tori...for the prayers, the hugs, the truth, the friendship, the basin, the water, the tears, the scripture, the worship and also for the honor of being a part of Kyla's birth! I love you!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Articulating Affection...

I'm going to be trying in the remaining time here in Granger to tell you about some amazing people who have walked through my time here with me in sometimes small but always significant ways.

I'd like to start with Michelle Callahan and Anita Wade who were in a small group, along with their husbands, with me and Larry during our adoption of Maddie. Their constant prayer support, encouraging hugs, genuine interest and loving care of our family will never cease to astound me.

Michelle and her husband, Rick, drove us to the airport the morning (EARLY) that we left for China. Before we left she created a personalized, specific, daily prayer list for our entire trip and distributed it to people who would be holding up our family in prayer. Anita put together a "shower" basket for me along with various cards from other friends to open at different points in the trip. They both helped with our other three kids while we were in China, even taking them to Build-A-Bear to create a special bunny together for their new little sister. Anita then came over with my sister-in-law, Becky (more on her later!) and cleaned my entire house before we returned home so that we wouldn't have to think about anything but bonding with our baby girl! And then there was the actual homecoming! In the middle of the busy Christmas season, they were there at the airport to greet us and welcome Maddie to her new home, even though we were delayed for quite some time.

These are just a couple of the myriad of ways these women supported me through an intensely emotional time. When they say they are praying for me, I believe them. That in itself is remarkable.

(Picture is from the airport at Maddie's homecoming. Anita is the blond in the black coat on the left of the photo. Michelle is the tall brunette on the right of the photo.)

60 second vent session... I'm tearing around my house trying to get some rooms ready so our broker can take some photos for the listing and I keep coming across more and more to do...unmade beds, toys on the floor, dirty clothes strewn around various rooms, clean clothes strewn across various rooms, dried toothpaste on sinks, dried toothpaste on counters, dried toothpaste on mirrors, dried toothpaste on EVERYTHING...well, almost... my kitchen sink is plugged, there are these fruit fly things all over my house that I can NOT get rid of, I haven't even checked the basement yet and I know she wants pictures of it because it's a huge feature of our house (custom bar, etc)... and I'm thinking..."how in the hell am I going to sell a house with four kids, a dog, cat, 6 mice and 4 fish? I am crazy already... having to show it on a regular basis is going to be insane."

Ok...done venting... for now.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...

and so begins "A Wrinkle in Time" by my favorite author of all time, Madeleine L'Engle.

My soul is bruised and sad today. I found out this morning that Madeleine L'Engle has passed into the "Ring of Endless Light" and somehow I feel she is regaling our Savior with her stories as she walks with him today.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A New Adventure Begins...

Larry has accepted a job in San Diego and the Baldwin Family is going home. Time to clean out the clutter in our lives as we prepare to move back across the country. Many mixed emotions moving through the Baldwin Bungalow at the moment.

Our house (on the market tomorrow) in Indiana:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Things I Would Want To Do Before I Ever Leave Granger

1. Visit Traverse City, Michigan (where my son, Isaac, was born)

2. Attend a Notre Dame game (can you believe I haven't had the opportunity to go to one yet?)

3. Eat at the Rib Shack (just because I drive by it all the time and I've never tried it

4. Visit Mackinac Island

5. Write a song with Jess Strantz ! (are you reading this, Jess???? ROCK ON!)

6. See Wicked in Chicago (ok...I realize this is a long shot but it doesn't hurt to dream!)

7. Have my brother, Matt and his wife, Shannon, come see where we've lived for the last three years

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Things I Love About San Diego

1. The Padres

2. Lamb's Players Theatre

3. Crossroads Church

4. Driving across the Coronado Bridge at sunset

5. The smell of night-blooming jasmine

6. Driving under the ivy-covered bridge on 163 near Balboa Park

7. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary (where my father is buried)

8. Rubios (fish tacos!!!!)

9. In 'n Out Burger (animal style!)

10. Balmy opening night parties

11. The ethnic diversity

12. The Gaslamp Quarter

13. Sitting by the pool at my mom's house with a book and a beer (or diet Pepsi)

14. Swinging in my grandma's old porch swing

15. The smell of salty air

16. Having my mom teach my kids
17. CYT

18. My husband is there right now.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Meet My Man...

Just want to point you toward my husband's brand new blog...we set it up last night. He's always enjoyed writing and journaling and now you get to hear his voice through blog. Tentatively titled "Narrating the Shadowlands", you will find journal entries, essays, family updates and more.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Things I Love About Granger, Indiana

  1. Notre Dame University (Go Irish!) The electricity in the air on game weekends... it's crazy fun!
  2. Green, green, grass, green trees, green corn stalks... green
  3. Wide open spaces
  4. The sound of trains in the distance
  5. The sound of geese as they fly over head (or sit on our roof!)
  6. Big backyards (did I mention the green grass)
  7. Fireflies
  8. Awesome thunderstorms!
  9. Driving under a canopy of trees
  10. Having a corn field on the opposite corner from a Starbucks
  11. The schools
  12. Slower pace... it doesn't feel like everyone's always in a hurry
  13. Bella Vita (our dear friends, Scott and Kristine's coffee house)