Tuesday, April 28, 2009

all about eden

Eden will turn seven weeks old tomorrow. It has been a great time of getting to know each other and she is really a pretty easy baby...at least in comparison to her colicky brother! (He is a wonderful toddler, though. Make no mistake.) She is doing very well. She is a spitter and was actually given a prescription for reflux last week that seems to be doing her some good. (No more waking up with a mess in her hair!) Even with that, she is gaining weight nicely and is now half again as big as she was at birth and weighs around nine pounds. She is also emerging from the newborn fog and is more alert now, which is fun. She's not quite up for the games of pat-a-cake Israel tries to play with her, but she's getting there! She also now sleeps through the night, an average of 7 hours at a time, but ranging anywhere between 6 and 8 hours. The whole family enjoys that as well as the naps she and Israel take in the afternoons, which tend to overlap for about 2 hours. Adjusting to having her around has really been pretty easy for the most part -- for all of us. She is a good deal more versatile than Israel was (some of you may recall how he liked to be swaddled excessively and to eat at exactly such-and-such a time...). She can sleep with or without her bink, on her back, side, or stomache, swaddled or not and she does not act like the world is going to end if she eats a few minutes late. She also does not wake up crying, which is a difference as well. Sometimes I go in and don't even know how long she's been happily awake! I can't quite get over how much I like her, even though I tell people I am not a baby person.

We spent this morning out on the swing listening to the spring rain together, just she and I, before Israel woke up. It's difficult to have time alone with your second child, and I don't think I'm the only one who appreciated it. I have to admit that I was jealous as she got to do one of my favorite things: fall asleep on a porch during a rain shower. I haven't done that for years, but I'm happy to give her the experience.

This Saturday, Eden got to meet our friend Sara, who was visiting from Seattle, and Misty, who was visiting from...Indiana...but who we last saw in Seattle. The visit was too short, but long enough to get a quick picture in. I can't begin to say how great it is to have people so dear to us be able to meet Eden in person. Sara (along her husband, Drew) was able to be here right after Israel was born as well and I'm glad the tradition continued, at least in part.

Here are a couple more pictures from this afternoon's photo shoot and a video, by request.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

spring breaking out

(Cut us some slack as we learn how to take family pictures. It just keeps getting harder....)

As the weather has become warmer, we've been venturing outdoors more often. Israel is learning to explore a bit on his own. He is still a cautious little boy in general, which his mom appreciates as he tends not to put himself in situations he perceives to be dangerous. We recently went on a playdate to Westside Park, where Israel tried out big slides for the first time. (They weren't very slippery at first.)

...And of course he had to enjoy the river and the geese ("cack, cack!"). They provide hours of entertainment and days' worth of conversation. This is him with Judah...and the geese.

We have discovered the fun of going on picnics as a family. Israel still needs to learn to eat outside, but he certainly didn't seem any worse for wear after a fun evening out. We have discovered Tuhey Park -- a small circle space perfect for a little boy to run around in. This was our first picnic last Friday. We took my parents there the following day because we enjoyed it so much! Eden had a little to say about the experience.

Pat had demonstrated his gymnastic prowess for Israel on our first Tuhey picnic, but we decided that Israel should learn some mad gymnastic skills of his own. Turns out that Israel is a natural (he did not get that from his mother...) and learned the flip-flop in just one brief lesson! And now: The McCrory Men in an amazing athletic display!

Right by Tuhey is the river walk, which I appreciate because it's walled in from traffic and Israel can walk at his own pace. The river recently overtook the trains as Israel's favorite thing about Muncie. This was one of the sites along the way. (You never know how many sites there really are in a place until you go there with a toddler!) Can you find the goose enjoying the evening from her nest?

Last, but certainly not least, you know spring is dealing winter its final blow in Muncie when you can take your first trip to Sally's! You can't quite make the 4-block walk without a couple kids from the neighborhood. Lunaijah and Schaivon came with us for this year's momentous occasion. We tried several times to take a picture of all of us before Pat realized the camera was set to video. (Ha, ha!)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

working together

Here is the post I've been intending to do since before Eden was born. (Which is over five weeks ago now!)

For those of you who are not familiar with aspects of our lives other than our children, Pat and I are part of a small church that a group of us started about three years ago called Urban Light Community Church. One of the founding values of this church that distinguishes it from most is that we look to minister specifically to our neighbors, and I do not mean "neighbors" in the Christian sense. Our church exists foremost for those in the neighborhoods around downtown Muncie to which several families and individuals who began the church felt called to relocate. Our mission is to "reconcile people to God and to each other." One large part of this involves bringing people of different races (primarily black and white, since that is what we have in these neighborhoods) together to form one church. This is, of course, no small undertaking as there is lots of racial baggage, perhaps especially in Muncie, and the church is still one of the most segregated institutions in our nation. So here we plug away at what feels like a monumental task, both for our group and for us as individuals.

We also hope to bring justice to our neighborhoods, which are so often overlooked unless something bad about them is being printed in the paper. The most recent article was from today, saying that the school down the street from our house is one of the 20 worst in the state. So we work to help educate the kids in small ways currently, but we hope to make a more concerted effort in the future. Our neighborhood is notorious for its drug activity as well, so we work to help people break free from their addictions.

What have been small efforts thus far (though at great sacrifice to a few) are beginning to snowball. The week before Eden was born, we went to the site of a former strip bar known as the Dream Club. This bar was worse than a strip club; it fronted as a place to sell all manner of drugs and was a center also of violence and prostitution that held many of the people in our neighborhood (and others) in its grasp. We went to meetings from the local to the state level in order to have the place shut down (and we were not alone in these efforts; the city of Muncie was with us). Israel even attended a couple of the hearings! (He was not yet mobile at the time.) Not only were those efforts successful, but our church recently put most of the money we have been saving into buying the property! We held a service there and invited people from a church across the major street nearby (Madison, for those of you familiar with Muncie...) to join us to pray in the space. And they came. The people: members and leaders of Deliverance Temple, a predominantly African-American church.

Pat had met a few of the men from the church at a 12-step meeting started by our church. Deliverance Temple already has a residential drug rehab program and some of the men from it came to the 12-step meeting at the invitation of our pastor. We were able to meet some of them and to pray together with them. Their pastor, Bishop H. Royce Mitchell, was there as well, and led the assembled group of people from both churches as well as people from our neighborhood we had invited (by going door-to-door to invite neighbors to come with their ideas for the space...) in prayer. We divided into groups and each group wrote down their ideas as to what the space could be used for that would make our neighborhood and Muncie a better place. We plan to use the space as a community center of some sort and intend to enlist the help of our neighbors in running it so that we do not have just another church building in Muncie, but a place that is used seven days a week as a blessing to our neighbors. (Our church will meet there for awhile in order to get out of the park cabins we rent, but it will not be for us.) It was a great service and wonderful to see a group of people who would not otherwise know each other coming together to build something good in what had been such a bad place.

I remember, when Israel was VERY little, walking around and around that place (it's a nasty old building now...) praying for something good to be put there. Israel was quiet the whole walk to and from the building, which is three blocks east and three blocks north of our house. But when we rounded the corner of the building, he giggled. I took it as a sign, though I couldn't put into words specifically what it was a sign of. And after the service we held there, more than a year later,we went inside and stood around the dance stage and prayed. Someone prayed thanking God that they could hear children running and laughing in what had been such a dark space.

Israel with Schaivon (one of the few people Israel lets hold him without reservation)
in front of the Dream Club
Bishop Mitchell

part of the group at the outdoor service

the group gathered to pray around the dance stage
my friend Lauren praying over the matresses kept upstairs

This was just the beginning of what promises to be a long relationship between our two churches. Our members are beginning to attend each others' meetings. We hope to work together on the community center. We are talking about doing joint things with the youths in our churches. We are currently working together on a house for women who are recovering from drug addiction. (For the next day or two, the news article will be here.) These things are too much for our little church as it is and God has been good to bring people from the other side of the historic racial divide in Muncie (quite literally, as Madison Street was the dividing line between white and black in town) to join with in the work that is to be done. Indeed, it is probably most correct to say that God brought us to them since they were before us; Bishop Mitchell has been doing the hard work in our neighborhoods for the last 30 + years. (He looks to be a fine, humble man -- not at all what I expected of someone people refer to by the title "Bishop." So dies one misconception.) We get the pleasure of coming in to help reap some of the benefits of his labor!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

our kids on easter

Israel has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks, it seems. He now is able to communicate that he understands a lot more than we would think. This is especially true of spiritual matters, which he seems to grasp intuitively at least as much as he does from anything we say. So it seems that starting our family rituals around the holidays may actually stick somewhere in his memory at this point and we have enjoyed involving him in different aspects of our celebration of Resurrection Sunday.

On Friday, we had a couple of new friends over to share in a Seder-ish meal with us. (The Seder is the traditional Jewish passover dinner, which is what Jesus and His disciples would have been sharing together on the night he was betrayed, Maundy Thursday. We were a day late in preparing it this year, but better late than never.) I had been telling Israel that we were preparing for a very special meal. We talked about it as we shopped in the grocery store and while he waited to eat while Pat and I cooked in the kitchen. I didn't go into very much detail with him, as I'm not sure what he would and would not get about Jesus "dying" and "living again," but when we sat down to eat, Israel bowed his head and announced, "Pray...Amen!" (I'll confess here that we do not always make a habit of praying before meals, but Israel obviously knew it was important to do so at this one.) George, one of our guests, said that was certainly blessing enough.

We enjoyed having two men -- George and Montez -- over for dinner. Pat has been getting to know George through some joint ventures our churches are taking and he has been a guest at our church a few times now. Montez just recently decided to live his life for Jesus and it is pretty cool have him go from being just a familiar face walking the street to someone sitting in a service one Sunday to a brother sitting at our dinner table. If you've been reading our blog for some time, you will recall an entry I made stressing out over trying to get to know our black neighbors. (As a side note, we have since gone out for Mexican food together at their invitation and it wasn't a big deal.) Now, perhaps some of the stress was taken away by not having to decide what to make for dinner, as the Seder comes with a prescribed menu, but I told Pat afterwards that I was much less aware of the fact that these friends are black than I was the fact that they are our family. Our churches had a joint Good Friday service after dinner where their praise team and our gospel choir sang and parents of both congregations tried to keep children occupied for what ended up being a 2-1/2 hour service. I told Pat afterward that I was surprised by how little I thought about being around black people for the evening and how much I truly felt that I was just with family -- extended family, perhaps -- but family. I hope to write more about our relationship with this church later (and have hoped to write about it for some time...). We'll see.

We had communion at the end of the service and at that point, it was past Israel's bedtime and he was so over it that I was happy to tell him that "juice and crackers" (two of his favorite things) were coming, regardless of any spiritual ramifications. I let him share my small cup of grape juice and eat some of my bread. I thought, "Well, I should at least tell him what it's about in some form. " So after he had a few VERY SMALL sips, I said something like, "This is to remember that Jesus died for us. ...Um...that Jesus did a very hard thing for us," to which Israel replied, "Men-nah!" (That's "Amen," for those of you not familiar with his language.)

Let the making of the Easter bread begin!

We spent a good deal of time outdoors Saturday, as we gathered rocks to begin landscaping our back yard (note the outline for our garden in the video below) while Israel watched the ducks. (He kept saying "sit! ...wah-yee..." and was amazed that they could "sit" on the "water.") Saturday evening and into the wee hours of Sunday morning were devoted to making easter bread. This is a tradition that comes to us from Pat's mom and we look forward to it each year. This year, Israel helped color the raw easter eggs (for a few minutes, but it's a start...) and Pat and I stayed up waiting for the lemony dough to rise THREE TIMES before baking it. It's such a beautiful, fun treat to have for breakfast easter morning! Israel loved it, and kept saying, "Egg! Egg!" while he waited to eat it.

Eden's first time in a dress: her Easter dress from Grandma Alice and Grandpa Mike

Sunday service was more chaotic for us than anything and we spent most of the time taking care of our responsibilities with kids and food and Sunday school and the trough filled with water and extra clothes required for the baptism service we had at the end. Two kids we have taught, either in Sunday school or in youth group or both, chose to be baptized, as did Montez, who we mentioned earlier, and others.

We came home and were greeted by our neighbor, Steve (one of Israel and Sophie's favorite humans) and his friend, who presented us with easter presents for the kids, including a basket for Israel, which we used to collect the eggs he found in the back yard after his nap. Israel completely understands how to hunt for easter eggs, and particularly enjoys the concept of "hiding" at this age. He loved the treats he found inside; Pat had thoughtfully selected dried fruit and Ritz cracker bites, which were an instant success.

The egg hunt, in 2 parts.

It is humbling to realize that our kids (...well, at least Israel at this point...) are beginning to get an understanding of what the weekend is about: celebrating the sacrifice Jesus made for us. And it is certainly fun to see the holiday through the eyes of a child again. What a great gift!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm a pepper, he's a pepper

It's been a little while since I've given an Israel update. He is doing well and changing daily. His vocabulary has expanded to include the last word of just about all my sentences throughout the day. (Fun, fun.) Judging from the drool and the strange sleeping patterns of late, I would also say he's working on some molars. He still loves his new little sister and is starting to say her name, rather than just "baby." He gives her a kiss before her naps all day and has taken to helping burp her. He even tried to put her bink in her mouth yesterday when she was crying. (If he does that, it will save me all KINDS of pauses throughout my day.)

Israel has become a Sesame Street officianato. His favorite characters seem to be Grover (also of "The Monster at the End of This Book" fame), Cookie Monster, and the Count. I will have to try to catch him on video doing his impersonations. The Count is great and Israel should be able to count to 3 any day now as a result of his Granna working with him on that impression. Ah, ah, ah...! His dance skills are improving, as he now mimicks snaps and taps and is getting his shoulders in the action. But THIS is the new thing that had both Pat and I throwing our heads back, laughing.

We were sitting at dinner last night, eating our fajitas, and Israel kept pointing to the jalepeno peppers, saying, "Please...." Pat was hesitant, but I can only take Israel repeating himself so many times before doing SOMETHING about it, so I said, "Sure, you can have one," figuring he would stick it on his tongue and either cry or make some sort of face. This is what happened:

He continued to ask for jalepenos the remainder of the meal. Out of consideration for his stomach, we only gave him three and he said, "Mmmm!" every time. Is he our son, or what?