Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sweet Sixteen Months

Sweet, and not so sweet when they fight over the same toys and destroy Mama's scrapbooks!  My little monkeys!

These were taken a week ago, but it's taken me this long to get them off the camera and get around to writing this out...

I got just a couple of bunny pictures before they decided to fight over the bunny so he had to go away.

Both girls are into everything, but Joy is the climber and has figured out how to get up on all the couches.  We had to clear off the end table because otherwise she would just get into all of it.  The stand for one picture frame got broken, but it was pretty darn cute when I caught her looking at this old picture of just Brian and Cory and me and pointing to us.

She's also figured out how to get down off the arm of the couch on the other side of the baby wall a couple of times so I'm not sure how much longer that will last.  We've got their room mostly cleaned out and put a baby gate in the door so they have some contained play space again!  Just waiting to get another dresser from IKEA next month.

Hope mainly climbs up on the heater, then the windowsill, then over the arm of the couch to this one they're sitting on (she's resourceful I guess), which is also prime access for putting things into the air conditioner.  Yes, I dug a spoon out of there again last week, but at least it hadn't fallen down inside yet!

Hope is my dancer (as evidenced by this video) and she will dance to any little bit of music she hears, whether from a game, the radio, or one of their toys that plays music.

She says "ah da" which means all done and it's fairly obvious because she makes the sign at the same time.  She also makes the sign for "drink" while saying "drrr".  Joy makes the sign... sort of, and says "wa", which could be fairly close since we always give them water in their cups and I'm sure half the time I ask if they want water rather than a drink.  When we are done eating they always ask for a "ba?" because they like baths.  If I put them down they will walk right into the bathroom even though they usually don't have free run of the house.  They also make the sign for brushing their teeth when it's time for bed.

When they have gotten into something Hope will wag her finger at you when you tell her "no".  Makes it really hard to keep a straight face!  She will also wave if you are going "bye bye" or "night night".

Look Mama, something over there, it's so interesting!

When I weighed them on my bathroom scale a couple weeks ago they were each at 21 pounds and even sitting on the floor level with them sometimes one looks taller and sometimes the other.  So they are really keeping even with each other in growth.  To the point that they each now have 3 molars, the same ones!  I think Joy may have popped the 4th one this week, but for all the fussing Hope has been doing and sticking her hands in her mouth I bet she won't be far behind.

I dug out all the 18M clothes this week and washed the summer weight ones.  We have a LOT of matching outfits in this size!  And a lot of clothes in general, but I might actually need more if they wear these longer than I expected and it gets cool.  Most of what we have is for summer.

They are so funny about clothes, always wanting to check out whatever I pull out and they are starting to help me dress them or trying themselves, putting an arm through a leg hole of shorts or something!

I couldn't quite get Hope to sit up straight and then Joy wanted to move!

And then when I did get her to sit up she wanted to look at sister...

Oh look, Mama gave us toys to distract us!  Joy is stirring sister's tea here... and then feeding it to herself!

They love this tea set to death and it's a good thing there are 3 spoons so they can each have one and one can be missing!  There will be much screeching and wailing if there is only one spoon around!  They will stir in the cups and then feed whoever happens to be around, or themselves.

We are "so big!"

And we have attitude!  I just had to laugh when I looked through these for the first time.  So much attitude these girls have!

When I finally got one "good" picture after goofing with them to get them to focus on me and smile I don't even like it as much as all the other ones where their personalities are shining through!  Oh well, when you have two babies to try and take pictures of you take what you can get I guess!

Like this...

16 months and going on a lot older!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book: The Nine Fold Heaven

An ex-spy and nightclub singer who undertakes an emotional and dangerous journey to reunite with her lost lover and the baby she was told was stillborn, and to discover the secret of her parents’ murder.

I didn't realize until after I'd finished this book that it was a sequel.  It stands alone well enough, but I might have understood a few more things if I'd read the other one first.  However... this is not the typical book I review here.  I read Song of the Silk Road a few years back and it was an interesting, if not very different book.  So I decided to give this one a try.  Note to my readers, do not read this if you don't appreciate references to sex in every chapter.

That being said, I think this was a pretty enlightening read about the underbelly of Shanghai in the 1930's.  Camilla the Songbird has fled Shanghai for Hong Kong after a deadly shootout between rival gangs, which she was at the heart of, but her heart is still in Shanghai with her lover(s) and possibly not-stillborn baby.

When she returns she cannot live as she did before because everyone is looking for her.  She must make a new way while finding the missing pieces of her old life.

Interwoven throughout the story are experiences of the Chinese way of culture, religion, and superstition.  Because the author is Chinese these experiences feel more real and true to the story than some other "Chinese" stories I've read.  It's a completely different way of thinking about life and fate/karma than we have here in our Western culture.

All that to say, for me the story felt very hopeless.  If things don't turn out just exactly the way Camilla hopes then there won't be much worth living for.  It is true to her character of being an orphan raised by a gang, but I don't usually choose to read books like this either.

Four stars (out of five) for writing and character development.  Not five because personally I just didn't really like the book.

Come along with an ex spy as she returns to Shanghai where she’s a wanted woman – but she has to search for her baby and her lost lover. Is her baby really alive? Will she be able to find her lover? Can she elude the police long enough to find them? Learn much more about Nine Fold Heaven and Mingmei Yip and get your copy of this exciting and exotic novel. Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series about Camilla the songbird and female spy – you can also read Skeleton Women, the first book about Camilla.

Mingmei Yip has been writing and publishing since she was fourteen years old and now she has twelve books to her credit. Her five novels are published by Kensington Books and her two children’s books are published by Tuttle Publishing. Mingmei is also a renowned qin (ancient string instrument) musician, calligrapher and painter. In Hong Kong, she was a columnist for seven major newspapers. She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the US. Visit Mingmei at:

Warning: trailer not for children.

I received this book from the author in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book: Harvest of Gold

Harvest of Gold

The scribe Sarah married Darius, and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage-Sarah has grown to love her husband. Sarah has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband's love still seems unattainable.

Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother's people. Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life-and even in his marriage?

A hidden message, treachery, opposition, and a God-given success, will lead to an unlikely bounty.


I am actually really sad that I haven't had time to get to this book yet.  I requested it on the strength of the previous two novels I've read by this author and I have high hopes for this one.  It's the sequel to Harvest of Rubies, but I don't know how well it stands alone or not.  Will definitely be reading it soon and adding my thoughts!

ETA: This book would stand alone as it's been quite awhile since I read the first one, but it's definitely meant to be a sequel and I think you'll get a lot more out of it if you read the other one first.  I'm not even sure what I can say for a review that wouldn't give away some of the story.  So I'll just say this: this book is going on my very small pile of "keepers".


If you'd like to read the first chapter of Harvest of Gold, go HERE.

Tessa Afshar was voted "New Author of the Year" by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader's Choice Award 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. She was born in Iran, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last thirteen years in full-time Christian work.

I received this book from CFBA in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Little Vacation with Friends

This past weekend we reprized our visit to Couer d'Alene Lake with college friends.  We went in the middle of the summer hoping for hot weather this time... instead it was warm-ish and windy.  Not really conducive to swimming.  Bummer!

But of course we still had a good time! As you can see, it's quite the hike down to the lake...

perfect for when Daddy throws Kix off the deck and you try to catch them in your mouth!

This is the view from the beach back up to the cabin.

We sat on the dock for awhile and stuck our feet in and rode the waves from the passing boats.

Then the boys wanted to wade and really, did I expect that my 3 year old would stay dry even if it was cold???

Here's the little thinker, Eli.  He's the only boy to play with, but the boys were kinda wild and crazy and I think he didn't quite know what to do with them!

He's gonna have some adjusting to do soon though, cuz his Mama is pregnant with twin brothers for him!  Yes, we will now have 2 sets of twins in our group, crazy!

We all mostly look the same, but the kids are bigger... this couch is not going to hold us much longer!

And of course, when there are tons of toys to play with, the box is the favored toy!

Here's our triplet girls, Joy on the left, Amelia, and then Hope.  Amelia was ready to go for a nap in the car.

All these kids around wore her out, but it was super fun to have three little girls!

My girls showing how they are "so big"!

And then the boys found a giant moth on the deck.  Our biologist friend, Sami, moved it out to the front of the house where it wouldn't accidentally fly in the sliding glass door. 

It was pretty cool looking... until we heard it hit the screen door late that night while we were playing games!  And then it was on the name sign by the front door the next day.

The only acceptable form of drinking and driving... that door to the left of Hope opens to a set of really steep stairs to the basement with a cinderblock wall at the bottom.  We were super careful to keep it closed except for one time when I went to wash some things in the bathtub downstairs... I had been there maybe 3 minutes and heard a "Hiya!" from behind me and turned around to find that Joy had come down all by herself.  Heart attack!  Thankfully she is much better at going down feet first on her tummy than Hope.

We attempted swimming again the last day as it was slightly warmer... but the water was still pretty cold.  We all sat on the dock and watched the boats go by.  The girls liked to kick in the water, but their toes got cold.

And I think all the kids were in the box at some point, but I didn't get any pictures of the boys.

All in all we stayed up too late, compared pregnancy stories (the girls at least!) and had a good time relaxing with friends!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Tea Party

The girls love the tea set we brought home last month.  Daddy had a tea party with them!  

Some for you too Daddy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book: Grounded

Grounded ...But Hope May Be Just Across the Street

Grace Meredith is a beloved contemporary Christian recording artist whose career--and personal life--hits unexpected turbulence. She feels grounded--in more ways than one. Grace s fiancé, bothered by her outspoken stance on purity and her near-constant travel, has broken off their relationship. Exhausted and unable to continue her current concert schedule, Grace returns home to Chicago, where she is soon stranded in a major snowstorm. Facing new questions about her future and her faith, Grace finds herself connecting for the first time with the residents of her neighborhood. What she discovers in these unexpected relationships could change everything.

Welcome to the Neighborhood The first in the Windy City Neighbors series, Grounded is an uplifting, contemporary story about ordinary people wrestling with the spiritual and practical issues of real life. The series employs the innovative storytelling technique of parallel novels, each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters lives become intertwined and affect one another. Grounded welcomes you to Beecham Street--a typical, isolated American neighborhood that might just be a place of hope.


This is a story about Grace.  Both the character named Grace and the concept of grace.  Grace from God, who loves us despite all the things we've done, and grace from other people for all the things we've done.

I love how Grace starts out thinking she has it all together and then things go crazy.  And then in the middle of picking up the pieces she realizes that she didn't really have it all together anyway.  It's a journey of self-discovery and the authors did a great job of keeping it real.

Can't wait for the next one!


If you would like to read the first chapter of Grounded, go Here.

Neta and Dave Jackson As a husband/wife writing team, we are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together we are the authors or coauthors of over 120 books. (You can see our Publication Record by clicking HERE.) In addition to writing several books about Christian community, we have been privileged to coauthor numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

But over the years the we have especially enjoyed writing for children and young people! This includes our award-winning TRAILBLAZER series, historical fiction about great Christian heroes and heroines for young people ages 8-12, and the four-volume HERO TALES: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Great Christians, and the companion book, Heroes in Black History.

Somewhere along the way, our own children grew up! Son Julian is Director of Experience Design for the Alder Planetarium in Chicago where he “provides the experience of exploring space” for visitors. He has two sons, Liam Isaac and Elijah David. Daughter Rachel graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and after working in the field of rape-crisis prevention went on to earn a Masters Degree in counseling from the University of Illinois. She is now a counselor at “Uni High School” in Champaign, Illinois. She is the loving mother of Havah Noelle (our first grandchild!) and Noah Zion, our youngest grandchild. The Jackson family also includes a Cambodian foster daughter, Samen Sang, who has four children.

We live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years we were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. We are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

I received this book from CFBA in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Friday, July 05, 2013


Becca and Kristen and Mee Sook hiding in the background
It may not look like much, and my friends may not love this picture, but it's my favorite photo from yesterday, 4th of July.

It was a crazy gathering of friends and kids, 16 of each and all the kids under 10.  A literal zoo, if you will.

But almost all of these people I have known since high school and they are my people.  Beautiful inside and out.

We don't have nearly as much time to talk these days, to do crazy things like we used to (unless you count all the kids, that's crazy itself), but even the few brief moments when we do manage to gather are priceless.

To sort of catch up on each other amidst the chaos and the noise, the "stop throwing Legos" and "put your sister down" interruptions.  To know that there is someone else there who understands without words.

These are the friends that are still around when life is busy (and hard).  These are the friends that I'm thankful for.  These are my beautiful friends.

This is a post prompt from The Gypsy Mama. Join in? If you don't have a blog or don't want to write there I'd love to have you write with me, even in the comments!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Dancing Baby Princesses

On Sunday I dug out some tutus that I bought for the girls last fall. They are completely adorable!


We went up to my parent's after church to drop the boys off for swimming lessons this week. The girls have finally figured out how to climb up in Nana's rocking chair!  Which I believe was her high chair when she was little... anyway, it's really old!

The bears usually sit in the chair, but they are good for snuggling! You can't tell me boys and girls are the same... these girls LOVE to snuggle with stuffed animals!  And play pretend with their tea set.  And they adore their shoes and clothes!

True story, I got some new dresses in the mail last week for them for Christmas.  I held them up to see how they would fit then set them aside.  Joy looked down and started crying because she thought she was going to get to wear it!  So we had to try them on!

Brothers were coloring and when they left the table the girls decided it was their turn... to eat crayons!

Books with Nana
I think we may have started to get past the chewing on books stage... but now we are in to the climbing stage!  We are cleaning out their room next week (and finishing painting!) so I can still have a contained space for them.  I picked up a baby gate today as Joy has figured out how to climb up on couches... and then slide over on the other side of our baby wall.  I have also switched their beds because little Miss Flexible put her foot up on the top of the crib railing and was levering herself out tonight!  Her crib is from IKEA and is just about 2 inches shorter than the other old style one.  Just enough!

And finally for your viewing pleasure... Hope LOVES to dance.  This is the bear that Mom's friend brought for the kids and they all love to dance to it, but especially Hope.  It plays Hooked on a Feeling.

Dancing Baby Princess from Krista on Vimeo.

There's your baby update for this week!