A New Look For Benjamin (accidentally)


Before we start, how 'bout I give you the moral of the story:

MORAL: Never, and I mean NEVER, put hair clippers in the hands of a physically sick and exhausted mother. Results could be detrimental to child's welfare or at very least, appearance.

Thankfully, our story has a relatively happy ending. But Benjamin won't be going out without a snug hat on for a while.

OK, so I have cut Ben's hair with clippers before. I had a quick tutoring session with my friend (Holly, my own poor results are no reflection on your wonderful clipping skills) and had cut Ben's hair a couple of times on my own. The results were never satisfactory and me being the typical egotistical human being that I am, I blamed it on the clippers. See they were hand-me-downs and they came to me with only 2 of the original 8 settings. I figured the friend who gave them to me (Norah, this is no reflection on the value of your hand-me-downs, for which I daily am grateful!) only needed those two settings and got rid of the rest. But I'm getting bogged down in details. To the point, when I cut his hair before, I could never get it quite short enough. Blame put to clippers and moved on.

Then came the sleep-deprived, 8-days-into-a-bad-virus day. Why did I choose this day? I guess I felt like I needed some control over something in my world and I figured the length of Benjamin's hair was a good place to start. Bad idea.

So the good news of the story is that the clippers actually do cut short. REALLY short. The bad news is that I found this out by leaving a bald spot (off center, of course) on the back of Ben's head. Then what do I do? Try to fix it. Really bad idea.

In tears, (did I mention I was sleep-deprived?) I turn to my husband for help. He volunteers, quite cheerfully I might add, to take him to a barber and get the job finished up...tomorrow. To which I reply, I can't take him out tonight like this! *sniff, sniff*. After nine years of marriage, no one can say he doesn't know how to react to my tears: Him, Did I say tomorrow? I'll do it today.

He ends up taking him to his own barber, who asks "Who in the world did this?!" *shame*

He fits in quite well here, where ultra short hair is the preference. So all's well that ends well.


Our little "Mini-Marine"

Happy Birthday, Annie! Five Random Things To Know About Our Five-Year-Old.


1. Annie is not a morning person.
She really did want to be excited, as it was her birthday. But it took a while...

2. Annie is a girly-girl
Aunt Anne filled a purse with all kinds of goodies---grown-up sunglasses, a wallet, notepad, lip gloss, etc.--and sent it to Annie. They have more in common than a name. Anne couldn't have picked out better if she actually lived inside Annie's brain. Scary thought!

3. Annie Collects "Treasures"

Annie is all about a treasure. That's a nice way of saying she's a pack rat. A shiny bit of gum wrapper, a pretty tag cut off an item of clothing are precious to her. I asked her what her favorite birthday gift was and she immediately began rummaging through her new purse. I was sure it was the mini-Samantha doll we'd given her. No way! It was a little tag that came off her "High School Musical" bracelets that had a minuscule picture of the cast of the movie on it! I showed her how to insert it in the ID slot in her new wallet so her treasure will be preserved forever.

4. It's all about the outfit.

It would be unfair to say that she gets this from her Aunt Anne, too, because it would make Anne look shallow and Anne is anything but shallow. Again, entire outfit picked out by her aunt and the glee on Annie's face should show her approval. Its a shame it didn't last...(see #5)

5. Lack of Sleep and too much icing-licking are dangerous chemistry in the back of a vehicle.
The picture may not seem to match up to the title, but I didn't really take the time to take a picture of Annie vomiting into my hands in the very back seat of our SUV on the way to home group that night. Out late at a wedding the night before and then licking the leftover icing added up to trouble on the side of the road on our way to friends' house. Did I mention we had four other people BESIDES our family in the car? Nice for them, huh? The subtle clue in the picture is that Annie had to borrow a shirt when we got to the Newhofs' house...Thankfully, it matched her skirt and tiara. It's all about the outfit.

A Wedding


I'm sure a cultural anthropologist would say that the only way to get to know a culture is by living like the people on a daily basis.

I agree *collective sigh of relief*. I would also add (from my quite limited experience) that you get a glimpse of the best of a culture in how it celebrates a wedding.

Here is a glimpse into a wedding to which we were privileged to be invited. Not our first wedding here, but our first with our girls (which turned out to be a treat). We also had recently landed guests from Canada with us (the hospitality here knows no limits) and it was amazing to try to look at all of this through their fresh eyes.

Musicians to the Bride's house.

The groom and his family actually go to the bride's home to collect her and take her to the wedding palace. While at her home there is dancing, blessing, and the ubiquitous tea.

Ceremony and Reception are combined at a place called a Wedding Palace.

Ring-bearers and Flower girls are non-existent here. However, the bride and groom said they wanted a Western flavor to their wedding and asked about our traditions. They ended up asking our girls to carry the rings down the aisle. They gave us the rings attached to the pillow about an hour before the time came to walk down the aisle. Needless to say, I was a little bit nervous with the responsibility! However, all came out beautifully and the girls were amazing!

Everybody troops up to the stage and gets their pictures taken with the Happy Couple.

Most brides here don't smile because they aren't supposed to be happy to leave their own families. Thankfully, this bride appeared really joyful...good for her! Random point: Annie, Sophie and I all had to borrow clothes to wear for this event and I didn't wear my glasses all night. Our appearances reflected on our respect and joy. Interesting?

An insane amount of food.

The food was waiting for us when we arrived and continued pouring out all evening long.

An insane amount of noise.

This was pretty hard for the girls to get used to. At one point Sophie asked for a pen and began journalling on a napkin (see below) about the noise level. I guess it was unforgettable. They soon got used to it...scary thought. Someone said to me that they think that most people have hearing loss here because of all the weddings they attend and the noise level...and I thought the people yelling at each other out my window were angry. Maybe they just needed hearing aides.

Dancing Queen.

The bride really was quite regal appearing, from her dress to her expression to the grace with which she moved. Annie and Sophie danced away the evening with little inhibition, which was enjoyed by all. Above, Annie joins a group of women in dancing circles around the bride. Annie's new dream? To be a bride, of course!

A Flaming Cake, Of Course!

I don't really have any explanation for this, but it was timed impeccably. We were just starting to get dozy from all the food consumption when the lights dimmed and out came a beautifully clad young woman bearing, of all things, a flaming cake. There was also a male dancer with her and together they danced and held this flaming object...and we lived to tell the tale. After that, we had little difficulty staying awake!

Well documented.

OK, one camera man would be normal. Three? Unbelievable. They roamed the room capturing every moment of the wedding (they even ride to the wedding in front of the car carrying the bride and groom...they are often in station wagons with the backs flipped up so they can get an unobstructed view of the wedding journey). I liked they way this guy balanced the camera on his head for a better view. There were also about 5 large flat screen TVs mounted on the walls with live feed. We, as novelty foreigners, made the screen almost as much as the bride and groom!

Indoor Fireworks?

I'm not sure about the safety of this, either. Regardless, it was pretty stunning!

An Unforgettable Evening.

I think this picture of Sophie is one of my favorites. Strange but true. Why? I guess because I had underestimated these girls of mine. I thought they would be a little fussy and grumpy and overly shy. They surprised me. They danced. They ate (OK, mostly bread, but that's typical!). They made friends and spoke to strangers. They were ALL THERE.

I blinked my eyes and they grew up on me.



I'm not looking for sympathy or anything. But I don't think I've ever been sick on Christmas before. Sick before Christmas. Don't-want-to-get-out-of-bed sick. So if these recollections seem a bit on the thin side or sketchy, you'll forgive me. If you want details, ask John!

Sophie still loves red. This year she requested a Bible cover, in her favorite color. How did I ever find gifts before Amazon.com?

Annie loves HSM. I thought this microphone and Gabriella doll would be perfect for her. It was a hit, however I didn't know it only sang ONE song. Over and over. I was dreaming the words, "I've gotta say whats on my mind....I've got to move on and be who I am..."

Sophie's imitation of a dinosaur while Benjamin tries to figure out what in the world she's doing.

Stuffing face with stocking stuffers. Ben doesn't get the concept of Pez yet. He just stuffed the whole pack in his mouth. Thanks Aunt Anne!

Why do little boys turn everything into guns? He never sees guns. We do not personally own a gun (toy or real, not even a water pistol). Yet he picks up the drill from his toy tool kit and begins shooting us....all the while wearing one of my Christmas gifts. When I tried to take it off him he firmly and belligerantly said. NO. MY THIS.

Group Fun Hit of the Day: The Boggess cousins sent some fun dinosaur threading things which all three kids must have spent at least an hour and a half solid playing with. Who knew?!

Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus with friends on Christmas Night.

What Begins with "P"? Parachute, Preschool, & Party


Did you know that Annie was born 10 days early? True. Her due date was January 7th. Quite a respectable birthdate, January 7th. Plenty far enough away from Christmas...in a month when little else is taking place. The planner in me thought I had a great month lined up to have a baby. Then God stepped in and gave her to me 10 days early (for which, at the time, I remember being REALLY grateful). Born on two cousins' birthdays (shout out to Jeremy and Elliot), no less. So I won't complain....but....

I think we parents of those born between December 21st and 31st tend to go a bit overboard on birthdays trying to make up for the fact that its so close to Christmas. Either that or it gets so consumed by the season that its lost altogether. I think next year we'll have a celebration in, say, February, and call it an "Annie's birthdate if Mommy had planned better" party. But then again, if I had "planned better", a different month would have meant a different girl and I am glad I planned so poorly!

All this is lead up to explain why there are so many pictures this month (and next) of Annie in front of cake. This was the first of several celebrations for Annie's birthday. It got way out of control. But somehow thats appropriate.

Parachute fun is a highlight at preschool. Annie and buddies under the 'chute. Remember the game (Highlawn friends? Where is Mrs. Davis, anyway?)... "anyone wearing red under the parachute!" Too much fun.

This was a new one. One thing I definitely remember about Highlawn's camo parachute is that under no circumstances was anyone allowed ON TOP of the parachute. However, this seems to be commonplace at here. Annie went in as a caterpillar and was released as a butterfly...loving every minute!

No explanation for this picture except that Annalise is too cute for words.

She blew out her candle so quick that this is all the shot I got!

Look at the glee on their faces. They are in awe. Annie's teachers got her a make-your-own-pen set. *ohhhhh* *ahhhhh* The envy of all her preschool friends; isn't that exactly the feeling we want to be breeding at a preschool named "Grace"?

Come On, Ring Those Bells!


It's that time of year again. 3rd and 4th grade boys become wise men, dad's robe becomes a shepherd's garb, anything white qualifies as angel-wear, and kindergartners become a heart-breakingly sweet/distracted/waving/giggling menagerie of barn animals. Yes, its time for the school Christmas program.

This was so well done. School programs like this always make me glad I'm not a teacher! They are a lot of work!

Sophie's roll this year was unique. She was selected as one of the slumber party bunch. These girls from all over the world (Finland, Norway, India, Malaysia, Brazil, Korea, Canada, and the U.S.) sat down on stage and talked about unique traditions in their country that take place this time of year....Sophie got quite a giggle when she mentioned that Boxing Day we go shopping (I don't think I've ever shopped on Boxing Day in my life...since I've spent all of about 3 Boxing Days in Canada, anyway!). She's definitely got her dad's stage presence *read: bordering on ham*

Here is Sophie sporting her new haircut and new glasses.

The under 5 gang got into the action by dancing to Joy to the World. Very Joyful.

Ben trying to get Sophie's attention on stage. Where WERE his parents?!

No. Sophie doesn't take Lambie with her everywhere like she used, too. Strictly a prop for the "sleepover". But sniffing its ribbon was totally unscripted. Old habits die hard.

Ben had the best time of all. We had to tear him away at the end of the evening. Not a pretty sight, as those of you who are parents of 2 year old boys know!

Random Moments of Everyday Life


It seems like my children are growing before my eyes. Here are some moments that are slipping by...

Somehow this seems like such a big boy thing to do, laying on his stomach and watching TV. When did I get a big boy? Last time I checked, he was still a baby. No Fair.

Yes, she really is as sweet as she looks.

Sophie taking a bow.

Thankful Preschoolers


Here is a brief glimpse into Annie's Thanksgiving Program at Grace Preschool:

Cheerful pilgrims. From all I've read about the pilgrims, not much to be cheerful about. But we'll forgive the interpretation.

Fainting-with-hunger pilgrims (still looking a little cheerful, though).

Native Americans to the rescue.

Waiting to say grace and a bit ticked off that no one else is! How's that for gratitude?! Sniffing a little legalism here.

Good Day, Great Friends


Celebrating major holidays overseas can be challenging. For one thing life goes on around you as always. I'll never forget our first Christmas morning here, opening gifts and being startled by the sound of the garbage truck out our window! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It represents so many wonderful memories of family and childhood. This year was a special treat to get to spend it with some good friends who treasure the day as much as we do, and who went the extra mile to make it special for all of us!

The kids.

What are you all standing around for? Bring on the grub!

Not sure what this get up was about, but Sophie is always theatrical!

Toddler Logic: When you don't know what something is, put it in your mouth to find out.



Romans 16:19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

What is innocence and how do you explain it to a 7 year old?

Romans 16:19 is one of Sophie's memory verses this month and she was trying to understand this concept. Only an hour later the following conversation took place....

Sophie looks over at me and says, "Mom, I know the 'S' word, BUT I don't use it."

Me (flabbergasted), "Who told you about the 'S' word?!"

"Ellie, but she doesn't use it either."

"Sophie, I am so sad right now. Its like that little innocent part of you that didn't know that word is now gone because you know it. I wish I could protect you from all the bad words out there." Seriously, I am almost tearing up.

Then Annie pipes in, "I know the 'S' word, too."

Me (even more flabbergasted), "WHO told YOU?!"

(Of course and why didn't I see this coming?) "Sophie."

Eyes wide and staring at Sophie in disbelief, I say to Annie, "Come whisper it in my ear."

Sophie looks like she is laying on a bed of nails with increasingly heavy weights being placed on her chest as Annie makes her way across the room. She knows she's done more than lost a piece of her own innocence, she has now helped Annie lose a small piece of her own. She also knows this probably means more tangible trouble in her world.

Annie leans close, sweet 4 year-old smile on her face and whispers, "Stupid."

Me, incredulously, "Sophie, what is the word? .... Say it!"

Eyes full of fear, she says, "Stupid."

Internal sigh of relief, and then classic mom line, "Now just don't let me hear you say that to anyone else...especially Benjamin."

Small piece of innocence found, right where we left it. Thanks, Lord.

Happy Birthday, Ben!


OK, This is a blog for those diehard Cook Family fans out there. Why? Well, I mean, how interesting is a two year old's birthday unless he is a two year old you love and adore? Here is Benjamin's big day. A moment of silence as I mourn the loss of his babyhood. One thing for sure, he's a baby no more!

Girls, its HIS birthday, thus HIS present!

My sister said I made a mistake buying Ben musical intruments for his birthday. The only mistake was letting Annie near the Triangle. Its hidden now. I'll have nightmares about it for weeks!

Ben is talking more and more. His favorite word of the week is car (see below):

Cah-argh! (think a pirate saying "argh!")....no you aren't mistaken; it is a helicopter

Cah-argh! ....train this time....

Cah-argh! ....and....train again.

Annie on the Tambourine...Triangle having been hidden.

Yes, blue is her color, even in icing!

Fire! New toy!

First born female sister taking over when baby brother can't figure out he's supposed to blow these things out.

I don't like this HAT!

I do it, BY-MY-SELF!

Maybe this end will work better....

I give up. I didn't really like it anyway!

Annie: Can I have his?

Still loves to clean up after himself. Ask me again in about 12 years!