30 December 2008

Overheard: a conversation between two nativity sets a la Annalivia (an actual transcript)

"Hi, I'm Mary. And this is my husband Joph-us. What's your name?"
"My name is Mary, too. And my husband's name is Joph-us, too."
"Wow. That's nice."
"This is my baby. His name is Jesus."
"This is my baby. His name is God."
"Oh, that's nice."

29 December 2008

Prayer shawl for Grammy

The pathology report from my grandmother's tumor came back and the cancer did not spread beyond the colon. We are very, very, very thankful for this wonderful news! (Edited to add: Apparently the cancer was present in one of the lymph nodes and so she will have a cat scan tomorrow to see if there are lymph nodes behind the heart. The cancer did not breach the muscular walls, however, which was good news. It's just not as clear-cut as I originally thought.)
While at the hospital the last few days, I had the opportunity to finish (and start) a few crochet projects. This is one of my favorites. It's a prayer shawl for Grammy. I know it's not the typical shape of a prayer shawl, but that's what it started out to be and I was pouring my prayers for her into it as I created it, so that's what I'm calling it.
It's a beautiful dusty rose baby alpaca. It's sooooo soft and was just wonderful to work with.
I created my own pattern to make a lacy half-circle. My hope is that Grammy will be able to throw it around her shoulders as she sits up and that it will not be too bulky to use frequently. I like the shape and pattern of it so much that I'm going to buy another skein or two, maybe even in this exact same color, and make a larger version for myself to use while nursing.
I'm going to try to write up the pattern later. It went very quickly -- I started it one evening, worked most of the day on it, and finished it in the late afternoon the next day. And it turned out to be so pretty, I think! I hope Grammy likes it, too, and that she feels surrounded by love and prayers whenever she wears it.

Third trimester insomnia/ energy surges

I am at that odd point I've reached in each of my previous pregnancies when I have a lot of energy and a lot of fatigue, often at the same time. This morning, I was up at 5:15 a.m. thanks to a leg cramp, which I also get in the second and third trimester. But now that I'm awake, I can think of lots to do. The only thing that is keeping me in a darkened bedroom is the realization that if I leave this room or turn on the light, and Annalivia wakes up in the next 15 minutes, as she is wont to do, she won't go back to sleep and I'll have a very tired, fussy girl by noon. But my mind is racing and my body is willing to follow the brain for right now and engage. I should probably take advantage of it.
Later today (probably right around the time the kids actually wake up for good, Dennis reminds me), I will feel flat and worn out, ready to fall into a deep sleep at any moment. And that will occur in alternating periods of feeling like it's time to pack up the Christmas decorations singlehandedly and sort all of the old clothes and generally get the entire household in order. The good side of this mania is that the up and downs mean that occasionally I do get something done. Sometimes. And I'm ready to go to bed by 8 every evening.
I suppose I'm just preparing for the sleeplessness and exhaustion of those first months of a new baby. I forget what that's like, sometimes. I forget how one can be utterly worn out and at the same time, wanting to do something inane like organize all the pictures on one's computer. I don't suppose I'll actually remember fully until I'm there again. And hopefully, I'll forget again. That amnesia is what keeps the human race propogating, I think.
In the meantime, getting up early, going to bed early is a better pattern for toddlers and infants in this family than my usual inclination to stay up late, sleep late. So I'll try to remember that and make use of these weird energy surges and lags.
It's kind of amazing what our bodies and brains naturally do to prepare us/ preserve us in the midst of big things, isn't it? Reminder to self -- go with it.
For now, I think I'll try to get an hour more of sleep. That girl could be fussy, regardless.

28 December 2008

Sad-ish realization

Tonight I returned home from being with Grammy and Gramps at the hospital since this morning to find a house that was mostly clean, happy and well-fed children, the smell of loads of clean laundry and the realization that my amazing and wonderful husband is a much better homemaker/ parent than I.
At least one of us excels! :)

27 December 2008

Great Christmas story

Over here at Brin's.

Christmas and the days surrounding

First things, first. Merry Christmas and Christmastide!

We have had a very full few days here. It has been largely defined by a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and colon cancer in my grandmother on Christmas eve, a subsequent operation to remove the tumor in her colon later the same day, and her ongoing recovery. The surgery was very high-risk, but Grammy is doing pretty remarkably, all things considered. We hope to see a pathology report by Monday on whether the cancer was confined to the tumor and we also hope that the fluid around her heart and in her lungs continues to be expelled. In the meantime, she is surrounded by family and lots of love and is exactly where she needs to be with truly excellent care. We are grateful for that.

In the aftermath of Grammy's surgery, our Christmas eve plans changed pretty drastically. I had asked Dennis to come home from work early and he was on his way when we got the call about the surgery. I'm so thankful for that. We were going to have homemade lasagna which is becoming a little tradition, but I had picked up some frozen lasagna on sale for after the baby is born and it was available for Dennis to put in while I was at the hospital. I ended up arriving home to a very satisfying dinner right as the "family friendly" service at church was stariting. So we decorated a tree we got for free from Kroger's and then attended the midnight service at our church. Our children were the only little ones there and they did just a remarkable job. Annalivia fell asleep in the middle and Daniel colored and drew and played mostly quietly through the rest of the service. I was impressed and thankful for that, too. It was a lovely service.

Christmas morning, Annalivia had to be reminded of the special nature of the morning before she went downstairs to discover a new doll. She was duly impressed and just kept saying throughout the morning, "Santa is a very kind man." Daniel slept in and did not get to see his fire truck until after we returned from an amazing brunch at my mother's house. He was not at all impressed with his fire truck; I had gotten Dennis a Lionel train set that Dennis set up under the tree on Christmas eve and Daniel was just enthralled with it. I don't think he has made the distinction in his mind between the train being his or his father's. Eventually he played with the fire truck, but the train was definitely the hit of the day.

The family came over here for dinner in the evening. Dennis' mom and my sister's in-laws also joined us. We had beef bourginon, clam chowder, homemade bread and clementines -- it was pretty simple. And after dinner we sang carols from the hymnal and had a little dessert and everyone went home. It was nice.

We were all pretty tired yesterday, but I got over to see Grammy and today went back over for a while. I have found myself wishing I could be more help to the family. I think the front lines -- my grandfather and my father, Sublime Aunt and FreeSpirit Uncle are getting a little worn out. FreeSpirit Uncle, who gave up Christmas with his wife and son. returned to Arkansas today. Sublime Aunt has arrived, thankfully, for a few days, but my dad who is the local child and has been staying with my grandmother during the night, has come down with the stomach flu. So has my neice. I feel bad about that, since I think we were the ones who had the flu first. We tried to quarantine ourselves as soon as we realized we had it, but I guess the germs got out. Or one of the other 800 cases in our town infected my dad and niece. Regardless, it means that a large chunk of the family will probably pass it around and that takes them out of commission in helping Gramps and tending Grammy.

I'm going to try to get up early tomorrow and get over to the hospital to relieve Sublime Aunt and be another pair of ears listening to whatever doctors say. I' ve been enjoying the time to sit there and talk with my family members and crochet. My sister warned me tonight about carrying leftover flu to the hospital. Our doctor said that we wouldn't be contagious once symptoms passed; that it is the incubation period where people are contagious. I hope -- really, really hope -- he's right about that. The last thing either Grammy or Gramps need is the stomach flu.

Anyway, that has been our days. Though full and busy, we feel so blessed to have family around who care for each other in such amazing ways. And Grammy's successful surgery was about the best Christmas gift anyone could hope to receive. Again -- hope all of your Christmases were merry and bright and that the new year brings health and happiness.

Merry Christmas!

21 December 2008

Ouch.

I managed to fall down the stairs at our house today. The inside stairs. I was still wearing my tights after church and my foot slid off the edge of the stair in one of the spots where the wood has been worn nice and smooth. Luckily, I only fell down three stairs, but I banged my broken wrist on the radiator, slammed my other wrist and ankle into the bannister and hit my back hard enough on the stairs to knock the wind out of me. And I scared the heck out of Dennis and Annalivia.
To say that I hurt right now would be a massive understatement. I had planned to spend the rest of the day in a frenzy of pre-Christmas prep, finishing handmade presents, getting the house picked up and thoroughly dusted, etc. But that didn't happen. And may not for a few days. It seems as though the universe keeps aligning to tell me to just let Christmas be what it will be. I think today I pretty effectively got the message. I'm not sure the delivery had to be so jarring, but it worked. I'm revising downward. Really, Universe. No need for any more intervention.

On the morning side of night

It is 4:15 a.m. and I am up at an hour when I am usually, thankfully, sleeping. The stomach bug has proved to be a tough opponent for our little Daniel and he has spent the early morning hours of each of the last few days vomiting several times in succession, but only after we get him cleaned up from the previous time.
In the process of googling flu information (i.e. when to panic), I noticed that the temperature reading for Eureka, IL is -2 degrees farenheit. That's without windchill. And the wind is certainly whipping around right now. We had an ice storm a few days ago and the wind has been hurling ice chunks against the house. We apparently lost power for at least a bit during the night, as the electronics that start over are blinking and we suddenly had Christmas Adagios blaring from the radio at 2:30 a.m.
I have been having trouble getting to sleep lately. My mind is full of plans and wanna-do's. It occurs to me that I could just stay up and finish some projects. But, though I've had trouble falling asleep at night, I have no trouble wanting to sleep during the day, so this is probably a poor idea. I'll turn off the computer and the light and try to catch a little rest before the next probable interruption.

18 December 2008

Cracked up open

When I was a mother to a precious little 7-month old baby girl who slept quite a lot and nursed quite a lot, smiled and laughed, and never, ever talked back, I remember reading a blog entry by a woman who was parenting 3 little ones. Her children were about 1.5-2 years apart and her youngest was just a baby. She was writing about how she felt as though her life was breaking open. That she was leaving the past behind and that somehow in this family-with-three children, an outward casing that she had always imagined was herself was being cracked and chipped away to reveal something she hadn't realized was her true being.

I had no idea what she was talking about.

Over the last three years, things have changed a bit. And now I, too, feel as though I am breaking open -- peeling and cracking and sloughing off what I have been to become this thing that I didn't see before and didn't know and yet, am, at the most real level. I don't know how to describe it in my own words except to say that I am at this parenting precipice that I have been approaching for a while -- a ledge off of which I have been leaning, slowly shifting more and more of my weight forward, to the extent that now I am quite certain that my center of gravity is before me, not behind me, and it is out of my control. I'm going over the ledge.

Behind me, lay my past life -- one that was largely self-centered and self-directed and self-controlled, to the extent that one can ever control one's life. That life was self-ordered by ideas I almost completely understood and was most certainly right about. It was my life -- mine, mine, mine. And what it was or wasn't was my creation --my credit, my fault, whatever -- mine. It may have been largely illusory, but it was my illusion! :)

Before me, off of this parenting precipice, is this life that I can't quite imagine. It feels like it is this completely real place compared to where I have been and that ownership of it just doesn't and won't ever belong to me. That life out there before me is largely one of sacrifice and service. It is other-centered. And from this place, I don't know how to create it. I don't know how to manage it. It is something I don't understand and can't grasp and know that I have no ability to navigate on my own. It feels as though "out there" is where the Spirit is, though. And so that's where I need to be.

Over the last three years, I have seen this precipice approaching and I've been terrified of it. In many ways, because I can't see it, I am scared of it. But I have a sense that when I let go of whatever life (or death) line it is to which I am clinging from the old life, I will have a choice to either fall into the new life and as I fall, see this great beyond as some sort of void -- dangerous and scary and overwhelming and thus, be resentful of the lack of control. Or, and obviously this is the better choice -- I will have a choice to jump forth in faith and allow myself to be caught up in a wave of grace which I know -- I know, I know, I know -- will buoy me with wisdom and resources and guidance. I have this sense that the wave is not only there, but if I choose to ride it, that I will feel a joy and freedom that I've longed for all the while slogging through the life up above the cliff. But it won't be of my own making. And it is just a matter of whether I will have faith enough to trust it.

So. Did any of you other moms out there feel like this at some point? Is there just a point when you crack up, or open, or take the leap, or don't?

16 December 2008

Things learned during illness

  • It is unwise to mention out loud to one's sister that one's family has been remarkably devoid of the stomach flu for the last four years. It's basically writing out an invitation that reads something like this... "Dear stomach flu... Please, please, please come visit. All of us. All at once. And asap. Bring all the baggage you can carry. Looking forward to it. Love, April P.S. Dennis' birthday is later this week and I have big plans. We'll have the guest room made up by then!"
  • I married a saint. He's also a hero and an angel, not to mention, a truly excellent chief, cook and bottle-washer (and yes, I intentionally made that phrase into three jobs). Well, maybe he has a ways to go with the "cook" part of the job description, but really... Dennis is totally the cog that makes the wheel of this family function. He has changed beds, changed and bathed and comforted and cradled kids, coddled me, done load-upon-load-upon-load of laundry, fed us -- but only what we requested, made trips to various stores, played, sang.... all while feeling terrible himself and missing a decent birthday celebration because of his own illness. The man is simply amazing. And he's ours.
  • The smell of laundry being washed in the basement of this house makes the whole house smell fresh and clean. Which is really saying something when all four of the residents have the flu.
  • At a certain point, it is impossible to fool one's children into thinking that Pedialyte is really apple juice. Even the young, gullible one.
  • When one hasn't eaten for a day or so, saltines and ginger ale make a meal as delicious as any cordon-bleu cuisine.
  • If I ever have the opportunity to design or radically remodel a bathroom, I will seriously consider covering the entire thing in tile, putting a drain in the floor, and making all storage units, lighting, etc. completely waterproof so as to be able to basically hose down the place at any moment.
  • There are advantages to being sick -- lots of rest, thank you, Lord (and Dennis) -- the sheets all get cleaned -- the bathrooms get bleached -- cooking is pretty much optional as no one cares what dinner is going to be. The advantages, however, do not outweigh the disadvantages. I look forward to being well for a long time.

14 December 2008

Sick

We're passing the stomach flu around here. Dennis introduced it to me. I'm praying the kids won't join the party. More pics sometime later...

11 December 2008

It's supposed to be 51 degrees on Sunday

So, before the snow melts away -- here's a hope for more. Soon.

P.S. My computer is back and I have access to my photos again! More coming later.

09 December 2008

08 December 2008

Black and whites

I have been working on getting pictures of the kids and our families printed in black and white to put on top of the built-in bookcases on each side of the fireplace of this home. Originally I had pictures in color and different wood frames, but they were just so...busy. Visually, this is better, I think. I still have more photos to get -- we only have one picture of Dennis' family and none of my parents or my youngest sister. And I ran out of picture frames. But those that are up have been delightful to look at each day. And all of us are enjoying them.

07 December 2008

Christmas photo shoot

Today after church, we stopped by Grammy and Gramps' for lunch. We had brought clam chowder, biscuits and salad and after we finished eating, I asked Gramps to take a photo of all of us in his garage, which tends to have pretty nice light in it. He obliged. We ended up with some decent photos. I'm pretty sure the last one will end up on our Christmas card, but I just end up beaming every time I look at the second one. What do you think?



Catch-up photo post: Clothes for Emmeliese


I stopped by a consignment store in Peoria the other day and found a treasure trove of sweet clothes in "Preemie" and "Under 7 lbs" sizes. Both of my kids so far have been little and, as long as they don't have feet on them, Preemie sizes have fit better than the 0-3 for the first few weeks. There were some beautiful soft things in pink at this particular store. My favorite was this Janie and Jack romper, brand new with tags still on it. It was marked down to $3.25. Though Emmeliese won't do much romping in it, the smocking and delicate little flowers make my heart do a little pitter-patter. I love little girl clothes!

05 December 2008

December Photo Project: Virus edition

So, no photo today. A virus on my computer has taken my already-snapped photos out of commission for a bit. We're taking my laptop to Nerds on Call (isn't that a great name?) tomorrow or Monday. So I'll be online much less, which is probably good for all of us. More crocheting can get done! Right now, I'm posting from Dennis' laptop. I'll see if I can load from my camera onto here tomorrow. In the meantime head over to Rebecca's for a list of other DPP participants and get your photo-fix elsewhere!
And if I've sent you an email since last night, don't open it. :)

04 December 2008

Sure-footedness

I am abnormally paranoid about falling in the winter. It has always been one of my great fears, but then my arm was broken in a car accident and never healed and in one of my last appointments, the doctor said something helpful like, "Well, you can live with it, as long as it doesn't cause excruciating pain until it breaks again, which it will when it is hit or you fall or it takes some sort of trauma..." Add a pregnancy and my anxiety level regarding being outside in the winter is through the roof.
But, enter now these wonderful contraptions Annalivia is modeling on my shoes -- the YakTrax. My sister Lil got these for running in the winter and bought my mom a pair after mom slipped on the ice last year. They both swear by them, so I got some. And they are amazing. I walked home from church yesterday night on icy sidewalks with no salt and did not feel my feet even falter. They go a long, long way to quell my winter falling-fears. Not all the way, but a long way.
If you share my paranoia, the YakTrax are $19.99 at Gander Mountain or Dick's Sporting Goods and even less expensive through various internet sites. And seriously, they are worth every single penny.

03 December 2008

Food for thought


We had Cook's Night Out at church tonight. It's the first Wednesday of the month and a different committee or ministry group hosts it on a rotating basis. This month, the youth group put out lasagna, garlic bread, salad and cakes. It was a nice time of fellowship.

Afterwards we had a "town meeting" at church to discuss a deficit between the projected budget and the projected income for next year. Right now, in order to balance it, the church really has only three options: cut salaries, cut outreach giving, or make up the income. Or it can approve a deficit budget. Which it did last year and is now running with a surplus.

It was an interesting meeting. There are many faithful people on all sides of the issue and nothing is cut and dried. Personally, I think the staff is essential and at least one of them is probably underpaid anyway. And I think the outreach is faithful and necessary, though I think it has become a little removed from the personal realities of many congregants because the church takes care of it for us.

When it comes down to it, I think I'm a big fan of leap-of-faith deficit budgets. This church has scrupulous record-keeping and pays impeccable attention to where the money goes. Balanced budgets are a tradition, I think. But in the three churches I've worked in as a paid employee, budget deficits of up to 1/3-1/2 of the projected budget were so commonplace that no one batted an eye at approving a budget with a projected $30,000 shortfall. And every year, the needs were met somehow. Sometimes I think a little affliction for the sake of gospel is a good thing that we mainliners don't usually experience. But I know that there are lots of people worried about financial afflictions in their own lives/ businesses right now. One more worry might be one affliction too much. We'll see.

In the meantime, these fellowship opportunities are probably just what the Spirit would order. At the end, the senior minister asked us all to join hands and pray the Lord's Prayer and everyone just sort of automatically (though with a teeny bit of bumbling) made their way into a large circle. The minister said, "See? You just know how to be church!" And it's true. They do. We do. And we'll figure out this latest challenge together.

02 December 2008

12 weeks from now?

Tonight I realized that Annalivia, who had the same due date as baby Emmeliese, was born exactly 12 weeks from this point in the pregnancy. That seems really darn quick...

If you only get one book this holiday season...


Get this one. Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo (of Desperaux fame) is a new addition to our Advent/ Christmas book basket. It's such a sweet and beautifully told story. The illustrations are just absolutely gorgeous. Literally every adult I've had read it has gotten all teary at the end. And so far, the kids have wanted me to read it several times every day. It's the kind of book one thinks about long after putting down. This is one to treasure for a long, long time.

01 December 2008

December Photo Project

Last year, I was too late to join in, but this year, I'm joining Rebecca from View from the Prairie Box for her annual December Photo Project. The idea is just to document December through an individual blogger's eyes.


My first photo was actually taken yesterday on the first day of Advent right before Annalivia and I walked down to church. It is just about an inch or so of the eventual five inches of snow that we got. I discovered it is futile to explain to a 3-year old who doesn't remember last year's snows that the snow that is walked in, handled, played in and laid in on the way to church eventually melts and makes one cold. Oh, well. It was a beautiful morning and an invigorating walk to church. Ah, to be blissfully unaware of consequences again...


If you want more info on the photo project, go here. And let me know you're participating so I can come visit!

29 November 2008

Christmas shopping

Today I actually went out to a store and tried to buy a Christmas present to take advantage of a holiday deal advertised at Target. It didn't actually work because the toy wasn't at the store, but I was kind of surprised at myself that I actually ventured out. Shopping and I are generally not friends. But today was successful, in my mind. The kids stayed home with Daddy and I enjoyed the time. I stopped for coffee and coffeecake at Mika's on the way into the city and stopped for some lunch to bring home on the way out of the city. And in between, I hit a couple of stores. I didn't think the traffic or the crowds were too terribly crazy and I am now finished with buying gifts. All in all, it was good.
I also finished wrapping the presents tonight. Last year, Dennis and I decided that we are going to get our children three gifts per year in their stockings. We thought we'd tie it into the presents that Jesus received from the Magi and that we'd sort of use an interpretation of the gifts we'd either read about or heard somewhere -- one present will be something to treasure like the gold, one present will be something for the body like myrhh, and one present will be something to speak to the spirit like frankincense which was used for worship.
So, this year, Annalivia is getting a doll and Daniel is getting a fire truck to treasure (though not the one that was advertised at 75% off at Target). They are both getting t-shirts for their little bodies. And they are getting two books each to enhance their spirits-- one is a Christmas story that will appeal to each and the other for each is a story about developing wise character. I managed to find the books I was looking for today, thus completing the trio, so Dennis and I wrapped the gifts up tonight and hid them downstairs. And it's not even December yet! :)
For our families, we will be making gifts, for the most part. My family has always been good about spending a very small amount on Christmas and instead focusing on the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts that use the giver's talents and consider the receiver's interests carefully. It is always so much more fun to give and receive things that bear some imprint of real consideration for another, isn't it? I love that the precedent for Christmas has been set in this way. It's frugal, but also, more importantly, meaningful.
So, I am pretty much done shopping, unless I end up needing supplies for those things I'm making. And, I suppose I will need to take Annalivia up to the Et Cetera Shoppe with her Christmas allowance at some point and allow her to choose presents for family. But those things will be fun to do when the time arises. I'm looking forward to it even now.
Maybe Shopping and I could become friends after all!

28 November 2008

And onward...

We had a very nice Thanksgiving Day here. It was a day of lots of food. I made the rest of the buttermilk roll recipe into cinnamon rolls for breakfast. They were very good and led me to appreciate even more that recipe. The family arrived for pate and other stuff late morning. We were done with that by noon and then on to Lil's for dinner in the early evening. The food was all wonderful and the schedule was fairly relaxed. After our exhausted children got into bed a little before 8, I went out to my parents' house and got to have some really nice, and needed-by-me, conversation with both Dad and Mom. I returned home in time to smell the laundry Dennis had done in my absence. It was a good day.
Today, we are turning towards the next holiday. The fall decorations are in the process of being put away. I got the Advent/ Christmas books out today and set out some of our nativity sets. Tomorrow morning, we'll go help decorate the church and then Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and we'll start opening the doors of our Advent house calendar. Sunday night my sister, brother in law and I will sing at our Hanging of the Greens service.
I'm looking forward to all of it. In fact, this approach the holidays is so new and different for me right now. I'm very excited to be able to actually focus on contemplating and absorbing and experiencing and worshiping this year. Actually, about two weeks ago, it occurred to me that I hadn't even considered that Advent was approaching quickly. That never, ever, ever happened as a pastor! It was a delicious realization. I'm not sure I've ever been in the position to approach Christmas this way, as a matter of fact. Before pastoring where coordinating church activities absorbed all focus, there was seminary with church and finals, and before that college with finals. My guess is that it has been since I was in high school or before that I have been able to come into the holidays with a blank slate, of sorts. It's definitely the first time in our marriage, which means it's a whole new world for Dennis, too. It's amazing to be able to just savor this time! I pray I make the most of it. (Perhaps by making less of it...) What a gift as life proceeds onward...

26 November 2008

Why don't I think of these things sooner?

I have pulled the turkey out of the oven. It smells wonderful. It tastes pretty good, too. I cooked it in an oven bag because it is getting sliced up and put in a dish ahead of time. I like the oven bag because the cooking time is so much faster, and it seems to me that the meat seems a little more moist. Even still, I think the breast meat is too dry. This is one reason I appreciate the whole slice-it-up-ahead-of-time turkey prep. Last year when I pulled out the bird, I was sort of aghast at how dry the breast meat ended up. I sliced it, covered it with broth, and refrigerated it. The next day, it was delicious.
What occurred to me today, though, after I took the turkey out of the oven, of course, was that I could have cooked it with the breast side down. The presentation factor is removed from it anyway and it probably would be more delicious. Next year, maybe I'll try it. If I can remember.
Now, on to the real star of the day -- the gravy. I'm debating whether to do it right now while the juices are hot, or wait until this evening when Dennis can do some whisking. I'm leaning towards the evening option. I still have the casseroles to assemble and the pate to make. I can do those before he gets home and just have gravy to do later.
PLUS -- I have to get ready for the big highlight of the next few days -- sistah night! Tonight! Three of four sistahs are already in central IL. The fourth should be arriving soon! I am guaranteed to have a great evening. I should probably shower to assure the same for my sistahs! :)
Be well, all. And if I don't get back to post again -- have a happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2008

To my fellow yarnaholics...

How do you ever figure out which project to do next? I have about a gajillion I'd like to do, and, more importantly, have done. Christmas projects are next, obviously, but I'd love to make Annalivia a hat/ scarf/ mitten set for church, and I'd love to make myself a winter hat with a big floppy brim and I'd love to make booties and clothes and a blanket for the baby and I'd love to make a yarn bag -- I actually need that -- and I'd love to try slippers and figure out something really useful for Dennis... the list goes on and on...
And somehow, I'm going to have to figure out how to fund this yarn obsession. Maybe gift certificates to Hobby Lobby and yarn stores should be the only thing on my Christmas list...
What do the rest of you yarn-addicts do?

Thanksgiving Build-up

I am so excited that Thanksgiving is this week! I kind of can't believe it, also. Where has the time gone?
We are having Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house on Thursday early evening, but before that, late morning, the family is coming to our house for Pate (with the little accent on the e -- how does one do that, by the way?) and hors d'ouevres. I'm in charge of the food for that and then I'll be taking some food to Lil's also. Since I'm having a few problems adjusting to some new medication and have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and a guest arriving on Thursday morning, I've decided to create a schedule for myself to keep myself on track and make sure I have time to rest. I know none of you out there really needs this much info, but it helps me to be accountable, if only to Blogger. So, here it is.

Monday
Cook turkey necks/ drumstick, celery and onion to make broth for gravy and turkey. Strain, refrigerate.
Fold clothes currently piled on guest room bed. :)
Get out any new thanksgiving decorations i.e. the cornucopia.

Tuesday
Slice and blanche squash for casserole. Refrigerate.
Cook livers for pate. Refrigerate.
Make spinach artichoke dip. Refrigerate.
Vacuum upstairs, including guest room.

Wednesday
Set out cream cheese to soften for pate.
Assemble squash casserole.
Assemble corn casserole.
Bake turkey. Cool. Slice. Cover with broth, cover and refrigerate.
Make pate. Refrigerate.
Make gravy. Refrigerate.
Clean bathrooms, vacuum downstairs again.
Put out guest towels.
Go enjoy sistah night.
Put clean tablecloth on the table.

Thursday
Make parmesan breadsticks.
Make bacon appetizers.
Set out pate, crackers, cheeses, dips, summer sausage, hot appetizers, peanuts, punch, juice, wine etc.
Enjoy.
One hour before dinner, cook casseroles, reheat turkey, reheat gravy. Drive the five blocks to Lil's. Give lots and lots of thanks.

23 November 2008

Sunday Dinner II

Today, we hosted Sunday dinner again. Dennis got a ham from work for the holidays and rather than freezing it to use later, we decided to cook it up. So we had a nice dinner of spinach bisque, ham, scalloped potatoes, and buttermilk rolls provided by me, with jello and green salad provided by Mom and green beans with bacon provided by Lil. I also made pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream for dessert. We were all full. And now we have a refrigerator full of food going into this Thanksgiving week. I guess we don't have to worry about dinners and lunches for a few days.


I wanted to share two interesting recipes I ended up using. The first is for Refrigerator Buttermilk Rolls. The interesting part is that the dough can supposedly be made up ahead of time and then stuck in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I even ran out of buttermilk and used the ol' milk-with-vinegar trick and it worked well, which makes this a keeper recipe, for me. The rolls, which I made in regular round shape, were very soft and light and tasty and delicious, especially with a bit of the homemade butter Lil provided. They'd be great hamburger buns, I think. I will try them with whole wheat next time. I thought someone may enjoy the recipe for Thanksgiving. It's always nice to find things that can be made ahead.


The other recipe worth sharing, in my mind, was for the spinach bisque. It was very good and really, could be a meal all on its own. I made it because the ham ended up being small and I was worried we wouldn't have enough. We did have plenty, of course, but this bisque was probably my favorite part of the meal. I combined a couple of recipes to come up with this one. I think it would also taste delicious with a little tobasco or a tablespoon of dijon mustard added for a little bit more bite. It can be diluted with more chicken broth to make it stretch, or one could add even more spinach. It's very rich. Just pretend like it doesn't have any calories and enjoy. :)

Spinach Bisque
1 med onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced finely
2 T butter
1/4-1/2 cup white wine (can be omitted)
2 boxes of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 pkgs cream cheese, softened and cut into smaller pieces
1 1/2 c. half and half
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
pepper to taste
Sautee onion and garlic in butter until transluscent. Deglaze pan with wine. Add spinach and cream cheese. Allow cheese to melt slightly. Add half and half slowly, stirring to make the mixture quite smooth. When cream cheese is entirely melted, add the chicken broth. Stir to make smooth again. Add cheddar cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. When cheddar is melted, add parmesan. Stir well. Season to taste. Heat through, but do not allow it to fully boil. Best when very warm.

21 November 2008

Pink hats

For my girls :)
Please ignore the fact that my daughter is about to taste a ginko leaf. Again. Annalivia's hat is cloche-style with a scalloped edge and an added ear/ neck warmer all the way around the sides and back of the inside. She didn't like it until I added the white edging and the flower.
Emmeliese's hat is an adjustable preemie hat. There's a set of eyelets further up that the tie could go in to make it larger. I wanted to make a small hat that would be soft and warm that could be worn right after she's born. The hospital's hats were so huge on Annalivia; we took a preemie hat for Daniel and it worked perfectly. Emmeliese's hat is being modeled by Annalivia's doll, Henry, who was just slightly larger than Daniel when he was born. I think the hat should fit Emmeliese in the hospital. Unless she has her brother's giant head, that is. :)

I've also got some gorgeous merino wool/ cashmere/ silk pink yarn to make something really special for Emmeliese. And I've got some fun fuzzy stuff to make Annalivia a hat and scarf and mittens to go with her new red wool church coat. So I'll be busy. And there will be more photos to come...

20 November 2008

It's an Emmeliese

Back when I was pregnant with Annalivia, Dennis and I talked a lot about names. We had another name chosen for Annalivia before I became pregnant with her, but it just wasn't right. Eventually, we found Annalivia and we both knew it was right when we heard it.

We also knew that our second daughter was going to be named Emmeliese. Emmeliese Elizabeth, to be exact. And from before the time that her elder sister was born, Emmeliese seemed very real to me. It was as though she was just out there waiting to come to us.

In fact, Emmeliese was so real to me that when I got pregnant for the second time, I was almost positive that it her. When the ultrasound tech said that we had a little boy, I was downright shocked. I thought for sure that he was Emmeliese. It took me a while to adjust to the idea of Daniel being Daniel. (This is yet another one of the reasons that we will always find out the gender of our babies, if possible. Knowing who is in there is a big, big deal to me.) Of course, now that he is here, I can't imagine our family without him. He has completed another piece of our family that couldn't be filled in any other way. And I am continually thankful that he is mine.

All of that being said, though, the sense that Emmeliese was out there has not gone away. Several times over the last few years I have dreamed about her. About two or three weeks before I became pregnant with this baby, I dreamed about Emmeliese again. I dreamed that I was calling out her name over and over again. And when I woke up I told Dennis I felt like I was calling her to me. And when, a few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant and Annalivia immediately insisted that she had a baby sister, I felt hopeful that Emmeliese had finally decided to come to us.

But I had been wrong before. After all, I thought Annalivia was a James and Daniel was Emmeliese. So on Monday, when we had an ultrasound, I was prepared to be excited if this baby ended up being a William or Peter or John or whatever.
But -- it's not! It's her! She's actually here with us and we are sooooo excited to finally get to meet our little Emmeliese Elizabeth, if even in utero! Her big sister is particularly thrilled. When the ultrasound tech told her the baby was a girl she started jumping up and down and clapping. And when I asked her what she thought Emmeliese would look like, Annalivia said, "She'll be wearing a beautiful, long dress..." And Daniel has his own song for her, "Baby Liese, Liese, Liese".

Obviously, Emmeliese is already treasured in our family. Today I had another ultrasound. It was really neat to see her little face and her legs and arms. I keep thinking of Psalm 139, " For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." She is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made and she is just beautiful already.


We are soooo grateful, thankful, and very excited about what is to come!
Hooray! It's an Emmeliese!

19 November 2008

Sarafina

We are not animal people. And when I say "we", I mean, Dennis and I. We are not animal people for many legitimate reasons including allergies, but the biggest reason is that neither of us are fans of the prospect of cleaning up the feces of those who don't share our DNA. Our children, however, have not thought out the whole cleaning-up-after thing and are, therefore, animal lovers. And what they really want is a cat.
Enter Sarafina. Kalin gave me this cat for my birthday when I was in seminary, since it was obvious that I was never going to get a real cat. Annalivia adopted her later and named her Sarafina, after a white cat in a movie she has. When she goes to sleep, Annalivia arranges Sarafina at the foot of her bed like a real cat. Unlike a real cat, when Annalivia kicks Sarafina off the bed at night, Sarafina just lays on the floor quietly. She hasn't taken any revenge that we've detected.
But the person who has become the real owner of Sarafina is Daniel. He plays with her constantly. And he takes her everywhere. Everytime we leave, we have to make sure Sarafina is with us. "C'mon, 'Fina!" he yells. Then he makes her meow in loud, bark-like sounds. Sarafina is a good travel companion. The only time she has caused any distraction is when she was lobbed into the front seat accompanied by Daniel's screams of protest. I am pretty sure Annalivia was behind that.
We have told our kids that one day we will live on a farm or someplace where kitties and maybe even a doggie can live outside. Then they can have lots of animals. And presumably, they'll be old enough to clean up after them. In the meantime, there's Sarafina. And she's a pretty good substitute.

16 November 2008

My second completed crochet project

A hat for my goddaughter who stopped by yesterday. It was another very fast project. I added earflaps and scallopped edges. I made it very ruffly in front and less so in back. I probably should have taken more time to get a better fit, or made larger earflaps. I hope it will work for this winter at least.






14 November 2008

My first completed project

Ok. I don't mean to be over-dramatic, but I think the universe has shifted. I have actually completed an artistic project. (Those of you who know me can now pick yourselves up off of the floor.) I owe it all to the miracle called crochet.
I think I might be addicted to crochet. Seriously. Dennis caught me creeping out of bed at 12:15 this morning and asked where I was going. "Just downstairs." He asked what I was going to do. "Ummm....just some stuff."
"Let me guess," he said. "Does this 'stuff' involve YARN?"
Last night after puzzling over the heel of the stockings for a few hours, I decided to start a project this morning that I thought I could finish quickly. I had bought this yarn to make a hat and scarf for Daniel and decided to start the hat. I found this wonderful woman's video tutorial on how to make a circle. I studied it and and also watched her video for a how to make a beanie, then I struck out on my own. I made the circle first so that the hat would have a larger, flatter crown to fit my son's giant head. (43 hours of labor. I'm just sayin'...) Then I made short rounds and towards the end, just went back and forth to make the earflaps. The flaps can be worn up or down, and the ties are just a simple chain.

















It is definitely not perfect, but it is DONE! And wearable and pretty cute, I think, especially when on his little (or not-so-little) head.

13 November 2008

Another thanksgiving

Today, my sister Lil and her daughters came over to spend some time after the eldest daughter got done with Kindergarten. Annalivia had invited her cousin over to watch Sleeping Beauty. There was not much watching going on, but they had a good time. And Lil and I got to sit and chat while I worked some more on my crocheted Christmas stocking. Lillia also got hooked (hee, hee, hooked, get it?) on crochet so I might have a co-conspirator when it comes to figuring out how to do it once she gets hooks and yarn. And everyone in our family might end up with several scarves for Christmas.
After she and the girls left, I felt thankful again for the blessing of family being near. The difference in our lives three months ago and now is so profound. I feel as though I'm a branch grafted back onto the family tree instead of a little shoot trying to put out roots elsewhere. I honestly believe that some people are of the variety that grow better in their own soil and some of us really need the lifeblood flowing to the other branches to feel most completely ourselves. I am in the latter category, I've realized. And I'm thankful, thankful, thankful that I'm here to experience all of this.
Also -- I've moved my thankful list offline. But I've still been doing it -- just in case anyone thought yet another lofty goal had been scuttled aside, as is generally my way. :)

12 November 2008

A new project


I'm learning to crochet. Long ago, my maternal grandmother, Ga, made my family Christmas stockings. They were wonderful -- all about the same shape, but all different designs, personalized with names, big enough to fit toothbrushes and socks and books and cd's as well as a larger gift, stretchy enough so that when an orange was put in the toe they hung down another foot... They really were everything a Christmas stocking should be.


The last few years, we've not used Christmas stockings. But the house we are renting has a beautiful fireplace and I want my little ones to have the same sort of experience opening their stocking on Christmas morning. Ga has been gone 11 years now, so I can't ask her how she made them. However, I know they were crocheted and thanks to the miracles of the internet and YouTube and this brilliant woman, I'm forging ahead on my own. I hope to get one done for Daniel and Annalivia by this Christmas. And hopefully, I'll have the other three finished by Christmas 2009!

11 November 2008

On Veterans' Day


For this Veterans' Day, I'd like to share one of my favorite recordings made in 1941 when the country was at war. Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee in one of her first studio session recorded an interpretation of the Rodgers and Hart ballad, Where or When. Rather than giving it the full-blown bravado of later more popular recordings, this oneis introspective and sensitive. It speaks to the mood of a nation wondering where or when or even, if, the next encounter with loved ones would occur.
I and most I know have never experienced such sacrifice. But every day, we are the beneficiaries. Most days we are blissfully unaware of the work that has been done so that we many enjoy the liberties we enjoy. But today, we have no excuse for ignorance.
Thank you, Veterans, for your service. It is not enough to say it, but thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
"May the wreaths they have won never wither and the star of their glory never grow dim."

10 November 2008

Fake flowers

This summer, before I left the pastorate, a daughter-in-law of a church member came to church to give us a demonstration on how to arrange fake flowers. It was interesting and we made several bouquets for the chancel of the church, but I sort of filed the info under "Things I now know and won't ever use."
Fast forward to the last couple of weeks when I went to a couple of the big craft stores in Peoria and noticed that all of the fall flowers were on 50%-75% off clearance. I found some big hydrangeas, which happen to be one of my flower weaknesses, and then it occurred to me that I know, sort of, how to use those! So I bought some others and came up with these bouquets with the help of two vases from WalMart.

This one is on the library table in our foyer. It is perfect for the space. I like the colors and the fake berries. And I especially like the hanging, spindly leaves and things. My favorite thing is the hydrangeas.


This one is in the entryway right by one of the front doors. Again, it is about the perfect size and you can't tell in these photos, but the leaves hang down and the fuzzy things are a lot more green and protude out. And the eucalyptus has more green in it, too.


I have always kind of been a fresh-flowers only type of snob, but I gotta say -- I like not watering things. And I like that these arrangements are going to last. And I like that I was actually able to arrange them, which I have never, ever been able to do with fresh flowers.


So... fake flowers for me. For now.


The things I get away with

Yesterday, after lunch, we ran over to Peoria to get Daniel a nice looking winter coat at Old Navy. I like it when they cut their coat prices in half, which they have recently, so we found a coat that will work for pretty much all-of-the-time and then got back in the car to head home.
It was around dinner time and Dennis and I were not hungry at all, but Annalivia said she wanted to eat. Then she volunteered that she wanted a "roast beef sandwich from Arby's." We had passed an Arby's on the way to the store and were going past it again, but I was thinking it would be better to just eat at home. So I said, "Annalivia, if you wait til we get home to eat, you could have OATMEAL for dinner..."
To which she responded enthusiastically, "Yay!!!"
And we came home and she and Daniel had oatmeal with brown sugar and milk for dinner. With seconds and thirds.
I'm not sure how I ended up with kids who count oatmeal as a big treat, but I'll take it. It's nice to be able to get away with something every once in a while.

09 November 2008

Return to Sunday Dinner


I realized today -- I have simple dreams with simple themes. Home and family are central to most. A comfortable place to live, special traditions, several consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep... these are the thoughts that set me afire.

Today, I got to realize a long-time dream of mine which was to host a family Sunday Dinner after church. Since college when I interned at a little church in northern Illinois where four generations worshiped together and ate together every. single. Sunday. after church, I have wanted to do so with my family.

We're not up to every Sunday...yet...beware, family... but today we got together after church. I thought it was wonderful. We had pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli with cheese, homemade bread from my sistah, Lil, and old-fashioned three-layer buttermilk chocolate cake for dessert. I got to set the table with a white tablecloth and put out the cloth napkins. We used silver. We even got out the china gravy bowl. And we ate together.

Today, it was only Lil's family and Mom as our guests. Gramps, Grammy, and Freespirit Uncle, in from Arkansas, had their portions to go. Dad was on a boy scout campout all weekend. But it was such a gift to join hands around the table, eat leisurely, have mom wash dishes :), and enjoy the conversation while the kids played, mostly peaceably.

Afterwards, when the families returned home, I sat down and reflected on it all and found myself incredibly moved by the simple act of being able to be together. So many families are not afforded or do not afford themselves such opportunities. So many families do not enjoy being in the presence of each other. So many families are burdened by togetherness. But, we... well, we are blessed. Incredibly, inumerably blessed.

Honestly, I could do this every week. To me, it's a simple dream come true.

05 November 2008

On being a conservative now

Last night, as the election results were rolling in and it was clear that Barack Obama would be our president-elect, Dennis said to me that he felt sort of sorry for me that in my first election as a baby-con, I experienced being on the losing side of the presidential election. Then he pointed out that I had been on the losing side of the previous two elections also. Sweet of him, eh?
Actually, I'm 0-4. I've never picked a winning president. And while this is rather pitiful, in many different ways, what it has afforded is the unique position of being part of the losing side and listening to the verbage of the losing side. And I have to say, I'm honored to be part of this losing side this time.
I believe that conservatives have responded, in most part, with grace and honor to this election defeat. I have read and heard many friends' opinions that conservatives are mean-spirited, selfish individuals. And most of us, they suspect, are inherent racists. I believed the same thing back when I was a liberal (which, for the record, was last year). I was wrong. And my many friends who believe the same thing, if they will admit it, are wrong, too.
I was realizing yesterday as I wrote my thankful list, that there are many, many, many people on both sides of the conservative/liberal divide who have a deep appreciation, gratitude, and commitment for and to our country that goes beyond which party is in power. This gratitude is not coupled with a blindness to our failings as a country, but is a very real evaluation of the assets, strengths, past, present and future of the country and a belief that those things overpower and overcome the liabilities, weaknesses and errors we have experienced and will experience.
I will confess, as a liberal, I was not one of these people. I said I loved my country, but I really believed that America was, if not THE problem in the world, at least A problem in the world, that we had brought more suffering on others than we had alleviated, that most of us, if left to our own devices make selfish and self-serving choices, etc...
When my candidates lost in the past, I did not hear other liberals speaking of hope for the future. I did not hear others talking about the strengths we exhibit as a country. I did not hear promises to continue to serve, continue to strengthen, continue to love our country. In short, I never had the sense that our patriotism went beyond our self-interests. If our candidate was not in power, something was very, very wrong with the world.
This time is different. I know that there are conservatives who will go on attack, but most of the conservatives I have read and spoken to are expressing their hope for the country, their resolution to pray for the country and for our president-elect, and their appreciation for the historic nature of Obama's election. Most everyone I know is glad, glad, glad that an African-American family will be in the White House. They rejoice in that. I have heard that religious conservatives are vindictive and judgemental. I found these links here and here at Holly's and I would urge you to read them. Though they express a sadness in some of Obama's choices especially in regards to abortion, I think they also express very aptly what many conservatives will follow up with action, especially through prayer -- a desire for our country to be strengthened, united, and strong.
McCain's concession speech, to me, communicated this commitment. I knew before the election that he would return to the senate and serve the country he loves the same way he has in the past. He confirmed that with the words that follow. I remain glad to have supported such a man.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Sen. Obama and my old friend Sen. Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years...

I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century. Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it...

Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Sen. Obama — whether they supported me or Sen. Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

04 November 2008

Recipe: Easy, delicious pasta sauce

Sometimes I hate to cook. I admit it. We eat out more often than we should as a family and we are constantly trying to figure out ways to make tasty, simple meals in the easiest possible way, while cooking from scratch. I know that processed food is not great for us. So, for the most part, I've tried to get rid of processed shortcuts and use the real deal.
One processed product that I just will not give up, though, is jarred pasta sauce. I have tried to make my own from scratch and frankly, the work is too much. We generally buy Ragu on sale and I can get if for a few cents more than a can of similarly sized tomatoes. Ragu is pretty healthy, as processed foods go. But I will admit I don't like it straight from the jar. Here is how to doctor it up and make it really, really delicious. My mother taught me this secret which is to use wine. You boil the sauce so that the alcohol cooks out of it, but it will leave a wonderful flavor. I think one might be able to use white grape juice also, but I haven't tried it. I use the wine and it never fails to be delicious.
Delicious Pasta Sauce
1 lb bulk sausage
2 jars of pasta sauce -- I use Ragu Roasted Garlic and Mushroom and Sauteed Onion
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of red wine -- I usually use Chianti or Valpolicella
Brown the sausage in a large pot. Get it really brown. Drain the fat, if necessary.
Pour in some wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the delicious brown stuff on the bottom. Pour the rest of the wine in and bring to a boil.
Pour in the jars of sauce and the cans of tomato.
Bring to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for a few minutes, or as long as you like.
I also like to cook 2 boxes of pasta to use with this and my favorite pasta to us is Rigatoni or Ziti. Combined, this makes two round casserole dishes of pasta. The first night, we eat one and save leftovers for lunch the next day. I pour the rest of the pasta in the other, top with mozzarella and freeze it for some day in the future. On that day, I'll pull it out of the freezer, put it in the oven, covered, at 350 and let it cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly. It's wonderful and still involves a minimum of pots to clean.
There you go -- easy, peasy, delicious pasta sauce to make two-for-one pasta. That's the kind of cooking I can bear.

Election night video

Enjoy this way-too-catchy song while waiting for the returns.

HT: The fabulous Miz Booshay

Thanks: Election edition

41. I am thankful for the United States of America.
42. I am thankful that we consider freedom to be an inalienable right.
43. I am thankful that we are free to vote our consciences.
44. I am thankful that we have men and women who are willing to serve as our elected representatives.
45. I am thankful that we live in a time when all of us have access to lots of info about our elected officials.
46. I am thankful that I can be a campaign volunteer from my living room.
47. I am thankful that tonight, our country will be done voting.
48. I am thankful that regardless of the outcome of the election, many people will go about serving this country tomorrow and the day after that because their patriotism goes beyond political party.
49. I am thankful for the dedication and sacrifice of those enlisted in our armed forces.
50. I am thankful for the endurance of their families.
51. I am especially thankful for my friend, Scott, who is in the Sudan right now.
52. I am thankful for Jessica, his wife, and their children who welcome him home.
53. I am thankful for the way he has chosen to dedicate his life to service of our country despite a near-PhD and the lure of a more secure life.
54. I am thankful for the many others who try to make life better for themselves and those around them.
55. I am thankful for teachers.
56. I am thankful for pastors.
57. I am thankful for those in the medical profession.
58. I am especially thankful for those tending Grammy this morning.
59. I am thankful for civic servants.
60. I am thankful for scientists.
61. I am thankful for engineers, especially my engineer.
62. I am thankful for those in service positions.
63. I am thankful for those who do work others do not want to do.
64. I am thankful for volunteers.
65. I am thankful for students and learners.
66. I am thankful for the opportunity to become what we want to become.
67. I am thankful for the men and women who could not and sought a better future for themselves and others.
68. I am thankful for the knowledge of our country's history.
69. I am thankful for generations of gratitude passed down among its citizens.
70. I am thankful for current scholarship that continues to teach.
71. I am thankful for those who encourage thoughtful and rigorous examination of where we have been and where we are going.
72. I am thankful for a family who engages the world thoughtfully and with rigor.
73. I am thankful for family members who have extended grace in the midst of my own confusion, confrontations and affrontations.
74. I am thankful for the freedom to pass on these values to my children.
75. I am thankful for the commitment of my community to creating a safe, healthy place for children to grow.
76. I am thankful for the innocence of youth and the wisdom brought by age.
77. I am thankful for nice weather for this election day.
78. I am thankful for early voting procedures.
79. I am thankful for absentee ballots.
80. I am thankful for this election.

03 November 2008

A month-ish of thanks

There are only 25 days until Thanksgiving! Every year, I find myself at Thanksgiving's door wishing I had spent more time being aware of all the blessings of life. I often read Ann V.'s gratitude lists at her blog and feel inspired to join in, but tend not to move forward in a concrete way. This is the year of changes, however, and I feel the need to reflect on what is and has been and is to come with gratitude. So, I'm going to fill my blog with my thankful lists during November, hopefully every day. If you find lists difficult to read, (I confess, I do, sometimes) I apologize. And if any of you decide to do the same at your spots, please let me know. I'd love to stop by. And I promise I'll read your lists. :)

  1. I am thankful for the time change that had everyone in the house up and ready to leave for preschool with plenty of time to have breakfast and enjoy our walk.
  2. I am thankful for the walk to the school that forces me to have a little exercise and allows Daniel to look at the big trucks zooming by on Main Street.
  3. I am thankful for the way Annalivia points out the trucks to her little brother and is excited by his reactions.
  4. I am thankful for the money to buy bright red mary janes for her little feet.
  5. I am thankful that Annalivia generally doesn't argue about what she should wear to school or church or out and about.
  6. I am thankful for Annalivia's teachers.
  7. I am thankful that she enjoys and looks forward to school.
  8. I am thankful for enthusiastic stories.
  9. I am thankful for full-body motions to accompany narrations.
  10. I am thankful for her vivid imagination.
  11. I am thankful for a good night's sleep -- early to bed and no children interrupting.
  12. I am thankful for little and big kicks from the baby, even when on a full bladder.
  13. I am thankful for this beautiful house to live in.
  14. I am thankful for cheap rent.
  15. I am thankful for a porch to enjoy.
  16. I am thankful for comfy porch furniture.
  17. I am thankful for Portia, our guard pig and the fact that our children love her, too.
  18. I am thankful for a sweet neighbor.
  19. I am thankful for a good, reliable van to drive.
  20. I am thankful for preschool papers and Thomas coloring books.
  21. I am thankful for the high school marching band that played us home almost every day of September and October.
  22. I am thankful that Annalivia and Daniel like to sing.
  23. I am thankful that they both like to sing by themselves and with each other.
  24. I am thankful that there is homemade bread leftover from yesterday's potluck.
  25. I am thankful that there is still plenty of Lillia's apple butter.
  26. I am thankful that Daniel likes to play with his trains by himself.
  27. I am thankful that he knows how to ask for help when he needs it.
  28. I am thankful that he has room/s to play.
  29. I am thankful for the train table that provides so much fun.
  30. I am thankful for books that entertain, too.
  31. I am thankful that my children climb up on my lap when they "need some love".
  32. I am thankful that they think it is hilarious when we play the same games again and again.
  33. I am thankful that I am here right now.
  34. I am thankful that I am not worried about whether I've not done something for my job.
  35. I am thankful for a husband that is ok with me being with our children.
  36. I am thankful for a husband who does laundry and dishes without complaint.
  37. I am thankful that we live in a time when our water is heated automatically.
  38. I am thankful for such miracles as a washing machine and dryer and laundry soap.
  39. I am thankful for such treats as good-smelling fabric softener and cleaning supplies.
  40. I am thankful for time to reflect on those things for which I am thankful.

31 October 2008

Waiting on...

People who have lots of children always say that each pregnancy is different from the others. They're right. In one way, this one has been a lot easier -- no bleeding, no life-threatening auto accidents, no high-doses of narcotics for months on end... and in other ways it is more difficult. We know a lot less about this baby than we did the others. We elected not to do any diagnostic testing in the early stages, because of scheduling issues, my 20-week ultrasound/ bio-physical profile will actually be when I'm 24 weeks pregnant, and I haven't needed extra ultrasounds. In essence, except for the heartbeat checks my doctor does every month, we haven't seen the baby or seen any measurements or had any assurances. Sometimes it is hard to believe that all is well.
The other thing that is really different is that I keep having all of these low-levels on my bloodwork. My hemoglobin was dangerously low. And my B12 level is such that I will have to have injections if it doesn't turn around in a month. And my folate levels are down, too. I am taking multi-vitamins and now additional folic acid and B12 and iron supplements and liquid chlorophyll and trying to eat decently, but something is just off.
I find myself sort of relieved to know that there are actual reasons for symptoms I have been suffering lately. I have been so tired and sooooo grumpy, irritable and easily overwhelmed. My brain feels like slush lately. And the existing nerve damage from the bone graft site at my hip has been almost unbearable lately. I can only stand a few minutes or walk about a block before that leg is just screaming with nerve pain. Turns out, all of these things can be explained by low levels of hemoglobin or B12 or folate. I'm glad for that.
But I'm left wondering -- how does one get these levels up? I have the prescription supplements, of course, but are there other options that can help? Anyone have any clue?
In the meantime, I think this pregnancy is becoming an exercise in faith in ways the other two haven't. As I said, before, we had independent confirmation every week or two that the baby was ok. Even when I was pregnant with Daniel and healing from the accident, I knew that he was as good as he could be in those circumstances.
This time, I just have to wait. This is difficult for me. I'm not a patient person, generally. But it is a necessary discipline and good for me, in the long run. I must rest. I must trust. I must wait.
Rest, trust, wait. It is a prescription in and of itself. I pray I'm wise enough to follow it.

29 October 2008

Porch parapicket

Last week, before the weather decided to skip ahead to the end of November and drive us all inside where we could turn up the heat, Annalivia asked if we could have a porch parapicket (picnic). I said yes.It was chilly and a little windy and we probably should have been wearing sweaters or coats, but we had hot macaroni and cheese.

And when it's a little chilly, hot macaroni and cheese is good.
Really good.

Annalivia decided we should share with our porch guard-pig, Portia.
Daniel took advantage of her distraction and tried her macaroni and cheese, too. Turns out that hot macaroni and cheese is good, but one's distracted sister's hot macaroni and cheese is even better.

Recipe: A really delicious Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie

I have found that I really like Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I am not a big plain ol' chocolate chip cookie fan; they seem too sweet to me. In fact, I think my favorite cookie these days is oatmeal raisin and walnut made a little less sweet than usual. But Dennis is not a raisin fan and chocolate chip cookies are his favorite. So here's the compromise -- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip.
This is a very, very good recipe, I think. It makes cookies that are crisp outside and chewy inside. They are also just a tad salty, which I love and not TOO sweet because I don't use too many chocolate chips, though each cookie always has plenty in them.
This recipe makes A LOT. I make it in my stand mixer which is powerful and that's good because the dough is substantial. The recipe can be halved, but I like to make it all at once, bake a dozen or two, and then freeze the rest in logs. Then when we are all jonesing for cookies, a log can be removed from the freezer, cut into 12 pieces, popped into the oven while still frozen and a bit later we have nice, hot cookies. And I've still only washed the bowl once.
I'm going to try this recipe with raisins and walnuts instead of chocolate chips sometime. I just know I'll have to make a whole lot less, or find someone else who is a fan of shriveled grapes to share my cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
4 sticks butter
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons vanilla
4 cups flour
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
2 t salt
5 cups rolled oats
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips
Cream together the sugars, butter, milk and vanilla until fluffy. Mix flour, soda, powder and salt together and add into creamed mixture until incorporated. Mix in oats and chocolate chips at the end.
Drop rounded tablespoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake 350 til lightly browned. Remove from oven, cool a little, remove from baking sheet, cool a bit more, and eat.
Makes about 6 dozen.

27 October 2008

I am one of THOSE moms (alternate title: I am not one of those OTHER moms)

We had a great weekend here with friends and Eureka College Homecoming and more friends, big church yesterday.... Last night I was exhausted. We went to Cracker Barrel for dinner and upon walking in, found that the Halloween costume princess dresses were marked down in a considerable discount. Annalivia had admired them in the past, but they were too expensive and looked a little cheap, I thought. However, a painful calculation in my head later, I realized that buying one of these dresses would provide me with x hours of free time and y hours of not getting frustrated with fabric and lack-of-pattern and z hours of not fretting over the looming deadline of Halloween and, that regardless of how much I want to be the mother who makes the amazing Halloween outfits from nothing, that x multiplied by y multiplied by z ended up being FAR less than the discounted cost of the dress.
Thankfully, Dennis agreed.
So, we brought home a pink princess dress and very happy little girl and the internal promise to myself that NEXT year, I will make a Halloween outfit for Annalivia. Unless, of course, the equation works in the store's favor again. Which -- c'mon -- who are we kidding? It might.

21 October 2008

Friends

This is an exciting week for me. Tonight, a good friend from college is coming over for dinner. She is a very dear person and a person that has always just been so EASY for me to be around. I had not seen her for about five years, but just a few months ago happened to see her walking by the sidewalk outside my Dad's office. We talked on the phone and she is living nearby so she is coming over for dinner tonight! I'm really looking forward to it.
This is also my alma mater's Homecoming week which usually means that long-lost friends are around at some point. This year is special, however, because one of my good friends is receiving the Outstanding Young Alum award and is coming into town from Atlanta on Thursday night. She's going to stay with us and other friends are coming over on Friday to hang out with her... and me!
The only thing casting a pall on these events is the fact that our house is just very NOT put-together. We still have boxes all over the place and things in the process of being unpacked and despite having a heroic husband who works really hard while I take one of many "little rests" (like right now, for example), we just can't seem to get on top of it. I've warned my friends and promised that at least the bathrooms will be clean. That's about as good as I can do right now, which is slightly disappointing.
But, on the other hand, friends are going to be here which is just such a gift! And, providing they can look past the mess, I think it's going to be a spectacular few days. I have friends again! And really, even a few dozen boxes and lots of dust can't take the shine off that realization for me.

20 October 2008

Fun thing

Go to Google and type "Find Chuck Norris" in the search box. Then hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button.

Fun, eh?

At our house

This afternoon...

Annalivia: We're playing Narnia! Daniel is Edmund and he's with the White Witch but Aslan is going to save him!"

A little while later, after hearing Daniel cry out...

Me: Annalivia, why is Daniel crying?

Annalivia: Well, the White Witch just bonked him on the head...

Guess which character she was playing?

16 October 2008

I take it back

We went to the Et Cetera Shoppe today. I found Daniel a 3-piece navy polyester suit for $2, a pinstriped suit vest for him for $1 and a sweet navy and hot pink plaid jumper for Annalivia for $1.50. That's a pretty good haul, in my mind. And we managed to get out of there without any second-hand toys! That's really quite a feat.
Before we left, we also stopped by the Christmas Store in the basement of Et Cetera. I found this antique embroidered tablecloth and 8 matching napkins for $6.95! A good soak in OxyClean and I think they'll be in great shape for the holidays! And there's lots of other good stuff down there that should be examined without two children who want to touch everything in tow. I guess I sort of, a little, understand yesterday's line.

15 October 2008

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In recent years some good friends of mine have suffered the loss of their children and I cannot imagine the pain associated with such grief. I know there are many more parents who suffer the loss of children than we are aware in our advanced medical times. Today, I offer a prayer on their behalf. If you would like to learn more about this day, please visit the official site of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day here.

What you don't usually see in Eureka, IL

Today, we got up, got dressed and drove to school, since it was sort of drizzling and we were really, really late. I dropped off Annalivia at preschool and Daniel and I went to Mika's, our local fabulous coffeehouse for a juice box (Daniel), a cup of strong coffee (me), and a large piece of cinnamon swirl coffeecake (both of us, but more Daniel than me, unbelieveably). When we emerged from Mika's at 9:15 a.m., there were about 7 ladies standing in front of the Et Cetera Shoppe.
For those who don't know, the Et Cetera Shoppe is a volunteer-run thrift shop, the proceeds of which are donated to the Mennonite Central Committee. It's a great shop, housed in the old Ben Franklin, and one can go there and find all sorts of treasures -- the sort one needs and doesn't need at all. In fact, one can go almost everyday and spend less than a dollar and come away with something. All of the stuff inside is donated and though some of it can be quite nice, most of it is... used. Like I said, it's a great shop, but not exactly the sort of place one would be waiting to get into.
BUT, this morning, there was this group of ladies standing in front of the Et Cetera Shoppe. I thought they were some church group, maybe, who didn't realize that the Et Cetera Shoppe didn't open until 10. (Apparently, Mennonite church groups who go on trips sometimes stop at the Et Cetera Shoppe -- it's a bit of an attraction, I guess -- or so says a manager). I went into the Hallmark Store across the street from Mika's, next door to the Et Cetera Shoppe and when we came out of there, there were another 15 women in front of Et Cetera. We came back home to get my wallet, returned to the Hallmark Store and by that time, there were about 40 women standing outside of the Et Cetera Shoppe. It was about 9:40 a.m.
This is not the sort of thing one sees in Eureka, IL. There is not really anything that happens in this town that encourages line-standing. Maybe when Reagan came to town back in the 80's, there were a few lines. But, this is not normal for us, especially on a drizzly autumn morning. And my curiousity was piqued.
So, I called my grandparents, knowing that my grandmother would know what was up. She didn't answer the phone and my grandfather didn't know. And rather than make the cardiac patient walk up the stairs to get Grammy, I decided to figure it out myself. So I asked in the Hallmark store when I went to pay for my cards. They didn't know either. About that time, it started to rain and the Et Cetera Shoppe opened letting in the 50-some women outside, so I couldn't ask them. Finally, after pulling in our driveway and getting the garbage cans in, I saw a friend pushing children in a stroller in the rain. "We're on our way to Et Cetera!" she called. I asked her what was going on.
Turns out the Christmas Store opened this morning! That's when they open up the basement which is full of all the Christmas items they've had donated through the year. Every time I've been there, the goods have been... unimpressive. But that must have changed, because apparently, either the stuff is really good down there, or it's just in really short supply because 50-some women HAD TO HAVE IT this morning, in the rain.
I called my Gramps to tell him what prompted the unusal line formation in downtown Eureka, IL.
"Oh," he replied, upon hearing the reason. "That's a good spot they've got down there. I always get my Christmas coffee mug down there."
Well, I told him, he better hurry. There might not be any coffee mugs left given that line this morning.