28 May 2008

Memorial Day, apart. And together again.

Because Daniel had been sick, we had an odd Memorial Day celebration here. Dennis opted to stay home with Daniel and sent Annalivia and me to Eureka on our own. I got to hang out with the sisters on Sunday night while Annalivia played with Grandpa Bob and her cousin, Rhys, got in a visit to her great-grandparents' basement, and got to hang out with my sister Lil's children. She had a great time, but I think I had a better time with my sisters. I laughed so hard I cried, and this happened at least 15 times. It was magnificent.
On Sunday night, Annalivia and I stayed with Lil and Jake's family and then on Memorial Day, Lil hosted a breakfast/ brunch on her porch before the parade. The food was wonderful and the rain did not arrive. At 10:30, we lined up on the curb on Main Street, candy bags in hand.

The kids all stood and covered their hearts as the American Legion carried the flags by. The parade was very nice and we got lots of candy, mainly due to the fact that we seem to be the only folks who clap and cheer for the parade participants. This is a lesson that was imparted to us early by Grammy and we have learned it well. I'm always wondering why it is that people DON'T clap and cheer at parades. The good folks in Eureka, IL need not worry -- as long as there are McClures around, you will be applauded.


After the parade, we went back to the porch and Annalivia got to do more running around with cousins.

You can tell how thrilled my niece was to see her aunt. My brother in law looks excited, too.


Kalin was especially thrilled to spend time with me.


The brothers in law and my nephew did some conversing with my grandfather and grandmother, great aunt and cousin, and my mom and dad (none of whom got in the pictures, sadly).


Marissa was especially animated, and obviously adoring of her husband. She's like this all the time now that she's married to a good guy. Jake had to keep telling her to tone it down when he was taking our photos. She's just exuberant nowadays. But we love her all the same.

After the party, Annalivia and I headed north. She fell asleep about a mile north of Eureka and stayed asleep until five miles south of Rock Falls.

When we got home, we found a little guy who was doing much better. Thank God.

So headed out to the country for a windy visit to Daddy's farm.


And we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Our first early morning

Today, we got up early for the first time this summer. We've been sleeping in so late, for some reason lately. But last night, Daniel stayed in his crib. He didn't wake up until 5:45 when Dennis brought him to bed. Then he fell back asleep and it was so light out that Annalivia was clearly not going to go back to bed after her 5:45 wake-up, so she and I got up.
I had sort of forgotten how nice it is to be up before children are awake. I got a nice shower and got dressed and dried my hair, all of which I usually have to do while Daniel cries for me to pick him up. Annalivia and I made breakfast -- PW's Apricot Bars, only with whole wheat pastry flour, less sugar, and this great jam that we get that has no sugar OR sugar substitute added. And now we are getting ready to wake up Daniel and go get milk from the dairy. (I don't think I've said here that we have found a place to get fresh organic milk about 5 miles from us -- for $2.50/ gallon!!!)

So -- that is the day so far. I have two important errands to run that I have literally been forgetting to do for months -- take Dennis' suit to the cleaners, and return shoes to Zappos. Other than that, it is a day for finishing the church newsletter and being kinder to my children that I have been lately. :)
I'll post pics of Memorial Day later.

24 May 2008

Doing better

We are doing better around Casa McStew. Daniel has some antibiotic and is now eating much better... and DRINKING!! I'm so happy with that. I am now praying for a cessation of this rotten intestinal stuff. He is literally going through 15 diapers a day. And often, he is going through 6-10 pairs of pants too.
But, the color is returning to his cheeks and his eyes look less hollow and that is very good.
It is a beautiful day here in northern IL. We are getting ready to put in a very rudimentary vegetable garden. Basically, it's a pasta sauce garden -- roma tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic and some lovely herbs. I'm excited. We have not been gardeners because Dennis' brother has supplied our needs amply with his garden. But we're taking the plunge and our little mini-plot will be lovely, should it flourish.
And this afternoon, I'm finally getting around to making homemade egg noodles for Tuna Noodle casserole tonight. I'm excited to bust out the Kitchen Aid mixer mom got me a while back and some new attachments.
I may have to take some photos.

21 May 2008

Little D update

Our little guy is still sick. He's not drinking anything on his own. Dennis and I have been feeding him dropperfuls of Pedialyte and got about 16 ounces in him this afternoon. He fights it, but at least it is staying down. Today we were headed to the emergency room for dehydration when we got a call from the doctor's office. Turns out Daniel has a parasite. Right now, we have no medication for it and the treatment was going to be an IV fluid push, which we have been doing without the needle here at home. We have been bouncing between medical care providers as we've been figuring this illness out -- our doctor was full, then we actually saw our doctor, then our doctor was off, then our urgent care physician weighed in. It's been frustrating.
Tomorrow, our doctor should be in and able to help, I pray. In the meantime, I visited the health food store and got a natural remedy that I am also praying will help. If the little guy would just drink, I would be much less worried. But he won't. Or doesn't. And I'm getting a little freaked out.

20 May 2008

My little sick guy

Daniel is sick again. We have no idea what is wrong, but he has been having intestinal issues and has been vomiting on and off since Mother's Day. It has gotten worse instead of better and he just laid upon me today whenever he could.
I hate it when my little ones are sick. There is just nothing to do for them; I always feel so powerless. Powerless, and also, unproductive. I can do nothing with them laying upon me, which is ok, usually. Except when it isn't, of course.
I am reminded again of how thankful I am that he is well most of the time. Even in his fusiness, he is generally well.
I should be always grateful.

19 May 2008

Prince Caspian and a disappointed me (warning TONS o' spoilers)

I have returned home from seeing Prince Caspian.


And I have to say -- I'm disappointed.


Before I get to my review, I will make my disclaimers in the beginning here. I have spent the last week listening to the AMAZING radio theater productions of the Chronicles of Narnia that Focus on the Family (yes, really, liberal friends) has released. These audio productions are just astonishing -- the books are largely unchanged and are beautifully and movingly dramatized. I am teary through most of it, riveted to my radio and seriously have to stop myself from cheering out loud and running around, panting, it is so good.


(Yes, I'm a dork.)


ANYWAY, that is my recent background and that is my big mistake, I think. For the record, I made the same mistake with Harry Potter 3, reacquainting myself with the book right before the movie. I have learned my lesson now because I sat through the whole movie thinking, "Oh. I wish they hadn't done THAT..." Next time a movie comes out, I won't go anywhere NEAR the book, or an audio version of it, until far after I've seen the movie. I think.



Ok. On to the review.

First the good -- the visuals, of course, are stunning. I loved the beauty of Cair Paravel, the darkness of the Telamarine castle and the disproportionate numbers of Telamarines bearing down upon the Narnians. I thought Aslan (when he FINALLY appeared) was wonderful. The music was great. The actors were very good, I thought, and I really enjoyed the Pevensies in both this film and the last. I did like the roles that Lucy and Susan took in the battle, especially the brave and daring side of Susan. And I liked Edmund through and through.

Now -- onto that which I did not like, and I must add another disclaimer here. For me, The Chronicles of Narnia are full, nay -- bursting with Christian symbolism. I know there are others out there who prefer to read them without that lens. For me, it is impossible. So -- fair warning -- these are all subjective interpretations. I am not going to go through the rest of the review writing, "in my opinion" and "for me." Please understand that my interpretation is implied. You are free to disagree.

I thought the first movie did an excellent job of portraying Lewis' depiction of a world, full of both life-giving and life-taking magical power, as found in the book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. At the beginning of the book, it is clear that the life-giving power is latent, but it is not forgotten. Aslan is working in the memories of those beasts who are supposed to have denied him on order of the Witch. The arrival of the Pevensies re-awakens that deep knowledge of the life-giving magic, renews the commitment of the faithful, and the struggle to establish Life as the dominant power in Narnia is set forth.

The book Prince Caspian has an almost identical premise, only this time it is a bit more hopeless. This time, the Magic has been conquered. It has been denied. It has been supressed to the extent that it is now forgotten. Even the trees, which, though they had chosen poorly in Wardrobe by allying themselves with the White Witch, do not remember that ancient magic that is the underlying force of their being. Many of the dwarves and beasts do not remember the magical Life Force and those that do find themselves in a constant battle to affirm the reality of Aslan's magic to those who do not believe.

It is into this world that the Pevensies arrive, a year after leaving Narnia the first time. And when they return to Narnia in the book version of Prince Caspian, they find themselves leaving their old, English selves behind. They return to Narnia and their true selves awaken. Here they are the High King and his Royal Siblings. Here, they are servants of the Son of the Emperor Beyond the Seas. Here, their purpose is noble, valorous, and very much a "high calling." And though they fumble a bit, they are determined from the start to rise to their calling. And so they do.

And this is one of my main gripes with the movie. The characters of the Pevensies are drastically altered. Peter is fighting at the beginning of the movie. Susan is brooding. They have adapted to their English world NOT by taking with them their identities as Kings and Queens of Narnia, but by wallowing in their frustration about NOT being in Narnia. Since I believe Lewis wrote these partly as instruction for young'uns about how to behave as Christians, you can imagine that I don't agree with that interpretation. I understand WHY it was intperpreted that way -- more about that in a moment -- but I don't agree with it.

Upon their return to Narnia, the Pevensies do not awaken to their noble task and high calling. Instead, Peter blunders about, trying to prove himself and denying Aslan i.e. "I think we've waited for Aslan long enough" before he makes a disastrous decision about a battle. He is not High King Peter until the final fight and battle scene. Similarly, Susan is sullen and stubborn, allying herself against her brother the High King by siding with Caspian (the argument between Caspian and Peter being another ridiculous thing in my mind). At the end of the movie, we're not surprised that Susan and Peter are not coming back. They've made huge mistakes; it makes sense that they're not allowed back (which is something that would expressly NOT be implied by Lewis!)

When it comes down to it, I just MISSED the High King! In the book, Peter is valiant and courageous, wise beyond his years, humble, commanding, and faithful to Aslan. Peter was my favorite character in the book. And I think the actor who played Peter could have shown an astounding depth as that character in the film, were he allowed to do so. Alas.

The other thing that I kept longing to see in the movie adaptation was a recognition that The Magic is there, under the surface, perhaps deep under the surface, but there, nonetheless. There is very little wonder and delight in this movie, which contrasts deeply with the book. I desperately wanted to see the trees awake. I wanted to see Lucy sensing that the Magic was about to break forth. The lack of The Magic is most seen in the marked absence of Aslan from the script. I was especially, especially sad to see that they did not make a bigger deal of the four of them coming to see Aslan. In fact, it seemed as though Aslan was an afterthought at best and his appearance is only at the end when all else is lost, all human interventions and contraventions have failed and then he swoops in to do some punishing of the bad guys. Which is probably, sadly, far too close to what many of us really believe about God when it comes right down to it.

And this is where I am, perhaps, most disappointed in the movie. It seems to me as though the movie very carefully removes God from it. The focus is instead on human blunders -- pride, arrogance, and revenge. The lack of direction from Aslan then leaves no room for supernatural Redemption. The humans redeem themselves -- Peter fights Miraz, Caspian lets Miraz go, Caspian establishes a good kingdom, Peter and Caspian reconcile. None of this is credited to Aslan.

This would probably not bother me that much, except that Disney has created a brilliant marketing plan, hand in hand with Focus on the Family, Christian bookstores everywhere, and many churches. If anyone is even remotely awake in the world, they will know that Aslan is written to be the God character in the books. It follows that Aslan is the God character in the movie. What then does this movie say about who God is? What does is say about how God works? What does it say about how we who have been chosen, redeemed, and sent forth by God are to act?

Now. All of that being said -- I understand some, I think, of why this movie was adapted the way it was. It is much more relatable in our current 21st century world to have angst-ridden teenagers be main characters. It makes for a good story to have a very evil king, a conflict among even the good-guys for who gets to make the decisions, and a love story (which just really, really bugged me) between the like-aged girl and boy. Perhaps valor, honor, courage, calling are old-fashioned concepts.

I understand why things were changed, but I emphatically don't agree.

And I think, I would even go so far as to say that these decisions undermine the very essence of The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis intended us to read and know that the Magic of the Creator of Life is so great that when one senses it, knows it, is claimed by it, serves it and returns to it, one becomes more than they can EVER, possibly imagine being on their own without it.

And the only way one can find that in this movie is to put it there oneself.

Just a little opinion.... :) You?

18 May 2008

Menu Plan Monday: Back at it again

In my constant struggle with making a plan and sticking to it, I am returning to Menu Plan Monday (follow the link for more!). Last week, Dennis and I figured out an easy basic plan. Each week, we'll basically plan the following:
  • Pork night
  • Beef night
  • Vegetarian night
  • Pizza night
  • Ethnic night
  • Breakfast night
  • Extra night (i.e. chicken, fish, leftovers, eating out, etc.)

These reflect our family loves i.e. pancakes and pizza, and the 1/2 organic beef and 1/2 organic pork we have in our freezer and Dennis' desire to have a meal he can make weekly! :) So this is our basic plan. We'll see how it goes.

More specifically -- this week, here are our plans. Not sure of which day will be which meal, and that is probably a good thing. The thing about schedules and plans is I feel all contrary about following them to a T, so a little flexibility is a good thing. :)

Breakfasts will be:
  • breakfast ice cream (yogurt parfaits)
  • toast and jam
  • Cheerios


Lunches and dinners will be:

  • Buttermilk Chicken Fingers (markdown on a big pack of chicken tenderloins at Kroger this week.)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Pork Chops, Rosemary Potatoes and Green Beans almondine
  • Spinach Artichoke Pizza, and salad
  • Scrambled Eggs, Beef bacon, and Pancakes
  • Homemade Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce, Garlicky Yellow Squash, Breadsticks, and Salad
  • Beef Roast, Mashed Red Potatoes and gravy, and Sauteed Carrots
  • Tuna Noodle and Mushroom Casserole and Peas

Desserts will be:
Homemade gelato!
Rhubarb crisp
Baked apples

We'll see how it all goes!

The glitterati of our family

photo and caption stolen from Roo

Posh and Becks stopped by.

(not really).

17 May 2008

Back home

I have returned home from a brief trip to Eureka and my alma mater where we were celebrating Alumni Weekend. "Weekend" is a misnomer. It's actually an afternoon and evening. But I suppose Alumni Weekend sounds better than Alumni 8-hour Event.
I am on the alumni board of my college, so I was sort of required to be there, but I wanted to be there also. Friends of mine, T and his wife, were receiving the Outstanding Young Alumni award. I was happy to see that because I nominated them! T and his wife began a charitable foundation in the name and memory of their daughters who died at birth. Their foundation has been around about three years and has donated about $30,000 to our state Children's Hospital and also to the obstetric unit in their own city. Through tears, T told us the story of the foundation and related it back to the ethos of the college which seems to be, in short, "go from here and do something to make this world a better place." It was a great, moving celebration of how they have lived since college and I was really, really proud of him and really very proud to be his friend.
The day itself was beautiful, too. I stayed at Grammy and Gramps' last night and slept in this morning. As my grandmother said, "A mother needs a night of good sleep away from her children every once in a while." She was right. I truly enjoyed the day. The weather was warm, but breezy and the college was in its most beautiful state -- lilacs and flowers blooming, trees and grass green and lush, red brick buildings stately and welcoming as always. I walked around and visited new features -- a graduation brick pathway -- a labyrinth -- I've not visited. I walked the campus and remembered racing around the tall oaks that used to fill the area when Roo and I were little and spent some time driving around town, seeing many people out and about enjoying the day.
And I felt myself really longing for it all. My hometown is part of me in a way I just can't fill elsewhere. Perhaps it is because generations of my family have lived there. Perhaps it's because I can't let go. Whatever it is -- I feel at home there in a way no place else has fulfilled.
So though I returned home to my family tonight, I feel like I also came back to my regular sojourn. And into it, out of this lovely and renewing weekend, I bring the powerful feeling of being back home.

16 May 2008

My fussy boy


Daniel is fussy. Again. I wish that this was an uncommon thing for him, but as I look back over the past 15 months of his life, I realize -- this guy is just not a very happy little guy.
Each time that he gets into one of these prolonged fusses (which always, conveniently, seems to coincide with visiting family we never get to see), I find some reason to excuse his punkiness. He has been sick, teething and tired for most of his life, according to me.
This time I'm fairly sure it's teething again. The child has all of his teeth except his two-year molars, and at one time, near his first birthday, had 8 (EIGHT!!) teeth all breaking through at the same time. He has teethed HARD since they started coming in at four months. Poor little guy.
And though I think this may be the source of the problem this time, I'm also concerned that there is something else going on. He is just not resilient, or adaptable and I'm worried.
So I've made an appointment with a doctor for a consultation in a few weeks. In the meantime, anyone have wisdom to share?

14 May 2008

Narnia

I am so excited to see Prince Caspian when it arrives. I am a big fan of the Narnia books, and I really liked the last movie, and -- I'll admit it -- I was a huge fan of the BBC series on Wonderworks on PBS. I'm ready for Caspian.
And in the meantime, I'm enjoying listening to this set. I just love it. The Magician's Nephew brought me to tears. I highly recommend it for any other Narnia-philes out there.
Mental query to friends/ family -- is it in Eureka that someone has a NARNIA license plate? Or is that here?

Mothers' Day-ish gifts, belatedly

My grandmother gave me this lovely china that was owned by my late great-aunt. It wasn't really a Mothers' Day gift, but I got it on Mothers' Day, so I'm counting it. It is just gorgeous. There are a quite a few chipped pieces, but I will enjoy using it even more, I think, because of it -- less pressure! But if anyone has Noritake Chevonia for sale, let me know!

I got this lovely little easel from Dennis and the kids. I had requested it, as there is one like it at our bookstore that the kids just love to use. This one is for use on the back porch during the nice-weather months. It has the chalkboard on one side and a dry-erase board on the other. And it has a spot for a paper roll in the middle that feeds through the dry-erase board side. The kids most like using the eraser, I think. :)

And, of course, these are my best and most favorite gifts, enjoying a Saturday wagon ride with Daddy. Such happiness.


12 May 2008

Where do you have photos printed?

I have had a terrible time getting photos printed at my local outlets. The colors are horrid and the pics are always grainy, dark and icky. Even SOOC shots are terrible and I KNOW 10 megapixels should be plenty to produce decent 4x6 prints.
SOOOO... if you take photographs and edit them in Photoshop or some other program, where do you get nice prints made? Online or brick-and-mortar, any recommendations?

11 May 2008

Please go read this

Have you read Ann V's beautiful Mother's Day reflection? If you have borne a child, or are with child, or have lost a child, or long for a child, please, please, please read her words.

Wow.

06 May 2008

Windswept girl


I love this picture. She looks so much like her daddy. I used one of Pioneer Woman's photo techniques on it. In its full size, it is wonderful, I think. My sweet, glowing, windswept little girl.

Daniel discovers ants

Poor ants. They don't stand a chance.

04 May 2008

Scenes from our wonderful day

We had just a wonderful day today. We went to church and then headed out to the country to the house Dennis inhabited pre-April to do a little dreaming and scheming. While there, Daniel dozed in the van and Annalivia got out and about in her Sunday outfit.

This morning when getting dressed, I asked her to get on her black shoes (very respectable Mary Janes) and instead, she came out with her red cowboy boots. "Can I wear these?" she asked. "They match my dress." They did, in fact, match her dress. She also wanted to wear a hat. So she did. The boots were great for clip-clopping around on the wood floor in the sanctuary during the Morning Prayer at church. *sigh*

And equally great for exploring Daddy's old house.
They were even going to take her straight across the field to Grandma's house when she noticed her cousins were there.


Instead, she and I walked down to Grandma's on the road, and Daddy and Daniel followed in the car. We decided to come home, get changed and the go back to the country, which we did.
Annalivia got to spend lots of time with Dennis' brother's two eldest children. They played for hours.


Our nephew demonstrated the finer points of tree-climbing in the orchard.


And our niece was happy to wear the dandelion crown I made that Annalivia would not wear.


And Daniel was content to swing with Grandma for quite a while.


We had a lovely time, going between the two farms, eating lunch outside, dreaming, scheming, working and lounging about. Late in our time there, Dennis and his mom talked about the possibility of us purchasing land from her at some point and she responded very favorably to that. We are very excited. It gives a direction to the next few years here that we just haven't had. And that is just wonderful.

In fact, the whole day was wonderful -- full of wonder -- and sunshine and wind and family. Lovely.


03 May 2008

01 May 2008

Thank you!

Thanks, friends and family, for all the birthday emails, phone messages, and facebook messages. I worked all day until 8:30 this evening, but it's been a good day. I have had a very blessed 33rd year. Y'all are part of the blessing.
My arm injury has made me gimpy enough that it is sort of hard to type and I need to save up for church typing, so I think I'll just post photos and few words for a while. Which will probably be a nice break for all of us! :)
Thanks again. I feel loved.