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


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


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

Daddy's home!

A terrible picture, but one of the more exciting moments of our day.

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


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!