30 January 2009

7 Quick Takes

1. 33 weeks! Probably only 3 1/2-5 to go!

2. I MUST pack bags this weekend. We drive back and forth to doctor's appointments so much; it would be bad if we were stuck somewhere without the necessities for birthing, hanging out at Grandma's etc. Note to self: MUST pack bags.

3. Today is my niece's second birthday! Happy birthday, little Lirah!

4. My husband's diploma for his MBA arrived yesterday in the mail. I don't think I mentioned on this blog that he was finally done with classes and that I am so incredibly proud of him, but I should have. Twenty years after his graduation from high school, he finished his bachelor's and master's which he paid for with the help of employers and himself (no loans) all the while working full-time and, for the last five years, supporting a family. He's so amazing. And I'm so glad a piece of paper that reminds him of that has arrived.

5. I bought some fabric to make a blanket and other stuff for Daniel when we moved into this house back in August. It's been sitting around and I realized this week that I have just been deluding myself into thinking I was going to do anything with it. So, I called up my mother-in-law who is the real seamstress in the family and gave her the stuff for Daniel. She'll probably have blankets made by next week.

6. Do you know about International Justice Mission? I was reminded as I looked at our tax documents that keep arriving that I need to tell more people about them. They do amazing work. Check them out.

7. My daughter was crawling around my feet while I was typing this talking about how my skin on my legs looked so dry. She disappeared for a moment and came back with lotion which she has now spent the last five minutes rubbing into my leg. She even had Daniel come over and rub lotion on me. Then she said, very lovingly, "Your leg is like a little doggie."
It might be time to get the razor out.

For more Quick Takes, go to Conversion Diary.

29 January 2009

My weird pregnancy craving

My weird pregnancy craving has hit again. I'm craving fish. And not really just any fish -- more specifically, fried fish. And even more specifically, I'm craving fried cod and walleye, preferably in a sandwich, and really only from Culver's restaurant.
This is a craving I have had during all three pregnancies, and only in the last month. It is weird because I don't usually like fish at all. Frying obviously helps fish, in my opinion, but I will admit that last week, I had it blackened at Red Lobster and the meal sort of scratched the itch. But the itch is really scratched with a good walleye sandwich at Culver's and they only bring those out at Lent around here. (Thank God all three pregnancies have been during Lent and it is quickly approaching again.) Another great thing about the sandwiches at Culver's, in addition to the fact that they taste really good to me, is that they are relatively inexpensive. And they're fast. And fairly readily available in the areas I travel.
I wonder why it is that I crave fish? Maybe I just need the DHA in the fish oil or the fatty acids or something. I have some cod liver oil in my refrigerator and I'm thinking I should take it because I literally could eat fish at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Anyone else have a weird or consistent craving during pregnancy?

27 January 2009

Sibling rivalry

When Daniel was born, I was worried about Annalivia being jealous. I had read a lot about older siblings and I was concerned. At some point, I remember my mother cautioning me that it was quite possible Annalivia wouldn't be jealous at all and that I should be careful not to project jealousy upon her that may not be there.
It turned out that she was right. Annalivia adored Daniel from the beginning. She was a little flummoxed by his crying, but she got used to that pretty fast. And in the intervening time, she has become his biggest fan, fiercest protector, and most worthy opponent.
As they've both grown in the last two years, it has been neat to watch them together. They do fuss at each other sometimes. And sometimes they both take delight in causing as much discomfort to the other one as possible. Annalivia sometimes is very bossy. Daniel is sometimes very manipulative. And they compete over absolutely nothing i.e. "I'm the leader today!" "No! I the leader today!" when it is clear that I am, actually, the leader! :) But for the most part, they play so well together and really, genuinely, have a great time together as partners and equals.
This morning after breakfast, I was cleaning up dishes and they were holding hands running in a circle with each other. Daniel was imitating everything Annalivia was doing, which made her laugh hysterically. I headed upstairs and they followed, holding hands. For a moment, Annalivia dropped Daniel's hand to get something to take upstairs and Daniel said, "Livia! Come on!" His voice was anxious; he thought she was leaving him for some other play. She said, "I'm coming!" and ran up to him. Then He threw his arms around her waist and said, "Love you, Livia" and she kissed his head. It was wonderful.
I am so glad that my children are friends with each other. I pray that will continue. I know that the path will not be easy or smooth, but I love, love, love that they see each other, at least once a day, as a real gift. I hope they always are able to see each other that way, despite whatever else has occurred in their lives. Because their doing so is a real gift to me, too.

26 January 2009

What one forgets

A couple of weeks ago, I felt Emmeliese moving much differently in the womb. Instead of feeling big flops and kicks, for the most part, I feel lots of stretching and pressing. I don't know why, but I never remember this point until I panic for a bit that the baby movement is decreasing. I wake up four or five times a night, having not felt her move and then remain wide awake until I feel a little foot in my diaphragm or an arm pressing a little more insistently into a bladder. When I think about it, I remember that the other children did this, too, when they got to this growth point. There just isn't enough room for a baby to do big dives any more. But it's always a little disconcerting in the interim.
I also forget how uncomfortable it gets to do simple things like sitting because there's always something pressing against internal organs. And I forget how small the bladder becomes and how a full cup of warm tea can agitate a little one into a bladder-punishing, tummy stretching free-for-all.
And I forget how amazing these last few weeks are -- how discomfort exists hand-in-hand with this incredible awareness of this little person growing inside. Or how energy can be rock-bottom, but a targeted surge can arrive on cue to sort baby clothes or organize a closet. Or how the Non Stress tests can seem so inconvenient but often reveals itself to be a little weekly or semi-weekly gift -- an opportunity to absorb the music of her hearbeat, relax, breathe and think about what comes next.
I'm glad that I'm remembering these things now. And I also am wondering what else I've forgotten!

25 January 2009

Flock o' seagulls robins

Yesterday we were out and about and drove by a golf course that has lots of small trees with red berries. I don't know what kind of trees these are, but underneath the trees were, and I swear to you I am not exaggerating -- hundreds of robins! There were robins everywhere! In the branches, on the ground, in the air... And tree after tree had just tons of robins under it. And, though it snowed a couple of inches last night, they were there again today. And yes, Kali, I'm sure they were robins and not small cats. Dennis confirmed it.
Around here in this part of the midwest, it's usually sort of a harbinger of spring to see a robin flitting about. I'm not sure what it means when one sees hundreds!
Anyone else ever seen a flock of robins?

23 January 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I'm joining in at the Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes today. This is because I have no less than seven drafts of posts that I've started in the past few days and haven't published. Apparently my brain cannot complete thoughts right now. It may be a 32nd/33rd week of pregnancy thing.
2. Yesterday we went on our weekly trip to see my OB in Dixon, which is about 2 hours from here. Every time someone finds out that I have an OB in Dixon, they are astonished, act like I'm crazy, and have no comprehension of it UNLESS they happen to have had one or two or three complicated pregnancies and then they completely understand. I may just start asking people if they've ever had a complicated pregnancy or two or three before I start explaining the decision. It could cut down a lot of time.
3. Daniel got his hair cut while we were there. I am always amazed at how a haircut makes him look so much older. He definitely looks like a 2-year old, which he will be in about two weeks. I was debating whether we should get him a buzz cut, so as to minimize the expenses of haircuts, and a friend told me that he wouldn't have his blonde hair forever. Not having blonde hair myself, I hadn't realized that many blonde children become darker later. Apparently this has happened to most of the blondes on both sides of the family. I got sort of weepy missing my little boy's blonde hair already. Needless to say -- no buzz cut.
4. The other day, we went through McDonald's and Annalivia got a Happy Meal with one of those little dogs in it. She wanted one of the white dogs, as depicted on the sign, but when she opened the Happy Meal, given to us by a nice young man, she found a brown, sort-of ugly dog in it. She said, "I think, sometimes, boys just don't know what girls want." So true, child, so true...
5. My sister Lil's birthday was yesterday. I gave her a set of bamboo crochet hooks. I also made her a crochet hook holder, but in making it, I realized some design flaws that I'll correct when I make one for myself. I feel sort of bad about that, but not bad enough to get it back and correct it myself.
6. I was sitting in a non-stress test the other day thinking about how jarring it was when Annalivia was born and the nurses asked me about something or other in regards to her and I realized that I had authority over her care. With Daniel, I somehow forgot this and did not insist on the no-bottles/pacifiers/artificial nipples rule and ended up with a little guy who never latched on. I was realizing that I have absolutely no qualms now about requiring the care I want my kiddos to have. It's nice to get to that point of motherhood.
7. I think my insomnia is better. Last night I went to bed by 10 and I could have slept til 10 today, I think. I may even take a nap this afternoon, too.
For more quick takes, go here.

19 January 2009

As per your input

Thank you for your wise comments on my handmade gifts query. I've decided to send this little dress and bloomers as part of a package for a friend whose little girl is due towards summer.The yarn is Queensland Bebe CotSoy made of 50% organic cotton and 50% soy. It is soooooo soft! I think it may become the summer yarn of choice for me.
When Annalivia was born, this friend sent me two blue outfits. I'm hoping she still appreciates blue!

17 January 2009

Handmade gifts or not?

So, I want your opinions. I have been making some crochet projects intending to give them as gifts to several friends who are expecting new babies. But today, as I was finishing one of them (of course, it was as I was finishing not before I started the project), I was second-guessing myself. Maybe it's not a good idea to foist my crochet obsession on unsuspecting friends?
I was remembering that I got several homemade baby blankets from folks when I had Annalivia and was not very appreciative of them. They all happened to be made of very funky colors. And a couple of the ones I got that were crocheted or knitted were of very scratchy yarn that felt truly horrible. Ultimately, I didn't keep any except some really beautiful soft blankies made for us by our former neighbor.
BUT -- I think I also didn't appreciate them because I'd never done that sort of work. A few years ago, I made a quilt for a friend who had a baby and tried to make it in colors she'd appreciate, etc., but when I gave it to her, it was clear she was unimpressed. My mind immediately flashed back to when I received the other gifts and I prayed I was a better liar than she is and faked my appreciation better.
Anyway, these people for whom I'm considering making things or have made things are people I really care about and I don't want to have to have them fake appreciation for yet another handmade excuse for a gift. So -- if it were you -- would you like a handmade gift (with the caveat that it will be made of good quality materials with an effort to consider the individual's taste)? Or would you prefer something off of a registry?

16 January 2009

The obsession continues: More crochet

We have yet another snow day here and this time, since the temperature is headed above zero later in the day, we are busting out. We're going to go see Grammy and then have lunch with Gramps. The kids are thrilled.

I'm taking my recent crochet projects to show Grammy. She was the one who taught me to crochet first, though it didn't really stick. It's still neat to be able to show her some things I've made and let her examine them.

I mostly finished this little dress for Emmeliese last night -- I still need to put on some buttons. I made it from this pattern, but decided to do the skirt in triple crochet and then went back and improvised some sleeves. For the sleeves, I just worked even for two rows, then began decreasing a stitch on each side of the armpit gusset for nine rows, then worked even for another row. And I put on a button placket in the putty color, mainly because I ran out of my ivory, but I think it works.

I think the dress may be a tad big, but I figured I could rip out part of the sleeves and make it short sleeved, if necessary. The yarn is this wonderful Sirdar Snuggly BabyBamboo in 80% Bamboo and 20% wool. It is soooo great to work with and I think my local yarn store is discontinuing it! :( I'll have to find an alternate souce.
I don't know why the cream and pink and tan/taupe/putty palette is so appealing to me, but it is. Emmeliese's entire wardrobe might be in these colors. It seems to be all I'm drawn to buying.
I think next I'm going to make a bonnet out of the pink I used in this dress and the bunting, and then maybe some footed pants out of my last skein of ivory bamboo. Then I probably should move on. Though, clearly, I could spend a lot of time in this category of crochet projects!

15 January 2009

Kitchen improv

This morning, I made an improvised recipe of bread dough. I started with the basic french bread recipe, doubled it, replaced half of it with whole wheat and then added some vital wheat gluten, melted butter, sugar and an egg. Other than the fact that it took 5 hours to rise because it was so cold in our kitchen, the loaves turned out well. They are soft and chewy and delicious.

Improvising baked goods sort of reminds me of improvising music. In order to have a nice improvisation, one has to be aware of the basics that provide structure and also have at least a vague idea of what the end product should look like. In music, that means being aware of the harmonics of a piece and the more one knows about how the music should sound, about the period, about the limits of instrumentation, etc., the better the improvisation ends up. In baking, it is knowing the basics of flour to water ratio, what ingredients leaven, what ingredients soften, what texture one should look for, etc., that leads to a nice ending.

And, in both music and baking, improvisations get better and more reliable, the more they are practiced. And sometimes the improv just doesn't work. Today's did. And it will be a tasty addition to tomorrow, too.

14 January 2009

What we wear around here on a snow day

Pajamas two sizes too small, rainboots two sizes too big, and if you could see under his pants, you'd find two pairs of Thomas undies and a pair of Cars undies, all over a diaper.
And it was a whopping 63 degrees in here, so her ensemble makes sense, too, right?

Bunting for Emmeliese

I am so excited to finish this project! This is a bunting for little Emmeliese that I'm hoping to use when we bring her home from the hospital.
I created this pattern after making a pattern I found for a sleep sack for a preemie. It just wasn't what we needed and after spending about an hour wide awake one night, I realized how to make this. I ripped out the other one the next day and started on this one. Instead of making it in joined rounds, I split it open, added a button placket and made it close in the front. Then I decided to make puffed sleeves on it. The yarn is Plymouth Suri Alpaca and Merino blend in white with two strands of yarn held together to make a nice thick and very, very soft little bunting. The only downside is that I sneezed my way through making it. I hope after a wash or two, the fibers will calm down, else we might have a sneezy ride home!

I made a hole for the seat belt of her carseat in the back of the bunting. In the front, I made the bottom buttons closer together to compensate for the carseat belt. We've needed a carseat-compatible bunting for both of our other children, but the one we bought was HUGE compared to our kids. They finally got to the point where they would have fit it in about June or July. And then they sort of didn't need it.
A row of double crochet on the bottom provided a place to thread a chain of pink yarn to tie into a bow.

When I decided to make this, I imagined big chunky buttons on the creamy yarn. But darn if I could find any! And I couldn't find much info on the web on how to make any, so I created a tutorial posted below.
I'm so happy with this, aside from the sneezing, and think it turned out almost exactly like I imagined it. And I'm thinking that if we are blessed with more children after Emmeliese and it happens to be a boy born in winter, I may just make new buttons and re-do the sleeves.

Of course, if that's the case, I may just want to make something entirely new! :)

Crocheted buttons: A tutorial

When I looked for directions on crocheting buttons, I couldn't find directions that were very helpful. One of my frustrations with yarn work is that most patterns are written in a series of abbreviations and often don't come with a picture. So, as I figured out how to make these buttons, I thought I'd make a tutorial so there would be at least one on the web. Hopefully someone will find it helpful.
Supplies needed: Yarn, crochet hook (this one is a size E), a yarn needle and plastic rings (these are 1 1/8 inch size). I found these plastic rings at Hobby Lobby. They were not at my local yarn store or at WalMart. I found some plastic rings in the sewing section of Hobby Lobby which were a full $2 more expensive than these, which I found with the drapery hardware. They come in different sizes. Choose the one that, with your thickness of yarn, will fit your buttonhole!

First, make an adjustable ring (or magic ring). Chain two and make 10 half-double crochets in the ring.
(If you don't know about the magic ring, here is a good tutorial.)

Pull your ring closed and then slip stitch to join.

Chain two. This will count as your first half-double crochet. Make another half-double crochet in the space under the stitch, between posts. This will give the yarn a tighter weave. Make two half-double crochets in space under the second stitch. Make one half-double crochet in the space under the third stitch. Repeat the pattern all the way around the ring.

Join in the front loop of the final stitch with a slip stitch. Then chain 3.

Now in the back loop of each stitch, do one double-crochet all the way around. You should end up with a little cup.

At the end of the round, join with a slip stitch and fasten off. Leave a tail of four or five inches and cut.

Next, take one of your plastic rings and put it in the middle of the cup, with the yarn from your magic circle feeding through the center of the plastic ring.

Thread the other end through the needle.

Take the needle and thread it through each stitch, all the way around the cup.

When you reach the end, you should be able to tell that the hole is ready to close. Be sure that the yarn from the magic circle is still sticking out. Then give it a tug and close it up!

Pull the yarn from the magic circle tight and then tie it and your other piece of yarn together.

Make as many as you'd like! You can adjust the stitch from half-double or double crochet to single crochet and half-double, or increase or decrease your beginning amount of stitches, the amount of rows, etc. depending on how big you want your button to be, the thickness of your yarn, etc. It's very adaptable. And doesn't it look cool?

Snow/ pajama/ crochet day

Last night, Eureka got 5 inches of snow. It's only 15 degrees (headed towards a high of 1 degree tomorrow) right now and the wind is blowing. Hence, the school district declared a snow day, which meant Annalivia's preschool followed suit. Which means -- we had no place to go today!

I had been lamenting last night to Dennis that we had to get out of the house every day this week. I'm generally ok with that, but this week has been snowy and cold, cold, cold. I wasn't looking forward to having to bundle everyone up and warm up the car, just to drive a couple of blocks and then return to take off dripping wraps to let them dry for a couple of hours before we did the whole thing again.

But today, we get a reprieve! I went back to sleep for a bit this morning, we had leftover potatoes fried with an egg for breakfast, we're all still in pajamas, and my big plan is to work in afternoon naps for all of us. In the meantime, I'm streaming some of my favorite radio programs and working on finishing a crochet project before starting another one -- or four. :)

Here's to snow days!

10 January 2009

Perfecting pizza (a needlessly long dissertation)

Our family loves to eat pizza. I love the cheese and bread. Dennis loves the cheese and tomato sauce. Annalivia and Daniel love the cheese. It's always a meal all of us will like and eat.
One of the things we really miss about northwestern Illinois is the plethora of really amazing pizza places. The pizza up there is all very similar, made on a sweet crust with plenty of cheese that is cooked at a very high temperature until the cheese sort of carmelizes. I had never had it anywhere else before I moved there. And it is amazing.
Around here, we have a few pizza places we like, but nothing stands out in a big way. We've tried pizza at the local popular restaurants and...eh. It's ok, but not great.
We have also tried to find decent frozen pizzas, but frozen pizza can be expensive and the cheap stuff is not good, usually. And I have an issue with sausage on frozen pizzas-- I hate it when sausage tastes sweet or has nutmeg in it and sooooo many of them have really icky sausage on them. What is with that?
ANYWAY -- the answer has been to make our own pizza. And I think we have finally perfected the procedure. We've found that when it comes to speed, nothing beats a pepperoni pizza. So we've been eating it a lot lately which is odd because we never, ever order pepperoni at a pizza place. But it's really easy to open a bag of pepperoni rather than brown a pan of sausage or cut up a bunch of veggies. A lot less cleanup, too. And we've found out that our local store brand of pepperoni is just as good as the brand name and 80 cents cheaper, so we're happy.
We also speed things up by using canned or bottled sauce. We think the generic or store brand of "homestyle" pizza sauce that doesn't have corn syrup in it is good and we also like regular canned tomato sauce found in amidst the tomato products. When we use that, we add Italian seasoning and a little garlic powder to it.
The crust that we've settled on, right now, is white flour. In the past we've used completely whole wheat in the crust recipe and it was good, but not totally delicious like this one. I anticipate that soon we will be working the whole wheat flour back in, but we all really, really like the crust recipe we use now. If you're interested, it's 3 cups of Bob's Red Mill Unbleached Flour (other flours just don't seem to taste as good), 1 1/4 cup water, 1 T yeast, 2 T sugar (or honey, but sugar is sweeter, which is what we were going for), 3 T olive oil, 2 t salt. I put it in the KitchenAid mixer and let it knead, then put it in a bowl with about 1 T olive oil spread around it, cover it with a wet towel and set it on the warming oven. It is ready to be punched down in about 30 minutes and we only let it have one rise. It makes a fairly thick, chewy crust -- I think it could even make two thin crust pizzas, but we'll probably never find out because we like it this way.
I make the crust and after it is in the bowl rising, Dennis does the rest. He worked for Domino's back in the day, after all, and he makes a great pizza. I always put too much or too little sauce on or too much cheese or something. He always gets it right.
The other two things we've discovered is that the right pan makes a difference and the right oven temp is crucial. For a while we used a pizza stone, but ours cracked and then the one we got to replace it made everything taste funky. So we bought two pizza pans and the one that makes the best crust has holes in it. Dennis works the dough on the countertop in some sort of semi-pro way and then puts it on the pan, tops it and then sticks it in a 400 degree oven. The crust ends up crunchy and chewy and delicious, the cheese browned. It's great.
Now that we've got the process in hand, I think we're going to branch back out with different toppings. My favorite is sausage with fresh onion, green pepper and mushrooms. Dennis likes the same with pepperoni on top. And I remember being a big fan of ground beef on pizza when I was little. We'll have to see.
We may have to try it again tomorrow night! :)

Let the little ones come

One of my Christmas presents from Dennis this year was a statue of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, purchased early in the season, right after Thanksgiving. It sat on the library table in the foyer all during Advent. Last week we began taking Christmas decorations down. Around that time, a little piece of some sort of foam packing material kept appearing on the statue. Everytime I saw it, I took it off.

The statue is still up and yesterday, as I was sitting at the table, Annalivia came over, pulled up a chair and put the piece of packing material back on baby Jesus, all the while murmuring loving words about him and his blankie. It seems obvious now. I don't know why I didn't see it before.

The statue has been a great gift for all of us. Both of the kids love to look at the family. Daniel often stands there saying "Ohhhhh, Baby Jesus..." while he strokes Mary's robe.

"But Jesus said, Let the little ones come to me, and do not keep them away: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

09 January 2009

A misunderstanding

Tonight we went out to an Italian restaurant for sandwiches. They had a big picture of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica that was backlit by flourescent lights, one of which was flickering. Annalivia was fascinated by the picture and kept talking about how she wanted to see it someday because she was sure it had secrets in it. It was fun to talk about it and see her so excited. Eventually, I said something like, "Someday, Annalivia, when Mommy and Daddy stop having children, we'll go visit all those places, ok?" She smiled and I thought that was the end of it.
But, about an hour later, we were driving away from Wal-Mart when Annalivia asked me why we would stop having children. I replied that someday God would decide we were done having children and that would be that. She was silent for a moment and then said in a very, very sad, small voice, "But I'm really going to miss you!"
Needless to say, I explained that I meant that someday we would not have any new children and that she's our child forever. But she took some convincing. Poor thing.

As if on cue

Just today I was thinking about being pregnant with Annalivia and Daniel and how, right as I would lay/ lie down in bed and drift towards sleep, they would begin hiccupping. I was thinking how this hasn't happened with Emmeliese yet.
And so it was that at 11:30 tonight, I was awakened from that almost-asleep state by little rhythmic pulses, right under my hip and against my bladder. Precious child. Already perceiving her mother's desires...

08 January 2009

Buying local...or small...or local

As I've gotten older, and maybe since I've had more monetary resources at my disposal, or maybe since I've gotten a tad more patient, I've become more committed to purchasing from small business owners. It's not that I don't appreciate the great deals at Wal-Mart or enjoy the fact that I can zip down to Dollar General for laundry detergent at a moment's notice. I do. But I've found that buying coffee from a local place, even if it doesn't have a drive-thru like Starbuck...or purchasing a book from a local bookseller, even if it means waiting a week for it to arrive unlike Barnes and Noble...or getting yarn from three generations of knowledgeable ladies, even if it costs more than the skeins found in the bins at Hobby Lobby... or even buying groceries at my local store, even though there are not wide-ranging deals like Kroger... it all tends to be a much more peaceful, less... I don't know... consuming ....experience. I also sort of feel like I have a moral obligation to do so, since I believe the small business owner is what makes the American economy function (when it does) and my own family-of-origin was/ is one built on the hard work of the self-employed. Plus, I like it when people are passionate about their work and most small business owners I have met have found a vocation in their employment.

Anyway, today I find myself in a bit of a dilemma. Last night I ran out of yarn while working on a project. The yarn shop I purchased it from is about 40 minutes from here. I called the owner and she has some skeins on hand. And could order more. And so I almost loaded up the kiddos and headed over there to pick it up.

But then I did an online search and found the same yarn sold by a small business owner in New Hampshire who is selling it for $1 less per skein. She also has it in some other beautiful colors and she offers some other items I've been looking for AND also offers free shipping. And it should all be here by Saturday if I order it this afternoon.

I'm probably going to order it online. Aside from the money saved, there's the time and energy and hassle saved. There's the not-bundling-up-the-kids and not-scraping-off-the-van and other things. But I AM feeling a little guilty about it.

Anyone have any input on what you'd do, ideally or not?

07 January 2009

What if's

Our energy bill last month was about $3 less than our rent. Yeah, you read that right. 3 bucks. This old house has steam heat. And that, apparently, costs a lot. Luckily, my sister lived here for a year and a half before we moved in, so we were prepared, in theory, for a high heating bill. "In theory", because nothing quite prepares one for paying a heating bill equal to rent.
Hence, I have turned down the heat and spent $5 buying myself some slippers. And we're still not in frigid territory yet. Right now, my nose is freezing but the thermometer downstairs is registering at 62 degrees. That's pretty warm, really. Sweater weather, I guess, and conveniently, I'm wearing a sweater right now.
The heating bill coupled with dire forecasts from economists in the news lately coupled with an announcement from Dennis' company that they are unable to contribute to 401k's next quarter coupled with a decision from him to work longer hours voluntarily, so as to demonstrate his necessity to the company has led me to do some big "what if" thinking. What if Dennis lost his job tomorrow? What if we had an emergency of some sort? What if the baby came early? What if, what if, what it?
The problem for me, is that I can get kind of obsessive what-if-ing. So, tonight Dennis and I tackled the what-ifs. What if he lost his job tomorrow? Turns out, we'd be doing fine. We rent a beautiful house and our rent is low, our landlord generous. We have a six-month emergency fund based on Dennis' current gross salary. Which means that it would last longer than six months. Dennis is a hard worker and would do whatever is necessary. I can be resourceful and may be one of God's most stubborn creatures. We'd maybe buy some space heaters. We'd be fine. Same with the other questions. We'd be depending on others more than ourselves, but we'd be smart enough to do that. We'd draw on resources from family and friends. We'd figure out what needs to happen. We'd be fine.
Heating bills and dire predictions and longer hours and less retirement money are no match for Team McStew. We're in whatever together, even if it becomes more than an "if." I feel better.

Growing pains

Generally speaking -- very generally -- as a mainliner, I grew up in, was ordained by, served, and still attend a pretty feel-good church. We occasionally indulge in some guilt, but we tend to prefer it to be as institutional and generalized as possible. But personal pain, we don't do too often. And pain as part of God's will or purpose for us -- nope.
Over the last few years, I've questioned that a lot. A whole lot. I've felt as though whatever God is doing inside of me was this tumultuous process of pushing and pulling. Pregnancy is perhaps the most apt analogy, much like a baby growing, stretching, kicking, turning, pushing to get out...only I'd add a whole lot more prolonged round ligament pain to the analogy when talking about the spiritual growth side of it :). (round ligament pain is a very sharp intense pain, for those who have not been prego).
Anyway, recently I've been realizing that there's a reason that the Bible, in various places, refers to God's actions in an individual's life as... scourging, flaying, sharpening, refining, groaning, aching, burning, hammering. Because, as it turns out, real, honest spiritual growth can be really, really painful. And rather than be frightened by the idea that God intends for us to encounter these periods of great pain, I find it very comforting to find in scripture the hundreds of examples of God's people encountering just that. And then there's the thousands of stories of saints and mystics and servants who in 2000 years of Christianity have found purpose in the midst of suffering.
It doesn't make this growing any less painful, but I have found out that I sure am in good company.

05 January 2009

Another terrific Christmas book

Today Annalivia went back to preschool. My grandfather picked her up, and I had grand plans to get a lot done this morning. Instead, I ended up reading to Daniel for over an hour, going through all of the books in the Christmas basket and then some.

During the process, he had me read This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten about three times. This has proven to be one of our favorites this Christmas, a new book received in a package in a Scholastic book order. I'm so glad that I happened to order that package because it has yielded a couple of very nice nativity books.
This one, however, is the cream of the crop. The Christmas story is beautifully told in verse, but the best thing about the book is the absolutely gorgeous illustrations by Delana Bettoli. They are just remarkable -- beautiful colors and lovely, moving depictions of the nativity story. The illustrations have wonderful texture and symbolism (i.e. the faint angel wings in the sky on the cover pic above) and the characters actually look as though they came from the Middle East. And there are many, many details that captivate little (and big) eyes. I think I can safely say most anyone would be very, very pleased with this book. So if you see it when out and about in this post-Christmas time, scoop it up! You won't regret it.

(If you want to check out the book on Amazon, the link is here, but do, please, consider ordering it from an independent bookseller.)

01 January 2009

Looking back, looking forward

Looking back at 2008...
Dennis went to Russia
The kids and I survived Dennis going to Russia
Dennis interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a new job
We settled the insurance claim on our 2006 auto accident
We paid off our debts
We found out we were expecting another baby
Dennis left his employer of 12 years
I left the church I served for 7 years
We moved back to Eureka
Annalivia started preschool
Dennis finished grad school and received his MBA

Looking forward to 2009...
Daniel will turn 2
Annalivia will turn 4
Dennis will turn 40!
We will say hello to Emmeliese
It is very possible we will say goodbye to at least one dearly beloved one

Looking back, looking forward... our lives are so full of God's goodness. Mine is a beautiful life, replete with joys, complete with sorrows. I pray I treasure every moment of it.