Saturday, June 30, 2007

Formal Pics




Reply When Asked Where I Was From

I am from Idaho and live in Idaho and love Idaho. It is small and rural and quiet here and we have wheat fields and beautiful woods that I am told look like Norway.

I live in a small University town that is full of art and coffee shops and culture and liberals who spend their time protesting the war and the law that says you have to wear clothing down in Friendship square. We have a fabulous Farmer's Market and the churchgoers have a Christian college downtown. The liberals protest that too. I live just out of town in a trailer park that could be the source of every redneck joke ever made. I am a music teacher by trade and a mother by vocation with a 2 1/2 year old daughter and an 8 month son. My hubby works at the University programming computers.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My first best friend

Watching the kids play has taken me back to my childhood. When I was five a new child moved with her parents to my neighborhood. The new house two houses down from us was painted a drab brown with dirt for the lawn like many houses in new subdivisions. It would later receive a nice sod lawn. For now all we could see was dirt and a big boat parked in the driveway.

My dad came home one day reporting on the new family. A young couple named Black with a little girl who was four. Her name was Elizabeth and she was deaf. Curiosity sparked in me. What was deaf? Was that bad? It wasn't bad, my parents patiently explained. It just meant that she couldn't hear and she used sign language. I was immediately interested. Being an only child and playing at home by myself had given me an active imagination and an intense curiosity in anything new or different. This was both.

A few weeks later her dad came over to our house, bringing her with him. The dads talked to each other and I stood awkwardly staring, wanting desperately to strike up a conversation, to make friends, but being completely at a loss as to the method of doing so. We did not speak each other's languages.

Elizabeth was not impressed with our house. "It stinks," she told her dad, much to my mom's dismay who prided herself on her immaculate housekeeping. Embarrassed, her dad tried to explain that it did not stink, it just smelled different than their house. No, she was adamant. It stinks.

I chuckle to think of that rocky start to our friendship. They left soon after and I did not see Elizabeth for several weeks. I continued with my own affairs, playing with trucks and dolls and wondering what Elizabeth was doing and if I could go play with her and stave off the loneliness that was my constant companion. The only other neighbors on our end of the street with kids my age were the Petticolases and I had no interest in playing with either Brett who was mean and later got arrested for arson or Peter who walked around on his toes and would not talk to me.

One afternoon when the heat waves shimmered on the newly paved street and I wore shorts and went barefoot, I saw John Black working on his boat in the driveway with Elizabeth sitting on the prow watching him. Walking along the rounded curb where the white concrete would not burn my feet, I passed the intervening house, belonging to the Lyle Maynard, who later got badly burned in an accident, and timidly approached the boat and the girl who I so desperately wanted to be my friend.

John looked up and saw me, greeting me warmly. Elizabeth followed his gaze, squinting against the scorching sun through her round glasses. Her curly hair fell to her waist.

"Can I talk to her?" I asked feeling shy and awkward and hopelessly stupid. Of course I could not talk to her.

"Let me help," her dad was gracious and not at all awkward. "What is your name?"

"Erin." Relief flooded through me. Someone would bridge the gap between us.

"This is Erin," he signed, adding something that made his fingers flash. He spelled my name then he explained that we needed to give me a sign name. "Elizabeth" was an "e" on the heart, so that one was taken. We decided that an "e" on the shoulder would do and so it was established. I became "Shoulder E" and she was "Heart E". In my five year old mind that was all it took. I fell in love immediately with my new friend.

She beckoned me into the house where the air conditioning felt blessedly cool and led me by the hand to show me to her mother who I had never seen. Their fingers flashed with incomprehensible rapidity. I caught the "Shoulder E" briefly and realized that I was being introduced. Jean Black welcomed me, thankfully in English and gave us lemonade, which I did not like, then sent us into the living room to play. Elizabeth brought out her dolls, one of which was a Strawberry Shortcake with scented hair. I was enchanted. Beyond making the doll walk around, however, we had no other way to communicate and I felt incredibly frustrated. I took my leave shortly, leaving the half-drunk glass of yellow lemonade on the stone hearth.

My mother, hearing about the adventure and my frustration went out that week and bought me Signing: How to Speak with your Hands, a black volume in which every page was loaded with line drawings of people signing words. I poured over that book like it was the Bible. Here was the key to Elizabeth's world. I memorized the signs for "go" and "come" and "house" and "drink" and "sit" in the first day. I could not wait to begin talking to my friend.

When I next visited her house, however, she was not impressed. Her fingers flashing to her mother, she frowned at my pidgin sign. I followed the two around the house, her mom folding laundry and signing at the same time. In the cool blue of her bedroom, Jean told me that she called Elizabeth "Bug" and signed it on her nose. Elizabeth laughed. Finally we tired of playing shadow to the housework and we wandered off into Elizabeth's room to play with her Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls who were bigger than mine and had "I love you" embroidered into one hand and "e" embroidered into the other so they could say "I love you, Elizabeth." She insisted on playing with the girl doll and shoved the boy one my way. I did not care and accepted him gratefully.

As the summer progressed, so did our friendship. From the black sign language book I learned more of her words. I would run over to her house and beckon her to come with me, signing "You-me swim me house." I never did comprehend any sort of grammar, but I took it for granted that my four-year-old friend would forgive my lame attempts. I would find this was not so, but for that blissful summer, I remained unconscious of her disapproval. I did not have anyone to teach me how to sign, so I did the best I could.

We swam in the kiddie pool and played with the hose. She learned to ride a bike that summer and fell in love with motion and the speed of the wind rushing by her face. I rode with her, bored because we could not talk and when I gave up and went back in the air conditioning, I could see her riding up and down the street on her blue banana seat.

We played with dolls, making them swings and beds. We ate lunch at each others' houses, signing furiously, even with our mouths full, a novelty to me. The summer waned into fall and we both went to school. Elizabeth turned five and went to the public school, riding the big, yellow school bus, while I walked up the hill to the Christian school. When winter came, we sledded together in our steep lawn, our mittens hampering our efforts at signing. Each week I learned more words but still could not comprehend her parents lightning speech to her. I did not care. I had a best friend and I was happy.

The next year a new girl moved to our block. Her name was Jamie Galey and she went to the public school too. At school she received instruction in sign language and was soon much more proficient than I was. Elizabeth had no problems transferring her loyalties and soon I became an awkward bystander again as Jamie and Elizabeth stood chattering in the street in sign that I could no longer follow. As I watched the two climb on the big, yellow school bus, a knife twisted inside me. Every morning I would walk up the hill to my school full of snooty girls while my best friend rode away on that bus with Jamie Galey.

I saw Elizabeth less and less that fall. I would see her once in a while with her parents. My dad reported that she was having an implant surgery on her left ear. After the surgery, on a rare day that she came to visit my house (she still thought it stunk), she reported hearing a noise through the bone behind her ear and in my excitement to try out her newfound skill, I turned on the stereo at full volume. She smiled and nodded, but the noise also brought my mother who immediately made me turn it back down.

Soon after that my dad brought home reports of her parents' dissatisfaction with our semi-rural medical care and school system. They were moving to Seattle. Elizabeth would attend the best schools in the big city. I was crushed. She was going away. Forever. My only consolation was that she could not take Jamie Galey with her either. I grieved her loss for years. At six years old she could not write a letter to me even if she had been encouraged to do so. I have never been in touch with her since then, though I miss her still. I wonder if she still lives in the Emerald City looking past the Space Needle out at the Puget Sound. To this day, I still love sign language and I still hate Jamie Galey, which is completely unreasonable. But the girl who steals your first best friend can never be completely forgiven. And when I drive through the Echo Hills Addition in Lewiston, the sign still says "Deaf Child Playing"; then I am transported for a moment and see two little girls, one with a brown pageboy on a pink bike and one with curly brown hair down to her waist riding a blue banana seat bicycle with a huge satisfied smile on her face.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quality, not Quantity

Last week was rough. I thought I was living in Hades and wondered if it was time to go back on an antidepressant. I was grouchy with the kids and felt awful. I snapped at hubby whenever he did anything...I was an all around pain in the derrière. I also was so tired I kept falling asleep doing various non-sleep activities (such as watching a movie) which is very unusual for me. I know some people fall asleep all the time, but I don't. Anyway I discovered that in an effort to spend time with Hubby, I was staying up till 12:30 or 1:00 every night. Then Natta would wake me up brightly at 7:30 every morning. Not only was she waking me up, but Seth was insisting on a 4:00 AM feeding. So I was falling farther and farther behind on sleep.

I finally told hubby to send me off to bed at ten every night and sorry I could not spend time with him, a night-owl. He agreed to do so and warned me that he would not be able to go to bed that early despite the fact that he gets up at 6:30 every morning. At that point I did not care and so he has been nagging me off to bed each night about 10:30.

IT WORKS! Yes, sleep has cured what ailed me. I feel rested, happier and much less crabby. Natta's chatter doesn't drive me nuts any more. I don't scold her for every little infraction and wish I could find her "off" button. And wonder of wonders, Seth has decided to take naps this week. I don't know what made him change his mind but he has never put himself to sleep before and now he has done it twice in two days! I feel like am living in someone else's life and I love it.

In an email today, hubby commented on how important it has been for me to get the sleep I need and we joked that the time we get in the evenings will from here out be quality, not quantity. It's better that way, he says. I can see why he thinks so!

Going on a Date

We got to go to a movie last night! What a treat. When hubby came home, we ate unromantic but yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, then my mom came over to watch the kids for us. I love leaving them with her because I don't have to worry at all about them. They love her and they always do great. Then after I finally got myself ready we took off. I treated myself to popcorn (yes, I gained my pound back because of it) and we watched Ocean's 13. I got a kick out of the show. I remembered watching Ocean's 11, but I have very little memory of watching Ocean's 12 since we watched it while I was pregnant with Seth and really sick. Hubby insists that I really did watch it but as he told parts of the story, there was no recognition in my brain. I guess I'll just have to rent it and watch it again.

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After the movie we stopped at friend's house and watered the flowers then went to hubby's favorite coffee shop to get a treat for him. Latte in hand we drove home through the twilight, talking together. A quiet evening, but one we really needed, just to get away together. As we left we joked that we were almost strangers since so much energy and attention goes towards the kids rather than to each other. It's about to get worse because I am signed up to play flute in the pit orchestra for the civic theater play in July. I am so excited, I just about can't wait for rehearsals to begin. But it will mean I see hubby even less than now, since he offered to watch the kids for me. Still, having something outside of the house will be sooooooooo good for me. He knows it and has been very supportive of the idea. What a blessing. I am sure many blogs will involve this subject in the future so we'll leave it for then.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Family Picture

I am so thankful for my wonderful family :)

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Thanks to Wholarmor for being our photographer on Sunday. She does a great job.

Shopping

As a general thing I don't like to shop. I have wondered why since most girls enjoy shopping as a relaxing hobby or pastime. I think it because I grew up in a family that never had any extra money and my dad was so miserly with what we did have that we were made to feel guilty for buying anything, even if it was a box of cereal. Well, I inherited his frugal nature, but I hope I don't put that same guilt on my own family. The result is that I feel horribly guilty spending money even when it is budgeted or used for necessities. Even a sale only lessens the blow.

This week, though, I had a different experience. Because I have been participating in a research project at WSU involving breastfeeding, I have been rewarded with gift certificates to the mall. Suddenly the tables were turned. In my pocket was $60 that was not only outside of our family budget but they were only usable at the Mall. Wow! Guilt-free shopping! If shopping was always like that, I'd be hooked. I cannot imagine a lifestyle where money isn't an issue and girls can go shop and pick up cute new clothes on a whim. But this night I had a glimpse. My goal was getting new shoes. My paint-splattered Nikes (the stars of an earlier post involving Easter clothes) were three years old and definitely needed to be retired. Armed with my gift certificates, I entered the mall, family in tow, to find the perfect new shoes.

The first store we entered did nothing to brighten my shopping experience. A sporting-goods store with a nice sized shoe section had a variety of running shoes, just like I wanted. Some of the Nikes were on clearance for under $50 even, which surprised me. We browsed for 15 minutes or so before I decided that the salesclerks were either absent or invisible. Maybe we didn't look "sporty" enough. I needed a clerk to go get some shoes for me to try on and there appeared to be none in the store. Hubby spotted one, a young girl, behind a far counter eyeing us hesitantly. Irritated, he headed over to summon her. When it was observed that we actually planned to make contact, another young man rushed to intervene and headed our way, assuring the girl that he could handle it. "Are you sure?" the girl asked, as if we were an unusually tall order and he might require assistance. He nodded and ambled our way, parading his Abercrombie t-shirt like a banner.

"I want to try on these," I said, holding up a Nike running shoe. I told him my size and he ambled to the back, which was about 4 miles from where we sat. At length he returned with the demo shoe in his hand, brushing his long hair out of his eyes.

"Uhmmm, we don't have that one," he intoned, wishing, I am sure that we would leave so he could go back in the back and finish his magazine.

Natalie, who up to this point had been incredibly patient for a two-year-old began to whine and so I granted the young salesclerk his secret wish. We left. I determined to find my perfect shoes elsewhere and not let Mr. Abercrombie-zombie ruin my shopping experience.

We continued on down the strip of the mall where Starbuck's Coffee beckoned to us. Why not? I had my freebies. We entered, after saying a quick hello to Wholarmor, who was at the mall with a friend. After ordering a Venti mocha to split with hubby, we discovered that the $20 gift certificate had to be used in its entirety all in one location. I hadn't brought any other money with me and I ashamedly asked the Barista to cancel my order since I did not want to add coffee to our already climbing credit card bill. Instead they gave us a free coffee as well as a chocolate milk for Natta. We gratefully accepted our coffee and headed on down the mall.

One thing Natalie loves about the mall is the green floor tiles. She happily hopped along from one to another as we continued on our way. At last we came to Famous Footwear and I resumed my search. This time as I nearsightedly examined the Nike section with Natalie behind me climbing on the bench and chattering a mile a minute, a buxom salesgirl hurried to greet us. She made friendly conversation, brought me some socks, helped me pick out a shoe and then left me in shopping bliss to try on sizes and compare models. Natta offered opinions on each one and particularly liked pulling shoes out of the box. On one of the salesgirl's rounds, Natta impressed her with the knowledge of right and left as she handed me another shoe to try on. "This is the left shoe," my two-year-old daughter announced, holding up the correct one. She really does know her right hand from her left but I think the shoe identification was a happy accident.

Once I identified my perfect shoes (on sale for $44!!) Natta helped me sign over my gift certificates, put the remainder on the credit card (!) and we left happy. Natta carried the bag.

As we walked back down the strip, we ran into Wholarmor and her friend, S, again so stopped to talk for a few minutes. Then we continued on to Michael's, my favorite store in the whole world. There, I used my remaining gift certificate to buy two darling little tables that were on clearance for half-price. They are black metal wine racks with a green tile top and they complement my new living room perfectly.

I chattered delightedly to hubby as we drove home, stopping to water our friends' flowers again. I have not enjoyed shopping that much for years. It makes a difference when you can buy something for yourself and not feel guilty. Most of my shopping involves spending $80 at Wal-Mart on such fascinating items as diapers and toothpaste. So I suddenly understood the pleasure that a good shopping trip could bring and I briefly let myself imagine a life where I had unlimited funds and I could enter a Mall and just go on a big spree. Then I opened my eyes and looked around at my beautiful family. I walked into my simple home that was full of love and joy and peace and I knew that I am rich beyond a millionaire's wildest imagination. We set up our little $12 end tables and I sighed with content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where Go the Boats?


DARK brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore


Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894). A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. 1913.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Errands and a Drawing of Wal-Mart

"I need to change the oil in the White Car," hubby told me yesterday. It was decided that he would go to Wal-Mart and get oil and filter, taking Seth along. Natta and I would run errands and meet him back at bed-time. Since he was using my car, I transferred Natta's car seat to the front seat of our old gray car, a rare treat for her. The gray car is my hubby's haven, affectionately dubbed "The Stinky Banana Car". It is a 1986 Camry with such intriguing features as a bungee-cord holding the trunk closed. You have to roll down the window and open the driver's side door from the outside. It also looks like a storage unit on the inside because hubby puts everything he can't figure out what to do with in there.

We set off merrily through the yellowing wheat fields toward town. The first order of business was to get some dinner. We drove through the KFC behind three enormous pickup trucks. Armed with popcorn chicken, corn on the cob and mac-n-cheese, we drove on to our friends' house where we were signed up to water the flowers and collect their mail while they were out of town.

On the way, Natta kept a chattering commentary that I found quite entertaining.

"You like chicken, Mommy?"

"Yeah, I like chicken, Natta."

"There's the water tower."

"Yep. What letter is on it?"

"It's an 'I'!"

"Right!"

So it went across town. We munched corn and chicken and talked about the landmarks in our little town. When we got to friend's house, we fed the fish, watered the flowers and picked up the mail.

"Don't spray me, Mommy!" Natta fled to the far side of the porch. I once sprayed her with the hose on a hot day and she has never forgotten or forgiven the incident. Despite my reassurances that I would not spray her, she still stayed out of my reach until I finished the flowers.

When we climbed back into the car, the sun was sinking toward the trees on the far side of town. Natta insisted it was not time to go home yet, so we drove around town for a while. The mall was closed, so we couldn't go there, but we did drive past the water tower again. To my surprise, she began picking out letters on the street signs we passed.

"There's A says Ah," She reported. "There's P for Piper. K for Kyrie, S for Seth. There's T says Tuh."

I agreed, pointing out other letters.

Then she switched to backseat driving. "Red light, stop, Mommy. Ok, you can go, it's green."

With permission granted, I drove on. We left the new subdivisions on the east side of town, heading out into the fields again. The sunset turned the sky deep oranges and pinks and we sighed with delight.

When we arrived home, Daddy and Seth had finished changing the oil (Seth napped in his car seat during the process) and we all piled into the glowing warmth of our lighted home. As promised, I rolled out some freezer paper on the floor and we pulled out the markers. Natta collected her three little cars and I began drawing roads. Across the dining room floor we crawled and soon our town took shape. A church with a bell and steeple was soon joined by a park, a grocery store and a Wal-Mart store. The cars drove around just as we had, stopping by a gas station then home where yellow light glowed through the windows.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Seth's First Word

And I happened to catch it on video!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Days are Long But the Years Are Short

Yesterday was a long day. It seemed like little things went wrong all day and I finally threw myself into bed at 9:00, too tired to even sleep. The other day, when I met some friends at a coffee shop for a small group time, the leader read some advice from a parenting magazine and one of the quotes really resonated with me. "The days are long, but the years are short." I know that these precious years are flying by. Natta is closer to three than she is to two. Seth is growing rounder by the day. When we have days like yesterday where everything goes wrong and I feel like strangling someone, it makes me sad to think that another day is lost that will never return. I guess I ought to feel happy that yesterday will never return!

Looking back over the past three years, the little things are the most precious memories. Trips to the cabin, time with friends... I think I'll give myself another little piece of advice: Cherish the good times and don't worry about the days like yesterday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Swimming

One of the most shocking things I can imagine has happened. Our little redneck trailer park has opened its swimming pool this summer! That was completely unexpected. The maintenance man who cannot seem to unlock the mysteries of weed control, either mechanical or chemical, has opened a swimming pool. Of course I knew the building was there. When we first moved in, I saw the octagonal cinder-block structure. Assuming it was some kind of rec hall, I didn't give it another thought until my nosy husband announced that it contained a pool. We looked in the glass door and saw dirty water filling a tilted concrete pool. I shuddered and moved on.

This spring, however, there began to be telltale movements and lights in the building. As we spent more time at the playground, we saw something that could only be described as cleaning going on. I figured I must be mistaken as it seems that kind of thing is against everyone's religion out here. Kids at the playground began sprouting rumors like the ground sprouted weeds. The pool would open! We would all get to swim! Now I really thought I must be wrong.

This Sunday when we came back from our trip, hubby read the notice on the mail room door. Yes, the pool was really open. So Monday afternoon we tentatively ventured to go look. With the image of the year-old filthy water in the back of my mind, I hesitantly opened the sliding door and slipped past the handwritten notices to PLEASE, PLEASE take a shower and wash off the sun tan oil before entering the pool. What I saw pleased me. Yes, the concrete floor around the pool was still tilted at a nightmarish angle, but the pool itself was clean and sparkling blue. Both the room and the water were a pleasant warm temperature, although the sunset coming in the glass windows (the ones NOT covered with plywood) cast more light than the feeble ceiling fixture. But the important part was the clean water!

Natta of course wanted to get in immediately. I convinced her that she needed a swim suit first. We headed home to change then she and I got right in. Bobbing around in her little life jacket, she kicked and splashed for a good 20 minutes until her body temperature lowered and left her little lips blue. (She has Raynaud's syndrome and can't maintain good circulation or body warmth.) Yesterday I realized I could head over there and swim laps for exercise. At last, a pain-free way to get some much-needed workout time. In spite of the teenager-caused tidal waves, I swam 20 half-laps before dinner. Oh, it felt wonderful.

I am sure we'll still go to the fancy public Aquatic Center from time to time. It is also likely that the kids here will find a way to dirty our pool before the summer is half over. Still, I plan to enjoy it as often as I can right now. I think this evening we'll go swimming.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happy Father's Day, Bear!

I love you so much. You work so hard to take good care of us and you spend so much time with the kids. You're a wonderful father. I hope our kids realize how blessed they are!

Here are some fun pictures from this weekend that show what a cool dad you are. And...you're one HOTTIE honeybear! Woot :)

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Sleeping (Or Not)


I hate to admit it, but Mister is a terrible sleeper.


For a long time, he'd only sleep in his car seat on a bouncy chair.


He'd sleep lots of other places, though!  Whaaaattt?!?!?


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Letter to my daughter

My darling little girl,

I just had to take this time when the house is quiet and you are asleep to write to you and tell you how much I love you. I am so incredibly blessed to be your mommy. Today was one of those hard days that you will never understand until you have two little people of your own. You guys both pushed my buttons till I thought i was going to go crazy! It is on days like these that I think I forget to tell you how much I love you. But I do. I know I have to act like the bad guy all the time because it is my job to teach you how to be good and I have to keep you safe, but there are so many times that I wish I could just stop being the mother and be your friend because you are such a cool little kid! I love the way your hair refuses to be tamed. It is wispy and curly and wild all the time. Don't ever let anyone truly tame you, not even me. Keep some of the wonder and wildness of life in you. I love the way you know exactly what you want. You remind me so much of myself it is a little freaky at times. It is the thing that drives me nuts but at the same time the thing that is most endearing too. I love those little things that are uniquely you, the way you made the little sucky face when you were a baby and you were hungry, the way you call music "nats" even though we have no idea where that word came from. I love that you are a rug-straightener, like I am. You like to put things away and tidy up, just like I do. You were so sweet today the way you went over and gave your little brother a kiss on the top of his head. You two are so good for each other. If it were not for him, I truly believe that I would not be able to resist spoiling you absolutely rotten and that would not be good for you. I wish I could spend all day every day telling you how deeply I love you. You are so amazing. I find myself studying your big, beautiful brown eyes, your perfect eyelashes. I am so glad you are not sick all the time like I was as a kid. It appears you inherited Daddy's healthy genes and that is well, because life is easier when you have good health. Little girl, I so want the best for you. If I could place the world in your hands, I would. But all I can do is pray for you and give you back daily to God who entrusted you to me. He knows what is the very best for you. I love spending every day with you. It's so fun to watch you learn new things and discover the world around you. You are always saying and doing such unexpected things. I treasure all the fun little things you do and especially your hugs. They are very rare; I almost have to force you to hug me. I was the same way and did not like to be touched. But I know you love me anyway. Being a parent is different than I thought it would be. The past 2 1/2 years have been amazing and scary and wonderful and frustrating and delightful all at the same time. I'm sure I'll do a million things wrong as a parent, but I know I'll do at least this one thing right. I love you from the bottom of my heart and I plan to tell you in every way I can think of every day of your life.

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

High-White Chalk

Recently my hubby has fostered the creation of a new art gallery on our front sidewalk. He and Natta have discovered the wonders of sidewalk chalk, which Natta calls "high-white chalk". After dinner, they collect the box of chalk and head outdoors. Colorful images appear on the rough cement, depicting various familiar and abstract images suited to the taste of a 2 1/2 year old and a 25 1/2 year old. Natta's preferred subject right now is "happy hearts". She gives these a fairly realistic treatment, working in pinks and purples. Beyond that, her style borders on the abstract, a series of lines, circles and dots. I'd say the color choice is Matisse, while the arrangement is more Jackson Pollock.

Hubby, on the other hand, does works reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth, though his preferred medium looks much rougher, of course. He generally begins with a sun, sometimes rendered in oranges and yellows, other times tending more toward the greens. Even in his work, the influence of my daughter is obvious as there are usually a few smiley faces sprinkled through his works. I would definitely to venture to observe an impressionistic flavor to his realism.

Lately, he has been reading Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Nautical Chart so the sea life has crept into his art. Yesterday a surfer appeared on the sidewalk, followed later by a shark. I thought the shark digressed a bit too far towards Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston to be taken seriously by the critics. Still it shows his flair for the adventurous, not only in the direction of the cartoon-like style, but also in the bold lines and choice of color.

Seth often goes along on these artistic forays, but never as a contributor. In his role of critic, he prefers to comment on the palatability of the chalk itself rather than on the masterpieces being created. Although he shows passion for the smooth texture of the orange chalk, the well-rounded finish of the brown piece often appears in his reviews. His comments turn sour, however, when daddy ends his sampling by taking the chalk away from him.

When the family comes finally returns from their outdoor studio, their faces and clothing show the dusty results of their work. Natta has usually attempted an image on her cheek, while hubby wipes his fingers repeatedly on his pants in an effort to keep his colors pure. I am usually called upon to come outside and admire, which I always do enthusiastically. Mothers are never harsh critics. Then we all troop back inside and straight to the bathtub to wash off the colorful and grimy faces and hands.

Tomorrow the gallery expands with a new addition of several exciting pieces. :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

In Other News...

This time I passed the driver's test with a score of 100%. Not only did I study, but I made sure my blood sugar wasn't low when I went in to take it. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Like His Daddy

Matt at 8 months:

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Seth at almost 8 months:

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I've been working on the white car all the livelong day

Hubby and I decided that this weekend would be a work weekend. We're going to the cabin next weekend with some good friends, so this weekend saw us making a long chore list. Yesterday, we headed down to my parents' house so my dad could help Hubby fix the car. We drive a 1989 Toyota Camry with almost 200,000 miles on it so it takes some work to keep it happy. The kids and I went along for the ride to see Mom and Sister. We also picked up Kyrie on the way so Natta would have a playmate, which worked out to be fantastic. The girls had a ball.

While Hubby and Dad glued on trim, replaced lights, looked at the starter and tightened squeaky belts, we played toys and watched Finding Nemo. We walked down the street to the elementary school and played for a while on the playground, but the long walk proved to be too much for my torn muscle and I ended up in a lot of pain. So I sat around and played chess with my sister for the rest of the afternoon and let the kids watch their movie.

The car was finished quite a bit more quickly than we anticipated so we had time to go up the hill and join wholarmor in eating out at Basilios. I love hanging out with friends and eating good food, so I was in heaven. Heading home, we popped Natta in bed early and then I studied the Idaho Driver's Manual for an hour.

The only drawback to this good day was that Seth had slept too much in the car and consequently did not want to sleep at all during the night. Unfortunately this meant that I did not sleep hardly at all last night, which is why I'm sitting here at 11:15 in the morning barely beginning my day. He fell asleep this morning and after setting Natta up with a movie, so did I!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Riddles

In the spirit of solving puzzles, I'll give you some of my favorite riddles. Enjoy!

Example: George and Gracie lie dead near an open window in a puddle of water and broken glass.
Answer: A cat tipped over the fishbowl. (George and Gracie are the fish.)

1. I want to go home but I'm afraid of the man in the mask.

2. There's a cabin on the hill and everyone inside is dead.

3. Fifty-three bicycles and a dead man.

4. A man walks into a bar and asks for a glass of water. The bartender pulls a gun on the man, who thanks the bartender and leaves.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Can you solve it?

Watching an old Survivor episode, I decided to try to solve one of the puzzles they had as a challenge. I looked it up online after I solved it and discovered it is called a Euler Square. Can you solve it?

Begin with this:

A1 B1 C1 D1

A2 B2 C2 D2

A3 B3 C3 D3

A4 B4 C4 D4


Then arrange it so there are no two similar letters or numbers in any column or row.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My Tids

My "Tids" say the funniest things. Yesterday when we had to "go da Walmart store", we got some new "Twinkle Shoes". The way it worked was this: I decided that "Baby Seffers" needed some shoes and as we "rode in the cart" through the store, "Nally" saw some "Thomas a-train" shoes. Those were simply too cool to pass up so "she got to hold 'em". They were "so cute" in a size 3, she wanted "some for Nally now". We looked and sure enough, there were some in size 9. "And they twinkle!" This morning the first thing out of bed was, "Mommy, I need my Thomas a-train shoes on". Then "Seffers" needed his on too. Mommy decided to take a picture and "Nally" needed to "look-it around" to the back of the camera to see how the picture turned out. It passed approval, so here it is! (Notice the "Nap" in close proximity.)

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tragedy Avoided

My sweet friend came over today to spend some time with me and instead of the calm, peaceful visit she was expecting, she got treated to the normal mayhem that exists in our family. We ran errands. First we went to the DMV, which thankfully is next door to the tree slide. My friend offered to watch the kids play while I changed my licenses from Washington to Idaho. This did not go so smoothly as hubby had the correct documentation. Frustrated and upset I called him and he came over with the papers from work, which was rather noble of him. He decided to do his driver's license at the same time so we sat down to take the Idaho Driving Test. He passed with flying colors, but I discovered that due to a combination of low blood sugar and lack of memory as described in a previous post, I failed mine. I think that was the first test I have ever failed in my entire life. Oh well. I'll go back on Monday and try again.

After obtaining my car license, Hubby headed back to work and my friend and I took the kids to Wal-Mart. While there, we realized that Natta's security blanket, the one she calls "Nap" had been forgotten at the tree-slide. Although she was fairly calm, I knew it was only a matter of time until the earth would crash into the sun. She takes this blankie everywhere with her. She sleeps with it. She throws a huge fit when the time comes to wash the thing because she is apart from it for an hour and a half. Now it was left behind at the tree-slide. I began to pray that it would still be there when we drove back to pick it up.

Across town we drove with me praying silently all the way. I parked the car and hurried inside, dodging raindrops. What if Nap had been hauled away by some other child? What if it had fallen in the parking lot? What if it was gone forever? I rushed along the corridor to the tree-slide area. One of the moms sitting on the bench smiled at my flushed face. "Is that your blankie?"

Oh glory! Hallelujah! There was Nap, tucked safely in the shoe cubby, waiting for us to return for it. I scooped it up gratefully and returned to the car.

Tonight my little angel rests her cheek on her Nap as she prays, "Jesus, night-night. Amen." Her world is secure, familiar as her beloved Nap snuggles beside her in bed, smelling of comfort and dryer sheets. My heart lifts in grateful thanksgiving that her blankie is safe with us and grief was averted. I am glad that I can take good care of my precious little girl in even something so small as making sure her Nap is not lost.

How She Has Grown!

When Natta was little, I did some PhotoShop pictures of her in some flowers. I just re-discovered them in my Photobucket account so I thought I'd share. It is amazing to look back on my little daughter who was so tiny just a few short years ago.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Interesting

Today has been much more sane than Sunday was. I did my orientation to the breastfeeding study at WSU in the Human Nutrition lab. I found the information fascinating. They also played with my kids while I did the study and that was a treat!

Then the three of us spent the afternoon at wholarmor's house. The kids had a ball playing and we had a peaceful chat. It seemed peaceful, I think because I am used to insanity. We still had five kids to watch, but they played with each other instead of demanding time from me, so it seemed like a break. We did a craft project and watched PBS. Going home the car started. AAH, the little things that make life good.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Plain Ol' Bad Day

How many things can pack into one day to make it miserable? I think yesterday, we were going for the record. It all started off wrong when I flew out of bed at 8:30, the exact time we needed to leave for church. Hubby had been up but had fallen back asleep on the floor. I contemplated skipping and probably would have except that a good friend from Texas was going to be there. So we hurried everyone into clothes and started off 20 minutes late. Of course that meant no breakfast for anyone and by the end of church we all were super cranky. Since home is 30 minutes from church, we opted for Mcdonald's which turned out to be the best part of the day. Then we headed home, ignoring the wailing protests of my daughter who badly needed a nap. Seth, on the other hand, slept in the car and by the time we got home, he was awake and ready to play. I set him on the floor with some toys, started a movie and settled down on the couch to snooze. I should have known better. As soon as I got a little bit sleepy, Natalie began to cry. This is unusual at nap-time and since hubby was doing his internet time, I dragged myself off the couch and headed in. It turned out that her diaper had leaked all over her bed. Growling, I changed all her bedding and turned on her lullabies again. Laying down again with a sigh, I thought about how nice a nap sounded since I had been to bed late and had gotten up to feed the baby halfway through the night. Instead, Seth began fussing. I began fixing him a bottle and handed him to hubby. He didn't look pleased to be interrupted from his web surfing but took the baby. While fixing the bottle, I noticed that the sink was absolutely gross. Hubby, who generally does the dishes doesn't think to wipe it out and it showed. Growling again, I got out the comet and scrubbed it. Hubby finished bottle duty and came to help by putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, which was nice.

Natalie woke up and we headed to the playground. We put together the last item, a sandbox, and sat down to watch Natta play with the neighborhood kids. The neighbor offered a chair to hubby and he settled down with a book. The would have been fine except that I was beginning to feel the effects of a long, stressful day with little sleep and no nap. Natta was beginning to get bowled over by rough older kids and I was tired of trying to run interference by myself. I rounded everyone up and headed for home, again ignoring protests from hubby, who had been interrupted in his reading and Natalie who loved the new sandbox.

Once home, Natalie's behavior deteriorated until she needed serious discipline. I administered then when it had no effect, I administered again. It took her yet again to absorb it and then I waited to go in and talk with her about it. Hubby started the bath water for her and then came in with me to talk to her. Twenty minutes later we had a contrite daughter, but hubby had absentmindedly left the water running in a tub with no overflow drain. Water pooled throughout the bathroom, spilling over into the heat vents and soaking the new carpet in the hallway.

That was the last straw for me. I grabbed every towel I could find, threw them at hubby who was growling in the bathroom and headed out onto the front steps to cry. Scooping up a squalling Seth on the way, I cuddled him as I sobbed and he relaxed into my arms and laid his head gently on my chest in a baby hug. He knew Mommy needed comfort.

In order to avoid further disaster, I rescued Natalie from hubby and finished bathing and dressing her. With her tucked safely in bed after her night time bottle and nursery rhymes, I buckled Seth into his car seat and headed out to see my friends at Applebee's where they were having a party for my good friend from Texas. I discovered another friend had just moved back too and I had a wonderful chat with her for an hour. Then, leaving at 11 PM, I found that my car not only decided to mysteriously roll into another car in the lot, but it refused to start. Seth, exhausted and hungry lifted up his voice but I was beyond tears by this time. I accepted the offer of some people in the parking lot to push-start it and I headed gingerly home. Once there, I put Seth to bed and discovered that hubby wanted to talk. Instead of going to bed, which is where I preferred to be, I asked him to talk through the day. Of course we had a fight and I got angry and told him to leave me alone. His recent bout of absentmindedness has been enough to send me into orbit and I exploded at him. On that cheerful note, I fell exhausted into bed at 12:15 AM.

The backwash of this today is that I still feel so angry I could spit, but at the same time, lonely and miserable and wishing that hubbies and toddlers had never been invented.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I Should Write a Blog About....What Was It Again?

Laying in bed at night, I come up with the greatest ideas for subjects to feed the insatiable maw of the never ending blog. Since I put the calendar on the left-hand side of my page, I want to write a post every day and then there aren't any little "day" numbers left lonely with no link on them to a post. Maybe I should instead take the calendar back off. Anyway, I keep coming up with these ideas for blog subjects only to have them flit back out of my brain when I awaken in the morning. I guess I still suffer from preggo-brain because my memory has taken a backseat to every other bodily function including perspiration.

Lacking my memory, I tend to run into some interesting and embarrassing situations as a result. I definitely lose things more. Since childhood I have been the kind of person who puts things in their place and then remember where I put them to locate them again. The system worked flawlessly, even compensating for poor eyesight, until recently. Now I put things carefully in their place and instantly forget where that place is! This leads to a mounting storm-cloud of frustration with a high pressure system of irritation including afternoon or evening showers of outbursts to hubby about how I can never find anything. (Ok, the weather metaphor joke isn't mine, but Dave Barry's. Kudos to him for thinking it up. It's a good one.) So I wander around the house like a lost soul looking for the thing I just put away.

I have learned to write things down if I want them to ever materialize in the future. I write grocery lists, packing lists, lists of things my mother said... there are lists sitting all over the place. For example, the other day I wrote a beautiful list of all the items we needed from Wal-Mart, like dishwasher soap and toilet paper. When the time came to leave for the store, I remembered to dress the kids, I successfully dressed myself and collected the diaper bag, my purse, the security blankie (it goes by the name of "nap"), the extra toy, the sunglasses for each child, the stroller, the can of spray paint I needed to return because it came to my house with no nozzle, the receipt for said can of paint, the extra water bottle and the car keys. I drove for 15 minutes and arrived at the store to discover that the list was still sitting on my kitchen counter. And what a lovely list it had been. Full of those items which had now completely escaped my memory and would not return even when I took a mental tour of my house trying to decide if it was laundry detergent or dishwasher soap that we needed. I decided to get both. After loading the kids in the cart and visiting the customer service counter, I cruised around the store picking up items like the 12-month outfit on clearance that had the cute little dalmatian fire-dog on it. I bought a candle and some more cereal. While I was there, I picked up some more hair dye. I happily paid for my purchases ($46.47) and headed for the car, congratulating myself on a successful trip. But when I got home, there was my poor, forgotten list on the counter with the words "dishwasher soap" staring up at me and there was no box of Cascade anywhere in my shopping bags. Sigh. I used to remember that kind of thing.

Last night I was laying there feeding the baby and thinking about something... I really was going to blog about it. It would have been interesting and clever and witty... but darn it, now I cannot for the life of me remember what it was... Oh well. Maybe I should go pick up that dishwasher soap.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

We Are Them

Missionaries have always been my highest ideal of Christian virtue but they also represent the calling I least would desire to have God place upon me. To leave my home and family, move to a far country among strange and sometimes hostile people and then stay there for years trying to convince the locals that your religion is something they ought to adopt sounds like an exercise in excessive torture to me.

Yet in some strange way I have found that I have been placed as a missionary here in a grubby little trailer park in rural Idaho. The difference is that missionaries, no matter how much they try to ignore or overcome it, always have an "us and them" mentality. The missionary is there by choice. We, on the other hand, are not. Like everyone else living in Syringa Park, we are forced here by poverty. We did not choose to come here with a flame of higher calling but were dragged here by circumstance, kicking and screaming all the way. I don't think anyone chooses to live here. They live here because they have to. Many are disabled, divorced, retired. All are poor. Like us.

Tonight as we were working on fixing up the park's little playground area, I was thinking about being a missionary. We had decided to put some time and effort into the neglected little playground so our own kids would have a safe play area, but we were immediately surrounded by grateful children like a honeycomb is surrounded by bees. These children are my mission field.

Children are not stupid. They would be able to tell immediately if we were frauds. If we were rich do-gooders here to make them our mission field. The fierce Idaho pride that is bred into them would never tolerate that. But we're not. When they asked us why we were fixing the swings, I could only tell them that I wanted it to be safe for my little girl to play on. Really that was the only reason. There is no "us and them". Oh, in my mind there used to be. And actually there still is, to some degree. But in reality the "us and them" has merged into just "us". All of the "us" people who live in old trailers in this little corner of one of the poorest and most overlooked state in the country. Every day that goes by, I long to tell them how Jesus loves them. Jesus loves poor people. They don't have to become rich or successful or live in town for Jesus to love them. And neither do we.

This summer, I plan to go play at the play area a lot. I will do it for my daughter, who needs a place to play. And I will do it for the 12 or so schoolchildren who delight in having swings that are not broken, a ladder with all of its rungs and a tarp over the roof of the "pirate ship". There is Lacy, who has Jack-O-Lantern teeth and a sprinkling of freckles. Martha wears glasses and looks just like my best friend from high school. I don't know all of their names yet, but when I do I will write about them and we can all pray for them together. I hope I can show them that Jesus loves them while I live here, however long or short that is.

An Easy 1...2...3

Today is National Install Our Air Conditioner Day. This morning hubby chose the north window of the living room as the perfect spot to put the new air conditioner. Well, almost new. We'd bought it last summer for some tenants who moaned and complained so much we actually bought the thing for them. (Aren't we good landlords? And I did not even use the B-word about them!) It was living out in the shed. I have no idea where they used it as it wasn't in a window when we moved in.

Hubby's first job was to open a hole for it. Sounds easy. The window he chose was caulked shut by a maintenance man last summer. Hubby had to pry one side of the glass or plexi or whatever it was out of the hole then scrape three different colors of old caulk away from the casing. While he was at it, he cleaned off the layers of dirt and treated the mold growing in the sill. We may have destroyed the undiscovered cure for cancer...and all for an air conditioner.

The easy part turned out to be setting the unit in the window. Chains dangled on the outside of the house to hold up the back end and the sides fit the hole perfectly. So far, so good.

Later, after a trip to the hardware store via Farmer's Market and a coffee shop, he began working on covering the top part of the hole. We discussed options and decided that since light is a precious commodity that we should use Plexiglas rather than wood. Hubby had never worked with Plexi before (I have) and I wondered how he would fare. I heard scraping then sawing then cracking. I wasn't sure if it was swearing next or if that was my imagination. I was proud of him for diving in to work on that stuff. My conscience got the better of me and I loaned a hand (and my super-sharp craft knife) so between the two of us we got it cut to size with a minimal amount more swearing and only one crack.

Caulking it in the window turned out to be more like working with silly putty, but it got done and the weather will stay outside while the inside of the house is already on it's way from 81 degrees down to a comfortable 73. The remaining project is to seal the underside with expandable foam, but we forgot to get some. In one day we went from a tightly caulked window and a oven-like house to a tightly caulked hole containing a large white machine that is even now pumping cool air into our home. I am so proud of my hubby!

For SpokaneSistaSal

Have you tried Nature's Miracle on the cat smell? Hubby used it on our car and the smell is completely gone. It works the best if you really soak all of the smelly spot (for that you have to know exactly where it is) and then let it dry all by itself. It is an enzyme so it breaks down the urine. It's pretty amazing stuff.

Friday, June 1, 2007

82 Degree Trailer

From a collection of poems by Shel Silverstein, all copyrights belong to the author. Reprinted without their permission, but hey, they'd understand, it's freakin HOT!!

It's hot!
I can't get cool,
I've drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I'll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It's hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I'll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It's hot!
I've tried with 'lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I'll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It's still hot!

Joy In The Journey

A comment on the previous post reminded me of this song that I love to listen to. I'd like to share the lyrics and wish a blessing on the journey that we are all on toward God and our heart's desire in finding more of Him.


Joy In The Journey
by Michael Card

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And all those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who've been born in the Spirit
And who share incarnation with Him
Who belong to eternity stranded in time
And weary of struggling with sin

Forget not the hope that's before you
And never stop counting the cost
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey

And freedom for those who obey...