Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reading old emails

> From: whistlererin
> Date: August 30, 2006 12:59:23 PM PDT
> To: hubby
> Subject: Re: grrrr...buglet
>
>
> whistlererin wrote:
>> Guess what our child has been doing for the past hour? Getting ALL
>> of her diapers out and strewing them across her room. And, worse,
>> she got her Desitin out and was cheerfully painting the changing
>> table and her face with traditional Indian Ceremonial Designs. A
>> little more on her face and she could have been a mime.
>> AAAAHHHHH!!!!

I guess ALL 21 month-olds do this? This was back when I was pg with Seth. I remember those days like a bad dream. Life is SO much better now.

Anyway, looking through old emails is kick sometimes. I was actually looking for the address of a friend of mine. I just found out that she passed away unexpectedly yesterday. How sad. Life is so short and so precious. Don't take one minute for granted. My friend, a person who I met online but also met in real life in Seattle once was the sweetest, most cheerful, uncomplaining person I have ever met. Although struggling with some major health issues including diabetes, kidney failure and dialysis and amputation she never talked about being in pain or feeling hopeless or depressed. She talked instead about how much she loved her husband, how much fun she had with her dog, how much she liked fish-n-chips. Now her pain is over and she is dancing with Jesus on two healthy legs. It's amazing how a person who I have only met once can change my life.

That was a rambling post, but sometimes life is like that. The pathos and the humorously absurd mix and you can't sort one out from the other. So I post this email about my daughter from a year and a half ago because Bella would have laughed about it. Maybe she is laughing still.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

We're home again from celebrating Christmas with my parents. We had a wonderful time. The kids were buried in presents, paper and bows. Yesterday we hung out at my parents' house and mostly ate goodies all day. Hubby and I got away during nap time to see "National Treasure: Book of Secrets". Last night we sang our traditional carols and read the Christmas Story out of the book of Luke.

This morning the kids slept in until 8, for which I was grateful. I had not slept well for two nights because I felt so upset about the house situation, but more on that another time. Suffice it to say, I was happy for a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Natta isn't old enough yet to get up early, but when she did, we hurried upstairs and her brown eyes grew wide at the pile of presents. Mama and Papa (my parents) had even gotten her a bike but when she tried to get on and discover that it felt too big for her, she turned her interest instead to other things. We started with stockings. Then the presents under the tree were unwrapped. Both kids were loaded with clothes and toys and books and ... I was happy though, for in that huge mountain of presents, Natta's favorite item was the talking Lightning McQueen car that was the only thing I gave her. Not having much money this year, I made sure to pick something she would especially like and it worked! That made me feel better because I was afraid that my small gift would get completely lost in the shuffle.

Hubby's favorite gift was a new dress shirt in exactly the correct size from his grandparents in Oregon. Mine was a lovely new coat and Seth's was the wrapping paper. All in all, we had a super time!

The afternoon saw us at Grandma Doris's house for a luncheon with aunts and uncles, but the kids were fussy and tired so we only stayed long enough to eat before we headed back up the hill. Once at home we worked on putting everything away while the kids napped. Then this evening we played with Natta's train set and took a walk in the new-fallen snow.







Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls (copycat recipe)

INGREDIENTS

* 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 2 eggs, room temperature
* 1/3 cup margarine, melted and somewhat cooled
* 4 1/2 cups bread flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast or 2 packets regular yeast

* 1 cup brown sugar, packed
* 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
* 1/3 cup butter, softened

* 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup butter, softened
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/8 teaspoon salt



BREAD MACHINE DIRECTIONS

1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
2. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.


REGULAR DIRECTIONS

1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk in a large bowl. Let sit for a minute or two to begin working. Add sugar, salt, eggs, margarine and 2 cups of the flour. Stir until well blended. Add remaining flour until dough forms a ball. Turn onto floured surface and knead for ten minutes. Place, covered, in a well-greased bowl in a warm spot for an hour to rise.
2. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
3. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
4. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Tips: use thread or dental floss to cut the dough into rolls. Set the thread under the dough and draw the ends up and around, crossing and pulling tight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Candlelight

This afternoon as I sat talking with my mother, the lights flickered and went out. Through the curtain the feeble gray of late afternoon was rapidly fading into the darkness of night. Unfolding myself from my armchair, I padded into the bathroom to retrieve a candle and lighter, along with one of my oil lamps. These two I lit and we watched the flickering flame as it steadied and lit the twilight with a soft glow. We sat and talked in the candlelight. As I looked out my window, the only lights I saw were tiny, flickering candles in neighboring windows and my imagination was taken back to a time I have never known when neighbors saw flickering candles in one another's windows, when the corners of a room receded into shadow. The room grew colder. We have no alternate heat source, so without electricity we are reduced to refugees seeking shelter with friends as the heat drains from our house. Tonight, though, the power wasn't out that long. We went to Arby's for dinner and when we came back, the lights were back on; the heater happily spilled warmth into our rooms. In a way, though I miss that faint, flickering glow of soft candlelight. I might just turn the lights back off and sit in the peaceful glow of only candles.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Date Night With My Daughter

Last night I took Curly on a girl's night out. Our first stop, once Hubby got home to watch a very fussy, teething Seth, was dinner. I chose China Buffet because take-out is cheap and because Natta could choose what she wanted and would therefor eat better. We had fun picking our food then took it on into the mall to eat it. Our conversation centered around such subjects as interested my small daughter such as whether or not we should visit the arcade and how much fun she'd had playing with her friend that morning.

Then we headed to the Sister's Brew coffee shop, one of our favorite hangouts. As we walked in the door, a young couple with a baby standing on the floor next to them chewing on his daddy's leg attracted Curly's attention. "Look, Mommy, they have a Baby Brother just like I do!" I ordered a decaf white chocolate mocha and a small milk for Natta-noo. We chose some comfy armchairs next to a big coffee table and set up camp. Natta opted for the Chutes and Ladders game while I pulled out my laptop. Her awkward three-year-old hands attempting to set up the game accidentally tipped her milk off the back side of the coffee table. I jumped and ran for a wash rag and soon all was well again. She delightedly played a long game of Chutes and Ladders with herself, commenting to me every so often. I worked on another braille transcription lesson and chatted with Hubby who had gotten on his laptop at home.

Soon Curly was done with Chutes and Ladders. At her request, I helped her put it away and she got out the box containing several Mr. Potato-Head toys. While I tried to concentrate on braille, she excitedly showed me each accessory as she assembled the Potato-Head couple. I smiled and made comments while a circus Potato-Head took shape.

As I worked, I eavesdropped on the conversations swirling around me. At a table to my left a young man left messages on the cell phones of every friend he could think of trying to find a ski pass for Schweitzer to borrow so he could go snowboarding the next day. Behind me a table full of college students studied Shakespeare. Next to them another table debated the demographic of "celtic" vs. "gaelic". The young couple with the baby bundled their coats on and left. In the background a Loreena McKennitt CD sent soothing celtic (or gaelic) music over our heads. Curly's chatter about her Potato-Heads was only a pleasant addition to the ambient noise.

At last she tired of these as well and came to chat with Daddy at my invitation. At my prompting, she typed, "Hi Daddy" and a few other words before she decided it was time to go home. I wondered what the hurry was but found out when we got home and she made a beeline for the bathroom. Apparently she hadn't wanted to use the public restroom and was waiting for her own soft potty seat.

It turns out that Hubby and Mister had a good time too. Little Mister had gotten over his bout of fussiness and played happily with toys on the floor so Hubby could work on his computer.

Curly and Daddy did a few minutes of violin practice then it was off to Bath and Bottle Works. I reflected that when she wants to be good, she can be so much fun. A night spent with a cheerful, well-behaved Curly was a good night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Performances by Miss Curly

On Sunday, Curly got to be an angel in the Christmas play at church. She had a lot of fun doing it and running around with the other little three and four year old angels. Hubby's first comment was, "That halo's resting on her horns." But we both thought she looked beautiful. She really is our little angel and we love her so much!

Curly in an angel costume

group of children dressed as angels

Then, yesterday afternoon she had her first violin concert. She did so well! I am so proud of her. We have been working for months on playing her little rhythm correctly and she did it great at the concert. She didn't seem at all fazed by the audience but got up there and played like a pro! Here's a little video of part of our song. The parents played the Twinkle Variation along with the kids this time. Sorry the video is not longer but the batteries were running low on the camera.



And lest it look like the only attention Curly gets is when she is doing something performance-oriented, here she is after the concert playing in the nursery of the church where the concert was held. As a treat, she and her little brother got to go in there and play toys for a while to unwind. Good fun was had by all.

Natalie smiling



Aquamarine Doesn't Go With Olive

The other day I got bored. Anyone who has ever lived me knows that when this kind of boredom hits, they had better watch out because I am likely to make some kind of drastic change. This time I decided to paint the kitchen wall. It looked kind of nasty, since it was this dingy old white color. I had some green left over from doing Natta and Seth's mural so I dug it out of the hall closet and inspected it. Hmmm.... it looked a little on the blue side. I rummaged some more in the hall cupboard. Pulling out the creamy yellow I'd used on the living room I recklessly mixed the two leftover cans together. Immediately I discovered I had nothing with which to mix the new color. After opening several drawers looking for creative inspiration, I finally pulled out a wooden shish-kabob skewer. I stirred, surveyed the results then stirred some more. It definitely looked greener. Eying the olive-accented kitchen curtain, I set to work. I quickly removed curtain, light switch plates and junk from the counter, much to Natalie's curiosity. She fired a thousand questions to me with the rapidity of a semi-automatic assault rifle. Patiently I answered while covering the corners with tape. At last I was ready. Using a sponge brush, I began sweeping paint onto the wall, stepping over Seth's collection of plastic bowls and leftover Cheerios.

The wall, which was not very big, was soon covered with two coats of paint. I watched it begin to dry. To my amazement the blue which had insidiously hidden during the mixing process began to reappear. Soon the wall was a dim aqua color, reminiscent of the 1950's. I turned the light off. Maybe less light would make it look better. No dice. Reluctantly, I hung the curtain back up and cringed at the clash. The curtain, a sweep of olive green leaves on a creamy background made the odd aqua green of the walls look like someone had been choosing paint colors using a black light for comparison.

At lunch Hubby came home. Right away he saw the kitchen wall and his first comment was, "Wow! Look what you did this morning!" I tried to explain that I wanted it to look fresh and clean. I suppose I achieved that at least. He frowned at the wall. Lest he think I had deliberately chosen that color and actually had the poor taste to like it, I told him what had happened. We agreed that it looked dreadful and I decided to fix it ASAP.

The next day I stopped at the hardware store while I was in town. Kneeling next to the rack of paint samples, I turned to the greens. Oh no! There were about 20 that were various shades of olive! Why had I not brought the curtain with me? Trying not to over correct and choose one that was too dark or too yellow, I at last selected a small jar of paint. Because the wall was so dinky I decided that two sample jars would be plenty to cover it.

This morning I retraced my work by unscrewing the switch-plates, removing the curtain and taping. As I daubed the new paint on, I reflected on the fact that color is a funny thing. Next to the weird aqua, the new color looked a sickly puce-yellow. Oh dear. Once again I had missed it. Since I had the wall prepped though, I went ahead and filled in the rest of the space with the new paint. I had at least guessed right on the amount. There was exactly enough. As it dried, I was surprised to see the gray disappear and in its place was a lovely green. Even more of a surprise was the curtain. When I hung it up, it matched exactly.

Happily, I replaced the switch-plates and tore off the tape. Now my kitchen wall is a mellow green instead of a stained, dirty white. What more could a girl ask?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

First Haircut

In spite of the teething and fussing, I plopped Seth in his highchair this afternoon. Combing his soft red baby hair through my fingers, I began snipping. Soon baby, highchair, floor and mommy were covered with soft red fuzz. I saved a chunk for his baby book then went to town. At first he sat still, enjoying the feeling of the comb on his head. Then he began turning his head to look at the snicking scissors. At last he got bored and began to squirm in earnest. I hurried to finish then stood back to admire the effect. He looked great. Hubby approved, saying he looked more like a mini-me than ever. After changing his shirt, I released Seth to go play and began to sweep up the fuzzy hair.

Seth sitting on the table after his haircut

Friday, December 14, 2007

Taking Baby Steps

Seth stood next to the couch, one hand securely steadying himself. Both size 5 Thomas tennis shoes planted firmly on the floor, he carefully took the hand off the couch and stood tall, all two feet of him. Pleased with himself, he clapped his hands, looking at me for praise. He got a smile of encouragement as under my breath I said, "Go for it! Take a step!" He thought about going back to safety at the couch but instead decided to venture into the unknown. He lifted one little shoe and planted it again, then the other. Gaining momentum caused him to lose his balance and plop! he was down. Again, he glanced up at me, frustrated. I smiled at him and, unable to resist, picked him up and cuddled him. Then I set him on his feet again next to the couch. Several times he took three steps then dropped to his knees and like lightning crawled across the room.

The other thing he does that is so funny is beg to be lifted up onto the couch where he stands in glee to be up with the big people. He walks along the length of it, enjoying the squishy feeling under his feet and the mirrors hung behind it. An extremely cute, cool baby is in those mirrors when he looks.

Seth standing on a brown couch

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Day Off

I have to let you know what a wonderful, fabulous, awesome husband I have! The other night I was in tears because I was just so tired and stressed about everything in life. Instead of telling me to tough it out he actually volunteered to take a vacation day at work in order to give me a "day off". I was so blessed and encouraged by his caring.

Yesterday was the day. I had my "day off" and enjoyed it thoroughly. I took Baby Seth with me all day just because I wanted to. I know I was supposed to be having a break from the kids, but he's still my baby and I didn't feel like leaving him. So we loaded him up and I drove to Pullman and picked up my best friend whose "Saturday" from work is on Wednesday. We then drove up to Spokane and got there about lunch time. It was so fun to just drive and talk for a couple of hours. Then we stopped at a little Chinese restaurant for lunch and continued on up to NorthTown Mall. We looked for Christmas gifts and just explored. Neither of us are really shoppers but the mall is about the only convenient public place to go when you don't know the town very well. Then we got a cinnamon roll and drove back down. During the drive we played Travel Scrabble. I drove and played by memory (she'd tell me the tiles she picked for me and I just remembered the board) the whole way home. It was a blast! (Final score: 348-197, I won) Seth slept all the way back down.

Then I hung at her house for two hours, ate pizza and then visited my old church for the Wednesday night service. That was fun to see a few old friends that I rarely get to see now. The day was super and the only negative was that lifting Seth so much made my back hurt like it is on fire. I'd appreciate prayer for healing because I have really been struggling with back pain (scoliosis and arthritis for years. Would love that to be completely healed!). So the day was super and so refreshing to just get out and do something different with my friend.

Most of all I'm thankful for a husband who understands that being a mom at home is actually really, really hard at times. Strange, because it's important work and on the surface it looks like it should be easy. But anyone who has done it will agree that it's not a walk in the park. Instead of criticizing me, my hubby encourages me and helps me be the very best mommy I can be. I hope he realizes what a blessing he is and how even a little thing like a day off can make a huge difference!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chugga-Chugga Choo Choo

For months we have been attempting to teach Curly Miss to play a certain rhythm on her violin, which we call "chugga-chugga choo choo". (Four sixteenth notes, two eighths.) We've tried "soaping" her arm with the rhythm. We've had her toy trains do it, we've clapped, we've coaxed, scolded and begged. At last, at long last, she will consistently play the correct rhythm on her instrument.

She is doing great with her practicing. She plays through the game every day, which takes almost an hour to do every activity. Each exercise is designed to promote good technique. Some of them are games for teaching a correct bow hold. Others make a correct left-hand position and still others help her hold the instrument correctly under her jaw. There are rhythm exercises, counting exercises and note-recognition exercises. All these tiny parts lead up to a whole, an ability to play a difficult instrument both correctly and beautifully.

For now, the beautiful part will have to wait until she's big enough for a better instrument. The one she has, unfortunately, sounds thin and scratchy because it is so small there is little resonance. But I see progress week by week as she spends time each day rehearsing all of the motions she needs. I'm sure proud of her. She's the youngest in her class by more than a year yet she is right in there with them, eight little people playing their violins.

Next Monday is their first concert and they will play their chugga rhythm while the parents play "Twinkle". Like the kids, we have practiced hard and we're all very excited to show what we have learned.



In the video, she had asked to practice first thing in the morning, so she's still in her jammies. It seems that last time I took a video of her she was in her jammies too. We don't always practice in our pajamas, it just seems that the times we do, I get inspired to video it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A lot of entertainment for $0.97

Are you ever enticed by the things at the checkout counter at Wal-Mart? Now, take your mind out of the gutter because I am not talking about the tabloids. I mean the little things BEFORE you get to the magazines. The little toys and lighters and chapstick and hair brushes. Today Natalie spied a small plastic digital camera with Nemo emblazoned on the side. I think she has a Nemo radar. Her proximity to this camera caused the radar to not only go off but to emit such an intensity of blips she could have been under enemy fire. Sweetly she asked if she could have one. Hubby and I looked at the price tag. Ninety-seven cents. Quickly we held a silent consultation with our eyes. Yes, we decided, she could have one. She received one into her hands with growing excitement. It was then set reverently on the belt, paid for and retrieved out of the plastic shopping bag where the checker had carelessly tossed it.

Her own camera! And this one talked. I am absolutely positive that if Hubby had been aware of this fact, Natta would not have been allowed to purchase it. It says "Click. I'm Nemo!" Sitting ensconced in her car seat, she listened to it say this phrase. "No, you're not!" She retorted, looking at the picture of one of the other characters in the viewfinder. From my position in the front seat, I could not stop laughing, watching her.

Later, at the tree-slide, the camera turned out to be a popular item. Several other kids admired it so much that they alternated between stealing it from her and throwing enormous tantrums because they did not have one. Ugh. I cannot stand bratty kids. The camera went in my pocket to be returned to my child later when we were safely away from Kleptomaniac Boy and Tantrum Toddler. I would never have predicted that our day would be filled with such drama originating from a $0.97 check-stand toy.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

...and inside it's chilly! The power has been flicking on and off. But I'm still grateful because the snow and cold seem to have slowed the neighbors' wild partying to a minimum. Friday night they packed up and went to bed just after one o'clock, which is when we gratefully went to bed ourselves. Now if the dog down the road could be silenced during nap time, all would be well. Ahhh, the joys of trailer-park living!

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To put aside the discomforts of daily life, however, I have a lot to be thankful for. God has blessed me with a new friend from church who also has a two-year-old daughter. At small group last week, she requested prayer as she really wanted to take classes part-time on campus but had no resources for childcare. This opened the door for a wonderful opportunity as I have been wanting to do the same thing but encountered the same obstacle. We got chatting and agreed that it could work out in both our best interests to swap babysitting, with the result that we have already gotten together for lunch, a play date and a promise of free babysitting on alternating days.

She has signed up for classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while I have been perusing the catalog for Monday, Wednesday or Friday slots. I am so thrilled that this door has been opened. I hope to pursue an undergraduate degree in a more lucrative field than teaching music, which it turned out I had such a miserable experience in Colton that I plan never to return, even if i could find the rare position that offered a salary more than $22,000. To top it off, Hubby has worked enough years on campus that I can take classes virtually for free as a benefit of his job. Looking back on the excellent health I enjoyed in my frenzied undergraduate years, I know this time around will be much different, but I plan to give it a shot after all. If I work hard enough I can help dig my family out of the hole we're in to a somewhat more comfortable lifestyle, even if it takes ten years. I also still have a heart to do foster care, something that would be impossible in a dwelling this size with no extra room. I'm beginning to see a ray of light. I'm sure God has everything all lined out already but not being able to see the plan, I have had to operate on blind faith alone that we will not be always living this miserable trailer park and will someday be back among civilized townspeople who don't keep trash-dumps for front yards and who tend to go to sleep at night instead of drink alcohol, play loud music and house the canine equivalent of the Latah Humane Society, not to mention the visits from the police to quiet domestic disputes.

On a happier note, I got my Christmas tree set up and decorated this week with Natalie's help. Enchanted by the ornaments, she commented on each with her usual talkative gusto. Seth is at the age in which every ornament would be in danger of being eaten so the tree and all its trimmings lives up on the living room desk. He has to admire it from afar and since anything above two feet is outside of his realm of experience, he doesn't really have an opinion of the tree.

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