Saturday, May 31, 2008

Take Two

Trying to take pictures of toddlers, while it has been made easier with a digital camera, still seems mostly like a lesson in patience. In going over the pictures loaded in my computer, some of the "outtakes" are so much cuter and funnier than the "perfect pose". In this case, the perfect pose didn't exist so I planned to whip out my trusty PhotoShop at the first possible opportunity.

Smile kids!


Oh dear, Seth, you need to hold still...


Are those smiles or screams?


C'mon, Mom, we're actually getting REALLY tired of this...


It wasn't me!


Say cheese! Put your hands on your knees... on your... on your knees, please, hands down... can you please hold still? Smile!


And here (drumroll please) is the final... PhotoShopped... portrait.


Mosaics of Sidewalk Chalk


A new interest has absorbed the attention of my children with the coming of warm spring weather: Sidewalk Chalk. Unpacking boxes the other day, we ran across the box of chalk and from then on it has been the favorite activity of both kids whenever we let them outside.

Along with the usual happy faces, suns and scribbles, Hubby lent his artistic touch with a robot and a few characters from Thomas the Train. Natta spent quite a while busily coloring one of the garden rocks pink, the color of pink that immediately makes me think of Pepto-Bismol.

We discovered that chalk is a great learning tool as well as being fun. Natta, who is right on the cusp of being able to read sat side-by-side with her Daddy as he spelled words in bright, chalky colors all over the front walk. She helped him sound out each letter although she still has trouble stringing them together into a coherent word in her mind.

Seth mostly draws lines and swirls, the kind of abstract art that makes me wonder if a gallery would carry his work and sell it for thousands of dollars. He seems to prefer the bright blue piece of chalk, a color that Natta immediately wants of Seth has it.

When they come in the house, covered from head to toe in powdery chalk, I have to smile and look the other way while they rub chalk on my pants, the couch and the floor. It's worth it for the fun they are having, and the nice thing about chalk is that is brushes off easily.


This afternoon was so warm that both sets of little shoes and socks came off and cute little pink toes ran all around, getting covered in chalk. I think these soft spring afternoons could last forever before I would ever get tired of them.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Play dates

Yesterday was a busy day! In the morning we had a friend from Preschool, P, and her mom over for two hours to play. Unfortunately P acted supremely disappointed that Natta didn't have any Princess gear. Natta, who scorns Princess stuff, could not understand what the trouble was. Eventually they both settled on puzzles and were happy. Seth coaxed K, P's mom, to read him a story. Since it was chilly we built a fire.

After all the excitement it was hard to settle down to eat lunch after they left and even harder to take a nap. Eventually both little people went to sleep though and I was left in peace to work on my web design work. I have a new job going right now and as usual when I have a site to build I spend every spare minute working on it. I love this work so much, I just have little happy creative tingles all day. If only my back did not get so stiff! My new-old chair helps, since I specifically chose it for the angle of the back.

Later, in the evening, another couple from church came to dinner. They have two kids the same age as our kids so there was more playing, more hilarity, more screaming and more toys. The kids' bedroom looked like a tornado by the time bed time rolled around and we all pitched in to get it tidy.

By ten o'clock I was bushed! Natta needs a lot of social time or she drives me up the wall. The trouble is, I'm discovering that her social calendar is wearing me out. I will be one happy and thankful Mama when Preschool starts up again in the fall. Until then, I pray for lots of energy so I can give her a fun, stimulating summer. I do enjoy her company. Always a cheerful little kid, she constantly comes up with new stuff that surprises me. She is an engaging little girl and I find myself really enjoying the fact that I get to watch her personality blossom. It is only a few precious years that we will spend all day together and get to know each other so intimately. Then she will be off to school most of the day. The part of me that gets overwhelmed by her intensity feels very pleased at that thought. But the "mommy" part of me is enjoying these toddler years where I get to have my children near me all day, to talk to them, to teach and influence them, to love on them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I love antiques: They have a story


An email from Dad got me hooked on the history of my cedar chest sooner than I had thought I would have time to get interested in it. Last night I opened it up looking for clues: a date, a manufacturer's stamp, anything to tell me where it came from and who had made it. For the most part I was disappointed as the inside of the chest was frustratingly bare. There was no label glued to the underside of the lid to tell me who had made the chest. However, stamped lightly on the top edge of one of the trays was a patent number and a date. April 6, 1937.


With little hope I typed the patent number into Google and found, to my surprise that the actual patent itself was available for viewing as a .pdf file. I downloaded it and viewed it. From there I got the name of a town and a further Google search revealed quite a bit more of the story of my cedar chest.

Here it is:

In the fall of 1906 there was no such thing in the United States, or in fact anyplace, as a cedar chest factory. The article was not known commercially. Everyone, of course, had heard of a cedar chest owned by grandmother, but it was an article that had been built by hand many, many years ago.

In 1907 J. W. Caswell and Winifred Runyan organized the Caswell-Runyan Company for the purpose of manufacturing cedar chests as a commercial article and Huntington was selected as the place for the factory. Building was started in May, 1907. The original plant consisted of a one story building 150 x 200 with dry kilns 36 x 75. It was thought at the time that the factory would be large enough to produce all the cedar chests that might be used in the world.

In the beginning the company employed from thirty to forty people. In the fall of 1924 six hundred people were employed, and the product is sold over the entire United States. The cedar chest is recognized as a standard piece of household furniture. Its utility has been established by investigation of the part of the Department of Agriculture at Washington. One big feature of the business is the fact that it has been established without advertising, there being but one organization in the country who has ever resorted to national advertising.


On July 25, 1936, an inventor named Shirley E. Coy who lived in Huntington, Indiana applied for a patent on a new kind of design in cedar chests. The patent describes in detail the inner workings of the swinging tray used in my particular chest. The patent was published on April 6, 1937.



Oddly enough, the Caswell-Runyan Company closed its doors in May of 1956, so my chest must have been manufactured before that time. Tragically a huge fire destroyed the plant in 1962.

Adding this to the family history yields interesting results. My Grandpa Barnes must have purchased the chest sometime in the 1940's, not too long before my Grandma married my Grandpa who went off to fight in the war, leaving his wife and one-year old daughter behind. Grandma went back to North Dakota to live with her parents during the war, then after it was all over they both went to the University of Idaho, living in the tiny Married Student Housing cottages in Moscow, located close to where the Palouse Mall now stands.

They certainly would not have had the chest at that time, nor would they likely have had it later in the small house in Osburn where they lived before my mother was born. They likely were given the chest much later, after my mother and her younger sister were born and the family lived in the bigger house on Larch Street.

After the River Cabin was built in 1960, at some point my grandma in attempting to "get rid of old furniture", in keeping with the modern-loving sixties mentality, took the chest over there and left it in the right-hand back bedroom. It sustained a little bit of moisture damage but remained solid and sound until I was given the chest as an heirloom gift somewhere around the year 2000. Since I have had it has received a few more scratches, unfortunately, as a dog I once had used to jump on it to see out of the front window before I realized what she was doing.

The finish looks old and opaque but pictures of other old Caswell-Runyan chests show that the wood used on the outside of these fine chests it almost always a gorgeous pattern. The rounded front on the lid is consistent with the chests from this time period as well as the company's other products, so I'm pretty sure that the wood underneath must have the signature grain of a Caswell-Runyan chest. I'd love to get it professionally refinished at some point and find out.

It is fascinating to me that the main partner in the manufacturing business and the inventor listed on the patent are both women. (Update from a resourceful commenter... they were actually both male. See comments below.) Who were Winifred Runyan and Shirley E. Coy? I had no idea that women in the 1930's invented cedar chests. (I guess they didn't! But the rest of the post I'll leave as I originally wrote it, even though my assumptions were inaccurate.) So far, further internet searches have revealed no clues to the lives of these women. My imagination supplies some details that the facts, hidden by distance and years, do not. Winifred might have been married to Caswell and they began the business together. Perhaps she came from an influential family and did not wish to give up her family name. Perhaps J.W. Caswell was also a woman, though two women starting an entire manufacturing business sounds a little unusual for the day.

Who was Shirley E. Coy, the inventor? Looking at the patent, I can see drawings of the hinged trays in her own hand. As a woodworker myself, I feel an affinity towards her, designing a chest with trays in the top, just the sort of chest she herself would like to use and have in her own house. Perhaps Winifred was a friend or a neighbor; in that small of a town they surely would have known each other well. Maybe Shirley was an employee of the Company and her job was to design new inner workings for the cedar chests that the company made.

There is so much an antique could tell us if it could talk. This one could tell us the story of strong, intelligent women, of resourcefulness and intelligence and a company that stayed strong through the Great Depression but closed its doors inexplicably in 1956 during the height of the country's prosperity. It could tell us of fine craftsmanship and of beautiful wood, carefully assembled. It could tell me of my own family, of a man raising his children in North Dakota, of a woman waiting for her young husband to return from the war, of a family together again. It could tell so many stories and last night it did through one simple stamp and a patent number.

Quote Source
Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Miniature

My children and my Ever-So-Patient-Plays-With-The-Kids-Whadda-Good-Daddy Husband emerged from the bedroom this afternoon and excitedly wanted to show me what they had built. To my surprise, they had constructed a replica of Kindlewick Cottage using the wooden blocks. I was quite impressed with their creativity, especially since Destructo-Seth was "helping" the whole time.



Mystery Weed pt. 2

Further research has indicated I was incorrect in my flower-naming in this post. This is actually called Money Plant for the round quarter-sized seed pods it produces. One gardening site had this to say:

This heirloom has been popular in winter arangements since colonial times. Money plant was introduced to England from Germany in the late 1500s and brought to America by the Puritans. Money plant is also called honesty, silver dollar, satinflower, penny flower, Judas' penny, and moonwart. Plant in mass in beds, borders or along the edge of shrub plantings where shining pods can catch the sunlight. Being a biennial, plant in spring and will flower/ produce silvery seed pods following year.

I also finally got a good picture of one in my yard.



It appears the leaves are edible and can be added to salads. According to this site, it is possible that my version of the plant isn't the biennial type. Or possibly it is a variation of the same plant.

Amazingly enough, there is even a poem about it! The things a person can find on the internet when they get looking...


from loden stalks
the seedes cometh foorth
in a flat thinne cod
sharp pricked
in fashion of the moone
somehwhat blackish

three skinned cod
two, overworne ashe
the innermost whereon
the seed doth cleave
thin, cleere shining
like a shred of white satten
newly cut from the peece

thy transparency
Lunaria biennis
Lunaria rediviva
in cruce salus

White Sattin
Herbe aux Lunettes: spectacle-plant
Judas Pence
Nummularia: coin-shaped

Money money money
in a vas

much cited
daily applicable


The birthday present I got from Grandma J finally arrived and has been set up in my new house this week. Some time I'd like to do some re-finish work on the cabinet, but for now we'll go with the "loved" look!



An unexpected treasure that came with the house are these vintage magazines sitting on a picture-rail in the kitchen. They aren't worth much in terms of dollar value (I looked them up out of curiousity; they're worth about $15 each) but they look really cute in my kitchen. It's fun too that they come from the same era as the house, the 1920's.



We put my grandmother's antique desk up on the third floor in the room Hubby calls "The Tower". A strange little space at the top of the stairs just outside the Master bedroom, he has created a library and music room up there. In pride of place sits my pretty desk, waiting for someone to sit at it and write a story with a quill pen using the light of an oil lamp. Maybe not, but that is how I imagine the desk, longing for the old days when simpler times left room for long, lamplit evenings of peace and solitude.


At the top of the third floor stairs sits my cedar chest. All of my blankets smell like cedar from being stored here. For years, this old chest lived in the River Cabin and before that it was used by my grandma, my mom's mom. Beyond that I don't know its history. Some day maybe I can find out its manufacture date at least. It needs some TLC too... some day.


I did it!!!


This took 1 year, 1 month and 15 days. Persistence pays off!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spring Song

by Robert Louis Stevenson

The air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather?


Monday, May 26, 2008

Sorting and Recycling

Traditionalist would be a good word to describe my prior approach to garbage handling. I've always had the tall plastic can with a plastic liner and I put everything into it then when it is full I tie the top and stick it in a big bin on the curb for the garbageman to collect. The end. I have contributed thousands of pounds to the local landfill and never worried a minute about it.

Now, with the world going green and Moscow in particular on a huge "green" fad, I have succumbed and I am going to begin recycling. Like anything I decide to do, I have jumped in with both feet. I figured that our family would never successfully learn to change our habits unless we had some kind of drastic reminder and then an easy way to make it a daily routine. So we went to Wal-Mart this morning (anyone else see the irony in this?) and bought FIVE brand spanking new garbage cans. Three are tall and two are short with tight-fitting lids. Then I put LARGE labels on the lids of all five cans. We now have cans for paper, plastic, trash, cans/glass and compost. Hubby, who grew up sorting garbage on the farm didn't complain as much as I expected so now our kitchen has a mini recycling station installed.

The paper is going to go directly into my fireplace to be used as kindling. The rest will be put into curbside recycling bins and carted away by none other than my friend the garbage man. I love Moscow. They don't just encourage greenness, they make it easy.

I am really curious to see how much less actual trash my family produces now. So far after a full day including friends over and a big BBQ, the trash can is less than 1/3 full. Usually it would have gone out by now.

Analysis of my motives in recycling yields some curious results, however. I actually could care less about "saving the planet". I think the planet needs more trees, possibly planted directly in landfills and it would be fine. What I do like is the sorting part. It gives me a lot of little happy feelings to have my garbage organized and sorted into five bins. I cannot say why my personality is so pleased with this practice; nevertheless, there it is, built right into me, the joy of placing each item in its appropriate location. My poor family who have to live with this neat-freakishness probably don't enjoy it as much as I do, but they love me and tolerate my quirks. And I have learned, partly from past roommates to tone down the anal part of the clean-monster until I am bearable to be around.

There is one funny story in my past on this subject, though. One roommate I had was even more anal than me. One time she dragged me to her Home Care Leader (who happened to be SpokaneSista) where I was subjected to a long lecture on how I ought to be more clean in my habits at home. Cleaning the bathroom only once a week just wasn't cutting it. This was on the heels of another roommate who deliberately moved out because she couldn't stand me any more, I was such a clean freak. (There was one memorable fight about a handful of raisins on the kitchen floor... never mind.) I tell ya, those days of Home Care Leaders were humorous to someone who appreciates irony, and I do!

Anyway, I have the sorting system in place and I am poised to be a Super-Recycler. They need to give me a blue spandex suit and a red cape! Just kidding, green looks better on me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Little Harp

Finally we have unpacked the little 26-string Celtic Harp. It was been well over a year since I have gotten to play it and I'm thrilled that now we have room to have it out where I can practice it.

I was surprised to discover that is has been three years in June since I played it at my best friend's wedding. Although I have practiced it a little since then, I was too ill to give any serious time to it and sitting down to tune it yesterday, I felt as though I had never touched it before.

Hopefully now I will be able to dig in and really get some time in now that we're almost settled. I haven't really learned a two-handed instrument to the level I would like and I feel like it is time to do so in order to be more musically rounded. This summer seems like a perfect opportunity to do so, especially since I am trapped in the house during nap time.

Right now I am still getting it to hold a tune since it has been so long. Soon I'll find the beginner book I was using and reacquaint myself with it like an old friend.

The last time we had the harp out, two years ago:



Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Slice of Pizza

Today at the church work party, my daughter grabbed her slice of cheese pizza and scampered off to sit by a friend. When did she get so big?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Days of Wine and Roses


Seth Dictionary

Seth, at 19 months, is rapidly inventing his own language. Unlike Natta whose words resembled English at this age, Seth has his own words, composed almost entirely of vowels and the letter B. They are loosely based on real words and it's fun to try to interpret for him, especially to Hubby who doesn't see him all day and doesn't realize he is actually talking.

Do-do- Yogurt
Nuh-nuh- Banana
Ah?- All gone?
Eh-wah?- Phone (hello?)
Na- Snack
Baba- Bottle
Bu- Button
Dada- Daddy
Mama- Mommy
Nanna- Natta
Pa!- Shirt (Pop! over his head)
Ah- Socks
Oosh- Shoes
Bee- Birdies
Ma- Kitty (meow)
No- Nose
Ba- Bye
Bai- Bite
Boo- Balloon
Ha!- Fire (Hot!)
Bwaah- Block
Oh- Cheerios
Oof- Doggie (Woof)
Wawa- drink (water)
Papa- Papa (Grandpa)
Buh!- Bus

Baby Signs:

For early childhood development he is right on track, as far as I know. It will be fun to watch his language blossom over the next year. He loves to communicate and gets frustrated when he can't get his message across. He understands almost everything we say. He'll be my helper by putting his jammies in the washer or his bottle in the sink. He knows when we're ready to leave or when we're ready to go outside to play. He loves to go places in the car but he hates the sun and if it hits him in the face, he'll cry.

The area where he is ahead is still in fine motor/mechanical skills. At his age kids can generally stack four blocks. He could do that six months ago and now can stack a tower as high as he can reach. He could sort shapes quite early and can already draw circular lines. He observes how the toy trains and old cell phones work and he already knows how to work doorknobs to open a door. Watching me use tools fascinates him, as does music. He'll stop whatever he is doing to listen if I start a CD or if Natta starts to sing, which she does more and more. He also will walk around humming a little monotone song himself.

I love babies at this age. They are learning so much every day, like a little flower that you patiently watch bloom. He's such a pleasant, happy sweet little guy most of the time too. if he's stressed out or hungry he can get pretty whiny but in general he lives up to his nickname of Smiley.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Name That Kitten

We're getting a Siamese kitten in two weeks from Hubby's sister who raises them to sell. Hubby and I have a lot of trouble naming cats though, so I need suggestions. What should we name our kitty?

*EDITED* Oh yeah, boy kitty. :)


Aren't they cuuuute??


Our current kitty, Magnet, spends most of his time like this. I don't think he realizes how life will change when a kitten enters his world!


Continuing the Home Tour

Yesterday we got the living room shoveled out. For weeks it has been the catch-all for everything from paint cans to bags half-full of of supplies from the hardware store to toys and games and books and a box of knick-knacks inherited from my grandma. We sorted, organized and put things away, delegating some of the stuff to the basement for later unpacking.

So here are the living room and dining room areas. Since our cottage is so small, these will be the main living areas and will figure the most prominently in our lives for years. My goal with the living room was "formal comfort" where we feel invited into the intimate setting. I wanted a room that would welcome the kids but also retain the flavor of sophisticated adulthood. Since their bedroom is mere feet away it works very well. They get toys from their room and play here but at the end of the day all the toys get put back away and Hubby and I can enjoy some quiet peace in a cozy setting.

Along with the muted greens and splashes of dark purple I have used before, I also added in a few touches of the burgundy-red that came with the curtains I wanted to keep. I was afraid that the two dark colors would clash but instead they compliment each other in a way I never expected.

Soon I will sew new cushions for my chair. I already bought the fabric in the same muted olive green as the rug and the throw pillow on the couch. I wanted to pull that color out a little more since it is a main color in the room and it balances the touches of red.

Mom lent me the print of the cathedral that I wanted and it hangs behind the couch in the living room. In her house it was a little heavy and oppressive but here I featured it on a wall and the colors compliment my design quite well. I'm thrilled to have it.




(The camera seems to be behaving better today. Maybe it isn't broken but has a setting that needs to be adjusted. I hope that's all it is!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Homemade Bread

What a lovely evening! Hubby and I took a walk downtown tonight with the kids in the stroller, enjoying the crisp springtime air and the rain-washed sunshine. After stopping at our favorite coffee house we spent some time letting the kids play on the playground in Friendship square then we went to the Co-op to get some whole wheat flour.

Yesterday I had tried out my dough hook by making up a batch of white bread. It turned out great and I gave a loaf to our friends from church who had spent quite a bit of time helping us move. Tonight though we set our sights on whole wheat and cinnamon. Hubby did most of the work while I supervised the process, teaching him the intricacies of setting up the yeast and adding flour. We had a wonderful time baking bread together while the kids watched from kitchen chairs, Natalie offering comments and advice, as well as running to the bedroom every five minutes to retrieve toys which she showered on her brother.

As the bread rose, Hubby and I watched a TV show on the computer, enjoying the quiet of the kid-sleeping house. We built a fire and sat in front of it together, smelling the wood smoke and the scent of baking bread. A quiet evening after a quiet day.

We have been through so much the past few years, I doubt I'll ever take an evening like this for granted. I feel incredibly blessed to be alive, here, now with my family and friends. And I am even thankful for the little things like a fresh, warm slice of homemade bread.

More Folklore

My dream for many years has been to have a guest room so that guests who come to town will have a nice place to stay. I have designated the little basement "office" room for such a purpose and spent the week painting it.

I got a phone call from our Prosser friends the other day with the news that they are coming into town this coming weekend and they would come stay with us. They are still in love with Moscow and my friend K is visually impaired so she is tickled over the fact that we live close enough to walk downtown since she gets tired of waiting around for people to drive her places. I am thrilled to have them come stay and I spent a happy two days fixing up their room. Now two of the walls are a pleasant folklore color and the other two are cream. Yesterday we got a bed from Goodwill, the least expensive place we could find and we bought sheets and blankets.


I tried to take a picture but the camera refused to focus. I'm beginning to see a trend here. I wonder if our camera has taken too much abuse lately and is finally going to stop working properly at all. Since our trip to the beach in Texas, the zoom has a bit of a gritty quality and since dropping it on Monday the focus isn't working. Rats. To a mother of toddlers, a camera is one of the essential pieces of equipment. Missing those precious Kodak moments is akin to a Sin of Omission, so I need to either get it fixed or figure out how to afford a new one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Room At A Time

We got the kitchen organized and everything put away yesterday. If you count the kids' room as being done then this is the second room we have finished. It gives me great hope to get a whole room done because I can go in there and breathe a sigh of relief and think, "Soon my whole house will be this peaceful."


Hubby had to try it out right away, of course. He made us both a delicious cup of coffee. Part of his award money was spent on a special coffee grinder, so we tried it out and were both agreeably surprised at the difference it made in the espresso. It was much smoother and we both enjoyed his Barista work.


We almost have the dining room cleared out too. Soon we'll be able to both cook a meal AND sit down at the table to eat it. What a concept. We also plan to use the new Kitchen Aid mixer to knead up a batch of homemade bread. This will be the first time I have ever made homemade bread with a machine. I've always just kneaded it by hand for ten minutes. Hubby assures me that it is way easier with the bread hook and hopes fondly that I will begin making homemade bread on a weekly basis. In spite of my interest in pioneer life, I'm not sure that weekly breadmaking is one of my ambitions, but we'll see.



(all my pictures were blurry. I think the ceiling fan tricked my camera...)

Happy Birthday Mom :)

My mom has a week in May that ought to be named after her. In the same week, she celebrates Mother's Day, her anniversary and her birthday. Unfortunately she lives in a family who never has celebrated these holidays to her satisfaction, but the fact remains that this is HER week. And today is her birthday.

Mom grew up in a little mining town in Northern Idaho. She is the middle of three girls and has always told fun stories of childhood escapades with neighborhood children: riding bikes, playing with toys and dolls. Her father, my grandpa Wally, was the chief mining engineer for several of the biggest mines in the area so her family was well-off and her father showed his love by spoiling her and her sisters rotten. He doted on them, took them places and bought them presents. At age 13 he bought her a horse, a little quarter-horse mare that she adored, even into the later years when I was in the picture. I remember going for rides on Gypsy when we lived on the farm. Although the family never lived pretentiously, they never lacked for anything either, unlike many of their neighbors in that area.

Living in the Silver Valley, she grew up knowing the trees and forests intimately. The River Cabin was built when she was seven and the family often took vacations there. She had a playhouse in the woods that covered the mountain just behind the family house. She had the happy security of always living in the same house growing up, the house my grandpa still lived in until recently. I have fond memories too of that house, nestled right up against the foot of the hill.

After high school, Mom went to the UI, studying science. She loved science but in the early seventies, most girls were still more interested in a career in being a wife than in science. She met my dad on a blind date arranged by mutual roommates and quit school to move with him to the farm in central Idaho, a social shock that I'm not sure she ever entirely overcame.

Later they decided to move into town and settled in Lewiston. After I was a few years old, she understandably wanted another baby, but it was not to be apparently. For eight years, she fought the battle against infertility and eventually gave up. She followed my dad to Fresno, CA to pursue his dream of becoming a pastor, meekly determined to support him in his endeavor, even agreeing to sell their house and use all their savings for the venture.

While in Fresno, her impossible dream became a reality and she got pregnant with my sister. I was ten. The baby came unexpectedly five weeks early, a circumstance which God probably used to save her life as she unknowingly had life-threatening blood clots in her legs. After a traumatic night three weeks later and an eleven-day stay in the hospital, she was released on strong blood-thinners and told to rest. I won't go into all the medical details and the surgery, but suffice it to say that the clots had ruined several of the major blood-return veins in her legs and damaged her circulation forever. She also was forced by the medication to give up breastfeeding, something that broke her heart as it was one of her dreams through all the long years of infertility to have a baby and breastfeed again.

For her sake we moved back to Idaho to be closer to family. Essentially starting over financially, my dad got a job and they bought a modest house in the center of town. Mom at first was cheerful and upbeat in spite of the health problems. She figured things would clear up and she would begin feeling better any time. But years went by and the poor circulation continued to plague her. She was constantly tired; she developed large open ulcers on her left foot that refused to heal. She had to spend hours in bed with her feet elevated above the level of her heart. Then genetics began their insidious work. My grandma had suffered terrible fibromyalgia (joint pain) and now the same problem began to attack Mom. She also had Migraine headaches. The combination of all the pain and the loss of hope that it would ever go away was too much. She sank into a deep depression, her body reacting to all the trauma it had been through. Our family struggled financially for the first time in her life since she wasn't able to work, they had to support a teenager and a toddler, and the economy in the nineties didn't have the happy buoyancy that the eighties enjoyed.

At last, several years after I had left for college, she rallied. She decided that she may be in pain for the rest of her life but she was still going to have a life. She bothered the doctors until they found some pain medication she could tolerate. Then she got a loan and went back to college. My sister was in school, so she had the time during the day and several years later she finished her science degree. This time, though, her goals had changed. Instead of Veterinary Medicine, she decided she wanted to go into research. She began learning about genetics and DNA. She had to figure out how to work at a lab bench without standing all day. She had to learn computers.

Now she works full-time in a laboratory on campus doing DNA sequencing. She takes the DNA from crop viruses and analyzes it with a team of scientists. Every day she commutes the hour drive up to the Palouse from Lewiston. Every day she fights against the pain and constant fatigue and wins. I am so proud of her. She has been dealt a hand of cards that no one would want and still has come out ahead, doing meaningful work in her field of crop research. She has taken the negatives in her life and turned them into strength. She didn't like living out on the farm all by herself, but now she knows the value of crops from the inside. She knows what it is like for the farmers to watch the weather and think about their fields. She didn't like the hours in bed with her feet propped on a pillow but now she uses the patience she learned for hours of tedious analysis. She is an amazing person, really smart and has so much grit. I hope I have a tenth of her courage as I grow up.

Happy Birthday, Mom, I love you!

Oh, like her dad, my mom LOVES to give presents. So this is kind of how I see her, like the Magi of old, bearing gifts!


Speaking of Names

I named our house. It feels a little foolish since house names aren't a common practice in the USA. In Britain people name their houses all the time (or used to) and I think it's quite a romantic tradition. This little house has so much personality it seemed to be just begging for a name, so I gave it one and painted a sign for it.
Kindlewick Cottage

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mystery Weed

All over our yard there is a gorgeous purple wildflower growing. It tucks itself into corners and shows up next to flower beds. Along with the dandelions, it splashes my yard with color and for two weeks now I have been wondering what it is. You can see a bit of it in this picture, next to the headlight of the pickup truck:

My natural curiosity had begun to get the better of me so today I decided to go on a quest. My Ever-So-Patient-Hubby kept the kids for a couple of hours while I ran errands. Among them was finding a book on wildflowers to identify the one growing rampant all over my yard.

At Hasting's I found a book called Weeds of the Northwest or something like that. My purple flower had to be in there. I began to turn pages. Words like "cotyledon" and "lanceolate" jumped out at me and I began to doubt my success. But the book had color photographs and finally I found one that matched the little star-shaped purple flowers that my daughter had been picking and bringing to me to put in her hair.

The name of the flower is: Dame's Rocket. Also known as Mother-of-the evening. Wow! What names! Who gets to name flowers, anyway? I wonder if there is a global flower-naming society somewhere that sits around and thinks up comical names for common plants. If my in-laws had been in charge of such a club, this flower would probably be named "Purpley" judging by the names of their cats. Anyway, whatever the name, I was tickled to have identified my flower. The history proved to be interesting. Dame's Rocket is native to Europe where it is planted in flowerbeds, tended and cared for. It found its way to North America in the 17th century where it liked it so much it ran wild. By now it has spread to the point that it's considered a noxious weed in some states. We should try planting it on purpose; perhaps then it would settle down and become a nice little well-behaved perennial again.

If you're interested, you can read more about it here. I notice that they attract butterflies, so if IdahoFamilyHomeschoolLady wants some for her butterfly garden, she is welcome.

I thought about buying the book to take camping but it was $20 and I didn't like the fact that the title was all about weeds. If it had been called Wildflowers of the Northwest I probably would have forked over the $20. As it is, I think I'll go to the used bookstore.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Took a Mormon to a Coffee Shop

This morning was a big moving push. We are trying to get every last thing from the trailer TODAY. Then a few trips to the storage unit and we'll be done. We have a lot of stuff.

Two guys offered to help us; one was from our church and one was the dad of Natta's preschool friend. In thanks for helping us move we treated them to a yummy at Bucer's Coffee Shop. The Preschool dad is LDS though so I was worried. It turned out to be no big deal. He got a smoothie. I wonder if an LDS person sees a coffee shop kind of like a bar? A place serving no-no drinks? I hope not. We just wanted to say thank you.

I spent the morning cleaning. It seems to be the wife's lot in life... to clean. I was proud of myself. The bathroom and kitchen both sparkle. The carpet is clean and vacuumed and the vinyl is swept. I didn't get to the fridge or the oven though. Hubby says those bachelors moving into the place need to learn how to clean a fridge sometime.

The trailer was a lot easier to clean than the new house was. It's amazing how things shine right up when you keep them clean. I plugged in my iPod and in a couple of hours the place looked sharp. That will probably be my last time out there. There are a few more loads from the shed but for the most part, we are done with Syringa Trailer Park. WOO WOO!!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Adjusting to Life Here

The kids and I set off merrily down the road in the big blue stroller. The sun shone and the air was a breezy 70 degrees. Flowers bloomed everywhere; wherever I looked bright colors greeted me and trees scattered perfume down on us.

As we passed the big old Methodist church, we saw a dead squirrel on the sidewalk. Thankfully he wasn't too mangled since his presence sparked a flurry of questions from Natalie. We talked about how he died, probably a quick death by a passing car. I used this opportunity to steer the conversation toward traffic safety and the subject kept us occupied all the way down Third Street and onto Main. I think for the first time it hit Natta that Mommy wasn't just being annoying regarding crossing streets and holding hands in the parking lot. She was thoughtful for quite a while, finally saying, "If I don't hold your hand, I might get dead like that squirrel." I'm glad she got the point, although I regret the necessary loss of innocence.

We forged onward toward Rosaurs Grocery store where I planned to buy fresh salad ingredients. Unfortunately I completely misjudged the distance. It took us twice as long to get there as I had imagined and by the time I was there, I was pooped! I had no idea how I would get back home up the steep Third Street hill, so I called hubby, ate some humble pie, and asked for a rescue. He had a lunch break coming up and he gallantly promised to come get us.

The highlight of our trip, the car-cart came next, with both kids delightedly driving around the store in the little yellow race car. We picked up a bag of spinach, some black beans and some different kinds of salsa. I had discovered last night at Applebee's that salsa tastes excellent as a salad dressing when I ordered the lowest calorie entree on the menu. I am determined to meet my weight-loss goal and a whole week of fast food has done nothing toward that end.

While I shopped, I thought about work. With a heavy heart, I had given my two week notice yesterday. I love my job and did not want to quit. However, they kept asking me to attend trainings and meetings during the business day. In order to do that, Hubby would have to take time off work to watch the kids, since my babysitter is working, my friend just watched my kids for me and Mom was at work too. Yesterday I made a special arrangement in order to attend the training, but when we had already skipped naptime, walked down to work then found out that the co-worker who offered to watch the kids would not be able to do it, and I would have to reschedule the training and go through all of the hassle again later, that was enough. It is enough of a pain to miss every family Friday night activity. Now the hassle of trying to schedule staff meetings and trainings during the day when I have no daycare set up is too much for the $20 a week paycheck I draw there.

Yesterday when I got home, I cried. As little as it is, I felt like work was my last tie to the sanity of the adult world and now this summer has nothing left but being chained to small children 24-7. Wherever I go, small hands get into things, a small girl chatters continuously and a small boy whines and fusses. Wherever I drive, I have to lift 30-pound kids into car seats, an activity which sends pain up and down my back. The only break I get, naptime, I can't even leave the house. So I cried last night, throwing myself a really lovely pity party. I complained to myself, to God, to Hubby, whoever would listen about how unfair life is.

Then, as usual, I rallied. It will be pretty nice to have my Friday nights back. It'll be nice not to have to plan family vacations around an evening job. I'll find something to do to occupy my time, some kind of adult interaction to keep me sane. I'll sew and do crafts and read books. I'll get together with other moms, like the one I met who lives on my block.

Pulling my mind back to my grocery trip, I saw that I had collected the items I needed and we headed outside after paying for them and buying a new cloth grocery sack. I plan to put this one in the stroller, although I'm not sure I'll make it down there any time soon on my own two feet. Hopefully I'll build endurance enough to walk all the way to the North end of town like that at some point.

My knight in shining armor pulled up on his white horse... oh, ok, he drove the Subaru, but he did rescue us. We drove gladly back home where I plan to fix a 250 calorie salad with fresh spinach, a little grated cheese, some sliced chicken, black beans and cilantro salsa for dressing. It sounds delicious!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vacuum Hockey

I have invented a sport this morning which will, I am certain, enrich the lives of moms everywhere. It happened quite by accident, I assure you. The little black Oreck and I set out to simply pick up dust bunnies and bits of grass with no thought whatsoever of the life-changing implications of our coming activity.

As I pushed the handle around, the hose stretching, the little motor unit obediently following like a loyal puppy, it happened. Sethie's blue plastic ball sat in the middle of the floor, just under the edge of the kid's table. I poked at it with the vacuum head, determined to get it out of the way so I could suck up the trail of dust and grass that had fallen off my daughter's jeans while she ate her Cheerios. The ball rolled happily across the floor. Still, I did not see the genius. I just kept prosaically vacuuming. It wasn't until I had batted the ball toward the kids' room that I began to see the fun of the sport. I went for a goal. NO! Just short and the ball bounced off the door frame and rolled into the living room under the couch. I fished it out, set up and WHAM! Score!! I made a point, the first-ever point in the history of Vacuum Hockey. Whoooo!!!! The crowd went wild, fans swarmed around me asking for my autograph. Sponsors showered me with keychains and t-shirts. Best of all, now the ball was successfully placed in the kids' room and was no longer in my way.

I continued vacuuming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


My daughter is growing up. She's almost to the age where I began to start remembering things. And one thing I remember was my mother getting extremely grouchy whenever it was time for me to go to bed. Now that my daughter has reached that age, I know why. She uses every excuse she can come up with to avoid actually going to sleep. She needs to go potty. She needs to pick up the toys. Her blanket needs to be the right way up. Never have I seen a child get so creative as she does when it comes to weaseling her way out of bedtime. Today I just about blew a gasket before I finally got her down for her nap. I started out too impatient, I admit, because I wanted them to go to bed and free me up to work on unpacking more boxes. But she took her sweet time picking up the toys, and the potty process suddenly became one of intense detail-perfection. When she kicked her blanket off yelling that it was the wrong way up, I lost it. I told myself that if that child lives until her eighteenth birthday, it will be a miracle from God.

Now she's in bed and she'd better darn well stay there. I think she will; she's usually pretty good about that, thank goodness. Sitting here taking a deep breath, I look back on my own childhood and chuckle. I can hear my Mom's voice oh so clearly, "Quit stalling and go get in your bed!!". The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


This morning I popped the kids into the big, blue double jogging stroller and off we went to the Library. It's about five blocks from our house, a perfect walk on spring morning. We had arranged to meet some friends there. A new family in town, these friends had a daughter in Natta's preschool class. They also have a son who is just Seth's age who happens to have bright red hair. We look like we have twins when we're together; there are two little brown-haired girls and two little red-headed boys.

We arrived at the Library promptly at nine, only to discover that they didn't open until ten. So all six of us headed back to the house to play in the back yard for an hour until the Library opened. The kids had a ball playing all morning together. We eventually found our way back down to the Library and browsed for a while but I discovered that I needed to bring proof of address with me in order to obtain a Library card, which I don't have for Moscow. So I met with roadblocks wherever I went this morning, but the time with friends was so nice I didn't care.

Unfortunately I really overdid it walking to the Library and home twice, pushing the heavy stroller up those steep hills, and the old pain flared up in my left hip/abdomen area. Ever since Seth was born I have never regained my stamina for walking but I hope to build it back up now that we're in town.

We all loved the time outside. Flowers are blooming everywhere; tulips raise their delicate cups to the sun and the hyacinths look like purple brushes. Fruit trees bloom on every street enticing the newly-awoken bees. The sun shone on us but the air still had the crisp chilliness of early spring and we wore jackets. I am so ready for warm weather!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chaos gets tiring

One week. That's how many nights we have slept in our new house. It feels like a month. I know we'll get there but today I have suddenly arrived at the point where things stop being interesting and exciting; the adrenaline ceases to be enough to get me through the day. Now it's a lot of "I wonder where this should live?" There are moments when I just want to go back to bed and stay there for about three days. Those times when I can't find my jacket for the sixth time that day and I realize that I bought shampoo yesterday to replace the empty bottle but I can't for the life of me find it.

Still, overall things are going quite well. Our pastor donated a trip in his minivan last night and we got our couch and Natta's favorite blue chair moved. I assigned myself the ever-fun task of deep cleaning the kitchen in the trailer. This follows on the heels of deep cleaning the kitchen in the new house which was absolutely filthy.

I got my new glasses today. These are supposed to reduce eye strain, headaches and night blindness. So far they just make things look blurry. Or blurrier. I have gone from not being able to read street signs to not being able to read much of anything. The doctor assures me that my eyes will adjust. I hope he's right. Splurging on new frames was fun though and here they are:


Aside from the annoyances of moving, I have absolutely fallen in love with my new house. It is just the right size: not too big to keep clean easily; it feels cozy and homey, yet the extra space after living in that cramped trailer gives me the sensation that I just learned to breathe again. Living right in the center of town has provided us with several walking trips downtown already. Numerous people have stopped to say hi as I'm working in the yard or unloading boxes.

I had feared that the traffic would be a noisy problem; although we hear it, it is distant background noise and has not been at all frustrating. The house's thick walls seem to insulate sounds. It is even hard to hear someone talking in the living room when I am in the kitchen. Perhaps it is simply the contrast from the paper-thin walls in the trailer.

Since this morning was devoted to the drudgery of unpacking box after box, I think I'll take some time this afternoon to visit the bank and the fabric store. The kids ought to sleep for at least another hour and since Dad is here working I have an unusual freedom to leave the house and run errands.

Back later. I'm still waiting with bated breath to hear the outcome of Texastschirgi's hearing. I'll check back soon :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This week in pictures

Yes, I finally found and used my camera! Are you ready? Take a deep breath and here we go!

Our new housey-house after mowing the front yard, planting the flowers that I acquired at Hubby's award ceremony and weeding part of the front flower bed.

The House Gnome who welcomes visitors at the front door.

In the front door

Living room with new paint

Wood box that I made

Nice rug, lovely hardwood floors and new-old chair which will receive a face-lift when I have time. Oh, and cute fluff :)

Folklore. With mess.

Kitchen. Mom calls it The Bumblebee. I prefer to think of it as "Friendly Coffee Shop".

Detail of the remodel work. We are taking a closet off the bathroom and transforming it into our laundry room, just off the kitchen and through to the bathroom. This is part of the Very Solid Wall that took two days to remove.

Yep, Lath and Plaster. We even unearthed some vintage wallpaper, non-salvageable, of course.

The whole house has these:

Down the back stairs. In the half-whiskey-barrel, I planted a "salsa garden" which means I planted onions, cilantro, jalapeños and peppers. Later, after the last frost, I will also add a couple of tomato plants. I have everything I need in one small garden to make fresh, homemade salsa! I have another "salad garden" barrel and another "veggie platter" garden. Yummy!

To the back yard. The kids already love it out here!