Saturday, January 31, 2009

Be Kind One To Another

Several years ago I had a chat with my friend's mom while we were visiting their farm house for the afternoon. My kids were only babies and I was expressing the worry I had about raising siblings since I had been an only child until I was too old to fight with my baby sister.

My friend, S, is two years older than her brother, the exact shape of my current family. She had told me stories of playing with her brother, of being best friends growing up. Unlike many of my other friends, she had no tales of hatred, of fighting or of vying for their parents' attention.

While I had the chance, I asked S's mother how she did it, raising kids who actually liked their siblings while they were young. It seemed a bit unusual since most of the sibling stories were more along the lines of another friend who told of the time she got mad at her brother and chased him around the house with a steak knife.

S's mom smiled benignly. "I don't buy the whole sibling rivalry thing," she said comfortably. "Kids behave as they are expected to behave and I expected my kids to treat each other with respect."

Her answer floored me. She simply taught her kids to be nice to each other. Just as she taught them to dress themselves and tie their shoes. I made a promise to myself that I would do the same thing with my kids. Or at least make a valiant attempt to do so. All of the stories of children who grew up hating their brothers and sisters made me so sad I wanted something better for our family. Not to mention the atmosphere of anger, yelling, fighting and harassment was not something I wanted for our house.

So as my kids have gotten older we work a lot on this concept. It's not acceptable in our house to take one another's toys while playing. I demonstrate how to share rather than hoard toys. The stronger, louder person does not necessarily need to have the best or most toys. Of course throwing, hitting, biting or screaming are replaced by asking nicely for things and taking turns. We work a lot on resolving conflicts that do come up with an emphasis on favoring the other person and communicating. Curly can tend to get bossy and when she does, I remind her how much she dislikes it at the playground when someone does it to her. Conversely, Mister gets grabby and whiny, so I work with him on patience to wait for his turn.

I think some parents would say I am too restraining, too strict. I put too many boundaries on my children. But last night I saw the fruit of my work in expecting respect. Hubby and I had an activity we wanted to do, so I asked the kids to play nicely in their room for an hour, then play in the bath tub for a while. After the bath they had a little more time to play and a story time. For the entire evening, a little over three hours, there was not one fight, there was no screaming or anger. They played imaginative games, enjoying each other's company for the entire time.

When Curly is asked who her best friend is, she always answers with her brother's name. She has never seen him as a pest or a tag-along. Mister adores his elder sibling, enjoying her games and her chatter. I have to admit it is a lot of work, constantly redirecting, training, demonstrating or refocusing. But as I see my children build such a wonderful relationship, it is worth it. Instead of a relationship of revenge and competition, it's one of respect, unusual in such an outspoken, strong-willed child as Curly. Last night I was proud of my children as they worked out conflict themselves, shared toys and games and treated one another with kindness.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stories That Live

When I was a kid I remember sitting on our rust-colored carpet as the sunlight filtered through lace curtains in the front bay window. The tape player sat on the floor under a table and I have memories of many happy hours laying on my stomach listening to tapes and reading along with the accompanying books.



The other day I unearthed from storage those same tapes and books, saved so carefully all these years. Such things are not even produced any more. I gave them to my daughter and set her up with a tape player. Luckily we have one still!

She was immediately enchanted. She played all of the "Stories That Live" and enjoyed the Bible stories as much as I did. There were some other tapes in the stack, a Sesame Street story and various others, including "Bullfrogs and Butterflies" and "Ants'hillvania" which my mom will remember as fondly as I do.

Just as I did, she loved being read to as she followed along in the book. The reading practice is so good, I have no idea why they don't make this kind of thing any more. It's rare to see a book with a CD along with it. I think we have one and it's Cars, of course.



Now the stories and songs fill my life again as Curly Miss and Little Mister enjoy them. I'm glad I saved them.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rug In Front Of The Fireplace

Since it's been so cold, my kids have gravitated to playing on the rug in front of the fireplace. It's the warmest there, even when the fire isn't lit.



Mister used the time when Curly was at Preschool to get the trains out. I helped him build a big track and he happily put as many battery operated trains on it as he could. Unfortunately, the trains with the freshest batteries ran the fastest, catching up to the slower trains and pushing them off the track. When that happened, he'd holler at them and try to put them back on the track. I suppose he thought they weren't playing nicely.



The "Super Why" website continues to be a favorite for Curly Miss. She has also expanded to using Starfall.com and her CD of number and alphabet games. I'm so pleased with her progress in reading. She is beginning to sound out words accurately enough to make out what they say and every success builds more confidence. Her learning style is so different from what I expect: she finds spelling easier than reading letters on the page. Somehow she prefers to create words out of the thousands in her head than read what someone else put on the paper.

But her time is by no means monopolized by educational activities. She still loves to play with cars and trains. She even expressed a slight interest in Princesses after attending a Princess birthday party a week ago. To fan this flame, I have wanted to rent some of the classic Disney Princess movies again. Not that I think a girl should only play with Princesses, but it would help her to have a little more in common with her age-mates who all have a Princess addiction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning to Quilt

Although I have created quilts before it was mostly a matter of sewing squares together and tying them with embroidery thread. I have never tried piecing shapes together nor have I ever tried hand quilting. I didn't even know how.

Well, last fall I happened upon an absolute treasure of a woman who lives out in the country. I wrote about her when I was sewing the Pioneer dress; it was at her house that the dresses took shape. Well, she is also a wonderful quilter who does all of her quilting by hand, almost a lost art in these machine-oriented times. She invited me out to her place this spring to learn the technique and I jumped at the chance. I think she is thrilled to find someone to pass on her art to as so far none of her own daughters are interested.



The other day I splurged and used some of my little nest egg savings to buy a wooden quilting frame, thread and a marking pen. This special pen, one that I never knew existed, actually marks ink on the fabric in a nice dark purple line, then two days later it evaporates into invisibility. The other end of the pen has blue ink that stays on the fabric until you sponge it away with water. For some reason I never considered how quilters achieved the perfectly straight lines, the graceful curves and the shapes and flowers I have seen on quilts. Naively I always assumed that they were just skilled in eyeballing a perfect seam. Now I know the secret.



Yesterday I went out to Grandma D's house, this lovely lady I told you about who has adopted my children into her family of grandchildren. She showed me how to stretch the back fabric on a table and baste the top I made, along with some polyester batting all together into a sandwich. She took me on a tour of her peaceful farmhouse, covered from walls to beds to quilted tea cozy with quilts and quilts and quilts, all lovingly sewn and hand quilted by her. The one on her big frame she demonstrated the "rocking stitch" which is what experienced quilters use. She even let me practice on the quilt she was making. I figured she could pick out my stitches later!



Today my quilt stand arrived in the mail and I gleefully set it up. I draped my quilt sandwich over it and started my first-ever stitches. I had a nice new thimble and the "right" kind of glacé cotton thread. I have to tell you I was nervous. Of course I had to try the rocking stitch right away. I must do it right! But I felt like I had three thumbs. It was hard.

After biting my lip and fussing away at it all afternoon I have five diamonds done! It's getting easier too; all of my years of hand sewing experience helps, even though the angle is different. I know it's only been one day but I think I am seriously hooked. It's fun and relaxing and best of all it doesn't make my back ache since I set things up in my favorite chair and got the fully adjustable quilt stand. I'm having such a great time it was hard to stop to change diapers, get snacks, let the dog out...

You can bet that as soon as I have a free minute tomorrow I'll be quilting!

Adoration

close-up of the cat getting her face scratched with a look like she is in heaven

the cat loving on me

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Delivery or... ?



Hubby and I are saving every penny. Hubby and I also LOVE Pizza Hut. I'm sure you can guess the conclusion here. You got it, we're making Pizza Hut pizza using online clone recipes. Well, trying anyway.



The first recipe we tried on Sunday was a deep dish pizza in which the dough was baked swimming in a puddle of olive oil. We should have used canola oil; the olive oil flavor overwhelmed the pizza, although it still tasted really good on the scale of homemade pizzas where mine usually taste bland and gross.

As far as matching Pizza Hut, I'd say it was about 20%.



Tonight we tried again. This time we used a recipe from Top Secret Recipes for Stuffed Crust. This one had a new sauce recipe to try and it also recommended leaving the crust dough in the fridge overnight, which we did. (The crust needed some extra liquid to hold together. We're still confused about that.)



So the crust wasn't quite right, but the sauce! Oh the sauce! It was wonderful. Very close to the right flavor and it made the kitchen smell like a pizzaria. Combined with sinful amounts of Mozzarella cheese and pepperoni, this pizza was outstanding. I'd say it was more like 60% Pizza Hut.

We plan to keep trying. But even if we don't hit the bull's eye, we're still turning out some darn tasty pizzas. On the cheap.

The Passing of the Fish

Did you know fish can have strokes? Neither did I until two weeks ago when suddenly our fish appeared very lethargic and unable to swim with more than his two front fins. I at first attributed his lethargy to the fact that I hadn't cleaned out his bowl for more than six months. I figured I'd poisoned him, poor thing. (I hate it when I do a poor job taking care of pets, but with a busy household, sometimes it happens.)

I transferred him to cleaner water and waited for him to recover. Although he would sometimes pathetically paddle around a little bit with his front fins, he never did much more than lay paralyzed on the bottom of the new bowl. He didn't show much interest in food, so I knew it was only a matter of time.

This afternoon I found him belly-up in his bowl. Surprised he lasted as long as he did, I gratefully flushed him and cleaned up the slimy remains of his house. I am so ready to be through with fish for a while.

Somehow I doubt the kids will even notice. The fish lived in a corner of the kitchen counter and wasn't very intimately involved in their lives. If Curly mentions it, I'll tell her how sick he was and how he is likely much happier out of his pain and living "in the big fishbowl in the sky" as Hubby puts it. Thus endeth the fish chapter of our family history, at least for now. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Little Chilly



This morning, headed to Preschool, we noticed that the temperature was hovering around -5F. Poor Curly Miss slipped on a snowbank, plunging her right hand into the soft powder. She pulled it out again, covered with cold and sent up a piteous wail that echoed up and down the quiet street.

Unfortunately I had my hands full of Little Mister, snacks, breakfast, purse and coffee and could not immediately help her. I think she believed her hand would fall off if it got any colder. She cried most of the way to Preschool.

In spite of the weak winter sunlight, the thermometer only climbed to about 5F. Curly came home for lunch with Daddy, her hand fine again and her spirits high. She helped Mister build a Lincoln Log house then happily ate her lunch.

This afternoon while naptime progresses, I built myself a roaring fire and pulled my chair close to it while I filled out adoption forms. The kids both have radiators in their rooms to keep them snug, so we're all cozy. I sure am glad we don't live in a trailer still! I hope those who do are keeping warm during this cold snap.


The view from my kitchen window this morning.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thoughts on Abortion

With the inauguration of President Obama, the conservative message boards I read have erupted into a flurry of comments on his stance on abortion, the hottest issue for many conservative voters. In fact some friends of mine who are Catholic and are teachers in a state college would vote liberal on most issues if it didn't also mean supporting the Pro-Choice agenda. For many of us the issue of abortion is akin to the grief we feel over the deaths in Iraq and the massacre at the World Trade Center.

For weeks now I have wanted to write out some of my thoughts on this important issue, to clarify my beliefs, not in an emotional way, showing pictures of mutilated babies or giving death counts like so many random numbers. I want to explain why I believe what I believe in some sort of coherent fashion if I can and refute some of the Pro-Choice arguments I have heard, not from politicians but from liberal voters who are my friends, whose blogs I read, who defend abortion as a good thing. I believe it's a very bad thing for our nation; in fact it makes me sick to my stomach if I think about too long. Writing this post makes me slightly sick, but it is something I feel compelled to do.

A fetus isn't human, so it is ok to terminate the bunch of cells, rather like cutting out a cancer.

The fundamental argument in favor of abortion, especially abortion as birth control is that it is perfectly justified, as though the body has suddenly produced a bunch of unwanted cells and that taking it out of the body seems natural and normal.

The thing is, it's not. For one thing, cancer cells are made by one person's body; a baby is made by two people who generally chose to engage in the act of sex (rape being the exception, of course). Cancer is not preventable, but a pregnancy is. Even if a couple doesn't believe in birth control, they do not have to engage in a sexual act in the first place. There is such a thing as self control. Beyond that, they can use a wide range of preventatives which usually work pretty well when used correctly. To continue the cancer analogy, cancer is destructive to the host. A baby generally is not. In the handful of cases where there is threat to the mother's life, I'll cover that later.

Then there is the issue of the fetus's humanity. Beyond the obvious fact that a fetus or embryo or whatever has human DNA and is growing into a viable human being, look at the timing. An abortion is considered legal up to 24 weeks gestation. So a 24-week-old fetus can be terminated. Yet the Guiness Book of World records (I googled it the other day) holds that the youngest baby to survive was only 21 weeks when he was born. He is now 18 years old and is a perfectly healthy high schooler. By abortionist's logic if he was lying in his incubator at 21 weeks, someone could "terminate" him if they wished. Only in the real world they would be convicted of manslaughter if they did. I guess (read intense sarcasm here) that location is everything. Locate this little guy INSIDE his mother's womb and he could be aborted. Locate him OUTSIDE the womb and killing him would bring a life sentence. Ironic, no?

Viability is also an issue. Because a fetus isn't viable (read: cannot survive on its own) then it isn't human. But there are disabled people who cannot survive without the help of certain machines. Does this mean their viability is compromised? Should they also be terminated? Christopher Reeve, for example, could not breathe on his own after his accident. Did he lose his rights as a human being because he was partially supported by something other than himself? No? Well, then should a fetus be denied rights as a human being while he or she is supported by the mother's placenta? Absolutely not.

The mother's health might be at stake

As promised, I continue my "bit of cancerous cells" analogy here. There are a few times when doctors determine that continuing a risky pregnancy might result in harm to the mother. In these cases a doctor might suggest ending the pregnancy. Those who support the rights of a mother to choose invariably bring this possibility up, saying that anti-abortion legislation would endanger women who are placed in such life-threatening circumstances.

I have two answers to this. For one thing, anti-abortion legislation almost always allows for such circumstances. Murder laws make an allowance for self-defense. It's still killing a human being in favor of rescuing another human being. But it is to be very carefully used and never abused.

The other response I have to such rhetoric is this: Out of the millions of fetuses we have killed in this country, how many were terminated to save the mother's life? What percentage of the abortions performed are actually done out of legitimate, life-threatening need? I'd hazard a guess that it is significantly less than 1%. If those were the only abortions performed in our country as opposed to the booming industry it is now, I'd be thrilled. Not to mention the women who were told they could/would die if they continued their pregnancy and because of personal conviction chose to continue. Needless to say many of these are fine today.

It's all about choice. I don't like abortions for birth control, but it's the mother's right to make a choice that I defend.

I actually read this on an ardent liberal's blog recently. Generally the answer I have heard in response to this from the Pro-Life side is "What about the baby's right to choose?" The problem is, this answer doesn't satisfy me. Obviously, an abortion supporter who believes a non-viable fetus is no more than a bundle of cells doesn't care a bit about the baby's right. As a not-yet-human, the baby has not yet acquired the inalienable rights that we in this country believe humans possess.

So I take a different tactic. This blogger believes passionately in the right to choose. She believes that people are basically good and when given the choice, a future mother will make the correct one. There is no need to draft legislation to regulate her choices whatsoever and in all actuality such legislation is not only unnecessary but it could be harmful in the event described above where the life of the mother is threatened.

That sounds all well and good, but the problem is, liberals don't actually buy this line of thinking on a consistent basis. For example, the environment is in a deteriorating state and the solution of most liberals is to support legislation that regulates people's use of the environment, from laws governing the use and sustainability of wilderness lands to chemical outputs from manufacturing plants. Obviously we don't trust our fellow humans to make the right decisions regarding the environment so we'll take away their right to choose by making all sorts of laws. For the common good, of course. Land developers in the Amazon rainforest don't deserve the right to choose because when given this choice, they choose to cut down trees. Commercial fisherman who choose to decimate the salmon must be stopped by public education and legislation. They cannot be trusted with the right to choose. But when it comes to the sanctity of human life in pre-birth form, the mothers should be given carte blanche, despite their dismal track record.

Not only do they not actually support the right of humans to choose, but the FOCA is a new piece of legislation taking away the doctor's right to choose whether or not to perform abortions. Even though someone looking for an abortion can easily find a healthy, sanitary clinic, new laws are being promoted that would force a Pro-Life doctor to go against his conscience and perform an abortion when asked to do so. Choice is not an option.

It prevents Down's Syndrome or Spina Bifida.

Here is another inconsistency in my mind. Liberals are the staunchest supporters of civil rights for people who have disabilities. If they really think so much of them (which anyone who knows me knows I do too), why kill them before they are born? People who have Down's Syndrome, Spina Bifida and a host of other "abnormalities" have plenty to contribute to our world. Killing them before they are born seems reminiscent of Hitler's "cleansing" practices that so horrify most freedom-loving Americans.

It's been going on for millenia.

So has genocide, homicide, pedophilia, rape, abuse... the list goes on. No justification there.

Anti-abortion rhetoric uses poor logic.

I heard this the other day from a friend who is taking an ethics class from a satellite college of Washington State University. One specific argument goes like this:

1. Fetuses are human beings.
2. Human beings have the right not to be killed.
3. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

This was listed as poor logic, not because abortion isn't killing, but because according to the ethics textbook, the term "human beings" is redefined between the first and second tenet. Hmmm... not according to some!

How about this:

1. Fetuses are underdeveloped human beings.
2. Underdeveloped human beings have the same rights as fully developed human beings.
3. Fully developed human beings have the right not to be killed.
4. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

I have to admit, to my dismay, a lot of anti-abortion arguments out there are, in fact, illogical. The people who wrote them probably would not know logic if it rose up and bit them in the face. Yet as I have pointed out above, the Pro-Choice camp has some glaring problems of their own that they might want to tidy up before they go pointing out the illogical arguments of the Pro-Lifers.

It prevents babies from being born into unwanted and less-than-desirable circumstances.

I concede. Abortion does do that. Should we, like Hitler, determine the ideal circumstance for every person to be born and then regulate the ones that don't fit the bill? Is poverty a crime? How about ethnicity? Biracialism? A baby that is not wanted should not be born? I will not even dignify that with an answer, except to say that many of the most loved children were "surprises". 'Nuff said.

A baby born of rape just causes more anguish to the victim.

This can be true. Rape is a horrible crime. It is never justified. At the same time, one crime doesn't justify another. Abortion is murder and murder is a crime. (See section on logic. How did I do? Poorly? Go jump in a lake.) It is true that a pregnancy resulting from rape can bring anguish. It can also bring healing, something wonderful out of something terrible if viewed from another angle. Although I don't like to use personal vignettes as supporting arguments since they seem pretty weak, I still have to mention one child that I know who was conceived through rape who brings daily joy to his family who loves him dearly. Even in the middle of a horror such as rape, life can still bring healing.


These few points could never address all of the facets to an issue as complicated as abortion. I have not even touched on Christianity's viewpoint on life, on conception, on the spiritual bondage of a nation that causes wanton murder. All that is fodder for another time since this post is plenty long enough. All I can say in conclusion to this post is that I really don't hate the liberal agenda. I'm for saving the environment and the salmon. I'm for education and civic responsibility. But I am also for saving the humans, even the unplanned, undesirable, unwanted ones. After all, those are the people that America has historically embraced.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unpacking Buried Treasure

For the first time in our married life, Hubby and I took the afternoon and unpacked all of our tools. I had some put away in my craft area already, but there were several boxes still packed away, where they had resided for years, symbolizing the fact that we were shortly to move again, we lived in dinky trailers with nowhere to put them and that we would never bother getting them out.

Today, out came the jigsaw, which had been lost for years. We found the bolts to the bunk beds. We discovered that we collectively own about ten of the same pair of pliers. We have at least three tape measures; not to mention the five hammers, three hacksaws and even two coping saws. It has been Hubby's philosophy that if he can't find a tool (which he never could as they were always buried in the depths of some storage unit) he'd simply go buy another. When he got done with it, he'd pack it away in yet another box.



So today it became almost comical as we unpacked box after box and unearthed more and more duplicate tools.

I was in creative heaven. It was like going to the hardware store and coming away with every display. Wrenches of every shape and size, including a huge 1" wrench that Hubby says is used only for working on a tractor or combine came showering upon us. Screwdrivers in every length, rolls and rolls of tape; all of it was delightful. I imagined all of the projects we could do now that we had so many tools. We had sanders, both square and round, we had drills and planers and scissors and tubes of glue and paint brushes. All of it got organized and put away, hung on pegboard and sorted into cupboards.

Part of them, mostly the ones that were already there, were hung in my craft area. Hubby is banished from that area due to his propensity to steal tools and not return them. So I have a duplicate set of everything I need to fix things around the house: hammer and screwdriver and lots of tape and glue. So far I am the resident "fixer" in our family, which includes everything from mending clothes to reattaching molding to fixing broken toys.



Now, due to all the treasure we unearthed, we have a row of seven pliers hung on the pegboard downstairs, enough for Hubby to lose them all over the house before he runs out of them. This summer I can set up sawhorses in our newly cleaned-out garage and do all manner of woodworking projects. Some of the first ones on the horizon involve the two old doors that are also out in the garage. Then there is the little Saxon harp that I have wanted to build for years. It could actually happen this year. What fun!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reflections

This month I have been gathering together the necessary paperwork to apply for various adoption grants. While I am thrilled that places exist throughout the country to help families wanting to adopt, the amount of documentation necessary to apply for each one is daunting. It saddens me that there are enough people around the country who would use these agencies fraudulently that they are forced to put us through the inquisition in order to qualify for a grant.

I still find the invasive nature of adoption paperwork disconcerting. Total strangers in Tennessee will soon be reading about my life, my house, my parenting skills, our marriage, my Christian walk, and the comments that friends wrote about me in their recommendations. My entire life has been distilled into a mere 30 pages of description and numbers and it is such a strange feeling to read it over.

The perfectionist part of me wants to go hide in a hole. Anytime something negative pops up, I cringe and cower inside, for, in a homestudy, not just the good is revealed. Our personal weaknesses are covered in detail: my health issues are discussed, personality weaknesses like the fact that I am "easily overwhelmed" and I "don't communicate well with others but assume they will support us". Gak. Who likes hearing the worst faults that you try to hide and cover over put out there in black and white for the world to see?

Yet the good comments still far outweigh the negatives. We passed all of the state requirements for adoption, our home is deemed comfortable and safe and we are called "excellent parents" over and over. Okay, cool. Maybe someone will trust enough to choose our family to adopt their precious baby. Maybe the grants will be awarded.

Still, in thinking about this whole process it seems surreal to have so many people going over my life with a fine-toothed comb. I have discovered that I value privacy in a large measure and it takes a lot of mental effort to put that aside and welcome anyone and everyone to view such intimate details. I tell myself that I don't have anything to hide, so it really doesn't matter. But it takes a very secure person to allow someone else to view their life under a microscope and not get just a little rattled. I look forward to that wonderful day when we stand in court with our six-month-old Baby Bear and are declared once and for all to be the legal adoptive parents. On that day our "paper pregnancy" will end.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Little Mister Goes to Preschool

When I dropped Curly Miss off this morning the teacher informed me that her aide was gone that day and she was looking for a substitute. Since I had no plans and the teacher welcomed Little Mister into the class, I stayed to help.

Mister was in seventh heaven. He got to be in Preschool with Curly, just as if he was big! He got to paint with the watercolors and build with the blocks. He played with the toy dogs and have a snack. He even got to put on his coat and go outside with the class and play on the playground. (That was my least favorite part.)

I was surprised to discover that I actually knew most of the kids' names. Since the class had all girls but one, the atmosphere seemed more mellow than I had expected. I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. Ever since I had such a bad experience teaching several years ago, I have shied away from classes of any kind, even though it was never the kids I had trouble with. But I just never have wanted to get back on the horse so I don't volunteer for Sunday School or field trips. Today was a rare exception and it went so well I breathed a sigh of relief.

This week I also paid the semester's tuition for Preschool. That was painful, especially since we're trying to save every penny for the adoption. Taking a good look at my life, I have discovered that I am WAY too stressed out about our finances. I wish I could find a way to relax and just trust God, but I can't seem to shut my brain off. And ever since I got so sick after my experience at Colton, my body simply won't handle stress. I get depressed, get headaches and feel tired and sluggish. Somehow I have got to find a happy place in order to be around my family. So far no luck, but I keep on slogging through each day, hopeful that tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History

I sat this morning with my four-year-old daughter and watched history in the making as we swore in our 44th president and our first African-American president. Curly was bummed that Super Why wasn't on, but she began to pay attention when I explained to her what was going on. We watched the dignitaries come down the blue-carpeted stairs and listened to the Marine Corps band. We heard Aretha Franklin sing and we watched the premiere violinist and cellist in the world perform with a pianist and clarinetist, the group being composed of an Asian, a disabled Jew, an African-American and a white woman. Intentional, I am sure. Although blatantly politically correct, it also seemed to symbolize the history of the occasion, where anyone has a shot at even the highest office in our land. Even the music, composed by the one and only John Williams, combined "Simple Gifts", the anthem of folk America with a classical Air and a jazzy underlayment that clearly said, "See? We can put our differences together and it makes a piece that's even more beautiful."

I did my best to explain to Curly why it was important and why the National Mall was so crowded with people. We listened to Rick Warren's prayer and I cried. We asked God's blessing on our nation. On our new president. I cried.

I am so proud to be an American. In this time of division when it is not in vogue to love America, I do. I love our country. I don't love the crimes we have committed, killing millions of unborn babies and even going so far as to justify it by not admitting they are human beings. I don't love the racism we have endured, the frustrating war we have entered or the numerous other problems we sustain. But I still love our country. In site of the doom and gloom prophets who predict our freedom to pray being taken away, we still have the ability to openly practice any religion we choose. We have the freedom to say anything we like and the right to live in peace, to work hard and to orchestrate our own destinies.

As my small daughter sat beside me, I tried to explain to her what was happening. I struggled for words to explain at her level the event she was watching and why it is important. She must have understood a little because she sat and watched with me for nearly an hour. When I think about her growing up, I pray that our nation retains the freedoms we so cherish. I fervently hope that we are sending our children forward into a world where they, too, will be safe and free. Today I did have hope as I listened to a pastor ask God's blessing on our land and on our new president. God does not take such requests lightly. In spite of the troubles we face and the hidden horror of abortion, the frustration of a medical system going in a direction that spells trouble; in spite of these (and perhaps because of them) we have asked for God's forgiveness and blessing and in that I take hope.

Also, please read Hubby's excellent commentary here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stinkies

Bath and Body Works Lavender Vanilla bath soap and lotion

Years ago, just before my honeymoon, I happened to discover this scent in Bath and Body Works and I fell hopelessly in love. Ever since then I have claimed it as my own special scent.

My intrepid husband, with his penchant for nicknaming, calls them my "stinkies". He loves the smell too and he happily replaces my bottle when it gets low. Recently they changed the shape of the bottle and I was terrified that they would discontinue the scent. I considered stocking up, filling one of my cupboards with a lifetime supply of Lavender Vanilla lotion. Or maybe I should figure out how to make it using essential oils. Neither option seems very feasible, so I am simply going to have to rely on B&BW to continue producing this particular scent throughout my lifetime. Or I will be sad.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friendship

A friend is like a flower,
a rose to be exact,
Or maybe like a brand new gate
that never comes unlatched.
A friend is like an owl,
both beautiful and wise.
Or perhaps a friend is like a ghost,
whose spirit never dies.
A friend is like a heart that goes
strong until the end.
Where would we be in this world
if we didn't have a friend.

- By Emma Guest

Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Letters

"How is the adoption coming?" asks nearly everyone I talk to. It's frustrating to tell people over and over and over again that I still have no "due date", I still am simply waiting. Waiting to be matched. Waiting for that phone call that will change our lives forever. Waiting with no idea when, no way of knowing if it will come tomorrow or six months from now or in a year. Every time I try to explain that to someone, it drives home a little farther that this is not a pregnancy with a nice, tidy due date and a lovely bump to explain to the world that a new family member is coming. I've heard that once it happens, once people get the baby, people comment, "Wow, that was fast." No, it is not fast. It is slow, like waiting for the snow to melt. It will happen and summer will come, but you're not sure when and it can't come too soon.

So when people ask me how the adoption is coming I pick something we actually have done recently and tell them about that. Like choosing agencies.

We did our homestudy with the Idaho Youth Ranch. And we have paid them a "connectivity fee" to hunt up agencies all over the country who do transracial adoptions. I must say, they have done this with a speed and depth that leaves me dizzy. The caseworkers have nine years of experience and know many different agencies already, but they have been wonderful in always looking for new ones and even taking our suggestions of others that we have heard of or found online.

To me this adds a wide safety net under us. These women have been around the block with adoptions and they are able to sniff out the scams and the agencies who simply treat you like a number. It amazes me what is out there, from agencies who invent a fake set of twins to attract desperate adoptive parents to the agency who asked for $3,000 up front then refused to refund it when the birth mom changed her mind. I feel as if I'm treading a mine field of legal messes and scam artists, and it seems that everyone we run into has a horror story to prove it.

The Youth Ranch has presented us with about five agencies they feel that they would be comfortable in working with, from which we chose two. We rejected states that had a long period to wait while the birth mom could change her mind. While we waited, the baby would have to be in foster care and we would foot the bill. Not too appealing. The one in Texas, unfortunately, raised their prices to $20,000, a little steep, although not unusual in this day and age.

I have an ethical dilemma with agencies such as this one. For one thing they charge such high prices because they help pay for some of the birth mom's living expenses. To me, although I agree with helping out in some form, when I see a flat fee like that, it seems like buying and selling babies. As if the mom can sell her child for a few months' rent and desperate families, who would do anything to get a child, pay out the nose for it. It's hard for me to stomach.

Another thing they do that gets me even more is that they only charge $15,000 for a full African-American baby whereas all of the other races are $20,000. When I heard this I nearly fell over. Well, here's a prime example that racism is alive and well in our country and we must be kidding ourselves if we thing we're not bigoted. Apparently Black babies are so hard to place that the agency needs to offer a "discount" for them. But at what cost? What would a child think if she ever found out that she was a "discount baby"? What about the mothers? "Oh, apparently MY baby is worth $5,000 LESS than a white or Hispanic baby." It shocks me. It shocks me that the agency would so blatantly do this, but it shocks me more that they need to.

A few agencies here and there, mostly run by churches, charge a much smaller fee. Their church assists in paying for the adoption and helping the birth mother. We looked into these and also the Catholic one in Louisiana. For now we narrowed our pool to the ones we felt were more in line with our values and were charging a more affordable fee. It is entirely possible that we will have to wait quite a bit longer because we chose this way. But to me that is okay. The right baby will come at the right time.

One of the agencies, located in Georgia, asked us to submit seven letters to birthmothers. Since this involves printing pages and pages of letters and pictures onto cute paper and sorting them into colorful folders, I have been busy this weekend, frustrated in the extreme by the fact that returning college students have roared through Wal-Mart and Office Depot, buying ALL of the colored folders and leaving chaotic empty shelves in their wake. Every year, I feel less and less patient with the college students in our town who, for the most part are amazingly rude and inconsiderate of us locals who might need a few folders too.

That, I guess, is how our adoption is coming. We stay in contact with the caseworker who keep a finger on the pulse of all our agencies. We wait. We pray. And we wish somehow we could fix this crazy system where baby human beings are bought and sold and where adult human beings are played upon for their emotions and swindled out of their carefully-saved dollars in some cases and brokenhearted in others by legal technicalities that shut them out. God help us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

MC Escher Quilt

Escher's fish and birds

While working on piecing my quilt, I have it hung in my dining room, designing the colors and shapes by pinning pieces to an old sheet. From time to time I have been sewing pieces that were ready in order to ward off complete boredom because cutting is so tedious. All in all I'm thrilled with the progress I've made.

Yesterday I took a picture, intending to simply brag on my progress but it struck me in looking at the quilt hanging on the wall, how much it looked like something MC Escher would draw. The pieces start at the top, sewn together and ironed flat, perfect diamonds meshing into colorful cubes. As the quilt descends down the wall, fewer and fewer diamonds are sewn together until by the bottom they hang crazily by pins, not even ling up with their future rows. At last, the purple part of the quilt is entirely missing, not even cut out yet.



For a minute, I fantasized about taking the whole thing down to the Prichard Gallery and submitting it as textile art. A half-finished quilt, symbolizing the incompleteness we all feel in our lives, the lack of closure, a longing, a shattering of the ideal. Then I laughed at myself and took down a few more squares to sew together.

Thus endeth my career as a world-famous textile artist. I think I should stick with Photography.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On The Radio

We have in town a little radio station, kept valiantly alive by donations and grants called Radio Free Moscow. It's run mostly by the liberal organics in town and it gleefully plays all of the conspiracy theories and hippy news it can find or produce. I figure it's appropriate to wear tye-dye when listening and perhaps munch some hummus (both of which I do frequently).

When we did our readings at Bookpeople, they were recorded by our permission, and to my surprise, the producer of one of the local radio shows liked some of them enough to include them on her show.

The other day she aired my writing on her show, called Yin Radio, a women's show, usually pretty feminist in nature, which I think is ironic to some degree. Here is the episode; my reading is second, about 1/4 of the way through. I'm not crazy about listening to my own voice. I was breathy and nervous, but for little hometown radio, I guess it is okay.

She has asked me back to record another of my stories, so I need to find a time this week to go talk into the tin can. I find it kind of fun to get my writing out to another audience, although I was surprised that they included my Bible verses and ramblings about God. From what I understand, my next story will be aired Saturday, January 24 at noon, so look for it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter Walk

This morning, Little Mister and I took advantage of the sunshine to walk down to the Library. When I asked him if he'd like to go for a walk with me, he was immediately excited, hurrying to retrieve his little snowboots off the back porch and carrying them around snuggled next to the zipper of his blue sleeper.

I dressed him, shoved the little boots onto his feet, and wrestled his arms into his ski jacket. At last we set off through the crisp air, both of us walking gingerly where the dull sidewalk disappeared under icy piles of rotten snow.

We headed down Third Street, toward the gray stone church whose bell was striking eleven o'clock. Mister loves the clock bell and he eagerly chattered about it all the way down Third Street, one of his chubby hands clinging to my index finger and the other grasping a frosty pinecone. We both squinted against the harsh sunlight, pale but piercing through the clear air and took deep breaths. Too long had we been in the closed house or hurrying from car to building as if the chilly air were a bully to be avoided.

For blocks he walked beside me, his snow boots shuffling along, his eyes turned to the rows of cars lining the gravel-spattered street. "Red!" he proclaimed triumphantly. "Blue! Pink! Big truck!" At last he grew weary and I picked him up, settling him on my hip and kissing his cold cheek.

Arriving at the library, we looked at books and played the Elmo game on the computer. All too soon it was time to go or we'd never make it home in time to fix lunch for Daddy and Curly who were due back from Preschool. On the way home, Mister refused to walk, so I set him on a truck bumper until I could sling him onto my back, piggy-back style and there he rode, a contented little ball while I trudged up the hill.

We got home just as the Stinky Banana Car was pulling into our alley and Curly jumped out and ran to me, screaming, "Mommeeeeeee!" She head butted me and then headed into the house, content that her greeting had been sufficient. I handed Mister off to Hubby, grateful to remove his weight from my tired back, and also headed inside.

My walk had felt so wonderful, I resolved then and there to do it every chance I could, to walk or find some form of exercise because my mood had lifted and I felt so refreshed. I am so excited for spring to come and even though it is still months away, today gave a hint of warmer weather, longer days and gentle spring sunshine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From Scratch

Doing things "the old-fashioned way" intrigues me. Often when I was a little kid, I used to imagine that I lived in pioneer days. Now that I am an adult and it's not kosher to pretend things, I simply go about my daily life doing trendy little things like "live simply" and "go green" and "save energy" and what I am really doing is pretending that I live in pioneer days.

Here are three examples:

When we were down in Oregon, my mother-in-law gave us a bunch more of her whole wheat flour made from the red wheat grown on their farm. She also gave us her prize-winning bread recipe. So this last week I have been baking bread like a maniac: rolls and loaves for us and for guests, all of whom rave about it. Hubby got in on the action too, baking scones and some white bread.



Then last week a friend gave me a recipe and tips for making my own homemade laundry detergent (cost: about $0.25 a gallon, as opposed to $6 a gallon for store-bought detergent). I bought the ingredients but haven't made it yet because I wanted to empty the bottle we're using now so I have somewhere to put it.

I also started a quilt this week. Even crazier, I'm sewing it completely by hand. I'm beginning to feel just like Laura Ingalls. I've needed something to do in these long, winter evenings and I have discovered that quilt patching fits the bill nicely. Today I worked on it almost all day, much longer than I ought to have worked on it, since I made my back so sore I can barely breathe now. Silly me, but it's nothing that a good, hot bath won't cure. The "tumbling cube" design is tricky, but the colors seem so happy and fun! I have about two-thirds of it cut out and a nice beginning on the piecing.



Here's the design I am using and a rough idea of the colors. I don't plan to do the brown in the lower left corner, though.

Still, I can't get away from the present world entirely, even if I wanted to. The juxtaposition of the modern and the historic in my life really makes me laugh sometimes. I sit here in my chair in front of the fire in my quaint old house, sewing patchwork, smelling my homemade bread rising and I feel like I could almost be living a century ago. But then the present intrudes forcefully upon me as I listen to a narrated movie on my computer while I sew and plan to chat with a friend in Norway on the Internet. Then, suddenly from the background, the kids' DVD player breaks further into my thoughts with Wall-E or something equally futuristic and I have to smile. Yes, tradition and simplicity are wonderful. But so are modern appliances, conveniences and entertainment. I love that I can choose the best of both; I am so grateful to my mom for teaching me to bake and sew and save pennies so that I can keep those beautiful old traditions alive, leftover from a slower, more gentle era. Yet I admire technology and the way it has brought people together and changed our world forever. In my life the past and the future don't collide; they embrace.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Loneliness

I used to think I would enjoy living out in the country. I imagined an idyllic landscape, quiet, green, verdant, and full of animals. I'd have lots of trees, lots of space and pets galore. But as I get to know myself better (after 31 years you'd think I'd get on with it) I have found that I probably would not do very well living in such a setting.

This past week we've been somewhat snowed in. My good friend was housebound with kids who had chickenpox and another good friend had a baby yesterday. Everyone is recovering from the holidays and heading back to work. So all week last week I stayed in the house watching my kids. Even Hubby wasn't around much as he caught up some hours at work that he took off over the holidays.

So although my mom was here for a few days, which helped, by the end of the week I was going insane. I wanted to die, or to cry or both. Even going into town (I still talk like a farmer's kid. I live IN TOWN for Pete's sake) on Saturday to run errands, I felt as though I no longer knew how to relate to normal people, people who had some sort of life and purpose and mental stability.

Winter weather never helps. I have made a New Year's resolution to purchase some natural light fixtures or bulbs or something but so far I have been unsuccessful in finding them. I was so starved for sunlight that when the sun peeked through the clouds the other day, I took my new Reader's Digest and sat on the kitchen counter with it, the only place in our north-facing house where the sun shone in. I know that a little of the blues is just simply a lack of Vitamin D. Most, though, is sheer loneliness.

So far this week has been much better. Last night we had Let-us Group at our house, then this morning I went to Mister's play group and yakked with the moms there. I finally have some play-dates scheduled and I can't wait to go over and hold my friend's new baby! Slowly, my world is changing from feeling as though the earth is tilted and I'm about to slide off to being normal again, solid and secure and full of people.

Like any other good extrovert, I need my "peeps" like most people need water. I love my friends, all of them. All of you out there, my online friends, my old friends, new friends, the ones I never talk to... I love all of you! I hope everything is going great for you. And I hope this year to work even harder to connect with as many of you as I can because without friendship this world is a very sad place.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Batteries

As the kids get older our household acquires more and more objects that use batteries. When they were babies, we had the odd singing toy and of course the baby swing. My computer-oriented husband wired a cord and plug to the swing so that it couldn't run out of juice right in the middle of getting the baby to sleep as it was prone to do.

Now, though, we have been collecting Thomas the Train sets. Every engine is equipped with one or two batteries of various sizes and weights; oddly enough they are almost all different from each other. Some take size "C", some "AA", some go in the engine, some in the coal car behind. In one respect they are all the same, however: as soon as they get dropped, they burst open and scatter batteries across the floor.

My daughter, with her penchant for all things lit or moving, loves battery-operated toys, especially flashlights. The trouble is that her attention span is approximately 2.8 seconds long so she routinely forgets to turn anything off. As her frugal mother, this drives me nuts. Batteries cost a lot and it really bothers me that a toy can get only a single use before it sits overnight in the "on" position, draining its power and rendering it useless again. Her brilliant solution is to go buy more batteries.

Right now her flashlight, her little camera she got for Christmas, most of her trains and her letter/number board all sit mutely in the toy box. I finally drew the line and knocked batteries out of the budget for a while.

My husband had a different solution. For a long time we have lacked a light on the back porch. So I got a battery-operated light and installed it above the back stairs, solving the problem of no wiring. Like his daughter, however, my husband left it on all night shortly after it was installed and suddenly there was no light on the back porch again. Then to my surprise, a new battery-operated LED light appeared there one day. Not only was it working, it was equipped with an automatic "off" switch so two minutes after we use it, it shuts itself off and conserves its precious power supply.

What an amazing solution! Now why don't the flashlight, the camera, the train and the number toy all have this useful piece of engineering? I highly doubt that I am alone in the number of batteries I purchase to supply power to toys that don't work because of being let to run under the couch for three days. Perhaps the toy manufacturers have a conspiratorial compact with the battery makers to give them as much business as possible by not only including huge numbers of batteries in their products, none of which are included at purchase, but to make sure their toys are as difficult as possible for toddlers to turn off, thus ensuring that an entirely new supply of batteries will be required at least daily for any toy to actually function as advertised. Perhaps.

They day I find a toy with an automatic off switch is the day I know that there is something good and pure in the world. Until then, my poor daughter is going to have to resort to plain old-fashioned dolls or blocks that don't require batteries at all but might, in fact, require a little imagination and creativity instead.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lincoln Logs

Since receiving them for his birthday, Little Mister's favorite thing to play with has been, without question, the Lincoln Logs. I try to rotate other toys in, and sometimes he will agree to use some Playmobil people, but mostly he just wants to build log houses. Then he wants to knock them down. Then he wants to build them again. If I try to put the Lincoln Logs away downstairs and bring other toys up, he invariably asks for them, calling them "Wah-a Wahs."

Little Lincoln log house with a cute foot next to it

Although he has the alternating log thing figured out, he doesn't really have the idea that different lengths of log work best to build a house. Still, he is happiest with a nice, tidy square house so he follows me around whining, "Mommy, buil' hou'". So I sit with him and build him a house. He enjoys it for a while and usually builds a fence around it, then gets bored and tears it apart. Attempting to re-create it himself after I have drifted away to other activities, he usually constructs something that looks like it belongs in the world of Dr. Seuss with odd logs sticking out here and there and one wall that is ten logs tall, made out of singles.

A funny consequence of having Lincoln Logs scattered all over the house all the time is that the kitty discovered the terrific playing properties of the smallest logs. She sneaks up behind Little Mister and begins batting the little single logs across the floor. As soon as he discovers that she has stolen one of his precious Lincoln Logs, he absolutely comes unglued, screaming "No, Keee!!!" over and over, stamping his little feet and hissing at her. She runs away and hides under the dining room table while he collects his cherished toy and returns it to the pile. While he is back at his building work, she stealthily creeps out again from under the table and begins batting another small log across the floor at which point the performance is repeated. I don't know if she finds more pleasure in playing with the toy or in baiting Mister. Once in a while she succeeds in getting one away from him and I have found small Lincoln Logs tucked under the couch and in corners all over the house.

Lincoln Log forest

Sometimes he has so much fun with the Lincoln Logs, Curly Miss has to join him, adding her own flavor of creativity to the mix. Then we come up with Lincoln Log forests, which tend to get knocked over when Mommy walks through the room and inadvertently steps on them without noticing. The fact that they are a very close shade to the color of the hardwood floor doesn't help. I have to really be on guard or I don't see them and accidentally send a few flying on my way from the living room to the kitchen. Thankfully, my little builders forgive me and patiently reconstruct whatever they were making.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I've Taken Your Advice

Yesterday since I was at Wal-Mart buying TP anyway, I scoped out their aisle of clearance Christmas lights and bought two small strings for $0.60 each.



The darkest corner of the dining room received one string, wound around the fake Ficus tree, reminiscent of my days on interior decorating crew at LFF*. Lezlie, who was head of the crew at the time, had some kind of weird obsession with the twinkle lights on the fake Ficus trees and was always having me rearrange them. I could never figure out if she really had that strong of an obsession with them or if she could not think of anything else for me to do, for, in spite of my creative, artistic bent, I was a dismal member of ID crew.

So now I can look at my own fake Ficus tree and reminisce about those days on ID crew rearranging the twinkle lights for lack of something more constructive to do. Then I can thank the Good Lord above that life moves on.



I stuck the other string in the Pathos plant which I still managed to keep alive even through its exile over the Christmas holidays. I am so darned proud of myself for keeping this plant healthy...at last I feel like I am a grown-up.


*For those newer to my blog, LFF is a church I used to attend and we'd go every Saturday to "crew" where we'd engage in such meaningful activities as rearranging the twinkle lights. Really.

This is...

...the face of someone who just had a WONDERFUL violin practice with Daddy!

Curly Miss with a huge grin on her face

Rough Morning

For some reason my cell phone is hardly working at home. I guess the weather has caused a tower to malfunction because it keeps telling me that the network is busy and incoming calls go directly to voicemail.

Perfect morning for it because I was supposed to return a call to the adoption agency caseworker this morning. After trying seven separate times to reach her, I at last got through, only to be told she was on the other line and I could leave a message. Great. I did and she called back ten minutes later, only to be shunted on to my voicemail with no way to connect to me.

I decided to load everyone up in the van and drive to a different part of town and use a different tower. I had errands to run anyway. I didn't count on the fact that two Preschoolers strapped in car seats would not want to be quiet and sweet while I made eight separate phone calls which is what it ended up being.

The location change worked; I made the calls and found out to my dismay that the adoption agencies would all charge fees ranging from $10,600 (which I knew) to $20,000 (which I did NOT know). Yikes! It looks like the most likely candidate will charge $16,000, on top of travel and the money we have already paid for our homestudy. I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to strangle my kids, who were fighting in the back seat. Then I wanted to cry again.

The money we had carefully saved was dwindling at an alarming rate after purchasing a van, moving into a new house last spring, buying things like car seats and home studies and still waiting to be reimbursed from Hubby's trip to San Fransisco. We also found out we have to pay the cash in full at the time we get our baby. That means loans and interest and mounting costs upon mounting costs. I still want to cry.

Reminding myself we decided to use an agency for a reason rather than go through the state foster care system, I prayed for a little peace and continued on my errands, returning a template to the quilt store and buying diapers and TP at Wal-Mart.

Part of me is already so tired of the unknowns, the hassle, the paperwork, the red tape and the exorbitant cost of adopting I almost want to throw in the towel. Maybe two kids are plenty. After a morning of conflict while they did everything they could to be little monsters, why would I want to add a third one? Then I take myself firmly in hand and tell myself that I am simply tired, frustrated and have low hormones. I want to go home, take a hot bath, eat lots of chocolate and forget things like adoption even exist. Maybe I should get pregnant, throw up for nine months and not be able to get out of bed, while worrying about the baby's health and possibly dying. Nah.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Dresser, Part Deux

It turns out the dresser was owned by the new soccer coach at UI, a man with a darling British accent who forgot to take his personal items out of the dresser before we came. He scurried around his garage pulling stuff out of it and apologizing all over himself. He helped us load it in our van, thanked us for taking it off his hands and away we went. Gotta love Freecycle.



I love the dresser! Although moderately worn with a loose top, the drawers work well and it has the same vintage/antique look as the rest of the antique furniture I love to collect. Because it is small and upright, it fits perfectly in the babies' room. I can't wait to fill it with tiny clothes and shoes!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Freecycle and Classified Ads

Although I get the emails for Freecycle, it is seldom that something comes through that I actually want or need. This time, though, I really need to find a dresser to put in the Nursery for Baby Bear. Last week one came up on Freecycle so I have been frantically emailing to determine whether it is in good enough condition to actually use.

Tonight we're going to go get it...I hope it is in decent shape.

Last week we found the most darling car seat/stroller combo slightly used on Palouse Ads. Compared to the cost of buying all the gear new it's a steal so we got it and stuck it in our ever-growing pile of storage items in the garage.

I feel like we're just about ready with baby gear. I'm still hoping that the baby waits for warm weather to come (at least that is what I'm telling myself to keep myself from going crazy with impatience) but I would like to feel ready so that we're not caught by surprise of she decides to show up early. I got the baby swing and bouncer back from S. who ironically is now expecting a baby herself. I'm so glad about that... our babies will be similar age. We have the crib and cradle set up and we have the minivan complete with a great car seat.

Some things I used with the previous kids I don't think I'll bother using this time around. Finally with baby #3 things are streamlined and I know what worked and what didn't. For instance, the little infant bathtub was hardly used. Instead a little sponge in the bottom of the main tub worked much, much better. The changing table, too, was just a piece of extra furniture and I like changing the kids on a pad on the couch so I can sit next to them.





This morning, as the kids were sitting at the table working on their color pages, I pictured our family with another member. I have to say that even though I know it's going to be a huge adjustment, I am so excited for another little person around. Even the lack of sleep doesn't sound too daunting because I remember those snuggly moments in the dark quiet of the sleeping house where the baby and I would look into each others' eyes and there was no one but us two in the whole world.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Six Years

Yesterday was our sixth anniversary. Since we just got home we decided not to try to do anything as involved as a trip to celebrate; we did not even feel like we ought to use any money to stay somewhere. So we settled on dinner out and a movie.

Our anniversary "place" to eat is the Red Door. Unfortunately on Sundays they are closed. Plan B then, was to go to Sangria Grille. We left the kids with my mom who is staying at our house for a few days to avoid driving on the snow-closed highway and set off together in our new van. When we reached Sangria, to our dismay, it was closed with a note on the door that it was being remodeled until January 17th. On to Plan C. We drove through the snow and ice to Nectar, a little wine bar and gourmet limited menu place downtown. As we passed it the lights were dark and no cars lined the frozen street.

Discouragement began to take hold. We already felt like we would not be doing much to celebrate our special day; we both came from families who don't seem to place much importance on wedding anniversaries and we both wanted to make sure that it stayed on the front burner in our marriage. We were just about down to plain Italian or Mexican food, family restaurants or take-out. At last Hubby thought of a last option. One of the hotels had a nicer restaurant, The Broiler. We drove back across town for the second time.

Entering the hotel for the second time, we were disappointed to find the restaurant dark and unoccupied. Apparently on the weekend after a holiday when the students were away, fine dining did not exist in our small town. The horrible roads prevented searching farther afield so we gave up. We headed back home and joined my mom and kids in eating freezer lasagna.

After bathing the kids and helping head them toward bed, we went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. A movie, sad, but about lifelong love seemed singularly appropriate for an anniversary night. And after all, it's love that counts, not dinner!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

De-decorating

Today was the day I reclaimed my living room from the fat, prickly, beautiful Christmas tree. We joined the throngs at Wal-Mart buying plastic bins to house our collection of ornaments then came home and tore into the tree. In no time at all all the ornaments were off, the lights were stowed and the tree had shed three metric tons of dry needles all over my floor, in my vents and had left a trail across the front porch and yard where Hubby had taken it out to the minivan which now became our beast to haul old Christmas trees. I hope he sweeps it out.

Humming to myself as I listened to the last round of Christmas tunes (including four different versions of The First Noel) I swept the floor, dragged furniture around and replaced mirrors and houseplants. The cat, meanwhile, discovered a catnip mouse hidden in one of the vents I cleaned out so she has been having a grand time chasing it around and attacking it.

My living room seems so much bigger, clean, peaceful but lacking that sense of beauty and soft lighting of the Christmas season. I'm wondering if I should put some leftover twinkle lights somewhere because it was so nice to have the extra light. Generally I keep the heavy curtains closed over the front window in an attempt to buffer our house from the cold air that sweeps down off the frigid panes. But it also means that the living room is lit by only the two tiny windows above the fireplace, not much in terms of good lighting. I know it's only January but I'll be glad when spring and warm weather come and I will once again keep every window in the house wide open.

For now though, I just need to get creative with lighting. We have lots of lamps, so I'll use them and make the house as bright and cheery as possible. With any luck these next few months will slide past us quickly and the sun will shine again through our windows.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Stale Is The New Fresh

There is just something about home. After more time away from home in the past two weeks than here, I have to say I'm delighted to be back. I'm sitting here eating a sugar cookie that hubby baked last week that is stale but it still has the flavor of home so it's actually really tasty.

The kids are in bed, Hubby is off enjoying some quiet time to himself and I am happily planning my week and in my mind taking down the Christmas decorations and reclaiming my living room from the overstuffed Christmas tree.

The only noise is the dryer where the first of twelve loads dumped helter-skelter out of a suitcase will be washed. I think my MIL was a bit shocked at the untidy state of our room and my packing ability while we were there. In spite of having five children, she still retains enough sanity to fold her laundry whereas I rebelled upon having my first child and now don't fold any at all, especially when it is dirty and destined for the washer anyway. So it tumbled nicely out of the suitcases and into my washing machine. I suppose I could fold clothes, I'd just rather not.

So I'm home again where my kitten is rubbing on my legs and my plants need watering and my children are snuggling down in their own soft beds listening to their CD's of lullabies. Home again where my house needs me to sweep pine needles off its floor. Home again where my own special chair soothes my back pain into forgetfulness and where my wireless internet lures me away from folding laundry into more entertaining options like blogging and chatting.

Home again where everything is peaceful and quiet and MINE. I love home. Although the holidays were good and a nice break, still, there is nothing like coming home again.

Riding In The Cold



Earlier in the week I had expressed an interest in riding one of the horses and this morning when I emerged from the book I was reading early in the morning, my FIL (Father-In-Law) had saddled one of the horses for me. Delightedly I set off up onto the freezing flatlands on the back of the furry paint, Zack.

After a couple of miles I had enough of the wind and cold, so I returned to the house where my FIL was waiting to take the kids for a ride.





Curly got to go first, riding in front of Grandpa B. He took her on a loop out behind the shop then back where her teeth chattered but she was giggling and ready to go again as soon as it was her turn.





Little Mister was next. He, too got a ride on patient Zack. He mostly sat stoically while at my side Curly Miss, the expert, provided the running commentary.

For the grandparents, I even got a little video footage. Enjoy!


Friday, January 2, 2009

The Farm

We're spending almost a week with Hubby's family on their farm in the middle of eastern Oregon. I have to admit for me that it's always a bit of culture shock, even though I am from a farm family. Since hubby is the eldest of five, the house is big, noisy and full of people and music and talking, all happening at once. Even with two of the kids gone now, the atmosphere is still one of overwhelming noise and I don't even think they're Italian. They are Danish, I believe, at least on my FIL's side.

Anyway, outside of the house is miles and more miles of desolate, bleak, windswept High Desert where my FIL farms wheat with the barest minimum of moisture possible with dryland farming. To do this he uses the best sustainable new methods in no-till seeding and he is quite successful at it.



Inside, the house retains its flavor of timelessness, a cozy farmhouse built before the turn of the previous century. The art is mostly my MIL's paintings and the decor is mostly high-quality musical instruments.



Like many farmers, my FIL is an active outdoorsman as well. For years I have heard stories of his hunting and trapping; the office decor attests to his taste and success.





As you can imagine, living on a farm 20 miles from the nearest small town, the family has developed a wide repertoire of things to do at home. They play games with each other, practice their instruments, and work hard on the farm. I even volunteered to help install pegboard in one of the shops, but I fear my usefulness was short-lived as I had to go back to supervise naptime after only two panels were up. So much for helping.



My FIL, Grandpa B, had a great time entertaining the kids. Candyland, one of Curly's favorites, is so well-used in their house that the box is covered with duct tape.

Grandma N, my MIL, preferred to cook us scrumptious dinners, serve huge helping of local news involving people I had never heard of, and read the kids books. This of course won their hearts instantly and they sat and listened to "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie".

We did get to go in and see GG and Grandpa GG, Hubby's grandparents. They adore the kids and even went to their church to borrow some toys from the church nursery so the kids could play. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures there.



The highlight of the trip for Curly Miss was sleeping on her "matchress". She insisted that any auxiliary blankets be UNDER the sleeping bag cover so that Lightning McQueen would show.



Hubby's youngest sister was an absolute sweetie and let Curly sleep in her room, getting out her collection of dolls and toys and horses for Curly to enjoy with her. She even tried to do Curly's hair, with limited success as Curly's hair is impossible to style.





Hubby's Thai dinner was a smashing success last night and tomorrow is the loooong drive back home.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

Like the party animals we are, we went to bed at 9:30 last night. No Big Apple, no chips and bean dip, no pizza, no countdown, no "Auld Lang Syne". We did have a little wine. Hubby and I took a bottle to Oregon to serve with our gourmet Thai dinner and we sneaked a few sips up to our room along with some very stale Wheat Thins to celebrate New Year's.

This year should be a really good year. Last year was a year of upheaval, of changes and ultimately of wonderful happenings. We got a "real" house, a job raise and a new minivan. I guess one could say we're moving up in the world. But since we live by Faith we know our Father is taking care of us either way, whether we live in a trailer or a house, whether we make a little or a lot.

Tonight we're treating the farm family to Thai food. We're reasonably sure it will turn out well; we've made this dish several times. I'm excited. Although my mother-in-law is a wonderful cook, I don't think she's had Thai before and it should be fun.