Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where Has This Week Gone?

Well, we've had a rough week. The flu bug that's been going around town hit our house too, meaning the boys have been coughing and stuffy and not sleeping for days. Hubby and I are going around with woeful countenances (name that musical) and looking forward to brighter days.



While playing with Daddy and the kids, Baby Bear's true nature was revealed. Either insect or alien, it doesn't matter. (We did NOT shoot the baby with nerf suction thingies. Hubby put them there, where they shortly fell off.)



Baby Bear, while he doesn't much sleep at night falls asleep in the strangest places throughout the day. Here Hubby and I were watching Survivor online and Baby Bear fell asleep as shown leaning over Hubby's arm.



Little Mister gleefully pointed out the rainbow on Daddy's computer.  Although he's been sick all week, it hasn't slowed him down much, except for waking up several times a night with coughing and a stuffy nose.





Baby Bear, before the cold took over his week, tried sweet potatoes for the first time.  He highly approved!!!



After contracting his cold, he generally fussed and sneezed disgusting things out of his nose.  By now on Saturday he is just about back to his cheerful self.  We ended up steaming him several times by running hot water in the bathroom, filling the room with steam, then putting his Moses Basket in there for a nap.  The steam helped him breathe easier and he slept.



Curly, who spent the week in pajamas while her brothers were sick, was pleased to get dressed and have me do her hair in anticipation for Homeschool Co-op on Friday. She is over her cold except for the occasional cough.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mesmerizing

oneIf, one rainy Wednesday afternoon, you're sitting on the couch working on your computer and holding a squirmy baby who will fuss if you put him down, thus waking the other napping kids, and if, as you're holding him wondering how in the world you can get your work done without a) putting him down or b) having him knock the computer off onto the floor or c) getting spit-up all over the computer...

twoIf you open a handy little program called Windows Media Player and start whatever it recommends, in this case soft Jazz, it will not only play the pleasing music, but it will display an ever-changing psychedelic configuration of lines, blobs, colors and stars that will effective mesmerize said baby into sitting perfectly still, watching in amazement.

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Thus you can finish whatever it was you were working on, in my case a Braille transcribing assignment, in peace and tranquility. Bonus: elevator Jazz. Add a cup of coffee and both you and Baby might think you're in heaven. Or at least in some drug-induced euphoria. Windows Media Player. Great Stuff.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Really? You're Actually Serious?

Sitting in the downtown coffee shop tonight, taking a few precious hours of "me" time, I sat with my computer on my lap, listening to two rather loud college students at the table next to me.

The first, a girl, sat despondently at her laptop and the other, a boy, joined her, greeting her as a good friend and proceeded to ask what she was doing. She replied that she had an essay assigned, to analyze a current political commercial and it was due tomorrow. She continued to elaborate that she had no idea what she wanted to say, though she had all sorts of opinions regarding the commercial, which, it turned out, was about same-sex marriage.

She and the boy watched the commercial together, laughing about the idiocy of the people who would produce such drivel and he gave her some ideas on methods for picking apart the commercial line by line to discover any hidden subversive meanings and to expose its absurdity for what it was.

From what I could hear, the commercial was a political campaign commercial for the State of Massachusetts, on the conservative side, advocating for laws banning same-sex marriage (or something of that ilk) and the two college students not only watched the commercial repeatedly while chattering about how dumb it was and how anyone who agreed with it is equally dumb, but they also dug up some Youtube parodies of it and watched them with equal explosive mirth.

Then they began drafting the essay together, first taking the symbolism of storm-clouds gathering and "exposing" the fact that idiot Christians believe that gays are taking over the world. They went on to agree that they could not believe that Christian people would be so stupid as to believe that gay marriage is a "fight", saying that if everyone would simply live and let live, we'd have no storm whatsoever. They joked about "sunshine and rainbows" being somewhat appropriate in comparison to the ominous conservative storm-clouds.

There was quite a long discussion between the two about whether Christian doctors are threatened by same-sex marriage (apparently a doctor in the commercial had made a statement along the lines of "choosing between his conscience and his job") and they laughed at length that the commercial depicted conservative Christians as multi-racial, multi-age professionals instead of the middle-class white bigots everyone knows they are. They decided doctors would never be put in a position to choose between their religion and their job in a situation with same-sex marriage because it would never come up, except possibly on admittance paperwork or a spouse picking up prescriptions, which would hardly qualify for discriminatory action on the part of the religious doctor. They figured that a doctor who was bound by the code of the Golden Rule would treat a Muslim who was dying and would likewise take a gay person into the ER with no questions asked.

Then they tackled the issue of parents and the public schools. Since one of the people portrayed in the commercial was a "parent", they discussed whether the public schools pushed a gay agenda as Christians claimed. They decided immediately that it was a load of hogwash and that public schools don't talk about homosexuality at all and that Christians are wrong to think they do. All while they worked on the girl's essay on same-sex marriage for her public school assignment.

They spent a good two hours hashing this issue out using conversational tones that carried over the usual quiet buzz of the coffee shop. Their unshakable belief that Christians are gay-hating, intolerant middle-class white Republicans who try to paint the issue as black-and-white (recall they are watching a political campaign ad), who want everyone to believe as they do instead of embracing a "diverse rainbow of love" came out in constant mirth over the stupidity of a group of people who could actually believe and advertise, or even blog about such beliefs. Likewise they could not understand why a Christian definition of marriage might be threatened and came to the conclusion that it wasn't and anyone who thought so was ignorant.

At last the boy left, heading, as he announced, to the library to finish a bibliography. The girl hunkered down at her computer to type her essay, content in her thoughtful analysis of what was to her a completely stupid and senseless political commercial.

I sat for a while, flabbergasted by what I had heard. It had been tempting the whole time to announce my presence as a Christian, even one who believes that the Bible says homosexual acts are wrong, but I refrained, choosing instead to listen and not get into a swordfight. The amount of cruelty, intolerance and ignorant malice I heard stunned me because these two were the self-proclaimed "tolerant" crew. Rebuttals for every argument came to my head, stories of doctors not wishing to perform IVF on homosexual patients because it violated their conscience, or even the fact that we Christians might not actually think in black-and-white, that we might wrestle over this issue, that we might have friends who are gay, that we might not all vote a straight Republican ticket or that the Bible might actually be worth reading, even the parts that deal with homosexuality.

Who knows if my decision not to speak up was right or wrong. I might have been able to make them think; on the other hand I might have done more harm than good in a discussion where I was not invited. Part of me squirms under the doom of "When Good People Say Nothing" but another part of me has seen well-meaning Christians sail in where they were not wanted and drive the wedge deeper. So I pray. And I wept (yes, I did. I came home and bawled. Less, to be honest about the "decaying moral state of our nation"--I don't think it is decaying-- and more over the fact that I don't personally enjoy being overgeneralized as a political imbecile and ethical monster for my choice of religion). And I hope somehow these two learn to think beyond their own black-and-white world where all "intolerant" Christians are verboten and see that it's not quite that simple.

Friday, February 19, 2010

This Week's Photo Album


This has been a loooooooooonnng week.  I'm still mostly taking a break from the computer so my blog isn't going to be very interesting.  Curly has had a fever and nasty cough; I've had lots of extra work and Hubby has been bringing home tales of work stress.  We did get to go on a Valentine's Day date, which was fun and Hubby took one for the team, wrangling Goombas all day on Monday so I could go downtown and write.  Other than that we've been watching a lot of Thomas the Train.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent

I don't usually observe Lent but this year I feel like it's time to do something to shake up my daily routine and be a better mom. Whether it will result in penitence and getting closer to God remains to be seen!

So I am going to observe Lent this year by cutting out non-work-related computer activities... Facebook, forums, reading blogs, chatting, most IMs. I'll still check my email and be on the computer for work, and I'll still post kid-pictures here for the family, but probably not every day.

As a SAHM I use the internet to get my fix of social time and connect with other adults in a week when I may get out of the house once or less. This is going to be rough. But I feel strongly that it's what God wants me to do to get my focus back on servanthood and not on my own desires or how lonely I am. I'd appreciate your prayers; personal growth is never easy.

My plan is to stop my habit of shooing the kids away until I am finished reading this or that, or asking them to wait until I'm finished chatting with so-and-so. It's hard to admit it, but I have been pretty selfish with my time, taking care of them reluctantly then hurrying back to my laptop. No more! I'll do my work only when they are asleep or with Hubby; that is my goal.

Speaking of that, Baby Bear is starting to squeak. Time to go!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Size 1

This is a story about a baby.

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A baby who has doubled his weight since we was born and continues to grow at unbelievable rates.

It's a story about a mother.

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Who has a whole boxful of shoes. In storage somewhere. She's been meaning to look for them for months, but never has gotten around to it.

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The mother crawled into the attic the other day, a flashlight in her mouth, to find the shoes.

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Then she found them, darling little size 1 leather shoes.

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And she brought them out of their box. And put them on the baby.

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And they were already too small.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Next Step

As soon as we awakened yesterday, we loaded everyone up in the big, blue van and headed north. With a quick coffee stop for Hubby and me we traveled the two hours to the next large town north of us where we had a busy, busy day planned.

We arrived early enough to take a few minutes to get refreshed and change the baby in a handy McDonald's. We all used the potty, I applied lipstick, which shows what an occasion it really was and the bigger kids had a snack.

Then we headed to the Idaho Youth Ranch where we had Baby Bear's post-placement meeting. Although my stomach was in knots the whole time, everything was fine. We fielded all the questions about Baby Bear's routine, health, personality, hubby's job, the older kids, our family in general...

Afterward we drove to the next town over for a delicious homemade lunch by a blogger friend whom I had not previously met. She and her children made us welcome, provided weary travelers with food and friendship and let us use her bathroom.

Back on the road again, we ended up back at the exact same McDonald's as the morning where we settled ourselves into the playland and let the kids burn some energy while we had our third meeting with Baby Bear's birth mom. This one was the best so far and we had a delightful conversation while she held and cuddled the baby, who by now was getting really tired. She also showed us a picture of Baby Bear's bio-dad whom we had previously not seen. We were delighted to see a handsome black man showing his sense of humor in a silly pose. Staring out of the picture was my baby's brilliant, dark eyes and his shapely eyebrows. I now know where those came from!

As the kids showed ominous signs of overstimulated meltdown mode we headed to E&K's house just south of town where I put Little Mister and Baby Bear both down for a nap. E and K cooked us homemade lasagna and more or less treated us like royalty, letting us lounge our tired selves on their couch and providing scratch paper for Curly to draw pictures.

Once refreshed and fed, we explored the downtown tourist district where an art gallery tour and chocolate tasting were in full swing. Of course we ended up at a coffee shop, one of our favorites up there, where there was a toy corner for the kids and where the four adults fell into animated conversation for a delightful hour.

Awakening to the fact that it was the kids' bed time we reluctantly said our goodbyes and snuggled the kids in their car seats with their lullabies playing over the speakers. Baby Bear was instantly asleep and the big kids followed shortly into dreamy-land while hubby and I chatted and I read my current braille book through the long, dark two-hour drive through the dormant wheat fields.

We got home exhausted but happy at the successful meetings. As quickly as we could we shipped off tired goombas to their beds, fed a now-awake baby and headed to bed ourselves. Hubby gets extra credit for staying up with Baby Bear who, having slept in the car and threw his schedule off, was determined to stay awake as far into the night as he possibly could.

Now that our agency meeting is out of the way, we are on track to finalize with a local adoption lawyer as soon as we can set a court date and get all the paperwork to all the correct people. Of course we're impatient, but I feel pleased that a big step has been taken toward Baby Bear joining our family forever.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing

Perfectionism and lack of confidence team up into a paralyzing combination. At least that is what I've found whenever it comes to writing something beyond a blog post or an assigned essay from school.

I love to write. Ever since I was a kid I've scribbled little secret stories on scraps of paper or tucked the best ones away in my imagination, too precious and fragile to even commit to paper. As a lonely child in the back yard after school as I went about "being good", I'd make up stories constantly: stories about diminutive people or orphans or pioneers or fairies or adventurers. Somewhere out there were lives much more exciting than mine and they were as close as my thoughts.

My Dad talked me into writing a book with him when I was in junior high. He provided the plot involving a time-traveling closet and three friends, while I gave it skin in grammatically correct English. It sits still in a dusty binder on my parents' downstairs mantle.

Yet getting these many stories translated onto paper in a readable form and worse, running the gauntlet of agents and editors and publishers seems terrifying. The idea of rejection slips and stacks of correspondence fills me with dread. Even just finishing one of the stories in my head (I have tons of beginnings here and there) is not something I have been able to successfully accomplish.

Someday I'd love to "be a writer." I'd love to have published books with my name on the cover. Reading Nate Wilson's Dandelion Fire has prodded me onward toward that line of thought, because he lives a few blocks from me. I run into him at Bucer's. If he can do it, living in Nowhere, Idaho with five kids wrapped around his knees, then so can I.

If only confidence could be bottled. Like the can of Guinness I bought for my husband on Super Bowl Sunday, if I could just walk down to WinCo and pick up a can of confidence, preferably refrigerated, and drink it down, then in heady exuberance send my manuscripts off to publishers with full expectation of acceptance, life would be grand. If I could finish those manuscripts, it would be a start. Instead I write maybe six chapters and then over-analyze my poor work into oblivion, the perfectionist in me completely unsatisfied with the many plot holes or the lack of good character development I encounter in my own work.

Of course I'm similarly critical with the writing of others with one notable exception: they finished theirs. And published it. So they have definite bragging rights over me.

What will it take to catapult me into a career as a writer? Do I one day wake up and decide that is what I want to do with the rest of my life? Or do I stick one toe in the water, write a little here and there, send a little test manuscript off to some friendly soul who will write a nice rejection letter instead of a form-letter? I don't know. But someday I would really, really like to find out.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Busy Learning

Lately the goombas have been learning about so many things! I have to admit that Hubby gets most of the credit for these activities; he has initiated not only book-buying and reading, violin practicing (in which Curly is crab-walking up to fourth finger!) but also some fun, hands-on, playful, creative learning.

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Baking cookies results in yumminess as well as discussion on measuring, halves and fourths, ingredients and sources, along with good old-fashioned sharing and taking turns.

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As a delicious alternative to letter flashcards, Curly and a friend spelled words with her alphabet cookies, provided by Papa, my Dad. Back when he taught me to read I don't remember such delightful ways of practicing spelling!

rocks

This morning while Baby Bear and I visited the Pediatrician for his four-month checkup, Hubby and the kids shopped out local building supply store for the perfect pet rocks. Once found they brought them home and spent the morning gleefully painting them. Of course since Curly is learning about bugs in her Homeschool Co-op class they mostly became different kinds of bugs. In this one simple activity the kids learned not only about finding materials and purchasing, but also about color mixing, painting and about the anatomy of several species of insect.

Who says school has to be boring?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Februrary Blues

This time of year gets so depressing and combined with being extra tired, I have had a miserable few days of it. Baby Bear is adjusting his sleep schedule again, getting up at 2:00 and 5:30 and although Hubby and I share night-duty, we still can't seem to catch up on life. If such a thing even exists.

Tonight I power-walked to the small downtown Co-op grocery store for some meds I take and the exercise felt wonderful. If I can get some exercise every day, get a night's sleep at some point, and hang on till the sun shines brightly again, I think I'll make it. Although today with three kids I was at the end of my rope and wondered if it was worth it to try.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend Banana Bread

Yesterday we had a unscheduled day. We finished putting up the towel rods in the bathroom and generally puttered around the house. Then we all went to the bookstore in P-town for several hours.

Could there be a more perfect Saturday schedule?

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The best part was fresh, warm banana bread made first thing in the morning. Did you know that a couple of cups of pancake mix or Bisquick along with some mushy bananas and a little applesauce makes delicious banana bread with almost no trouble at all.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bathroom Facelift: Finished!!!

I have blogged about several aspects of renovating our bathroom. At last we're done and I can show you the "after" pictures.

To remember what it looked like before I began, here is the "before" post. The main problems were the holes in the walls where the plaster was falling off the lath, the rusty vent cover, the discolored white walls and the outdated light fixtures.

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I went with a light blue-gray for the walls and light fixtures with some character, chosen to look like the lanterns on a wharf or a lighthouse.

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I replaced the old picture on the wall with an equally old cabinet that matches the 1920's style built-ins. Also, though I did not photograph it, I replaced the rusted vent cover with a new, white one.

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As previously pictured, I painted a mural on the wall under the window and fixed all of the holes in the plaster. I also decided to replace the cheapy, plastic towel rods with quality metal ones in a nice, dark contrasting color.

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I installed a hook for the kids' towels at a nice, reachable level. Combined with the longer pull-chains on the lights makes the entire room accessible to the kids.

Budget for the project: $150
Total amount spent: about $200. Not bad, considering I bought the antique cabinet, had to replace a quart of paint with the correct color and did not use a mini paint roller I bought (but lost the receipt!) I did save quite a bit by getting the entire towel rod set on clearance for half-price and was also able to paint the whole room in two coats with only one quart of paint.

Hubby commented dryly, "Now the bathroom won't be the armpit of the house. Nice work, Honeybear."

That just about sums it up.

Bathroom Facelift: Antique Cabinet

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This little antique cabinet came to us in a sort of roundabout manner. My sister found it when she was in town visiting. We'd gone to the antique shop to find treasures for her apartment and I had resolved not to buy anything for myself.

She found this little white cabinet and bought it for her bathroom, but almost as soon as she did they moved to a different apartment that did not have room for it. At the same time I discovered I wanted something new to go above the toilet in our bathroom and offered to buy it back from her, an offer she gladly accepted.

It took some time to get it back up from L-town to our house. At last today Hubby and I installed it on our freshly painted bathroom wall.

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Chores

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Baked Alfredo

A couple of weeks ago while desperately collecting leftovers and miscellaneous ingredients out of my fridge, I happened to put together an original recipe that delighted my whole family. It was such a hit, in fact, that I served it to my mom and sister when they came to dinner and they too declared it delicious.

The last time I made it I took pictures along the way so I can share it with you too. It's super-duper easy and turns out so yummy!

boiling pasta

Boil shell pasta or any kind of pasta until you end up with about 4 cups cooked. The measurements in this recipe are approximations since I never measure but hopefully the pictures will help.

two chicken breasts on a plate in the microwave

While the pasta is boiling bake two chicken breasts in the microwave.  I take frozen chicken breasts and stick them in with a couple of tablespoons of butter and some garlic salt for 8 minutes, turning them halfway through so the middle part goes to the outside of the plate.

dicing chicken into cubes

Cube the chicken. They will be a little underdone, but will finish cooking in the casserole.

cubed chicken sitting in melted butter

After the chicken is all cubed, I set it back in the butter while I put the rest of the casserole together.

Ragu four cheese white sauce

I have used a jar of sauce like this, or made sauce using a packet.  One time I only had some leftover sour cream and milk, so I made a white sauce with that, butter, salt and a little flour to thicken it.

piles of grated cheese on a paper towel

Grate about 6 cups of Mozzarella cheese.  (I think this was Monterey Jack because I misread the label in the grocery store.  But it still tasted good.)

bag of frozen broccoli florets

I also add a cup or two of broccoli.  Depending what I have on hand, I'll use fresh or frozen.

jars of spices: black pepper, parsley, garlic salt, oregano, marjoram

These.... these are the star of the show!  Spices make this dish special!  Use them liberally.  Garlic salt, black pepper, parsley, oregano, marjoram.  I'll also sometimes throw in some paprika or basil.

multiple images showing the layers of the casserole

Assemble the casserole in layers.

1. Pasta
2. Spices
3. Half of the cheese (3 cups)
4. Chicken, including juices and butter
5. Broccoli
6. Sauce
7. More spices
8. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

bubbling cheese on top of a casserole in an oven

After baking for an hour, uncover the casserole and top with the rest of the cheese.  Brown under the broiler until the cheese makes a nice crispy browned crust.

finished casserole with browned top

Let stand for five minutes. Serve with garlic Parmesan toast (here using up leftover Hoagie rolls).

serving of baked alfredo with parmesan toast

Voilà! There you have it! This is so easy and quick to put together and it's a great way to make leftover chicken or veggies interesting again. This is also one of the only dishes that my Hubby will take to work for lunch the next day.

Hooray for Baked Alfredo!