Monday, December 28

That Other Thing

In addition to having a baby, I was working on my first novel last month. While I didn't get my draft finished (I blame the baby for coming sooner than instructed, but really, I lost the pace a week or so before I went into labor), I did get more than a dozen scenes written out. I thought I'd share one of my favorites with you.

This evening takes place early in the story. The two main characters, Rosie and Stone, got together a couple of weeks previously and they have just begun to include one another in their regular activities.

Thursday Trivia Night was the busiest evening of the week at Smokey’s Pub, or “The Off-Campus” as it had been dubbed many years ago by the local student population. Thursdays at the Off-Campus were a tradition for Stone. He’d started meeting a few of the guys from his dorm for trivia and beer when he was a freshman and returned every fall when he got back to school. He greeted several other regulars as he led Rosie through the crowd to the bar in the back.

“Hey, Fred,” Stone waved at the usual Thursday-night bartender.

“Hiya, Stone,” Fred smiled, showing off a his gold front tooth, as he popped the cap off a bottle of Stone’s favorite beer. “Wasn’t sure we’d be seeing you here anymore. You graduated from the Big House this last week, didn’t you?”

“Sure did. I’m still around for now, though,” Stone drew Rosie closer to the bar. “I made a new friend. This is Rosie.”

Fred stuck out a hand, “Good to meet you, Rosie. I’m Fred, best barman south of the Mason-Dixon line.”

Rosie smiled and shook his hand, “It’s nice to meet you.”

“What can I get for you?”

“Could I get a Coke with a lime, please?”

“No challenge,” Fred grumbled with a wink to Rosie as he scooped up ice into a wide-mouth glass, filled it with soda, and squeezed in a lime wedge. He added a red straw and passed the drink across the bar. Stone reached for his wallet, but Fred shook his head.

“Naw,” he said. “Those are on the house. Graduation gift for you.”

“Thank you,” Stone and Rosie spoke together.

“Thanks, a lot, Fred,” Stone added.

“Good luck in the game,” Fred called as they stepped away to look for a free table.

Settling in at a tiny table for two near the corner stage, Rosie asked Stone about the trivia game.

“It doesn’t start until 8:00,” Stone explained, “But if you’re not here by 6:30, you won’t get a table.” He gestured at the crowd already filling most of the tables in the pub, then pointed to the small stage, “The emcee reads the questions from here, then each team has two minutes to write down their answer and pass it up. Whoever has the most answers right at the end of the night wins.”

“What’s the prize?”

“Free pitcher of your choice.”

“I think I’m beginning to understand the popularity of Trivia Night,” Rosie said, dryly. “How often has your team gotten the pitcher of beer?”

Stone smiled, “Once or twice. Some of these players are pretty hard core, though. They’ve been part of the same teams, every week, for years.” Stone pointed out a few of the long-standing competitors, explaining that each team member specialized in one or two categories so their group always had an expert, no matter what sort of question came up.

Rosie raised her eyebrows. She shook her head, “I don’t think you should count on any more free beer tonight. I don’t know if I can compete with that kind of advanced strategy.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Stone told her. “I don’t really come for the prize. Trivia Night is what’s kept me from holing up in my room too much over the years and becoming anti-social.”

“I don’t believe it,” Rosie said. “I can’t see you not playing to win.”

“I didn’t say I don’t play to win,” Stone replied. “I just know when I’m outmatched.”

Rosie nodded and took a sip of her Coke, “That’s a good thing to know.”

“How about you?” Stone leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.

“What about me?”

“Do you know when you’ve met your match?”

Rosie stirred the straw in her drink. She studied Stone’s blue eyes, dark in the dim light of the pub.

“Yeah,” She said slowly. “I think I do.”

Copyright ©2009 by Amy James Gray. No part of this text may be copied or reprinted without the prior consent of the author.

Friday, December 25

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Ice Planet Hoth

Greetings from the Rebel Base!

We've been under winter weather warnings for the past two days and there's now a blizzard warning in effect through noon tomorrow. Interstates 29 and 90 have been closed through most of the state since 7:00 last night. Snow accumulations are predicted to be up to 20 inches, with drifts up to 6 feet. When they start measuring the snow in feet, I'm on the lookout for AT-ATs.

**This officially ends all the Star Wars references. I don't want to have to look anything else up on Wookieepedia**

Because of the heavy snow, we canceled our Christmas Eve plans to drive through town munching on caramel corn and looking at the holiday lights. Rosi was very disappointed.

We are still planning a Christmas Day carol sing around the piano. She's been learning a number of songs lately--mostly from me, but a few of unknown origin (somebody taught her Jingle Bells, but it wasn't me). Her latest favorite is "Arthur Harold Angels Sing" or as she calls it, "Glowy to the Newborn King."

Meanwhile, we're getting our traditional Christmas chicken ready along with garlic mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. The baby is asleep and Rosie is munching on oranges that arrived yesterday by FedEx, fresh from my sister's tree in Phoenix.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 13

Please ...

I don't ask for prayer much on this blog, but I have two significant requests to share with you. First is for Lia. Those of you who were reading here a year ago will remember Lia was rushed to the hospital shortly after birth and spent two months in NICU before heading home on oxygen. She's done far better than most of the experts predicted and recently celebrated her first birthday! However, she's been having trouble breathing again and her diaphragm has moved back up, compressing one of her lungs. Her family is heading down to Twin Falls today and they are looking at surgery perhaps as early as tomorrow. You can follow Lia's story on her blog or her medical updates on her CaringBridge page.

The second request is for me, well, for us. If you knew me when I had my daughter, you may remember we had some struggles with breastfeeding that led to Rosi nearly being labeled with Failure to Thrive as an infant. We're having some similar feeding issues with the new baby--only we're working on them at three weeks rather than three months. Just this evening I began to face the heartbreaking truth that, even though I'm doing everything "right" like I'm supposed to, I may still not be able to exclusively breastfeed my son. This might not seem especially significant; I know a lot of mothers easily use formula from birth or wean at a very early age, but for me, for reasons I'm not entirely prepared to share with the internet at large just now, it's a really big deal.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 12

Did You Know ...

I like to think I know a lot of things about, well, a lot of things. I'm an excellent Trivial Pursuit partner (especially if you know the answers to entertainment and sports questions) and I like to collect random facts in my brain. Sometimes things seem to have fallen through the cracks, though.

The other day, Rosi was playing the piano and singing the alphabet. When she got to the letter H, I told her that the notes only go up as far as G, then restart at A. She began her song again, playing just the white keys and starting at the bottom of the keyboard, "A-B-C-D" and so forth. Just then, I walked past and glanced down.

"Hey," I announced to Adam, all excited by my discovery. "The lowest note on the piano is an A."

"Yeah," he responded. Left unspoken was his, "Duh!"

Saturday, November 28

Unto Us a Child is Born

Last week I had a baby. Nothing went quite like I'd expected, though. My quiet, uneventful homebirth turned into a 5-day marathon of contractions, stalled labor, bleeding, hospital transfer, and, eventually a emergency c-section.

Obviously, I am disappointed to have missed out on the chance to give birth without a lot of medical intervention. Still, I felt as though, every step of the way, I was able to make the choices I thought were best, rather than feeling forced into anything. Despite the fact that virtually nothing about the birth went as I'd planned and hoped, I still found it to be an empowering experience.

Meanwhile, for all of you holding your breath, we have a son! He was born Sunday night weighing in at 8 lbs 5 oz and measuring 19¾" long. He has a head full of dark hair, deep blue eyes, and kissable chubby cheeks.

Baby and Mamie are recovering well and big sister Rosi is over the moon! Daddy is, as usual, holding the rest of us together.

Wednesday, November 25

What's in a Name?

Originally published December 20, 2008

I had a philosophy of naming for quite some time before I ever conceived a child. Because my given name is simply Amy, rather than Amelia like the great-grandmother after whom I was named, I always wanted a long, classic name that had more nickname options. I decided my kids would have nice long names. Three of them, in fact.

My three-name system included one name each based on
  • family tradition
  • the Bible
  • our own desires
None of the names should be after living relatives, with the possible exception of a "Junior" named for his dad. I didn't particularly want a Junior in the family, but I was willing to give my then-unknown husband rights to one son named for himself, if it was really important to him.

I determined that none of the names would be invented. Before I was married, my middle name was a hyphenated compound of my father's name and my grandmother's name. It was unusual and always looked funny to me--to this day, I can't remember if the second half of the name is supposed to be capitalized or not. In any case, I didn't want my poor child to be saddled with an invented name such as mine, which I'm sure sounded hip and groovin' in 1975, but by the early eighties, I was an odd duck in my grade-school classroom full of _____ Janes, _____ Maries, and _____ Elizabeths.

Any names up for consideration were required to have a strong positive meaning, not spell strange words with initials, and not sound like anything obscene or hurtful. Official naming could not take place until after birth, as I wanted to meet my child before bestowing a name upon him or her. Once Adam and I got married, I added another caveat: No names that start with "A"! I really didn't want to be that family.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, we'd chosen a name to call the baby in utero. We hadn't specifically declared that we would incorporate that name into her given name, but I didn't want to rule out the possibility either.

Really, when I think about it, it's a wonder we managed to find any names at all!

At my behest, we took the scientific approach. Adam and I each went through the name-your-baby book individually. We collected all the names we really liked and noted their origin and meaning. Because no names from the country of Adam's birth were included in our book, we added a few of those to his list as well. Once we'd completed the collection phase, we traded lists. Each of us had the opportunity to veto names that we wouldn't consider because of personal connotations. Then the real fun began.

I put all the names into a priority comparison tool and printed out two copies, one for Adam and another for me. We spent a day or two (or twelve) comparing each name to identify our personal top 10. By the time I went into labor, we had narrowed our list of girls' names to just 18 (from which we needed to choose three). We still had 60-some boys names because I never did finish the prioritizing exercise with those; Adam had given up and just circled ten he liked. I actually brought the folder to the hospital with us so I would have it for reference, in case we had a boy.

In the end, we did give our daughter three names. One of them is a family name, one is appropriate to the nickname we used in utero. One is just for fun. Her initials don't spell anything scary. The worst problem we've had is that her first name is quite unfamiliar to Americans and almost no one pronounces it correctly.

Since I'm not telling you my daughter's [real] name, let me share the three most popular names in the US for the year she was born (2005): Emily, Emma, Madison.

The most popular names for 1975? Jennifer, Amy, Heather. In fact, Amy has been in the top 200 most popular names in the US since 1951.

1973 (the year Adam was born)? Michael, Christopher, Jason.

Want to know the top names from your birth year? Check out the Social Security Website. They have lists of the 1,000 most popular baby names each year since 1880, when the top names were John, William, James (for boys) and Mary, Anna, Emma (for girls).

Thursday, November 19

Keep the Fire Burning (or Not)

Originally published November 13, 2006

I haven't made a real home-cooked meal in a while. Mostly because our kitchen is a mess and one of the things I seem to have caught from Adam since we've been married is his aversion to cooking in a messy kitchen.

But tonight I felt like making something new and different. So I thawed some chicken and paged through my More-with-Less and Extending the Table cookbooks looking for chicken and rice recipes. I finally settled on a peanut soup recipe from More-with-Less to which I added chicken, rice, and garlic (since the books are copyrighted, I won't post the recipe here, but you can purchase your own copy, here. Peanut Soup is on page 217).

The real fun could now begin. First, the knife I had wasn't working well with the chicken. I already had a Band-Aid® on my thumb from an earlier run in with a knife (no pun intended), and now I was getting raw chicken juice all over my hands. Yuck.

Next, I was searing the chicken a bit when I noticed a small flame outside the burner ring. When I bent down to investigate, I saw a ladle that had once been neatly situated in the center of the stove between two burners was now melting into the flame under my sauce pan. I pulled up on the pan, immediately turning off the flame. When that didn't solve my problem, I reached up into the cupboard for an open box of baking soda, remembering the dire warnings my home ec teacher had given us about spreading a grease fire with water. Since I wasn't quite sure the content of the plastic-looking handle, I didn't want to take any chances.

Unfortunately, sprinkling baking soda over an open flame is not the most efficient means of dousing it. Once the box was emptied, the flame continuing unabated, I decided the best course of action would be to grab the ladle from the serving end and plunge the flame into the sink.

The problem with that plan was a simple matter of unfinished laundry. Both of our oven gloves are in the wash. I tried grasping the metal end with a dishtowel, but I wasn't able to get a decent grip on it. Additionally, by this time, the melted portion of the handle was dripping down onto the chrome plate below the burner. I was not at all certain that lifting up one end would ensure the other followed.

Finally, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered that we have a fire extinguisher on the shelf above the microwave. I pulled it out and searched quickly to find the directions for use. (As an aside, this is not the course of action I recommend. If you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen--a wonderful idea in itself and highly recommended--make sure you know how to use it before you need it.) Following the instructions on the label, I stood six to eight feet back and squirted a short blast of whatever was inside onto the stove. Instantly the flames went out. It was kind of fun, really.

Once the excitement was over, I still had dinner to make. I briefly considered throwing my hands in the air and letting Adam finish it, but, by then the meal was nearly complete, so I scooped out the half-cooked chicken, washed the excess baking soda out of the pan and began cooking again.

By the way, the soup turned out pretty yummy. I'll have to repeat my experiment again sometime. Minus the steps involving runaway flames, of course.

Monday, November 16

The Worst News for Chickens Since Col. Sanders

I was served this wonderful breaded-chicken dish at a friends' house one evening. When I raved about it, they directed me to Rachel Ray's website for the Cheddar-Crusted Chicken recipe. I had Adam make some for me posthaste. Yummy. But, since I can never leave well enough alone, I had to play, making the recipe just a little bit tastier. I also came up with a great variation for a Parmesan breading, which I've posted below.

Oven-fried Cheddar Chicken Fingers
serves 4-6

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken (about 4 breasts)
3 c salted baby pretzels
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated or cubed
1 t thyme
¼ t pepper
1 egg
2 T water
¼ c flour
  1. Slice chicken into fingers (approx. ½” x 1½”).
  2. Grind together pretzels, cheese, thyme, and pepper until they resemble coarse bread crumbs. Place in a shallow bowl.
  3. Beat egg and water in another shallow dish. Pour flour into a third dish.
  4. Dredge chicken through flour, egg, then pretzel mixture.
  5. Place fingers ¼" apart on a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until juices run clear.
Variation: Chicken Parmesan Fingers

  • 1½ c dry breadcrumbs for baby pretzels
  • 2 oz Parmesan cheese for the cheddar cheese
  • ½ t oregano for one-half the thyme
  • ½ t salt
Serve warm, with marinara sauce for dipping.

Thursday, November 12

Thanksgiving with a Twist

Originally posted November 19, 2006

I had never heard of the concept before this year. Suddenly, I keep seeing references all over the place, but when I tried to Google "third world thanksgiving" I only found information about one organization's fundraising banquet, an article about daily life in poverty-stricken countries, and one site that had a video link which didn't look quite savory, so I left before I figured out exactly what it was showing. Therefore I offer you my own primer.

How to host a Third World Thanksgiving

Basically the idea is twofold: better understanding of and offering tangible assistance to those living in poverty (whether in the Third World or not).

Step one...Invite lots of friends over. And don't forget your family, too. Make sure everyone knows you are having a non-traditional dinner to raise awareness, as well as funds, for the hungry.
Step two...Shop for food. Go to your favorite grocery store with a list of all the ingredients you would need to buy in order to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for all the people you now have coming to your house. Price all of the items on your list. Buy only rice.
Step three...Cook dinner. Measure one cup cooked rice per person.
Step four...Enjoy the party. Spend a few hours sharing with family and friends the many blessings in your lives for which each of you can give thanks.
Step five...Share the wealth. Write a check for the amount you would have spent on your traditional Thanksgiving dinner (as calculated in step two). Send it to a worthy charity working to combat poverty and hunger in the Third World or right here in North America. Suggest to your guests that they make donations of their own.

Not sure which charity might be worthy or who is working in the part of the world where you're most interested? Check out a charity evaluation website, such as GuideStar, Charity Navigator or

Saturday, November 7

Not Quite Auntie Anne's

I love Auntie Anne's pretzels. I have could eat them as a whole meal. Sadly, while they aren't terribly expensive, they're not something we can afford to keep in our regular monthly food budget. And during months like these, when the food budget is already overburdened with stocking up for postpartum meals, even a special treat is out of the question. So, I made my own. The original recipe knock-off I found was created by Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes. While his was pretty tasty, I humbly submit that mine is even better.

Pretzel Dough
2¼ c all-purpose flour
1½ c whole wheat flour
2¼ t yeast
¼ c sugar
1½ t salt
1 c very warm water (approx. 120°F)
  1. Stir together dry ingredients
  2. Add water and stir together until well mixed
  3. Knead until smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes)
  4. Cover and let rise one hour or until doubled in size
  5. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces
  6. Roll each into a rope at least 2 feet long and twist into desired shape
Salt Bath
2 c warm water
2 T salt
  1. Dissolve salt into water
  2. Dip each pretzel into bath and shake to drain off excess water
  3. Place pretzels ½-1" apart on a greased baking pan
  4. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown
2 T melted butter
2 t coarse salt
¼ c brown sugar
1½ T cinnamon
  1. Brush warm pretzels with melted butter
  2. Sprinkle with coarse salt or dredge in cinnamon sugar

Friday, November 6

Why Drive to a Homebirth?

Once you've looked at the research, you know that out-of-hospital births have similar outcomes to births in hospitals. So, without the comfort factors of being in my own home and not having to drive while in labor, why am I still planning a homebirth away from home?

As you may recall, if you've been a long-time reader of this blog, attending a homebirth as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is illegal in South Dakota. However, CPMs are the only certified professionals in this country who are trained to attend natural births outside a hospital setting. Obstetricians, Certified Nurse Midwives, and other certified birth attendants are all trained in the medical model of birth. Medically-managed births are all about monitoring and procedures which are intended to reduce the risk of mothers and babies dying or being injured during birth. Sadly, studies show that in most cases, medical management does little to reduce these risks, and in some cases, it actually increases them.

There's really more to it than that, though. Most hospital-based practitioners have never seen a truly natural birth. They are so used to their standard procedures and interventions, they don't know what really natural birth looks like. Compare that to a CPM, who sees unmedicated, unhindered births almost exclusively.

Let me share a quote with you from a book I've been reading the last couple of days. It's written by Judy Kay Jones, a local CPM and former RN who spent time in jail for attending homebirths within the state of South Dakota.

A medical perspective sees birth as a dangerous situation--a complication waiting to happen. It operates in fear. True midwifery approaches birth from a natural perspective, not in fear, but in respect.

I compare it to the preparation of Treasury agents to spot counterfeit money. They do not study the counterfeit. Instead, they study the real thing. They know every detail of the real thing so well that a counterfeit immediately stands out as different when they see it.

Why would I want to trust my birth to attendants who'd primarily, or ONLY, seen counterfeits of natural birth? I did that once before and was unsatisfied with my care. This time, I chose to seek out a professional who specializes in natural births. And, in a few more days or weeks, I hope to come back and be able to share firsthand how different it is.

Thursday, November 5

A Little Lesson in Unity

Originally published January 30, 2007

I went to Brazil four years ago with a group from my church. We worked with an organization called Project AmaZon, or PAZ for short. They work along the rivers in the Amazon Basin. Our group, we had been told ahead of time, was going to be on a health boat, visiting several villages along the Amazon River.

Our first morning in Santarém we each purchased a rede (Portuguese for "hammock" and pronounced "hedgie") and went down to the public line boat that would take us out to meet the PAZ boat at the first village. And when I say "down" I really mean DOWN. I can't find a photo of it right now, but trust me when I say there was a big huge high sea wall and a rickety spindly little ladder.

Down and I are not good friends. I have no problem with heights, but going down from heights is pretty anxiety inducing for me. I spent several minutes at the top of the wall, watching everyone else head down, including several local workers who carried large boxes on their heads while they fairly danced up and down the steps.

When I finally made my descent, complete with sweaty palms and shaky knees, I realized that there was no way I would be able to repeat this journey later that evening with my luggage. I hadn't even been able to carry down the plastic grocery-sized bag with my rede in it.

On the dock beside the line boat, I spoke with another member of our team, sharing that I was a bit nervous about the return trip down the ladder. I asked him if he would be willing to help me with my suitcases. "Of course," he told me. "We're a team. We'll take care of it for you."

Climbing back up the ladder, it started to rain. I was grateful, because it helped to hide the fact that I had tears streaming down my face. At least, it did until I got back to the van and completely broke down sobbing among the rest of my teammates. Several of them hugged me, told me it would be okay, and prayed for me. I managed to stop crying, but I didn't really feel any better.

That afternoon we had a rest period to recover from our overnight flight into Brazil and to prepare for the overnight voyage on the line boat. I was supposed to be napping, but whenever I tried to lie still and close my eyes, I felt completely unsettled and upset about my experience that morning.

Finally, I asked one of my teammates to please finish up in the bathroom because I needed to be in there right away. My urgency wasn't because I was desperate to use the facilities, but because I really needed some time alone, without anyone else intruding on my space. At the PAZ guest house, the only personal space to be had was in the bathroom.

I sat on the floor and spent several minutes simply crying out the rest of my tears. When I'd finished, I began to pray. "Why?" I asked God. "Why am I so upset about this? It's not that big a deal. What's going on?" As I prayed and pondered, I began to understand that I wasn't so upset about the wall or the ladder or the down, but what was really bothering me was my inability to do for myself.

I'd been raised as a typical American, full of determination and independence. Like a small, stubborn child, I sat there on the bathroom floor saying, "No! I want to do it myself." Yet, I couldn't. The realization left me feeling very vulnerable and frightened. I decided to go back to bed.

While I was trying to fall asleep once again, I heard a message from God. This doesn't happen to me with any regularity, but I was pretty sure God was talking to me, even though it sounded rather a lot like just talking to myself inside my head.

God told me to look at my hand. "Huh?" I looked at my hand.

"Look at your fingers," He instructed. "See how they move? Aren't they beautiful?"

"Okay, sure."

"One finger, all alone, can't really do much, can it?"

"I suppose not."

"But, when all the fingers are together, working in concert as your hand, think how much more they can accomplish."

"Well, yeah, I can see that."

"You and this team are like your hand. On your own, you can only accomplish small things, but when you open yourselves up and work together, you can do so much more."

And that was all God had to say about that. The rest of the trip was really pretty uneventful for me, by comparison. But the image of all my fingers working together has really stayed with me.

Sunday, November 1

And ... I'm Off!

With the official start of NaNoWriMo today, and the impending birth of the newest little Gray, I have decided to take a blogging break for a while. If I have the energy, I may be back now and again through the rest of the month, but maybe not.

I've scheduled some of my favorites to run while I'm gone, just to keep you interested. If you'd like to follow my novel-writing progress, you can check out my author page on the NaNoWriMo site.

Until next time ....

Saturday, October 31

I Just Made the Yummiest Soup!

I've made a similar soup before and thought I'd just change it up a little. I had no idea it would be this good. I'm glad I made a double recipe!! Leftovers, mmmmmmmm ...

Potato-Bacon Chowder
serves 4-6

4 strips thick-sliced bacon
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T flour
3 c chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, diced
¾ c corn
¼ t thyme
1/8 t oregano
¼ t salt
1/8 t pepper
  1. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble, reserving 1 T grease.
  2. Place onion, celery, and carrot in a saucepan with the reserved bacon grease. Heat at medium-high, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.
  4. Stir in flour until fully absorbed, then add chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add potatoes, corn, crumbled bacon, and spices. Reduce heat to medium.
  6. Simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
  7. Eat with a great big smile on your face!

Friday, October 30

Is There an Emergency Stop on This Elevator?

Let's start with overnight, since, as a heavily pregnant woman, I haven't slept through the night in months. Last night I had a whole series of disturbing dreams. In each one of them, I had gone into labor, but I wasn't ready. I had to pack a suitcase to return from vacation or we were in the middle of a move from one house to another or labor itself was stopping and starting while I hung out at the "birth house" hoping for my turn while 20-some other women with more efficient labor patterns bumped me down the waiting list.

Once I got out of bed for the day, Adam told me his paycheck had come through. Hooray, we can afford groceries! In fact, the amount of the check was higher than I'd expected, and we can actually afford to pay all but one of the bills that's due before his next check.

Because it's Friday, and I really didn't want to contemplate going grocery shopping on Saturday, Rosi and I took Adam to work. The way there isn't too bad, it's picking him up at the end of his shift (two hours past Rosi's bedtime) that's the bear. He tried to find a ride home with one of his coworkers, but no one was able to do it tonight.

After dropping Adam off at the office, we sputtered our way to the nearest gas station to fill up our desperately thirsty car. Thankfully, no pushing was required to make it all the way there. After filling up on gas and oil, my 13-year-old car was happy as a clam once again.

We headed back home so I could work out a menu plan for the next few weeks and actually purchase appropriate foods to feed us within our budget. It took me about two hours longer than I'd expected, but finally, I got a list made out. My estimated cost came to within just a few dollars of our budget.

Before we left for the shopping expedition, I made a sandwich for myself. I offered one to Rosi as well (several times, in fact, because I knew she ought to be hungry), but she refused. Were I a brilliant mother, I would have brought an extra with me, so that when she started melting down in the pasta aisle, I could have pulled it out of my magic bag Mary Poppins style.

Unfortunately, I'm not practically perfect in every way, so instead of feeding her in the middle of the aisle, I pulled her out of the cart, left the food melting in the aisle, and we came back home--half-shopped with nothing to show for it.

I've spent the last 25 minutes trying to convince her that, yes, she does need to take a nap before we go get Daddy because she will be up for at least 2½ hours past her bedtime. At this precise moment, she's sitting on her bedroom floor, humming to herself to stay awake.


Calgon, take me away! And, could you possibly send somebody else in my place for a couple of days while you're at it?

Thursday, October 29


I had an appointment with my midwives yesterday. I've officially made it far enough that they are comfortable catching this babe at home and wouldn't send me off the the hospital were I to go into labor today.


Wait ... do you know what that means? Sometime in the next month and a half I'm supposed to be having a baby.


How did this happen? Wasn't I just four months pregnant a couple of weeks ago?

How come my house isn't all cleaned up? Why aren't all the baby clothes sorted and washed? Whose job was that?

Oh, right. Mine.


Guess I better get off my duff and get back to it then. Time's a wasting.

Anybody know where I put that nesting instinct?

Wednesday, October 28

Talking to Myself

I really enjoy taking time once in a while to read through old journals I have kept. Sure, they contain a lot of nonsense, but scattered throughout are wonderful gems that speak to me again months and years later. I like to think that indicates brief glimpses of wisdom. Maybe it just means I don't learn my lessons well, and God needs to keep showing me the same things again and again. This evening, I was reading through a journal I kept in 2003. The following passage really stood out to me.

When I try and I try and I try to do what it is I just can't do, I despair that I'm not living up to my potential. Ooh--were scarier words ever invented? Just like an egg is a potential chicken, I feel like I'm a potential good person. If I could just try a little harder, do a little better; if I would just listen to what God is trying to teach me.

I give up on myself ... I was going to say, "I give up on myself way more than God does" or "I give up on myself long before God will," but neither of those is true, because God will never give up on me!

Even when I'm sitting at the bottom of the mud hole, God doesn't throw down a rope, tie it to a stick, and walk off, waiting for me to climb out. He climbs right down next to me, because He knows I will need a shoulder to cry on long before I will be prepared to get up and let Him lead me back to the verdant pasture.

Friday, October 23

Somebody Won!

I finally chose a winner in my secret giveaway ... but I don't know how to contact her. When I asked for one comment number, gave me #4.

Susan2009 of Fruitful Words, please send me an e-mail. You won! I visited your site, only I couldn't find a way to actually contact you. I'd love to find some pretty cupcake wrappers for you ... but I don't know where to send them. :)

To everyone who didn't win, thanks for playing, and I'm sure I'll be hosting another giveaway in the near future, so keep reading.

Tuesday, October 20

On Sisterhood

The power of one understanding woman who opens her ears and her heart to another woman should never be underestimated.
~Robin Jones Gunn, Peculiar Treasures

Sunday, October 18

Memo to My Favorite Football Team

RE: Your long-distance fans

My friends,

I have been a fan of the Chicago Bears since I was 10 years old and watched you beat the pants off the Patriots. When I moved to New York a couple of years later, I showed my team spirit by designing a piñata in the shape of William "Refrigerator" Perry for Spanish class. You played in one Monday night game late that season. In my honor, you lost to the 49ers 41-0. Thanks.

Oh, and the boy whose locker was next to mine was a Niners fan. Yes, he lorded the outcome of that game over me the rest of the school year.

A dozen years later, I had the opportunity to move back to Chicago. I was overjoyed to be able to watch every game of the season! And I did watch nearly all the games for the next decade, including Superbowl XLI, which at least started out well.

One year ago, I had to drive a rental truck full of my things away from Illinois for the second time. I quickly discovered that, though the move was to South Dakota, I had landed smack dab in Viking country. And, no, I can't believe they had the audacity to sign Brett Favre either.

So far this season, I've been able to watch two complete Bears games as carried on national TV. Those would be your two losses so far.

I understand you are a hometown team and I appreciate that you want to save your best play for your local fans. But, please, keep in mind that some of your fans, for various reason, can't be local. We still want to watch you win!

Thank you for taking the time to consider those of us who support your franchise, even when we no longer live in your fine city. Oh, and have a nice flight home from Atlanta. Maybe you could practice holding on to the football while you're on the plane.

Friday, October 16

Happy Birthday!

Sound the trumpets: Today is my third blogging anniversary. It's also the last day to enter my secret giveaway, and given the response so far, you still have an excellent chance of winning.

Meanwhile, it's Friday, which means Adam has gone back to work for the week and we need to get back to homeschooling. I've been somewhat lax in that area since my in-laws were here, so I'm feeling itchy to get back into our routine.

I was realizing, just before the hiatus, that my "lesson plans" were getting a bit too elaborate for preschool. I'm now trying to limit our focus to one concept throughout the week in each subject. I'm also trying to get a little more unschoolish about the whole thing and let Rosi lead herself in the direction of which subjects to study. I've been doing that somewhat, like for science we've been learning about animals she likes, but I've been much more strict in the way I've been trying to help her learn reading and math concepts. Unfortunately, in my stricture, we seem to have lost some of the game-playing aspects of learning--you know, what makes it fun in the first place.

Thursday, October 15


Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Please take a moment to remember those whose lives have been touched by little ones they knew for too brief a time. Thank you.

Friday, October 9

Holy Cow, It's Snowing!

Yup. That about says it all.

Mark your calendars, folks. Sioux Falls had its first snowfall of 2009 on October 9th.

Frankly, it wouldn't bother me so much except that it hasn't even snowed in Anchorage yet!

Remind me again why we moved here. Anybody?

Wednesday, October 7

Thanksgiving Dinner

I read somewhere recently that no one who says he wants to write really wants "to write." Instead he wants "to have written." I'm not sure I entirely agree with that--I do actually like to write. By the same token, I can see how it does get frustrating to write. Sometimes, things just don't flow.

Lately, as I've mentioned, I've been preparing to write a novel for NaNoWriMo. So far I have a plot and a bunch of characters whom I am trying to get to know better. It's a little odd to me, never really having gotten this deep into noveling, that the characters are creatures of my imagination, yet they're starting to have ideas of their own.

In order to get a better feel for writing the main characters, I decided to interview them. I wrote out some questions and I'm having my characters answer in their own voices. It's a really interesting experience. I started with the main male character, since I figured he'd be the hardest for me to get a handle on (never having been male myself). I definitely have seen a difference in the way I would explain his answers than the way he needs to do so. I keep running things past Adam to make sure my character has a strong enough masculine identity. I've started writing a few of his answers and had to stop, go back, and begin again because I was using my own voice and making him sound too prissy.

As for the dinner aspect (from the post title), I made a discovery the other day. Writing a novel is like making Thanksgiving dinner. To make a real, traditional meal from scratch, you need to start at least a couple days before the holiday, spend hours chopping and stirring and baking, getting everything just right. Then the meal is served and your houseful of guests eats everything up in 45 minutes. To make a good book, so you need to choose just the right ingredients, spend days (or weeks or months) letting everything simmer together, then when it's finally done, your readers gobble it up in a few hours.

Friday, October 2

Sorry, Folks

After having to delete my last dozen comments--all from the same spammer--I have decided to turn on comment moderation. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Carry on.

Thursday, October 1

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

Most of the time when I think about the pastors in my life, it's with consideration to how they can best serve me. Maybe you're the same way. The only problem is, if I'm thinking that way, and you're thinking that way ... well, who ministers to the ministers?

Since October has been officially designated as the month to appreciate you pastors, I figured I'd share some ways for you (and me) to do just that.

Here is an article from the Christianity Today archives entitled Eight Ways to Encourage Your Pastor. It's a good place to start. For #2 ("Pray regularly"), you might find the prayer list below useful. You'll notice it's conveniently divided into 31 topics, one for each day of October.

Let's not forget to continue blessing our pastors once October is over. We need to encourage and support these leaders every month!

31 Prayers for Christian Leaders
Pastor, I am praying that you would
  1. recognize your accountability to God for each decision and act. (Colossians 1:16)
  2. have wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. (James 1:5)
  3. protect your loving Christian witness. (Romans 10:14)
  4. be strengthened and encouraged in your faith. (Ephesians 1:17-19)
  5. know your own limitations and pray, seeking the will of God (Proverbs 3:5-7, Luke 11:9-13)
  6. be open to the Spirit's conviction of sin, transgression, and iniquity (Psalm 51:17)
  7. heed your conscience, confess your sins, and repent (Proverbs 28:13, James 4:7-8)
  8. read the Bible and attend prayer meetings and Bible studies (Psalm 119:11, Colossians 3:2)
  9. value and regard the teachings of Christ (Psalm 19:7-9, John 8:31-32)
  10. honor your own parents and those who have provided a spiritual legacy (Ephesians 6:2-3, I Corinthians 4:15)
  11. respect authority, and practice accountability (Romans 13:1-5)
  12. pay attention to godly counsel and advice (Proverbs 24:6)
  13. be honest and faithful to your spouse and children (Malachi 2:15-16)
  14. participate in worship, and help to those in need (Hebrews 10:22-25)
  15. desire purity and avoid debauchery, perversion, and drunkenness (I Corinthians 6:9-20, Titus 2:11-13)
  16. practice timeliness, reliability, and dependability (Matthew 21:28-31)
  17. act honorably in financial, tax, and ethical matters (I Corinthians 6:10, I Timothy 6:8-10)
  18. recognize your own needs for pastoral care and counsel (Hebrews 13:7)
  19. develop and nurture godly friendships (Proverbs 17:17)
  20. have generosity and a compassionate heart for the poor and needy (Psalm 112:9, Luke 10:33-37)
  21. keep or seek to restore unity with other Christians (John 17:20-22)
  22. use your time wisely and know true godly priorities (Ephesians 5:15-17)
  23. show honesty, integrity, and loyalty (Psalm 26, Proverbs 11:3)
  24. resist manipulation, pressure, and the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25, II Timothy 1:7)
  25. be protected from occultism and false religions (Isaiah 2:6)
  26. adhere to a godly worldview and biblical principles (Ephesians 3:9-10)
  27. encouraging families toward divine order and morality (Ephesians 5:22-6:4)
  28. work to discount false teachings and foolish divisions in the Church (I Timothy 1:3-4)
  29. be willing to serve and cooperate with humility and meekness (John 13:14, Titus 3:1-2)
  30. accept valuable instruction and correction (Job 22:22, Proverbs 10:17)
  31. be prepared to give account to Almighty God (James 3:1)

Tuesday, September 29

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

As a child, I was never really a big fan of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I don't know if I was too sensitive or imaginative or what, but I found it scary. Nonetheless, the idea of creating my own "wild rumpus" sounds like fun. Especially if I'm looking for a way to celebrate my 500th blog post.

Yes, folks, it's true. This is post 500. I've finally gotten a high enough count that I would have to look up the roman numeral to cover it (in fact, I did: it's "D").

To keep my rumpusing on the wild side, I am hosting a secret giveaway! I don't actually know what I should give away, so to enter, you need to leave a comment recommending a fabulous, but, ya know, smallish, prize that you would like to win. As always, you'll get an extra entry for linking to this giveaway on your own blog (leave me a second comment if you do this, please). I will choose one winner at random from among those prizes I can accommodate. Comments will close on my blogiversary, Friday October 16th at 11:59 PM CDT, and I'll announce the winner the following week.

Good luck!

Monday, September 28

Notes from Far-Flung Corners of the World

Well, not quite. They're all from right here. But, hey, depending on where you live, Sioux Falls may well be far flung. I haven't had a "real" post for quite a while ... so instead of offering one now, here's some highlights from the past few weeks.

I'm interviewing characters for my book. I'm trying to help them ... or, maybe they're trying to help me ... find their voices. So far, I feel like I have a pretty good start on the male lead (is that what you call them in books?--I'm used to theater talk), but I have at least a dozen more interviews to finish before NaNoWriMo kicks off November 1st.

We found a great deal on a new digital camera, so we are now officially back in business, picture-wise. Unfortunately, the USB port on my computer is buried way in the back, under the desk and I am too ungainly at the moment to attempt such acrobatics. I keep forgetting to ask Adam to plug it in and I don't trust Rosi with it. You'll all have to wait a few more days (weeks? months?? I hope not!) for new pix.

Did you know you only have 88 crafting days left before Christmas? I've completed 3 gifts, started 2 more, and only have another 19 to do after that. Hmmm ... some of you may not be getting your gifts until Valentine's Day. Or maybe Easter.

Last night I got a call from Adam as he was on his way home. He asked me to listen to a noise the car was making as he turned the steering wheel. It didn't sound good, but I suggested he try to make it home (he was only about half a mile away) and we could take a look at it once he got here. Five minutes later he called back to say the car now wasn't steering at all. He called to have it towed to the garage and walked home. This morning we got the estimate for repairs. It's twice as much as we were hoping, but less than half what we were afraid it might be. Thankfully, we'll only be carless for a day or so. Adam was able to get a ride in to work this morning and he's off for the rest of the week, so, all things considered, now is as good a time as any for the car to break down.

Tomorrow my in-laws arrive. This is the first time they've been able to visit since we moved here (almost a year ago, now). We've been trying to make a list of stuff we'd like to do together, but keeping it low-key so as not to exhaust everybody and their pocketbooks. I may or may not be up for blogging while they're here, but I'll try to take some pictures of our adventures to post later.

Friday, September 25

The Last Thing

I found this on a discussion board this evening.

What was the last thing you ...

ate? Plain french bread.

said? "What?"

drank? Water.

laughed about? "And Then My Six-Year-Old Had Her Tattoo Removed..."

touched (besides the keyboard/mouse)? The french bread.

cooked? Frozen egg rolls.

bought? Yarn.

cried about? Tim Hodge's CaringBridge journal entry for yesterday.

took a picture of? A bag I crocheted.

wrote? "A bag I crocheted."

gave as a gift? A crocheted cowboy hat and cowboy booties.

broke? The seal on the bag holding the French bread loaf.

fixed? The stapler.

washed? My hands.

turned off? The light in Rosi's bedroom.

read? Tim Hodge's CaringBridge journal.

watched? National Geographic Video's collection of snake clips.

changed? My mind.

threw away? An apple core.

Wednesday, September 23


Third trimester. Check.
Feeling like a whale. Check.
Brains turned to mush. Check.
Emotions on overdrive. Check.

And for today? Nesting. Check.

Yup. As of this morning, my nesting instinct has officially arrived. I got out of bed, went into the bathroom, and decided the toilet needed to be scrubbed right away. I then started having distressingly similar thoughts about the bathtub. I managed to wait until after breakfast for that project, though.

Saturday, September 19

My Daughter Is a Communist

That's the only explanation I can think of. She just doesn't believe that anything could possibly belong to anyone to such an extent that on her whim, she shouldn't have the right to take it, play with it, or destroy it.

The funny thing is, she seems to have a pretty good grasp on certain things belonging to only her ... it's simply the idea that someone else might have that same sense of ownership that she finds baffling.

"What's mine is mine," seems to be her motto, "and what's yours is mine, too."

Perhaps she's not a communist after all, but a tiny little authoritarian dictator-in-training.

Clearly we're on the wrong train.

Friday, September 18


Things to do in the middle of the night when you want to be asleep but can't seem to manage it:
  • Catch up on your friends' latest posts
  • Clear out your e-mail spam folder
  • Create a spreadsheet for your sister
  • Listen to your husband snore
  • Mentally catalog all the Christmas crafting you've been planning
  • Plot your book for NaNoWriMo
  • Write utter nonsense on your blog in hopes of amusing your readers
Well, that's all done now.

Maybe I should try counting sheep.

Sunday, September 13

It Was a Record-Setting Game, Anyway

As you may have heard already, the Bears lost to the Packers tonight in the final seconds of the game. While I appreciate a contest that keeps your interest into the last two minutes, I must say, I like it a lot better when the team I'm rooting for actually wins.

The Bears' new QB Jay Cutler did set himself a new personal record; he threw a career-high 4 interceptions in a single game.

Whaddaya say, Jay? Maybe next week you could work on cracking one of your better records. Might I suggest most TD passes per game?

Really, how can they be expected to beat the reigning Superbowl champs when they couldn't even work up a win against their biggest rivals, who, incidentally, only won 6 games last season?

Maybe I should just give it up, become a baseball fan, and root for the Cubs instead.

Oh, wait, that wouldn't really improve my prospects, would it?

Well, here's to another season whose greatness is yet to be determined!

Saturday, September 12

Feeling Out of Touch With the Next Generation

Rosi and I were spending some of our school time practicing letters and their corresponding sounds at Starfall. One of the example words for Q is "question" and the image is of a girl standing at a crossroads surrounded by question marks.

I pointed out the punctuation and asked Rosi if she knew what it meant.

"Uh-huh," she answered, distractedly, still focused on the exercise. "It means 'help.'"

Maybe she's been spending a little too much time on the computer lately.

Friday, September 11

Psalm 23

Just about every Christian I know has paraphrased the 23rd Psalm at one time or another. The attempt to make the words of an ancient shepherd fit the life of a modern city dweller is not always easy. Recently, I felt prompted to rewrite the passage in my own words, trying to make what David said more meaningful to me in the place I am.

The Lord is my guardian,
He will provide everything I’ll ever need.
He calls me to rest and provides me with abundance,
He walks with me, satisfying my hunger and slaking my thirst,
He makes my soul new.
He leads me to make good choices in life,
Because I love Him.

Even when I pass through dark and dangerous places,
I have nothing to be afraid of,
Because You are beside me;
The power You hold in Your hands
Encourages me to be brave.

You bless me and celebrate me
Right in front of those who’d rather hurt me.
You heal my injuries and show everyone that You choose me;
I am filled with joy.

All the good things You give me will be with me
For the rest of my life,
And I will be a part of Your family

Thursday, September 10

Ten Truths

I saw this meme on Patricia Zapata's fabulous blog A Little Hut and decided to try it.
  1. I can't make Jell-o. Adam doesn't believe me, but every time I've ever tried, the stuff just won't set up for me. I am gelatin-challenged.
  2. Back before I had children, I always thought pregnancy would be weird, like having an alien growing inside me. Actually, I sort of still think that, but he's a lovable alien.
  3. Speaking of parenting, I was always planning to be called "Mama" which is what I called my mother when I was young. When Rosi was born, I just couldn't get a handle on calling myself that, however, so I stuck with "Mommy" instead. On her own, she started calling me "Mamie" and I discovered I liked it better than either of the others, so I stuck with it.
  4. I'm writing a novel. Well, I'm not actually writing it yet. I'm preparing to write a novel so I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year.
  5. Even though I'm horrible about sending thank you cards myself, I always feel a little hurt when other people don't acknowledge gifts I've given them.
  6. I've been on TV twice in my life. Once in junior high when the local news was doing a story about snow days cutting into our spring break and once recently as part of an interview about the state of midwifery in South Dakota. I didn't have a speaking part either time.
  7. When I was a child, I used to complain about my parents leaving the skin on when they made mashed potatoes. Now I do the same thing. I also thought my dad's peanut butter (all natural, no sugar added) was gross, but it's now the only kind I'll buy.
  8. My very favorite part of high school math was geometry proofs. Set me to proving the congruence of two angles and I get a little thrill inside.
  9. Although I'm a professional copy editor, I can't find typos in my own work. I know what I meant to write, but don't see what I've actually written instead.
  10. I have always wanted to take a ride in a hot air balloon. When I was a kid, we'd go watch balloons take off periodically and I always thought it would be neat to go on one. I've also always been a little afraid of the idea.
It was a challenge to come up with 10 new things about me. For those of you looking for a more complete picture of my randomness, I invite you to check out all my memes.

Sunday, September 6

Homemade Chicken Soup for the Sick

I have joined the ranks of the sick. Again. Ugh. I figured chicken soup would make a good lunch, but really had no desire to defrost chicken or chop vegetables all morning. They say necessity is the mother of invention. I say lazy people come up with the most efficient way to do things. Actually, that’s not even mine. I stole it from Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr., professional motion-study expert.

Meanwhile, here’s a good-for-you meal that’s still manageable, even when getting out of bed is a struggle. This recipe is based on what I have on hand in my kitchen. If your staples are a bit different, by all means, substitute whatever makes it easiest for you!

1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves (or 1 T minced)
2 t oil
½ lb frozen mixed veggies (about 1½ c)
½ c dry brown rice
½ t oregano
½ t sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
5 c water
2 bullion cubes
1 frozen chicken breast (about ½ lb)
  1. Chop onion and mince garlic.
  2. Sauté in oil until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add frozen veggies and rice. Cook until veggies have melted.
  4. Season and add water. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add bullion cubes and frozen chicken breast.
  6. Simmer for 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary.
  7. Use spoon to break up chicken breast into bite-size pieces before serving.

Saturday, September 5

Hooray for Football

Football season is fast approaching. I actually looked up the schedule for preseason well in advance this year, unlike some years previous. Unfortunately, my own reminders to myself that a game would be on a particular evening didn't keep me from missing all but a single quarter of the preseason action. Even without my help, the Bears managed to pull off a 3-1 record. Not too shabby. Too bad they don't count yet.

I am excited for the opening game. For one thing, it's on national TV, which means I'll actually be able to see it! Plus, it's a Bears-Packers game. Those are always good. Even when very little happens on the field, they are still fun games to watch.

Maybe this year we can make it back to the playoffs. I'll be able to see those games. Come on Bears, keep your fans happy. Win more games! Pretty please?

Friday, September 4

Seasons Change, People Change

It happens every fall. The days grow a little shorter. The sun goes down a little sooner. I praise God that it's full dark by 8:30 PM.

Wait a second. That's never happened before!

What's going on here?

Once upon a time (uhm, pretty much my whole life until this spring), I was saddened by the definitive notice that these freewheeling summer days were at an end. Light, late into the evening meant freedom and joy and ... well, losing the light meant everybody was going back to school and it was time to get down to business again.

Living in Chicago, I discovered the year I'd moved back, means waking up to sun streaming though your windows at 5:30 AM in July. If that's not enough, it also means leaving the office at 4:30 PM in January having missed the sunset. These things were not my favorite part of the city, let me tell you.

One of my reasons for excitement when we first thought about moving here to Sioux Falls was the fact that the sun doesn't come up at 5:30 any day, all year long! Such a blessing that is when you have a little one who thinks that when it's light out, she needs to be up playing.

Which brings us nicely back to the crux of this summer's dilemma: Rosi refused to go to sleep while it was still light out. She's always been a bit of a night owl. She gets that from her mother. Her normal bedtime is 9:00 PM. Except, here on the western side of the time zone, the mid-summer sun doesn't set until about 9:15 PM. And even at that, it stays light for another 20 minutes or so.

Unfortunately, we've discovered that, in addition to being a night owl, Rosi will wake up by 8:30 AM, no matter what time she gets to sleep. In other words, this summer has been one long sleep-deprivation experiment at our house.

But it's getting to be fallish now. The sun set this evening at 7:56, and Rosi is already in bed. Ahh, the blessed sound of silence. I think I'll go read a book.

Tuesday, September 1

Answer Me This

Why can you buy an entire printer/scanner/copier, which includes two ink cartridges, for the same price as just the two ink cartridges?

Furthermore, why can you buy the stand-alone printer (with the ink) for $10 less?

Does this make sense to anybody?

Monday, August 31


I finally found my stash of buttons. Unfortunately, it was after Rosi spilled a bottle of nail polish all over them. I'm trying to see how many can be salvaged. Meanwhile, I'd gone to Walmart the other night and I saw just the buttons I was looking for to finish up my new baby's new sweater.

Since I got it all done, I figured I could share another scan. I don't know that this one is any better quality than the last, but I'm pretending it looks a little better, anyway.

I also finished up another crochet project yesterday, but I have to save that one for another day because I need to give it to the recipient first! Soon, however, you'll get a chance to see a new crocheted set of ... something ... and a pattern for the cutest little ... items.

Friday, August 28

We Have a Winner

After a long morning of discussions, my daughter and I have come to an agreement. I won't call her Khalil, but I do have a new name for her to share with Blogland.

I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Rosi.

If I had my camera fixed, I'd post a lovely picture of the back of her head, where you'd have a great view of her new haircut. Since we don't have a working camera, Rosi would like to offer this self portrait for your enjoyment.

Now we just need to figure out what to call the new baby--both in the virtual world and in real life. Adam and I have been working our way through a couple of name-your-baby books, but so far all we've come up with is a growing list of names that will need to be narrowed down considerably.

Meanwhile, anybody want to suggest a name to choose or avoid?

Tuesday, August 25

My Very First Sweater

You may remember my asking for suggestions about what to make first for the baby. I decided on a sweater. I found a pattern that looked really interesting, where the sweater is actually crocheted in two pieces, both hexagons. Since I dislike finishing my work (that is, having to do more stuff after the crocheting is done), it seemed like a good idea. Only, I found it boring to work on. The entire sweater is made up of double crochets. I mostly completed a test version that is now clothing my daughter's teddy bear. I decided not to work one up for the baby.

On a whim the other day, I picked up The Big Book of Weekend Crochet at the library. Although most of the patterns didn't really appeal to me, I love the sweater shown on the front cover. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, providentially) the pattern didn't include a newborn size. So I made up my own. I altered the pattern stitch a bit to better fit the yarn I had available and I made my very own baby Fisherman's Sweater.

Sadly, with our camera still busted, I couldn't take a photograph of it. This poor-quality substitute will have to do (it's what happened when I put the sweater into my scanner). The orange bow is not meant to stay, but is keeping the shoulder flap together until I get around to sewing the buttons in place. That will be sometime after I find my button stash, or I break down and buy some more. While I wish I had a better photo to share with you, at least this does show off the stitch pattern pretty well. You'll have to use your imagination for the rest of it. You can click on the image to see a bigger version.

EDITED TO ADD: You can see the finished sweater with buttons here.

Of course, I didn't write down all the changes I was making to the pattern as I went along. Sorry about that. I can share the adapted stitch pattern I used, though.

Ch 18
Row 1 (wrong side): Sc in second ch from hook, dc in next ch, *slst in next ch, dc in next ch. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final ch. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 2 (right side): Sc in each st across. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 3: Sc in first sc, slst in next sc, *dc in next sc, slst in next sc. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final sc. Ch 1 and turn.
Row 4: Repeat Row 2.
Row 5: Sc in first sc, dc in next sc, *slst in next sc, dc in next sc. Repeat from * 6 times. Sc in final sc. Ch 1 and turn.

Repeat rows 2-5 until piece reaches the length you desire.

Now that I have finished the baby's sweater, my daughter has been begging for one of her own. I have a feeling hers will take a little longer than two days to complete. She's a bit bigger now than she was as a newborn.

Monday, August 24

Peach Crepes

Peach season has arrived. Even if you don't live in Georgia, you can find fresh, ripe peaches this time of year at a very reasonable price. The question is, once you have the bushel basket on your counter, what are you going to do with all of them?

I had a few about ready to go the other morning and I decided they'd make a yummy crepe filling. My daughter enjoyed them so much, she ate four, then asked for more! Adam ate his for dessert that night after dinner.

2 eggs
¾ c milk
½ c water
1 c flour
3 T oil

4 ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1/3 c brown sugar
¼ c water
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
  1. Beat all crepe ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
  2. Let stand 10 minutes or while preparing the filling.
  3. Combine filling ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Simmer, stirring occasionally until syrup has thickened enough to leave a trail when scraping a spoon across the bottom of the pan.
  5. Pour by generous 1/8 cupful (2 T) into a small frying pan.
  6. Tip pan to spread batter to the edges.
  7. Cook on first side until no liquid is left on top.
  8. Lift pan, allowing crepe to slide halfway out; flip crepe over.
  9. Cook another 30 seconds.
  10. Divide filling among crepes, roll, and serve warm.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 3 filled crepes (289 g)
Serving per Recipe 4½
Amount per Serving
Calories 289 Calories from Fat 115

% DV
Total Fat 13.0g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 8.0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 111mg
Sodium 48mg
Total Carbohydrates 36.5g
Dietary Fiber 3.2g
Sugars 13.5g
Protein 8.5g


Saturday, August 22

Food Funnies

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I enjoy cooking and I like to get creative with my food. There are times, however, I think folks get a little too creative as they are trying to come up with new recipes.

Adam and I belong to an electricity cooperative. I'm not sure exactly what that means, except it seems to make our electric bill lower. The co-op sends out a monthly magazine describing what's going on around the area, how to make the most of your membership, safety tips, and, of course, seasonal recipes.

Month after month, we've looked forward to the arrival of our magazine for a look at these recipes. We've never made one. That's not the point. These dishes are singularly unappetizing. Reading through the list of ingredients is like passing a horrific traffic accident: You hope that everybody's okay, but you can't take your eyes off the mangled car parts.

Being the generous man he is, Adam thought he should share these recipes with the rest of the world. If you, too, would like to read about some truly spectacular kitchen disasters, check out his new blog, Dishes to Die From. Not only does he offer atrocious recipes, but amusing commentary on just what makes them so unpalatable.

For those whose stomachs are easily upset, you might want to make sure to schedule your visit far away from meal times. Just in case.

Friday, August 21

Help, My Baby Is Missing!

For the last month or so, the newest little Gray has been hanging out in a transverse position, that is, his head pointed toward one hip and his bum on the other. I'd gotten used to bumping into him whenever I leaned over the sink or tried to reach for something in the upper cupboards. On either side of my belly, I could feel a hard little skull or rear end. Periodically, I'd even give him a shove when it felt like he was trying to burrow out through my hip socket.

Earlier this week I went for a visit to my chiropractor. I hadn't had an adjustment in several weeks and I was starting to feel a little ... well, maladjusted, so to speak. I wasn't in too bad shape, but I figured I'd nip it in the bud before the discomfort I was feeling moved up to full-on pain.

The next morning, I suddenly realized I wasn't bumping into the baby very much. I poked around at my belly and found no little head on my hip. He seems to have turned himself vertex (or perhaps breech). He takes up so much less space this way, it's like he's just vanished!

I know there is still a baby in there, since he's wiggling and kicking, but I can't even tell which end is up anymore. I realize I have more belly than is strictly necessary, but, really, I didn't think there was enough extra space in there for a whole baby to hide!

Thursday, August 20

Climbing Out of Debt

As I have alluded in previous posts, Adam and I accumulated quite a bit of consumer debt while he was out of work for a year and a half. We are finally poised to actually start paying some of it off, rather than just making minimum payments to each account.

Being the analytical person I am, I wasn't content to simply follow a single strategy because some financial expert or another recommends it. I need to do things the hard way and find out for myself why they work (or don't). I'm beginning to realize just now how challenging that single trait must have been to my parents, since my daughter is exactly the same way, but that's a post for another day.

In any case, I had two basic theories to test. I have read debt-repayment plans that suggest paying off credit cards and loans based on both the interest rate (paying off high-rate loans and working your way down to lower-rate ones) and debt size (eliminating the smallest debts first so you can increase payments to your larger loans more quickly). For some, these may be the same--their lowest interest loans may be the largest. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for us.

So, I spent an hour or so gathering up all my interest rates and minimum payment numbers, then entered everything in a spreadsheet for comparison. Calculating both the interest-based repayment and debt-size repayment options, I discovered something which surprised me. While the interest-based strategy does pay off slightly faster, the total repayment difference between the them was just two months out of a five-year plan or about 3% over the life of the loans.

Depending on how your own debt is organized, you might find some differences in the exact numbers, but I honestly have to say that either repayment plan is a good one. Using the high-interest strategy, you may save a few dollars, but if your debt is poorly arranged (like ours), you end up paying off multiple lenders for a much longer time. By paying off the smaller debts first, you can eliminate several debts more quickly, which has a great motivational effect, but it may end up costing a little more money overall.

For those of you who may not enjoy long division in your spare time, but would like to see how these numbers actually work for your own debts, let me share the formula I used to figure out how long it would take to repay each loan. If anyone is interested, I can make this formula available in Excel so you can plug in your own numbers. Just send me an e-mail or leave me a comment to that effect. You can download a sample spreadsheet in Excel to plug in your own set of numbers.

The amount you owe
+ The finance charge (APR ÷ 12 x the amount you owe)
- Your monthly payment

That will tell you your new balance due after one month. Repeat the same formula for the second month, but make sure you change the amount you owe to indicate the new monthly balance.

When working with multiple debts, remember when one is paid off, you then adjust the monthly payment to your next highest interest rate (or smallest balance due) to include the additional payment amount available from the debt that has been eliminated.

Tuesday, August 18

Frankly, I'd Prefer the Noise

Clearly I wasn't listening to the quiet well enough. I was taking my daily "alone time with God" this morning. Well, actually, I was checking my e-mail (God didn't send me one), but I was planning to read my Bible and stuff right after that. My daughter was in the living room watching a DVD on my computer. I thought that would be enough to keep her out of trouble.

I was wrong.

When the sound of silence finally penetrated my concentration, I realized I needed to go investigate. Sure enough, all was not well in the state of South Dakota. Specifically, as I left my room, I saw that my little darling had pulled the piano bench away from the piano and into the kitchen to allow her greater access to the upper cabinets.

Hoping she'd only wanted a cup, or something equally benign, I continued on to the computer table. There she sat, happily mixing half a jar of turmeric with what was left of a container of powdered egg whites (after she'd dumped the rest of them across the keyboard and mouse).

I admit it. I screamed. Loudly. Multiple times. Then I sent her to her bedroom. Where she's stayed ... mostly ... for the last half hour.

Thankfully, cleanup was not as difficult as I had imagined. I'd figured my keyboard was a goner for sure. Again. I've lost count, actually, but this is keyboard number six or seven since we got this computer in 2006. That means our rate of consumption is approximately two keyboards per year. I don't even want to think about the rate at which I have to replace my spices.

It's a darn good thing she's cute.

Monday, August 10


Ever since she went to VBS a few weeks ago, my daughter has been begging to go to school. I'd already been planning to start a low-key unschooling preschool program with her in the fall, but her incessant, "Can we please, PLEASE have school today?" pushed the start up about a month.

Since we're starting earlier than I was planning, I haven't really done all the research I was hoping to do. I don't know all the buzzwords and I can't spout off the benefits of various educational philosophies. On the one hand, I think that's okay. I am a well-educated person who really enjoys learning new things. My daughter picks things up very quickly and gets a kick out of having "school" in her bedroom. Besides that ... she's only 4. If I were planning to send her to public school, she wouldn't be starting kindergarten for another full year anyway.

The anxious mother in me, though, doesn't quite agree. If I haven't fully researched all my educational methods, she tells me, I have no business trying to teach anything. What will I do, she wonders, when I get into bad habits this year because I haven't fully committed myself to one philosophy?

For my own piece of mind, I've decided to write down what we do every day that might be considered school stuff. I figure this way I can at least see what we've covered and what areas maybe need some more work.

Today's list says:
  • language arts
    • practiced capital letter formation by tracing A-Z and writing a shopping list
    • practiced lowercase letter formation by tracing a-z
    • read aloud Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish and Fritz Siebel
  • religion
    • read aloud James 1:19-25 (paraphrase)
    • discussed what it means to listen first before talking
  • physical education
    • visited the park and played on the slide, swings, and climbing equipment
    • reviewed basic ballet positions and practiced foot and arm placement
  • science
    • discussed body parts of a spider
    • labeled picture with appropriate parts
  • art
    • colored picture of a spider
    • identified shapes and traced around them
I'm trying to save all the things she makes (completed worksheets, art projects, etc.) to round out my records. I figure that's enough for my first week. Maybe next week I can actually plan a lesson or two in advance. Or maybe not.

Saturday, August 8

Because I Was Getting Tired of Pink

If you catch up with my posts by e-mail or using a reader, please come by the site and check out the new changes!

Now, for all of you who are here--what do you think? The pink was just getting on my nerves a bit and I wanted to try something different without a complete overhaul.

So ... you like?

Friday, August 7

A New Old Idea

A while ago, I asked for your ideas about devotional guides. I didn't get many takers. Maybe I scared you all off by the linking lesson. Or maybe you have been as baffled as I when it comes to studying the Bible. In any case, I was left primarily to my own devices in reading God's word.

For a while, I was following the SOAP method. The acronym stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. Basically, I'd read a passage, choose a verse that stood out to me, paraphrase it, write down what I thought God was asking me to do with it in my life, and then pray. Though the blog concept never got off the ground, you can see a few of the studies I did using this plan at Bible Study Couple. While the method is a really great overall idea, I found myself getting bored with it after a few weeks, which meant I would put off reading my Bible. And, in the end, any study I'm not doing really isn't working for me.

I came up with my "new" idea just this week. The first inkling came several years ago while I made plans for Advent. I revisited it a few weeks back while I was working on the liturgies for morning and evening prayer, rewriting the words of confession and thanksgiving to make sense for the whole family. I also realized that my daughter really was having trouble understanding the Bible passages we would read to her in the mornings. I haven't liked most of the children's versions of the Bible that I've seen--particularly the fact that they focus on just a few stories and leave out so much of the substance. I'd been trying to read from The Message paraphrase, only Eugene Peterson uses a lot of words and ideas that are still far too advanced for my 4 year old.

This week, I started writing my own paraphrases. I had just begun reading through the book of James for myself and I thought, why not have my daughter learn what I'm learning? Let me tell you, having to take the verses I'm reading and write them in a way she can grasp--it really motivates me to understand what the passage is actually saying! I've been consulting various commentaries, cross referencing, and basically doing all sorts of stuff I almost never do for myself. And because I have a chance to help someone else learn and discover (something I love to do), this is FUN for me.

Now, I recognize that not everybody gets as excited about teaching as I do. We all have different gifts and passions that make the world an exciting place. So, to make this new discovery of mine a little more useful to those of you who wouldn't appreciate paraphrasing text, I thought I'd offer a few ideas that might strike your fancy a bit more.
  • Draw, paint, or sculpt a piece of art which uses the main theme of the passage you are studying
  • Stitch or scribe a bookmark or wall hanging that includes a verse you are trying to memorize
  • Sing a hymn or praise song based on the passage you have read, or write your own
  • Make a meal using fruits, grains, or other ingredients referenced in the passage
  • Learn to sign a verse or passage in American Sign Language (or the sign language of your country)
  • Design a scrapbook page for the verses, or create a whole scrapbook based on the book of the Bible or theme you are studying
  • Choreograph a dance expressing the ideas in the passage

Tuesday, August 4

Back-to-School Giveaway

Well, okay, it's not MY giveaway, because nobody's offered me anything this cool. However, if you go visit Mary at Owlhaven, you'll see she's giving away a laptop. All for the low, low price of telling her how your back-to-school rituals with your kids vary from those you had as a child.

On that ... we don't really have any rituals here. This is the first year I'm trying to do anything schooly, so we don't really have any traditions about it yet. Ooh, although, I do plan to watch the sale fliers next summer and see when all the really cheap prices are on school stuff in the coming years. I accidentally stumbled upon the big sale at Walmart this year and stocked up on 15¢ notebooks, 20¢ crayons, and 50¢ pencils. Now all I need is discount computer paper and printer ink. Sadly, that wasn't on sale last week.

When I was a kid, I don't really remember much about back-to-school doings. We'd do some clothes shopping and pick out some folders, or during my late elementary years the spiffy new "Trapper Keepers" (and if that sentence right there doesn't date me, I don't know what does). We never had the huge lists of supplies that schools put out now. Our school provided crayons and purple-printed mimeograph sheets. We didn't start having to start buying our own supplies until about third grade, and by then, it was just some notebooks and folders--whatever kind we wanted, no colors specified.

Now that I've bored you with my memories, go share your own and see if one of us can win this way-cool prize!

Monday, August 3

A New Breed

It's days like these I really miss our camera. You'll just have to imagine there's a picture here of little hands holding a white stuffed critter with a red nose and blue antlers, all dressed for winter weather.

My daughter came up to me holding a small stuffed animal she'd pulled out of a box in the closet.

"See this bear?" She asked.

"Actually, he's a reindeer," I told her.

"Reindeer?" She uncertainly repeated.

"See the antlers?" I pointed them out to her. "Those make him a reindeer."

She takes a moment to stare at the animal before making a pronouncement of her own, "I think he's a snow deer. He's wearing a scarf and mittens. He's a snow deer."

Saturday, August 1

How Does God Do It?

God has a lot of rebellious kids. I ought to know, since I'm one of them often enough. As a parent of a spirited (or strong-willed, or disobedient, or high needs, take your pick) child, I lose my temper. While I'm not exactly known for my calm, unflappable demeanor most of the time, but my daughter seems to have been born with this innate ability to push all of my buttons, often all at once.

Many times, or lately, many times a day, I'm amazed once again at how patient and gracious God really is to His kids. We fuss and fight Him, complain that He's not letting us have our own way, no matter that He knows what's best for us. When things do go wrong (that is, not the way we wanted them to), we cry to all the world like He's not taking care of us, not a good Daddy, neglecting us, even.

So, considering that I have such problems with just one child ... what must it be like to deal with six billion of them? It's a wonder God hasn't just given up on all of us and started over again in another star system. The fact that He hasn't is just one more way for me to behold Him with awe and wonder. Because, frankly, as a mom, I'm just doing a teeny-tiny little piece of His job, and it's hard. And I don't even come close to treating my daughter as well as He treats me.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
Psalm 145:8

Did you know that same sentence appears in the Old Testament seven different times? Do you suppose that means it's something God wants His kids to understand?

Friday, July 31

Spam Recipes

A nice easy post for another busy day when we're all starting to feel sick again. Recently discovered e-mail gems from my spam folder.
  • Best Superbowl moments
  • Uhm, I think somebody's got their seasons mixed up.
  • Get yours new diploma today
  • Sure, as soon as you get "yours" grammar certificate.
  • Cartier will suit you best
  • Eh, I always thought of myself as a Tiffany girl.
  • Is this a real mail?
  • If you have to ask ...
  • Point me mistakes please
  • I'm not even sure where to start.
  • Were you ill?
  • You know, I was. But even then I didn't want whatever you're trying to get me to buy.
  • Let me clear everything.
  • Mm-hmmm, I just bet you will. Wait, I think I will instead.

Thursday, July 30

Looking Back

I wasn't very specific in my last post. The upcoming conversation the I had been dreading was with my midwife. The last couple of appointments, I'd had a few physical issues and I was concerned that, because of these things, I was on the verge of risking out of a homebirth.

A part of this fear, I knew, was based in my own history. About this far along in my first pregnancy, I was dangerously close to losing my homebirth because of continued high blood pressure readings. A few weeks later, with great disappointment, I did end up transferring my prenatal care to a hospital-based midwifery practice in the area. I was afraid that this cycle was repeating itself.

Happily, at my appointment yesterday, things were much improved. The conversation went well and my midwife reassured me that she is not going to simply drop me without warning. We also talked about the two most significant ongoing issues. In the case of one, she explained that, ideally, we would get the situation resolved before birth, but even if we didn't it isn't something that would send me to the hospital. As for the other, it could potentially be cause for a transfer, but I am not approaching that point yet.

And, one special thing that God did for me? I had prayed that as I presented my concerns, my midwife would laugh at the absurdity of them. When I told her what I was afraid of, she laughed. Twice.

Wednesday, July 29

Looking Ahead

How do you feel when a conversation is on the horizon that you'd rather not have? Nervous? Angry? Tired? I'm feeling all of those things at the moment. I need to participate in a discussion this afternoon that I just don't want to discuss. I'm afraid that the outcome won't be to my liking. I'm mad at myself that I even need to have this chat. I'm exhausted to think of the emotional energy that I've already drained worrying about what may or may not be said.

Why do I do this to myself?

How can I so blatantly ignore specific instructions?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

Apparently I need to spend some time dusting off the cobwebs in my prayer closet. Again.

Friday, July 24

Perfect Hard-boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are a wonderful food. Easily portable, high in protein, and good on their own or as part of a larger dish. I've even eaten hard-boiled eggs on pizza (and it was pretty good).

Unfortunately, when the eggs are hard to peel, this yummy, easy food becomes an absolute pain in the neck.

There is, however, a right way to boil eggs. Who knew?
  1. Arrange eggs in pan so they are not touching.
  2. Cover with cold water.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove eggs from pan and place in a bowl filled with ice water.
  6. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from water, dry, and peel or store.
Using this method, even my 4 year old can easily peel her own eggs without losing most of the eggwhite with the shell.

Happy boiling!

Thursday, July 23

I'm Beginning to Understand

While I've been sick with the Martian Flu (that's my best guess--it's certainly been the longest, most annoying illness I've had in years), I haven't been feeling much movement from the little person growing inside. In fact, I was starting to get worried. This week, as I'm finally recovering, he's stared moving again. A lot. Like, to the point that it's distracting and occasionally painful. And I'm still only halfway to term.

This experience has brought me a little more understanding for a particular group of women. To tell you who they are takes some explaining, though.

Back in January, the Discovery Health channel ran a special called "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant." They've rerun it a few times since. With each airing, I've seen a flurry of posts to various forums about how mothers just don't believe this could really happen and these women must be in complete denial not to even realize they were carrying a child.

I never got that attitude. I've been pregnant. Several times. Once, I was even charting my cycle (daily taking my temperature and checking for changes in cervical fluid to let me know when I might be fertile), and still I missed a pregnancy until I'd miscarried at 9 weeks. And this was after I'd had a child and knew what early pregnancy felt like. Even in late pregnancy with my daughter, I could see how, if you hadn't already known you were pregnant, you could dismiss the wiggles and squirms I felt as a bad case of gas.

I've mentioned before that when I was pregnant with my daughter, I had what they call an anterior placenta. That means the placenta was attached in the front, between me and flailing fetal limbs. Now that I don't have an anterior placenta, I can honestly tell you the experience is totally different. While I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn't feel any for-sure baby movements until I was about 26 weeks along (that's 6 months, for those of you who don't want to do the math). The books tell you that first-time moms generally start to feel baby's movements about 18 weeks (or 4 months), and those who already have children will feel movements slightly earlier.

As you may remember, I started feeling movements with this little one about 6 weeks ago. Now that his wriggles are becoming more defined, there are definite punches or kicks that could hardly be mistaken for gas bubbles. Adam's been laughing at me this week because I keep talking to the baby, telling him to cut it out and quit trying to burrow into my hip socket or out through the uterine wall.

In all this, I'm finally starting to recognize how, if this has been your only experience with pregnancy, this unmistakable jabbing, it would be hard to see that anyone might mistake them for something else, anything else.