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.

Wednesday, July 22

Something Completely Different

We were driving through town on one of the main thoroughfares yesterday when we happened upon a business sign which I read aloud.

Beat the rush, get your guns cleaned now!

Adam chuckled and responded, "That would mean something completely different in Chicago."

Sunday, July 19

Liturgy for Kids (Part II)

Read Part I

Our evening routine already included spontaneous prayers together and singing a song (usually "Jesus Loves Me"), so I decided to build on that basis, expanding it a bit to include some additional elements. As with the morning prayer, I tried my best to keep the words and phrases simple enough that my daughter would understand them without additional explanation.

Evening Prayer

Note: Sections in regular type are read or sung by the leader, bolded sections are read or sung by all.

God, have mercy on us, because we have sinned today.
We made bad choices in what we thought,
What we did, and what we didn’t do.
We didn’t love You with all of our hearts
And we didn’t show Your love to our family and friends.
We are sorry for these things
And we want to make better choices tomorrow.
Because Jesus paid for all our sins, please forgive us.
We want to obey You and have joy in You.

May God have mercy on us,
Forgive us our sins,
Give us strength to do good,
And by His power keep us in eternal life.

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full, O Lord, of Your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full, O Lord, of Your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest.
(Sanctus* music by John Fawcett)

All share spontaneous individual thanks and prayers

Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.
(Jesus Loves Me words by Anna B. Warner, music by William B. Bradbury)

* I know this song is familiar to a lot of my readers as it is used regularly at my former church. Unfortunately, I don't have a source for the music. If any of you could point me to one, I'd be happy to link!

Saturday, July 18

Brighten Up Your Tuesday

Free stuff is very popular. Popular stuff is rarely free. However, one of your favorite coffee chains is offering something sweet to you, their loyal customers.

Personally, I'm not a huge Starbucks fan. I'm not a big coffee drinker in the first place, and theirs always smells burnt to me. Still, I know I'm in the minority among friends and family, so when I read about this offer, I figured I'd share it with some folks who'd truly appreciate it.

This coming Tuesday morning, July 21, Starbucks is celebrating their better-for-you pastry recipes by offering a free pastry with the purchase of a beverage.

Nifty, huh?

Check out all the details and print your free coupon here.

Friday, July 17

The Trust Thing, Again

I had a sort of realization the other night. It's easy to trust someone when you know that he will do exactly what you would do in the same situation. That's not really like trust at all. What's hard is trusting someone when you have no idea what he might do.

Unpredictability is really tough for me. I like my life to be nicely ordered and ... well, frankly, kind of boring. Sure, I like to be spontaneous once in a while, but I want to be the only one. I'm not good at flexible and I don't like going with the flow.

It really bothers me that God does not do things my way. On the one hand, I guess I'm glad, since I recognize I'd make a lousy and vengeful god. Still, I don't like having to wait on His decisions and His timing and the outcome that He has preordained--particularly when there is a good chance that it might not fit well at all in what I have already decided I want.

One thing I've discovered about myself by writing this blog is that I think in song lyrics a lot. These are from Ginny Owens's "If You Want Me To"

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that's not my own
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'll never go alone

The concept is a tough one for me to wrap my head around--going ANYWHERE with God is better than going everywhere without Him. Except, God never seems to give me access to that nicely printed itinerary I so much want to see. He just says, "Come on, it will be great!" and that has to be enough.

It sure doesn't feel like enough sometimes. I know it's supposed to be, and yet, there are days when I just want more information. I was talking to my brother this week about a project I've been working on, only I didn't have a good sense of the overall project, just my little piece. I was explaining how hard it is for me to just see a few steps because I understand things the best when I can first see the big picture, then how I fit within that context. With God, though, He doesn't seem so keen on showing me the big picture, just my own little corner of it--and even that not all at once.

Wednesday, July 15

Did You Know About This?

Please stay tuned for a friendly public service announcement ...

Are you, like me, still working to pay off the federal student loans that helped you get through college? Is that standard 4-15% of your income an awfully large amount each month?

If so, have you heard about the government's new Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan?

I first read about IBR on a parenting message board several months ago. At the time, we called our lender and the customer service folks had no idea what we were talking about. In trying to restructure our budget (again) to make each dollar stretch just a little bit further, I went on the lender's website today and found a whole section on this program, including a calculator that indicates our estimated monthly payments based on our annual income and family size.

According to their calculations, by taking advantage of IBR we could be saving more than $400 per month off the standard monthly payment--with no additional accrual of interest. Now, we're not actually paying the standard amount right now, so, sadly, I won't have another $400 a month in the budget. Still, the fact that our loan will not be getting larger each month, simply because we aren't able to pay the full calculated payment is fantastic news!

For more information about IBR, check out the Federal Student Aid website, or contact your lender.

Tuesday, July 14

Why I Have the Bestest Husband in the World

This week my daughter and I are participating in her very first vacation Bible school experience. While I'm there, I'm helping entertain the other volunteers' children who are too young for the program.

Both last night and the night before, I went to bed a little late. It wouldn't have been too bad, but for the fact that both mornings after, I woke up while it was still dark outside (only about four hours later) and could NOT get back to sleep.


Because some manic morning person scheduled the VBS program for 8:30 AM, I haven't had the opportunity to sleep until my usual 9:00 (or later).

Yesterday, Adam had to leave for work as soon as we'd gotten home, so I had no opportunity to nap. By the time bedtime came, I'd been up so long that I was overtired. Just like a cranky toddler, I was whiny and emotional, but not feeling sleepy.

This morning, as part of his new Sunday-mornings-off schedule (can I hear an "Amen!"), he worked while we were at VBS, then came by to pick us up afterwords. As soon as we got home, Adam sent me to bed and let me sleep for three hours. Then when I finally woke up, but still had a headache, he made me a strawberry smoothie.

Isn't he wonderful?

Monday, July 13

Cheating on Dinner

You may get the idea if you read my blog regularly that Adam and I make nearly all of our meals from scratch using fresh vegetables and wholesome staples. While that would certainly be ideal, that's hardly our every-evening routine.

I must admit, I don't post too many recipes which use prepared ingredients, because ... well, that feels like cheating to me. "Real" cooking should be done with fresh whole foods. But, when actual reality interferes with the notions I hold in my head (which, incidentally, is all too regular an occurrence), I do use frozen veggies, jarred sauces, and other culinary shortcuts.

This evening was one of those days. So, I made one of our old stand-by dinners. For the rest of you who live in the real world, and don't have the time, energy, or inclination for "real" cooking, let me share my cheat-sheet.

Chicken Fried Rice
  • several T peanut oil (or olive, canola, vegetable, whatever ... even butter works in a pinch)
  • ½ lb frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables
  • ½ lb chicken, cooked and diced (I used a frozen chicken breast, defrosted and cooked in the microwave)
  • Some salt
  • Some pepper
  • Some Chinese 5-spice powder (or, if we're out of that, plain cinnamon works, too)
  • 1 egg
  • Soy sauce
  • 3 c cooked rice
  1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium high.
  2. Add frozen veggies and cook until they start to look appealing.
  3. Add diced chicken, season to taste (usually 3-4 shakes each of salt and pepper and a few good sprinkles of 5-spice powder is good for us), and mix well.
  4. Clear a space in the center of your pan, adding a little more oil if needed. Crack egg and stir quickly, avoiding the chicken and veggies as much as possible (a few will get mixed in, but that's okay).
  5. Once the egg is cooked through, mix everything in the pan together with a few squirts of soy sauce and the rice.
  6. Once everything is all mixed up, turn off the heat and serve with additional soy sauce.
Notes: You can substitute pork for the chicken to make pork fried rice, or leave the meat out entirely for veggie fried rice. I usually add a second egg if I'm going the veggie route.

Sunday, July 12

Liturgy for Kids (Part I)

One of the very first things I did when I started attending my first liturgical church was to volunteer with the children's program. That's where I discovered that liturgy is absolutely fantastic for kids. If this is a new idea to you (which is surely was to me), think about it a minute. Children positively thrive on routine and ritual. They like to know what comes next and what to expect. What better way to provide this structure as part of their worship than through liturgy?

While we attended the Anglican church, my daughter participated in liturgical Sunday worship, just as Adam and I did. Since we moved away, she hadn't been getting her regular infusion of liturgy. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit, she hadn't been getting much of a regular infusion of worship and teaching of any variety.

Recently, I decided that needed to change. We've had a regular bedtime routine that included prayer and a song, so I started with the morning. I wanted to expand the morning Bible reading (which I'd been rather lax about lately anyway). I looked up the morning prayer rites in the Book of Common Prayer and also found a short family prayer service in an older version (the 1928 BCP). Incorporating bits from each of those as well as some songs and familiar pieces from my daughter's former Sunday school class, I put together our own morning prayer liturgy. I made a point to write the words and phrases in language my daughter would be familiar with, so the prayers would be meaningful to her rather than simply words she was told to repeat.

Morning Prayer

Note: Sections in regular type are read or sung by the leader, bolded sections are read or sung by all.

This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks be to God.

Leader reads daily scripture passage.

Thanks be to God for the reading of His Word.
Thank You, God. Thank You, God.

Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
(The Lord's Prayer music by Albert Hay Malotte)

God, You have brought us safely into this morning.
Please keep us safe for the rest of today.
Give us strength to fight temptation
So that we will make good choices and not sin.
Help us to be obedient to You, by Jesus’s power.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who gathers these children into Your arms
And makes them living members of Your Church,
We pray that You would give them grace to stand in faith,
To obey Your instructions, and to live in Your love.
Being made strong in the Holy Spirit, may they overcome evil
And have Your joy in their lives, both on earth and in heaven.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Be with us all, today and forever.

All spend a moment in silence, listening for God's words.


Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning,
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end.
Amen, Amen.
(Gloria Patri music by Henry W. Greatorex)

Saturday, July 11

In Case There Was Any Doubt

You know you're pregnant and sick when you get this verse delivered to your inbox

With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation.
Isaiah 12:3 (NLT)

and the first thing you think is

Yep, I'll be drinking a lot today.

followed by

And then I'm going to have to pee.

Friday, July 10

Not So Small

I was reading recently about paying more attention to what God is doing in our lives and making a point to thank Him for the small measures of grace He sends us every day. Such thoughts came to mind this afternoon as we narrowly missed being part of a multiple-car pile up on the way home from Adam's office.

At first, I was simply glad that we'd avoided crashing into the cars around us. As I thought further, though, I realized that the tiny bit of mercy I'd noticed was much bigger than I'd recognized.

If we'd been in an accident this afternoon, Adam would have missed several hours work (and those corresponding dollars in his next paycheck) as we got the damage sorted out and a rental car secured. While our car insurance would have covered the cost of a rental car and most of the repairs, we would still have had to find a few hundred dollars to cover the deductible. I don't know where that would have come from, especially with a smaller-than-normal paycheck coming up.

And that's all assuming we had no injuries. A trip to the ER or even a check-up with our family doctor would require more money out of our pockets--more money that just isn't there right now. A severe injury that required hospitalization would mean even more missed work, more lost wages, more physical and financial hardship.

Today, I'm thanking God, not just for sparing us a minor fender bender, but for saving us particular struggles right now that I can only imagine.

Thank You, God for sparing us. I pray that when times of trial do come I can trust as easily in Your goodness and judgment.

Thursday, July 9

Green Face and Red Fish

With the sickness that has continued to linger at our house, we haven't had the health or energy to go play outside or hang out by the pool. In fact, we've spent a whole lot of time staring blankly at the television. As a measure to increase the interactivity, I've been letting my daughter spend some time playing online games. She now has four buttons of her very own on my menu bar. The games are mostly educational (but that can be our little secret, right?), though a few of them are just for fun.

She has so enjoyed her game time, I thought I'd share the sites we've been visiting.
  • teaches basic phonics and reading skills though games, songs, and interactive storybooks.
  • Poisson Rouge (aka Red Fish Soup) offers a wide selection of games in multiple languages.
  • JellyTelly is already familiar to you if you've read my blog for awhile. In addition to the Bible stories and silly videos, they have a whole page of games, many of which are easier versions of popular online arcade games (so, ahem, parents might really like them, too).
  • PBSKids is our most recent addition to the menu bar. The games feature popular characters from the TV shows. My daughter seems to enjoy them even though she doesn't watch most of the shows, though.
Because she doesn't read yet, my daughter refers to most of the sites by their icon: a star for Starfall, a red fish for Poisson Rouge, a jellyfish for JellyTelly, and a green face for PBS Kids. I must admit, it's a little off-putting to be in the middle of an e-mail and have her pop up beside me begging, "Can I play on the green face?"

Wednesday, July 8

An Imitation

I've been thinking a lot lately about compassion. I don't think I exercise my compassion muscles enough. I believe they've atrophied a bit.

I am someone who really wants things to be fair. Rules appeal to me and it bugs me when people are allowed to break the rules. I probably would have been a top-notch Pharisee--well, other than the little issue of my gender.

The problem comes when people break the rules. I tend to see whatever suffering they experience as a result being ... well, their own fault. I have trouble offering sympathy to, say, a neighbor who had several hundred dollars worth of stereo equipment stolen from an unlocked car. It's so much easier to offer a shoulder to cry on when something happens that no one could have prevented. If you take all the precautions, do everything you're supposed to do, yet still get the short end of the stick, I find it a lot easier to weep with you.

Seems to me, I'm not the only one who struggles with this. In fact, our society must encourage this sort of behavior. Why else would we be so averse to taking responsibility for our own failures? Why else would the largest section of the yellow pages be filled with attorneys? Someone must be to blame, and it sure shouldn't be me. Let me sue the other guy. He did this to me. Except ... that's not what I'm called to do.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 4:32-5:2, NIV

Somehow, that seems a much harder proposition. It would be a whole lot easier to just refer to the rule book and see what's what. But God expects me to love people and forgive them--even when they don't deserve it. Just 'cause He did that for me.

Oh. Yeah.


Anybody know a good circuit training routine for love, compassion, and forgiveness?

Thursday, July 2

My Overthinking Process

Now that we have a new little Gray on the way (hey, that rhymes!), I thought it would be appropriate to go ahead and name my daughter on the blog. Since I don't want to use her actual name, I thought I'd come up with a nice pseudonym for her.

I tried to figure out what sort of name I'd want to give her, whether it would have any connection to her real name, and if so, what? After brainstorming and discarding a dozen names, I decided to choose a name that had a similar meaning to my daughter's name.

As we have several baby-naming books handy (I've discovered I own three of them), I flipped through and looked at some of the names. I picked out one I particularly liked. It fit with the meaning of my daughter's name, and I had some nickname options. I love nicknames. It was all decided. I would call my daughter "Lucia" or "Lucie" for short. I was happy with my decision, until I had this sudden brainstorm ... I wondered what my daughter thought about this name. I asked her.

I: Do you like the name Lucie?
She: No.
I: You don't think that's a pretty name?
She: No.
I: So, you wouldn't like it if I called you "Lucie" for pretend on my blog?
She: No.
I: Oh. (pause) What name do you like?
She: (mumbles a name)
I: Callie?
She: No! Khalil, from Jonah.
I: Oh.
She: You can call me Khalil for pretend on your blog.
I: Hmmm ...

I'm not really sure I can do that. Maybe I'll try another day and see what name she wants to be called then. Meanwhile, I guess she's still nameless.