Sunday, December 25

Saturday, December 17

Ephemeral Art

When I was in college, one of the required courses was a four-part humanities series. For three semesters we studied pretty much all of recorded history with a focus on the arts, while the fourth provided a more hands-on experience as we each designed and created our own art projects and present them before the class.

During the fourth semester, I was first introduced to the concept of ephemeral art. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it basically means art that is designed to be temporary. It covers a broad range of types, everything from ice carving to face painting to sand castles to fire sculptures that burn up as they are displayed.

I was reminded of my general amazement with the genre this morning when I found Rosi drawing in the condensation on the back window.


Being the amazing educational facilitator I (occasionally) am, I immediately turned her play into an art lesson. As part of our study, we looked at collections of ephemeral art online. Some of my favorites were by Richard Shilling and Andy Goldsworthy, who do something called "land art" or working outdoors with primarily natural materials which then may erode or decay naturally. Be sure to check out the links; both of these guys do some really incredible stuff!

Photo by Mike and Kirsty Grundy [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, December 9

Genius

I got this quote in my e-mail the other day. I really like it.

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
attributed to Albert Einstein

Ironically, there are a few fish living in Africa and Southeast Asia that do, in fact, climb trees. Still, I bet they're better at swimming.

Tuesday, December 6

Finally, It Makes Sense

Tunisian Knit StitchEver since I first discovered it, some five years ago, I've thought the Tunisian crochet stitch was pretty cool. Both of my long-time readers may remember this Tunisian stitch satchel I made for my niece, lo these many moons ago.

More recently, I found instructions for the Tunisian Knit stitch in a stitch dictionary I'd gotten. The resulting fabric is such a neat knit-like look, without all the trouble of actually having to knit. The only problem was, the instructions provided in that particular book were not very clear. I tried and tried and tried, but just couldn't figure out quite where to place my hook to get the neat chained-stitch effect.

Tunisian Knit StitchThis week's Crochet Me newsletter features a tutorial on the Tunisian stitch, including a diagram of Tunisian Knit showing exactly where the hook goes. I tried it out and, whaddaya know, it worked exactly like it's supposed to!

I can totally see this as a cuff to a sweater or a mitten. Maybe I'll start a pair of mittens for myself, now that the winter weather has actually arrived in Sioux Falls with a half inch of snow dusting the ground. Or maybe I should complete some of the UFOs cluttering up the top of my piano first ...

Friday, December 2

Two Things I Learned on the Water Slide

How the heck did it get to be December already? My parents weren't kidding about time moving faster as you get older!

A couple of weeks ago, Adam and I celebrated our birthdays. My in-laws' gift to us was a couple of nights at a local hotel with an indoor water park. Alone time and uninterrupted sleep being rare and precious commodities in our house, we decided to spend our days together with the kids splashing around in the pools and water slides, then each of us took one evening and overnight to stay in the room alone.

I didn't end up spending my evening alone. In fact, I picked up my 19-year-old niece to go for coffee and we spent the next several hours talking about everything from college to boys to Christianity to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Finally, as midnight was approaching, I decided I'd better take her home, lest she turn into a pumpkin.

After a lovely full night's sleep without anyone bumping into me in bed, I took a few final rides on the 160-foot water slide before checking out. God used that opportunity to teach me some important lessons.
  1. It's okay to have fun by myself, in fact, it's necessary
  2. Rosi and I had had a blast riding the water slide together our first day at the hotel. Unfortunately, they had to close the slide for maintenance the afternoon of the second day, so she wasn't able to ride on it again. We splashed around in the other pools (there were three total, plus two hot tubs) and slid down the kiddie slides with Adam and Ian.

    After discovering the big slide was open again the next morning, I thought about picking up the kids for a quick visit. But, I figured by the time I drove home, we got them ready to go, drove back to the hotel, and actually were ready to use the pool, it would be nearly time to check out. So I went down the slide a couple of times on my own, thinking about how much fun Rosi would have had if she were there, and feeling a bit guilty that she wasn't able to experience it with me.

    As I climbed up out of the pool after my second or third ride, the thought occurred to me that I didn't need to feel guilty because I wasn't doing anything wrong. Not only was it good for me to be having fun on my own, but it was important. Nobody can be having fun all the time. In this broken world, at any given moment someone (probably lots and lots of someones) are hurting or hungry or afraid. If we limit our own enjoyment of life to only that which can simultaneously be enjoyed by everyone else, we're not going to enjoy anything.

    I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't do what all we can to help those who are hungry or hurting, but not enjoying the pleasure that is in my life, because everyone else can't share it with me, simply leaves me miserable without offering any benefit to anyone.

  3. Trusting the one who designed the course makes the ride a whole lot more fun.
  4. Prior to this hotel stay, the last time I'd gone down a water slide was not a good experience for me. That slide was completely enclosed so I couldn't really see what was coming next. I ended up off balance, landing in the water on my belly and hitting my elbow on the end of the slide.

    With those memories at the forefront of my mind, I was feeling pretty cautious the first few times I rode down this new slide. I kept my hands pressed against the sides to slow myself down and help stay upright. As I continued to slide, I started feeling more comfortable with the ride, but I still worried that if I didn't hold on, I'd start going too fast or tip over to one side or suffer some nasty accident--160 feet down looks awfully high from the top!

    After about a dozen rides, it occurred to me that any water slide designer worth his salt would naturally design a slide that's really difficult to fall from. Furthermore, any park that installs a slide would have a vested interest in the safety of the riders, if for no other reason than because injuries are bad for business.

    Finally, I gathered up the courage to let go, just sliding down with the water and not worrying (too much) about losing control or falling off. My last couple of rides were definitely the best ones of the whole visit. I wasn't tense or worried. Splashing from one side to the other as I rode around the curves was fun rather than scary. Believing that the creator of the ride knew what he was doing and trusting that he had it all worked out to keep me where I was supposed to be allowed me to appreciate the topsy-turvy feeling, smile at the rush of wind in my face, and anticipate the splash at the end.

Monday, October 10

Excrementalism

Apparently, I wasn't the only one pondering crap this past week. Christine put up a thought-provoking post There is no healing without poo. Go on over and read it, I'll wait.

(humming to self)

Quite an epiphany, right? And it makes so much sense. You have to let the bad stuff out so the good stuff has space to fit in.

Over the past few years, two different friends have had babies diagnosed with "imperforate anus" a condition in which the anus is closed or smaller in diameter than it should be. For one friend, the diagnosis came after her newborn wasn't nursing well. She explained it this way, "He wasn't wanting to eat because he wasn't able to poop very well, so he was feeling full."

I think that's true emotionally as well. When we don't let the poo out, we aren't able to receive the nourishment we need. There's no room to experience love, joy, peace, and all the rest of it.

Something to think about the next time you visit the loo.

Tuesday, October 4

Love and Bullshit

If you are related to me or you've read some of my previous posts on the issue, you already know I grew up in a family that didn't have a very good understanding of what love truly means. While I was taught that God is Love and my parents loved me no matter what, I didn't really get it. Love, for me, was a matter of usefulness. If I could do something for you, you would love me. Now, that might be anything from balancing your checkbook to making you feel special, but in the end, it all boiled down to my own efforts.

Sometime about college, I started to gather more information on the whole idea of God's grace. I mostly got it, I thought. God loves us because He made us. Even though I didn't do anything special for Him, He still thought I was pretty nifty because He'd created me. That seemed to make sense. Being the crafty sort myself, I could see liking something I made, just because. Yet, I couldn't help but think He'd love me more or better if I did more for Him.

Life went on, and I met Adam. I may not have shared this before, but he is the only boyfriend I've had. I never personally dealt with the whole concept of romantic love before, except in wholly one-sided, imaginary relationships. He told me he loved me just for me; I thought that was pretty cool. Still, especially after we got married, I could see that there was some benefit for him in having me around. And vice versa, of course.

It started to bother me, the fact that I couldn't quite identify what exactly love is. Not that it kept me up nights worrying, but periodically, in passing, I'd remember that I couldn't pinpoint real, true love, and I'd feel bad about that.

Earlier this year, Adam and I had to work through some really serious issues in our marriage. We needed to have a conversation that I hope never to have again, deciding whether or not we were willing to move forward in our relationship or if we would just walk away. Obviously, at the end of that discussion, we chose the former. It was a good choice.

I was thinking about our talk last night and sharing with Adam how glad I was we'd come to the conclusion that we are worth fighting for. Even as hard as some parts of the last few years have been, I told him, I would rather be working through the mess here with him than be somewhere else on my own, having avoided it altogether.

I've known for several years that I'm what's called a "verbal processor," which is just a fancy way of saying that I think about things best by talking them through. Frequently, I'm not particularly aware of my thoughts on a subject until ideas fall fully-formed out of my mouth.

Yesterday, for the first time, I realized I finally have a grasp on the whole love thing. It's not about how useful it might be to have you around. It's not whether or not I had anything to do with your being. And, contrary to what Erich Segal proposed, love certainly hasn't meant never having to saying I'm sorry.

Nope, stripped of flowery sentiment, I have discovered that love simply means I'd rather be mucking out the stable with you than riding in the rodeo without you.

Saturday, October 1

Already Saved by Grace

Because I couldn't write it any better, I want to direct your attention to a great post from At a Hen's Pace this week called Unhealthy Guilt. For anybody who grew up with a cloud of "I'm not good enough" surrounding them, I highly recommend a read.

Friday, September 23

Why I Love My Husband

I'm not feeling so hot today. I woke up with a migraine and construction workers outside my window hammering something into the new sidewalk they've spent the last two days building. Why they felt the need to start work at the crack of dawn (or 8:30 AM), I don't know.

Today was payday, which means sometime overnight bigger numbers suddenly appeared after the dollar sign in our online checking account balance. So Rosi and I went grocery shopping. Of the 22 advertised sale items on our list, 4 were not available. I won't make you do the math, that's more than 18%. Nothing like spending 5 hours creating a nutritionally balanced weekly menu full of fresh ingredients and visiting multiple stores to find the best prices, only to find oneself unable to buy nearly one-fifth of it. That's more than a day's worth of meals!

Those were the lower points of this morning, though. Today was actually a pretty decent day, overall. While we were out shopping, Adam and Ian cleaned the whole house and did all the laundry. I made lunch when I got home, but before I had a chance to do the dishes, Adam rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher for me.

Later this afternoon, even though he's not yet had any of the alone time he's been craving this week, he gave me a couple of hours to take a nap. He even changed the poopy diaper I would have otherwise been stuck cleaning up right before naptime.

And while I appreciated everything he did today, the actions are really just a reflection of the fantastic man Adam is. He's caring and thoughtful and loving and goofy and gentle and strong and devoted and considerate and faithful and patient and accepting and sincere and fascinating and about a thousand other wonderful adjectives I could choose.

Thank you, my love, for today and for everything you did for me. Thank you even more just for being you and being willing to love me for me.

Monday, September 12

Evil Sucks

I had a disturbing dream just before I woke up about someone trying to hurt my kids. This morning I'm feeling pretty disgusted by the presence of evil in the world.

I've got it pretty good. I recognize that (most of the time). Overall, I live in a peaceful place. We have clean water and abundant food. We are free to worship God, or the god of our choosing, or no god at all, in pretty well whatever manner we see fit. We have access to educational opportunities aplenty. World-class healthcare services are practically on our doorstep.

And yet, we are also surrounded by disease, selfishness, destruction, and pain. People choose to hurt others because they can. Or because they don't care. Or because they just don't think.

So many people work so hard to make the world a better place to live. Yet so many others do nothing, or even actively work to make life more difficult for others. I'm having trouble today with the dichotomy.

I believe that God has wisdom far beyond my understanding. I really do. Still, today (like most days) I just can't imagine WHY free will was the best way to create people. Would the world really be worse off it we simply couldn't make bad choices? Really??

Sunday, September 11

September 11th

World Trade Center Twin TowersI wasn't going to write anything about today. I don't have any extraordinary memories of that day 10 years ago. I wasn't in New York or Washington at the time. No one I knew was involved in the tragedy. I didn't figure I really had anything to add to the national discussion.

And yet, as the day has gone on, I find myself choking up. I remember where I was, what I was doing, the thoughts I had. I may not have any special insight to offer, but I thought I'd share my story.

It was an average Tuesday morning. I was driving along the Kennedy Expressway headed to work. I had on the radio and the hosts were talking about a news report I'd just missed that said a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. Only half listening as I battled the morning rush, I figured I must have heard wrong. Maybe they meant a small private plane had somehow gone off course and clipped an antenna or something. Just then, they broke into the chatter to report that a second plane had hit the second tower. A cold chill went down my spine. One plane was likely an accident. Two planes had to have been planned.

I got to the office and found everybody clustered around the TV in the break room. I watched a replay of the crashes. And another. And another. After a dozen times or more, I went to my desk and switched on my computer. I couldn't watch it again just then.

Sometime after I'd cleared out my e-mail inbox, my boss walked past carrying the TV into his office. He came back out and announced that anybody who wanted to watch was welcome to come in and do so. I went in a while later. I was just in time to see the first tower collapse. I sat with several of my coworkers watching more replays of the planes crashing into the towers and the Pentagon that morning.

Interspersed were scenes of people on the streets of New York stumbling and running through the confusion and the rubble, some with injuries, many with cloths tied over their mouths and noses to keep out the dust. I couldn't believe I was watching live footage of New York, of anywhere in the US. I thought it looked like news reports from the Middle East--all dusty and messy and war-torn.

After the second tower fell, my boss announced that anyone who wanted to go home and be with their families was free to do so. I thought about leaving, but wasn't sure where to go. I lived alone. I had some family in the area, but nobody I felt a pressing need to see.

I thought about leaving and just going home or driving around, but decided I really didn't want to be on my own. I stayed for a while, continuing to watch the news, listening to other people talk about what had happened, not knowing what to say myself.

I thought about the previous attempt to knock down the towers. I was in high school at the time, living in New York, just an hour north of midtown. I had a friend from church who worked in the South Tower. I remember watching the news in my living room that afternoon, wondering if he was all right.

I thought about how that attack was scary, but hadn't been terribly successful. I considered with wry irony that the second attempt had gone so much better for those who'd planned it.

Eventually, I went to my aunt's house. I spent the night there and we did silly normal things like make popcorn and watch old movies. Then we went to bed and pretended that so much hadn't changed.

Monday, September 5

Happy Labor Day*

In honor of Labor Day, let's talk about some of the hardest work women do. Adapted from We are THAT Family.

How long were your labors?

I was in active labor with Rosi from around 1:00 AM until she was born just after 8:00 PM, so about 19 hours.

Active labor with Ian came and went. Counting from the time my water broke the first time, it was 4½ days before he was born. Counting from the second time my water broke, it was about 28 hours before he was born. Counting from when they broke my water in the hospital ... well, actually, I don't remember exactly when that was. I was in hospital for a total of about 20 hours before his birth. And I have the unique distinction of being the only woman my midwife ever heard of whose water broke three times during the birth of a single baby.

How did you know you were in labor?

With Rosi, I woke up in the middle of the night in pain. I didn't think I was having contractions, but Adam timed them at 2-3 minutes apart.

I woke up about 6:00 AM a week before Ian was due and felt like I really needed to go to the bathroom. I thought I hadn't quite made it, but when I turned on the light to clean myself up, I saw that the fluid was pink and realized my water had broken.

Where did you give birth?

I wanted to have both my kids at home. I saw a homebirth midwife while I was pregnant with Rosi until about 30 weeks when my midwife strongly recommended I transfer care to a hospital-based practice because of continued high blood pressure readings (she could not legally attend me at home if I was hypertensive and she felt it would be beneficial to have time to get to know another care provider before birth). I had Rosi at a hospital in Illinois, with no blood pressure issues at all.

With Ian, I planned to give birth at a private home just across the border in Minnesota because my midwife cannot legally attend home births in South Dakota (see my post Why Drive to a Homebirth?). Unfortunately, complications during his birth required going to the local hospital in MN, then transferring to another hospital here in Sioux Falls.

Drugs? C-section?

Both labors were augmented by Pitocin. During my labor with Rosi, I considered pain meds shortly after they started the Pit, but decided against them. I pushed her out about three hours later.

While laboring with Ian, I chose to have an epidural a couple of hours before he was born in a final, ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid surgery. He was born by emergency c-section.

Who attended?

I had a Certified Nurse Midwife at Rosi's birth, and Adam was able to catch her as she was born.

I was seeing a Certified Professional Midwife throughout my pregnancy and most of my labor with Ian, and the plan was for Adam to catch again. In the end, the on-call OB did the honors in the OR.

Want to play? Answer the above questions in comments or on your own blog.
Did you adopt? How long did you wait? How did you find out your child(ren) would be joining your family? When/where did you meet? How was the adoption arranged?
Not a mom? What were the facts from your own birth?


*I really tried to think of a post title that would be some sort of spin on Love's Labour's Lost, but couldn't quite manage it.

Sunday, September 4

Ten Hundred Million Years

Rosi has a typically childish notion of time. That is to say, she really has no concept of how long an hour, a day, or a year is. When something hasn't happened soon enough to please her (generally the instant she suggests it), she'll complain that it's been hours or days or even "ten hundred million years" since she first asked and she can't possibly wait any longer.

After she made such a comment the other day in the car, I explained to Adam my theory as to why time moves so much faster for Rosi than for the rest of us: in her universe, everything revolves around her. Since she's so much smaller than the sun, it all goes by that much quicker.

Meanwhile, it's been positively forever since my last post. We've been doing our best to keep ourselves occupied here, so let me give you a bulleted list of what we're up to these days.
  • I've been spending a lot of time cooking, thinking about cooking, reading about cooking, writing about cooking (I have 60+ recipes posted over at Low-Carb Real Food), and trying to take half-decent pictures of my food. And when I'm done with all that, I spend a few minutes eating and then the kitchen has to be cleaned up all over again. Cooking three meals a day at home makes for a lot of dishes!
  • Ever since I made the doll for my contest winner a couple of years ago, I've been wanting to make another and work out my own pattern. I even went so far as to buy yarn for the project a few months back. Then I got caught up doing other things, and I've only gotten back to it the last week or so. As best I can figure, I'm about halfway done. I've also run out of stuffing, so I need to make a run to the store before I can finish any further. Originally, this doll was meant to be for Rosi, but she'd been begging for another doll who would close its eyes when lying down. We found one for 25¢ at a garage sale over the summer and it's been well loved by both the kids. Since Rosi has a new-to-her doll, I decided that once I finish this one, it will be for Ian. I'm shooting to make it a birthday gift, which means I have about 2½ months to complete the doll and make it some clothes.
  • I've been homeschooling Rosi to a greater or lesser degree for about two years now. We've tried a few different educational philosophies, but the one we keep returning to is unschooling, or interest-led learning. I really felt like I was trying too hard last year, pushing her when she didn't need any pushing. This year, I decided we really needed some support and community in the homeschooling arena. A couple of weeks ago, we joined a local homeschool group. we've gotten together with them for a couple of activities already and it's been a lot of fun. I'm really excited about what's coming up in the next several months. Rosi is too. It's been difficult for her to maintain friendships when she doesn't see kids at school everyday. A few of our neighbors have kids, but most of them are younger. The one friend her own age that she'd made in our building moved out several months ago. We also haven't had a regular church we've been attending, so that hasn't been a viable avenue for ongoing friendships either.
  • And speaking of churches, we actually visited one this morning that we'd all like to go to again. The people were welcoming, the message was solid and timely, the music was good, and I was really happy with the way they handled communion. I've been less than impressed with the way children are so often overlooked when it comes to communion. I understand that families and denominations have differing beliefs about who can take communion. But, in practice, I am very uncomfortable with the way my kids have been treated when we've visited some churches and have brought them up for communion. It is very rare to find a communion "policy" noted in the bulletin or announced during the service. At the church we worshiped in this week, however, the pastor invited the congregation to participate and noted that each family should determine whether their children should receive the bread and wine. One of the things I loved most about our church in Illinois was the recognition that we all don't agree on a lot of theological points--and that's okay. The Church is big enough for people to hold different ideas about baptism or communion or speaking in tongues. Those issues are not actually central to the Gospel and they shouldn't be treated as if they were. I'm excited to find someplace that makes a point of that right in the service.
  • Ian is having his own version of interest-led learning. You might call it "toilet unschooling." For the past month or so, he's been pretty frequently asking to use the toilet. He's also gotten really remarkable in the way he can undress himself and take a diaper off, even when he's snapped into a bodysuit. So, I've mostly given up on trying to keep him dressed. I insist that he wear a diaper when we're out or while he's sleeping, but most of the time he spends the majority of his day running around the house without any clothes on. He uses the toilet more than not, and for those times when he doesn't quite make it, I keep a spray bottle of cleaner and a roll of paper towels handy. As an added bonus, I figure he's probably saved us about $15 in diapers so far.
Well, that's not everything we've been up to, but that's probably enough for one post. I will try to start updating with a little more frequency again. Maybe I can manage to post more like once a week rather than once a month. For now, I'm going to go catch up on some sleep!

Tuesday, August 2

Grateful

In the vein of thanking God for small favors, let me recount a tale for you.

Two weeks ago, Target had a sale on diapers, so I added yet another stop to my list of errands to run that day. Thankfully, our local Target is on my way to a couple of other stores I needed to visit.

I parked the car, walked inside, headed back for the baby department, and was confronted with a big empty shelf where the boxes of size 4s should have been. Thankfully, at the bottom of the shelf was a pad of raincheck requests which made it easy to print a raincheck right at check out.

Several days later, after the sale had ended, the kids wanted to go out for a drive. I suggested we take a trip to the store if they behaved well. They did, so we headed out to Target. I grabbed a cart and set a course for the baby section, stopping every few feet to redirect Rosi as she got distracted by the bright shiny things on display. Once we'd reached the diaper aisle, I was disappointed to find the gaping hole still there between the 3s and the 5s. Thankfully, both children were amused by a quick breeze through the back-to-school section (although Rosi could not understand why I wouldn't buy her a package of Tinkerbell book covers).

Another few days passed and we'd opened our last bag of diapers. I called Target and a very helpful employee told me they had the diapers I was looking for: 9 boxes on the shelf and 30 in the warehouse. Just to be sure, I questioned whether these were all size 4. She confirmed they were. I drove to Target again. I got a cart and headed for the baby section for a third time. Thankfully, a mass of women with toddlers hadn't cleaned out the diaper aisle in the 20 minutes since I'd called.

This morning, Ian woke up a bit grumpy. He didn't want to eat, he didn't really want to play, he was just sitting in Adam's lap complaining about life. And then he threw up all over himself, Adam, and the floor. Thankfully, he missed the computer which sat a few feet away.

After a bath and a clean set of clothes, Adam changed a yucky diaper and took him to bed for a nap. Some time later, they came out of the bedroom together. Ian in need of another diaper change and another bath. Thankfully, we'd just done laundry, so we had an abundant supply of clean clothes.

Thankfully, we finally have an abundant supply of diapers from Target.

Thursday, July 28

Fun with Science

The Blue Goo ExperimentRosi and I completed the most funnest* science experiment since the one I did in high school biology that involved spitting into test tubes (I think it had something to do with pH testing, but I don't recall exactly).

We made Blue Goo. Seriously, this stuff is better than play dough. You can't sculpt anything out of it, but that's okay. It's fun just watching it melt and drip and change between liquid and solid form.

Do you want to get all gooey about science, too? It's easy, just mix one part cornstarch with 3 parts water. You can add a couple of drops of food coloring if you want. Mush it all together with your hands and let the fun begin.

Have older kids that are just too cool for goo? They can still play. My teenage niece turned me on to this one: Cornstarch Monsters. Add a stereo speaker to the mix and you can make the cornstarch colloid dance.

*Yes, I know it's ungrammatical. What's your point?

Wednesday, July 27

Darndest-isms

Amusements from our house over the past couple of days.

Rosi: Can we go for a drive?
Mamie: Tell you what, if you clean up all of your toys in the living room, we can go out for a little drive and pick up some food for dinner.
Rosi: Okay.

Later, after Mamie has reached the limit of her frustration tolerance, but the room has not yet been cleaned.
Mamie: Go get your shoes on; we’re going out.
Rosi: To get food?
Mamie: Yes.
Rosi: But I didn’t clean up.
Mamie: I know.
Rosi: Are you giving me grief?
Mamie: Do you mean giving you grace?
Rosi: No, a lot of times you say, “You’re giving me grief.”

The next day, after Adam has take over supervising the clean up.
Adam: You have 5 seconds to get this in the trash before drastic measures are taken.
Rosi: Before what is taken?
Adam: Before drastic measures are taken.
Rosi: Before my plastic what is taken?

• • • •

Ian has started really showing us his displeasure. He doesn't usually cry or scream, unless he's particularly overtired or hungry, but what he does just makes me smile. This morning, for instance, he was reaching for my phone on the desk. He made the sign for phone, his way of asking me to hand it to him. I said, "No," and moved it out of his reach. He glared at me and stomped his little foot on the floor before walking away to find another toy.

Tuesday, July 26

A Baby Story

No, not the TLC series. I'm talking about the long and involved story of Ian's birth. If you missed the saga the first time around (or if you just enjoyed the drama so much you need to read it again), please direct your attention to today's post on the Elegant Mommy blog The Empowering C-Section Birth of Ian Gray: A Homebirth Transfer.

Monday, July 25

Here Comes the Sun

A few nights ago we were out driving just as the sun started to head down some scattered clouds.

As we stopped for a red light, Rosi pointed out her window and cried, all excited:

Look, over there! I see sun stripes!

Friday, July 22

To Market, To Market

I've been trying to crocheting market bags for years. A couple of years ago I found a pattern that constructs the bag as a flat mesh rectangle, then gathers the edges and adds handles. As usual, I couldn't stick to a pattern, so I created my own.

Market Bags

Materials Used
  • 5¼ oz/265 yds worsted weight cotton
       • 4 oz/200 yds for mesh and
       • 1¼ oz/65 yds for handles
  • I crochet hook (5.5 mm)
  • stitch marker
Gauge

6 sc and 8 rows = 2”
Gauge is not crucial to this pattern.

Finished Size

Approx 18" from top of handles to bottom of bag, empty and unused. Bag will stretch with use (the green bag in the above photo is older and has been used much more often).

Special Stitches
  1. Single crochet two together (sc2tog) **Slip hook into next stitch, yo, and draw loop onto hook. Repeat from **, yo and draw through all 3 loops on hook. Counts as 1 sc.
  2. Foundation single crochet (fsc) Click here to view Alice's fantastic Futuregirl tutorial.
Notes
  1. Mesh is worked in rows, turning work at the end of each row. Handles are worked in a spiral around the edge of the mesh square.
  2. Double crochets (dc) in Row 1 are worked over (around) the whole foundation chain rather than into indicated stitches. This allows the finished bag to stretch more evenly.
Mesh

Ch 95.
Row 1 Dc over 6th ch from hook. **Ch 2, skip 2 ch, dc over next ch. Rep from ** to end of ch. Secure last st to 1st ch with stitch marker. (30 dc)
Rows 2-30 Ch 4. **Dc in ch-2 space, ch 2. Rep from ** to end of row. (30 dc)
Bind off.

Handles

Remove stitch marker from Row 1 and pull up a loop through both the 1st ch and the bottom of the last dc in Row 1.
Round 1 Work 2 sc in corner space and each of the 28 ch-2 spaces along foundation ch. **Work 4 sc in corner, rotate work 90° and 2 sc in each space along next edge. Rep from ** to last corner space. Work 2 more sc in 1st corner space, for a total of 4 sc in that space. (240 sc)
Round 2 Sc2tog around (120 sc)
Round 3 **Sc2tog across 1st 30 sc. Sc in each of next 30 sc. Rep from ** (90 sc)
Round 4 Sc in each sc around (90 sc)
Round 5 **Fsc 30, skip 15 sc, sc in each of next 30 sc. Rep from ** (120 sc)
Rounds 6-7 Sc in ea sc. (120 sc)
Bind off and weave in ends.

Saturday, July 16

Real Food (PSA)

I started a new blog dedicated to low-carb recipes that use real food ingredients, rather than artificial substitutes.


Two months ago now, I went low carb. I started slowly, not really counting carbs, just cutting out breads and sweets and limiting my fruit consumption. After a couple of weeks, I started keeping a food journal and adding up my daily carb count. I'm not following any particular diet plan, but I do try to keep my carbs between 20 and 40 net grams per day.

As I started looking for new ideas online, I was disappointed to see how many uninspired low-carb recipes are out there. So many of them seem to rely heavily on artificial or specialty (read, pricey) ingredients. I don't like fake foods and we can't afford expensive ones. Figuring I'm surely not alone, I decided to share some of the recipes I've adapted or created. The dishes are low carb, low sugar, and most are completely grain free.

If you're interested in real food for real people, take a look and see what you might like to make.

You have reached the conclusion of this public service announcement. Thank you for your time.

Monday, July 11

That's My Girl

Rosi got a book and CD set of Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the library today. She insisted on starting it on the drive homeFootball Princess and has heard it at least twice since we've arrived. She was still listening when I went in to put Ian down for his nap.

After I'd come out of the bedroom, she asked, "Did you know that Beauty came to my house?"

"Did she?" I replied.

She nodded, adding, "And we played football!"

Friday, July 8

You Can Never Be Too Rich ...

Too Rich for a Bride
by Mona Hodgson

If you asked my husband, he'd probably tell you my favorite books are romance novels that don't spend too much time worrying about whether you can figure out the ending after the first few pages. While there is some truth to that (I do like romances), I much prefer a meaty novel with a few twists and turns to one that lays out the plot in such a straight line that coming to the inevitable conclusion is rather anticlimactic.

Before I started reading, I was afraid this novel would fall more into the latter category than the former. In my experience, Christian western historicals do tend to follow a rather simple formula. While Mona Hodgson does stay true to the genre and offers a rather predictable storyline, she has also created remarkable, relatable characters. Rather than feeling let down by the unsurprising ending, I found myself smiling, happy they'd finally arrived.

Ida Sinclair, the protagonist, is a headstrong, independent woman. She's smart, ambitious, and doesn't have any interest in following the path society set out for the traditional woman. Moving to Colorado to join her sisters, Ida finds a job with a businesswoman who teaches her to knowledgeably invest in the stocks and see significant returns. Not everyone approves of the methods her mentor uses, however, and Ida's continued employment threatens family harmony. In the end, of course, Ida learns lessons that are much more valuable than how to play the market and she chooses between the two suitors pursuing her. Everyone lives happily every after, with just enough threads left untied for a sequel featuring the fourth Sinclair sister.

Although this book itself is a sequel to Two Brides Too Many, the story of Ida's sisters Kat and Nell, it stands well on its own. I haven't yet read the first book, but the continuing plotlines seemed adequately enough explained that I didn't feel lost as the story progressed.

This is not my favorite book, and westerns aren't really my favorite genre, but it was an enjoyable read and left me intrigued about the other sisters. I may have to order a copy of the first book, and I will be on the look out for the next. For being fun, though not terribly innovative, I give it three out of five smilies.

☺☺☺☻☻

I participate in the Blogging for Books program. WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided me with a free copy of this book for my review. Please click here to rate this review.

Wednesday, June 29

On Writing Fiction

I was just rereading an old interview with Beverly Cleary, author of the Ramona books and a whole bookshelf of others. Her answer to one question about how she approaches writing caught my attention.

I don’t believe that outlining works for fiction because if you have it all worked out, it becomes boring. So I just write. I really enjoy revising more than writing. I love to cross things out and cut a page down to one paragraph ... I know I wouldn’t want to see anything published as I wrote it initially because it changes so much in the writing. I revise until a little light bulb clicks off and I know it’s done. I just know when it feels right. My first editor told me I was an intuitive writer. I hadn’t really thought about myself that way, but I guess she was right.

Read the whole interview here.

Sunday, June 26

The Bitter and the Sweet

Today marks two anniversaries in my life. One makes me smile, the other has been the cause of many, many tears.

Nineteen years ago today my mother died. She'd been battling cancer, but just a few weeks earlier she'd been given a clean bill of health. Then, suddenly, she was gone.

Fast forward 11 years. I was having a tough day. Memories of my mom were hitting hard and I spent most of my day feeling a bit weepy. I'd been dating Adam for only a few weeks, but he'd remembered this day was important to me.

When he came to pick me up from the VBS program where I was volunteering, he handed me a card. I don't recall exactly what he wrote, something about knowing how much it hurts to lose someone you love.

Then he told me he loved me for the first time. I was so surprised that I completely forgot to say it back to him.

While the sorrow of losing my mom will never completely go away, it's been really nice to have a happy anniversary to celebrate on this day, too.

Thank you, Adam, for bringing a smile to my face, even on some of the hardest days. I don't tell you nearly enough how much I love you.

Sunday, May 15

Did Someone Say "Swimming?"

We decided to go for a family swim the other day. Much giggling ensued.

Ian has recently become very interested in shoes. Whenever one of us leaves our shoes out (usually Rosi, but sometimes Mamie or Daddy), he climbs into them and tries to stomp around the house. His favorites are a pair of Rosi's red flip-flops that he can put on and take off all by himself. He has his own pair of flip-flops, so we decided to try them out on our way to the swimming pool. He put them on all by himself, can you tell?


We got Rosi a mask and snorkel after she'd borrowed a mask from one of our neighbors and just adored it. She's even taught herself to swim with the mask on. She insisted on wearing the complete set to the pool, but was having a little trouble getting everything lined up properly on her face. After a frustrated huff, she exclaimed,

Can't somebody help me with my snort hole?

Tuesday, May 10

Monty Python

Someone has declared it Monty Python Status Day on Facebook. While I have a FB account, I'll occasionally "like" something or add a comment, and I somehow managed to accumulate 11 friends, I don't post pictures or status updates and I've never bothered to reset my profile since they decided everything needed to be connected to another FB page. Still, in an attempt to be relevant, I thought I'd share a funny story from my college days as it involves the only Monty Python quote I can ever remember.

I was attending a weekend conference at Montreat. I'm linking to the website because they have some lovely pictures of their grounds that are making me all nostalgic for the mountains. Sigh.

Some friends and I (two girls and three guys) were walking from the dining room to the auditorium where our next session was to be held. The guys were talking about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, recounting the conversation between the King of the Swamp Castle and his son, Herbert.

The king reviews the commendable attributes of Herbert's unwanted fiancee, "What's wrong with her? She's beautiful, she's rich, she's got huge ..." He pauses, holding both hands out suggestively in front of his chest.

Just then, we passed another student, a guy we'd never met, headed in the opposite direction. As the guys in our group continued, he quoted right with them, complete with hand gestures, not even breaking stride.

My girlfriend and I looked at one another and just shook our heads. Later we outlined our plan for peace on earth through Monty Python, sure that we could bring world leaders together with big bowls of popcorn to laugh, rather than fight, over "huge ... tracts of land."

Friday, May 6

Congratulations, Planet Nomad!

Apparently, if you want people to enter your contests, you have to both give away something people want and actually have readers who visit regularly. Dang.

After I swept myself up off the floor that only ONE PERSON entered my book giveaway (dramatic sigh, "Nobody loves me!"), I decided to go with it and look on the bright side. This saves me the trouble of visiting that random number website to choose a winner.

Congratulations to Planet Nomad, and many thanks for making my giveaway a success. If you would please shoot me an e-mail with your contact details I will be happy to get your book in the mail.

Tell your friends ... I'll be here all week ...

Saturday, April 30

Read, Pray, Win: A Book Review and Giveaway

Praying for Your Future Husband
by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer

Let me start by admitting (1) I never prayed for my future husband before I met Adam and (2) as I prepare to celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary, I'm pretty clearly outside the target audience for a devotional aimed primarily at teens to young unattached twentysomethings. Which, I suppose, begs the question, why exactly did I read this book?

Frankly, the top name on the front cover captured my attention. I counted today and was slightly surprised to discover I've read more than four dozen books by Robin Jones Gunn. She's written more than 70, mostly my favorite kind of novels: fun, fast-paced stories that direct readers' attention to God's love, grace, and unfathomable nature without announcing, "Hey, look; there's God! Now let me tell you all about Him ..." Robin's co-author, Tricia Goyer, has written more than 25 books herself, but I hadn't picked one up before now.

While there are a lot of books intended to offer suggestions for what to do while you wait, Praying for Your Future Husband seems to provide a unique framework for purposeful waiting that directs the reader to seek God and gives practical activities to enhance relationships, with both God and her husband-to-be. Each chapter is written around a single prayer focus, such as protection, faithfulness, contentment, even "The List" (qualities you want your husband to have). In addition to personal stories, poetry, and pertinent Bible passages, every chapter includes two prayers, one for the reader herself and another to pray for her future mate.

Perhaps the subtitle, Preparing Your Heart for His, should have clued me in, but I was pleasantly surprised to see as much or more of the text encouraging women to pray for their own edification as for their someday husbands. I also really appreciated the authors' choice to share their own love stories, the joys as well as painful missteps along the way. Some of my favorite moments in reading Robin's story involved learning about the real-life experiences that inspired fictional events in her novels.

Much like Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, which I read as a single woman waiting for a husband, Praying for Your Future Husband is a wonderful blend of personal memoir and practical guidebook. As a singleton (and remembering those years now), I was encouraged to read that now-married women had experienced the same emotions and worries and fears--and sometimes made the same poor choices--that I did. However, this same perspective that worrying and waiting are small in light of the rest of life, while accurate, can come across as slightly dismissive to a woman feeling alone, wondering if God has forgotten her. This is not necessarily a shortcoming of either book and may simply reflect an area in which I am particularly sensitive. Robin and Tricia acknowledge that, though a majority of women get married sooner rather than later, some will never marry and others wait many long years before their dream weddings become reality.

Overall, I liked it very much. The writing was engaging, by turns serious and laugh-out-loud funny. The authors have tackled relevant, sometimes delicate subjects with sensitivity and humor. My rating: five of five smilies.
☺☺☺☺☺

Praying for Your Future Husband will be released May 3rd. You can preorder a copy at Amazon.com or you can enter to win one right here!

Giveaway

As I've mentioned, this book really wasn't written for me, but maybe it's for you or someone you know. I'm giving away my gently read copy to one of my readers. For your chance to win, please leave a comment below; make sure I have a way to contact you. Link to this post (using the URL http://expimag.blogspot.com/2011/04/read-pray-win-book-review-and-giveaway.html) on Facebook, Twitter or your own blog for additional entries. Please include a link to your post or tweet. I'll leave comments open until 9:00 PM CDT on Thursday, May 5th and announce the winner Friday, May 6th.

I participate in the Blogging for Books program. WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided me with a free copy of this book for my review. Please click here to rate this review.

Sunday, April 24

Somebunny to Love

Just (barely) in time for Easter, a cute bunny buddy to make for a little one in your life.

Materials Used

  • 1 oz worsted weight cotton in bunny color (color A)
  • 2.5 oz worsted weight cotton in afghan color (color B)
  • small amount of stuffing material, less than 1 oz polyester filling
  • F crochet hook (3.75 mm)
  • G crochet hook (4.25 mm)
Optional
  • size 1 steel crochet hook (2.75 mm)
  • 60 yards size 10 cotton thread
  • small amount of yarn or embroidery floss for facial features
  • yarn or thread needle
Gauge

With F hook, 9 sc and 9 rows = 2”
Gauge is not crucial to this pattern, but checking your gauge will allow you to estimate the size of your completed project.

Finished Size

12" from top of ears to bottom corner of afghan

Special Stitches

Decrease (decr) [Slip hook under FRONT LOOP ONLY of next stitch, yo, and draw loop onto hook] twice, yo and draw through all 3 loops on hook. Counts as 1 sc.
Topstitch (tst) Starting with a loop on the hook and holding yarn on RIGHT SIDE of fabric only, slip hook through stitch, yo, and draw loop onto hook, yo and draw through both loops on hook. Begin second stitch by slipping hook into the opening from which the working yarn extends.

Notes
  1. For bunny ears and head, rounds are worked in a continuous spiral; do not join at the end of any round. Afghan rounds are joined with slst, which are also used to advance working yarn to the starting point for the next round.
  2. Pattern is written to attach ears and afghan during stitching rather than after all items are complete. Each part can be crocheted separately and joined as usual by following alternate instructions in Round 11 of head and Foundation Round of Afghan.
  3. The basic afghan directions include a simple sc border. A variation for the more delicate lace border can be found at the end of the pattern.
Ears

Make 2.
Round 1 In A with F hook, work 4 sc into an adjustable ring and pull end of yarn to tighten. (4 sc)
Round 2 2 sc in each sc around. (8 sc)
Round 3 [2 sc in first sc, sc in next sc] around. (12 sc)
Round 4 [Sc in first sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc] around. (16 sc)
Rounds 5-8 Sc in ea sc around. (16 sc)
Round 9 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (15 sc)
Round 10 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (14 sc)
Round 11 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (13 sc)
Round 12 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (12 sc)
Round 13 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (11 sc)
Round 14 Decr, sc in ea sc around. (10 sc)
Round 15 Sc in ea sc around. (10 sc)
Round 16 Repeat Round 15.
Tie off and flatten ear, folding along line of decr.

Head

Head is worked from the nose to the back of the head.
Round 1 In A with F hook, work 6 sc into an adjustable ring and pull end of yarn to tighten. (6 sc)
Round 2 2 sc in each sc around. (12 sc)
Round 3 [Sc in first sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc] around. (16 sc)
Round 4 [2 sc in first sc, sc in ea of next 3 sc] around. (20 sc)
Rounds 5 [Sc in ea of first 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in ea of next 2 sc] (24 sc)
Round 6 [2 sc in first sc, sc in ea of next 5 sc] around. (28 sc)
Round 7 [Sc in ea of first 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in ea of next 3 sc] (32 sc)
Round 8 [2 sc in first sc, sc in ea of next 7 sc] around. (36 sc)
Rounds 9-10 Sc in ea sc around. (36 sc)
Round 11 Attach ears: Sc in ea of first 12 sc. Align one flattened ear in front of the next 5 sc, keeping the decr edge to the RIGHT and the tip of the ear down. Start to attach right ear by slipping hook through first front and back sc on the ear, then through the next sc in Round 10; draw a loop through all three stitches and complete sc as usual. Repeat for next 4 sc to completely attach right ear. Sc in ea of next 2 sc. Align left ear in front of the next 5 sc, keeping the decr edge to the LEFT and the tip of the ear down. Attach left ear in the same manner as right ear over the next 5 sc. Sc in ea remaining 12 sc around. (36 sc)
Alternately, repeat Round 10 and attach ears with yarn needle after stuffing head.
Round 12 Sc in ea sc around. (36 sc)
Round 13 [Sc in ea of first 2 sc, decr, sc in ea of next 2 sc] around. (30 sc)
Round 14 [Decr, sc in ea of next 3 sc] around. (24 sc)
Round 15 [Sc in first sc, decr, sc in next sc] around. (18 sc)
Round 16 [Decr, sc in next sc] around. (12 sc)
Tie off, leaving a 12" tail for sewing. Weave in ends left inside the head. Stuff and gather final stitches on remaining tail with yarn needle. Pull tight, tie off, and weave in end. If desired, sew on facial features using yarn or embroidery floss.

Afghan

I found this pattern a bit complicated to describe, but it's a simple granny-square design, worked into a triangle.
Foundation Round Starting at the back, in B with G hook, work 18 tst in a ring around the bottom of the head, where the bunny's neck would be. Join to first tst with a slst. (18 tst)
Alternately, ch 10 and join into a ring with slst. Work Round 1 into ring and attach to head after completing afghan.
Round 1 Ch 1. Sc in first tst, ch 1 (count as first hdc). Hdc in ea next 2 tst, ch 3, hdc in ea next 3 tst. [Ch 2, hdc in ea next 3 tst, ch 3, Hdc in ea next 3 tst] twice. Ch 2 and join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (6 3-hdc fans)
Round 2 Sc in ch-3 space, ch 1 (count as first hdc). 2 hdc, ch 3, 3 hdc in same ch-3 space. Ch 2, skip next 3 hdc, 3 hdc in ch-2 space (fan made). Ch 2, skip next 3 hdc, {fan, ch 3, fan} in ch-3 space (corner made). Ch 2, fan in ch-2 space. Ch 2, corner in ch-3 space. Ch 2, fan in ch-2 space. Ch 2 and join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (9 fans)
Round 3 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] twice. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (12 fans)
Round 4 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 3x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (15 fans)
Round 5 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 4x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (18 fans)
Round 6 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 5x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (21 fans)
Round 7 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 6x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (24 fans)
Round 8 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 7x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (27 fans)
Round 9 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 8x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (30 fans)
Round 10 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 9x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (33 fans)
Round 11 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 10x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. Slst in ea of next 2 hdc. (36 fans)
Round 12 **Corner in corner, ch 2, [fan in ch-2 space, ch 2] 11x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first hdc with slst. (39 fans)
For a more delicate edging, tie off yarn here and follow lace variation directions below.
Round 13 Ch 1. Sc in ea of first 3 hdc, 5 sc in ch-3 space, [sc in ea of next 3 hdc, 2 sc in ch-2 space] 12x. **Sc in each of next 3 hdc, 5 sc in ch-3 space, [sc in ea of next 3 hdc, 2 sc in ch-2 space] 12x. Repeat from ** around. Join to first sc with slst. (204 sc)
Round 14 Ch 1. Sc in ea of first 5 sc. [3 sc in next sc, sc in ea of next 67 sc] repeat. 3 sc in next sc, sc around. Join to first sc with slst. (210 sc)
Tie off and weave in ends.

Lace Edging Variation

Follow basic afghan instructions through Round 12.
Round 13 In cotton thread with size 1 steel hook, make 2 sc in ea st (hdc or ch) around. Join to first sc with slst. (396 sc)
Round 14 Ch 1, sc in first sc, ch1 (count as 1 hdc). Hdc in next sc, ch 1. [Skip next sc, hdc in ea of next 2 sc, ch 1] around. Join to first hdc with slst. (396 st)
Round 15 Skip first hdc, sc BETWEEN first 2 hdc, skip second hdc, 3 hdc in ch-1 space. [Skip next hdc, sc between 2 hdc, skip next hdc, 3 hdc in ch-1 space] around. (528 st)
Tie off and weave in ends.

Friday, April 22

Favorite Sunday School Songs

I've mentioned the CD of children's Bible songs that Rosi so enjoys. I started thinking recently about some other songs we might introduce. I considered simply purchasing another collection, but I don't know many and I'd rather not spend money on something that may or may not be better than what we've already got. There are a lot of crummy children's music CDs out there. Anybody know a good collection of Bible songs you can recommend?

It occurred to me that I may end up having to put together a collection myself, so I started a list of good songs that I'd like my kids to learn (or at least songs I won't mind hearing so much). What are your favorite songs from Sunday school, VBS, and church camp?

So far on my list I have:
  • The Arky Barky Song (Children of the Lord)
  • Father Abraham Had Many Sons
  • I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart
  • Pass It On
  • This Is the Day

Tuesday, April 19

And So It Begins ... Again

I was in the middle of making dinner when Rosi bounced into the kitchen to tell me, "Mo-om, Ian is taking his diaper off!"

Caught up in stirring constantly, I chose to ignore her latest communique. You'd think I would know better by now.

Thirty seconds passed and she came back, "Mo-om, Ian peed on the floor!"

Oh, joy.

I thought boys were supposed to be ready for toilet training later than girls. I figured I'd have a good three years before I needed to worry about this sort of thing.

Anybody know how to sign, "You're early; come back to me in 19 months"? You'd think they'd include these important phrases in those baby signing DVDs.

Sunday, April 17

Things You Never Expect to Hear

At Ian's baptism last Easter, he was given a crucifix. Rather than simply having the cross hanging on a wall, Adam and I feel it's important to allow him to touch it and interact with it on his own level. In practical terms, that means he plays with it. As with any item that is not designed for toddler use, we do supervise his play, but we don't require that he use it only for specifically religious activities.

This morning, Adam was on the living room floor playing with the kids. I was nearby, but otherwise occupied, when I suddenly overheard him give Ian an instruction in his Daddy-who-must-be-obeyed voice.

You do not hit Rosi with Jesus.

And thus we begin Holy Week. A blessed Palm Sunday to all.

Friday, April 15

What Happened to Spring?

As I sit here looking out my sliding glass door, there is snow falling on the grass. SNOW. It's not supposed to be snowing. It's supposed to be 60°F outside and sunny. Well, okay, the sunny is negotiable, but by the middle of April it should be warm!

And speaking of the middle of April, have you done your taxes yet? Are you waiting for the last minute, googling which post offices are going to stay open until midnight tonight? Or are you like me, nursing fond memories of the tax refund you've already spent?

While we're on the topic of spending, what is up with gas prices? Just a few weeks ago here in Sioux Falls, they were about $3.39 per gallon. This morning I paid $3.59--and that was with a 14¢ discount. I know I shouldn't complain. In Chicago the price is up over $4.00. And my friends in New Zealand are paying US$6.59 a gallon this week. Yikes. I'm feeling richer already.

Plus, in the time it took to look all that up, the snow has turned back into rain. You know what they say, "April showers bring May flowers." At this rate, there ought to be a garden full of blooms come next month.

Monday, April 11

What's the 2nd Greatest Commandment?

Somebody (I can't remember who anymore) gave us a book of Bible stories that came with a CD of children's songs. Rosi has taken to listening to the CD whenever we'll allow it.

Now, generally, I hate to limit her time singing and praising God, but this collection, while biblically based, tends a bit more toward insipid than inspiring. I try to listen with just half an ear while reminding myself that it's certainly a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Rosi was singing one of these songs in the car this morning and, once I identified the tune, didn't listen very closely. Then I caught a fragment of lyric and thought, "Wait, that's not right!"

I put on my listening ears and chuckled to myself as she sang her own version of a ditty about loving your neighbor.

The original words are:

La la la la la la la
Love your neighbor as yourself

Rosi's version went:

La la la la la la la
La, your neighbor has your stuff

When I told Adam about it later, he laughed and asked, "Does that make it okay, then, to covet your neighbor's things?"

Saturday, April 9

The Hard Stuff

Marriage is hard. I knew that going in. We even wrote about it on the back of our wedding program. Yet, right from the start I was surprised by just how challenging I found our marriage.

While we were engaged, Adam and I took this relationship inventory (it was not, we were told, a compatibility test). Our results came back very high. The only number I actually remember anymore is a 100% we got for communication, but all the scores were high. In the hubris of young love, I rather expected we were starting off ahead of the game and I supposed marriage wouldn't be as hard for us as it was for most couples. It's been quite humbling to find I'm not so gifted at this relationship thing after all.

In the years since our engagement, I've discovered that what I had thought made marriage hard, the sacrifices, the compromises, the refocus on us rather than me, has been a breeze compared to the real hard stuff: complete and utter honesty with myself and my husband. Marriage requires me not only to recognize that I am not perfect in some vague theoretical sense, but to take responsibility for my imperfect actions and reactions that hurt the man I love and do damage to our relationship.

I have to set aside my Suzy-on-top-of-it mask, step out from behind the screen of "I've got everything together; I don't need any help" and trust Adam to show me mercy, compassion, and grace when I have failed utterly. It requires me to be transparent, vulnerable. I don't like vulnerable. I like to be able to trust myself and not have to count on anybody else. Adam says I'm a control freak. Or, when he's feeling more generous, he calls me high maintenance.

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.
    from When Harry Met Sally

It's just so much easier not to have to rely on somebody else, especially when I know he is going to let me down. Maybe not today or even this week, but, because he's imperfect himself, Adam lets me down sometimes. He says and does things that hurt me. I don't like that. And, if I am being honest, I say and do things that hurt him. I don't like that either.

Still, if I don't let Adam get close enough to hurt me, he's not close enough to love me either. Just why these two must go hand in hand is part of my ongoing argument with God about the necessity of free will. However, until I can convince Him otherwise (I'm not holding my breath waiting for that day), this is the way of the world. I don't like it, but if I refuse to accept it, if I hold back or try to hide the real me in an attempt to keep from experiencing pain, I miss out on real love.

That is very, very hard.

Tuesday, April 5

Glory Hallelujah!

I am pleased to announce that after much frustration and searching the internet for answers, I got our wireless connection working (and secured) again. Hoorah!!

If anybody out there has similar troubles, or just in case I need to find them again, let me share the websites that I found most helpful for resetting the wireless router.

For setting up the router from scratch, I used a tutorial from TopBits.com called How to Setup a Linksys Router. That got the wireless signal broadcasting.

In order to secure the signal, I followed the instructions from Microsoft in their article 5 steps: How to set up your home wireless network. This offered more information about what was important to change from the factory settings and the rest of the options that I didn't need to worry about.

Now that everything is back in place, I'm off to watch Dancing with the Stars on Hulu with Adam in the living room. No more huddling around the computer desk in the office. Yay!

Monday, March 28

PBPBPBFFT!

That's the sound of all the air escaping from my blog when real life got busy this month. I do actually have a lot to share, but let's start with a catchall post full of bullets, shall we?
  • Adam and I hadn't been spending the time we should have on the care and feeding of our marriage. This all became more than obvious in the middle of the night one night when we had a huge fight and I stalked off angrily as though he were the only one to blame. Thankfully, we'd already made plans the following few days to help some friends move out of their rental house several hours away. We spent nearly the entire drive talking about what was wrong, how we were both feeling about it, and what we could do to make things better. Each of us admitted to letting things slide when we should have taken more initiative to show one another that we cared and we both committed to moving forward with a new spirit of lifting each other up, both emotionally and spiritually.

    The past four weeks have really been like a second honeymoon for our relationship. I feel like I've found the man I married again and the grumpy fellow who'd been living here in his place has moved out. I also have been feeling more energized and encouraged to be the kind of woman and the kind of wife I'd like to be, supporting Adam and loving him a little more like the way he deserves to be loved. I won't suggest we've now got it all figured out and I don't expect problems to ever darken our marital doorstep again, but I do feel as though we've taken a turn out of the valley of the shadow of relationship death and back on the path toward the fullness of joy that God intended marriage to be.

  • I had bronchitis once before, when I was in college. I vaguely remember coughing a lot, spending more time sleeping than I would have normally, and generally not feeling up to par. This time, I took two days off from the world and stayed mostly in bed. I didn't really have a choice in the matter, my body simply refused to stay awake and keep going for me. When I wasn't hacking up a lung, drinking gallons of water, or letting the gallons of water out the other end, I was lost in a dreamless sleep, only peripherally aware of my family and responsibilities I might normally have. Adam and the kids valiantly went on without me (shows me how indispensable I am). They each got a bit of a cough, but I was the only one knocked down flat by it.

  • About the same time, we got a notice from our landlord that our apartment was to be inspected. The notice sent a shudder of fear down our collective spines. Amidst letting the maintenance on our marriage go, Adam and I had also let the housekeeping go as well. We do know how to keep our home clean, we are discovering, we just hadn't been doing what it took to get it done. Our place had begun to resemble the houses you see on those TV programs about the people who hoard trash and need professionals to come in and help them divide up what they're keeping from what they're tossing out or giving away. Unfortunately, though I was well enough to leave my sickbed, every time I tried to do something active, like pick up my son, for instance, or walk from one end of the apartment to the other, I started coughing again, hard enough to make myself gag.

    Though Adam explained the situation to our apartment manager and asked for a few more days to get the place ready before they came to look at it, he was told that we could not have it. We fully expected to be served with an eviction notice and were trying to figure out just where to go from here, both metaphorically and literally. The option to pack a few clothes, toys, and mementos into the back of our car and move ourselves, unencumbered, to another state was beginning to sound like a half-decent idea. We spent a lot of time praying that God would bring us a miracle and it would be clear to us what we should do next. I wasn't sure whether to expect the cleaning fairies to come in the middle of the night (I was rooting for that, myself), the apartment complex to burn down while we were out, or something else just as extraordinary.

    In the end, while it was clearly the miracle we'd been praying for, the management company's decision to give us another week to clean up the mess we'd been living in wasn't quite so dramatic as I'd hoped. The afternoon we received that notice, we discussed it and both of us felt that we needed to take this opportunity to do the right thing and, being sufficiently recovered to move freely without breaking into coughing fits, start the hard work of putting our house back in order. Over the better part of four days, with a couple of hours of hired help from a joyful janitorial service, we thoroughly cleaned our entire apartment. The few shreds of dignity I still have intact keep me from revealing just how many bags of rubbish we took to the dumpster, but it was more than I would have guessed, even from the middle of the mess. In addition to the bags of trash, we got rid of several pieces of furniture that had become broken beyond repair. While we weren't able to make everything look quite as good as when we'd moved in, we were pretty amazed and proud of what we were able to accomplish in just under a week. When the apartment manager returned to make her repeat inspection, she stepped into the door and immediately told us the place looked awesome and we'd done a great job.

  • During our escapade of cleaning and tidying, we rearranged Adam's home office. Unfortunately, we managed to do something that killed our wireless connection. I'm not sure whether the problem is with the laptop, which was in "hibernate" mode when we unplugged everything, or with the router itself. I am able to connect to the internet using a network cable, but that isn't terribly convenient when the router lives in the office and the laptop is supposed to have its home base on my desk in the living room.

    Additionally, there has been a separate (we think) problem with Adam's work computer which the IT people have not yet been able to fix remotely. He's had to work at the office for most of the past week and a half. It's been a huge change for us, having just gotten used to him working from home since December. Now he's been gone again for 10-12 hours a day. We all miss him, but Ian, especially has been taking it hard. The other night, for the last hour or so of Adam's shift, he kept walking over to the window, pointing out, and crying. This morning, Adam was told to disconnect his CPU and bring it in for them to work on directly. I have hopes that by the end of the week he will have a fully functioning system and be able to cut out his commute once again.

  • The other day I brought the DVD of Mr. Mom home from the library. I've been thinking about that movie a lot the past several weeks. Recently, Adam and I had decided for sure that we would be making plans to switch primary roles. He'll be staying home with the kids and I'll be going back to work full time. I'm both excited and scared by the idea. I haven't worked full time since before we were married. In fact, now that I think about it, since before we met! I've had to completely rewrite my resume. I've been putting the finishing touches on it for the last two weeks or so, in between being sick and cleaning house. There is one job opening I already know I'll be applying for, but I haven't spent too much time seeing what's out there yet. The nice thing about this transition is--now that we're not required to leave our current residence within 7 days--we have time to look around and find a position that would really be suitable for me and for the whole family. I really appreciate that I'm not having to look for a job because we're out of work and need the money, but I can be a bit more choosy as I consider where I'd like to apply.
So, there we have it. My life in a nutshell or three. I'm hoping, as things calm down here over the next few weeks (please, God, let things calm down here), to write more about some of the above points in whole blog posts of their own, but for now, this will have to do. Meanwhile, if anybody has thoughts on how to make my wifi work again, I would be terribly grateful. Thanks!

Sunday, March 13

I Needed to Read This Again

It's been that kind of a week. I was reminded a couple of days ago of the Psalm 23 paraphrase I wrote several months ago and thought it was worth revisiting.

May the peace of the Lord be with you, whatever your circumstances.

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
Always.

Saturday, February 26

So Not Super

My children are driving me crazy. One more than the other, but both are contributing.

Today is a day I really wish we had normal weekend Saturdays like the majority of folks. I just want a lazy Saturday afternoon to go play in the snow at the park or something. Instead I'm "supervising" the kids while they're cleaning potato chips off the living room rug.

I put it in quotes because, clearly, as I'm writing a blog post right now, I'm not doing much in the way of supervising. Of course, they're not doing much in the way of cleaning either.

Rosi is flipping through a book of cross stitch samplers asking me, "What does X have to do with apples? Apples don't start with an X."

Ian is climbing into the toy box and sitting on top of the toys with his little feet sticking up in the air.

Deep breath.

Okay. I guess I can go be the grown up.

But later, I'm goofing off.

Monday, February 14

Way(s) to Celebrate

This post originally appeared February 14, 2009.

When I was in college, I had a friend who used to hate Valentine's Day, with all the attendant emphasis on being part of a couple. He referred to the occasion as "Single Awareness Day" or S.A.D. I have had a year or two (or twelve) in my life when S.A.D. was all I could manage, but for the most part, I'm much more interested in being a part of things, even if it's not in the conventional way.

So, today, I'd like to share with all my single, married, engaged, divorced, separated, and involved readers some ways to make this holiday that focuses on love meaningful for whomever is special in your life. Some of the ideas below may be more appropriate for a significant other. Others might be just right for a parent, child, sibling, or friend. Take your pick and make a fun day of it. Or, hey, choose several and celebrate all year!
  • Buy a package of note cards and write to your loved one (LO) every day or week until the cards run out
  • Do (or arrange for someone else to do) LO's least-liked chores for a few days or weeks
  • Get tickets to a series of LO's favorite movies, ballgames, symphonies, gallery openings, rodeos or whatever he or she is into and attend together
  • Write out a bunch of quotes and simple thoughts about love, marriage or encouragement on strips of paper, then roll up the strips inside empty capsule casings (like these) and put them in a recycled medicine bottle
  • Decorate LO's car, room, or office with a banner (I use index cards strung on twine) declaring your love
  • Print and frame a favorite or meaningful poem
  • Buy a book of short stories or poetry and set a time every day or every week to read aloud to each other
  • Arrange for a special, deluxe spa treatment, such as a massage, manicure or pedicure
  • Write short love stories, or just fun stories, starring you and your special someone
  • Have a good photo taken of yourself with LO and frame it or put it up as the wallpaper on his or her computer
  • Start a private (or public) blog and write about different ways LO is wonderful
Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9

Hip Hip Hooray for the House!

I'm sending out a great big THANK YOU to the members of the South Dakota State House of Representatives today.

For the first time since homebirth midwives were first prosecuted in this state (back in the 1990s), a bill which would regulate the practice of direct-entry midwifery has passed through a full chamber of the state legislature.

The passage of this bill would allow Certified Professional Midwives the ability to practice in South Dakota. That means no more mothers would be forced to have an unassisted home birth or cross state lines to seek care from a midwife trained in an out-of-hospital setting like I did. Midwives who left the state under threat of prosecution could return to practice legally once again.

I suppose it goes without saying that those of us who have followed midwifery legislation in South Dakota for months and years now are very excited!

Saturday, February 5

I Promised Cookies

We have a favorite new breakfast treat in the Gray household: COOKIES!! I feel like the Proverbs 31 woman; my children rise up and bless me, or at least they don't complain about breakfast and even want seconds.

And before you start thinking I've turned into a pale, not-so-funny Bill Cosby, let me assure you, these are cookies you can actually feel good about serving your children for breakfast, afternoon snack, or just about any time they ask!

Breakfast Cookies
½ c applesauce
1 banana, mashed
2 c oatmeal
¼ c raisins
¼ c sliced almonds
1 T butter
2 eggs
  1. Beat together all ingredients
  2. Scoop mixture into ⅓ c portions and shape into cookies
  3. Place cookies on a well-greased baking pan
  4. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes or until edges are a deep golden brown
  5. Remove immediately to a wire rack and let cool briefly before serving
Makes 8 large cookies.

Breakfast Bars
My family actually prefers breakfast bars to individual cookies. Instead of scooping out portions in step 2, simply press the mixture into an 8" x 8" square or 9" round baking pan and bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes. The recipe is easily doubled to fit a 9" x 13" pan.

You can also substitute just about any fruit sauces, dried fruits or nuts to suit your taste or what you may have on hand. I've found this to be a very versatile recipe.

Monday, January 17

More Birth Talk

Apparently I'm not the only one blogging about homebirth in South Dakota. There is a new post up today at South Dakota War College with links to the original letter sent by the medical lobby and a response crafted by South Dakota Safe Childbirth Options. Go check them out for yourself!

Saturday, January 15

Spoon ... er ... ism

This post is written especially for my friend Gabi, who I know will be amused by it.

For everybody else, you're welcome to stay, but be aware, this is one of those bodily-fluid, baby-feeding, earthy natural posts. If that sort of thing bothers you, get out now. You can come back in a day or two and read a nice post about baking cookies.

As you may recall, I had some problems with breastfeeding each of my children and had to supplement with formula for both of them. With Rosi, an undiagnosed case of postpartum depression made it extremely difficult for me to keep up nursing once we added formula. She was weaned by six months. Ian, on the other hand, is still not weaned. He started solid foods almost eight months ago and hasn't had any formula in several weeks, but he's still breastfeeding a few times a day.

Lately, he's been getting really interested in utensils and how to eat with them. For the last month or so, he'll grab a spoon and just tote it around as he goes about his business. We've started calling it his "security spoon."

The other morning Ian was holding on to his security spoon and he asked to nurse. I pulled him up into my lap. Rather than immediately latching on, he looked speculatively at me for a moment, then raised his spoon.

Catching on, I gently pushed his hand away, telling him, "No, you cannot breastfeed with a spoon."

Friday, January 14

And Speaking of Birth ...

The new South Dakota State Legislative session opened this week. I've been getting a lot more involved lately with a group of local families lobbying for legal recognition of Certified Professional Midwives. Currently, licensure is available only to Certified Nurse Midwives and the state actively prosecutes non-nurse midwives for practicing without a license.

Lobbyists from the state medical association and three regional hospital groups sent a letter to state legislators last week warning them against our efforts. Of course, the medical organizations told them homebirth isn't safe, basing their claims on the controversial "Wax Paper" published last summer. Using only 5% of their sample data, this strongly and repeatedly crticized meta-analysis of previous studies suggests that homebirth triples the risk of neonatal death (babies dying in the first 28 days of life). The study is so deeply flawed that fellow researchers have called for it to be retracted in both the British Medical Journal and the Lancet.

All of this hoopla brings me to a question I read recently. One I found startlingly, deceptively simple:

Why are US doctors so opposed to homebirth?

Doctors say it's for safety, as though they are saving women from themselves. Yet clearly the research demonstrates not only that homebirth with a Certified Professional Midwife is as safe as hospital birth for most women, but women and their midwives are quite capable of appropriately transferring care when the risk of homebirth outweighs its benefits.

Most homebirth activists will suggest it's really a money issue: Doctors don't want to give up the additional income they get for overmanaged hospital births. But I'm not so sure this is the case either. Homebirth represents less than 1% of all births in the US. Even if that number doubled overnight, that would be less than a 2% decrease in the average OB's caseload--and that 2% would be the moms who most want to avoid the monitors, medications, and surgical procedures that make childbirth most profitable.

So, if it's not about safety, and it's not about money, what is the real cause?

I've begun to wonder whether the real issue is that, despite the vast number of studies showing homebirth is just as safe as hospital birth for low-risk women (and the flaws of the few studies that found otherwise), most doctors have simply been trained to view pregnancy and birth as inherently a high-risk enterprise. No matter what evidence they may read in their journals, they just can't accept that natural, physiologically normal birth requires only rare interventions.

In other words, I think doctors may be having trouble accepting the fact that, most of the time, they are not needed.

What do you think?