Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

Christmas Day has come and gone yet again. I'm always afraid that I will feel let down after Christmas, but I never do. In fact, I usually feel invigorated. It's time to carry on with life as usual! And I like life as usual. I like the routine, the normalcy, the calm. I love Christmas, of course. It's my very favorite time of year. But once it is done, the priority of my tasks shifts back into what it is the rest of the year. Like laundry. Today laundry is a high priority for me. If I do not do laundry today, Elise will not have pajamas to wear tonight.

I'm also looking forward to getting back into non-Christmas fun things. During December - well, prior to the 26th, that is - my evenings were pleasant but filled with Christmas activities. I may have wanted to read the book that I started before Thanksgiving, or work on the quilt that is waiting patiently for its border, but I felt compelled to address Christmas cards and wrap gifts. During December, my sewing room was transformed into gift-making, -hiding, and -wrapping central. I am anxious to restore it to its proper order.

Now that I think of it, there are so many things that came to mind in December that I wanted to do, but that I delayed in favor of holiday tasks and activities. And now here is 2007, peeking around the corner, with all of its promises of time and all of its hidden events and joys and sorrows. A new year is such a refreshing prospect. To paraphrase a favorite professor - All right, gang, let's make it a great year!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! The day has finally arrived. What a great holiday!

Elise was not at all impressed with opening presents this morning. There were a couple of gifts that we left unwrapped, just sitting under the tree, and those were a big hit. Oh, well. Now we know, in case we ever have a 16-month old at Christmas again. We were excited for her to open her presents, and she did like them all once they were opened.

Andy and I decided some time ago that we would not exchange gifts this year, save stocking stuffers. Stockings are my favorite part of Christmas morning anyway. Well...I gave Andy stocking stuffers, and he gave me really nice gifts that happened to fit in a stocking. I suspected that might happen.

This afternoon we went to the zoo. The weather was great and the zoo was not at all crowded, not surprisingly. Some of the animals took the day off, but all of my favorites - the savannah animals - were out in full view. We thought that going to the zoo on Christmas would be a nice tradition to start, but alas, the Woodland Park Zoo will closed on all future Christmases. We might just have to go to the Point Defiance Zoo, which is a significantly longer drive, but still not all that far. Of course we didn't take into account that Christmas weather in western Washington in predictably unpredictable. Hmm. Well, something to think about.

Our neighbor just stopped by to borrow some wrapping paper. :) Funny guy.

It has been a nice day. Quiet, relaxed, happy. Now Elise is napping and I'm about to sit down with a cup of tea and some shortbread.

I hope you are all having a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Dear Andy,

Today is your birthday. You are a certain number of years old - the perfect number of years for your age, I think. I'd like to tell you, in case you ever wonder, a little bit about why I love you so much.

I love you because you are so kind - to me, to Elise, to our families, to our friends, to perfect strangers. When you see a need that you can fill, you fill it. I love that you do kind things for people who will never know that it was you who helped them.

I love you because you do what is right even when it is inconvenient. You lead by example. You practice what you preach. You get frustrated when you see people you care about making poor moral decisions or compromising their integrity.

I love you because you have a most amazing sense of humor. It encompasses everything from random quirkiness to subtle satire. Even after four years of marriage, I still can't always tell when you're joking - you can keep a straight face through anything. Then you flash that quick, sly smile to let me know that you are joking, and just as fast as it appeared, it vanishes, so the rest of the world still doesn't know.

I love you because you are a problem solver. You don't give up. This goes along with the way that you fill needs when you see them. Whether the problem is intellectual, physical, moral, etc., once you see that there is a problem, you work on it until it is solved.

I love you because miscommunication drives you nuts. Crossed wires, misplaced blame, misunderstandings, mistaken identities - you want to give everyone a bird's eye view of the situation, whether in real life or on the screen.

I love you because when a transformer blows in the middle of the night, you explain to me exactly what happened, why it happened, and how it will affect us - even though my brain can barely recognize the sounds coming from your mouth as words, much less comprehend what they mean when strung together.

I love you because you get up with Elise every single morning. Other mothers must despise me. You let me sleep until I am rested every day.

I love you because you provide for us. We have never gone without anything that we need. At the same time, you are constantly looking for new opportunities in your own education and career. I know that you will always put the well-being of our family first, and within that parameter, you will always challenge yourself.

I love you because you have kept your promise to cherish me.

I love you because you offered to share your ChexMix with me.

I love you because you are kind to my family.

I love you because you will talk to telemarketers for me.

I love you because you will check on strange noises in the night.

I love you because you will admire the work that I do, and you will offer suggestions, showing me that you are actually thinking about what I'm showing you, not just feigning interest.

I love you because you want to give me my Christmas presents now.

I love you because you made dozens of balloon flowers.

But take all of this away, and I will still love you. These things are symptoms, outward indications of the man that you truly are. You truly are made in God's image, in the very likeness of God. I am so grateful to have you. You are an amazing blessing to me.

I am so proud of you, and I love you very much.

Love always,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Let the baking begin!

Andy gave me such a lovely gift today. He took Elise with him to run (my) errands, leaving me alone in the house. He's really wonderful about doing that, and frequently takes Elise with him so I can have a bit of time to myself. This afternoon I used my free time to restore order to the living room and to bake. Bake! Hurray! There are snickerdoodles in the oven as we speak. Or write. Whatever.

I really love baking. It's relaxing, it produces quick, tangible results, and it's relatively easy - if you stick with things like snickerdoodles, anyway. I don't bake all that often, mostly because there are only three of us in our household, and it's hard (not to mention unhealthy) for three people to consume an entire pie, cake, batch of cookies, etc. That isn't really a great excuse for not baking cookies - many of them freeze well. But it is a good reason for not making the others all that often. At Christmastime, however, I can't help it. Baking is as much a part of the festivities as setting up the tree, singing carols, and giving gifts. My most vivid holiday memories involve baking. My mom made the same treats every year - fudge, Clifford tea cakes, Russian tea cookies, candy cane cookies. We loved twisting the candy cane cookie dough into uneven, misshapen little candy canes, oftentimes so uneven that one end would burn while the other remained doughy. We always had fun, and baking together was always a key part of our Christmas tradition.

So now I'm the mom (weird) and the traditions Andy and I establish today will be an important part of Elise's childhood memories. Kitchen memories are important, I think. Everyone should have good kitchen memories.

Oops. As I was writing about how I love to bake, and how relaxing it is, etc., smoke started pouring from my oven! Well, come on, I didn't say I was good at baking. Fortunately, the smoke did not involve the cookies. It involved something on the bottom of the oven. I don't know what the object originated as, but by the time I got to it, it was a 1" chunk of crumbly blackness. Big metal spoon to the rescue. Cookies, as you were.

Nine and a half minutes later, my snickerdoodles are cooling and making the whole house smell good. Friends who were here earlier, I'm sorry I didn't make the cookies while you were still here. You're welcome to come back for them.

Back to the recipe box I go!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

First Day of High School

Last night a friend called to ask for assistance on behalf of her mother. Her mom teaches child development at a local high school, and today the class was supposed to observe and interact with toddlers. The only thing was that they had no toddlers. Makes observation tricky. So this morning Elise and I went to the high school. It was an interesting experience. First off, I don't think I've been to a high school during school hours since I was in high school, going on ten years ago. It doesn't look like much has changed.

Fortunately, another friend had also agreed to go, and she brought her 17-month old son. I don't think the kids necessarily cared, but it was nice for me to have someone I knew there to talk to. There were only five kids - little kids, that is - there, and probably about 20 teenagers. The teenagers all had little stations set up with a different activity at each, Montessori style, and the toddlers were free to play at whichever station they pleased. Elise and Colin both beelined to the blocks. After a while, they went back and forth between the blocks and the confetti. That's right, confetti. One group of teenagers had a large, shallow plastic tub full of confetti - actually circles made by paper hole punchers, which apparently a local printer had saved for them. The little kids had a great time with it, and it was fun to watch them, knowing that I wasn't going to have to clean it up.

Elise seemed to have a lot of fun. I tried not to direct or help her too much, as the point was for the students to observe toddler behavior. Every once in a while she would fall (the floor was hard, slippery linoleum, typical of schools, and once the confetti was spread around, it was really slippery) and would come over for a kiss, or she'd get a piece of confetti stuck to her hand and would come over to have it removed (she hates having things stuck on her hands), but other than that, she pretty well ignored me.

Watching the teenagers was entertaining. It was easy to pick out who had been around little kids before and who hadn't. One group was supervising finger painting, and the teacher had to remind them to wash the toddlers' hands afterwards. My friend and I were amused by that, because we wouldn't even think about doing something like that - it was just be an automatic reaction. You don't let a two year old get away with his hands covered in wet paint. Another student came in towards the end of the class and immediately laid on his stomach on the floor and started playing with the toys, so he was at the toddlers' level. When Elise tripped on a block and started wobbling, he stabilized her with his hands in front and back of her. This boy has been around little kids before.

We were just there for 45 minutes, but it gave Elise a chance to play with other children and explore some new toys and activities. The teacher commented that, for being an only child, Elise seemed remarkably comfortable in playing with other children, trying new activities, and interacting with strange adults (well, teenagers) without me having to be right at her side. That made me happy. I don't really worry about her social development, because I don't believe that very young children need constant social stimulation for healthy development. The trend of daycares, playgroups, and preschools is, after all, a fairly recent one. That said, I do sometimes feel very sorry that she is an only child at this point, because she so loves to play with other children, and - this will sound silly - I'm afraid she gets lonely. I know that she eventually won't remember a time when she didn't have younger siblings, and she won't harbor resentment over having to play alone for the first few years of life, but still...Maybe I feel this way because it is something I personally have no experience with, being the fifth of ten children. Playing alone? There were days when I would have done anything for the chance to play alone. Well, anyway, I try to play with Elise a lot myself. I try to take advantage of her naptime by completing my highest priority tasks during that time. That way, when she is awake, I can stop what I'm doing to play with her if she wants me to. At the same time, I want to teach her to be patient and not demanding, but there are times when I simply can't stop what I'm doing to play with her, and I think those times are frequent enough to teach the lessons of patience and, in a way, humility, so when I can put aside whatever I'm doing when she asks for my attention, I try to do that. (Hmm. That was quite the run-on sentence.) And that is a comfort to me. Elise may not get as much social interaction as her daycare peers, but she gets a heck of a lot more one-on-one attention and love than they do. (I do NOT mean that parents of daycare children love their children any less. I just mean I get the chance to exhibit my love for Elise more often, because I see her more often.)

So, that was Elise's first day of high school. It came a lot faster than I expected it would. It was a little bit disturbing to realize that when I was their age, the high school students I met today were Elise's age. Yep, I'm old.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dinner and Gifts

Last night we attended the Christmas gathering of our small group. [Is "small group" Christianese? I think it probably is.] *REVISION* Andy and I meet weekly with a group of people from our church, all right about our age, to study the Bible and worship God together. Last night we all met for a Christmas celebration. (Better?) We did a progressive dinner, which I had never done. It was a lot of fun! We went to four different houses for appetizers, salad, dinner, and dessert, respectively. We brought Elise with us, and she really did quite well considering how late it was (we didn't get home until 10:00) and how much running around we did. She had her moments, but for the most part she seemed to just enjoy all of the attention that was lavished on her by our friends.

At the last house, we had dessert and coffee (which is, in my mind, pretty much always a good way to end an evening) and exchanged gifts. Each couple brought one "real" gift and one white elephant gift, and we drew numbers to determine who got to choose a gift first, typical white elephant style. If someone else had a gift that you particularly wanted, you could steal it from them rather than choosing from the pile of wrapped gifts. I chose number one, and we were playing by the rules that said number one got to go first AND last, so I chose a gift from the pile - an amazingly hideous pair of sweater socks - and then at the end, after everyone else had their gifts, I "stole" the prize gift - a soft, heavy fleece blanket - from someone else, leaving him with the women's sweater socks...which he had brought in the first place. Poor guy. Andy suggested that we already have too many blankets as it is, but I was not about to go home with the sweater socks. I love socks, but these were...wow.

Towards the end of the gift exchange, we noticed that there was one too many gifts. Everyone denied bringing an extra gift, so we were bewildered. At the end of the exchange, we decided that the poor guy who was stuck with the sweater socks should also get the mystery gift. As he was opening it and we were all trying to figure out where it came from, one woman suddenly yelled, "JOEL!" (her husband). Joel broke out into a huge grin and just looked back at her. She had figured it out. Joel had slipped the extra gift in. It was this book. We all had a good laugh, and I think Joel's poor wife was thoroughly embarrassed.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. Really, I can say that about this entire month. This has been a very enjoyable Christmas season. The mix of family, friends, activities, and rest has been just right. I hope the same is true for you.


It's so great that we can play music on our computers, isn't it? I have been sitting here working for the last hour and a half with Christmas music playing. It's great to have the playlist and volume control and everything right here at my fingertips. Now, I'm not so lazy that I would complain if I had to actually get up (gasp!) and go to the stereo for musical options, but I am happy nonetheless that I don't have to do that. It's a small thing, but I appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Imagine all the muffins...really were cupcakes.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Last week made me really appreciate our life, mine and Andy's. We had many unexpected events happen, all things that required our time and attention. This made for a tiring week, and on Saturday night we breathed a deep sigh of relief, but it was still a good week. I found myself asking whether being available for all of these unexpected events was a good thing or a bad thing. I think good. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps it meant we had too inactive of a lifestyle. Something came up every day from Tuesday on - and we were able to accept all of them? Maybe that means our daily life is too open, too uneventful. But after a little pondering, reason wrestled that thought to the ground. I'm glad we were able to accept, were available to help where needed. To have that kind of flexibility has been our goal and hope. It is strange that once it came to fruition last week, I questioned its value. I guess that just shows that I have a whole lot of growing and maturing to do, as I obviously still see things through the eyes of this world.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Reason

I don't know what's going on this week, but I can't seem to accomplish anything. My house...my poor, poor house. I cannot keep it clean. Forget keep, I can't even get it clean. I can't quite figure out why. And the Christmas decorating? Yeah. The tree is done, but the other decorations are just sitting in various locations, wherever I happened to set them as I unpacked them from their boxes. The nativity is up, thanks to my husband, but it has a tea light lamp, a stained glass nativity, three candleholders, and a ceramic church - not to mention a pitcher of dried flowers, a wrench, and a piece of plastic - in front of it. Normally Christmas decorating comes naturally to me. That's not to say that it necessarily looks good, but it is something that I enjoy and that I do quickly. Not this year. I stare at a surface and then at a pile of decorations, and I cannot make the two work together. The Advent wreath that Janene made for me a few years ago is up, and it has a calming effect. It is such a good reminder that I am not awaiting the arrival of my family or the giving of gifts or even the unlikely event of me getting my act together. I am awaiting the arrival of my King. And when He arrives, I want to be ready. Being ready has nothing to do with the neatness of my house or the appealing arrangement of ornaments or the number of things crossed off my to-do list. It has everything to do with this:

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

That's what I really want to do this season. Spread the Word. Treasure and ponder "these things". Glorify and praise God for all He has revealed.

Somehow, after writing this, my house doesn't seem so messy, my to do list so long, or my decorations so important. Hmm.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pray for the Kims

I just heard the sad, sad news that James Kim's body was found. I've been following this story closely and I'm just heartbroken over the news. Please pray for his family and friends, especially his wife and daughters who have already been through so much these last two weeks. Pray that his four year old daughter's memories of him will stay strong throughout her life, pray for the baby who will not remember her father, and pray for his wife Kati as she faces this tragedy and raising her two daughters alone. My heart goes out to her.

O Tannenbaum

Our tree is finally decorated! We put it up on Sunday afternoon but just decorated it last night. It was so much fun going through the ornaments. There were, as usual, several that I had forgotten about. We found that Elise received seven ornaments last year. Three of them were specifically "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. This makes me happy, even if it is a bit excessive. We plan to get an ornament each year for each of our children so that when they start their own families, they will have a collection from which to build.

Elise is fascinated by the tree and keeps asking me what each ornament is. She seems to especially like the Nutcracker ballerina, although that could just be because the ornament is the most obvious ornament at her eye level. She keeps blowing on the tree. I'm not sure if she's trying to blow the lights out, or if she is being the wind. Whenever it is windy out, I show her how the wind moves the trees, so she might associate wind and trees now. Either way, it's cute.

Having the tree up makes me want to decorate the rest of the house. Well, the living room, anyway. We don't really have enough stuff to decorate the whole house, and I don't know that I want to acquire enough stuff for the whole house. That would mean that for eleven months out of the year, we would have to store all that stuff. But we do have a few things that will go in various rooms. I have a child's nativity set that I think I'll put in Elise's room. Unfortunately, it is missing Baby Jesus. I won't put it up unless I can find a Baby Jesus for it. It would just be dismal. I might make one. It would be obviously out of place, but that's ok. I thought of making one from a peanut, but didn't want anyone in my house to have an allergic reaction to Baby Jesus. Talk about a bad association.

Pictures will be posted sometime this week, hopefully.


This morning Elise is fascinated by the James Bond DVD jacket that she found in our living room. It's the kind with the cardboard flap that closes with Velcro. She has shunned her own books in favor of the James Bond "book". She just keeps pulling it open and "reading" it as she would any of her real books.

I feel like I should tape a little dress over the picture of Halle Berry's rather exposed body.

I am turning into my mother.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I didn't think I would feel any holiday-related pressure this season, but when I turned the calendar over to the December page, I did suddenly get the sense that I had too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Reason quickly took over and I realized that there really isn't all that much to do. We have only two gifts left to buy, and I have two left to make. That's certainly a better status than we've ever before had on December 2nd. There are cards to write, gifts to wrap, and packages to send, but those tasks really aren't all that monumental.

Tomorrow we are going to get our Christmas tree. I'm really looking forward to it. We're going to get it from a tree farm this year. We've always bought pre-cut trees in the past, but since Elise is old enough to enjoy outdoor activities, we decided to go and cut our own this year. Should be fun. I love decorating the tree. I don't have any of the ornaments from my childhood, unfortunately, but we have dozens of ornaments from Andy's childhood, and we have added quite a few of our own over the last five years. We inherited some special ornaments from Andy's grandmother. Even though I never met her, these ornaments hold special meaning. We have one ornament from our honeymoon, one from our first Christmas together, one from our trip to Austria, and one (actually several) from Elise's first Christmas. There are a few from former coworkers, a few from my kids at church. Our tree is full of memories and stories. It's fun.

Tonight we went to a Christmas party. It is an annual event that provides us with a good opportunity to catch up with some people whom we don't see very often. It was a bit awkward this year because we didn't know most of the people there, but it was still nice to visit with the few we did know. Among that particular group of friends, we are the only ones with a child, a fact that is becoming less and less common. It was interesting to watch and think about. Everyone seemed to enjoy Elise's presence (although next year I think we'll leave her with a babysitter for the evening), but it was obvious that...well, that our lives were very different. The closest parallel to us was the couple who had brought their dog with them. They bring it everywhere. Tonight they had forgotten to bring his food with them (something I have been guilty of with Elise), so our hostess made a big bowl of rice for him. They had to let him out of the car periodically so he could stretch his legs. They have labeled themselves the "quintessential yuppie dog owners", and...well, they may be right. But I mean that in the nicest way imaginable. They are dear friends and we always enjoy spending time with them.

Our holiday plans changed this afternoon. We had planned to spend the weekend of the 16th and 17th with my family in Portland. Today, however, my mom asked if my younger brother could stay with us next week while my parents are out of town. Since my parents will be driving up to pick him up next Saturday, Andy had the fabulous idea of just celebrating Christmas with them then, rather than making the drive down to Portland the very next weekend. As I think I mentioned in a recent post, Elise simply does not travel well right now, so we were looking forward to a sleepless weekend trip. This way works out so much better, at least for us. I hope it works well for my family, who have all graciously agreed to it. I think we'll have a good time with Joe, my brother, as well. I have really never spent much time with him without the rest of the family around. I moved out when he was five, and now he is fourteen. Anyway, my plans for the upcoming week have changed rather drastically, but I think it'll be a good week. I just need to make sure that we have enough clean towels and sheets, pillows, and food for a small army.

By the way, the reason my parents will be out of town is that my older brother, Nathan, is being commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, and they are flying out for the ceremony. He enlisted in the Air Force eleven years ago, when he was nineteen. He has received awards and commendations for excellence at every job to which he has been assigned. He has earned his bachelor's degree in his "spare" time. He married a wonderful, lovely woman, Laura, and the two of them have two beautiful children. Nathan adores his children and is a wonderful father. Becoming an officer has been a longtime dream of his, and unfortunately an opportunity to pursue that dream did not present itself in the Air Force, so he decided to transfer to the Army. He has been in OTS, away from his family, for several months, and next week he will be commissioned. Not surprisingly, he has received commendations for excellence and has been placed in a position of leadership in OTS. I am immensely proud of him. From what I understand, he will be stationed with a unit that frequently deploys to Iraq, which is more than a little unsettling to my family. But Nathan loves his country, and I think he would welcome the chance to serve in such a way.

Well, that was a detour from my holiday thoughts. We are looking forward to a few Christmas-related events in the coming weeks, but what I am most looking forward to - and actually enjoying already - is introducing Elise to Christmas. We have read the story of Baby Jesus several times, and she has learned that Santa Claus says, "Ho, ho, ho!" I have told her that every time we've seen a Santa Claus over the last several weeks, and a while back she started responding, "O, o" when I would ask, "What does Santa Claus say?" Well, last night I was rocking her late at night (see Andy's post) and the television was on. I wasn't paying attention, but she must have been, because she sat up suddenly and said, "O, ho, ho!" Sure enough, there was Santa Claus on the TV screen. It made my night! I am really looking forward to having the tree set up, as I think she will just love it. We have determined, however, that we won't be able to keep the wrapped gifts under the tree prior to Christmas this year. Too tempting for our own little Curious George. Oh, well.

Right now I am going to stop typing away on this tiny keyboard and instead am going to drink the tea that my husband made for me some time ago, wrap a blanket around my shoulders - it's freezing in here - and watch Miracle on 34th Street. Good night.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Thankful For...

My God, Who is incomprehensibly gracious and merciful.

My husband. He is my ballast. He always reassures me and affirms my worth in the midst of my own doubts about myself.

My daughter. She is a source of constant joy and delight. I am overwhelmed by such a gift.

My parents and siblings. They have provided the foundation of my life.

My friends. I am blessed with friends all over the world who have the remarkable ability to "rejoice with those who rejoice" and "mourn with those who mourn". I will never be alone.

Health. I can walk, talk, see, hear, feel. My breath comes naturally, and I can care for myself.

Education. Literacy is an amazing gift. "...be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Ro. 12:2) What amazing resources are available to me!

Prosperity. My husband is able to provide for our family, allowing me to stay home with our daughter. My children, Lord willing, will not have to work as children to support our family, as so many in the world do. We have a house, electricity, food, clean water, warm clothing, a car. We do not have to worry about survival.

Freedom. I can worship as I choose. I can say what I want to say. I can believe what I want to believe. I am granted these privileges because of the sacrifices of thousands, no, millions of men and women across the globe, both yesterday and today.

Duty. What a great privilege it is to have work to do.

Rest. There is nothing so satisfying as a peaceful rest after a job well done. I am so glad that God saw fit to include rest as a necessary part of life.


We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Some of our dearest friends joined us for the day - Bob and Beth and their beautiful daughter, and our dear friend Denny. We ate and drank and were merry. Elise didn't quite get into the holiday spirit. She was cranky for most of the afternoon. Had we not been among such close friends, I would have been most embarrassed by her behavior. I think some of it was due to teething pains, some of it to the stimulation of having guests, and some of it to downright orneriness, as my dad would say. (Although the southern Illinoisan drawl makes it sound like "awnry" rather than "ornery".)

On Friday morning we beat all odds (odds being in favor of me sleeping in) and left the house just after 7:00 for day-after-Thanksgiving-shopping. This is something I had never done before. We went to three stores. The first two were absolute mad houses. One of them had a check-out line that actually lined the entire interior perimeter of the store, both upstairs and down. We did not buy anything at that store, and we did not stick around long enough to watch the line begin to spiral, which I am quite certain it probably ended up doing. The third store was Fred Meyer, and it was completely manageable; perhaps a little busier than usual, but rather an oasis in the middle of the rest of the retail madness. I was glad we went. Beth had tipped me off to Fred Meyer's 1/2 sale on socks, so I stocked up.

On Friday evening we made the trek down to Portland to spend the rest of the weekend with my family. It was a pleasant time, aside from sleeping. Elise does not sleep well anywhere but her crib, and hasn't for about 6 months. She traveled well as an infant, and we were able to travel a bit and stay in variety of places. Our last easy trip was in May, when we drove to southern California and back. She did pretty well on that trip, but since then has just not slept well anywhere but at home. Oh, well. So anyway, we had a nice time with my family. Everyone who lives in the area gathered at my parents' house on Saturday. This does not happen often. There are quite a few of us, so for everyone to be available on the same day takes a bit of planning. There were...let's see...seventeen of us there. My parents, myself and five younger siblings, my husband and three of my sisters' husbands, my daughter, a niece, and three nephews. There were many who were not there. My older siblings are scattered across the country. We have never all been in the same place at the same time. That would make for quite the family reunion. Those who were not there on Saturday include a sister and three brothers, a brother-in-law and three sisters-in-law, four nephews and one step-nephew, and three nieces. Mayhem.

When we arrived home on Sunday night, we were greeted by a house covered in snow. Now, three days later, the snow is still here. This is somewhat unusual for northwestern Washington. It is very pretty. Andy went to work today for the first time this week. The roads were just too treacherous on previous days. Of course today he is sick, but went in just the same, having missed nearly half the work week already. This leads me to another thought. Earlier in the season, just as the weather was turning cold, I resolved to fight sickness with a gusto this winter. I planned to keep our house as disinfected as possible, focusing on the bathrooms and kitchen. Well, that was really only a matter of weeks ago, and Andy and Elise are both now enduring their second bouts of illness. I'm not even counting minor colds, as those seem nearly impossible to control with a toddler. I'm talking about down and out, medicated, doctor's visits type illnesses. Well, okay, so neither Elise nor Andy have seen a doctor yet with this one, but still...they are sick. And it's still only November. What's going on?!?!

I had intended this post to be about Thanksgiving, and about things for which I am thankful. I guess I got a bit off track.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Details, Details

Last Thursday I spent an hour and a half at the fabric store, trying to find everything I needed for the various Christmas projects I had decided to do. I got everything I needed, which is unusual for me. My usual approach to sewing is to do what I can with what I have, and once I cannot carry on without more supplies, then I go to the store. This time I made a detailed list of everything that would be needed - fabric, buttons, batting, elastic, thread, fusible fleece - and bought it all at once. I was so excited that I started working right away. Now, four days later, here is what I have accomplished so far:

You can't tell from the picture, but the stocking is quilted. I wanted to make it from pre-quilted fabric, but couldn't find any with a Christmas theme. I used free-motion quilting on it. It was the first time I had done free-motion quilting, and it was so much fun! The stocking is for Elise.

Now all that remains are the details. That's where I always slow down. The tree skirt will have a backing sewn to it, as well as some ribbon ties. The stocking will have a white flannel cuff with a red pom-pom trim, and the cuff will have "Elise" embroidered on it.

I may actually finish the Christmas projects in time for Christmas this year! I do have some other items that I'm working on, but they are intended to be gifts, so I won't post them until after the holidays.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


We had the best evening yesterday! It started with a rough day. Elise had a hard time napping. She went down for a nap at her usual time, around 11:30am, and slept for a whopping 25 minutes. Then she woke up all congested and mucus-y, which always upsets her. Every time she wakes up like that, she is very, very upset. So I rocked her back to sleep, but she woke up again. All in all she slept for 45 minutes, with two fairly significant waking periods breaking up the already insufficient nap. A bad start to the afternoon. She was okay for most of the afternoon - a little sensitive, as she usually is when she's tired, but not as challenging as I expected her to be, considering the poor nap. Then just before 4:00, she started to show her classic tired symptoms - crankiness, clinginess, poor coordination. Without much hope of success, I decided to try for a second nap. Elise dropped her second nap a month or so ago, and since then has only reverted to it when she was sick. But lo and behold - it worked! She slept until 5:30! Andy and I quickly recognized our opportunity. Normally Elise goes to bed at 7:00, but we knew there was no way that would happen with having allowed her such a late nap. So we gave her her dinner and piled into the car.

I had planned to be out that evening anyway, albeit alone, as I had to check on the nursery at church. A friend had graciously agreed to work in the nursery last night, which was so nice for me. It was the third week in a row, and fourth out of five, that I was short one person in the nursery, and I had filled in myself on all the other weeks. It was really nice to have a break and not have to fill in again. I don't really mind doing it, but it was still a nice break. But anyway, so I had to just stop in and make sure someone had unlocked the nursery for them and they had everything they needed, etc. That was our first stop, and after that, we were free! We attempted to do some Christmas shopping, but didn't find what we were looking for. Then we decided to try going out for dinner. By that time, it was 8:00, one hour past Elise's normal bedtime. She was in a good mood - had had a fabulous time playing with a ball and walking up and down the aisles at Target - but we were afraid that dinner would really be pushing it. We decided to try anyway. She was so good. We were amazed. She was playful; she stayed in her highchair the entire time, without fussing; she waved at every single person she saw until they either were out of sight or had waved back. It was so great. On our way home, Andy and I agreed that it was the most pleasant evening out we've had in quite some time.

We're not planning on making a late afternoon nap and 9:00 bedtime the norm for Elise, but it certainly did make for a fine night. I realize, as I read back over this, that this account does not make our evening sound wonderful. So we ran errands and had dinner. We didn't even find what we were looking for at the store. Big deal, right? Well...yeah. It was a big deal. And you know what we enjoyed the most? It was at dinner, while we were waiting for our food. We pushed everything to the far end of the table and played with a small toy fire truck that we had brought in for Elise. I would push it to Andy, he would push it to Elise, she would push it to me. Elise made "vroom, VROOM!" sound effects and was just tickled pink, laughing and waving her hands and getting so excited. It was a good time. If our waiter had been a genie and had given me the chance to go anywhere and do anything I wanted right then, I would have asked to stay where I was. It was just a perfect moment.

Monday, November 13, 2006

House & Home

Ah, home. I love home. I love being home. I love taking care of our home...if not always the actual process of doing so, at least the satisfaction of it. Lately I have read a lot of blogs that talk about home, living well, simple pleasures, etc. I like all of these ideas, but there is something missing, and it has taken me a while to figure out what it is. The concepts are good. Enjoy life's simple pleasures...slow down...don't get caught up in the rat race...make your home a haven. Several blogs and sites talk about the idea of "hygge", a Danish word to which there is no direct English equivalent, referring to a sense of quality and comfort and warmth in domestic life. Again...a good idea, but not a complete one.

Some of the things I have recently read have talked about the idea of "personalizing" your home as opposed to "decorating" it. This is an idea that I like, and that I have subscribed to for some time. I do not wish for my home to be "decorated", as if it belonged in a showroom (those of you who know me and have been to my house know that the idea of my home being a showroom model is laughable). I want my home to be comfortable, to be welcoming, I want to not be concerned if something is spilled on the carpet or a watermark is left on the coffee table or mud is tracked in from outside. I mean, I want to take care of things, of course - it would be wasteful and irresponsible not to - but I want people to feel at ease in my home. Nearly all of the objects that are out as "decorations" are there because they have special meaning to us. They are gifts from loved ones, or photographs, or mementos from special occasions. So for the most part, I have enjoyed the writings about this kind of homemaking, where the objective is "hominess", not decoration. But still, something was not quite right.

I had to really think about what it was in these articles and blogs that left me feeling uneasy. They all professed to appreciate handmade items, well made and classic furniture and clothing, and a careful, studied approach to consumerism. The authors all dislike big chain stores and cheap, mass-produced goods that serve no lasting purpose. Most of them try to focus their time and energy on family and friends, and they work hard to give their homes as hospitable an air as possible. What is wrong with these things? Why do I still get the feeling that their efforts are empty?

God. They are missing God. Whether the people are or not is not for me to judge, but their writings are. The focus of all of these ideas is still on "me". What will make me happy? How can I be most comfortable? I think that so often in this country, we think of materialism only as stereotypical American consumerism, which many of us profess to disdain and avoid (although, truth be told, very few actually succeed in avoiding it). We think of materialism as always wanting the newest cars, electronics, gadgets, the most fashionable clothing. I think that a lot of us think that if we prefer secondhand stores to department stores, then we are not materialistic. If we like the appearance of a rough, handmade table more than that of a sleek Ethan Allen table, then we are not materialistic. If we would prefer to renovate an old, abandoned farmhouse in the country rather than build a cookie cutter, manicured house in a suburban development, then we are not materialistic. Once again, we have fallen into the trap of believing that we can apply our own definitions to sin. Countercultural does not always mean morally better.

[Please understand, when I use the word "materialistic", I am referring to a love of material things, an obsession with possessions, a lifestyle of greed and discontent. I do not mean the philosophy of materialism, in which all things that cannot be explained by physical matter are irrelevant.]

Earlier this year, I read a book called The Most Important Place On Earth by Robert Wolgemuth. It talked about the essence of a Christian home. He discusses things like respect for the power of words; plenty of laughter (but no sarcasm); celebration. Basically the book is about allowing your home to be used as a shining light of God's love in your neighborhood. I have read other books by Christian authors that proclaim to be about the same thing, but they take a very different approach. I read a book that actually suggested that one way to show hospitality to your neighbors is to install a winding brick path from the driveway to your front door. That's a fine idea, but there is nothing fundamentally hospitable about it. Letting your neighbors walk up a brick path before they enter your home does not inherently mean that you will welcome them. Consistently reflecting God's love to them through respect, kindness, and compassion is much more likely to give them the assurance that they will always be welcome in your home. I truly believe that we should stop trying so hard to make people feel that they are important to us, and instead start actually making them important - actually making people a priority. If they really are important to us, it will show. Efforts to convince others that we value them when we really don't will fall flat.

Well, this is a rather jumbled collection of my thoughts on homemaking and hospitality. I guess that's why I'm a blogger and not a professional writer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Child Development

Over the last week, Elise has taken great strides in the "following instructions" discipline. Andy and I are amazed. She is generally an obedient child, understanding "no no", "take a drink", "say bye-bye", etc. But lately she has started to do other things, things that we have not deliberately taught her to do. This mostly involves going to the appropriate place for a given activity. When we say, "it's time to change your diaper", she will go to the corner where we keep her diapers and will sit on the floor and wait for us. (She tried to actually lie down in the usual diaper changing spot, but her attempt consisted of sitting and then simply flinging herself backward. This is a technique that we discourage.) When I say, "it's naptime", she will gather her pacifier and her lamb and will walk to her room. We keep the door to her room closed, so she'll just stand there and wait for us, sometimes hitting the door as if to say, "Open up!". The same with mealtime - she'll go and wait for us at her high chair. If we say "we're going to go bye-bye in the car", she will go and stand at the baby gate. It seems that something just clicked in her mind. This happened so suddenly. There was no gradual learning or practice. She just started doing it. Last night, Andy was home alone with Elise. Without prompting, Elise went and sat in her diaper changing corner and waited. Andy followed her cue and changed her diaper. Once that was done, Elise stood up and walked to her room. Apparently it was bedtime. It's so great! And it's so cute! We love watching her grow and learn and discover new things and develop an understanding of herself and the world around her. And we know that there is nothing unusually astounding about this. We know that this is a normal phase of development that all healthy children reach. We do not flatter ourselves by thinking that Elise is extraordinarily gifted or brilliant, and are in fact quite satisfied that she is healthy and happy and is developing as she should. But just because something is normal does not mean it is not amazing or beautiful. I think that being enchanted by the ordinary is a sure way of experiencing joy. I hope I will always be enchanted by children.

Every Little Bit

Today is one of those days when I have to remind myself that every little bit helps. Every spoon that makes it into the dishwasher, every can that makes it into the recycling bin, every article of clothing that makes it into the hamper...each little thing contributes to the overall order and neatness of my home. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by housekeeping. I'll never be done with it, of course. I understand that. But on some days I feel that I cannot even accomplish what I strive to accomplish each and every day - general order, cleanliness, and a sense of home and family. (Really, shouldn't every home and family have a sense of home and family?) On those days, when even these most elementary virtues seem unattainable, I have to deliberately think about what I am doing and remind myself that by picking up that book or by closing that cupboard door I am working towards my goal.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Things I Never Did Until I Had A Child

1) washed a sinkful of Legos
2) cried at commercials for childrens' relief agencies
3) said, "we don't eat penguins"
4) grieved for inmates on death row because they are somebody's child
5) said, "we don't put English muffins in our hair"
6) washed mashed graham crackers from a window
7) figured out how to stroke a sleeping baby's hair without allowing the hair to fall back into the baby's face, thus waking them up
8) cared whether stores had elevators/public restrooms/changing tables/wide aisles/automatic doors
9) got angry at teenaged (or older) drivers trying to be cool
10) made up and sang a song about "diaper changing time" - in public
11) left a trail of Cheerios and socks in the mall
12) said "no" when asked to take on more than I could reasonably handle


Last night I voted. I had hoped to read or sew or both, but alas, I put off voting until the last minute, so my evening was spent reading about propositions and initiatives and candidates. All of the local issues were fine. They took the longest to read about and they were the most difficult to decide on, as there are pros and cons to both sides of the arguments. But they were fine. It was the Senate race that bugged me. There are two really big oppositions in this year's election in Washington - the Senate race and the House Representative race for Congressional District 8. I am not in this district, so it didn't really affect the way I voted at all, but theirs was certainly the most publicized of the Congressional races, so all of northwestern Washington was subjected to their advertisements. These two pairs of candidates engaged in a tremendous amount of mudslinging. It was appalling. I know of no other profession in which people can get hired by telling their prospective employer just how horrible the other candidates are. Stop it, people! I don't want to hear about how bad your opponent is. Tell me how good you are. What are you going to do for the people you serve? Dave Reichert, one of the Congressional candidates, was probably the cleanest. He talked more of his own record, his own qualifications, and less of his opponent's - well, her lack of record and qualifications. He did not abstain completely from throwing some mud in her direction, but he threw a lot less than she did. The Senate candidates sucked. Not just in the mudslinging arena, but overall. I felt as though I had to choose the lesser of two evils. Their campaigns were run almost exclusively on the premise that their opponent is bad, not on the premise that they are good. Come ON!

A while back I saw a bumper sticker that read, "When Clinton lied, nobody died." Disregarding the absolute irrelevancy of this statement, I started thinking about how sad it was. Is that what politics in our country have become? "Our candidate isn't as corrupt as your candidate"? Is that the best we can do?

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and deeply saddened by the corrupt state of our country, by the extreme pain and apparent hopelessness in the world. Then I feel overwhelmed and deeply saddened by how little I can do about it. I try to "make it [my] ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind [my] own business, and to work with [my] hands" (1 Thes. 4:11), but that does not negate the corruption and suffering that is all around me. I guess this is just a reminder that our hope is not to be found in this world.

Monday, November 06, 2006


We've had another lovely weekend. It started on Friday evening when some friends called us to say that they would provide dessert if we would provide the house in which to eat it. We agreed. Soon we were enjoying the company of friends, a crackling fire, hot coffee and perfect pumpkin bread. It was such a great evening. Sometimes with these particular friends, the conversation content goes far beyond my understanding. They are both engineers, one Master's trained and the other working on his Ph.D. Get them together with my M.S.E.E. husband and suddenly you feel as though you are watching a foreign film with no subtitles. Fortunately, our friend Judy can only talk about transistors and circuit boards for so long, so she quickly removed herself from the technobabble and joined the English-speaking world, wherein Denny and I were getting by with our humble B.A.s.

On Saturday Andy had a meeting for the better part of the day, Denny was moving into her new apartment, and Elise treated me by taking a 2 1/2 hour nap. I used the time to put together a quilt top, cut out a pattern for another project, and work on the hat that I was crocheting for Elise. It was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon alone. Later in the day, Denny treated us doubly by first staying with Elise while Andy and I went browsing at Cost Plus World Market and then by buying dinner from Pagliacci's. Mmm...Pagliacci's. Anyhow, if you have not visited Cost Plus, it really is a great place to find some unique items. Perfect for Christmas gifts, particularly stocking stuffers. It is, however, a difficult store in which to attend to small children - thus Denny's generous gift of babysitting.

Sunday was a full but pleasant day. We allowed ourselves a luxuriously slow morning and attended the late service at church. The pastor tackled that oh-so-sensitive passage of Scripture, Colossians 3:18, 19 - wives, submit to your husbands, husbands, love your wives. The "husbands, love your wives" part is easy for most people to swallow. It is in keeping with the social standards of our day, even if many people only pay it lip service. The first part, though, the directive to wives, is much more difficult for modern folk to wrap their minds and, more importantly, their hearts around. The pastor did a fine job of teaching that particular passage, I thought, although he really didn't spend all that much time specifically on it. He talked at some length about the importance of obedience, on how we must stop trying to accept the salvation that Christ offers without also accepting His lordship - a concept foreign to most people today, especially those of us in the U.S. of A. He asked a good question. Do I believe that God's Word is fundamentally beautiful, logical, and good? Or do I believe that when it comes to me, the directives found in Scripture are optional? To believe that some things are optional, or are to be executed only at my discretion, is to believe that I know better than God what is best - for me, for the Church, for the world. Yikes. I'd like to stay as far away from that heresy as possible, please. The pastor also talked about the tragedy that hit the Church last week - the moral failure of one of the most prominent pastors in our country. I personally had not heard of him until the news story broke, and I have to admit that when I heard the news, I assumed the man to be an obvious phony, a rich conartist who scammed widows out of their Social Security funds, a man whose moral downfall could have been easily predicted. As it turns out, this is not the case. Ted Haggard was widely respected in the evangelical Christian community. He pastored a megachurch in Colorado Springs, and, while I am not a big fan of megachurches myself, his congregation took major strides in world missions under his leadership, so much so that apparently many other churches in the country looked to his church as an example after which to model their own missions programs. The man's behavior is inexcusable, there is no question of that. But my heart breaks for him, for his wife and five children, for his congregation, for his colleagues. Please pray for all those affected by this, and please remember to support your own pastors as best you know how. Ministry is hard. Ministers are under constant pressure to be perfect, to set a moral example, and I believe we can be certain that they are under constant attack by the Enemy. Pray for your leaders, and help them however you can. They put a lot on the line in their desire to see you in heaven.

Well, that was a big detour from my "pleasant day". So after church we helped Denny move the last of her things into her new place, dropped in to say hi to some friends who have a new baby (Andy really had to twist my arm on that one, let me tell you), and came home for our last evening with Denny. Sad. She has been here for four weeks, and we have truly loved having her in our home. Last night we all watched Pride and Prejudice together, Denny and I laughing at the same parts, Andy looking at us as though we could hear something that he could not, and then Denny left. I am really happy for her that she found such a great place to live - a nice apartment in a house in Seattle, close to everything. But I'll miss having her around here.

And now it's Monday, and I have spent a good deal of time blogging, and I really should do something about the dishes in the sink and the Kix on the floor.

Embracing the elements

Here it is, Monday morning, the first Monday of November (yikes! that means I'd better finish voting today). November is usually a dreary month in my mind. Here in the Northwest, it is typically soggy and raining and dismal, punctuated by periods of nose-biting cold. Even now, as I look out my kitchen window, I see that this is true. The sky is monochromatically gray. It is drizzling (oh, how I miss the sudden, severe downpours of the Midwest - none of this constant drizzle that is heavy enough to chill you to the bone, but so light that you feel utterly ridiculous in carrying an umbrella or in running to your car). Most of the beautiful fall foliage is gone, at least from the trees that I can see from where I sit. My outside table is covered in a shallow pool of water and in soggy pine needles. My tomato plant is black and drooping and looks like something that would wash in with the tide, and yet - and here is the real paradox of the Northwest - it is covered in tomatoes, some red and some so green that there is no hope of their ripening before Jack Frost comes to claim them. No, it is not pretty outside right now. And yet, somehow, this November doesn't seem dismal and dreary to me. I was dreading it - I always dread winter here - but there seems to have been no reason to do so. Perhaps I have finally been acclimated to the weather of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps being home during the day, and not in a windowless office as in years past, has reduced any seasonal blues. Perhaps my husband and I have become more accustomed with age and with a child to the quieter pleasures that staying home affords us, thus eliminating "cabin fever". Whatever the reason, I am thankful. And really, isn't that what November is about?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pretty Things

I'm always reading blogs wherein people write about and post pictures of objects that they have found at thrift stores or yard sales. I'm not really a big thrift or yard sale shopper - that is, I don't spend every weekend browsing for a good deal - but I did make it to a few yard sales over the summer, and have visited several thrift stores over the last couple of months. I decided to post my own favorite finds. These are all handmade tablecloths. (Not handmade by me. I was just lucky enough to find them.) I told Andy last night that I am on a bit of a textile craze right now, and I might add that the craze revolves around flowers. I'm really liking floral fabrics right now, especially rather delicate looking ones. Anyway, the two tablecloths on the left are about as girly as it gets. They are made from a rather heavy fabric - I'm not sure what it is - and are lined with a nice, soft cotton. They fit my little kitchen table perfectly. The other two are, unfortunately, just a tad too small for my table. That disappointed me, because I think they are so pretty. But that's okay - I'll just turn them into something else. I'm not sure what yet. It will be hard for me to cut them, but I'll manage.
This beautiful set of books was found at a yard sale close to our house. They are wonderful. They're too advanced for our 14-month old, of course, but they are on her shelf, waiting for her little mind to be ready for their seemingly myriad contents. I truly have a weakness for childrens' books. The lustrous art (some of the best art I have seen, in my opinion, has been in childrens' books), the imaginative adventures, the beautiful innocence. I love them.
The joy of buying used things is that they are inexpensive, and that you can find things that are no longer available to buy new. The danger is that it is easy to feel that you are not spending much money, so you keep picking up more items. Even at a dollar or so a piece, items add up quickly. I try to be discriminating in my choices.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Something wonderful happened today. I ran out of thread. I actually used up an entire spool of thread. This has never happened to me before. I have run out of fabric, yarn, and embroidery floss, but never have I used up an entire spool of thread. My sewing projects are small and typically require only simple stitches, and a spool of thread has a lot of thread on it. It was a great moment. It was much like when you write on the last page of a journal. It's very satisfying. Hours and hours, perhaps months or (in the case of a journal, not so much thread) years, of your life are represented in that journal, and you have used it to its fullest potential. I believe that I used my thread well. It was stitched into quilts and curtains and blankets and burp cloths and table linens, and those things are scattered around the homes of people I love, including the people who live in my own house. Thinking about that has made me want to use all of the things God has given me to their fullest potential. Gifts - objects, talents, nature - should be used well.

I'm going to buy a new spool of the thread (as I ran out in the middle of a project). I'm very excited to see what comes of it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Patience is a virtue

My daughter is sick. She has never before been quite as sick as she is now. She's had her share of colds and sniffles and mild stomach problems, but this one takes the cake. It's so sad. She has been sick since Sunday afternoon and really doesn't show much sign of improvement at this point. And she's 14 months old, so I can't exactly reason with her and explain why I can't give her very much food at a time. I do explain why, but I don't think she understands. Every time I give her any food - little strips of toast, chicken soup, crackers - she devours it. I know she is hungry, and that breaks my heart. Large quantities of food - well, really, any amount of food - results in very obvious sickness, so we've got to keep it small at this point. Poor thing. She has watched more television this week than in her entire 14 previous months. We don't let her watch TV except when she is sick. I have refamiliarized myself with the PBS kids' programming and the cast of Veggie Tales. This week has made me very pleased that we haven't relied on TV for Elise's entertainment. It really is passive entertainment (quite appropriate for illness, I think), and it is so annoying. I'm not used to having the television on during the day. I suppose I am used to a pretty quiet house. The constant noise and the catchy theme songs give me a headache.

It is not particularly easy to care for a sick toddler. It is not particularly difficult, either. It just requires patience, something that has always been in short supply for me. There have been a couple of days this week when Elise could only sleep when she was being held. Since rest is important for healing, Elise and I spent those days primarily in the rocking chair. There has been much laundering of blankets and stuffed animals and pajamas, and little laundering of anything else. The highlight of my days has been when my husband gets home in the afternoon. He takes Elise and she usually naps in his arms for a while, and I get to clean! Normally this would not excite me, but I cannot tell you how wonderful it has been this week to clean the kitchen and make the bed. That's pretty much all I've done, aside from the sickness related cleaning, but somehow doing those two things in the afternoon makes me feel productive and normal.

There have been a couple of other wonderful graces this week. My husband has been the primary one. He gets up with Elise in the early morning, allowing me to get a little extra rest. I have two part-time jobs, one at my church and one with a store owned by Chris and Janene. Both jobs can be done mostly from home, but require going to the actual physical locations every now and again. On Wednesday evening, I needed to go to both places. Andy went for me. Isn't he wonderful? The other sanity savers this week have been our friend Denny, who is staying with us until her new apartment is ready for her, my library books, and Elise's early bedtime. Elise loves Denny, and Denny, being the oldest of five, is superb with children. When Denny gets home from work, Elise will curl up in her lap just as readily as she will curl up in mine, a fact which has provided me several moments of respite. On Tuesday, after Elise was in bed, Denny asked if I wanted to go to the library with her. Did I ever! (On the day after Denny arrived in Washington, she did two things: she got a Washington drivers license and a King County library card. The next day, she asked us to show her where the nearest Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores were. That girl has good priorities.) I spent a beautiful hour browsing through the books, and then another 15 minutes browsing through the ice cream at Safeway. I came home with a stack of books that are easy to thumb through while holding a sleeping child, one book that would work wonderfully as a doorstop, and a pint of Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream. And finally, the last thing that has made this week better is Elise's bedtime. Amazingly, she has not awakened during the night while she has been sick. In fact, we had to wake her up once at 2:30 because she had been sick and had gone back to sleep without making a peep. So every night at 6:30, I change her diaper and her clothes, we say goodnight to Daddy and Denny, get a drink of water, pray, I put her to bed, and then I sigh in sweet relief. The next few hours are spent in adult conversation, sewing, cleaning, reading, watching movies...anything but changing diapers, wiping little noses, and documenting Elise's bodily fluid activity.

The doorstop book, in case you are wondering, is Paul Johnson's Art: A New History. Wow. I picked it up at the library because Bob has reviewed and recommended Johnson's books. Bob is a rather prolific reader, and I enjoy reading his book reviews. His comments on Johnson's books have made me want to read them. I was surprised to find 28 matches to my search for this particular Paul Johnson (there are several authors by that name). Apparently this guy has been writing for quite some time. Anyway, the art history book was the only one of the books that Bob has reviewed that my library had available on Tuesday evening, so I got it. Good golly. When I took the book off the shelf, all of the other books fell to the right. It is huge. This will probably end up being one that I check out many times before I finish it.

This post has taken several hours to write, punctuated by changing a diaper, rocking a baby to sleep (twice), and having a phone conversation with my dad. Elise is awake now, so I'd best be finding something for her to eat.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Hurray! At long last, I have finished my first crochet project. I had hoped to complete the entire thing during the month of September, but in actuality it was finished on October 22nd. Ah, well. Three weeks late isn't too bad, I guess. It is very simple, and it was so much fun to do. I like having something to work on in the evenings while I'm talking with my husband or watching TV.

Now it's on to Christmas projects!

Monday, October 16, 2006


Isn't this cool? I found this 1/2 yd. of fabric in one of my fabric boxes this weekend while I was looking for something else. I bought it several years ago and just never did anything with it. It just happened to be the perfect length and width for a tablerunner. All it took was a quick hem, and I had a nice autumn tablerunner. It made me happy. It's the little things.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

Yesterday was such a great day. Church in the morning was incredibly uplifting. Now, I don't go to church just because it's "uplifting", and I'm not one to think that every insight I hear is going to change my life forever. But when I do hear a profound truth that I know will impact my life, and when I am uplifted after a church service - well, that just makes for a really good day. I don't mean for that to sound as trivial as it does.

After church we stopped at Country Village for a while, ate some kettle corn (addictive stuff), watched the ducks, and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Later that evening we went grocery shopping, and Elise was so well-behaved in the grocery store. It made for a most pleasant trip. We took one of those shopping carts with the child's car attached to it, and she got to ride around Safeway in her own little car. The horn, fortunately, was broken, but that didn't stop her from "beeping" it throughout the store. When we got home from the grocery store, we put Elise to bed and sat down to eat our own dinner. It was just potato soup and Italian bread, courtesy of Safeway (it is typical of us to go grocery shopping on Sunday evening before we eat dinner, and to pick up something ready-made or easy to make for dinner that evening), and we had some Arbor Mist Blackberry Merlot with it, and it was so good. Ahh. Lovely day.

Recently I have started to feel rather tired of simply maintaining a minimum level of functionality in our home. With a toddler living under our roof, it oftentimes takes nearly all of my time and energy just to keep a basic level of sustenance around here. I keep just enough dishes clean. I keep just enough laundry clean. I keep the house just clean enough to be sanitary. And on most days I feel that that is all I can do. Well, I'm tired of it. I don't think it is impossible to do more. I think it's all about how I choose to spend my time. I think that is true of nearly every endeavor in life. I, along with pretty much everyone else, oftentimes say, "I don't have time for that". And while that is true to an extent, I really believe that we all have been given 24 hours in a day, and we all have been given 7 days in a week, and what we choose to do with that time is more or less up to us. I guess it's a matter of priority. My life is full. So is yours. Everyone's life is full. From daybreak to daybreak, we are busy doing something. Sleeping, eating, working, breathing, resting, playing. We are always doing something. Some priorities are relative, I think. For example, staying in bed for 18 hours a day may be a waste of time for most people, but for a person recovering from surgery, it may be the most important and essential thing they can do with their time. Well, anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. I guess I just mean to say that I am ready to make caring for my home a higher priority than it has been in the recent past. It may not always be of such high priority. There may be times when a member of my family is sick, or when outside commitments require a bit more time and effort than usual, or, frankly, when something more important comes along. One of the joys - and, ironically, struggles - of being a stay-at-home-mom is that I have flexible time. I do not have free time, as so many people insist on believing, but I do have flexible time. This is a joy because it means that I can organize my activities in a way that is best for me and my family. It is a struggle because it means that I have to exercise time management in a way that I did not when I worked under the supervision of someone else. It's something I'm still trying to figure out. But today, right now, I want to pay attention to my home and to make it not just livable, but comfortable, cozy, warm. Why am I bothering to blog about this decision that is important to no one besides myself? I don't know. Maybe I think that the act of writing it down will make it that much more important to me, and it will actually happen. Maybe blogging is my way of putting off actually starting to act on my resolve. Just in case that is true, I will sign on for now. Adieu.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fresh Eyes

Last week I found that I had made a mistake in the blanket that I am crocheting. I knew I had made a mistake because my stitches were not lining up as they should. I looked and looked and looked and could not find the mistake anywhere. Finally I put the project down and did not pick it up again until last night. Within two minutes of picking it up, I had found - and corrected - the mistake. I mentioned this to my husband, telling him how frustrated I had been last week to not be able to continue because of the missing error, and he commented that sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes to see something like that. He is right, of course. That principle is the reason why we have proofreaders and electrical inspectors and doctors who give second opinions. It is why people will say, when presented with an option or a problem, "Let me sleep on it".

Finding and correcting the mistake so quickly last night made me want to go back and try again some projects and tasks that I have counted as failures. Rust stains. Dull books. Growing plants. And those sad, sad blueberry muffins.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Fall Line-Up

I am awfully excited.

I wanted to post a picture of the piles of fabric and stacks of patterns that will hopefully take up a fair amount of my free time this fall as well, but then I realized that the final destination for many of those items is under some Christmas tree or another, so I'd better not post them for all to see.

The books, if you can't see them clearly in the photo, are: That Distant Land by Wendell Berry; John Adams by David McCullough; Remembering by Wendell Berry; The Brothers K by David James Duncan; Emma by Jane Austen; The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King; and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I am reading The Beekeeper's Apprentice right now and am really enjoying it. I don't often - ok, ever - read mysteries. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt my heart rate quicken and my shoulders tense from reading a book. Of course most good books have surprises and unexpected twists and turns, but not page after page after page. I rather like it. It is a pleasant detour from my usual choice of rather mellow literature. I do understand, however, why sleep experts make mysteries an exception in their advice to read for a while before going to bed. The imagery did not keep me awake, as it does after watching a suspenseful movie (depending on the imagery, a tense movie can terrorize me for months), but I was far too invigorated to fall asleep quickly. I felt as though I had just returned from a long run - tired, but alert. The first Berry book mentioned above is a book of short stories, so I think I'll start reading one of those before bed and will leave the suspenseful reading for earlier hours.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why I Hate Having To Choose A Party

Washington's primary elections were yesterday. I have a confession to make. I don't like voting. I always vote because I believe it is my responsibility to do so. Voting is a privilege that I do not take lightly. But I don't enjoy it. I mean, I wouldn't call voting a rip-roaring good time. It can be tedious, it can be frustrating, and it can take a fair amount of work if you are going to take it seriously and actually learn about the candidates and the issues that are on the ballot. But that wasn't really the intended point of this post.

What I meant to say is that Washington now requires voters to choose a political party (in the primaries) and to vote only for candidates who represent that party. If you deviate from this rule and vote for, say, a Republican Senate candidate and a Democratic House candidate, your entire partisan ballot will be disregarded. I think this is stupid. I usually vote for Republicans on moral grounds, but I want to have the option of voting for whomever I please. And the thing that really bugged me this time around was that there were several positions on the ballot for which no Republicans were running. If I wanted to vote for a Republican senator, which I did, then I had to forfeit the right to vote for several smaller offices. What kind of a democracy is that?

Well, anyway, I'm no political genius, but I think that mandatory partisan voting is stupid.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My New Best Friend

Last year I borrowed some Christmas clothes for my daughter from a friend whose daughter is one year older than mine. They were really nice little outfits, lots of red velvet and lace and such. Well, this friend just had another baby girl a couple of days ago, so I thought it was about time I returned her clothes to her. The clothes had been sitting in the laundry room for months, so I washed them. I followed all of the instructions. Most of the fabrics are red, but there is one particular dress, the fanciest of them all, that has a red velvet bodice, and then a white satin skirt with an embroidered chiffon overlay. It is really beautiful. Elise wore it to her Aunt Bethany's wedding last fall. I followed all of the instructions when washing this dress. I washed it separately - an entire wash load dedicated to this one little dress! - in cold water. Yeah. It still ran. I pulled it out of the washer and saw, to my great dismay, a light red streak right down the middle of the white skirt. Now, I am not a big laundry person. I launder "dry clean only" garments at home. I put sweaters and unmentionables in the dryer. So my first instinct was to run out and buy my friend a gift certificate to the store where she originally bought the dress. But then I decided to see if I could possibly fix my mistake. I looked up solutions in all of my housekeeping books. Nothing. Or at least, nothing I could use. One book listed three chemicals that I could buy from janitorial supply stores, but they all came with rather dire warnings. I tried to find helpful hints online. I found out how to prevent fabric from bleeding, and that was it. The Clorox website had nothing. It was depressing.

And then, all of a sudden, my eyes rested upon my new best friend. The Tide On the Go Stain Removal pen. I keep it on my kitchen counter and have used it on fresh food stains (which abound when you a) have a kid and b) are somewhat clumsy with food, as I am), but I certainly didn't think it was up to the task of reversing a fabric color bleed. Nevertheless, I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a shot. Worked like a charm. It was remarkable. A little bit of dabbing, a little bit of rubbing, and the skirt was as good as new. Had the people who developed the pen been standing in my kitchen, I would have kissed them.

It was a great moment.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What I've Been Doing

I have had a lovely few weeks here. We had the great pleasure of visiting with our dear friend and my former roommate over the past week. She was not so much a houseguest as a temporary family member. Houseguests don't wash your dishes or care for your child while you take a shower. Nor, I might add, do they comfortably cream you in card games.

While she was here, we took the opportunity to play tourist in our own area. We went island hopping in the San Juans, spending several hours each on Orcas and San Juan Island. It was so beautiful. We really do live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I'm sure of it. One of the best parts of our day in the islands was that my parents-in-law (who happen to live in the town that houses the ferries that service the islands) babysat all day. No strollers!

So we had a grand time. To our great delight, our friend will likely be moving back to this area in the very near future. (So for those of you who know her and didn't get to see her, she'll be back shortly.) In the meantime, I have been assigned a few books to read and a few videos to watch, and I am looking forward to them all.

In other news, I am becoming rather frustrated by a lack of volunteers. I coordinate the volunteer nursery workers at my church. This is a job that I typically enjoy as it affords me the opportunity to get to know many wonderful people, including kind volunteers, parents of young children, and of course, my personal favorite, young children themselves. Lately, though, it has been like pulling teeth to get anyone to commit to working with the kids. I'm quite concerned about the upcoming Wednesday night program. It begins next Wednesday and there are no nursery workers! And I can't do it because I work with the older kids on Wednesday nights; otherwise I would just do it myself. Sigh. I have heard that George Muller, the great founder of many of world's Christian orphanages in the 19th century, never once asked anyone for money to fund his charities. In fact, I believe he never even made anyone aware of his monetary needs. He simply prayed, and the needs were met every single time. What faith! Sometimes I think I should do that. Not ask for volunteers, not make an announcement at church that we are short-staffed; just pray.

A few weeks ago, I received a message from my friend Janene that stated she had taught herself to knit. This was very inspiring to me. We have another friend who is quite an expert knitter (in my opinion), and she makes the loveliest scarves and socks and sweaters and hats, as you can see if you go to her site. Well, Janene and I have long admired her work, and Janene has crocheted for many years, so she took the plunge and picked up some knitting needles and just taught herself to knit. I admire people who are not afraid to learn. So I took my cue from Janene and went to the library in search of some good "how-to" crochet books. (I said I was inspired by the knitting; that doesn't mean I'm ready for it. I am inspired by people who climb Mt. Everest, therefore I might walk around Greenlake.) I found the most wonderful book that explains each crochet stitch step-by-step. Most of them show you two stitches and then say, "Now you can crochet anything with simple variations of these two stitches." That is technically true, but if you don't know how to make those variations, it doesn't do you a bit of good. So this book that I found explains all of the variations in great detail. And I am crocheting a small afghan! I am quite excited about it. The pattern calls for smaller stitches, softer yarn, and softer hues than I am using. It is supposed to be a baby blanket. I decided to use slightly larger stitches, not-so-soft yarn (it's less expensive, and I did not think it prudent to invest in high quality, expensive yarn for my first project), and a deep red yarn that matches the stripes in my sofa. It will just be a throw or lap blanket, not a baby blanket. I am really enjoying the project.

Now I want to read the biography of George Muller. I have it, and it is a small book, but I have never read it. So many books, so little time!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Secrets of a Dust-Free Home

Not mine, mind you. Mine is not a dust-free home. It probably should be, what with an asthmatic and a toddler living here. But it is not.

I was just dusting my living room and was thinking of ways to lessen the overall dustiness as well as the need for frequent dusting - which I guess are really the same thing. Anyway, two ideas came to mind. The first idea to reduce dust and, thus, dusting is to not have stuff. If you don't have stuff, you don't have to dust it. The second idea is to use the stuff you have. Books that are read, dishes that are used, CDs that are listened to, photo albums that are looked through, and toys that are played with do not need to be dusted very often, if ever. Of course that principle doesn't apply to everything. Picture frames that are looked at still need to be dusted. (Look at all these phrases that I'm ending with prepositions. Shame on me.)

Well, those were just the thoughts I had while dusting my living room. And this post is the excuse I gave myself for taking a break from dusting the living room. Back to dusting.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snowballs and Sequences

It all started with making the bed.

I came home from a perfectly lovely day of sewing and visiting with dear friends. Elise went down immediately for a nap, leaving me free to tackle some domestic chores that were left undone this morning. I decided to make the bed. I try to make the bed every day. I just really enjoy getting into a clean, fresh, neat bed after a long day, so even when tonight is closer than last night, I still make an effort to make the bed. And that's what started it all.

While making the bed, I thought it would be nice to put a different blanket at the end of the bed than the one that is usually there. I chose a pretty patchwork quilt. When I went to put it on the bed, though, I noticed that it smelled a bit musty, so I decided to wash it. Down to the laundry room we went. Drat, there were already clothes in the washing machine that needed to be washed. I started the machine. Then I noticed that there was a pile of items waiting to be washed. These were things like blankets, a coat that Elise has outgrown, a couple of bright red articles that demand their own special washing machine time. In other words, things that didn't make it into the normal line-up of things that must be cleaned in order to carry on with civilized life. So I decided to just clean them and be done with it. As I was separating them into their respective loads, I saw that the floor of the laundry room was quite dusty. The ventilation in the room isn't great, and the lint from the dryer causes a light, dusty film to develop on most surfaces. So I decided to sweep the floor. Then I realized that it wouldn't do a lot of good to sweep the floor so long as the other surfaces were still dusty, so I decided to clean them. During this thought process, the washing machine finished its cycle and I transferred the clothes into the dryer - finally getting my blanket into the washer. I cleaned the lint filter on the dryer, and when I went to throw the lint into the garbage can, I noticed that the garbage can was getting quite full. So I decided to empty it. Up the stairs I went, meaning to empty the garbage can and get the broom and dustpan. Unfortunately, the kitchen garbage can (into which I meant to dump the laundry room garbage) was full. So I emptied it. Then I emptied the laundry room garbage can, and then I noticed that it was quite dirty. So I decided to clean it out. I took it to the kitchen sink and found the sink to be full of dishes. Now, I didn't see any point in moving the dishes to the counter just to be moved into the dishwasher later, so I decided to put them straight into the dishwasher. Only the dishwasher was full of clean dishes. Oh, well. I emptied the dishwasher and reloaded it with the dirty dishes. Well, once the dishes are cleared away, I might as well clean the rest of the kitchen - so I did. Once that was done, I finally began to work my way back down my chain of events. I cleaned out the garbage can (sidetracking momentarily to clean out the kitchen garbage can as well). I brought the broom and dustpan downstairs, washed the washer and dryer surfaces, washed the other surfaces in the room, and swept the floor. The quilt was transferred to the dryer.

So now I have a clean kitchen, two clean and disinfected garbage cans, a clean laundry room, a bunch of clean assorted articles of clothing and linens...and a clean patchwork quilt at the end of my bed. There are some benefits to being easily distracted.

Friday, August 04, 2006


I really appreciate our garbage service men. There is something so satisfying about having garbage taken away. To know that every Friday morning, two big bins of stuff that I don't need are going to be emptied into the giant, smelly trucks, and then returned, empty, to me...it's wonderful. It somehow gives me a great sense of order and tidiness. I actually enjoy opening the cabinet under our kitchen sink and finding an empty trash can. I like knowing that that clean white plastic bag will, over the next couple of days, contain for us all of the unpleasant, unwanted, and unnecessary leftovers of our daily life, and that at the end of the week, the dutiful employees of Allied Waste will come to take our collection of filled plastic bags away from us forever. Thank you, Allied Waste.

Yeah, I know, I'm weird.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Flower's Garden

A few weeks ago, my parents-in-law were here for an afternoon. We were in our back yard playing with the baby, and I was embarrassed about the state of our yard. The grass was tidy and short, but the many areas in our yard that have been purposefully set aside as garden space or flower beds were full of weeds. We did not plant a garden this year, and only managed to plant a few flowers in the front yard. My parents-in-law, on the other hand, have a back yard that could be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and a vegetable garden that could feed a small nation. So I was embarrassed.

Then my mother-in-law, in her humble, hospitable way, said the most wonderful thing. And she didn't even take credit for it. She said, "Well, my mom always said, you can't have flowers outside your home when you're raising flowers inside your home." Grandma Carpenter, a wise woman whom I did not have the honor of meeting, was referring of course to parenting. It seems she has passed her wisdom along to her daughter.


It is so much fun watching Elise grow up. There are new delights every day. The other day she picked up a stuffed toy dog (Chiwak, for those of you who know us well) and said, "oof! oof!" She breaks out into this huge grin every time I start to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", and now she tries to do the hand motions. This morning at the breakfast table, she was drinking out of her sippy cup and, miracle of miracles, she gently placed the cup back on the table when she was finished! Now, I realize that this seems insignificant. To me it is huge. When finished with her cup, Elise usually just lets go of it, allowing it to fall to the ground or, even better, upside-down on her lap in the highchair or carseat. We have been working on this for a while now. She'll drop her cup on the floor - usually carelessly, more from the will of gravity than the will of Elise, although sometimes most deliberately, and these times result in a more stern reprimand - and I will pick it up, place it properly on the table, and explain for the umpteenth time that we do not drop our cups on the floor. This morning, when she carefully placed the cup on the table, right side up, and then looked at me for approval, I melted. All of the sticky messes in her seats, her soggy clothes, the frequent surprise of stepping into a small puddle of milk on the floor - they were all worth the effort, because today she got it. Sigh. I love her.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It is hot. Quite uncomfortably hot, even by my Midwestern standards. My parents, who live down south in Oregon, actually bought an air conditioner - something they never saw fit to do during my childhood in Illinois, where the diamond days of summer stretched from May through September. But I am not bitter.

We bought a kiddie pool and let Elise cool off in it for a while. She seemed to think it was great fun, and she looked so cute in her tiny little bathing suit. She is going to start swimming lessons tomorrow. Of course at such a young age, the purpose of swimming lessons is just to become accustomed to the water and to have fun. Swimming lessons for Elise meant that I had to go shopping for a swimming suit for myself. This is traditionally a most unpleasant outing for me. This time, however, my dear friend Janene gave me the good advice to try shopping at a sporting goods store rather than a department store. This turned out to be a great idea. (I realize that I have just started the last three sentences with the word "this". This is not very versatile of me.) The sporting goods store had only a handful of suits, and they were all meant to be worn for the purpose of swimming, not for parading oneself in front of anyone interested in looking. I was in and out of the store in under 30 minutes with as satisfactory of a suit as I believe I will ever find (swimming suits will never be my favorite article of clothing). Thanks for the advice, Janene!

Elise has struggled a bit with the heat. I worry about her. We do our best to keep her cool. I have Pedialyte popsicles in the freezer for tomorrow. Today she didn't drink as much as I would have liked her to. She didn't eat much, either, but I think that is to be expected in such heat. (TMI WARNING.) Her wet diapers have decreased, and she actually did not manage to keep her lunch down this afternoon. Once that unfortunate event happened, I put her in a cool bath and let her play for a long time. After that she took a nap in just a diaper with a fan aimed right at her crib. When she woke up, we left the house for a couple of hours and spent our time mostly in the air conditioned car or in air conditioned stores. By the time we got home, the temperature was at least tolerable and Elise was playful and energetic again. I hope for her sake that the weather cools down soon.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Oh, the humanity!

I was just thinking - isn't it great that we're people? I'm so grateful that I'm a person. I mean, think about it. People, humans, are at the highest level of existence in this world. (There are those people who really like cabbage or hamsters who might disagree with me. I am writing from a Christian perspective. As a Christian, I believe that humans have been given the position of highest earthly beings.) There are a lot of creatures in this world. I can't even think of a number big enough to come close to being able to measure all of the living things. I could have been created as a tree or a goldfish or a mushroom or a bacterium or a sponge. Of course, then I wouldn't have been "I", but still, God could have created me as any of His living creatures. Or even, I suppose, as a non-living creature. God didn't only create those things that experience life and death. He could have made me a rock, or water, or an element. Really, of the gazillions (to revert to the language of childhood) of things that God created, the chances of any given thing being a person are pretty slim. How lucky are we to have been made humans?!? Pretty darn lucky.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


What I should have been doing:

What I did instead:

This is a curtain for the baby's room. It's not done, but at least it's pieced so I can see what it will look like. I'm pleased with it.