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. " 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?