Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Trees and a Tattered Green Elf

Christmas trees hold so many memories for me.

I used to stare for hours at the huge Christmas tree that resided gloriously in the front of the small hometown country church when I was a kid. The decorations on it were antique probably, brought over by early German, Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. Fluffy cottony angels. Rolled up parchment music scrolls. Fragile glass ornaments. Whimsical fan ornaments that you could blow air into the bottoms of to make them spin.

Our home tree had some similar ornaments, like the blowing fans, but it also had many rustic home made ornaments. The usual clothespin reindeer from grade school years. Occasional popcorn and cranberry strands. Hand strewn tinsel.

But my two favorites were the gingerbread men and an elf. The chubby gingerbread men, we baked and decorated, then hung on the tree from string. My brother, sister and I loved to lie on the ground beneath the tree. Staring up at the blinking lighted branches, blowing the swirling fan ornaments, we would then lean up and munch the lower-hanging gingerbread people. Soon there would be only some tiny gingerbread heads, hanging forlornly from the bottom parts of the tree.

This little green elf is my other favorite. An old salvaged piece from my childhood tree. I'm not sure how I got so lucky to keep him. Now each year that my own family and I set up our tree, the elf has a place of honor. First he is unwrapped carefully from the rest of the ornaments coming out of the purple plastic Christmas bin. The kids ooh and ahh with me. "It's the elf!" they exclaim, knowing that it is special to me. This year, the kids decided that it was my turn to place him in the tree. Standing up, surveying the tree, we looked for the perfect spot. He couldn't usurp the Nativity ornaments --since Jesus is the main point of Christmas, definitely! Suddenly, there was the right spot. Hidden inside a hole in the branches, nestled up against the trunk the green cloth elf took his seat. His legs are worn and barely stay attached by tattered green threads.

Ahhh.... We turned off the house lights, sat under the Christmas tree, and savored the beauty and peacefulness. Jesus came to earth, and we celebrate his coming each year. This is but one small part of it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Africa Maps and Glowing Saturday Mornings

Ghana, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Benin, Togo... We have been studying Africa this month in geography. Taking a section of Africa at a time, we worked at learning the countries' names, flags, location, and even the capitals, partly. West Africa, North Africa, East Africa have been worked on, now we are moving onto South Africa.

How can I even begin to do justice to such a large diverse continent in just a month's time, in only two-three days a week? We have fun coloring in and labeling the maps though, and trying to color in the fun flags. Now, we find ourselves recognizing more flags and seeing similarities between countries' flags.

A few weeks ago, we had one day where we studied the illegal production and trade of coal in Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), the issues surrounding that, as well as the recent massacre of one of the mountain gorilla families there, and we enjoyed the diversity of the pygmies of Democratic Republic of Congo. Interspersed with all of that, we followed up-to-date BBC world news coverage of the violence in DR Congo and surrounding countries, the resulting refugee migrations, and the marauding militia groups back and forth across country borders. Tough issues surround the thousands of beautiful people groups and landscapes of Africa, and this is just one area, and only a few topics.

We're doing about a continent a month.

Baby D grows bigger each day. He is 5 months old, and can roll across the floor. We laugh at watching his progress over time. "Look where he is now!" we chuckle, marking how far he has rolled. He rocks beside me in the swing now, examining some rings and talking to a bear.

Snow piles up outside, and the nights are dark quickly. Cheery Christmas lights line houses, fences and trees as I drive to a friend's house to pick up her daughter for a playdate with mine.

Saturday was a shining, yellowy day, with sunshine pouring into my south-facing deck window. The whole house was warmed by it, and glowed with light. Don't you love the the light reflected through the aloe plants?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Family of Pumpkins Arrived Yesterday

All through school yesterday, we were excited for the afternoon break when we could carve our pumpkin faces. Finally, it was time. School was done, and my husband walked in the door with the pumpkins. What pumpkins! There were four good-sized pumpkins, with two of them being huge! My oldest son (the only son that can talk in sentences yet) gasped and asked excitedly if he could have the largest one. "Yes, take any pumpkin you want!" his dad urged.

Giggling and full of expectation, we chose pumpkins, dreaming of the faces that would emerge, and then saw that they were filthy, coated with black mud. Laughing and brainstorming, we each picked up our orange heads and placed them into the shower.

Much later, our faces were done. My daughter, after sketching several styles of faces onto a green sheet of scratch paper and asking for our voted input, chose upon a "kitty" face. "That was my favorite too," she confided. Hers took the longest, but eventually, all of our faces were lined up outside on the green front lawn. It was slightly crisp outside, so we took pictures quickly, but had fun with several different poses.

Baby D was too small to carve his own pumpkin, so we garbed him in a pumpkin suit and lined him up with us. The hood of the pumpkin outfit kept sliding down over his eyes. Then when we plopped him down next to us for the last few photos of holding the pumpkins up over our faces, he was finally sad and angry. "Let me out," he insinuated. As soon as he was free from his pumpkin suit and was being hugged again, he was happy.

What a fun day!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smoky Woodfires and Latin Hips

Walking to the mailbox, my daughter and I breathed in the crisp fall air happily, taking in big gulps of it. "Doesn't that smell great, Mom?" she said. I agreed, inhaling deeply, trying to distinguish the various scents in the air. Smoky wood fires, cold fallen leaves on the fresh cut green grass, and an earthy fragrance from the start of decomposing plant life. That combination is one of my favorite smells.

Other favorite smells: wet air and dirt after a rain; my man's cologne; my baby's cheek and hair; hugging my kids.

On a lighter note: my sister and I had fun laughing at ourselves while trying a Latin hip hop exercise class at my Y Friday night. The whole hip rotations of Latin dancing take a while to learn. We laughed while working out for an hour, and then popped into Caribou for coffee and conversation

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bobbing Bottles in an Autumn River

Yesterday the kids and I walked and rode bikes out to the river. My daughter had just read about Matthew Maury, the father of oceanography from the 1850s and his research to chart the paths of the seas. Maury's method was to drop bottles into the oceans, then note where they turned up later, learning more about ocean currents, wind patterns, etc.

Not being by a sea, the kids and I decided to track river currents. We rolled up notes into clean plastic bottles. Then, after romping in the river for twenty minutes or so and splashing in the shallow water, the kids unleashed their bottles, wondering who would find them and call us, and where the bottles would turn up.

Baby D and I watched the wind blow the tree tops around, and took turns bravely dipping our toes into the cold autumn water.

Edit: We heard back from someone who found one of our bobbing bottles! It had gotten several miles away. One mystery: it looked as if it had gone against the current?? How is that possible? Still probing that mystery on the maps.... Perhaps there is another smaller stream that we are not seeing on the map that connects that area.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wind Chimes in the Evening Breeze

We just got back from swim team practice. The kids that can walk have brushed their teeth and headed to bed. Daughter makes last minute door barricades to stop the cats from shoving her door open and playing in her room at night. A plastic Lego bin lid stands upright as a shield to block her door, and a red velvety pillow acts as a noise barrier for Otta, the second cat, who likes to bang the lid against her door, waking my daughter up. It took us a few nights to figure out this system. :)

Hubby has read up on the next two chapters of C.S. Lewis's book "Mere Christianity" for his Bible study group tonight. They have deep discussions usually that go until close to midnight.

Son heads to bed downstairs but wishes he could stay up until 10 or 10:30, occasionally coming to the steps to try another discussion tactic. Should I let him? What were your bedtimes in middle school? Don't teens need more sleep than even younger kids, medically?

Baby nurses quietly, falling asleep. My jerking one-handed typing wakens him gently, and he quickly eats more as if to say, "No, really. I'm still eating!" ........ He sleeps now, so I transfer him to a burping position, inhaling the scent of his face and hair. Kissing his cheek, breathing his sweet milky smell, my body relaxes even more. There is nothing like it.

The small metal wind chimes, a gift from one of my former youth group girls years ago, sing in the night breeze on my deck.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Brush with Thrush

Last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, baby D and I were battling a brush with thrush. Gentian violet (sp?) was highly recommended to us by a nurse friend. The bright purple-blue stain was hilarious to us those three dosing days.

Schooling has been fun this week. We finished "The Call of the Wild," learned about the North American continent--including a lot about Alaska-- and performed several interesting science labs.

J, my older son--inspired by Jack London's book-- made up a dog sled game, which our family just now played at the kitchen table. Caught up in that excitement, all of us started brainstorming additions to J's fun game idea. Daughter M began to sketch out a map board. Husband M jumped in often with new ideas, and I was eager to throw in story lines. "Oooh, let's have this Lose a Turn spot be called Snowstorm!" or "Oh, neat, the temperature is getting really low. That will benefit my low temperature dogs..." Of course that did mean that some dogs were lost to the cold. By the end of the game, the bitter temperatures killed off all of our dogs, just 60 miles short of their target. Pretty realistic, I thought! Every one else is brainstorming ways of adding food, or buying new dogs or warming equipment along the way. Of course, that would add weight and lower our speeds, hmmm. Fun game, huh? J came up with that idea, inspired by The Oregon Trail, I'm sure. :)

How are you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Science Labs and Swimwear

Wednesday we started homeschooling. It was a great day of science, geography, literature, Language Arts and more. For J's science, we had a cool lab experiment that broke down water molecules and altered copper into copper hydroxycarbonate. (In other words, his end of the copper wire, after being charged with a battery and baking soda water, turned blueish green. Even the water turned blue! Tasted terrible too!) We had been warned not to touch the two ends of the wires together and were so curious to know what would happen if we did! Standing at the table with their swim goggles on (for lack of better protective eye wear), my kids worked away.

Yesterday was a good day academically but a harder day for me. Among another painful thing that made it hard to pick up and hold baby D, I developed a nauseating migraine throughout the day. By evening, it was miserable. But we still had a good day of school.

Mark likes to listen in on whatever history or literature books the kids and I are reading aloud for school. We enjoy him joining us so we like to read in the morning with him before he heads to work. Currently we are reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild. It's very dramatic, and we get choked up at sections of the book.

Today was a fabulous day! The migraine was gone when I woke up this morning. (Thanks to my brother-in-law who let me know which meds to safely take while nursing.) And thanks to La Leche League for their sage advice, I was feeling better in other ways too. Life was good. School went great today, and my kids were cheerful and polite as they did school today. We had fun studying and learning.

The windows are wide open to let in the cool breezes. Baby D is nursing here in my lap. And we have friends coming over this evening.

How are you? What's been something fun about this week for you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hi all, it's been a busy six weeks. Sorry for not updating sooner. You'll laugh. I'm sitting here in my living room with stain removers working on various outfits. On the tan corduroy pants that I'm still wearing, there are two spots of Tide stain removal drying. That was an accident from lunch--fresh tomatoes, cucs, red peppers, and basil leaves lightly tossed with olive oil and cider vinegar. I dripped that on me as I was updating facebook, nursing Daniel and trying to eat one-handed.

On the floor behind me are two brown shirts that have oil stains on them. I asked the smart moms I know for their advice on removing tough oil stains. Shari, Karen and Deb all passed on ideas. Apparently the consensus is something about wd-40 and Dawn dish soap. So, behind me on my living room floor are two shirts sprayed with wd-40 and now rubbed with dish soap. This will either cure the stains or add to them greatly!

The story behind the stains on my shirts? One was a drip from a delicious egg roll that Misty made for me when the Lawsons brought over a home-made meal during our first few weeks home with baby. (Thanks, guys!) The other brown shirt is a hand-me-down from my nieces! They have passed down clothes to my daughter for years. Now they are getting older and have clothes and shoes that fit me at times. This cute brown hoodie was too cute to put into a bag for a few years, waiting for Morgan to fit into it. I snagged it. (Thanks, K and R!) Apparently they were attacked by dripping egg rolls too, since the stain is in the same place.

Our garden has struggled through the summer of little weeding and sporadic watering due to a new baby. But we are enjoying some rewards! There have been green beans, tomatoes, chives, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and now--some beautiful gladiolas! Check out these neat photos.

I have missed blogging and talking with you all. How are you? Many of you are just now getting back to school too. How's that going? How are your classes? Or, for the non-students, how are your new fall schedules different?

I haven't been able to tell you some more fun family stories from the last few weeks. Check back to hear the adventures of the gas alarm and the front yard; the creative kind serving things that Morgan has come up with lately; John's cool deep thoughts; and more.

Meanwhile, catch me up on your life....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Whisked Away by a Song

Her little red car sped us to the airport. My sister drove, my brother was up front, and I sat in the back. "I want to show you this song," she told us. Popping in a cd, the mournful, blended harmonies of The Weepies filled the car.

The outside air seemed misty, cool, grey. After a long, emotional weekend, my brother was flying home to the west coast. We had cried together--the three of us--and talked deeply of life, relationships, hurts, disappointments, and fragile hopes. The weekend was a tumultuous answer to prayer in that our family had bonded deeply, after years of praying for that. The circumstances were terrible, though, and this answer to prayer of closeness had a high price.

We ached, hurt for him, wanted to fix it, and knew we couldn't. So we cried together, both in my sister's dark car one night and then back at my house with my parents.

Now a day or so later, he was leaving, and we hated to see him go, wanted to stay together as a family for a few days longer. Newly close siblings, newly close family...

So we sat listening to The Weepies in my sister's car --she likes multi-voiced harmonies and married into a very harmonious family who sing together often. I had never heard them before, and didn't know anything about the group, but their plaintive melodies were perfect for our sad drive to the airport last May.

Now, over a year later, whenever I come across a Weepies song online, it whisks me back to that car drive to the airport, seeing my brother up front, the misty air outside, and not wanting him to leave.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hello family. Quick update on Daniel. He's doing really well, and keeping his eyes open a lot longer now. He has fun moments of alertness and likes to look around and at us.

Today was his appointment and he has gained a lot of weight. They just wanted him to regain his birth weight of 6 lbs11 oz, and instead his weight is now 7 lbs 5 oz! So he is eating well, and looking good.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Baby is Home!

We just got home with our new son. See facebook for pictures and details! (More secure)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunrise and Amber Light

What an odd new stage. I am awake early and my kids are still asleep. Off and on this last month, I have had great times of waking up before the sunrise. Thinking of that great passage in Isaiah 50 that talks about God awakening me morning by morning to teach me things, I have loved stealing away to sit quietly on my couch, watch the sunrise, enjoy the early morning birds, and to spend uninterrupted time with God. What cool times, and it is only when God wakes me up, since normally I love to sleep. Thanks, Abba/Daddy.

Now, Mark has come and gone to worship practice, the sun is long up, the birds are still chirping, yet my kids remain asleep. How strange.

Cool morning breezes pass between my window and my open deck. The priest who lives across the driveway was up enjoying the sunrise this morning too. He was out on his deck with his Bible or notes for this morning's sermon on his lap. The sun quietly climbed the sky, spilling more amber light across the whispering trees. The birds sang louder. I sighed contentedly, smiled and went back to my reading.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beef Jerky and Jungle Garden

Spicy terryaki beef jerky on my lips...

Using the dehydrator, and his own special marinade, my husband works for several days to marinate, and then dehydrate the strips of sliced beef that he has bought. The house smells strongly then of terryaki and spices. The wash cloths and counters are often dangerous with raw meat juices for a little bit, as he is an exuberant cook. But he smiles and tries to appease my salmonella paranoia by taking precautions: washing counters with hot soapy water, quarantining his cloths and towels, etc. One morning I leave a note for my teen son and his friend who slept over. "Watch out! Don't put your bagels on the counter here to butter them. Juices may have oozed out over the night from the dehydrator!"

But, wow, several days later, and a rapidly-depleting bag of beef jerky later, I have to boast that my husband makes good beef jerky! It is a favorite snack for most of us in the family, and it goes fast. We ration it out to make it last longer. I sometimes selfishly don't keep to the ration that I recommend to the kids. How bad is that? My man smiles though, glad that I like his beef jerky.

We tackled the garden jungle today. The three weeks' worth of weeds was daunting at first. Indeed we had put off going to the garden for a week or so, knowing we needed to, but afraid of what we would see. So, we had played in the Y pool for six hours one day, and hung out with friends another day. This morning, though, we knew that it was time. Two hours later, and covered in sweat and brown dirt, we were exhilarated at our progress. Popping radishes in our mouth, or a fresh rare strawberry, or some handfuls of chives and lettuce make it all worthwhile too.

What are some of your favorite things of the summer? I like the laidback pace of life, gardening, time with friends and family, and relaxing around the Y pool in the hot sunshine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pregnancy Progression

These are photos showing the progression of my tummy. (Drat, stinking program. I can't get the photos in the correct order.)

The first one is me at four months. I'm wearing the green shirt, and a yellow African wrap-around skirt, facing left.

The second photo, in the blue shirt and maroon skirt, is me at six months.

The third photo is me at seven months pregnant, and I'm standing next to my brother!

Lastly, in the brown shirt, is me at eight months pregnant.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Community at City Greyhound Bus Station

This morning I headed down to one of the City's Greyhound bus stations. My uncle with some special needs was transferring buses here on his way further south. I was to meet him at the 10:15 am arrival and then make sure he got on the correct 11 am departure bus. I arrived a little early and was immediately reminded of the neat sense of community that seems to develop among waiting people at a city bus station. As I walked into the small waiting room, an African-American toddler was playing with one of the payphones, banging the receiver and pushing buttons. "No calling 9-1-1, though, right?" cautioned the Greyhound employee, leaning over from his high counter to peer down at the long haired little girl. "That happens," he assured me, "and then we have the police here." He laughed and shook his head. The child's mother came out from the bathroom then, carrying an infant in pink clothes, and fuzzy curly black hair. She scolded her toddler a little bit, and then--setting the infant car seat down on the black metal chair across from me--she asked if I would watch her kids while she went into the bathroom again. Slightly cautious about that, but wanting to help, I said sure.

Eating my vanilla yogurt, navy-clad pregnant woman that I was, I sat there quietly, watching the baby in the infant carseat, watching the long fluffy-haired toddler banging the phone receiver again. Another spoonful of yogurt, more silence. The Greyhound man came back in the room to see me with two kids, and no mom. I ate another bite of yogurt, glancing at each child. It would be odd if the mom didn't come back, or something. What would I do? Another bite of yogurt, and the toddler is now trying to climb up the phone cord. "Um, careful, sweetie," I say to the child. "No hanging." Hmm, I wonder, if the phone breaks, am I responsible?

Just then the young slender mom comes out of the bathroom, and smiles at me. All is good. I finish my yogurt and take a turn in the bathroom too. When I come out the mom is trying to get the toddler occupied with some music, and the tiny curly haired infant is fussing in her chair, a bottle of formula propped up on her tummy. "Would she let me hold her?" I ask the young mom, pointing at her youngest. Soon I was cradling a tiny five week old little girl, feeding her her bottle, and trying to burp her. I spent the next 45 minutes holding her, and talking to various people in the lobby. "And how old is your other little girl?" I asked, looking at the cute active toddler, with long voluminous hair in a pony tail. "He's a boy," his mom told me. Suddenly I noticed the blue jersey he was wearing. Oops. The hair threw me off.

Uncle Don arrived, and I yelled a greeting to him through the door, still holding the tiny baby, motioning him inside. We talked and hung out for the next 35 minutes or so. Another young woman came into the lobby and approached me, noticing the tiny baby I was holding. "How old is she?" she asked me. "Well, she's not mine. She's her's," I said, pointing to the mom who was now on the phone, seeming frustrated and upset with whatever was not working right for her on the phone. "But I hear she's five weeks old. Isn't she cute?" "I have kids too," the new young Caucasian mom told me. "A three and a half year old, and a two and a half year old." We talked some more, and she pulled out her wallet to show me pictures of her youngest. Her boyfriend was hopefully coming into town on the next bus, and she had paid a good price for him to come. "I bet your kids are excited to see him again," I said. "Oh, I don't have them, I'm still fighting for custody of them." We talked some more, admired the precious infant in my arms, discussed my kids' ages, and waited for the Greyhound buses to pull into the lot.

Across from us, a Latino man eyed us interestedly, watching the conversation. The two young moms talked some more. I patted the baby's back and rocked her. Outside, three men joked loudly together, smoking a few last ones before their buses came. A car drove in the lot, threw out some jovial conversation with the people there, and then left again.

The young mom's bus came, and we helped her watch her gear and kids while she got most of her luggage stored under the bus. Her toddler son proudly lugged a backpack to the bus to help. I cradled her little girl until she came back inside. "Have a great trip," I said. "May God bless you and your kids. They are precious." The young white woman and I said good bye too, and I wished her luck on her boyfriend getting here and on the child custody battle. We parted warmly.

Uncle Don got on his bus. I stood beside the smiling, smoking men in the cool breeze outside, the smell reminding me fondly of my grandma, waving to Don through the windows, and waiting for the bus to pull away.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

We have been having fun setting up the baby's corner of our room. Before flying out to see my brother in WA last weekend, I left a gallon of paint for my man. He kindly painted the baby's corner that color (gingseng = a light creamy white, with tiny yellow hues in it.). Tuesday, our family each took turns putting up a sheet of Pooh Bear decals. (Mark had Eyore.) On Thursday, I re-painted the neat old wooden dresser from Deb to match that corner, and today, we moved the dresser and drawers in, filled with the clothes we have so far for the little boy. My daughter got to decorate the top of the dresser. What do you think so far of our corner?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pink Afghan Strides into Male-Dominated Battle

A fluttery pink afghan sweater floated at the top of Morgan's grey-green camouflage pants as she ducked and swirled around in battle. Fourteen Star Wars light sabre-wielding guys yelled and battled around her. Two sides fought across our damp green lawn yesterday, as the light snow flurries fell. It was John's 13th birthday, and the snow at the beginning of the morning took us by surprise. Slightly panicked at the idea of 12 male teens and pre-teens coming over and not being able to play outside for those three hours, we hurried to come up with some indoor activities and tournaments. Snow kept coming down. Later, the sun peeked out of the clouds; it warmed up slightly; and by the time the indoor tournaments had wound down, the guys were able to race outside with their light sabres. They battled for an hour! My daughter joined them, swirling and dying dramatically in her pink fluffy shawl.

I sipped decaf coffee indoors much of that last battle time, seeing the tiny flurries of snow fall, and grinning at the dramatic war cries from outside, talking with my mom and dad and sister.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cheeses and Avocados

What a beautiful sunny day. We have finished our day of schooling and the kids are now racing outside to play. John's got his rollerblades on, Morgan is finishing up some projects in her room while listening to Adventures in Odyssey radio theatre. I love having the windows and decks open for a fresh smelling cross-breeze, wind-chimes dangling on the deck.

Yesterday was my birthday and my family shook their heads at my oddness...
Earlier in the week they had asked me for gift ideas. Knowing that my house was already plenty full of items, I instead suggested special treat foods, like strong European cheeses (Gruyere), or those great Odwalla or Bolthouse healthy juices, or avocados! My kids and my husband were appalled at my suggestions. "Those aren't presents! They won't last." But I laughed and insisted that really those sounded great. "I often walk past the avocados or the special cheeses and juices, thinking, 'Oooh, can I get one of these as a special treat this time?!' --and I do!--or other times, I think 'Well, I'll save that treat for another day.' It's that frugal part of me, or the missionary kid part of me that chooses her treats carefully and then savors them for a long time. (You should have seen how long we could make a European chocolate bar last in Africa, since they were rare!) My family shook their heads at me with smiles and went shopping.

Yesterday though as I got up for breakfast, my family was all waiting for me. They sang Happy Birthday to me as I walked into the kitchen, and Morgan gleefully pointed to the presents on the kitchen table for me. "Look, Mom!" she squealed. Unwrapping each present, I laughed along with them. There was a Brie cheese from France, a Gouda cheese from Holland, a Gruyere!! from Switzerland, and a Feta cheese of Greek descent. Plus, hidden in tiny round bags, was an avocado and a mango. They had also thought of chocolate bars (Almond Joys and Three Musketeers). Mmmmmm. Morgan had written me a very sweet card, saying she loved me and other tender things. It was very nice.

So, this pregnant woman, who is already taking longer to find outfits that fit and look nice, is now adding European cheeses and candy bars to that mix! Uh, oh. :)

How are you guys? What are you enjoying doing this sunny week?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Having a science museum membership is nice as a homeschooling family, but sometimes we are gluttons for our own punishment. This week was the last week of the special 6-movie Imax film festival. Having missed them so far this month, we decided to try to see several of them in a few days. So, cramming short trips down to the museum in between Phonics, History, Math, French, and Latin, we raced to see three films. One of them was about Mount Everest in the Tibet area. Another film was on the Alps in Europe, and the last film was on a lion pride in Botswana. They were great! However, we are tired from all the extra driving these last eight or nine days.

My son had his swim team banquet Friday night. He was one of 30 or so teens on the team. Each kid walked up proudly to the front of the room to get their trophy, a heavy m
arble-like block with a spinning gold metal thing on top. They look cool, and he and his friend Noah blew on their trophies to make them spin around in the bases.

Our family watched the movie about Mr. Bean's Vacation last night. It was funny hearing him say "Gracias" each time he was supposed to be speaking French. Rowan Atkinson is so strange but so funny.

How was your weekend?

Edit: This is a cool tree that I have growing on my kitchen table. It is the burl from a Redwood tree in California. The green sprouting tree-lings are growing out from a chunk of a redwood tree trunk. Cool, huh? Thanks to Cindy and her mom for getting me one!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

100% + 100% + 100%

Eating a nutrient-packed peanut butter sandwich for breakfast, and feeling the baby kick, I sit here.

Homeschooling is happening around me and I'm just taking a break to check email and xanga stuff. My daughter does math behind me at the kitchen table. She has just felt her baby brother kick her through my tummy for the first time and her excitement tears her away from her math problems. "I just felt the baby, I just felt the baby!" she shrieks excitedly. "We're going to have a baby!" "Yes, yes," I agree, "But let's talk more about that later. Do your school."

My son is downstairs doing his math lesson. We just had a neat discussion about the new baby coming and how that works with "sharing love." "So, with me and my sister, we each have 100% love," he mused. "But with the baby coming..." he wondered, trying to make sense of the equation I had told them earlier that just said that when new kids come, it's not like the parental love for the kids is portioned out in smaller and smaller quantities. (Like 100 divided by three now instead of two.) Nope, I assured them. It's really cool because you get a whole new portion of love for that new one that doesn't delve into the other kids' love portions. It's like they each have their own 100%--both he and his sister have their own 100%. When their brother comes, a whole new 100% is started, not taking any of their own. We stood and looked at the cute picture of his new South Korean nephew. "When Jack came, did that take away any of the love you had for your cousins K or R?" Grinning at the adorable picture of his round little cousin, my son said "No!", and his eyes even glistened slightly with love for his cousins. "It's just like that," I concluded. We stood and stared at Jack's cute chubby tummy and plump arms in the photo. My daughter had come to join us in that discussion in our living room. "Don't you just want to kiss that face?" I asked. We laughed and agreed.

Hugging, we all went back to our work.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Blitz and Ethiopian Doro Wat

It is quiet in my house now, and we are recovering from a busy but fun weekend. Fresh cookies are on the stove, and the kids and I just grabbed two each. Mmm, warm chocolate chip cookies. (They are from a pre-made mix, but still wonderful when hot from the oven.)

This weekend was Spring Blitz, the senior high retreat in a northern city. It was such a great weekend. We had 28 of us there, and had great times of worship, good messages, fun hotel room Hot Seat bonding times, and awesome Holy Spirit movings in people's lives! It was so moving to see and experience it. Peggy and Terry, thanks for watching J & M! Sorry about the delay.

Today I worked, enjoying glimpses of the big soft flakes of snow whenever I passed a doorway or window. It's beautiful! Then Mark and I took a nap this afternoon, catching up on Blitz sleep. This evening I made an easy Ethiopian dish from a recipe I found and used last week. It's a new form of the Doro Wat, a common Ethiopian chicken "stew" or sauce that they eat with injera bread. Here's the recipe, if you are interested.

Brown 1 large onion, getting it quite brown.
3 oz oil
1/2 teas. Bere Bere powder
1/2 teas. black pepper
1 tbs fresh minced ginger
Blend them into the onions, Add 1 cup water. Stir.
Earlier, while the onions were browning, put raw cut up pieces of chicken (3 lbs) into a bowl of 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water to marinate for at least 10 mins.
Later, drain the water from each handful of chicken pieces, dropping the chicken into the simmering onion sauce. Stir through, then cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked and tender.
Add more water if necessary to bring to stew texture or add flour to thicken. (I usually had to thicken slightly.)

Optional: add 8 hard boiled peeled eggs. I didn't actually have eggs in the house each time, so I did without the eggs. Today, I added about 1 cup of cooked, almost mashed red dal lentils into it to thicken it. Delicious! It serves our family of 4, with some leftover for my lunch tomorrow at work! :)

The kids flew outside just now to build Calvin and Hobbes'-inspired snowmen--probably some of the last snow of the season! I dissuaded them from having the snowmen block our cars into the driveway. They settled for having the snowmen march up our front steps. They play happily in the darkening twilight.

Mark is at a VBS meeting tonight and then he'll have a Men's Bible study here tonight at 8:30.I will hide away in the bedroom then to give them privacy and try to clean my room.

How are you? What is new in your life?

Monday, March 10, 2008



My 9 year old daughter rattles these letters off triumphantly. My family and I have been working to memorize various country locations and names in order. Can you figure out where these are and what they mean? There is a map of them in my bathroom right now, replacing the Civil War battles map that was there for a few months earlier. We love maps, languages and cultures.

One fun game we like to do during meal times is to stare at the world map under our plates on the kitchen table and quiz each other on countries. "Who can find Yemen?" "Good job... okay, who can find Indonesia?" "Yep, good, now, find Brazil!" We take turns and have fun choosing countries. Some of them are harder to find. At times the ones who can read faster will help the others by hinting, "It's a green country on the map."

I spent some time on the internet this evening looking up boy names' meanings. Some of these were names you gave us! :) Elijah means "My God is the Lord." Judah/Jude means "praise, thanks." Nora called from Montana to tell me the name Hosea. That means "to deliver." Daniel means "God is my judge." Micah means "who is similar?" Katelyn, what does Jayden mean again? I couldn't find its meaning online. Levi is a nice name, but I couldn't find its meaning very well. Anyone know? Luke is nice. We like Elijah at this moment but are still pondering names.

Do you know something that baffles me and amazes me? The baby grew four inches last week! That is incredible and the only time in life when a person grows that much in one week, probably. Last week he went from 6.5 inches to 10.5 inches. Isn't that wild?! It's odd to picture a 10 inch long baby inside me right now. Knowing he can hear us, we say good night to him, and try out new names aloud.

So, have you figured out where K, UK, TTAP is? 100 points for those who do! :) I'll give the answer soon.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Drum Roll please...

Well, the guesses came in from you all (and from xanga and facebook).
8 people said girl.
10 people said boy.

The ultrasound happened this afternoon. We all went in as a family. It was so neat to see the baby moving, trying to suck its thumb or fist, kicking its little feet, and waving. The tiny mouth opened and shut, the face turned. It was so cute!

After lots of measurements and stuff, the nurse said, "It's a boy!" and pointed to the appropriate appendage in the black and white photo.

Hurray, both a boy or a girl would have been great! We are thrilled with either. Although, now what do I do with my cool girl names of Olivia, Ivy, and Sahar? (Sahar was actually Mark's idea!) Know any unique boys names?!

Monday, February 25, 2008

What's Your Guess? Boy or Girl?

Cast your voting guess before Friday's ultrasound. See if you guessed correctly. :)

Boy or girl?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So I have spent a lot of time talking in public about sex this week. That's unusual. :)

I finished the second of my two speeches this week. It seemed to go well. I enjoyed being able to talk about physical intimacy in marriage, and tried to use lots of great authors and researchers, as well as the Bible. I was praying hard, and asking lots of others to pray for me too, that God would be glorified in my talks, and that they would be helpful.

So now I am home, warming up in a cozy maternity sweat suit, homeschooling my kids (they are on a school break now), and feeling relaxed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My hands smell like oranges.

Today after work, I stopped by a coffee shop for over an hour to work on a speech I have coming up soon. I sipped my "decaf chocolate mocha nirvana" on a comfy stuffed chair in the corner by the fireplace. People came and went, their conversations ebbed and flowed. I sat, reviewing my notes. Later, the coffee drained, the notes reviewed, I ventured out into the cold.

At home, I enjoyed hugging my family, catching up on their news, and seeing my sister. She and my daughter had just gotten back from indoor rock climbing (my daughter's present from her aunt). They told us stories of towering rock climbing heights, cool feats of strength, etc. "She does some things naturally that other people have to learn!" my sister exclaimed proudly of her niece. Did I tell you that my sister just won third place in a rock climbing competition last weekend?! I'm so proud of her.

Supper was venison and bean soup, toasted cheese bread, fresh sliced oranges, and then pistachio pudding for dessert. Now, I'm relaxing. Mark is wondering when it is his turn to get back on the computer. :)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New year!

Today was a fun day. For part of school, we made invisible ink messages, having learned about coded messages t
hat traveled back and forth in World War I. I was tempted to try to affix the messages to our cats at one point, since the armies used to send messages via pigeons and dogs. We laughed though that our cats would probably not cooperate, or would simply lie down in "enemy fire" somewhere.

For the Chinese New Year, we talked about that with my kids, and then I made Vietnamese egg rolls from scratch! I was so proud of myself! An acquaintance had given me the recipe, saying that her mom had gotten it from a Vietnamese friend who taught her how to make it right. They were delicious and fun to make.

Here they are: before being fried, and after being fried. I made 30 of them.

How are you guys?

Monday, January 28, 2008

So, I heard back from the publisher. They said that my "story was very compelling" and that my "style was original" but that they were too small of a printing house to do many memoir style books. So, I expected it, but it is still sad. Back to the drawing board of choosing another publisher to pursue. I am researching more of them tonight, after posting here.

So, it's encouraging that they deliberated so long over my book proposal, and that they found it "very compelling" and "original." But it's discouraging that they couldn't give me an offer. They seemed like a great publisher.

Other than that, I love this balmy, fresh warm air out there! I breathed in deeply the night's air as I walked to and from the Y and my car for J's last swim team practice tonight. Ahh, so fresh. It made me smile! J's season is over now, and he sadly said good bye to friends. It was a great first swim season for us. We'll go to the banquet in April, get his trophy, and then join the swim team again next year.

How are you? What's new in your life?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ethiopian Food

"I will praise you in the storm...I will lift my hands, [glad that] you are who you are..." What a good song that is on the radio right now. I don't feel like I am in the storm right now, but I love the assurance that He is there, always, unwaveringly, no matter the weather or the throes of life. God is there, He is big, He is strong, He is good and to be trusted, no matter the circumstances. Hmm, good song and good truth about our loving God.

Friday night while sipping tea at an Ethiopian restaurant with a friend, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make Ethiopian food. I bought a bag of the special Injera bread (sourdough pancake), and that night at home I printed off internet recipes of key Ethiopian dishes. Yesterday, after watching the senior high basketball game, I cut up onions; minced garlic; measured cardamom and coriander spices; chopped up chilies; simmered dal lentils; and worked away. Several hours later, I had four Ethiopian dishes ready for Mark and the kids to eat with me. I love that my kids are brave and used to eating new foods. They are actually very familiar with Ethiopian food, since our family likes Fasika's, an Ethiopian restaurant in town. Summary: while I had followed the recipes nearly exactly, it wasn't exactly what we had been hoping for, used to special dishes at Fasika's. One or two of them were really good, and we'll make again. So, the quest will continue another day, looking for recipes that reproduce those delicious dishes. My Atar Allecha dish was our favorite. "This tastes like theirs, Jen," Mark said. "Mmm, now if we just mix this beef from here in to that...Mmmm. Try that!" he said. We ate the food several times that night.

How are you? Where are you reading in the Bible lately and what is hitting you about it?

Monday, January 7, 2008

We Heard the Heartbeating Today!

Hi guys. So the baby is now 2-3 inches long--some books say it is as big as an apple?! It has hands, feet, body organs, etc. Check out this cool link for pictures of babies at our stage. Scroll down to see week 12. The photos are so amazing!


How are you guys doing? What's new in your life? Was break relaxing for you?

Mark and I got to hear the baby's heart beating today at the doctor's office. It was so weird and so powerful to hear heartbeats coming from my lower torso. It suddenly makes it all so real that there really is a lifebeing living down there! Very wild, but very powerful. It's alive, growing, and has its own separate life and personality from me. Mark said he suddenly felt more protective of me and the baby too, as we drove home that day. Very powerful.