Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

As Christmas nears, things get a little crazy around here. First, let's start with Advent. I'll describe last night: The kids are starting to get on each other's nerves as they are excited about Christmas but don't want to admit it and their excitement manifests itself in crankiness. Fun. Advent begins with everyone arguing about which candle they get to blow out. Singing evolves into the words of one carol being sung to the tune of another. We all dissolve into laughter but, you know, some of the songs don't sound too bad with a new tune. And don't forget that "We Three Kings" has more than one version, which Alec has relished singing and acting out. Spare me. When the candles are finally blown out, we all sit in the dark and try to be silent, all the while trying to make someone else make a sound. Stupid, I know, but these are kids, remember. It's usually all in fun but not always. All in all, I've been trying to keep the kids busy to make the time go by quicker. When bickering erupts, you just deal with it and, if necessary, threaten to remove all the gifts. But things are mostly calm and we are having fun.

I spent most of Tuesday getting all the Christmas cards sent out. We took a Christmas photo in the morning (for which I threatened Carmen with great punishment if she caused any trouble!) and Todd put it onto the newsletter I'd typed out a few days before. Chad helped with stamps and Alec & Carmen helped by not bothering me all afternoon (bless them). Tonight, I happened to re-read the newsletter ... finding two errors in the last paragraph. Big, big, sigh. You know how much I hate typos; at least the errors just involve spacing and an extra "a". Still. Grrr. The photo looks good, though.

We received a gift of fruit and candy from a company in Texas. The label had our names but did not say who it was from. I assumed it was from my sister who lived in Texas until last month, since she usually sends us gifts from there. However, today it dawned on me if may have been from my oldest sister (I have my reasons for believing this). The only issue is that I've already sent a thank you to my used-to-be Texan sister. Oops. My Mom will be seeing sister oldest tomorrow and is willing to help me in this matter. Little sigh.

A few years ago, I sent one of my sisters a gift of a specialty popcorn. The company ran out of that particular gift and sent her 2 pears instead (it was in the same price range). They gave her no explanation nor did they notify me of the switch. My sisters and Mom all pondered the meaning of me sending 2 pears to my sister and her family. Finally, my oldest sister had the guts to call me and delicately ask if I had sent pears. Apparently, they thought I was playing a mean joke or something. Stupid, right? I mean, why didn't the sister who received the gift just call and thank me for the pears. If she had done that, I could have contacted the company for an explanation. After finding out from my oldest sister, I did contact the company and they sent the other sister the correct gift, at no extra cost, with an explanation. Of course, my sister never, ever thanked me for either gift. You know what, I didn't send her a gift this year (I have my reasons, other than this.)

What is funnier still is that my husband's Dad sent us a thank you right after that, saying that they were enjoying the pears! We had sent them a gift from the same company, however, this gift was a bit larger and we are pretty certain it was the right gift. Still, my heart stopped for just a second when I read that note.

O.k., back to the present. I've gotten all my baking done, the dishes are done and I'm off to shower and bed. Todd is working but has the next two nights off. Praise the Lord!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas! God bless you wherever you are!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Season 2010

We have really been enjoying Advent this year. I love how much better everything seems to be as the kids get older. Advent has been particularly fun, everyone loves singing and they all pay attention during the Bible reading. We've been celebrating Advent every Christmas for about 10 years now and each year has gotten better. I'm so glad. I think they miss it when Christmas is over. I wish there was some way to continue it throughout the year but I know it wouldn't be as special, it would become too routine. Funny, we have Bible study, though not as frequently as I wish to, and it's not nearly as much fun. Perhaps we should sing and light candles for Bible study - I might be on to something there!

Carmen has really gotten into Christmas this year. Everything seems very important to her and I am really enjoying having another girl in the house. Until last year, she was just a kid but now, she's matured enough that we are more on the same level. She is good at wrapping gifts and has helped out a bunch with that. She's also making a gift for Alec, which has caused much whispering and closed-door work, with my assistance. We let her put up Christmas lights over her window and she loves looking at them before she goes to sleep.

This year, after Todd put the lights on the tree, the kids went to work decorating. I had to make dinner and, fortunately, they left a box of ornaments for me to put up. In fact, they left those ornaments especially for me. The kids also took over decorating the rest of the house. I did some of it but mostly, they enjoyed the job.

Since we had kids, Christmas decorating became so exhausting to me. And wrapping gifts always took place on Christmas Eve ... leaving me wiped out. How wonderful that the kids all participate now and we can put out wrapped gifts earlier. Call me quirky but I much prefer the "now" Christmas over the Christmases of overly excited kids and diapers to change.

I've even had time to make fudge and cookies. I hope to make carmels as well, something new for me. Now if I could just get the kids to write a newsletter and sign Christmas cards!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, Deer

Ah, nothing like waking up on a weekend morning, knowing you don't have to get up early. You roll over to doze off again and - BOOM, BOOM, BOOM-BOOM! Yes, 'tis the season to go out and shoot a deer! I just don't get it. When we moved to this area nearly 20 years ago, it seemed like everyone either fished or hunted or both. We don't do either. Which means we are different and that's fine with me. But this season (which spans from, like, October until who knows when), it seems like I've been hearing gunfire a lot more. We live just on the other side of the hill from town but not that far from the rural area that becomes a hunter's dream this time of year. What's worse is that all year, we've been watching the deer grazing on the empty corner lot across the street and encountering deer all over the hill when we walk. It is no surprise that there are less deer sightings of late. Makes us sad, you know? How anyone can shoot such sweet-looking animals is beyond me.

I'm always wishing the hunters would go home empty-handed. Todd hopes they'll bag a deer soon so they'll stop shooting sooner and go home. These people even hunt when it's raining buckets or freezing cold! I'm laying snug in my warm bed and they're tramping around in the mud, soaked to the skin. My impression of them, at least. Certainly not my cup of tea.

Reminds me of a family I knew that was so excited one year because they'd gotten a bear tag. Apparently there is some kind of lottery-style set-up where only 50 or so people can hunt bear in the eastern part of our state. Getting a bear tag is big deal (who knew?)

Of course, not everyone adheres to the no-shooting-in-town ordinance. Last weekend, we heard the usual gunfire in the distance, mostly during the morning. But on Saturday night, around 10:15, we were in the kitchen when there was an extremely loud boom-boom, sounded just down the street. We live 3 houses down from a forested strip of land, where the deer live but is obviously within city limits. Of course, Todd was working (he always seems to be working when I hear noises at night). The kids and I looked at each other, wide-eyed. A few minutes later, there was another boom-boom. I called the non-emergency police line and began describing what I heard and where I was. The dispatcher said, "I know where you live, this is Wanda." I love it - only in a small town can you personally know the police dispatcher and she happens to live across the street from us! She said they had received other calls on this and were sending patrolmen out. After that, we just stayed away from the windows and I got everyone to bed. About 11:30, I heard another shot but it was dark down the cul-de-sac and I didn't see or hear anything else. Funny, we weren't afraid really, we just talked about who it could be and why.

It's certainly not the first time we've heard gunfire so close. Over the years we've been here, I've heard a random shot perhaps 4-5 times. A few days after we moved here, someone drove up the street, shooting the entire time. Todd and I were in bed and we instinctively ducked beneath the window at the head of our bed. You could hear the car going up the hill and turning toward town, still firing. I was shocked! Before we moved to town, we lived out in a rural area and I really don't recall hearing gunfire except out at the firing range. That's different. But in town? I think it was last year that I was home on a weekend night, Todd was working, and again, someone else drove up the street, shooting. Again, I heard them go up the hill, turn toward town and continue all the way to the main street down into town. I just ducked until they passed the house. Now, you know this could be very dangerous to someone but it probably isn't going to hurt you. Maybe. After both of these incidents, we checked on the kids just in case (their bedrooms face the street).

The closest to home was back when I was pregnant with Carmen (10 years ago, now). We were saying goodbye to guests and we heard what sounded like firecrackers popping. It was early summer so not such an odd sound to hear on a Saturday afternoon. A few minutes later, police pulled up at the side of our house and ran onto the back of our property and up onto our deck, guns pulled and aimed at the house behind us. It turned out that the troubled druggy teen that lived behind us was seen waving a gun out the window and a neighbor had called the police. An officer came to our door and suggested we leave the house. We gathered the boys and went to the beach. All was quiet when we returned and we later learned that the boy had been arrested. That's another story (and he has since moved out).

Our neighborhood is one of the best and safest areas of our town. However, guns are a big part of life in these parts. It's not uncommon to see a gun mounted in the rear window of a pick-up. But it's still foreign to me. I grew up in Southern California and guns and gunfire always meant big trouble. They can mean big trouble here, too, but not always. Unless you are a deer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just Thankful

The kids are nearly all in bed and I'm headed that way, too. But I just wanted to write about what a nice Thanksgiving I had. After reading my last post, it made me want to write something more upbeat, right away. My pies came out just fine, Todd's mom decided not to brine the turkey but did end up nearly setting in on fire. Fortunately, it only burned the underside as she turns it over halfway through the cooking time. The dinner was very good. I drove back and forth, delivering pies, children and husband at different times, then returning him home in time for him to go to work. Went back and chatted for several hours before leaving. It was a terrific group of family members (very nice people), we all get along and enjoy talking about anything. Nothing is sacred and we laughed a lot. I missed Todd being there but I'm glad I'm comfortable enough to be at ease with his family. And they seem to like me, too. Todd's Uncle Dick is especially dear to me, I realized tonight that whenever I see him and go to hug him goodbye, it's so natural for me to tell him I love him. He's been there for us many times and has treated me like a daughter since the first time I met him. A great guy and a terrific storyteller. I can always tell that I've had a fun time when my jaws hurt from laughing.

God is good. He gets me through the rough patches and blesses me with loving family and friends. Thanks, Cristina and Cate, for your friendship here. You lift me up with your encouragement and make me smile! Todd ... thanks for putting up with me these past few weeks - love you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why I Don't Like November

There are times in one's life that just seem a bit too crazy. I am having one of those times.

A week ago, I had to hold my son's hand while he went through minor surgery. Ugh!! My nurse husband is usually the one to do this but since it was on a weekend, Todd was unavailable. My poor son was in quite a bit of pain which is so hard to deal with but God got us both through it. Alec is doing fine, now, and we are glad it's behind us. It's one of those things that I look back and think, "How did I ever get through that?" but I guess Moms are strong when they need to be ... or at least we hope we can be! Later that day, I was sitting with Alec and holding his hands. He had taken a pain pill and was feeling a whole lot better. I looked him in the eye and said, "You know, I would have taken that pain for you." He said, "No, Mom! But you know what? I was thinking how Jesus went through a lot more pain than I was and if He could do that, I could handle my pain." Wow! It's amazing to hear something like that from your 12 year old son! I was praying for Alec during the surgery and told him to pray, plus I was talking to him to try and distract him. I didn't know what was going through his mind but how sweet to hear these precious words. God is good.

Prior to this surgery, I was talking to my Mom and right before we said good-bye, she chimes in, "Oh, your sister is in Portland now. She's living in an apartment with her daughter and granddaughter." I was so stunned I couldn't speak. There is a lot more here than I want to write about but let's just say that I don't want my niece anywhere near my family. It took days for me not to be depressed about this. But, there's nothing I can do about it and she is 2 hours away. So, it's not a problem unless it becomes one - don't worry, right? Two days after Alec's surgery, I get an email from my sister saying that her son (still in Texas, where she moved from) is getting married Nov. 20. There was more in the email and then there was an ecard invitation to the wedding. It said not to reply unless we were attending. Call me old-fashioned but this was pretty tacky, in my opinion. And weird.

But here was a good thing that happened: Two weeks ago, I remarked that "Wouldn't it be nice if we got money in the mail?" Since then, I have received about $225.00 in the form of refunds, rebates, credits and store rewards. Hot dog!! Be careful what you wish for, I say!

And last Sunday, my mother-in-law came to borrow our camping cooler. She had told me she needed it to store food in for Thanksgiving (she's hosting quite a crowd) and, of course, she was welcome to it. Turns out she's going to brine the turkey in our cooler. Hmmm... Stay tuned on this one. We are thinking that the cooler will probably always smell like turkey. It sure doesn't make me look forward to the turkey feast. Somehow a brined turkey just sounds, well, like olives in a jar. Perhaps I'm not being adventurous enough.

So, whether you are hosting the family for Thanksgiving or lucky enough not to have so much work to do, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Please drive safely ... it's been lightly snowing on and off here so anything is possible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just A Few Things

I've been thinking about how to motivate my middle son to read more, or at least, expand upon his rather narrow realm of reading material. I have heard/read about keeping a list of books one has read (as oppose to me, who has a list of books I'd like to read). I suggested it to the kids as a fun way to see just how much they've read. My oldest, Chad, thought it a good idea and has spent days listing all the books he's read. He's at 300+ and counting. Carmen is thinking about making a bookworm, you know, cutting out circles for each book read and making a picture of it. That would be right up her 9 year-old alley. I told Alec he could start at the end of one of our many bookshelves and read his way through it. He's thinking about that, but has finally given in and decided to make a reading book list also. Who knew? I never know what will motivate my kids toward learning and it's always a happy feeling to see something spark some interest.

Saturday night (a working night for Todd) I sat the kids down to play Careers. It's a busy boardgame that involves a lot of decisions and risk-taking. We played for over two hours until Chad reached his pre-set goals. The rest of us continued until we had each finished. We had so much fun that Alec, Carmen and I played the next day, while Chad was in town, working as an usher for a local concert. Carmen asked if any learning happened while we were playing this game and I pointed out the decision-making, etc. She always wants to know if what we are doing is something to learn from. Some people would warn me not to tell her, for if she knew, she wouldn't want to do it. This way of thinking is so wrong, I think. It really makes a mockery of kids' intelligence. Anyway, it makes Carmen happy to know she's learning!

Sunday morning, I realized that Chad needed some nicer clothes for his usher job. We had less than 2 hours, of course! The store in town didn't open until noon so we rushed over to a store across the bay and, praise the Lord, we found just what we needed. Racing back home, lunch and then out the door to where the concert was, right on time. I really felt like I earned my Mom points that day! His grandpa was playing in the concert and his grandmother was in charge of the ushers so it was extra special for him to work that day. I was very proud of him. He looked so grown up in his new clothes - one of those moments you want to remember.

Found out I have to bake three pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Can't complain, if that's all I have to do (Todd's mom is hosting). If you've known me for more than a year, you know I hate Thanksgiving but somehow I'll get through it. I have promised myself not to wallow in sorrow this year like I have for the past few years. My dad's been gone for, what, 24 years now? I fail to understand why it seems to get harder the older I get. But since I can't ignore the holiday, for the sake of my family, I will walk through it. This is one instance in my life that age has not softened the blow.

And lastly, while the rest of the nation is either enjoying their new Republican government or lamenting "What happened?", our state has, once again, elected a governor that I did not vote for. What's worse is that he has been governor before, running two terms before the last governor (someone else I didn't vote for). That's Oregon, for you ... recycle, recycle, recycle!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween At Our House

Who's daughter is she??? We had our annual pumpkin carving yesterday, Todd has to work this weekend so we got started early. Chad has carved his own pumpkins for a few years now. This year, Alec did a lot on his own - he's so proud of himself. He actually wields a pocketknife with more confidence than his older brother but pumpkin carving is a new skill for him. Carmen wanted to assist more this year but first, I told her to change into a shirt she didn't mind getting dirty. Who knew what fireworks this would ignite? It took what seemed like half an hour and lots of whining (from her) and escalating irritation (from me) for her to find a shirt. Good gracious! I seriously don't know why she did that except that she's 9 and can be moody/stubborn/such a gem at times. So, after the wardrobe change, they set to work. Every year, for a long time now, the kids draw several pumpkin faces on paper and decide on one, eventually. Dad transfers their designs to the pumpkin and away they go. It's messy work so I am glad to relinquish this family time to Todd. I do the clean up. The kids find a place to display their art. We usually set them on our baby grand piano but one year, we left them on there a little too long - pianos and mushy pumpkins are not a good combination. Anyway, this year Alec and Carmen have fully decorated the piano for Halloween. For the last few years, they have made haunted houses out of cracker boxes and this year, the village is quite full. No room for pumpkins.

It's so fun that the kids have taken over the decorating. I didn't decorate for years, not wanting to emphasize the scary parts of Halloween. But now that they are older, I let them be creative - nothing bad just fun and a bit creepy. I especially like the mummy Alec made a few years ago. He drew a mummy image on construction paper (it's about 10" long), cut it out and painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. It gets taped up on a wall somewhere between the kitchen and dining room and when I turn off the lights to go to bed, there it is! There are some black paper spiders with glowing eyes as well. Much more fun for them to create than to hang up store-bought stuff. In fact, I've never, ever bought anything Halloween. It's all homemade. This year, they hung up black paper bats at the end of the kitchen. One bat is always swaying while the others remain still. We think it's picking up an air current from the refrigerator. A few years ago, they rigged up a spider to a pulley on one of the kitchen cabinet doors - I never did get fully used to it dropping down on me when I reached to get a plate! One year, they filled every empty corner in the house (it seemed) with spider webs made from cotton string (not that store-bought filmy stuff) complete with a black paper spider with red eyes. They really liked that. And we save nearly everything to reuse the following year. It's fun to see their artistry develop.

It's Alec and Carmen, my creative kids, that do all the decorating. It's not really Chad's thing. What he likes best about Halloween is that we always go out (or eat in) Chinese for dinner. Then the kids watch "The Great Pumpkin" video. And they get candy, of course. Then, the pumpkins are put on the bathroom counter and anyone who wants to, gets to take a bath by pumpkin light. I don't know if that will happen this year, with Todd having to work that night. We'll be going out to dinner, then he'll head off to the hospital. We'll do whatever the kids want to after that. I won't have to watch "The Nightmare Before Christmas", which is just fine by me. Too creepy for my tastes. We usually watch this on Halloween after the kids go to bed. Of course, after Todd reads this, he'll probably want to watch this on Monday night, after his work week is over. I can always cover my eyes at the really scary parts!

Happy Halloween!new <span class=

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Good Nurse

What a week! I've been playing nurse at home, with all three kids having colds since last Thursday. Todd has been working as a nurse, saving the lives of not one but two patients. Of course, he DOES work in the Critical Care unit of the hospital but he doesn't usually have two nights in a row with such hang-in-the-balance patients. One was a 17 y.o. who partied too much on alcohol and an over-the-counter drug - stupid, stupid, stupid! Why, oh, why do kids do this? It has sparked much discussion in our home, since my homeschooled kids do not usually hear about this kind of thing. Fortunately, we later heard that this kid has since recovered and is going into drug/alcohol rehab. Considering what bad shape the patient was in when Todd's shift ended (couldn't breath on their own), it is a miracle that this patient survived. Had Todd not been as quick thinking and skillful as he is, this patient would have died. God is good. When Todd goes to work, I pray several times during the evening for him and his patients. Praise the Lord for answered prayers. It's a shame that all of this could have been prevented if this young person hadn't abused their body and mind like that. So senseless.

The other critical patient Todd had on the following night was an older person who's blood pressure wouldn't stabilize, among other issues. Todd worked hard for hours, trying to keep this patient alive. They were ultimately flown by helicopter to a larger hospital 100 miles away but 20 minutes by air. Our local hospital can't handle the very serious patients - we are thankful for the helicopter service that makes it possible to receive care sooner than a 2-hour drive by ambulance. It's worth the membership fee. Poor Todd worked 2 hours overtime, making his last shift 14 hours.

It makes me so proud of my husband when I hear how he helps the people in our community. He (and I) feel that he is right where he's suppose to be. I am happy to pray for these people, I like to pray for others and I somehow feel that I'm supposed to give this kind of support - some of these people may not have anyone praying for them. When the 17 y.o. came in, all that was known about them was their first name. I cried when Todd told me about the situation. I prayed that there was family nearby that cared about this young person. Around here you never know. There is so much need, everywhere ... I tend to get overwhelmed. Todd and I were discussing how nurses can't be empathetic - they can only be sympathetic. I know I could never be a nurse. I feel others pain intensely. It's really awful, sometimes. But it's just me. I squirm when Todd talks about his night shifts but as a wife, I want to be available for him to discuss his work. Sometimes I cry. I am, however, learning how to let it go and not dwell on what I've heard. I'm just so glad when his work week ends - and I get to have him home for 3-4 days, straight. That's the payoff!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Braces and Boggle

Boy, I thought I was excited when I got my braces off earlier this year. But when I saw my son, Chad, with his upper braces off - I was SO thrilled! He has grown so much these last two years, his face has changed and matured since he first got his braces on. What a joy to see those upper teeth so straight. He has a great smile. It's all been worth it. He's been good about wearing the retainer - it helps that I'm wearing one, too. He's learning how not to lisp when he has it in. My husband still makes fun of me when I sound funny talking with my retainer in. I have learned how to whistle through it - such talent.

Chad will get his lower braces off in a few months. Alec will be next. We are waiting until he turns 13, which he will this January. I was shocked when I realized how soon that was. It doesn't seem right - Alec just can't be that old!

We are settling into our school week fairly well. Chad's math is going slightly better, his attitude has greatly improved. Alec and Carmen are using a math program that I am not too pleased with. Bummer. Math seems to be the subject we all barely tolerate in this house. Todd loves it - too bad his enthusiasm can't rub off on the rest of us!

Our first gnarly Northwest storm arrived today. Days of wind and rain. I like listening to it at night, sort of nice to fall asleep to.

This summer, after dinner, we spent a lot of time going for walks and playing Yahtzee. I think everyone is tired of those activities - I can't get the kids to play anymore (Todd will when he doesn't have to work). Our newest phase is Boggle. Carmen wants to play all night. The boys aren't too keen on this game (the boys in this house seem to prefer number games). But Carmen and I will play game after game. I love word games and she is enjoying learning new words. She asked if this game was educational - I asked her if she was learning anything. She answered her own question. We get out the dictionary for her to look up words, we talk about definitions and different spellings, we have fun. I love easy learning!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Our School Year Begins

Our plan was to begin school the first week of October. But the closer that time came, I found myself seriously procrastinating. It didn't help that September's weather was far closer to summer than at any other time this year. Who wants to miss out on sunny days? However, we did begin last Tuesday, slowly. On Monday, when I told Alec we would begin the following day, he wasn't at all pleased. I thought he'd be the one I'd have trouble with but, no, he was the first one up and hasn't had any difficulties all week. What a pleasant surprise. Carmen has been eagerly awaiting school time and though the first hour was difficult, she has enjoyed the week, being very proud of herself when she gets everything on her schedule accomplished.

My challenge has been Chad. He has grown considerably this year and become more independent. His brain, of course, has not grown as fast. He is finding it difficult to listen to instruction, along with his new and more difficult math. We are both finding our way, I think. After several lectures, I finally remembered to pray for his attitude. It's hard for me - one minute we are talking like friends and the next, I have to be his mother and then, I have to be his teacher. Sigh.

What I don't like, as I read my first paragraph up there, is how structured our school sounds. I really feel that learning should flow, not be boxed in but we do need some structure to our day. I do up a small schedule for each child every week as my kids like knowing what they have to do and like checking the boxes when they finish an assignment. There's nothing wrong with that until I read someone unschooling or Charlotte Mason-ing or whatever. But then, I must remember that our homeschool will look very different from anyone else's. We are such a mixed bag - perhaps I should avoid reading about different methods of homeschooling. I was in need of motivation this past few weeks and got out some of my homeschool books and magazines for inspiration. As long as I use these resources as a guide and don't let them confuse me. Here I am a veteran homeschooler - I need to remember my focus and rely on God for guidance.

But we have finished our first week. We have started slowly and I plan to add, adjust and rethink as we go. That is definitely a benefit to this lifestyle of learning - nothing is set in stone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carmen Goes Nuts

Another venture into the world of teaching my daughter how to cook. Today we made homemade peanut butter. She has been wanting to do this since we made pancakes. I don't know why it's hard to make time for these little cooking sessions but, for me, it is. Anyway, we had lessons on blender etiquette (do not remove the lid until the blade has stopped!) and watched while the peanuts magically turned into ... well, they didn't actually turn into mush like the cookbook said. I'm sure Molly Katzen's peanut butter was a better success than ours but we like our product. Seems like our peanuts needed more peanut oil than the recipe called for - it made all the difference. It's excellent on English muffins and later, Carmen had a sandwich of homemade bread with homemade jam and homemade peanut butter. She was so thrilled! So what if some of the peanuts are still whole. Carmen named it, "Mom & Carmen's Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter". She's thinking of making an ad complete with a coupon, advertising our creation.

The more of these kitchen moments I have with my daughter, the more motivated I am to make time for them. I am still not comfortable in the kitchen and I want my kids to enjoy cooking. I know I've said that before but it really is heavy on my heart. I want them to experience success with creating something that tastes good and not feeling like they've failed if it doesn't turn out right.

Stay tuned ... Carmen will probably begin asking for something else to make soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Not Something You See Everyday

Last night, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to a seminar given by Graham Kerr of all people. Remember The Galloping Gourmet cooking show on TV back in the 1970's? The one and only. What on earth was Mr. Kerr doing in our little town on the coast?

Since we are on the coast, our town tends to have festivals that celebrate things of the sea, like fish, fishermen, crab, seafood, etc. This time it was the humble commercial fishermen that were being festive. And they managed to invite Graham Kerr to the party (he now has a home in Washington state, so he's not too far away). Today and tomorrow, he's doing something with fish - filleting, perhaps. But on Friday, he held a seminar in our local theatre.

He was older, of course, but still a vibrant, funny man. He talked about making healthy lifestyle changes, helping out the community and reaching out to those less fortunate. He connected all this and if you want more info, he has a website. Our family already does a lot of what he spoke of - good to see someone giving talks like this. And judging from the audience, most who attended could use a healthier lifestyle (our town has it's issues, like most of America I'm sure).

But the greatest thing to me was that he told us that he was a Christian, and he actually prayed for the audience at the end of his talk. You could just see that he really wanted to reach these people. This was not a spiritual meeting, but he wanted to bring God into the picture and he did it in non-threatening way. Todd and I, of course, were totally fine with him praying and I thought it was awesome. We live in a very secular town - these people needed the prayer.

I loved hearing some of his history. How he met his wife when they were 10 years old. They celebrated their 50th (I believe) anniversary this weekend. How they were living in New Zealand when they first started his cooking show. Apparently, there were only 15 TVs in New Zealand at the time and he said that not many shows can boast 100% viewing - all 15 TVs watched his show! His wife decided a change was needed in his show and began directing the program. That's when he began displaying his outgoing personality on TV. My Mom and sisters watched his show with me when I was very young. We thought he was so funny and wondered what it would be like to be in the audience. Didn't he always invite someone (usually a female) from his audience to dine with him at the end? Seeing him brought back a lot of childhood memories. Our family was big on charades and The Galloping Gourmet was always an easy one to act out. I'll let you think about that for a bit ...

It was fun to have a little date with my husband, sitting together and holding hands. We were home by 7:30 pm, which was good. In typical Kate fashion, the night was not without its mishaps. I had sent a check for the tickets (by donation only, the proceeds going to the festival by Mr. Kerr's request) and was told by phone that our tickets would be held at the box office. Calling the box office on the day of the event was useless - there's not always someone there to get the phone (small town, remember?) That night, there were no tickets there for us at the theatre. But after earnest explaining, they let us in. When Todd and I were walking down an aisle to get to the front, I nearly ran over an older lady. I apologized and continued on my way. You guessed it ... I found out a few minutes later that I had nearly knocked over Mrs. Kerr!! When Graham introduced his wife to the audience, I nearly died of embarrassment. Fortunately, she couldn't see me from where she was sitting and she was so nice, I'm sure she forgave me. Still.

They really seem like a terrific couple. I'm so glad they came to our town this weekend. I wish our weather had been nicer but they're used to rain, living in WA. It has been raining for days. I think the term "muggy" must have been invented in this place.

Oh, thanks for praying for my blog friend on HSB. I really appreciate it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Please Pray

My blog friend on HSB, thystledown, posted this morning that her husband passed away suddenly on Labor Day. I had not visited her blog in a couple of weeks and felt led to visit tonight - now I know why. Please pray for her. She has two children and they just recently moved from Texas back to New York (her story is all in the archives on her blog). It was such a shock to read her short post. I had followed her Texas story from the beginning and was looking forward to seeing how things went with the move back to NY.

Please pray for this lady and her family. I'm still in shock. I can't imagine how sad she and her children must be. Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It Wood Be That Time

It's that time of year again, when I usually spend way too much time locating a good source for our winter fuel. (Oh, no, NOT the firewood post again!!) You know the drill ... calling on newspaper ads, driving around looking for "For Sale" signs on pick up trucks filled with a cord of wood, pestering anyone in the yellow pages who might be able to help me find SOMEONE who has firewood - at any price!!!

But this year was different. Todd had mentioned a few times that we needed to get firewood. I was waiting for payday. Yesterday, I called the guy who sold us wood last year. He called back and, thankfully, Todd answered the phone (sometimes, it's just easier for a guy to talk to a guy about wood, at least in these parts). Two cords, no hemlock, same price as last year, delivered before 10:00 am tomorrow. No way!! It just can't be that easy!

But it was. The only catch was that Todd wouldn't be here in the a.m., which I had thought would be a mild inconvenience but wasn't after all. Last year, the wood guy (Al) showed up with two pick-up trucks that looked like they had seen better days. His two helpers were real characters as well. I'll be kind and not go into detail. Anyway, I was a bit apprehensive until they showed up (at 10:00!)

Al's trucks were in better shape. They didn't have to push the one to get it going. A different truck, perhaps (business is that good, maybe?!) His only helper was the same as last year but this time, he was clean and sober, not shaky and limping like last year. Same sense of humor, too. And they were so quick! It was a much more pleasant experience this year, probably the best it's ever been. If you've been my blog friend for awhile, you know my past experiences with firewood. Anyway, this year was a piece of cake. When they were done unloading the wood in our driveway, Al smiled and said, "Have fun!" I shook his hand and thanked him. Now the hard work for us would begin.

My whole family chipped in and helped with the loading. We had to clean out the fenced area where we store our wood and take out what was left from last year. Then stack the new wood, and restack last year's on top to be used first. Chad did most of the work this time. When Todd got home, he helped before going to bed since he works tonight. Alec and Carmen did what they could. I worked with Chad and later on my own, when everyone else was tired. Errands and dinner got in the way but we got it nearly done. One day! Unbelievable.

Watching the boys work together today made me realize that I was actually seeing the fruits of my labor. For years, I have been taking the boys out with me to teach them to stack wood. Oh, it was SO difficult! Chad was just so hard to keep on task, arguing and running off, and Alec would complain and give up too soon. I sometimes resorted to letting Alec keep Carmen company so Chad and I could stack but I knew it wasn't teaching Alec to work. But today, they worked together and I knew that my efforts had paid off. In fact, Chad did a lot of the work without me, including putting together the rack we keep near the door and stacking some of the wood there, as well as showing "Al" where we wanted the wood unloaded. What a blessing that I can rely on him for things like that. It wasn't that long ago that I wondered if he'd ever be responsible to take on these kinds of tasks without being supervised. He's really grown up so much in a lot of ways, it's a joy to see. Helps to balance those times when he can still be exasperating!

And then there's Carmen. She has wanted to help stack wood ever since she was old enough to pick up a small stick. She has always been so small that I was nervous having her out there around the wood pile. Wood has a way of falling, hard and chaotic. I have a sore foot to prove that theory. But Carmen has never been afraid and helps out as long as she can. It was drizzling when we started but by the time the kids got tired, the sun had come out just hot enough to make stacking kind of miserable. All the kids went in at that point. I stayed out working and dodging the yellow jackets, bumble bees and wasps. This evening, there was some rather large flying thing. It was huge. It buzzed my ear and I ran, screaming behind the gate. I waited. Ventured back out to the wood pile ... I could hear it's wings humming. Couldn't see it. Deep breath. Continued stacking wood, beating each piece on the driveway to remove spiders. That darned thing buzzed me again, sending me off to the gate. More waiting. Geesh, I just wanted to get things done, you know? I spent the next half hour gingerly approaching the pile, pounding wood and stacking, all the while listening for the thumping wings. I never saw it again and I hope I never do. At least there were no snakes this time.

I'm so thankful our winter fuel is here, paid for and ready to heat our home, even when the power goes out. God is good.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Week of Cleaning

We've had a productive week. I've been wanting to really clean the house and we got a good start this week. We had a short visit from some relatives last Thursday and we used that as our motivator. I always need motivation for this kind of thing. Of course, Monday and Tuesday were absolutely sunny and beautiful but, alas, we were inside cleaning and dusting, getting rid of clothes to donate, putting stuff away and throwing stuff out. The kids were so great. They really worked hard and did everything I asked them to. Chad is great at organizing, Carmen is good at cleaning and putting things away and, Alec ... well, he's just good at obeying me when I give him an order. Todd got motivated to clean part of his side of our office room. Thus, I was motivated to clean my side ... at a future date. Priorities! Clean everything the company will see first, then move on to everything else.

Lists really help me. If I don't make lists, I get scatter-brained. Now I need to make new lists, with the next phase of cleaning. Though after this week, I needed a few days rest to recover.

Carmen has really taken an interest in the kitchen this summer. She wants to learn how to cook. She has been regularly asking to empty the dishwasher and learned how to fill it as well. Tonight, she was looking at a recipe for making pancakes. She said, "This doesn't look hard." I said that I'm glad she thinks that way. I am not a confident cook and pancakes scare me. But we will do it together and perhaps some of her confidence will rub off on me. Todd is the resident pancake maker in this family. Every time I make them, they turn out icky, like those thin, round rubber sheets you use to open a jar with. I can't see wasting good ingredients on my disasters. Chad likes to flip pancakes so perhaps I'll have them work together. Alec can help by eating them. Alec is growing fast this summer - his increased appetite is evidence of this.

I'm sad that September is a few days away. I hate September. Something to do with school starting/summer ending. I need to remember that our school doesn't start until October. Yippee! Perhaps September will be warm. One can always hope.

How many blog posts have I ended with that last phrase? Must write this on my list: Increase phrase repertoire.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August ... Summer?

Honestly, we've tried not to complain but, seriously ... will we ever have a summer? We've had maybe a handful of days over 70 degrees and 4 days over 80 degrees - which were difficult because they appeared and disappeared sooner than we could adjust to. 65 degrees seems to be the norm and clouds, clouds, clouds, dark clouds frequently. Fog and drizzle appear from time to time - tomorrow is likely to be drizzly as well. I get up each day looking for something summery that will keep me warm. Call me quirky but I hate wearing winter clothes in the summer. Today I spent two hours in my comfy chair in the living room, snuggled under a blanket trying to get warm. I seldom get a chance to snuggle in my comfy chair so I didn't feel a bit guilty. Todd was sleeping (in between 12-hour shifts) and the kids busied themselves without disturbing Mom (for the most part).

Enough mild ranting. Chad is still enjoying his volunteer job at the museum. I took Alec with me last week to pick up Chad and we toured the museum a bit. Before I saw Chad, I met the lady that hired Chad and she told me how pleased they are with him. That makes me very happy.

I'm still trying to find a book to follow Tolstoy - no luck, yet. Big shoes to fill.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Milestones

I'm happy to announce what I consider to be a major accomplishment ... I have finished "War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. Regardless of what others may think, this book is not a boring read. Of course, this is my opinion (what else do I have to offer?) but I was really quite surprised when I began reading the first page. It wasn't what I had envisioned at all. Yes, there is page after page of war description, destruction and strategy (they were the pages hardest for me to get through) but I enjoyed the chapters relating the lives of several families of wealth and nobility in Russia. Todd and I decided that this book is the forerunner of every historical novel and soap opera that has been written since the mid 1850's. I also loved learning more about Russia and its people, at least from the very early 1800's. The book's time period is from 1805-1820, covering the War with Napoleon. I have learned a lot. I really knew nothing of this time period. Most of what I've read has been before the 1800's or after 1850. I also wasn't sure just when I would finish the book but I found that I really wanted to read it so it took priority over a lot of things (blogging, for example).

When I was growing up, "War & Peace" was always joked about and I knew that it was a big book but that's it. It has been on our book shelf (Todd may know where it came from) for a long time and a few weeks ago, I just picked it up out of curiosity. I'm so glad I did! The most interesting fact, to me, is that people really don't change, regardless of the time period. They just speak and dress differently.

Also of interest (and sadness) is the reality that Russia is up in flames this past week or so, with all the wild fires burning. Just last week, I was reading in this book about Moscow burning during the war. One of those coincidences I have sometimes.

So .... if you have a few weeks to devote to this kind of literature, I recommend it. Just skim over the hard-to-read horrors of war that are in a few paragraphs. Tolstoy had a sense of humor, though, which pops up in unexpected places. It compelled me to read a bit about the author as well, to get an idea of where he was coming from. Of course, I related all that I read to my husband and the kids heard quite a bit. I think everyone feels like they read the book through me so now they don't need to read it themselves!

During this frenzy of heavy reading, I did find time to celebrate our wedding anniversary. On Aug 6, Todd and I celebrated our 22nd year! We had a quiet lunch at a lovely restaurant in town, overlooking the river. Now begins year 23 - I am so blessed and thankful. He's my man!

We also found out that a nice couple I met at the Frances Mayes book signing I attended last spring (we've been emailing ever since) also got married on Aug 6, a year after we did! How fun to find that out! My parents also got married on this date, now that I think about it. Unfortunately, my father died a few months before I met Todd; my parents did, however, have a very good marriage. Yes, it was a good date to get married on!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Busy Week

Yikes! What a week it's been! Beginning with Sunday ...

My oldest turned 15 on July 25th! Another yikes!! No, it's o.k., really. I love who my son has become and I wouldn't turn back the clock for a second. There are times I see an expression on his face that reminds me of him as a child and I remember. But, sincerely, raising Chad was a challenge and I was so happy when he got to be about 13 or so. And he just keeps becoming more of a joy as he grows older. He's a stinker like his Dad but I'm used to that. He makes me proud nearly every day in the way he behaves and interacts with others; when he remembers to do what he needs to do and even does the unexpected (both good and bad!) and his kindness to me and, sometimes, to his siblings, especially makes my heart sing. I get positive feedback from those who meet him and have gotten to know him. Of course, he needs improvement in lots of areas (show me a teen who doesn't) but my prayer is that God will continue this child on the right path and give him guidance and wisdom throughout his life.

Chad began a volunteer position at a historical museum located about 17 miles from our home. He had his interview last week and I coached him a lot before that. I waited for him in the car and when he returned to the car, he honestly thought he'd been gone over an hour (it had been about 15 minutes!) Nerves can do that! His interviewer liked him as well as the people he'd be working with. He was so excited! I was happy for him but I knew that this was the beginning of change in our home. I'll be driving him (Todd might be able to help with this) every Thursday. It's an hour round trip but I'm not going to sit and wait for him there so I'll get home and then make the trip again in an hour or so. But more than the driving, it's the start of Chad spreading his wings. Know what I mean? I'm so glad for him and proud but am resisting pulling him back to just play with Legos. I know how I felt at his age - I wanted to work, move out, be in the world. I had a 20-hr week job by the time I was 15-1/2. A car at 16. At 18, I was wishing I had started working later and just played during my teens but I know it was good for me. This position is volunteer but I think that's a plus. He had his first day yesterday and he loved it. He's working in the museum's archive room, organizing files of people in the area. He loves history and is good at organizing so he's in his element. He is, however, in another state, as this museum is across the river in WA. It's the first time he's been so far away all by himself and that seems weird to me. The drive is beautiful, crossing the 4-1/2 mile bridge across the Columbia is lovely but terrifying sometimes. I was pretty tired last night but we had a very busy day so I'm sure I'll get used to taking him. It's all worth it.

So, we had Chad's birthday on Sunday, working around Todd's work schedule. I made the cake for Chad. Yesterday was my husband's birthday and today is his mom's birthday. We celebrated last night at her house. Todd made the cake and we brought Chinese take out. It was so nice not to have to prepare any food, since I wasn't home most of the day (Chad had a dental appointment in the morning as well.) I spent today catching up on laundry and dishes but actually got in a nap. And, of course, "that" time of the month had to occur. I am tired. But it's been a good week. The bonus: My 9 year old daughter actually wore a dress last night - and loved it! She never fails to surprise us and is a stinker, just like the rest of my family. I am so blessed!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oregon Strawberries

Trivia question: Are Oregon strawberries a blessing or a curse? Should the mere mention of the Northwest berry make one laugh or cry? Both, perhaps? Let me explain ...

We look forward every year to the arrival of Oregon strawberries. You can only get them (around here, anyway) from little stands that spring up on busier roads around the area. People make little signs with a big, red berry and the word, "OREGON", with an arrow pointing the way. As you drive closer, more little berry signs beckon you. When you get to the stand, you see a few tables put together under a striped canopy (tent-like covering), holding pints and pints of berries. If you're lucky, that is. More often than not, you are greeted only by empty tables with a few smashed berries underneath. Too late. There have been some years that we looked and looked for a berry seller but those were years that the season was bad or they never made it out here to the coast. Cherries often compete with the berries at stands but that's another story.

This year, we were fortunate. I guess. We found a lady selling berries just down the street - we could walk there (and did!) And, yes, we got there too late several times. Finally, we arrived just in time to buy the last flat she had that day (the lady ahead of us got the next-to-last flat). We took them home and immediately began to prepare them for jam. You see, the Oregon strawberry is so delicate it begins to deteriorate the minute you bring it home. It is evil in that respect. So, being the chief strawberry preparer, I began washing and de-hulling the berries. Each pint took 15-20 minutes (I'm really picky). The beautiful day was passing before my eyes out the kitchen window. At least I could watch. After I prep the berries, Todd takes over with the jam making. Lucky me! The reward is having wonderful, homemade strawberry jam to last for some time. Makes my stiff back and aching arms almost worth it.

The next week, Todd took Chad to his orthodontia appointment. They came home bearing TWO flats of Oregon strawberries! Guess what I did all day? Berries, berries, berries! We had to go to the store before I could begin and by the time we got home, the berries were looking pretty weak (these were day-old berries this time). I got started and by 11:30 pm, I prepped the last pint I could do. I was bushed! Todd finished the jam and we went to bed. He decided that the last few pints could be made into strawberry pancakes the next day - bless him! Refrigerating them helps a bit but they still deteriorate fast.

All in all, I'm glad we go to all the trouble to make the jam but by now, I don't want to see another berry for quite some time. Unless, of course, Todd brings home another flat. Oh, please, don't read this, honey!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Finding Chad

Every once in a while, one has a day that ends very differently than one thought it would. Like yesterday ...

Started out as a typical week day for us. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then, while Todd went to a class at work (just what he wants to do on one of his days off) the rest of us decided to go for a walk. How we came to the decision of walking where we did, doesn't really matter (we all jokingly have been blaming each other). The fact remains that we chose to walk on a trail that we didn't know much about. That's where the trouble began.

This trail is out among wetlands and mostly along a bay, not far from our house. We've walked some of it before but not very far. It's very windy there, as it is everywhere around here, especially near the water. After walking just a little ways, I decided I'd had enough of the wind. It had been a warm day and now I was cold. Chad wanted to keep going. So, brilliantly, I suggested I would take the younger two kids and meet Chad further down the trail. So he kept walking and the kids and I went back to our car. I was thinking that I could drive on the main road and meet up with Chad fairly easily further down the trail. If this sounds confusing, it is or it became confusing very quickly. We drove past way too much beach shrubs and trees until I finally found a very bumpy, long, long road that ended up in sand. I couldn't go any further. And there were some creepy teens hanging out there. I couldn't see the bay or any sign of a trail - just grass, shrubs and the bluff. Back down the bumpy road and on to the next possible way to get to the trail. It was in a marina, along an inlet from the bay. More grass and a long, long trail. By now, I was scared. I figured Chad would keep walking until he met up with us. So I kept going, hoping that around the next bend, we'd see the bay. Nope. I turned right into another trail and came out into a big, sandy clearing. I kept the kids at that trail opening and walked all over that area, screaming Chad's name. Walked up on a bluff - no trail, no bay. No Chad. I couldn't believe what I had gotten us into. A Coast Guard helicopter flew over and I screamed, "Do you see him?!" Silly, I know, but you had to be there. I was getting desperate. I knew I needed help - I couldn't find him on my own. So the kids and I walked as fast as they could manage back to the car. Lord, it was far. And it had gotten hotter. I had been crying and praying, I was exhausted but I kept going. On my way back, I called 911. I decided that this was emergency enough - I didn't know the trails and couldn't find my son. After losing reception and actually dialing 991, I finally got through to 911. The calm dispatcher handled the situation and after listening to my description of Chad, she asked, "The one with glasses?" It turned out to be my neighbor, Wanda! "Oh, Wanda!", I wailed. How cool to have a neighbor helping me! (Wanda is a 911 dispatcher and I knew that but at that moment, it didn't occur to me it was her!) We lost reception during our conversation but she called me back. I told Wanda that I was returning to where the trail started and she said a policeman would meet me there. He was there when we arrived (I actually drove right passed him - duh!) I managed to be calm enough to tell him everything he needed to know. It was surreal, describing my son's clothing and such. The officer said they had two other policemen out and they would cover the trail from three different ways. He assured me he'd find him. I was so grateful for this man's can-do attitude. Very comforting. There was an espresso hut in the parking lot near this trail head and the employee working there saw the police car. Right at that moment, her parents drove up for a coffee. She told her Dad to go tell the policeman that a boy had asked to use her phone to call his mom and had asked her more about the trail. So, her folks relayed the message to the officer. Can you believe the timing of their being there? So, now we knew Chad had been back there about 10-15 minutes before and this helped him to be found. While I waited, I went over to thank the espresso employee. She said when we drove up the second time, she saw Alec and thought he looked just like Chad. Then she remembered that we had been there before and had seen us all walk over to the trail. When she saw me the second time, she said I looked like a Mom who had lost her child. This lady was very reassuring. We talked while I waited and amazingly, she didn't have any customers during this time. She was my age with kids about my kids' ages so it was like an instant bond. Just what I needed. Then, I saw a jogger leaving the trail and I asked if he'd seen Chad. He said no but he passed a policeman and heard on the policeman's radio that they'd just found him. I was so thrilled - the jogger was happy, too! So, I knew Chad would be coming back soon but it didn't dawn on me how they would bring him back. As I emptied a ton of sand out of my shoe, a police 4-wheel vehicle drove up. I saw Chad waving frantically from the back. The officer got out and I said, "Did you cuff him?!" He laughed and let Chad out. Chad ran into my arms and we hugged and hugged. I thanked the officer tearfully but I was amazed at how calm I was at that moment. Chad was the one that was shaking and starting to cry. I guess because I'd had a few minutes to calm down after talking to the jogger, that it made it easier for me to calm Chad. I went from being the frantic one to being the comforting parent (have you been there?) What a moment.

God is good.

God is good even when I am stupid ... STUPID! I know better than to let my son explore a trail that we are both unfamiliar with. I feel so stupid that I put us all in this situation. When I was calling out his name, in the middle of what seemed like no where with absolutely no one around, I kept apologizing to him, to God, to my family, for making this stupid mistake. I asked God not to let Chad be harmed because of my stupidity. Those creepy kids I had seen really added to my fears. And, of course, with all the headlines about that 7 year old who disappeared in Portland a few weeks ago (have you heard about that?) I have been more vigilant about keeping my kids safe. We had no business on that trail, really. The espresso employee said she wouldn't take this trail alone or any of the trails along this bay. Too secluded.

Anyway, all ended well because of the quick action of the policeman, the dispatcher, the espresso lady and her folks, the jogger. Think of all the people God brought in to help us. I am so grateful to these people, used by God.

No, I never envisioned that this day would end with me seeing my son climbing out of a police vehicle. He didn't like it at all. We joked (later) that it's all the more reason to never do anything that would land you in one again. But this wasn't his fault. I'm so proud of him for trying to do the right thing. I had wondered if he'd return to the trail head and I'm proud of him for asking for a phone to call me. He didn't, however, leave a message - I think he was just a little too shaken up to think of that. So his next solution was to get more info to try and find me again. We were both so exhausted when we got home. Fortunately, we have both been walking nearly every day so we were in better shape to handle this than we would be otherwise. Alec and Carmen never once complained or gave me any trouble. They prayed for Chad and trudged along with me, even though they were hot and tired. All I had to give them in the car were breath mints! And this is the Mom who is always prepared with water and stuff! I tell you, I just royally blew it yesterday. Today, Chad and I said it would be awhile before we venture out on a walk. It was cold and cloudy out today so it felt good to just stay home. Yesterday, after we got home, Todd and I headed out to the store for a few things to make a quick and easy dinner. I kept quietly sobbing every now and then. I forgot what I wanted to buy. I forgot to swipe my Safeway Club card. I think it was post-traumatic stress or something. I was still out on the trail, mentally, screaming for Chad. I'm fine, today. He's here and we can (and do) hug often. Yesterday, Chad said he figured I'd call the police at some point - boy, that kid knows me so well!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Have Nothing Against Chickens

I'm thinking about doing a "Cooking Camp" with my kids this summer. Spending the whole week working with them in the kitchen, teaching. I want Todd to be in on this as well, since he's the one who taught me how to cook.

I was wondering if any of you had any helpful hints, tips, recipes to share. I am open to any suggestions, including comments like, "Are you crazy?" (just kidding!)

I have to get over my fear of eggs. My kids have never cracked an egg, except for the one time Chad attempted to make French toast. He was about 8 or so. I had the crazy idea that making French toast would be an easy thing to start with. I let him crack the first egg. Somehow it exploded and egg was on the counter, Chad and the floor. Since I was also the mother of a 5 year old and toddler, I did not exactly have the patience to deal with the mess so I ended up making him feel badly about it (I didn't mean to). Since then, he has avoided cracking eggs. And I have not asked anyone else to do so. I didn't really mean to follow down this path, it has just seemed easier. But I feel I'm doing my kids a disservice by not letting them learn this simple task. And the careful handwashing required afterward! (Remember, I'm queen of handwashing!) So, at the risk of sounding more paranoid, let's just say I am considering egg-cracking to be a required lesson during our Cooking Camp. Again, if you have any advice, I'd appreciate it.

But did you know, there are lots of recipes that don't require any eggs? Believe me, I'm nearly an expert on this topic, so if you want a terrific applesauce cake recipe (sans eggs), just ask. (Pathetic, pathetic!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sun Day On A Saturday!

Glory be! Sun, sun, sun! It was a GLORIOUS sunny day! Just when you think it's never, ever going to happen, God gives us this beautiful day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Lest you think I'm nuts, it's just been so long since I've spent the day in capris and a t-shirt. With the windows open, no less. I'm not pathetic, just jubilant.

On days like these, I tend to go a little bonkers. What do we do with such a day? It seems a shame to stay inside and do chores, even if they need to be done. And Todd had to work so we had to stay close to home. So the kids and I went for a walk on the river walk in town. O.k., so I had to put on jeans and wear a fleece for most of it (it's nearly always windy on the river) but it felt so good to be warm. Warm! Even the wind was mostly warm. I changed back into my capris when we got home.

The railroad track runs along the river walk even though a train hasn't been out our way in several years. (Joke: How do you know a railroad has been here? Because it left tracks.) We do have a trolley that runs up and down the river, the length of our town and when it passes by, one feels compelled to wave. I appreciate the kindly tourists who wave back. We ride it once a year or so, it's fun to hear the conductor talk about the town, etc. But not today, no, today was for being outside. We heard chirping along part of the track where it split into three rails. We found some adolescent sparrows hiding down under the unused track, calling for their mom. We walked among a large flock of pigeons. Then we spotted an enormous container ship entering the river under the big bridge that spans across to Washington. The pilot boat zipped across to sidle up to the ship. We knew we were in for a treat. The river pilot shimmied up the ladder hanging on the side of the container ship (these guys are nuts!!) While we waited for the hand off, a raccoon scampered up from the river bank and ran across the tracks in front of us. After several minutes, we spotted the bar pilot walking on the deck, then making his way down the side of the ship on the ladder. From there he safely made it to the pilot boat. Whew! This happens several times every day but we don't get to witness it very often. From our living room at home, we see the helicopter take off that takes the bar pilot out to the ship in the ocean that needs to enter the river at the "bar". It's dangerous work. The bar pilot is deposited by cable down on the ship. He pilots the ship through the bar and into the river. That's where the pilot boat comes in and delivers the river pilot to the ship. Greetings are exchanged, as well as information. Then the bar pilot climbs down the ladder and literally jumps on board the little pilot boat. One false step ...

It's always amazing to watch, it's never boring. I couldn't help but think that with all of today's technology, there are some things that are still done the same way they've been done for a long, long time. Brave men, these guys are. And it pays good money, too (anyone interested?)

Our walk back to the car was uneventful, everyone being hot and tired but we all had fun. We went home, I made dinner, Todd went to work. It was still beautiful out. Chad set up croquet and we played. He beat me, the scoundrel! Then Chad and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. We spotted a large flock of cedar wax wing birds. They flew down onto the sidewalk in front of us for a minute. They are such pretty birds and rare in these parts. We got home and still I wanted to be out. So, close to sunset, I took Chad and Carmen out to the river, this time at the end of the boat docks, to watch the sunset. A lovely ending to a warm, wonderful day!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

It's been years since my husband has had the day off for Memorial Day. Years. And since we homeschool, it's not a holiday for the rest of us, either. So I've always sort of struggled with this day - do we take the day off (we don't really need to), do I spend it as a regular school day or take extra time to learn about the "why" of this holiday. I think I've done all of the above, most of the time.

Since it has been and will be wet and rainy for (ever) a long time, I don't think we'll venture out to any cemeteries, at least not on foot. In the past, looking for war memorials was one way to bring home what war ends up being for most soldiers. Remember, I was a young child during Vietnam and what I remember about that war were the protests and people dying. However, my Dad and Stepdad served in Korea, and taught me respect for military and being thankful for the brave people who serve. As a result, I teach my kids all these things.

My boys are fascinated by the history of the wars we've fought in, as well as battles in other countries. It's a boy/guy thing I guess, as my Dad was the same way. I suppose that's what gives so many boys/men the bravery/nerve to go into battle the way they do. Yes, I know women serve on the front line as well but I'm talking about my sons at the moment. Anyway, I wish (oh, how I wish) my Dad had lived to see my sons, to share stories with them, to talk about war planes and hear of his stateside experiences (he never saw combat, praise God). My Stepdad visited with my sons a few times but not enough. He did fight in battles but hesitated to talk about them, which is understandable. Good, strong, brave men, George and Richard were. Perhaps that's who I'll talk about tomorrow with my kids - their maternal grandfathers. Though Dad and Richard were both humble and probably wouldn't want all that attention. Oh, man, I better stop writing about them, the tears are flowing.

Boy, this post sure deviated from the original idea. It can't be helped - Memorial Day means more than just honoring our brave. For me, it also means remembering two wonderful men in my life. I will always miss them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cooking With Carmen

My 9 year old, Carmen, has recently started asking to learn how to cook. That's what I was waiting for. We decided to start with some recipes in Mollie Katzen's "Honest Pretzels" cookbook and so far, we have baked banana bread twice and "not-from-a-box" macaroni and cheese for dinner last week.

She was especially excited to actually make dinner. She loves my macaroni and cheese recipe (made with Velveeta) but this recipe calls for sharp cheddar. I hate Velveeta and was glad to use another kind of cheese and we added some white cheddar as well for extra flavor. We also used mini penne mixed with mini wheels, instead of (boring) elbow macaroni noodles. My kids have never eaten macaroni "from a box", and the male family members aren't really mac & cheese fans but they ate it and I made sure they thanked Carmen for making dinner. Carmen and I thought it was yummy. She was so proud and I was equally proud of her.

The banana bread recipe uses yogurt (this cookbook is mostly vegetarian and health-conscious) and just 1/2 cup of butter. It was very good the first time we made it and, tonight, we added walnuts for variety. We'll find out tomorrow morning if we like it with nuts.

What I love about working with Carmen in the kitchen is that she has no fear of trying to do something. She'll just go ahead and do it or ask if she can try something once. Like when I was chopping the walnuts, she asked if she could try cutting one. I handed her the knife and she made just one cut, but that was enough for her to see if she could do it. She has no hang-ups (yet, like her mother) and is eager to learn. I love it.

It takes longer to do everything but it is so worth it. Instead of her just helping, I make it truly a teaching time. I make sure she is doing most of the work. I try to explain everything we are doing and why we are doing it. She asks a million questions. Well, she does that all day long anyway, why should cooking be any different? Sometimes, she stops talking long enough to actually hear my answer. We need to work on her listening skills!

This is all foreign territory for me. My mother taught me absolutely nothing about cooking so I learned what I know by experience (or out of hunger), lots and lots of reading and, mostly, from my husband. I still rely on him for quite a bit. Mostly for things I know really matter to him, like when his steak is done. So I understand how important it is for kids to become confident in the kitchen early on. I want them to be able to learn and teach themselves new things, to be able to take care of themselves well and to have fun. I have so many hang ups in the kitchen that I lack confidence. But I find that when I'm teaching Carmen, I don't feel that way. It's either a good act or perhaps, at 47, I do know my way around the kitchen (don't laugh, Todd!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 3rd, I was walking into the kitchen when I noticed my whole family looking at me. My husband was sitting at the kitchen table and he said, "Surprises are best left to the very last moment (a direct quote from the Brit sitcom "As Time Goes By"). I suddenly felt disoriented, like I was floating. I looked at each face and couldn't figure out what was going on. "What?" I said, rather alarmed. I honestly don't remember much about what was said after that but here's the (ahem) short story. They had planned a two-day trip (beginning Tuesday) to Leavenworth, Washington, for us to celebrate my birthday/Mother's Day. And they kept it so under wraps that I was TOTALLY clueless! They were so excited, the kids had all packed their clothes and even had helped out (more than usual) with laundry and dishes (I just thought they were finally learning more responsibility - silly me!) I was in shock, so much that I wasn't all that thrilled to begin with. It's, after all, a financial strain on our already strained finances. I had told everyone not to spend a dime on me for this birthday (May 8th) and Alec almost gave it away, now that I recall, but I just wrote it off to his being silly Alec. I was happy but worried. I discovered a lot about myself through this trip. I felt I didn't deserve it. I was so used to being in control of things that it was near impossible to believe that everyone had planned this without me. Honestly, I was in a daze all afternoon. It took me a full day to warm up to the idea. I tried to tell my family how much I appreciated all they did but that I wasn't used to surprises like this. Now I know just how uptight I really am. And I don't like that about myself. I'm also more of a control freak than I thought. Ugh!

But, fortunately, my family loves me anyway and we had a very nice time. It rained, then snowed on us during the 6 hour drive into the mountains of north-central Washington. Gosh, it was beautiful. Leavenworth is a town that reinvented itself back in the 1970's into a Bavarian-themed, snow-capped village. The mountain view is amazing - Wedge Mountain looms straight up behind the town. We love the view from our favorite hotel. I can lay in bed and look out the window at "The Mountain". I love it.

After check-in, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner, we played racquetball at the court in the hotel, had coffee and hot chocolate in our room and went to bed. It's too bad the kids don't sleep well on the first night out and Carmen was exceptionally grumpy. But we got through it and woke up in time for the awesome breakfast this place serves. The breakfast room is on the fourth floor and has awesome views on three sides. Our hotel is also Bavarian-themed and the owner plays an Alpine horn from the balcony twice a day. A good photo op. We played golf across the street at the hotel's putting green, ate lunch in our room and then the kids swam in the pool. Dinner was at another favorite of ours, called Cafe Mozart. It's very nice with decor themed around Mozart and the era he lived in. The waitress actually remembered us from last year and seated us at the same table. After dinner, Chad and I played ping pong and listened to the nightly piano player in the lobby. Chad got to play a bit of piano, too, that night. The next day in the breakfast room, a lady came over to our table and told Chad how much she enjoyed his playing and encouraged him to continue learning. He beamed! Later, he asked if he could play on the piano in the breakfast room, just one song. Chad really had the best time on this trip. After we checked out, we headed over to a park on a little island on a lake that was created years ago by a lumber company that used to be there. Then it was time to go home.

I smile when I think of how, before the trip, my 9 year old daughter kept saying, "We planned everything, Mommy!" I'm ashamed at how I kept thinking, "If only!" I guess since I'm the Mom, I'm so used to being the one to make sure everyone has enough underwear and we've brought the right food and I've got my make-up, etc., that letting go is not something I easily do. I realize now that I have to work on loosening up, not worrying so much, and, most of all, allowing others to do something nice for me. I wrote thank you notes to each of my family members yesterday. I wanted something in writing for them to remember - not the stressed out Mom they saw at the beginning of the trip. How I wish I could go back and act the way I really wanted to! I was never angry, just in shock. That's the best way to describe it. I did have a really nice time and that's all we've talked about. So, hopefully, that's what the kids will remember. And I am so proud of them all, especially my husband. I'm proud and impressed that he went to so much trouble for me. What a guy! He really wanted me to have a good time - and I did. I just needed more than 24 hours to adjust to my "Surprise!"

Saturday, May 8, 2010


With love, Kate

P.S. Happy Birthday To Me!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Storytellers

If you looked back and read our family's Christmas newsletters, you'd soon see a pattern. When giving a brief (one sentence) description of each kid, I always, ALWAYS, say that Chad is our storyteller. Or, Chad continues to be our storyteller. Or, Chad continues to enjoy telling stories. You get the idea. I'm glad I finally realized how repetitive I was being a few years ago. But how many different ways can you say the same thing? (There's a blog right there.)

This year, however, I may have to give that same description to my other children as well. It seems they have discovered just how fun being a storyteller can be. Fun, right? Of course, it's fun but sometimes it can get out of hand. It's terrific when all is going well and everyone is happy with the status quo. Sometimes, it's just one child and other times, it's two or three, taking turns. TAKING TURNS is key, here. Until someone tries to take over or finish someone else's story - that's when the trouble starts. Rude remarks, yelling, Carmen running into the kitchen (where else would I be?) crying, saying "Alec is trying to finish my story!", etc. Of course, the worst thing I can say is, "It's just a story." JUST A STORY! How dare I make such a statement! These kids place great value on what they say and take great offense at being told how they should say it. At least, for the moment. In the next minute, they are off on another tangent and all is forgotten. If I can just remember how brief these squabbles are, I'd be a lot happier. Just let them work it out, as long as they don't get violent and nothing is thrown.

Though the noise level can rise quite high, I actually love all this story telling. Lots of learning is taking place here and I really can't take credit for it. Just be the referee.

The other day, I printed out something I had saved, explaining a writing exercise for kids. I try to add writing lessons every so often and while I was contemplating this one, my daughter started asking me how to spell different words. When I finally realized what she was doing, I had to laugh. She was writing a story. In chapters. Without me even asking. She asked, "Mommy, what's that in your hand?" "Nothing, sweetheart," I said, putting the paper away for later. It seems that Alec had started writing a story in chapters and Carmen, who copies nearly everything Alec does, started to write her own. She asked me to check her papers for mistakes and then asked if I could type up her story on the computer. We printed the pages and she is very pleased with her work. All without a single curriculum idea from me. Amazing.

Like I've read before (and I truly believe in) - sometimes you just have to get out of the way and let your kids learn.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Can't They Be More Like Me?

I just finished a post full of complaints and rants about my kids. But I didn't want to save it. My kids have been unusually cranky these past few days (during my husband 12 hr shift work week). It's been frustrating for me but I didn't feel like posting all the negative words. Sometimes when I complain on paper, it's not helpful to re-read it. It just makes me feel lousy. Like, "poor me", or something.

It's simply been a time when I fail to understand why my kids can't be more like me! I find myself repeating, over and over, "Be nice", "Don't do that", "Enough!", "Knock that off", etc. But, they ARE kids. It will be years before they understand the things I have already learned. To my daughter, most slights or inconveniences are the end of the world. To my oldest, annoying his siblings is an art form. To my "poor, neglected" middle son, it's an Alec-centered world. I spend an enormous amount of time trying to explain things to my kids to make them understand sooner than I did as a kid. But their minds just aren't there yet. When my oldest is embarrassed, he's not able to brush it off - he's half way to 15, that is the time of his life when being embarrassed is normal. I try to give my kids words to their feelings to help them understand their emotions. I try to give them nice words to say instead of insulting each other. I try to help them think through situations so they can see the bigger picture. All this is exhausting to me and I know I won't see any fruit of this effort for some time. Perhaps I work too hard on this but it is my hope that it will be worth it and they'll turn out better people for it.

I wonder if I frustrate God when I fail to understand what He's trying to teach me. Well, maybe not frustrate but, perhaps, He sighs when, yet again, Kate is floundering. Oh, how I flounder! I hope I can remember this paragraph the next time I go head to head with a child. Dear Lord, please give me what I need to be the best Mom I can to my kids. I don't need perfection - just less floundering!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Tonight, my kids and I had a great Bible study about Good Friday. I read to them from John and then some from Luke. We discussed everything. Chad added quite a bit to the conversation, which makes me happy. It means he's understanding what he reads and (hopefully) this is helping him grow in his faith. I had to work hard to keep them on track sometimes but it's worth the effort. I love, love having these kinds of conversations with my kids. Especially now that they are getting older and contributing their own opinions. We can get wildly silly at times but, in the end, I can usually rein them in and make sure everything is explained as well as possible. If no one gets rude or mad (including me!) we have fun.

As an adult, it's interesting to see how important it is to not get lost in debates or trivia (there are exceptions, of course). To stay on course and stick with the important issue of the conversation is vital. If we get off on a tangent, then that's all they remember. That's not always bad but it's not what I want out of the situation.

I guess the bottom line is to pray beforehand, do my best and let the conversation take its course. I can't force learning - no one can. God knows my kids' hearts and knows what they can handle and when. I am just the go-between - from the Bible in my hands to my kids' hearts and minds. It's a scary place to be until I remember that God is in control, not me. What a relief!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dream Fulfilled

Some of you know that my favorite author is Frances Mayes. I have always wanted to meet her, to tell her how much she's inspired me and how I have enjoyed her writing.

Tonight, I got to do just that!

I even had the wherewithal (what a great word that is) to tell her all that and more without gushing or giggling. I was so nervous all day, all the way there (2 hour drive to Portland) and the entire time I sat there at the book reading. I enjoyed hearing her read from her book but, seriously, my hands were sweating, I was so nervous about speaking to her. I had been practicing what I would say, so I would sound like the intelligent person I believe I am (hah!). When I finally had my turn to meet her, I told her she had inspired me to write and she asked me what I wrote. Whoa! I didn't expect her to ask ME a question. I told her I wrote from my personal experiences. And that I've attempted to learn some Italian. She was very kind and signed my copy of her new book. Gee, at the beginning of this day, I had no idea I'd end it with a new Frances Mayes book! I'm waiting until tomorrow to open it. Extending the joy!

Yesterday, I was reading the book section of the Sunday paper and came across this tiny ad about Frances Mayes being at Powells Books in Beaverton. I wanted to go so badly but didn't know if the planets would align enough for me to go. It's not easy to get out, especially at night and so far away. God answered my prayer. Todd wasn't working and I was feeling up to going, so I got the kitchen all cleaned up for Todd to make dinner, fueled up the Prius and took off.

I had such a good time. It was heaven to be with other people who enjoyed Frances Mayes books. It was a joy to see her and hear her read from her new book. And I'm still thrilled about meeting her. When I left the parking lot, I was trying to process the evening. Sometimes I immediately forget what I just said after I talk with someone and I wanted to remember. I do remember saying, "... and I can't remember what else I wanted to say!" But I was gracious (and so was she) and she won't remember me. I know I'll remember finally meeting her. She has made such an impact on my life and I hope to continue to be inspired by her.

It's funny, after hearing her talk, I realized just how much I've learned about her through her books. And that's what I want people to feel about my writing - I want them to know me from my words. Another thing I got from tonight was the idea (not a new one) that you should live your life and the write about it. Which is what I do anyway. Good advice - I think Mark Twain said that, didn't he?

Even more fun was the fact that I met a terrific couple who homeschool their son. They were sitting behind me at the book reading and I mentioned to the lady next to me that I homeschooled, which started the conversation with them. We talked the whole time we were waiting in line for Ms. Mayes to sign our books. By the time it was my turn, I was totally relaxed and it was pretty easy to talk with her. Again, God is good!

On my way home, I was thinking how I went out tonight hoping to meet my favorite author and always remembering this evening. Well, I think I still feel that way but I had just as much fun talking with this homeschool couple, as well as talking with the ladies sitting around me about books and writing. It was a really, really nice evening. I've been stuck on writing inspiration lately but now, I'm feeling refreshed and renewed