Apparently the third time is NOT a charm, or the Christmas Curse Strikes again

For the third year in a row, I got sick for Christmas. Our first Christmas together, spent at home, I got a horrible cold. Our second Christmas, spent with my family, I got the stomach flu (as did 50% of the household, but I had it the worst). And I didn't write much about it but I will let you know that stomach flu and 2-day car trips across the country do not mix well.

I was so optimistic that this year I would beat the curse. Or perhaps just have a bit of morning sickness that would technically count but not be so bad since I'm used to it. But no, the fates were against me. I have now been sick at all our house, my family's house and his family's house. Apparently I am an equal opportunity sicko.

Saturday we start off our on two day drive to Craig's family's farm in North Dakota, with a stop over at my parents midway up the country. By Saturday night, he was coughing and sneezing. I really did try to stay as far away from him and his germs as possible, but that is quite hard to do in a car. So I wasn't surprised when my throat started hurting Sunday night. But he only spent one day feeling yucky and recovered quickly so I thought I might escape with the same fate. I should have known better. By Tuesday, it was bad. I spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mostly in bed. I probably would have made Craig take me in to a clinic yesterday if it wasn't Christmas day in a small North Dakota town, with no clinic for miles, during a blizzard. It was probably all for the best as today, I'm feeling slightly better.

But at least the Christmas curse didn't really ruin Christmas. Craig's sister, Steph, had to fly home on the 23rd so we celebrated early with his immediate family and we won't be celebrating with my family until later next week when my brother, his fiancee, Craig and I all arrive there. And yes, we didn't make it to the Christmas Eve service or either of the two big family dinners planned but that was due to the big blizzard that hit.

I kept hearing about this big blizzard and honestly, when people in North Dakota get worried about snow, you know it's gonna be bad. Then it stopped snowing and it didn't look too bad so I wasn't sure. But that was before the wind. I didn't realize that the big blizzard problem isn't the snow, it's the wind. There isn't much to stop it so it just blows the snow all over the place. It reminds me of scenes from a dust bowl documentary we watched a few weeks ago, only prettier. The piles are huge.

I'm currently sitting in the living room looking out over more snow that I think I have ever seen in my entire life. Craig got up this morning and went out to "shovel." There I was feeling sorry for him, up to his knees shoveling snow trying to clear the garage, thinking that it would certainly take him hours when I look out the window and see that most of the work is being done by a large (insert name of big farm equipment thing here). I guess shoveling means something different up here than it does in Texas. I wanted to take a picture of it but I didn't feel like subjecting myself to the cold air.

We are supposed to leave tomorrow but as of now the highways are still all closed. Craig is optimistic but I'm not counting my Christmas eggs before they hatch. After all, the Christmas curse still hasn't ruined my Christmas yet. It might try a new tactic.

Who Moved My Cheese?

The cheese contest I've been hyping for the last three weeks has ended. I didn't win. I'm not all that impressed with the winners, except maybe the chef's choice winner. Oh well, I knew it'd be a popularity contest, and I never win those. Thanks for your votes anyway!


What is Next Year?

People seem to be conflicted about whether next year is "two thousand ten" or "twenty-ten." For me, however, no matter what people say, next year is simply "oh-ten."


Gender Issues

Fallon is my friend and pregnancy buddy. She is 2 weeks ahead of me, and our other friend Amanda is about 2 weeks behind - we're a little club. It's so fun! Anyway, Fallon just found out she is having a little boy. Yay for baby John!

But it got me thinking more about gender issues. Kelly over at 5 Minutes for Parenting has people talking about the big issue of finding out or waiting. She lists some of the reasons she always wants to know. And I can understand them and see why others would have that desire but I just don't feel the same way. We are pretty much at the point where we could find out if we want but we're both content with the secret staying - a secret.

Planning? I'm normally a planner. I love to do lists and use my label maker (the fact that it belongs to the lab makes me very sad) and I'm pretty sure one of my spiritual gifts is administration. But in this case, I love not having to plan. I don't know, so I can't. It's very refreshing. Plus, we want to keep our baby stuff as gender neutral as possible and that would by ridiculously hard for us to do if we knew ahead of time and impossible for baby showers. Yes, I will run to Goodwill to buy a couple cute girly or boyish outfits later on and I'm planning on crocheting two newborn hats, one in pink and one in blue but I don't want to have to buy a new car seat for the next baby because "the pink one was just too cute to pass up." (And yes, the pink stuff is always cuter!)

Bonding? I've heard that some people find it easier to bond when they know. I've only ever been on the "not knowing" side so I guess I can't say that it isn't easier, but I'm not having a hard time feeling bonded. I like having the fetus name, it makes talking about the baby much easier but I'm not even sure if that would be necessary for me to feel close to our baby. And I don't ever really call the baby it, I just go back and forth between boy and girl. I don't feel like I have a "gender neutral alien" inside me, I feel like I have my baby in there. Except sometimes I just feel fat and tired...and then I remind myself I'm pregnant and get over it.

Looking forward to the delivery date? I know all babies are in some ways a surprise so it isn't really about giving me and Craig something more to look forward to on the big b-day. It's more about giving others something to look forward to. I want all our friends and family to be surprised by the gender and the names. I've let a few of our name options slip out but nothing is set in stone so nobody will really know until the big day. And I like that. It will give people something nice to say. Plus, nobody can critique the name once it is already attached the baby.

Letdown? I know that some people say that they need time to adjust if the baby isn't what they wanted or expected. And others say "Oh, I don't really care" but you can tell they secretly do. Well, I really don't care. And Craig is pretty good at keeping stuff locked away if he wants to, but I don't think he really has a preference either. And some moms say they have "a feeling" but I don't know how. At first I thought it was a boy but then I figured out that I was just assuming the firstborn was supposed to be a boy. The oldest in my family is a boy and Craig is the oldest on his side too. But once I realized that it could be a girl, I didn't really have any thoughts one way or the other. And that is one of my favorite things about not knowing...I get to imagine both.

Craig and I were listening to the last Peasant Princess talk which was about parenting and focused a lot of the importance of a daddy in a girl's life, and I almost starting crying thinking about Craig and I having a little girl because I know she and I could trust him to teach her what she is really worth. And how much fun would it be to read Anne of Green Gables to my daughter? But when Craig comes in all dirty and sweaty from playing rugby with the guys, I get all weepy thinking about him running around outside with a son. And then he gives me a funny look because since when does sweat make me so emotional? Plus having grown up with two brothers, I think I would love the rough and tumbleness that a baby boy would bring.

So while my initial biggest reason for me for not wanting to know is that I wanted to avoid the big mid-pregnancy ultrasound, now I'm really glad we are doing it that way for a lot of reasons. But overall, I think this is one baby decision that you just can't go wrong on.


Cheese Vote Reminder

I wrote about my goat cheese recipe a couple of weeks ago. In case you didn't get to vote then, I implore you to go now. The contest ends on the 21st (tomorrow!) at 6 or so Eastern time. Also, you can read more on my creative process here.


And we're off...

We're (hopefully - I am setting this to publish ahead of time) on our way now, driving across the country to visit both sides of our families. It's gonna be a lot of driving, a whole lot of bathroom breaks, and hopefully a really good time. I'm very excited about seeing our families and about getting a full two weeks off of work. I need it.

I had been feeling very Scroogy this year but lately I've been getting into the holiday mood. I had enough energy to put together a few homemade Christmas presents (I'll probably talk about them after the holidays since they are mostly going to people who will be reading this :-) and we even got our Christmas letter out. I was willing to give up on it happened at all this year but Craig volunteered to do the hard part of addressing, stamping and sealing if I did the fun part of designing it so I agreed and yesterday we mailed them all! (Except those few of you who haven't gotten me your addresses yet...you know who you are and had better email me soon or no card for you! I still love you and wish you a Merry Christmas, but you won't be getting a pretty letter saying so.)

I did not get to any holiday baking which is a little sad since I love to bake but I figure that I can let that go as long as my mom has some yummy stuff waiting for me when I arrive (hint, hint). Remember, I need to gain weight! Do your duty as grandparents!

So I might be popping in from time to time but basically I'm on a break from now until after the New Year.



Do you ever have conversations that just stick with you? I keep reading things about parenting and compromise. Mostly I find them ridiculous but they bring to mind a conversation I had with my college girlfriends several years ago. I was newly engaged and another was in a serious relationship but overall we were pretty clueless about marriage and boys and all that. Yet, here we were, having a deep conversation about submission and decision making and roles in marriage.

I, in my infinite 21-year-old wisdom (do you see my tongue in my cheek right now, I hope so), said that I thought it was very important for a wife to submit to her husband when they disagreed (I don't want to give the impression that I think I was wrong, I still think I had the concept right, I just think it is funny because at the time, I had NO idea how to do that, how hard it would be, and just how much I would end up fighting God on that whole concept later on, as in right now.) Another girl piped up and said that she didn't think it was fair for one person to have to give in, especially on major decisions, and that she thought a couple should just continue discussing until they came to an agreement, no matter how long that took. This seems to be the general idea that I've seen popping up in parenting magazines and books. At the time, I remember thinking how I didn't think that view was compatible with the scriptures I knew, but I didn't know how to articulate a response. Now fours years later, well, I still don't have a well thought out response other than "Ha, ha, ha...how's that working out for ya?"

Seriously, that doesn't work. Even if you could possibly make it work for the first year or two, it definitely wouldn't work once a baby came along. I used to think along with babies came diapers, cute nursery sets and teeny tiny clothing, but what really comes with babies is decisions! Lots and lots of decisions. Decisions that two people are in charge of making. And if you are unaware, two is an even number. So every time I see something state that compromise is even more important now that a baby is on it's way, I laugh. Because in reality, it seems like compromise is even more impossible now that a baby is on it's way. Things I would have been willing to compromise on before, I'm not now, things I didn't care much about are suddenly vitally important. I am a mama bear and don't come between me and my baby.

Now I do think Craig and I are pretty "lucky." We agree on probably 95% of things and Nigel is no exception. For the most part, we have the same goals and ideas about how we want to raise our kids and construct our life. But it's that last 5% that's so tricky. Talking about something is good, coming to an agreement or a compromise is good, but sometimes it just ain't gonna happen.

We decided early in our marriage that we would look to the Bible for our understanding of a marriage and we feel that the Bible says that the husband is the authority in family matters. Not the ultimate authority mind you, he's still under God's authority. But I'm not talking about issues that are due to one of us sinning or a result of us not having the mind of Christ. In these cases we both genuinely want to make the "best" decision, the one that is most beneficial to the health and welfare of Nigel. We just disagree on what that decision is.

Probably our first big disagreement in our marriage, I mean, major decision disagreement came with the flu season. He wanted me to get the H1N1 shot, and I did not. We talked and talked and talked but neither of us was going to change our mind. We just stopped bringing it up for a while. Which was good because it gave God time to work on softening my heart. And He helped me realize a few things:

1) I can normally trust Craig's decisions. All those times that he agrees with me, it's not because he doesn't care enough to bother fighting me on it. I've seen marriages like that, where the husband doesn't bother having an opinion because it seems like his wife will take the opposite one and she'll get her way anyway so why make the effort. That is not what I want nor, thank the Lord (literally), what our marriage is like. Craig does care about a lot of things, when he agrees with me it is because on baby things he either feels the way I do from the start or he doesn't have an opinion at all yet but once I present my case, he takes the facts into consideration and comes to the same conclusion. The fact that he is willing to disagree means that I can trust his opinion when he says he does agree with me and that is very reassuring.

2) My submitting to Craig is really submitting to God and even if if I feel like I can't trust Craig's decisions, I can trust his authority because it is rooted in God. Abraham completely botched the whole leading his wife thing and let Sarah get dragged off to be married to someone else - twice! That was not a good biblical decision by any stretch of the imagination and if I was Sarah, I might have felt justified in going against Abraham. But God took care of her, protected her, and even says that her following Abraham was a sign of her faith and hope in God.

3) In the end, if Craig makes the decision, he has to bear the responsibility. It's his fault if it all goes wrong (insert diabolical laugh here). Just kidding on this one, kinda :-)

So at my last appointment, I got the shot. Actually, once I submitted to him and decided to get it, we were able to come up with a compromise both of us could live with - I would wait to get the shot until my second trimester and then I would get the thimerosol-free version and would wait until the next month to get the seasonal flu shot. This worked out well as my doctor ended up being unwilling to give it to me until after the 14th week (I could have gone to our local health department earlier though). Craig would have preferred my getting it earlier, I would have preferred not getting it at all but we were both okay with the end result. (Or I was until I saw the giant needle but that is a different issue). But I can tell you that we would not have been able to come to that point if the Lord has not smacked me on the head and helped me submit to Craig.

Another decision might be coming up and there is absolutely no way to compromise. If we have a boy, do we circumcise or not?* We either do or we don't. It's just not something you can compromise on (okay, honey, let's just take off half the foreskin!) and in the 2.5 years we have talked about it, our opinions haven't changed so I don't hold out much hope that they will in the next 6 months either. One of us is going to have to give in. And, unless he really does change his views, it will be me.

And not just because he has slightly more first hand knowledge of the consequences of that decision either :-)

*Notice: To avoid a comments contretemps, I'm not asking y'all to weigh in. We both know how we feel and why and we will work it out. I'm using it as an example.


Christmas Song Ponderings

  • There is one line in "Winter Wonderland" that really bothers me.
    And pretend that he is Parson Brown. He'll say are you married? We'll say No man...
What? "No, man?" That just doesn't really seem like something someone would say to a pastor, even an imaginary one. Unless of course you go to a modern church on beach in California perhaps but not a happy frolicking couple from 1934. Does that bother anyone else? I hope so.
  • Who names their kid Bing? (After writing this, I looked it up and apparently his real name was Harry. I feel better knowing that.)
  • The advent study we are doing this year is published by a Presbyterian Church. It's pretty good - except the hymns. We sing* a hymn after each lesson and so far I have only really known one of them. With so many nice Christmas hymns, is it really necessary to give us ones such as "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor" and "Once in Royal David's City"? Are those common in the Presbyterian church or do the authors of this study just like to pick unusual hymns?
  • Why do I dislike Jazzy Christmas songs except when they are sung by Harry Connick Jr? I heard a song and realized it was a jazz remix so was about to turn it when I heard H.C.J.'s voice and decided to stop and listen because I knew I would like it. That doesn't make sense. Am I just just too biased against jazz to even give it a try? Or is there something about him that overcomes what I don't normally like about jazz? I don't know. I would try listening to other jazz songs to find out but I don't think I want to.
  • I really like the song,"Mary, Did You Know", but I find myself answering some of the questions with "Yes, she did, the angel told her, duh!" But I still do think it's a really sweet song.

*It's just the two of us and since we don't know the hymns, trying to actually sing them would be painful. Craig either reads the words aloud or we listen to it on YouTube.


The Joys of Pregnancy: #2 - You mean there is somebody in there?

I thought it was about time for another Nigel update as the last few weeks have been exciting. This baby has decided to really make his presence known. The day before Thanksgiving was our last appointment and we heard the heartbeat for the first time. It was later than most because we had skipped a couple ultrasounds but it was worth it! It was up around 160, which is fast but normal for a fetus.

The next day we went to visit family for Thanksgiving. After a full day of family, food and fun I was relaxing on the couch and felt a weird feeling. From what friends and books had said, (basically that it feels like a stomach bubble, butterflies, or my personal favorite, a "fart up in your intestines") I thought it might be baby kicks but didn't want to say anything in case it turned out to just be that second piece of pumpkin pie I ate. That would have been embarrassing! Fast forward 6 days and nothing else has happened so I thought I was wrong but then, I felt it again. A few more days of nothing and then boom, Nigel must have had a growth spurt because ever since then I have felt them all the time.

In fact, last week they were all in my lower right side and although the flutters themselves didn't bother me, I was quite uncomfortable in that area. I tried to tell Craig it felt like a tumor but he said I wouldn't be able to feel a tumor so that was a silly description. So I switched to saying it felt like a baby was in my hip. I kept trying to shift Nigel by flipping over quickly from one side to the other or massaging the area towards my middle but nothing worked. But about 36 hours later I was walking around and he/she must have moved because all of a sudden the discomfort was gone and I started feeling the flutters somewhere else. It still feels more like fluttering than kicking but I'm okay with that for now :-)

Nigel's also growing. "They" say he/she should be about 5 ounces by now but all that means to me is that I finally had to indulge in maternity pants. And it must be all baby growth because I've only had a net gain of 3 pounds so far (despite my best efforts at eating a lot).

This picture is actually from last weekend but we only take one on even weeks so it will have to do. I've been using the bella band for the last 5 weeks or so and it worked well but this last week I reached the breaking point, literally (at least for my zipper). I normally hate shopping especially for jeans but after a failed attempt at target, we went to Motherhood Maternity and it was great. They brought me 4 pairs of jeans to try on, I liked 3 of them and picked my favorite two. Taking only 30 minutes, it was my easiest jean shopping experience ever! Maybe I should wear elastic waist pants all the time.

I would say something here about how I am still suffering from morning sickness 1-2 times a week and how that isn't really fair as I am already in my 18th week and I'm trying very hard not to be bitter about it but only succeeding some of the time. But as this is a happy post, I won't.


Foreign Affairs Friday: How Will North Korea Land?

I agree with this analysis (which is a few years old) of the potential future of North Korea:
Andrei Lankov, senior lecturer at the Australian National University, writes: "in the long run the system appears doomed. Sooner or later the gradual disintegration of the police and security apparatus, increasing access to unauthorized information along with manifold social changes will bring it down, probably, in a chain of dramatic, even cataclysmic events."
There is hope is many circles that North Korea can have a "soft landing," in which it gradually reforms and improves, similar to how China has, while remaining a separate nation. Only then would talk of Korean unification occur. East Germany collapsed peacefully but suddenly in 1989, and the large gap between incomes of East vs. West Germans created much expense for, and resentment in, the latter to bring the former up to modern standards. But the gap between the two Germanys is much smaller than that between the two Koreas. While South Korea is one of the world's most advanced, prosperous nations, North Korea is one of the poorest and most backwards.

However, this is not what North Koreans think. Due to the extreme lengths Kim Jong-Il and his regime go to to suppress information (phones are rare, TVs and radios only tune to government channels, etc.), North Koreans think they're doing OK, and their southern brothers are the poor ones.

This is what creates the problem. If North Korea were to open up and reform its economy, as China has done, interactions with foreigners would increase, and North Koreans would learn more and more information about the outside world and how backwards their country is. This could lead to violent revolt or massive emigration. It is unlikely North Koreans would accept their current situation for long if they knew how bad it really was. Therefore, the regime there cannot follow the Chinese path to prosperity. China has created some danger for its regime with its gradual opening, but the danger to the Jong-Il regime is much higher. That's why they have to engage in illegal activities and nuclear blackmail to bring in revenue in lieu of economic growth.

The US, South Korea, and China will have to prepare for the day when a "hard landing" occurs. Major issues will be large numbers of refugees, unguarded nuclear material, rash North Korean military action, major humanitarian needs, and potential for US-China conflict as the two countries' militaries potentially come into close proximity while trying to stabilize a collapsed North Korea. While we can all hope for a better day for the people of North Korea, getting there will not be easy.


Simple Toys

I've already written about toys I don't like which, to summarize, is anything made of cheap plastic, with batteries, with a character on it, that makes excessive noise, and that can only be played with in one way...but I'm not a total scrooge. Here is a post that I kept me saying "Yes, that is just how I feel." Either way though, Craig has already made me promise that the only thing we will get for Nigel next Christmas is a box.* Because everyone knows babies like boxes more than toys that you spend money on.

Apparently, so do cats. Zeeba is not normally a super playful cat. She is more of a curl up next to you on the couch kinda cat, which suits me just fine. But every once in a while she gets feisty and wants to play. She just doesn't want to play with any official cat toys. Well, there is one toy she likes, a little Christmas tree some of our friends got us after we first got her. And while people may give us looks when they see a stuffed Christmas tree in our living room in the middle of July, at least right now it works with the decor.

But other than that one two, she likes homemade toys better. Her favorites:

- A ribbon, but only when we hold it above her. It's actually quite tiring on your arms but when we bought her a toy with ribbons on the end of a stick, it scared her. I tried to convince her it was the same thing only less of a work-out for me, but she didn't buy it.

- A rubber band. We discovered this about a month ago when I was using them to hold up my pants. I get nervous that she will swallow it so I only let her play when I'm watching but that isn't hard since it is hilarious. The best is when she has it under her foot and tries to pull it up with her teeth. Inevitably, it comes loose and snaps her paw, they she gets mad at it and pulls harder. It's a vicious cycle. I'd stop her, but every time she sees a rubber band she gets excited so it must not hurt that bad.

- A gum ball. The large kind you get for a quarter from a little vending machine. Craig got one last week and despite the fact that she finds her official cat balls with cute little bells inside boring, she loved the gumball. Alas, it disappeared, probably under some piece of furniture. Luckily it is wintertime or we might be having a major ant issue right now.

- The snoogle. Well, not so much the snoogle itself, but what the snoogle does to the bed. Left under the comforter, it makes the bed all hilly and lumpy and improves her pouncing ability (It's actually quite creepy if you want past the room with the lights off, more than once I scared myself thinking someone was sleeping in my bed). Just put a sock on the bed and she is entertaining for quite a while, pouncing and attacking it. But only when the snoogle is in place. Maybe on a flat bed the sock can see her coming so she doesn't bother? Who knows the mind of a cat?

Are there any weird "toys" your pets like to play with. Or is our cat just really weird?

*Can you keep a secret? - I might try to sneak around that rule by putting something in a stocking though. Everyone knows stocking presents don't count as real presents - just don't tell Craig!


Lifestyle Choices

I was perusing National Geographic the other day (I read it for the articles, really) and I came across an interesting quote. It was from Jared Diamond (#42 on this list), who has written some enjoyable books. It was relayed in the NG article like this:
Jared Diamond, the UCLA professor and writer, has called the adoption of agriculture nothing less than "the worst mistake in human history"—a mistake, he suggests, from which we have never recovered.
The author of this piece, Michael Finkel, lays out some of the argument for this:
The Hadza [a Tanzanian hunter-gatherer people] do not engage in warfare. They've never lived densely enough to be seriously threatened by an infectious outbreak. They have no known history of famine... The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world's citizens. They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they "work"—actively pursue food—four to six hours a day.
I have thought at times that it would have been enjoyable to be a Plains Indian in the early 19th century. Riding horses, hunting, fighting non-lethal battles with other tribes, lounging around, etc. would have been my daily activities. The leisure aspect of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is indeed enviable.

Some of the benefits of the agricultural lifestyle and everything it spawned, on the other hand, are as follows:
  • Longer life expectancy, better medical care, lower infant mortality
  • All kinds of comforts and conveniences (house, car, air conditioning, etc.)
  • Access to technology (for work, travel, leisure)
The switch to agriculture was inevitable, because societies that did so were able to outgrow and subsequently dominate hunter-gatherers. But Diamond posits a provocative suggestion that is interesting to consider.


Unions Pushing Their Luck

Union membership has been declining in this country for quite some time. However, union leaders placed hope in President Obama (as so many have) that he would help usher in a union resurgence. The execrable "card check" bill pending in Congress is one potential avenue. Another is the sweet deal Obama gave auto unions, at the expense of bondholders, in the GM bailout. However, actions the unions, which are seen by many as only interested in stumping for Democrats and protecting incompetent workers, have taken lately should threaten any traction they may be gaining. Here are three stories:
  • "Grinchlike union bosses are blocking at least 200 of Boston’s best teachers from pocketing bonuses for their classroom heroics in a puzzling move that gets a failing grade from education experts." The union wants all teachers to share this money, not just the good ones, which defeats the entire purpose of a bonus.
  • "In pursuit of an Eagle Scout badge, Kevin Anderson, 17, has toiled for more than 200 hours hours over several weeks to clear a walking path in an east Allentown park. Little did the do-gooder know that his altruistic act would put him in the cross hairs of the city's largest municipal union." The union would prefer that government employees do this work, not some punk kid. The union leader who raised hell about the Eagle Scout was forced to resign, though, so some sanity is prevailing.
  • In New York City, 700 teachers get paid to do nothing while they wait for their disciplinary cases to be heard. Unions have worked to make it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.
This is the kind of stuff that hurts one's credibility quite quickly. One thing I will compliment Obama for is that, contrary to his support for other unions, Obama has been making a serious effort to reform public schools, and doing so in ways that unions have long opposed. This includes increasing charter schools and basing teacher performance ratings on student results and test data. The egregious record of teachers' unions, which is probably more indefensible than that of any other unions, is likely a factor in Obama's willingness to defy them. That being the case, I say keep up the craziness, unions.


Goodbye Emma

Dear Emma,

I'm going to miss you so much. When mom called this morning to tell me the bad news, I just wasn't expecting it at all. You weren't very old and you only got sick on Friday and I didn't know it was so serious. You had a weak stomach and were sick a lot (just like me) and

after that bad car accident your limp meant you never really did get to run and play too hard so your health wasn't the best and I figured this was just another case of you being sickly. When you were a puppy and we would take you on walks and about half way through you would just decide you were done and we would have to carry you home. But even with your bad health you still seemed to love life, enjoying your daily walks and curling up on the couch for a nap (another thing we had in common) with your head on my lap.
I remember going to get you when I was in highschool and you were just a little puppy. I had to sleep on the couch for at least a month until you were big enough to make it through the night without a trip outside. And then we started puppy training and you got so excited to see the other dogs. Every single time we walked into the building you had an accident! I know it wasn't that you weren't housetrained, you were just so passive. But even so, you were never skittish. You were a typical golden retriever, you loved everyone.

Even once I left home, you were always "my dog" and I looked forward to your greeting me at the door whenever I came home. I practically had to push you back so I could make it through the doorway sometimes. Craig and I were even hoping to find a dog-friendly place for our next move so you could come stay with us.

It will be hard coming home later this month knowing you won't be there. And taking those strolls with Mom walking Kip knowing that I won't have your leash in my hand.

Your life wasn't long or even very easy at times but I hope it was still good. I'm so sorry I wasn't there with you at the end but I think you know that I loved you and will miss you.


Linky Love for Married Folks

I've wanted to share both of these for a while and since they are kinda similar, I thought I would kill two birds with one post.

Sorry, I didn't mean to yell, but a name like that just seemed to demand it. (And be careful opening that link, the opening video is loud and incredible cheesy, probably not something you would want a co-worker to overhear). Craig and I started being more regular with our date nights this fall and did these for our first two in August and September. Then Nigel came along and we haven't had a date since... but we will try to fit the next one in this month sometime now that I'm up to it and I am determined to get all 6 done by May.

Basically, it is a set of 6 "dates" for you and your husband (or wife) to go one. The "date" is really just a printout of instructions...questions/conversations starters, little fun activities, challenges, etc. I'll warn you, some of it is pretty corny and/or embarrassing but you can always skip something if you don't want to (example: Craig didn't want me to scream "My husband is hot" in public, so I didn't - aren't I nice?) If you are a bold couple, you would probably have even more fun, but we do not fit that category and still want to do the rest.

Another thing I like about them is that it really does help those budget conscious couples have a fun night. They are pretty vague about a lot of things so you can pick whether you want to eat someplace fancy or just grab a burger. Even with lots of stops and things to do, you can still come under the price of a typical dinner and a movie date.

The Peasant Princess:
I think I mentioned earlier that I've been listening to Mark Driscoll sermons online lately. This series on the Song of Solomon is what got me started. While I still haven't finished it, I've already learned and laughed a lot. I did a good study about the Song of Solomon with a group of girlfriends several years ago but we were all single/engaged so this time, I'm getting different stuff out of it this time...but now that I think about it, Driscoll does a good job of aiming his sermons at both married and single so everyone really should listen to it.

Disclaimer #1: I do realize that Mark Driscoll is somewhat controversial. Some of that is because he feels very strongly about what the Bible says. I happen to like most of what he says. But having said that, I don't agree with everything he says, and more importantly, how he says even the stuff I do agree with. So don't yell at me when he makes fun of you, because he will.

Disclaimer #2: I also realize that not everyone who reads this blog shares my religious convictions, so I want to be open. The G.D.E. is put out by a church/ministry but their purpose is to strengthen marriages and the focus is really on that. There are some "bibley" type questions such as "How would you like your spouse to pray for you?" but only a few per date and they would be easy enough to skip if you want. The Driscoll series is also put out by a church but as it is a sermon series on a book of the Bible, it is very "bibley" so if you aren't into that, well, you might not enjoy it. It's still funny though so you might.


Goat Cheese Recipe: BLT Wraps (Go vote!)

Ile de France, importer and purveyor of fine French cheeses, likes to have contests for bloggers. I thought about entering their cheese platter contest awhile back, but never got around to it. This time, though, they actually provided the cheese for their holiday appetizer contest to the first 50 to request it, one of which was me. So I got some goat cheese, and perused the internet for recipes to get an idea of what ingredients one generally mixes with goat cheese. I thought that, since its a contest, I shouldn't just find some recipe on the internet and regurgitate it (figuratively). After doing my research, I invented this recipe. Now I am competing against 25 or so other recipes to win $1,000. You can help by clicking the link to my recipe and giving it 5 stars down at the bottom.

Here's a photo of my tangy, sophisticated twist on an old classic:



We had a good but noisy Thanksgiving with my family. I grew up around all that noise but I guess I've gotten used to the quiet of just Craig and I. We ate a lot, played some board games (which Craig and I dominated) and caught up on family news. Then, before I knew it, Thanksgiving was over and we were on our way home listening to Christmas music as we went. Ah, Christmas!

The Advent season started Sunday night although we didn't get around to it getting out of Christmas stuff until last night and we didn't have time to do the Advent devotional, but tonight it will happen for sure. Luckily the study we are doing is not 7 days a week so we should be able to catch up during the week.

I love Christmas time in general, but especially the season of Advent and the tradition of lighting the candles each night and doing our devotional. I remember doing it every year growing up and I love doing it together with Craig now. Our first year we missed a number of days but last year was much better and maybe this year we will actually get each one done.

I used to like it mostly because it was a tradition and I really like traditions in general but gradually I learned to like it because I began to see Advent as a season of preparation and I really did feel like my heart was more prepared for Christmas when I spent the time focusing on Christ. It is very hard to make Christmas about Christ when you spend 90% of your free time during December working on decorations, gifts, parties, etc. Spending my evenings refocusing on what is important does really prepare my heart for worship.

But this year, I've been seeing Advent mentioned a lot as a season of waiting and that has really spoken to me.

I feel like I've been waiting for a lot of things this year...waiting for God to bless us with a child, waiting for God to "fix" certain problems in my life or take them away, then waiting for the first trimester to finally end, and now waiting for God to reveal the answers to some big questions we have been asking him about our lives' direction. And while I'm not quite there yet, I have a feeling in a few months I will begin I will want to be done waiting for this baby to come out.

And most of the time, I'm not very good with waiting. I'm hoping this season God can show me more about the joy of waiting. Not just for Christmas morning, but waiting on his timing in all areas of my life.

Just think of how God's people waited and waited for his return. It was a long time, but I happen to think He was worth the wait. The little babe in the manger. And then they still had to wait for him to grow up. Now we wait for Him to return. I also like the how while the idea of preparation brings to mind all the things I need to do before it can happen, waiting is more passive. Not completely passive, God has given us things to do jobs to do while we wait, but we aren't responsible for causing anything to happen, we are just called to be ready when it is. Like
the bridal party, our having full or empty lamps didn't change when the groom came, just who was able to go into the party. I can't make Christmas come any faster by putting up my tree earlier (although many people seem to try) or making sure I have my 12 dozen cookies baked, nor can I slow it down just because it's Christmas eve and I haven't gotten everyone a present. Nope, it comes on December 25th, no matter what. And while I fight it sometimes, I think I
like not having that responsibility. Or at least I should. And that is what I hope to learn this Advent season, the joy of waiting.