Worst Date Ever!

Yesterday was Craig and my first date out of the house without Lucy since we are in Kansas right now and she is comfortable enough with Grandpa that I didn't mind leaving her. It's been 20 months coming and we had been planning it for a little while and were both really excited about it. When Lucy and I woke up from our nap, she was in a bit of a cranky mood but seemed fine once she and Grandpa went out to explore the yard so Craig and I took off.

Our plan was to walk around downtown for a little while then head off for a nice Italian dinner. The downtown area here has lots of little shops, but unfortunately very few are open Sunday afternoon. But we were still enjoying the chance to walk around and talk to each other without interruption. Until we were interrupted.

My dad called and I could hear Lucy screaming in the background. At first I thought she was just having a bad time with the grumpies still but I told him we could come home if she was upset. Then he said that we needed to come home because she had just been bitten by the dog.

I don't know if Craig will ever convince me to leave her again. It's not that I don't trust my dad, I do, the dog bite could have just as easily happened when Craig or I was watching her but I hated knowing she was crying/screaming for me and I wasn't there. It was the longest 20 minutes of walking to the car and driving home ever. When I got there, she was doing a bit better, her face was still bleeding but I had passed along the tip to my dad that she really likes Caillou if he wanted to try and distract her with Netflix. It worked and she was only mildly upset. For the moment.

The bites weren't awful but they were on her face and we weren't taking any risks so we headed off the ER. Once we got there, it got worse. Lucy was not a happy camper. All the poking and cleaning and inspecting was about all I could handle. Especially when I had to hold her down while she looked at me and screamed "Mommy, Mommy!" So when it was time for the actual stitches with her in a baby straight jacket (they call it a papoose, but who do they think they are kidding?  Its a baby straight jacket) I left the room and let Craig be her moral support. I think it helped because when I came back, she saw me as an ally instead of her enemy and calmed down as soon as she was in my arms. She had 4 punctures, two little and two big and each of the big ones needed 2 stitches.

I have a whole new respect for parents of sick children. Watching her be put through that without any understanding of what was going on or why was awful. And I was very frustrated with one of the nurses. The triage nurse was nice as was the one who did the vitals but the nurse involved with the actual procedure was really rough. He was an older man and it seemed like he had never been around kids at all. I know that they have to make sure it is cleaned and bandaged correctly which can involve rough handling with squirmy kids but that isn't what I'm talking about. At one point he was putting gauze with numbing cream on her face but instead of ripping a piece of tape off and using it as a bandage, he put the gauze on her, taped it then tried to hold the end of the tape down on her face to rip it off the roll, pressing down on her swollen bleeding baby face! I think he realized that was a bad idea because he tried to do it differently the second time but he put the tape on upside down so it was sticking to his fingers instead of her face, then he snapped at me for not holding her firm enough. I held my "mama bear" tongue but I really wanted to say something snarky, like "If you don't know how tape works, it doesn't really matter how still she is." I know some great nurses so it was just frustrating that we didn't have one and it made things harder on Lucy. I really hope he is not on call when we got back on Friday for the stitches to be removed.

We finally got home about 2 hours after her bed time. I had promised her some tater tots. She tried them for the first time Saturday night and loved them and since Sonic was the only fast food place between the ER and our house that I knew of, it worked out well. She calmed down and ate her tot-heavy dinner, then we finally got her ready for bed.

My dad had came to the ER but once we got home, we called the MPs to file a dog bite report. First they tried to take a picture of Lucy's wounds for the report. Bad idea. She was understandably cautious and not at all happy with yet another stranger trying to take a look at her so he gave up and we put her to bed while poor Kip was carted off to be quarantined. It was probably a good thing it took us a couple hours at the ER, it gave Craig time to calm down before he had to be in the same house as the dog again. Don't send us hate mail, he isn't an animal hater (except for this one), he's just protective of his little girl and you hurt his baby, you'd better watch out.

I'm still not entirely sure what happened with him since my Dad said it happened so fast he doesn't really know either. They had just come in from playing and were looking in the fridge for a snack when Kip came into the room and ran up to them. He is a lab mix and much bigger than Lucy so even if she pushed him, I can't see it really hurting him but perhaps he thought she was standing between him and food. That's my best guess.

He's not a vicious dog, it just takes a special type of dog to be toddler safe and Kip is obviously not that. Right now I think the plan is for him to stay in a kennel for his quarantine period then find a new home, maybe with my brother and his wife, who don't have kids, live on an acre and have a more flexible work schedule. If that works out, it really will be the best for him since he wasn't getting the attention or exercise he needed here. Before my mom got sick, she took him on lots of long walks and worked with him to keep his alpha personality in check. My dad has been struggling to just get him the walks he needs while working but that still leaves him home alone all day. He probably should have been gone a while ago but it gets tricky since he was my mom's favorite dog. All our other dogs were family dogs, golden retrievers that loved indiscriminately. Kip loved my mom, she loved him and the rest of us put up with him. That said, he is a smart dog that will really thrive if he has a firm owner and the exercise he needs. I hope it works out, I just don't want him anywhere near my kid ever again.


What I'm into

Here are some random things I've been enjoying lately:

Spotify - I've been a Pandora fan for quite a while now but they were losing my loyalty with their limited selection of children's music and Lucy frustration with my lack of ability to play requests. So we switched to Spotify. She still gets annoyed (or scared, depending on the ad) and runs over to tell me "no, no, no" when an ad starts but by the time she gets to me, they are almost over. And a few ads are worth it the ability to play Raffi's "There's a spider on the floor" ten times in a row, I guess.  Of course, I just heard that Spotify's free usage is soon to be pretty much worthless to the mom of a repetition loving toddler but we'll enjoy it while we can and then use it to test drive cds before we buy them.

Soft songs - Of course, with spotify, you actually have to know what you want to listen to. Our current favorites include:

You Are My Little Bird (Elizabeth Mitchel) - If I had to personify this cd, it would be a little girl in a yellow dress dancing in a meadow. It's just lovely.

Hide 'em in Your Heart Vol I and II (Steve Green) - Bible verse songs. I had heard good things about Seeds Family Worship cds (one of which is available on spotify) but I've found those to be a little two contemporary* for my tastes while Hide 'em in Your Heart songs are just our style, sweet but fun.

Reverse Engineered Lara bars - I finally got around to buying kitchen stewardship's Healthy Snacks to go e-book and now I'm addicted to her lara bars, especially the Chocolate peanut-butter delight version. Lucy and I consumed an entire batch in less than 24 hours and they only lasted that long because I hid them from her.

Duplo blocks - Lucy got some for Christmas and has pretty much abandoned all her other toys (excepting Baby of course). She really likes me to play with her and build her things, but if I can manage to get her going, I can often slip away and get some emails sent or even read a chapter of a book. Oh Happy Day!

Angry Birds - Admitting this isn't as hard as admitting that I liked the Twilight series, but it is up there. When I downloaded a copy onto Craig's Kindle Fire, I didn't know what would happen to us. It's bad. But really, this game is addicting. And all that physics is good for my brain right. Right? Right?

3x5 Cards - Who doesn't love a good 3x5 card. I always have but I'm working on a couple projects as a part of my new years goals and they are saving the day. From bible memory work to chore charting, they just get the job done. Only problem, I can't seem to find a 3x5 card box. I might actually have to, GASP, go to Wal-mart.

Pickles - We grew a bunch of cucumbers last year and turned them into pickles. But when we tried them a couple months ago, they weren't very good. They weren't exactly bad, they just tasted like soggy cucumbers - no flavor. But we left them down on our canning shelf in the basement and honestly, I forgot about them. I didn't have much hope but we recently tried them again and they are delicious! I guess they just needed more time to be imparted with that wonderful picklish flavor. Now we are all on a pickle kick. Which is good because we have approximately 3 million more quarts of pickles to go.

Non-fiction - I'm not sure if I'm into Non-fiction or just struggling with fiction. I don't want to read anything sad because who needs that when life is a hard enough struggle. But I don't want to read anything too happy either, that's annoying. And even my normal diet of mysteries is failing me. Most involve death of some sort and I just don't want to go there right now. So non-fiction it is. Some of my latest few non-fictions include: Organized Simplicity, From the Garden to the City, Large Family Logistics and A Love that Multiplies.

So what are you into lately? Got any good non-fiction or cd suggestions?  

* I almost said to "rock-n-rollish" but felt like I needed to be smoking a pipe and yelling about the evils of Elvis if I wanted to pull that off. But I am very particular about the style of music I want to expose Lucy's developing brain to. I blame Andrew Putewa.


Toddler Tuesday: Shadow Dancing

We aren't unschoolers. Well, technically maybe we are because Lucy is only 19 months old and we aren't actually homeschoolers yet. But if we were, we wouldn't be unschoolers. Follow?

The whole point of that non-quite-sensical paragraph above is that while that is not the style of teaching I feel comfortable with, some of the points that I've heard unschoolers make, but didn't quite understand, are suddenly making more sense to me. As I watch Lucy learn and grow and start making connections, I am amazed at what she is picking up. Not just the "normal" stuff I was expecting, like her colors and big/little and their relativity, although when you stop to think about it, those are impressive too, but those things I wouldn't have even thought to "teach" her.

Right now, she loves shadows. She received a shadow nursery rhyme book for her birthday but just recently figured out how it works. Now she is obsessed with light and dark and finding shadows, reflections and rainbows. Anytime she sees a little light on the wall, she has to find me and show me.

Last week we had a nice day so I attempted to take my non-flashing camera outside so I would at least have a few pictures of her this month. It didn't really work that well because she was being pensive

(yes, it looks like she is sad but really that is her thinking face)

  but if I asked her to smile, she would make a weird smirky face. But it was still a fun time and just in that hour or so, she learned so much. At first she was just playing with them or as my science-loving self would like to say, she was experimenting.

She could run and they would run, 

she could make baby dance and baby's shadow would dance,

 and if she had baby lay down, her shadow got little.

So of course, she had to try that with herself. 

 Then she realized if she turned around, they didn't. Then she saw the Sun and was telling me how it was a light. She already knew that her shadow book only works when we use the  flashlight shining and then she started signing about light and dark and she started babbling. I'm not sure all of what she was trying to tell me but she it was obviously really important. While she is telling me all of this, I'm just nodding while thinking "My kid is a genius" but really, it isn't just my child. The human brain is amazing and a child's ability to understand concepts is literally breathtaking at moments. I love doing little projects with Lucy and planning trays for her, thinking up new ways to teach her things but this was a great reminder that at the end of the day, she is the one teaching herself because to a child, the world is a fascinating place. 


Countertop Choices

As a boy, I would listen to Minnesota Twins baseball games on the radio. One of the advertisers on the games was Cambria, manufacturer of quartz countertops. For some reason, these ads made an impression on me, even though I was not in any way in the market for countertops, since I was a kid and had no need for them.

Fast forward to 15 or so years later, I was in the market for countertops, and sure enough, Cambria came to mind (talk about a delayed payoff on Cambria's investment in advertising). But I'm glad it did come to mind. Quartz has a number of advantages as a counter surface:
  • Stronger than granite
  • Nonporous, so it doesn't need to be sealed and doesn't harbor bacteria
  • Won't scratch or stain
  • Cambria  is mined and manufactured in the US
  • Kosher-certified (if that's your thing)
  • Wide variety of colors (we chose Sharpham)
  • Easy to clean
Here's a shot of our counter:

UPDATE: Free gift! A cheeseboard.


Word -to my mother

Lucy has really taken off in the speech department these past few weeks. She's said dada and mama for quite a while but except random words here and there that she refused to repeat (upstairs, water to name two), not much else. But all of sudden, she's figured out she likes to talk. At first, she went with words that she didn't have signs for which meant her vocabulary was a bit odd and included words like man, wool and empanada. Seriously, what kid says empanada (well, em-da) but not ball? I guess my girl, who loves to eat but still can't throw!

But now she is starting to replace signs with words and will frequently say mom, dad, no (and now it actually sounds like no instead of naaa!), more, and baby and big. This is a good thing, but makes me a bit sad too. I love her signing, its so cute!

So, being nostalgic for the good old days that aren't quite gone yet, I decided to list all her signs. I knew she had a lot but writing them down, wow! Most of these were driven by her interests. If I had to pick 75 words for my toddler to know, I wouldn't have included caterpiller, candle or cut. And the ones with the * are the ones she "invented."



milk-milk (nurse)
stir-stir (bake/cook)*
be silly*
back rub*
brush teeth
wipe-wipe (wipe off table)*
cut* (I promise she isn't a violent child. She knows fight from a couple books with nursery rhymes and wrestling polar bear cubs. And she knows cut because she likes to have her food cut into little pieces and play with her Melissa and Doug veggie cutting toy)

all done


where/wait/I don't know*

drink/cow drink (milks)




family bible time (book + candle)*

I've had several people ask me for signing advice. I didn't do anything special, I think she's just a very communicative girl and we provided an outlet. But because I've been asked, here is what we did:

1) At about 4-6 months we picked three or so signs (milk, more and change - although we dropped change later for kitty because she took an interest in Zeeba) and started signing them. I say 4-6 months because we really weren't consistent until 6 months. I think it is good to pick concrete signs to begin with and make them signs that have a pay-off. She likes getting milk-milk and more (snacks, books etc) so she paid attention. I don't think she really cared if she was polite or not so please wouldn't have been a good first choice.

2) Keep at it. She started responding to signs around 8-9 months but didn't sign back at first. We kept going.

3) Pay attention. It wasn't long before she stared signing back although her first attempts may have gone unnoticed if we weren't really watching because they weren't very good :-) Praise those first attempts so they keep going! When she would sign back "incorrectly," we wouldn't correct her but we would keep doing it the right way. Most of the time she would slowly get it right, but now always. She still does "daddy" wrong but consistently so.

3) Add signs as needed. It doesn't hurt to do more than 2-3 at a time as long as you can remember to be consistent about it. She also started making up her own. Most of those were pretty intuitive and sometimes they ended up being similar to the real sign but even if they were, we kept doing it her way if she "invented it" before we showed it to her.


In the Hood

Since I am a big proponent of ventilation*, I made sure our kitchen remodel included a outdoor-vented range hood above the stove, not a wimpy microwave-over-the-stove air recirculator. We selected the first model on this page. We ordered this fairly early in the remodel process, but then just let it sit in the box until it was time to hang it up. But we should have opened the box up earlier.

Since our ceiling isn't that tall (8 feet, or a couple of inches below that), and these fans have some placement requirements, it was a rather tight fit. First, these hoods are supposed to be placed at least 30" above a gas stove (24" above an electric one). On top of that, one needs to make room for the duct cover (the top part). For us, I had to cheat by an inch or so on the 30" requirement, and at the end I had to trim 1/2" or so off the duct cover to make it fit under the ceiling (I thought I would have to take the piece somewhere to get it cut, but then realized I could just use tin snips).

Furthermore, the owner's manual states that you should install horizontal 2" x 4" supports in the wall between the two studs on either side of where the hood will go. The hood is to be screwed onto these supports. Had I read this before the drywall guys came, I could have put those in, but I wasn't about to cut open the drywall after the fact. So we had to improvise a bit. The hood is held up by four screws; we used the heaviest-duty drywall anchors we could find for the top two screws. The bottom two screw holes lined up with our window, so we could not use those without finding a workaround.

What we did was attach two 6" long flat metal pieces with small holes in them (I forget what the item's real purpose was) to the horizontal window frame 2" x 4" above the window. The two pieces hung down, and we screwed through the bottom two hood holes into these pieces. We figure this gives the hood some decent support. Also, the duct cover is attached to the wall with a bracket where it meets the ceiling.

To cut a hole in the ceiling for the duct I just used a drywall saw. That part was pretty easy. When you are connecting the duct sections, I guess you're supposed to use aluminum duct tape, not the regular duct tape we all know and love. The guy at Lowe's told me I should use screws, which makes sense. Screws are a no-no in dryer vent ducts, because they catch lint, which can burn, but there will be no lint in my range hood ducts.

This is the kind of job that takes a couple of extra pairs of hands, so grab some friends if you are doing this project. I have yet to cut through the wall of my house to vent the hood to the outside. I hope that part goes well. I couldn't find any 8" vent caps, so I had to buy a 8" to 6" reducer and a 6" cap.

*This was my third ventilation project in this house. The first two were: 1) convert the dryer vent from an indoor one (yeah, who knew?) to and outdoor one, and 2) install a outdoor-vented fan in the bathroom.


What I've learned these past 5 years

Happy Anniversary to me! And Craig too I guess :-) 5 years ago today we were fighting our way through a winter blizzard in Texas (Yes, I said Texas, what are the odds?) in order to say our vows and make the commitment of a lifetime. We are celebrating with a "once Lucy is in bed the date begins" evening. I'm fighting a bad cold so hopefully it isn't as lame as last years anniversary when Lucy has the chicken pox and we all went to bed early. Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, when I was a newlywed, our 5 year anniversary seemed pretty distant. And I viewed the few young couples I knew that had been married that long as mentors. Now that we are at that point, in many ways I feel like we are still newlyweds with so much to learn. So I don't want to sound pretentious with this little list, but I do want to look at how far we've come and share what I've learned - other than I married the most awesomest man on the planet and that I can't wait to see what the next years bring for us.

1) Remember that you're in it for the long haul. 

The big issues you have right now may very well be nothing in a few years. We had one or two big issues when we first got married. And I felt like we needed to fix them right NOW. Because if I/WE didn't fix it, it would just get worse and worse and we would have to live like this FOREVER! We got books and prayed and talk and talked and my goodness, it was painful. Those issues aren't anything now, so much so that I can laugh at myself, but the changes is not because of all the "effort" we put in. Mostly we just needed time, time to learn about each other and time to grow and mature. We would have been better off with just one or two conversations and the prayer part. It's good to put effort into improving your marriage, it's bad to obsess. I really wish someone had told me not to worry so much. Marriage is hard, but don't make it harder that it has to be.

2) The little things that bug you will probably still bug you, so you'd better find a way to deal with them. 

How is it that the littlest things can get under your skin so much. I'll let you in on a secret, Craig and I disagree about how to put up toilet paper. He's an under while I, like all normal people, am on over the roll kinda gal. Neither of us would budge. So we made a rule, whoever changes the roll makes the decision and no fussing or alterations are allowed. Now nobody complains about the lack of changing or the direction. It works for us. I am also really bad about turning off the lights when I leave the room. After much effort on my part, I am light years ahead of where I was before but Craig does a really good job of not pointing out when I fail and for his sake, we are slowly replacing the bulbs with LEDs. I dog ear my book. He doesn't nag, he just follows me and puts a bookmark there. So if your wife folds the towels in thirds and you really prefer them folded in half, get over it. Or if your husband always leaves his dirty socks at the foot of your bed, just put a hamper there.

3) Don't assume.

You know what assuming does, don't you? Yes, you're fuming and snappy and it seems like it should be obvious you need a break, but don't assume your husband knows that you've had a bad day and that you need 10 minutes of quiet time or your head will explode when your toddler has yet another fit because she can't hug the train across the street. (Not that this scenario has happened to me, cough cough) And you may have spent the last two days buying and preparing all the supplies you need to fix that vent but don't assume that your wife knows you really wanted to get that done Friday afternoon so her suggestion that they go to the library together is not a great one. Don't assume, tell. Life is so much better now that I've learned to tell Craig things instead of assuming he'll figure it out (or worse, assuming that he knows and is deliberately choosing not to take action). Now the only thing I assume is that if he knew how and could help me, he would. And that he loves me and is on my side.

What about you? Any good marriage advice to pass on? 


Let there be light

Light fixtures: A sign we are near the end of remodeling saga. It also means we are nearing the end of our budget. So what's a girl to do? Improvise.

This is what we started with. A horrible outdated brass chandelier. A cheap ceiling fan (with pieces of the wall border cut out and pasted onto it so it matched) and a fluorescent tube partially hidden in a cabinet. None of it was staying.

I had very specific ideas of what type of lighting I wanted - simple school house style retro pendants and chandelier. These were my inspiration pieces.

This chandelier for over the dining room.

A simple flush mount pendant for the main kitchen light.

And a pendant for over the sink (but in the same oil rubbed bronze as the above two, minus the blue strip on the shade)

But if you add up the cost of those fixtures and shades, the total comes to a whopping $766.30!

Originally, I budgeted $500 for lighting but that $766.30 doesn't even include undercabinet lighting which we estimated would be about $180 so I really needed to make some changes and be creative if I wanted my vision to work. It took three trips to make what I wanted happen. First up, our local thrift store. I had seen lots of "vintage" (read - really old fashioned) style light shades and fixtures there before and they did not let me down. I had to search through a lot of really bad shades but I found a pack of 4 milk white 2.25 fitter shades in just the style I wanted - for $1!

Then Habitat Restore. Again, it took some digging and squinting before I picked up a chandelier and a pendant. The chandelier was ugly brass and had horrible shades, in other words, not that different from the original, except this one had potential. The pendant was the perfect color. It was a tad long and we were trying to figure out how to cut it shorter when we realized it was in sections so we just removed the middle rod to get it to a perfect length. Add in a new glass shade that I also found there and we are getting close to finished. Total: $35.

The last stop was good old Home Depot. They have basic pendant fixtures and one or two styles of schoolhouse shades so I grabbed another milk white shade to match the four I got at goodwill, a white plastic flush mount kit and a shade to fit, plus two cans of spray paint, chrome and oil-rubbed bronze (originally, I was not sure which finish I wanted for the kitchen fixtures). Total: $28

Grand total: $64. Of course, I wasn't quite done yet. And if I was a good blogger, I would have lots of wonderful process pictures with all my supplies laid out but I don't. But basically, I took this chandelier

(picture is mid spray paint but the painted side is away from the camera so this is really what it looked like when I got it)

and some supplies like this, give or take a few :-)
 and did some of this (ignore chrome color, I tried both and liked oil rubbed bronze best so I redid the chrome one)
 and this

To get this.

and this

and all together, this: 

Nope, I'll never be a professional blogger. But at least I have nice kitchen lighting. I'm happy and so is the budget!

Update: We ended up using a coupon to buy under-cabinet lighting so all the lighting combined was $224. I came in over 50% under budget! But I also just selected a kitchen backsplash tile and will be taking all that savings and putting it directly towards that. Oh well, you win some, you lose some :-)


When Daddy picks out the hat.

I had a tough time picking out Lucy's winter gear (Not that I needed to bother. We went all the way to North Dakota and we didn't even get any snow!). I was sick of pink but couldn't find much else. Finally I found a purple/blue jacket and purple snow pants, but after quite the ordeal Lucy and I finally agreed on pink snow boots. All that was left was a hat. Of course, in my perfect world, Lucy would wear an adorable hat, perhaps shaped like an animal, knitted in a nice natural color from organic wool either by myself or purchased from some great etsy vendor. But this is the real world, with its real budget and time restraints. So Craig, Lucy and I stopped off at Once Upon a Child and I let Lucy and Craig pick out the hat while I went in search of others things. This is what they came up with - 

You could probably guess this but it's not organic wool. Heck, it's not even wool. This guy is 100% polyester. And not only does it not look very natural or "waldorfian," it doesn't come close to matching her snow outfit.

But she loves it. She wants to wear it all the time. It is her hat. And it is perfect.


Week 16 Update.

We're still chugging away. We took a big break for Christmas when we went up to ND to visit the family but have been catching up.

I don't have any pictures of either of things for you because neither of our two cameras are cooperating right now but the kitchen doesn't look that much different.

The electrician's been back so now we have working outlets and new fixtures (more on those later this week). Once he finished up with the stove, we were able to install the last wall cabinet so we only have the island left but we are waiting for those until the plumber installs the dishwasher so he can actually have room to manuever it.

Craig's spent this week installing all the trim, toe kicks and cabinet hardware. I don't think it would show up as a big change on a photograph but those little things really make a difference in how finished it all looks. I've been debating backsplashes and ordering samples. I'm not sure which of us has been sweating more. The backsplash decision has been stressing me out but I think I'm close to deciding - how's that for committing!

The biggest change we have left is the countertops which are scheduled to arrive Thursday morning! I'm so excited. Then Friday the plumber comes at which time our kitchen will be functional again. Technically we aren't supposed to use it until we have the inspector back but just knowing it is working will be something. Here is a rundown of what still remains.
  • Countertops and undermount sink installed
  • Plumber finishes up sink and faucet installation, installs dishwasher and hooks up water to fridge
  • We install island foundation, island, and island toe kick.
  • Electrician comes back (last time!) to put outlet in island.
  • Inspection time!
  • Backsplash samples finish arriving and MacKenzie commits to one. 
  • Craig takes last trip to Ikea to pick up butcherblock (was out of stock during last trip) and pick up a few items (extra glass shelves, drawer that was out of stock, etc). 
  • Butcherblock countertop installed on island
  • Backsplash installed.
  • The fun stuff - art, curtains, putting everything in its new home.


Let's try that again

So my last personal post was a bit of a downer but God has been working on me since then in a few special ways and since I shared the low, I thought it only fair that I shared the high.

I had been thinking about taking a personal mini-retreat to give myself some time for goal setting and focused prioritizing time. Then I read this post and it spurred me into action. But first, Craig and I needed to talk about our goals. I can't just go off on my own planning things willy-nilly without knowing what Craig thinks our priorities and focus should be.

So Sunday night, Craig and I spent the evening discussing our goals. We didn't do anything crazy formal but I started with a list of some areas we might want to discuss (marriage, family, spiritual, financial, etc). We'd pick one and talk about it; the good, the bad, what our goals should be. Or sometimes we wouldn't talk about it other than to say, I think we are doing good with ___, let's stay on that same track. Next.

One of the biggest struggles of the last year and a half has been feeling torn between my homes, being with my husband and Lucy here or taking her and spending time with my mom and family in KS.I didn't mention every trip on this blog but I was gone at least one week a month, sometimes two. Craig came for the weekends when he could, but that is still a lot of time apart. Yet, my time with my mom was so precious and limited and I hated being away from her. It felt like a lose/lose and I was still harboring guilt (there is that guilt word again, this won't be the last time it shows up). And when I was home, he was supporting me and helping me cope, really being there for me. And I felt like I was just - there.

But lately one thing my Texas home group leader and mentor told me about once was to always remember the difference between truth-based guilt and guilt based on a lie. Truth-based guilt is from God; it's a conviction to spur change. Guilt based on a lie is from Satan and his goal is to turn our hearts from God. I know that my guilt is lie-based. I made the decisions I did with Craig's full blessing and after prayerfully considered where God wanted me to be. And I have no regrets. Not really. But I still have allowed guilt and worries to affect me.

What does this have to do with goals? Well, our goal planning night showed my how like minded Craig and I are on our vision for our family. It may have felt like there were times last year when Craig and I were just trying to get through the days, that we were ships passing in the night if you will excuse the cliche, but we weren't. When we really talked about the important things, we were right there, side by side. Probably more so than I think we ever have been before. It just felt like this sign from God reminding me that He has us in His hands. One of our hopes for the next year is to spend more time doing fun family things on Craig's days off and to fit in more date nights. But not because our marriage is in trouble or we need to address issues, but because we want to spend time together. We like spending time with each other, we like spending time with Lucy, we like being together as a family. Our marriage has been sustained, and is thriving, not because of our works, but because God is faithful. And being reminded of that was so refreshing.

Then Monday, I went on my mini-retreat. Sometimes I pray better out loud so on the drive to Panera, I did a lot of talking to God. Then I got there, bought my peppermint hot chocolate, found a quiet corner, and started listening. I only spent a little over an hour and half there but God showed me so much. I have lot of ideas and goals for the year now, an overall vision for where I want to take my "job" this next year and I'm really excited about them but even more important, I left all that guilt and baggage at Panera and came home feeling like a new person. Which incidentally, is the theme God gave me for this year. I had been focusing on the ideas of renewing and letting God lift up my spirit since I knew I couldn't do it on my own. Then when I started planning I put "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." on the top of my page but couldn't remember the reference and when I Googled it, I saw that it is Psalm 127, also knows as a Song of Ascent. Yes! Lift me up Lord. Take me higher. I think I really am ready to say "Welcome 2012" now.


Toddler Tuesdays: Not all Montessori

It's not big secret that I have an affinity for Montessori and Montessori style activities. But there is another side of me that loves the less structured concepts of some other schools of thought when it comes to young children and education, like Charlotte Mason and Waldorf. So to prove I'm not all sensory bins and tray work, here are some pictures from a few weeks ago when I presented her with a new "toy."

My mom had lots of clothes, including many scarves and hats, shoes and purses. I took some, picked out a few for my grandmother and made sure my aunts had their chance but there were still lots left. We donated a lot of her clothing but I also wanted something for Lucy. So I took my mom's scarf basket (yes, she has a big basket just for her scarves, she was know for always wearing scarves) and put in a few of the ones I remember her wearing, a hat or two plus a fun pair of red heels and a couple of her smaller purses.

She already loved her play silks so I knew the scarves would be a hit but she really liked the heels too. They gave her a bit of trouble at the beginning, but pretty soon she was even walking the line with them. 

Even with that little tuckage issue, I'd venture to say that tightie whities have never been so fashionable before.


HOAs: Not Just for Micromanaging

I promised way back in July to start a series on homeowner associations (HOAs). Well, here's my first crack at it.

An HOA in the Houston area (Oak Park Trails) is fighting to keep a scourge out of its neighborhood. What is this blight, a meth lab? A landfill? Nope, it's Aldi [note: not "Aldi's"], the awesome grocery store chain. What's wrong with Aldi, you ask?
 “It’s a very low-end type of store. They don’t really shelve anything. They just have open pallets of products — it’s kind of like a 99-cent store for groceries.”
HOA residents only shop at Byerly's or Whole Foods, apparently.
“One of our other concerns is they’re going to sell beer and wine. There’s a Montessori school just across the street from this, but it’s just outside the 300-foot rule for not selling alcohol near churches and schools,” Balkanli said.
Apparently HOA residents only shop at [insert name of high-end liquor store here]. So the legislature or city council or whatever decided that 300 feet is a sufficient distance between a liquor store and a school, but Oak Park Trails thinks it should be 305, I guess.
“We’re not opposed the Aldi food store business model at all. We feel that it’s a free enterprise system, and we feel there’s certainly a need for a low-cost, value-oriented grocery store in other areas,” Balkanli said. “The only thing we’re opposed to is it happens to be in front of our subdivision.”
The real concern in regards to Aldi is quite clear under the surface of this article: poor people might shop in our neighborhood! 

I would cheer for a new Aldi to open in any situation. They have low prices and good products. But more than any regular Aldi, I want this one to succeed.

Update: Here's a video by the anti-Aldi yahoos. "We're generally a middle- to upper-class neighborhood, whereas Aldi does not serve that demographic element." Ha!


A New Year

It's been a little over a month since my mom passed away. For the most part, I think I'm doing okay but some days are really hard. Like last night.

I thought Christmas would be hard, and it was a little hard but we celebrated "Christmas" in November so it kinda felt like a fake Christmas this time around. The Christmas eve service was emotional for me and reading the facebook updates of everyone excited to see there family or friends spending time making cookies or shopping with their mom stung but the rest of the time I was okay. But for some reason, yesterday things just kept reminding me of my mom. Five or six different times I thought of "this" and was going to call my mom or I told myself to tell my mom about "that" next time I talked to her before I remembered, "Oh, I can't." I don't do that much. When she was sick, she was always on my mind because I was always praying or worrying (hey, being honest :-) and calling to see how she was doing. So the fact that she was dying was always there in the front of my mind and I rarely "slipped up" and forgot about it. But now that she is actually gone, in some ways I'm more likely to forget and think I can just pick up the phone. But, with the exception of yesterday, I really only do that once or twice a week. I was actually getting mad at myself for letting that happen so much yesterday because each time the pain hits like I'm finding our for the first time.

I didn't really think much about New Years impacting me. Maybe that was why it hit so much harder than Christmas, because it was unexpected. But it does make sense. In many ways, I am ready to be done with 2011. It was not a great year and I'd like to be able to say "Good Riddance" with 100% of my heart.

But it was also my last year with my mom. 2011 is the last scrapbook that she will be in. The holidays and birthdays of 2011 are the last ones I will celebrate with her. And as hard as this year was, I do have lots of wonderful memories of spending time with my mom and my family together.

And while there are lots of things I'm looking about 2012 I'm looking forward too, even that is a mixed bag of emotions. Dealing with a terminal illness is so different from other trials or difficult seasons because normally, I just remind myself that it is a season and that "this too shall pass" and that makes me feel better. I pray for strength to get through the hard times. But when I would do that this time, I would remember that I didn't really want to get through it, being through with it meant my mom would be gone and I couldn't want that. I put off doing things because they weren't as important as my mom  but doing so meant that I was, in a weird way, "saving" them for when she was gone. And even though I knew it wasn't true, it felt like if I wanted those things I was waiting for or holding off on, I was wishing for her to be gone.

But wished for or not, she is gone and entering this new year really feels like I'm leaving her behind now. When 11pm rolled around, I felt like I was leaving 2011 kicking and screaming and I just fell apart.

If I'm going to fall apart, it happens in the evening. Lucy is asleep, things are quiet, I can actually think. Luckily it normally also means that Craig is around and bedtime is near. Because once I'm down, I can't get myself back up. I just have to ride it out. Craig will stay with me until I fall asleep. And the morning brings a new day, or in the case, a new year. Welcome 2012.