After presents, stockings, and a fabulous fridge-to-oven breakfast of Cinnamon Twists (Thanks, Kristen!) and a breakfast casserole, we settled into an easy day. Since Kevin and I didn't make it to bed until about 3:30am Christmas Eve (Christmas Day?), we all took a 2-hour nap in the afternoon. Thus, we had to make do without homemade rolls and gingerbread at dinner. Nonetheless, we enjoyed dinner by candlelight: spiced-cider-glazed pork tenderloin, sweet potato casserole (southern style, loaded with butter and sugar!), cheddar-broccoli-rice casserole, bakery rolls (purchased just-in-case). Carolyn devoured 3 helpings of sweet potato casserole (sans nut topping, of course), which I mixed with a bit of shredded pork tenderloin after the first serving disappeared so quickly.

We opened our gifts after dinner. Kevin built me a beautiful storage bench/stool for the kitchen that I am so proud of. And he's sending me to a knife-skills class that promises to be fun and enlightening, so I can be a better ninja--ummm. . .chef. And our annual family self-portrait turned out a bit fuzzy, as I was too busy keeping a sleepy girl happy to stay still for the lens to focus correctly. Maybe we'll try again today.

After Carolyn went to bed, we enjoyed Spiced-Cider Sorbet and watched "White Christmas," even as the rain and the clock melted ours away.

It was a beautiful Christmas.


The Stockings are Hung

I finished the last 2 stockings today and hung them all carefully from the curtain rod. Here's the final product:

And, because I'm a little too pleased with myself, here's a close-up of each one:


Thanksgiving Report

With the return of a quiet and empty (except for the Christmas music playing and the Carolyn singing from her crib) house, I'm back to report on the Thanksgiving Day results.

We stuck to the schedule pretty closely and sat down to eat only 30 minutes later than I anticipated. I call that good. The old recipes were characteristically fabulous and the new recipes were (somewhat surprisingly) all hits with most of us.

This is my refrigerator Wednesday night: arranged, rearranged, and crammed to the brim to accomodate my large water-bath canner with brining turkey inside.

The Food List and Preparation Schedule:

Pie Preparations (gotta work on the cook time and temperature for a deep dish fresh pumpkin pie).

New roll recipe, Sweet Potato Twists. These were beautiful and delicious. Many thanks to my mother-in-law for making them, as my hands were too dry and cracked to knead dough in a sanitary fashion.

The Table (My aunt sets a beautiful table, does she not? I need her around to help me use my china to its full potential.)

The Turkey, pre-carving. A new recipe this year produced by far the best result yet, and there wasn't anything wrong with the previous years. But THIS. . .well it was the best turkey I've ever had, I think. We'll be saving this recipe for next year. . .if I wait that long.

The Buffet. From left to right: Green Bean Casserole, Vegetable Casserole, Dressing, Sweet Potato-Cranberry Galette, Cranberry-Strawberry Jello Salad, Turkey, Butternut Squash and Cheese Pannade, Mashed Potatoes. Not pictured: Deviled Eggs, Crudites, Gravy, Rolls, Pumpkin Pie, Tennessee Whiskey Cake, Whipped Cream

All in all, I was tremendously pleased with the outcome. I'm ever so thankful that I wasn't on my own--3 pairs of hands made lots of work much less work and much more pleasant. I actually feel like I didn't really do much more than spin in circles and delegate tasks. And, of course, I couldn't have done it without my lovely Thanksgiving Schedule Spreadsheet. ;-)


Thanksgiving with One Oven

Everyone is a little insane. I am well aware that my particular breed of insanity goes into overdrive in the holiday kitchen.

Growing up, we had holiday dinners at my grandparents' house--a half-mile from my house and a block from my cousins'. The nearness of our homes meant that we had 3 ovens (and any number of helping hands) at the feasting preparations' disposal. Thus, I am accustomed to a wide array of delectable dishes piled high, wide, and deep on the holiday table. And buffet. And extra table.

Now, when it's just the two of us for a holiday meal, I can control these habits and limit my preparations. But when additions come to table, my insanity kicks in and the food multiplies exponentially.

There are new recipes to try! There are old recipes that must not be forgotten! Everyone has to have his favorite thing! Or things! And we can't forget aesthetic appeal! Dishes of every color! And! And!

Hence, my Thanksgiving Schedule Spreadsheet, where oven time is meticulously mapped out, beginning at T-minus-6 hours with the turkey and proceeding through dressings and casseroles and rolls and pies (that mustn't be baked ahead, lest they cool), carefully arranged so that time-sensitive dishes will be fresh out of the oven, hardy faithfuls will be kept piping hot on the back burner (Thank goodness for an energy-inefficient vintage range that exudes heat from every orifice, and some places that aren't!), and desserts will tempt us with their still-baking aroma as we eat dinner.

I'm a little crazy. And it doesn't end there. Beneath the oven time columns, stove-top dishes are penciled in at their appropriate cooking times and, beneath that, preparation tasks are listed where they best fit. The way it's mapped out, one person could conceivably handle the whole grand banquet. Fortunately for me (and for Carolyn, whose needs aren't inked in), I won't be cooking alone.

Three chefs + one oven = A fabulous Thanksgiving spread. . .I hope!


The Big Blue Beast

As Thanksgiving is fast approaching, it was time to cook the Big Blue Beast. I did, while Carolyn looked on. This was my first time with a Blue Hubbard. It was interesting.

Can you tell? It bleeds yellow.

I did finally get it cut open, but it was rough--much rougher than the "normal" pumpkins I've done in years past or than the lighter-orange one (of a variety I can't remember) that I did earlier this year. The skin was tougher, and so was the flesh.

Scraping it out was still easy, though.

"Here, Mom. Let me bag that for you."

It was so big, I had to cut it further to fit it in the pan. I need to remember to pay attention to that when I pick my pumpkins--I switched to baking from steaming, because there's a lot less (hard) cutting to make the pumpkin fit in a baking pan than to make it fit in a pot on the stove. But if I still have to hack it smaller than halves. . .well, I prefer not. There's a fine line, when you're not paying per pound. I want the biggest pumpkin in a given price range, so I get the most for my money. But I should remember to get one sized and shaped such that half of it will fit in a pan I have.

After baking (400 degrees, 1 hour), it was decidedly green. Kevin says it looks like an alien slug.

After scraping the flesh out and pureeing it in the blender, I put it in strainers lined with cheesecloth. This is the first year I've done this; I don't know why it didn't occur to me before. Actually, though, this pumpkin had far less water in it than any I've used previously (note the blackened pan in the middle of the last picture). Usually, the pan is half-full of pumpkin juice after baking, but this one I added water to and it STILL dried up. Anyway, some liquid still drained out, which makes it more the consistency of canned pumpkin and easier to bake pies with.

I don't think I'll buy a Big Blue Beast again. It looks great on the porch, but I buy my pumpkins to cook, and it wasn't as convenient for that end. Hopefully I'll see the same varieties next year that I saw this year and can figure out which the pale orange one was--I loved how easy it was to cut and how vibrantly orange the baked flesh was.


An Object Lesson

Carolyn gives me a thousand little lessons a day. Today, I was watching her stack blocks. She's just learning how to stack them, and they immediately topple more often than not. They topple because she doesn't just set a block gently atop another. She places it dead-on center, but then she pushes down just as hard as she can. . .to make it stay, I presume. Usually, the release of all her little force is enough to make the tower wobble and fall down.

We do this. When we want something so bad, we often apply all our force to making it happen. . .only to push too hard and knock away all the underpinnings as well. If we could just trust God, who has built up the tower thus far, to gently lay the top block in place, our overbearing shove would not be necessary.


Quote of the Day

The world wants good mothers. It can do without clever money-makers. . .
Ruskin says: 'The best women are indeed the most difficult to know. They are recognized chiefly in the happiness of their husbands and the nobleness of their children; they are only to be divined, not discerned by the stranger, and sometimes seem almost helpless except in their homes.'
quoted by a friend, from "The Little Kingdom of Home," copyright 1904


Is that a compliment???

In shoving her controversy-plagued healthcare reform bill to victory by a paper-thin margin, she (Pelosi) conclusively demonstrated that a woman can be just as gritty, ruthless and arm-twisting in pursuing her agenda as anyone in the long line of fabled male speakers before her.
The more I read Camille Paglia, the more I like her.

Which statement should not, in any way, shape, or form, be so construed as to imply that I agree with all--or even most--that she writes.

On to the previous post, which is far more interesting and far less likely to elicit controversy.

Slightly Crazy

Yesterday, I did two mildly irrational things (Just two? I know, I know--an unusually calm day for us.). Only one of the two became decidedly more than I had anticipated.

Carolyn has recently decided that I should not do anything--and I do mean anything--in the kitchen unless she can see what's happening. So, if I wash my hands, chop vegetables, wash dishes, or do anything else that requires me to have 2 free hands, she stands screaming at my knees. This is not a way to live.

And let's not even mention that my neck and shoulders are suffering from measuring, mixing, and generally cooking one-handed while supporting a 20-pound-plus baby on one hip.

Enter the "Learning Tower."

I drove an hour in D.C. Beltway traffic Sunday evening to pick this up from a Craigslister, as we were unwilling to fork over the $200 the company charges for a new one. Monday morning, (Carolyn and) I cleaned it top to bottom. Then I decided to let her stand with me while I washed dishes. It took longer than normal, but Carolyn enjoyed herself. True to prediction, by the time I finished a drainer-full, the floor had to be mopped up and Carolyn's soaked clothes needed to be changed. (Today went much more smoothly--the only thing she got her hands on during dinner prep was the bread knife. . .)

My second adventure, more than I wanted:
I decided to run to the store to pick up just a few things. It was a beautiful, happy seventy degrees. And the nearest store is a mere mile and a half. So I decided to run to the store. Well, walk, really. But I did some jogging on the way back. . .with 10 pounds of flour on my back. Seriously. I did think about this in advance: I'd put the small cold stuff (some chicken, yogurt, cheese) in the backpack (a backpacking daypack--it's really comfortable) and the heavy stuff in the stroller. It has a 50 pound weight limit, and Carolyn is nowhere near that, so it should have been fine. . .except I forgot (until after I'd purchased my 10 pounds of flour) that the basket on the stroller has a 5 pound limit. You'd think it wouldn't matter that much, but it's an all-fabric basket, so I was afraid to risk it (I also think it would have dragged the ground with that much weight). I could, obviously, have simply gone to customer service and returned the offending weight. But, if you know me, you know I'm entirely too. . .determined for such a defeatist decision. So I slogged the whole way home, including jogging (most of) the stretch on the shoulder of the busy road, with a generous 5 extra pounds in the stroller basket and 10 pounds of flour in my daypack. *sigh* I don't think I'll be repeating that trip.


Quote of the Day

When you have to explain to yourself over and over why you were really right, chances are very good that you were really wrong.


A New Temptation

. . .or, rather, an old one, revisited.

I made a dangerous discovery this morning.

Lately, Kevin has been making a small pot of coffee in the mornings, just enough to fill a travel thermos-cup. Or so I thought.

I mean, of course I knew there's a little extra. I pour it out every day. But I thought it was just a little extra. Today, I thought a half-cup or less of coffee would be just perfect, so I poured it into a mug instead of down the drain. You know how the liquid at the bottom of a coffee pot always looks like a good deal less than it is?

There was a perfect scant-mug, just room enough for sugar and cream with no danger of spillage.

Now I have a dilemma. It didn't bother me in the least to pour out a splash of coffee daily. But it seems wasteful to daily dump a whole mug of perfectly good gourmet coffee. We're not talking Folger's here, people. Variety and brand name may vary somewhat, but it's always good coffee.

And, currently, I also have a fair quantity of flavored creamer in the refrigerator that really should be consumed before it has to be thrown out. I bought it when my mom was here last week, but now I'm the only one here who will drink it.

On the other hand, I have purposely avoided the daily coffee habit on principle. I don't want to become a daily coffee drinker. Well. . .I could easily want to. But I don't think I should, for a number of reasons. Some of you--probably those who already have a daily (hourly?) coffee habit--will be quick to point out that drinking coffee is not among the worst of personal vices. (Some of you will no doubt even say it is no vice at all.) That may very well be, but it is not a personal vice (or lack thereof) in which I wish to indulge more than once or twice a week.

Kevin can't make less coffee, because he already makes the minimum recommended amount for our 12-cup drip machine. We could make it in the vacuum-action contraption, but that's a lot of work and cleaning on a daily basis. We could get a smaller drip coffeemaker or a French press, but I really don't have room for more kitchen appliances--particularly coffee-related ones, of which we already have five, all different in purpose and result. Now that I think about it. . .perhaps Kevin should just get his individual-sized-for-work coffee gadget out of the "office" box, since he's not using it at work at the moment. Or maybe I should just get Kevin a larger travel mug. At least then I won't know if he pours half of it in the sink!



There is also a strong resistance to the vaccine from the general public. A new Harvard University poll shows that only four in 10 adults intend to take the vaccine themselves, and only six in 10 plan to give it to their children.
I'm amused that (roughly) 50% constitutes "strong resistance" to a voluntary preventative medical treatment. And, while on the subject of subjective verbal interpretation of statistics, this article on the relative wisdom of the "safe sex" campaign is interesting--and completely secular.

More Complicated than a Fruit Fly

My self-esteem just shot into the clouds. Many thanks for this compliment!
". . .we may have a more complex way of assessing other individuals and classifying them and determining how we're going to relate to them than a fly does."


Observations on the Day

1) I forgot how much fun it is to have a house full of exuberant kids playing together!

2) It is amazing how quickly 3 extra running, squealing, little bodies' heat warms up a house!

3) When we remodel the kitchen, I need to remember chopping space that faces the doorway, lest I chop my fingers off while looking over my shoulder to check on the kids!

4) It's a great idea to start making a hot lunch 2 or 3 hours before you want it when there are 4 interrupters underfoot. (I did; it was actually ready more or less on-time; amazing!)

5) Dishwashers are wonderful things. I'll be glad when I have one again!

6) Whereas 4 disrespectful, disobedient children could ruin a morning, 4 well-taught and easy-to-correct children are delightful, even when said children are toddlers with the requisite caveats for "obedience."

7) Discipline is so much easier when the "Garden" only has one "tree" that is off-limits. (aka, Hooray for a mostly kid-friendly home!)

8) One fabulous feature of our house that I did not at first recognize: the 10-yard-long clear path from front door to kitchen back wall--a perfect sprint course!

9) Older children are fabulous teachers--Carolyn now knows she can climb into her play table and onto the bottom of the coffee table. Oops! :-)


Erupting Cinnamon Volcanorolls

Yesterday was a baking day at our house and included my first stab at cinnamon rolls.



It would be odd if the thought of a new baby had not crossed my mind lately. Carolyn has just passed her first birthday, and with its passing people began to ask when she might have siblings. Also, several friends are deep in the throes of parenting joy, either having given birth in the past month, expecting to do so in the coming weeks, or traveling to get their newly-adopted kiddos. It's beautiful to see.

Listening to two new-made mothers-of-two delight in their doubled progeny, I keep searching for something I'm not feeling. When I finally put my finger on it, I realize that I'm not wistful. There's no anxious anticipation to be in their shoes, no impatience to "catch up," no envy. Funny, I think. It's not what I would have predicted. Certainly, we'd like another baby and pray that God holds that in store for us; it's not that we want no more. Certainly, we would be unequivocally thrilled if another baby were on the way now; it's not a concern with timing. Why not wistful for that peculiar happiness that comes with the anticipation and arrival of a new child?

I've been musing about this unexpected calm here and there, turning it about in my mind. The only answer I find is a simple contentment. There is so much bliss is watching our one little girl, so many moments of enjoyment with her budding personality--how can I be discontent? Just as my friends would be wrong to waste time bemoaning their now-divided attention, I would be wrong to waste this season bemoaning the singularity of my child. It is good to be grateful for the gifts of God in whatever season we find ourselves. And, though we must often purpose ourselves to be content, I am enormously grateful for the very station of being content. It is no less a grace and a blessing of God for being a state we may choose.

Lest you wonder, this is no rebuttal or response to anyone, merely observations of my musings. Just as I am gladdened by my friends' elation with their circumstances, I know they rejoice in my cheerful satisfaction with my own. May it be an encouragement to you in your own season! Praise God for the beauty and uniqueness of our lives!


Quote of the Day

A right by definition requires nothing of anyone else except that they do nothing to infringe upon that right.
from this response to the "everyone deserves health care" platitudes


New Features

I've added both an RSS Feed and an E-mail Subscription option in the sidebar, if you prefer not to visit the blog directly.


A Good Democrat

It's rare that I cite a liberal article, for the simple and obvious reason that I generally disagree with them. However, this Camille Paglia editorial making the blog rounds is an excellent piece. I take issue with the idea that regulating (or, better, outlawing) abortion is any more an example of government overreach than outlawing murder, but that is my sole major complaint (which is not to say that I would necessarily sign my name to every other statement, of course).

My favorite quote?
It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management.
. . .except that I think I might replace "Democrats" with "politicians in general."


Oh, The Drama!

I think this is a great summation of a responsible conservative (and Christian) attitude toward President Obama's speech tomorrow.


Change of Venue

We've decided to make a change. Henceforth, all family updates--which means all pictures of Carolyn--will be posted at a new blog. I've already transferred my entire blog archive there, and all posts deemed private will soon be deleted from this blog. Larkspur Lane will survive as the primary blog for my ramblings and as my blog face to the blogging world . . .albeit with far less traffic, no doubt! This way, family pictures and personal information will be more restricted and I need not worry about how wide an audience visits here, linking from my comments on other blogs, etc. Though we are not currently limiting viewership of the family blog to approved readers, please do not pass on the new blog address to strangers without checking with us first. I will be sending out a mass e-mail with the new blog address. If you do not receive it, please let me know!


Recommended Review

I can't actually recommend the book, since I haven't read it, but the review of this book about a less segregated (age, not race, People) way of doing youth ministry sounds interesting.


The Day's Reading

. . .a worthwhile read at Doug Wilson's blog, with many snippets of wisdom punctuated by the occasional comic comment. I highly recommend it.


Be Careful What You Wish For

A week or two ago, I was thinking rather wistfully that Carolyn really didn't like to be rocked. She's never really been a "rock me to sleep" baby. When she was really little, you could sometimes rock her to sleep, but it's never been the norm.

Well, last week, she was really fussy one night. She kept crying like she didn't feel good, and nothing was calming her down. Kevin finally sat in the rocking chair with her, and eventually rocked her to sleep. She was adorable, sprawled out across his chest, one leg sticking out across his legs and one tucked up next to his stomach. It was a precious moment.

One of many.

For now, Carolyn has apparently decided that the only way she wants to go to sleep is in the rocking chair. Most naps and nights, unless she falls asleep nursing, we're rocking her for a while, though not always until she goes to sleep.

It would be easy to be somewhat frustrated with this new turn of events, but I know that it is a season that will pass all too quickly. So I've purposed to treasure these days, however many there are, when my little girl wants to snuggle into my shoulder and drift off to sleep in the rocking chair. Sometimes, you get what you wish for. Enjoy it.


Horatio, Michael, Tony, Grissom--they're all fond of saying that scent is the sense most closely tied to memory. (I actually learned this in school, but I thought the TV drama reference would give it more credibility.) Last year, I wrote here about the hands of a housewife, thoughts inspired by the food smells that cling to my skin after cooking. Though it seems--and is--commonplace, I intended the references as true compliments. There is more beauty and worthiness in the hard-working hands of our mothers than in the lily-white (or, now, sun-kissed bronze) paws of all the actresses and models Hollywood can procure.

Lately (at least, if you don't count this weekend), it seems that I've been cooking more often and cooking more consistently. It's not like I've ever only cooked occasionally, so I'm not sure why I think this. . .maybe because I've been cooking breakfast several times a week, or because we've eaten out slightly less often of late. At any rate, it seems that my kitchen is constantly in use. Consequently, my house always smells like food. When I come in the front door--or, more frequently, when I come up from the basement--the scent of breakfast waiting to be eaten, lunch heating, last night's dinner, or freshly baked bread for the coming month greets me cheerfully. It always reminds me of my grandmothers' houses. I'm not sure why this is. My mom cooked, too, so it's not like I only associate home-cooked meals with my grandparents. Perhaps it's the age of our house--the smells of fresh food are intermingled with that peculiar staying quality of the air in a house that's been around for almost a hundred years. Actually, I think this house is a good bit older than either of my grandparents' homes. Perhaps it's just that my kitchen looks like it stepped out of a magazine from my grandmas' early-married years. Or perhaps it's the dichotomy of scents--the switch from our unfinished, dusty basement to the brightly lit, warm kitchen. Both my grandmothers have laundry rooms more or less off the kitchen that are concrete-floored areas just before you go outside (our basement has a walk-out exit, also), while my mother has an indoor, tiled utility room. In any case, I relish the likeness that rushes to mind every time I come up from the washer.


Small Miracles

Today, Carolyn discovered that her nesting cups nest. It's the first time I've seen her put one inside another, study it, take it out, and put it back. It's amazing to watch someone grasp those simple concepts we take for granted.

Oh, the Great, Great Love of Jesus

Do you believe God loves you?

Do you truly believe God loves you?

Does God put up with you, tolerate your whining, sigh at your continued sinfulness, while he regards you with the fondness one might have for a rowdy puppy?

Or does He love you?
On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
"Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:16-17
It's easy to have an image of God as generally looking down in disapproval for our many misdeeds--disapproval we surely merit. Yet that is not a Biblical image of God. He looks down on those under Christ's blood as righteous and rejoices over us. I think of how I enthuse over Carolyn, for no reason at all but that she is and I love her. Some days I am giddy with joy, just because she is here. That is love. And God loves you.

A Link

good thoughts on the wisdom of marrying young


One Step at a Time

Last night, Carolyn took one teensy little hands-free step. The first move to independence! Just now, Carolyn kept hold of my hand long enough to totter a couple steps away to something she wanted, then she grabbed another handhold and moved on. It seemed symbolic. We have these babies in our homes for some years, carrying them and their needs. Then, gradually, if we do our job right, they learn to walk, then run, on their own. They race off into life, not needing our hand-holding to keep them upright.

A couple parents with older children than I, in the context of other conversations, have intimated that I cannot now comprehend the difficulty and sense of loss that will accompany Carolyn leaving the nest. I know they are right. My relationship with my daughter is young; in the years to come, it will acquire many layers and facets that I can only imagine now.

Nevertheless, another part of me insists, "But this is the job." It is what we do, this pouring everything into another for 20 years so that they may leave us. While many enter a career for life, or for a specified time until they move up or out of their own accord, the job description of motherhood is this. Mothers--like missionaries, so it is said--work themselves out of a job.

There is a sense, of course, in which children always hold their parents' hands. Currently, when Carolyn is entranced with interests of her own, I'm still supposed to stay in the room. When I disappear, she is jerked from her play to the all-consuming question of "Where is Mommy?" Security is a necessary prerequisite for constructive risk-taking; my proximity allows her the freedom to pursue her own devices. Likewise, as she grows up, I want my steadfastness to be the anchor that allows her to explore. Because I am always the safe haven she can return to if things go badly, she need not worry about sticking her neck out a bit. And, by God's grace, it will be because of the compass and charts we give her that she finally leaves the harbor and sails straight on her own path.

It is right and good that Carolyn one day leave our home, whatever mourning that brings with it. Until then, I'll enjoy the time we have and her sweet dependence on us. Because last night, when she took that tiny first independent step? It was straight toward her daddy's waiting arms.

Quote of the Day

I liked this quote I found at Femina:
Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as strong faith; but the weak, doubting Christian is not like to have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way seasick hath not so comfortable a voyage as he that is strong and healthful.

William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour

*An Addendum

to this post

Speaking of missionaries, some of those who knew me before college have to wonder if I fell off that wagon. Beginning somewhere around age 5, I spent 15 years dogmatically (and vocally) sure I would one day enter the foreign mission field. Some thought the plan a waste of my gifts. (I doubt they consider homemaker an improvement.) But I longed for the mission field with the certainty of divine calling--a certainty that waned in college as my understanding of faith, missions, and callings changed. My father once wisely counseled that my future plans could change and it would be okay to let them. Though it cost me some doubt and a good amount of pride (After all, in evangelical circles a call to missions is generally revered as the highest calling one can have.), I finally pursued this new calling to with all the passion of the old one. (My transitional goal, teaching, was always tied up in my larger goal--first an opportunity for mission work abroad, then a mission at home, and finally a purposeful means of income until I could be a homemaker.) Seven years down that road, five into its fulfillment, I have no regrets.

It's funny, really. I am determinedly ambitious. Having excelled in an academic setting in high school and college, it seemed natural for me to continue that through at least a Master's degree. But why spend all the time and money with no intention of using it? Mothers don't get a higher salary or more promotions because they have extra letters after their name. Education, certainly, is an admirable goal regardless of profession. . .but degrees and education are not inextricably linked. It was difficult at first to give up the idea of academic accolades. But ambition should not be limited to academia any more than to professional careers. I still pursue higher education--without the unwanted required courses, papers, and exams. I am still determinedly ambitious, yet my ambitions now revolve around hearth and home, and they are every bit as daunting as any academic ambition I ever conceived. As G.K. Chesterton wrote of huswifery and motherhood, "How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." To love and give and teach and labor in order to help that which is dear to you need you no longer--"hugeness of her task" indeed.

There are moments when I am impatient for more of that "hugeness" to trickle down--for the days when I can teach Carolyn to read and write and bake and sew. After all, ambition and patience are not natural companions. Then I remember that those exciting days will bring new difficulties of their own--parenting decisions more difficult than whether or not to let the baby cry in her crib for a few minutes. And then I am doubly thankful for the simple joys and simple problems of babyhood.


Because It's Funny

This, off the Pop-Tart box:

If you can't read the caption, it says, "It's hard to learn when you've got cinnamon for brains."


New Favorite Salespitch

"But ma'am, you will save money and help stimulate the economy."

ha ha ha


Seeing the Future

Remember when I kidded that I should get paid for staying at home with Carolyn? Ha. Maybe I'm just prescient.


Carolyn and I seem to have miscommunicated today. She seems sure that I said today's agenda including climbing, and I'm quite certain I said no such thing.

I checked with Kevin. He's on my side.


Worth the Read

This article, I think, offers a wise perspective on one of the major causes (and, thus, potential remedies) for our country's current economic state.


Possible Dairy Shortage

Last night, I had. . .(drumroll, please) ice cream. Let me tell you that you have never fully appreciated ice cream until you've had a very small scoop after a 7-month drought.

So far, Carolyn has shown no ill effects. I am cautiously optimistic that our dairy troubles may be over. God is good. (Even if I'm mistakenly optimistic, God is good.)

So, if dairy prices around the nation suddenly skyrocket, you'll know it's just little me (though perhaps not little for long!) up in Maryland, eating ice cream to make up for lost time.


All Rolled Into One

My apologies for the dearth of posting these past 2 weeks. Things have been rather busy here, and most days I feel like I'm chasing my own tail (or, as my mother would say, running around like a chicken with its head chopped off. I assume you have to have seen that to truly appreciate it.). At any rate, to the detriment of my categorical links, I'm going to post one grand update of everything, starting with the house.

All the Trimmings

Our bedroom now has trim! It's been stripped of its lead paint, sanded smooth and smoother, then stained a lovely color similar to that of our floors. I can't even begin to tell you how beautiful, warm, and rich our room feels now. Hopefully, by this time next week, we'll have a ceiling fan in there, too. I'm going to love this house when we get finished!


The living room now has light! Our friend and house-guru Jim (who also helped with the trim and. . .well, pretty much everything that's been done at all) came over one night last week, and he and Kevin installed light fixtures in the living room. The sconces match our dining room piece, and I'm really pleased with the resulting light. It's bright enough to be adequate for reading or handwork, but muted enough to be warm and comfortable. I suspect we will now go through light bulbs not quite so quickly, since we won't need to use the 5-light dining room fixture for all of our evening light!

Carolyn's Menu

Now almost 9 months old, Carolyn's menu options have expanded. You might be surprised at some of the things she likes.
  • rice
  • oatmeal w/applesauce
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocado
  • carrot
  • lemons
  • limes
  • raw celery sticks
  • dill pickle
  • peaches
  • pears
  • bananas
I may have forgotten a couple things. She also likes to chomp on SnapPeas, a baked snack from Trader Joe's. If you've seen the veggie sticks that masquerade as a potato chip substitute, these are similar. Or, think puffy cheetos, but green and tastes like peas. Oddly enough, Carolyn has no affinity for real pureed peas. . .just the crunchy, baked ones. Perhaps it's the shells that never really puree that trip her up.


We have a bona fide creeper on our hands now. Yesterday, she had great fun exploring every corner of the living room. . .and finding lots of cords she wasn't allowed to chew on. Over the past couple weeks, she's been into a lot of things:

Tupperware (okay, so I gave her the Tupperware to play with. It's one of the great things about it!)

Straps--ALWAYS straps!


A Little History

This dress was made for me--a few years ago, of course. The fabric for the skirt came from the dress my grandma wore to my aunt and uncle's wedding. See? (I think I told some of you it was from the dress she wore to my parents' wedding. But I wasn't there, you know? I was misinformed!)

At the Park

We made our first trip to the park with friends a couple weeks ago (well, first that Carolyn cares about, anyway). She was not too thrilled with the swings--she's not quite big enough to feel secure in it, I think. The slide, though, got lots of smiles. At first, she wasn't sure. But soon, I set her at the top and waited half way down while she rocked herself forward enough to slide down, with a big grin! We certainly tired her out--it's the first time she's been sleepy enough to fall asleep in the stroller. Usually, she's too interested in what is around us.

Memorial Day Camping

We braved the church retreat this past weekend at the pastor's cabin in New York. It was fun, and Carolyn did really well--except for when we tried to sleep in the tent. She loved the tent, of course. Especially when the thunder storm came up. She was all giggles and squeals of excitement. But the sleeping didn't go so well. Either the noises of the mats on tent canvas, the unfamiliarity, or the general mugginess made for a miserable and fitful few hours of pseudo-sleep before we decided to move back inside. Oh well. . .we'll try again, perhaps when a thunderstorm doesn't necessitate using the fly and trapping in all that muggy moisture.

That's A Wrap!

And that about catches you up. In between all of that, Kevin's parents came for a visit, we bought a crib and matching dresser for Carolyn, I sold the bassinet and furniture we previously bought for Carolyn on craigslist, Aunt Rebecca has been in and out, the weather has been cold, cool, warm, hot, rainy, and all of those again, and I've been generally trying to keep up. We have some videos, too. . .but, really, I think this post is about long enough.

*Edited 9/10/09


Belated News

Sorry for the delay--I have videos and pictures to share, but our other computer is on the fritz (again), so they'll have to wait. I suppose I could do the photos from this one, actually. . .I'll think on that.

At any rate, we're all back home after our travels. Carolyn has her first tooth and it has a little buddy just waiting in the wings for a grand entrance. She scoots and rolls with the best, getting up and down on all fours (sometimes hands and knees, sometimes hands and feet). One night in Florida, I went to sleep with Carolyn at a 90-degree angle to me, head by my side. I woke up a few hours later with her kicking me in the ribs. She desperately wants to crawl, but mostly belly flops or pushes herself backward--both of which make her somewhat angry. I tell her she has to keep practicing, but she says she prefers to grab my hands and practice standing up and walking.

We've expanded our foods to include rice cereal, oatmeal, carrots, and avocados. And water. She likes water, particularly if she can have it from my glass, though she does pretty well with her soft-spouted sippy cup (Have you seen those? They're a quite nice intermediate step.)

Mirrors are a favorite entertainment. She loves to chatter and squeal at that cute baby that always seems to be there. Actually, she loves to chatter and squeal in general.

I'll work on those pictures. . . .


Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!

. . .or, at least, I dare to hope so. I haven't taken any pain meds in over 24 hours now and haven't had any pain either. It's been a long 10 days.


Thanks Be To God: a Miscellany

These past few days of near-constant pain and discomfort have brought some things to mind. Here are some things I'm thankful for:
  • It's me, not my husband or daughter, in pain.
  • Except for that first day, the pain has not been debilitating.
  • This is not chronic. It will end.
  • The doctors and nurses, without exception, have been supportive and creative in finding coping options that allow me to continue breastfeeding without serious risk.
  • Aunt Rebecca came to clean my house in preparation for our guests.
  • Brian & Anna have been here and have been a huge help.
  • Brian is an excellent cook. And he cleans.
  • Carolyn is such an easy-going, happy-go-lucky baby in whatever circumstance.
  • Sleep has still been possible.
  • The offers of help from various friends here have been abundant.
  • Far from last or least, Kevin is such a patient and considerate husband.

I was commenting to a friend last week that we never face the trials we think we could handle well. I know I've observed others' difficulties on occasion and thought that I could handle that problem so much better than the one I actually have. Chronic pain is not one of those. I can handle large amounts of temporary pain well. But chronic pain, however large or small--even "temporary chronic" pain such as I have now--nearly undoes me. I know a few people who live in chronic pain, in varying degrees of severity. Their grace and faith under such constant physical pressure amazes and humbles me.

The headlines from the past week have seemed grim and grimmer to me. From my perspective, recent decisions and events bode ill for the security and welfare of our nation and the world. In this light, I am ever more grateful that
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.


No Free Market Left Unturned

I am so very glad that our illustrious Congressmen have realized the significance of this matter and are giving it their attention.

When the government easily sees its way clear to intervene in the frivolous pastimes and pursuits of its people, tell me the word "totalitarian" doesn't hover on the edge.


Launching Paper Boats

I shudder to remember where my vivid childhood imagination would sometimes take me at bedtime, and this article by Nate Wilson, the title of which (The Amazing Tale of the Butterfly-Unicorn-Ballerina-Princess and the Giant, Creeping Land Squid) compels further investigation, almost made me cry.

If you have little ones, go read it.


Red on White

We had a beautiful snowstorm a couple weeks ago, and the brilliant cardinal (and his lovely wife) graced our yard:

Naked No More

Our living room and dining room windows are finally dressed!

It's hard to tell, but these have a fine navy, periwinkle, gold, brown stripe pattern.

AND, the powder room finally has a lovely antique mirror:


For the Praise of His Glory

We missed Worship yesterday, but our pastor e-mailed his sermon notes out. The text is Ephesians 1:11-12. This statement stood out to me this morning:

"We can trust his plan and purpose and the means by which he gets it done."


Just Call Me "Chef"

We all have those days when nothing--and I mean nothing--goes well in the kitchen. Things are burned. Over-salted. Under-cooked. Bland. Just plain bad.

You know what I'm talking about.

I've had more of those than I care to remember, including (but sadly not limited to) some particularly bad ones while I was pregnant and shortly after Carolyn was born.

Today was not one of those days. In fact, in spite of me, today was a very good food day. Let me tell you about it. . .

This morning I decided to try a new bran muffin recipe. I really like bran muffins, and they're generally healthy, so it's a win-win. Between Carolyn needing attention and me forgetting to adjust the time for a dark metal muffin pan and a super-efficient gas oven, I let them get a little too brown. But they didn't taste it. They were, if I may say so, quite good, as I was thinking when I realized that--in addition to mistakenly adding a couple tablespoons of extra liquid, a mistake I recognized at the time but thought insignificant--I had only put half of the flour and bran they should have had! And they were still good. I can't wait to try them with my head on straight.

For lunch, I made another fried rice venture. I've tried to make fried rice several times with varying degrees of success. None of them have been inedible, but I haven't quite found the way to make it the way I like it best. Today I tried a recipe online and, while it still wasn't quite my definition of perfect, it was by far the best attempt yet. I was thoroughly satisfied. (Preparing a fresh, hot meal just for myself has a tendency to thoroughly satisfy me anyway, as if I've gone out on a limb and done something really special.)

This afternoon, I made bread. I'm still searching for that elusive perfect whole wheat bread recipe. . .and now I need one that doesn't have to be kneaded, because my wrist (and my daughter) will not always cooperate. So I tried one today I have tried before with little success, and it turned out perfect. I mean airy and soft and golden and melt-in-your-mouth-but-fill-your-stomach perfect. It even passed the Kevin examination.

Then we had dinner. I had this Italian sausage left over from another night, and it occurred to me that maybe I could make soup with it. I haven't found an Italian sausage soup recipe that we like, and I didn't feel like looking, so I made one up. And it PASSED! Hooray!

Now I think we'll have popcorn, Grandad-style (except now I use coconut oil), for a nighttime snack. A perfect ending to a perfect food day.


We're well. And you?

Why the sudden glut of posting? Just making up for the long dry spell. . .

Carolyn is now almost 6 months old. She's getting better and better at sitting by herself for ever-lengthening periods of time. Tummy time involves spectacular push ups and that special swim style known as the Airstroke. She likes to lay on her stomach for quite a while, chewing on a toy or tossing the rattle around. Often we lay her with her chest on the boppy pillow for a while to give her a little more leverage, but she usually ends up kicking herself over it into an anger-inducing carpet face-plant. The exer-saucer continues to be the place of choice, but Carolyn is enjoying the swing again after a few week hiatus and is starting to play happily in the Johnny Jump-Up for a few minutes at a time. We get good giggles out of her when she's bounced--on the bed, in our arms, on the floor. And apparently it's hilarious when Daddy coughs.

We recently started giving her a pacifier at naptime, because Little Miss decided she couldn't go to sleep ever again without me laying next to her so she could nurse at will. With the paci, however, she's content to sleep on her own and usually takes 3 naps in the course of a day--2 short ones and 1 longer stretch. Then she's ready for bed by 7 and sleeps 12-14 hours, eating once or twice.

Rice cereal is still on the least-favorite list, as is tonight's trial carrot puree. The third night of rice feeding, she touched the spoon with her tongue 2 or 3 times, then shuddered and refused any further contact. She's intensely interested in our food, but apparently she's not as ready for it as she thinks she is. My water glass, however, sends her into spasms of ecstatic anticipation (and I do mean spasms--hold on tight if she's in your arms!), and she's pretty good at taking a sip in-between working the outside of the glass with her tongue and lower jaw.

The rest of us? We're well. Kevin's been working hard on the house, and I've been scouring the planet for new recipes to distract me from all the recipes in my box that use cheese (or some other dairy, but principally cheese). We've found quite a few really good ones, and I'm enjoying fixing some new foods.

This has been an irregularly scheduled installment of "Life With Us." More next time.

Sharing Grace

The world of Reformed theology is still relatively new to me, and I am still awed by the idea (not new, but newly emphasized) of the enormity of God's grace toward me. In the September/October 2003 issue of Modern Reformation magazine (I rescued a number of old issues our pastor was cleaning out, for my edification), John Piper writes about the significance of the doctrine of justification by faith. Though in this quote he specifically references the marriage relationship, the idea applies anywhere:
But what if one or both partners becomes overwhlemed iwth the truth of justification by faith alone--and especially with the truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ's sake, as fulfilling all of his expectations? What happens if this doctrine so masters our souls that we begin to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal and apply it to our marriages? . . .It is possible, for Christ's sake, simply to say, "I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ's sake, regard you the way God regards me--complete and accepted in Christ--and thus to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if, in practice, you fail."

On Mature Children

I've been slowly reading Hold On to Your Kids, by Drs. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate (PhD and MD, respectively). Basically, the premise is that peer attachment has largely replaced parental attachment in our culture, and this is bad (go figure). The authors are making a case for encouraging the natural attachment young children have to their parents, so that it continues into adolescence and results in teenagers who are secure and desirous of doing what is right for the sake of pleasing those most important to them (ie, their parents--not their peers). It's an interesting read and has numerous points of intersection with good Christian parenting, though the authors arguments are purely secular.

It is not a book urging homeschooling, but I thought the following quote applied in that arena:
Immature people tend to trample on any individuality that dares show itself. In a child's world it is not immaturity but rather the maturing processes that are suspect and a source of shame. The emergent child--the child who is self-motivated and not driven by needs for peer contact--seems like an anomaly, irregular, a little off the beaten track. The words that peer-oriented kids use for such a child are highly critical, words like weird, stupid, retarded, freak, and geek. Immature children do not understand why these emergent, maturing others are trying so hard to get along, why they seek solitude sometimes instead of company, why they can be curious and interested about things that don't involve others, why they ask questions in class. There must be something wrong with these kids and for that they deserve to be shamed. The stronger a child's peer orientation, the more intensely she well resent and assault another kid's individuality.


Return to Fiction

Some time ago, I mentioned that The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, looked interesting.

It is.

Glimpsing a reflection of yourself in the mirror of a book is always a bit eerie, like someone has access to the recesses of your soul without your knowledge or consent. (There, see? Less than halfway into a Romantic novel, and I'm already mimicking its tone. Be glad I don't read Gothic fiction more often.) At any rate, here are the quotes that captivated me.
"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts."

"I read old novels. The reason is simple: I prefer proper endings. Marriages and deaths, noble sacrifices and miraculous restorations, tragic separations and unhoped-for reunions, great falls and dreams fulfilled; these, in my view, constitute an ending worth the wait. They should come after adventures, perils, dangers and dilemmas, and wind everything up nice and neatly. Endings like this are to be found more commonly in old novels than new ones, so I read old novels."

"I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled."

In case you're worried, Carolyn has been changed, fed, and otherwise cared for in spite of my having a new novel to read. If you weren't worried, you might not know me as well as you think. Read that first quote again.


Site of the Day

I'm going to have to agree with the blogger here: this grading of flags is one of the funniest things I've seen.

Check it out. Be amused.


A Wager

Give us one year of a true flat tax that doesn't involve the paperwork and hoop-jumping of our current income tax system and I'll bet people are so enamored with the ease of it that we never go back. . .except for all the CPAs, of course.

Guess what I've been glancing at this afternoon.


No, I Haven't Forgotten You

I realize a picture post is overdue. And we have pictures. (Do we ever have pictures! Eight days and four grandparents worth of pictures!)

We've been back home for a week and a half now, and I'm finally starting to breathe normally again. The week we returned is in the running for the Worst Week Ever award. Things just kept happening, and I thought it would never end. This week, however, has been refreshingly normal (whatever that means), and I promise to get some pictures up before too much more time lapses.

In the meantime, Carolyn's four-month appointment told us she weighs 16 pounds and measures 25-1/2 inches long. She handled her 2 shots pretty well, and who can blame her if she just wanted to be held the rest of the day?

Quote of the Day: Democracy in a Nutshell

Well, actually yesterday, but. . .

from a radio show discussing the results of a poll in which 72% of the respondents answered negatively,

Seventy-two percent of the people in the country can't be wrong!