Saturday, February 28, 2009

One Season Ends, Another Season Begins

I never expected a time in my life where I would no longer gauge the changing of seasons by the color of leaves or the blooming of flowers. Now, like many parents, I gauge the seasons by the sports we (meaning the kids) play. Today, winter ended with basketball and cheer and spring began with soccer (and tumbling and golf). Poppa John was in town for the weekend, so he rotated sporting events along with us, and likely ended the very busy day glad he no longer has little ones at home.

Gracie's cheerleading team cheered for Bub's basketball team today -- the first and only time this season -- and Bub, as usual, played an incredible game. He scored eight points, and had five steals and one assist. He really is quite good at basketball and loves it more than any other sport. So much, in fact, that we're now on the hunt for a more competitive league.

Shots from the Game

Faster than the Speed of Light
(I've somehow messed up my camera settings, still I think this picture is fun.)

Cutie Patootie Heading to Halftime

The basketball game ended at 1:30 and we had to be on the soccer field by 3:00. We grabbed a quick lunch, the kids changed clothes in the restaurant bathroom, then we all headed over to the soccer field to give Bub plenty of time to warm-up and acclimate. Practices began for the team about four weeks ago, but the coach moved practice from the usual Thursday night time slot to Saturdays right during our game times. We wouldn't abandon one team for another, so Bub went without an official pre-game soccer practice. Bub was little bit intimidated to just show up on the field, but once he got back out there, it all came right back to him.

He played right field one quarter and goalie two quarters. He sat out during the beginning of the last quarter and I don't know where he played after that as I left the game a few minutes early. Somehow, Mother Nature didn't get the note about the change of seasons, and the weather that had just been between 80-90 degrees was suddenly 50 with a bitter wind to boot. I stood the frigid weather for as long as I absolutely could, but when hypothermia began to set in and I found myself tempted to dip my fingers in hot chocolate, Gracie and I left James and Poppa John alone to give high-fives and pack up gear.

Goalie Bub

Guarding His Territory

Staying Warm on the Sidelines

Me as The Green Burrito
(Cold Weather Trumps Fashion Sense)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The In-Laws: A Photo Essay

Our little family (James, Amanda, Bub and Gracie), Poppa John, Jerald and Hayley, Aunt Liz and Uncle Harry, Cousin Randy, Second-Cousin Shannon and her very quiet new husband who never told me his name.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's the Blog That Suffers the Most

It seems like since I became pregnant, this blog is lucky to get some attention once a week. Though I have reduced my number of commitments and outings, I'm still doing blog-worthy things from time to time -- yet, I struggle to find make the time to blog about them. I hate to still blame the baby growing inside of me, but honestly, it's all her fault. I'm either constantly sleeping or sleepwalking, and I'm pretty sure there's nothing I can do about it. Unfortunately, it's the blog that suffers the most.

To recap the last several days:

On Friday, I joined my friend Amy for two-day Sally Clarkson Whole Hearted Mother Conference. I was a little leery of the conference content considering I've never attended before, but I was pleasantly surprised to be both challenged and encouraged in my role as a mother. Really, so encouraged that I'm considering adding four or five more kids to our brood (but don't tell James).

On Saturday, when the conference ended, Amy and I met our wonderful husbands for dinner and a concert. As a Christmas gift, James gave me four tickets for the sold out Chris Tomlin Hello Love concert (with Israel Houghton and surprise guest Christy Nockels). We invited Amy and Corey long before I made the connection that the conference was the same weekend, and it all worked out smashingly. The concert, the music, unbelievable! I love Chris Tomlin, and he couldn't have chosen better tour mates. Such a great time! What was not great was the fact that I left the car lights on and returned to a dead battery. Fortunately, our friends rescued us -- late though it was -- and our crummy car battery lives on another day.

Very, very early Sunday morning, we left home for East Texas. James' grandmother died earlier in the month, and her memorial service was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. We wondered how the service would play out since James' family lives in a tiny little town and two of his family members (along with their family members) would not be able to make it to the service. We were concerned for James' dad that the memorial service would have a limited number of attendees. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to see a full little chapel with friends and family that hadn't been seen in years. Even Gigi's students came to share kind words about her -- students she taught in pre-K who are now grown men and women. We were impacted by the life she led, and we were honored by the respect shown to Gigi and to James' dad.

We spent Sunday night in a hotel in Nacogdoches, and it was probably the one hotel in an entire chain of hotels that did not have an indoor pool. Not good when you have two kids who've been made to sit still and be quiet nearly all day long. They were upset and frustrated, but I think I was even more upset and frustrated. It was too cold and too dark to go hunting for a park, so we just made do until they wiggled themselves to sleep.

On Monday, we came home again and life returned to "normal" (a term used loosely around here), what with the schooling and cleaning and living life in general.

Yesterday, we went on a field trip to The Bureau of Printing and Engraving, one of only two facilities that prints U.S. paper currency (the other is in Washington D.C.). The tour was totally free, and was so interesting and informative. We learned about early forms of currency. We learned about the engraving and printing process. We got to see the machines at work and easily hundreds of thousands of (non-monetized) dollars just lying around. Did you know the money printed at the Fort Worth location has a tiny "FW" in the top right corner? (The money printed in Washington D.C. does not.)

Today, I'm doing a mad dash around the house finishing the laundry and cleaning frantically before my father-in-law comes for a weekend visit. He's coming to bring some things of Gigi's he thinks I may want, and staying for last basketball games and first soccer games. We're also hoping to squeeze in The Great Train Expo so Poppa John can introduce his love of miniature trains to Bub and Gracie.

So, I'm doing lots of things -- lots of blog-worthy things -- but unfortunately, they're slow in making it to the blog. I'd like to promise once again that I'll be more diligent, but reality is that this is my life right now. This sleepwalking, just-getting-by, gestating reality is mine and I couldn't be happier for it, even if the blog suffers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Heart Dopplers and Hair Color

As of yesterday, I'm now 15 weeks pregnant. I'm beginning to feel some little scratches and tickles inside from time to time. Nothing predictable, and nothing strong, but just enough that every once in a while I think, "Holy cow! There's a baby in there!" I don't think I'd normally be able to feel anything just yet, but this baby's settled in way up high in my uterus, and that's consistently where I feel the teeny-tiny nudges. I'm excited about the sporatic movement -- it makes everything feel real.

We also bought a new fetal heart doppler from a dealer on eBay. It arrived yesterday afternoon, so last night, James and I found the heartbeat (in that same way-up-high location I feel the tickles) and listened in for a while. The monitor has a display indicating the heart rate, and baby's heart rate seems to stay in that 145-160 range, just as in the doctor's office. After a couple of minutes of just listening, James decided to talk to the baby. He put his mouth to my belly and said, "Hello, baby!" At first, her heart rate rose a little to that upper range, then she took off. She moved away from the monitor and his mouth. I eventually found her heart beat again, but it sounded far away. I think if we could've seen inside, we'd have found her peeking out from behind her umbilical cord. James felt bad for scaring the baby, but I thought it was an interesting experiment. I also think it's comforting to have the doppler -- particularly when I feel bad or worried, but not so bad or worried enough to call the doctor.

Now at 15 weeks, I'm totally, completely, officially, without a doubt out of the first trimester by every standard. I'm celebrating my getting my hair colored. Gah, it's about time! About the time I thought, "I really need to go in for a touch-up," I got the positive pregnancy test, and while I'm not perfect on every pregnancy account, waiting for hair color is one thing I will do. I know it sounds so silly, but I'm so excited to go in. I have to take the kids with me, and even that doesn't damper my enthusiasm. I really should get out more.

Cross Posted on About the Baby

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Patronage Confusion at Casa

The kids and I went to Casa Mañana to see "Mrs. Nelson is Missing," a play based on a children's book by author Harry G. Allard. Both of my kids were so excited to see the play since we've borrowed the book from the library time and time again.

It's not unusual to see groups of children on field trips waiting at the theatre to see the performances. What was unusual this time was that a large portion of waiting groups were made up of high school children. "Mrs. Nelson is Missing" is a book geared for children at the second-grade reading level -- why were so many high school kids there to see the production? I could only think of a couple of reasons: either they were drama students there for some stage tips, or they non-drama students there for some life-lessons ("Mrs. Nelson is Missing" is about school children who misbehave and suffer the consequences).

Besides my struggle with patronage confusion, the play was lots of fun. The kids and I both loved seeing a favorite story come to life.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day 2009

Valentine's Day this year was lovely. In the past, James and I have honestly debated the validity of a holiday created by Hallmark. In my opinion, holidays aren't naturally occurring -- they all must start somehow, and just because Hallmark (or some other card company seeking a profit) got on board first to celebrate a day dedicated to love doesn't mean I shouldn't get some candy. Fortunately for him, James understands my perspective.

Normally, James is unconcerned about his gift selection and he always does well in making me happy. This year, though, he seemed very worried that he was going to get something wrong. I'm really not picky -- not at all -- still, his concern was sweet. Maybe because I'm growing a human, he wants to make sure I'm extra happy.

I didn't take his concern lightly and after thinking about it, I told him I wanted flowers and a fruit tart. He didn't believe me. I insisted time and again that that's what I wanted, and fortunately for me, he took me seriously before the big day arrived. James came home on Friday night with roses and a delicious fruit tart. He also brought a maternity store gift card and a box of chocolates just in case, silly guy! He also took the initiative to pick up Valentine's surprises for the kids as well, and since that saved work for me, it was yet another very generous gift.

Since James' ideal holiday celebration includes (1) staying home, (2) not fighting crowds, and (3) not spending too much money, I made a special Valentine's Day dinner for him. I grilled sirloins and asparagus, baked potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, steamed spinach, made a jello/whipped cream concoction we both love, and hand-dipped strawberries in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Everything was so good, so convenient, and so easy that we all won on that end.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Best Valentine's Day Party Ever!

Today, the kids and I had plans to attend a Valentine's Day party with one of our homeschool groups. We brought a snack to the Christmas party, but for Valentine's Day, I decided to be brave and coordinate the craft project for a group of 35 kids. I was pregnant when I made that decision. I'm pretty sure I'm a little bit insane. I'm hoping it will pass.

I thought and thought of things we could do as a craft, and I couldn't come up with something more clever than stickers on paper on my own. I put the word out that I needed some inspiration, and my craftiest friend Randi suggested I peruse the offerings of The Crafty Crow. I clicked through post after post and idea after idea and finally settled on the Handprint Heart submitted by My Little Gems, a cute idea that was inexpensive and easy to execute. Could I have come up with anything better? For the record -- no.

Because the idea was so simple, I waited until the last minute to prepare. I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday afternoon, and as I stood in front of the poster paint, I imagined hoards of kids smearing their paint covered hands all over the walls of our borrowed party space. I decided my craft required me to be way more responsible than I cared to be, so I scrapped it right there in the aisle.

As I thought of an alternative craft, I remembered the thumb print valentines Randi's daughter Lila made. Then I thought, "Magnets!" Don't ask me why. I looked for magnets that had a paper back so we could stamp little thumbs straight on, but couldn't find any. Then, I thought I'd adhere paper to the magnets with spray adhesive, but having an unfortunate history with spray adhesive, I decided against it. I finally opted for foam.

I bought three large sheets of craft foam and planned to punch foam circles using a scrapbook punch. I found a red stamp pad on the foam aisle -- right next to the foam markers, mind you, thus implying the ability to successfully apply the ink to foam. I bought a strip of magnets to be cut to the correct size. I was so excited about my new, simple, mostly unique, less messy craft idea. At worst, the kids could leave a fingerprint stain here or there -- not a whole hand. Hooray -- much less responsibility for me!

I came home, unpacked everything, and began punching out circles. As least, I tried to punch out circles. The foam was too thick to fit into my shape punchers. That was okay, though. I would be neither discouraged nor deterred. Instead of punching, I hand-cut fifty magnet-sized pieces of foam.

Then, I tested the ink. The red ink heart looked so cute! What a great, less messy, mostly unique idea I'd had! Everyone would love it! What they wouldn't love was the fact that I failed to see the word "permanent" emblazoned on the front of the ink pad until after I stuck my finger in it. They also wouldn't love the fact that the ink would not only not come off of the finger, but that it would also spread to other body parts, various clothing items, and elements of the environment. And it wouldn't come off of there either. Plus, the ink never dried on the foam -- ever. Drat.

I tried different cleaning methods and different application methods. I tried all sorts of things. Finally, around bedtime last night, I decided that my great, less messy, mostly unique idea was a bust. A total bust.

This morning, I woke the kids early for a first-morning run to Wal-Mart. There, we stocked up on washable (ahem.) non-staining (right.) poster paint, foam brushes, and lots and lots of wet wipes. Then, I went to Staples where I hand drew the heart background and had it copied onto cardstock. We showed up early for the party and I forced Gracie into a test run.

The Handprint Heart craft is cute -- it really is -- but the paint was a mess, as I expected. I did Gracie's hands by myself and had no idea how I'd repeat the process with 34 other children in a timely and mess-free manner. Fortunately, I found a couple of helpers and we had a crafty assembly line of sorts. Mrs. Leslie painted the right hand red and stamped. I painted the left hand pink and stamped (and labeled the card with names, since my handwriting was already on it). Miss Nicole did an initial hand scrub with wet wipes, then sent kids to the bathroom for a proper washing.

Though there was a slight pink tint left on palms even after soap and water, the craft turned out to be so cute, the kids had a great time getting messy, and all the moms loved the result. I'm proud to say all clothing and painted surfaces survived.

In addition to my craft, the kids played games, had snacks, and exchanged valentines. Bub said this was "The Best Valentine's Day Party EVER!"

Conversation Heart Bingo

Lunch with Friends

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dancing Along: Reporting on my 14 week Scan

Baby Girl at 14 Weeks
L to R: Baby head facing out, Arms bent at elbows with hands by ears, Well-endowed tummy

I saw the perinatologist today for my 14 week check-up and sonogram, and everything looks great. The baby measures 2-3 days ahead on all body parts, and a week ahead on length. Early ultrasounds are more accurate for dating and were spot on with my cycle dates, so the due date won't be changed by the current measurements. I guess it still holds true that I just make big babies. (Both Gracie and Zachary also measured ahead.)

As with my previous pregnancies, I've gained no weight in my first trimester. In fact, I've lost eight pounds since my first appointment. Because I have lots of poundage to spare and because baby looks good, that's not a matter for concern. I just too often have no interest in eating, or when I do have an interest in eating, I can never eat as much as I think I can without throwing up. That, or I prepare a meal for my family that suddenly disgusts me, and I'm too tired to make something new for myself, so I just eat a few carrots or crackers or go without eating anything at all. I need to be more proactive about having some non-nauseating food options ready and on-hand, but I need energy for that and I'm still waiting for that second trimester benefit to kick in.

Anyway, the appointment yesterday went really well. My cervix is still stable and has gotten even longer, and the baby is way up high. After waiting for the cord to move and for our little boogie baby (yes, still dancing all over) to slow down, the doctor was able to get two really good clear shots to show us that this baby is 100% girl. No doubt about it.

My doctor also spent a good bit of time talking about next steps and the long-term, and though that was all good stuff, it was a bit hard to process. It was hard to hear him talk about what to do eight days before delivery when I'm still thinking, "Wait, I'm pregnant?" As a planner extraordinaire, I'm thinking hoping this inhibition will pass with time.

Though it's not possible for me to plan for the future this early in the game, I had no reservations about doing a little celebratory shopping, picking up a "Sweet Baby Girl" wall hanging and the tiniest pair of silver dancing slippers.

Sweet Baby Girl

Silver Dancing Slippers

Cross-posted at About the Baby

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Husband Still Has a Job

James generally works very long hours. Well, according to my standards, he does. He's gone every morning before we get up, then four out of five nights, he's not home until 7:00-8:30 P.M. Yesterday, around 5:30, the front door opened and in walked James. I was totally shocked.

The last time he came in early without specific warning was about four years ago when he'd been laid off from his job. He couldn't warn me then because the layoff obviously wasn't planned, and his business-owned cell phone was confiscated at the door. This time, though, he could have picked up the phone to let me know he'd be in early. He didn't call, and I think he learned a lesson.

When the front door opened unexpectedly and I saw him, I queried, "James?" But before I could ask, "What are you doing here," I thought about our expenses and our insurance and this pregnancy and a job search in this ridiculous economy and was suddenly overwhelmed. He reminded me that yesterday was non-traditional. He had an awards ceremony downtown. He swore he told me he'd be coming home early.

I thought back: He told me had the ceremony. He told me he'd be downtown. He asked me to iron his shirt. He never told me he'd be home early.

I cried -- actually shed tears -- with relief that he still had a job. My response shocked him completely. He insisted his job is secure at this point and reminded me we'd be fine even with a layoff, but still, that's a stress I just can't imagine adding to our lives right now. I don't want to be that strong.

New rule: Come home late whenever and don't bother to call, but never, ever come home early without warning me first.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Goodbye, Gigi...

Friday night, after coming home intoxicated by the carbs from the bread and oil and Penne Cardinale at Buca di Beppo, we got a call from James' dad that his grandmother had suddenly passed away. Such sad and unexpected news. Around Thanksgiving, her health made a turn for the worst and she couldn't come for the holidays this year, so we told her we'd come for a visit this month -- when my first trimester was over and I could travel again. She died before we made the trip, and that made us feel terrible and exacerbated the sadness.

Gigi went downhill fairly rapidly. She was very self-reliant and working all the way into her eighties. She went from full-time to part-time as a pre-K teacher, then retired just three or four years ago. In the years following her retirement, her health deteriorated. She had several joint replacements, but really struggled with mobility afterward. Gigi went from working and being very independent to being at stuck at home with nursing care. In November, her physician suggested she be put in a care facility so her insurance would pay for the rehabilitation needed to increase her mobility (they wouldn't pay for a rehab nurse to come to her home). At that point, she was on the decline. She began having minor health issues which turned into major ones. Lately, she had some heart trouble and was experiencing some memory loss and dementia. Friday, without warning, she died.

We were sad that we didn't take the opportunity to get down there to say our goodbyes, but we were also sad for James' dad. Gigi has lived with him now for about 20 years, ever since James' mom passed away. We were so concerned for Poppa John, for the loneliness he would feel, and were ready to go right away to spend a few days with him. When we told him we were coming, he insisted we wait until later in the month. He said he was fine, and surprisingly, he really sounded that way. Nearly relieved, actually.

Poppa John and Gigi live in a very small town in the piney woods of East Texas. Every basic need requires a road trip. Poppa John has been alone in caring for his ailing mother, and the struggle he had was dealing with her immobility and lack of care. He couldn't leave her alone, and he could no longer take her with him. Only in these last months has her insurance allowed nursing care, giving him brief moments for the opportunity to take care of the rest of their lives.

When she was placed in the care center, he was able to come and go a bit more. We spent time with Poppa John away from his home twice in November, then he came here for Christmas. Still, his ability to travel was limited and he had to stay close to Gigi in the care center much of the time. I know he will miss her, but I think the difficulties they were both suffering now coming to an end brings relief.

On Friday night, after several phone calls back and forth, we felt comfortable to stay home for the night. On Saturday morning, we were back up and on the phone, and after he continued to insist that we come and spend time later, we were home through the weekend. So much time has been spent over these last three days discussing arrangements, and he's already begun making plans to pass along or donate many of her belongings. It's nearly like Poppa John has begun to reclaim a bit of himself.

As for us, we're sad. James will miss his grandmother, and he still worries for his dad. We see the relief now, but we're concerned about those anniversaries and milestones long term and the sorrow that comes along. I'm sad because I can see clearly all the opportunities I missed with her, and I'm sad to watch James hurt for his family. When we told the kids about Gigi's passing, Bub had a couple of questions, but wasn't really too immediately affected. Gracie, on the other hand, cried and cried. She cried for Gigi, but I think she also cried because of all the loss she's suffered in her short life. In less than four years, she's lost another great-grandmother, her grandfather, her great-aunt Pappy (who was like a grandmother) and has suffered our pregnancy losses along with us. At six years old, she's well acquainted with death, and the burden of that grief was hard to watch.

We comforted her as she mourned and reminded her of the suffering Gigi has had to endure lately. We answered her questions and we prayed for her and with her. By Saturday, she was much better. Today, we made condolence cards and mailed them to Poppa John and to his sisters. We'll see what the memorial service brings. The memorial service will be held later this month. James' aunt lives in Alaska and must fly down. Gigi wish was to be cremated, and that wish allows for a delayed service. As you pray, please remember James, his family, and our Gracie most of all.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frugal Friday Linkage

It's time for Frugal Friday linkage again. I thought I'd write a whole post about frugality again, as I did last week, but I have a sick kiddo at home, and I'm not faring too well myself. Because I have no fever, I can't tell if I'm actually sick, or if I've been hit by second trimester nausea. Bottom line, I'm spending a good bit of time embracing the toilet. As I recover, enjoy the links...

Gourmet Meals for Four for Under $10 :: CNN Video

Riches to Rags :: Article

American Start Saving When Economy Needs Spending to Recover ::

Homemade Laundry Detergent FAQ ::

Economic Survival Tips from the Top ::

Fear a Layoff? Don't Make These Health Care Mistakes ::

Concepts in Frugality - Rethink Your Thinking :: Almost Frugal

Peanut Recall a Headache for Food Banks ::

12 Ways to Save on Baby Stuff ::

Did She Just Say "Frugal Fertility?" :: The Grocery Cart Challenge

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Sibling Surprise

My brother and his family came to town unexpectedly late Monday night, so yesterday after the kids finished their school work, we went to Denny's for the free Grand Slam. I'd hoped to make it over earlier in the day, but because of their surprise arrival, we didn't make it over until lunchtime. The crowd was out the door. We didn't stay. (A friend told me later that they were handing out rain checks to people who didn't want to wait, and now I'm disappointed I left.)

We've not seen my brother and his family since they came down in October to see my mom in the hospital after her little heart episode. Rae Lynn got sick during the holidays causing them to cancel their plans to come here, then an unexpected pregnancy complication forced us to cancel our trip up. Having them come down was a nice surprise.

We didn't do anything exciting while they were here -- ran a few of their errands and let the kids play -- and I'm a bit disappointed about that, too. I was hopeful we'd have a game night or get go out all together, but they didn't arrive until after midnight Monday night. Then, James works very late on Tuesday and Wednesday, we have school work to do through the day, we had doctor's appointments scheduled, both kids have practice on Tuesday night, Dustin and Amanda had a sleep away date night (which was great for them), and they're leaving for home early tomorrow while we're at our church for Bible Study.

We loved seeing them, no matter how brief their stay. I know I miss seeing my siblings on a regular basis, but I don't realize how much until I see them again, or until I hang out with friends who have their sweet siblings around all the time. I'm hoping to take a road trip to see everyone this spring, but who knows how I'll feel or what will be going on. By summer, I imagine I probably won't be going anywhere. Some days, I truly wish we were closer.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Giving Away the Grand Slam

Hey, who's up for a totally free breakfast? Tomorrow, February 3rd (6AM-2PM), Denny's is giving away the Grand Slam. Eggs over medium, pancakes with butter, bacon and sausage -- all for free? That's a deal that you don't want to miss. Who's with me?

photo credit:

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