Category Archives: Dogs

Making yogurt, making a garden, and raising a son into the workplace

  • Eurocuisine YM80 — I also purchased an expansion tray and a set of eight more glass jars, but Amazon sent TWO expansion trays and no extra glass jars. Humph.

    I bought a yogurt maker and I must say, the first batch??  NOT a success.  There are lots of conflicting instructions out there for making yogurt.  Next time, I will SCALD the raw milk (not boil it, per the instructions I followed), use already-made plain yogurt as a starter (not acidophilus caps that so many places said you could use), and keep better track of the temperature.  I’ll also just make plain, rather than the honey-sweetened blueberry yogurt I attempted.  The results separated into yogurty curds and whey.  The flavor was good, but the texture was horrible.  We half-froze ours to make it palatable, and that worked all right.  But the next go-round needs to be much more successful!!

  • My oldest son now has a job:  He’s a bagger at Sprouts, a local, natural grocer.  It was really the only job he wanted, and though it took a few months of trying, he got the job!  The day he was hired, he had to read 100+ pages of various employee handbooks (which he truly read, because he is thorough, like his father).  I also took him to open a checking account, which had about 20 pages of various information and things to sign.  As we were leaving the bank, his brow was furrowed, and I could tell he was on information overload.  “So, Ethan, now that you have a job and a checking account, do you feel like an adult?” I asked.  He replied, “Well, if adults regularly feel confused, then, yes, I feel like an adult.”  Ha!  Welcome to adulthood, my son.  We are having him tithe 10%, save 50%, and the rest is his for spending and short-term savings.  He looked at his first paycheck, which was for just one week, and proclaimed that the paper he was holding amounted to more than he had made doing odd jobs in the entire previous year.  I had really wanted him to get a job for his own benefit — for learning how to be responsible with money; for learning how to be part of a team within a work environment; and to just take a step up in transition to adulthood…  But, unexpectedly, I feel very blessed.  He’s not a fully grown adult, but it blesses me, knowing that my husband and I have raised a young man who is an asset to a good company, and to the workforce in general.  It feels very right.
  • IMG_20140516_110157_393 - Copy

    I know. It doesn’t look all that exciting. And you can’t really tell the scope of the project from this pic. But I have gotten to know this little cart and a pair of shovels very well in the last week.

    Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and today, I have worked HARD in my yard for 2-3+ hours daily. I am trying to transform a section about 21′ x 42′ into my real, true garden. It’s difficult to explain to people unfamiliar with caliche JUST HOW ROCK-HARD our “soil” is. Technically, it’s not soil; it’s dirt. The Bermuda grass — the only kind that will grow in the desert’s heat and lack of water — needs to be removed, so I rented a sod-cutter last Thursday.  Man-oh-man, that was SO punishing. So difficult.  I put it at the deepest setting — 2½” — to dig up as much of the Bermuda as possible.  Now, I am digging and toting the cut dirt/sod to other areas of our yard, making berms around trees. I’m only about 1/3 done with it being cleared. And here, it has mostly been in the mid-90°s. So, add “hot and sweaty” to physically challenging.  I am keeping my eyes on the prize of having a productive, inviting, rewarding garden, some months from now.  Once I finish clearing the area, I still need to soak the dirt, Rototill it, rake out as many Bermuda grass roots as possible, then cover the area with clear plastic to solarize — and thus kill — it.  All of that is BEFORE I get to plant anything.  I also need to put up a fence with a footer, not just to keep out the dogs, but to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping back in.  I’m collecting interesting garden fence ideas on Pinterest.

  • I was going to post about our new dog (a third Staffordshire Bull Terrier)… And about me going low-carb almost-Paleo again.  But my baby Jean is waking!  So, here are a couple more pics:
    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala.  I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone's face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala. I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone’s face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband's (he's never worn it;  it was a gift).  It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, "Oh, I won't be working THAT long," and worked for two hours with no sunblock.  Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby:  Work as much as you can while she naps.  Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama.  It works.  :)

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband’s (he’s never worn it; it was a gift). It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, “Oh, I won’t be working THAT long,” and worked for two hours with no sunblock. Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby: Work as much as you can while she naps. Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama. It works. 🙂

Dogs vs Tomatoes. The tomatoes aren’t winning.

I have created a monster:  Buddy, the Tomato-Loving Puppy.

It started like this:  On Wednesday, as part of the Crooked Sky Farms CSA, I ordered two extra boxes of organic, heirloom tomatoes, 30 pounds total (for $30!!)*.  On Friday, I processed half of them to make salsa, the first step being peeling and coring them.  After scalding the tomatoes and peeling them over the sink, I pulled my cushy office chair up to the island — that’s how I’ve been doing my meal prep:  sitting — and started cutting out the tough area where the stem attaches with a paring knife.

Our “old” dog, Tally, sat down next to me, very attentive, with a polite request in her eyes.  I kept declining, “Tally.  Really.  You don’t want a tomato core.  Dogs don’t like tomatoes.”  But, she patiently and gently disagreed.  Finally, I tossed her a core.  She snapped it out of the air and wanted another.  I tossed her another.  And another.  She ate them like candy!  In short order, Buddy, who is 5 months old, figured out that Tally was getting something he wasn’t and came to investigate.  Buddy is quite pushy and bossy — which bothers me — but I ended up using it as a training reinforcement for him to sit and stay.  Soon, he was on one side of me, Tally on the other, and as soon as I cored a tomato, I would toss it to alternating dogs.

Eventually, I ran out.  Tally was all right with that, and sauntered off to lounge in the living room.

Buddy was NOT all right with me running out.

He’s not a very vocal dog.  He whines a bit, but rarely barks, and is just generally a quiet dog.  But, after he figured out that nudging my leg with his nose was not producing any more tomato cores, he put up a fuss.  I wish I would have recorded it.  He vocalized with such incessant pleading, loudly begging for more tomato cores, deep in his throat with a variety of pitches, howls, and vocalizations.  He was also trying his best to sit and stay, maximizing the possibility of obtaining more tomato scraps.  But, he worked himself just about frantic in his quest for more tomatoes.  At first I was highly amused.  NEVER have I heard him talk like that!  But after a good ten minutes, I started to feel very sorry for him.  Not sorry enough to chop up a good tomato and give it to him, but I did commiserate with him and try to comfort his comfortless self.

Buddy, in a quieter moment

Buddy, in a quieter moment

The next day, Saturday, I processed nearly 15 more pounds of tomatoes for Tomato Confit Sauce, and the same scene was repeated, much to the dogs’ delight.

However, Sunday… Buddy decided to take matters into his own paws.

I have six tomato plants growing in my mini-garden.  Three of them are very large.  They haven’t been the most fruitful of tomato plants, probably because I haven’t as highly-prioritized my garden this spring/summer as I have in years past!  I’ve fed the plants infrequently, have not hand-pollinated, and other than putting tomato cages around them, mulching them with homemade compost, and watering them faithfully, I haven’t really done much with the plants or to them.  However, each plant has a number of tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness, with the very first tomatoes of they year JUST ready to pick.

And they were picked.  By Buddy.

My husband Martin woke me up on Sunday morning, “Babe… I’m sorry to tell you, but Buddy ate all your tomatoes.”

I was up in a flash.  “WHAT???”

“All the ripe ones.  They’re gone.  I was on the back patio and I could see him over by the garden, but I couldn’t really tell what he was doing until it was too late.”

I practically ran — with my 38 week pregnant belly — down the stairs and out the door to inspect the damage.  Sure enough.  Only bright green tomatoes remained.

I about cried.

And this is AFTER this past week where I have mourned him plucking four of the six muskmelons off the vine.  That, while I was heartbroken, I sort of understood:  They looked like oversized tennis balls.  I could imagine his confusion.

But all my tomatoes???  Oh, that saddened me.

And then, he one-upped himself:  He branched, later Sunday evening, into sampling the GREEN tomatoes.  He ate at least 2-3, and I found three more, on the plants, with teeth punctures in them.

Oh, Buddy!  How could you??  Rascal dog!!

The only good news about this is that, a short time later, he puked up the green tomatoes.  I’m hoping that the experience is enough for him to stop nabbing my tomatoes.  And in the meantime, my husband is going to rifle around in our shed and see what he can find for some temporary fencing.

~sigh~

—————–

*They have a Groupon going!!  $24 for 15 lbs of Crooked Sky organic, heirloom tomatoes.

Domestic bliss didn’t last… but that is (almost) OK.

I keep waiting for life to return to normal.

I used to think that “a rut” was the worst thing that could happen to one’s life.

I now have turned 180° — or at least 160° or so — and have discovered that there is a reason it is called “Domestic Bliss.”  That is because when home life is wonderful, it REALLY IS wonderful.  Philosophers can devise witty sayings about how boring healthy families are, but when it comes down to it, if you have one, it really is lovely.

This past spring and summer was perhaps my most wonderful ever in my 39 years.  Well, I was 38, back then.  Everything was just right.  Parenting was going great.  I thought my husband was fabulous.  I had the garden of my dreams.  I had enough “spare” time to sneak in novel about once every 2-3 weeks, which, in my experience and for my personality is just right;  more reading than that means I’m not getting enough done in my home and family;  less reading than that means I’m stretched too thinly and stressed out.  We had just sold our house for more than we thought possible and had found the exact right place — right size house, right size lot, right location — for an amazing price.  I had lost about 20 pounds and was feeling great, and down to the same size I was before I had my first child, 15 years prior.  Other family relationships and friendships were sailing along at a beautiful clip.  Friends even purchased tickets for our family’s first-ever Disneyland trip.  Can you get much better than that?

I don’t think I’m a pessimist — truly — but I am enough of a realist to realize, even in the midst of all this amazingness, that it would probably not last forever.  It was one of those seasons where my prayer was, “God, please don’t let me forget this lovely season, especially if You’re gearing me up for hard times.”

And hard times have, indeed, come.  But, not exactly in the way that I had envisioned.

The good news is that I still think my husband is fabulous.  I have, in fact, grown in love and appreciation for him in the last couple of months.

By early October, my mother was sick, in the hospital, and appeared near death.

We were also in the throes of a remodel — a MAJOR remodel of about 40% of our “new” home — which I envisioned would take us about five weeks.

We also had a serious issue surface with one of our children…  Really serious, the sort of thing where it is just a deep, hard ache in a mother’s heart.

Then our dog got sick, a resurgence of Valley Fever.

Then my computer broke (I’m typing on my husband’s laptop), on which my children do about 1/3 of their schooling.

And… other things compounded my various challenges — like a dear friend (whose two sons are the best friends of two of my sons) moving out of state.  And a few other dear, long-time friends feeling led by God to become involved in various other ministries — leading them OUT of “my” church.  This put a hole in my heart, as well as made things logistically difficult, as I am now the lone worship leader for the 6-12 year-olds at church;  no one with whom to share that responsibility…

AND THEN, I found out I was pregnant with our sixth child.  And while that has been a huge joy — theoretically — I feel like crap, 24/7, and that just makes everything… extra-challenging.

And my mother did die, on October 18th.  That was hard.  It still is, especially when my four-year-old, Fiala, pipes up at lunch, scowl ensconced firmly on her face, “I don’t want Grandma to live with Jesus any more.  I want her to be here.”

We are still remodeling, nearing our 11th week of that massive project.  The good news is that I have a working kitchen.  I still don’t have a back splash, there is still some touch-up to do, I still don’t have a working sink in our powder room, and the legs of our built-in breakfast table (envision a bar, only larger and more rectangular) still need to be trimmed and stained.  AND, as I was dreaming — again — of the massive yard sale I’d have to enable the purchase of new furniture, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my Furniture Money would probably have to become Pay the Midwife Money.  Maybe that’s stupid, but it was one of those reality checks that made me groan, “Aw, man…”

Crappy picture taken with my phone, that shows evidence of my girls watching TV as I blog, and my home rather untidy, but about 97% remodeled.

My child with the “issue” is now in counseling, and though we’ve just begun, I think that will be really helpful.  Sometimes, it helps a child to hear truth from a different, non-parent source.  My husband and I are fighting — and winning, I think — not to feel like Giant Failures in Parenting.  Still, it’s been a blow to my confidence as a mother to have to call in the experts…

Our dog is still ill, but at least she hasn’t died.  The vet said that he rarely sees dogs with her blood titer level, because, “Usually a dog doesn’t get to that level;  they die before then.”  But, she’s on antifungals.  Sweet pup.  We’re not out of the woods, and it was hard to admit to my husband that I didn’t ask the vet to call in a three months’ supply of meds, which we could have done, and which is less expensive than buying it month-to-month, because I’m still not sure she’ll make it three months…  We’ll see.

My computer is still broken, which is making me feel like a bad homeschooling mom, because my kids haven’t done math nor typed anything in about a month.  Grant and Wesley also read from the encyclopedia on my computer…

The Sunday before I had the spate of friends become displaced from my life, in early August, the presence of God fell on me very powerfully during worship, and I felt God calling me to serve Him, and Him alone, for His sake — not for what I get out of my relationship with Him or out of my Christianity;  not simply because I was following my pastor (though I have a wonderful pastor — two of them, actually — absolutely amazing men of God who are excellent teachers and amazing leaders…)  I just felt Him calling me to Himself, no matter who does what, and when, nor what goes on around me.

I have really been clinging to that, and thankful to Him for preparing me.

I’m 11 weeks pregnant, and I still need to actually TALK WITH and MEET WITH my midwife, rather than exchanging phone messages.  I don’t know why, but I think I’m kind of dragging my feet about that.  It’s just one more thing that will go on the plate…  Know what I mean?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining.

And I keep reminding myself how LOADS of people — billions of them — have it worse than I do.  In many ways, things really aren’t bad at all!  They’re just challenging, and I don’t enjoy being challenged.  I really don’t.

So!  That’s where I’m at.

Thanks for reading.  I wish I had something clever with which to tidily wrap up this post, but my stomach hurts too much to think of what that might be.  I think I’ll go make myself a piece of toast.

 

Jack the Bulldog

If this came in little-girl sizes, I’d likely get this for Audrey.

My six-year-old daughter Audrey just may end up a vegetarian.

I read Charlotte’s Web earlier this year to Audrey and three-year-old Fiala, and the story impacted Audrey so greatly that she can no longer eat pork.  She deeply empathizes with Wilbur.  At first, my husband Martin thought this ridiculous — actually, he still does — but I could see in her tears that she was abundantly sincere, and we’ve decided to let her eat according to her conscience.  Anyway, many people don’t eat pork for a wide variety of reasons.

Fiala, little stinker that she is, uses this as ammunition.  “Aaaaaauu-dreeey,” she sing-songs across the table with a chunk of meat on her fork, “I’m eating piiii-iiig!”

Audrey bursts into tears (yet again), and I correct Fi, admonishing her on the graces of kindness.

Audrey’s tender heart toward all creatures great and small has changed the way I evaluate books.  “How many moments in this story,” I search my memory, “will bring Audrey to tears?”

A week ago or so, I decided to read Little House on the Prairie to the girls.  It’s not in the curriculum we use, and I think its omission is a travesty.  The book is a must-read, in my estimation, for any American girl.  I discovered the series when I was eight, and read it non-stop, much of it secretly by night-light, until I was finished with all nine books within a week, an experience that left me exhausted but completely satisfied.  Shortly afterward — weeks, in fact — it was determined that I needed glasses.  I’ve read that eyestrain cannot cause one to become near-sighted, but my experience makes me suspicious.

Anyway.

The Ingalls family, in the early pages of the story, sets off in the 1870s to parts West, possessions in a covered wagon, their dog Jack, described as a beloved brindle bulldog, trotting tirelessly under the wagon.

Completely as a side-note, in the last 18 months, our family has dog-sat both an English Bulldog and a French Bulldog.  I cannot see either of those lazies trotting tirelessly anywhere.  Jack must have been the longer-legged American Bulldog, or maybe even a Boxer.  That’s just my own theory, though.  🙂

As the wagon fords a creek, suddenly the water violently swells and rises, sweeping even the mustang ponies off of their feet, threatening to upset the wagon.  It’s quite a tense moment.  When the family arrives on the other side of the creek, it is discovered that Jack is missing.  Laura — and Audrey right along with her — is completely distraught.

I sat there as the chapter ended, a sobbing six-year-old on my left, an unmoved three-year-old on my right.  Fi had sat contentedly through the whole thing, brushing a dolly’s hair, and was now happy that the reading was over and that she could get up and play.  I put out my hand to hold her back, my mind racing.  It had been a long time since I’d read the book, but I thought I remembered that Jack was discovered later to be completely fine and wholly alive.  I surreptitiously flipped through the next chapter, and found, to my relief, that Jack’s “resurrection” happened in just a few more pages.

“Audrey,” I asked her, “would you like to keep reading?”

“NNNOOOOOO!!!” she emphatically wailed.  “I never want to read that book again, EVER!!”  She started to bolt.  I caught her back.

“Little daughter,” I told her as gently as I could, “I know you’re very, very sad for Jack right now.  I don’t want to leave you sad.  Will you let me keep reading?  I think what happens in the next chapter will make you happy again.”

“Nothing can make me happy!” she continued, very dramatically.  “JACK’S DEAD!!  HE DROWNED!!  PA CAN’T FIND HIM!  HE WASHED AWAY IN THE RIVER AND HE’S DEAD FOREVER!!!”  In her tone and in her eyes, she was dripping with accusation:  How could I read such horror to her?  How could I even consider that she’d want to read about the death of a dog??  What was wrong with me???

I looked over again at Fiala, and marveled that there can be such different personalities in one family.  Fi appeared to really not give a hoot what had happened to Jack.  Those two little girls are opposites in nearly every way, the same as my oldest two boys, Ethan and Grant are.  Grant is the anti-Ethan, and Fiala is the anti-Audrey.

In spite of both girls’ wishes, I convinced both of them that they’d be best off, listening to another chapter.  They settled in again, Fi back to her dolly-brushing, and Audrey with a grumph and a pout, tears still streaming down her cheeks.  I resumed reading.

It’s also funny, what a blank slate children are.  What is cliché and so very transparent to a long-time book reader like myself came as an absolute shock to Audrey:  The “wolf” who threatened the Ingalls’ camp that night was not a wolf at all, but an absolutely worn out, mud-crusted bulldog named Jack.

Audrey squealed with relief and joyous shock, literally jumping up and down at Jack’s resurrection.

Crisis cut short, tender feelings soothed, normal life and hope in good books and a mother’s heart restored.

I shared a slightly abbreviated version of this story with my friend Kathy on Monday, figuring that, as an intense co-animal-lover, she’d appreciate Audrey’s tender, powerful feelings toward Jack.

Instead, she cocked her head and looked at me.  “Is that what God does with us?” she mused.  “There might be something in that.”

Thrown for a bit of a loop, I think I stood there with my jaw slack.

We had just finished an epic conversation on what God does with us, when things are pending, unfinished, when the results are not easily seen, when the light at the end of the tunnel is a pinprick point, too far to fathom, and we are battling the fear that our heart’s desires might be low on God’s priority list…

“Is that what God does with us?” she posited again.  “Read the next chapter in our lives just a little sooner, out of mercy for our tears?”

I thought of my interaction with Audrey, and could clearly see the parallel.  I had felt it important to not just flat-out tell Audrey, “Jack lives.”  In those moments when Audrey was dissolving in a puddle of emotion, I made the decision that it was important for her character, and just for the appreciation of tension in literature, and to experience the coming joy, to not reveal the outcome in advance.  Yet, I didn’t want to abandon her to her heartsick, out-of-control self.

She was so sincerely broken for Jack’s death, yet I knew that Jack didn’t actually die!  I tried to soothe her, knowing things would truly be better — and very shortly! — and was almost unable to do so, because Audrey was almost violently upset at both the book, and at me.

I know that not every sad story has such a joyous outcome.

Still, though, is that what God does with us?

I’d never considered it before.

I’m learning to trust that He has my heart in His hands, my tender, short-sighted, and often mistakenly-distraught heart.

I have 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence in the God of Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

My NEEDS.

I know He’ll supply my NEEDS.

I have a 100% iron-clad, unwavering confidence that He’ll supply all of my NEEDS.

But my wants?  The deep desires of my heart?  The things that I long for, that stir the deepest part of me?  The things that speak peace and beauty to my soul, and satisfy my emotions??

I’m much less confident of that.

I’m very aware that, very often, He’s much more concerned with building my character, molding me into the person of Jesus Christ, than He is with answering every whim of a prayer, every emotion-sotted plea.

Trusting my Father God with my heart is much more challenging than trusting Him with my needs.

Yet, does He sit with me on the little sofa in the quiet room, reading the story of my life to me, tenderly calming me by — on occasion — compelling me to sit still just a while longer and listen, because He knows that the outcome, which currently looks so bleak, will actually be filled with JOY, the kind of joy where I squeal and jump up and down with elation and relief and unabashed surprise???

Perhaps He does.

I think He does.

I think I may be experiencing a bit of that, right now.

My heart can scarcely believe it, but I’m picturing Him, right now, turning those pages, gentle voice and all-knowing mind drawing me back from the brink, longing to return to me the hope that I have almost abandoned.

Harder, indeed, to believe that, than believe that He’ll meet my needs.

But, thanks to Jack the bulldog, and an insightful friend, I’ll listen more carefully — both now and in the future — for my God to scan those pages ahead, and do more than console me, but reveal the truth that was hidden, a truth that holds satisfaction, and which does meet the desires of my heart, the heart He created.

Fiala health update. :)

It appears we’re on the right track with Fiala’s health.  She isn’t healed up quite enough for me to have full-on hope, but the hope is glimmering.  Last night, I talked with a woman who, 30 years ago, almost died from a systemic Candida infection, and comparing her story to Fiala’s was a confirmation.  Not that Fiala almost died.  But, much of what Fiala is experiencing, the lady had, too.  And she knows Fi well enough that, once I suggested to her that Fi may have Candida, it was like a light switched on for her, “Oh, yes… of course… why didn’t I think of that???”

We see the naturopath next week.  I’m going to ask for stronger antifungals.  Nystatin is working juuuuuussssst well enough to help, but it really has only made a small dent on Fiala’s head-to-toe symptoms.  Although — I know this is a little strange — I do know that fungal infections can be very slow to heal, and I know this because our dog suffered from Valley Fever, which is also fungal.  It took her most of a year to come back to full health.

At our favorite restaurant (the only one where everyone likes the food and there's something everyone can eat), Fiala's normal meal of plain refried beans and plain lettuce has been upgraded to having cheese on top, and a side of sliced avocados. She's in heaven.

The place which has had the most improvement is on her scalp.  From ear to ear, across the top of her head, Fiala had crust, a good ¼” thick in places, like the worst bout of cradle cap you’ve ever seen.  She lost quite a bit of hair from it, and for the last couple of months, when we go any place public, most of the time, I have her wear a hat, because it’s just scary/sad to look at, and freaks people out.  I was looking at hear head last night, and though her hair is thin, it is probably 80% healed, which is just amazing.

Fi’s chin is significantly better, as well.  It’s red and rashy, still, but not oozy, crusty, and bloody.

Other places on her body have slightly improved, and some not so much.  That may be because we could use up the 30g tube of Nystatin in a day or two if we followed the instructions to apply it to “all affected areas” three times a day.  Instead, we have to make the tube last for at least a week.  So, she’s not getting great coverage on “all affected areas” which is virtually every square inch of her body.

Fiala is still on a sugar-free and starch-free diet, minus a small ration of blueberries daily — her one joy!  I’ve even tried some protein-type foods, just to see how she’d handle it:  chicken, hard cheese, almonds…  I’m still leery of pretty much everything, and it’s hard to tell often when something has an ill effect.  But, so far, so good.  Fi doesn’t like chicken, though, we’ve discovered.  She adores cheese.  “Orange cheese?  Can I have orange cheese?”  And we’re only two days into an almond trial, so it’s too early to tell, but she does adore them, and is very excited to be eating almonds.  🙂  Precious girl.

Unrelated to health, the other day, I was making dinner, and my girl who lives to “snug” came up to me with arms upstretched and said, “Mama, will you please hold me?”  Now, normally, I would plop right down on the kitchen floor for a few snugs, at least, but I was in a terrible hurry, and said, “Oh, Fi.  I’m so sorry, but I can’t hold you right now.”  She flopped down in despondency, and wailed, “But I can’t hold myself!”  Ha!  So true.  We can’t hold ourselves.  That’s why we need Jesus, and the Body of Christ, and the support of family and friends….  She’s a good reminder of all of that, to me.  I’ve been giving much thought lately to how the things that the enemy has meant for our destruction, the Father — as is His specialty — turns it into a blessing, and for the benefit of many.  I feel like that, even though our three-year battle with Fiala’s health is not over.  She is so worth it.  So very, very worth it.

Just about everything but parenting

  • Writing:  If you have read here for a while, you may remember that much of my 2010 and part of 2011 was taken up with ghostwriting a book.  The book is now available for sale — here at Brushed by God — and soon elsewhere.  🙂
  • School:  During the school year, it seems like a genius plan to work for six weeks then take off a week.  With these regular breaks, my house gets clean, special trips happen, everyone breathes a deep breath.  But, ’round about this time of year, when just about everyone else is done with school and we still have four weeks left, it seems less than brilliant.  We’re not finished until June 10.
  • Garden:  Thanks to repaired irrigation tubing and some short, cute fencing, my garden now really looks like a garden, according to my husband who blessedly did the irrigation and fence work.  🙂  However, the fence does not keep out our dog, who has an odd — and maddening — affinity for corn plants.  My corn, some of them 18″ high, does not like it, either.  The garden sits in a side yard, and we may have to run a sturdier barrier from house to side-fence to make the garden dog-proof.  Otherwise, the garden is taking spectacular shape.
  • Fitness:  I am now feeling stronger after nearly three weeks of hiking 3.5 miles, three times a week.  This makes me happy.  My “fat” jeans are looser, too, even though I’ve really lost no weight.  I guess that’s from muscle gain?  I don’t know.
  • My bodybuilding cousin Romney, military wife and mother of two.

    Random extended family thoughts:  I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is.  It’s really a cross-section of American society in general…  Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months,  one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not…  Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life.  I find it really fascinating.  Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities??  I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root…  I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.

  • Church stuff:  Over the summer, I’ll be attending a Beth Moore Bible study (the updated version of Breaking Free).  Yesterday, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would, during one of the weeks’ meetings, give a little testimony based on the story I wrote last week, on the story of my son Wesley’s life, and how God really saved my life (literally) through him, when I thought it would kill me.  I was really pleased with her request.  I printed out and edited the original story because I have to hold it to seven minutes, which required me to cut it roughly in half.  That’s OK.  My writing is generally too bloated and filled with unnecessary asides, anyway.  I have pared.  🙂
  • Household stuff:  My hubby installed a “new” microwave over the weekend.  Our “old” one was just 5½ years old, but literally falling apart —  the vent broke off and had already been replaced (then broke again), the door handle completely broke off…  Replacing the door was going to cost us nearly $200.  Ack!  We couldn’t do that.  Thankfully, he works for a homebuilder, and we were able to get one out of a model home for less than half of retail.  Cool!  So, it’s five years old or so, but it’s never been used.  A friend of ours has the same model and is very happy with it.  I now have to figure out how best to clean stainless steel, as it is the first stainless appliance in our home.  Small complaint, though;  I’m happy to have a functional microwave.
  • Birds:  A Northern Cardinal (and today, his mate) has been visiting my back yard for the last three mornings.  Cardinals are not rare in the Phoenix area, but they are uncommon, and in the 5+ years we’ve been in our home, this is the first time that we’ve had a daily visitor.  Mr. Cardinal has pleasantly interrupted my mornings.  🙂
  • Other cardinals:  My husband was asked to design a home — like a manse — for a cardinal in California.  I’m very proud of him.  It’s a modest 1600 s.f. house on a very narrow lot.  My man is brilliant and thinks in 3D.  He whipped out the plan in one day.
  • My mother:  In sad news, my mom is back in the hospital.  I can’t remember how much I blogged about it last year, but in July, we nearly lost her.  She has Marfan Syndrome, and her skeleton is collapsing, which has given her decreased space for her lungs (and other organs).  Additionally, half of her diaphragm is paralyzed.  Then, she got double pneumonia.  She recovered, to our great relief.  She is a stubborn lady, and that can pay dividends when fighting illness.  She has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is very frail, and has been placed on oxygen “as needed”.  In the last month or so, her need for oxygen has been 24/7, with her oxygen saturation dipping into the 60% range or even down to 50% if she’s off of oxygen for even a short while.  After a doctor appointment yesterday, the doctor sent her straight to the E.R.  She has double pneumonia again, and is correspondingly hypoxic.  She was supposed to have major surgery (an estimated 12 hour ordeal) on the 25th of this month to resection her spine and to put in metal supports inside her ribcage area.  This is a risky procedure even for a healthy person;  for her, the doctors had given about a 60% chance for surviving surgery, mostly because of the extremely mushy shape of her arteries — she’s had two AAA repairs and one femoral artery replaced already due to aneurysms.  However, the surgery is really her only hope — aside from miraculous healing — for longer-term survival, since right now, she’s slowly being suffocated.  With this bout of pneumonia, the doctors have indefinitely shelved the surgery.  She’s crushed about that, but — unlike past stays — she’s relieved to be back in the hospital.  Normally, she is an unwilling patient.  I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that she’s happy to be in the hospital.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Summer panic… and peace

Right about this time every year, there gets to be a tight feeling in my chest, which I have to fight for… oh, about five months.  It’s a bit like claustrophobia, but it’s more along the lines of heat-o-phobia.  Truly, I despise summer in the desert.  Some people really love the heat and thrive in it.  That, however, is not me.  I have worked hard to find things to appreciate about the place I live so that I’m not living with a crappy attitude and wishing to be elsewhere, half of my life.  My husband is a native, his dad is a native (which is REALLY rare;  the Phoenix area is a valley of transients)…  My mom and stepdad are here, my sister and brother-in-law are here, my niece is here… plus, we truly have the most amazing church where we both serve and are fed.  Not to mention my husband’s fabulous job that he’s been at for 19 years.  It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be leaving any time soon.  I have come to value the benefits to living here, apart from the weather, which, any time I really let myself think about it, I could pretty easily conjure up some tears.  I mean, I really despise summer in the desert.

But, I will not dwell on the endless 110°+ days;  I will, instead, continue to look for things that make the desert tolerable or even pleasant, and fight the heat-o-phobia and its accompanying tears which threaten to steal my peace.

Several things have made the transition into summer easier for me this year:

  1. There have only been a handful of 100° days so far.  Today, as I write, we have been the beneficiary of some low-pressure front, or something like that, and the temps are supposed to top out in the 70s.  Yesterday’s high was 80°.  I know that God doesn’t allow these sort of days solely for me, but I like to think of them as Him giving me a bit of hope and reprieve, letting me know that I can make it, and that it’s not ALL oven-like misery.
  2. I have been waking earlier.  Much earlier.  A couple of weeks ago, I started hiking a mountain — hill, more like it — that is nearby.  I wake at 5:30 a.m., am on the trail by 6:00, and home by about 7:15 just in time to help my hubby gather his lunch for the day, his to-go mug of coffee, and to kiss him goodbye.  The first day I did the early-morning hike, Martin said, “You could do that every day and it would be OK with me.”  Other than a spunky 2yo who sometimes wakes way too early and won’t stay in bed, and has the power to open the fridge and take out everything she can’t eat and have a surreptitious binge whilst Daddy is in the shower and Mommy is not yet home, it works really well.  And, I have the great feeling of becoming fit and healthier, as well as breathing in the cool, early morning air and being there to (almost) greet the sunrise.  I do a balloon-shaped trail that is about 3.6 miles, savoring the temperatures that are in the 60s or 70s…  It has been wonderful.  And, somehow, it’s SO MUCH EASIER for this night owl to roll out of bed at 5:30 for a hike, instead of, say, the stationary bike.
  3. I think ours is taller than this, and it's in bloom.

    Our backyard is now over five years old, and the pathetic little saplings have matured and grown into a lush (for the desert) green oasis.  This may not seem like much, but when I’m surrounded by hot, brown, and dry, it’s such a blessing to be able to walk into my back yard and breathe in a little bit o’ GREEN.  The trees are now climbable, and one of them even has a little rope swing attached.  We have two medium (but lovely) fruitless pistachio trees and two large tipu trees.  Wonderful.

  4. My garden.  Again, it’s only May, and I got it in a good month later than I should have, so who knows how fruitful it will actually be.  But for now, it’s medicine to my soul to push the dirt around and coax and nurture little plants into being.  Usually once a day (at least), I pull out my kneeling pad and just sit on it, looking at the garden.  Even when there’s nothing to do in it, I feel good looking at it either up close, or just glancing out the window while working in the kitchen.  Over the weekend, my hubby installed soaker tube for the irrigation and put up a little wire fence to keep our dog (and small children) from romping through the tender growth.  He proclaimed, “Now it looks like a real garden.”  I concur.

Family, baseball, book-writing, and God’s provision

  • Taking Fiala off of potatoes was so beneficial, I hopefully thought, “Maybe what I thought was a corn reaction was really potato!  Maybe she can really have corn!”  So, last week, I tried her on corn for three days.  That was dumb.  Ever since, she has been SO itchy, poor girl.  New lesions developed on her face, which she then scratched into oblivion, and are now infected.  So, for the third time in less than six months, she’s back on antibiotics (Septra), as I wasn’t able to contain/control/heal the infection with topical bacitracin.  😦  Bummer.  But, at least we know how to treat it, and at least I know now for SURE that corn is totally off-limits.  Every couple of months, I try it, and I’m just not going to do that again, for a very long while.  Though it would be so handy if she could eat corn, it’s just not worth it.
  • Ethan’s Little League team lost in a very close game last night, their first loss of the end-of-year tournament.  The final score was 3-2.  It’s a double-elimination tourney, so they have at least one more game.  If they win tonight’s game — and they should! —  they will play again on Friday.  If they win THAT game, they will play again on Saturday for the championship, because the team they will potentially meet on Friday (which is the team to which they lost, last night) is undefeated.  (Double-elim tourneys are confusing, but I think I finally have it figured out!!!)
  • Our dog, Tally, is recovering SO WELL from this most recent bout with Valley Fever.  She is still on twice-daily fluconazole, but it is so encouraging to see her have her energy back, and she’s building muscle tone by eating extra food and zipping about the back yard.
  • I’m in my final hours of ghost-writing the book I’ve been working on since February.  Even though it seems like there has been continually “one more thing!” there really is light at the end of the tunnel now.  Even though I have very much enjoyed work on it, I’m ready to be DONE with it.  I hoped to be done yesterday.  Then today…  Nope.  Still need work, probably 2-4 hours on both tomorrow and Friday.
  • God provides.  A few weeks ago, after assessing the girls’ summer wardrobes, and finding both paltry, and being in greater need than what we have the budget for, I prayed that God would provide.  Within a couple of days, I got a phone call, “What sizes do your girls wear?  I have a bunch of clothes, size 18 months through 4T…”  Which is exactly what we needed.  Thank you, Jesus.  Another mom tentatively approached me at church on Sunday about some hand-me-downs for my 8yo son, as well.  She kind of danced around the topic, and when I finally figured out that she was trying not to OFFEND me by offering me second-hand clothes, I told her gushingly that I LOVE hand-me-downs, and was very thankful, and completely NOT offended.  🙂
  • My husband’s brother, after not living on his own — EVER — for his first 40 years of life, moved to Colorado a couple years ago, and all but disappeared.  But, after leaving a message for him at his church last week, we finally were able to get a hold of him, and are delighted that we will be able to see him later this summer during our family’s vacation.

Sad things.

  • My mom has been ill.  After five days in the hospital (week before last), she told the doctors, “I will be going home at 6 p.m. tonight.  You have 12 hours to do whatever it is you need to do.”  She’s very stubborn.  I could write reams about my concerns about my dear mother, but it all boils down to this:  She does way too much, which is terribly hard on her body, but keeps her mentally sane and emotionally balanced.  ~sigh~  The tables are indeed turned, with me checking in to see if she called the doctor on this, or the insurance company about that, and chastising her for turning down her portable oxygen tank to 3 lpm instead of 4, even though it “lasts longer” that way.  ~heavy sigh~
  • My hubby and I went on a date night on Saturday, which was cut short by us rescuing a doggie.  Big ol’ guy — 60 lbs at least — with short legs and a bully chest… maybe an English Bulldog/Lab mix.  Or, Mastiff + Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Dunno.  He came right up to our truck, loved on us, rolled on his back and let us rub his tummy, gratefully ate the food we got at PetsMart for him, willingly submitted to a much-needed bath at home.  I quickly jumped onto the lost & found listings on Craigslist, and submitted a report on http://www.pets911.com, and trolled the last 4 months of lost dog reports.  However, I secretly hoped, those first few hours, that we wouldn’t find the owner, because I wanted to keep him forever, and had warm and affectionate feelings for his chocolate brindle messy self.  Until he attacked our dog.  Golly, my priorities, upon the really frightening event of breaking up the two dogs in our family room, which left mom and five children all shaking and crying, were really solidified:  New dog — danger to our family dog, and potential danger to any small child wandering in/nearby a dog fight — is out the door.  😦  On Monday, after an hour of driving around the neighborhoods in about a mile radius from where we found him, I took him to the pound.  They keep him for “a minimum of 72 hours” and assess his adoptability, at which point they either euthanize him, or put him up for adoption.  😦 😦 😦  It’s still heavy on my heart, and it has me wondering why God appointed that responsibility to us, and if we did the right thing.
  • Sort of related to the first thing up there, I find myself REALLY wanting to be in a house into which we could invite my mom & stepdad to live.  I’ve already talked with my stepdad about it (a while ago, after another medical scare from my mom), and he does want to live with us should my Mom pass… That was both a hard and a beautiful conversation.  Joe has only been my “Dad” for 12 years;  I was already married and with my first child when he and my mom got married.  However, I love him dearly, and he is the most involved grandfather my children have (though my “real” dad and my hubby’s dad do love our kids, and they do see them regularly), and it KILLS ME to think of him on his own, after my mom dies.  My hubby and I have talked a bit about selling this home and buying one more appropriately outfitted for a “guest,” but, obviously, this is a BAD AWFUL time to be putting a house on the market, and it would really, really, really have to be OF GOD for it to happen.  So, I’m praying.

Standardized tests, losing my wallet, bread, shopping, and a sick doggie

  • I am considering having my kids do a standardized test before the end of the school year, which I’ve never done before.  The purpose of this is at least three-fold:  1) To assess their progress;  2) To see if there are any holes in their education which I need to fill;  3) Acquaint them with the style of test that they will likely see much more of, outside of our homeschool experience, when the time comes.  Looking into it, I decided that the Iowa Test of Basic Skills would likely be the best choice, because it is much more comprehensive than many other standardized tests, but still at a fairly reasonable cost.  Then, I see that one has to have a bachelor’s degree in order to administer it.  Rats.  Since I completed only 2½ years of college, that means that either I have to choose a test without such a requirement, or enlist the help of someone else in administering it.  I bet my stepdad would, but it’s such a bummer that I can’t just give the test to them by myself.  😦
  • I lost my wallet today.  I went to the grocery store for a few non-perishables, then went to the library to 1) pick up some books I had placed on hold; 2) return some DVDs that we managed to remain in our DVD player after we had returned the covers; 3) pay off the fines that accrued on our 30 or so items while the “hold” had been placed on my account due to the missing DVDs; 4) confess that an additional DVD had “developed” a crack in it while in our care.  When I went to pull out my debit card and my library card, I discovered that I had no wallet.  I assumed that I had somehow left it in the truck, so I left my items at the counter, and went to get it.  No wallet.  So, I went back in to the library, took care of #2 and #4, and ran back to my truck.  I raced back to the grocery store, praying all the while that if my wallet was discovered by someone that they would be honest and turn it in.  After fruitlessly checking the area where I had previously parked, I went in to the customer service desk.  THEY HAD IT!  I was so relieved that it was there, 100% intact, that I forgot to ask the customer service person who had turned it in.  Thank you, Jesus, for answered prayer.
  • The fourteenth time is almost the charm!  I have baked FOURTEEN different versions of my vegan bread recipe, and this last one was the best yet.  I’m going to tweak it yet again… just once more… (I think!), so I should be able to post the recipe very, very soon.  It’s been a hard-fought battle, lemme tell you!!!  Gluten-free, vegan, corn-, rice-, and millet-free…  Plus, tasty AND whole-grain!  It has not been easy.
  • Ross:  The haven for those who have expensive tastes, but not the $$ to back it up.  I wanted a real leather black or brown purse.  I have a number of purses, but needed a new everyday one, and I have been looking for quite a long time, because I could spend no more than $20 on it.  Voila!  I finally found one that I really like, at Ross, on clearance, for $10.  It’s “leather with man-made trim” but for ten bucks, I’m not quibbling.
  • Our dear doggie, Tally, has Valley Fever again.  It’s actually likely that she never quite kicked it last year, though she had improved so dramatically as to appear totally healthy.  She started seeming mopey about six weeks ago, but that was concurrent with the start of Little League season, which means that we’ve been absent much more often, leaving her in her crate or in the back yard, as weather allows.  She doesn’t like when we leave her, and who can blame her?  Still, she had started to lose weight… and when she took a step outside last week, and I noticed a little limp, I thought, “Moping does NOT make you limp.”  So, I took her to the vet on Friday, and explained to the vet that I’d really rather not spend $180 on a blood test to confirm what he and I both know, and would he please just prescribe fluconazole?  Understandably, he would prefer that we do the test, so we would know what her baseline numbers are, and to rule out any other possible (though very unlikely) illness.  But, he was willing to prescribe the medication on empirical evidence alone.  However, I talked to the vet’s office this morning, and apparently, they forgot to call the rx in, which means we won’t get it until Monday.  I hope Tally responds quickly to the medication, and that we soon have our spunky, happy dog back.
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