Category Archives: Extended Family Drama/News

Family, martyrdom, yams, and aritificial intelligence

Had a nice evening.  My hubby started crying, just a bit.  He looked over, and my Dad and my older brother were sitting on the floor of the family room, talking.  My Dad had just put down a guitar, after he and my brother had sung a Simon & Garfunkel song together.  Martin and I were in the kitchen, and he said, with his eyes misty, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be:  Fathers and sons who haven’t seen each other in a while should play guitar and sing together, then sit down for a talk.”

I agree.

Tonight, we celebrated my son Wesley’s 8th birthday, and my nephew Marley’s 14th.

I love my brother’s family.

Especially when they’re so complimentary of my cake, without realizing it’s gluten-free.  😀  That’ll make a GFCF baking girl feel good any day.

I made a ton of food, worried it wasn’t enough, and now we have enough in the fridge for a week.  Well, maybe not a week, but it’s nice to have loads of leftovers in the fridge.  I made a big pot of stew on Friday, intending to eat it again on Sunday after church… now we’ll have a choice.  They’ll choose tonight’s shredded beef tacos, for certain, and we’ll probably end up eating the stew on Monday before Ethan’s scrimmage baseball game.

One of the things my brother gave Wesley was some sodium.  Sodium metal.  In kerosene.  Actually, he gave it to Martin for safekeeping, but it’s for Wes.  And the other boys, too.  He directed us to find a large puddle, next time it rains.  🙄  I’m rolling my eyes, but really, every boy should have an uncle who gives him caustic explosives!

By the way… If you ever go to Mexico, you’re likely to find a taco stand on many a corner.  And, at that stand, they’ll have cabbage with which to garnish those tacos, NOT lettuce.  Lately, I’ve been pre-mixing my taco veggies:

  • shredded green cabbage
  • diced tomato
  • diced onion
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • fresh minced jalapeño, if you don’t have any really small children, which, we do.  But, every time I make this, I think, “Needs jalapeño.”

I’ve been feeling like a martyr, making all sorts of scrumptious food that I can’t eat.  I bring Ethan or Martin into the kitchen with the demand, “Taste this!”  I will admit, though, the cake overpowered me.  I ate two bites.  Chocolate chocolate chip cake with strawberry jam filling and vanilla frosting with sprinkles, Wesley’s request.  (Grant declared, “It’s Neopolitan!”)  Monday, I’m going to call Fiala’s allergist, and if I get the go-ahead to introduce new foods, I’m going to start with yams.  I’d actually like some leafy greens of some sort, but Fiala loves yams, and to my knowledge, never had a reaction to them…  So, yams it’ll be.

My Dad’s plane leaves early in the morning;  he’ll likely be gone when I wake up.  It was a good visit — filled with mundane stuff like grocery shopping and baseball practice.  But, it was nice to have him here for a few days, and we’ll miss him when he’s gone.

OH!  He also got word that a presentation that he (and some other guys from his company) made to General Dynamics on Thursday was received extremely enthusiastically, and they intend to write up a contract.  They called my Dad’s invention of some unique artificial intelligence softwaredisruptive technology,” which is, from what I understand, the highest compliment one can give on such a thing.  They’ll be writing some contracts for my Dad’s company…  It’s been five or six years, I think, of him (and a bunch of employees) living/working on investor’s money, and I think everyone is thrilled at the prospect of actual money being made, and potentially lots of it.  🙂

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Happy birthday to Ethan…

I really can’t believe I’m a mother to a 12 year old.

He’s kind;  he lets me talk about the days when he was fat and smiley and when his favorite thing to do was knock over our hamper and roust about in the dirty clothes, and say things like “potock” for pocket, and “sobby” for strawberry, and “pleedo” for pillow, and how he used to call Grant, “Dwat.”  I wish that, at the time, I would have recognized what a fun baby Ethan was.  I spent a lot of his infancy stressed out because it was a lot more difficult to be a mother than I had anticipated.  But, I guess that just adds more joy to mothering now, because at least with the little-kid stuff, I have a good perspective, and five kids’ worth of experience that I just didn’t have back then.

I really need to do a post where I compare baby pics of both Fiala and Ethan.  They’re virtually identical.  But, my camera died.  I thought maybe I just needed new rechargeables, but even with those, the camera will hold power for about 2-3 seconds, if at all.  I’m thinking about asking my Dad if I could send it to him to fix.  He really can fix anything.

So, tonight was the big family shindig at the park.  It went well.  With all the leadup in my thoughts and prayers, and the way the Holy Spirit set it in my husband’s heart to invite our former sister-in-law, I thought that maybe God had Something Big in mind.  Well, maybe He still does, but if so, it didn’t happen tonight.  The FSIL and I hardly exchanged more than 10 syllables.  Part of that was because she came late;  she had to work, so my father-in-law picked up her kids, and then she came when she was done, not arriving until nearly 8:00.  Then, the lights inexplicably turned off at the park at 8:45, so we wrapped up the party.

I think maybe it’s maturity — either that, or apathy — but a big part of me really doesn’t care what FSIL does or says or thinks any more.  I used to get all worked up, rolling my eyes, and exclaiming with horror, “Can you believe she…” and now, it just rolls off.  I just prepare myself in advance, that she’s likely to say or do something with which I completely disagree, and I just don’t let it sink in.

I just did my best to take the best of it — like the fact that she loved Audrey’s spunk, and that she thought my cake was good — and just not worry about the rest.

Now, FSIL is set on having a joint birthday party for one of my neices and Grant.  I was glad to see Martin totally noncommittal to that.  I mean, it may work out, and that could be a good thing, but I don’t think either of us are ready to have her be our new BFF or anything like that.

I did very much enjoy spending time with my neices and nephew, especially the youngest, who is almost 11.  She’s just sweet, and trailed nearby me most of the time, often holding Fiala.  And, my nephew is 17 and about 6’4″, but seemed to think nothing of playing with his much-younger and much-smaller nephews, putting wrestling holds on them, and running around in the sprinklers with them.

It was a good time.

Thanks to the many of you who prayed.  Part of me feels like a dork, because maybe all the prayer wasn’t necessary;  it all went so smoothly.  BUT, maybe all of our prayers averted what could have been disastrous.  And, there’s no such thing as wasted prayer, IMO.  So, it’s all good.  😀

I like everyone, except…

I like everybody.

That’s not to say that I want everyone to be my best friend.  There are people that I definitely get along with more than others.  And, it’s not to say that everyone likes me.  And, I’m sure that there are people out there, whom I’ve never met, who I would absolutely abhor.  But, of all the people with whom I’ve even held a passing acquaintance, I’ve enjoyed at least a little conversation with them.

In fact, in many an elementary classroom, my desk was placed nose-to-nose with the teacher’s, because it didn’t matter where s/he placed me;  I would talk with anyone.

Except for one.  There was one guy, Joad, who weirded me out, bad.  He was in my 5th grade class.  I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that he ended up killing someone.  I spent a few minutes Googling his name, and the man has a very troubled history with the law.

But, scary history aside, I like everyone.  There’s no one that I dread being around, or running into.

I’m even an introvert.  A complete introvert.  I totally need time alone to recharge, but if I am with others, what I prefer is to be in conversation with them.  I love conversation.  I particularly am interested in how people end up where they are — their physical location, their relationships, their job, there general circumstance in life, and what led them to that point.  I find that fascinating.  I also tend to think that no relationship is simply by chance, so my antennae are up in even small encounters, to see what God might have in mind — maybe He just wants to brighten my day, or theirs.  Maybe He has something for me to share with them.  Maybe He’s giving me a potential friend.  Maybe He’s giving me some fodder for prayer.  Whatever.  It’s all good.

So, no matter who you are, I’d enjoy spending at least a little time with you.

Except for one person.  One person.

I’ve know this woman for about 16 years, and she has been a challenge to me that whole time.  She pushes buttons I didn’t even know I had.  Her values, perspectives, the way she communicates, everything, are totally opposite mine.  I do not like her.  I do not trust her.  I could write a book about the negative interactions in our history.  There is no one in this world — NO ONE — of whom I could say similarly.  If I never saw her again, it would be too soon.

It’s not like she exists so that God can bring me into maturity, but as far as her existing in MY life, that’s the best I can make of it.  I see no positive benefit beyond that.  Interaction with her requires me to summon all of my best efforts — and beyond — of self control, graciousness, benefit of doubt, kindness, peacefulness, etc.  After even a tiny bit of any kind of time with her, I am absolutely drained.  I pray, pray, pray the entire time I’m with her.  I pray, pray, pray every time I talk with her, or respond to an e-mail from her.  I measure my words.  I consider what I’m saying twice, even three times, before it comes out of my mouth.  I even think, “If my pastor’s wife could hear what I’m saying, and how I’m saying it, would she approve?”  I do that just to make sure I’m not flying off the cuff, saying something unwise that I’ll regret.

There’s all sorts of reasons why I should probably have compassion and understanding for why she is the way she is, but I’ve wearied of summoning that, and find myself no longer able to do so.  I’ve just had it, for eternity, with her.

She’s also the mother of two of my neices and one nephew.  She’s the ex-wife of my husband’s brother.

About a year and a half ago, we had a run-in, whereby she badgered me into telling her whether or not I approved of her divorcing my brother-in-law.  I knew she wouldn’t like (HUGE understatement) my answer, so I brushed her questions aside.  I avoided her calls.  I answered her e-mails as thoroughly as I could, but not addressing that one issue.  Finally, when she pressed, I told her that, no, I don’t think it was right for her to divorce him.

She then banned me from her children.

I tried several times, and in several ways to get to see them.  But, it was not to be.  Her response was, “If Karen’s going to be there, my kids won’t be allowed to go.”  I even ran into a different former in-law (from her side of the family), and he said that he would set up a party and invite her kids and our family, too, without telling her, so that I could see them.  However, I knew that that would incur wrath, and it didn’t feel quite honest.  So, I declined.

She will be in my home on Tuesday.

On birthdays, we typically have a dinner at home, where we invite various extended family members.  Then, usually on the following weekend, the birthday kid can do something with their friends.  This past Monday, we were discussing this, and Martin said, “I was praying this morning, and I really felt like God was telling me to invite N— and the kids to Ethan’s birthday.”

I can’t tell you how hard my stomach sank.

A)  I honor my husband.  If he says, “Let’s do this!” then unless I have some really, really, really good reason not to, I do it.  Pitching fits like, “I don’t like her!” don’t qualify as any kind of good reason.  And, B) if he said that God told him, then I believe him, which means that God wants her here, which means that God wants me/us to have some sort of significant role in something in her life.  I’d rather have her as far from me, as long as possible.

So, it’s not like I could say no to my husband and no to God.  I have to say yes.

I have tears in my eyes right now, and my stomach is in knots, because I am so not wanting — with all that’s in me — to spend any kind of time with her.

I adore my neices, especially the youngest one.  She’s dear to my heart, and looks exactly like Audrey, except eight years older.  All her baby pictures look just like Audrey.  It breaks my heart that I haven’t seen her, nor my other neice or nephew (who is actually from a relationship previous to my brother-in-law, so he’s not technically my nephew, but I’ve known him since he was a baby, and he’s really a wonderful young man).

If nothing else, I’ll be thrilled to see the kids.

Wait.  I just called my hubby to see if he wouldn’t mind us all meeting at the park by our house, instead of in our home.  He said that would be fine.  Whew.  The neutral ground of a park sounds much less… threatening than having her in my home.  Ugh.  It’ll be warm.  But, the breezes will blow, the kids can run and play, the grown-ups can talk, it’ll be all right.

See, blogging is good!  It lets me process things.  Just the simple idea of us meeting at the park instead of our home lifts a LOAD off my shoulders.  Don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.  Well, yes I do.  Normally, in the desert, we don’t plan birthday stuff for out-of-doors in the summer.  It’s just too hot.  But, I will definitely bend the plan this time and we’ll just sweat it out.  In more than one way.  😉

ETA:  About five minutes after I posted this, I started thinking, “Well, I really didn’t like this person, or that person…”  But pretty much everyone, even the people I don’t thoroughly like, have had some redeeming feature that made me respect, or admire, or appreciate, or relate with, or laugh at, or something good.   So, maybe I should have entitled this post “I don’t totally dislike anyone, except…”

Nervous Nelly

So.  On my eBay account right now, I am selling a really expensive guitar for my father-in-law.  I have never sold anything near that expensive on eBay.  He doesn’t have an account, and wasn’t really familiar with the process.  My hubby asked me to list it for him, and at first, I balked, because I knew it would take me a good three hours.  It took more, especially when I take into account all the communication back and forth to get all the details straight, and to request more info about this or that…

Then, mostly due to my unfamiliarity with the guitar itself, I listed it with a few details incorrect, and I had to pull the listing, which cost me/him/us almost $30 for the nonrefundable reserve price.  Ugh.  I went round and round with eBay, because it seems to me that I should be able to change a few words on my listing, even if there are already bidders, if the reserve price isn’t met.  Since the reserve is not met, we are not under obligation to sell, and the buyer is not under obligation to buy.  Conversations with only vaguely helpful eBay support, both on the phone, and in live chat, was more time wasted invested.

Also, though my FIL and I get along really well, we’ve had a few moments where I’ve had to try to ask him some things, or explain something, and I really need “X” kind of answer, and he supplies me with a “Y” answer and that’s good enough for him — “Don’t worry!” he says — but for me, being more familiar with eBay, and being responsible for a $3,000 purchase that someone else is making, well, golly, that does make me nervous, and I would like to have as exacting information as possible.  So, I’m trying to be both as diplomatic and kind as possible, while being firm in my request, and I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing either diplomacy or firmness.

I have never been so nervous about a listing in my life.  I feel like there are relationship issues at stake, not just money stuff.  Know what I mean?  Yet, I really want to help him out…

The bidding is up high, but it hasn’t quite reached the reserve price.  I just hope it sells because I’d really like this experience to be over with.

Thursday already??

Life.  It’s an alternating pattern of joy and frustration, isn’t it?  At least, mine is, currently.

We’re still in the throes of Little League season.  Imagine your life as a homeschooling mom of five.  Then, imagine someone lopping off four hours of your day, four days each week, and imagine what kind of frustration that might lead to.  I was watching a game last night…  Well, sort-of watching, because my husband had to leave for kinship, so that meant I had to keep a sharp eye on 7yo Wesley and 3yo Audrey as they run around and play, plus make sure 5mo Fiala was still asleep in her stroller, plus talk with my Stepdad, who’d come to watch the game, plus watch the game.  Anyways.  I told him that if it wasn’t for, “THIS,” spreading my arms wide, I’d really be stressed right now.  Because, really, I love that the boys are playing baseball.  I love to see my kids run around and play with all the other kids who are there ostensibly to support their baseball-playing siblings.  And, yesterday evening was one of those that made me think, “This is why people move to Phoenix.”  It was in the low 70s or high 60s, breezy and clear and lovely, with a nearly-full moon rising on the eastern horizon, which we faced, as the sun sank behind us.  And, I so enjoy chatting with all the other baseball parents with whom we’ve been seasonal friends for the last few years…  It really is pleasant.  Plus, the facility at which we play our games is really top-notch for both players and fans.  But…. when I get home at 7:45 with a hungry baby and hungry kids and I’m trying to feed everyone all at once, and no one gets into bed until 9:15, my perspective on Little League shifts a little.  And that’s with the EARLY games, which start at 5:30, like last night.  With the 7:30 games, we are able to eat dinner before leaving home, but we don’t get home until nearly 10:00.

Anyways.

We’re sick again.  Audrey is in bed with a 102+° fever.  Hopefully, she’s done puking.  My husband Martin’s fighting a terribly sore throat.  Ethan has been feeling some sort of vague malaise since mid-last-week.  Wesley had diarrhea, which may have been from some unidentified source of gluten.  Poor dear Fiala’s skin is a MESS.  I’m healthy.  Grant is healthy.  Bless God.

I have the kids popping vitamins and drinking honeyed chamomile tea which has been doped up with colloidal silver at every opportunity.

I was afraid that maybe Fiala had some sort of fungal infection on her skin, and ordered a bunch of herbs (pao d’arco, marigold, and lemongrass) for a new decoction and salve.  However, after viewing a bunch of icky pics online, I don’t think she has any sort of bacterial infection OR fungal infection.  She “just” has some really, really bad eczema, which she keeps scratching, which makes it redder and oozing.  We have tried a billion kinds of creams and lotions, and what works best is an old version of my homemade salve — made from chamomile and marigold flowers, which I had seeping in organic sunflower seed oil for a several months, which I strained and heated, then added some organic beeswax, plus a bit of vanilla so it would smell nice.  It works, but only when I use it 4-6x/day, and only when I slather it on thick, so that she’s yellowish and greasy.  Ugh.  No other solution has made it better, and a number of them have made it worse.

Since we don’t cloth diaper, and the ONLY spot on her body unaffected by the eczema is on her chubby bum, I’m thinking it’s contact eczema, maybe from our laundry detergent, which is ultra-pure and supposedly hypoallergenic, and I don’t use fabric softener, and we have soft water… so you’d THINK it wouldn’t be the detergent, but it must be.

I think.

Poor baby.

She’s also teething.  She cut her first tooth on April 1st, no foolin’.  😉  The second one, also a lower central incisor, poked through yesterday.

I’m also bummed because my brother, who is really such an admirable man, with a brilliant mind and a spotless work ethic, is out of work, victim of, among other economic woes, the tanking price of copper.

And my sister is mad at me.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a serious disagreement.  My sister is funny and witty and unique and talented and fantastic at her work, which is basically social work, which is so admirable in itself.  There are few women with whom I feel so well at ease.  She is precious to me, deep in my heart.  We talk fairly frequently, and I “had” to get unlimited texting on my phone because our text conversations were costing a mint.  However, she is… well, among other heartbreakingly misguided decisions, leaving her husband.   One minute, she says she doesn’t care about whether or not I agree with her.  But the next minute, she makes it clear that if I did agree with her choices, she would call it “supportive,” and it’s important to her that I be supportive.  But, since I don’t agree with her, she tells me I’m judgmental.  And, obviously, not supportive.  She thinks my perspective and values are skewed because I’m “so” Christian.  Guilty as charged, I’m sure.  I’ve been very silent on the topic of recent decisions which have negatively impacted her marriage, which didn’t go unnoticed by her.  Then, on Sunday, she asked me, basically, what I thought.  And, I told her, with as much love and gentleness as I could which, apparently, wasn’t enough.  😦  Our relationship will, eventually, recover.  But, that’s only a small part of her story, and I’m afraid that the wider picture of what she’s mistreating, including herself, won’t fare as well.  And, I’m sad for her husband.

In other news, in homeschooling, I recently promoted my middle son up to work with my older son.  For the last almost-two years, Grant has been working with my younger son.  The transition has been a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.  My youngest son, Wesley, is LOVING having the one-on-one school time with just me, and will frequently do his best to extend our study by whipping out random facts and conversation-starters.  But, my oldest son is not loving doing work with Grant.  It’s character-building for all of us, which is, by nature, not easy.

I didn’t accomplish nearly all I needed to during last week’s school break.  😦  Bummer.  Blame it on baseball.  I’m now saying, “I will do x, y, and z when we’re done with school in mid-June.”  Or, considering stopping school in late May, even though we won’t have put in a full 35 weeks.  To that end, I’m whipping the boys (not literally) through math and English because those are the two subjects that it’s most important, to me, that they keep at grade-level, since knowledge in both areas is progressive, and will produce a negatively-cascading effect if neglected.

Anyways.

That’s all for now.  ‘S enough, dontcha think???

New Year’s stuff, sickness, recovery, a birthday party, and my hope is renewed for a homeschooling group

How was your New Year’s celebration?  Mine was good.  It showed me that, yes, I can host eight people, four of them overnight, while I’m extremely ill, if I love them enough.  😀

New Year’s Eve, we had a young couple over…  feels weird, because I remember when he was, oh, seven years old.  Luke and Danielle.  Very dear.  Visiting from out of town.  When we were making plans for them to come over, I told him that we live a pretty boring life.  He said, “Oh, don’t worry!  When we went to Ben and Jen’s the other night, we made friendship bracelets.  Friendship bracelets.  You can’t be more boring than that.”

I replied, “You got a craft at Ben and Jen’s?  You’d be lucky to get a craft at my place.  We pretty much just sit around and talk.”  And, that’s what we did.  Eat and talk.

Then, I found out that they had chosen our less-than-stellar New Year’s Eve taco night over the prime rib they could have had at Luke’s sister’s.  Gosh.  Then, they left around 9:30 for his sister’s, probably hoping they had leftovers available.  🙂  We put Audrey in bed, and let the boys stay up.  We planned on letting them stay up until 11:00, but by the time they toasted their fake New Year with sparkling cider, it was 11:20, and we probably should have just let them stay up until midnight.

The next morning, I started preparing for my own family to come over — my Mom and Stepdad, and my brother and his family.  Everyone was there around noon, except for my sister-in-law.  Sad thing, that.  She resents being continually invited over, yet doesn’t want to do any inviting herself.  My brother thinks it’s an unresolvable situation, but there’s got to be some sort of solution.  I haven’t found it yet, though, and each year, it gets worse.  They live about an hour and a half away, and we’ve even tried meeting in the middle at a restaurant, but it has never failed that, after we eat, someone suggests or asks to come over to our place, and so we do.  Now, we just save the trip and meet here.  But, that remains unsatisfactory to my SIL.  😦  So, the only damper on the next nearly-two days was the fact that she was at home, unhappy.  But… my boys LOVE their three cousins, also boys, ages 13, 16 & 18.  And, they love us, which is so precious.  I thought maybe my 18yo nephew would be too grown up to spend New Year’s Day at his uncle & aunt’s, but he seemed very happy to be along.  My brother said that on the trip down, his boys said that they like coming to our home because we’re “real.”  I love my brother very dearly, and his boys are just like mine, except older — very active and slightly nerdy.  They all get along great.

We celebrated Christmas together, late, because my Mom & Stepdad had gone to Tucson to be with his family for Christmas.

Here are some pics.  My nephew Josh was the main photographer.:

Grandpa Joe (my Stepdad), Fiala, my Mom

Grandpa Joe (my Stepdad), Fiala, my Mom

) my daughter Audrey and son Grant

(in back:) My husband Martin, nephew Nick and son Wesley's back; (middle row:) my son Ethan and nephew Marley; (front row:) my daughter Audrey and son Grant

My brother T.J., Martin, Nick with Wesley, and Grant.

My brother T.J., Martin, Nick with Wesley, and Grant.

Me with Fiala, Wesley now on cousin Joshs lap, my Mom, Stepdad, and the tops of the heads of Ethan, Audrey and Grant

Me with Fiala, Wesley now on cousin Josh's lap, my Mom, Stepdad, and the tops of the heads of Ethan, Audrey and Grant

Ethan, with my nephew Josh in the background

Ethan, with my nephew Josh in the background

That is Ethan with his *really nice* metal detector, given by my parents.  My mom had picked it out to give to him, not knowing that I had let Ethan down, softly as I could, that he would not be getting his long-desired metal detector, as they were too pricey for us this Christmas.  🙂

So, if all of that looks warm, filled with family love and chaos,  you’re right.  It was messy and lovely.  They all stayed the night;  we all stayed up way too late, and just enjoyed being together.

AND, my brother upgraded my computer, giving me a new DVD drive and 2 gigs of RAM.  He went shopping for it, and installed it.  Woo hoo!  The disc drive even has Lightscribe.  Heard of that?  I hadn’t.  It will etch a label onto a disc, art and/or text.  Cool, eh?

Anyways…  I felt like I was coming down with something on New Year’s Eve, and by the time my brother and three nephews headed back up the hill on Friday evening, I was still walking, but feeling really ill.  I was down for the count on Saturday and Sunday.  It’s now Tuesday, and after nearly a week of not feeling well, I’m now back up to 90%.  Whew.  I’ve lived on Throat Coat tea, colloidal silver and vitamins.

Today was busy.  Any time I have anything going on outside of our home, it constitutes as a “busy” day.  Today was Fiala’s 2 month checkup (with FIVE shots, the poor girl), then a birthday party at a park for a friend, and now I think I’m going to go to kinship (Bible study) tonight for the first time since before Fiala was born.

The birthday party was for one of the sons of the lone other homeschooling family in my church.  All of the kids there — sixteen total, not including Fiala — were homeschooled.  Thus, a birthday party at 1 p.m. on a school day.  The mom, Allison, is a friend of mine.  She keeps gently offering her homeschool group’s park day to me, and I keep declining;  I thought I’d really had my fill of snarky, power-grabbing, backstabbing, dogmatic homeschooling moms and their “support” groups.  However, upon chatting with Allison on my mobile as I drove home, I come to find out that this fine group of ladies and their charming children are what constitute the group.  No bylaws to sign.  No dues.  No presidents to elect.  No sides to take.  No voting people/things in or out.  No formalities — just a weekly group of fun and pleasant moms and their kids.  The kids play together, the moms chat.  The park at which they (we?) meet is on the edge of town, and within view is both the “woods” — the undeveloped, bush-and-prickery-tree-filled desert, replete with a homemade fort — and a regular, structured playground.  I’d met a number of the other moms before, some of them three times, at other birthday parties, and at a trip to the zoo.  I like all of them.  ALL of them.  Not a snarky lady amongst them.  Now, THAT is a homeschool support group, in my opinion.  I think we’ll go next Tuesday, too.

Maybe his ship is coming in

My dad is a computer hardware and software engineer, inventor, and programmer, largely dealing with artificial intelligence.  It’s a good line of work to be in, right now, in the third millenium.  However, being such in, say, the 1970s, when pretty much no one — not even major companies — had computers, and you had a wife and four children to provide for, it was pretty tough sledding, financially.  Most all of my childhood years were marked by poverty.

My dad is brilliant.  He really is.  Largely self-taught, he has a bachelor’s degree in a field where he’s surrounded by those with doctorates multiple times over.  Yet, he’s smarter than most all of ’em.

However, smarts doesn’t necessarily lead to phenomenal success, neither personally, nor financially.  In fact, sometimes, it can be a detriment to both, in my observation.

A number of years ago, though, some investors decided that perhaps my dad was onto something, and they’ve funded a company that my dad runs.  Well, he sort of runs.  That’s a good thing, actually.  He runs the brains part of it, and others are running the business side of it.  Though, in conversations with my dad, I know that it has irked him that others were making financial decisions for “his” company, knowing that others were in charge of securing contracts and directing the finances made me more hopeful than ever that the company could truly be a success, since historically, those areas have not been strong points of my dad’s.

So far, there has been nothing produced by the company that has been marketable;  it’s pretty much just been research and development and a great, great deal of hope and expectation on everyone’s part.

It’s been sort of painful to observe, actually.  My dad is the epitome of “hope and expectation” — he always has been.  I’m nearly 35 now, and have pretty much never seen all my dad’s promise pan out to be something as phenomenal as he had led himself and everyone else to believe that it would be.  My childhood contained a lot of raised and dashed expectations.  To me, the sadness of that continuing pattern is compounded because I want him to succeed.  He’s my dad.  I want him, for his own personal triumph’s sake, to produce something that’s worthy of what he’s capable of.

Perhaps that time is quickly approaching, finally.

He’s in a contract with the federal government to provide something.  The deadline is in mid-July.  If it’s successful, it will be worth multiple millions of dollars.  Now, a great portion of that money will go to pay investors who have hedged their own $$, banking on my dad’s success, and all the employees who have been paid through investor funds.  Everyone has a particular percentage interest in the company.  But, a good portion of the dough will end up in my dad’s pocket.  It would be the first time, ever, that he’s had major financial and professional success.

This morning, in the newspaper, was a fairly frightening report of the exact thing that my dad is working to stop.  It was pretty wild to read it.  As I read the short newspaper article to my boys, their eyes widened.  “That’s just what Grandpa Thomas is working on!!”  Pretty cool.  Pretty tense.

If you think of it, and if you’re the praying type, please join me in prayer that things will finally come together for my dad.  

As I was pouting about my Thanksgiving…

… I realized that I didn’t even think to invite my Dad.  He lives in Texas, and historically, our family has barely even travelled for Christmas, let alone Thanksgiving.  But, I called him, and apologized for my assumption that he wouldn’t want to travel, and invited him out for Christmas.

He was pleased with the invite, and will likely come, though no plans are finalized.  He’s also going to extend the invitation to my little brother, who also lives in Austin.  That’d be great.  Of my three sibs, I’m least close to my little brother.  I really enjoy any time we spend together, but the times are far-between.  I haven’t seen him in nearly three years.  I haven’t seen my Dad since Audrey was born, which is nearly 20 months ago now…

It’ll make celebrations sort of awkward, I think, since we’re also planning on spending time with my Mom and Stepdad;  to my recollection, we’ve never been all together in one place:  Mom, Stepdad and real Dad.  Well, maybe once.  I remember going to dinner all together when Ethan was a baby, so that’s a good 10 years ago.  I don’t know how that would fly.  But, I thought that, at least for this Christmas, we should prioritize my Dad, since we hardly ever see him, and we see my Mom and/or Stepdad nearly every week, sometimes more than once a week.

I was just talking to my sister (who, regrettably, won’t be able to come…  her husband is a chef, and getting time off at Christmas is nigh impossible), and she agreed that though our family doesn’t see eachother as often as many other families do, when we do get together, it’s always very pleasant and peaceful, a good 98% free of the drama and arguments and bitterness seen in too many families…

Here’s to a family-filled, peaceful Christmas.

This year, I’m sad at Thanksgiving because…

Just kidding.  Sort of.

I thought I’d toy with the title of just about every American blogger’s Wednesday post.  Sort of.

Actually, I am very sad about something, but in a way, it has led me to realize how very blessed our family is, with… family.

This is the FIRST year, in the 13 years of our marriage, that my husband and I will be having –NO– family over for dinner.  Perhaps that’s not quite true.  I think there have been a couple years where we’ve gone elsewhere.  Maybe one year.  All the other years, we have hosted Thanksgiving for both sides of the family, whoever was available, and we’ve had anywhere from 3 to 15 added around the table (and spilling out into the backyard, and crowded around the kitchen counters, and asking, “What time is dinner?” etc.). 

This year, everyone has other plans, or commitments, or is out of state, or whatever.  All of them are legitimate reasons;  I don’t feel like anyone is, uh, dissing us.  But, some of the things that are keeping other family members from coming over have come up at the very last minute, or we would have invited other friends, like small families or singles who don’t have anyone else with whom to spend the holiday.  There’s just not enough notice;  everyone already has commitments for their big meal on Thursday.  So, it’ll just be the six of us.

So, I’m delighted that we have such a wealth of family and friends.  I’m certainly thankful that we have such a richness in them, and so many good Thanksgiving memories.  But, it seems somewhat barren to celebrate Thanksgiving with only our immediate family.  The house should be busting at the seams, and it just won’t be.  😦

GFCF Thai Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe, and my first trip to an Asian grocery store

There is an Asian grocery store* about 10 miles from my house that I’ve been meaning to go to for… well, at least two years.  Apparently, due to a rebellious streak, I have avoided going, even though I know that rice-filled Asian groceries are a haven for those on a gluten-free diet.  See, my Dad is near-obsessed with Asian groceries, and will regularly hunt down those available in any city he visits, making an afternoon of Asian grocery-hopping.  On one visit, Dad dragged along my then-7yo son on one of his lengthy excursions, not understanding why Ethan wasn’t as gleeful about the trip as he thought he should be.  Upon return, Ethan had a bit of a shell-shock look about him, and confided tearfully to me that he didn’t understand why Grandpa was taking him to all these stores.  On subsequent visits, Grandpa has not attempted this again.  However, my kids now expect him to come bearing Chinese “jelly” cup treats, and indeed, upon hearing of my own trip to the Asian grocery store, cared only that I bring some home.  I dutifully brought home a bucket of mango-coconut.

I filled my cart with a massive assortment of rice, rice noodles, and rice flours.  I did get a few other things, including some baby bok choy, simply because it was cute.  I spent a very interested hour perusing the aisles, mostly feeling out of place, but intriguingly so.  In the refrigerated section, there was a good 20 ft + section of daikon.  I didn’t realize it was such a staple.  It took me 90% of the way through the store to realize that each aisle represented a different Asian region:  Japanese, several aisles of Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc.  There was a wide variety of amusing signs in Engrish.  I will be sure to be back, maybe next time remembering to covertly snap a few pics with my phone.

The next day, I pulled out a beautiful Thai cookbook that I scored from Costco for only $5.99 a few years ago.  All I knew was that I wanted to make a main dish that used both the baby bok choy and some rice noodles.  I didn’t find an exact recipe, but I modified one quite a bit, turning a noodle-less vegetarian soup into, basically, a glorified chicken noodle soup.  It turned out very tasty.  After my carnivorous husband had scoured the bottom of the pan for all the remaining chicken, the remaining broth, with its bit of spice and floating bits of baby bok choy, remained tasty as ever.

GFCF Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 6

About 20 minutes prep time and 20 minutes cooking time

  • 12 cups chicken stock (I made mine with Chicken Better Than Bouillon)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1-2 tsp green curry paste (a little goes a long way!)
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 eggs
  • a bit of cooking oil (I used rice bran oil)
  • 6 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 lb. baby bok choy, cut into 1/2″ shred (kale or Savoy cabbage would make an acceptable substitute)
  • 1/3 cup g.f. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp raw sugar (or any sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. asian rice noodles of your choice — I suggest a long, thicker “rice stick” like tung kow or sen lek — prepared according to package directions (for most rice noodles, just bring adequate water to boil, add noodles, bring back to boil, turn off heat, soak noodles until done — firm, but not hard or crunchy — and drain.)
  • Optional:  sweet chili sauce
  1. In a large stock pot, combine green curry paste with a bit of water or chicken stock.  Add rest of water and stock, ginger and garlic.  Bring to boil.
  2. Oil the bottom of a small skillet, and heat over medium-high flame.  Lightly beat one egg, and pour into pan.  Swirl pan so egg coats bottom, cook until set, like a very thin, small omelette.  Remove omelette with spatula, and roll it up, then slice crosswise into 1/4″ rounds, leaving nice little swirls of egg.  Repeat for remaining two eggs.  Set aside.
  3. Slice chicken breast thinly.  Add to stock, and bring it back to boil.  Add carrot and bok choy and return again to boil.  Within another 2 minutes or less, the chicken should be cooked through, and the veggies tender.  Turn off heat, add soy sauce, sugar and pepper, stirring to combine.
  4. Into shallow soup bowls, place a portion of cooked rice noodles.  Ladle soup on top, letting the chicken and veggies stay as a mound in the middle of the bowl.  Top each bowl with coiled bits of omelette.
  5. Serve with sweet chili sauce to drizzle on, as desired.
  6. Enjoy!

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* Not too surprisingly, the place does not have a website.  It’s called Asiana Grocery Store, and it’s on the NW corner of 43rd Ave. and Union Hills Dr. in Glendale.

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