Friday, June 29, 2007

Vacation Photos

I promise this is my last vacation post. Here are the requisite travel slides. For the full effect, imagine me reading the captions to you in Ben Stein's Ferris Bueller voice. "Bueller... Bueller..."

Here we have our three backseat drivers: :)

This was the first time Nicknack has ever ridden in his carseat facing forward. It thrilled my heart to be able to turn around and interact with him or just take him in.

My two guys at Schweitzer Mountain. Nicknack is always barefoot. I just went out today and bought him his first pair of sandals, so now he won't look like a caveman baby. But really, he isn't much of a walker yet, so shoes are pretty much decorative. Oh, that reminds me. He took his first steps (without holding on to anything) during our vacation! It was neat that his grandparents got to witness the momentous occasion!

The view down to Lake Pond Oreille:

Nicknack has never been willing to wear hats, until this trip. Persistence pays off!!

On the drive down from the mountain, we saw a bear. I'm in this photo (trying to point to the bear) so you can see how close it was to the road. I grew up in Alaska, so I don't worry about living in a place with bears, although I'm prevented from moving to half the continental US because of two inch spiders. Go figure.

Penn and I have a history of finding neat places by intentionally getting lost. We got a little lost but we weren't sure if it would pay off. We considered turning around but felt like something interesting might be at the end of the dirt road we'd found, if we just went around one more bend. This was what was around the corner:

The photos don't do it justice. This area (Kootenai Valley) is literally the prettiest place we've ever seen.

During this drive we discussed how lots and lots of different areas of the country call themselves "God's Country." It reminded me how Travis Cottrell said his hometown (Boone, NC) is where God gets his mail! :) I guess it makes sense that so many corners of the world are thought of as God's hometown. Because, really, they all are! He created and resides in every single neck of the woods. His imagination amazes me. He is the ultimate artist!

Here is a bald eagle:

This is the lovely Deep Creek:

We screeched the minivan to a halt to capture this gorgeous yard. It had the cutest chicken coop and loveliest garden, right on the creek bank. Can you imagine having your quiet time here every morning?

This is the view from our cabin dock:

We saw a moose!

Nicknack had a blast at the beach! When he wasn't trying to eat sand...

Wading... The water was BRR! cold. But that didn't stop dozens of children of all ages (including PENN!) from whooping it up on the docks and swimming.

The beach area also offers public tennis courts, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and is a very short walk from the downtown Sandpoint block.

Penn, his Dad, and Nicknack on the boat we rented:

Nicknack in his sunhat:

We stopped at my mother and stepdad's summer ranch on the way home. Don't worry, Penn took Nicknack around the driveway going about 1/4 of 1 mph.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Stuff

My camera battery needs to charge before I can download our vacation photos and share a few with you. So in the meantime...

I provided Penn with a few more details about my last post, since much of it was about him. I wanted to make sure he was okay with what I'd shared. He had given me permission, in advance, but there was a slight miscommunication between us. (Imagine that!) Penn wants me to make absolutely clear to all who may have read the last post that he has NEVER considered himself agnostic. "Well, what were you then?" I wondered. "Aaaaaaaaaa... Nonpracticing! Catholic!" So there you have it. I went through a period of questioning during my teen years, during which I would most definitely have described myself as agnostic. So I didn't think it was a particularly shocking confession. But he was a little appalled by the label.

Penn now prides himself on being a Presbyterian, apparently, because on our vacation he pointed out the Presbyterian church in town and reminded his parents that "WE are Presbyterians!" Penn's parents are devout Catholics, but they don't seem to mind Penn's lack of diplomacy. I tried to soothe any ruffled feathers by pointing out how beauuuuutiful the Catholic church was, as we drove by it. It was, too. But my in-laws aren't as hyper-sensitive or easily injured as my own clan, so I don't think they minded. Truth be told, they are just happy that one of their four children attends a church, any church. Well, within reason, of course. I doubt they'd be pleased if Penn declared himself a Scientologist.

Penn's father is devoted to the Lord and was thrilled to find my Bible on the dining room table, at the cabin. He must never have seen a study Bible (?) because he couldn't get over all the helpful comments and explanations in the margins. He kept saying things like, "Look, she even underlined her favorite passages!" He became a little distressed right before we left for home. Something about this Bible. I finally realized he thought it came with the cabin and had been packed by accident, or lost. The owner of the cabin really would have thought of everything if she'd provided us with a Bible!

One of the best parts of the vacation was getting to hang out so much with Penn. We actually saw a movie - Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which got two thumbs down from both of us. (Please note that I did not eat a bite, even though I could smell Penn's buttered popcorn and Milk Duds!) We went to a romantic Italian bistro and swapped plates halfway through the evening. We sat on the dock together in the evenings, gazing at the stars and swatting at mosquitoes. We had a blast on the boat, just the two of us. We took turns driving as fast as we dared while the other person leaned over the bow of the boat with the safety gate open, arms outstretched. You know "I'm king of the woooorld!" style? It felt like pre-Nicknack days. I would never want to go back but it was fun to recapture a bit of it.

Penn was especially cute at the restaurant. We were giggling uncontrollably, half the time. Then someone near our outdoor table was smoking, which always upsets me to no end. (Cigarette smoke makes me nearly instantly headachey and nauseated.) Penn "handled it" assertively but diplomatically, before I'd even noticed the smoke or had time to get all stressed about it. My hero. Even the walk back to our car was sweet, arm in arm in the night air. At one point Penn stood in front of me and grabbed me by the arms. "Stop!" He ordered. I looked around in embarrassment. "Penn, people are looking!" Undeterred and in a mock-serious voice, "I've arranged something very romantic for you on this special evening." Then he stepped aside. "Ta da!" We were standing on the sidewalk in front of a florist's shop's driveway. Between our feet and the storefront was a trail of rose petals, in a variety of colors. It made the most lovely winding path where petals must have fallen during dozens of trips to the delivery van. I don't know why, but it was probably my favorite memory of the trip.

Another thing I appreciated was how entertaining he was during all the driving. While listening to the Knotting Hill soundtrack one of my favorite songs came on. "You Say it Best When You Say Nothing at All." Penn had me cracking up as he demonstrated all his "looks" that said it best when he said nothing at all. Um, special! The verses about the "smile on your face lets me know that you need me" and "the touch of your hand says you'll catch me" were equally funny.

It's always nice to spend extra time with your spouse and be reminded over and over why you chose each other. Ever since our first road trip together our motto as a couple has been "two dorks in a Jeep." (Although "every pot has its lid" would be a close second.) We had borrowed a Jeep for the trip, but since we still have a Jeep of our own, all these years later, the motto still applies. Although now there are three of us. And Nicknack is such a little goofball, I'm afraid he has "future dork" written all over him.

I'll post vacation pictures tomorrow and I will also be conducting an important poll, so be sure to stop by!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sandpoint, here we come... MAYBE!

Gosh, it's kind of difficult to get back into the blogging swing of things after a break! I will be posting a few of our vacation photos tomorrow. For now, let me just say that North Idaho is a special place. Well, only if you like mountains, rolling farmland, meadows, lakes, rivers, ponds, creeks, and trees. If you're an urbanite, it might not be your cup of tea!

I was praying about a potential move to Sandpoint while driving around the Lake and I felt like God was telling me that I need to put my husband and child first, before myself, as I consider our options. Then I was reminded of my husband's journey toward God. Penn was raised in the Catholic church and attended Parochial school. It wasn't really his thing, and he often butted heads with his theology teacher. When he graduated, he didn't have much interest in "church things." Faithwise, he was agnostic at that point. What really changed his direction was a summer spent in Montana, about nine years ago. He was so overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place, and the quiet and solitude did a number on his soul. He was once alone on a wooded hilltop and he could just sense the prescence of the Lord. At that moment an eagle swooped down and almost flew right into him, it was so close. Those months marked the beginning of his walk with Christ.

So I tend to believe that a place like Sandpoint might be the best possible place for Penn. As for Nicknack, it's hard to say what his soul will respond to. But I couldn't help but imagine his childhood in North Idaho. Swimming, boating, canoeing, and waterskiing in the heat of summer. Hiking and camping. Skiing at Schweitzer and sledding in the winter. What a place to be a kid! A backyard summer camp, truly.

For now, we are fighting the urge to try to figure out how to move there, asap! I want to wait a while, pray about it, and try to discern what God thinks. I've prayed that if God wants us to move there he will open a door so that we know it's his will for us. We'll send Penn's resume to a couple of places that would be ideal employers. But we aren't going to knock ourselves out to "make this happen," unless we discern a clear signal from God. It's possible that this is somewhere we will get to be in the future, but not right this second. We are pretty certain that Penn needs to find a new job, but perhaps he'll take another jobs somewhere else for a few years. This would give us a chance to save more money, so his salary requirements wouldn't limit his Sandpoint job prospects as much. In the meantime, we could consider buying land and vacationing there every year. We are already planning to return for Christmas, because we want to check it out in the winter.

I looked at a lot of property in the area during the week. Of course, I fell in love with an acre that is about twice what I hoped we'd spend for five or ten acres! It is in a cute, year round neighborhood that is situated in a small meadow area, a few minutes from the more rugged forests and hills. The lot is on a small, quiet bay with sandy shores, that connects to the bigger (45 or 50 mile long) lake. So it's the perfect place for a little dock and a great spot for swimming or canoeing over to one of the sandbars and having a hot dog roast. But you could also take your boat and enjoy the big lake activities. The location is ideal - very easy year round access (because it gets snowy all winter and some roads aren't maintained) and the most convenient area for visitors and trips to the airport in Spokane.

The nice thing is that the area is recovering from a real estate boom a few years ago. Things skyrocketed as new people flooded into the area, and prices and builders got ahead of themselves. So now there is a glut of avaiable land and buyers don't have to move very quickly. There are three lots available on the lane I love, so I sould have months and months to see what happens.

I have a hard time not running away with myself. I tend to get very excited about things and attached to my own ideas. I've already been looking at houseplans that would be perfect for the particular lots I liked so much. I'm just dreaming, right now. But sometimes my dreams get me in trouble. I hyperfocus and obsess. And I get wrapped up in my plans and don't leave myself time or room to wait on God and His plans. So I need to check myself, already.

PS! Still giddy over my newfound freedom from food! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hello from Idaho!


We are having a wonderful time in Sandpoint!

Here are the highlights and low points of the trip, so far.


1. The natural beauty of this 46 mile long lake! It is surrounded by steep green hills right next to a ski mountain,and surrounded by gorgeous rolling farmland. Beautiful! The town of Sandpoint is smallish and lovely, and has lots of character.

2. The people seem very warm and friendly. There is an interesting mix of artsy types and country people with big pick up trucks.

3. The minivan we've rented. Gosh, are we minivan people. I don't know how we ever got by without one. We're currently saving for one, and we'll be stepping up those efforts. We try to avoid car payments, so it will take another six months, or so.

4. The drive here. The majority of the scenery across the state of Washington is beautiful. From the Puget Sound to the skylines of downtown Seattle, to the mountain pass, to the piney forests and hilly ranch land around Cle Elum. So pretty!

5. Spending lots of quality time with my two favorite guys!

6. Just being somewhere new!

7. Still having total control over my appetite! God's power is something else.

8. Taking naps and having an extra set of hands around the house and with Nicknack. Although I struggle because I like things done my way.

9. The stars! And bats. I think bats are neat.

Okay, now for the low points.

1. The drive here. I'm a chatty person, but in bursts. I pause, at times. My mother-in-law is the "running commentary" type of chatter. And she's a sign reader. Any sign. Every sign. No matter how uninteresting! "US Bank. That's Evelyn's bank." Sign after sign, for six hours. But you know how I love to tell on myself. Twice I caught myself about to read a sign when a voice from the backseat stole my thunder! I guess I'm a sign reader, too, but I never noticed until someone else did it first. Poor Penn.

2. The minivan rental. While the most family friendly vehicle on God's green earth, it isn't made for the elderly amongst us. I'm not sure what we could have rented that would be easier for them to get in an out of, as comfortable as a Lincoln Town Car, and still hold all our gear. Maybe one of those handicap vans? I'm not sure.

3. The battle between my flesh and spirit. My flesh wants to roll my eyes in my MIL's direction, correct her when I disagree with something she's said, pout when I feel ignored, and sigh over her tendency to leave clutter on the kitchen counter. My spirit wants to be a generous, merciful, loving daughter-in-law.

Right now, I'd call it a draw. My spirit is technically winning, so far. I want to sulk, whine, or be disagreeable. But instead I'm quiet, quiet, quiet. Last night I was thinking about how I'm being pretty tolerant, but that's not enough. I imagined what it's like to tag along with a son and daughter-in-law. I don't want to just "put up" with my mother-in-law. I want to enjoy her and make her fell included and loved.

But when I woke up this morning, I could hear her singing upstairs (when she's not talking she's singing or humming) and my flesh just wanted to be annoyed. I took a breather on the front porch with my Bible and enjoyed some quiet time by the lake, in Matthew. I read about how our speech is the overflow from our hearts. I wondered about the difference between thoughts and words. I know our thoughts control us, but maybe thoughts are a little bit like temptation. Our thoughts are difficult to control, but we can refuse to let them control our speech and behavior. Even Jesus was tempted. Is temptation a sin? Or have we not sinned until we give in to the temptation? Maybe we get brownie points for resisting temptation.

At any rate, the rest of the morning was pretty pleasant. I made an effort to engage her more, ask questions about her stories, and ask her advice when I made breakfast.

So if you think of it, say a little prayer for me. Maybe it's because she is 80, but everything reminds her of something! Everything. Lots of old family stories. That I've heard before. I want to be the most gracious person in the world, but inside I'm such a brat.

I'll post photos of our trip when we return. Today we are driving up to Schweitzer Mountain to take in the view. Tomorrow we're renting a boat. Thursday we go to the water park and Friday we'll check out Coeur D'Alene Lake. Saturday we're going to drive around the western portion of the lake. And Sunday we head home. Somewhere in there we're going to fit a movie or two, and dinner, just the two of us.

Please excuse any typos in this post. I'm at a clunky old PC at an internet cafe and I've forgotten how to type on a regular keyboard, apparently.

Ta for now!

Friday, June 15, 2007

PS (Victory, continued)

I forgot to mention that I'm going through Matthew and yesterday I read chapter six. Which just happens to contain a number of verses that are applicable to my eating issues. For example:

Matthew 6:31-33
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I love this. It isn't that you shouldn't eat, or drink, or wear clothing. Obviously! But I shouldn't set my heart on these things. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Isn't it God's timing breathtaking? Could he have chosen a more perfect chapter for me to read yesterday? And guess what? Today's chapters (seven and eight) included verses about asking and receiving and Jesus healing those with infirmities and afflictions.

God's Word is amazing! God is amazing!

One more thing.

Last night, Penn confessed (with a pout), "I won't have my eating buddy anymore." He really seemed sad.

This reminded me so much of my mother's reaction when I became a vegetarian, in high school. (It only lasted about three years - I now eat meat.) She was cheerful about the whole thing until I tried being a vegan for a while. Then she got quiet. When pressed, she explained in a sad little voice, "It was bad enough when you wouldn't eat my stew anymore. Now what am I going to cook for you?"

My mother just enjoyed mothering me. Now that I'm a mom I totally understand. If my son loves my cooking half as much as I love my mother's, I'll be over the moon. And one day, if he announces he will no longer be consuming all his old favorites, made with love by ME... Well, Wah! That would be upsetting. And Penn is no different. Keeping me up to my eyeballs in candy is just one of the ways he takes care of me.

It's weird how any change, no matter how small, can threaten us. We like our relationships the way they are right now, thank you! A friend of mine lost a lot of weight about a year ago, and has kept it off. The only person who isn't 100% thrilled for her is her husband. In some ways he is supportive, in other ways, not so much. Change is complicated.

I just reassured Penn that I will still be eating! And we talked about the wonders of salad for a few minutes and that cheered him right up. And just in case that wasn't enough, I reminded him of how I looked when we met. So now he's definitely looking on the bright side. We wives are beyond blessed when our husbands love us and are attracted to us no matter our size. But, let's be honest. They have eyes. Penn would never admit it, but I'm certain he would prefer me a smidge smaller.

Okay. I really am signing off for a few days. I told Penn I won't be posting or checking blogs on our vacation. But he pointed out that it's my vacation, too. I get to do whatever is fun for me. And reading your blogs is definitely somethinig I enjoy. So I'm sure I'll be checking in on you, after all!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Okay, I'm posting one more time before we leave for Idaho.

Something has happened, and I don't know what to say about it or even if I should mention it. But I will, of course!

I have struggled with my size for about ten years. (I'm now 30.) I won't go into the boring details, but I've progressed from a happy medium (in high school), to an ecstatic small (in college), back to a medium (met Penn), then large (Penn's a chef), then extra-large (Penn's a good chef), all the way to the plus-size department (Penn's a great chef). I actually lost all the baby weight and have put it back on. Yes, that's right. I'm the same weight as when I delivered Nicknack! So I can't even blame all this excess on him.

I'm not blaming Penn, either. As you may have heard, he is a chef (have I mentioned that enough?) and he is very food oriented. His love language is service and one of those acts is to spoil me with snacks, candy, dinners out, special meals and treats, and giant helpings. But many, many other women would have declined to have a "candy drawer." Left a little something on their plates to signal the portion-size was unreasonable. Or asked for something for their birthday other than cakes ("sticky date pudding AND an ice cream cake!"). Clearly, he is not the problem. He's just my enabler.

Like every other person with a closet full of darling clothes that don't fit, I've tried every diet (even the good ones) and failed. I've also started many an exercise regime and haven't stuck with any of them.

I've always meant to pray about this issue. A time or two I've sent up a fleeting, "Please help me with this, God!" I do this in other areas, too. Sometimes I have a prayer sitting in the back of my mind, but never bring it directly to God. I am an accomplished procrastinator so it makes sense that I would find a way to put off prayer, even when it is so obviously and so desperately needed.

But something has happened.

Yesterday I turned on a DVR episode of Beth Moore on Life Today. I was only half listening because I was on the floor with Nicknack, playing on a pile of sofa pillows (his new favorite activity).

Something caught my ear and STUCK! I won't try to paraphrase Mrs. Moore's message, but I was overcome with the immediate and certain knowledge that I could claim victory in the area of excessive eating. Right at that moment. Before I'd even turned down one slice of cake or lost a single pound. I was going to stop believing the lies of the enemy and I knew I wouldn't fall into his snare ever again. So there!

I spent Nicknack's nap journaling. Basically, having a written conversation with God. He was revealing so many things to me I could barely type fast enough. We talked about the whys and wherefors of overeating. I suddenly had such a clear picture of what food is and isn't meant to be. I realized that food is an addiction for me. I care WAY too much about it. I feel deprived if I have to restrain myself in any way; there is no moderation in my eating habits. And even when I'm dieting successfully I'm craving food, negotiating for it, and waiting for the moment I can abandon my diet and indulge. Overeating, for me, is also an act of rebellion. "I'm a grown up and I can eat whatever, whenever, and how ever much I want." I'd never consciously articulated that thought before, but my actions had.

Throughout the afternoon I just had this overwhelming feeling of victory. Just a palpable sense of freedom from this struggle. I don't know how to explain it other than that I lost interest in food.

It's only been 24 hours, but it's been the strangest day of my life, food-wise. My stomache growls, so I eat. No food I can think of sounds tempting. Tiramisu? Nah. Pizza? Greasy! Lobster? That sounds okay. Just okay. My mom's amazing ham/olive/cheese loaf dip? Whatever.

I probably sound bonkers, but I believe God has freed me from my obsession with food and given me the appetite of a normal person.

As I emerged from sleep this morning, the first thought that popped into my head was, "Victory! I don't care about food anymore!" I was giggling before I even opened my eyes.

I tried to explain all this to Penn and he just nodded and smiled politely. I think he'll believe it when he sees it. Also, I suspect that Penn has a secret fear that I'm going to turn into a religious nut one of these days. We're never quite in step, faith-wise. But we're both moving in the right direction (God's!), so that's good enough for me. I just told him to mark this day on the calendar. "I am not going to overeat anymore. I just don't feel the need."

God and I worked up a little diet for me. We're calling it the 365 day diet. Every morning, during my quiet time, he's going to remind me that I'm free from the need to overeat. That I'm walking in victory and freedom, in Christ. Then I'm just going to eat normal portions of normal food when I'm hungry. I'm not going to weigh myself or keep track of calories. No food is forbidden but all food choices will be consciously made. There will be no such thing as seconds. In 365 days, I can weigh myself. I'll probably have lost quite a bit of weight (although gradually and slowly, most likely). But losing weight isn't the point. That's just icing on the cake. (Which still doesn't sound good, no matter how many times I type the word or the fact that it's just about dinner time.) I don't have any specifical goals. I'm just going to live in victory, every day, and see where that takes me.

I've never felt like this before, about anything. Like I've already completed the 365 days and am looking back at where I began. I am so certain of success. There isn't a doubt in my mind. Because I'm not the same.

Last night, I was a little hungry, but it was bedtime. So I had a glass of water and taunted my stomache. "Get used to that growly feeling. I'm in charge of YOU now, sister! Bwah ha ha!" Penn looked at me a little strangely. Not that he looked strange. But his expression told me that he thought I did! I was and AM giddy with this feeling of freedom. You know how you feel after a bad headache? The absence of pain is such a relief, it's almost pleasant. Whew! It's great to be alive and not have a headache! I feel like that.

I'm not sure what to make of all this. But I'm not questioning it, I'm just going with it!

So now you can see why I hesitated to post this. Because, hello?!, it's day 2 of The New Adventures of New Kitty. I could fall on my face in a couple of months and then I'd have to admit to all of you that I failed. Except that I'm not going to fail. This isn't some fad diet I'm on. This is me living in victory! I'm so convinced that I'm going to have Penn take a "before" picture and in 365 days I'll post that with my "after" picture. I can't wait! See you on June 13, 2008!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Fun!

I have only one more final and then I am free for the summer!

Except for the fact that I couldn't help myself and signed up for one teensy tiny Economics course. But it should only take an hour or two a day to keep on top of it.

The rest of the summer I am committed to:

a) getting our house in order!

I'm just dying to see it returned to the "way we were" before Nicknack started crawling! In fact, just last night we watched the video of his first attempts at crawling (not until eight months!) and I couldn't help but notice how nice the house looked. The DVDs on the bookcase shelves were still in alphabetical order. The windows were fingerprint-free. There was not a single crumb of anything, anywhere. Yesterday, as Penn attempted to vacuum up some cookie goo he remarked, "Whoever said 'that's the way the cookie crumbles' has never known a toddler. It's more like 'that's the way the cookie smears and adheres!'" So true. Those teething biscuits are like paste!

We do a pretty good job keeping on top of the appearance of the house. The surface layer. You know, the daily book and toy roundup, highchair hose down, and crumb patrol? But attention to detail has been pretty hit or miss. Mostly miss.

b) having fun!

Which means plenty of time in the backyard and lots of walks down to the beach and park. I have a whole new appreciation for warm weather, now that I have an energetic little one.

I intend to keep my nose in a book (a fiction book, and thanks for your suggestions!) as much as possible and see as many movies as I can. I'm especially excited about Harry Potter and Nancy Drew! Because I'm a big nerd. And I'm okay with that. Really, what's so great about being cool?

I'm also planning many visits to and from my mother and stepdad (who live about two hours away). So add playing cards, watching DVDs, chatting, and eating mother's cooking to the list.

So those are the two things I'm devoting myself to this summer.

Of course, in case you're wondering, being devoted to God goes without saying. I'm not adding Him to my summer "to do" list. He's year round.

Tomorrow is my final. Friday I'm packing and doing last minute errands. Saturday we have a graduation party to attend and we must get the house "vacation ready" (which means extra pleasant to come home to). Sunday we pick up Penn's parents and head to Sandpoint, Idaho (about 360 miles away), where we've rented a lakeside cabin for the week.

Let me reiterate. I am voluntarily vacationing with my in-laws. Who are 80 and 88, respectively. And we're all traveling together, in a rented minivan. Gosh, my life is glamorous! Actually, it was my idea. Because, contrary to what you might have heard, I'm not the worst daughter-in-law in the world.

In truth, I am so excited! Mostly about renting a minivan (because we'll be purchasing one sometime in the future) and the organizational challenges of the trip. I get to make lists! I get to pack! I get to shop! I get to figure out how to make everything fit in the van, in the most efficient and asthetically pleasing way possible! I get to create our trip itinerary and navigate! I get to plan all the meals and activities!

I hope you don't think I'm being sarcastic. I really do love this kind of stuff. This (project coordination) is what I used to do for a living, before landing my dream job as a SAHM.

I'm also excited about the next couple of weeks because Penn needs a holiday. He used last year's vacation weeks as extra paternity leave. So it's been a long time since he has had extended time off for something fun. Over the past few months I've noticed his attitude becoming a little raincloud-y and I think two work-free weeks are just what the Great Physician ordered.

When we return from Idaho Penn has another week at home. We're going to alternate activity days with "stay-at-home-and-be-lazy" days. Activity days will be short drives or ferry trips to recreational attractions or small, picturesque towns. Lazy days will be just that. Lazy!

So now you know what we three will be up to this summer. I won't be posting much during Penn's vacation days. If you're looking for good reads, check out some of my favorite blogs (listed on my blogroll, on the right side of my page).

"Talk" to you soon!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hello, Neighbor!

A few weeks ago I shared that Penn and I have been discussing a move.

Actually, we've been talking about this for about three years. However, Penn's compensation package includes housing. A house we could never afford in this area, by the way. So that has been one of the little somethings that have kept our feet firmly planted. Another is Penn's annual bonus, which amounts to about 10% of his annual salary. Not a vast fortune, by any means. But what the end-of-year timing of this bonus does is put a moratorium on the "should-we-move" debate from about this time of year until January. After six months of long hours and busy days, Penn has earned half that bonus and we're not going anywhere until the check is safely in our savings account. Interest bearing, of course.

But after the New Year, we're moving. We don't know where, but somewhere. No more debate. It's time for a change. The evening after I posted a this, Penn leaned back in his recliner and sighed, "We are soooo out of here. You don't even know want to know what I saw on the way home." I could guess. I won't share it you, because it's too gross.

You know how if you're trying to conceive or expecting a baby you suddenly notice all the pregnant ladies and babies everywhere you go? That's what has been happening to us, lately, in our neighborhood. I don't necessarily believe in "signs," but I have prayed for God's direction about all this. So I'm not surprised that he's been opening both of our eyes to things that reaffirm our desire for a change. I started typing out each of about a half dozen incidents that have taken place during the past six weeks or so, and then thought better of it. You probably don't want to hear the details. Let's just say that, almost literally, every time I leave our house I see something troubling and I think, "THIS is why I don't want to raise Nicknack here."

The final straw was two weekends ago, as we celebrated his first birthday. Toward the end of the party, a woman came into our driveway, carrying our mail. Which she had found, scattered around the street. While our friends and family stood around our dining room (which has a very large window looking out to the street and mailboxes), singing "Happy Birthday" to our son, someone was busy tampering with our mail. And this person stole Penn's paycheck. With the stub that has his social security number printed on it. This incident, along with with several disturbing incidents we've observed and a string of petty crimes that seem to have affected everyone we know, prompted us to throw in the towel. This really will be our last summer here.

I hope you know that all of Seattle isn't like this. We just happen to live in one of those areas that isn't quite thought of as desirable. All the little neighborhoods along the sound, like ours, are lovely. But our little pocket of peace is surrounded by some pretty unpleasant areas. And Penn has a "niche" job, so a change in career almost guarantees a change in state.

I know Christians aren't called to insulate themselves from the world. I don't want to live in a bubble. But everything in moderation! Some wonderful people are called to urban ministries or to missions in the darkest corners of the world. Praise God and thank God for them! But I can honestly say that I don't feel that calling on my life, at this season. No place is safe from danger. There are dark elements in even the smallest, most quiet, and most quaint of communities. And even if we somehow found ourselves stranded in solitude on a deserted island, we would still battle the sin in our own hearts. There is literally no safe haven, this side of heaven. But there is alo literally no place in the universe to hide from God's love, grace, and redemption.

So I'm not looking for some kind of Utopia. We'll just have to wait and see what kind of career opportunities present themselves. I'm still praying for discernment. And if God intends for us to stay here, I'm sure he'll let us know somehow or make it difficult for us to leave. But my prayers are focused less on whether or not we should move and more on the hope that God will send the right opportunity our way. And, if it happens to be in a cute little town with affordable housing and a direct flight to Seattle (for our parents' sake...and ours!), that would be the icing on the cake!

Here is a list of places I think would be ideal:

1. Leavenworth/Wenatchee/Cle Elum, Washington

2. Coeur D'Alene/Sandpoint, Idaho (we are vacationing in Sandpoint later this month!)

3. Corvallis, Oregon (I lived there briefly, and it's one of my favorite towns)

4. Boulder or Ft. Collins, Colorado

5. Chapel Hill or Greensboro, North Carolina

6. I really want to add Austin, Texas to the list. As you might know, I love Texans. But I would have to have air conditioning and access to a pool. And a basement. (Tornadoes!) And I would most definitely be on a first name basis with the best exterminator in town. And I'd have to talk my husband into it, which would be tricky.

7. Your hometown, because I'm sure it's the best! And if so, let me know why! Bonus points if it is southern and has four seasons! (I've always wanted to try living in the south.)

8. Okay, I don't really have another town. I just hate odd numbers. So I hope our new community accepts oddballs.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


This Just In!

For the second night in a row, I made dinner! Actual hot dinner, using things like a salad spinner and the food processor! Yay, me!

This Just In!

For the second night in a row, I burned said dinner! Boo, me!

Yesterday I forgot I had sesame oil heating in a pan (for shrimp salad) and set off the smoke alarm. And made a mess in the process. Today, I failed to remember the Orecchiette casserole in the oven, which is now a dark, dark brown.

No WONDER those Homemaker of the Year people haven't been calling.

When am I going to get some sense? Or at least a timer!

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

Oh well. As Anne Shirley says, tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it. And at least a mouse didn't drown in my plum pudding sauce.

Good night, Eileen!

Don't tell Target, but...

Today I went to Wal-mart.

I'll stop and let that sink in.

Oh wait, you don't know me in "real life." So you don't know how surprising that statement should be.

Let's just say that I've never had a kind word for Wal-mart. To be fair, I've only been there three or four times (before today). But each of those shopping experiences was negative. There is something about this store that just rubs me the wrong way. It's instantly headache enducing. The lighting. Those ceilings. The floors. The colors. The way everything seems to be crammed on the shelves. Even the way the store is organized irks me. There was always a line. With a surly checker. And the other shoppers! I've noticed some doozies at all three Wal-mart's I've known. You know how if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all? I'm not going to say anything about a few of the people I encountered at each of these Wal-marts.

Today, I needed some things. So I buckled Nicknack in his Cowmooflage car seat (love that thing!) and headed toward the freeway. We have two Targets, each about 15 minutes from our home. I drove toward our preferred store and spaced out to the extent that I found I had missed my turn and was going south on I-5. Oops. On a whim, I decided to drive another 15 or 20 minutes to the new Wal-mart my friend recently told me about. I didn't have directions and got lost trying to find it. By the time I arrived I was kicking myself for bothering. I should have just gone to my trusty and beloved Target.

As I pulled in I noticed that this was a "Super" Wal-mart. You probably already know what this means, but I did not. This Wal-mart has groceries!

I rolled my eyes. "Gross," I thought. They probably don't have any of "our food." Meaning cage-free eggs, low-salt tuna, reduced sugar granola bars, whole wheat bread that tastes just like white, "Simply Jif," etc. Friend, they had it ALL! Every turn of the cart found me oohing and aahing. "They have THIS?!" "They even have THAT!" "I'll take four of these." "At this price, I might as well stock up on those." I wasn't brave enough to peruse the meat section, but by the time I got to the last grocery aisle I had a nearly full cart. And I just went grocery shopping two days ago!

There wasn't even a line at the checkout register! It was just like Target. I spent $200. Again, just like Target, where I always go in for a few items and come out with a cartful. In fact, when I got home, I found the shopping list I'd forgotten (as always) on the counter. I crossed off all the items I'd found at Wal-mart. All TWO of them. Yes, that's right. I still need to go to Target.

I still don't know what those Wal-mart people were thinking when they designed and decorated the store. But I now understand why people shop there. I'll probably be back, in a couple of months. I'm feeling adventurous lately. Earlier this week (are you ready for this?), I was on my way to the butcher and I drove by one of those "Grocery Outlet" stores that my mother-in-law frequents, and I pulled in! I just parked and grabbed a cart and went in, like I'd done it a million times before. I wasn't even embarassed. I found some amazing deals, too!

Yes, I'm quite the daredevil these days. What's next, the dollar store!? A garage sale!? Value Village?! We'll just have to wait and see. (But probably not.)

By the way, I'm not making fun of dollar stores, garage sales, Value Village, or the moms who frequent such places. If you are a bargain shopper, I salute you! You are finding good deals, saving money, and blessing your family!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Career Aptitude Assessment

I've been thinking about the careers for which Nicholas might be well suited, based on his first year of life. Here is what I have come up with, so far:

1. Food critic. Either he has his father's sophisticated palate or his mother's extreme pickiness.

2. Drummer. I can just imagine the bongo solos.

3. Worship leader. He loves to bang on the piano. And every fifteen seconds he pauses and turns around to ensure that his audience is paying attention and clapping along.

4. Veterinarian. Game warden. Dog groomer. Something to do with animals. He is obsessed.

5. One of those "Geek Squad" guys. If it has buttons, he wants to mess with it.

6. Librarian. He's quite the bookworm.

7. Explorer of dangerous and forbidden lands. Bonus points if climbing is involved.

8. Cheerleader. Based on all the bouncing, clapping, headstands, and love of the word "Yay!" (Don't worry, son. Presidents Bush, FDR, and Ike were cheerleaders and it didn't have an adverse affect on their employment opportunities.)

9. Dentist. He likes to look at and tap on other people's teeth.

10. Police officer or car thief. He loves to chase. But he especially love to be chased.

So, as you can see, even at a young age, he has a lot of options.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Let's go to the movies!

Have you seen any good movies lately? Well? Have you?

I'm dying to go to the movies. So I would love your recommendations. But you should know that I try not to watch anything terribly depressing. And I can't handle rated R movies. Even PG-13 movies are sometimes a little too violent or profane or racy for me. I'm what you might call a "sensitive" viewer.

In our pre-baby days we used to go to the movies about once a week. Sometimes we'd even catch a double feature. We love movies. We'd get a big popcorn, eat the top "layer," and then mix in a box of Milk Duds. Penn would have a Diet Coke. Diet, to make up for the popcorn and duds, obviously. :) I've had to swear off sodas in movies for a couple of years. I hate having to take a restroom break, mid-movie, you see.

When I was about six months pregnant with Nicknack we went to see King Kong. Worst movie ever for an expecting lady. So sad. So stupid. So LOUD! I felt like I was committing child abuse. And the loud parts just kept going on and on and on. First, the damsel is being chased by King Kong. Then a dinosaur. Then two dinosaurs. (Or was it three?) Then she falls over a cliff or something. But she's caught by giant vines. Only she's still not safe, because the dinosaurs have fallen, too, and they haven't given up on getting her. Then, she's landed in some kind of marsh full of giant bug-like creatures. Or were they snakes. I can't recall. It's all fuzzy now, so please excuse me if I have the details wrong. I had my eyes closed for thirty solid minutes of the movie, anyway.

It got so loud that, at one point, I left for a few minutes. There was just so much screaming and roaring, and I felt it was scaring the baby. He suddenly became super active. Penn and I tried to muffle the noise with our coats, but I just knew his eardrums and little heart were scarred for life. It was my first attack of parental guilt.

Also, I am the type of person who cries at just about any movie. Or television program. Or song. But this movie was especially sad. And I had pregnancy hormones to deal with. I was literally blubbering (snottily), by the movie's end. The whole drive home I was still crying. "Poor (sob) King (sob) Kong (sob)! How could they be so heartless? Why is the world such a cruel place? He was just lonely and wanted someone to love him! (SOB)" Meanwhile, my husband was berating himself. "What was I thinking taking YOU to a movie like THAT. We should have just walked out." He felt so bad.

Anyway, it was the worst experience I've ever had at a theater.

We saw a lot of movies while waiting for Nicknack to arrive. And then he did. And we've been to four movies since. That's IT! One movie a season!

Last summer we saw Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Superman. (Both not my favorites, by the way.) At Christmas-time we caught Night at the Museum (cute!) and a few weeks ago, Blades of Glory (a few laughs, and featuring my favorite comedian, Amy Poehler).

But summer is just around the corner. For me, summer officially begins when my mother gets out of school. She's an elementary school counselor. Public schools in her district still have a couple of weeks left! Doesn't that seem like a late finish? Penn and I are counting down the days until she is free. Not only will we get to enjoy more of her delightful company (and that of her wonderful husband), we will benefit from her babysitting services.

During the year, she and my stepdad live about two hours southwest of us. They spend the summer at their ranch, which is two hours east of us. So we're never very far away, since we live smack dab in the middle of their residences. But when school is in session, mother is more busy and stressed out than during the summer months. And we get to visit a lot less.

I adore my mother. And her husband is a treasure. I'm so amazed at how God worked it out so that Nicknack could have a fun, godly grandad. You see, Penn's dad is wonderful, too. He is a man after God's own heart. But...he's 88. So he's a little less spry and active and chatty than he once was. And the grandpa on my side of the family isn't all that interested in babies/children. And he's not a believer. So I'm so grateful that Nicknack has my stepdad for a grandpa. He had two boys of his own (now grown) so he knows all about babies and little boys. He is, hands down, Nicknack's favorite person (other than Daddy, OF COURSE) to play with and spend time with. He's a kid at heart, a mans-man, and all around good guy. He has been a great influence on the three of us (Mother, Penn, and me) and will be a wonderful role model for Nicknack. By the way, what do your children call their grandpas? We have a grandpa (Penn's dad) a grandad (my dad) and... I'm not sure what to call my stepdad.

Oh my gosh! How did I get so far off my original topic? I just wanted to ask if you've seen any good movies lately! I always do this. If you're still reading, hang in there. I'm almost finished.

My POINT is that we have babysitters all summer. And we intend to see a ton of movies. So what do you recommend?

We are SUPER excited about the new Harry Potter movie. We plan to see it on the IMAX screen! I know HP is somewhat controversial among Christians. So I respect your opinion if you don't feel Harry is appropriate viewing for you or your family. I understand. There are a lot of things that I feel convicted about that I know could be a stumbling bock for me, but that might be fine for another Christian. So I hope you won't be offended or worried when I tell you that we love Harry Potter. Whenever a new book comes out my mother, stepdad, and I get our hands on a copy asap and start reading. Mother and I are the bookworms, so we race ahead while he is still in the first few chapters. Then she and I have to WAIT to discuss it with him, while he catches up to wherever we are. It just about kills us! Last year I made the mistake of reading it in one day - by staying up half the night. I deprived myself of a weeks worth of fun. Next time, I plan to pace myself. Whenever a new Harry movie comes out, the four of us (Penn isn't a reader, but he loves the movies) traditionally see it together. Which reminds me, who are we going to get to babysit while we all go see Harry Potter? Thank goodness for my kind mother-in-law!

So what movies are you excited to see this summer? Or have you seen anything lately, that you'd recommend? Or if you aren't a movie buff, is there a great fiction book you'd like to recommend, instead? I typically read only non-fiction and I'm trying to break out of that mold and read something for fun this summer. I'm not taking classes (YAY!) for once, and I just want to see a few good movies and/or read an entertaining book or two.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions, if you have any!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

My Rules

I was recently tagged for two more memes! Yay!

This one, started by one of my very favorite bloggers Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary is about rules. Here is her description:

"My Personal Policies

I think it would be safe to say that we all have personal rules that we live by. Surely it's not just ME. I'm not talking about moral rules, like "Do not kill." I'm talking about the silly policies we impose on ourselves, like "Never eat anything you can't identify," or "Don't step on sidewalk cracks." For some reason, I started mentally listing the quirky rules I follow and got curious about other people's personal rules.

As an added bonus, I will include 5 parenting policies I USED to think I would follow before I actually became a parent: (feel free to add yours, too!)"

Be sure to check out Rachel Anne's list of personal rules and pre-parenting policies!

Here are mine (if you do any of these things, that's fine, these are just my rules for ME):

1. Only even numbers. Of soap dispenser squirts. Number of knocks on a door. Digits in telephone numbers.

2. No onions, ever. If a recipe calls for onions, I use onion powder, instead. And just a smidge.

3. No talking or responding to small talk while in a bathroom stall. I just pretend I can't hear someone who is trying to speak with me, until I emerge from the stall.

4. Toilet paper rolls should roll OVER, not under!

5. No making or answering calls on the cell phone while in public or at another person's house, other than for emergencies or important questions. And no call waiting. I am low tech! I just have a pay-as-you-go cell phone (which I leave, on purpose, in the car) and a phone w/answering machine! At least it isn't a rotary dial, right?

6. Paper towels are NOT napkins! This is one of the only things Penn does that drive me crazy! He thinks I am silly because I think there is a big difference between paper towels and paper napkins. We only use cloth for sit down meals. The rest of the time, it's paper napkins. But not paper towels!!

7. No wearing shoes inside the house, unless I'm cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry. Then I wear my "house shoes" (keds) to support my arches. Very Mr Rogers of me, right? But as soon as I've finished my task, I take them off. I don't feel like I'm INSIDE if I'm wearing shoes. Sorry, Flylady!

8. No socks with loafers! (I slather on lotion and wear socks to bed to make up for the damage.) And I wear loafers year round. I usually have two pair, one casual and one a little dressier. I just wear themuntil they start to look worn, then replace. I am not a shoe person. During summer my loafers don't have backs and I do buy a new pair of Stephen Bonannostyle sandals every Memorial Day. Also, in winter I add a pair of jodphur boots to the mix. But 95% of the time, it's loafers. Sans socks, of course!

9. Diet Cherry Coke is appropriate any time of day. I don't drink coffee, so I have my first DCC in the am. And it might not be proper etiquette to do so, but it tastes best out of the can.

10. No reading the bulletin during the sermon. I always maintain eye contact and look interested to every sermon, speech, or classroom lecture. Even if my mind is wandering.

Okay! Now for the most fun part. My pre-baby parenting rules:

1. No TV until my child is two.

I fell so far short of this goal. I know my pregnant self would never have BELIEVED it, but my son has been started watching Eebee Baby before six months. I tried a couple of shows and this one made him smile and laugh every time. Now he watches Sesame Street Daily, while he plays. For shame!

2. My child shall always be well kempt. Matching, clean, wrinkle-free outfits. Combed hair. Squeaky clean face.

Hmmm. Most of the time, if his clothes are reasonably clean, he has a fresh diaper (I'm still a stickler about that), and there is no food visible in his hair or on his face, I am happy. His hair never stays "just so" and honestly, who cares about wrinkles!?

3. My child will eat only nutritious, whole, organic, food, made by me. My child will never be introduced to junk food or fast food by me. Once he is play date age he can have fast food only if the other children are eating McDonalds. And sweets shall be the rarest of treats.

Ha! I haven't made a THING out of my fancy schmancy baby food cookbook. I haven't even used the top of the line Cuisinart I bought expressly for this purpose! I have no excuse, other than laziness. Becoming a mother hasn't turned me into a health nut, like I thought it would.

And, I DID take Nicknack through the McDs drivethrough about a month ago. He never eats anything and I decided that if he would eat a happy meal, it was better than nothing. He ate a whole chicken nugget and most of a second nugget. I did order the meal with apple slices and milk (rather than fries). I still intend to resist fast food and junk food as much as possible. But not with the passion and strictness that I'd envisioned.

Parenting is the simplest thing in the world before you have a child, isn't it?

Here is photographic evidence that we have broken all three rules, just this morning.

You'll notice that Nicknack has found a Hershey's Kiss under the sofa. He has consumed candy (rule 3) and gotten it all over himself (and said sofa, which we just had professionally cleaned). Additionally, both he and the floor are covered in crumbs from a piece of teething toast. Pretty unkempt (rule 2), don't you think? Please also note that he is watching television (rule 1), because he took a too-short morning nap and was a crank. I have washed his face and removed his chocolatey pants, but I haven't rushed him to the tub or even changed his shirt (yet). At least his diaper is fresh.

Okay, now it's your turn! I'm tagging everyone, because I really want to know all of your rules! So if you're a semi-regular reader or just visiting for the first time, tag! You're it. Please leave a message in the comments so that others will know to visit your blog to read your rules. Or, if you want, you can just tell us about your personal policies in the comments. Inquiring minds want to know!!