Thursday, March 29, 2007

Elinor's Insight

I think I have writers' block again. And a little bit of writers' fear. Well, I made up writers' fear, but it's the fear of being misunderstood or argued. I feel like everything I have to say is either really boring or somehow controversial and I don't want to deal with either. Why do I have an overwhelming feeling that we need to all just get along and we aren't? Maybe it is from what I have been reading. On my own I have been reading Wicked, but it is yucky so far. I mean, it is vulgar and crass and lewd and not worth reading at all. But I have only read about forty pages. I thought I had heard good things about it. Was it maybe just good things about the musical? And I just finished reading Sense and Sensibility to Elspeth today. Which Austen novel should I pick next for our feedings? Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey? I haven't read either one.

Oh, but that reminds me that I need to print a retraction of sorts. While I was sure I had read Sense and Sensibility before and the spine of my book has the creases to prove it, it does not seem familiar to me in the parts which vary from the movie- which are few, so kudos to Emma Thompson. So maybe it has just been a while, or else I have never really read it at all. I don't know. I can't explain the dog eared pages either if I haven't, nor my idea that I have read it for that matter. Good old Jane Austen though, I guess you can't have read her novels enough. Anyway, my retraction. It is nice to think that I, in some ways, can relate to Elizabeth Bennett as she is portrayed as a heroine. And while I maintain that I do in some respects, though if you remember I tend to think most people can in some way or another, I have to say that I recognize myself almost totally in Marianne Dashwood. I am not going to ramble on about all the ways but I just wanted to clear that up!

After all of this maybe I'll let Jane Austen write this post for me. That way, if anyone disagrees or wants to contest, it is with her and not me! I thought the following exchange was a very interesting commentary on our perception of people in general. Edward has come to visit and he, Elinor, and Marianne are having a conversation. Edward is teasing Marianne about one of her narrow and firm opinions which she declares she still holds to:

"Marianne is as steadfast as ever, you see," said Elinor; "she is not at all altered."

"She has only grown a little more grave than she was."

"Nay, Edward," said Marianne," you need not reproach me. You are not so very gay yourself."

"Why should you think so!" replied he, with a sigh. "But gaiety never was part of my character."

"Nor do I think it a part of Marianne's," said Elinor; "I should hardly call her a lively girl. She is very earnest, very eager in all she does; sometimes talks a great deal and always with animation; but she is not often really merry."

"I believe you are right," he replied, "and yet I have always set her down as a lively girl."

"I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes," said Elinor, "in a total misapprehension of character in some point or other: fancying people much more gay or grave, or ingenious or stupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what the deception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge."

That Elinor! She's sharp as a tack! And isn't that true that we can totally decide someone is one way when it really isn't the case? It's like the reason one of the nicest guys I ever knew was treated like a total loser in high school and one of the meanest people I ever knew was always voted most popular. It seems like everyone's high school was about that way. And it goes beyond high school a lot of times too. I just thought it was remarkably insightful.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hoping Our Moms Either Don't Read or Can Laugh at Themselves

While making Amabel's lunch last night, I wondered out loud why my mother never made similar lunches for me. We usually had some sort of sandwich made from pre-packaged meat and a bag of chips and a Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie, fudge round, or (Rachael's favorite which I didn't care for much at all) a star crunch, the overly chewy caramel rice krispies cookie. Besides that it almost never changed until I just quit eating lunch altogether in junior high school, it was also horribly unhealthy and I never even knew until college that there was sandwich meat at the grocery besides the pre-packaged variety. Mr. Turkey indeed! Every now and then she would make a frozen pizza in the morning, which she added grated Velveeta cheese to, and cut us a big slice for our lunch. As the Ladies Man would say, "Um, that is disgusting," but at the time it was one of my favorites. That or a little thermos cup of leftover spaghetti or a piece of cold fried chicken. Now I can get behind the leftovers; cold fried chicken, while still unhealthy enough, is the best!

I think my mom did what she did to be economical. Even with inflation taken into consideration, I would guess that my grocery bill near doubles what my mother's would have been with the same size family, twenty five years ago. But part of this is because she bought cheap things like chips and a 79 cent box of cookies for our lunches to the exclusion of fresh fruit and vegetables and meat without fillers or preservatives. And our other meals stack up against hers about the same way. That and that we tend to buy a little fancier beer or wine than she ever did. She still buys the cheapest whiskey and wine there is; but I shouldn't make fun because she also splurges on the cutest kids' clothes around (including *sigh* this year's Easter dresses, no comments please!) for my children's benefit! In regard to grocery shopping and meal preparation, some of you are on her page and some of you are more on my page, and I guess either thing has its merits. I just can't justify the lack of nutritional value in foods by their price tag. To me it just doesn't taste good anyway. George actually threw his lunch away every day, K-12, because his mom never packed what he requested because she said it was too expensive. But every day her inexpensive lunch was wasted. She could've saved a whole lot by just not making one at all eh? Who could blame him though? Bologna and ketchup?! That's too bad! So lucky for Amabel, we're pretty sensitive about quality school lunches around here. So far she has been taking carrots and celery sticks, fresh strawberries or an apple, a sandwich (which I love to cut into a heart of butterfly shape with giant cookie cutters), and cheese slices with crackers or pretzels for her snack. But even that will get old. So what did y'all take for lunch? What do you pack for your own kids? Anyone have anything show up worse than bologna and ketchup (in her defense, she likes it!)?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Day Four: The Week in Review

School is out for the week. And I promise that next week I won't do the kindergarten play by play. There was no school today, which would've been day five. But I am so beat from this week and it just feels like rush rush rush on the inside still; and that's why this post is a day late. Some of that may have to do with the fact that I haven't started the Easter dresses and we just found out today that the "back up" dresses my mom had picked out don't come in Amabel's size. After wanting matching outfits for years, I have girls almost perfectly spaced so as not to be able to find what I like in what would fit both of them!! But that has nothing to do with school, just with being busy and behind. I also feel like saying how I really feel, though not meant as anything bad about anyone else, might not be a good thing to write about as it could give others a misguided negative impression of things. Basically, I am just having a hard time handing my daughter, who has never been out of my sight except in the care of a family member or close friend, over to the care of people I do not know. It is really hard. Her teacher is really sweet though and Amabel loves her. She has also helped me sort of get my bearings and been compassionate about my concerns. So it has nothing to do with the other people in particular, just Amabel being away. But I needed her to be away because I just couldn't manage a newborn and a family of five and still home school. I taught her to read and I am very proud of that. I know that I will ample opportunity to teach her things at home for years to come from cooking to sewing to riding a bike and playing Scrabble. So school is a great thing. This particular school is really exciting for us too. It is a Christian school out of a PCA church here and is close to where we live. I am very excited that God has opened the doors for her to be there, especially this late in the year. But you know, it's just hard. Good. But hard.

I do realize that I have two other children besides Amabel. It is not easy to forget Elspeth as she is still up every three hours all night long. Mercy! The exhaustion has really caught up with me now that I cannot crawl back into bed after her six o'clock feeding. She had a check up today and all is well. However, we may have to see a pediatric dermatologist of her eczema does not improve. I am just so grateful she is otherwise healthy. She should be sitting up without help pretty soon.

August is a whole other story. We'll have to tackle that another day. I can't say much about it now. Well, just one thing. Mercy! Mercy!

In spite of all the craziness and pure tiredness, one thing that seems to have completely disappeared is the whole Star Wars trash compactor feeling. Have I mentioned that feeling before?

Well, I am bored of this post. So surely you must be too. Besides, I have Easter dresses to make so what am I doing sitting at the computer? Again, don't tell me not to do them. I still have two weeks. It is possible! Not likely, but still possible. So just keep your skepticism to yourself! Right, pot calling the kettle.... do as I say not as I..... I know. But if I can be undeterred and optimistic, so can all of you. Or if you find cute, matching, smocked dresses in a 12 month and a 7, let me know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day Three: Working Out The Kinks

I am so very extremely tired, as Lola might say, but I did want to get a short post in before heading up to bed.

Amabel was fine when we left her today and then came home in an interesting ensemble provided by her teacher after the clothes I sent her to school in were messed up when she slipped and fell in the mud. Bless her heart! She handled it pretty well. The pants she got to wear were pink so maybe that kept it from being as bad as it could've been! And I think what really helped, what really made her day, was that a little girl in her class told her she was her very best friend in the whole world. I guess it's official- slipped in the mud, became someone's very best friend- yep, she's in kindergarten! The problem now is getting her to eat lunch. From what I can gather from her there is no set end to lunch, just get up and play when you are finished, and so I have had a very hungry child and a full lunch box coming home every day because she is so eager to play. I am working on a solution. But for the most part, things seem to be going along just fine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Day Two: Still Finding Our Footing

Look at me! My 201st post! Shameful actually when you think about having a blog for a year and four months- 485 (more or less) possible posts and this is all you get?! Anyway, there's a sense of satisfaction in writing 200 posts. 200 honest, vulnerable, hilarious, extremely well written posts. Am I right? Well for one thing, the hilarious is only every now and then. But it's there. Even among the drama and the melancholy, it's there. So there that the hardest posts I have written, without a doubt, are the ones where there is nothing funny to say at all. The hardest posts: when Steve Irwin died, the several all around when my Nannie was dying, and introducing Amelia's situation to y'all so you might pray. I hope none of those have seemed irreverent. I have the hardest time with things that are not at all humorous. I have the hardest time with being inappropriate. Or it feels that way when it is so important not to be inappropriate. The Steve Irwin one was really weird, because I was almost embarrassed by how sad I was over the death of someone I didn't know. And now I'm hoping writing that just now wasn't inappropriate.

Amelia's situation is an up and down of small victories and setbacks in a much bigger serious situation. I mean, I only know what I know from the blog, but that's the idea we're getting there. Please continue to pray. I have had such a hard time leaving my healthy and fairly independent daughter in the care of others just in the past two days. I have always been the primary caretaker. Imagine the feeling not having the power to take care of your very dependent tiny baby. In one post they said she is getting breast milk from a tube through her nose into her stomach. As a nursing mother I know that must be a real blessing that she is still able to take care of her in such an important way, but also very hard that she cannot nurse her without tubes. She also mentioned being able to "finally" hold her today which implied that she must not have been able to hold her before and that must have been so hard. Those are the things I think would be just unbearable. But there is the illness and that is plenty unbearable whether she can hold her or not. Right now, a big need is for platelet donation which is different than blood donation. It is also very important that she doesn't get any kind of infection or outside illness.

I am excited about the new blogs I have discovered from people who commented recently, particularly all the people who commented on the first post about Amelia. I have been wanting to find some new blogs. And my links are way behind. I will have to update those soon. I was also found just today by a mom from one of the girls in Amabel's class! And she was so sweet to call me up and introduce herself after realizing our connection. Thanks, Renae!

Amabel's day didn't seem to go as well today. (Nice segue, eh?) When I left her she was crying. I think it was the morning confusion again. This time there were children playing outside but we just couldn't tell who was in charge. She was very distraught because she didn't see her teacher. But even after we found the teacher she was still shaken up. I guess it just takes some getting used to. And I am going to have to get used to being the high maintenance, fussy parent. I don't want to be that guy, but I am. And if I resist, I'm just going to be going around quietly frightened and disoriented. Why not be oriented and at peace and just deal with that that also means somewhat annoying? Good plan? It's the best one I can come up with. Because I think some of Amabel's uneasiness comes from sensing my uneasiness. She also seems really tired today. We will have to get to bed extra early. And that being said, I better quit typing and go finish dinner. I am seeing your comments and that I have not explained our decision to put her in school very well. I will get to it. I will probably be more vague than usual on this because everyone can glean so much information about our family from these blogs that I'd rather not hand out information on our child's whereabouts during the only hours she is out of my sight. I hate that I have to even think about that.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day One: Adult Status Still in Question

While I cannot say for sure whether I have become a grownup or not, I certainly felt the weight of my importance to my daughter as she said goodbye and hugged me tightly for the eleventh time this morning. I didn't cry. I was distracted by being slightly miffed that the drop off situation was not as explained that it would be. We got there and there weren't children and teachers in the yard by the circle. So I asked a mom who drove up behind me. Her son was sweet enough to walk us to the gym where early goers are asked to wait. That's right, early goers. But I didn't see her teacher. Or really any teachers. Call me sentimental. Call me anal. Call me just plain crazy, but I didn't feel comfy cozy about leaving my five year old who had never been to school at all, let alone this particular school, alone in a big gymnasium where she knew no one and hoping she'd just figure things out. Imagine! A man sitting in a chair, who turned out to be a parent waiting for his bus for work, recognized me as a confused parent and offered his assistance to help find Amabel's classroom. I think I have said that the only drawback to my OB in the end was that she'd never had a baby herself. So far I might say that the only possible drawback to this school, the only red flag that goes up, is that neither her teacher nor the headmaster have children themselves. This is common enough, I'm sure. And maybe it won't come into play much. I'm sure they have plenty of experience. But it seems a parent would realize this kind of thing would be very scary for a child. A first day is scary enough without just being left. We saw the headmaster on our search for the classroom and she said to drop off Amabel back at the gym. The very adult thing I did was insist on not leaving her without some sort of guardianship on her first day. I mean, for ridiculously insecure me, that was big! But I just knew Amabel was counting on me. So she reluctantly walked Amabel and I the rest of the way to the classroom and her teacher seemed to understand my concerns and said Amabel could stay with her until she went to pick the class up. Hereafter I will have no problem with the gym setup, but for the first day I just thought she needed some extra security.

I had a lot of first days because we moved so much growing up. If I remember right, my mom always took me late- maybe so that there wouldn't be this milling around and waiting alone confusion. Of all the days to be on time! But punctuality is important to Amabel and I am thinking it would have been just as scary for her to be late. With that in mind, I think we were fourth in the pick up line after school. And she did great. One of my biggest concerns was that the day would be too long. All day I just kept thinking she must be exhausted. I could not believe how much I was getting done in just one day! And I knew if I felt like the day was never ending, she must feel it even more so. And she is the child who cried every day about Vacation Bible School because it "takes too long" from nine to twelve thirty. In my mind eight to three was going to be brutal. But she said it wasn't too long.

She seemed to really enjoy it all around and is looking forward to tomorrow. I think that in spite of her day going well and fast, we are all beat. I doubt I'll make it past nine tonight before I'm in bed. I wish I were already there. But while we still aren't sure how much of an adult I'll turn out to be in the end, I did some very adult things today. The biggest of which was letting my daughter take a tiny step toward her own adulthood (so what if it's years away; it's closer now!) And if ever there were time to indulge in an adult beverage, I believe it is now.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Changes. Perspective. Big Things All Around.

As you all know by now I have been waiting for quite some time to turn into a grown up. All of this with Amelia has given me a lot of perspective. Don't get me wrong, I'm still no grown up, but I have felt really ridiculous for all my petty rantings and dramatic musings when there are such difficulties out there. I am so stuck in this stay at home life that it is easy not to see how there are many many people out there with really tough situations. Not that there aren't tough situations in my little world, but it is really good to put my little world into perspective. What is "tough" for me pales in comparison to what many people are dealing with. I tend to think of those people as living in straw huts or in depressed and dangerous areas of big cities, not just right down the way. But as a piece of good news, Amelia is doing better and we will continue to pray that she will be healed completely.

And tomorrow has a possibility of being forever known in my history as "the day Abby became a grown up." I mean don't expect too much but it's pretty big. Amabel starts school tomorrow. I know. I know! I have a child in school. That means I have to be up and out the door and down the road by eight o'clock every day. Whoa! That means I have to pack lunches. That means I have to have clean clothes ready. That means I have to get my act together! And it means a lot of other really important stuff for Amabel too, but I am avoiding that because it is just too much. She is leaving me from eight to three every day and that is just too much. I think it will be good. I know it will be. But I may just cry my eyes out. But we're not going to talk about that right now. Right now we're going to talk about me having to be an adult and stick to a schedule. I have been flailing around for quite some time and I have also been saying that for quite some time too. But there is something in me that thinks I just need routine to sort of give me structure and a purpose and it's just that I am not the type of person that can invent that for myself and need some type of outward structure to help me build on. I mean that's what had really changed the most since college right? So maybe I will rise to the occasion. I hope so. I hope I won't be the crazy mom who pulls up fifteen minutes late every day with the kid whose clothes don't match and hair isn't brushed. That's where people pleasing may actually help me. Because what would people think?!

I have a new perspective on that too. And on everything. So I have sort of begun to feel foolish over all my anxieties and insecurities when I look at how great I've got it, but I have to also recognize that I really do have these things gnawing at me. I think it boils down to, these things just seem huge right now. I'll tell you what the real problem is. The real problem, still paling in comparison to many people's, is that I have not had a full night's sleep in eight months. Eight months! I am tired. I am exhausted. And when you're tired, everything seems like a big deal. So I have this family member who doesn't particularly like me. So I have these two situations where I had to take the fall and it wasn't my fault. So George didn't help me give the kids a bath. So I forgot my coupons at the grocery. So a hundred things that I have thought would be the end of me. Seriously, the end of me. It's not that big of a deal. I should say that to myself a hundred times a day. It just seems like a big deal because I am so tired. And that is the real problem.

You may have mentioned this to me already. I'm pretty sure Rebekah and George did and maybe a few others of you. I might have said something like "I'm not really that tired" or just dismissed you altogether. I am really out of touch with my physical self. I always know how I feel emotionally. I have a hard time with my physical self. I was in a pretty bad car wreck in high school and then when I worked retail years later, standing up all day in heels on hardwood floors, my back started really hurting. But when I went to the doctor I couldn't really tell them where it was hurting. The upper? The middle? The lower? Don't know. I guess I just didn't really know I was so tired until recently either. Hunger creeps up on me the same way. All the sudden I am angry and ravenous and need food now. Jennie will vouch for that! Anyway, I need sleep now. All of the sudden, I'm aware of it. But I guess it's been this way for a while and that's why everything has just seemed so overwhelming and hard and exhausting. I was chatting with a friend about this at church today and she knew just what I was talking about. I'm sure a lot of you do. She said "it won't be this way forever." And that was just about the best thing she could've said. Thanks, April.

I promise a little bit on Amabel starting school sometime soon. It may take a while to process. And in the meantime, maybe I'll have more to write. But please continue to pray for Amelia. And maybe after that, throw in a little request for Elspeth to sleep so I can get some too!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

If Only Cookies Could Solve All Our Problems

When my grandmother died a few weeks ago, my friend Jessie offered to watch August while Amabel was at ballet so I could pack to go to the funeral. We set it up so that she would call me back in about thirty minutes when her daughter's nap was over. I was swamped- clothes to wash, clothes to pack, a house to bring into tolerable order to leave for a week or so, toys and entertainment to glean for the five hour drive, etc. When Jessie called to tell me to bring August over, we were baking cookies. Baking cookies?! My sister called to remind me to bring such and such and to see what my mom should get at the store and would we be there in time for supper? No, because I had to finish baking the cookies. Baking cookies?! You might think that that is a very strange thing to be doing at such a time. And it was. But I think baking must be a coping mechanism for me. What is to be done? Well, one thing that can be done is that delicious baked goods can be ready to eat within the hour! I know, it doesn't make any sense.

I have baked two batches of brownies this week, some (really yummy) peanut butter bars, and am waiting on a batch of Mississippi mud bars to set as I type. My 9" square baking pan has not seen the inside of the cupboard for days. So what's wrong?

Our neighbors three doors down have a very sweet four month old baby girl. Her name is Amelia. She has not been feeling very well for a while and they were worried she might be allergic to the cat. And now they have found out that it is far worse than that. Amelia has leukemia.

I stopped this here yesterday because we were waiting on news of what type of leukemia. If you're going to have leukemia, this is the "better" kind to have which is a blessing. But, I mean, it's leukemia. So just pray for Amelia. She has a lot of fluid in her lungs (from the "original" sickness that kept lingering and concerned the doctor enough to run the tests that diagnosed the disease) so she is on a ventilator. And she is starting chemo which is just very hard on anyone's body, let alone a four month old's. Please pray for strength for her, and for her to be spared the side effects- vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, and puffiness. I believe she is pretty puffy already from everything so far. And of course, pray for the chemo to work. With this kind of leukemia, 90% go into remission after the first treatment. If all goes well enough, she can come home in ten days, so pray especially for that.

I honestly don't know her family very well at all, but this has just gripped me with compassion and sadness for them, and of course this idea that I want to help but just don't know how. So I keep just randomly pacing about my kitchen until I pull out the flour and start making stuff. And that is doing no one any good. And the only good and helpful thing I think we can do at this point is pray. So please do pray for Amelia, and for her parents, Steve and Jen. If this is something you want to pray for more particularly or follow more closely, here is a link to the blog with her updates. The latest says that the next 24 hours are critical.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meet Charlie and Lola

Speaking of delightful, it needs to be said that Charlie and Lola is just about the cutest thing ever put on television for children. I really can't think of anything cuter, though I will always save first place in my heart for Mr. Rogers (and I even tear up a little when I see the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood commercials on PBS). I am so delighted that even though we have lost our free cable, they have put Charlie and Lola out on DVD so we can still watch them. I bought Volume One (7 12 minutes episodes for $9.99) at Target the other day to put in an Easter basket and it didn't even make it a week. We have all, even George, been watching Charlie and Lola today. Every episode starts out with Charlie saying "I have this little sister, Lola. She's small and very funny." They are little British children so everything is said in a delightful accent. You simply must click on the link and watch the clips if you haven't seen it before. Lola says things like "hippy-potamus" and "huli-hoop" and most of the titles are written as if Lola were saying them, in a funny order with a few extra words like "I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato, Yuk!" or ""I'm really ever so not well, Achoo!" By the sound of some of the titles, or even by the modern-y way they are drawn and dressed, you might be worried that they are ill-behaved or just selfish and bratty children. You know, 'cause that seems to be the way the world is going if you look at a lot of kids. That is a horrible thing to say, but it just seems parents are so worried about their kids being cool these days and not so much about them being kind. And there just seems to be too much early childhood turned adolescence in the world if you ask me. But these kids are sweet and especially Charlie is a self-less and very helpful older brother. It is actually very encouraging that some "cool" little kids are also so very child-like and dear. I hope you will love Charlie and Lola too (if you don't already know them).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fighting My Demons

George said the other day that I, even in comparison to most people, sort of ooze self consciousness. Ugh. I think that is probably true. I know that everyone is self conscious. But I have a people pleaser kind of personality that predisposes me, like a pretty good percent of the population I'm sure, to sort of worry about what other people think of me. It is silly. And it is compounded with the problems of having two pretty significant and not completely resolved situations in the not so distant past where I was wrongfully accused. And the thing about being wrongfully accused is that it makes you defensive. But the thing about being defensive is that you can also be additionally accused of that by the wrongful accusers of being prideful and unwilling to be wrong. So it's a double whammy of injustice. And it causes all manner of second guessing- am I wrong? am I just being prideful here? etc etc. And then there is the truth that is that overly self conscious people are really annoying because they demand, however inadvertently and unintentionally, perpetual reassurance and attentiveness from others. I was awake most of last night agonizing over all of this. And then I woke George up to help reassure me. Well, that is a joke. I really just asked him to help me sort out my agony so I could get some rest. I do this every so often- lie awake and fret over those two situations and how I have not recovered so well from them. And I have no idea how to resolve it all. I know how wrongly people can judge or perceive one another first hand and it drives me c-razy. I also know that it is just part of life. And having a blog where whoever wants to can jump on and read all about me and think whatever they want and I have no idea who or what is torture! But it's also a little bit of therapy, I hope. I hope it will make me, over time, less worried about myself and how I am perceived. But so far, that's not really working out for me.

I have no idea why I am blogging about this. Someone said that blogs seem to often be a hope of being understood, possibly even exonerated. Sometimes that is true for me. Probably that's what this post is about. That and the whole writing is therapy for me thing. And often I blog about personal things as a public service of sorts. I cannot tell you how often I feel completely overwhelmed and weird about something only to have someone say that everyone feels this way sometimes. And I always think "then why doesn't someone say something?" So I say something. I am always saying something that I wish other people were saying. If we all feel this way, whatever the "this" is at hand, why don't we talk about it? I talk about "it" in hopes that other people will know that at least I feel "this" way too. But so far that's not working out for me either. Maybe there are scads of you out there who read and are relieved that I feel just like you do. But I mostly feel like it's just crazy old me. And now we're back to my self consciousness.

I don't know. This is just the junk that's sort of hindering me from having a normal thought process today and kept me from getting to sleep last night. I'm hoping that by writing it and putting it out there, it will have gotten "out of my system" and I can move on to something else, something more delightful, to post for you all. I really am delightful. I just have insecurities and frustrations that get in the way. I think everyone does. Someone told me that we see who we really are when things go wrong (it was actually one of the people involved in one of the two unjust situations I mentioned earlier). I think that is crap. That is something I need to forget. My kids whine when they are tired or hungry. They whine and they cry and sometimes don't obey and even just freak out. But they are generally cheerful and obedient children. They are. They just have weak moments, hard instances, where they give in to temptation and frustration. In much the same way, I can be negative and I can complain and be very frustrated about circumstances. But I don't think I really am a pessimist or a painfully unpleasant person. I mean I do think that. But let's change that (let me buy you a Heineken- ha ha, name that movie) let's think of me more as just a discouraged optimist. I am not only made up of the weak and imperfect ways that I deal with hard circumstances (and as you know, with the sleeplessness and the kids and the worries and everything, I have felt my recent/current circumstances harder than my previous circumstances in life); I really do have a very hopeful, perseverant (which is evidently not a word?), and yes, even optimistic spirit. So take that, all the yucky thoughts trying to drag me down. I am getting some sleep tonight!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Forward

Remind me why we do this again. I cannot tell you how much crankier I am for having just realized we must do this tonight and lose another hour of sleep!!! But perhaps the italics and three exclamation points will drive that home which I cannot express without you actually being able to see me clenching my teeth and waving my fists in the air whilst going red in the face. Stupid daylight savings time.... Or are we coming off? I forget. Seriously, what is the purpose of this?!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bella Notte

My sister-in-law took the kids out last night. This was my special request. I love that she is willing to come over and watch them. But that involves me leaving. And lots of days I just don't want to fool with makeup and ironing and all of that, but I do want the peace and quiet of a night with just George. So Katie took the kids to the mall for dinner and Build-a-Bear and then to the pet store. And I stayed home in my slippers and straightened up the house a bit while George heated the spinach lasagna I had frozen a couple of weeks ago. While we waited for it to finish cooking, I read Persuasion aloud to Elspeth and George worked on his fantasy baseball roster. It was so nice. Like I can't even begin to tell you how nice. It was quiet. And when Elspeth was ready to sleep (which didn't last in the end) I picked up a magazine. A magazine, people! Remember how I love Real Simple and Cook's Illustrated?! Because I had forgotten. They were all sitting in my magazine rack, still in the plastic. Poor, neglected subscriptions. Anyway, it was crazy having leisure time. I felt that the only way it could have been any more perfect was if we had a fire place and if we had wine. Well, we did have wine, but I knew the future dehydration (due to nursing) was not worth the degree of romanticism it would add so I opted to do without. But it was like being in a movie. Really. I felt like a real live human being! I think most moms will know what I mean by that. For everyone else, it was just that I was a me and not a someone else's mommy for a few hours.

We didn't think ahead on the whole lasagna thing so we were cooking it from frozen solid. After a while we decided we might could use a little appetizer so I made parmesan dip which didn't actually finish cooking until about the same time as the lasagna. Oh well, that made it an even more delightful meal. Katie brought the kids home all tuckered out during the last few minutes of cooking and got them ready for bed. We went in and kissed them goodnight and sat down to our yummy dinner for two, still in quiet. It was super tasty, especially without all of the "stop whining" and "get back in your chair" and "let's finish up, now" though we probably would've had less of that then usual because everything was so delicious. I am posting the recipes for both. I am fairly certain neither is a repeat, but sorry if these are not new.

After supper, we watched Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah. Omigosh! It was so good. It was not silly if that's what you think of when you think of Will Ferrell. It has Emma Thompson in it. So right there, there you go. Added to my list of jobs I would not be good at, film reviewer. But there's all these elements- likable characters, likable situations (no one is a diner waitress in the desert or something depressing like that), a literary quality, humor, a fresh and unusual story line. Ugh, it's too hard to explain why it is so good. Maybe I'll make an attempt another time. But it was just a really good movie. Like I think I will probably watch it again before we take it back. Anyway, the recipes. And do I need to remind y'all how I feel about real Parmigiano Reggiano? At least use something close. Please don't make these with the shaker can of Kraft parmesan or any variety of Kraft for that matter! I am far from a cheese snob, but seriously!

Parmesan Dip (serve with a sliced warm baguette)
1 c. light mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. plus 1T grated parmesan
1 small thinly sliced onion
optional- sliced mushrooms (none for me, thanks) or sundried tomatoes
-mix ingredients. sprinkle 1T grated parmesan over top. bake at 350 for thirty minutes.

Spinach Lasagna
Jar of Spaghetti Sauce (Sorry, not one of those from scratch recipes where you make your own sauce. We love Newman's Own sauces and they have way less sodium than other brands. So why not?)
2 eggs
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz.package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 pound sliced or grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 pound uncooked lasagna noodles
-beat eggs in a bowl. add ricotta, salt, spinach, and 1/4 c. parmesan.
-lightly grease bottom of 9x13 pan and place small amount of sauce in the bottom.
-layer noodles, half of ricotta mixture, half of mozzarella, then half of sauce. repeat layers and sprinkle the top with remaining parmesan.
-cover dish tightly with greased foil. bake at 350 for 1 hour or until noodles are done. let stand 10 minutes before serving

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Everything Done is Undone Again

Let me just say that I know that in many ways, this is not just me. On the other hand, I feel like I am such a crazy mess sometimes that people might not like me assuming they are as wacky as I am. So that is my disclaimer.

I mentioned in my last post, and also have harped on for the entirety of the existence of my blog, that I am sick of the drama. And also, with equal repetitiveness, I have talked about the monotony of daily life. So which is it, Abby? Is there too much drama or too much of the same? It's both. I know. What does it take for me to be content? I have this idea that it really wouldn't take much. But it would. I don't mind drama if it is happy drama. Weddings, births, galas, festivals, jubilees, jamborees, any and all jollifications (yes, that is a word). Bring them on! But I don't like all this negative stuff. You know all the suffering we're called to as Christians? Yeah, no thanks about that. I can do without the illness, the death, the homelessness, the poverty, the pain of childbirth, the whole Curse and all its shenanigans. (Incidentally, I know that "poverty" is a strong word in reference to my own life, especially for one who sits in her heated apartment on high speed internet, but it is all other people's money that pays for our heat and internet and the like, much of which is in the form of loans that have to be repaid, so it is more mental than actual physical financial woe. I just use the word "poverty" to sort of sum up our lack of financial independence and presence of financial worrisomeness.) And drama aside, I don't like all this day in and day out stuff. I like a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of "this is done" like what you got when you finished a paper in school or put the last coat of paint on a wall. But so much of life is not that way. I spend all day doing laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, preparing meals, straightening and picking up, etc. etc. etc. As soon as the floor is vacuumed, someone tracks dirt in from outside or brings their Auburn shaker upstairs and pulls the little orange and blue strands out and strews them all around. As soon as I prepare a meal, it is eaten or if it is the short ribs I made last night, it is pushed around on the plate, possibly chewed up but then spit back out into the rice and complained about until we finally cover it with Saran Wrap and put the child to bed at well past bedtime promising him that it will be served for breakfast in the morning. Then I begin cleaning dishes, wiping down tables and counter tops, and putting ingredients away, and it is time to think about the next meal! I also have the whole big people and baby people meals going on right now, so it seems my whole day could be spent just feeding people. No matter how much laundry you do, I say this all the time, the people in my house are wearing a whole other load on their persons. Then there's the verbal repetition. If I only had a nickel for every time I say any one of these things every day: "You are not his mother." "Stop bossing him around." "Stay in you chair until you're finished." "Come on, let's finish that up." "Stop whining." "You cannot shout like that." "You need to have some self-control." "Let's use our manners, please." "Be patient!" And inevitably, in spite of discipline, she will boss him around again and he will shout back at her and at mealtime he will get up from his chair when he's not finished and whine about having to sit back down or anything else he doesn't want to do. So I just have to resolve that that's how it is. But it's so depressing. It is. Everything I do is almost instantly undone and needs to be done all over again. What have I accomplished? What is there to show for all this work besides the fact that I am bone tired at nine o'clock at night most days? Maybe I need to read Ecclesiastes. That's where I am- "a chasing after the wind." A project might help too. It would be nice to have just one thing to feel "finished." But more than not, projects just hang over my head and remind me that they are not done. My current project is Easter dresses. With only one month until Easter, they have not been cut, pleated, smocked, or sewn. Nope, not at all. I will feel awful if they don't get done. But I can't imagine how they will get done. Whatever you do, don't discourage me from trying. If I fail, you can comfort me, but I really really want to try, so don't tell me not to.

In the mean time, if all I have time to do is make food, at least I can make good food. I gotta have something tasty to keep me from hating the idea of getting out of bed in the morning. That is a tall order considering I am still getting up twice a night for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. I know, I've gotta get some rice cereal! I have been pretty much habitually mixing Chocolate Sensation in with my first cup of coffee in the morning. 'Cause more than the first cup would just be too decadent right? Anyway, I like a little something sweet to go with it, but not so sweet that I might as well be having dessert. I mean, actually, I would love a big piece of chocolate cake for breakfast everyday, but guessing that that's not such a good idea, I have been enjoying some of this either in bar form or as cereal:

41/2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/2 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. honey

-Mix oats, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Stir in pecans, raisins, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
- Process apricots in food processor until smooth. Add butter and process until smooth. With machine still running, add honey through feed tube and process until smooth.
-Fold apricot paste into oat mixture until well incorporated.
-Press into jellyroll pan lined with greased parchment and bake 30 minutes (I originally copied this recipe onto a napkin and when I recently re-copied it, didn't write down the temperature. I tried 350 today and it was a little too hot- try 325 or 300).
-Remove from oven, cool, and cut into bars.
Save all the little crumblies from cutting to eat for breakfast with blueberries and milk- yum!

Note the wheat germ and the small amount of sugar. That's got to be a little healthy, right? And you can swap out ingredients where you want. I used Craisins in addition to golden raisins because I was short and it turned out great. Some people don't like nuts so you could substitute there. And I, and I'm guessing at least Jennie will (if not more of you- because I'm hoping you're all that kind of people), add a little extra chocolate chips- more like a heaping half cup, plus a little handful. But I suppose you could leave them out altogether if you must. But seriously, without the chocolate, you might as well just buy some Grape Nuts or some other sort of lifeless healthy food. I'm kidding, the fruit and honey are so good, even without the chocolate chips. And it makes a lot, so these are actually "done" for longer than you might think!

Friday, March 02, 2007


If you could see the unpacked bags that line the walls in our hallway or the gigantic pile of unsorted dirty laundry on the basement floor you would wonder why in the world I am sitting at the computer this morning. We are back from Nashville. It was harder than I expected in many ways. George has said that he thinks our culture is increasingly out of touch with rituals. For example, my mother didn't expect any of the three of her girls, much less all three of us, to come for the funeral. It had only been two weeks since I had asked George, when driving by a cemetery here in St. Louis, what he thought about visiting graves and told him how we used to go with Nannie to visit Christine, her daughter who had been killed in a car accident when only sixteen. I know many people think this is an odd ritual, visiting the dead. After all, they aren't really there. And I suppose it would be easy to not go to a funeral as well. The person being honored cannot be offended if you do not come and it is just inviting in a really bad day, sad feelings, a painful process all around. But it was good. It was good to have that bad day, several bad days really, to say goodbye to Nannie.

It was only the third funeral I have ever been to. All three have been for grandparents, George's and mine. My grandfather died when I was ten, George's grandmother when Amabel was three months old. I do not remember what I did about my Pappy dying. I know that the hardest time was when our pastor prayed for our family in church after we had come home from the funeral. My mother never cries, I mean never, and she wept all through church, right there in the pew. I don't know why we didn't just get up and leave. It was heartbreaking. But at ten, I think I mostly felt like an onlooker. I just leaned against her shoulder and cried for her. She lost her daddy, the second of her parents, and had cleaned out the house she had been raised in and said goodbye to all of it. I didn't get all of that, but any piece of it was enough. I didn't know until this week that my little sister had been sitting there too but had been ushered off to "junior church." She said she just sat there in the back of the chapel and cried all by herself. Bless her heart. Don't worry, this has a point beyond just being a sad sad story.

I guess the point, or one of them, is that it seems that our family does a lot on the individual level. I had really pushed to have a get together after the funeral to remember and honor Nannie. No one seemed to think that was necessary or normal. So there was a lot of people dealing with things all on their own in different ways. Kind of like with Pappy so many years ago. We also had four families used to their own homes and routines (okay, so my family is just used to our lack of routine) all coming under one roof and trying to function together and grieve at the same time, but right, in different ways. It went pretty badly a lot of the time. But what did we expect? On top of that, both my mom and Amabel got really sick. I am glad to be back in St. Louis.

I brought with me the hand painted plate I brought to Nannie from Mexico, a framed picture of Nannie and I together at my wedding, the bag of artwork and cards she had saved of mine over the years, the little dolls from all different countries that I played with at her house when I was little, her cast iron cornbread cake pan (not like a skillet but a big pan with lots of little wells for individual cornbread cakes- they were so good!), and a little vanity set with Kewpie dolls depicted on it that none of us has ever seen before but was set aside in a box with my name on it with an article about collectible Kewpie items tucked inside. At least I think it is a vanity set. I have been searching all over the internet to find something remotely like it and cannot. It is like Wedgwood, only a darker blue, and the figures are Kewpie dolls instead of people. It is so sweet of her to have either saved or purchased it for me. It is a little bit of a mystery too. I would love to find out more about it and what made her keep it for me. I do remember she had a Kewpie doll at her house when I was little that I liked a lot. The date of the newspaper article was 1981; maybe that is a clue. I would've been three in 1981. Anyway, it meant a lot that she had thought of me and kept something specifically for me.

I appreciate so much everyone's prayers for our family and for Nannie. I appreciate so much everyone's sympathy. It has been really exhausting. And Amabel is well now, but August has come down with a pretty bad cold and cough. And I am getting a little more than weary from the drama in my life over the past year. I guess that most people could say this at any given time. But I do not want to be a "life is hard" kind of person. On the other hand, what seems to get me in trouble, more often than not, is my overly high expectations. Or so I'm told. The pastor who delivered the funeral homily mentioned how Nannie had been through a lot, losing her father at a very young age and then losing a child and having been abandoned by her first husband and widowed by her second, and always maintained a sweet sweet spirit. He said how any one of those things often makes people bitter. And I know that that is very true. Nannie was not a "life is hard" kind of person though her life was very hard at times. God was gracious to her through so much hardship; I am sure he will be gracious to me through what is comparatively much less.

I also am already seeing His graciousness to Hugh, Nannie's husband for the past twenty years who is now alone. He has just recently needed to be under care as well and so he has had to leave their home. He only lived with her in the nursing home for about three weeks before all of this happened and his family decided to take him back to Arkansas where they live now that she is gone. He is really more our family though in a lot of ways and we will miss him being in Nashville. We had worried about him leaving, but, what a blessing, he has already run into several old and dear friends in the new home they have put him in- people he knew over twenty years ago. This could not have been expected and could not be any more of a blessing for this dear man who loved my Nannie so well. I hope his friends will bring him comfort and companionship now that he is without his "Best Love."

Writing this has been icky, like picking a scab or something. And I have been up and down caring for sick kids while drafting. Plus it is just hard to put all this into words. I know you all understand, but just please forgive my scattered-ness and weird tone. I wanted to give everyone a sort of update and final word because I know everyone has been concerned. But I am ready to go back to normal, so expect a more "me" post soon without recounting all these tragedies. I'm sure we could all use a little cheer around here.

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