Sunday, November 28, 2010

12 Hours, Two Good Hands

At least, that's how it goes in my mind. I know this time around that I will still have a bandage on my hand for the rest of the week even after I get my splint off tomorrow morning, but it will be a bendy bandage and I will be able to take it off to shower and re-dress it myself. I am looking forward to this. And on Friday I can even take that dressing off. I'm very excited.

As with everything, recovery of my second hand has seemed to go by quicker and more easily. I have felt less incapable and even feel slightly surprized that the time is up already. But I'm glad. I want it to come off.

I am continually amazed at the peace I feel from the Lord. I can look at some situations logically and think, "This should worry me," or, "I have so much to do that I haven't planned that I should be going crazy right now." And then reflect and say, "But actually I feel fine. I'm not anxious in the least. Weird." And I know that this peace of mind comes from the Lord, and is only available to me when I am doing what I should be doing and doing my best. It is not a feeling that I could create simply by wishing it, and I know because of the times in my life when I am not doing the things I should be doing and so am left to my own abilities. It's horrible. I feel anxious and upset all the time, even without knowing why. I acknowledge and express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for peace. May you each know a measure of it in your lives also, every day.

And I appologize in advance if the posting gets a little terse for a few days, I'm going to channeling my creative reporting skills into a family newsletter we're determined to get sent this month! Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Daze

I have been barely able to supress my excitement for the Christmas season that I caught myself several times talking to others about Christmas plans as if I was already in December and had to do a quick reigning myself in and reminder that it wasn't after Thanksgiving yet. I've been so excited about Christmas that I was having a hard time giving Thanksgiving its due excitement. Even Thanksgiving morning I just sort of sat around doing other things instead of incessantly planning and figuring what needs to be made and when does it need to be started and what can we set up to be ready, etc, etc.

And then it passed, and, I think because I didn't experience the whole rollercoaster of emotion about it, it sort of feels like it never happened, so I'm still feeling guilty getting out the Christmas things. I feel like I'm forcing it, and that just doesn't seem right. I love Christmas decorating! But I'm not feeling it right now. Sigh. However, I will persevere. We will have decorations up this week! (OK, we actually already have half of them up. We will decorate our tree! That's not up all the way)

The Hand of the Lord: I have 3 older siblings who have all had carpel tunnel surgery before me. It is so comforting and helpful to have them to turn to and advise me as I am recovering from mine. My sister sat down and massaged my scar on Thanksgiving day. It was wonderful. I am grateful for the advice on resting enough and not resting too much, on desensitizing and strengthening. I love my family. And I love the the Lord put me right where I am in my family with so many older siblings to love, support, and guide me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

At Last! Book Review Time--Leven Thumps*

*an additional comment was added to this post near the bottom. Also, just so you know, this review contains no sort of spoilers. So read in security.

So, as I have been asked and as I was intending to say all along (I just ran out of time), the books that I have been reading/listening to are the Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye.

There are 5 books in the series:

Leven Thumps and the Gateway of Foo
Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret
Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want
Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra
Leven Thumps and the Ruins of Alder.

and a companion book: Professor Winsnicker’s Book of Proper Etiquette for Well-mannered Sycophants

I'm reviewing them all together because it is really one continuous story. None but the first book really opens--they just start, and none but the last book really concludes--they just end. So expect to read them all sequentially in rapid succession. I'm glad I didn't start them until they were all published. They are pretty quick reading. I recommend reading the companion book after you have started but before you are about halfway through. Then you have a frame of reference for it but have not gotten so far that the fun surprises and hints have become largely irrelevant.

It is a really interesting series. It revolves around a boy named Leven Thumps and a realm called Foo. Foo is described as existing in the space between the folds of your mind--the place where dreams go to be enhanced and made beautiful. But it is nevertheless a real and substantial world with inhabitants of 3 sorts: those native to Foo, who's kind were created in the beginning and have a job in keeping Foo serving it's purpose, creatures born of dreams who don't really have their own grand purpose but are just sort of happenstance, and those who have been snatched from Reality into Foo (and their occasional descendants) who are expected to join the natives in maintaining the purposes of Foo.

The driving conflict of the book is that evil has been building in Foo in the form of beings of all sorts who are not contented with their lot of dream enhancement for the rest of their lives and so bend dreams to their own selfish and evil ends with the ultimate goal of finding a way out of Foo and into reality (which they think will make them the rulers of everything, but those loyal to Foo believe it will mean the end of dreams and therefore the end of all mankind).The entire series takes place over the course of a few weeks, but an interesting trait of Foo is that people there age by experience, rather than time, so in these few weeks Leven progresses from a 14-year-old boy to a 20-something-ish young man. Ditto for Winter, the 13-year-old girl who accompanies him to Foo.

The author is LDS, but it is not an LDS book. That being said, however, I was very, very happy to find that, unlike some other LDS authors I could name, Obert Skye keeps his writing incredibly non-offensive. On rare occasions he will say that a character (usually uncharacteristically) swore, but that is actually what he writes, not the word, or even a description of what the word is. For example, something along the lines of, "Tim always told his boys that use of foul language belied a lack of creativity or intelligence. Apparently the sight of X drained him of all intellect. 'Wow! That was a colorful word!' exclaims another, very naive character. 'What does it mean?'" Occasionally the author will use terms that the LDS reader will recognize as common, of not entirely exclusive LDS phrasology, but they are innocuous enough, and myself having run up against the difficulty of trying to use other wordings just for the sake of avoiding commonly LDS terms even though they would be easily understood by any audience, I can readily forgive that.

One thing that I unexpectedly enjoyed a whole lot was the life truths from an LDS perspective woven into this secular fantasy story--echoes of what resonates so deeply with what I know popping out of a story that is wrapped up in entirely other unreality. I wanted to use a quote from C. S. Lewis here, but I can't find it. And now I am beginning to wonder where I even heard it from in the first place. So this is an explanation of what I think is a C. S. Lewis Quote but I cannot definitely confirm (if someone can, please help me!): In fantasy we strip away every physical thing familiar in our comfortable reality--even the very laws of physics no longer apply. And in this way we highlight the things, non-physical, which must remain constant--the struggle between good and evil, the universality of morality and kindness. When what is unimportant to moral understanding is removed and replaced by something entirely different--an etirely different world--what remains consistent is brought to the forefront and more easily becomes a focus in a way that is difficult when the mundane trappings of reality cumber the way. Thus good fantasy re-affirms the deepest, most valuable truths of goodness and morality in a clear and beautiful way. I think this must be the big reason why I dislike immoral fantasy so much. I am actually disgusted when I come across fantasy that uses it's re-versioning of reality to negate moral laws--consequences of sexual immorality don't exist (magic amulets provide 100% birth control and STD's don't exist), wanton violence doesn't count if it is against things that don't look human and have green blood, things like that. But I digress.

What I was saying is that I really enjoyed seeing glimpses of not only rather universal moral truths, but some concepts and aspects of the plan of salvation that are uniquely LDS being woven into a different story--the salvation story of a different world. Things like a character who lived in a place and had the life experience of an adult agreeing to come to be transformed into an infant and have all memory of her former life erased, to grow up in a harsh and difficult world, but only with the promise that she could, in the end, return to her former home. The heavy reliance of the "good" characters on what they call "Fate" (what I would call faith) that basically means that all things will eventually be worked out for the ultimate good, so when you come to a place where you don't know what to do, after you have done all you can do, you can still have peace while waiting to see what happens next because it will all be alright in the end (even if it means sad things and pain come before the end). There were other things, too, but I can't think of them all right now. I really, really liked that aspect.

The only deficiencies in the story for me are 1) It does fall into a common trap of teen fantasy--(almost) every adult is either evil or powerless (which is why kids have to save the day in the first place). This is often accompanied by abysmal family relationships. I was able to get over it enough to enjoy the story, but I think it would have made the story a little stronger if it didn't seem so heavily kids vs. adults. 2) There are some possibly disturbing or frightening mental images presented. It is not heavy on gore and the occasional violence is not disgustingly detailed, but some occurances and images could be alarming or gross, depending on how you see them in your mind--an oozingly and festeringly infected ear, black skeletons being dashed to bits and continuing to bite, the guise of a kindly old man being blasted off of what is really an amorphously human-shaped ooze of blackness--things like that.

*additional comment*
Something I liked, but others might find annoying was the voice of the narrator. It often digressed into seemingly unrelated details or side tracks, but it kept the whole story funny and lighthearted. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the narrator in "A Series of Unfortunate Events," although the story in itself was not nearly so dismal.
*end additional comment*

I have heard this series compared to Harry Potter, but the similarities are more superficial than substantive--in both the protagonist is an orphan boy who is raised by unkind and unloving relatives and then in his young teens-ish years is caught up into a fantastical adventure to which he has unknowingly been destined his whole life. But lets face it, that's more a standard modern-world fantasy plot than a glaring duplication of storyline exclusive to these two series. The stories themselves are very different.

Overall, I would give this series a 4 out of 5 stars. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone over 10. Possibly down to 8 for a mature child. For the most part I didn't have a problem playing it in the background with my 3 year old around, but I don't think she would have understood or enjoyed it a lot if I was trying to read it to her.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has read these books--what did you think?

Dreams and Other Things

I didn't get to writing yesterday because my hands were over-worked. They are a little tired today, too, so I don't know how far I'll get. So we'll take care of the important stuff first: Monday night I got a huge headache. I've never had anything I've known as a migraine before, but occasionally I have gotten really splitting, don't-want-to-deal-with-the-world headaches--most notably before I learned how much water I need to drink and then again after my very minor car accident. I haven't really had a problem with them since then.

But on Monday night, wow. It was a doozy. I'm fairly certain that it was brought on by a prolonged period of time not drinking enough water. I have been really lax about it for the last several months and my body is starting to feel the effects--continually dry lips, um, actually that's mostly the only sign. Except this headache. And here is the Lord's care and mercy--the recurrence of dehydration-induced headaches, did not happen until after Kevin got home. Even though I was just as bad the entire time he was gone and even before, I wasn't laid low by headache even once (other things laid me low occasionally--like surgery--but either not as completely, or not without planning). As it was, I went to bed at about 7:00 and Kevin took care of Rhys (Willow was with Neoma). I didn't even have to find someone to watch the kids. I just told Kevin how I was feeling and went to bed. I love having 2 parents in my family.

Now for the dreams. I think I've always had really vivid dreams, and I know I've thought about them sometimes, but never as much as when I was roommates with Thora, who had to lay in bed every morning and tell me about what she just dreamed. I loved it, and I started telling her my dreams, too. And I found that when you tell a dream right away, you remember it better. I had some interesting dreams and thoughts about them recently that I wanted to share.

Sometimes dreams are so mundane it's hard to remember whether or not they really happened. I remember dreaming once that my sister announced she was pregnant. You'd think this would be memorable enough I would know the difference. Nope. And then a while later I finally asked someone about it. She actually was pregnant. But I still don't remember whether it had been announced yet. The point is, if it was a dream, it was so unremarkable that I didn't know it was a dream or just a faded memory. Then 2 nights ago I had an entirely unremarkable dream--I was using my sister's silicone pastry brush to brush something yummy, like, glaze or something. Afterward I was sucking off the yumminess and several of the silicone bristles came off in my mouth. I remembered that these bristles had been falling off for a while and I just said, "Oh, well, I guess this one's no good any more." and I threw it away. Then yesterday morning I was grinding wheat for pancakes and thought it would be good to get that brush that I always use to brush the flour down and my first reaction to that thought was, "Oh, yeah. I threw that away." And it was several minutes before I suddenly realized--no I didn't! That was a dream. And there it was in the drawer. Even the dream-remembrance I had that the bristles had been falling out for a while was false--it has maybe had one or two accidentally pulled off, but it was definitely not wearing out.

Dreams can be so weird. Last night in the middle of an otherwise really weird dream--there was fire in a corn field right outside the house and my super powers of fire suppression weren't working correctly--there was a movie on the TV where someone was putting out little bits of fire, and they missed one and as the camera angle shifted, it looked like that little missed bit of fire was coming toward the screen and as it got to the point where it disappeared off the bottom edge, but seemed like if it followed its trajectory it would now be coming into the middle of the room I turned and blew to put out the fire, like blowing out a candle, right on the spot like it seemed it should be before realizing that it was actually only on the TV. But the funny part about it was as I turned, I saw that my Aunt (one I have not thought of in a while) was there in the room on the other side of where it looked like the fire would have been and she turned and blew on it exactly the same as I did at the same time, and then we both looked at each other and laughed at our mutual silliness.

It wasn't until I started writing that paragraph about last night's dream that I realized how full of fire it was. But I guess that's not surprising since we moved the TV out of the fireplace for the first time since my Sophomore year of college--if I have had a fireplace, my TV named Kevin has been in it everywhere I lived--and put the gas fireplace guts back in it so we could have a fire and be a little warmer in our freezing weather conditions. Kevin and I even slept in front of the fire last night (our sheets were still in the dryer). But then, after the whole fire dreams, I know I went on to dream more, because I was in a different house and there was at least one movie that someone was watching in the background and suddenly I realized that 2 of the stars were people that I know. He was playing a recent convert to the LDS church who was going on a mission and she was playing the girl who wanted to wait for him while he was gone, even though they weren't actually dating or anything before he left. Neither of these people is a particularly close friend, but the guy is nearly 30 and has recently gone back to school while the girl I haven't seen in years but I know she got married and my sister recently told me she just had a baby. And then in that house there started to be a big storm like a hurricane or a tornado and we had an argument about whether or not we were supposed to open the windows. I think the strangest thing about dreams is how mundane they can feel, even when the things that are happening in them are not normal.

And then there are the inspiration dreams. I'm sure someone has dreamed a really good idea before. I dream ideas, and they seem really, really good at the time, and then I wake up and they make no sense. Or they make sense, they are just dumb. The other night I dreamt a song, or lines of poetry, or something. I think as I was formulating it the rhythm came out sounding more like a rap. I remember being so excited about it in my dream because it was sooooooooo good. And it all started with a single line of imagery, "you're brushing me off like a non-stick friend." I still like the way that sounds and I think the metaphor is sort of cool, but it seems a lot less accessible and readily comprehensible now than when I was dreaming it.

And then there are the epic dreams. These are a lot less frequent, and only one comes to mind. The strangest thing about this dream is that it actually ended. Most dreams I just wake up before there is any resolution. But this one was totally complete. I've told it several times, and gone over it in my mind innumerable more times, but I haven't written it down yet. It was just too long. I even wrote in my journal at the time (it was my senior year of high school) that I knew I needed to record it, and I would some day, but it was just too long to do it now. Maybe now is the time. It will probably be one of those posts I work on for a long time before it gets published, but rest assured--it is coming. It was like a cold war communist China movie. It was intense.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small Blessings, Big Blessings, and Snow

If you live here in the Seattle area, I don't even have to tell you about the snow. For those of you who don't live here, I will just give you a summary of how they explained it on the radio this morning--Don't leave your house. They said since the horrible snow-in power outage catastrophe of 2008 the city of Seattle was prepared with a new plan--attack the road with ice preventers and snow melters (read: salt) before they even start to get slick so roads can stay clear. Apparently they were a little late getting started because overnight, when most of the work was supposed to be happenning, they couldn't get out on the roads to clear them because they were too backed up with abandoned and cars and accidents.

I'm thankful that the only thing I had wanted to leave the house for today (besides sledding) was to visit my new niece. And as much as I want to do that, it is not necessary for today and we can stay bundled up at home cozy and content.

Yesterday, however, my mom flew in from Denver in order to stay and help with said new niece. My sister Neoma was elected to pick her up from the airport and bring her to our other sister's house. She was supposed to be at the airport for a 4:20 flight and she left here sometime around 3:00. She took the 2 3-year-olds with her because they like to ride in the car and see Grandma and it is easy to watch them when they are so contained. She didn't get to the airport until after 6 and didn't get home until after 10. Small blessing--there were no accidents in the car from the fragilely potty trianed children. This was due in part to her ingenious deployment of emergency diapers in the middle of the 3 mph creeping freeway. The big blessing--they made it home at all. We really didn't know if they were going to. I am so grateful for the safe care of the Lord that meant they did not have to spend the night in the car. There were people who did last night, and Neoma drove far enough on the roads to up her odds significantly of ending up as one of them.

As it is, the most immediate thing on my mind this morning is looking forward to playing with my kids in the snow!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unsuccess Unsuccess

So I got a bug to google my blogs and see if they come up (Thanks to my brother's dilema and facebook cry for help). Instead I found several articles with instructions of how to have an unsuccessful blog and guess what I discovered--I'm doing it wrong. I did get some things right--mile long posts, extended breaks, rambling--but apparently I don't swear enough, I'm not abusive enough to people who comment, and I shouldn't have said anything about my blog on facebook. Oh, well. I guess I can live with that.

I have a wonderful husband who makes breakfast for our family and does diapers and every thing without complaint while my hand is bandaged, and even when it is not. I know I marvel and thank the Hand of the Lord for guiding me to him a lot, but it's just so true. I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

It's Christmas!

It snowed a bit today--nothing stuck, but when my sister noticed and pointed it out to the children, my daughter looked out the window then exclaimed to me, "Mom! It's Christmas!" I love my little girl.

Tonight we went to an interfaith Thanksgiving service. It was held in a Catholic church and was attended by members of the LDS church, a local Jewish temple, and about 7 other Christian denominations or non-denominations. One of the men signalling people where to park had long white hair and a long white beard. As we were pulling in Willow asked, inevitably, "Is that Santa Claus?" I answered that it was not, but he probably dressed up like Santa sometimes for fun for little kids. (I could just tell he was a Santa.) Apparently he heard our conversation and he goodnaturedly told Willow that he was one of Santa's helpers. We spoke with him several more times throughout the evening. I hope someday Kevin can grow a long white beard. I would love to be Mrs. Claus every December. I would refrain from dying my old lady hair just to do that. And make myself a red, fur trimmed dress with a white frilly apron and a mob cap. But I digress.

It is a sweet experience to join with other that you know don't share all your beliefs and yet are still able to rejoice with you in the beliefs that you do share--in a loving Heavenly Father who blesses us with an overabundance of all things we need, and even more, just to bring us joy. I see the Hand of the Lord in such gatherings. Even though they occur at least once a year, and usually more often in our community, this is the first one I have actually gotten myself and my family together to go to and I see in it the way God touches the lives of all His Children who seek Him, even if they do not have all the light of the restored gospel yet.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Luxury of Washing my Hands

I promise, I am working on that book review. I’m just not able to write a lot each day, so it’s coming incrementally.

So, I had my 2nd hand surgery yesterday. On Monday I had the splint and bandage removed and the stitches taken out from my right hand. There were still steri-strips over the incision and the doctor recommended that I encourage them to stay on until Friday (yesterday). To facilitate this he wrapped my wrist in a new bandage. The advantages were that the dressing was much smaller, being only one strip around my wrist and up over my hand between the thumb and first finger holding a gauze pad on the inside of my wrist; there was no splint so I could bend my wrist; and I was cleared to get it wet and change the dressing myself, so I could shower with relative normalcy.

This was great. I showered 3 days in a row! (I would ask you to be impressed except that I did it because I was instructed to shower with special soap for each of the 3 days leading up to my surgery yesterday.) Then, after showering early Friday morning to prepare for my 8:15 am surgery, I left the dressing off and removed the steri-strips. I was at the surgery center by 7:15 am for my surgery and it wasn’t too long before I was (un and re)dressed and just waiting for my name to be called. Kevin was able to come with me this time, which was wonderful. After quite a while of waiting I finally decided that it would be easier to go potty now than right after surgery so I excused myself to the bathroom.

It wasn’t until I stood in front of the sink and put my hands—plural—under the water that I realized that this was the first time in 2 weeks that I had been able to rub and wash both of my hands together. I had had a bandage on my right hand the entire time so it had always been either awkward solo left hand self-washing or awkward left hand and right fingertip washing. And I also realized it would be the last time for the next two weeks that I would have that opportunity. Within the next hour my left hand was going to be put in a splint. I savored the feeling of rubbing the skin of my two hands together and stepped out of the bathroom just in time to answer the questioning of the nurse who had come to find me to take me to the OR.

I am very grateful and recognize the Hand of the Lord in helping me find that one opportunity to experience what I didn’t know was such a missed simple pleasure.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another Reason to Learn Baby Signs

I lost my voice again. It seems to happen every year while I am trying to coordinate the ward Christmas party. Except last year. I don't think I lost my voice, but I did sprain my foot the day before the event and had to do all my set-up and event directing on crutches. But I know I lost my voice the year before that. So now I have to rest up really hard because bI am supposed to sing at the party, oh, and in the chior on Sunday for the Thanksgiving program. Shoot. Ah, well.

It is really hard for me to stop talking, because it is pretty much impossible for me to stop communicating, unless I lock myself in my room, and even then I would probably bring my computer and still blog which is communicating, too. (Sorry for any typos--I'm one-handed typing again.) I actually started thinling this time, seeing as laryngitis seem to be at least a semi-annual occurance for me, that it would be extremely benificial for my whole family to learn sign language. And then I realized that I already do know enough to communicate basic needs--I've been teaching my children since birth! Unfortunately, my kids have become verbal so early that the signing loses effectiveness before they are able to figure out more than a couple signs. But I know th,em! Unfortunately, I found the glaring flaw in this plan when I tried to sign "Rhys diaper change," to my husband: I'm the only one who knows a lot of these baby signs (that, and the signs came off a little half-cocked with one hand in a brand new splint. It even still smells like a hospital). My husband does have a limited ASL vocabulary--he got the finger spelling of Rhys' name--but he doesn't know the baby exclusives, like "diaper." I finally got my point accross by holding my nose then waving my hand in front of it and making a face. We do what works.

The Hand of the Lord: I married a man who mirrors my methods and mindframes on child discipline. We don't use violence, but see the value of occasional physical shock like being quickly snatched from a disobedient or dangerous situation. We both favor a gentle reminder, but know that it must be followed with swift and decisive enforcement to be effective. I am typing this as I watch my husband handling our 21 month old son who was at a distance, repeatedly disobeying. After a warning and a statement of expectation and consequence, he went and got him and put him in time out. Afterward he talked with him about why he was there. (Rhys knew exactly why--"I do ce-ing [ceiling] a dis [this]" and reached up a finger to demonstrate how he had been picking popcorn texture off the ceiling while standing at the top of the slide.) We both believe in strict and consequence driven discipline for things we feel are essential and a "don't start a direction you don't intend to follow through with" (similar to "pick your battles" but with a lot more emphasis on anticipating and not even giving children an opening to suggest a battle for you to decline) for pretty much everything else. Above all, we both agree implicitely that parenting disagreements (which we do still have) should be resolved privately, not in front of children. We have no problem disagreeing on other things in front of the kids--we both think it is very valuable for children to see how differences of opinion can be handled respectfully, if occasionally heatedly--but on matters reguarding thier upbringing, to the whole world, especially our children, we should be united.

I'm not bringing this up or detailing it to extoll the virtures of our parenting style, or to suggest that in all cases and for all people it is the only way that works, but only to explain the miracle of not having sustantive child-rearing disputes with my spouse. I feel so blessed. I have no qualms whatsoever about leaving our cjildren in his care for extended periods, even days at a time. I don't worry they will become spoiled because of him being too lax, or that they will become despirited because of crushingly harsh punishment. I love my husband. I love this blessing the Lord has given me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not Enough Time

I started the book review I was going to post, but finishing it will have to wait for another day--I'm going to DUP!

The Hand of the Lord: We have a new car. Well, a 12-year-old new car. The Lord has provided for me so well. When Kevin and I got married, his parents had a car they didn't need any more and they were happy to let us buy it from them at a generous discount, and pay them only as we had money available. It has been a great car for us--it fits really well with cargo room to spare (which doesn't mean I don't use every inch when we go on trips, it just means that we could have leftover room if we really wanted to). It has decent gas mileage and has provided wonderful opportunities for Kevin to learn auto mechanics. But it's starting to have a few problems that make Kevin very leery of taking it on long trips and we hope that sometime in the next year our family will be growing a little, which would make our current vehicle no longer roomy for long trips. When just at this time that we are seriously considering the need of a new, larger car, my sister suddenly and seriously need a larger car too--with the pending birth of her 7th child, she needs to upgrade to a full-sized van from her current minivan. And she wanted to give her minivan to us. Just give. She doesn't want us to pay her for it. I love the way the Lord takes care of us.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I had the greatest dream last night

I dreamt that Kevin came home without telling me his flight information and just suddenly showed up in the middle of the night. Mmm. I liked that dream.

And then I woke up...

And it wasn't a dream. Kevin got home last night! Yay! We have had a fun family day together, including walking to downtown Woodinville, having lunch at Pallino's--a fastish Italian food place, exceedingly fun and exceedingly yum, and we found out after we got there that Wednesday is Kids Eat Free day. Yay! It was a little more expensive than Fast Food, but not much, and the food was way, way, way, way better! Just stop by for a dish of gelato sometime. It really is worth it--and some window shopping at Target, or more accurately, some Kevin-walk-around-the-store-with-the-kids-while-I-scan-the-dollar-items-for-Christmas-presents. It was a lovely day.

Here is another example of little nudges by the Hand of the Lord that continually lead our lives in the best direction: Kevin came home with a full dufflebag of dirty laundry. He apologized and said that he had it all together in the morning to set outside his door on the ship to be taken by the laundry people who would wash it and return it. But for some reason he just never put it outside his door. He couldn't say why. He had every intention of doing it, he just didn't. But if he had, there is no way that it would have been returned in time for him to leave the ship to make it to the airport for the flight he was going to be scheduled on to come home. He did not know at the time when the flight would be and it was sheer luck--Providence?--that he was able to pick up and leave so quickly because his clothes weren't stuck in the ship's laundry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First, the Spiritual Thought, then more if I have time.

I decided I need limit my blogging time each day. This will help you so you don't have volumes to read, and also help me to do more things during the day. This will probably mean that some posts take longer to write than they already do, and probably more posts will be just spiritual as I still want to actually get those posted each day as I blog in place of journaling, even if I don't finish whatever other blog post I am working on. That is why I am starting with it first today.

I just finished reading/listening to a series of books (whereof the balance of this post in intended to be a review, however I do not yet know whether I will get to that completely today, so it might be in a later post). They ended with the not unfamiliar scenario of only seconds left to save the world from utter destruction and one person alone who could do it, facing seemingly insurmountable odds requiring the sacrifice of everything he had as well as snap judgements and hurry, hurry, hurry to make it in time. It makes for great and exciting reading, but as I was reflecting on it, and also some of the great spiritual overtones in the book in general, comparisons inevitably rose in my mind between this protagonist and the one and true Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

I realized that as exciting as it is to read these stories of universal rescue from the brink of disaster with an immediate and literal deadline, they are fundamentally different from the true story of the saving of the world. The life of and atonement performed by the Lord Jesus Christ did not come at a time of immediate or impending global catastrophe. Although there were political struggles within the society into which He was born, it was a time, though oppressed, of relative peace. There was no looming deadline of disaster against which He was forced to hasten. He lived a normally-paced life and was able to grow from a child all the way to full manhood without being snatched up into a rollicking adventure of doom.

He lived quietly, and when notoriety did begin to come, it was still on a very small scale, considering the whole world. And when the moment of crisis arrived, it was faced alone, quietly, without the eyes of the world and without any outside time frame except a personal determination between Him and his Father. It is true that it was immediately followed by arrest and imprisonment, the coming of which was already set in motion before His prayer in the Garden, but the Intercession was not performed with Soldiers looming on the horizon, requiring hurry and haste. It was all done in order and solitude, without rush.

There was a time schedule to the rest of the events as well: arrest, crucifixion, Resurrection. But there is never any indication of fighting against that clock. There was no buzzer to beat.

As I reflected on these thoughts, I realized that the unfolding of the actual salvation of the world is much more relevant to my life than any nail-biter of impending, immediate disaster. For most of us, we will not be brought to face a moment of now or never on which the world will hang, or even our own entire, immortal life will hang. But each of us is asked to live fully, without hurry, making small choices daily and constantly, forever, that lead to the salvation of our own souls. When the moments of conversion and conviction do come, they are most often not moments outside crisis. They are moments of quiet, solitude, reflection with the world progressing steadily, normally, leading up to it and continuing on, outwardly unchanged following it.

How grateful I am for the example of our Savior who lived in the real world, a real and very human life with ups and downs, but above all, normalcy. That is an example I know I can follow, and it makes his supreme achievement all the more impressive, because the decision points were intentionally created, rather than fantastically forced upon him. I am so glad for a Savior I can relate to, with an accessible life. And I am grateful to see the Lord's Hand in my life, daily, quietly sharing insights that build my testimony and increase my devotion to His Plan.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Half-Way Hand

So, the splint is off, but I have a new bandage on. However, it is one that I can change myself and I am cleared to get it wet. I can also bend my wrist now, but I only have about 75% range of motion, and a lot of weakness. I'm confident it will slowly come back. I am supposed to still take it easy on my wrist and hand over the next week because the inscision site is still really tender and could possibly re-open if too agrivated. Also, too vigorous of activity could cause swelling of the tissue surrounding and even the nerve itself, and that could cause increased scar tissue which would crowd the nerve and basically negate the effects of the surgery. So, taking it easy. I know there are a lot of things I will have to ease into doing again, but one thing I am definitely starting today: Shower! I may still wear a rubber glove just so I don't soak the steri-strips I am supposed to leave on til Friday.

At the doctor's office, I was brought back to the exam room and the nurse removed the dressing. It was the first look I got at the incision site. There were 4 steri-strips running crossways over a small incision parallel to and a little under the creases of my wrist. I couldn't see much of the incision site through the steri-strips. It was slightly swollen and it looked like some faint black lines were running through it. And in a big square all around it the skin was still tainted orange-brown from the site-preparation iodine. But the weirdest part was about 1/2 inch from either end of the incision there was a bright blue thread sticking out of my skin about 1 1/2 inches. Soooooo Weeeiiiiird!

I had not brought a book to read, so I had nothing to do for the 10 minutes I waited for the doctor except stair at these blue antenae sticking out of my wrist. It was bizzare. I felt the end of one of the strings. It was suprizingly stiff. I don't know what I was expecting, but that wasn't it. When the doctor finally came in, he didn't even need to remove the steri-strips to take out the stitch. He just clipped one end and pulled it out by the other. It felt funny and there was a little twinge of pain, but it was over quickly.

I may be having my left hand done sooner than later--all dependant on if Kevin comes home sometime this week. I hope, I hope! He can be my hands. I love my Kevin. And I'm grateful to have my hand back, even if it is not 100%

And now I'm falling asleep as I try to think of an evidence of the Hand of the Lord in my life today. It's not that it's so boring, it's just that, while going to bed leaves me feeling refreshed and able to get up without too much difficulty at 5 am, it also makes me crash at about 10-11 and desperately want a nap. I see the Lord arranging for Kevin to work for a few more days before coming home without working for weeks longer. (The job he was on ended a couple of days ago and they sailed in, but at the last moment were inexplicably asked to stay on for a few more days. So there they sat as the boat travelled from in port in LA to Tampa, FL. Who knows what he will do from there.

I just fell asleep sitting here typing and I woke up to 1500 "e"s on the end of "there." (yes, I kept a rough count of them as I deleted them.) I realize now that I was also mentally asleep as I was formulating that sentence. I don't actually remember typing it, but it's not actually what I meant to say. I meant to say that he may well fly home from Tampa, or else fly home as soon as they get back to LA in a few days. I hope I hope. He will have had almost a week more of work after finishing the initial job but still be completed with an assignment instead of having an assignment that goes on through when I want him home to help me with surgery recovery. If I have the surgery this Friday, though, it does put me at the day after surgery traveling to eastern washington for a wedding. Oh, well. Better than surgery the same day of the ward Christmas party I am in charge of.

I think it's time for me to be done. Even though that brief naps seems to have weirdly refreshed me. Perhaps I can do some good around the house before Neoma gets back from the YMCA with the kids.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crockpot Yogurt--More than you ever wanted to know

It's my turn to join the chorus of blogs about making yogurt in your crockpot all referencing this blog. It was really funny. I started out to look up making yogurt in your crockpot because I heard about it somewhere and that was the top of the Google list. I checked it out and even tried it. Then I went back to the internet to find more information and the next 5 links I looked at were all someone else's blog pretty much directing you to the first one. I did finally find some helpful notes on how it actually worked for someone else on this blog, and then I found this non-blog article with some more technical information which really helped my yogurt making skills.

Some people are afraid of plain yogurt because it is not actually yummy all by itself. But just mix in a spoonful of your favorite jam, or some frozen berries and a little sugar, or just have it with fresh fruit and it is delicious. You can also use it as a substitute for sour cream or to give something you would normally put milk in a little zip. It is versitile and healthful. For my figuring of the nutrition information and cost comparison of home made yogurt, see the bottom of this post.

Without further ado, here are my chronicles (and ultimate triumph) of home made yogurt (and also I've been wanting to make bulleted lists on my blog for a while, so I am seizing the opportunity):

Attempt # 1:
I was so excited to try this when I finally got around to looking it up and it looked so simple that I was impatient and didn't want to wait til we went to the store and I could buy some plain yogurt. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I finally succumbed and decided to use what I could scrape off the top of the one last fruit-on-bottom Greek yogurt cup my sister had bought from Costco.

The Procedure:

  • 2 quarts (Costco) non-fat milk, heated it in the crockpot on low for 2.5 hours.
  • Turned off the crock pot and let it sit, covered, for 3 hours.
  • Stirred 2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin into cold yogurt scrapings.
  • Stirred 2 c. lukewarm milk into yogurt.
  • Stirred yogurt mixture into the rest of the lukewarm milk.
  • Wrapped the crock in a thick towel and let it sit overnight.

The Results:
It was minimally successful and I have since learned that my milk did not get hot enough to start with and didn't stay warm enough during the culture process and so it was very thin and sort of gloopy. After refrigerating, the gelatin congealed and it was a little bit disturbingly like goopy milk-jello (2 packets for 2 quarts is too much). This would have lead my sister to completely bag the idea of homemade yogurt, but I persevered. Attempt #2:
I looked up other blogs to see if I could find more tips. I decided to try full fat yogurt, as I was sure it would be easier to get it thick without added ingredients. I figured the cultures in the yogurt I made would still be good, even if the yogurt was gross, so I used it as starter for my next attempt.

The Procedure:

  • 2 quarts whole (Costco) milk, heated in the crockpot for 2.5 hours
  • Turned off crockpot, cooled, covered, for 3 hours.
  • Stirred about 1.5 c. milk into about 3/4 c. funky homemade yogurt-jello-gloop.
  • Stirred back into milk.
  • Put into an oven heated at 145 deg. for 15 minutes then turned off.
  • Left the light on in the oven for a little added warmth during the night.
  • Left in the closed oven til morning.

The Results:

OK. It was thicker and richer, but still not incredibly thick. We ate it. The kids loved it, and I saved 1 c. for starter next time.

Attempt # 3

This was the point where I learned about the actual temperatures that the milk is supposed to get to. This made a huge difference. I used a meat-probe type thermometer, the kind you are supposed to jab deep into your roast, or turkey, or what-have-you. I dangled it in the milk covering as much of the shaft as I could to get the reading. I discovered that 2.5 hours on low was way not enough to get the milk up to the 180 degrees it is supposed to get to to begin with. Also that it can cold down to the 110 degrees it needs to be not to kill the yogurt cultures a lot faster than 3 hours. So I made some adjustments to the original method.

The Procedure:

  • 2 quarts fat-free milk heated in crockpot on high for 4 hours to 180 degrees
  • Removed crock from cradle, cooled, uncovered, 1 hour to 110 degrees
  • Made the mistake of trying to mix the skin that had formed back in.
  • Forgot and mixed 1 c. starter yogurt directly into the milk without tempering it.
  • Heated the oven to the lowest setting of warm--145 degrees--for about 15 minutes.
  • Checked the temp. of the milk--about 100 degrees
  • Turned off the oven and put the crockpot, covered, in side
  • After 1 hour, checked the temp of culturing milk--less than 110 degrees
  • Turned on the oven to 145 again for 15 minutes (with the crock inside)
  • Turned off the oven, checked temp--about 120 degrees
  • Waited 1 hour, checked yogurt temp--I can't remember what it was.
  • Noticed that the yogurt definitely looked like it was congealing in the middle with clear-ish liquid around it. When I stuck the thermometer in, I was definitely sticking it into something--I couldn't swish it around easily.
  • Let it sit one more hour, checked temp.
  • Reheated oven for 15 minutes, then turned off
  • Let sit another 2 hours

The Results:

This was the most set up I had yet achieved. In my checking of the temperature I remember it being as low as 100 and as high as 135, mostly in the higher range. I decided to drain the yogurt through a coffee-filter lined wire mesh strainer (actually several strainers--you can't fill any of them too full or they don't drain completely). about 5 cups drained out in whey--a clear, thickish, yellowish liquid that is as sour as yogurt. 3 cups was left of thick, creamy, beautiful, delicious fat free yogurt. It was very sour and I realized that the yogurt was probably done at least 2 hours before I took it out. It cultured very quickly when it was kept warm enough. There were also small papery pieces throught it, I believed to be remnants of the skin formed while cooling that I tried to mix back in. I have not had this problem since I started removing the skin.

Attempt #4:

I wanted to see if, having successfully kept it warm in the oven, I could actually just leave the oven on warm and it would culture just as well.

The Proceedure:

  • 1 quart fat free milk, heated in crockpot 4 hours to 180 degrees
  • Removed crock, cooled 1 hour, uncovered, to 110 degrees
  • Removed the skin from the top and discarded.
  • Mixed 1/2 c starter yogurt into the milk.
  • Preheated the oven to 145 degrees
  • Put in the crock, left the oven on
  • Periodically checked temp. It got to 145 degrees after maybe 45 minutes.
  • Cultured for 3 hours--the length of time it was actually done in last time
  • Removed from the yogurt from the oven, spooned it into coffee filters to drain
  • Noticed the yogurt was not smooth--sort of grainy.
  • Thought, "Oops. I think I cooked it."
  • Lots of whey drained off.
  • Transfered the "yogurt" to cheesecloth instead of coffee filter so I could press it out.

The Results:

What was left was sort of rubbery and squeaky, like new cheese. It was a little sour, but not as sour as yogurt usually is. But since it was not salted, it wasn't very tasty. It may be worth experimenting with in the future to make cheese on purpose. It was not good yogurt. Luckily, I still had some starter yogurt left.

Attempt #5:

I was fairly confident in my yogurt making skills by this point, even though the last time was a fail. I decided to go for mass production so I wouldn't have to make it so often.

The Procedure:

  • 1 gallon fat free milk, heated in the crock pot for 4.5 hours
  • Cooled for about 1 hour
  • Mixed in about 1 c. yogurt
  • Heated oven for 15 minutes, turned off and put in crock
  • After 1 hour, turned on oven for 15 minutes.
  • Let culture for 2 more hours, then--done!
  • Drained the yogurt through coffee filters in strainers and collanders.

The Results:

After draining for a couple of hours, I was ultimately left with 10 c of whey and 6 c of Greek-style (thick) yogurt. It was perfect and wonderful and now I am a yogurt making master. Thank you.

Attempt # 6:

This was made exactly like #5 except that I ended up using cheese cloth to drain it instead of coffee filters and I was able to put it all in one strainer instead of lots of them and it drained just fine. I was tired of the counter full of bowls and strainers and all of the used up coffee filters that got thrown away. I tiny amount of yogurt was lost in being stuck in the cloth, but not much more than stuck to the filters. I rinced the cloth and it dried very quickly. It should be able to use it over and over again. I like this plan.

I found lots of advice on what to do with the whey. I haven't actually tried any of these except using it in a little bit of baking:

  • Use it to culture your next batch of yogurt instead of the yogurt itself.
  • Put in a little sugar and drink it (like lemondade).
  • Water your plants with it.
  • Feed it to your pets.
  • Use it in place of buttermilk in recipes (or in place of milk+vinegar in recipes, but not in place of fresh milk alone--it will make things sour).
  • Wash your face with it--like a yogurt scrub spa treatment.
  • Make bread with it (because of the sugars in it, you might be able to cut down on the sugar you add to feed the yeast).

For most of the suggestions that use it as a replacement for milk, I personally wouldn't want to because it is lower in protein than regular milk but has the same amount of carbohydrates. But that's just me. Others may not care.

Summary of tips:

  • In figuring out how to make it in your crock pot, go off of temperature, not time--your individual crock as well as the volume of milk will all make a difference in how long it takes.
  • If you don't have a thermometer, 180 degrees is when it starts to look frothy and like it is moving without being stirred, but not boiling. It has a distinct "cooked milk" smell that fresh milk does not have. 110 degrees feels like a hot tub--initially very hot, but you get used to it. You would not put a baby in it.
  • The starter yogurt does not actually need to be tempered by mixing a little hot milk into it before mixing it back into the whole body of milk. If it is hot enough to kill the yogurt it is too hot period. If it is not, tempering it won't make a difference. I don't temper any more.
  • The more starter you use the faster it will culture.
  • The warmer the better (faster) for culturing, as long as it does not exceed 140 degrees.
  • If you want a thinner, drink style yogurt, check periodically during the culture process and stop (refrigerate it) once the desired consistency is achieved. It is not necessary to culutre it completely if you don't want to.
  • There is no need to continue culturing it once it is gelled. It will only get more sour and not less watery.
  • The more fat in the milk, the thicker the yogurt will naturally be.
  • You can add thickeners to low or fat free yogurt if you don't want to drain it. Some suggestions are unflavored gelatin, powdered milk
  • The yogurt will thicken in the refrigerater, so don't despair if you don't want to drain it and it isn't quite thick enough for you to begin with.
  • I started taking out the starter before I drain it and putting it in a separate container in the fridge so it doesn't get used by accident--1 cup per gallon.
  • If draining off the whey with coffee filters, only do a thin layer at a time. Otherwise what is next to the filter thickens and creates a barrier so the whey on the top/in the middle is blocked in and won't drain out no matter how long you let it sit. This doesn't seem to be a problem when using cheesecloth.
  • If you still like the flavor variety available in commercial yogurt, try mixing commercial yogurt half and half with homemade plain yogurt. The commercial stuff is so extra sweet that I actually like it better once it is dilluted, and it makes the more expensive stuff last twice as long!

Funny story for those of you who persevered all the way to the end:

While this last batch I made was left to cool uncovered, my brother in law stopped by to look at it. "Um, Carol? Your milk is breathing." I came over to look and sure enough, it had formed a skin on top, but was still hot enough that the milk underneath was swirling and roiling and making the skin wave and pucker and shimmy. It was really facinating to watch.

And now the promised nutrition info:

Undrained: The nutrition info for 1 cup is the same as for 1 cup of whatever milk you used. This will vary with the fat content, but for fat free milk is 0 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein.

Drained (removing 2 quarts from 1 gallon): I read that the nutrition content of the whey is o grams fat, 13 grams carbs, and 2 grams protein. If draining off the whey you are losing the entire amount of carbohydrates for every cup of whey drained off, but only 2 of the 9 grams of protein, which means 7 grams of protein are left for each cup of whey drained off. This means each remaining cup of Greek-style thickened fat free yogurt has 13 grams carbohydrates and about 20 grams of protein.

Cost Comparison:

The other blogs I read all used expensive products for price comparisons. I buy cheap stuff (not organic milk or yo-baby), so that's what my price comparison reflects. About the absolute cheapest you can find yogurt is $1.50 for 1 quart--$0.375 per cup, when it is on super sale. One gallon of fat free milk regularly costs about $1.90 at Costco, which is what we always get. This works out to $0.119 per cup of undrained yogurt (disregarding the cost of starter, which fades out after the first couple batches and any thickener you may choose to put in it), or $0.473 per quart. Even when drained, it comes out to $0.317 per cup of Greek style yogurt. That's crazy savings, especially when you figure that greek style yogurt actually sells for at least $1 for 6 oz, even on sale.

So the moral of the story is: Everyone should make their own yogurt. It is easy and so, so cheap.

(For additional insight, some of which supercedes what I thought I knew at the time of this writing, please see An Addendum on Yogurt and More (Concrete) Yogurt Insights.)

I get my hand back tomorrow

Yay! My appointment to get the bandage off and the sutures out is for 8:45 tomorrow morning. I have already regained much of the ability in my hand, I can type and hold a pen and drive a car, but I don't have a lot of gripping strength yet, nor can I hold heavy things out in front of me. If I can rest something on my forearm, then I can carry it, but if I have to hold my forearm parallel to the ground while something is hanging from my fingers, that is too much. I'm trying to take it easy, not overtax or strain my hand, but at the same time keep on top of what I can actually do so I know how far I am recovered. I will have to be especially careful with the brace off to make sure that I don't forget to take it easy on my wrist.

And I have kept my floor clear for an entire week, thankyouverymuch. There are one or two items on it right now, but I should be able to have everything picked up before my appointment tomorrow morning. I think back over this week and how easy it has been to keep it clean down here and realize all I have to do to easily maintain this always is just never have a project to do. I figured out that that has been the biggest difference since my hand has been out of commission. It's not that I haven't ever tried just picking up a few items every night like I have been doing this last week and has kept it clean, it's that I haven't been able to do any projects that make the room explode like usual. It's the explosion I have a hard time recovering from, so I just let it layer until I have a room that takes until 3 am to clean. Sigh. At least over this holiday season I should have gimpy hands the entire time that may put enough of a damper on projects that I can keep it clean around here until the new year. That would be cool.

I have such plans to move things around in my house and I pretend that it is the lack of a right hand that prevents me, but really I have had these plans for months with a good hand and still haven't done them. I have shelves to put on the wall and I want to move some drawers downstairs and shove the craft desk into the cubby area in our living room. And I tell myself that things like that will fix the problem of mess that I have. I think I finally figured out that I have a subconscious conviction that there is some magical perfect arrangement of furniture that will make my house be orderly and tidy. I work out exactly how it should be and get things there and for about 3 weeks it seems right, and then I start to think about how some thing could be tweaked to make it just a little better, and ruminate on it until I have a list of about 20 tweaks and suddenly do them all and the room is totally different, and now it is perfect...for about 3 weeks. And none of this ever gets rid of the clutter. I think the problem is we just have too much stuff for our space. Someday I dream of having a house with space for our stuff. But I think I should seriously work on keeping stuff in order where we are at right now.

Part of my complaint is legitimate--I only have one living area that is mine right now, and it is living room, rec room, play room, craft room, computer room, and home office. I can't entertain while I'm working on a project without competely cleaning up the project (or else using Neoma's house to entertain in, which is why her living room gets cleaned about 10 times more often than mine does). Ditto with the toys. And the papers. I have such dreams. Dreams of a house with a formal living room that gets used for all sorts of entertaining, and for sitting alone when I need to be in a room with no mess. And a family room that can stay a mess. And an office with doors that close and keep kids out of my craft project (but windows from it into the family room so I can watch my kids but they can't get to me. Isn't that lovely?). These are my dreams. I hope they aren't fantasies, because I really do want to live in that house some day. Some day before I am finished having children, because it also has a nursery with a door to the hall and a door to my bedroom, and a clawfooted tub with sides high enough children can't crawl into or out of it until I trust them, and deep enough that I can be completely covered in water and one end slanted like a slide and a curtain that goes all the way around it so I can close it and the kids (it will be able to bathe at least 4 at once) can have a splashing party while sliding down the end without getting the whole room wet. Oh, such dreams. Someday, someday. Good thing I plan to be having children for the next 20 years. I still have some time. :)

Hm. I didn't know that was where this post was going to go. What other dreams do I have to share? I dream of having a big family. Whenever I think about my kids, I see them all different ages, a lot of them. I can't think about having teenagers without thinking about having babies at the same time. Sometimes I get so excited to find out what the family is like that the Lord has in store for me. How many children are there? When are they coming? What are their names? And yet I am so very content right now leaving the family planning up to God that the peace far outweighs any anxiousness attendant on not knowing. I am so happy to let God decide when my children should come because I know if he is planning it, that means that he is obligated to make me capable of mothering them. And I'll take his promise over my best reasoning any day.

Like right now. It just seemed so much like it was the right time for me to be starting another baby already, but He said no. And again he said no. And now I can see what He could see all along, but I couldn't see before, that now is the right time to get my hands fixed, and that would be much more difficult if not impossible to do if I were pregnant. And I know another child will come at exactly the time that the Lord has planned for us as long as I keep listening to Him and doing my best to be obedient in all things. And I know that it will make our family exactly the most perfect it can be. Does that count as recording the Hand of the Lord in my life? I think so, because I do recognize that that is what it is.

Happy, happy, love, joy, peace. That is my life. (and some random trial stuff and occasional stress, but mostly don't remember that.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's Other Post

I started out writing a post all around a video I took of the kids this morning, but I couldn't get it to upload (is it supposed to take more than an hour?). So I'll save that one for later and give you this instead.
My little Willow loves to take pictures with the camera and since it doesn't cost anything like film, I often let her, under supervision of course. Every picture in this post, except for the one of Willow, was taken by Willow without any assistance.

Of the dozens of pictures she took of me, here is one that was in focus, and not too bad. It also shows off my bandage. I am seeming to find more space in my bandage for my wrist to move as my hand gets stronger. It doesn't feel quite as restricted now as it did on days 3-5.

Apparently, however, I don't always watch her as closely as I tell myself I do, as this next series of photos attests--apparently she took the camera with her up and down the slide.

(the view of the room from the top of the slide--note the still tidy floor--and then a picture of her feet very much in motion, halfway down the slide)

And what had me so engrossed that I neglected my duty to assure the safety of our family's audio/visual equipment? Oh, Willow got a picture of that, too:
You guessed it: Blogging.

And the budding photographer herself:

I see the Hand of the Lord in how rapidly my hand seems to be healing. I can do more with it without weariness than I thought I would be able to at this point. I even was able to can some pumpkin yesterday--the biggest challenge of which was wielding the chef's knife. I was surprised how much I could do with a plastic glove on my hand to keep the bandage clean. A lot of the strength is back, though I still can't use my palm to press things or grip with any force. And I do get tired and have to rest it eventually, but not as much as I thought I would. It is good. And I'm sure Neoma is counting the days til I can change diapers again. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hand of the Lord and my Dentist

I have a brand new mouth, or at least, that's how I feel. I had a crown seated and 4 fillings done yesterday. It was supposed to be a crown and 2 fillings, but things don't work that way with my mouth.

I like my Dentist pretty well (you could also consider this a review of Dr. Thomas Natale of Woodinville, WA, if anyone is looking for a new dentist). I started going to him because his office is the closest to my house, and at the time I was looking for a dentist I didn't have any more compelling reason than that to narrow down the infinity of options in my area. I have been very happy with him. He has his own little office and a bevy of assistants and hygienists. If I had any complaint it would probably be that sometimes he seems to admire his own work a little too much, but it only comes across as mildly childish, not entirely unprofessional. And I have had absolutely no complaint with the work so far.

I particularly like that he is just as willing to say that I have done well keeping my teeth clean, or my children's teeth, when I have brought them in to see him. I don't like it when a dentist never seems to think anyone does a good job with their teeth, no matter how hard they try. But he doesn't sugar coat it when they do need work. And when I can't afford doing it all at once, neither he nor his helpers give me a hard time, but they do lay out everything for me truthfully.

He is inclined to talk and joke during his work, which I like, but others may not. Waits are never terribly long and often I am the only patient in the office. I have never shopped around to compare prices, but I've also never been terribly shocked by what I have paid and the convenience of their location combined with the pleasant atmosphere--small and friendly--makes savings I may find elsewhere not appealing enough to seek out. They also give me a discount for paying upfront (the day of the work--not billed later or through insurance). So I have been very satisfied.

I know my sister went to him for some work and there was a misunderstanding about insurance that cost her more money. (I don't have dental insurance, so this hasn't been a problem for me.) It seems that they will bill your insurance no problem, but they are not contracted (at least not to Regence), so they will bill you for whatever is above the "allowed amount" your insurance pays. And that wasn't clearly communicated in the phrase "Yes, we take that insurance."

But now on to my story for the day. I was having my crown seated and they found that my teeth had shifted since the original mold was taken and the crown was too crowded on one side to sit down all the way. So they had to grind a little bit off one side and that left the other side with too big of a gap. Luckily, as Dr. Natale said, the tooth on that side had a filling facing the side of the crown (which he had put in previously), so he could drill it out a little bit, then build it up to meet where the crown would sit.

Just as he was finishing this procedure and polishing it up, he noticed that at just about the gumline on that tooth, on the face that would be hidden by the crown, right at the edge of the original filling, was a little hole. He was surprised to find it, surprised he hadn't seen it on the X-rays (I think the exclamation he used was, "Crappola!" I laughed.) He pulled the x-rays back up and was able to find it when he searched for it. I have very tricky teeth that do not like to give up their secrets, even under radiation.

It was not too much more work (though it did mean anesthetic) to get that drilled out and filled, but I was actually surprised by the number of times Dr. Natale just shook his head and said in wonder, "I think someone was looking out for us." If he hadn't caught that cavity exactly when he did, if he hadn't had to drill out and build up that filling to make him even look at that tooth, even 5 minutes later the cavity would have been blocked in by a crown, and getting at it would have meant drilling out either most of the whole tooth or the brand new crown that they were about to glue down. He even came out to the waiting room as I was settling up my account to wonder at it and repeat that "Someone was looking out for us."

I've never heard him say anything even vaguely religious before. I was very happy to afford him the opportunity to have a little taste of divine intervention in his day. It was a missionary moment without even any effort. And it definitely was the Hand of the Lord in my life.

Cutting off my Face to Spite my Nose

I have no beef with my face. I know it's not at fault. It's my nose. I'm sure of it. That sneaky little rapscallion is turning them all against me. But all the same, that will probably all have to go.

If only I could. Do you ever have allergies so bad you just want to remove your face? It feels like it is all centered in my nose, the runny, itchy, sneezy, horibleness of it, and it spreads from there into my eyes and the skin of my forehead--itching, itching! I just want it all to go away. I take over-the-counter Zertec for it, and it works pretty well, but it takes forever to kick in, and I only take it when I need it, so I'm stuck suffering for hours once I've finally remembered to take it in the first place.

I've never been to an allergist, or even checked what the pollen count was or anything on days I was having trouble to try to find a correlation. Perhaps some day it will be bad enough or frequent enough that I will get serious and try to find a more lasting solution, but for now I will just moan and complain and periodically curse my nose, the foul feind.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Don't Think Analitics Was Broken

I think it was me.

I'm refering to my frustrations out loud to the world in this post. I checked analytics again today just for fun. It said that visits to this site were down 100% in the last month. I knew that wasn't right. Then I got a suspicion--it hadn't started having problems until I changed my template. It got screwed up about the time I first changed just the color to pinks, then it completely stopped working when I changed to an entirely different template--the one with rain. Meanwhile, it has been working for my other blog just great the entire time (I have not changed the template for that one at all). So I'm guessing that changing the template corrupted and then deleted the tracking snippet embedded in the HTML that I had to copy in there to get analytics to work.

If this was the case, then I decided I better choose a template I wanted long term then re-paste in the code. I went looking throught what was easily offered on bloggers background choices. There were a lot of really nice pictures and things. But I was having trouble pinning down one that embodied "Carol." Then I realized that although many of the pictures were nice, that was pretty much the problem. They all looked entirely too "successful." Not that I don't have great self esteem and think of myself as a success and all that jazz, but it just didn't feel in keeping with the point of my blog--unsuccess in the blogosphere, though massive success in real life. Then I saw this one. Nothing says unsuccess like weathered wooden boards. I love it.

Then I saved it, copied in the code anew, and hopefully analytics will be working right again. I'll let you know.

And a brief brag on Rhys, just like I concluded that other post, too: My little 21 month old can spell his name. He can't write it, but he can spell it. Any time he has something vaguely pen-like in his hand (a computer cord, a piece of silverware) he waves it on something in front of him and says "R, H, Y, S. Weece!" If he's somewhere I can't see him (like pretending to write on the wall in the hall) he'll often come running to find me yelling, "Weece, Momma! Weece! I uh Weece!" and then he will demonstrate what he just did again for me, "R, H, Y, S" while brandishing the something in his hand, and proudly proclaim, "Weece!" I didn't think much of this until Neoma pointed out that my little boy is some kind of genius that can spell his name before he is even 2 years old. My first thought was that it's more of just a memorized chant than any real connection to writing, but as I watched him do it over and over and over this evening, I realized that he really does connect it specifically to writing, and he only "writes" while he is saying the letters, the looks up to tell someone about it when he says "Rhys" and he knows full well that it is his name. So basically, yes, my son is a genius.

Ruminations on my New Leaves

A thought I had some years ago as I was looking out into my backyard, meditating (which I sometimes do), and started to think about weeds: Why are they so prolifically easy to grow while the plants we want take so much effort? It's just like good habits and righteous desires vs. bad habits and selfishness. The good takes so much constant work and vigilance to cultivate and can be snuffed out so quickly by the bad that so easily springs up of it's own accord without even a hand to plant or water or tend it. Why? Why are the weeds so easy and the good plants so hard? Why is selfishness so easy and righteousness so hard?

As I thought I began to think about some "weeds" that we fight so hard here (e.g. blackberries) that in other places are carefully cultivated while things we can't get to grow no matter how hard we try (e.g. oranges) grow themselves with practically no attention to their care. And I realized that the real secret to successful cultivation of the soul is not constantly pulling weeds and battling the elements which naturally favor what you do not want to grow, but to actually alter the climate and the soil of your soul to be hospitable to every good plant and naturally hostile to that which would destroy them.

Though this method of gardening is ultimately impossible for the literal gardener of physical fields, it is the only way, in the long run, to successfully cultivate ourselves. And I took great comfort in the thought that I won't forever have to pull ever increasing numbers of weeds from my soul. Eventually, as I continue to work to maintain my garden, The Lord will work to transorm my very nature. The weeds of wickedness will begin to wither and die out on thier own, and the strong hearty plants of good will flourish and proliferate of their own accord.

I had occasionally thought back on this metaphor and wondered how I was doing, hoping I was doing well. Then I had the RS meeting that discussed the talk by Elder Oaks (see the end of this post). After quoting some scriptures about the effects of what we do on who we are, he says, "From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become." (See this link, second and third paragraph, and the whole thing is good, too.) I was excited to hear the thoughts that had so helped me expressed in simple, literal (not metaphorical) terms by someone who is so much further on the path to "becoming" than I am. Sometimes validation is increadibly fufilling.

And then, while writing this post and reflecting on the new me that I see slowly emerging I realized that perhaps what I am seeing is some beginnings of deeper change--of becoming, not just doing. That the Lord has blessed me in my efforts to tend and cultivate these particular plants and has finally changed the climate of my heart to perfectly suit them.

I have no delusions that it makes me impervious to failings. In fact, I recognize that if I give up on this blessing I have been given and turn to cultivating bad habits, it will fall even further to hostile soil than I started out. But here I am now, and I rejoice in the blessings God has given me.

Prepare to be Impressed

I was just looking at my profile on the side of the screen and saw the phrase "disorder of my home" and I decided I needed to brag a little: I vacuumed my living room floor. I know, I know, but befored you are carried away with impressedness, there is more: I took pictures.

OK, now you are free to faint.

I was going to say that I cleaned my house, but then I realized that every other room is still a mess. And then I was going to say I cleaned my living room, but then as I was taking pictures, I realized that every surface besides the floor is still cluttered. But to get an idea of the magnitude of the task I accomplished, look at the mess on the desk in the picture and imagine that level of clutter over the entire floor. That was my living room until Thursday night. All it took was staying up until 3 am the night before my surgery, cleaning. I kept telling myself, "I'm supposed to sleep after the surgery. I can catch up then. But I can't clean afterward."

And about 3:30 I started to clear the desk and gave up to go to bed. And then I slept in through my alarm and was almost late to the surgery center. I was so not ready to be awake that I stumbled in, bleary eyed up to the receptionists and slurred my way through the preliminary questions. I fell asleep in the reclining chair where they had me wait after I was all prepped for surgery. And when I was coming out of the anesthesia I really have no idea how much of the grogginess was after-effects and how much was me just not being ready to be awake. I really wished they would all go away and let me sleep a little longer. But they didn't, and I had to get up and shuffle to the recovery area. I slowly regained my wits, though they were not very sharp, and I began to understand what was going on.

My visiting teacher was there to give me a ride home and she had to sign a bunch of paperwork for me. Then they released me to her care and I went home.

It was all worth it to have my visiting teacher come inside to help me into bed and to have a clean floor for her to walk across. I never remember to get things picked up so my living room is navigable (forget clean) before my visiting teachers come. I felt very impressive. And then I went to sleep.

Here is an act of Providence: My surgery (the timing of which I had no say in) was scheduled to be finished at the exact time in the morning that my visiting teacher who drives has a break between commitments.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Leaves #3 (and, lest you are bored of that, some unrelated news as well)

First the unrelated news: I have a bandage on my hand. I had carpel tunnel surgery on my right hand yesterday. All is well. I'm really glad I had it done. And I will be getting the other hand done in the near future. I have dealt with increasing carpel tunnel symptoms (self-diagnosed, of course) for the last 8 years or so. It got worse with pregnancy and after Rhys was born, it didn't get better. I would wake up in the morning or at some point during the night with numb fingers. Regular actvities would make my hands fall asleep (my left hand is starting to tingle as I type). When I would wear wrist braces for extended periods to prevent my hands falling asleep, my forearms and wrists would ache all day.

I've been planning eventually to consult with a hand surgeon and hopefully have the surgery done, but have put it off and put it off as just not the most important thing at the moment. Until I was notified that my insurance policy will be discontinued at the beginning of the year. I will be able to get a new one, but they won't offer the same level of coverage anymore (thanks to Obamacare). And that spurred me to pursue resolution for this problem before the end of the year. It was sort of a whirlwind, and here I am--limited right hand use but on the mend to hopefully better than new. Left hand to follow in about 3 weeks.

And the biggest evidence of the Hand of the Lord in my life right now: that I live in the same house with my sister who is amazingly willing to take care of me, even though she is 6 months pregnant. And a less-sought-after evidence, though very welcome once it is realized: I am not pregnant right now, despite 9 months of hoping and trying for the contrary. I recognize now the providence of not having pregnancy to contend with while pursuing surgical solutions for my hands. I am surely, surely grateful that God is arranging these things and not me, because he sure knows a lot more than I do.

OK, now the last of the new leaves I have been trying to get to--Getting up in the morning. I have always had trouble with this. My body just likes a lot of sleep. If I have morning apointments, I can get up for them, but I have a hard time fooling myself out of sleep when my chosen wakeup time is arbitrary. The alarm clock goes off and my lightning quick reflexes blast into action--Snooze Button! If I am lucky, my brain takes a moment to calculate exactly how much more time it can spend in a stupor before it jeapordizes punctuality. If I am super lucky, it calculates acurately. If I am not lucky, it says "are you kidding? I don't really want to do that early morning (pre-9:30 am) thing!" turns the alarm all the way off and goes back to sleep. For the past year or so, what has finally gotten me out of bed has tended to be a hysterically crying child in the next room or an unignorably wiggly and/or destructive child in my bed.

I have always wanted to be an early riser, but I am just such a good get-things-done-before-going-to-bed-er. Not that I always get everything done before I go to bed, but that if I get anything done (dishes, putting away laundry, preparing lessons, picking up the house) it happens after everyone else is asleep and before I go to bed. I would decide to go to bed early, but when it came down to the decision of the moment, I always opted for getting things done instead.

Then one day I gave myself permission to go to bed without doing it with the solemn promise to do it in the morning first thing. oarticularly, I had to get the dishes done before the Goulds got up because it was their dish day on the morrow and I was not allowed to leave dishes for my day for them to finish. (That's not to say it has never happened, but it was sufficient motivation to ge me out of bed.) And it worked. I started going to bed at 9 pm and was actually laying in my bed going to sleep at 10:00. I woke up before my alarm at 5 am. It felt so good. I don't think I'm totally there yet, especially not with the way this surgery has wacked out my body clock, but getting up without any other reason has suddenly become desireable on all levels, not just superficially. And with the new "mean mom" leaf fully flipped, I think I will feel a little less discouraged on mornings my children wake up early, too--I will just leave them in their room and still get things done. Yay!

As I've been thinking about these positive and seemingly permanent changes, I am reminded of a thought I had some years ago and a conference talk that was recently mentioned in a Relief Society lesson. The talk was given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. And now I have visitors, so it will be continued in the future.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Leaves Continued

So I was talking about the physical health leaf. I've always been overweight. That was just part of who I was. And I had some vague and fleeting longing to be different, but not enough to ever translate into some sort of action. And I was never excessivly fat, so I was OK with myself. I had incorporated more excercise into my life since leaving college and I had lost some weight at some point, but pregnancy has a way of re-setting your body, and I was just going with the flow. There was a period of a few months in 2005 where I tracked the nutrition content of everything I ate (which was extremely tedious because it was all done with pencil and paper from the nutrition labels I could look at or some looking up of nutrition content online, but recipes were especially timeconsuming). It was very eye-opening, and I lost about 20 lbs., but it didn't last. Not only was it tedious, but the diet I was trying to stick to was so low in fat and high in protein (not dangerously on either--I know the importance of balance) that it was unenjoyable enough I didn't really think about going back when I slipped out of it.

I watched my weight fluctuate and my body composition as well. My good friend who is a personal trainer would let me workout in her gym and "pinch" me (use body fat calipers to measure my Body Fat Percentage). After each of my children I was satisfied when I got back to my pre-pregnancy BFP, even though I was 10 or 15 lbs heavier overall. And then I started gaining weight after Rhys was born. My clothes weren't fitting and I wasn't happy with myself.

Oddly enough, the thing that tipped the scales on making a real life change was Kevin. Kevin was beginning to see that he was getting overweight, too, and he didn't like it. He talked a lot about things he could do and couldn't do about it. I remembered a website that my personal trainer friend had recommended called SparkPeople that has a calorie tracker and (my personal favorite) a recipe calculator. I helped Kevin get signed up and I started using my old account (I had logged in a couple of times), too. I would make a recipe on it for whatever we ate each night and email it to Kevin so that he could track his calories and see where he needed to change. And since I had it, I started tracking, too. I used the websites recommendation (which is a really standard one) of the proportions of types of calories you should consume each day, along with their recommendation of calorie intake for my (extremely conservative) weight loss goals. I found it to be extremely realistic and effective. The biggest suprize was to learn that the food I regularly ate really wasn't very far off of the recomended proportions; I just ate way too much of it. With a little effort and a decision at some point that it will be OK to feel hungry for the next month if it will help my body reset into a resonable understanding of how much food it really needs (I only ended up feeling hungry for a couple of days before my body learned what was going on).

I've lost about 40 lbs since January and for the last 5 months have been holding steady right around 155 lbs. That's at least 15 lbs less than I have ever weighed in my full-grown life. I am really comfortable here, and my BPF is at a really healthy level here, too. And right now I am staying here withouth tracking my diet, which is good because that phase of life just sort of slipped out as inexorably as it slipped in and I can no more tell you why I can't get the motivation to do it back than I could tell you where the determination came from in the first place. I just happened to me. And I am very happy it did.

The point is, trying to have a healthy relationship with food has changed for me from "this is something I am doing" to "this is who I am." I don't know what makes the difference in getting there, but the difference in being there is profound.

Something similar has happened with journal writing for me, as well. I've had periods of consistent journaling. But mostly in highschool or college. Recently, I have a journal that , in a year and a half, I filled 12 pages. Then I had a kick in the pants in the form of a conference talk read for FHE. It was by President Henry B. Eyring and he talked about recording in your journal how you have seen the Hand of God at work in your life each day, and doing this not only for yourself, but for posterity as well. It pricked my conscience and spurred me to write in my journal almost every day for about 1 month. Then I stopped abruptly and didn't think about that again. That was in 2008. I wrote a couple more entries in later 2008, but nothing more for another year and a half. (I have kept this blog irregularly during that time.)

I started writing in my journal again at about the same time I started eating better. The goal is every day, but I do miss here and there. The big difference is that in the past when I miss a day it usually leads to two days and I forget all about journal writing. The longer the break, the less likely I will remember to go back (and then it is 2 years). But now, for some reason, every day that I miss writing in my journal I think about it all day long, and plan how I am going to get back to my "real" life, you know, the one where I write in my journal. This isn't really me, this non-journal writing person. This is just something I'm doing at the moment. But a journal writer is who I really am. Just this last week I have finally decided that I could make a blog post to satisfy my journal determination with the one provision that it must include, as my journal entries must, how I see the Hand of the Lord in my life today. That's why I've had those stuck on the last couple of entries (at least the first one of the day). And having that record of the Lord's dealings with me and my family makes a huge difference in my desire to write something daily. It also makes a huge difference in how I view my life. This is good.

And I need to go to work for the day.

The Mean Mom Leaf

I think I've probably peeked under this leaf before, but I think I've fully flipped it this morning. I make Rhys cry in bed for more than an hour even though I was awake. Part of what I was trying to get to in the "new leaves" post (and will eventually get to, just give me a minute) is all of the things I am doing better with. One of these is waking up early in the mornings. The way I have been able to do this so far is by going to bed without doing the things that still need to be done like dirty dishes and washing diapers and then getting up correspondingly early and doing them in the morning before the kids get up instead of after they are in bed at night. This works sometimes, but other times they don't sleep in, and I have children awake at 5:30 clamboring for attention and a house in shambles because I didn't get to it last morning when they woke up at 6:30 either. In the evening I can at least be assured that they really are asleep, or at least know that I am going to leave them in their rooms whether they are asleep or not because it is bed time and we don't get out of bed here.

So when I heard him crying this morning and I was just waking up and I still had the headache I went to bed with hoping it was a lack of sleep headache and would be gone in the morning and I knew he only had 2 clean diapers left and that will only last long enought to get the others clean if I start them washing before I change him the first time and I really didn't want a child climbing on me and tearing my bedroom apart while I tried to read scriptures and I'm going to get to blogging again today, dash it all! and I am trying my hardest to follow the council in D&C 88:124 and I am not feeling invigorated! I lie in my bed for a long time thinking about it, then I prayed about it really hard, then I left him. His anguished and incessant cries of, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" broke my little heart. But I left him anyway. And guess what? An hour and a half later, he stopped crying. Maybe he went back to sleep. I hope, I hope. And I fully plan to leave him again in the future. And again and again. If I can take the heartbreak of meanmotherhood.

I believe that my decision not to get Rhys this morning was guided by the Hand of the Lord to help me learn how to find the fulfillment of His promises.