Friday, February 3, 2017

Things my kids say (and other life updates)

I know that it can be irksome--especially when one doesn't have children--to read FB statuses which are full of kid anecdotes.  So I'll put it in blog form and that way you can avoid them, you grinches.  (Just kidding.)

Yesterday, while Max and I were waiting in the hallway of his school for his preschool classroom to open, he saw a classmate wearing a shirt emblazoned with superheroes.  Max said with his usual enthusiasm, "Oh, hey, I LOVE your superhero shirt!  And guess what?!  I am wearing my superhero underwear today!"  The other boy looked nonplussed, which Max took as license to continue on.  "I also got NEW BLACK UNDERWEAR!!!"  (For some reason, he really digs black underwear, apparently.)  After a moment's reflection, Max said, "I bet he'd like to see my underwear!"

This, of course, is when I reminded him that even in the unlikely event that the boy would like to see them, it was not appropriate.  Max smiled wistfully and said, "Yeah, I know, but I bet he would anyway."  Well, no, probably not.  Oh well.

Ben, a sturdy 3 year old nowadays, is completely and utterly anti-potty.  Cries just sitting on his little potty.  Since I've been getting nauseated just being in the bathroom for the last few months of this pregnancy, I haven't made any serious attempt at the potty training, although it sure would be swell not to have two kids in diapers again come summer time.  Lately, Ben has taken to whining at me while I'm wiping his bottom during diaper changes that "Mommy, you're hurting my feelings."  Spare me, son.

We also know now that his language therapy last year paid off big time. 12-18 months ago he was nearly non-verbal.  Now he doesn't STOP talking.  When it rains, it pours!

Speaking of, January was a rough month, folks.  Here in the greater Portland area was categorized by an unusual amount of snow and ice, and our city is not equipped to deal with it whatsoever.  Thanks to environmental concerns (and, to be fair, a general lack of snow in our climate), Portland doesn't salt roads, nor does it have enough snow plows. So the city's plan is to just wait and let the snow melt on its own.  The highways do get cleared fairly quickly, but almost any other road, including other major arterials, get nothing.  The snow gets packed down and slick and accidents abound.

Allen was the victim of one such accident. The second week of January, a lady spun out on some ice and smacked him head on.  He walked away unhurt, thank God, but his truck was seriously messed up.  It's taken almost a month but we finally got word that the truck was considered a total loss and we will receive insurance compensation  so Allen can buy a "new-to-him" truck soon (another gratitude; Allen was also deemed totally not at fault in the accident.)  So he's been truckless for most of January.  Thankfully, we still had the Toyota Echo sitting around in his mom's driveway, so he was able to use that (and for a week and a half he drove a rental car which was partly covered by insurance).

 Still, being truckless put a crimp in his usual scrap-gathering routine, which is doubly unfortunate because he's been temporarily laid off for most of January with no end in sight.  Thankfully he's had a remodeling side job to keep money coming in, but that is soon going to be drawing to an end.  It sounds like he can apply for temporary unemployment once the side job stops, though, so that will also help.  And if all else fails we do have a tax refund coming our way soon.  Providence is real.

Healthwise, January was rotten.  Upon returning from our otherwise great trip to see my family in St. Louis, I came down with the flu.  Not the throwing up kind (although I was already doing that thanks to morning sickness); just the aches, chills, fever, and general lethargy kind.  It spread through the family. Then at the end of January a nasty 48 hr diarrhea bug went through the household too. Ugh.  As you can imagine, that didn't do any favors for my nausea and throwing up. Between weather shutting down school and kids being sick, I think Ruby may have only gotten to school for less than half of the month.  Yikes!

 It was a better month for morning sickness relief, probably thanks in part to getting a Zofran prescription and thanks in part to moving into the second trimester.  But I still have nausea and alas my Zofran refill is caught in jnsurance limbo right now so I don't have any at the ready.  :(

But at the end of February we get to find out the sex of Cook baby #4, and I'm excited for that.  If old wives' tales can be believed, this just has to be a girl.  The sickness, the acne, the cravings for all adds up.  And I have a girl name picked out that I just love: Ivy Anne.  Ivy because I like the sound of it and it fits with our other kids' names well and there's a nice C.S. Lewis character by that name; Anne for my mom's middle name and St. Anne (and "Anne with an e" of Green Gables, of course.)  But we'll be happy with a boy, too, of course.  If a boy, we're thinking Samwise (Sam for short) Pio. Samwise for Frodo's loyal companion in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Pio for St. Padre Pio and for "pius Aeneas" from the Aeneid.  I would also be happy with a middle name of Chrysostom, Athanasius, Cyprian, or Jerome for some older-school saints.  Samwise Cyprian is a nice alliterative name.  I guess we're not as settled on the boy name yet because I just feel so sure it's a girl!  But time (and ultrasounds) will tell...

Quite a mixed bag month (and that's not even getting into politics and nation & world affairs!!!), but not without blessings and Providential outcomes. Deo gratias. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The things left behind

I got an email from Amazon suggesting that I might want to purchase a refill of printer toner. What Amazon doesn't know, of course, is that I used to buy it on Roger's behalf and have it shipped to his house, since he was none too tech savvy. 

I won't be needing to place that order again, since Roger (my husband's grandpa) died in a car crash last July. It's odd and bittersweet the way little reminders come back to you months (and years, I suspect) later.  

Allen just received some of his possessions, including his very trusty travel mug which went everywhere with him...and it even had his plastic flexi-straw in it. Funny story about that: it wasn't the kind of straw that comes with the cup, just the regular kind that is meant to be disposable. Except that this is Roger we're talking about, so he didn't dispose of it. Waste not, want not. I don't even know how old that straw is. And Roger's beverage of choice in his travel mug? Hot water. Roger was quite a fellow. Allen's keeping the straw, though not to drink with. I think he's going to put it up in his shop somewhere as a little reminder of his grandpa.  

Again, it's odd and bittersweet the things that call forth the memories. Why a drinking straw? Why not a piece of art or something more distinguished and destined for permanence? For some people, those would be the kind of mementos which most evoke their presence. Roger, though, was a man of pragmatism. He found beauty in utility and hard work. "Work makes life sweet," was his mantra, adopted from his German-from-Russia forebears. He truly loved working. Teaching, administrating, manual labor: it was all good. Allen is the same way. He'll never retire; well, maybe someday he'd quit a "day job" but then it would be onward to other things. It runs on my side, too. When my own maternal grandpa "retired" it was to start a Christmas tree farm and to be a commercial fisherman. He worked at mowing and farm upkeep until physical frailty prevented him in the last years of his life. My paternal grandmother was the longest serving state employee in Connecticut with over 50 years of teaching at the state college/university. They did what they loved until their bodies couldn't keep up. 

Had Roger not been in the car accident, he'd be maintaining his busy pace today. He was going to go hard till the end, because what else was life about? And you can bet that drinking straw was going to get used until it was too full of holes to function as anything but a sprinkler! His frugality, his work ethic, and his salt-of-the-earth nature somehow are perfectly encapsulated in that humble straw. So although it may be a strange, strange souvenir of one's grandfather, it seems quite fitting to keep it.

What, I wonder, of mine would be treasured and kept? Would it be my writing? Artwork? Or would it be something I can't even predict because it seems too mundane? How much of a say do any of us have in the things we leave behind? Some, to be sure. We live a legacy, for good or ill. But as for the tangible leftovers--the sacramentals, if you will--which will bring a smile or a good thought to loved ones who remain...I don't think it can be planned out to a full extent. That is as it should be. I can stipulate in a will or estate plan if I want certain things to be given to certain people. But I can't dictate the memories of me which people will hold, nor can I control which objects will evoke such memories. In life and in death, we never have complete control.  

Could Roger have imagined that this cup and straw would become an esteemed possession? Likely not; but I think he would be quite pleased that it was still working hard.

Rest in peace, Roger (and Roberta, too). Your work is ended; enter into the joy of rest for a change! ;)

Roger and Ruby, 2011

Roger and Max, 2013

Roberta, Karla, Roger, and Ben, 2013

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Very Fine Birthday, Indeed

 What a satisfying birthday it has been.  Thank you to everyone who commented on my Facebook wall, called me up, sent a card or gift,  and otherwise brightened my day.

Because I'm a grown up and I CAN, I had already opened some birthday presents: gift card moolah to two of my favorite stores (JoAnn Fabric and Michael's), and spending money for some new clothes and some tasty samplings of charcuterie and chèvre from Allen, and, of course, the undying affection of my children.  Heh.  I did have some good quality time playing Legos with Max and Ben and watching all of them frolic at the park this afternoon.
The day still held some surprise gifts, however. These lovely flowers were dropped off on my porch along with a balloon this afternoon with no identifying note.  I'm not sure who it is from, but I thank them.  It was such a treat to come home to. 
There was the gift of beautiful weather; an Indian summer day, perhaps the last reprieve we'll see for a while from the gray rainy skies.  We walked to fetch Max from school and played at a park on the way home.  

A friend used the marvels of technology to send me Starbucks moolah over the computer.  Love it!

Scads of sweet notes and well-wishes on my Facebook wall, which I always love to see.

But the happiest gift of all? It was one I'd been hoping for but didn't know if I'd receive...  
1-2 weeks along is what the 1-2 means...not 1-2 kids as Allen remarked.
As the pregnancy test indicates, it is very early on: estimated due date is early-mid July.  In my previous pregnancies, I always followed the advice that it was only "safe to announce" after the 3rd month or so, lest there be a miscarriage.  But after severely suffering from postpartum depression after Ben was born, I have reconsidered my stance on "waiting until it is safe."  I spent too long suffering in silence and it was only when I'd truly hit a breaking point with the depression that I sought the much-needed help.  

The whole incident (a months long process of counseling, medication, and just plain ol' time) made clear to me that I don't do well with trying to live life in isolation, especially in depressing circumstances.  If I miscarry this pregnancy (which is statistically likelier given that I'm no longer in my 20s), I don't want this teeny weeny person to be a secret that I have to try to hide.  I don't want to pretend like this baby never existed.  If my baby dies, I will need the love and support of those around me, whether in the form of a shoulder to cry on or reading a sympathy message on FB from someone who has "been there" and can encourage me in a difficulty hour.  

This, by the way, is not said as a judgment against the vast majority of people who do decide to wait to tell others. I speak for myself: I don't do well with "powering through" alone.  I'm prone to depression and anxiety, and isolation only exacerbates these tendencies.  That's why I'm putting it out there now.  

Allen and I are very excited.  The kids will be over the moon.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Everything's better with scrap metal: Halloween Edition

In our neighborhood...
My mom was quite the inventive costumer, although her tools of the trade were more along the lines of cardboard refrigerator box/paint.  I don't remember a costume request that was too outrageous for her to pull off.  I rarely asked to do really spectacular things because I preferred fancy dresses.  I think my biggest production costume was being a motorcycle chick, complete with sandwich-board style motorcycle.
My brothers were the ones who consistently throught up neat things.  Some that I remember:
*a refrigerator
*a kitchen sink
*a Lego brick
*a Pepsi can
*a Hawaiian punch box
*a box of McDonald's Fries

I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but those were the biggies.  One of the things I particularly enjoyed was that in the refrigerator and kitchen sink costumes, my mom incorporated a way to make the candy holder part of the costume.  In the sink, for example, there was a bag underneath the drain hole which caught the candy.   I've never had the opportunity to incorporate that creativity...until this year.

Max had a hard time deciding what to be for Halloween.  This is partly because we nixed anything that is evil.  We try only to have costumes that are morally neutral or morally upstanding (we'll just consider Batman to be on the good side and leave aside his tortured soul for the time being).  Max wanted to be a vampire, and after that was ruled out, a "rooster that killed people."  I'm not sure where he got that notion: cock fighting?? 

Finally, Allen told Max he'd make him a robot costume, which was satisfactory to Max.  Specifically, he wanted to be "an electroful robot."  When your dad is a scrapper, this is easily managed.  Allen has a whole bucket of little odds and ends for such purposes.  Allen started with a getting an empty water cooler jug and cutting off the top and bottom. He ended up having to cut it down the middle in order to fit it on Max.  At first he attached dryer vent directly onto it to make the arms...but it seriously limited Max's arm mobility.  He didn't much care for it.

Back to the drawing board.  He removed the dryer vent and widened the armholes a little bit.  I hot glued on quite a few bits of scraps here and there.  Then in the back we taped on a plastic tube which originally held spaghetti noodles and taped on some dryer vent. This became the candy chute, which of course had a gauge (non-functional, but cool nonetheless).  I used more dryer vent to make greaves with wheels attached and sleeves studded with battery-powered mini LED lights (Dollar Store find!). Finally, I spray painted a helmet silver and glued more scrappy wires on.  Here was the final product:

And some close ups:

Note the awesome lightbulbed arms!

The water jug was called Sparkletts, which seemed perfect for an "electroful" robot!

The candy meter!
On to Ruby's costume.  Ruby loves princesses with a passion, so it was a natural choice when we were given a Princess Aurora outfit some time back.  The greatest appeal of dressing as a princess means that she gets to wear makeup for the occasion.

Allen told her to make a kissy face...looks like Max followed suit!

As for Ben, he requested to be Batman, but I didn't realize this until a few weeks ago.  He just said, "bat!"  I thought he meant the winged mammal.  But one day we were in a store and he saw some Batman merchandise and pointed at it and said, "I be that bat!" Mystery solved. It was nice and easy.  He wore black clothes, a furry hat (I know Batman's cowl isn't truly furry, but this is what we had), and a black cape which I made by cutting away the front and arms of one of Allen's old black shirts.  I printed out two Batman logos on yellow cardstock, then affixed one to the cape and one to the shirt.  Easy peasy and pretty cute!

For reasons unknown, when Allen asked Ben, "Who are you?" as he took the picture, Ben yelled, "I BATMAN!" and lifted up his shirt.  


"Okay, okay."

"What's wrong with lifting up my shirt?!" he seems to be thinking.

The caped crusader and his haul of candy

I just love this picture of him!  Man on a mission.
For home decor, we got a pumpkin from the Flower Farmer in Canby.  They have a cute pumpkin patch with a hay bale pyramid, train, and animals for petting (including the softest rabbit I have ever felt!)
I did the carving today,which explains the prominent use of triangles, because those are easy, and I don't like complicated carving.   
Triangles...everyone likes them...triangles.
 These were the pumpkins we grew in our garden, the "Ghost" variety that were white.  Each kiddo painted their own.

Mercifully it was not a rainy Halloween, but we still didn't have a single trick or treater! Perhaps next year...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dealing with Mildew

::dusts off blog, blows cobwebs away from URL, and flexes fingers::

Now, where were we? April?  Ah. Right.

So much has happened since then that I dare not attempt one huge recap post.  I'll just plow ahead.  Carry on.

If you, like me, live in the Pacific Northwest, you may be familiar with mildew and mold. It's so soggy here that even upholstered items which aren't directly in the rain can be affected.  I discovered this first hand last spring, when my beloved double stroller looked like it was freckled all over its upholstery.

I feared that it was irredeemable and resolved to look for a new one on CL.  But that stroller was in good shape otherwise, which in itself is a miracle considering how much it's been used and banged around since it was given to us as a hand-me-up in 2012.   I decided that it was at least worth a salvage attempt.

Naturally, it was a job for Pinterest. I researched several different testimonials/tutorials of cleaning mildewy things and tried a few out. Some worked better than others, but I finally stumbled upon a solution which worked--huzzah!  The stroller is with us still.

It's Respect Life month, and our church donates items to Hope 360, a local pregnancy resource clinic.  One of the items being requested was a new or gently used, recently manufactured infant car seat.  I just so happened to have an extra which was in fantastic least, it was when I got a hold of it in March.  I was going to give it to someone who was expecting, but they didn't end up needing it.  It sat outside under our covered patio ever since, and when I went to clean it off, it was disgusting.  The straps were greenish, the fabric black-bespeckled, and full of pine needles and cobwebs.  Time to try out my super-duper method and breathe new life into it.

After vacuuming out all pine needles, dust, and cobwebs, I removed the upholstery and then gave all the plastic parts and the straps (which can't be fully removed) a good scrub with Lysol wipes.  After it was dry, I spritzed it down with a mold remover mixture that I made (I think I got the "recipe" from Tsh Oxenreider's book Organized Simplicity.)  It's a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 tsp. tea tree oil, which I have in a trusty Dollar Tree spray bottle.  I think it smells nice.

For the upholstery, I gave it a wash in hot water with bleach and Shout and dried it in the dryer.  It did some to help, but not enough.

Time for the magical step: straight bleach and a hair dryer.

After donning latex disposable gloves, I used some cotton squares (the kind for removing makeup) and rubbed undiluted bleach on the problem areas.  Even applying the bleach helped, but blowing hot air from the hair dryer sealed the deal.
Compare the top half with the bottom!

After getting every nook and cranny taken care of, I gave it one last wash (cold water cycle, no bleach) and dry and put it back on.  It looks great and I hope it will be of help to a mom out there who doesn't have the funds to buy her baby a car seat.

That's my trick.  The best part is that the cover doesn't even have to be removable (although if it is, I'd still give it a wash before and after just to be sure). You can apply the bleach and use the hair dryer.
"Won't it affect the fabric and lighten it?"  I think it depends, and I *think* that's why using the blow dryer helps.  It did lighten the fabric on my stroller upholstery somewhat, but did not lighten the car seat upholstery whatsoever.  Then again, the car seat fabric is kind of that water-resistant type, so that could explain it, too.  I think it's worth the effort if it's something you don't want to throw away.  It's worth a try.

That's all I've got for now.  One of the reasons I get bogged down on blogging is the feeling that I have to go back and update every blessed thing that I haven't written about.  Then I get overwhelmed at the prospect and put it off.  Of course, the more time passes, the more there is to write about, and the more overwhelmed I feel.  This is a constant issue for me and it's the same with house projects.  Maintenance is better than marathon sessions of anything, but maintenance requires more discipline, and sometimes it feels as though I have that in sadly short supply.

All that to say that I'm letting myself off the hook of "having" to put in all the cute pictures that I should could and just let this post be short and sweet.  Besides, I have to pick Ruby up from school our new-to-us minivan, about which I could not be more grateful.  It is a gift among gifts, but I'll have to save the story of it for another time.  :)

Friday, April 15, 2016


Hello all!  Been a while, hasn't it?  I'm cutting back on my social media usage because it does more harm than good for me right now.  Election years are never pretty but this one has more than its fair share of disgusting features, and it seems as though there are more "Debbie Downer" type of articles shared around than positive ones.  It's hard not to get worn down...well, hard for me.  I know some people are good at making like Elsa and letting it go, but I don't seem to have that ability at this time.

And yet, Facebook and Instagram are legitimately important ways to keep up with far-flung family and friends...and even the not-so-far-flung ones as well.  It is the equivalent of the watercooler at work for stay at home moms: a place to check in with the funny stories or aggravating moments of the day.  And since my family members (as opposed to my in-laws) live nowhere nearby, it's a good way to keep them posted on the daily happenings of the kids.

Except...that's why I originally started this blog way back in 2011.  It wasn't meant for anyone except my mom and grandma and any other folks who happened to be interested in cute pictures and the occasional monologue on whatever I was thinking about.

In 2013-2014 I started blogging on a wider array of thoughts and got plugged into a wider network of bloggers.  I never saw blogging as a really sustainable source of income--there are far too many other blogs that are more useful and widely applicable than mine--but it was kind of neat to connect with people outside my geographic/familial sphere.

Thus the blog identity crisis (and I use those terms extremely loosely) of 2015: for whom am I writing?  Why? What about? How often? At all???  I didn't have any answers, and because it was far from a burning issue in my everyday life, the blog was relegated to a comatose state.

With the decision to pull back from Facebook/Pinterest/surfing the net--does anyone say that anymore?!--I think it's the right move to step back up to the blog to renew my original plans to use it as a way to keep friends, loved ones, and anyone else who is interested up to date on our happenings.

As the title indicates, I want to talk about contentment (and God's sense of humor.)  We've moved 7 times in just under 6 years.  Of all the places we've lived, this is the one we least suspected we'd stay in for long.  As I've mentioned, oh, a gazillion times, it is small and old and there's always something that needs to be repaired or redone.  We bought it in March of 2014.  Allen moved into it in May to begin about two frenzied months of gutting and renovating while the kids and I enjoyed life in St. Louis with my folks.  We came back in July and have been here since then.  That means this is the place we've lived in the longest since we've been married.  The previously held record for longevity was in our 2 bedroom apartment in Oregon City which we lived in for a whole 14 months.  We've been living here for nigh on 2 years now.  It's not what we expected to happen.  

Somehow, though, I'm coming to be at peace with living in the house that wasn't the house we wanted to live in for more than a year or so. There's still lots of work to do on the place, and poor Allen's to-do list never seems to get shorter.  And yet, it's paid for.  No mortgage.  Property taxes about $5 for the year.  There's a fenced yard for the kids to play in and a biggish shed for our stuff and Allen's shop area.  We have what we need.

I once heard a lady talking about years of misery in her marriage with an alcoholic and philandering husband.  She finally decided that enough was enough and filed for divorce...only to learn that he had recently been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.  She decided not to go through with the divorce.  "Sure, he's been a jerkface for years, but he's MY jerkface, and I'm not going to ditch him when he most needs someone to help him."

This house may not be any great shakes, but it's OUR house.  Do we hope something bigger and newer will come along in the next few years?  Oh yes!  But unless/until that happens, we are content to live here and to be gratefully content with our perfectly imperfect house which suits our perfectly imperfect life.  Besides, we're already in the top 1% of people in the world in terms of worldly riches and assets. Comparing our situation to our many of fellow Americans (or anything in Pinterest land) can really blind me to the amazing privilege I take for granted on a minute-by-minute basis.

Thanks for reading, and thanks especially again to all those who helped us financially with getting the bathroom fixed up. I can't tell you how awesome it is to take showers without staring at a tarp every day, and the older two kids definitely enjoy being able to take a long, proper bath now and not just having to be showered down.

TTFN...ta-ta for now!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Back to School...Sort of

Well, here we are, the end of September, and I haven't put up any back to school photos of my kids!  Of course, they only started on September 14th, so I'm not too behind, I suppose.

Ben is really feeling sad and left out.
He insisted on wearing a backpack but he knows he's not going anywhere...

Max with his wonderful teacher, Betsy, at Redland Montessori in Oregon City.  He started there in April last year.

 Meanwhile, in Gladstone, here's Ruby at her desk in kindergarten!!! How on earth do I have a kindergartener already?

Ben, in front of Ruby's school
 So now it's just Ben and me in the mornings 4 days a week, doing light housework ;)

Packing up the box fans for the season...

Allen's back to school for Year 3 of his carpentry apprenticeship on Monday nights.  

The title says, "sort of."  Here's why: I just received a message that due to a lack of enrollment, Redland Montessori will have to shut its doors.  I am sad that Max will not be able to continue there, but I'm glad he did have some time there to learn and grow, and I completely understand that Betsy is doing the best thing for her family even though it must be so hard for her.  It reminds me of the very difficult decision I made to leave MRA mid-year not long after Ben was born.  God knows how I ached from that.  We have loved our time with Betsy at her school.  

Now what? I don't know.  For now, homeschool-preschool while we investigate Headstart or St. John the Apostle's preschool.  But you can pray for me, because of my three kids, Max is definitely the one I would NOT have considered the ideal homeschool candidate.  He's smart as a whip, so I'm not worried about him academically, but he and his mama do tend to butt heads over just about everything.  Well, well, we shall see.  As they say, more shall be revealed...and of course, I'll keep you posted.  ;)