Friday, November 17, 2017

Imperfect Produce: A Candid (Unsponsored) Review

If you live in the Bay Area, LA, Orange County, Portland, Seattle, or Chicago--I strongly encourage you to get on board.

Before I go on, I must stress that Imperfect Produce is NOT paying me to say any of this, nor rewarding me for writing this.  At the end, if I've convinced you and you decide to sign up, you're free to use my referral link and I'll get a discount off of my next order...but you don't have to!

Okay, back to ImPro, as it abbreviates itself.  The idea of the company is simply that too much perfectly good produce (both conventional and organic) is going to waste just because it doesn't meet the visual standards of most grocery stores. The produce ImPro sends your way is either too small or too big, too misshapen, or too blemished to sell well at your local grocer.  ImPro advertises that they sell for 30-50% less than what you'd pay in store.

So, does this mean that the product is 30-50% worse than what you'd buy normally?  Not in my experience!  I was wondering if they'd send the kind of thing I get from my food sharing network: a box of strawberries that's about 1/3 moldy and 2/3 good.  Certainly not ImPro's way of doing things. Everything has been fresh and delicious. In fact--if anything--it's really opened my eyes to the ridiculous standards that grocery stores must have about "what the public demands."  Either that, or the public really has become far too picky. The produce which I receive once a week looks just fine and tastes great.

Here are some pros listed in bullet form:

  • You customize your box in three ways: type, general size, and what's included.  You can choose from All Veg, All Fruit, Mixed Veg and Fruit, or All Organic.  As for size of box, you can choose from S, M, L, XL. And then each week you have a briefish (36-48 hrs) window of time to select from their list of what's available to go into your box.  Don't like persimmons? Take them out. Want 3 lbs of potatoes instead of 1?  You can do that.
  • It's not hard at all to change the size or type of box.  Just log in and change. Experimenting seems to be encouraged.
  • My family of 5 table food eaters gets a Medium box each week, although I might switch to Small. Alas, my kids are not big veg eaters.
  • The boxes aren't priced by a flat rate. You choose a size, which provides a range of how much is available (for example, I don't think I can order 20 lbs of potatoes in a Medium box), but the price is determined by what exact produce is inside.  This week, the things I chose only came to $9, but since I usually forget to customize my box, it is about $15 a week.
  • On that note of cost, it is possible to qualify for reduced rates based on income, which we do.  If you qualify (and I believe they use California's financial benchmarks to decide), you receive a 33% discount.  Pretty awesome!
  • Produce in Portland is delivered on Wednesdays, and you select a window of time during the day you'd like to receive your box. You can either choose a morning/afternoon slot or an afternoon/evening slot. Thet send you a text when the delivery is close to arriving and a text when it's been delivered. You specify the exact location and they put it there (i.e doorstep, behind the gate, porch, etc.)
  • No excess packaging.  The only thing I've seen come in a plastic bag was a bunch of radishes.  Otherwise, everything is just jumbled in your cardboard box together.  Personally, I like that.  No wasted plastic to speak of, and you can recycle the box, or even reuse it for your own purposes, as it's nice and sturdy.
  • In-season produce is perhaps better represented in availability but you'll still find things right now (late fall) like tomatoes, kiwi, etc.  I guess this could be a con but I like seasonal eating.
  • Each week they provide a nice recipe card suggesting uses for some item(s) of their produce.  I LOVE that feature! So cool!
Are there any cons? I had to think hard and this is all I could come up with:
  • The delivery windows of time span about 7 hours, which means that the evening one runs from 3pm-11pm.  It's really all over the map when you'll get your box. You don't have the same delivery person every time; it's kind of Uber-esque in that it's regular folks in their cars. One time I did get slightly freaked out by a 10:45 pm delivery opening our gate, but the texts before and after helps.
  • I wish they would send a text reminding you that you only have 6 more hours (or 12) to customize your box, since the customization window is on the shorter side. They DO send an email reminder but for a forgetter like me, an additional text would be nice.
  • If you eat lettuce based salads every day, you'll probably still have to go buy enough lettuce from the store; it doesn't seem to be offered as frequently.
  • It's not available widely throughout the country.  If you don't live in one of the 6 places I listed in the first sentence, you're out of least, so far. 
Anyway, I'd give it an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up.  I've had a very precipitous drop-off in buying produce from regular stores, and we've been doing this for 7-8 weeks or so.  I think it's definitely worth looking into if you live in an area.

If you do decide to try it out, if you use this link, YOU will get a $10 credit and I will too!  It's a win-win!  

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sam's Birth Story (3+ months later...)

Here's the story of Sam's birth.  Nothing queasy-making, don't worry.  Unless you hate the word "dilated" which case, don't bother.

This pregnancy was my most trying one.  The entire first trimester (plus the fourth month) was full of nausea and vomiting multiple times a day.  Months five and six of the second trimester were a welcome reprieve.  The third trimester was full of the usual aches, pains, and for the last month, early labor!  It wasn't the usual Braxton-Hicks kind of contractions (although those were present, too): these were real contractions which would last for an hour or two and make me wonder, "Is this the real thing?"  And then, they'd quit.  They were true signs of labor, because at my weekly appointments for three weeks running I went from 1 to 2 to 3 cm dilated.  Progress was being made, but slowly and with lots of "false alarms."

Week 38 arrived and I went in for my weekly checkup. My regular OB was on vacation so I saw someone else.  Her nurse assistant asked me the usual barrage of questions, including "How often do you feel baby move in a day?"  Sam definitely moved but not once an hour or whatever they say is normal. I mentioned this and she decided it would be good to hook me up to the fetal monitor to make sure everything was fine.  Okay.  After about 15 minutes of monitoring, the OB came in and read the results.  "I want you to go over and get an ultrasound in the birth center.  I'm not seeing enough movement to feel comfortable about sending you home," she said.  She also gently chided me for not coming into the hospital sooner when I mentioned that I'd been having several nights of labor pains. I explained that I had been waiting for my water to break or to see some of the other tell-tale signs.  "Don't wait for those!  They don't always happen before labor gets serious. You've had two c-sections, which means a scar twice opened AND your chart said that it was infected last time.  I DON'T want you to labor at home for long.  You need to play it safe if you want to try for a VBAC," she instructed me.  Point taken!

Being monitored in the birth center gave me a chance to catch up on vapid home renovation shows for an hour or so and to find out the good news that Sam was doing just fine in there after all.  I went home.  That was on Tuesday, June 27.

I went to bed on Wednesday night feeling generally icky and crampy but figuring it would go away.  It was calm enough for me to get some sleep, but in the wee hours the pain was enough to wake me up and keep me awake, wondering. Did I need to go in?  Should I just wait it out, as I'd done for many nights in the last three weeks?  At about 3:30 AM, I decided that these cramps were not going away and were fairly regular, and that if I wanted to get to the hospital on my own steam, I'd better get going. I woke Allen up and told him that I was going to go in.  "It might be nothing, but I should go anyway.  I'll text you if it's the real deal, and you can take the kids to the Fullers' (friends who had agreed to be on call)."  Allen sleepily okayed the plan.  I drove the good ol' Toyota Echo, hospital bag in tow, the 7 minutes to Willamette Falls Medical Center up in Oregon City, where I'd delivered all of Sam's siblings.  As I was driving, the "check engine" light came on.  "Oh, Lord...just let me get to the hospital," I begged.  Get there I did, and checked myself into the Birth Center.  I think the receptionist may have rolled her eyes into the back of her head when she heard I'd driven myself there, but they got me into my room and began the usual procedures.  I had the sweetest nurse; mind you, I've never had a bad one, but she was simply angelic and motherly.

It was about 4 AM when I got settled in at the hospital; now nothing remained but to wait and see.  Upon arriving, I was at 4 cm dilation, which was a cm past where I'd been two days before.  But I was still circumspect about whether or not Sam was really going to make his entrance.  By 5 AM, I was no longer circumspect. He was coming.  I texted Allen and told him to get going.  It took him almost another hour to arrive, having to get the three kids up, dressed, and over to our friends' house.  That was one of the longest and loneliest hours of my life.  I don't think labor was meant to be endured alone, but that was mostly how it went from about 5 to 6 AM.

Not long after Allen arrived, I asked my nurse about using the nitrous oxide.  "Well," she said apologetically, "I'm afraid we can't give you that yet.  You haven't been officially checked in as being in labor. Let's see if you've progressed."  I had progressed up to 5ish cm. "Okay, we'll make it official, and then we can talk about pain management," she said cheerfully.  At this point I was blubbing quite a bit, much more than when I was laboring with Ruby (Max and Ben were largely laborless births due to c-sections).

Hospital paperwork and a busy labor floor being what it is, it was almost 7 AM when they came back ready to give me something for the pain, and I was in the thick of it. The anesthesiologist offered me something (I can't remember the name) intravenously which she said would "make me forget I was in labor" (as in knocking me for a loop, not actually dulling the pain per se); apparently she'd later gone outside and told a nurse, "You should make that girl get an epidural!"  They also asked me, "Are you sure you don't want a C-section?"  Talk about pressure!

What I wasn't told, however, was that the medicine given intravenously would:
(A) wear off after about 10 minutes
(B) prevent me from having any other pain management--including the nitrous oxide, which had been my plan--for another hour

I wish THAT had been explained to me; otherwise I would have asked directly for the nitrous oxide and skipped the darned injection.  Hmph. I looked at the clock; I wouldn't be eligible for any more pain relief until 8:10.
That hour was incredibly intense. The contractions were right on top of one another and very hard.  As I type this paragraph, it's 8 weeks later to the day, and I can't call up the exact sensations of the pains, but I know that they were unrelenting.  I mostly just wandered around, held onto Allen and said, over and over again, "This is bad! This hurts! This is hard!  I am mad!  This is bad!"  Apparently I'd heard Max read one too many Easy Readers because my brain was reduced to repeating three word sentences!  Allen later said he had a hard time not laughing because of how much I kept saying "This is bad!"
A nurse asked if I wanted to have an epidural.  I hemmed and hawed; I didn't want labor to stall out, and I also was none too keen on having a big needle in my back.  Last time I had a big shot like that they'd hit a nerve and it was very painful. "Just think about it; it's an option," she said.

I was standing in the bathroom moaning about how bad everything was when suddenly I realized that it was time to push.  I told Allen and he rang for the nurses.  Suddenly the room erupted into a flurry of nurses. I was rushed back onto the bed and the OB/GYN appeared.  My doctor was still away on vacation, but I'd met this one, Dr. Vasquez, before.  She was the doctor who'd seen me when I came in to talk about my postpartum depression when Ben was about 6 weeks old, and I had liked her a lot.  I was glad she was the one on call.

I was worried that she was going to tell me that I wasn't ready to push after all, but she confirmed that I was all the way dilated.  She broke the bag of waters for me and then the last stage of labor got going.  I remember looking at the clock: it was 8:10, the time I would have been able to get pain medication.  "No time for that now!" I thought to myself.  It was an irony which Alanis Morrissette would have sung about.

Sam arrived a mere 19 minutes later. 6 lbs, 12 oz, 19.5 inches long, 14.5 inch head circumference, and lots of blond hair (yet again!).  I don't remember at all what I said when he was born, but Allen tells me that I kept saying over and over again, "This is good." So it was.  He was beautiful and he was placed on my chest immediately.  Amazing, really, how quickly all of the months of sickness, aches, pains, and fiery labor ordeals seemed a small price to pay for holding that dear little one.

The birth really went exceptionally well for a VBA2C.  No ruptures, no misalignment of baby, very fast, and not even any tearing!  I couldn't believe how well I felt.  I was up and walking around within a few hours; after my C-sections, even sitting up in bed felt like someone was setting my abdomen on fire.  Allen and I decided we only wanted to do one night at the hospital and to go home the next day.  Since Sam was fine and I had no complications, we were able to do so, and left the hospital less than 36 hours after we'd arrived.  I was so thankful that I had held out and not gone with a C-section. Not that I think they are bad; but they take much longer to recover from and I'd had a very bad time of recovering from my last one.  I'm so thankful that the delivery was as smooth as it was.

An hour or so after Sam was born, Allen and I had to get down to the business of determining his middle name.  We were set on Samwise, but what for the middle?  We literally made a list of 5 or 6 choices, discussed them, and then numbered them from 1 to 6 in order of preferences.  It was hard to decide, but in the end we both felt drawn to Barnaby as a middle name.  Barnaby is an Anglicized form of Barnabas, the name of one of the Apostle Paul's missionary companions and a great figure in the first days of the Church.  Barnabas means "son of encouragement" and it seemed a very fitting companion name to that of Samwise.  Why Barnaby and not Barnabas?  Just like the sound of it.  Samwise Barnaby Cook: a doubly unusual name, offset by a very common nickname of Sam.  He can decide as he gets older whether he wants to use his full first name or not, just as we gave Max the full first name of Max-Pascal in case he wants to have a "non nickname" first name eventually.

I should also explain the choice of Samwise rather than Samuel.  We have nothing against the Jewish prophet of old!  As with Max, we started from liking the short name of Sam and then wondered if it should be short FOR something.  We both enjoy the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien, although neither of us are really superfans.  For example...I've never sat down to read the LOTR trilogy from cover to cover. I've listened to them unabridged on audiobook and I've seen the movies, but haven't actually flipped the pages. A true superfan would be shocked to hear such an admission!  We liked the character of Samwise because he is utterly steadfast and loyal to Frodo as he makes his perilous quest to destroy the One Ring which is ruining the world.  I loved Sean Astin's portrayal of him in the movie: simple and good, loyal and brave.  Someone that the world might overlook or even scoff at (Samwise is old English for halfwit), but whose inner self is unimpeachable. God looks on the heart and not so much at the appearances and outward talents or skills which the world most seems to value.  Of course, I do think he's a good looking kiddo ;)

I've delayed posting this because I've had a hard time getting pictures to load on my blog due to the increasing mismatch of photographic technology I employ.  In short: I usually take pictures on my phone, which is neither Android nor Apple (it's an MS platform phone, grrr). I have not figured out how to get the pictures off of my phone and onto our decrepit Mac.  I rarely use my point and shoot camera, which can have pictures go to my Mac.  But the decrepitness of the Mac means that I usually use our Google Chromebook, which doesn't play nice with any of the above.

But as Allen likes to say, Don't focus on what you CAN'T do, focus on what you CAN do.  So I'll just post this without all those adorable baby pictures.  Chances are if you're reading this, you're a FB or Instagram friend anyway and you've seen 'em all there.  And I'll try to figure out the picture thing.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Birthday Party Mania

As I uploaded photos from my camera onto my computer (how very last decade of me!), I was reminded that I never posted any photos from Max's birthday party at the end of March. So here we go, a photo-dense birthday party extravaganza!  

One of my favorite wild things in his natural habitat
Heading back to the end of March, when Max turned 5 and requested a Pokemon themed birthday party.  Pokemon are yuuuuge around here with all three kids.  If you had told me in the mid 90s--when Pokemon was new and I watched the occasional episode with my little brother and baby sister--that I'd be hosting a Pokemon party for my own children, I don't think I would have believed that the show would have such staying power. But it has, and here we are.  
The appropriate Pokemon colors.  The angle of this photo makes me think that Ben took it.

Back in the innocent, long-haired days before our bout with headlice...

Here we have Poke ball cupcakes and cupcakes with Pikachu (made out of Bunny Peeps). 

I have a few rules to birthday party survival.  
1.  Keep the party short.
2. Keep the guest list very short.
3.  Keep the schedule of events simple and the games easy.

The games at Max's party were not entirely thematic.  Donut bite had no relation to Pokemon whatsoever, but it was very amusing to watch.  The only real rule for donut bite is to try to eat a donut with no hands when it's tied to a string.  

We also played "Ring, ring, who has the ring?" except I think we used a little plastic Pokemon character in lieu of a ring. And for the final game, there was "Pin the flame on the Charmander" featuring my fabulous "skills of an artist".  Hey, at least I impress my children and my spouse with my occasional renderings of licensed characters.  

Then it was time for the piñata.  We got one at Winco that was meant to be a baseball and then just painted the Pokeball design over it. Since the big pine tree was newly felled, it remained to be seen how it would be suspended, since the boughs of the tree were the old go-to for such things. But when your husband is a carpenter, he can rig something up right quick with an old basketball hoop pole, even if it does resemble a gallows.  

Pinata down!  I repeat, pinata down!
 The stroke of genius on the pinata was that we filled it with some candy but also with a lot of wee tiny plastic Pokemon figurines and let the guests sort them and take them home.  I don't know if they are still playing with them but our kids are still playing with theirs on a daily basis.  We found them on Amazon, source of so many neat things.

Then it was time for cupcakes...
Whew, my hair was long, and I was still wearing non-maternity shirts.  That's no longer the case!

Ruby decorated for Max's party by drawing Pokemon and posting them tastefully  around the entrance.

It was a fun affair; our party-planning attention turned next to Ruby's birthday.  She requested a Zelda themed party.  We have a Nintendo 64 and Allen and I have both played (and beaten, hurrah) "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time."  The kids watched us play it at times and have seen some of the hilariously bad 80s cartoons of "The Legend of Zelda" (you can find them on YouTube).  I think at first Ruby's idea was to have a video game princess party (Peach, Daisy, and Zelda) but we steered it more towards just one of the video game franchises, as Ben really wants to have a Bowser party in the fall for his birthday and I'm sure Princess Peach will make an appearance then.  Dear me, we're nerds.
Anyway, Allen and I noodled for quite a long time on how exactly to have a party which fit the theme.  There were a lot of neat ideas for food and decor on Pinterest, but nothing really in terms of party games. It took a long time to get our ideas fleshed out, and it was a mad dash in the days (and hours) leading up to the party to get it all worked out.  But I think it came off really splendidly.  As one of Ruby's guests said to his mom when he was being picked up to go home, "Mom, this was the awesomest day ever!"  :)

We decided to utilize the notion of Link's School for Heroes as the motif of the party (with Allen playing Link!)  The idea was that all the party guests were young Hylians about to be trained in the ways of a hero, and that there were various challenges to complete as part of their training.
As guests arrived we provided them with a shield to decorate (made of foamcore poster board and tape for the handle) and gave the boys Link hats.  They are really simple to make, by the way: I bought two long-sleeve green men's shirts from Salvation Army (on half-off day, natch), cut the sleeves off, turned them inside out, and sewed them to a point at the wrist so it formed a triangle.  I also bought cheapo fake leather belts from Salvation Army, poked holes in them at the right spots so they would fit the kids, and let those serve as belts to hold the slingshots they would later use.

We used the Triforce from the Zelda games as a unifying theme for all of the "training activities" (i.e. party games.)  The Triforce consists of three parts: courage, wisdom, and power, which must be united in order to...I don't know, either bring peace and harmony or chaos and destruction, depending on whose hands it falls into.  At the successful completion of each game, the kids would find a piece of the Triforce.  When all three were gathered, a final test would present itself...and then brownies and lemonade.  The theme had to end somewhere!

The first test was an obstacle course to obtain the Triforce of Courage. Allen had been able to obtain some huge styrofoam blocks and scaffolding planks and frames from work and elsewhere, and he spent the morning transforming the yard into a truly epic obstacle course, complete with 10 dangling blue rupees for the kids to nab.
I couldn't really capture the scope of the whole course from any one angle.  This is the back half of it.

Link gives the new recruits some pointers
 The kids had to work as a team to collect all 10 rupees, take them to the treasure chest, and then return to their starting positions without touching the ground, which was hot lava.

Yes, I made Link hats. 

This gives you an idea of the scale of the course...
After completing this challenge and obtaining the Triforce of Courage from a treasure chest, the kids followed me to a field nearby for the challenge of Wisdom.  Alishia (my sister in law) came along and helped and took photos.  For this challenge, everyone took turns wearing a blindfold and being verbally guided by the other kids towards the treasure chest.  They also had to be ready to put their shields up to defend themselves from the evil Bubbles (there's a bad guy called a Bubble in the game but for our version it was merely the dollar store kind being huffed and puffed out by yours truly).  It was quite entertaining to watch, seeing as none of the kids were too sure about their left and right but were very ready to bark out "GO LEFT!" or "GO RIGHT!" to their blindfolded colleague.

Ta-da! Triforce of Wisdom acquired!

Heading back for the final challenge!

The last Triforce was obtained through combat.  While the kids and I were at the park, Allen and his brother Andy had hung up various bad guys and enemies on the obstacle course.  The kids, armed with slingshots and bouncy balls as ammunition, had to kill all the Skulltulas (paper plate spider things) and Keese (black Solo cup bat things), and at the end of the course to overcome the Deku Scrub (Andy).

The Deku Scrub, overpowered, hands over the chest with the last piece of Triforce.

Checking out what's inside...

Triforce complete!
 Now that the Triforce was completed, I played Zelda's Lullaby on my handy-dandy ocarina.  Yes, Allen had an ocarina, and we looked up how to play Zelda's Lullaby on it.  Nerds.  In the video game, playing that song often unlocks or reveals hidden things, and it had the same function here.  A tiny treasure chest was revealed which held a Boss Key (the key that unlocks the door to the boss or main nemesis of a level).  What better Boss to fight than the ultimate villain, Ganondorf?

Mom's skills of an artist on display once again!
For this last part, each of the kids got to shoot three arrows at Ganondorf (all guided by Allen, of course, since it was a compound bow and far too difficult for any of them to manage alone.)

Driving it in by hand, just for good measure.
With Ganondorf ably defeated, it was time for brownies and lemonade.  Keeping it simple.

Action shot of Ruby blowing out the candle!

Being a hero is thirsty work!
So there you have it. It was really fun.  Allen pretty much ran the show and Andy and Alishia were excellent backup to keep things going smoothly.  Now we have a few months of party-planning respite before tackling Ben's 4th birthday in the fall.

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...