Sunday, January 04, 2015

2015

Happy New Year! 

I have been thinking back on 2014 the past couple of weeks, as you do, and I finally took a look at my resolutions from last year.  Probably would have been a good idea to glance at them before December, but hey.  What's done is done.  So, let me tell you how things went. 

Did I read 11,000 pages?  Of course I read 11,000 pages!  I completely forgot that I had set this goal, and yet I still surpassed it.  The year ended with 13,651 pages read for me (13,746 for Clark, 44,677 for Julia) (Take a minute.  Look back at Julia's number.  Be amazed.  ... ... ... Ok, that should be sufficient.  Back to me.)  43 total, complete books read in 2014, in addition to 1 I finished at the beginning of the year, and 4 I have yet to finish, including the Book of Mormon.  That is a lot of pages, and a lot of books.  These numbers bring me great joy, as does looking back at the book titles I read this year.  I love reading.

Did we finish the Book of Mormon as a family?  Why yes, we did!  On December 31 we read the last chapter.  I really thought we'd finish it much earlier in the year, but hey.  We did it.  And I'm so proud of our girls for sitting through all that reading.

Did I read Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage?  That's a negative.  Got to roll over this one.

Did I finish the last 4 in my 30 by 30 challenge?  Nope.  30 by 34...

Did we go to the temple every month?  Why no.  We did not.  But did we go to the temple more often than the previous year?  Why yes, we did.  Improvement, however small, is still improvement. 

Did I learn Portuguese?  Cute story. . . ("Cherith Cutestory?")  I made this goal, and was doing my best to follow through for about a month.  Then I was called to be in the YW Presidency, and that sort of sucked up all my spare time.  So I gave up.  But then, a couple months ago, Clark discovered this great little app called Duolingo.  I downloaded that, and have been fairly faithful about completing a lesson or two every night.  It's like a game, a language game/test challenge.  And I love a good game/test challenge.  So while I haven't spent the whole year on this one, I have been doing something, and I know just enough Portuguese to have secret conversations in front of the kids.  It's a work in progress, but I definitely know more than I did, and I can even speak in full sentences.  I'm calling this one a success. 

Did I blog more?  I would think that is obvious.  Big fat no.  In fact, I think I blogged less.  Rollover...

So what do I want to accomplish this year?  Well. . .

  • Read Jesus the Christ.
  • Finish my 30 by 30 challenge.
  • Go to the temple more.
  • Keep learning Portuguese.
  • Blog more.
That's a pretty good carryover from last year, don't you think?  But we have to add something new, so...
  • Read 50 books.
  • Be more present with my kids.  Stop thinking about what we are going to do, and start enjoying what we are doing.
  • Give more.  Be quick to observe needs in others, and meet those needs if I'm able.
I think that's enough.  Here's to 2015!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Christmas In a Nutshell, and an Update

Let's start with the Ella update, because I'm sure that is on everyone's mind.  Ella is on the mend!  In case you aren't on Facebook, we came home on December 23, just in time for Christmas.  We have to keep her warm, no playing outside, and keep her hydrated (with room temperature drinks).  We saw the hematologist again this week on Tuesday, and her hemoglobin numbers continue to climb.  We aren't back to normal yet, but we are well on our way.  We see him again in 2 weeks. 

Having to stay in the hospital for 4 days was an experience I'd rather not repeat anytime soon, but of all the things to stay in the hospital for, this was pretty mild.  Ella acted like her regular self most of the time.  All the nurses kept commenting that she was the healthiest girl on the floor!  We even decorated her room to make it more Christmas-y, and between that and a few visitors, it was much more tolerable.  And, we felt an outpouring of love for our family, between phone calls and visitors and meals and help watching Julia, we were abundantly blessed.  How grateful I am for good people, both near and far.  We have some wonderful friends.

And then we were home for Christmas!  I was most grateful for that.  Christmas is a magical day no matter what, but I'd rather be home with my sweet family all together, than trying to haul everything to the hospital and spending the night apart. 

We decided a long time ago that everyone gets 4 things for Christmas: something to READ, something to WEAR, something they NEED, and something they WANT.  And then Santa brings a gift as well.  I love this setup.  It keeps things much simpler, and helps the girls to really think about what they want, knowing they probably won't get everything on their list.  Grandmas and Grandpas help round things out, but this makes things much more manageable and less overwhelming on Christmas morning.

I thought I'd share what was given, because a lot of time and energy was spent thinking up the gifts. 

For Ella:
Read: The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak, including One Was Johnny, Alligators All Around, Pierre, and my all time favorite, Chicken Soup with Rice. 
Wear: 3 pairs of tights.  This girl wears a dress or skirt almost every day, and her tights are all starting to wear out.  So these were desperately needed.
Need: A waterbottle.  A leak-proof waterbottle.  It has seen much use in the past week.
Want: A Frozen playset.  She was delighted on Christmas morning to see Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Olaf, and Hans, ready to play.  Delighted.
From Santa: Sydney Lee, an Our Generation doll.  The American Girl catalog made its way to our house this year, and both girls were thinking they would love one of those dolls.  However, our keen sense of thrift did not love the idea of one of those dolls.  Enter in Target and their brilliant knock-offs.  Everyone was happy.  Santa also left some socks in her stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For Julia:
Read: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien.  Julia is quite the little reader, so it was tricky coming up with something to give her.  We went with an old standby that both Clark and I loved when we were younger. 
Wear: A locket.  She decided she wanted one after she read the Molly American Girl books.  I didn't think this one would happen, until I remembered that I had wanted a locket too, when I was a girl.  And I had gotten one.  Which I never wear.  So I pulled it out, put a chain on it, and gave it to Julia for Christmas.  It melts my heart a little bit every time I see her wearing it.  It's certainly not heirloom quality or anything, but it feels like a special connection to my girl.  And she treats it like one of her most prized possessions, which makes it all the more special.
Need: A full set of scriptures.  Julia has had a couple copies of the Book of Mormon, but both have been lost to the ether.  We decided it was high time she got a new one.  And if we're giving a Book of Mormon, we might as well make it a whole set.  She was over the moon to get this, it was a total surprise, and I was over the moon that she was so excited about it.  Clark dug out his old scripture case, too, so now she is ready for church on Sunday.  She also pulls it out when we hold family scripture study, and the excitement to be reading out of her own scriptures is palpable.
Want: A matryoshka doll set.  Someone who served a mission in Russian visited the primary a while back and showed them a matryoshka.  Ever since then, Julia has wanted one.  We wrapped each doll separately, which only added to the fun.
From Santa: Jenny, an Our Generation doll.  See above about American Girl dolls.  Julia saw Jenny at Target around Thanksgiving, and decided that was the doll for her.  Santa was kind enough to bring it.  She also got a pair of tights in her stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For Clark:
Read: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.  He asked for this, so that was easy.
Wear: New tennis shoes.  We went shopping together one morning, and he picked them out.  Boring, but necessary.
Need: Jeans.  It got down to the wire on this one.  Julia and I stopped at an Old Navy on the way to the hospital one day to snag some.  Luckily he likes them, and they fit!
Want: A race.  This was tricky because I don't know what race he'd like to run.  So I basically went to the internet, found all the races in the area for the next 6 months that aren't on Sunday, and made a spreadsheet with dates, prices, length, etc.  I figured he's a sucker for spreadsheets, so he'd appreciate it.  He still needs to pick one, but I'm told he is working on it.
From Santa: A new computer!  From which I am typing this very blog post!  It arrived a week before Christmas, and Clark was THRILLED to have it!  Starcraft has been played.  He also got some new socks in his stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

For me:
Read: Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan.  Because you can't go wrong with a book about food.
Wear: A new outfit.  This was purchased on the aforementioned shopping trip.  No surprises, but a good gift all the same.
Need: A 2015 calendar for the wall.  Julia thought of this idea all on her own.  Clark took the girls shopping, put it in the trunk of his car to hide it, and then with all the switching of cars at the hospital, I totally saw it.  But we pretended like I didn't. 
Want: White tank tops, for wearing under more revealing shirts.  My old ones were looking less white and more...grey.  So this was not only a want, but a need.  Crossover gift!
From Santa: A new griddle, to replace the mostly broken one.  I also got a phone case, some orange peelers, measuring cups, and replacement wires for our cheese cutter in my stocking, as well as the traditional candy, and an orange in the toe.

This turned out to be kind of a long post with no pictures.  (Of course there are no pictures!  Why would there be pictures of Christmas?  To be fair, I did take a few videos.  So I'm not a completely terrible parent.)  But this is all to say, we had a lovely Christmas, warm and snug at home, feeling grateful for the matchless gift of God's divine Son to the world.  Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Don't Freak Out, But...

So, the first thing you should know is that we are ok.  We are all doing fairly well, and everything is going to be fine. 

That being said, Ella is in the hospital.  But don't worry!  Remember, everything is going to be fine!

Here's the short version: Ella was admitted to the hospital on Friday night /Saturday morning with a low red blood cell count.  After running a bunch of tests, we now know that she has cold agglutinin disease, which means her immune system is attacking the red blood cells.  We are waiting for her levels to go back up, and then she can go home.  We aren't sure how long this will take, but she is acting like her normal self, albeit her normal self with very little sleep (read: cranky and bossy).

Here's the long story: On Monday morning, Ella had a pink eye.  We don't know if this is related or not, but it could be.  She got some eye drops from urgent care, and we went on our way.  On Thursday morning, she woke up with a fever of 103.2.  As the day wore on, the fever went down, but then I noticed that her urine was red.  We're talking dark red.  Glass of cranberry juice red.  Which, obviously, makes me think of blood.  And that is concerning.  So we went to the urgent care again.  They took a urine sample, decided it was likely a UTI, and sent her home with antibiotics, explaining that it is standard procedure to start someone her age on antibiotics before the lab results are in, just to be cautious.  Friday morning she wasn't much better, and in fact started throwing up.  Her urine was still quite red, and we spent all day resting.  Friday night, I gave her a bath, and noticed while drying her off that she had a distinct yellow tinge to her.  And her lips were very pale.  But she seemed better than she had all day, except for the yellow skin.  I left a message with the after hours doctor, and while waiting for a response put her to bed.  After calling back and discovering typo in my phone number, I finally talked to the doctor, who said, "This is not normal.  She needs to be seen.  But it can probably wait until morning."  5 minutes later, she called back.  She had looked at her labs and discovered that the results were in: no sign of infection.  So....that's not good.  And she told us to take her to the ER right away. 

Off she went, with Clark.  They were admitted to the PICU at 2am, met lots of doctors, ran lots of tests, and today one of those tests came back positive.  She has something called cold agglutinin disease, which is where the immune system attacks the red blood cells and breaks them down (hemolytic anemia).  So there wasn't any actual blood in her urine, just broken down red blood cells (hemoglobin).  And all the dead RBCs caused an increase in bilirubin, which makes her yellow.  We are still waiting for the results of another test to see if there is a specific cause of this craziness, or if it is an unexplained mystery why this started up.  Either we treat with an antibiotic, or we wait it out.  The thing they are looking for is the hemoglobin levels increasing.  Currently, they are decreasing.  So...we are waiting. 

Timing is pretty bad as Christmas is this week, and it's uncertain if she'll be home in time. The thought of Christmas in the hospital is pretty depressing.  So, if you could pray for our Ella, it would be ever so appreciated.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Today

Sometimes I think about blogging, and then I feel all this pressure to "catch up" on all the things that have been going on, and as the pressure mounts, the desire to blog disappears, and then I just never blog.  So, rather than play catch up, I now present you with today.

I woke up about 30 minutes before I needed to, allowing for that glorious time when you aren't really asleep, but you aren't quite awake, and you just get to lay in bed, thinking about that dream you just had or what you're going to wear today or what you thought of the book you finished last night.  Glorious time.  Always a good start to the day.

We got Julia onto the school bus, and then Ella and I played a rousing game of Dinosaur Train.  Ella won.  Time to go to preschool.  We walk in the doors, and I remember that it's Friday, and Friday means show and tell, and we forgot to bring something to show and tell.  It's the letter C this week, and luckily Ella wore a hair clip.  I pulled that little clip out, declared it to be the perfect item to show and tell about, and by some miracle Ella agreed with me.  Crisis averted. 

Post preschool drop-off, I went for a lovely walk down by the river.  The leaves are all the most marvelous colors right now, and today was a windy day, which means the leaves were being blown off the trees and right into my path, so I was basically walking through fall.  It felt a bit magical, I won't lie.  And I got to listen to the most recent episode of Serial, which made it all the better.  (Follow that link, friends.  It's an intriguing little podcast.)

Then I made a quick stop at the library (to pick up the holds I've been waiting for months to come in!) before heading home.  Peace and quiet abounded.  Worked on a little sewing project.  Read a little.  Called my sister.  Time to get Ella.

Ella and I enjoyed a windy bike ride (Ella on the bike, me walking (and pushing the bike part of the time, unfortunately)), and then settled in to read together.  At some point, I realized that the words I was saying were not the words on the page.  Not even close.  For example, there are no ninjas in a fairy book, and yet I was talking about ninjas. This is when I realize just how sleepy I am.  So sleepy I start making up new stories that are a bit crazy.  Maybe a lot crazy.  And that is when I give Ella my phone, tell her to play a couple of games, and I close my eyes. 

30 minutes later, I perk up, and decide to bake cookies.  Oatmeal chocolate chip, to be precise.  I have this wonderful recipe (courtesy of my sister-in-law Melissa), and I think I've only made them about 3 times in the last 4 years.  This is because upon moving to Michigan, my cookies all turned out flat.  Giant cookie-pancakes.  So I gave up making cookies.  But I figured we lived in a new state, it was time to give it a go.  So glad I did, those cookies are divine, and NOT flat.  Don't know whether to blame Michigan or the oven in our apartment there.  We'll go with the oven, because I love Michigan too much to malign it in such a way.

Then things start getting really exciting.  Time to get Julia from the bus stop.  More cookies baking.  Out the door to a storytime.  Back home to change into costumes in preparation for the ward Trunk or Treat.  Inspiration struck for a trunk decoration.  Amazed at the possibility of actually decorating a trunk this year!  Off we went, to enjoy food, friends, and trick or treating.

The trunk decoration proved to be a big flop.  I lost a piece somewhere in my trunk, the wind blew things off, and in the end, we just sat by our car and gave out candy.  Oh well.  Next year I have this great idea for a trunk decoration...

And now here we are, kids in bed, dryer humming, and I'm gearing up to watch another episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.  This is the good life.  Not perfect by any means, but oh, so good.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer

Today was the first day of school for Julia.  First grade!  I seriously can't believe she is old enough to be in first grade.  The girls came with me to Young Women tonight, and Julia noticed the Activity Days girls were playing volleyball.  It turns out I have never mentioned Activity Days to her, so I told her when she turns 8 she gets to come to activities like this.  She commented that that event is less than 2 years away.  I might cry over that one.

But that's not the point of this post.  The point is, summer is now over.  And what a summer it has been!  In June we were going strong on what I call, "Organized Activities Summer," where every day had an adventure, and we were always on the go.  We had visits to the library, picnics at the park, fun with water, planting a garden, trips to Cantigny Park (a family favorite), and even craft projects (!) that filled our days.  Every day something was on the calendar.

At the end of June, and on through almost all of July, we had, "Vacation Summer."  It started with a trip out to Utah.  Per Julia's request, we took the long way out there and stopped at Mount Rushmore.  That alone would have been worth the added 3 hours of drive time, but we also saw the Badlands, Martins Cove, Independence Rock, the SPAM museum, and Wall Drug, which were all new experiences for me.  I could have done without Wall Drug, but everything else was most definitely worth stopping to see.

While in Utah we hiked in the mountains, got sick, toured Timpanogos Cave, planned and cancelled a birthday party for Ella due to being sick, visited the zoo (minus me, because I was sick), ate at Cafe Rio (and didn't get sick!), made a trip to the temple, saw family and friends, and generally partied (while we weren't sick).  The highlight of the trip was seeing a whole slew of cousins, including the ones who came from Colorado just to see us!  And, of course, the grandparents.  I almost (almost) want to move back there.  Really, I just want my favorite people from there to move out here.  Though maybe not here, because I'm not 100% sold on Illinois yet. So I guess I want to live in the same town as all my favorite people, with that town yet to be determined.  Yeah.  That could happen, right?  Anyway, it was a great trip, even if that was an awful lot of driving.

Upon arriving home, we spent 2 days unpacking and doing laundry, only to repack and head to St Louis for a few days to spend time with my sister, Whitney.  Clark stayed home for this trip, so I squished in the backseat with the girls for the drive with my parents.  We had a great time seeing the St Louis Zoo, playing with my niece, and stopping in Springfield on the way home to tour the Lincoln Museum and eat Cozy Dogs.

After that jaunt, we spent 2 days unpacking and hosting my parents, and then I headed out to girls camp for 3 days.  I must admit, I was a bit hesitant about girls camp.  I wasn't sure how I felt about spending 3 days and 2 nights with a slew of teenage girls.  But when it was time to leave, I was not ready to go home, and sad I didn't stay the whole week.  I work with some amazing women, and we have a great group of girls.  Good times.

The next day my parents went home.  I spent about a week playing catch-up on all the housework.  And then we entered what I am calling, "Whiny Fighting Summer."  The part of the summer where everyone is ready to go back to school and get back into a routine.  I was out of ideas on anything fun to do, all Ella seemed capable of doing was saying, "I'm bored," multiple times before attacking Julia by laying on her, mauling hugging her, or copying her ("She's copying me!" "She's copying me!").  Julia responds by making whiny noises, running away, and crying.  We did a fair bit of reading (because that's easy, and I'm always up for another trip to the library), and for a couple of weeks we managed a bike ride around the neighborhood every day, but the vast majority of the days were spent fighting boredom with arguing and TV.  This is the part of summer I'd rather forget.

It all ends today, though.  Today we are back on track, going to bed early so we can wake up early, our lives revolving around the bus pick up and drop off.  And in a couple weeks, once Ella starts school, I can finally go grocery shopping by myself again - which sounds like an absolutely delightful treat! Bring on fall!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monuments Men

I recently finished reading The Monuments Men.  It's tells the story of the men (and at least a few women) who were charged with saving the monuments, fine arts, and archives of Europe from the destruction of WWII, and the thieving hands of the Nazis.  A bunch of middle aged men running around Europe saving art.  I loved it!  (Just to be clear, it is non-fiction.)  I gave it 5 stars on goodreads.  I don't normally give out 5 stars, but this book completely deserved it.  Here's my goodreads review, for interested parties:

"I absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to get into it. The first few chapters I had a hard time keeping track of all the people, but by the end of the book I was enthralled. I couldn't wait for the war to end, and for the treasures of Europe to be found. I feel like the cause of the Monuments Men was deeply important, and I'm so glad to have learned more about it."

I had to post this on the blog, because there are a couple of passages of the book that I want to remember.  I actually bookmarked a couple of pages as I was reading the book, which I NEVER DO.  This is how good it is.  I think I would even read it again.  Which, again, I NEVER DO.  

First, this lovely passage:

"To save the culture of your allies is a small thing.  To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won . . . it was unheard of, but that is exactly what . . . the Monuments Men intended to do."

That, right there, is what this book is all about.  Beautiful, isn't it?

The other thing I wanted to remember was the reaction of Eisenhower, Patton, and other American generals to their visit to Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American troops.  Which had nothing to do with the Monuments Men, really, but everything to do with the war.  

"Ohrdruf wasn't a death camp, like Auschwitz, but a place where human beings were systematically worked to death.  Several survivors, shrunken to mere skeletons, pulled themselves up on shriveled legs and saluted the generals as they passed.  The generals walked on in stony silence, their lips drawn tight.  Several members of their staff, all of them hardened by war, openly wept.  The hard-nosed Patton, "Old Blood and Guts," ducked behind a building and threw up.  

"Every American soldier, Eisenhower insisted, every man and woman not on the front lines, must see this.  'We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for.  Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.'"

Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  

Finally, the pictures in this book are beautiful.  Photographs of people and places and art.  I think my favorite is a picture of the Aachen Cathedral, obviously once a place of splendor, now shattered and reduced to rubble.  It's harrowing.  

I seriously love this book, and can't recommend it highly enough.  The first bit is a challenge to get through, but it is so worth it to push through so you can get to the good stuff.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to

This kid. THIS KID. She is in full-on meltdown mode tonight. She didn't want to leave stake choir practice. Then she wanted to go RIGHT NOW. Then when we left, she spent 5 minutes screaming that she wanted a drink, when there were no drinks to be found in our car. She lost a bedtime story over that one. And because of that she has spent the past 5 minutes crying and saying, "Darn it!" over and over. It's a 30 minute drive home. We might all go crazy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves

First harvest! I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a bunch of leaves.