Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cordelia's Hinges

I've been continuing to chip away at the paint-smothered antique hardware around me as time has permitted. Here's a pictorial update on some of the gems I've unpainted over the last couple of weeks. I do it partly from curiosity and partly because I enjoy it...and maybe because that little "Anne Shirley" down inside of me likes to imagine that I am really Cordelia living in a fancy estate. (Naomi just finished reading Anne of Green Gables, and I couldn't help picking up a chapter or two myself. It always gets my imagination going.)

First off, most of the windows still have the original window pulls on the bottom, a couple were missing, two were broken, but I counted eight that were intact. They looked like this:
That's a diamond in the rough if I ever saw one. I couldn't resist.

And would you believe what I found on the back?

Yes, that says PatD (Patented) OCT 31 1871! Too bad I don't own the house or these window pulls or I'd take them to the antique road show.

But even more tempting are the ornate hinges throughout the house. Many are broken or have no doors on them anymore, but they just look like they should be beautiful so I finally tackled one today.
It was only half of a hinge with no door attached so I thought it would be a good place to start. Once I finally got the screws loose and cut it away from the paint I was greeted by another cockroach graveyard. After an hour of scraping through tan, green, pink, cream, white, and lime colored paint I hit what I can only imagine was a primer. It stared me down and said something like, "I've been on this hinge for 95 years, and I don't intend to come off without a fight." But it didn't know how stubborn I can be once I get an idea in my head.

The hinge took a nice long CLR bath, but the primer still wouldn't budge for steel wool or an exacto knife. And all those little ornamental divots you see provided it extra protection. I gritted my teeth and dug out some paint thinner, but said primer would not budge after a long paint thinner bath either. I scraped and scraped at the stubborn white stuff while helping Naomi with two-digit subtraction and reviewing consonant blends with Hannah. I scraped until my wrist and elbow were both sore from rotating the exacto knife inside every divot with all my might, but that stupid primer wasn't giving up. At least the other paint jobs had been sloppy and had surrendered to the razor blade without so much struggle.

I considered giving up, but I couldn't really put the hinge back up looking like it did, and I could never bear to paint over it again, so I pressed on. Somewhere around the time I should have been cooking dinner I thought of a bottle of nail polish remover in my dresser drawer. Ha ha ha, who'd the smart one now? Soon after that Hannah asked, "Mommy, what's that good smell?" and I answered something like, "That's one bowl of CLR, one bowl of paint thinner, and one bowl of nail polish remover all sitting under your nose." Then I sent her to open the back door and breathe deeply. And after a nice long bath in acetone even that primer crumbled under my exacto knife. Six hours after I had decided to try cleaning up one hinge before lunch, I won the battle.

Unfortunately, the end result was so stunningly beautiful and rewarding I know I'm doomed to repeat this process again, probably tomorrow. At least I know to go for the nail polish remover first now. And if any of you out there know of a cheap place to buy these on the Internet, please don't tell me or I will feel totally deflated. Just let me believe that I have saved the last remaining ornate door hinge on the planet, thanks.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Go Ahead, Bite the Apple

I was folding laundry this morning when I heard a strange crinkling noise coming from the pantry.  "Toby, what are you doing?" I called out sternly, thinking he had gotten into the scotch tape again. There was no reply. I continued folding socks and listening to the quiet crinkles.

"Apple!" Toby announced cheerfully. Knowing that my apples were in the refrigerator and not the pantry, curiosity won out. I left the socks and found Toby sitting on the floor of the pantry with crispy brown onion-skin peelings all around him. He was just taking his first bite of a large yellow onion, and was clearly pleased with himself. I didn't stop him, hoping natural consequences would cool his curiosity in the future, but he stopped himself part-way into that bite, put the onion on the floor, and scampered off to find other adventures, showing no biters remorse at all.

Unfortunately for me, he's too smart to punish himself. I guess I'll have to keep that job.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hannah on Love

I just finished memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with the girls. Today we worked on verse 7 which says,

"Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things,
Love never fails."

Hannah looked up at me and said, "Why does love do all those things?"

"Well," I answered, "when you love someone you will stick by them even when it's hard, that's just what love is, and that's the way God wants us to treat everyone."

"Yeah," Hannah nodded. Then she though a moment, wrinkled up her eyebrows, and said, "Love does cry sometimes though."

"Yes, Hannah," I agreed, "sometimes love cries."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cooking with Toby

Ever since Toby learned how to climb onto a chair last summer, cooking has been an especially difficult task with him around. This is unfortunate, because, ever since two girls were diagnosed with Celiac disease last fall, I have had to do an excessive amount of cooking, and Toby is always around.

He pulls a chair over right next to where I am working, or perhaps on top of where I am working, climbs aboard and begins to frantically touch, grab, wield, and fling any ingredient, cooking utensil, or breakable object, that he can get his little fingers onto. Quite often this ends with him strapped into his booster seat in the middle of a wide-open space where he can reach nothing. But lately I have been feeling guilty about this. Shouldn't I be fostering my son's curiosity and encouraging his God-given need to explore and learn?

I tried to foster and encourage today as I was making dinner. If you had been a fly on the wall today this is a transcript of what you would have heard coming out of my mouth as I attempted to prepare gluten-free biscuits and sausage gravy from scratch with the help of my newly two-year old son. (Really, I kept I running log, so rest assured there is no poetic license here.)

-"No, Toby, that's my spoon."
-"Yes, it will burn."
-"Give me that!"
-"OK, Toby, put the screwdriver down."
-"Honey, that's where I need to stand, so you can't put your chair there."
-"Hands off the dishwasher, Toby. No buttons!"
-"If you put your blankie on the stove it will catch on fire."
-"Yes, it will burn."
-"Leave the drawers closed, Buddy."
-"What are you doing in the cupboards?"
-"Give the shortening to Mommy."
-"No, you can't eat it."
-"Yes, you're all done with it."
-"What in the world did you do to it?"
-"Whoa there, no scissors."
-"No, you can't go down in the basement...and I don't care how much you bang on the door."
-"Here, sit down and have a snack."
-"No, get out of the fridge!"
-"That measuring cup is glass and it will break, give it to Mommy...Toby!"
-"Toby, climb down from the back of Emma's booster seat, you're going to fall right through the window."
-"You are going to spill the rice milk, put it down!"
-"Will you stop touching everything?!"
-"OK, the Worchershire sauce bottle is glass too, put it down."
-"Naomi, can you strap your brother into the stroller and wheel him around the house? Otherwise we're never going to have dinner."
-"Thank you, you're an angel."
-"Here, let me help you buckle him in."

I've decided to foster his love of being strapped into moving objects while I am cooking from now on. His love of handling sharp, hot, and fragile items while running and climbing will have to wait to be fostered until further notice.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hannah on Relative Naughtiness

We've found ourselves sitting in a lot of waiting rooms lately, and so to fill the time we have begun "telling stories." I will start a story with a sentence or two, then each girl will take turns adding another sentence or two until we've woven a creative, time-passing tall tale.

Today, as we were waiting to pick up Naomi's next 24 hour urine collection kit, I began a story about Borris and Horris the bears. I thought I would use this story to teach a little point so I made Borris and Horris naughty bears who didn't obey their mother. "And Mommy bear said, 'you naughty boys! You go home right now and stay in your rooms!'" I said in my scolding voice, then added dramatically, "but...Borris and Horris didn't obey."

It was Hannah's turn next. "Well, they tried to obey their mommy as best as they could," she whined, clearly empathizing with the bears' plight, "but it was too hard for them."

At my next turn I added a dreadful pack of wolves snarling at them to scare the bears into obeying their mother and going home. Naomi appropriately scolded the naughty bears in her best mother bear voice. But Hannah felt this was unjustified, "But we weren't being naughty!" she insisted for Borris and Horris, "We were just playing a's called hide and seek, you know?"

Black isn't really black and white isn't really white, I prefer it this lovely shade of gray. Postmodernism...inborn in my four-year-old...oh help.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remopping, Rewashing, Recovering

This morning I woke to find the sun shining and discovered that I could stand up for extended periods of time without the room swirling about me and the lights going dim. I released Toby from his jail and checked on the status of each girl while Toby ran circles around me grinning and grunting like a rabid raccoon. Naomi: much improved, slight joint pain still. Hannah: A-OK. Emma: sleeping soundly despite chaos growing around her (red flag #1).

I started off the morning by disinfecting every non-porous surface I could find and washing loads of laundry in hot water. Toby's diaper had leaked during the night so I changed his bedding and snatched his special blanket ("kiki") while he charged down the stairs announcing, "Go see vacuum!" Later Toby followed me to the basement when I went down to switch loads of laundry. I quickly pulled his "kiki" from the washer, hid it under the other wet clothes in a laundry basket and carried the basket across the basement to the dryer. This plan would have worked well if I hadn't gotten distracted picking lint off of a fleece shirt as I pulled it from the dryer. I ignored his cheerful chatter until I realized what he was saying, "Kiki! Warm! Warm kiki!" Swirling around, I found, to my horror, Toby happily dragging his wet white blanket all over the filthy dungeon floor. (I've swept and swept that floor, it doesn't get clean.) Toby cuddled the now dark grey blanket to his face happily, and was horrified himself when I snatched kiki up and plopped it back in the washing machine.

He screamed and clawed at the machine, he tried to climb into it. He wouldn't calm down long enough to hear my explanation. He only knew that kiki had vanished and that his life was over unless he could somehow retrieve it. I carried him, screaming and sobbing up the stairs and locked the basement door. I tried distracting him, I tried feeding him, nothing consoled him. About this time Emma finally ventured out of bed. I ignored Toby for a minute while I checked on her. She wasn't interested in eating breakfast or getting dressed (red flag #2), but seemed otherwise stable. I went back to Toby who was banging on the basement door and  tried explaining to him again, "Kiki was dirty, washing machine will make kiki clean with water, dryer will make kiki warm and dry, then Toby can have kiki again." His bottom lip quivered as he finally quieted long enough to listen. Pitiful streams of tears ran from his red eyes. When I was done explaining, he began screaming and banging on the basement door even more than before.

"Mommy," Emma said, "I fink I weady do get gess." (I think I ready to get dressed.)

"Oh good," I thought, "at least she's doing better." I smiled at her, "OK, Emma, go pick out your outfit." She smiled back, then vomited all over the kitchen floor. I dove for the garbage can and caught the second half of her vomit in that. Poor Emma had to stay leaning over the garbage can while I pried Toby from the basement door and carried him up to his crib--one can only handle so much at a time. I cleaned Emma up, wiped down the floor, took out the trash, and settled Emma on the couch. Thankfully Naomi, my right-hand girl, was back on her feet today. She brought me clean jammies for Emma, and did her best to entertain a crib-bound Toby.

Toby eventually was reunited with a warm, dry kiki. Emma made a much quicker recovery than Naomi and I had, and by the end of a very busy day the house is mostly back in order and ready for a more "normal" day tomorrow. This is good, since tomorrow Mr. Tobiah Matthew Eby turns two years old. It's hard for me to believe, but the new rounds of temper tantrums and self-assertiveness tell me that I have a two-year-old boy on my hands. I plan to enjoy the momentous day tomorrow, as long as nobody throws up tonight.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Eeyore Day

Did I complain about yesterday? How foolish of me. Today I feel like Eeyore wallowing in self pity, but disguising it with a clever, "That's right, gaiety, song and dance, here-we-go-round-the-mulberry bush and whatnot. You go right ahead enjoying your day, I'll just be here lying lifelessly on the couch hour after hour, wondering which breath will be my last while the children run amuck. Don't you worry about me. Some can and some can't and that's all there is." (If you don't know A.A. Milne's character Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, go buy the book and read it, it will all make sense.)

I felt a little queasy heading to bed last night, and by 3:00am it was clear that I wasn't going to enjoy the day ahead. At 4:30am I heard Naomi clomp down the stairs with her stiff-jointed thuds. A minute later I heard splattering, lept from bed, and found Naomi just as she finished covering my kitchen cupboards, counter, floor, and Brita filter with vomit. She had been trying to fill her water bottle, and I guess it snuck up on her.

I wanted to give myself the luxury of blacking out and keeling over on the floor from my own nausea, but there was Naomi, completely helpless, dripping with vomit and shaking. Matt hadn't come home from work yet. So I gathered my wits and said what any mommy would say, "It's OK, honey, I'll clean it up."

I used half a roll of paper towels up and stripped Naomi while trying to maintain my equilibrium. Thankfully Matt walked in the front door just then, and though he'd just worked a 13 hour shift, I had no choice. Poor Matt was greeted by. "She just threw up. Can you find some PJ's for her and put her in bed. I need to vomit." And that's exactly what I did. Can't argue with that.

About five pounds lighter and feeling a bit less queasy, I found the strength to Lysol the kitchen and bathroom before heading back to bed. Half-an-hour later Emma joined me in bed, "I ah baah  geam," (I had bad dream) she explained. And I thought, "Well come on in, I'm living a nightmare." She tossed and turned for an hour then decided her own bed was more comfortable. At 7:40am I heard the kids stirring, and I knew I had no ability to care for them today. I wasn't sure if I could even stand up. Toby complained loudly in the next room while I picked up the phone and tried to think of who to call first. Suddenly I threw the phone to the floor and discovered that I could not only stand, but run down stairs and kneel in front of the toilet quite nimbly. Round #2 of weight loss began.

At this point I was sure I couldn't care for the kids, and Matt needed to sleep between 13 hour shifts. Carma, a friend from church, agreed to come by for the morning to take care of the household while I laid helplessly on the couch. My body threatened to black out and collapse each time I attempted to be vertical after that. Naomi laid helplessly on a bed on the floor, having a headache, a stomach ache, and joint pain flare-ups again. I did the only thing I could, called Matt  to put Mary Poppins into the DVD player on my computer. Soon all the kids were giggling, I was resting, and Carma was folding my laundry and changing Toby's diapers.

By noon Naomi and I started taking sips of 7-up, and we have even achieved sitting upright for a few minutes at a time now. Carma had to leave, so dinner will be a "whatever you can find" self-serve buffet for Hannah, Emma, and Toby. They don't seem to mind that at all. But I hate to complain...I'm afraid of what tomorrow will bring if I do.

A Bumpy Valentines Day

I went to bed last night as the wind was literally whistling and howling in the trees outside my bedroom. At 5am I woke to use the bathroom and passed Matt, who hadn't yet gone to bed, on his way down the stairs with some dirty dishes. I lay in bed listening to strange thumps and bangs below me, wondering why on earth Matt was banging the cupboard doors open and closed repeatedly. When the sounds carried on, in my sleep-deprived state, I began to picture Matt banging into furniture as he wrestled with an intruder downstairs.

Finally I tiptoed downstairs and saw that Matt was alone and quite fine, so I headed back to bed, realizing that the noises had something to do with the wind. But, despite every effort to block out the bumps and thumps echoing through my walls I couldn't sleep. I pictured an empty plastic garbage can being blown into the house again and again by the menacing wind, but this only consoled me so long. Finally I thumped back down the stairs and investigated. Looking out the dining room window, I had just determined that the tree branches were much too far from the house to create that kind of noise when the bottom of the storm window two inches from my face was sucked out by a gust of wind and slammed back against the house. Aha.

The window had been repaired recently and replaced, but the bottom had not been hooked in place, in fact, no eye was available to hook it to. So, at 6 am I found a large screw, secured it in the frame, and hooked the storm window in place. By 7:15am the kids were up, and that began a long Valentines Day.

I had taken all four kids to the children's hospital three hours away back on January 31st for their annual GI work-ups (that trip in itself could be the subject of a whole nother blog post). Naomi and Emma needed rechecks on their liver fibrosis. Naomi and Hannah needed rechecks on their Celiac disease. And Toby needed a recheck to definitively rule out Celiac disease. We came away from that 3 hour appointment with a long list of tests to run locally and an order to return on March 2nd for more tests. (I can explain those more later.)

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I had put off taking the kids in for their blood draws, but when the nurse called me last week to ask why the tests hadn't been run, I vowed to take the kids in on Monday. First on my list this sleepless morning was the collection of stool samples from two kids, and I don't care how many Ziploc baggies those jars are in, there's just something wrong about putting them in my freezer.

After Toby's nap I eagerly removed the offending samples from the freezer, piled the kids in the minivan, and filed them into the hospital. We spent an HOUR in a tiny room with a very patient woman who struggled to register four children for tests she'd never heard of before. When the nurse asked who's blood we should draw first Naomi bravely volunteered to be a good example to her sisters. She normally takes it in stride, but today the sight of the needle coming toward her arm must have overwhelmed her. She melted in tears, but thankfully didn't fight. Hannah whimpered a little, but brave Emma sat stoically on my lap without flinching, tearing, or peeping while they stuck her arm. I had to wonder if she even felt anything. The nurses commented that I had some of the most brave and well behaved kids they'd ever drawn blood from. The sad truth is: they're used to it. Thankfully Toby didn't need blood drawn today or they may have rescinded that compliment.

Hannah was tempted to complain tonight that she had to have a blood draw on what was supposed to be a happy day. I sat beside her on her bed and explained to her in more detail than normal how blood draws, though painful, are actually good things because they help me to know how to keep her healthy. We remembered how her tummy aches have stopped and how she'd finally started to grow and put on weight since we've removed gluten from her diet. This lead to a deeper discussion of how some things that feel bad to us are actually for our good, how God uses evil for a greater good, and how we are in control of whether we have thankful or complaining hearts.

Hannah prayed tonight, "Dear Lord, thank you that I could have a blood draw today and that it could help me." It was a blessing to hear my four-year-old daughter sincerely thank God for the pain she felt today. It wasn't a picture-perfect Valentines Day for me either, but I guess if Hannah can be thankful for today, so can I.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Amish Country

Our new house lies in the heart of Amish country. Our Wal-Mart parking lot has a long barn where they park their horses and buggies. On occasion I feel that I am the only woman in the store who is not wearing a long black dress with a bonnet, which suddenly makes me feel like a real heathen. I smile as they push their cart with their darling bonnet-covered daughter by me. Sometimes they smile back, but sometimes I feel only their reproach, or perhaps that's just what I perceive. They have never stopped to make small talk, the way strangers sometimes will, but I'm not sure if that's because they look on me with disdain, or because they are tired of being misunderstood, misrepresented, and treated like a tourist attraction.

As a whole I look on them with immense respect. I know many around here do not. Many see them as self-righteous, works-oriented, legalistic, and proud. Perhaps they are, but I have to believe that at least some are simply trying to maintain a simple lifestyle, uncluttered by all the chaos, noise, distractions, and filth of our modern culture. They just want to live peacefully and quietly, to maintain their focus on their creator, to love God and love each other. Many around here will point to the so-called compromises they have made or inconsistencies in their legalism. The Amish have gotten jobs in our factories; they shop at our stores. Last week I saw a whole group of them come from Arby's with large soft drinks and climb into their buggies, and I have to admit that it didn't seem quite right. Some will put a phone in their barn, but not in their house. Some will ride in a car, but not drive it. So I understand why the people around here sometimes shake their heads and look with their own disdain on those who would be ridiculously legalistic and look down their noses at us.

But that all said, when a beautiful brown horse goes prancing by my car with his head held high, and I see the responsible teenage boy driving his sunbonneted sisters in their buggy I think that, for all their faults, they have something I wish I had. Matt drives the country roads to work each day and he passes an Amish school just as the children are scurrying out to recess. Our Sunday morning drive to church takes us by an Amish church just down the road from their school. This morning we were caught in a horse and buggy traffic jam as over thirty buggies filed into their "parking lot." We waited for the traffic to clear, and I watched as families piled out of their buggies and walked into the church. A man hitched his horse to the post in line with the others, two young ladies chatted happily and stepped lightly through the snow, an older boy pumped water from a hand pump into a bucket and carried it inside. Each dressed alike, each doing their part without complaining.

I speak well of the Amish to my children and tell them that these people choose to live simply because they don't want to be dependent on others, and they don't want to be distracted by the things of this world. They want to live a quiet life and work with their hands, and win the respect of outsiders, and for the most part I think they do.

I know they are sinners tempted to legalism and pride the same as any of us, but their dedication to simplicity (blurry as the lines may get) inspires me to take a closer look at what I fill my life with. It inspires me to see the beauty in the ordinary. It inspires me to be content with what I have instead of wanting more. It inspires me to place priority on relationship with God and neighbor, not the latest gadget or entertainment. And who can
forget the most godly reaction after the senseless murder of the Amish school girls in Pennsylvania seven years ago? Just hours after their girls were murdered, the elders of the community went to offer forgiveness to the family of the murderer. That isn't cold legalism, that is Christ's love, and it inspires me to forgive my enemies as Christ forgave me.

So when we hear the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse and buggy approaching our house, we race to the window and watch breathlessly as that beautiful creature carries some of earth's most beautiful people by our door. Call me idealistic, but I will call it beautiful.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Pretty Portal

Toby is having a birthday party in one week. Just a small, family gathering, and no one is coming who hasn't already seen our house in its state of incompletion. Yet February 19th has become my target date to complete all my major projects and settling in. In view of this goal I rolled up my sleeves once more and tackled the most daunting task: painting our new front door and frame.

Get Ready

10:20 am
Get Set

(What? Blue tape? But how will you paint the doorknob and hinges?)

11:30 am

Primer coat on.

6:00 pm
Crossing the finish line

Limping, wheezing, gasping for air...but I made it! And it doesn't look half-bad.

Leftovers for dinner.

I never did get that doorknob painted, I guess I'll have to do that tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Making Lemonade

After painting large walls and moving large boxes, there is something appealing to me about tuning in to all the details of this marvelous mansion. I feel a bit like a child on an Easter egg hunt turning over leaves and peeking behind bushes, wondering what pretty design will show up next.

I can hardly stand to walk by the paint and rust covered doorknobs, hinges, and window pulls. I know how beautiful they could be, if they were given a little care. So yesterday I found a couple hours and got to work. Here is what I unearthed:

You really don't want to hear about the cockroach skeletons hiding behind these doorknob plates, so I won't tell you about them. And what happened to the doorknob? I haven't a clue.  But it doesn't really matter because a house, much like a life, is what you make of it.
Emma couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Spirit of Unpainting

Now that we are mostly settled I continue to find little projects here and there that just won't let me rest. I love my windows, I love the scenery outside of my windows, but the paint splotches all over them left by previous lazy painters are driving me nuts. My friend, the razor blade scraper, now rides around in my back pocket so I can simply take care of those erroneous blops of color in the middle of my sunset whenever I see them. The problem is that I see paint smears everywhere now. Window edges, doorknobs, outlet covers, lightswitch covers, bathroom tile, and floors are all smudged up with sloppy paint jobs and I would rather skip dinner than leave those smears on my bathroom tile.

Toby would rather I served dinner. "Yee-uunnch...time!" he insists as he leans closer to inspect my work. "Oohh mommy dooo-ing?" he asks. "I'm scraping paint off of this window, see?" I respond, not taking my eyes from the menacing streak of brown covering my view of the snow. "Want 'nack. Want bar. Want rai-sins!" he grins. And I'm forced to put the scraper back in my pocket for a few hours.

Last night, weary though I was, I couldn't go to bed without uncovering the gem I was sure lay under a blob of tan paint on my bedroom closet door. I scraped, I scrubbed, I scrubbed again with CLR and this is what I uncovered:

It makes me wonder who had the brilliant idea of painting over the beautiful antique door knob. But I also began to wonder about the hands that had put that door knob there so many years ago. I'm sure it was a lovely house in its day.

The center support beam of the house is an ax-hewn tree trunk, something Pa Ingalls would be proud of. There are two canning cellars in the basement where some woman patiently stored away a winter's worth of food for her family. And then there are the lovely doorknobs. Someone appreciated their beauty before another careless soul blobbed paint over them. I wish I knew their names.

Dwelling on these past spirits at a quarter to midnight when my husband was not home did, however, prove a little creepy. I know, I watched too many horror movies in high school. No, I don't believe that the spirits of the house's past inhabitants are watching me, but I rested my head thinking, if they were, they'd be happy with the work I'm doing.

Melting Memories

The scenery and sunsets here are wonderfully refreshing. The house is filled with big windows. It's pretty clear by the creative wiring that electricity was an afterthought when this house was built. Each morning I make my way around opening up all the mini-blinds, and we spend the day in natural sunlight. I'm sure it's awful for the heating bill, but it's water for the thirsty soul. My in-laws' house had only a couple windows, and the view out their windows was only the back of the next house in a barren subdivision, nothing like the grand old pine trees and snow covered hills here.
When I take a moment to peek out from under my to-do list and survey the newly-settled house, when I see the glowing pink sky smile from behind the snow-covered pines it feels a bit like drips of water on a hardened soul. Little seeds of life stir deep down, and sometimes I can't wait for them to grow, but sometimes I want them to stay dormant for fear that they will bear their tender shoots only to be scorched again. Emotions stir as well, peeking through the cracked surface.
Seeing the artist's outline of bare tree branches against the icy sky I pause quietly at the window and smile and breathe deeply. Then a sudden memory stabs my heart. I stare listlessly and remember. Baby Emma strapped on my front, toddler Hannah cheerfully riding in the stroller, Naomi skipping by my side chattering on unaware of her stutter. Gazing over the Iowa fields, the fresh April air sweeps into my lungs and I breathe deeply of the happiness. The stagnant Chicago air, the noisy city, the crowded condo, all distant memories. The sun is peeking through the clouds, lighting up droplets of rain on every branch we pass. The stroller wheels chatter lightly over the gravel path. We are on our way to visit the new calf and let him lick our fingers and giggle together before we head to lunch with friends in the Cono student center. We are settled, we are happy, we are alive again. And I feel that God has given this reprieve to us because he knew just what would feed our weary souls.
Two days later we learned that internal conflict at the school had put our jobs in jeopardy, and though we were ultimately granted another year there, I never felt that carefree joy again. Not through my pregnancy with Toby, not through the pain of packing up or moving in with my in-laws, not through the fiery end of the PhD program, not through the waiting of the last year and a half. There has been happiness, there has been laughter, but it has been cautious. I didn't realize how dry my soul had become until I felt the first drips of hope. It is a painful awakening.
Sometimes I stand quietly and watch the icicles drip onto the little ice patches off my porch. Free for a moment, then frozen again-not truly free until springtime. And I wonder if this period in our lives is a momentary drip between freezings or truly the advent of springtime. Sometimes I soak in the hope and sometimes I tuck my head safely back under my to-do list. Sometimes I write to sort it all out, that seems to help me the most.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Door Locked

Toby has discovered that he can push a chair anywhere to reach a whole new level of trouble now. He has pushed the chair to the kitchen counter recently and discovered butcher knives and a hot coffee pot. He pushed a chair to the window, climbed into the sill and began banging on the glass. And this morning he pushed a chair over to the basement door in our kitchen. I keep this door locked with a sliding barrel bolt because there are myriad dangers in the basement including various sharp objects, a hot iron furnace door, and an ancient refrigerator that could lock and trap a curious toddler inside.

Toby was not to be thwarted. He was delighted to find that he could just reach the barrel bolt from the chair, but disappointed that his attempts to jiggle the bolt didn't gain him access to the basement. He stood a moment and thought, then I heard him mutter to himself, "Door locked...need screwdriver." He hopped down, opened the kitchen drawer where I keep tools, found a Philips head screwdriver, climbed back up on the chair and inserted the screwdriver into the screws. Toby will turn two in just over two weeks. I'm considering giving him a padded cell for his birthday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New House: Living Room and School Room

Though not completely "done," I wanted to share the two main rooms of the house. Knowing myself, I may not feel like they're all moved in and exactly the way I want them for quite some time. But here they are, and I think they look pretty nice already.

Living Room:

Stairs go up behind the couch
Brand new front door, still needs to be painted

Home School and Craft Room:
This is supposed to be the formal dining room, but I was able to put our table in the kitchen and use this room for much nobler purposes. Besides, four kids eating over carpet would be a janitorial nightmare.

And did I mention I love the scenery? Here's tonight's sunset off my front porch:

My voice aloud to God I plead
My voice to God, He will me heed
I sought the Lord I was distressed
I gave my outstretched hands no rest

My restless soul all through the night
No comfort found in coming light
With thoughts of God my fears arise
My heart and spirit faints with sighs

You do not let my eyelids close
I am made speechless by my woes
The days of old I think upon
The years that long ago have gone

I ponder songs I sang at night
My heart and spirit search for light
Forever will the Lord reject?
Can I his favor not expect?

Forever has His kindness ceased?
And is He from his word released?
Did God forget to show His grace?
Does wrath His mercy now replace?

The I replied such questions show
That I my weakness need to know
The Most High has a firm right hand
That through the years will changeless stand

--Psalm 77A from "The Book of Psalms for Worship"
Crown and Covenant 2009
(to the tune of "He Leadeth Me")

Praise the Lord with us for his powerful provision to our family.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New House Sneak Preview

After an extreme break from the world of cyber relations for the sake of cleaning, painting, fixing, and moving into a new house; I am back online. Though I hardly have time to fill you in on all the adventures of the past two weeks, I thought I could at least post a few before and after pictures of the place so that you can see I have been legitimately busy.

Kitchen cupboards:

And After!

Before: note angel in white painting drawers!
And After!

Another view

much better

Add some comet and a little optimism...


Kids Room:
I don't have any before pictures, but the afters say it all:

An extra closet turned into Little People Village

Living room, craft/homeschool room, small office, large office/guest room, master bedroom, and basement/dungeon still to come. It'll be awhile until those are unpacked and settled. I leave you with my favorite view of all. The living room picture window on a snowy day:

They don't make them like that anymore. I think I'm going to like it here.