Sunday, August 10, 2014

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation....

When I was a little girl, returning to school in September, this was my first assignment. Take out a sheet of paper from my Big Chief tablet and write down all about my summer adventures.

We went on O.N.E. vacation my entire growing-up-life. To Colorado, all eight of us, in a station wagon. We ate bologna sandwiches at roadsides, and slept in a big tent. I thought it a grand adventure when we gathered big rocks and wrote our name in the snow, in Estes Park, in August. Mostly we stayed home all summer, every summer, watching morning cartoons, then venturing outside to play, drinking warm water from the hose, and staying outside til supper. When talk of 'west nile virus' comes up, I tell our kids we used to chase the 'mosquito dope truck' (as we called it), swallowing in big gulps of the insecticide coming out of it! How did any brain cells survive? We swam in sand pits, had lemonade stands, caught crawdads on strings laced with raw bacon, rode bikes, and stole apples from the orchard at the back of the neighborhood. Who needed vacation?

Now I am grown, the kids are grown, the grandkids are growing at an alarming rate, so we got in the minivan and went on a three month 'vacation'. Back home all of 48 hours, after covering right at 7000 miles - here's a quick snapshot of what we did in May....

We took our skinny grandsons to the city beach, and watched them fearlessly run in and out of the freezing water. Temperature was around 60 degrees and didn't phase them in the least.

There is nothing, BTW, to not love about this photo. Grandson Grayson's wet hair plastered to his head, his big ole goggles, sand on his skinny little arms. One of my favorite photos from this summer. We're framing this one for our Idaho townhouse walls.

Don turned this old door into a king size headboard for our townhouse bedroom. I painted it Imperial red :-)  Perhaps I can find a photo of the finished project, after we unpack a bit more and find the camera...

We celebrated Mother's Day at a nearby state park, and days old Miss Hallie Grace slept through the entire celebration.  It's hard to believe she'll be 10 weeks old this week. More photos of her, with chubby cheeks, to come.

Papa, who grew up in Boulder, Colorado, shared his frisbee-throwing skills with our grandkids. They had a hard time hiding their surprise that Papa knew how to do anything remotely cool. Imagine if they could see him ride a unicycle?!  He has, on occasion, shared his yo-yo skills with the grandsons who are mightily impressed. As they should be. At 63 he can still 'walk the dog' and do 'around the world'....

Cutie patootie Sarah Grace, more beautiful by the day, is a fast-moving bundle of squishiness.

We learned this is called SUP, stand up paddle boardings. Caiden was a pro his first attempt. I love his fearless approach to all things new.

More photos of Caiden to come. After mere months of living in Idaho he's on a swim team, just finished his first kid-version triathlon, rides his bike all over the place, loving his new life in the northwest. I love that he's getting to grow up this way.

So we're home, the counters are covered with bins and baskets and piles of stuff we hauled home to Texas. There's not much in the fridge, but an ordered in pizza is keeping us going for now. I've taken a dip in our pool three times in 36 hours, and plan another swim tonight. We've come home to typical weather for August in Texas, but it's still feeling pretty darned good to be home. We're ready to start attending church, watch some preseason football, swim, cookout, eat snow cones, visit the library to restock books (I'll share soon what all I've been reading) and enjoy what is left of summer.

I'll be back soon with June and July photos of our time in the northwest later this week. I'll tell you about our trip to British Columbia (gorgeous, gorgeous!), the visitors who flew to Idaho to see us, some photos of our sweet little Idaho home, and of course our growing grandkids. In the meantime thank you for all the sweet souls who stopped by weekly to see if I'd come up for air. I'll try to do a better job of staying in touch.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hello from Idaho

Somehow two months, to the day, have flown by since I was last here. We've had an awful lot going on, and I won't bore with details. I'll just toss a few bullet points out as a catch-up.

Hallie Grace, born May 27, 2014 We're all already in love with her. She's grand baby #8, the caboose to all our blessings we suspect, and an answer to prayers that ran years-long. God is good. 

We're in Idaho now, all snug and cozy in our little Coeur d'Alene townhouse. Some of the bedrooms are still empty. The garage has more than its share of to-be-chalkpainted furniture, but Hallie and picnics and dollar movies and glasses of wine at sidewalk cafes and such have us running behind a bit. All is good.
I'm having a birthday tomorrow - #59. I seriously am barely used to being 50, which I celebrated by doing a cartwheel in my backyard. Sometimes I think about doing that and wonder what my back would think.... Don bought us bicycles as my gift, and we've got plans to pedal all around town here in Idaho. The 70-degree days and low 50's nights just call for bike riding. 

My eye is not better, but not worse, so the jury is still out on a long-term prognosis. Either it will get better, or it won't and I'll learn to deal with it. I remember that so many others have so much more to deal with, and count myself blessed. 

Let's see - I've been reading quite a bit, in spite of being one-eyed! Right now I'm thick into a series my daughter, Sarah recommended - author is Laurie King, and the first book is The Beekeeper's Apprentice, fiction, about Sherlock Holmes and his 15 year old apprentice. One of those books that makes me want to stay in the tub til I'm completely shriveled, or sneak away somewhere and curl up til I'm finished. I started the year with a 52 in 52 pledge of 52 books this year - not sure what # I'm on, but I'm still plugging away. I also grabbed a book, 'The Happiness Project' at the Boise airport and it is intriguing. 

That's about it for now - nothing riveting, just lazy days of summer, new babies, furniture painting, picnics, grilling burgers, watching old movies, knitting at night, sleeping in when we can, wine on the porch at night watching the neighborhood wind down - it's all good. 

I'll try to be back sooner rather than later, quite possibly with some more new baby photos. 

P.S. We're still crazy about our new puppy - Lily has been a trooper since we got her, having flown 4 times, made a 1000 mile road trip and lived in two different houses, had her tail pulled and didn't bite, ate my knitting once but nothing else - so overall, so far so good. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fail to Plan - Plan to Fail.....

In spite of being one-eyed for the past month or so, I've been doing some reading. And cooking. And knitting. I surprise myself with that one!

Lately, I'm on a cooking kick. We have this big kitchen, with counters galore, and in the hubbub of life I hadn't cooked much for quite awhile. It's actually been more of a 'lets-take-better-care-of-ourselves' and 'lets-spend-less-on-junk' kind of thing, than a cooking kick. My one and only 2014 New Year's Resolution was 'get healthy'. So this falls in line with that goal.

My daughter, Sarah, suggested a book she was reading. It's called The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn, who is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. You'd never know she'd gone to a pretty high level cooking school, for the practicality of the book, and I love, love all things practical. Like getting a dog when you travel half the year.....

Anyway, the book is non-fiction, a story of Flinn realizing women these days don't know how to cook, are intimidated by it, and so we fill our carts with junk at the grocery store, spending more than we should, and hurting our health to boot.

I'm pretty deep into the book, which I checked out from the library. It's so chock full of good stuff I've ordered a used copy on Amazon for a whopping $2.63 plus shipping.

Back in the day, when we were feeding three growing kids, I read all sorts of books, trying to cut our grocery budget. I clipped coupons and did everything I could to keep costs down, and everyone filled up. Here's what Flinn has to say about cutting grocery costs, in her chapter 'Waste Not, Want Not'.
'If you want to save money and eat well, worry less about buying in bulk or what's on sale..... the number one way to save money on your grocery bill is to not waste food..... buy less and shop more often.' 
That pretty much trashes the idea of going to Costo or Sam's to save money by buying in bulk..... (not to mention the beach umbrella or cashmere sweater or latest book you throw in your cart.)

The book says that very few homemakers actually plan meals ahead of time, and hardly anyone plans them for a week at a time. Instead they go to the store and buy what they always buy, or what's on sale, bring it home and it sits on the shelves and expires, or if it's produce they tend to throw it out. She states that we throw away 25 - 30% of the food we buy, wasting $100 billion annually in America alone.

I've got a good dose of planner genes in me, but mostly I'm just practical (most of the time anyway) and a bit cheap. I've tried lots of menu planners, and usually erred on the side of too complicated. After trying this most recent method for about three months, I think I've hit on something that works. Here it is:

I took the first letter of each day of the week and came up with a category of food.

Monday - Make a pizza
Tuesday - Taco Tuesday
Wednesday - When in Rome
Thursday - Take Me Out
Friday - Fire up the Grill
Saturday - Stir Fry
Sunday - Simple and Sweet

On Mondays we have a homemade pizza, but it could be store bought too, or even ordered in. Tuesday is anything Mexican. Wednesday is anything Italian. Thursday is go out for whatever sounds good - to me or him, or both. Friday is grilling night and I'm learning to grill more. It was something I avoided in the past because the gas grill scared me. This past week I grilled shish kabobs! And they were great! We don't go out for Chinese food much since I bought a wok at Walmart for around $20 for Saturday night stir fry. And mine has a lot less salt and NO MSG. Sunday is anything really, really, really easy with dessert to follow. We use any leftovers for lunches during the week, and sometimes I'm cooking extra on purpose, to freeze for my husband when I'm traveling. Lasagna, mexican casseroles and stuffed peppers all freeze great, and he'd never cook those while I'm away. He's more of a 'Big Man's Frozen TV Dinner' type, and we all know how healthy that is....

This menu plan is so simple I can easily remember it. I googled menu templates and found one I like, and printed out a bunch. Every Monday morning I sit down with a menu form, the week's calendar, and within minutes the week's meals are planned. On the back of the paper I jot down whatever ingredients I need to cook those dishes, and I give that to my husband who blesses my socks off by doing our grocery shopping (gotta love a retired husband!). (Note - most of the meals I make don't need much of a recipe.)

This plan isn't set in stone - it's very flexible. This week we're meeting a friend for dinner on Tuesday night, so that will be 'Take me Out' night, and on Thursday I'm making Fish Tacos.

So far, so good. We're eating at home more, and I'm not worrying over making something different 30 days of the month. My husband would be happy if I made spaghetti every single week, loves pizza, and so this is working well for both of us.

If you'd like to learn more, about how to save money on groceries, or how to roast a chicken at home, I highly recommend her book - it's interesting, entertaining, and educational.

Last night I read the chapter, "What's in the box', and was shocked to find out the first ingredient in a box of cake mix is sugar. That means the main ingredient is sugar, not flour, and that cake mix has over 20 ingredients in it, many of which are chemicals. I baked a cake from scratch today, with a handful of ingredients and sugar wasn't the main one; it took no time at all and tasted great. In the recent past if I hadn't had a mix in the pantry I wouldn't have baked a cake. It was so easy! And fun!

I feel like we're throwing away a lot less food, eating more healthy food that tastes better, and our kitchen smells great most of the time.

My husband and I are both introverts, albeit at different levels. It's not our natural tendency to invite people over. Romans 12:13 tells (doesn't suggest) us to 'practice hospitality'. Someone who has been a great encouragement to me, for years now, when it comes to entertaining is Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer. If you can use help in the area of opening your home, what to cook, and all the how to's of that, check out her website. I always come away encouraged to invite someone over.

A great website to use for everyday recipes is  Mel's Kitchen Cafe. She's a young mom, with a houseful of kids, so her meals are practical food that families will eat. She's got more recipes than you'll ever use with a great search engine to find what you're looking for. I also learned this week that William Sonoma offers FREE cooking classes on an on-going basis. Just stop by their store and see what's being offered, and sign up for one! I plan to take one next week on making Easter brunch. There are also youtube videos (this link is 28 basic cooking lessons) and Flylady, who calls her crockpot her 'secret weapon' is great for equipping women. (Just choose carefully how many emails a day you want sent to you - I went with minimal, which is usually just once a day.)

If you struggle with planning meals, or cooking overall, maybe some of this will help. If it does, let me know :-) 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Perhaps a dog next fall?.....

That's what we said last November. That's what planners do - they talk and think and ponder and make plans. Being petless for the first time in years, we began to mention to each other - what about a little dog? This would only come up when we'd be out and see other people's adorable little dogs. One of us brought it up 100X more than the other.....

We're leaving in about six weeks on a 2100 mile road trip, heading northwest and so of course a dog wasn't a great idea, at least until we got back home in the fall. 

Meet Miss Lily. 

My husband told me, 'you seem to need a dog. Why?' 

I don't know - I just did. 

Sometimes you just do what your heart tells you. 

At the end of the day, we settled on the fact that we weren't adopting a person who had to be raised for 20 years, and sent away to college. It was just a dog. We also talked about some of the things we've done over the years, that made no sense whatsoever, and ended up being a great idea. 

Like getting married. 

Like having kids too close together.

Like retiring early. 

After having her for almost a week, I find myself thinking, 'why did I want / need her so badly?' 

Was it because our daughter moved 2100 miles away, and I needed a girlfriend in the house? Was it to have a walking partner who forced me out the door? Was it to leave a buddy behind for my hubby when I traveled? Was God giving one of us a buddy, for someday when it's only one of us? Was it to be a comfort while going through some tough things in our lives?

I still can't say for sure, but after finding her and bringing her home, I'm thrilled to have her. She makes me laugh. She makes US laugh. She makes us feel blessed to have such a tiny thing trust us to care for her. Our Texas grandkids are VERY happy to have her here. I suspect she'll become my swimming buddy, she's already our 'go-on-errands' buddy and I'm looking forward to taking her with us to sidewalk cafes. I envision sipping coffee, reading the paper while she sniffs the world around her and visits with anyone passing by who wants to give her a pat on the head. 

Our kids have let me know they think they've all been replaced. Maybe just a little, and just for now, while she's so new to the family. I remind myself to give my husband a kiss every day, so he doesn't feel completely replaced too. 

I just called the airline and reserved her as carryon for my trip to Idaho later this month. My husband, after he heard the cost, still said, 'you better take her with you, so she doesn't overly bond with me.' (I suspect he knows that would mean dog #2.....)

We named her Lily. It was a good southern name, something I wouldn't shorten, and as she gets older she'll slide into Miss Lily I think. It makes me happy to call her name, from a corner of the yard, and see her come bounding across the grass, ears flying and tags jingling, to find me. 

There's something a little bit sacred about being entrusted with one of God's creatures, caring for it, getting out of bed earlier than you want, taking a walk when you'd rather not, and maybe even fitting your life around their's a little bit, rather than being so independent and not having your schedule messed with. 
"He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog."
Gene Hill

I found out her haircuts cost $10 more than mine and have to be done just as often. She also needs stuff applied every single month to keep nasty things away. Plus there's daycare if we're going to be gone too long in a day, and kenneling overnight for short trips she can't go on. So a new line item in the budget apparently.

But we can't take any of it with us anyway; the dog books (another $15) tell me she should be with us 12-15 years.  I expect we're going to be glad we made this decision - in spite of the few piddle spots on the carpet, walking around the backyard in my robe or late at night in pjs.

Some things you just can't put a price on. I suspect she is one of them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Driving Miss Daisy...

It's been three weeks since I've been here, so I thought I'd attempt a little cornea update.

Things are better. Marginally so, but better. I still can't see clearly out of my right eye, but I can see, sort of. I can see my hand in front of my face. I can tell how many fingers I'm holding up. I can see the stripes on the bathroom wallpaper. And every day I can see a bit more. Not clearly, but I can tell stuff is there.

Three weeks ago I couldn't see my hand, or my fingers, or the wall that has wallpaper on it. So it's very, very, very encouraging, not just to see things, but to know that my eye is healing. We weren't sure until about a week ago. I'm a 'half-full' kind of girl, but until the end of last week I couldn't tell my husband I saw any improvement. Now I do, quite literally. That leads me to believe my eye will heal, and hopefully, prayerfully, it will heal completely.

I have yet another cornea specialist appt. tomorrow and we'll see what she says. Every time she checks my eye it runs us $100. If she cuts on it, to remove dead stuff so new stuff can grow, it costs another $100.

I have realized I am tougher than I thought. I can have someone deaden my eye, and snip scissors and not scream or run away, or even sweat.

All this means I also haven't driven a car since 2/28/14. That's the longest I've gone without driving since I was 17 years old.

My sweet, dear, off-the-charts nice-guy husband has driven me E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. since this happened. We went to the library three times last week, ironically for books for me to read with one eye. The grocery store at least twice. The gardening store. The farmer's market. The eye doctor. Panera for lunch. To visit churches. To the mall several times. A trip to Petsmart to look at dogs. A one hour drive across DFW to pick up a dog. And sometimes he just takes me out for ice cream or whatever to get me out of the house, because the truth is some of these days have felt like they lasted more than 24 hours.

I've been humbled to be so needy, and humbled to realize it could have been both my eyes, but thank-you-God it was only one. I can't even imagine what my husband would have had to do for me if it had been both.

So we're both hopeful I'm turning a corner, that the abrasian is healing enough to begin to make a difference in my sight. If someone had told me on March 1 that I would not drive til sometime in April, that I would not be able to read a book easily or watch TV or knit or pay bills online without a lot of work I would have been horrified.

But it's actually been okay. We've managed, been patient with each other, and I've realized I can do a lot with just this one eye working. I'm even knitting a baby sweater - who knew?

I've had a number of people ask me if it will heal completely - will my sight come back? I don't know yet. I pray so. Lots of people are praying so. It's looking more like it every day, no pun intended. Whatever it ends up being, when this right eye is as completely healed as it's going to get, and I get behind the wheel of our car, drive myself to the library or grocery store or hair appointment, I'm pretty confident I can say I won't ever, ever, ever take it, or him, for granted again.

Life lesson #999 - you're never too old for yet another life lesson. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Cornea's Fascinating Journey.....

this isn't my eye, but a good rendition of what is wrong with it. If it was my eye, I'd be plucking the eyebrow above, but that's just me. 
It's been a month since I've been here; my plans were to do a better job of staying in touch.

So much for good intentions.

Our oldest daughter, Sarah, and her family moved to northern Idaho; I came home, and left four days later on what was to be a total relaxation vacation with my husband.

Two days into it, after spending an afternoon lying on a beach, my contacts felt dry from the wind and my eyes felt tired, like they needed a rest. I took out my contacts. Without solution. Threw them into the bag of sea shells I'd collected and figured all was okay.

Two hours later I was getting medical care because I could not stand any light in my eye. And isn't hindsight so wonderful? Apparently most contact injuries occur from either sleeping in contacts when you're not supposed to (I don't) or taking them out when your eyes are dry and tired. That's what I did, apparently. At the doctor I filled out the little form, telling them various surgeries they asked about that had nothing to do with anything, and also mentioned that I WAS ALLERGIC TO SULFA. IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS.

The doctor told me I had conjunctivitis - possibly contact related, or not. Lucky me, there was NO corneal abrasian. Just use the antibiotic / steroid drops every few hours and I should feel better in 24 hours. Not being able to see so well, I took what the doctor prescribed, and started dropping it into my eyeball. He also told me I was 'irresponsible for getting sunburned' but since that's minor compared to his other failings, we'll be mature and move on.

24 hours later I was back because my eye was much worse, and they said to just keep using the drops, it would apparently take a bit longer.

24 hours later I could not see out of my eye, could not stand any light into it, in severe pain. My eye was a complete mess. What started on Monday afternoon ended on Thursday afternoon at Urgent Care, and a doctor telling me I now had a severe corneal abrasian, use this new $100 bottle of drops and STOP using the other one because IT WAS SULFA THAT I HAPPEN TO BE ALLERGIC TO. And I might consider seeing an optometrist to check out the overall condition of my eye.

The optometrist told me my eye was such a mess it 'was above her pay grade' and immediately sent me to a corneal specialist to be sure there was no hole in my cornea so that I would not need a transplant..... She also took about 20 photos of my eye because it was a mess like she'd never seen. Off we went to the cornea specialist who (I'll spare you the gruesome details here) treated my eye, gave me more medicines and told me to come back Monday.

On Monday I was told the steroid I've been using, that is necessary to prevent scar tissue from forming and possibly permanently affecting my vision, is also, unfortunately, thinning my cornea to a dangerous level, so here I am now - putting stuff in my eye every two hours, praying my cornea is thickening rather than developing a hole. I go back tomorrow to see how we're doing. I can now see some light and some colors but no definition.

It's amazing what you can't do without both eyes, and how much you use them. I know that sounds obvious but you don't realize how much you take them for granted til you take them for granted.

So if you feel so inclined, feel free to pray for my little right cornea, that she'll grow and heal and that tomorrow the specialist will tell me she sees improvement.

Soon as that happens I'll be back to tell you what else I've been up to, or have planned, or am hoping to do. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hallie Grace....

I wanted to pop in to show you why I flew to Idaho two weeks ago.

This is a family answer to prayer. A miracle of sorts. A reminder that when the preacher tells us to repeat after him, "God is good all the time, all the time God is good" he's right.

Our middle daughter, Leslie had a little boy 7 1/2 years ago, then no more. Appointments and procedures and tears and asking God why, then settling in. Then a longing coming back to the surface, and more procedures and tests and still no baby and more tears. The wait had been long enough that their son was old enough to join in asking God.

And finally, out of the blue, an ordinary, non-specialist, somewhat-elderly, partly-retired doctor asked her one question, suggested a simple procedure. Told her afterwards she should be good to go. As in go home and get pregnant. I prayed God wouldn't let her heart be broken another time.

When that little boy called me, I thought we were going to talk about his guinea pig again. He said, "Grammy, I'm going to be a big brother." "What?" "I'm going to be a big brother."

I completely, absolutely, 100% fell apart with joy that made my face turn all squishy and red, and I was speechless.

Leslie decided somewhere in the midst of all those prayers, if God ever gave her a daughter, she would be named Hallie Grace. After Hallelujah for 'Praise the Lord'. After Grace for undeserved favor. To be in the room with that family of three, after praying and waiting for six years, and see and hear this little one's heart beating, watch in wonder as her legs and arms moved, see a button nose and hear them tell us everything looks great - again, I couldn't speak.

Standing three feet from Leslie's belly, locking eyes with her as the technician said, "and it's a little girl" - the joy of a daughter for a daughter swept me away.

For the first few days after we found out she's a she, thoughts popped up. We talked of tutu's and nail polish. Of Daddy/daughter dances and princess costumes at Halloween. Tea parties and walks down the aisle and pony tails and girl cousins at sleepovers, ruffled dresses and leggings, a long list that made us smile over and over and over. Oh the fun we had in store aisles, searching for soft pink.

This little one will be grandbaby #8, and we're so thankful for every single one of them. In the past twelve years we've prayed over grandbabies' surgeries, minor and scary, fevers, broken bones, splayed open limbs, etc., with more than our share of God's goodness and mercy as an answer. This one isn't anymore a blessing than those other 7; she is, for me, another reminder that God is faithful, even when we give up. Maybe because this particular grandchild was such a long time coming, I find myself thinking about that moment of conception when God takes something so microscopically small and creates life. A person the size of a poppy seed, with an eternal soul is formed, will have their own, unique place in history.

When we first learned about Hallie Grace she was the size of an apple seed. Now she's a hefty one pound.  We've known about her for four months, but He always knew.  Hallelujah, praise the Lord.