Thursday, August 30, 2007

To bee or not to bee?

Last night at 10:30 I finally finished Audrey's baby quilt!

Here's a look at the finished quilt.

This shows some of the detail of the hand quilting.

My friend Dyann came over from Bellevue with her kids the Saturday before last and helped me with quilting. Sneaky girl, when I wasn't looking she embroidered Audrey's initials inside a little heart on one of the corners of the quilt. So cute!

The whole quilting bee thing did not turn out quite as I expected. Even though I sent out invitations to about 25 people, I had a grand total of four friends show up over the course of all three Saturdays. The first Saturday only two friends showed up. So Debbie came over (after dealing with her goat issues), showed me how to do the rotary cutting, and I cut and pieced the top myself.

The second Saturday, no one came. I cried for a while (stupid pregnancy hormones!), wrote a cathartic poem, vented to Debbie on the phone, and then moved on and started the hand quilting on my own. During the week, Debbie came by again with her daughters and helped with the hand quilting.

On the last Saturday, Dyann and Mary were there and we did a lot of hand quilting. Since then, I've worked on my own to finish the remainder of the quilting and sew on the binding.

What did I learn from all this? Let's see... Not to pin my hopes and expectations on one "special" event or experience; things often don't turn out as planned. Real friends usually can't conform their schedules to your agenda because (hello) they actually have their own lives—but they always manage to pull through for you somehow, even if it's not the way you expect. And finally... there's a good reason people use quilting frames! But even if a quilt isn't perfect, all that love sewn in still makes it beautiful.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cut loose

On Sunday I got released from my calling as a Young Women leader at church. For those of my readers who are not Mormon, this means that I'm no longer assigned to work with the teenage girls. Callings in the Mormon church are all voluntary; assignments are made and changed based on prayer and inspiration on the part of the bishop and his counselors.

I know that my being released was in large part due to the fact that I'm having a baby this week. Debbie, who is the president over the Young Women organization, gave me a heads-up last week that it was going to happen. She told me that even though she should technically have waited until it was official to let me know, she didn't want me to think it was because she wasn't happy with my performance in my duties. And I know that's true, even without her saying so. There were some other staffing changes that needed to be made and with my impending delivery, the timing was right to switch things up.

Part of me is grateful because I know that I need to devote all my attention to this little person joining our family. Now I'll have my Wednesday nights back, not to mention all the other odd hours here and there that I ordinarily spend in meetings, preparing lessons, making phone calls, creating motivational handouts, sleeping in a teepee at girls' camp, coordinating via phone or email with other leaders, and so on.

The thing is, I love working with the girls so much that I never really begrudged that time, and so now that it's sinking in that I've been released, I'm starting to feel a real sense of loss. On Sunday when my release was announced, the girls I work with all came up after church and said goodbye, some of them crying. I didn't cry much, mostly because I wanted to make the transition easier for them; they need to feel good about the new leaders who will be coming in, and its was neither appropriate nor conducive to transition to make this change all about me. And so I told them how much I confidence I had in the new leader taking my place, and cheerfully reminded them that I would still be seeing them every week at church.

It's hitting me today, I think, because later this morning I'm handing off all my leadership materials to the woman who's replacing me—and for the first time in quite a while, I won't be going to the weekly Young Women activity on Wednesday night. I'm just trying to remind myself what a priviledge it's been working with these particular women and young women, all the friendships I've developed that will continue on, and most of all, how much I've learned from and been blessed by knowing each of them.

God is good. He gives me the sweetness of such learning experiences, and tempers the bitterness of transition with other blessings to remind me that there is a season to every purpose under heaven.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Together at last

Remember when I was longing for a new diaper bag? Those days are over. It finally arrived last week.

While I'm sure that I will soon discover that it doesn't have as many pockets as I want or the inside isn't roomy enough or that it turns wrinkly after I wash it, we're still savoring the rosy glow, the splendor of being made for each other. The slick convenience of a magnetic closure, the silky smoothness of rich brocade, the luxurious flush of deep red and warm taupe, the freedom of a changing pad that isn't attached to the diaper bag. Sigh. Me and my Kecci Shanghai Mommy Bag. Feel the love.

Monday, August 27, 2007

O, blessed nesting

I love Anne Taintor's edgy vintage-with-a-twist creations. My fridge currently sports several of her magnets, although I don't actually own the design above. Somehow "disabled" seems too harsh a description of my reluctance to ardently pursue domestic prowess. After all, I'm great at laundry and meal management, and I'm a pretty decent cook. No, I prefer to think of myself as domestically disinclined. It's not that I lack skill; it's just that I lack the will.

So thank the heavens for that fabulous, wondrous, blessed phenomenon known as nesting. In the last four weeks I've gotten more housework done than in the previous nine months. Combined. I've sewn curtains for the baby room, cleaned carpets, scrubbed the kitchen floor, hand quilted a baby quilt, and kept ahead of the dishes. And I cleaned the upstairs bathroom. Including scrubbing down the shower.

Maybe I need to get knocked up more often.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Six days...

...and counting!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Farm fresh Jimmy pix

Well, that's not strictly accurate; my friend Debbie doesn't have a farm, per se. But if you ask her, she'd say, "I'm a goat woman!"

Debbie is, in fact, a renaissance woman: she's got four kids, one husband, one old farmhouse, five goats, two cows, two dogs, two cats, a large garden, and she owns a business.

Debbie is loud, with a hilarious sense of humor, and she calls a spade a spade. She's an amazingly generous friend. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously, but has a soft shoulder to cry on when those crazy prenatal hormones get the better of me. In fact, she's kept me sane for much of my pregnancy. We have a lot of fun working together as leaders in the Young Women program at church, but we're also swimming buddies and she's been mentoring me through my first-ever quilting project. And she's single-handedly responsible for me starting to wear or sew anything that is lime green.

On Monday we went over to Debbie's so that Jimmy could check out her new baby goat. While we were there, he got to help collect eggs, feed the chickens, and jump on the trampoline.

Inside the chicken coop...

...Jimmy helps collect eggs.

Debbie schools Jimmy on how to feed the chickens...

...and now he's flying solo.

Lots of love for the big goats...

...but for some reason he's not so sure about the baby, Jolly.

Monday, August 20, 2007

All aboard for blanket bay

When I was very small, my mom used to sing me a lullaby called "All Aboard for Blanket Bay". I remember hearing that she learned it from her mother. From the time Jimmy was a baby, I've been singing it to him, too. It's now a bed-time staple that he requests almost every night:

All aboard for Blanket Bay
Won't get home 'til the break of day
I'll tuck you up in your little white sheet
So I can't see your little bare feet
Snuggle down little in your trundle bed
Go to sleep, little sleepy-head
Kiss Mommy, kiss Daddy and sail away
All aboard for Blanket Bay...

The other day I got to wondering about the history of the song and where it originated. Gotta love Google! Here's what I learned: "All Aboard for Blanket Bay" was written by Harry Von Tilzer and released in 1910. The version I remember is a variation on the chorus, and the original lyrics are a little different. The best thing I found was an MP3 of the song by an artist named Domino George: take a listen to this wonderful, old-fashioned lullaby!

P.S. 10 days and counting...

Friday, August 17, 2007

The final countdown

(I wouldn't be a child of the 80s if I could resist a reference to that seminal Europe hit, now would I?)

And so it begins...

For weeks, people have been asking me how many days left until little Audrey arrives, and I had to answer that I honestly haven't been keeping track. As of today, however, I have exactly two weeks until the scheduled delivery. Hallelujah, pass the baby wipes!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ted kooser, nebraska's poet laureate

At the end of last month my mom emailed me a link to an NPR story she read about Ted Kooser, the poet laureate of Nebraska. She told me it caught her eye because Kooser is from the same area as some of our family on her father's mother's side. I've been meaning to check out the link but I like to have plenty of time when I'm going to read poetry so that I don't feel rushed to absorb it, and life hasn't been too mellow over the last couple of weeks.

Finally today, I had some time and was amply rewarded with Kooser's lovely language and vibrant imagery. It was inspiring to read that during the thirty-five years he worked in insurance, he made the time to get up early in the morning to write poetry like this:


Slap of the screen door, flat knock
of my grandmother's boxy black shoes
on the wooden stoop, the hush and sweep
of her knob-kneed, cotton-aproned stride
out to the edge and then, toed in
with a furious twist and heave,
a bridge that leaps from her hot red hands
and hangs there shining for fifty years
over the mystified chickens,
over the swaying nettles, the ragweed,
the clay slope down to the creek,
over the redwing blackbirds in the tops
of the willows, a glorious rainbow
with an empty dishpan swinging at one end.

From Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2004.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Baby frankenstein?

Okay, so maybe that’s just a little melodramatic, but still... check out the manic, glazed look in the eyes of those animals. And if that's not enough, then this is just a little scary. Jim emailed me the article yesterday.

Back in April 2004, when Jimmy was just over a year old, Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study on the link between young children watching television and later developing attention deficit. The study prompted a flurry of news articles and I remember one of the main points being that the nature of children’s programming, with its frequent, even abrupt, scene transitions, changed the way that young brains were hardwired, creating a shorter attention span and a need for greater stimulation.

Jim and I decided then to limit Jimmy’s television exposure as much as possible, including videos. In particular, we eschewed such popular kids’ videos as the Baby Einstein series, even though on the surface they seemed designed to increase intelligence. I don’t know if it’s a direct result of this, but Jimmy doesn’t have much interest in watching television or movies now (with the exception of Blue’s Clues, which he’d watch from dawn ‘til dusk if I let him). On the other hand, he’s reading at age four, has a prodigious vocabulary, and enjoys himself for extended periods of time doing imaginative play activities.

At the risk of sounding smug (which I know I will), it’s interesting to see that this early decision we made is being borne out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quilting bee

Back when I was pregnant with Jimmy, my sister Dory recommended a book called Birthing From Within. I didn't completely agree with everything in the book, but what I appreciated was its holistic approach and emphasis on being aware of your body during pregnancy, trusting your instincts, and preparing yourself emotionally for pregnancy and parenthood. I was rereading the book several months ago and was struck by the author's suggestion to create a friendship baby quilt.

Over the past few months I've been collecting fabric and creating a design for the quilt, with the object of having a quilting bee the first three Saturdays during this last month of pregnancy to help me pass the time productively. I sent out invitations, and the first session was this past Saturday. Life being what it is, almost all of the friends who told me they planned to come that day had things come up, including my friend Debbie, who had the rotary cutter I needed to cut the fabric strips for the quilt blocks (her goat had a baby and they spent the morning trying to get the vet out to their place).

For all of five seconds I felt like the unpopular girl in high school; then I laughed at myself for taking things too personally and just let it go. After all, my house was clean, and I had it to myself because the boys were off picking raspberries. So I chilled on the couch with my feet up. Later in the morning, two friends did make it. One went home, and the other offered to stay and massage my feet while we chatted (an offer I felt compelled to accept!)

Yesterday Debbie came by and showed me how to use the rotary cutter, so we cut out all the strips for the quilt. She had been the one to originally suggest a strip quilt as being fun and easy, and I was grateful for her help because I've never made any kind of quilt before. But she was right; so far it seems to be pretty easy. Last night after Jimmy went to bed I sewed all the strips together and started to cut out the pieces for the blocks. The shot above is of the pieces for the first block; I'll start sewing it together later today. Pretty cute, huh?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Naughty and nice

I'm married to an evil genius. Oh, he looks like a clean-cut, mild-mannered techno-geek on the outside, but I'm telling you: evil. Pure evil.

Last year Jim's sister Holly came to a family gathering with a couple batches of cream puffs. Some of them were stuffed with custardy vanilla filling and others she had left plain to be filled with delicious seafood salad. Both options were addictively tasty, bordering on decadent. But it was Jim (evil genius, I tell you) who took the cream puffs over the edge. He got the recipe from Holly and in the following weeks he began to tinker with it. With some experimentation, he took what was once a decadent cream puff and turned it into something beyond sinful: a chocolate-dipped, chocolate custard-filled cream puff. You can gain ten pounds just from looking at them (and twenty if you actually eat one).

Sometimes being married to Jim is a little unsettling; does he actually want a fat wife? Why else would he keep making these diabolical cream puffs? It's almost like my husband is the Dr. Frankenstein of baking. But that's a small price to pay when he takes out the trash without being asked.

By request, I made a batch for a little soirée this evening. Good thing I'm off sugar, huh? Or there might not be any left for tonight!

Oh, and if you think you've got the willpower, the recipe is here.