So Much to Process

Yesterday Melody had her first dentist appointment (looked in her mouth a week or so ago and could see cavities).

Turns out she’s got a gobzillion cavities, and the dentist looks at me and asks, “Has she been brushing twice a day for two minutes each time?”  And I felt like saying something totally rude about how he shouldn’t assume everyone has heard those standards, and I’m not an idiot, are you taking a survey over how many people who follow the standards still get cavities?

Maybe I would have felt guilty-er if I hadn’t just had a conversation a week ago with a mom who does hyper-regulate her kids’ teeth hygiene and was crushed that her 8-year-old has cavities despite her efforts.

Anyway, they give me a quote for half her mouth (they schedule one side at a time because they don’t expect a kid to sit through the whole procedure at once) and blow off my questions/distaste for metal fillings.  “[Tooth-colored fillings] are more expensive” was all they’d say to me.

The friend who referred me had warned me about the negitive response the workers gave when asked about health issues, so I tried to make it about aesthetics (hey, this should be solid ground, I thought), and still felt invalidated.

I guess I should have taken that story as a reason not to go, but I wanted to get Melody checked and here was somebody known by somebody.  Anyway, after looking at the estimate (pushing $2000.  For one-half of her mouth. BLEW my mind) I told Jay, “I am totally calling around for prices.”

And I only had the energy to call 3 offices, but that was enough to establish that we visited an expensiver place (annoyed me) and that there are providers that are already rejecting the metal fillings themselves, so I don’t have to but heads with an establishment.

So I have to finish calling around tomorrow; one more place to meet Jay’s request of four new offices, and one call-back to compare oranges with oranges.

I’m totally getting the impression that this isn’t playing by the rules (going to place A then hijacking the x-rays and exam to have the work done elsewhere).  If office A hadn’t charged plenty for the initial exam I might feel more compunction about changing, but I’ve given the worker his due.

Continue reading

Opening 2010. Lots going on.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written here.

A lot’s been going on, but I’ve waited because none of it “stable” enough for me to write about it; to set in stone as “reality.”

But now I figure if I wait till it’s all at that level I might not remember enough to record a bunch of the neat things that God has provided recently.

While Jay was home over the holidays we made a major effort to pull the house together and (since then) to maintain it on a daily basis.  Two weeks now we’ve maintained the house at what I would call a company-ready level. (A *major* accomplishment for us.)

We have two or three “clean-up sessions” a day: one after breakfast, a sweep somewhere between lunch and Jay coming home and sometimes a third before bedtime.  The kids are getting a little better at responding to the daily (small) tidying, but they’re still not fully on board when it comes to the bigger work days (e.g., when there are 6 baskets of laundry to fold and put away).

They are nearly perfect on their morning staples though: beds made, breakfast cleared, jammies away after getting dressed.  I’m relieved at least one set of jobs is becoming automatic.  I use it as hope for the future, that there will come a time when even more things will happen un- (or minimally-) prompted.

A few days before the end of the year Jay initiated family bible reading.

Our church is following the M’Chayne bible-in-a-year reading plan for the second time this year, and Jay began before the year ended with the assignments for those days.  We read two chapters a day “privately” and two Jay reads aloud to everyone.

It’s a total of four chapters a day, a pace I’ve never been able to maintain before, but reading two per morning and snuggling the kids a bit later while Jay reads us the rest; that’s been quite comfortable.  Morning reading works especially well for us because the children are already inclined to be still and snuggly when they first wake, and having scripture be one of the first things they hear in the day seems very appropriate.

Jay started reading to us from the version he reads from (ESV) but now we’re reading from the NIrV, an adaptation of the NIV to a 3rd-grade reading level.

At the beginning of the year I pulled out my cardfile boxes (the only chore system I’ve ever attempted/maintained with a measure of success) and set it up between what I remembered the “guidelines” being and what I felt I needed to maintain.

The original system (that I maintained between Melody’s and Elisha’s births) divided card color based on chore frequency (yellow was daily, blue weekly, green monthly, etc.).  My current system is divided by assignment, and it works very well for us, allowing for a single (mom-maintained) box that everyone–sans Jay– can work from: Blue are mom’s jobs, yellow the kids and pink are school.

Frequency is listed on the top right corner, and as each job is completed (or day ended) the cards are moved to the next day that assignment is scheduled for, allowing for a perpetually renewed to-do list that requires no additional set up on the day of working.

This in intensely useful in two ways:

  • I don’t have to discover/find/remember what needs to be done in a particular day; it’s already laid out.
    • The biggest thing I learned form my exercise in scheduling last year is that anything already settled doesn’t require further energy from me.
  • I know when I’m *DONE*
    • Everybody reading this knows that housework is never finished, that there is always more to do, and if I ever feel discouraged “at home” it is usually for that reason.  With this system I know that I’ve already planned for the proper time/intervals to accomplish everything that needs to be done, so I only need to wait until the next assigned day comes around.

It was toward the end of our first full week of maintaining this system (and the rest of the house, as I mentioned before; the card system helped with that), that I saw some unexpected maturity bumps (as in, leveling up) in both Melody and me.

Actually, all the children seem more level and “secure” to me, and I’ve had (overall) more patience and perspective in parenting as we’ve been closing our days.  There are more factors and elements than the cardfile, of course, but having the clear plan to work with each morning has helped all of those areas.  I pray now that this will continue to be an effective tool.

~ ~ ~

Jay put Elisha in underwear all day his last several days at home, hoping the experience would motivate Elisha to use the toilet more.  It didn’t.

This week (Tuesday, actually) I asked Elisha in some exasperation if he wasn’t ready to leave diapers behind.  He said no, and I asked when he would be ready.

“In a week,” he said matter-of-factly.

Staying calm I carefully asked if he was ready to put his last diaper day on the calendar and he agreed.  So we are looking at January 11 being special to Elisha and Natasha both. (I’m very thankful we don’t have many places to go that week. Lord-willing we’ll have several days to solidify things before church and the busier following week.)

January 11 is special to Natasha because she gets both her birthday and party on the same day.

I’m thankful because she agreed peacefully to a very small party (few people) and that excites me as a chance to do interesting stuff (i.e., slightly complicated stuff) with a smaller group, and I think that will make for a more memorable party.

I “picked up” my novel again for the first time in hmmm, 3 months? and cut over 12,000 words in the first go.  I’ve got another perspective on the story and hope working it into reality will both make it better and bring down the word-count significantly.

Just now those words seem like an, “I’ll eat less and exercise more” resolution in its vague meaninglessness, but I’ll try to refine it as I clarify for myself what they look like in reality.

Today was the first in a series of planning meetings for the 2010 Care Net Sonshine Tea that Mom and I co-chaired last year.

We’ve both committed to lead again this year, hoping before we’re done to form a template for whomever comes after us.

Also this week the girls re-started ballet.

Natasha is more enmeshed than ever, moving gracefully through the day (often with sweeping arm-movements), but Melody indicated she might want out.

It was in a tired-but-lucid moment, and I’m praying about how to handle the question.  I’m beginning to sense the beginning of  a desire to differentiate from her sister– something that has not been very strong up to this point.  I want to support her in that (I sometimes imagine I’m a better parent to Melody than Natasha, having grown up the middle kid), but I don’t want her to leave ballet too soon.

And I had my first ESL (English as a second language) class with the two homeschool moms in my group who asked me in December to teach them.

This was amazing, and I wonder if this is the beginning of the more meaningful friendships with women I’ve been praying for.

In all the “class” was simply perfect.  No matter what I talked about it was useful and of relevance.  These are two smart women fluent enough in English to converse with and listen to me, but new enough that specialized words (bias, paraphrase, paradox, extrapolate) still need explanation.

This resulted in a situation where my tendency to fill most of the conversation (and fill it with extensive–if relevant– tangents covering all manner of life and experience) was perfectly suited for the setting.  I pray this interaction continues to be useful and mutually encouraging.

Melody seems to be picking up her interest in reading.

Earlier this week she read to Elisha a book Natasha read to her. Some of it might have been memorized, but we’d just gotten it from the library and if she can recite after one or two hearings she’s a different kind of genius.

Even so, she used her finger under the words with perfect one-to-one correlation, so at lest some of it was word recognition. I’m very excited for her.

Really, I think I was more excited than she was.  My hanging over her shoulder seemed to unnerve her and she asked what a particular line said before she finished the page.

She’s been watching me giving Natasha spelling tests and has asked for her own.  I think we’ll be starting simple 3-letter words on Monday.

This is what I meant by a maturity bump– she seems becoming aware of the world outside herself and beginning to look for her place in it.  By turns I see in her a desire to fit in, stand out, be independent and be catered to.  This is why I’m moving very slowly (for me) in relation to the question about ballet; she’s still learning her own mind, and I want to let it be her mind that is expressed in the conclusion we reach.

In Value Village last night Natasha was cooing over the horse coloring book we found, burbling about the pictures she was going to color first, when a subdued Melody admitted, “I like horses too.” Natasha expressed genuine surprise. “I thought you just liked kittens!” “I didn’t learn I liked horses till just now.  I’m still learning things about myself.” She sounded defensive and confused.

I assured her it was just fine to continue learning new things about one’s self, and that I’m still learning things about myself too.  She seemed surprised and relieved at this and visibly relaxed.

Another first with Melody was a discussion about her appearance, where I was able to tell her exactly what I find beautiful about her and that seemed to be very effective– not to mention God’s good timing.  (I’ve always been reluctant to complement one child at a time– about the same thing– and to complement everyone at the same time, well, I never trusted that kind of complement, since I couldn’t be sure if it came out of fairness rather than full truth.)

And Melody was the first one up so we had a very sweet and meaningful time together where I could focus just on her.

SO there you have it.  The last couple weeks, basically, but mostly the last three days.

Can’t promise I’ll do better with posting in future, but I know I don’t want to forget these steps.  God’s good faithfulness is beyond words.

~ ~ ~

Last Sunday the topic under discussion was Psalm 1.  The question was offered, What is *BLESSING*?

Most answers thrown out were along the lines of “happy” “good” and variations on that theme, sometimes with material implications.

When I hear “blessing” the word seems more like being wrapped in a huge blanket.

It’s nothing small enough to hand to someone or wrap in another single word.

After a few minutes listening I couldn’t sit quiet any more and burst out, “It’s so much more than something you feel or get!”

I felt an unexpected surge of emotion and felt a desperate need to say more; to say something that had meaning to more than me.  My mind was swirling with the hugeness of what God has given me– the tangible, yes, but so much ineffable beyond that that the physical things are just an outward manifestation of.

I knew I didn’t have much time and I fought to keep the emotion out of my voice as I tried to hold the floor long enough for my words to reach the essence of my thought.  I finally lost the first battle as I won the second: “Have you ever had the feeling like falling back into a ball pit and being completely buried?”

You know, those play places with the bins of light, colorful balls are piled in an area almost deep enough to swim in. At least a few people seemed to know what I was talking about.

That‘s what it feels like God is doing for me.  It continually feels unreal; how so many things just work, how the connections happen, and the *joy* that permeates it all.

“How can I keep from singing?”

Elisha’s Trauma, Elisha’s Epiphany

Elisha was stung today: five times.

A group of children were playing outside the church after services today and they ran into a wasp nest. Elisha was stung between fingers on both hands (one each) the thumb and bicep of his right arm.

Natasha was stung too, on her leg under her skirt.  Melody came down with a freaking attack of the I’m-hurt-too-notice-me-mores (she’d scraped her heel somewhere) but Natasha took the wet teabag I gave her and went off out of the way while we worked on Elisha.

The church didn’t have any baking soda (the first thing I was looking for) but I saw a gallon ziplock of Lipton teabags, and wet those to use as poultices on each sting as we found them.

Lots of people hovered (thankfully outside the kitchen), but there weren’t many ways to be useful; we were all a little stuck for “next steps.”

At the beginning of the incident, one child offered me some leaves “to chew up and put on the sting, to draw out the poison.”

I didn’t think about whether or not she knew what she was talking about.

“I have a firm policy of not putting things in my mouth when I don’t know what they are, ” I told her.

I remember trying to be careful with my tone, but feeling disgusted at the idea. Even when an adult confirmed the idea, I couldn’t stand it.  Especially since, by then, the tea had already eliminated the swelling on the first sting we applied it too and the need no longer existed as it had.


I ended up asking one family to bring Melody home behind us so I could sit in the back in between the needy-wounded.  It wasn’t till later it occurred to me I could have just ignored the under-12 rule and gotten us all home in one car, but I’m thankful no one tried to point this out to me at the time.


Once home (and only a cheese-stick’s worth of silence later) I asked mom to keep the girls a while and she came to get them.

Elisha moaned and cried through the rest of the afternoon, asking for more water on his teabags when they dried out (the swelling was gone from all the stings, but he kept the last two bags on the stings between his fingers.  He indicated more than once that those were the most painful.

Finally– almost 6 hours after his first dose when we got home, Jay and I decided it was close enough and re-dosed Elisha with the (nurse-suggested) larger dose of Ibuprofen.  Jay took a shift of snuggling him while I ate, and maybe 15-minutes later Elisha perked up in the lap and said distinctly,

“I don’t hurt anymore!”

We all cheered and praised Jesus while I watched him adjusting to this new pain-free state.  Jay talked Elisha into a glass of milk and set the boy at the table across from me.  Elisha sat there, a smile spreading on his face. “I don’t hurt any more!”

Then a connection was made.

“God healed me!”

“Yes!” I answered. “We thank God for healing you!”

“God healed me!” he said again, the delight splitting his face into a grin.

The girls came home, everybody went to bed and to sleep.  I responded to a few calls of concern that came in during bedtime, delighted to tell the story of Elisha’s revelation.

His Sunday school teacher filled in the missing piece for me.

All this month (the 2-3 year-olds do the same story every week for a month) his class has been reviewing the story of Naaman (who asked the prophet Elisha for help), talking about how Naaman was so sick his mama couldn’t help him, his papa couldn’t the doctors couldn’t.  Only God could heal him.

And I just marveled at the perfection of God’s timing– that Elisha would be prepared to praise, and be prepared with the words to use.

If Elisha doesn’t remember this on his own, I know this is a story I’ll be telling him: Even when Mama and Daddy can’t fix it, God can.

The current list of praises:

  • The quick reduction of swelling: the nurse said swelling could last up to 2-3 days
  • No threatening reaction despite the number of stings.
    • The nurse said if something *bad* was going to happen it would happen within the first two hours
  • Elisha was wearing long pants and long sleeves, protecting most of his body.
  • He wasn’t stung more.  The grandma watching everybody when it happened said he was swarmed.  A couple wasps even followed him into the church when he was brought to find me.
  • The nest was found by investigating adults who know what to do about it.
  • The teabags were there and they worked so well.
  • Everyone was so respectful and responsive– helping us manage, but not trying to manage us.
  • All the children were asleep by 9 p.m.

“All praise to God who reigns above.”

On-the-road Entertainment

I can nearly recite all of Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child, except for the bit about his journey to the Limpopo.

My favorite bit is, The next day, when there was nothing left of the equinoxes (for the procession had proceeded according to precedent)…

I had the entertainment of reciting long chucks of it to my kids while we waited in line at Sam’s Club last week (I’ll admit I was watching the other choppers to see if they noticed my impressive feat), and the delight of having Natasha correct my accuracy on a few points and recite with me until she was sure I’d gotten back into the way of it.

They all prefer to listen, and I like the idea that I’m “normalizing” for them the acquisition of large amounts of material.  We aren’t making an effort now, but come August, I hope to line up a system of regular memorization.

The Adventure

Let’s see… I’m not sure If I can make this short or interesting, but there were enough details that I felt the need to write them down.

Last Monday Jay left early in the morning, and after he left I read an e-mail from my mother that she and my dad had driven to Anchorage because my uncle being treated for cancer had caught pneumonia.

It was -40° and there was a serious question of whether this would be the last good-bye.

The next day I had to get NJ to her 6-year-old well-child check-up early, and at the doctor’s office explained to the 6- and 4-year-old the concept of cancer and the possibility this beloved uncle could die soon.

Melody at once said, “I want to see him before he dies.”  And as soon as she said it I knew I felt the same way.

We left the next morning– Tuesday– as soon as we had ourselves collected and the dog dropped and the boarder’s.  The daylight driving was uneventful, but as we entered twilight the weather descended and I was driving with little and no road markers (because of the fresh snow), wind, and blowing snow.

It was yucky, but we made it to town and met everyone at the hospital for a nice visit before making our way to the house we were staying at.  Before we left Fairbanks I knew that the antibiotics and fluids Providence gave him had pulled my uncle back to a semblance of normal, but still felt we were to go.

The next day, Wednesday, the weather in Anchorage was nutsy: freezing rain, icy streets, wind blowing emptied garbage cans all over the residential roads.

Mom and Dad went out early to figure out what was going on with Uncle A’s release, and the children and I hung about in a structureless mush until Dad came back and brought us all with him back to the hospital for a last game of Memory before Uncle A went home.  Forecast that night was for ANC to reach 65 degrees on Thursday.

Our Hostess offered to let us stay another night: the roads were still awful, and though some of them were drying out we knew that driving north we’d reach some point when they froze again, and then God help us.

Dad left on an experimental drive to pick up some things and while he was gone I checked the weather report for Friday.  It looked worse than what we were already in.  I voiced the opinion that if we were going to leave today or tomorrow the odds looked better for today.  Dad agreed when he got back and we packed the cars, the kids, and headed out.

The younger two were with mom and dad, and Natasha is very good at being quiet when told, so I could focus my attention on seeing through the crazy, wet snow blowing down.

We were creeping along a corner when I felt my back wheels turning to catch up with the front.  I remember turning into the skid and registering enough correction to slid into the snowbank nose-first rather than sideways.  We were fully off the road, and the first thing I noticed was a state trooper pulling up behind us with his lights going.

I felt a little disoriented (though not from the slide– more from the mental effort of staying on the road up to this point), and Natasha had some loose stuff tumble onto her, but otherwise we were fine.  The trooper said I was doing everything right; it was just too slippery on the road.  He radioed for a wrecker, and it arrived relatively quickly, considering we were in the middle of nowhere…

The truck pulled my car out of the snowbank and that was all it needed.  Nothing was wrong with it, and I was quite content to let Dad drive it the rest of the way to Tapper Creek.  An hour before we got there we stopped at a gas station to call ahead and found they had two rooms available and one had a queen bed and two twin-sized beds.  Mom reserved it and said we were on our way.  We arrived 2 minutes before their scheduled closing-time of 10:00p.m.

With Natasha on the couch and Elisha in the porta-crib he’s used in ANC, everyone had a bed and slept well.

We left when it was light, with Dad still driving my car, and when the roads started drying out we traded back.

The rest of the trip was without incident, other than we passed a handful of other vehicles off the road.

Oh yes, that was the bit I left out.  Moving on again from where my car was released from the snowbank, we were down to about 15MPH.  Half and hour down the road we passed a truck on its side.  Our adventure could have been a lot messier than it was.

While we were waiting for the wrecker Natasha watched the Trooper’s lights and observed matter-of-factly, “God told that man to stop and help us.  Just like in Bible times!”  “That’s because he’s the same God as was in Bible times,” I answered.  “He doesn’t change!”  And she was so delighted it spilled over in giggles.

Delayed (reporting of a) Complement

Last week Jay hurt his back when he brought the tree up from under the house.

His hurt wasn’t on my mind that evening, but, like I sometimes do, I changed into a nice dress right before Jay got home. The girls of course were thrilled and begged me to help them into dresses also, and ties sashes, etc., which I tried to do while finishing dinner.

When Jay staggered (literally) through the door, complaining of his pain (he’d planed this whole scene of agony for my benefit), he collapsed on the couch and looked up at me. I wasn’t looking the way he’d expected.

“You know,” he said, after a pause, “it’s really hard to complain to a beautiful woman.”

“I’ll have to remember that,” I said.

He played with the kids (a change from what I expected with that sore back) while I finished dinner, and I was able to join in for the last of the game.

Later, at dinner, Natasha was gazing at me with eyes nearly glowing and a huge smile on her face. I was so busy juggling the meal I didn’t really notice at first, until she said, “Oh Mama, you just so beautiful I can’t keep my eyes off you.” (Lots of nervous giggling from her, before and after this statement).

She’s said this once before (and once said something similar about my singing), and I never know, really how to respond to that. Such uninhibited adoration is not something fallible humans like me are used to receiving.

Anyway, I’m going to have to remember that trick with the dress. I never expected changing my clothes would change the tone of the entire evening, but it did.

“Where Do They Go to School?”

We took the kids to a playgroud last Saturday morning. There was a family of three kids already there, the oldest brother (maybe 10) seemed to be vaguely in-charge and eager to converse with an adult (hey, that’s me!).

He asked if that school was where my kids went. I said they weren’t old enough to “go” anywhere yet. “Well, will they come here when they’re old enough?” he persisted.

“No,” I said, “I’ll be teaching them at home.” The young man seemed nearly distressed, and protested, “But they need friends!

Home Again…

Was gone much of the last week for our last (immediate) family wedding.

Random “over-heards” from the weekend.

A tee-shirt on the groom:

No, I don’t have a girlfriend.
But a know a girl who would be pretty upset if she heard me say that.

After the wedding:

60-something uncle: So, [Groom] what are you planning on doing tonight?
Unbelieving stare from groom.
40-something uncle: Has it really been that long since you were married?

And then there was the one on the drive home where my oldest asked,

Are we going to Fairbanks and real-Alaska, now?

And here we are, at almost 1400 miles of driving, five in a Subaru Legacy, in less than a month.

Family 8/07

Do we look a little dazed to you? (In case you didn’t know: these pictures are “clickable.” Click to see the picture full-size.)

Now, Lord willing, my goal is to really set up house and find a balance now that sickness, dog (yes, dog 🙁 ) and crazy-fast weekends across the state are over for the present.

Storytelling class

I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but I recieved a scholarship for the Summer Arts Festival’s storytelling class.

This was very cool because I wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

The combination of personalities and beliefs creates an interesting chemistry.  Elisha’s been sleeping poorly again, and my awareness is  being filtered through that tiredness, so sometimes I feel like I am missing something in the interaction.

Picking a performance story for the class has been interesting, too.  My mind keeps changing and taking on new ideas (and guessing how others will perceive those ideas), shifting my thoughts about what’s appropriate for this group.

You’d Think We’d Know By Now

And in our own defense, when we’re not sleep-deprived we do remember.

We were at a wedding reception tonight where the main course was pulled-pork. We put the sandwiches together ourselves at a buffet-style table where there was also coleslaw to put on top of the meat. All this was very new to me.

Really, I was doing my best not to feel too self-conscious building three sandwiches on two plates, and not hold-up the line too much.

I reconvened with Jay and the kids and almost at once he had to get up for a new sandwich because the coleslaw had raw carrots in it. I know he’s allergic to those, but there was his sandwich.

After Jay’s run back through the line, he returned with a handful a cherry chocolate kisses and unwrapped one. “Here’s dessert,” he said, starting to put it in my mouth. I managed to drop it before it touched my tongue and hastily reminded an annoyed-looking Jay that I can’t stand the cherry flavor used in candies.

He let it go that easily, and said, “You’d think I’d remember by now.” I pointed out that I’d just made the mistake with he carrots, so it wasn’t like he was alone.

And that is why I call weariness as our defense. We’re really zonked right now, and it really explains everything.