blender blunders and the grave-dancers' union

tonight after youth group, i decided to make strawberry smoothies, so i got the blender out of the pantry, assembled the ingredients, and fitted the lid in place, but i couldn't find the lid's center plug. giving up, i put my palm over the lid's opening and pressed "blend," when a HORRIBLE crushing, grating sound ensued. i stopped it and jim came in to investigate. was it not on its base correctly? he twisted it, made sure it was snug, and again it emitted a crunching sound that was definitely not the sound of metal blending ice. no, that is because it was the sound of metal blending plastic. riiiiiight. found the plug!

on an entirely different note, there is only one church in the valley that has a youth pastor, and so it is the town's de facto youth ministry. kids from all the area churches and no church at all come out every week. this church doesn't have a yard or lawn, which makes playing rambunctious teen games a little tricky, especially when the weather is too nice to stay indoors. no matter! tonight we played a rousing soccer-esque game with a giant rainbow gym class ball in the graveyard amid the headstones. i don't exactly know how to feel about this. on one hand, it seems disrespectful. on the other hand, since we believe in heaven, why shouldn't the cemetery be a place of joy, since in death we aren't our bodies anymore? i wouldn't condone it, but i am not in charge, and i must admit that much fun was had.


on reading and ritual

dylan and i have a lovely morning ritual that plays out several times a week. if dylan wakes before she is ready to get up, i nurse her and put her back in her crib. if she wakes up a little later, however, and jim has started getting ready for his own early morning appointments, i bring her into bed with me. i feed her, and then we read together from one of my books.

she has a beautiful collection of her own stories that we read together at other times of the day, thanks to everyone who brought books to my baby shower. but in the early mornings, i read aloud to dylan from whatever is on my nightstand. as little as she is, she seems to enjoy listening and watching my expressions as i read even more than when i try to get her to notice color and detail in her picture books. we read for a while, and after a bit she falls back to sleep. sometimes i read a little longer, but more times than not, i close my book, snuggle in close, and fall back to sleep with my sweet girl.


a few of my favorite things

In honor of the waning days of our Blockbuster subscription, these are some of my favorites rentals from the past few months:

Juno--witty script, three dimensional characters, funny and heartfelt.
Suburban Girl--an adorable off-the-radar girl movie about a May-December romance between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin.
Lars and the Real Girl--fantastic and off-the-wall weird. Ryan Gosling is tremendous. It’s about growing up, and it notably portrays both the church and the denizens of a small community in a positive light--they aren’t provincial or prejudiced, but deeply generous, kind, and accepting.
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium--a kids' movie that is also funny for adults.
Once--ultimately a music movie. If you like folksy, singer-songwriter stuff, you’ll enjoy it.
Things We Lost in the Fire--this is my favorite. It is alternately sad, funny, and ultimately hopeful. Halle Berry and Benecio del Toro both give great performances.
Gone Baby Gone--this has a lot of swearing and some violence, but if you can get past that, it is a really interesting morality study.
Dan in Real Life--cute and funny family-oriented film.
Waitress--alternately funny and heartbreaking. Keri Russell is great.
We also have been renting season one of Arrested Development, which is ridiculous and strange. I love Jason Bateman!


good eating {best bread machine recipe}

we have our very own santa claus, and he brings us goodies year round, like heirloom tomatoes, wild mushrooms, smoked trout, and venison. today, he arrived at our doorstep with a handful of morel mushrooms that he'd foraged on property. i had never seen morels before, let alone eaten them. (they look spongy, like something grown underwater.) morels aren't something you typically pick up at the supermarket; they only grow a couple weeks out of the year, and you have to special order them, unless you too have a generous mushroom-hunting friend. jim won't eat mushrooms, so i got to enjoy them by myself, sauteed in butter. they were meaty and delicious--a wonderful, unexpected treat!

before dylan was born, jim and i had a weakness for take-out. we both love to cook, but we can get lazy. now that we're down to one income, we're trying to reform our lazy ways, and we've been giving our appliances a workout. i've already mentioned my love affair with the immersion blender and homemade soup. jim works wonders with the waffle iron and bread machine. our favorite go-to recipe is a three seed wheat bread, and this week he expanded his repertoire to include garlic coriander naan. it was great with homemade hummus.

having moved from pittsburgh to a small town, we already had to give up access to indian, vietnamese, middle eastern, and thai goodness, so cutting back on the pizza or sandwiches that abound locally is really not such a sacrifice. with a little time, we are making great food, saving money, and eating more healthfully.

do you have a breadmaker collecting dust in a cupboard? try out this recipe that we got from the back of the bob's red mill flax seed package, (but you can get cheaper flax anywhere that sells bulk grains.)

1 1/4 c warm water
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 c whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour (could probably make with all whole wheat, but we haven't tried yet)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c flax seed
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 tsp active dry yeast

it says to add ingredients like your machine recommends. jim adds the dry ingredients, excluding the yeast, and puts the salt around the perimeter. he makes a small well in the center and puts the yeast there. then he adds the wet ingredients, and starts the machine, using the deluxe rapid rise setting. if it looks dry he adds more water and if it looks wet he adds more flour. wonderful, homemade bread is ready in one hour!

remember the sabbath

growing up, my family did a pretty good job of observing the sabbath together. it wasn't really talked about or dwelt on much, but sunday was a day of rest, worship, and family time. we'd go to church and come home to share a big afternoon meal in the dining room on fine china. even throughout high school, eating dinner together was a priority, but sunday dinners were extra special. (it was the only day we ate crescent rolls, twice-baked potatoes, and pie!) on saturday, we accomplished all of our chores, and the only work anyone did on sunday was to prepare and clean up after the meal together. we didn't go out with our friends and we didn't go shopping. we'd nap, read the paper, maybe watch some tv, and spend time together.

as i grew up, sunday did become a day to do homework, but i had to squeeze it in around church, family dinner, and youth group. in college i struggled with observing the sabbath. i didn't want to do any work on sunday, but after a long week of class, i wasn't willing to do my work on saturday instead. basically, saturday became my day of rest--sleeping in, hanging out with friends, going out--but it wasn't a sabbath, because the time honored me, not God. sunday i went to church, but after brunch with friends the entire rest of the day was spent researching, reading, and writing, writing, writing. instead of a sabbath, sunday became yet another day of work.

i've been thinking about sabbath-keeping in a way i haven't in a while. it's counter-cultural to abstain from work, busyness, and consumption. we lead hurried lives and there are many demands on our time, but inconvenience is not a legitimate reason to disregard God's command to us.

the sabbath is a time to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and that the world does not revolve around us and our efforts. the incredible truth about God's grace is that there is nothing we can do to earn or add to our salvation, yet instead of obediently taking a day to reflect on the holiness of God and his creative, redemptive power, we run around filling our time with errands, chores, activities, and distractions. to observe the sabbath is to humble ourselves before a holy God and acknowledge that God, not us, is the one in control. our work can wait a day. the laundry can sit. the grocery shopping can wait.

how can i expect to hear the voice of God if i never take time to be still?

scripture promises blessing to those who keep the sabbath. it exists not only to honor the God who rested from creation, but it also for us to experience rest, allowing God to renew and restore us. Jesus, who called himself Lord of the Sabbath, said that "the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). it was made to bless us as we bless God and bless others.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13-14)
LORD, forgive me for doing as i please, not only on the sabbath, but every day. teach me not to go my own way, but to follow you more closely. thank you for your promise of joy found in obedience to your Word.


lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

the above blur is a penguin at the pittsburgh zoo today. it was warm, beautiful, and so good to be outside and in the city. it is a wonderful zoo, and you almost forget you are in the city until you round the corner from the elephants and you see this:

dylan is still pretty little, so she wasn't exactly enamored with the animals, but she was perfectly content to take in the activity and stimulation. her eyes carefully followed the penguins and fish in the aquarium as they swam around, and she seemed to enjoy the light and water. i loved the tigers that came right up the glass, the swimming polar bears, and the playful penguins. jim liked the fish, especially this one:
while we were in the tunnel under the polar bear pool, we met a three-year-old girl also named dylan. after her family left, the boy in front of us who was around six turned around and asked, "who in here is named dylan?" we told him our baby was, and the little girl who just left. "that is MY name!" he told us, probably not accustomed to sharing such an integral part of his identity with two little girls.
afterward, we drove to bloomfield, wistfully pasing our old apartment and got gelato again. a perfect day!


jury duty

in maryland, a breastfeeding mother was sentenced to a night in jail for trying to postpone jury duty until summer when her two-month-old baby would be older and she could more easily find childcare.

legislation to exempt nursing mothers has been defeated twice in maryland. according to the chair for the maryland senate judicial proceedings committee, "If you start saying, we’re gonna excuse people for breastfeeding, you’ve gotta say ok to kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and all the other maladies that afflict the human condition."

so in maryland, you have to postpone medically necessary chemotherapy or dialysis treatments in order to to serve on a jury?! that is unbelievably outrageous. i fully believe in doing one's civic duty, but not at any cost. also, is he calling breastfeeding a disorder? he must not realize that
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months but continuing for at least the 1st year of a child's life and that arrangements be made to allow a mother's expressing of milk if mother and child must separate. (House-introduced Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2007, AMENDMENTS TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964)
not two weeks after i read about this, i received my own summons. thankfully, childcare shouldn't be an issue for me, but dylan does eat every three hours, so if i were to serve i would need to be able to pump at the courthouse, which would not be the most comfortable or convenient scenario. dylan has never taken more than the occasional bottle either, because i am almost always with her. she probably would, but some babies refuse bottles, and their moms absolutely couldn't serve on a jury. only 12 states have laws with jury duty provisions for breastfeeding moms, and pennsylvania is not one of them. i kept putting off dealing with it, but after getting a reminder letter, i finally called the courthouse yesterday. the woman who answered said to write on the summons that i was nursing and that they would most likely exempt me and call again in the future. that was exactly what i wanted to hear, and hopefully she is right.

spring break

here is team paul out and about in ligonier. how gorgeous are these tulips? they are my absolute favorite flower and they are blooming all over the diamond. jim is taking some much-needed comp time this week, and we are finally enjoying spending time as a family in the daylight! after picture-taking, we stopped at a little cafe for chocolate hazelnut gelato. (i wanted to give dylan a bite, as she was gazing so longingly, but jim, evidently the more safety-conscious parent, advised against feeding a nut product to our five-month-old. good call, dad.) the cafe has a small gated brick patio off the sidewalk, and we almost felt like we were back in our old pittsburgh neighborhood, bloomfield. almost. sigh.


like a champ

we gave the baby cereal another go tonight, and dylan ate it like a champ. lately dylan has been eyeing up whatever we eat and all in all has seemed pretty interested in food (at least in the abstract). this time we mixed cereal with expressed milk instead of formula, and she seemed to enjoy it. dylan was sleepy from having skipped a nap, but she managed to eat a good bit and looked adorable decked out in a pink bib, her face smeared with cereal, taking bites from her pink-tipped baby spoon. hopefully the extra calories and a full tummy translate into a good night's sleep for everyone.

we made it through the whole winter and her first five months without any sickness, but on sunday dylan got her first cold. she napped poorly all day, so she was extra tired on top of being congested, and there just isn't much you can do. we ran the humidifier and put a pillow under her mattress so she could be a little inclined. dylan was uncomfortable, so she would cry, which would of course, make her even more congested. she was too stuffed up to be able to breathe and keep the pacifier in her mouth, so that was upsetting her, and it was hard for me to comfort her because nursing is difficult with a stuffy nose. it broke my heart to be so helpless to make it better. we didn't sleep well that night, but dylan is feeling much better, and we are so thankful she is healthy.



i can fit into my pre-baby pants! not just my stretch denim, either. i can even wear the three pairs of cords and khakis from my barista days. i will celebrate even if they're a little snug and from aeropostale, and i'm probably too old to wear them. it is a good day.

after dylan was born i bought two pairs of next-size-up jeans, but it turned out they had a little stretch to them and never fit well except right out of the wash. so for months (dylan will be five months tomorrow), i have been in clothes limbo. i suppose i still am, because my pants will fit better about five pounds from now, but the point is, they are wearable when not too long ago they couldn't fit over my thighs, let alone zip. i have to attribute this particular triumph primarily to nursing dylan, because my gym attendance of late has been lackluster, although i have been eating better--more veggies, fruit, and milk, and less processed, packaged junk.

i did do a video last week that kicked my butt. i have been known to order fitness equipment from tv, and my best purchase, by far, was the Transfirmer. i kid you not. it consists of a six and eight inch step that can be used in various combinations, and it came with 4 videos. (why videos and not dvds is a mystery to me.) when i do them, i usually pick the one that focuses on sculpting with hand weights, but this time i did the one that was more oriented around step aerobics. halfway through, admitting uncoordination and defeat, i switched to the ab video, which was still intense but required less grace. step aerobics is undoubtedly corny, but it is also a wicked full-body workout, so i will grapevine and cha cha step if it means fitting into my old clothes!


first foods

dylan tried her first cereal today. i say "tried," because i don't believe she even swallowed a bite. not a fan of the food, yet. she is exclusively breastfed, but i thought i'd give it a try with formula, because mixing that is simpler. dylan did have some supplemental formula in her first few days, when the nurse scared us into believing that our little one was hungry, (or as i took it, STARVING and it was my fault), which now i'm sure she wasn't.

i mixed the cereal with formula, but i think dylan knew she wasn't getting the good stuff:) next time we'll try with expressed milk. i read that it can take introducing a food up to eight times for a baby to stop rejecting it, so i guess we'll see. any tips from veteran moms?


the good padre

my sister's grandfather died this week. (i suppose i should mention that he wasn't my grandpa because she and i have different moms. that would make her my half-sister, which is the dumbest distinction ever, because she is, of course, entirely my sister.) it was extra hard because she just lost her grandma less than a year ago. she is strong, well-spoken, and so kind, and she gave the most loving eulogy at the funeral. despite the sadness, it was a hopeful service, focused on resurrection and heaven, as well as fond memories of her grandfather.

the somberness of the occasion was lightened a bit by the presence of the priest, who looked and sounded just like george carlin. he had a smoker's voice, a scraggly beard, and a tiny pewter gray ponytail. when he sang, it was a mixture of off-beat song and a sort of shouted spoken-word, like a kinder, gentler henry rollins. he was a trip.

before the service began, dylan was "talking," and i was debating walking to the back of the sanctuary to quiet her when the priest came over to our pew and addressed the baby, saying, "now, you make all the noise you want in my church, you hear? you make all the noise you want. your voice is the voice of the angels!"


spring joys

the thermometer actually registered 70 degrees yesterday, so dylan and i took a walk around ligonier. ligonier is one of those quaint small towns with an actual town square, except here we refer to it as "The Diamond." really. it has a gazebo and everything. the library, town hall, and lots of little boutiques encircle The Diamond, which soon will be blooming with flowers.

we got caught in a light rain on the way back, so i covered dylan with a receiving blanket. she was asleep before we made it to the car, so she obviously didn't mind, but with every car and person we passed, i couldn't help but feel a litte mom guilt for having my baby out in the rain!

after months of lagging attendence at youth group, we actually had six girls there last night! i know, six is hardly a crowd, but it is five more girls than we had two weeks ago and four more than we've had most weeks this year.

i came home to a sleeping baby who did not cry for jim while i was gone. i sorted all dylan's newly washed and de-tagged next-size-up clothes. it was like having a baby shower all over again! people have been so generous to us. we've hardly bought any clothes, and with all the hand-me-downs we've been given, we shouldn't have to for a long time. God is so gracious.


baptized by immersion

the food processor is not my friend. i have sprayed mushroom soup, cantaloupe soup, and several varieties of carrot soup all over my kitchen on more occasions than i can recall. why pureed soups are my culinary holy grail, i really have no idea, but i refuse to give up and keep seeking pureed perfection.

enter the immersion blender--a recent purchase made with a gift card from my mother-in-law. (thanks!) this baby is awesome. well, awesome at pureeing soups, which is why i got it. not so awesome, at say, making chimmichurri sauce or oatmeal cookie dough, but awesome nonetheless. in an effort to actually eat the food in our pantry/fridge and to incorporate more vegetables into our diet, i am on a soup-making kick. i made a carrot ginger soup on sunday that was delicious and so smooth! yesterday's soup is a little weirder. i started with a bag of dried peas (pantry item) and added carrots, onions, and celery (putting our fresh veggies to good use!) then i remembered the two cans of tomato soup lingering in the panty and how much my mom raves about split pea tomato soup. (i actually remember not liking that particular combo as a kid, but for the love of all things holy, we are going to eat those dry goods!) so i added the tomato soup with a little cream and sherry, and blended, blended, blended.

the verdict? not so bad! the orange-y color is a little off-putting, but all in all, pretty tasty. good thing too, because i have a few more servings in the fridge and a good sized tub downstairs in the freezer. now what can i make with crushed pineapple, black beans, and quinoa?

taking it to the next level

cloth diapering is a process that takes a little getting used to. it involves a few extra steps, but it's not really that difficult or messy, the two obstacles that put me off when jim first broached the possibility of us using cloth diapers with dylan.

we have decided to try to be a little more consistent with our cloth diapering. we've switched to cloth wipes, which i really like. i ordered a "wet bag" to stick in my diaper bag so that we can stop using disposables away from home, and soon when dylan sizes out of the disposables we still have a stash of, we'll get her into cloth overnight. the only downside to this is that i want to invest in a few more fitted cloth diapers, the kind that are a little more reliable (especially for overnight and away from home.) they will last through potty training and hopefully our next child and will save money in the long run, not to mention the positive benefits for the planet. soon we will have weaned ourselves almost entirely off disposables.


you gotta climb before you can crawl

dylan had her first low ropes experience yesterday. (start 'em young!) it was a gorgeous day--sunny and in the 50s, and we all went for a hike in the woods. the earliest signs of spring are starting to emerge--tiny wildflowers, little buds and grasses, and the odd green plants blanketing the forest floor that i believe are some kind of onion. spring green is the most beautiful color in my mind--especially peeking out of a dark and otherwise barren winter woodland.

jim wore dylan in the front pack, and together they crossed the cable bridge across the creek--dylan's first in a series of many camp adventures yet to come. we hiked several miles through the woods, and she stayed awake the whole time, enjoying the breeze and the sights. dylan was born to be camp baby, and in just a few years she'll be a fourth generation ligonier camper .


a more perfect union

I finally read Barack Obama's speech on race in America, and it is definitely worth checking out. People like to paint him as naive, but I don't believe that spending years in Washington is how one garners wisdom. Obama is Ivy League trained, like many of his Capital Hill colleagues, but his discernment comes also from years of community organizing in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. He demonstrates compassion for the struggles of all Americans, vision for an America that better lives up to her ideals, and I believe, the ability to build bridges in a way that is rare and vital. Read his own words.


slings and things

my sister gave us a beautiful handmade ring sling, but it didn't come with instructions, and we had a hard time figuring out how it worked, especially when dylan was tiny and had no head control. thankfully, we inherited two other options--a front-pack carrier and a pouch sling. the carrier was great to take her grocery shopping or to the mall and is much simpler than lugging around that carseat. the pouch sling cradles her and is a great way for her to tune out and nap when we are away from home. at church on easter sunday, she started to fuss and i popped her into the sling and she fell right asleep.

now that dylan has great head control, i knew it was time to try again with the ring sling. yesterday, i wore her in the ring sling while jim and i took sydney for a walk. it was a beautiful evening. boys were practicing baseball in the field next to our house, and there were a ton of geese on the pond. we had a great walk, the sling was comfortable, and dylan even fell asleep on the walk back to the house. i can sit while wearing her, so it is significantly more convenient. plus it is more compact, portable, and versatile than the other two models. i used it today at the grocery store, and it was easier putting dylan into it than fumbling in the parking lot with the front pack. thanks b!
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