storybook romance

you know how in the movies, sometimes a couple who isn't even dating suddenly realizes that they are meant to be together and decide to get married?

i always thought that was kind of far-fetched.

and then this week, seemingly out of the blue, i found out my older sister is getting married--to her best friend. really, how movie-perfect is that?

they dated years ago, broke up and became best friends, dated again briefly this spring, and broke up when they didn't seem to be on the same page about the future. well, things change, because he picked her up from the airport from a volunteer trip in peru (how cool is my sister?) and SURPRISED her with roses, a ring, and a proposal!

congratulations, tiffany and paul. we are so happy for you!


sangria blanca

jim and i both enjoy a glass of wine. he prefers red, but in the summer i like a glass of white, as long as it's dry or sweet. the bottle we opened for our anniversary was neither; it was bland and watery. not wanting to drink it again or let it to go to waste, i thought maybe i could turn it into white sangria. i searched around online and found there is no apparent "right" way to make sangria--basically some mixture of fruit is added to wine along with some variation of juice, liqueur, soda or seltzer.

this is what i did with what we had on hand:

i poured the rest of the bottle of white wine into a pitcher and added:
3 small apples, cored and sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges, and squeezed
a splash of triple sec--an orange liqueur
a palmful of turbinado sugar (~1Tbsp)--any sugar or no sugar at all would be fine

i stuck in in the fridge to blend the flavors for what i thought would be a few hours, but what ended up being two days.

the sangria turned a pretty shade of pink and was delicious. it would be good in any number of ways--with oranges, pears, cantaloupe, peaches, ginger ale--whatever you have. you could even do a virgin variety with white grape juice and club soda. making sangria is a fantastic way to redeem a lackluster bottle of wine, and it is definitely something i will make again--especially on our upcoming vacation:)

this post is linked to works for me wednesday.


sausage-stuffed banana peppers

my hands are burning. en fuego. i'm feeling pretty foolish, because tonight, when i made stuffed banana peppers, i didn't think to put on gloves to pull out the seeds and ribs. banana peppers aren't hot like chilis or jalapenos, but the heat is in the seeds, which i was essentially up to my elbows in.

i had to nurse dylan tonight wearing blue cotton winter gloves.

the upside is that i got out of diaper changes. well, the real upside is that the peppers were awesome, and i'm kinda proud of myself because i basically made it up as i went along. i faked the sausage by cooking up a pound of venison with onion, lots of fennel seed, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, sage, italian seasoning, and a little worchestershire. i made tomato sauce with all the fresh tomatoes we had. i stuffed eight or nine peppers with the much-leaner "sausage" mixed with a little sauce, some bread crumbs, and an egg and topped everything with sauce. i baked it at 350 for a half hour and put some mozzarella cheese on top for the last few minutes, cranking it up to broil to brown. it was so good! i haven't made homemade sauce in forever, and we enjoyed it.

i just need to figure out how i'm going to get my contact lenses out of my eyes!

(this could easily be made with green peppers, beef, and a jar of tomato sauce. you could stretch the meat with a little cooked rice to fill the bigger peppers.)


long day's journey into night. and day. and night...

dylan vomited again on monday after lunch. when her stomach wouldn't settle after two hours of near-constant vomiting, we took her to the hospital. this episode had the same patterns of the previous seven bouts of incessant vomiting, but this time she has a temperature and diarrhea.

they gave dylan an IV to rehydrate her and took more x-rays, which again showed that everything appeared ok. after several hours, she calmed down and began to smile and talk. i nursed her, she seemed ok, and they were preparing to send us home when she got sick again and instead they sent us in an ambulance to children's hospital in pittsburgh. (the local hospital we were at no longer admits children, and they wanted her to see specialists.)

we got there at 11:30 pm and were ushered into their ER, where they took still more x-rays, and a few hours later she was admitted into a room. i nursed her and prepared to put her to bed when she got sick again. around 3:30 am we all tried to sleep a few hours, but one can only sleep so well in hospital chairs holding an infant attached to an IV.

the next day we saw allergists and other doctors and nurses. they are certain her vomiting was not caused by allergies because the types of food are so varied and they only sometimes triggered sickness. while it is good to know what is not making her sick (they also ruled out stress or anything i'm eating), we still have no idea what is wrong.

we need to see a doctor who specialized in gastrointestinal medicine, but inexplicably, they did not get us a consult, even though i started requesting one yesterday morning and several doctors and nurses promised to set it up. everyone that we dealt with at the hospital was really great--the nurses, the ER doctors and techs, the night doctor, the pediatrician, the allergists--everyone except the young day doctor who unfortunately was the one who held all the cards for dylan's care. she was most concerned about dylan's fever and was not at all concerned about what we were--getting to bottom of what caused the past six weeks of violent, inexplicable vomiting.

dylan's fever had broken, she was hydrated, but they wanted to keep us for another sleepless night so we could get a GI consult sometime today--but they couldn't promise when.

we were all exhausted. dylan had barely slept, we were wearing the same clothes that dylan had gotten sick on the night before, i still was wearing my contact lenses, and the idea of spending another whole day in that room waiting for a conversation with the GI doctors that they would not set up ahead of time didn't seem wise, when our little girl needed rest most of all.

so reluctantly and without answers, we left the hosptial last night at 10:30 pm, a day an a half after dylan started getting sick. we drove the hour and half back home and were all in bed by midnight. she got up twice to nurse, but otherwise we all slept until eleven this morning, and dylan (and jim) are having a nice long nap now.

we are thankful that she is sleeping and recovering. we are thankful to be home and showered. we are thankful for everyone who prayed for dylan and us. please continue to keep us in your prayers. we want our little girl to be healthy!


these are the days we'll remember

happy anniversary to a wonderful husband and father. thank you for loving and serving us everyday. your kindness and encouragement brighten our home, and your culinary talents brighten our kitchen:) i love how you love the Lord and model that for dylan. these six years haven't been easy, but they have been fun, and i am so thankful for the life we've made together.

a grumpy nine month-old stole some of the romance, but our anniversay was still beautiful. we worked and played outside, read the papers, and prepared dinner at home. jim grilled delicious thai-seasoned steaks and corn, and i made a spinach salad with roasted beets.

marrying a hunter is such a good deal. we ate most of our meals at camp this summer, but on our weekly day off, jim often grilled steaks that didn't cost a penny more than the fee for the hunting tag. that beats take-out any day of the week! it is good to know exactly where our meat comes from and how it got to our plate. it doesn't get much more local than our back yard.

thanks to a trip to the farmers' market and the generosity of friends who unexpectedly stopped by with flowers and armloads of fresh produce, our fridge is full of corn, beans, peppers and tomatoes of every color, beets, onions, apples, and cantaloupe. what an amazing treat and vast improvement from the processed camp fare we endured all summer. i roasted tomatoes last night that i plan to make into sauce to go over stuffed banana peppers for tonight's dinner. yum.


we did, we had a time

my friend krista is moving to minneapolis tomorrow, back to where she grew up. this was inevitable; she came to camp as an intern and stayed a year longer than she planned. she has a "big girl" job now, and i'm so happy for her. but i'm sad for me.

living in a small town of mostly families and retirees, it was so good to make a friend who is also in her twenties. we bonded over progressive politics, good music, and lots of food. we drank wine and ate cheese, she cooked an insanely elaborate korean feast, we ate too much tiramisu, and went out for middle-eastern, vietnamese, or ethiopian fare whenever we were in pittsburgh. we savored all three seasons of veronica mars and as much my so-called life as we could pack into this final week. we drove to dc in the snow and marched to the white house in the rainy candlelight with the christian peace witness for iraq. we had our candles ready again at a local vigil in support of state children's health insurance. we loved high school kids together and led a girls' small group. we joined a bible study and dug into scripture with wise women at our church.

i will miss you, dear friend. thank you for your encouragement and conversation, your honesty and laughter. thank you for seeking to love and image Jesus more faithfully. thank you for loving my baby and showering her with affection. be blessed as you travel and return home, and please come back to visit soon!


keepin' it rural

though i love and miss living in the city, i'm not a city girl. i grew up in the suburbs, in places with sidewalks and bike paths, great schools, and neighborhoods built by anglophile developers who christen streets "yorkshire drive" and developments "woods of saxony." in our yard, we had flowers, trees and bushes, a wooden swing set, a deck, and a gazebo.

in the current small-town installment of my life, our yard is decorated a little differently:

note not just the sun-drying diapers, but the bird perched atop the clothesline. do i smell a pie cooling on a nearby window sill?
we don't own this canoe, but it is put to good use nonetheless.

yes, we're one of those houses:) jim is an excellent archer, and he stocks our freezer full of meat, so who am i to complain?
our beefy composter

 camp leases horses for the summer, so for three months, this is our view

dylan loved the horses. (i say loved because, sadly, they left on monday.) on sunday, i got to go on a ride, and it was so much fun! camp has 550 acres, and on the ride i saw beautiful parts of property i'd never seen.
our little beauty is now nine months-old. i took this last week and tried to get her to play on the blanket while i hung her diapers on the line, but all she wanted to do was crawl, crawl, crawl and put everything in her mouth! i think dylan likes the rural living:)

safety first!

this odd sight greeted us as we came home from church, courtesy of our departing summer staff.


all is well, safely rest

campers left saturday, staff predominantly cleared out sunday, and monday was camp-free. (for me, not jim--the next few weeks are still extremely busy for him with outside groups coming to experience camp's adventure activities.)

dylan is sleeping happily again. the transformation was like night and day; for the first time in weeks she is going to bed without a fuss. i can put her into her crib, and she doesn't cry. this is the child i remember!

i am catching up on all the tasks that have fallen by the wayside around the house and yard after an entire summer of neglect, and life is starting to resume its normal rhythms. we got to worship back at our church on sunday after a long hiatus.

dylan ate carrots today (her first solid food since she last threw up a week and a half ago), and she kept it down--another praise! post-camp life agrees with us:)


camp's littlest spelunker

Jesus, mercy!

"Let all your thoughts be with the Most High and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ." ~Thomas a Kempis

in anne lamott's fantastic book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, she recounts that sometimes she has only two prayers in her arsenal:  help me help me help me and thank you thank you thank you. this summer i have really come to identify with the simplicities of those cries to God, and i've added a third prayer: Jesus, mercy. sometimes those two words are all i can manage to utter.

i've learned that this kind of repetitive, meditative prayer has a rich history in the church. The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life, by tony jones, which i used as a foundation for investigating spiritual disciplines with the staff this summer, tells about the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." its recitation has been a practice of eastern christianity since at least the sixth century and central to the understanding of how to be obedient to Paul's exhortation to "pray continually" (1 thessalonians 5:17).

The prayer is a variation of the two prayers uttered in these gospel passages:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more,
"Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  (Mark 10:46-52)
batimaeus is not deterred by those who wish to silence his plea, and his persistence is met with "cheer up! on your feet! he's calling you!" Jesus is calling! Jesus listens to his desire and meets his immediate need. bartimaeus receives the healing and responds by following Jesus.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  (Luke 18:9-14)
in jones' book, he quotes frederica mathewes-green:
The problem is not in God's willingness to have mercy, but in our forgetting that we need it. We keep lapsing into idea of self-sufficiency, or get impressed with our niceness, and so we lose our humility. Asking for mercy reminds us that we are still poor and needy, and fall short of the glory of God. Those who do not ask do not receive, because they don't know their own need.
if i've learned anything parenting a baby, it is that self-sufficiency is certainly an illusion. i cannot make dylan be well and i cannot make her sleep, no matter how much she needs it. motherhood has certainly been a humbling experience. the upside to the desperation has been that in recognizing my inadequacy and desperate need, i have seen God pour out great grace and mercy to help me in my helplessness and to forgive me in my ugliness.

God is good, and God is certainly merciful. dylan would not nap in her crib, but she is napping soundly in the sling, oblivious to my typing, movement, and sydney's barking.

thank you thank you thank you.


what the doctor said

not much, really. the tests at the hospital all came back normal, which is really good news, but we still don't know quite what the problem is. the x-rays indicatated a little reflux, but that shouldn't cause the kind of vomiting she was experiencing. dylan's doctor said she's too little for reliable allergy testing, so we're just supposed to be cautious, which will be a lot easier once camp is over. thank you for all the prayers.

dylan drama notwithstanding, it has been a great summer. the staff has been fantastic; i've had few discipline issues and only a handful of homesick campers. (there were two today, however!) stuff at camp has been largely uneventful in the best possible ways, but i will still be thankful to wrap it up this weekend. final countdown (cue music): five days.

a little bit louder and a whole lot worse

after more sickness friday and sunday nights, yesterday was such a good day with dylan. she was happy and her eyes were bright. she took a good nap after breakfast and after lunch, and i got her in bed asleep at eight o'clock. perfect!

and then dylan woke up at ten-thirty and remained awake and angry until two. she got up at her normal time today and is currently yelling instead of napping in her crib.

the only thing that is making this bearable right now is knowing that camp ends on sunday. that, and watching gob's magic show montages on youtube set to the song "final countdown." hey, it's my day off.

ok, time to try again with the restless, angry one.


here i raise my ebenezer

this week i had bible studies with my counselors at the wetland on the observation deck with the frogs, blue heron, dragonflies, fish, bats, and birds. we read from joshua:

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight."
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them...And they are there to this day. (Joshua 4:1-9)

before we started, i had the girls choose rocks from the creek, and we brought them with us to the observation deck. our rocks were for making an "ebenezer," a memorial to what God has done in our midst this summer. (ebenezer, which appears in the hymn "come thou fount," is found in scripture in 1 samuel 7. it means "stone of help.") we sat for a bit, reflecting in the not-quite-silent wetland and got up to pick a place for our ebenezer. each girl shared something she learned or how she saw God working in her life, and placed her stone on the ground. it was encouraging to hear all the ways in which they were challenged and changed by their ministry and service here. amidst all the frustrations of the past few weeks, i was blessed to be reminded of the bigger picture.

i'm trying so hard to keep that bigger picture in mind tonight, as dylan is upstairs, awake again and crying. last night was another late night of vomiting and much of tonight, our "night off" between camp sessions, has been spent singing and rocking and pleading with her to sleep. there is only one week left. one week!


a beautiful wreck

camp life is crazy--six days a week jim and i are pretty much on unless we're asleep. it's been an especially difficult month with dylan being sick and sleepless on top of all the normal camp demands. on a "normal" day, dylan is a super-easy baby; she's a good sleeper, a good eater, happy and playful. really, we've been spoiled. but there are so many variables, and when life happens, our easy baby is not so easy anymore.

dylan has been impossible to put to sleep lately. our little angel has become an obstinate little thing! we've spent hours battling with bedtimes, helplessly knowing that the situation deteriorates with each waking hour that passes. we've prayed and prayed and prayed and felt defeated, angry, and hopelessly frustrated. it hasn't been pretty.

after much protest, dylan slept long and deeply last night and is napping now, praise God. this morning i read this passage in 1 kings 8:56-61.

Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.

God is so good, upholding the cause of his people according to each day's need, giving rest just as he promised. thank you for your faithfulness, mercy, and provision. forgive my lack of commitment, and turn my heart toward you, that i may walk with you this day.


random house

as i fool around online, jim is watching "america's got talent." i cannot, for the life of me, understand the allure, until, out of nowhere, a familiar voice croons:

"cuz i want it ALL, or NOTHING AT ALL!"

jim starts to laugh, fist-pumping with joy, and informs me that this song plays in its entirety at least once every season, and evidently tonight is that felicitous night.

so what's the song? if you don't know, you mustn't be a teeny-boppin', boy-band lovin', pop-culture trivia nerd like me, and clearly you weren't, like jim, best friends with
dan miller (second from right) of o town and mtv's "making the band." funny stuff.


His grace is sufficient

thank you to all who prayed for us and our trek to the hospital this morning. jim prayed with me before i got the baby up, and my mom prayed for us en route, and both were tremendous blessings.

dylan was such a trooper!

i nursed her last at midnight, got her up at 7 and took her to the hospital. we went to radiology around 8 where she had to drink a delicious bottle of barium sulfate so they could take x-ray images. she didn't like the machines much but was a champ about the thick, nasty barium bottle and having to wait until 9:45 to nurse. she was patient beyond belief. God is so good!

then dylan got blood taken in both arms and didn't even cry. that is nothing less than the all-sufficient grace of God. she just sat calmly, wide-eyed, soaking up the nurses, their tags, jewelry, and "flair." she slept in the car, we came home and nursed, and we both slept for a blissful two hours, (more than making up for the time between 4-5:45 am when neither of us slept!)

"...there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" ( 2 cor 12:7-10).

unlike paul, i cannot say that i delight in hardship, persecution, or difficulty. i am a far more reluctant sufferer, more acquainted with silent resentment or out-loud complaint, as if i, unlike my Lord, ought somehow to be exempt from suffering. how incredible that even in my sinfulness and self-absorption, God still rests his power upon me and lavishes his grace and mercy as well. i mean, of course he does--that is the whole point of grace--that we don't earn it by good behavior. i pray, Lord, that my response to your grace would be humility, delight, and grace overflowing into the lives of those around me. Forgive me, Jesus, for my wallowing and whining.

as for the tests--we won't know anything until the doctor sends his report to the pediatrician. the tech said that there weren't any big red flags. there were signs of reflux, but she said that shouldn't have caused the kind of vomiting dylan experienced. hopefully we'll know more soon, but if everything checks out, we still might not know. we'll keep you posted. thanks for all the prayers--they were tangibly felt!

request for prayer

i'm taking dylan to the hospital this morning for an upper GI series to determine what has been causing her intermittent vomiting the last three weeks. (this is scheduled; she hasn't been sick since thursday since we've temporarily stopped solids.) they will do bloodwork among other things.

jim can't come because of work responsibilities, and i'm on my own. i'm not allowed to feed her beforehand and am feeling anxious. jim and i have some pretty nasty head colds and haven't been sleeping well, so i know this will probably be emotionally more than i am equipped for today. thankfully, God promises that his power is made perfect in weakness. weakness is about all i bring to the table this morning! please pray with us and for us today.

Jesus, mercy.


there's no food in your food!

as i made myself breakfast, i remembered an exchange with my sister that occurred when she was staying with us when dylan was a teeny tiny.

me: "do you want a toaster strudel?"

b: "a what?"

me: "a toaster strudel."

b: "no, i heard you, i just can't believe you have some in your house."

then later...

me: "do you want some juicy juice?"

b: "are you kidding? you eat more kid food than any adult i know!"

now, i don't think that's quite fair. for one, juicy juice is all-natural and has no added sugar. what's wrong with adults imbibing in said "kids' drink"? secondly, many of the adults bethany knows live in brooklyn and are of the, shall we say, hipster variety--people who consume things like soy crumbles and food that is sold with quotation marks around it, like buffalo "chicken" bites. i'm sure there are PLENTY of adults who eat way more kiddie fare than i do--they just may not live in her part of the borough.

and, well, i DO like kids' food. not just kids' food--i love whole grains and good cheese and wine and garlic and fruit and brussel sprouts and good salad and curry and sushi and steak and scallops and fish. i love food, and i love grown-up food, but i do enjoy my share of kiddie snacks. when i was pregnant, i got myself a kids' meal on the way home from work several times a week. i'm also an avid coupon clipper, so when snacks i like go on sale and i have a coupon, i get myself a goodie for the cupboard.

when bethany was still here, i bought fruit snacks, and we were both eating them in the car. she had the purple kind and i had the red kind. as a vegetarian/vegan, gelatin is off-limits to her, so she hadn't eaten a fruit snack in probably a decade, but after a cursory look at the ingredient list, she decided her pick was safe.

b, between bites: "it's weird that yours would have horse hooves and mine wouldn't."

me: "well, maybe yours has a little horse hooves."

bethany, pausing to re-scan the ingredients: "OH NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!"
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